I AM utterly incapable of finding my way around a map, let alone the world, constantly confusing my north with my south, and in the global game in which you have a 50 percent chance of heading in the right direction, I always get it wrong. I do, however, possess an uncanny knack of sniffing out an Indian restaurant in any city in the world, no matter how unlikely this may seem. And, as it turns out recently in Glasgow, a gin joint. There should be some kind of humanitarian award based around these gifts, really, there should. On this particular day the accents are as soupy as a Scottish winter when I wander into 71 Renfield Street. Yes, there’s 71 wee drams on the drink menu here and not one of them is whiskey, making owner Paul Reynolds possibly the Scotsman bravest heart of all. Or a little insane. Reynolds has bucked tradition, quite possibly risking life and limb, to open a gin bar in the heart of Glasgow where whiskey is the drink of choice. And this tale gets even juicer for this is a tea lounge by day and a gin bar by night. From cupcakes to quinine, what’s not to love?
During the day, Cup Tea Lounge serves 47 types of tea and 16 kinds of cupcakes made on site. But when 6pm arrives, the quaint interior of this heritage-listed Victorian building goes from Clark Kent to Superman and transforms into Gin 71. It’s named after its street address and the number of gins on the menu making it Glasgow’s largest collection of artisan gins and home-made tonics.
“A friend mentioned a gin bar and I stayed up until 3 in the morning researching gin bars. Originally I thought we were going to have 300 gins but we condensed it down to 71,” Reynolds says.
“I learned how to make tonic and on May 1 this year when we opened you could hardly move in here. It fits with the story of the colonial building. Queen Victoria used to be a tea drinker and the colonials also drank a lot of gin.” And because I can be a bit of a wanker sometimes, the idea of sitting and quaffing gin on a big, plump couch in Glasgow just like a wild colonial, appeals greatly to me on this spring afternoon.
Brave he may be, but stupid Reynolds is not, reluctant to call gin the new whiskey, instead preferring to refer to it as the new vodka. And for the record, there’s only one whiskey on the shelves and even that’s actually a bourbon rather than a real whiskey. If patrons do prefer whiskey, Reynolds is more than happy to send them around the corner to Hope Street and The Pot Still Pub, which is considered the host of the finest collection of malt whiskey in the land. Back at Gin 71, there’s seven Scottish gins on the menu, selected from thousands around the world, and chosen via a scoring card which not only examined taste but the “gantry presence” or what the bottle looked like on the shelf. I pause briefly and consider my own “gantry presence” as I slouch on the couch.
During the Commonwealth Games, Gin 71 will be sourcing and serving gins from around the Commonwealth. And on this long, lazy afternoon, Reynolds makes a remarkable claim. He says it’s not gin, but the quinine in the tonic that is said to make gin drinkers depressed (I knew it) and one of the reasons he makes his own tonic. Discerning gin drinkers at his establishment can partake in a gin “flight” in which they can sample a range of gins coupled with unusual spices such as lemongrass and coriander.
“I want people to have a wee journey of types,” he says.
And a “wee journey” is what The Global Goddess enjoys this fine day, eventually stumbling out of Gin 71 (while it is still in its tea house mode, mind you) and down the main shopping mall of Glasgow. Suffice to say, sufficient money was spent on items I’m sure I will never wear. Unless of course a tartan kilt comes into vogue during a Queensland summer, sometime soon. Just call me Clan Crazy.
Glasgow is set to sparkle when it hosts the XX Commonwealth Games starting this week. Visitors can stroll the cobblestoned streets of Merchant City, named in the 1980s to pay homage to the city’s merchant trade dating back to the 16th century in which Glaswegians were among the first in the world to travel the globe spruiking their wares. It’s now a bustling hub boasting 90 bars and restaurants such as Central Market, which sources local fresh produce such as plump mussels and was named the Most Stylish Restaurant at the 2013 Scottish Style Awards.
There’s plenty of theatre to be had in the this city, and one of the most charming traditions is the daily A Play, A Pie and a Pint at Oran Mor, an old church in which the basement dedicates its lunchtime to a one-hour play, while patrons feast on a pie and a pint. OK, so the actor may or may not have spat in my beer, such was his passion in delivering his lines, but who can blame him? And really, he wouldn’t be the first bloke on the planet to do so. God, in Brisbane it’s practically considered a mating ritual.
Around the 1980s Glasgow started to embrace tourism and more recently, has become Scotland’s “media city” housing the modern studios of the BBC and providing the background for films such as World War Z and Cloud Atlas. The space-ship shaped Hydro arena was opened last August by Rod Stewart (regular readers will remember The Global Goddess saw Barry Manilow there live earlier this year and hasn’t been quite the same since) and will be the venue for gymnastics during the Commonwealth Games. Australian graffiti artist Sam Bates has also added his touch to the city, commissioned to paint colourful murals to commemorate the Games.
