Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Manchester for Christmas!

Sorry I’ve again slacked off and failed to write for ages! Luckily, after this post, I go back to Le Havre and I’m just kind of relaxing so there’s not terribly much to write about…

When I left off, I had been heading off to Manchester to visit my friend Gemma. The journey was long. I left Le Havre early in the morning doing a Covoiturage. Unfortunately, the night before, my French friends in Le Havre and I had a big night since it was the last time we’d see each other for a while. Slightly hungover is not the best way to go about Covoiturage, since you’re expected to talk, not puke in their car- haha. Luckily, I pulled through and made it to the Champs Elysees (that’s the famous street in Paris with the Arc du Triomphe in the middle of it). It was the first time I had been on the roundabout around the Arc du Triomphe in a car. To give you an idea of the chaos that is that roundabout, one time my mom was looking down from the Arc and witnessed an accident. Another time, a friend was being driven to Paris as well and the driver said, “If you’re a little afraid, it’s ok. I am too.”

After getting dropped off, I went and met my friend Kristen who was on vacation with her mom and grandma. They had a really charming hotel called the Hotel de Nice (I think) right near the Hotel de Ville (town hall). The area is an awesome location- right near the Marais, the gay and Jewish quarter, and also a very lively one with winding streets and cool shops and restaurants. I met them for a little breakfast and then chatted with them in their hotel for a bit. It was very sweet to meet them! Then, they were off to the Louvre and I headed to Charles de Gaulle airport.

I happened to be travelling at the end of a week of major strikes in the airport by the security checkers. I got their early, but the airline I was flying on was small and I was misdirected to the wrong terminal (good thing I was very early!) and I happened to pass the strikers. They just suddenly came out of nowhere and accumulated, banging on drums, and with loads of cops surrounding them. Quite interesting.

Luckily, despite the strike, getting through security was a breeze. After a quick litter hour and a half flight, I was in Manchester airport. I took a train into Manchester city and met Gemma’s sister, Ellie, at her shop. Ellie makes clothing and has a shop in this old warehouse building that has been converted into this epic kinda vintage and handmade clothing mall called Afflecks Palace. Then we took the train out to Congleton and drove to Gemma’s house. Overall, took nearly twelve hours. But so worth it! I love spending time with Gemma’s family! They are so warm and inviting.

I spent most of the weekend eating and relaxing. Food highlights are: pigs in a blanket (sausage wrapped in bacon), toasties (grilled cheese made in a kind of Forman’s grill), turkey, sprouts… and real milk that is delivered by a milk man!

One of the first days, we went on a beautiful hike around a lake with all of Gemma’s friends. Can’t remember the name of the lake, but it was a beautiful hike and she has very sweet friends.

Overall, I’ll just let you know how Christmas goes in England. Christmas Eve isn’t really the big deal like it is in the States. We just relaxed at Gemma’s house. The Christmas Day is the big day. Gemma’s brother, sister-in-law, and nephew came over and we exchanged gifts, had loads of wine, and ate tons of food. Their Christmas Day meal is usually Turkey with sprouts and cranberry sauce; very much like Thanksgiving! They also have Christmas pudding, which is a kind of fruit cake that has a lot of brandy or something in it and you pour some liquor on top of it and light it on fire! It’s very traditional, and traditionally not well liked!

That was pretty much a summary of the four days in Manchester… On the last day, we had lunch near Leeds at her aunt and uncle’s home, and then Gemma put me on a bus to London at 6pm. I arrived at around 10:30pm. Hung out in a pub until about midnight, then took a bus to Stansted airport and waited there for a few hours until my flight at 6:30am to Berlin! That was a crazy trek.

Ok, I think that’s enough for one day! I will tell you all about Berlin next time!!!