Thursday 16 August 2012

Some Rellies and back to Bath

After doing Cambridge, Stratford, and Oxford on my own I spent some time with some relatives on my mum's side. First I went to my Granny's sister Kate's farm in Leicestershire. I helped with some lamb weighing and herded some sheep and cows. Their granddaughter (M), who is 6, was also staying with them at the time, so I spent quite a bit of time playing with my second cousin. After a couple days at the farm, we took M back home for school. Her house is near Cambridge (I know! Back again), so Kate and I spent the day there. I took a tour this time, so got to know a bit more about the actual colleges and the city itself.

Then I went to my Mum's cousin's house in Hampshire. They also have 2 little girls, so I spent time playing with them. While there I went to Jane Austen's house, which was pretty cool. It's not the house she grew up in, but the house she lived in with her mum and sister later in life. However, it is where she lived when all her books were published and she did much of her writing. There was also a castle about a 10 min walk from their house, just along the canal. I think castles are the coolest things. I just love how there are just castles randomly around the place, and especially ones like this that are not ostentatious. There is no sign pointing to it and no ticket booth or anything. Yes, there were fences around it, but nothing could really stop you going up and touching it, because, well, you could step over the fences. Anyways, this castle was built by King John (you know, the bad guy in Robin Hood) in the 1200's.

Jane Austen's House

Odiham Castle - King John's Castle

Next I spent a couple days in Bath. Now, yes, I know I went there before on my Cornwall Crusader tour, but I really liked the city and felt that there was more to see than the brief couple hours I spent there previously. I just really like the atmosphere in the city. It's very pretty, and at the moment, since it's summer, there were lots of musicians out in the evening. I loved just wandering around and people watching.

The Pump Rooms - think Jane Austen books

Bath Abbey

My dad is a fellow castle lover (maybe it's genetic?), and he told me about this awesome castle that he went to when he was 16 and staying in Bath. So, I took his advice and went to Chepstow Castle. It was really cool! Much of the castle is still intact, so you really get the feel for how big and magnificent it was. And, it was sunny out, so I couldn't have asked for a better day! 

Chepstow Castle

Chepstow Castle

After Bath, I made my way back to London. My first stop was my Dad's cousin's place on the outskirts. Luckily for me they live about 5 min from Hampton Court Palace, one of Henry VIII main palaces, and later during the Queen Anne half of it was renovated, but they ran out of money to do the whole thing. 

Hampton Court Palace

Next up: some volunteering at a Cathedral and the Olympics!

Monday 13 August 2012

Old Universities and Shakespeare

Yes, I am currently in Wales, and yes there's only 2 weeks until I come home, but I'm not going to post about that. It's time that I talked about Cambridge, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Oxford!

So, first I went to Cambridge. I took the map the hostel gave me and started wandering around. I was mostly just impressed by how old all the buildings are, and that basically the whole city is the University. It's not this enclosed, sectioned off campus that you normally think of. Cambridge (and Oxford) uses the collegiate system, which means you belong to a college within the University. I don't completely understand it... but it obviously works for them. Also, both Cambridge and Oxford were founded about 800 years ago. My university is celebrating 50 years this year, kind of made me put things into perspective.

One of the highlights of Cambridge was finding the college my great-grandfather graduated from in 1933 - Pembroke College. And luckily, it was one of the colleges that is free to go into and look around! Most of the others, I guess the more famous ones, make you pay a couple pounds to go in.

King's College, known for it's choir broadcasts at Christmas

Queens' College - it always has a Queen as a patron

The river behind the colleges, with punts

Pembroke College

Next, I went to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare's hometown. Somehow I managed to pick a time between shows, so I didn't actually get to go see a play while I was there. I literally missed it by a day. I did go to most of the houses associated with Shakespeare, the ones in town at least. His birthplace obviously, the house his daughter owned, and the house his granddaughter owned. I also went to the church where Shakespeare and many of his family are buried.

Shakespeare's childhood home

The house on the left is where Shakespeare's granddaughter lived, and the space on the right is where Shakespeare's final house was

Shakespeare's Grave

Finally, I went back to Oxford. I did some more looking at colleges, specifically the ones where Lewis Carroll, and JRR Tolkien worked. I did want to go to the one where C.S. Lewis worked, but it was farther out, and pouring rain at the time... I also visited Alice in Wonderland's sweet shop to have a look around. I rounded out my evening by going to an A cappella concert put on by some guys from St. Andrew's University in Scotland, The Other Guys.

Christ Church College - Where Lewis Carroll worked, and where some of Harry Potter was filmed!

I then set off to visit with a bunch of relatives, this time on my Mum's side!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Adventures with Grandpa

All my grandparents grew up in England (which is explains my many relatives over here), but both sets immigrated to Canada before my parents were born. However, since they have ties over here, they come back to visit every so often. It’s actually worked out for me that by the end of the summer I’ll have got to meet up with all of them!

