One of my duties as your faithful servant is to report back to you from interesting locations that I might visit during my yearly vacation. For those of you who don’t get to travel as much as you’d like, feel free to live vicariously through me. As a word of caution, you should be aware that I do a lot of dumb things, so you may also hospitalize yourself vicariously through me.
At JFK Airport we breathed a sigh of relief: we’re finally on vacation! All our stress and worry vanish as we step up to the counter to check our bags. A HUNDRED BUCKS EACH to check our bags? Are you kidding me? Why should I pay a hundred bucks when it’s not my idea that you check the bags in the first place! There’s nothing dangerous in them, like a juice box or anything, but my wife says that’s not what checking the bags means. I started to calm down once we got queued up for the security check. We had 45 minutes to relax on the line as we tried to solve the maze to the TSA area. All our stress and worry vanish, until we have a full 30 seconds to remove everything from our pockets, take our electronic items out of our carry-on bags, take off our shoes and jackets and put everything into the bins. I’m holding everybody up because I keep forgetting where I have everything stashed in various pockets. I make the TSA girl promise in advance not to laugh at anything she might see during the body scan but she laughs anyway. I told a joke at the same time as my scan so I wouldn’t know what exactly she was laughing at. We get ready to board the plane and
I feel like I’ve been through a car wash with the top down.
Finally the plane takes off and I can sit back and relax. You want to know how much I can sit back and relax? An inch and a quarter, that’s how far my seat reclines. But I’m not complaining, because I have a 5” by 7” pillow for my 8 1/2” by 11” head, and I’m going to nap until we get to Glasgow. 20 minutes later I wake up because I don’t want to miss the complimentary beverage, since they took away my juice box. I’m still a little angry about the juice box- it’s only really dangerous to me since every time I pop the straw through the top, a siphon immediately forms and drains the entire contents into my lap, and I have to spend the next 15 minutes thinking up an interesting story to go with it. The next thing I know we’re passing over Greenland, and I know everyone is all excited to see what’s under the polar ice caps now that everything is melting. I have to be honest, from 30,000 feet up it doesn’t look to me like it will ever be a fantastic vacation spot. I picture myself sometime in the future trying to unload a time share that I bought there.
Soon we were in Scotland- you never stop to realize how many great things come from Scotland: Scotch whiskey, Scottish terriers, Scott’s lawn products, Scotch Tape. We took the subway to Kelvingrove Park and checked out the museum there to discover the influence of Scottish artists and designers. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was featured in an exhibit of furniture and art, which became known as the “Glasgow Style.” His furniture was a fixture in the Cranston Tea Rooms, which were every bit as much of a part of Glasgow life in the 1800s as Starbucks is to American life today. The Scottish art wing featured the works of the “Glasgow Boys,” James Guthrie, George Henry, William Kennedy and E. A. Hornel, among others. My favorites were called “crepuscules,” or scenes of twilight, with their unusual lighting and color. Down the hall a provocative work by Dali depicts Christ on the cross as pictured from above.
We shopped famous Buchanan Street, which is suffering from the same Banana Republic-itis as all other iconic pedestrian malls in the world, the high rents that are outstripping the ability of small and eclectic local shops to survive, making for a homogeneous global experience. But the people-watching is always worth the trip- there aren’t that many places where you can find bag-pipe street buskers. Scotland and Northern Ireland use the pound sterling as currency, and the Republic of Ireland uses the euro, so it’s a little confusing. You should conduct most of your overseas transactions on plastic for the best exchange rate, but there are some places that won’t take maxed-out credit cards, so I went to the money exchange and picked up some euros and a hundred bucks worth of pounds. I mostly wanted them for tips and small purchases, so I asked for the pounds in 1600 ounces.
The Glasgow nightlife is robust, and we went to the Howlin’ Wolf, where they have live music seven days a week, sometimes more. The next day we took the train to the Glasgow Science Centre, which is a great place to take your kids. They could probably stay entertained there for a couple days if you wanted to get back to the Howlin’ Wolf. At the Centre we saw the IMAX movie “A Beautiful Planet,” which explores life in the International Space Station, and compares it to the planet Earth as a “spaceship,” with only its own finite resources aboard. It warns of the challenges we may face in the future, and also how hard it is to wash your hair in space.
Next we were off to the ferry to take us across the Irish Channel to Belfast. We checked into our hotel, and of course, as usual, I can’t get into my email. One of these days I’m just going to hire a Russian hacker and make it easy on myself. The RMS Titanic was launched in Belfast from the very spot where a museum commemorating the ship’s history and fate now stands. The exhibits cover the climate of the times, and how important the shipbuilding industry was to Belfast, as well as the monumental undertaking of constructing the ship itself. There is vibrant nightlife here in Belfast too, although we saw one place that said it was a “New York-style bar,” an irony because most bars left in New York are Irish bars.
The following day we were headed south, and by the time I woke up we were almost there. “We’re about to touch down- I just heard the landing gear,” I said. My wife said, “I hope so, because we’re on a train.” Dublin is going to be fun.
Join Rick and the Trillium vocal group for some melodies at the Downtown Peekskill Summer Music Series Sunday evening, June 2, 5 p.m. on North Division Street
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