Tag Archives: UK


I visited the nearby city of Lincoln twice while I was living in Nottingham. The first was on a bright clear summer day – a lucky break in a summer full of rainy days. I left relatively early in the morning and since Lincoln is only an hour or so away by train I spent eight or so hours wandering around. Lincoln isn’t a very big city but its full of history and was quite an important city during the Medieval period. It was one of the wealthiest cities in England – once the third largest city in the country due to the the weavers guild which gained a great deal of prominence and brought wealth to the city.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

The cathedral in Lincoln is magnificent. When the cathedral towers were completed it was considered to be the tallest man-made structure in the world – surpassing the pyramids at Giza – and its builder was canonized as St Hugh of Lincoln.  Lincoln also held the seat of the local diocese including the ruins of a once lavish bishop’s palace (also built by St Hugh) that was an incredibly important building, both for its architecture and its guests. Lincolnshire had one of the highest concentrations of monasteries in the country and the diocese was very wealthy. Several of the Bishops of Lincoln have places in popular history, one being Hugh of Wells who, as the bishop, witnessed the signing of the Magna Carta. Lincoln Castle preserves one of the four remaining original copies of the document – its quite the sight and an incredibly important document.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

Cathedral Interior

Cathedral Interior



Lincoln’s decline began with a series of plagues in the 14th century and continued in the 16th century with the dissolution of the monasteries which greatly affected the wealth of the diocese as well as the city’s political power. Then the Civil War came and Lincoln was unfortunately situated on the border between Royalist and Parliamentary forces and thus the city was sacked during the fighting. The damage was incredible and included the ruin of the bishop’s palace and the destruction of its industry.  The city didn’t fully recover until the Industrial Revolution and has since become a tourist city – especially during the Christmas market – the longest running in the UK.

Ruins of the Bishop's Palace

Ruins of the Bishop’s Palace

Bishop's Palace

Bishop’s Palace

Folklore from the medieval period also tells of one very interesting (and tragic) tale from Lincoln. The story of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln was very popular during this period (and continued to be so for several centuries). The story itself stems from an incident in 1255 in which a young Christian boy disappeared and was later discovered murdered at the bottom of a well. The Jewish community in Lincoln was well-established and one of the most important in Europe, but antisemitism had resulted in the destruction of a great deal of property. After the murder a local Jewish man admitted to the murder under torture and was executed but due to political circumstances almost one hundred other members of the community were arrested and taken to London to stand trial for the ‘ritual murder’ of the boy. This was a common charge during the Medieval period in Europe and led to the arrest, torture and execution of many innocent members of the Jewish communities. In the case of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln almost twenty of those arrested were immediately executed for refusing to participate in the politically based sham of a trial. The remainder were freed after the intervention of the King’s brother but the Jewish community in Lincoln never recovered and the Jewish population was expelled en masse in the late 13th century.

Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle

Inside the Jail

Inside the Jail

During my first visit I explored the castle (including the very creepy Victorian jail and Magna Carta exhibit), the Cathedral with the cloister and beautiful library and the ruins of the Bishop’s palace thoroughly. I also did a bit of shopping on Steep Hill – the most famous shopping district in the city – and had afternoon tea at a lovely traditional teashop.

Steep Hill

Steep Hill



My second visit was to visit my Great-aunt Micky, the wife of my late great-uncle, who I hadn’t even realized lived in the city during my first trip! I visited close to Christmas and was pleased to be able to go over some old family photos and relics as well as to hear some of the family stories and anecdotes from Mick! I was so pleased to spend time with family I’ve never met before and I found some lovely photos of my grandmother as a young girl during her Cambridge days!

My grandmother Patricia Philp

My grandmother Patricia Philp

Uncle Tony in uniform before his death in WWII

Uncle Tony in uniform before his death in WWII



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Weekend in London

Kelsey and I also spend some time in London while she was visiting at the end of her trip. I’ve always stayed at St Christopher’s hostels in London, but this time instead of staying at the one near Tower Bridge, we stayed at the one located in Greenwich. I’d never been out to Greenwich before, and although it’s a little ways out of the city centre (and the tourist stuff), it’s a very cool, vibrant neighbourhood. We found plenty of good cheap places to eat and lots of bars around to drink in! The first night we were late going out to find dinner, but we found this fabulous cheap 24 hour noodle bar that was full of long bench tables and drunken club goers! We went out that night, but because we had an early morning we didn’t stay out long, especially after we found an unfortunate ‘friend’ who, when offered a mint, licked my hand. Gross…

During our major ‘tourist’ day in London we decided to go on a Sandeman’s walking tour. The guide was funny and informative and he took us past many of the classic monuments that I will show you on a photo tour of London!