Anyways, my Grandpa picked me up from Rowleth End, and started his “whirlwind tour” of England.  And I mean that literally. We crossed the country multiple times.

Castlerigg Stone Circle - a stop on the way to the lakes

From the Yorkshire Dales we raced up to the Lake District, which is where my Grandmother grew up in a town called Bassenthwaite. Unfortunately it was raining (though, so far this summer has mostly consisted of rain, it’s wet even for England!), but I could still tell that it was beautiful. We stopped at the house my Grandmother lived in, and at the church where my grandparents got married, my dad was christened in, and my great- and great-great grandmothers are buried. We also drove by many of the major lakes in the district. After our tour of the lakes we spent the night at my Grandmother’s sister’s house in Fleetwood.
An old Saxon Church in Bassenthwaite - where my grandparents almost got married

Next, we drove to the centre of England, to a town called Ashby-de-la-zouche. Now, I’ve grown up hearing about this town because my Grandpa grew up here, and my great-grandfather was still alive when I was little so I remember my dad going to his 100th birthday. Also, his wife, my step-great-grandmother still lives there, so we stayed with her – she’s 94.  I always imagined it a lot smaller than it actually is..

Anyways, it has a really great castle! Or castle ruin, to be more specific. But know why it’s a ruin? Because it was a royalist stronghold in the English Civil War, and when Cromwell’s forces defeated the royalists they blew up part of the wall so it became indefensible. It’s pretty awesome still though. You can even climb up a tower, go through some underground tunnels, and see where there were fireplaces etc.

Ashby Castle

The tower of Ashby Castle

At the top of the tower

My grandpa and I also did a day trip out to Oxford. Our first stop was lunch at The Eagle and Child, the legendary meeting place of The Inklings (you know, JRR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and their friends. For those who still don’t know, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia authors). Then we did one of those open top bus tour-y things. After that I went to do a closer up look at Oxford Castle.

The original Oxford Castle was built for William the Conqueror, and the later stone one became Charles I’s base when he made Oxford the capitol during the English Civil War. After the civil war, until as recently as 1996 it was used as a prison. And yes, there were improvements made in that time, but not a whole lot. The prisoners still didn’t have toilets in 1996.. Ugh

Oxford Castle

Blenheim Palace near Oxford

Next, we made our way back up to Beverley, near York, where I had some down time before my week of Cambridge, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford, again!

Flamborough Lighthouse, near Beverley

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Rowleth End

As I mentioned previously, I did another HelpX stint at a B&B in the Yorkshire Dales.  Like Barnacre, I spent 2 weeks at Rowleth End. I really could not have asked for a better second placement. It was very different, but awesome nonetheless.

Firstly, the Yorkshire Dales has to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Even in the rain (which was most of the time), I thought the view from my window was amazing. Green hills, sheep, stone fences, the River Swale. And then, when the sun came out it was like nothing else.

Beautiful, eh?

One of the things I noticed most was the use of stone in buildings. I mean everything is built with stone – houses, sheds, fences etc. But when you look around it makes sense, there aren’t really a lot of trees. Anyways, throughout the Dales there are little villages of these stone houses, with very skinny roads in between them. Also, they’re not very far apart, only a few kilometres or so. It’s also not uncommon to come across a dilapidated stone building in the middle of a field, or on the side of the road.

Typical Yorkshire Village

As for the B&B itself, it was wonderful. Roger, the guy who runs it, is a very kind-hearted man. He let us keep all tips, let us drink whatever we wanted, buy any food we wanted/needed, and if we ever went out, he’d pay for everything. He took us out quite often too – to see the Olympic Torch in Richmond (yes, I’ve seen it twice now!), to get cheese from Wensleydale, and to the highest pub in Britain
The torch in Richmond

Yes, this is where Wensleydale cheese comes from

Tan Hill, the highest pub in Britain

There are only 5 bedrooms at Rowleth, so not too much work. I slept in a trailer in the garden, which was super comfy and warm – we even had a tv and internet. Anyways, I didn’t have to be up at the house until 9am, which is when I ate breakfast and we waited for the guests to finish so that we could start cleaning. In the morning we’d clear the breakfast tables, put the dishes in the dishwasher and put them away, vacuum, clean the kitchen and do the rooms of course. Sometimes we had extra jobs, but not often and they wouldn’t be hard. There were 3 other girls, Sophie from Germany, Ailsa from Taiwan, and Jade from Hong Kong. Usually it didn’t take us too long to finish.

