A spontaneous trip in the sun…

Yesterday the sun finally decided to put its hat on and come out to play so, I thought where better to spend a nice sunny afternoon that down at beautiful Loch Lomond. The whole trip was really quite spontaneous. Originally, I’d planned to have a wander round Glasgow, grab some lunch and then spend my afternoon in the cinema. However, as the weather has been pretty awful this past week, I found myself with a sudden urge to get outside and go somewhere a bit different. Literally I walked past Queen Street station and the next thing I knew I’d brought tickets to Balloch – very uncharacteristic!

It was a great decision in the end. My first port of call was Lomond Shores, which is a small retail gateway to the loch. Although I had a wee browse round the shops (my favourite being the department store Jenners, mainly for it’s fantastic food hall!), I was really there for the fantastic view.  Honestly, it was just beautiful.

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Loch Lomond

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Shopping Area

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Balloch Pier

After stopping to admire the view and enjoy the sun on my back (I’d even whipped out my denim jacket it was that warm!) I then toddled off towards Balloch Castle and the country park. The walk up to the castle itself is lovely, as you go past the river and then through a nice wooded area before making the wee climb up to the castle. Unfortunately the castle is not open to the public and while it’s only a tiny wee thing in comparison to other castles, it looked pretty special in the sunshine. The castle itself is also a rather good vantage point for the loch – as you may be able to tell I was getting pretty snap happy by this point in the afternoon!

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Boats on the river

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Into the woods

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The Castle

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Lovely view 🙂 

Unfortunately, it’s apparently meant to rain most of next week so I’m really chuffed I made the decision to make the journey while the weather was good. After the success of this adventure, I’m definitely hoping to make some more spontaneous trips in the near future – who knows where I’ll end up next!

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The Lighthouse.

I had the day off on Easter Sunday so, instead of spending all day scoffing my face with chocolate, I thought I’d head on out to The Lighthouse. For those of you that aren’t aware, The Lighthouse is part of The Mackingtosh trail and is Scotland’s national centre for Architecture and Design. The building itself has six different levels and numerous different galleries and exhibitions, including The Mackingtosh Centre (which focuses on the work of Charles Rennie Mackingtosh) and Foundation Glasgow, which is the story of the city from prehistoric times until the present day.

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Entrance to The Lighthouse

 

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One of Glasgow’s most famous exports

Although I enjoyed all the exhibitions (a lot more than I thought I would actually), my favourite part was the viewing platform at the top of The Mackingtosh Tower. Once you climb up the 135 stairs, you’re rewarded with an excellent vantage point of the whole city centre and beyond. Luckily for me, it was clear and dry which made a nice change!

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Spiral Staircase 

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View from the top

Overall, I’d recommend The Lighthouse to anyone looking for a cheap day out in the city (entry is free, although there is a £5 admission charge for Foundation) and an attraction that’s just a little bit different to all the other museums and galleries in Glasgow, due to the heavy focus on Architecture.

 Although I was at work most of the long weekend, my Easter was rounded off nicely with a wee run out to Luss, in Loch Lomond, as part of daycare with work. We had a decent spring day for once, with actual sunshine and everything, so it was good to take the ladies I support somewhere a bit different and we all enjoyed a lovely lunch overlooking the Loch. Work itself is going really well and I’m still massively enjoying my placement which is good.  Unfortunately though, even after seven months of full-time work, my poor body is still not used to all these early mornings!

Blue Monday

This Monday I was luckily enough to be reunited (albeit very briefly!) with one of my close friends from home, Emily. She happened to be up here for an interview to volunteer at the 2014 Commonwealth Games so we decided to meet for lunch beforehand and have a good old catch-up. As we were both a bit pushed for time we headed to Yo! Sushi as it’s usually cheaper on a Monday (Blue Monday – hence the title of this post!). Instead of the standard Sushi though we both decided to try the new Ramen dishes on offer – I had Chicken Ramen in a Miso Soup which was really good although not very filling!

Ramen

Reunited 🙂 

It was so good to to see her and have another visitor come and see what life in Glasgow is like, although I wished she could have stayed for a longer so she could see more than just the train station and Buchanan St. Hopefully she’ll be back next summer for a few days training and we can have a proper Glaswegian adventure – fingers crossed the weather will be better by then as well!

I love having visitors, not only because it obviously means that I get to see my nearest and dearest, but also because it reminds me how much I love Glasgow and how much I enjoy having this new home and new life that I’m proud of and want to show off to all my friends and family. As much as I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, I am proud of what I’ve achieved so far by being here and by how much I’ve changed for the better and  it’s great to finally be able to share that with my friends and fam. What’s even better is that I only have to wait until Friday for my next VIP guest  as my friend Nicole is coming to stay for the whole weekend. She’s never ever been to Scotland before (shocking I know!) so I’m especially excited to give her the special guided tour of all the best places and fully introduce her to Scottish life  – oh and to the delights of Iron Bru and Deep Fried Mars bars!

Pollok Country Park.

