Almost 40 years ago, I commuted daily to Glasgow, ending my journey each morning and beginning it again each evening by walking the length of Trongate, one of the oldest streets in the city, writes Liam Rudden.
I was always entranced by the striking architecture of one building in particular and the impressive fine lines of what was, when it was built in 1855, the City of Glasgow Bank Trongate, designed by Edinburgh architect John Thomas Rochead.
By then it was being converted into warehouses and department stores, much of its original splendour faded. Today, thankfully, after a major refurbishment in the early 2000s, the building has been restored to its Victorian baronial grandeur to become home to Fraser Suites Glasgow and travellers from around the world.
Rochead's masterwork now sits in an area much changed from when I first knew it. It's a far cooler place now, although snapshots of that old Glasgow are still visible amid the redevelopment as a stroll along London Road to the Barras will reveal.
Just a five minute walk in the other direction you'll find Buchanan Street, Argyle Street and Queen Street and attractions such as the Gallery of Modern Art and Glasgow Cathedral.
My return to Merchant City, to stay at Fraser Suites brought back a flood of memories, not least when I discovered which accommodation I had been allocated - the Architect Suite looking directly onto the Tron Theatre with its historic bell tower, all that remains of the original church built on the site in 1529. It's a stunning view. In the years between church and theatre, the site was also a place of execution, a meeting hall and a police station. Open the window and you can still hear the tower bell strike the hour.
Budget or boutique
The four star, serviced Fraser Suites Glasgow has 98 apartments, split between studios and one and two bedroom residences. For me, home was the splendid two bedroom Architect Suite and chic luxury the order of the day.
At the top of the building with views across the city, the stonework of the original turret is incorporated as a feature of the living room, while themed art lines the hall and bedrooms.
High end boutique, the Suite sleeps four and had everything I needed, including radio alarm clock, TV in each bedroom, fully equipped kitchenette and home entertainment system; satellite TV/ DVD player/iPod dock, with free wifi and cabled internet access. There was also a hair dryer, should you need such a thing, and free newspapers and magazines available online by scanning the QR code in the room.
Wining and dining
Continental breakfasts are available in the Breakfast Suite (additional charge) or wander around to Bell Street for snack shops with filled rolls, soups and home-made comfort food, and a plethora of eateries - Italian, burgers, Indian... whatever you fancy, in this vibrant area buzzing with life. I recommend Mharsanta for great chatty service, reasonably priced drinks and a good menu of favourites. There's a supermarket nearby for necessities.
Worth getting out of bed for
Keep your fitness regime on track at Fraser Suites Glasgow's fully equipped on-site gym (exclusively for guests). There's also a free self-service laundry.
Make sure to view the art on display - wonderfully quirky pieces will raise a smile, especially one artist's take on Glasgow's famous landmark, the Duke of Wellington wearing a traffic cone.
Less than a minute’s walk away is the 126ft tall Tolbooth Steeple dating back to 1626 and Glasgow Cross, sitting above the disused Glasgow Cross railway station, long forgotten but for clues engraved into the island in the middle of the junction.
A typically west coast welcome greeted me. In Fraser Suites London recently it was a complimentary bowl of fruit. Here it was a selection of Kettle crisps, dry roasted peanuts, cans of Coke/Diet Coke and, of course, Irn-Bru/Diet). Stay for 28 nights plus and that’s upgraded to a hamper. Ya beauty.
This really is living in the heart of Glasgow.
Prices from £120 per night.
Fraser Suites Glasgow, 1-19 Albion Street, Glasgow (0141 553 4288, https://glasgow.frasershospitality.com)