Monthly Archives: April 2010

More to Nottingham than Robin Hood

This installment takes us to the home of one of the most famous thieves of all time–Robin Hood and his home of Nottingham [Forest] England.

I’m getting better at reading train tables and I am making the most of my BritRail Pass by using the trains most days of the week.  Nottingham is just over an hour from Stafford and is an easy day trip.  Nottingham is famous for ties to Robin Hood and two of the world’s oldest:   the world’s oldest football team, Notts County [the team itself is not all that good] and the world’s oldest pub–Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem .  Today, it has a population of over 250,000 and is one of the larger cities in the Midlands region.

First up:  Nottingham Castle and its even more exciting caves.  Nearly everyone has heard of Robin Hood.  Most know that he lives in Sherwood Forest and that’s near Nottingham, but I’d never heard of the caves than surround [underneath]  Nottingham Castle.  Nottingham has more man made caves than anywhere else in the world… OK, maybe not the world, but at least the UK.  As I often do, I took to the local library to read about the history of the caves.  It goes something like this:  The caves used to be dwellings – and at one time it was believed that there were more people living underground than above ground. Many of the caves were inhabited until 1845…that’s when the St. Mary’s Enclosure Act banned the rental of cellars and caves as homes for the poor.  The caves are long tunnels which were used to bring up goods from the Trent Valley, others as storage areas for meat, wine and prisoners (including without doubt Robin Hood). There are some for waste (including human waste!) and some for short cuts to the pub [point me in the direction of that one].  I took nearly 50 photos in hopes of getting a good one of just the caves.  Be prepared for steps though… lots and lots of steps.

The caves are just a little creepy, and said to be haunted

 

Part of Nottingham castle

 

A stroll through Sherwood Forest
Major Oak tree in Sherwood Forest… one of the oldest and largest oaks in the world

 

Nottingham’s most famous resident

One of the caves come out here…

One of the oldest pubs in England and the oldest inn

 

and the oldest football team in existence… [Does anyone else wonder who the oldest team played.  Wouldn’t there have to be two oldest teams for a match to occur?]

Liverpool is lovely

Let me preface this with the following statement:  I am not a Beetles fan.  I am not a hater, but given the choice, I would almost always choose to listen to someone else.  I do appreciated their contributions to music though.  But here I am, in England, and not all that far from Liverpool [1.5 hours away] so it would be wrong of me to NOT visit the city that brought the world the first Rock and Roll superstars…so off to Liverpool I go to spend the day… and night and take in another awesome English football match [Liverpool FC vs Leicester City anyone?] and see if there is more to this city of >400,000 than just the Beetles.

You know what?  There is… The Albert Dock, a very cool hang-out spot for tourist and locals alike.  There is even a yellow submarine floating in the harbour which I thought was pretty cool, but odd, until I realized that the Beetles sang the Yellow Submarine song.

Let’s all sing along now…”We all live in a yellow submarine…”

Albert Dock–Welcome

Liverpool also has some amazing church architecture.  From England’s largest Anglican Cathedral to a beautiful bombed out building to a futuristic catholic church–church architecture in Liverpool is quite grand.

Anglican church exterior

Metropolitan Catholic Church [which looks like a spaceship to me]

the inside of Metropolitan Catholic Church

St. Luke’s Church… bombed out during WWII

Continuing on my Liverpool walkabout, I discover the Cavern.  Since I am not a Beetles fan, I did not know that this was the club that the Beetles first performed as a group.  Several other bands have played here too, and I wish I could have seen some of them.

Little known facts about Liverpool [2 of them]:  It has the oldest Chinese community in Europe and  Liverpool not only gave us the Beetles but also Edward Elgar–without whom no high school graduation ceremony would be complete. [Pomp and Circumstance anyone?]

Liverpool’s Chinatown

The view from the cheap seats at historic Anfield–home of Liverpool FC…my second favorite team in England.

Amazing Manchester

Serendipity:  the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for…  Merriam-Webster

It’s so strange how I ended up with tickets to a Manchester United game, but hey–whatever, I will take them.  I was hanging out with my new friends at the PUB when I mentioned that I would love to go to a football match if I could swing it while I was in England.  One of the guys in the pub mentioned that he had two tickets to Manchester United’s opening match against Southampton and his original companion would not be able to go as he would be in NY. Would I like to go with them?  Um yes, please.  So that is how I ended up one amazing day [and night] in Manchester.

One of the best ways to see Manchester is from the water.

Manchester’s Chinatown gates are the largest outside mainland China.

