Friday, 5 April 2013

Five ways Glasgow and Philadelphia are similar

World War Z is a Brad Pitt zombie movie set to attack movie theaters this June. It is set here in Philadelphia, but it was actually filmed in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

Readers will know that both of these cities hold special places in my heart. I lived, studied, worked, danced, drank (and dated my now husband) in Glasgow for a good six years of my life - and now Philly is my home city.

The trailer is hilarious. For anyone who has ever lived in or been to Glasgow and/or Philadelphia, the aerial shots of 'Glasgowdelphia' are so blatant and comedic. George Square looks nothing like any of the five squares in Philly.

BUT, Glasgow and Philadelphia are really similar. I love them both, and I love to compare my home countries, so here's a fun list of the similarities between the two best cities in the world.

Shots of 'Glasgowdelphia' during filming of World War Z. Not mine, but taken by a fantastic photographer friend.
Check out her photos of famous bands and musical artists (including One Direction, Fun. and, er Jedward)

1. Grid System

Glasgow was chosen to represent Philly in the Brad Pitt zombie movie because both cities are built according to a grid system. For US cities that's not unusual at all - even American countryside seems to be laid out in grids. It's really confusing for a British driver like me because everything looks the same.

Old British cities like London and Edinburgh are full of long winding streets and alleyways that change name and turn corners and allow people to get wonderfully lost. Much of Glasgow is the same, but the city center is built in squares. Glasgow doesn't have numbered streets though, which as you can see they had to build into the set.

2. Deco buildings

The first rule of being a local in any city is never look up. But in Glasgow and Philly it is so hard to follow the rules! Both cities are havens for beautiful, beautiful art deco architecture.

Glasgow is known for being the birth place of Charles Rennie Mackingtosh and his works and inspiration are visible all over the city. For example, the Beresford in Glasgow is a gorgeous apartment block that was renovated several years ago. Friends of mine lived there for a while and it was always fun to visit.

But Philadelphia trumps Glasgow for art deco, hands down. For example, The Metropolitan is a luxury art deco apartment block that catches my breath every time I see it. Can't you just imagine Batman standing or hanging from the arches and surveying America's fifth biggest city? It's stunning. There are examples of deco architecture almost everywhere in Philadelphia and I can't get enough of them.

3. Arts and Culture

When I studied Film and Television in Glasgow, I felt like I was in a pocket of creativity. It's full of culture, from the aura of the Art School and its fantastic events and club nights, to the musical creativity that comes from the city (Belle and Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand, Paolo Nutini, Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro…).

And now Philadelphia is where it's at. For arts and culture, it's the place to be. Even the Philadelphia Inquirer had to admit it. Portland? Old news. Brooklyn? That's so 2008. I feel like Philly is a city on the brink of something amazing. Just don't tell everyone, we locals want to keep it a secret.

4. Left-Wing Politics

In last year's Presidential election, parts of Philadelphia cast no votes for the Republican party. It was the same in 2008. It is no secret that Philadelphia is a Democratic stronghold nestled within some fairly conservative suburban/rural counties.

In Glasgow the left-wing Labour Party has controlled the city council for over three decades.

Both cities are incredibly diverse post-industrial cities with great shipbuilding histories, and that feeds into their respective political histories.

5. Not being the capital

Both Philadelphia and Glasgow benefit from not being the capital cities. London, Edinburgh, DC (and New York) frequently overshadow these cities, and Glasgowdelphia residents couldn't be happier about that. Underrated, nothing to prove, no need to be nice to tourists: Culturally they are very similar. They are beautiful, edgy, fun, yet rough around the edges and only friendly in their own quirky ways.

And you should visit both of them. Soak in the atmospheres, visit the museums and the university campuses (Glasgow University is Russell Group and UPenn is Ivy League - dontcha know?). Walk around and visit the plethora of vintage boutiques and thrift stores in Philly's Old City and the Glasgow West End. Catch a sunny day and lay down in the parks and squares and listen to the locals shouting and singing. Eat wonderful cuisine, visit intimidating dive bars, be careful, be streetwise, be inspired, and then try to tell me you don't love these two cities.

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