Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Manchester & London

So when I arrived in Congleton (the small rural town that my friend Gemma lives in outside Manchester) I was so dog tired from all the fun I had in Bristol, that I was kind of glad that Gemma had work from 2-9pm. We spent the evening catching up and chatting late into the night.
The next day we drove into Manchester to meet some of Gemma’s friends and go shopping. Manchester is really cool because the scene there is very trendy vintage. In Manchester I bought my first vintage shirt. We also went to a place called Affleck that is a large warehouse-type place that had lots of boutiques that have second hand clothes and hand made clothes by new designers. Gemma’s sister works there and sells her own label “Vampire Bunnies.” We had lunch in a really cool little coffee shop, I forget what it was called, but it was all vegetarian. Surprisingly, it was actually quite good- I had a baked potato cut open and stuffed with veggie chili and cheddar cheese. These stuffed baked potatoes are found everywhere in England and they’re called jacket potatoes.
Because it was “freshers week” (the week that freshman arrive), going out was very difficult, especially because there are many universities (“unies”) in Manchester. At first it wasn’t so bad, but by the end of the night, every bar had a crazy line outside it, so we went home.
The next day we went for dim sum just outside of Manchester. It was a super authentic restaurant and it even had an Asian supermarket on the first floor where you could buy all kinds of interesting things, including aloe juice (which you drink), a full cooked duck (with head and everything), and Mountain Dew (the real kind that we have in the US; the Dew in England is a gross energy drink). After waiting for close to an hour, we were finally seated. We ordered TONS of different choices and it was all so good. I’m trying to remember now what was the best, but I can’t seem to bring it to mind…
After being stuffed with amazing dim sum, Gemma and I drove back to her home and cat napped and watched TV for the rest of the day.
The following day, I packed my bags and then Gemma and I went to the silk/cotton mill. Manchester during the industrial revolution (and even a bit today) was well known for its silk and cotton production. The museum was awesome because you could go through it and see the different machinery that was invented through time and they actually run the tools so you can see how they work, which is amazing because they are so old. I got to watch a woman use a spinning wheel, as well as the spinning jenny. We also got to watch the machinery from later on, and it was so loud that when it’s fully running you’re only supposed to stay in the room for 10 minutes. The people who worked on the machinery could go deaf from working around the machines. We also got to see how a real waterwheel works- they’re very big!
Then I took the train to Manchester and met a friend from Bestival for a drink. Then I hopped on a train to London. When I arrived in London, I stayed in a hostel that was referred to me by a few people called the Generator. The Generator has this really sick bar in it that’s always bumpin’. I met tons of Aussies, a few Canadians, and one American. It was really fun actually. I didn’t even have to leave the hostel! Pretty sweet.
The next day was pretty gray. Went on a free walking tour that was pretty boring, but at least I got to see a lot of the city. Saw Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben. But all in all it was a pretty boring day. Later on, I met my old housemate, Thea, her friend Jenny who is in London for a bit for an internship. We stopped at a random pub and got bangers and mash, which is sausage and mashed potatoes. Just thinking about it, my stomach is starting to growl. It was so good, and quite a good find. Then I left Jenny to meet my friend Pat after he got off work. He’s the amazing friend who’s holding my bags for me in London while I was travelling. We got to hang out for a bit and I grabbed a few new shirts, since after 2 weeks I’m starting to get sick of the other ones.
Then I went back to the hostel and hit the bar again. I have come to the conclusion that a good hostel is marked by its good bar. No bar, no bueno.
I will try and finish the update as soon as possible!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011


I arrived to London last Wednesday after a hectic flight that almost didn't happen because of terrible rain. The Air Canada terminal was a mess with holes in the roof everywhere so that it was practically raining inside. Pretty funny.
Got into London and it was pretty much freezing cold. The hostel I stayed at was super cheap but not super fun. I was supposed to meet my friend Pat to give him my suitcase, but he was stuck at work til 10pm! So my first night in London was pretty lame.
The next day I took the train to Gatwick airport and met up with the girl I met on Couchsurfer who I was going to camp with at the music festival Bestival. Turns out, she's not crazy, she's actually super super cool and we became really close friends!
The festival was intense. To get there took about 15 hours. I left my hostel in London at like 8am and didn't actually finish setting up the tent until about 11 or 12. So crazy and frustrating.
The festival was pretty insane- there must have been 50,000 people (considered "small" by European festival standards), over 100+ acts, and shows, games, and rides. It was incredible. Everyone was also super nice. I made a ton of friends and luckily its super easy to get a phone here so I was able to keep in touch with people and have already met up with a few of them.
At the festival we asked a ton of people where is the place we should visit in England, and pretty much unanimously everyone said Bristol is a really cool place. So Emily & I went off to Bristol. A guy I met recommended a hostel called the lanes which was located above a bowling alley. It was pretty cool. It was quiet there at the beginning of the week which was good for recovery from the festival, but by Thursday the hostel was pretty full and the students were starting to move into the city for school. The city of Bristol is really cool. There's an amazing music scene and it's known as the origin of dubstep- a type of electronic music I really like. It also has a lot of history. It used to be a major port for exporting slaves to the US. There is a park with a castle in it and a tower that over looks the whole city. There's also one of the 1st suspension bridges in this city, though I didn't see it.
Emily, the girl I went to the festival with, and I spent a day in Bath. It's an ancient city that has a natural hot spring. We got to go to the Roman baths museum, which was actually really cool. It's really well preserved still and at the end of the museum you get to try the "healing" water that comes from it. Supposedly Queen Elizabeth or someone was barren til she drank some water from Bath and then had a baby 10 months later. Hopefully that doesn't happen to me? haha
After, we had tea in the Pump Room. It used to be a ball room for the rich and famous in the 18th century. It was super swanky- my mom would have loved it. There's a charming river that cuts through the town that you can walk along and some old apartments from the aristocracy that used to live there that we scoped out. Then we went to Thermae Bath Spa and got to spend an hour or so in the naturally heated pool. It was just the 2 of us and it was pretty cool. The water was quite warm and it was outside.
So now I'm in Manchester visiting my old suite-mate Gemma from sophomore year. I'm relaxing after a crazy week, watching tv with her sister Ellie and eating tv dinners (Gemma had work today from 2-9, which is good b/c I'm too wiped to do anything anyway). In Manchester til Mon night, and then London until Friday morning. Then off to Paris, though I don't really want to leave :(