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My time in Glasgow was supposed to be two quick days—in and out. Until Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull Volcano erupted, spewing ash across all of Europe and stranding me in Scotland for more than a week.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Endless travel hassles aside, Glasgow is a gem of a city in which to get stuck. The city imbues a distinctive urban, almost industrial vibe—with touches of Old World Europe, as evidenced by the statues of George Square—and the city skies gave no indication of the ash cloud hovering 10,000 feet above.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Truthfully, my situation couldn't have been better timed—the city was hosting the world's largest international Real Ale Festival. With over 50 ales from across the globe, the event was held across the city in such storied locales as the Counting House, a pub housed in an old Bank of Scotland building.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The Glasgow International Festival of Visual Arts was also on, with a huge cache of temporary exhibits across the city's museums, like the one here (on right) at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, in Kelvingrove Park near Glasgow University (on left).  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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These faces, which dangle from Kelvingrove's main gallery, are a permanent fixture. In addition to a steadily rotating collection of exhibits, the museum also hosts a hodge-podge of history exhibits and a fantastic children's section that demystifies the concept of 'high art.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The city's other main attractions, of course, never leave, like the famed Willow Tea Rooms. Designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh, they remain a stellar example of the Scottish influence on the European Art Nouveau scene.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Here a few young Glaswegians shop in the bustling Buchanan Street shopping district, which also houses one of the Willow Tea Rooms as well as tartan shops, cafes, and the usual suspects in Euro-centric apparel, cosmetics, and home goods.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Arguably the most surprising aspect of Scotland? The cuisine, which belies the bland UK clichés. The Inverness region produces amazing salmon (especially in October), while the west coast offers stunning oysters and lobsters. And farms countrywide produce pristine cheese, lamb, and beef. Sample some of Glasgow's regional best at Café Gandolfi. My pick: the smoked venison from Rannoch Smokery in Rannoch Moor, served with arugula and a cheesy potato gratin.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Other attractions, of course, have been around for centuries. Established in 1781, George Square was named after King George III, now dominated in the east by Glasgow City Chambers. In the center sits an 80-foot-tall column featuring a sculpture of author William Scott, while other statues in the square honor Prince Albert, poets Robert Burns and Thomas Campbell, and inventor James Watt.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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You'll also catch a fair amount of lion iconography throughout the country (as seen here at the foot of the City Chambers). This references the Royal Standard of Scotland, possibly adopted in the 12th century by William I, also known as 'The Lion.'  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
 
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