York, England

York, England
July 2nd, July 3rd 2010

York

It’s the former capital of England before London and reputedly one of the most haunted cities in England. I took a ghost tour and the creepiest part of the whole tour was the guide himself. He was bald, thin, and had an evil-looking face. He also did amazing impersonations of people getting hung as well as batshit insane people. And he would occasionally give a loud shriek to scare people during his narrations. He ended his ghost tour with the story of a child drowning in a barrel of syrup and everyone consuming the syrup for half a year before the body was found.

The only food I ate that is worth mentioning is the pulled pork sandwich I bought from the local outdoor market. I never realized how well chopped apples went with pulled pork. I’ve since had several pulled pork sandwiches from different locations. It’s just so delicious (read my Edinburgh entry for the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve had so far). It’s true, the English do have terrible food choices.

The city itself is quite small, surrounded by a city wall that used to protect it. Here, “bar” means “gate”, “gate” means “street”, and “pub” means “bar”. I visited a couple of attractions, including a tower on top of a hill near the Castle Museum, which had no roof because the guards who used to fire cannons from the structure, apparently fired a cannon which had its front sealed and the whole place exploded. They also used to keep gunpowder in that tower, so you can imagine what happened. It took everyone out as well as the roof.

I also visited York Minster, which was one of the largest gothic churches in Northern Europe. See how my friend Fikri’s size compared to the church.

Castle Museum itself was interesting because it included the history of vacuum cleaners, toilet bowls, and toilet paper. This was of interest to me because of several people I know who love vacuum cleaners, toilet bowls, and toilet paper. Do not ask me who but they know who they are.

York, England Pictures

Liverpool and Manchester, England

Liverpool (June 30th 2010) & Manchester (July 1st 2010)

Rivals on the football (uh, I mean soccer) field. Pretty much right next to each other. Not much to see at either (ok, not entirely true). One night spent at each city to get a gist of it (and to make a pilgrimage to the holy site of Old Trafford).

I only went to Liverpool “just cuz”. It was right next to Manchester, I might as well see what Scouser life is like. It was rushed experience. I arrived at the Lime Street station, found my way to the hostel, left it to check out Albert Dock (where a couple of free museums were located along the beautiful port). Although I’ve said that I am sick of museums, I wanted to check out the Maritime Museum as I enjoy reading about warfare, in this case, naval warfare. It also had history on the Lufhansa, Titanic, and Empress of Ireland disasters, all of which were interesting to me as well.

Manchester is my Mecca. Sitting in the players dressing room, walking out the tunnel to the evergreen pitch, sitting in the stands and in the home team seats which I’ve seen countless times on TV…fantastic. We were restricted from walking onto the pitch though. I could only imagine what it was like to watch a match there. One day…I’ll make the pilgrimage back with my dad.

Later that evening, I had dinner with a friend I met in Salzburg who studies in Manchester. We ate at a place called Tai Wu, which was supposed to be one of the better Cantonese restaurants in Manchester.

Not much to say about my short stays at either place. I will be heading off to the former capital of England, York, early tomorrow morning.

Liverpool Pics

Manchester Pics

Bath, England

Bath, England
June 27th – 29th 2010

park

I only came to Bath when Evelyn’s house mate recommended it to me. I heard it was a small pretty town, about 3.5 hours from London by bus. It was also a UNESCO World Heritage and so far, I have not been disappointed by any towns labelled as such.

Pudney Bridge

bath street

bath street

royal crescent

Bath was small enough to walk from end to end (at least centrally, where everything was located) in a matter of an hour or two. I liked how everything was so close. My hostel was St. Christophers Inn, located above the Belushi’s Bar. Unlike most hostels which have their own reception, reception here is at the bar itself. I can’t say any more good things about how convenient everything was about this city. Living upstairs in clean, comfortable rooms, fast internet accessible everywhere, clean showers/toilets, the sound of seagulls to wake one up in the mornings, watching the World Cup downstairs at the bar (cheap beer, good food, super friendly staff), supermarket across the street, parks everywhere to sit out in the sun to read, little shops to walk past, and how everything is so pretty. When I like a place, I like a place. One night became three nights.

roman baths

With few attractions in town, I got to explore the town more without feeling overwhelmed. I went to see the world famous Roman Baths (I suppose the town was named after this). The Romans came and built a huge bath house a little before I was born (something like 76 AD), and what remained was excavated in the 1800s and to this day, the pools, which are heated by the earth, are still there, bubbling and steaming away. (See Flickr for more pictures of the Roman Baths)

walrus carpenter

I have to mention a little place I ate at called “The Walrus and Carpenter”. It felt like a restaurant that would fit right into Austin. See the stained glass panel? That’s how I remember the name.

picnic

Very relaxing little city to chill out. I hope to find more treasures like this as I travel.

