I had a lovely couple of weeks recently. I was lucky enough to have one of my best friends from Canada visit me at the start of her grand tour of Europe. She arrived safely, but without her baggage, which was lost in the flight transfer. Unfortunately it took almost three days to get her luggage back, even though the airline knew it was in the UK the evening of her arrival. It was Valentine’s day when Kelsey arrived so I made steak salad for lunch and toad in the hole for dinner (and we had cupcakes to celebrate the occasion). I had to work all week, but we got to spend the evenings together walking around the city and having supper and on the weekend we went on a trip to Cardiff. We went out the Friday night to visit Janice at her new place of business – the illustrious flaming grill establishment called The Old Colonial. Flaming Grills are pretty similar to a Kelsey’s in Canada – pretty mediocre. Janice looked very cute in her black and orange uniform and Kelsey and I played on the quiz machine (and lost badly) while we waited for Janice to be done her shift. Frankly I maintain the pub quiz wasn’t a fair contest because of the random British celebrities and politicians that we’d never heard of… we were unfairly handicapped!
Reassuring everyone back home
On the way out!
Janice in her snazzy uniform
Janice doing her job... sort of.
At the Flaming Grill
Later the next week Kelsey made some day trips by herself to the lovely city of Manchester with its Victorian edifices and fantastic museums, and Kelsey came back wishing she’d gone to university at the beautiful Manchester University campus! She also visited the sweet town of Lincoln with its Cathedral and famous (and not so sweet) story of Little Saint Hugh who was a nine year old Christian boy whose body was discovered down a well in 1255. His death began a blood libel after a local Jew admitted under torture to killing the boy. The man was executed but due to the political situation at the time, almost one hundred Jews were arrested and held in the Tower of London for being involved with this ‘ritual murder.’ Some of these people were hung for refusing to take part in a Christian trial but the remainder were set free eventually. This is an event I covered in one of my seminar classes at university about the History of Satan and really shows how the prejudice against the Jewish population could spiral out of control. The story is best known through Chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale (in case it sounds familiar and you don’t know why!) Here’s a quote:
“O yonge Hugh of Lyncoln, slayn also
With cursed Jewes, as it is notable,
For it nis but a litel while ago,
Preye eek for us, we synful folk unstable,
That of his mercy God so merciable
On us his grete mercy multiplie,
For reverence of his mooder Marie. Amen.”
That Friday the three of us went out for dinner – we tried originally for the only Vietnamese restaurant in the East Midlands (to keep in the tradition of the lunch dates Kelsey and I used to have back home) but found that it has since closed and thus settled on a Japanese restaurant. Their raman bowls were pretty good, but a bit overpriced. We had a night out in Nottingham afterwards and met up with one of Janice’s friends from work as well as a Canadian living in Leicester and the next morning, Kelsey set out of the bus for Heathrow airport to fly to Munich. So long and come back soon!
Our very first guest arrived the last weekend in January from France. Our dear friend Chris, originally from Alabama, came to visit for the weekend, taking Friday off from his job teaching English. He arrived late Friday and we went back to our flat to celebrate (a little belatedly) Chinese New Year’s with steamed pork buns, spring rolls and dumplings. We celebrated with the rum Chris had bought at the airport duty free and woke up late the next morning to cinnamon buns.
Janice and Chris
Chris and I
Cinnamon buns before baking (I forgot an after shot)
Later that day we went for a walk in the afternoon in Nottingham, first to the castle and then along the Robin Hood trail (signs telling the stories of Robin Hood throughout the city). We also went to look at a couple churches in Nottingham, and walked past Jamie Oliver’s restaurant! We had a lovely evening at home watching Robin Hood (the Disney version) together and on Sunday we had breakfast together before sending Chris off to the airport for his flight home.
Chris and Robin Hood
Janice and Chris doing?
Church of St Mary
Outside Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant!
