Cheers from Manchester

Almost 2 weeks into my trip and I’m now in Manchester. Well, there’s not much to say about Manchester. I’ve been here almost 24 hours and I’ve basically seen the coach station, the inside of a bus, and one of the residences belonging to the University of Manchester. My friend Kate attends grad school here and I’m staying with her until Friday, when I hop on a plane and head west – to Ireland! I guess I should go over my time in London, seeing as I only updated last on day 3 of London. I’m going to try and remember what else I did in London, even if it’s out of order.

The day after I last updated, when I went to Camden Market, I spent time walking along the South Bank and at the Tate Modern. The walk along the South Bank was an entirely new perspective of London, especially seeing the classic image of St. Paul’s Cathedral across the Thames. Jane introduced me to her nephew Dave’s girlfriend, Christina. Turns out she was a Kappa Alpha Theta in South Carolina! We ate lunch near the Borough Street Market, a very interesting area with lots of little alleyways and cobbled streets. It was a beautiful day with lots of sun and Londoners were out enjoying the sun, having drinks on patios and jogging along the river. We passed by Shakespeare’s Globe, which isn’t nearly as impressive as I was expecting. It was a shame that it’s a huge tourist attraction now – the construction really ruins the appeal! I guess it’s necessary to maintain it though.

The Tate Modern was a fun way to spend a few hours, especially since it’s free (just like most of the museums and national art galleries in London! hurray!). It wasn’t quite as memorable as my visits to the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and San Francisco, but enjoyable nonetheless. I really enjoyed taking my time through the exhibits, walking the school groups sketching their favourite pieces and seeing the Asian tourists on guided tours, furiously snapping photos of whatever they could.

The next day, I spent an afternoon at the Imperial War Museum, which was incredible. I only had time to see the First World War, Second World War and Holocaust sections of the museum. The museum was huge! I was in awe at the breadth of the artefacts, including Himmler’s death mask, a glass wall of shoes found at Auschwitz, an upper ranking SS officer’s copy of Mein Kampf that was given to him by Hitler at his wedding… there was so much. I just wish I had spent more time there!

Wednesday (March 4), I went into London and decided I would spring for the entry to Westminster Abbey. I’m so glad I did, it was entirely worth it! It was an amazing space. I could still appreciate the wonder and beauty of the church, even if I am not a religious person at all. It was incredible to see the tomb of Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Chaucer… I wish I could have taken photos, some of the tombs and monuments were absolutely breath taking. I walked through the cloisters, stopping in the Pyx. It’s been there since … I can’t remember the exact year, but around the mark of 1200? Something like that. It was just so old, I felt very insignificant in the grand history of the world. I picked a day that wasn’t terribly busy so I was able to enjoy the chapels and quiet corners without too much interruption.

Friday, I spent the day at Jane’s. I really needed a day of rest and recuperation. Around dusk, my cousin James and I took a walk in Richmond Park (hunting ground of King Henry VIII). We even saw some deer! It was a beautiful park, very quiet and peaceful. That night we went out to a pub for dinner and a farewell, so to speak. I am very thankful to both Jane and James for allowing me to spend a week in their home. London is so expensive and it was very generous of them. I even got to spend time with my great-uncle Eric and great-aunt Carol. Eric is my grandfather Geoffrey’s brother. It was very emotional, seeing the similarities between the two of them. I just know Granddad would have been very happy to know I spent time with Eric.

Saturday morning brought the end of my cozy stay at Jane’s place in New Malden. Finally, I was released into the wild! I met Kate at Victoria Coach Station and we made our way to the Clink Hostel on King’s Cross Rd. Definitely not a very nice area – almost everything was shut down and boarded up, hardly any street lights.. just not a very nice vibe. We dropped our things at the hostel and headed up to Shoreditch to attend an Alpha Omicron Pi brunch! We truly are an international sorority.

Victoria welcomed us into her home for brunch and what a lovely time it was! Over mimosas, French
toast, blueberries and a happy little puppy named Mr. Pibbs we made an incredible new friend! Victoria is an AOII alumna from UC Berkley and she married an Englishman and moved to London. She invited us to come stay in her apartment for the remainder of our time in the big city… so after a night in the hostel, we got our money back and moved on over to her place. She lives right near Brick Lane, a very interesting area full of artist studios, fashion design offices, cafes and boutiques. It was awesome to spend time in a part of London not all tourists get to see.

Sunday, we walked around the Columbia Road flower market… if there was any reason to want to live in London, that’s definitely high up on the list. It was definitely one of my favourite parts of my stay in London. The flowers and plants on display were absolutely beautiful! The sellers were funny little Englishmen and their sons, still employing the traditional mode of bargaining and bantering with customers.

After the flower market, we ate smoked salmon bagels at the “infamous” Brick Lane Beigel Bakery and explored the area around Brick Lane. After dropping off a gift of flowers at Victoria’s, we headed off to King’s Cross to see Platform 9 3/4 (we are true Harry Potter fans, after all) and then to the British Museum. We mostly spent our time in the Egyptian, Greek and Roman wings… had to see the Rosetta Stone, of course. We stopped for fish and chips and then headed “home” to have wine, sit on the rooftop and watch Desperate Housewives with Victoria.

Monday, Victoria told us that she was looking for an antique clock for her husband. Naturally (…uhhh…) we headed off to Bonham’s auction house for a viewing of clocks and timepieces dating from 1700. Really puts the bar high for all future gifts to loved ones! Anyway, it was very interesting watching old Englishmen talk about replacing an 18th century clock that their ex-wife took in the divorce… What a lifestyle. That night, we went on a very highly regarded Jack the Ripper tour led by a researcher on the topic (he’s even written a book) through London Walks . The walk was fascinating. I figured my mum wouldn’t forgive me if I spent time in East London and didn’t learn about Jack the Ripper smile We saw Tower Bridge all light up at night (I have some great photos, I think) and then headed to Brick Lane for some curry. Delicious.

Tuesday we took the bus to Manchester… and here we are. Haven’t really left Kate’s residence and eaten MORE curry. Although, I did buy TUC crackers at the corner store. I miss those crackers so much. Does anyone know if they are still available in Canada at all? I booked a bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow, a night in a hostel in Glasgow, a plane from Glasgow to Paris and 7 nights in a Paris “hostel” (eek $340 for a week!). That brings me up to April 3rd when I am finally reunited with Pat and our Italian adventure begins! I can’t wait… I do miss him so!

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