Scotland: Day 1 - Glaswegian Nights
While I'm a firm believer that Paris is the center of the European universe when it comes to fashion, food, and general cosmopolitan cool, there's something wonderful about Glasgow that I couldn't quite put my finger on until last night. Much like Berlin, there's a sort of raw urban chíc at work—a shift away from staunch traditionalism and more towards the eclectic and artistic. Whereas Edinburgh is polished, pristine, and classically beautiful—castles and cobblestones for the traditional traveling tourist—Glasgow is a city with a distinctly-youthful edge. The sandstone architecture is orderly enough, but within those buildings exists a spunky creativity that feels unforced and seems to brim from a collective Glaswegian synergy.
People are out socializing and using the city space in interesting ways. There are contemporary bars, shops, and restaurants all over, specializing in forward-thinking versions of traditional Scottish fare. Everywhere you look there's a clear juxtaposition of new modernity with a wink towards the 19th century. When you walk around, you feel like you're eavesdropping on something very new and very cutting edge; like there's a secret in Glasgow that few others have yet to discover.
But there's nothing hoity-toity, or snobbish about what's happening around you. People are well-dressed and they care about presentation, but there's no hipster element or tragically trendy over-exertion. No one's trying too hard. Everyone seems comfortable in their own skin and there's no trace of attitute in their execution. Everyone's taking themself seriously, but not at your expense. It's like Glaswegians are working together just for the sake of building a better community, rather than for validation or positive online reviews. We randomly stopped by a fantastic spot called Gannett on Argyle Street in the Finnieston neighborhood and were blown away by both the professionalism of the bar and the quality of the cuisine. And this was just one of thirty or so intriguing options in the area! We had trouble deciding where to finally spend our evening. It was overwhelming to say the least.
Scotch eggs of the highest order, along with a selection of great beers on tap and a wine list with plenty of reasonable options by the glass. People often say that Edinburgh is the more sophisticated of the two main Scottish cities, but I'm not sure they've ever really walked around Glasgow. To me it's not even a debate.
You walk around at night and there are young people everywhere—talking, walking, drinking, smoking, playing music in the streets, and participating in the local scene. They're more than aware of what's happening globally in terms of modern culture because Glasgow is completely up to speed on fashionable bar etiquette and food trends. At the same time, however, you get the feeling that they don't care about what's going on anywhere else but right there. They're not copying New York, or LA, or even London. It's very much a distinct and localized movement and that feels wonderful as an outsider. It feels like you're somewhere real and authentic, surrounded by people who have something unique and special to offer. When you've got an entire city free from any chip-on-the-shoulder insecurity—unburdoned by that we're-just-as-good-as-anywhere-else type of mentally—then wonderful things can happen. Glasgow is a perfect example of that condition.