Glasgow Weekend

I was determined to get one last look at Scotland before I head south for my next adventure in Exeter. Glasgow is a big dirty city, but it has some shining highlights, mostly the older bits which I like. But despite missed trains, crummy weather, and being short on cash, it was a nice weekend away.

Half of the motivation in going to Glasgow was just to get out of the city into the  countryside of Scotland, so we took a coach tour to Stirling Castle, the Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, and other lovely places along the way. The strangest stop on our tour was to visit Scotland’s favorite Highland cow, Hamish. Apparently known for being extremely shy creatures, Hamish is the friendly exception, waiting to meet people at his road-side pen… Our tour guide had a lot to say about Scotland’s efforts at independence from the United Kingdom, and how he thinks his country would fare if they ever did become independent from the British Crown.

Our time in Glasgow was spent dodging the rain, and exploring the museums, parks, architecture and shops of the city center and West End. The Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery and the nearby Kelvingrove Park were a highlight, as was our visit to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed Willow Tea Rooms! We  enjoyed tea with milk, and cake slices in Glasgow style before getting ready to board our train back to Leicester. Super-quick weekend, but enjoyable all the same.

The view from Stirling Castle, looking towards the William Wallace Monument.

Stirling Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned at six days old.

Hamish the Highland cow, looking fairly happy.

Inside the Glengoyne Distillery, where single malt whisky is made.

The Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery, seen from the park.

The scene inside the Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery.

One of the many vintage clothes shops in the West End. Kilts!

Afternoon tea at the Willow Tea Rooms. ‘I’ll have the Signature Tea, and a slice of Victoria Sponge, please.’

CouchSurfers Invade!

CouchSurfers Invade!

by Rachel Smith

The recent popularity of city invasions within the CouchSurfing community has been hard to miss. In fact, across the US and Europe there was at least one invasion every weekend this summer, oftentimes more. So what exactly is an invasion? According to the CS Wiki, it’s when CouchSurfers collectivelly decide upon a city to explore, and then plan on arriving there at the same time. “Generally, members from one city will contact members in another city and propose their intention to invade. Members from the city to be invaded then organize events that showcase things that are fun, interesting, or unique.”

XXXXXXXXXXXPhoto by  Joshua Smith

Though the term “invasion” may be relatively new, the idea is not. Major cities such as Paris and Vienna were some of the first cities to host invasions. This year’s second edition of Vienna Calling, which took place in June, was a five-day event that drew an estimated 400 people for a series of barbecues, workshops, parties and more. Paris’ fourth invasion, Paris Rendez-Vous, this July, had over 350 people subscribed. While these events have become traditions in the CouchSurfing community, many other invasions are popping up in other cities.

City invasions are ideal for CS communities that are trying to establish themselves on the map. The Detroit Couch Crash is one prime example of a city invasion that shows off the lively local culture and community. Having participated in the event’s two editions, Derek is an enthusiastic fan. “I never thought I would want to go to Detroit, love it so much, and want to go back every year.”

This year’s Detroit Couch Crash included a “Forgotten Detroit Track” — where participants visited abandoned buildings and passed out food to the homeless –, a photo contest, and trips to local thrift shops.

With its activity-packed weekend, the St. Louis Invasion didn’t stay far behind, and helped place this small city on the CS radar. “I knew that St. Louis would have a lot to offer for an invasion,” saidSarah, who first brought the idea to the city group, also known as Lou Crew. “I’ve been to several invasions myself: one in Chicago, one in Iowa City — which turned that sleepy little town into a mecca of fun –, and one in Krakow which blew me away.”

XXXXXXXXXXXPhoto by Michael Anderse

There’s always a new city being invaded. Washington DC’s 1st Couch Crash took place on Independence Day — could there be a better way to celebrate this North-American holiday? Kari Hatfield, who came from Baltimore for the Crash, said she “loved everything about it: the community, the camaraderie, and the events.” In the program were museum and monument tours, visits to some of DC’s most diverse and historic neighborhoods, and watching fireworks over the Washington Monument.

While most invasions aim to include an array of activities diverse enough to please all sorts of people, there’s a recent trend of invasions catering to specific interests. At the Slovenia Invasion for Motorbikers, CouchSurfers completed a heart-shaped route through the country, with an inevitable stop at the Motorcycle Museum on the way. And Glasgow’s Scottish Invasion focused on an art and music festival with plenty of Gaelic folk music and dancing.