Monday, September 28, 2015

Day 31 - Luss and Loch Lomond, The Burrell Collection, Pollok Country Park and the Riverside Museum

Today is our last day in Scotland and the weather is simply gorgeous. The manifesto has left today reasonably open and I’m really keen to end our time in Scotland with something fabulous. I engage with the helpful folk on TripAdvisor and we firm up a sketch plan for the day. We skip brekky and are on the road just after 8:30. Even on a motorway it’s great fun to be on the road in the crisp early morning. There’s some great effects as clouds hang low below the brows of gentle hills but there’s excitement in the car at a wondrous sight we come to as we’re about to cross the Erskine Bridge.
Have a look at that!! Don’t overtake it!  Got it! Fantastic, that is so cool. Haha. Is there any end to the things we tourists get excited about? OK now just move up so we can see if they have a logo on the side. Nah. How awesome is that! A Chivas Regal Tanker. That’s not something we’ll see at home.
Brown attraction signs remind us of all the many wonderful places and experiences we’ve not had time for.  Hubby reminds me to get ready to photograph the interesting bird feature in the round-about that was impossible to get coming the other way. There’s some advantages to retracing your steps sometimes.
We arrive at Luss at about 9:40. We’re not the first here but it’s fairly quiet as yet. Linda has recommended we have brekky at the hotel and given us the SatNav reference for it but as we all know there are few people who could find navigating as difficult as us and we seem to just be heading to the general car park. I’m prepared for this next sight too and have the camera at the ready. I just love this sign.
That’s telling them! Got to love a country where calling someone selfish like that is still considered such a strong message and where there’s clearly a belief that naming and shaming the behaviour will have a positive effect. Appeal to people’s better natures. Love it.
We consider the range of possible boat trips on the Loch promoted to visitors as they arrive at the edge of the car park. We rule those out today. Most are timed wrong or would probably be better as part of a day of walking or something. That’s something I hope we can come back for when Hubby’s feet are better.
Hubby has been proof reading my blog entries and reminding me of some things to record when I miss something. He’s obviously been paying attention and draws my attention to the nice street furniture. Distracted by a little holiday let cottage with bright red shutters Hubby lags behind.  
We also checked out the map. There’s a number of short walks illustrated. Given our feet issues we’ve opted for the shortest one in red dashes that will take us around the village and along the shore.
It’s not long before we’re ambling along a shady lane admiring the reflection of the trees in the shallow, pebble based water.  The sharp tang of paint in the air as a workman wields a glossy brown paintbrush on the lytchgate of a pretty little church. Deep shade and bright sunlight underline the stillness of the morning.  We burst out into the light serenaded by the soft vintage chugging of a little boat moored up a long a private peer.
The water of the loch is still as a mill pond. I am overtaken by a compelling urge to take that boat.  I lunge forward to enquire of the skipper approaching. It’s just a short half hour trip around the islands. Tariff is modest. I wave to hurry Hubby along and head out onto the pier.  This is a “magic” day. It’s theme tune would be Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens, doubly fitting because the hymn is the marriage of a modern lyric with a traditional Scottish Gaelic tune (with some embellishment by Rick Wakeman on piano).
We clamber on board and grab ourselves a comfortable possy. Another group of three come after us and we cast off and head into the rising sun.
The wake of the boat dresses the glassy water of the loch with lace as we cruise at a gentle pace through the cluster of islets. We pass a kayaker propelled by an older man with slow lingering single strokes of a paddle. What a superb way experience this place on a day like this. The heilan coos have their own approach. Sitting in shaggy brown by the white sand beach. A long lensed photographer’s dream. 
Horned sheep drift among the trunks of the forest trees as their kinsman sips at the water’s edge.  I hold my breath as between the islands, protected pockets create God’s mirror.  I’m not a religious person but who, on a morning like this, surrounded by natural beauty, could not feel a sense of one’s place in a spiritual world.
Shags drape their wings out to dry as we travel the return leg. The clouds are building and reminding mankind to revel in the sunshine while it lasts. Off in the distance the nether reaches of the loch are a misty blue. The open water ruffled by a caressing breeze. We say our thanks and rumble back along the pier to walk along the firm packed pale beach front. A busload of Asian tourists are congregated on the sand. Capturing images of themselves and a flock of hopeful gulls and ducks against the water. There’s no sense of rush here. Everyone, like Hubby and me, taking time to just soak up the atmosphere.  Black-headed gulls dressed for the off-season mill around as I aim my camera lens at them in hypnotic determination.  The sun shines brightly metallic on a Mallard's head. A westie comes past sniffing his way to his next opportunity for territory demarcation.
Eventually we move along. We’re at the edge of the car park now and not far from the information centre. I’m led astray by a flock of Long -tailed Tits harbouring the odd tiny Gold Crest. We pop into the visitor centre and pick up a map leaflet and consider our options. I’m determined to complete the walk loop and make sure we’ve seen the village fully.

