I enjoy Christmas shopping, I honestly do – and I’m referring to the real, rather than the virtual, variety here. There – I’ve said it; out of the closet at last and it feels great. Clearly, this sets me apart from the stereotypical male; thank God. Sometime, we’ll share a few beers, a hot curry and talk about internal combustion engines, the back pages and Which Girls We Really Liked In College; but not now – and I might skip the curry, to be frank. Christmas shopping, then …Yes, the crowds are frustrating; no, I don’t know why everyone gets in the way. And, because I never have a clear idea of what to get the missus, the kids, Aunt Maude etc - or enough money to buy them what I’d really like to - I end up tramping a ridiculously long way, visiting and revisiting the same shops, crossing things off lists, adding them back again, doing sums in my head and ending up with the thing I first thought of two hours earlier. But I enjoy the sparkle, the sounds, the smells - and am not so old or curmudgeonly to deny a sense of child-like anticipation and warmth about the whole festive season thing.
Glasgow makes it a bit easier. Unlike a lot of places, where you’re torn between the exhilarating thrill of trying to elbow yourself or your car into the city centre, or trek to the mind-numbingly boring uniformity of an Out of Town Shopping Mall, in Glasgow you can experience both. Please take that anyway you want. And, whilst you may visit particular places for particular shops – there’s only one Harrods in London, after all – Glasgow boasts all of the high street chains you can think of and more besides, all within walking distance. It’s known as ‘the style mile’.
So, here’s how it works. Take a blank piece of paper and put an ‘X’ at the top; that’s a large shopping mall at the top of Buchanan Street called, appropriately enough, Buchannan Galleries. In there, you’ll find a John Lewis and loads of other things – including a rather tempting place that sells lots of tasty malt whisky. Draw a line to the left of your ‘X’ – no one can spell it, but that’s Sauchiehall Street running west-east into the Buchannan Galleries. Sauchiehall Street is pretty much a pedestrianised shopping lane, with an M&S, BHS etc. Draw another line down the paper from your ‘X’ – that’s Buchannan Street running roughly north-south. More pedestrianised shopping, which includes a House of Fraser at the bottom, south end. On the way, there are specialist shops and two smaller malls, Princes Square and Argyll Arcade on the right of your paper (east). You probably won’t buy anything in either of them – they’re far too expensive for people like you; but they look great. At the end of your line, write ‘Y’. Now draw a further line to the right of that – this is Argyll Street, running east-west – more shops (including another Marks & Spencer – you feel spoiled, now, don’t you?). The ‘Y’ is another shopping mall, the St Enoch Centre. In the square outside that they often hold one of those Christmas markets, with stalls made to look like cut-away Nordic pine log cabins. This is much more interesting than a department store, but a little too intimate for my liking. It is, however, the ideal place to acquire any number of ethnic-looking curios, often made of feathers, wool, wood or leather, that you do not know the purpose of and didn’t know anyone wanted. It is suggested you avoid buying the wife’s present here. You can also sample delectable consumables such as Gluhwein, hog roast, crepes and all manner of salamis and cheeses. Most stalls are staffed with people from exotic far away lands, like Germany, France, Mexico and Preston. In Glasgow, everyone speaks English with a funny accent anyway; but do remember that is relative.
And all of this is just a haggis throw from Central Station – which is a splendid place, immortalised by Billy Connolly in the song “Last Train to Glasgow Central” (the tune being borrowed from the vastly inferior “Last Train to San Fernando” - listen to Billy Connolly singing "Last Train to Glasgow Central").
It goes without saying that you’ll experience much the same piped Christmas music in Glasgow’s shops as you will anywhere else in the UK from October onward. But, instead of a Salvation Army brass band performing outside, you might just get some exciting pipes and drums.
This is all very well, I hear you say, but what if you live in Skegness or Chicago? Well, it should be absolutely clear that you can have a perfectly excellent retail experience elsewhere, and it would obviously be foolish to travel hundreds of miles just to do some Christmas shopping (incidentally, I am reliably informed that Glasgow’s shops are also open at other times of the year). Our excuse was that we were visiting family and decided to make a weekend of it. Which also allowed me to indulge in a full Scottish Breakfast. I didn’t finish my Christmas shopping though; so next week I visited Manchester.
Visit Glasgow’s Style Mile website.