I don't often thank my son for surfing the net at my expense but if he hadn't been doing so recently, I would probably never have discovered Eric Thoreau's visitors' guide to Glasgow: Glasgow, Le Kit de Survie. Thoreau's compact "survival kit" is gorgeous to look at, quick to load and easy to access and, despite being in French, is probably the best guide to Glasgow on the internet - in any language - and is certainly the one which presents the city at its most attractive and vibrant.
Thoreau, a 28-year-old computer expert from Paris, arrived in Scotland in April last year to take up a 14-month post at IBM in Greenock. Amongst the European group that he arrived with was a fellow Parisien, Fabien and the two decided to rent a flat together in the West End of Glasgow.
As Thoreau (who speaks perfect English) admitted, he knew nothing of the city at that time although his mother had spent some time in Aberdeen in her youth and was "totally excited" that he was coming to Scotland.
He explained: "Many IBM employees on temporary contracts live in Largs but neither Fabien - who I had never met before - nor I liked the idea of working and socialising with the same small group of people."
Thoreau, a history graduate, continued: "Once we got settled in an apartment, I started going out on my bike with my camera at the weekends to take photographs of Glasgow which, I quickly discovered, has some really nice buildings.
"At the same time, I was on the internet a lot and surfing around because of my job and I saw that, although there were plenty of sites for Glasgow in English, there was pretty much nothing in French.
Instead of sitting inside watching television when I had time off, I decided to really explore the city and then create the kind of web site that would be useful to other French people either already in Glasgow or thinking of coming here."
Thoreau's resulting web site (www.chez.com/go2glasgow),presented in classy shades of blue with very attractive graphics, took about two months to set up. His simple, compact survival kit has six major headings: the essentials, the city in pictures, going out, shopping, Edinburgh and web links, illustrated with the Frenchman's excellent photographs, the best of which were taken at night.
The site includes useful maps and travel tips with links to train timetables, what's on guides and tourist and council offices. There's an up-beat, potted history of the city, a page on Le Foot - researched by Fabien who, unlike Eric, knows about football - with links to both Rangers and Celtic web sites and an introduction to "Le Barras", a favourite haunt of Thoreau's which he describes as: "Like a souk, only the prices aren't negotiable".
He liked the Glasgow club scene even more. Initially explored on the grounds that it was necessary for the web site, Thoreau and flatmate Fabien who discovered they had the same taste in techno and electronic music, soon became addicted to night life in the city and ended up trying out every club in Glasgow at least once. (Much to the surprise of his chums - and girlfriend - back in France where he had previously visited maybe 10 clubs in my whole life.)

On his web site, Thoreau describes bouncers ("les videurs") at the city's clubs as "generally very polite" but warns that the customer selection process at the door of the chic Tunnel club is "drastique". Having been turned back three times, himself, before gaining entry, he advises visitors to "Sapez vous!" which is french for "put on your trendiest gear", apparently.
Where eating out is concerned, it would have been no surprise if the French author of an internet guide to Glasgow had been less than complimentary about food in the city. However, Eric Thoreau is vegetarian and was more than happy with our cafes and restaurants, describing his small selection as "tres sympa" with an "ambiance chaleureuse." He even hints that French chefs might have something to learn from the Scots.
Le Kit de Survie offers direct links to more than a dozen other web sites including the city's universities, art school, Royal Concert Hall and local weather forecasts.
Thoreau doesn't waste much time on Edinburgh where, ignoring the Castle, he advises day trippers not to miss the chance of a walk up and around Arthur's Seat.
Although he launched the site in April this year, it was some weeks before French Yahoo agreed to register it.
"You need to get your web site accepted by a search engine" he explains "because otherwise people will only find it by accident or friends will visit it to be polite."
"Now I'm getting between five and 10 hits a day which is pretty good."
Eric Thoreau has been back in Paris since June and has yet to visit a night club. Fabien, however, is staying on in Glasgow and will be able to help keep the web site up-to-date as will anyone who cares to visit www.chez.com/go2glasgow where they can email comments and suggestions in french or english.

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Un grand merci à Deedee Cuddihy pour avoir écrit cet article.

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