Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: UK – Glasgow

The falling leaves drift by my window

Autumn came and went like the wind this year in Glasgow and we seem to be already in the midst of winter in mid-November. If I thought that last year’s autumn colours were gorgeous, then I must say that they pale in comparison to this year’s. Maybe it’s because the weather had been unusually mild this year and we surprisingly haven’t gotten so much rain. Maybe it’s because I finally discovered how majestic that tree looks outside my office window. Maybe…Lady Autumn decided to grace us with her presence more sophisticatedly than she did in previous years. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Kelvingrove Park is a 10-minute walk from my walk and my office but I tend to overlook its proximity and hence don’t go there often. During the summer, it is a great place to have a picnic or a barbecue, and when autumn comes and the colours change, an afternoon stroll on a rainless day is quite relaxing. I’m glad I took a walk when autumn was at its best – two weeks later the branches would have all turned bald!

Of course, my workplace, the University of Glasgow, is itself the perfect place to observe the changes in season. Every corner is full of magic and I sometimes really do think I work at Hogwarts. The Main Building, especially its tower, at the centre of the campus likes to take the spotlight and appears in many photos of the university that I’ve taken. Already an impressive structure that I have the luxury of passing by every day, it looks even more exquisite in the midst of the orange, red, and yellow leaves. Now, only about a week after I’ve taken photos, autumn is no more, and we are left preparing for the onset of the delayed rainy season…

(By the way, the title of this post is the opening line of the beautifully classic song, “Autumn Leaves”. A few months ago I stumbled upon an instrumental “cover” of this song and fell in love with it – here it is to share with everyone!)

Street art in Glasgow, part 2

It’s been more than 6 months since the initial “Street art in Glasgow” post, and last weekend, I finally got some free time to track down some more murals and street art in this city, following the official “mural trail”. They really are everywhere, and so impressive too! I didn’t manage to find everything that was on the trail, but I did stumble upon a few surprises that weren’t part of the official trail. Let’s take a look.

Let’s start with my favourite one of them all, which I think was completed very recently. This gigantic mural is the work of artist Sam Bates, otherwise known as “Smug”, whose hands were the creators of several other works, including the girl with the magnifying glass in the previous post. I wasn’t aware of the existence of this mural as I was walking in the opposite direction on High Street. I saw someone take a photo of something behind me, and as I turned around, I was awed. Such beautiful piece of artwork with so much detail and colour, but the Man and the Bird (which is what I decided to call it as I don’t know if it has an official name) also elicited emotional resonance in addition to the visual pleasure. Oh, and this isn’t currently on the mural trail, so it was definitely the best surprising find of the day!

This is Glasgow’s Tiger, an installation that can be found along the quay of the Clyde River in downtown Glasgow. Previously, it had been a fiery tiger drawn in a different style (which I haven’t seen), but it had been replaced with the image of a realistic beast watching the river. While the tiger looked solemn and majestic, some people seemed to enjoyed using it as a backdrop as they danced to some music in its presence!

In an unassuming parking lot on Ingram Street in the heart of Merchant City, another piece of artwork by Smug revealed itself, named Fellow Glasgow Residents. Apparently this mural is supposed to represent the different types of animals found in Glasgow’s green space, appearing through what looks like holes in the wall. The three images form one long stretch from left to right and is so impressive that it makes one wonder if this is really a parking lot or a magnificent outdoor gallery… 😛

This lively mural on Argyle Street seems to show an unconventional type of bar – one entirely managed by animals! We’ve got an elephant, a shark, a walrus, a bear, a rhinoceros as the bartender, and a zebra and a moose having a relaxing drink. What a place! I wonder if the Scottish would like to frequent such a place – perhaps the zoo staff went on strike and the animals escaped?

Clutha, a piece installed at the Clutha Bar, is a work by Rogue-One, another artist who has contributed many pieces of stunning work to the city, with the Flying Taxi and the Cat with the Caged Birds featured previously.

I often pass by the Hip Hop Marionettes, another piece by Rogue-One, when I cross John Street. Taken from the description in the official mural trail brochure: “We thought that an interesting concept would be to have body-poppers or break-dancers in puppet form. I took my influence from a Beastie Boys cover and a Run DMC picture.”

The walls of some of the buildings in the University of Strathclyde also have some very colourful paintings that make you wonder if they are the entrances to art studios instead of offices and classrooms. The painting of a girl about to open a door located at the corner of Grahma Hills Building had me confused for several weeks, as THE DOOR was so realistic that I thought it was A REAL DOOR. I thought it was smart to paint a girl opening a real door, but when one day I finally realised that the door was a painting…it was a moment of utmost epiphany. Is this what art does to you?!

Continuing on with the Strathclyde series, just above the girl opening the door is this long, giant mural of what seems to depict classroom life at Strathclyde. It kind of reminds me of the days in undergrad, with rows and rows of desks and benches and many sleepy students that didn’t sleep till 3am the previous night…though the ones on the wall seemed (mostly) wide awake!

Further along George Street, we have a technology-themed and an ocean-themed mural here amidst some of the science buildings of Strathclyde. Seems like Strathclyde (and the city centre as a whole) has a lot of these full-length building murals, and I am genuinely impressed…once again!

As I have mentioned at the very beginning, I haven’t completed the mural trail and some of the murals on the trail actually eluded me even though I supposedly passed by the spots where they were supposed to be. So, knowing me, I will set out again to find those that are still scattered around the city, and a part 3 will be posted!

