I have been to the West End three times now: once without knowing it, once on purpose, and once by accident (but this time I recognized it when it happened). It’s a beautiful place, and the neighborhood I’ve been to most often since I arrived about two weeks ago.
There’s a lot to do there. The West End is the hip part of town, home to universities, museums, and a downright unreasonable number of cafes. I’d say the general feeling is that everyone here has somewhere to be, but none of them is feeling especially urgent about either getting there or you getting wherever you’re going, either. It’s not bad.
My favorite thing about walking around the area is definitely the churches. They’re all over. They are old and they are grand. They can be colorful or grey, modest or imposing. They tend to have beautifully intricate architecture, and some are adorned by entire gardens’ worth of flowerpots. I even found one that had been converted to a theatre.
I’d say my least favorite thing about the West End is the layout. Much like the West Village in New York, the West End seems to have looked at the idea of cities with navigable and ordered layout, thrown its collective arms in the air, and cried out, “What even is that?”
It reminds me of Dunkiton, a town in The Road to Oz:
“Stupid people must have streets and numbered houses in their cities, to guide them where to go,” observed the grey donkey, as he walked before the visitors on his hind legs, in an awkward but comical manner; “but clever donkeys know their way about without such absurd marks. Moreover, a mixed city is much prettier than one with straight streets.”
Well, I can freely admit to being pretty bad at navigating even when a grid system is involved. I have friends who can decide where they’re going and then just sort of end up there, but personally, I make sure my phone is charged before I head out. Gotta get my map on. Especially in a place like this.
I have not yet tried any of the local cafes. When I think of myself in a cafe, I picture a relaxed several-hour jaunt with my laptop, getting some writing or drawing done and occasionally justifying my continued presence by spending another few bucks on some sort of fancy coffee. The issue is that I tend to make my way to the city on foot, which in the West End makes for nearly a two-hour walk, which I’m not interested in augmenting with the weight of a laptop on my back. My hope is that one of these days I get over myself and just try out the bus, which would make the whole cafe dream a lot more doable. We’ll see.
What I have tried is one of the local bakeries, a tiny place called My Home. I got a veggie “sausage” roll to eat in, and a white chocolate cheesecake cup to take home.
The food was exquisite, the mood relaxed and quiet. The seats inside overlooked a street corner and a little park, and it was very cozy to sit and eat and write, watching pedestrians (and often their dogs!) walk by. I could honestly write a review of the entire experience, but here I’ll just say that I’m excited to see what the other bakeries of Glasgow have to offer, and that I’ll probably be back at My Home before I leave.
I also have been to a few (but not yet all!) of the free West End museums. The Kelvingrove is the big name there:
It’s considered an art museum, but I have to disagree with the name: it’s kind of an everything museum. There’s plenty of art, don’t get me wrong, but there’s also a Scottish culture exhibit, an animals of the world exhibit, a dinosaurs exhibit – you name it, they probably have something on it. The Kelvingrove’s star piece is a Dali painting, Christ of St. John of the Cross, which is naturally on loan during my stay in Scotland. Still, there were a few other pieces that really caught my eye. (I’m still learning this platform, so I’ll try to either add some captions when I figure out how, or have a post devoted to the Kelvingrove later on.)
There are other museums in the West End for sure, but not ones I can tell you anything about yet. (I guess stay tuned?) I’d say even without a destination it’s nice to walk around and see the sights. I haven’t done a lot of hanging out here day-to-day, but I think that’s just because of how far my apartment is – if you’re looking for a place to just sit around and take in the atmosphere, so far I think it’s the best part of Glasgow in which to do so.