Bliss in a Barrel

Cask Strength Art for the Whisk(e)y aficionado

Scotland Day 3 (18 May 2012): Kelvingrove Museum and Islay Inn June 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — L.T. Do @ 10:50 am


The next morning I woke up around 9:30 AM.  I was the last person to wake up.  The other 5 girls in my room left early in the morning, probably around 7 AM!  I took my time rolling out of bed and  had no idea what I wanted to do today, but after showering and putting on fresh clothes I walked out of the hostel at 10:30 am and saw a gal sitting on the front steps of the hostel’s entrance.   She had on black spandex and open-toed shoes. Her hair was wild and frizzy, wrapped in a  bun.  My reaction was, “I like her quirky look! She looks like a really nice person!!!”  I greeted her and asked if she were traveling alone, in which she replied, “Yes.”  I told her I was traveling alone, too, and was freezing cold, but she said that she was used to that kind of weather because Chicago could get as cold as Scotland.  Her name was Shiri, and she said, “I’m going to Kelvingrove Museum right now.  Would you like to come with me?”  And you bet I said yes! 🙂

The both of us had a map in our hands, but we still got lost.   It took us about 30 minutes to find the museum.  However, when we got closer to the museum, a guy exactly where to go.  After we talked to him, she turned to me and said, “You know you’re in Scotland when you can smell alcohol from someone’s breath at 11 in the morning!!!”  At any rate, the guy who helped us out was really nice and friendly!  He said that if we saw the butcher shop we were on the right track!


We finally arrived at the museum, but we were 15 minutes too early.  So, we walked around the building and took pictures of the exterior.  Once we got in, the interior of the place looked like a cathedral to me because the height of the building was grand and detailed like a cathedral.  It also had stained glass windows and large chandeliers, in addition to a pipe organ on the second floor at the main center of the building.   The two of  us just joined a tour for free, and it was interesting to learn about Scotland’s history.   For example, the tour guide stated that Scotland is known for having creative engineers create things on the set of Star Trek.  There was also some famous man who created this metal machine that had the full set of  planets.  She said it was soooo accurate that if you still wound it up it to this day, it would lose 1 second of the time over 2 years I think.  If I could recall correctly from memory,  she said the contraption was about 100 years old.

I saw artifacts of Egyptian tombs, etc., but I was more interested in the the history of Scotland because I was in this country.  I learned that the streets named in Glasgow were actual historical references.  For example, the street Battle Ground is a direct link to the Queen of Scotts being captured by Queen Elizabeth from England.  There was an original letter that was written under the Queen of Scotts’s direction, where she stated that she needed help to escape from prison in the museum, too.

One of my favorite part of the museum was looking at the knights’ attire.  Helmets and weapons were designed and inspired by animals to help the knights defend

themselves.  For example, there was one helmet that had a sharp angle that protruded near the forehead, which emulated a bird’s beak.

I think craft work and details on the armours and weapons were amazing.  I like to gaze at the details of the armour and imagine how it was made and how long it took for these craftsmen to create them.  I love staring at crown moldings and carved faces made from limestones on buildings, wondering who these people are supposed to be. When I go the living room at my hostel and look up at the ceiling, I see an oval border that has plaster shaped in fruits.  Everything just seems so majestic when I get to catch a glimpse of these works.  There’s something personal about handcraft work and minute details.  

I also saw a painting by Dahli, which was a painting of Jesus. I think the tour guide stated that the time when he painted a picture of Jesus, he was in a place of becoming religious again.  He didn’t draw Jesus with a bloody crown or Jesus’ hands being nailed to the cross because he wanted Jesus to be seen in a a perfect light.  There’s an actual tear on the painting, that was eventually restored.  Someone was so angry by it that he took a knife and drew it from left to right on the lower 2/3 of the painting.  When someone asked Dahli if he were offended by it, he stated that it was better to get some of sort of a reaction from someone  than to not have any reaction at all.  The painting also belongs to the city of Glasgow.  Usually, after the painter dies the commission and royalties are given to his family, so it is a rare treat that Glasgow owns the property work of a painter, especially during the time when the painter is still alive.

At the end of the tour I was dead tired.  I was thinking, “Dammit! I’m such an old geezer!  I can’t do my straight 6-hour walks anymore.  I retired my feet at the cafe and had coffee and gingerbread.  At 1 o’clock a man played us 8 songs on the organ.   It was nice to sit down and relax.


                                                            Knights! 🙂

Statue in front of museum.


