polo boxer New face of Glasgow
Glasgow used to claim it was “smiles better”. In the 1980s, Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Happy character single handedly helped dispel the proverbial Mean City’ image Glasgow had long laboured under.That campaign inevitably ran it’s course and was replaced by Glasgow’s Alive’. Now the city has again moved on and proudly hails itself as Scotland with Style.’The last time I visited the banks of the River Clyde, Punks had just been replaced by New Romantics, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran were top of the hit parade, and Margaret Thatcher was getting into the swing of things as the longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century.There was definitely nothing stylish’ then about a place that had grown rich on the back of cotton mills, coal mines, tobacco importing and shipbuilding and once proclaimed itself the Second city of the Empire’.Just as Britain had lost its dominions, so Glasgow had lost its sparkle with its decaying shipyards, grand but derelict buildings, polluted river, high unemployment, and general air of despair.But if a week is a long time in politics, then two decades is an eternity when it comes to regenerating our inner cities. And just as Newcastle/Gateshead has undergone a renaissance in the last 10 years, so has Glasgow.Scotland with Style’ may be over egging things with the Athens of the North, Edinburgh, just 50 miles up the road. But Glasgow has undoubtedly changed for the better since I last ventured along it’s grimy streets.The derelict buildings with their rooftop forests reaching for the sky are still there, as are the boarded up shop fronts. But for every crumbling neo classical facade there are scores more that have been returned to their former glory.The constant hum of traffic now blends with the sound of cranes and cement mixers in the same way that the world’s top designer stores sit cheek by jowl with the high street multiples.Glasgow claims to be second only to London when it comes to shopping. And if the quality of a places’ retailers are a sign of its prosperity, then Glasgow is indeed back where it belongs in the Premier league.LK Bennett, Cruise, Space NK, Jo Malone, Emporio Armani and Ralph Lauren are just a few of the must own labels that reside happily alongside essential stores like Marks Spencer and Top Shop. This is heaven on earth for a shopaholic. Unlike other cities, however, Glasgow’s shopping centre isn’t confined to one small area. Retail therapy Glasgow style demands commitment and a stout pair of walking shoes.Argyle Street is where you will find the likes of M Debenhams, Next and Gap, leading into the pyramid shaped St Enoch Centre. Europe’s largest glass structure, it houses the likes of Bhs, TK Maxx and Boots. Also off Argyle is Buchanan Street with Frasers, Urban Outfitters, Karen Millen, Top Shop and Office.Buchanan Street is also home to the Argyll Arcade with its ornate iron framed hammerbeam roof. One of the UK’s oldest covered shopping areas there are more than 30 jewellers’ shops,
both modern and antique.Buchanan Galleries is the newest shopping centre. Positioned at the junction of Glasgow’s famous Sauchiehall and Buchanan Streets, 80 shops vie for your attention, including John Lewis, H Habitat and Mango.Walk just a few minutes east and you come to Royal Exchange Square with the Gallery of Modern Art.It is in this area you will find a couple of Cruise outlets with Polo Ralph Lauren on Ingram Street and The Italian Centre with an Emporio Armani store.The shopping experience goes on and on. Situated in the area east of George Square which used to be the hub of the trade generated by Glasgow’s rich Tobacco Lords’, lies Merchant Square, with exclusive shops, restaurants and bars. The historic Barras Market in Gallowgate on the eastern fringe of the city centre is only open at weekends, but offers an eclectic mix of covered and open stalls selling a huge range of goods.Beware, however. The Barras has gained an unenviable reputation for selling counterfeit videos, CDs and DVDs. It’s worth a visit, but it’s definitely at the lower end of the Glasgow shopping experience in terms of quality of material but it does have great character and the opportunity for a genuine bargain.Out in Glasgow’s West End, Great Western Road is the place for home furnishings, while De Courcy’s Antique Craft Arcade on Cresswell Lane offers a more offbeat shopping experience with an interesting mix of outlets selling new and old, designer homeware goods and vintage records, together with cafes and bistros.The Victorian Village on West Regent Street is the place to head for costume jewellery and memorabilia.All this involves a good deal of walking. And while it may be a good way of ensuring you burn off the calories in preparation for squeezing yourself into a designer fashion creation, it certainly takes its toll on the feet.The best way to get around is to take public transport in this case the bright red hop on hop off double decker Glasgow city sightseeing buses. For a meagre outlay you can buy a two day ticket and not only find out about Glasgow’s past and present as the tour takes you on an entertaining 90 minute journey around the city, but use it to navigate your way around the major attractions, whether it be the shops or museums and art galleries. We used the bus to head upriver to the Science Centre and Tall Ship at Glasgow Harbour, as well as out west’ to the Kelvingrove Art Galley and Museum, before hopping back on for the short journey back into the city centre.Restored to its former glory, the Glenlee is one of only five remaining Clydebuilt sailing ships still afloat. Moored near the world famous Clyde Auditorium more commonly known as the Armadillo a visit takes you back in time to experience what life was like on the high seas. Across the Clyde from the Glenlee stands the gleaming titanium crescent of the Glasgow Science Centre with its IMAX screen and 400ft viewing tower able to revolve around 360? from the ground up. Unfortunately the tower, with a view stretching 40 miles north and south on a clear day, has spent more time closed than open due to technical problems, and wasn’t open for business on our visit.Disappointing though this was, there was no lack of other things to do inside the science centre. We had 300 hands on exhibits, interactive workshops, live science shows as well as a planetaria to explore on three floors.Then it was off to watch new children’s animation Ant Bully in 3D on the huge IMAX screen bigger than a five a side football pitch. We wisely decided to sit at the back of the auditorium as to say the 3D version is in your face’ would be an understatement as the action quite literally jumps out of the screen at you.A five minute bus ride and we arrived at the Kelvingrove Art Galley and Museum. Re opened in July following a three year 27.9m refurbishment, we were barely able to do this magnificent Victorian landmark justice.Housing everything from fine and decorative arts to archaeology, the natural world, paintings and arms and armour, it would be easy to spend all day in this museum that has something for all ages.Our son was particularly taken with the real Second World War Spitfire soaring above a menagerie of record breaking beasts in the West Court gallery,
as well as a four metre Ceratosaur dinosaur skeleton.