At the end of my Glasgow journey, the words of Reynolds (or it could be the gin speaking) ring loudly in my ears. “Glasgow is a bit of a diamond just waiting to be polished.” A city which has gone from drab to fab. Perhaps that kilt will come in handy after all.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Glasgow City Marketing. For further information on visiting Glasgow please visit http://www.peoplemakeglasgow.com.au
I HAVE long suspected that I am a gay man trapped in a straight woman’s body. What I have never imagined is that I am a world-class gymnast. And so last night when I found myself at Glasgow’s Hydro Stadium, purpose-built for this year’s Commonwealth Games gymnastic events, it was not a half pike with a double twist which drew me there, but Brookyln crooner Barry Manilow. Yes, Baz was in town and faster than you can say Copacabana, I was there, canastas and all. (For the record if you need any more evidence I am actually a gay man – apart from the gaggle of gay men and utterly fantastic females who seem to be drawn to me and the fact most straight blokes find me utterly repulsive – I actually selected Copacabana for my “wedding waltz” ten years ago. Which probably proves that at least one, and potentially both of us in that now-defunct union, were actually gay men).
But I digress. Let me start by saying The Hydro, which was opened last August by Rod Stewart (who is definitely not gay if the parade of blondes he’s had on his arms over the years is any indication), was originally called the Scottish Hydro Arena Glasgow but when Glaswegians shortened that, the acronym spelt SHAG and even the sassy Scots baulked at that. But for the purpose of this tale let’s just say I “shagged” Barry Manilow last night and he was simply superb – suspected botox and all.
Don’t get me wrong, the Scots are sassy and sexy, all soupy accents as thick as a glorious Glaswegian winter itself. And there’s plenty of evidence of their cheeky good humour spattered around this pretty city. At Glasgow’s Cathedral, there’s a stained-glass window depicting Adam and Eve before they committed the dreaded sin of eating the apples, and as such they are without their fig leaves. Tennents Brewery is one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 1556, with one of its most famous customers Mary Queen of Scots.Nearby, St Andrews is no longer a church but a place of worship for Scottish culture…namely drinking and eating locally-sourced produce. In the Botanic Gardens you’ll find Kibble House with its nude statues, again depicting the likes of Eve. For a real taste of Scottish sass, head to the old church Oran Mor at which you can partake in a lovely lunchtime ritual of a Play, a Pie and a Pint.
And then there’s Barry. The giant stage curtains were emblazoned with a giant red love heart and about 10,000 green lights flickered in the audience like glow worms. Then, to the tunes of “It’s A Miracle”, Barry partly bounced (and partly hobbled) on to stage in a blue sequined jacket. Yes, Barry, it’s a miracle… that you’re still alive. (He’s now 70). He then played “Here I Am” describing it as an “oldie, but a goodie, just like me”. And just like your audience, Barry. I don’t want to cast any aspersions but let’s just say, if you want to feel young and sexy, get along to a Barry Manilow concert sometime soon.
At one point during his performance, Barry jumped on to the piano but despite his lean physique it’s pretty clear he won’t be back for the gymnastics in a few months time. (Nor, shall I add, will I, having been given the grand total of 0.5 out of 5 for at least attempting a cartwheel in Grade 8 before I retired from my gymnastics career). During his second clothing change (he’s no Lady Gaga), he flashed open the trench coat he was wearing to reveal a red suit jacket before he threatened to “whip it out”. Thankfully by “it” he meant the musical instrument, whose name eludes me (I will also never be a musician).
To accompany his dad jokes there was also plenty of dad dancing, and he captivated the mostly greying audience with his rendition of Mandy, leaving many of them wondering who the lucky girl was. Some (myself included) even attempted to dance to Copacabana, there were plenty of wolf whistles from some concert goers who may or may not have lost their teeth in the process, and every time I turned around in the crowd a grandmotherly type kept winking at me, making me wonder whether I reminded her of her gay grandson.
At some point during the performance Barry sang a song about the Brooklyn building in which he grew up, The Mayflower. He spoke of how he used to look up at the windows and wonder who was living next door. “You never know, you could have a doctor, a lawyer or a sex God living next to you.” I pondered his words as I drifted to sleep back in Room 415 at Glasgow’s Hotel Indigo last night after the concert. What if he was in the room next door? One thing is for certain: Glasgow, you were an absolute delight. And Barry, I just can’t smile without you.
