2011: the best bits

I started this blog mid-way through 2011, really as a travel diary for myself which I hoped to complete retrospectively, so that I had a record of the great holidays we have had. We have thousands of photographs which we never look at and I think if I blog the edited highlights I am much more likely to revisit past travels. It hasn’t really happened that way – I’ve only done one retrospective post! However, as well as blogging my main holiday, I have been writing up the days out we have had in Glasgow and around, which wasn’t my original intention, but it’s still travel, even if not very far, and I also hope that if other people stumble on this it might show them what a great place Scotland, and particularly Glasgow, is to visit. Although, I hope of course that many of them know that already!

So here are my highlights of 2011.

Travel: We spent three weeks in the summer touring Georgia, the Carolinas and a wee bit of Tennessee. That has all been chronicled here but, pre-blog, we also had a week in Amsterdam in the spring. Amsterdam is a very special place for us as we first went there on honeymoon in 1981. It doesn’t therefore take a mathematical genius to work out that we were back this time for our 30th anniversary. Instead of going to a hotel, as we have done in the past, we stayed in the Prinx Apartments which was an excellent decision – a lovely place and very handy for the Rijksmuseum. You can read my review on Trip Advisor if interested. Prinx is the middle building below and our apartment was behind the three windows on the first floor:

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We had four short UK breaks as well – I’ve written about the more recent ones, to Grasmere in the Lake District and to Fife, but Kelso and Moffat pre-dated the blog. The latter was lovely, the former less so – but that’s a whole other story! So what was my favourite travel destination for 2011? Has to be Amsterdam, I just love it.

Glasgow restaurants: As well as eating out on our travels, we also eat out in our home city A LOT! I’ve calculated that in 2011 we ate in 35 different Glasgow restaurants, some more than once. Of those, seven were Indian, seven were Italian and six were Chinese or oriental fusion. My favourite foods are therefore quite obvious, although the fact that all are veggie friendly probably influences the choices. As for favourite restaurants, that’s really hard. Glasgow has an excellent reputation for curries and has been UK Curry Capital several times, so it’s difficult to get a bad Indian meal. My favourite always seems to be the last one I visited, which at the moment is the Shish Mahal in Kelvinbridge where we had a delicious banquet to send off a friend who was emigrating. The Shish has been a legend since the 60s and was where, allegedly, chicken tikka masala was invented. For Italian, I like Amarone which is part of a chain, but doesn’t feel like it. We often go for a pre-theatre before the concert hall and their menu changes regularly which is good for veggies – it means I’m not stuck with the same choice all the time. The Chinese-style restaurant we go to most is Dragon-I, and for similar reasons – it’s very handy for the Theatre Royal. They don’t change their menu quite so often, but the food is delicious, the restaurant is extremely stylish and the staff are lovely. I’m going to leave it at that; I can’t possibly choose one favourite restaurant.

Concerts and gigs: We went to six classical concerts and sixteen gigs (four as part of Celtic Connections). Of the former, my top choice would be the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus performing Mozart’s Requiem, which made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I think my favourite gig was Jools Holland in Amsterdam – we’ve seen him at the Armadillo in Glasgow, which is quite a formal setting. The Paradiso (just round the corner from our apartment, another plus point for it) is much more intimate and we were able to stand very near the stage. All the usual suspects were with him, including the fabulous Ruby Turner, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It seems you either love Jools or hate him – I think he’s great, and that the rather bumbling persona he has on TV is a front. He seems much more in command live. Looking over the list of artists we saw at home, I am struck by how many strong, female performers are around just now. John’s highlight would undoubtedly be Tori Amos or PJ Harvey, but I can’t choose between Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, Anna Calvi and Lisa Hannigan. All great. The venue we went to most often was Oran Mor, a converted church on Byres Road, which is small but perfectly formed – and best of all, about 10 minutes’ walk from our house! So I’m not picking a favourite artist, but I’ll make Oran Mor my favourite venue.

Other culture: What else can I think of? Many visits to museums and galleries, six ballet or dance events, three plays, three Aye Write! events. Not everything was in Glasgow – I think my favourite thing (whispers) was actually in Edinburgh: the Blackadder exhibition I wrote about three or four posts ago.

So that was my year. I have never done a review like this before, so it will be interesting to look back in future years and compare and contrast what we have been up to. And it’s all about to start up again – the Celtic Connections and Aye Write! Festivals are not too far off and, as I am writing this, John is attempting, not terribly successfully, to book flights for our summer holidays. Those pesky Olympics getting in the way!

Watch this space.

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