Crowds are building as the morning progresses. We browse in the gift shop but resist, all too conscious of our limited luggage space. The cute tartan dressed teddy bears tempt us as always. We could wander down to the pub and get something to eat. Opportunity cost drives us to resist and head back to town for our next stop.
We’ve been encouraged to get out to the Burrell Collection and Pollok Country Park where the mix of elements make the most of the weather. Again we have no difficulty parking and I enjoy the sight of school kids out on the green as I wait for Hubby to complete the pay and display.  We’ve not coordinated our visit to the various theme tours available so we’ll have to wing it. The collection holds an extraordinary array of precious items from different time periods and disciplines. It makes you wonder how Burrell found the time to run his business empire and also get his head around the many disciplines his collection covers.  I can understand why they had to design a gallery for the display, there’s everything from stone doorways to stained glass, medieval waist coats in seemingly perfect condition, or even the tomb of a knight. A tiny knight. Knights loom large in the imagination through their moral stature and physical prowess. In their day even though they were larger than typical physical specimens would have been they are quite small by modern standards and this is brought home as I stand by the sarcophagus amazed at its diminutive proportions.
Hubby’s pushing for a decision about lunch. I’m not looking for it and he can’t make up his mind. We continue to browse the displays, me on my own for periods as he sits in a comfortable chair enjoying the view of the woodland through the glass wall. In the end though, I just can’t bear being inside. It’s a bright bright sunshiney day.
We stand at the map and consider our options for exploring the park. We take a gamble and drive down to the car park near the gardens and Pollok House. We walk through dim shadows over gravel alongside a watercourse with periodic low weirs creating horizontal cascades.  Picnickers sprawl languidly on the grass and a beautiful stone bridge provides a useful focal point drawing the eye to tantalising glimpses of stone buildings beyond.  Over by the stone wall gardeners are clipping a hedge while a carpet of winged seeds under the trees reminds us that during our month in Scotland summer has ebbed away and Autumn is on the ascendancy.
Hubby relaxes on a bench seat while I head off to explore hoping to get a better look at the buildings by the water but dreaming of spotting a Kingfisher.
At the nether reaches of my exploration I come across a small paddock where the heavy horses are grazing. Wander back along the cobbles via the amenities. What is it about stable blocks that makes them have such a warm and romantic atmosphere?
Eventually I find my way by the vegetable garden into the manicured garden spaces where an older lady is really very impressed by the floral boat that is the central feature. I of course am claimed by the flurry of birds at the bird feeders hanging in the shade of a tree.  I stand there watching and pointing my camera for probably a lot longer than it felt like before a lady walking through stands next to me and sparks up a conversation about the birds. 
Hearing my Australian accent she enquires whether I know we have a new Prime Minister. Yes. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. I say with a twinkle in my eye. What do you think of the new one? She asks me. “Well, he seems to believe in democracy which is a nice change. He’s an excellent communicator and a big improvement on Abbott that’s for sure. We’ve been led by a pack of fascists for the past couple of years. We’ve actually had our judiciary coming out in Australia expressing their concern about the impact of government statements and decisions on democracy.” Sorry to introduce the political but hey, she did ask.  I can only hope my tone adequately conveys my contempt for the deposed PM.  My companion expresses her sympathy. Obviously (from her accent) she was born in England she says and she’s looking on with concern from another country now as the conservatives in Westminster set about their own conservative agenda. Social justice is very important to all Scots, she tells me proudly. Eventually she’s in need of being on her way and I start to mosey up the path, feeling a bit guilty for having taken so long. I’m busily admiring some autumn crocus that are pushing naked pink flowers and a burst of yellow stamens out for our appreciation when Hubby stalks up behind me. Oh, I’ve just been looking at the birds and got talking to a nice lady I explain. As if he couldn’t have guessed.
We take a turn up the garden path and into the more formal area closer to the house then back down and out towards the water. We look back at the house. 18th century I reckon I say. Look at the symmetry. I wonder if you can look inside. Hubby confirms yes, he noticed it’s National Trust for Scotland. Oh good. Free for us then. We hobble the long way round to the entrance. Answer the inevitable question about whether we’ve been there before and get a quick run down on what there is to see and a wish that we should enjoy or visit. Did I say it was free? Haha. Yeah. Well. Not quite. Naturally there’s the moment of upselling opportunity. Would we like to buy the guide book? How can we say no when we’ve just flashed our foreign National Trust Membership and not paid entry. Of course we’ll buy the guide book. We’ve assembled quite a collection.