Bath, England Pictures

London, England

London, England
June 22nd – 26th 2010

What a dramatic start to my stay in London. My flight from Munich was slightly delayed and already being very late at night, I was concerned that I might miss the last underground train linking me to my friend Evelyn’s area. So I get off the plane, go through a long border-check line, then took the Stanstedt Express from the airport to Liverpool St Station. Upon reaching the quiet, empty station, I look for a payphone. I didn’t know how to dial an English number so after a little assistance from an Indian guy working at a store in the station (thank goodness, nothing else there was open and no one was around so late), I insert 60p to make a phone call. I only managed a few sentences with Evelyn before the phone disconnected me. Evelyn called the payphone and after several disconnections every few sentences, I manage to make out what I should do from here.

The station was closing. I asked a man closing up which train would take me to the Aldgate East stop. He told me the last one was leaving as we spoke so I better run to the platform. I get there, nothing. Shit! So I run back, tell him there wasn’t a train, he calls his coworkers, finds out the train is actually there at the platform about to leave that very moment. I run back and turns out, the train was actually just getting there. It opened and left in a matter of minutes. The last underground train for the night. I felt very lucky. But it wasn’t over.

Upon reaching Aldgate East, I get off. Now I had to look for bus N15 or 115 that would take me to Canning Town. Where?! I walk around in the dark quiet alleys, trying to get my sense of direction. The underground stations in Europe usually have 3-4 exits each so getting off at the wrong one can throw a person off. I walk past shady looking characters in those dark streets, all the while trying to figure out what I should do if I was mugged. I finally found a somewhat busy street so I felt safer. I asked some people doing roadside work where I could find an N15 or 115 bus, turns out it was just across the street. The stop was full of Indians. One of them chats with me and turns out he’s a Bangladeshi who used to live in Malaysia for a bit. All this time, I don’t reveal I live in America. I am wary of revealing my American citizenship to particular types, just being cautious. He asks if I want to use his cell phone to call Evelyn, I turn it down. No idea what some people do with other people’s cell phone numbers, better not cause any trouble for Evelyn so I preferred to keep her completely anonymous to strangers.

Relief, as I got off at Canning Town station and was met by Evelyn. Turns out, Aldgate East, the area I was wandering aimlessly in those dark alleys, was where Jack the Ripper once looked for his prey. But I am not a hooker, so why should I be afraid right? I was more concerned with those group of middle-easterners I found loitering around the area.

Tube

London…very big city, very spread out. Forget walking around, I took the “tube” (underground subway) everywhere. I spent a good chunk of change paying to get around back and forth from Canning Town to central London. Lucky for me, Evelyn graciously hosted me so I saved quite a bit of money that way, as London is an expensive place to stay, even at hostels. I do have to mention that I slept so DAMNED well staying at Evelyn’s place. So quiet and comfortable, there was a large screen TV, kitchen, non-flooded bathrooms, no late-night drunks making noise etc. It felt like home.

bbq duck

I don’t know why but I decided to make China Town my food center. I must’ve eaten 3-4 meals of BBQ duck/pork/roast pork combination at several places (the highlight being Four Seasons in Bayswater, just so bloody delicious). I also ate some Spanish food one evening with Evelyn (I had to treat her for being such a good host).

Trafalgar Square

English fans

Saw the sights via Sandeman’s Walking Tour, which sucked this time around, despite my guide being from Austin. She was just a lousy guide. But I did end the tour with half-price fish and chips before heading off to find a place to watch England play Slovenia. Impossible task. Each place was “full” according to the bouncers. I could, of course, get into these “full” places with a little piece of paper with the Queen’s face on it to the amount of 10 quid. But I did get lucky and found a restaurant which had its windows open so quite a number of people were watching from the outsides for free.

I didn’t want to visit any museums in London. At this time, I am sick of museums. I couldn’t possibly cram anymore cultural visuals into my mind. I was content seeing Buckingham Palace (and the changing of the guard, an event watched by tons of tourists), seeing several monuments and architectural pieces from the outside (Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, the British Museum etc.). For me, I came to eat food and walk around just to see what life’s like there.

Wimbledon was a great experience. I was #5561 in the queue at 8 am so you can imagine how many people came very early to queue up for Ground’s Passes. I was not aware that the Queen was making an appearance that day as well, her first since 1977. Not only that, the Isner/Mahut match was to be finished today. Those of you who follow tennis might know this headlining match to be the longest in tennis history.

strawberries and cream

Henman Hill

Isner/Mahut

Upon getting in, I immediately looked for strawberries and cream. I was disappointed with what I got (see picture). I thought the strawberries would be larger, the cream would be thicker. But it was sweet and delicious anyway. The line-ups weren’t that great that day, the big names were all playing in Center Court, Court 1 or 2, which I had no access to. I started with a doubles match and started falling asleep, my God, doubles is bloody boring. Saw the Queen from a distance as the crowd cheered when she waved. Watched Murray play on the famous Henman Hill (or is it Murray Mound now?). Couldn’t get into the court for Isner/Mahut so I watched its conclusion at HH again. They had a special ceremony commemorating something that will likely never ever happen again.

London was fun, I eventually felt compelled to leave because Evelyn’s housemate (an English-born-Chinese girl, never met an Asian girl with an English accent so it felt weird) sweetly asked me several times when I was planning to leave. I think I got the hint but she did recommend I go to Bath, which in hindsight, I love her for (see future entry on Bath).

London, England Pictures