Shiri and I got back to the hostel around 2:00 PM, and she left for London.  We took our separate ways, and I went straight to the computer to email people.   While emailing people, I thought to myself, “I can’t walk far any more!! Dammit! I’m old!!!!!!!”  So I lounged around the hostel for a few hours and took a nap.  Then around 5:40 pm, I had the sudden energy to get up from my bed and decided that I wanted to check out the Botanical Gardens.  The gal at the front desk said it was a ten-minute walk.  As I got out of the steps from hostel, I realized I had no clue where to cut through the park.  I made a left when I exited the hostel.  That was wrong, of course!!! I asked a couple to show me the way when I walked through the park, but the couple said it was too far–about 20 minutes of a walk–and I was better off not going there, since it was sprinkling and getting late.  The sun sets here around 8:40 PM (At least that’s what I thought at the time because I didn’t have a watch).  So, I decided to walk down the neighborhood to look for food.

By the way, my hostel is great. It’s on top of a hill by a park, so it’s easy to find my way back (I just look for a plot of green up on a hill..and BOOM I’m back at my place!!!  At any rate, I made two turns to the right and and then I made a left turn and walked passed by a white building called Islay Inn.  It had frosted windows with a picture of Islay and all the names of the distilleries were labeled on each window.  My initial thought was that it was a hotel or motel.

I opened the door and paced back and forth the bar 3 times, holding a map and pen in my hand. I felt awkward and shy in there, giving a “lost look on my face,” the kind of stare where my eyebrows would go upwards and my forehead would crinkle.  It felt as though I was stepping on a set of a spaghetti western film…You know, when there’s some renagade walking through the bar and everyone stops sipping their drinks and they  are just staring at you.  I man with a scraggly white beard and a jolly belly looked at me and asked with a thick, Scottish accent, “Hello there.  Can I help you?  Do you want a drrrrrink?”   He made me smile when he rolled his “r’s”.   I looked at him and said, “Well, I’m still debating whether I should sit down in the back room and have a meal or just sit at the bar”.   He shook my hand and introduced himself as Scottie.  It turned out that Scottie was a local here and knew everyone who was inside Islay Inn.  Scottie  introduced me to his Chinese girlfriend (who knew there were other Asians in Scotland!!!) and everyone else sitting at the bar.  His girlfriend was really sweet; she gave me a tablet and told me to try it, stating that it was kind of like fudge.  Personally, I’ve had tablets before when Johnnie, the Brand Ambassador for Glenrothes and Bowmore, brought it for everyone at Seven Grand’s tasting event.  It was yummy and tasted like condensed milk. I took a picture with Scottie and his girlfriend.  While I posed with the 2 of them, he said, “These are my babes!”  He was very warm and funny!