We’ve settled in Nottingham, finally. It was a long journey to get here, certainly longer than London and back. We had a nice time in London with the people from our hostel, but most of the time was spent doing paperwork and other such things to get our move finalized. We headed back to Nottingham for New Years (although technically we spent New Years at a party in Birmingham) and then we headed to Leeds, which was our original choice of long term city. Unfortunately, after having zero luck in Leeds with job offers, interviews or even interest, as well as no luck finding an apartment we were interested in, we were getting pretty discouraged. One night we decided to randomly apply for a couple jobs in other key cities, just because neither of us were feeling very good about Leeds. As luck would have it, the very next morning I got a call for an interview in Nottingham. Within the week we packed up and moved back to Nottingham and within the next couple of weeks, we both had jobs and a new place to live!
Now I get to take you on a tour of our new two bedroom (or one bedroom plus a broom closet as we like to call it) flat. To begin, here are our stairs. Note the lovely carpeting (we live on the upper floor).
Upstairs you have one bedroom to the left (my current sleeping abode) and a disaster of architecture to the right (see all the open space and the lousy wall making a tiny bedroom? Poor planning.)
The awful waste of space...
Janice's closet... (note the lame red wings flag)
Then you have the lovely bathroom with its vaguely dismembered shower partition. Thing of beauty…
And finally our living space complete with grandma couches (we’re working on how to sleep guests bigger than Janice) and our kitchen (which does me quite well most of the time).
Living room (see Janice in the mirror)
The other side of the living room
So there you have it –a tour of our new abode. Doesn’t it feel like y’all have been here already? Wonderful!
One afternoon Janice and I decided to wander through Nottingham to the castle and take a gander at the Castle Museum and Art Gallery. It was a lovely afternoon with some nice collections (although the castle itself isn’t very impressive due to mostly having been destroyed in the mid-17th century before a ducal palace was built on the site. It’s a beautiful palace, but nothing incredibly compelling based on my childhood love of Robin Hood tales. (My poor father had to sit through so many weekend movie nights of the Disney version of Robin Hood he was begging for mercy by the time I was eight). It was interesting learning about the history of the castle though, and the art gallery had some very nice pieces. They currently had a really interesting exhibit on the work of Anish Kapoor. Dramatic colour and shape with some really interesting optical effects. In March the new exhibit will be a collection of 2000 years of silk work from China. I’m definitely going to check it out in the spring. In the meantime, here are some pictures from our afternoon!
Janice poking at things...
Janice after the art gallery
The castle gardens
The next morning we got up super-duper early (4am) and Reco, the nice guy that he is, drove us to the Kusadasi airport. We flew from there to Istanbul and then from Istanbul to Gatwick. Security at Turkish airports is intense, but pretty efficient and the airline was very helpful – even though our flights were in different terminals and through different airlines they checked our baggage straight through. Certainly made going through customs while exiting the country easier! Our first flight was easy, short and nothing to mention really, but the second flight was intense. Turned out we’d managed to get super cheap tickets on the inaugural flight from Istanbul to Gatwick flown by Turkish Airlines. And boy were they excited. They served champagne and chocolate and cake and then even tried to provide a not disgusting version of airplane food! All in all, not a bad way to fly!
We arrived in London and got to fight our bags all the way to the train to Nottingham (which cost a good pound of flesh at a peak time) but before we knew it we were back in Nottingham where Will’s lovely father picked us up. We met Will’s brother Michael and had dinner with the family before Will came home from his new(ish) job. We had a lovely few days with them before heading to East Leake to stay with Janice’s great aunt and uncle over Christmas.
Clive and Joan were lovely people with a truly British sense of humour and Joan always managed to feed us very well! Also visiting over Christmas was their daughter and her husband and son from Germany. It was nice to have more people around. On Christmas Eve we went into town with them and wandered around the Christmas market and shopping centre before having lunch. Janice’s grandmother had unfortunately passed away a few days before, so we had a relatively quiet time and spent lots of time talking to our loved ones back home. It was a real treat to be able to skype – not something that can be done on the road in a busy hostel or in a stranger’s home.
