Manchester was a great time, I finally got to meet Mike (aka Mike1) and visit with him. As has been the case with everyone I've met here, he was a very generous and great host and I definitely appreciated the place to stay and taking me around Manchester. I got in at about noon and after some food, we went back to his flat to drop off my backpack. Then, we headed out, by now, probably around two or three o'clock. And we went to the boulevard of a street, where a staircase was located, and went down into a place called The Temple Bar. Ironic, a little, considering that this was the place in Dublin that precipitated my loss of property. However, the experience was much more enjoyable, with all sorts of good music on the jukebox and various European beers at our disposal. Interestingly, the place used to be one of those under-the-street-washrooms. Don't worry, you wouldn't have guessed.
Anyway, with the music flowing the beer was not far behind. Yes, it is still mid-afternoon. There was a gig that night (of course, it's a Saturday after all) and so we left there a little later and went to see The Wolf Parade and some other bands, but the sound wasn't so great. Or perhaps my ears were clouded considering it was 8:00 and I'd been drinking with Mike since about 2. In any case, we stayed for them and the next band, which wasn't too bad either, and then I'm sad to say that I became quite drowsy. I can't keep up with these Brits, what can I say? Or perhaps it was jetlag from, you know, the lack of time zone change from my early morning flight from Dublin. Actually, I had had a late night and early morning, so that probably factored in, Anyway, instead of going out clubbing in Madchester, I wound up at their flat, fast asleep, halfway through a Family Guy episode. I woke up again at about 2:30 AM and watched some TV before Mike and his roommate came in. We hung out for a while, they filled me in on what I'd missed at the club, and then, since I'd already slept quite a bit, I watched some tv, read, and watched a movie before going back to sleep.
The next day, we went out to a pub again and watched a couple soccer (okay, okay, 'football') games. It was kind of cool to be sitting in a pub in Manchester watching a really great game between the famed Manchester United and the less famed Everton. It started, 50 seconds in, 0-1 but that was tied up in the second half and then Manchester took the lead. A great game, as I said. We all hung around (we were there with a bunch of Mike's friends), got some groceries for dinner/breakfast, and that was that.
Another night in Manchester and before I knew it, I was headed for York via train. The ground was covered in what looked to be frost but was actually snow. It took a while before I realized it was snow at all. I said goodbye to Mike, stopped in a bookstore to read a guide, and decided York was a good idea. So on the train I went. Leaving Manchester, the skies were cloudy and maybe the odd snow flake could even be seen if you looked long enough. But 10 minutes out, it became a full flurry, snow falling down like it was Christmas Day or something. I never imagined I'd see that in England. The ground and trees were covered, so clearly it had been snowing for a good spell. I also sat next to a nice old man named Dennis who talked with me about the UK and other things and the trip really did speed by.
I got to York around noon but it was a bitter cold and while I did walk around, even to the famous York Minister (which was closed, sadly - it is Europe's oldest gothic church and home also to the world's largest stained glass piece), but it was just miserable out and the snow was falling mostly as rain. I ate dinner and hung around in the hostel, then went out that evening for a bit before calling it a night. York is a nice town, though, and I was determined to see the rest of it before departing for Oxford the next day.
The next morning, I met Marci, a Vancouver business/tech journalist staying in the same room, who actually looks like a shorter Minnie Driver quite a bit. We both went around the town together and, after I discovered there were no available beds in Oxford for that evening, I decided to go to London instead and take a day trip out to Oxford. It turned out that she was actually also London bound and that there was an embassy party she was invited to. She managed to get me on the guestlist through a friend of hers at the embassy and so that was settled. We did explore the rest of York first, the old Viking tower, castle, and a bit of a walk through the Shambles and a free museum. Then, we picked up our backpacks, took a look around at the railway museum near the station (it is usually home to the famed Flying Scotsman, but it was out on loan and apparently actually in use again for a short time). Even so, there were some very impressive and massive old steam engines, if only I'd had a camera for grandpa. There was a particularly big Chinese one that for all I know is still in use today. They also had a replica of the Japanese bullet train.
Chugging along, after looking at old trains, we got on a new one bound for London and off we went. The timing was tight and her London flat is quite a ways out, so we just went to the hostel quickly and got ready there. Then, after a cheap dinner here that wasn't too bad considering, we went off to the party. It turned out to be a cabaret of sorts, first a comedian, then a pianist (she was originally from Saskatoon and good though her songs weren't exactly what the party called for), then another comedian who was spastic and annoying at which point it was time to leave. The party wasn't too great and there really wasn't much mixing going on for a party whose intent was supposed to be to meet other Canadians abroad. The MC, Craig something, was the only good point of the party, he was bloody hilarious. Well, that and being able to say I went to an embassy party, I guess. We hung out at an English pub for awhile and called it an evening.
Ah yes, the title. Well, first of all, there was that whole Temple Bar Manchester thing. Then, of course, my return to London, my final stop before going home, 7 months after arriving here in May. And finally, walking to the embassy, we happened to pass Russell Square, and more specifically the Royal National Hotel, where I first stayed when arriving in London 4 years ago. Not to mention a red phone booth I have a picture in and the pub where I tried (and hated) my first Guiness. Yes, many circles have been drawn this week, and I guess there'll be a few more to come yet.
In any case, the remainder of my time should be fairly active. I'm going to take a day trip out to Oxford, I have managed to get some tickets for Franz Ferdinand (there's another circle for you: I was going to see them in Dublin before I lost everything (which is why I left Belfast that day). I just missed them in Manchester. And now, finally, I'm set to see them). I'll probably go see a musical while I'm here, and I will be meeting some friends on Thursday and Friday. I can't believe that the days remaining are now in single digits. Quite likely I'll be reporting my final stories in person. See you soonRead More...