26 July 2014

"And on the Sixth Day God Created MANchester"

Manchester has a great buzz. I like it. The Northern Quarter, which is where we are staying, is full of quirky shops, bars, and cafés. It's the 'bohemian' area, or so the mancunians tell me.

We have spent a few days wandering around, as per usual. On Thursday we visited the National Football Museum (again, soccer for all you Americans out there). The Boyfriend was particularly excited about that, and I followed along, being the good girlfriend that I am (and the most modest). ;)

The Urbis, National Football Museum

All joking aside the museum was pretty impressive. There were of course a lot of football related posters and nick-nacks on display, but the history of the sport and the fan culture surrounding it were also very well represented.

After visiting the museum we hung around in the park next to it, went to see Piccadilly Gardens, and took a peek into Printworks.

The following day, that is to say yesterday, we happened to notice that the Manchester Jazz Festival was on, and there were some free performances as well! We headed to St. Anne's Church to listen to Matt Owens' project called Keys. It was an excellent concert combining gospel vibes, Latin American, African, and classical music. The end-result was hypnotic, light, emotional, and funny. I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you ever have a chance to hear this group play, I recommend going.

St Anne's Church

The rest of the day we did what we pretty much always do: had a picnic at the park, walked around, and played cards. While hanging out at the park we found a canvas bag hanging from a tree. There were a few of those kinds of bags scattered around the park, which only served to pique my curiosity. I checked the bag, and found a £20 voucher to Gourmet Burger Kitchen! :)

Today we went to the Museum of Science and Industry and played around for a while experimenting on stuff. The city of Manchester has a lot of things in common with Tampere, the city where I live. The history of an industrial city, the exportation of fabrics, the interest in science these days... No wonder Tampere ia sometimes called 'Mansesteri'!

The Boyfriend lifts a Mini Cooper!

Gourmet Burger Kitchen is within a walking distance from the museum, so we headed there for lunch. The burgers we had were absolutely delicious! I've never had falafels as soft, tasty, and moist (gosh, that word gives me the chills) as they had in their Falafel Burger. If you ever come to Manchester, that is a really great place to eat. The staff were all friendly and helpful, too.

The Lowry Bridge

We are leaving Manchester tomorrow morning. Next stop Edinburgh! 

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24 July 2014

Day Trip to Liverpool

Yesterday was a travelling day. Our rail pass permits us to travel as much ad we like on eight days. We intend to take full advantage of those few days!

We had a hostel already reserved in Manchester, where we arrived at about 1 pm. It was too early to get into our rooms, and since it takes less than an hour by train to Liverpool, we decided to dump our stuff at the hostel and head to out for the day.

After eating a cold but delicious lunch on the train (cheese&onion rolls, babybel cheese, and strawberries the size of my palm) we arrived in Liverpool Lime Street station full if energy and totally open for anything the city had to offer.

We strolled around the centre for a while and ended up in Albert Dock. It was awsome to feel the wind after the stuffy, stifling days we had spent in Birmingham. We sat on the stairs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Building looking at passersby and checked out the entrance to Beatles Story (we didn't go in, though).

The Boyfriend had read about the Liverpool Cathedral, which apparently is the largest in the UK. It took 78 years to build, from 1900 to 1978. No wonder, because it really is huge! It's almost 190 metres long and the tower is over a hundred metres tall. That's one massive building, if you ask me.

I found it strange that there was a pink neon sign just above the main doors that read: 'I felt you and I knew you loved me'. Neon lights in a church! Now that's what I call cool (and kind of kitsch, too).

We arrived at the hostel totally exhausted from our awesome day trip!
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Books and a Bull

Our three days in Birmingham went by surprisingly quickly. The Boyfriend is still not 100 per cent, so on Monday we took it really slow: we did laundry (hooray for clean underwear!) and cooked and strolled around the Hatters' neighbourhood, that is to say St. Paul's church.

On Tuesday we really wanted to get out. Neither of us really enjoy hanging around hostels for days on end, so we headed out to explore Birmingham.

We both read a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean we devour books, we always read one more sentence, one more page, one more chapter... Where else do people like us go except the library?

Even if you are not an avid reader I suggest you check the Birmingham Library out. It's a light, spacious, and modern building with great facilities. There is a secret garden, a discovery terrace, and an amphitheatre among other things. On the very top floor (the ninth) there is a Shakespeare memorial room, which is worth the climb. If none of that us enough, there is also the amazing view over the city!

After a lengthy visit to the library we strolled along the canals for a bit (thanks for the hint, dad) and visited the Bullring shopping centre.

We did find the bull, too, but unfortunately my phone died before I could get a picture. To make up for it, here's a Spock-graffiti.

