Review: A midwinter Travelodge stay in the heart of Glasgow

Buchanan Street in Glasgow in the run-up to Christmas

Buchanan Street in Glasgow in the run-up to Christmas - Credit: Archant

Sarah Chambers went to Glasgow in the depths of winter - a season she thinks shows it off to its best advantage - to take in the sights, sounds, and pubs, of this remarkable city.

Glasgow's Buchanan Street in the run-up to Christmas. The 'living statue' represents a statue of the

Glasgow's Buchanan Street in the run-up to Christmas. The 'living statue' represents a statue of the Duke of Wellington in the city. - Credit: Archant

It’s touching the way that be-suited Glaswegian gents, fresh from a wee swally at the pub, will throw themselves at the mercy of the city’s traffic.

Dressed in flying dark coats, they look you straight in the eye and step out, avoiding any attempt to find a pedestrian crossing. The Glasgow swagger in all its glory. What faith. What confidence.

Midwinter is the best time, I think, to visit Glasgow. There’s something unnatural about the city in a heatwave, or basking in glorious sunshine as it did at the start of last year’s Commonwealth Games.

It’s a winter city, best seen when the pavements are slick and shining with rain, and the sun is low in the sky, heating up the fiery red walls of its majestic sandstone buildings.

Street scene near Strathclyde University

Street scene near Strathclyde University - Credit: Archant

Glasgow doesn’t know it’s beautiful, so possesses none of the self-conscious pride in its looks that can turn lovely towns into museums populated by out-of-touch poseurs. Snootiness is definitely not a Glaswegian flaw. It has a reputation as a tough city, but perhaps because they know that conflict is a serious business, Glaswegians are polite to a fault.

“Oh, sorry!” says a man as I accidentally step on his toe, and a woman as I nearly shut a shop door in her face.

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“So sorry,” say the shop assistants apologetically, as they explain that they can’t offer me a bag at all, or will have to charge me for one. Scotland has turned bagless, you see.

In the run-up to Christmas, the city centre is a lively place. Buskers line the street as we make our way up the main thoroughfare of Buchanan Street, where the big department stores are clustered. A “living statue” painted black, with a traffic cone hat and a comically undersized horse, depicts the city’s statue of the Duke of Wellington.

One of Travelodge's r new look rooms. The Sleepeeze Dreamer bed has more than 950 pockets springs.

One of Travelodge's r new look rooms. The Sleepeeze Dreamer bed has more than 950 pockets springs. - Credit: Archant

Mounted on his horse in Royal Exchange Square, Welly is customarily brought down to size by the no-nonsense citizens of Glasgow, who regularly make the hazardous climb to add a traffic cone to his noble nut. Over the years, Glasgow City Council, in a rather futile nod to civic rectitude, is said to have spent large sums arranging for the removal of said cone. Last year, it even put forward plans to double the height of the plinth, which would undoubtedly have made the journey upwards even more precarious. However, the proposals were withdrawn amid widespread public opposition and a popular “Keep the Cone” Facebook campaign.

Puncturing vanity is a popular Glaswegian pastime, alongside jaywalking and the equally popular sport of pulling your leg (especially if you’re English).

The latter game is often practised in the boozer, a favoured meeting place for Glaswegians, especially after a hard day’s Christmas shopping. Here the gender ratio can often change radically in favour of the Glaswegian male.

Glaswegians are great story-tellers and make for excellent company, really coming into their own in social settings. This is especially so when their well-worked larynxes are suitably oiled with “a heavy”.

After a hard day’s shop, we make our way from a meet-up at the heaving Horse Shoe Bar in Drury Street and from there on to the more modern Sir John Moore, a Wetherspoons pub in Argyle Street. A few drinks later and we are out on the street again after the fire alarm goes off and two fire engines arrive. Out spill the patrons, who continue their drinks and conversations as though they have simply been invited onto the veranda to enjoy the view.

The following day it’s off to Celtic Park to see the mighty green team play the less mighty St Mirren minnows. We are greeted by chip vans and green-clad Santas as we make our way up to the hallowed ground and towards statues of Celtic heroes Brother Walfrid, Jock Stein and Jimmy Johnstone. Inside, it’s an uneven contest, and, apart from a few shaky defence moves, which allow the visiting side a consolation goal, it’s a one-sided affair, eventually ending in a four-one victory. Perhaps because of the perfunctory nature of the clash, the 60,000-seater stadium looks about a third full. The Celtic goal tally, all agree, should have been much higher. Every time the striker, Skepovic, misses a supposed “sitter”, the middle-aged fan in front turns to us, shakes his head in disgust and groans.

At half-time, I make my way down to get a coffee and ask the man in front if he’s in the queue. “Aye,” he says with a wry smile, “but I always choose the slowest one.” Well warned, I choose the line next door and steam to the front. “I told you,” he laughs again, as I meet him, still queuing, on my way out.

Before a big family meet-up at a home in the city’s stunningly beautiful university district, we refresh ourselves in a pub set in a converted church. Òran Mór, in what was Kelvinside Parish Church on Byres Road in the West End, offers a play, a pie and a pint at lunchtimes. We’re treated to live music in what’s probably the most gorgeous-looking pub I’ve been in.

And loveliest of all, of course, is the family reunion. Scots are generous hosts, and there is nothing better than a warm, Scottish welcome on a cold, wet night. Auld lang syne indeed.

Sarah Chambers and family stayed at the Glasgow Paisley Road Travelodge hotel. Travelodge has completed a £57million nationwide modernisation programme of its hotels, including the one she stayed in. It featured a comfortable bespoke king-size bed called the Travelodge Dreamer Bed, complimentary in-room toiletries and free WIFI for 30 minutes. The company is set to continue to modernise the remaining hotels within its estate this year.