 When Scottie found out that I was from California he was really excited to introduce me to everyone.   I told him that I set out to Scotland in search of whiskies.   Scottie told me that he didn’t drink whisky, so he asked the owner to suggest a whisky for me.  Scottie then handed me the Glendfarclas 12-year, and it was fantastic!  He introduced me to everyone in the bar and passed me on to 2 young guys, Malcolm and Allen, who were sitting by a mural that had a painting of all the local musicians that performed at Islay Inn. Allen is originally from the Isle of Mull, and I think Malcolm is a local from Glasgow.  When they asked me where I was from, all of them assumed that I was rich and superficial because they watched The Real Housewives of Orange County, among other reality shows, and thought all of Orange County and LA were filled with people with fake, materialistic people.   I told them that it was hard for me to make an assessment of LA because when I go there I am usually at a bar chatting with nice people; I don’t spend enough time there to really have a true opinion of the city.  As far as Orange County, I live in a section where there are a lot of minorities!  It’s totally different from south county.  Despite their impressions, I think they thought I was down to earth because I told them that I was a social worker.   On a positive note, Malcolm had a positive thing to say about Los Angeles.  One time, he was there in LA with his cousin and friends, where all of them wanted to rent a car to drive around the city.  The renter let them rent the car for free and just handed Malcolm a set of keys to a Chevy Convertible!
      Malcolm stated that he didn’t drink whisky, but he mainly drinks beer and vodka instead.  He jokingly stated that he loves whisky but he couldn’t have too much of it because it turned him into a monster, where he’d drink and half a bottle later he’d lose track of time and cry.   On a serious note, he consumes whisky twice a year for special occasions.   He stated that people in Scotland don’t really drink whisky because it was too expensive.  Instead, only old men with money drink whisky.    I remember when I was at Glasgow’s airport, I noticed that the Ardbeg 10 Year was roughly $60 and in the US that bottle runs about $46.  That’s really shitty that Scotch is made in Scotland, but they hike up the prices of whisky there.   He went ahead and ordered me a Jura.  I told him that I wanted to buy him a drink, but it seemed that whenever I brought it up that offer he  was somewhat offended that I wanted to get him drink.  (I also wanted to buy the others a drink, too, but no one wanted me to buy them a drink!!!  Again, they had the same reaction as Malcolm).  At any rate, Malcolm stated that there are some scenes from the film Trainspotting is filmed in Glasgow, specifically by Allen’s flat.
     I got hungry and ordered a dish.  It was a chicken breast that was filled with haggis and was covered with gravy.   Back home, people told me that haggis was gross, but when I ate it I thought it was uber delicious.  It tasted like froie gras or pâte.  Personally for me, anything organ-y tastes yummy.  I took over an hour finishing my meal because I was to busy enjoying my conversation  with the both of them.  The more they drank their cranberry vodkas the more they were witty and funny.   My gravy started to congeal and Malcolm was grossed out by it.  HAHA!
     I went back to the bar to revisit Scottie and his pals.  It turned out that there was another nice person who bought me a whisky, too, and it was sitting on the bar table for the past hour.   Scottie told his friend that I had found a group of young lads and his friend looked a bit disappointed.  He didn’t want to take the whisky or give it to me.  Awww…I felt a bit bad.
     Amrick, the Prisoner Corrections Officer, told me that his friends would be performing around 9PM and they surely did. I ended up dancing with one of the locals to Celtic music.  It was fun immersing myself with the locals.  Everyone was so sweet and nice. I couldn’t believe how kind they were!
    By 10, the rest of Malcolm’s friends showed up.  Everyone arrived at the bar for Allen’s belated birthday and they were planning to go to a club at 10:30 PM.  I forget the name of one of his friends, but he was a whisky enthusiast, too.  He was excited to talk about whisky, and he ended telling me that I knew more about whisky than him!  He ordered me a Glenkinchie to drink.  Three whiskies in??? This was amazing!  All of Malcolm’s friends and Malcolm left to bar to go to the club and I took a picture with them before they left.
  I then started to chat with Amrick and his friend Robbie.  Amrick introduced me to Robbie as the “Steven Segal of 
Scotland.”  That was funny because Robbie had a ponytail and low-set eyebrows.  I guess if I squinted I could see the resemblance.  When the band was playing music, everyone sang and danced to the tunes.  Robbie would always make a comment that I’d appreciate an American tune, but I didn’t recognize the classic, American songs!  He was shocked!  15 minutes before the bar closed, Robbie asked me if I liked Gin and Tonic.  I said I did and he ordered me the drink!  I said, “What??? I told you a minute ago that I was done drinking for the night!!”  He replied, “You said you liked Gin and Tonic!”  He pointed to my drink, telling me that I needed to drink it!  I stated that I was done sipping alcohol for the night, so he downed the gin and tonic.
          After the bar closed Robbie, Amrick and I went to Firebird, which was another bar down the street.  They asked me what my plans were for tomorrow, and I told them that I booked 2 nights to stay in Edinburgh.  The both of them told me to change my nights and stay back in Glasgow because they wanted to go with me to Edinburgh for a day via bus.  I was set to meet them at 12:00 PM the next day. Robbie would help me look for a sim card for my phone, and then we would all go to Edinburgh together!
   Amrick advised me to get a taxi tonight because he said it would not be safe to walk alone at night.  He told me that Glasgow was the #1 place to get shanked in the UK.   I had no idea it was a dangerous place, since everyone was soooo genuine, sweet and welcoming.  He stated that fortunately my hostel, which is located in the West End, is a fairly safe place in comparison to the East End.  He advised me to avoid walking through the park at night.  Unfortunately, during the late night, there are gay people who run the risk of getting stabbed at the park.
    Amrick wanted to show me his flat before he grabbed me a taxi.  I was a bit hesitant to go in, since he was a stranger, but I figured he wouldn’t harm me.  His place was small, but nice.  He showed off his 100% authentic, red wool pillows and photos of himself receiving awards as a policeman.   He explained to me that policemen were not allowed to hit or touch the inmates.   I noticed that there was a washing machine in the kitchen.  I’ve never seen that before.  He showed me photos of himself winning awards as an officer and a picture of his son.  He talked about his personal life, stating that he’d like to marry one day, but it was hard to meet people.  In his neighborhood, there were many college students who rented flats near his home.  As a result, Glasgow’s West End is very diverse, filled with people from all sorts of backgrounds.  Ha! And here I thought I’d be the only Asian in Scotland.  How ignorant of me!!!   Anyway, he showed me how to restrain a person, which was a moved called the “Gooseneck.”  You twist the person’s arm with one hand and bend the wrist forward to apply pressure.   By the end of the night it was about 2:30 AM.  I was getting super tired and the taxi finally came to pick me up.  The ride was expensive, and it costed about 8 pounds.
     I couldn’t ask for a more exciting evening.  It was really cool to be welcomed by so many people who were so down to earth and sweet.  Over here, they value how kind you are and not about how much money you have.  I was excited about meeting the people here and felt so lucky by the people I met today.  There was something so special about this place, and I started to feel that I was restoring my faith in people.   This was beginning to be such a special trip for me, and I was quickly falling in love with Scotland, especially the people.



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