We wander through the house, up stairs and down. This estate was the home of the Maxwell family for 700 years. I guess this means that this was family to Gavin Maxwell of the Ring of Bright Water. The Park and House was gifted to the Glasgow Corporation on condition that it remain a public park.  There’s a lot I don’t like about the class system but it does seem to have protected open spaces pretty well. Now that the public has greater access to enjoy the great estates it’s hard not to be pleased with the legacy.
The artwork seems to be the most prominently promoted attraction. It’s an attractive house but nothing especially grabs me. Well, that’s not actually true. My favourite part of this house is the servant’s quarters. Those that are open are brilliant and there seems to be plenty of potential for the expansion of the “downstairs” experience here. The kitchen is still operating as a restaurant and it’s tempting to relax here, but all too conscious of our time slipping away we figure it’s time to make a dash for objective three. Oh the demands of international travel. So much opportunity cost all the time. Objective three is to take a look at the Riverside Museum. We won’t have long there but few things impressed my friend so much in her recent trip so let’s get over there and take a look.
Outside the riverside is a large paved area and a bank of family pedal vehicles that look like fun. People are hanging around with skateboards. We haven’t seen any skate park facilities in our travels. This would be a great place for one surely.
Inside there’s a large range of immaculately restored vehicles of all eras. In many cases the history of the particular item is explained. There’s a street with shopfronts and it’s very good of course. It underlines once more the links between New Zealand and Scotland. New Zealand museums invariably include this feature and they do them extremely well. As they do here in Scotland too. It’s an extremely effective way to display some sorts of collections. I can understand why it’s not allowed, but throughout my visit I wished I could climb aboard the buses and trams and things but Perspex barriers or ropes tell me to keep out. Our time flies past of course, we had a bit less than an hour to spend. It was enough for me today. We reunite and head home.
Not much relaxing for us tonight. In the time before dinner we make a start of repacking ready to return our car tomorrow morning when we go to catch the train. Holy crap. We’ve or I should say I have been buying things and tossing them in the back of the car. I had heaps of kilos of free luggage allowance coming over but this seems to have expanded in my estimation along the way. How on EARTH are we going to get this stuff home. Hubby is laughing. Watching me freak out is really tickling his funny bone. He’s been asking me at every point…. How are we going to get that home? It’ll be fine I routinely say. Chickens are coming home to roost. Nothing could be funnier. He’s watching the time. Come on, we need to go get dinner. We’ll finish this later.
We’re determined to try some Indian cuisine before leaving Glasgow. Linda’s recommended her local - Shezan -  which is just opposite Sapori d'Italia Cafe Bar on the corner of Bolton Drive and Cathcart Road. No trouble getting a table but our waiter seems a bit at sea dealing with people who are so new to the cuisine and don’t want to much heat in the spices. His recommendations are consistent with what Linda has suggested. We start with chicken pakora. This is marinated chicken in a light batter. The batter isn’t spicy. The chicken flesh is though and that’s a trend that continues. Pretty hard to provide heat options when the meat is all prepared well ahead like that. I can see this is good quality food. It’s beautifully cooked.
Mains we’re sharing. Now, I’ve been tardy on the note-taking today. Don’t quite know how we’ve managed to not have either a photograph of the menu or handwritten notes, but there we are. I believe the food in front of us is Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Korma. Hubby questions getting all chicken. He’s probably right but we stick with the chicken. The flavours are beautiful and the sauces creamy and mild. My problem is the heat in the chicken flesh. I couldn’t take too much more of that but we’ve enjoyed our meal and I love naan. Our meal is served with the most enormous slab of naan bread. It’s nice dipped or plain. Can’t have too much naan.
Hubby’s keen for dessert but the restaurant’s delivery didn’t arrive today and dessert’s off. Hubby is not to be diverted however and he leads me across the road to get some ice cream. His is a double cone that involved chocolate chips and mint, and chocolate and I have a two scoop tub of coconut and rhubarb. The ice cream is good but the woman serving us maybe even better. She’s friendly and chatty and open. Makes us feel like old friends. We stroll as we eat our ice creams.

Back to the grim reality of finishing packing up, eventually we have things organised enough to be able to go in the morning. It’s taken a while though and we need to buy extra luggage allowance. It’s 10 o’clock or so before we’re dreaming. 

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