Buckingham Palace

Kelsey and the Canada Gate

Easter Egg Hunt that was going on in London…

The classic…

Hampton Court Palace – Home of Henry VIII

Westminster Abbey

Kelsey grumpy at photo-taking


At the end of our tour!

That afternoon we had lunch at a lovely Thai restaurant in South Kensington before heading to the Natural History Museum to explore. We both loved the dinosaurs, stuffed animals and informative diagrams on human anatomy (including one on human reproduction…) Kelsey especially enjoyed the games for the kids! We finished the day with a banana split at a cute café before heading back to Nottingham.

The exterior of the Natural History Museum decorated with animals!

Kelsey and her new dinosaur pet!

The reason the dinosaurs went extinct!

Kelsey and her games!

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Bath and Stonehenge

I had the luck recently to have seen a deal on Groupon for a day trip to Bath and Stonehenge. I bought two tickets at very reduced prices and planned on going with Janice. As it worked out, Janice and I have very conflicting schedules and couldn’t get the same time off before the deal expired. Luckily Kelsey was heading back to the UK and she agreed to accompany on this adventure!

Kelsey is not pleased about the early morning…

Our morning started out super early. We stopped at McDonald’s for coffee and then meet our tour bus. We got on the bus and were met by our very grouchy driver (Tom) and our hyper and crazy tour guide, Mary. Mary started off giving us a tour of London as we drove past. We learned about arts and crafts studios, major sites of London (including St Paul’s which was a surprising focus considering we didn’t pass it!) We also learned about Tesco – the everyday supermarket of Britons! On the way out of London we hit some traffic and a car cut us off as Mary’s mike drifted near Tom just in time him swear profusely at the other driver! Mary then proceeded to give a history lesson on the English monarchy before telling us about her desire to go to Glastonbury festival that was continually thwarted by her fear of using the toilets there. Finally, blessedly, Mary stopped talking and let us sleep!

Kelsey is excited to be visiting Stonehenge!

Stonehenge and the storm clouds…

We arrived at Stonehenge and got marched into the site. It wasn’t all that busy there despite what I’d heard about the lineups and crowds! The weather was cold and wet and grey, but it did set off the stones rather well. It’s an impressive site – towering and ancient. It’s hard to capture it in photos. What I was struck by mostly was what life might have been like for those who built the henge and used it. It’s so foreign and distant from the life that we know. I couldn’t help the melancholy that strikes as you realize that these are secrets and knowledge and lives that you’ll never be able to touch, even if you tried. The landscape around Stonehenge is beautiful and its easy to imagine the wonder and awe past people would have felt walking the processional road towards the monument towering on the hill. After a slight delay (due to some mislaid passengers) we got on our way and drove through the gorgeous rolling hills to Bath.

A little chilly!

We arrived in Bath around noon, but after the winding roads and jolty driving I felt incredibly sick. To calm my stomach we stopped at a lovely teahouse for lunch. A pot of tea and a selection of local cheeses down, I felt much better! We decided to wander through the town and see some of the classic sites. Bath is a slightly creepy city in that every building is made of the same type of stone in the same style. Thus while it is a very pretty town, part of you can’t help but wonder if you’ve suddenly driven into some strange Soviet commune where they actually believed in pretty architecture.

At the teahouse

The Abbey interior

We visited the Abbey first with its lovely rose window and magnificent lighting, it was a lovely example what the town had to offer. After looking at the terribly long line into the Roman baths, we peered into the Pump Room and then we strolled through the streets and found the Circus (where we peered in the windows and imagined the lives of the rich and famous!) Afterwards, we found the Royal Crescent, where we visited Number One Royal Crescent – a restored town house that showcases life in Georgian Bath at the height of its heyday.

The Roman Baths

Kelsey at the Circus. Everyone we know combining all their money still couldn`t afford one of these!

The Royal Crescent

We then set out to find the Botanical Gardens but were thwarted by misleading signs. Either the Botanical garden is tiny, or we missed it, or it was stolen. I’m going to go with stolen. Watch those botanical gardens people! Instead we headed for a park by the river and saw the lovely cherry trees in bloom as well as the romantic Pulteney Bridge, which is said to be one of the most beautiful bridges in the world!

Pulteney Bridge

Enjoying the stroll

In the park!

Thus our adventure ended and back to London-town we went!

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Kelsey Arrives


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!

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England – Trains, Planes and Automobiles and Back in the USS… wait…

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.

East Leake

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

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Arriving in the UK

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!

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