Me and Rosie both had Monday off this week so, as the weather was yet again being rather kind to us, we decided to head to the beautiful Pollok Country Park. As the name suggests, this is a massive country park which is home to a National Trust building, some highland cows and the famous Burrell Collection, which is an internationally renowned collection of art housed in a rather lovely woodland setting. Somehow, we ended up on a free guided tour of the collection which was conducted by an adorable Scottish lady called Betty. The collection itself is rather cool and features pieces from many different countries and eras, although there are a lot of stained glass windows and tapestries, as well as some excellent Chinese Art. Although we didn’t get chance to see the whole collection (we missed out the painting on the mezzanine level) it was a great introductory tour.

The Burrell Collection

Woodland Setting

Stained Glass Windows

Buddha!

The rather grand Warwick Vase

Once the tour was finished we decided to brave the cold and head back outside to finally spot some highland cows which, I have to say,was by far the highlight of my day! We then continued on a nice little wander up to the beautiful Pollok House, which is a National Trust building. As poor volunteers we didn’t pay to go inside the building but I can only imagine how nice it is inside, if the outside is anything to go by! I’m more than likely to visit Pollok again during the rest of my time here so I shall definitely have a look round the house at some point.

 

Highland Cow!

More Highland Cows! 

Pollok House

By the riverside

After all this walking and exploring we were both starving so, upon arriving back into Glasgow Central, we headed to a little pub in the West End to grab some dinner before taking another trip to Nardini’s, which is one of my favourite places in Glasgow. I treated myself to a double chocolate and pecan muffin AND a Royal Hot Chocolate, which is a massive and topped with lots of whipped cream, a generous handful of mini marshmallows and a chocolate wafer stick think. Safe to say I had a massive sugar overload! One of my favourite things about Glasgow is that, for some unknown reason, lots of cafes stay open really quite late. I absolutely love this and, in my old age, I actually genuinely prefer heading to a cute little cafe for hot chocolate and cake, instead of heading to a swish new bar for an alcoholic beverage! Turning 22 is doing strange things to me it seems…

 

Perfect way to end the day 🙂 

The Italian Adventure pt.3 – Farewell Milan!

Although my friend unfortunately had morning lectures the day of my departure, I decided not to waste my final few hours in Milan and have a little wander round the city by myself.

My main aim for the day was to do lots of window shopping in the golden quadrangle, which is where all the best designer shops are located. Obviously, I could not afford a single thing in any of them but it was still fun to look at all the rather snazzy window displays and pretend I was a lot richer than I actually am! The majority of shops in this area are obviously clothes shops or jewellers However, as part of the gigantic Armani megastore, there is actually an amazing bookshop full of some really interesting books on fashion, art and culture in general. If I did have any money, it would definitely have been spent there!

 

Amazing cakes always catch my eye!

Designer bookshop

I ended up spending a lot more time shopping than planned (as always!) so I had to dash across the city for one final look at the Duomo before heading for lunch at a cute little restaurant, recommended to me by my friend. I’d already decided to have the Risotto Alla Milanese, another signature dish of Milan, which is basically risotto with saffron rice. Although it wasn’t my favourite meal of the trip, it was good to try a local speciality and something a little different. I can’t fault the restaurant at all though – they have a great selection of food at really reasonable places, plus its lovely inside!

 

Risotto Alla Milanese

Passerini Restaurant

After lunch it was finally time to head over to Bergamo Airport ready for my flight. However, I couldn’t leave Italy without having one final gelato (white chocolate, hazelnut and coconut – divine!) from Central Station. Likewise, to fully complete my gastronomical journey, I picked up a cheeky focaccia from the airport – it would have been rude not to really!

Overall I had a really great weekend and it was an absolutely brilliant early birthday present J This will, however, be my last holiday abroad for quite a while now due to the whole living on a budget thing which is a bit of a shame. However, there are lots of things I want to see in both Glasgow and Scotland as a whole, so I’m sure I’ll be kept more than entertained over the next year!

The Italian Adventure pt.2 – Milan!

Following a successful trip to Turin the day before, I finally got explore the sights of Milan on Sunday. Our first stop (after yet another Nutella Croissant for breakfast!) was the world famous Duomo. There are literally no words to describe just how amazing this cathedral is – it is genuinely breathtaking, my photos definitely do not do it justice.  We even got to see part of a service which was pretty cool, even if we didn’t understand a word of Italian!

Duomo

Choirboys!

Inside the Duomo

After that we headed to the rather grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is probably one of the most snazzy shopping arcades I will ever visit in my life! Stunning. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to buy anything as it mainly consists of designer shops or restaurants but it was still fun to look around. We also headed to this amazing department store called La Rinascente which is made up of eight floors of wonderful designer bits and bobs mainly. My favourite floor, however, was the top floor which is the food department (obviously!) It is actually amazing, especially the chocolate section. There’s an amazing counter that sells shoes and handbags crafted in chocolate alongside a counter which sells a massive selection of gorgeous macrons that taste as good as they look!