Sometimes it’s just better to go on the tour and take the photos there than trying to get a decent shot when the stadium is full of people–unless you have front row seats–which I didn’t…

I love soccer.  I played it until I was in high school.  My high school didn’t have a soccer team [boys or girls] so I stopped playing it, but I kept up with the sport and refereed it while I was in college.  I wasn’t a Man U fan before the match, but after I most definitely was.  To be fair, I’m loyal like that.  I don’t live in an area with a lot of professional teams. My favorite teams are usually the first team I saw in action which is why I am a fan of  University of Tennessee [1st college football game], Miami Dolphins [first NFL game], Baltimore Orioles [first MLB], Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadians [first NHL games],  and Seattle Sounders [first MLS game].  An odd mix to be sure, but it works for me.

So on August 13, 1997, I went to my first English Premier League match.  Up to this point I was a Real Madrid fan mainly because I was a Spanish major in college, and my Spanish professor and I would watch La Liga matches and converse in Spanish [weird I know…]…  Anyway,  Manchester United vs Southampton.  A young whippersnapper by the name of David Beckham came in as a substitute in the second half of the match, and netting the only goal giving Man U a 1-0 win.  I became a Red Devils fan for life [it didn’t hurt that my high school mascot was also the Red Devils].  Manchester United went on finish the 1997-98 season as runners-up to Arsenal.

As I side note:  Nearly 20 years later, I am still a Man U fan, still go for Liverpool as well, but they have not been great lately, and have added Arsenal to the mix of my favorite English Premier League teams.  Something I am sure no true English football fan would say.

First impressions–Stafford, England

Until I get going, I will reflect back on some of my past travels and travel mishaps before I started this blog.  This first post recounts my first visit overseas, my first alcoholic drink, and my first attempt at understand a ‘foreign’ language… Yes, I’m calling English a foreign language because in the beginning I couldn’t understand anything that was said.

I am 19 years old and about to get on a plane for the very first time. My carry-on bag [a multi-colored Prince duffel bag at that] is too big and too heavy, but I manage to stuff it up in the overhead bin.  I’m a little bit nervous, but mostly excited.  I’m not all that sure what I am going to do once I get to England, but now, I’m boarding my flight.

This is no ordinary flight.  My first flight happens to be an international one–from Atlanta to London.  And I am flying alone.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  I saved every penny earned from my job at the hardware store so that I could accompany my boyfriend of almost a year to England.  I got my very first passport, bought a plane ticket, and I am going to England–even if I have to go alone.  Boyfriend can join me later.  I am going to enjoy the ride.

Flying is awesome.  Free alcohol is better.  What better way to have my first taste of alcohol [vodka and orange juice in case you’re wondering] than at 30,000 feet flying across the Atlantic.  Gotta love KLM–Royal Dutch Airways and their 18 year old legal limit for consuming alcohol.

The plane landed at Gatwick.  The only airport in London I know in Heathrow.  Getting into London isn’t as straightforward as it seems.  First up Customs.  Then passport control.  Then there is finding your way into central London.  As for me, I just follow the crowd.

My first conversation with a Londoner [ticket agent] goes something like this:

  • Me:  I need a ticket to Stafford please.
  • Them:  kdjfkdjkijgnv joiufigm jkf  fgfdkjare
  • Me:  I am sorry. I didn’t understand you.  Can you say that again, please?  [As a foreign languages major, I have learned that saying ‘please’ is one of the most helpful things you can do to help yourself when trying to communicate in a foreign language.  And this was just as foreign as my first year studying German]
  • Them: jfkdkfiglkgnkdj   dkja k Houston Station.
  • Me:  OK, thank you.
  • Me: [thinking]:  Where the hell is Houston?  I thought I was in London.

I slink away not knowing where I am or how to get to where I am going.  And my bag is getting heavy. [It’s not a proper suitcase.  Or a backpack. It’s a tennis bag.] Who’s bright idea was it to carry a duffel bag instead of  a suitcase?  Oh yea… not mine…

Next conversation [another ticket person]

  • Me:  I need to get to Houston Station, please.
  • Them:  Houston?  There is no Houston.  Perhaps you mean Euston Station?  Where are you going, miss?
  • Me:  I am going to Stafford, England.
  • Them: [smiling]  You definitely need to get Euston Station, and then you will be able to board the Brit Rail Train to Stafford.
  • Me:  Thank you.  Is it far… this Euston Station? and Stafford for that matter?
  • Them:   Oh no… it’s just three stops on the tube.  Would you like to purchase your ticket to Stafford now?  It’s about 3 hours away by train.  Past Birmingham but not quite as far as Manchester.
  • Me:  Ok… thank you… Yes, I would like to buy the ticket now… just one way… I am not sure when I am returning.  My boyfriend is meeting me.  We were supposed to travel together, but something happened at work and he couldn’t get away.
  • Them [smiling, again]:  Here you go… enjoy your visit…

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