Boxing Day walk
On Boxing Day Janice and I went for a lovely walk around East Leake and wandered through fields and past the old church. It’s a very pretty, if quiet, English village and the countryside is just beautiful. The weather was also unseasonably warm and the grass was still green and growing! The next day Janice and I went out with Clive for lunch at their local pub – very tasty and a nice end to our visit as the next day we headed off on the train to London.
Janice on our walk
Filed under Holidays, Travel
We’ve been in Nottingham for a few days now and we’ve been staying with a friend of Janice’s (Will) and his family, who have very graciously put us up. They’ve been lovely to us (and such good cooks!). We had duck for dinner one night (delicious) and last night we had the most amazing fish lasagna. Our first day, afternoon rather, there we mostly slept, and we’ve been trying to adjust to the time difference (which is hard when we’re always up late finishing the wine). One afternoon we went into town (they live just on the outskirts of Nottingham) and saw the castle, which was very pretty but had lots of cheesy robin hood stuff and of course we had to take pictures with the Robin Hood statue. All the streets have ridiculous names like Maid Marian Way but its such a pretty city and it boasts the oldest running pub in England!
The Robin Hood statue
Janice and Will in Nottingham
Hanging out playing sporcle
We also had the chance to visit the adorable little English village outside Nottingham, which is where Will went to school as a youngster. Janice and I made googly-eyes at the adorable buildings and streets before we went to a traditional English pub (complete with locals wandering through with there dogs).
Also, in other news, because of the strikes and riots and molotov cocktails in Greece, we’ve decided to do our trip kind of backwards which means lots of revamping and last minute plans! I’ll keep you updated, promise!
And one last awesome thing I found…
Pirate water I bought at St Pancras station in London
We’re here (technically now we’ve been here for a couple of days but I keep getting distracted and not finishing this post – I know… bad.) Anyways, our lovely (sort of) plane ride (at least it was direct!) took about 6 and a half hours (it got in 30 minutes early). It wasn’t too bad despite being one of the old school plans from the 90s that I remember from flying as a child. Luckily the seats were eight across, split into two, four and two. Janice and I sat on one of the ends, so there was no one beside us, and luckily we have no screaming babies or extremely loud snorers to contend with. After leaving at 10pm Ontario time, we arrived at 9:30 in London (the proper one?) which was about 4:30am Ontario time. I managed to sleep somewhat on the plane, but we were both still pretty groggy. We managed to entertain the people in the customs line by pushing our bags along with our feet (we actually started a trend) and got through customs relatively easily, despite the agent having to repeat his questions several times for our slow, tired brains. Our luggage all arrived together (which we were a little nervous about) and then we made our way to the Gatwick train station where we completely failed at knowing what we wanted to get. Luckily the nice man behind the counter was accustomed to useless tourists and helped us by the proper ticket to Nottingham and made sure we didn’t make any silly errors. He told us where to go to catch our first train (which we promptly forgot) and so after wandering around for a while looking lost, we finally found platform 4 and confirmed that it was where we were supposed to be.
Our train was supposed to come at 11:00, but in fact it was very late (a common phenomenon with British trains apparently) and it was very full. Janice and I (with our enormous amount of luggage) made our way onto the train, knocking into people left and right and generally being a nuisance. We were standing for the first while (Janice in the doorway area and me in the baggage area) doing our best to not get in people’s ways. A stop later, an older gentleman got on and once the doors closed he began proselytising about Jesus and the evils of the modern world (particularly television and jeans on women). To be fair, I’m not sure how any of those are related… In good english form, everyone studiously avoided his eye until he got off the train a few stops later. Janice and I sat shortly after that, although we were wedged into seats with our bags on our laps (not too comfortable). Finally we made it to St Pancras station and realized that we’d just missed the train we wanted to take and had to wait for the next one. Luckily the next one was only 45 minutes later and after much confusion over cars and seating arrangements, we made it on the train (luckily the right one unlike the fellow sitting across from us who then missed his flight)
Two hours later and we arrived in Nottingham where Will and his father picked us up and took us to their home (where we both promptly had naps!)
More about Nottingham later! Suffice to say that we have arrived and so far haven’t gotten into trouble!
Ps. I promise that there will be photos next post!