We are in Manchester now for the next four nights. If you have any suggestions for things to do or see while we're here, please leave a comment below! :)

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20 July 2014

Birmingham Begins

The last time I blogged we were in a bit of a pickle at the King's Arms in Brighton, since there was water flooding our room! Luckily the owner hurried to fix the problem and after a couple of hours we got back into the room. Our stuff and the beds were dry, and all was well well again! :)

We checked out the yesterday morning after saying goodbye and good luck to Harry, an Australian guy who is travelling around Europe for two whole years!

We hopped on a train to London Victoria,  took the Tube to Euston, and found our way to a Virgin rails train to Birmingham. We were both pretty impressed by the fact that above the seats there was a display screen that showed whether or not the seat was available! Sooo convenient for people with railcards, let me tell you!

We arrived in Birmingham in the middle of a thunderstorm, and had to walk from New Street to our hostel, The Hatters, which looked pretty dodgy at first. On the inside, however, it is amazing! The rooms are clean and dry, and the 24 person room were staying in is divided into six pods of four people. There are separate bathrooms for ladies and gentlemen, a kitchen, and even a laundry room.

We took it easy last night, because the Boyfriend was feeling under the weather. Today, on the other hand, he was a bit better, so we decided to check out the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

The museum was a lot bigger than I first thought. We spent almost the entire day there (minus lunch and a quick towel-hunting trip; I forgot mine in Brighton). There's a lot to see in there from Birmingham's own local history to Buddhist statues and 17th century artist. I personally found the 'Birmingham and It's People' exhibition interesting, because I don't really know anything about the city.

I also liked browsing around the art gallery. They really had a lot of variety! If you ever come to Birmingham, I suggest you check the museum out.

We'll be staying in Birmingham for a couple of days still. I think I like this city, even though I don't quite know what to make of it. It seems to be a mixture of a lot of things. In my opinion, Birmingham hasn't yet decided what it wants to be. 

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18 July 2014

Beautiful Beachy Brighton

Brighton is amazing! :) Two days of fun in the sun is exactly what I needed after walking around London.

Our feet were aching when we stepped into the King's Arms pub and hostel. We basically just checked in, left our stuff, and headed down to the beach. It was sunny and hot, but the light, salty breeze from the sea kept us cool. We lathered ourselves with sunscreen (we're pale Finns, so spf 50 really came in handy!) and settled down to read. It's great to read something totally unrelated to schoolwork.

After two days of lying in the sun, swimming, eating fish&chips and walking around the Lanes and the Pier we are ready for the next chapter of the adventure.

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P.S. The ceiling of our room just started leaking... Thank goodness there's chocolate!

16 July 2014

The Scent of Lavender

Hi! We made it to the UK!

We flew from Tampere to London Stansted on Monday. The plane was an hour an half late, but that was fine by us. When you have six weeks to kill, there really is no hurry!

On the flight we had decided to sleep, but neither of us felt like it in the end. Too much excitement,  we were like children at Christmas time! Instead we watched some Falling Skies (not about anything falling from the sky, mind you. Just some aliens and people fighting).

From Stansted we took a bus and a train to Clapham Junction. We are staying in a hostel above The Crown, a comfy pub in Battersea. The hostel is cheap and clean(ish), and the staff are all extremely nice. The pub is on the corner of Lavender Hill and Tipthorpe Road.

The name 'Lavender Hill' has a certain charm, doesn't it? The road is long, it comes up from Clapham Junction and along it in gardens there actually are lavender plants. Lots of them. The air is fragrant and you can hear the buzzing of bees in the flowers. I think from now on I'll always remember London when I smell lavender.

London is everything I had imagined it to be - except grey and rainy. The sun was shining and it was around 20-25 degrees all day. I feel like I know this city and it knows and welcomes me. Yesterday and today we walked to the centre and saw the sights (Big Ben, the Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square...) You know, the usual touristy-stuff. On we both fell in love with the Victoria Embankment Gardens, where we lay in the sun and listened to a brass band play.

So far so good! Tomorrow we're leaving London behind and heading south.
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P.S. I don't have my 'big girl camera' with me, so you'll have to settle for phone-quality, and your imagination!

13 July 2014

London Calling

We, that is to say the Boyfriend and I, are flying to the UK tomorrow! We're going to spend six weeks travelling around England, Scotland, and Wales. Neither one of us has ever visited the UK even though both of us study English (he's going to be an English teacher, and I study translating and interpreting).

Our first stop is London, where we are going to stay until Thursday. After that, who knows. We are probably going to head towards Brighton and from there on to Dover.

It's actually pretty awesome not to have a plan. We have some outlines, of course, some places we have always wanted to see or have been told are worth visiting. I'm going to try to blog as much as I can from the road. And I'd like to invite you, dear reader, to come along. This is going to be one of the greatest adventures of my life so far.

Are you ready? Here we go!
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