Scotland, United Kingdom: Welcome to Glasgow
I needed that sleep. When I finally woke up, it was already morning. According to the flight map, it looked like we were approaching Ireland. Great! There was no way that I had more than an hour to go. I opened the shade and the only things visible were the clouds. Because I was so exhausted from the day before, I had slept through dinner and breakfast.
To my surprise, the two ladies sharing my row said good morning and handed me a wrapped croissant with jelly. Beyond that, they had tucked a customs form into the seat back for me. Not to say that people aren’t nice and don’t look out for each other but I was genuinely touched by their kindness. I was so appreciative of the small gestures. I knew this was going to be an awesome trip.
Shortly after, we were preparing for landing. It was about to be official. As my aunt would say, “you’re crossing the pond”. That was one hell of a pond. We touched down and I couldn’t wait to get off of the plane. I mean, I had slept for the majority of the flight but 7 hours in one seat is brutal. I gathered my belongings and hoped that the nice ladies to the left weren’t the type to sit in their seat until the whole plane was empty. Not this morning, ladies.
As we made our way off of the aircraft, the flight attendants thanked us for flying and apologized for the delay. Working where I work, I know how it goes but it didn’t stop me from tweeting them and being compensated for the inconvenience of me missing my connecting train. In the end, I was given $100 towards future travel. I guess it’s better than nothing.
The visitor line through customs was almost nonexistent. I was one of the only people “visiting”. No complaints there. When I stepped up to the podium, the agent examined my documents and asked why I was there. I told her that my best friend had moved her family back to Scotland and it was her son’s first birthday. She partially smiled and asked how long I’d known her. I was happy to tell her that we were friends in Miami since 2003ish. She stamped my passport (of course on a new damn page) and I walked out.
Even though I had never been here before, navigating through Glasgow was nothing foreign to me. If you can make it through Atlanta airport in one piece, you can pretty much make it anywhere. I followed the signs to the exit and found an ATM. Instead of changing money in the U.S., I opted to just withdraw cash. The ATM converted it for me at the wholesale rate instead of the bullshit they try to give you elsewhere. My £80 transaction cost me $115 USD. It is what it is.
Money in hand, I walked towards the information booth. I needed to collect my train ticket and get the shuttle into Central Glasgow. The shuttle was £7 and packed. I was one of the last people to get on so most of the luggage space was gone as were the seats. About 10 minutes later, I got off at some corner in the city and hoped that it was close to the station.
I had turned my phone on and checked my location. According to the map, I was only about a block and a half away. Despite being able to easily navigate through the streets, I felt like such a tourist. I mean, I was a tourist but I never really feel like one in new places. I adapt quickly and move along. I took in all of the buildings and scenery. The cars were different. Above all, it was weird being one of the only one of “Us” in the area. As people passed me, they’d give me that puzzled “oh there’s another black person” look but would also have that “I’m not like you” look.
A part of me was already expecting to be the glowing crown in a pile of baseball caps so I didn’t care that much. All I wanted to do was drop my bags off and wander the streets of Glasgow. The train station had a luggage hold and the cashier gave me a map of the city. I was really opting for a map instead of Google maps. This is what life was about. I can’t lie, I felt kind of cool.
I had researched cafes in the area prior to landing so I already knew what I was looking for. Spitfire Espresso was the destination. I had instantly fallen in love with this place from the Yelp! Page. It was a good 4 blocks away from the train station. Being that I had 2 hours to spare, I took my time walking around. When I turned the corner, I instantly recognized the street. I walked by the tall windows and walked inside to see the menu. The weather was beautiful and they had outside seating available so of course, I chose that option.
I thoroughly enjoyed Spitfire. The staff was really nice and my latte art was on point. I had a basic breakfast sandwich so I didn’t expect much out of it. I was satisfied and also cutting it close for making my train. I only had about 20 minutes to spare at this point so I took a different route back to the station. Not only was it more direct but it also provided me with different view.
When I made it back to the station, I looked up at the information board and found the correct gate for my train. Since there wasn’t a cafe car on board, I stopped to get something to drink only to realize that they prefer their beverages room temperature. What kind of shit is that? I had every ventricle of my heart set on an ice cold soda. Not today. Instead, I grabbed a bottle of water and got on the train.
I found a seat in the rear that resembled a low budget version of a 4seater on the Acela and took a load off. Being polite, I kept all of my belongings to myself. This was definitely not like the American rail system. There were no announcements to move your shit. That was a bit refreshing. I spent the next hour and 45 minutes talking to the conductor and taking pictures. There was even a baby in a harness riding with us. It was becoming quite the adventure.
Dumfries was closer than ever.