We left the car two blocks from the guesthouse, in an open spot behind an art school, after having checked our circumstances against those specified by the parking regulations posted nearby. Though the term “blocks” may give some pause, it bears mentioning that Glasgow’s West End follows a grid pattern, and so the perceived “Americanism” is anything but in this quarter’s case. Our guesthouse occupied two neighboring buildings in a long row of townhouses, trimmed in dark red sandstone.
Yet the townhouses stood five meters back from and three meters above the street. Parallel to the street-level pavement where we walked ran a second pavement above our heads, perched on a terrace, and accessible only by intermittent concrete stairs set into the brick supports. Climbing the stair leading to the guesthouse, so did G. and I find ourselves in the midst of a raised garden stretching perhaps fifty meters to either side, the full length of the townhouses. Only one building’s occupants had seen fit to fence their section in and that at the far end. Otherwise, one could well, as we did, follow the upper pavement in either direction, through gardens, outdoor furniture and bins, before descending to the lower pavement and the street.
It goes without saying that my companion and I found the setup most curious and spent a few minutes wondering what economic and social conditions had given rise to this peculiar urban layout. Whether it owed to health concerns and the desire for light and air or to sociological considerations of the need for space or to social class symbolism, the arrangement would grow on us over our two days in the city as we made ample use of the upper way.
Still, at that time, we were concerned less with the neighborhood’s architectural history and more with getting the keys to our room. Once within, we set to a few immediate tasks. G. took a moment to freshen up after his muddy tumble outside the horsepen, and I found kettle, bag and cup for a late-evening tea. Refreshed, we decided on plans for what remained of the evening: dinner, exploration, pub.
In truth, exploration would be limited that night to the West End, as darkness had long since settled over the city. Despite not knowing Glasgow, the grid layout aided enormously in finding our way about. So we began by setting off down the street towards the car and beyond the art school and on into more lively parts until a shopping complex blocked the way forward, at which point we broke off into a sidestreet.
Our first priority being food, we examined the menus positioned before a few establishments before circling back to one which proposed hearty Scottish and English fare. Inside, the place seemed a mishmash of spaces: at once family restaurant, darkened pub and neon bar. G. led us to one such dark nook where, on worn chairs and scuffed table, we awaited the waitress and, in time, placed our order for pie, potatoes and ale. Slightly unsettled by the interior, we did not linger over our meal but soon found our way back into the streets.