After the morning work was done, we were free until 7pm when we had to help serve dinner, and then clean up afterwards. During free time I did various things. Sometimes I went for a walk with Buster the dog, watched movies, made Canadian dishes (Butter tarts, Nanaimo Bars, and Poutine), or took a nap. After dinner was finished, we often all watched a movie together
Going for a walk with Buster

Some steers giving us the stare down


The two weeks spent with Roger and the other girls went by way too quickly. I had a great time, and had lots of laughs.

Monday 9 July 2012

Liverpool and York

As I mentioned in my last post, I did spend some time in Liverpool doing non-Beatles things. Granted, it wasn't a lot, but I did!
I got to Liverpool kind of late afternoon, so most museums and things were closing shortly. It also didn’t help that I had wandered around for some time trying to find my hostel – it turns out that the maps in Liverpool make the distances between things look a lot bigger than they really are (this tripped me up a few times).

Anyways, so the first day I actually went to check out some churches, the first two Anglican, and the last one Catholic. 
St. Luke’s is actually no longer owned by the Anglican Church, but by the city of Liverpool because it was bombed in WWII. The whole inside was bombed out, but the walls remain.

 Liverpool Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral is also known as “The Pope’s Rocket” which I completely understand.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll also know that I’m pretty interested in the Titanic, and it turned out that the Liverpool Maritime Museum has a permanent display featuring The Titanic, and a special exhibition for the 100th anniversary. Though Titanic never went to Liverpool, it was registered there and was it’s official homeport. Also, did you know that Canada has it’s own big passenger ship disaster? Yeah, The Empress of Ireland sunk in the St. Lawrence, but for some reason has been almost forgotten.

Builders model of Titanic
From Liverpool, I went to some relatives in Beverley, which is near York. Beverley isn’t particularly big, but does have two old churches, one of which is a Minster. While staying with my relatives we went to York for a day. Did you know that York was once a Viking city called Jorvik? Yeah, York is old!! But anyways, we went to the museum on the Vikings (also called Jorvik), and obviously visited York Minster. We also walked along the old city wall, visited The Shambles, The Yorkshire Castle Museum and had lunch at what claims to be the oldest pub in York. York is also the birthplace of Guy Fawkes!
Beverley Minster

York City Wall

Clifford's Tower - York

The Shambles

York Minster

From Beverley I went to my next HelpX place – a B&B in the Yorkshire Dales called Rowleth End!

Sunday 24 June 2012

I Love The Beatles

Did you know that I love The Beatles? That they are my favourite band of all time? No?
Then you don't know me very well.
But it's likely that most of you reading this, did actually know that I think The Beatles are amazing.

So, I went to Liverpool. Because that is what us Beatles' fans do.

And Liverpool is quite proud of their Fab Four. Pictures of the Beatles were everywhere, and there were TONS of different tours I could have taken. I ended up doing a taxi tour set up by my hostel though, because it cost £50 per tour - not per person - and so with all the seats taken, me and 4 others, we only had to pay £10 each!
The taxi driver took us to all the places a Beatles' fan would want to go. All of their childhood homes, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, where John and Paul met, Brian Epstein's house etc...
Where John Lennon was born - now student housing!

Brian Epstein's House

Ringo Starr's first childhood home

"Is in my ears, and in my eyes"

Canadian Penny on the Penny Lane sign

Paul's childhood house

"Strawberry Fields Forever"

Mendips - Where John Lennon grew up with his Aunt Mimi

Eleanor Rigby's Grave

George Harrison's childhood home

There's also a museum on The Beatles, called The Beatles Story - which, I obviously visited!
The museum started at the beginning, with the Quarry Men, and progressed through all the different stages of the Beatles until they split up. Each section had original instruments or replicas, and they recreated different things, like The Casbah Coffee Bar and The Cavern Club. The audio guide had lots of information on each section, and had commentary from John's sister, from his ex-wife Cynthia Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Martin and more that I can't remember right now!

The Original Drumset

Imitation Cavern Club

Just hanging out with Ringo

As you can tell, this was obviously the psychedelic phase section

I then made my way to Matthew St. where the infamous Cavern Club is located. Unfortunately the original was torn down in the 70's, but they have rebuilt a new one just a bit further down, even using some of the original bricks! Of course I went in and had a pint of cider. Yes, I did go into the Cavern and had a drink by myself.. but I wasn't going to miss out just because I'd look like a loner! (I also had a bit of an issue buying the drink, because I didn't have enough cash, but they didn't take my Visa, so I had to go get cash... and my bank in Canada is being a tool.. sigh. Still, I got the cider in the end).

Statue of John Lennon

John Lennon and Me

The band playing in the Cavern Club

I really couldn't have asked for a better time, or a more Beatles filled day!
I did do some other things in Liverpool, but I'll do that in another post. The Beatles deserve to have one all to themselves!