The Arcade

Chocolate shoes and bags!

Well worth the 1 euro 50 cents.

After a spot of window shopping we went for an idle wander around the little side streets around the main square and came across an absolute gem of a bakery. The amount of choice was just staggering and both the sweet and savoury dishes looked equally appetising. The food was delicious and excellent value for money –  I opted for a huge piece of focaccia topped with tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms and parma ham which was just great.

Just a small selection of the goodies on offer

Possibly the best piece of bread I’ve ever had!

Following lunch we decided to head slightly out of the main city centre to the Brera area to visit the Castello Sforzesco and the adjoining Sempione Park. This area of Milan was probably my favourite as the park is absolutely beautiful, especially in the sunshine 🙂

 

Castello

Inside the park

Arco Della Pace (Arch of Peace)

That evening we spontaneously decided to buy tickets to a classical music concert at the famous Teatro alla Scala and soak up some culture, Once we were all dressed up, we went for a lovely meal at a local restaurant called Fresco. As I’ve never visited Milan before I decided to try a local speciality – Cotoletta alla Milanese – which is basically fried meat served with a side salad and some seasonal vegetables (in my case, courgette drizzled with a beautiful olive oil). As if Italian cuisine isn’t amazing enough already, wine also appears to be ridiculously cheap over there so you literally cannot go wrong when eating out. 

Good job I was hungry!

The Teatro alla Scala is yet another beautifully grand building and, even though I’m not the biggest fan of classical music, I am so glad we decided to go, if only for the experience of watching a performance there. The auditorium itself is just something else – again my photos do not do it justice! If anyone is planning to go to Milan I’d definitely recommend trying to get tickets for a concert or opera if at all possible.

The Scala

Ironically, after a rather sophisticated evening, we ended the night grabbing drinks in McDonalds – standard procedure! I had a great time and it was really fun to just do something different and do something that I would never usually choose to do at home, instead of just going out and getting drunk as we originally planned. You know you’re growing up when you consciously choose a night of classical music over chugging down a warm bottle of the cheapest wine you can find!

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Today I found my new favourite spot in Glasgow.  When I finally woke up, the sun was shining and it looked like a beautiful autumnal day so I thought, as I’m not back at work until tomorrow, why not head into the city and tick another tourist attraction off the list. I had a bit of trouble deciding where to go, as there’s so much I want to see, but I finally opted for the Botanics mainly because the weather was so good.

The Gardens are located in my favourite area of town, in the west end, which is the main student area (probably why I love it so much!) and full of cute shops and cafes that all look lovely. I took a little wander round the shops and then headed up to the Gardens. The park itself is fairly large and there are different attractions along the way, such as the rose garden, the main botanic gardens with lots of tropical plants and the beautiful Kibble Palace.

Main Gardens

Cheeky Squirrel

The only roses left in the Rose Garden 

Beautiful Kibble Palace

 

 

 

After I had a good look round and worked up an appetite I decided to treat myself to lunch at the Botanic tea rooms. Although I had quite a wait for a table inside (it was a bit too chilly for al fresco dining today!) it was well worth it – the food was absolutely beautiful. I had the ‘Scottish Seafood Tapas’ which comprised of hot smoked salmon and sour cream dip, pickled herrings and prawns Marie Rose with rye bread, accompanied by a side salad. It was little pricey but good value for the quality of the meal – I’d recommend it to anyone who takes a visit to the gardens.

The Tea Rooms

Scottish Seafood Tapas

 

As you can see from my photos, the weather was gorgeous and I instantly just fell in love with the place. Being there and just being so happy wandering around leisurely and taking in the sights made me realise just how glad I am that I made the decision to come up to Glasgow. I would never have decided to do this kind of thing on a day off back in Nottingham, instead probably choosing to just go shopping or sit around and watch T.V for most of the day, unless I had something specific planned and even then, it probably wouldn’t have involved me taking a spontaneous trip to a local attraction! Here though, I want to see and do everything and get involved in cultural events and such forth and just make the most of being in this amazing city (and country) for the year. I’m even considering going to an opera or a ballet just because I can!

I also realised today that I’m becoming a lot more comfortable in my own company. I’m an only child so I should, in theory, be pretty used to being independent. However I’m one of those people that is always out and about, socialising with my friends – at home or university I’d never dream of going anywhere on my own. In fact, being at university and spending all my time with some of my closest friends in the world, actually really made me dislike being in my own company for too long. However, in recent weeks, I’ve become a lot more comfortable spending whole days by myself and visiting cafes and restaurants alone. Today I even actually enjoyed reading a newspaper and being a solo diner. Admittedly I still sometimes feel a little awkward sat in a restaurant on my tod but, while I’d definitely never do it of an evening, I’m starting to quite like this new-found independence. As sad as it sounds, it makes me feel more adult and I finally feel like I might be starting to become a proper ‘grown-up’ instead of just a little girl running around the big city- well just a little bit anyway!

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