The Global Goddess travelled to Glasgow as a guest of the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau. For further information on visiting Glasgow please visit http://www.peoplemakeglasgow.com.au
YOU’VE GOT TO GO TO GLASGOW
Twenty years ago, when The Global Goddess was a rookie backpacker doing the Australian working holiday in London rite-of-passage thing, she ended up in Scotland working for a summer. In what I reckon was one of the best summers of my life, I arrived during the Edinburgh Festival, worked all day and then went to shows all night with my then-partner and two of my best friends. At the end of the festival, I found myself waitressing in a small inn in the Scottish Highlands. Days off were spent sailing the lochs, traipsing the mountains and looking for hairy cattle, and of course, Nessie. (There may have been a whisky or two as well thrown in). But I never got to Glasgow. The Global Goddess recently had breakfast with the fine folk from the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau who convinced her why she should go to Glasgow in 2014. Among a range of reasons, next year it’s hosting the Commonwealth Games and will be home to a range of festivals, activities, performances and celebrations. And if there’s one thing the Scots know how to do well, it’s party. http://www.seeglasgow.com
TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
Earlier this year, when The Global Goddess was in Fiji, the weather was, well, less than perfect. But it didn’t matter, as there’s plenty to do away from the beach when a tropical low blows in. I was fortunate to go on the Off-Road Cave Safari in a cool red, open-air jeep, to Naihehe Cave, Fiji’s largest cave system. This fun and fabulous tour is run by the same people who operate the Sigatoka River Safari. These tour operators have recently demonstrated their continuing social conscience by purchasing 10 new laptops for Mavua District School. Established in the 1930s, this school enrolls primary students from neighbouring villages, kids who have never heard of a computer before now. So every time you take one of their two tours, in a way you are contributing to improving the lives of the villagers in this lovely land. http://www.sigatokariver.com
I AM WOMAN, SEE ME TRAVEL
The award-winning team behind Travelscene Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales are poised to launched Shoalhaven Solo Sisters, a new project to help open up the world to independent female travellers. Travel entrepreneurs Leonie Clay and Julie Preston (pictured below) are the brains behind this project which will offer annual group packages to targeted destinations around the world. Single travellers can join the group and be matched with a like-minded person to share accommodation and bring down those prohibitive costs that we single girls face. It’s also aimed at eliminating safety concerns while providing companionship for solo female travellers. The Global Goddess reckons any initiative that gets more women out and about in the world is a good one. Shoalhaven Solo Sisters will be officially launched on November 21 and the inaugural trip planned is to Norfolk Island. email@example.com
FRIDAY NIGHTS WITH A TWIST
Regular Global Goddess readers will know that she gains enormous benefit from my her Monday meditation class. For me, going to meditation helps slow my crazy, busy mind, and makes some room to gain perspective and enhance creativity when it comes to every aspect of my life. (So, I haven’t yet been able to conjure up a bloke, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time). Now, my lovely instructor Rhia Valentine (don’t you just love that surname?) is launching Friday nights with a twist. Once a month, you can attend a three-hour Friday evening session on Consciousness, Expansion & Improvement. These sessions are in inner west Brisbane. The first session will be held on November 22 at 6.30pm and then monthly in 2014. To book a seat contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0450 520 438.
AND THE WINNER IS….
Thank you to all of you who entered The Global Goddess’ latest competition, in conjunction with one of her valued Travel and Lifestyle partners Kayleen Allen, from A Life of Sundays. Goddess followers were asked to write what their idea of a Life of Sundays was. A big sleep in, it appeared, was among top of the list. And the winner is…Tanya Targett. Here’s an excerpt of what Tanya’s perfect Sunday would look like: “My perfect Sunday is rather boring, but so amazing I can feel the sun on my skin right now. You see, it’s sunny… Perfect weather to take the family out in the boat. And, luck is on our side, the tide is just right so that we can board said boat at a nice sociable 9.30am, having had a glorious sleep in. The air is so warm, the water so exquisitely salty, and the children and husband so fantastically happy. It’s the perfect Sunday, a day in the Sun, that recharges the soul and the spirit for another six days… Til we “repeat as above”.
Congratulations Tanya, you have won a place at Kayleen’s “Heal Your Life, Achieve Your Dreams” workshop in Brisbane on December 7 and 8. This prize is valued at $850. Please email Kayleen on the address below for details.
For those who didn’t win, but are interested in Kayleen’s range of half, full-day and two-day programs and retreats where you will learn to feel valued and appreciated for who you are, loved, nurtured and safe to explore your story, past beliefs and to unlock your true potential, contact her at email@example.com