The four seasons of Glasgow

When people ask me what time of the year is Glasgow’s rainy season, I tell them that every season is a rainy season in Glasgow. At least that’s what it felt like during my one year as a resident of Glasgow.

Nevertheless, the city is still beautiful in every season, even though it sometimes seems as if summer doesn’t exist. Aside from the rain, which is a constant in every season, we do manage to see different colours at various times of the year – a green spring, a blue summer, a red autumn, and a white winter. If you mix everything, the overall impression might still be “gray”, and any rainless day is a cause for celebration 😉

Spring

Spring is the time of the year when life begins to revive after having been asleep for a few months. Blooming flowers are to be seen everywhere, painting Glasgow in vibrant colours and the hope of warmth. Ditch not your umbrellas and rain jackets, however! Rain is aplenty and will wash the city at any given moment, but a forecast of sun for five days in a row (!) reminds me that the toughest months of November to February are over. Weekends can now be spent outdoors, hah!!

Summer

Ah, summer. It is rarely warmer than 25 degrees Celsius in Glasgow, and I’ve heard that the Scots consider it a heat wave if the temperature rises above 24 – is that true, my Scottish friends? Daylight is abundant, and the first rays of sunshine through the window often wake me up at 4am while the sun does not set until 11pm. How awesome is that! Then again, it is easier to lose track of time during the summer – you think it’s only 7pm but all of a sudden it’s midnight. Wasn’t it still bright half an hour ago?!

Autumn

While autumn is my favourite season in Toronto, I’m not sure if I feel the same way in Glasgow. The temperature begins to drop, and the transition into winter is especially difficult to adapt to as gray skies and drizzling rain dominate the atmosphere. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. The sun becomes especially scarce and precious during this period of time, and we really do learn to appreciate every moment of sunlight. We do have some gorgeous red leaves, though, which is a source of consolation and at least adds some colour to my walk to work.

Winter

As a Canadian, I’m raised to believe that winter is incomplete without snow. Luckily (for me, perhaps unluckily for others) that there had been snow during the two Glaswegian winters that I’ve experienced, and I definitely prefer snow over rain! When I heard from my friends and family that the temperature went down to -15 degrees Celsius in January, I was quite glad to have avoided the bone-chilling shivers and thankful to be here with this gentle snow. This year, it really “snowed” only on one day, but that was enough to get me quite excited! Although the snow only lasted one day and pretty much melted away by the next afternoon, I was satisfied to say that it was a REAL winter, hehe.

And now, it is the beginning of February. Yesterday was Groundhog Day but I think the groundhog in Glasgow would have been pretty pissed off when he emerged from his burrow to see another rainy day. I’m not sure if spring is coming soon, but I’m happy to see that the sky is gradually getting brighter when I step out of the office at 5:30pm. And today was an entirely sunny day! What a gift! 😀

The question is not “Do you see my shadow?” but “Where’s my umbrella?” 😦 😦 😦

Glasgow – A belated year-end reflection

15 months ago I arrived in Glasgow, a little more than a year ago. One year is a noteworthy milestone because well, we tend to think that a “year” is quite important, though it could always be arbitrarily defined.

I felt like 2015 has been a stark contrast to the previous years in many ways. 2014 was a year of instability. I was back home, unemployed for a while, and at one point worked three part-time/freelance jobs. And in 2015, I seemed to have “settled down” again. None of that mobility scheme during my PhD where I was moving between France and Belgium every few months. It was Glasgow. Scotland. And I was here to stay for three years whether I liked it or not. And thank God I do like Glasgow. To think now that soon I would be halfway into my contract is quite…unfathomable, if not scary at the same time, for lack of a better word to describe my feelings. Where has my time gone?

I began to think a lot more deeply into a lot of things – human relationships, freedom, responsibility, the academic field, the future, God and faith…the list goes on and on. I gained many friends, lost a few, laughed a lot, cried a little. I wrote a lot less because many other things kept me busy. I fell in love with hiking, fell in love with cooking and travel all over again, and well, fell in love.

Have I grown within the past year? Certainly. Did I learn from my past mistakes? I’m not sure. Am I optimistic about the future? I had never been anything but optimistic.

But what about now? I think that though I have found my place in this rainy city that I now call home, I still have a lot to learn and discover. There is a sense that God must have placed me here for ulterior reasons behind those that I’ve already realised, and the joy and anticipation of unravelling the unknown keep me curious and hopeful. As my old friend liked to say, “We’ll see…”

In the end, I may still be by myself, but I’m anything but alone.

Small house-warming party with some lovely lady friends at a new flat in Glasgow, January 2016

Street art in Glasgow, part 1

As I’ve gotten to know Glasgow better over the past 10 months, I’ve noticed the rather abundant street art scene in the city. When I was in Louvain-la-Neuve, even such a small university community hid so many treasures within its walls, and Glasgow had the same, if not more, to offer. Of course, Glasgow is a much bigger city compared with LLN, if you could even call LLN a city or town at all. As with the LLN wall art collection, I’ve gone around taking photos of wall art from the streets of Glasgow. This will be part 1 because there are still so many that I haven’t had the chance to cover, so expect a part 2 to come eventually 🙂

Let’s start with somewhere close to home. This mural was found outside a tattoo shop right beside the Partick train station. Actually I’m not sure if it was painted on a wall or the door/gate of the shop – mental note to self to check when I pass by the place again.

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