Archive for February, 2009

The Good, the Bad & the Bleh of Manchester.

Since I gave London it’s proper hype (which it undoubtedly deserved — it’s amazing!) I thought I’d give Manchester it’s props, too! We spent three out seven days in Manchester, so we definitely got a good feel for our little home away from home. Now, let me preface this with the fact that I was leaning towards the University of Manchester as my home for next year primarily because Chris (my boyfriend) is a massive Manchester United fan and the “northern charm” that I’ve heard about incessantly seemed to make it a nice fit.

Our visit was charming enough, but the city didn’t seem to grab me in the same way that Bristol did.
Now, our hotel, The Thistle, was very cute. Definitely a great value for your money on the whole although the internet charges (£5 per hour?!) bummed me out a little; not being able to keep up with the world for three days was more than a little annoying. {Note: this wasn’t only at this hotel — internet doesn’t seem to be a standard hotel amenity in England which is a little saddening… hopefully they’ll catch up soon!} The restaurant that’s a part of the hotel is also not worth the money. We didn’t eat there, mind you, but as a tourist it was on the pricier  side and lacked the real British experience that we were looking for; it’s like eating at the grill inside a Best Western.

We did, however find an eatery that we lovedBella Italia on Piccadilly. The service was FANTASTIC (our waitress was the cutest!), the place was reasonably priced (£25 for both of us including dessert & a drink) and the food was delish! The vegetarian risotto is top-notch and the tiramisu/mascarpone/berry-laden dessert was beyond amazing. The only downside for us was that it was Italian (we didn’t think it was very British of us to be at an Italian restaurant) and that it was romantic. The romantic part could work to your advantage if that’s what you’re looking for — it’s darling — but it was a tad weird for a dad/daughter dinner. We put the candle on another table and all was cured.

An eatery/pub that we didn’t love so much? The Old Monkey. It wasn’t awful, but after finding out that they didn’t have what I wanted (on their already limited list of pub grub) the food that I did get was mediocre (as was my dad’s). The Cider was good, but I’m sure you could get that anywhere. Skip it. Not worth the little money that it cost.

***

Now, as for sights, on behalf of my father I have to give the Manchester Museum it’s proper due. We loved it for a few reasons.

  1. It’s free! Who doesn’t love free? It’s part of the university so it cost us £0 to meander through there!
  2. The exhibits were amazing. They have new exhibits all the time, but their Egyptian, Mediterranean and Prehistoric sections were awe-inspiring. They had genuine mummies and told the stories of these people that lived thousands of years ago and they had a full T-Rex skeleton on display.
  3. It’s part of the University. This was kind of cool because a) it made the museum free for visitors, and b) donations go to help strengthen the university’s exhibit.

    The Manchester Cathedral also has to get it’s fair notice. This was the first cathedral that my dad and I got to see so we were just amazed at the architecture, the stained glass, the history (built in 1421!) and the story-telling staff. Our friend, Joyce, who we met at the Cathedral told us stories about how it came to be and all of the amazing things that had happened there. Definitely worth a visit. Again, this place is free and it’s walking distance from Piccadilly Station!

    ***

    ** Also, just as a side note, if you have time to kill in Manchester, take the train over to the city of Chester. My dad and I spent a day there and it’s the cutest thing ever. It’s a medieval town with buildings (built in the 1100s and 1200s) that have been converted to modern-day shops. Definitely worth seeing!

For anyone that’s been to Manchester– are there any other places that are worth seeing? Any restaurants worth a visit? Spread the word <3.

Manchester University

Manchester University

I see London…

I was just browsing through pictures of our fantastic trip to London & realized that I hadn’t done the city justice! There were so many amazing sites and restaurants worth mentioning!

First, let me say, if anyone’s looking for a bargain of a hotel (sort of a B&B), check out the Oxford! It’s about a quarter of a mile from Paddington station and it’s surrounded by awesome pubs, cafes & shops. Let me also say — as to not mislead anyone — you definitely get what you pay for. This place is about 60 GBP a night for a double room & it’s a steal for the area. The rooms are decent sized but the bathrooms are really non-existent; smaller than a plane lavatory — and that includes the SHOWER! If you’re not a petite female, taking a shower can be a little… uncomfortable… but it’s worth the inconvenience. We both had a great experience there —  very friendly staff & they even have a continental breakfast with croissants, teas, cereal, etc. Worth a peek if you want something smack dab in the middle of everything.

That being said, we happened to be about three doors down from THE best pub that we visited, The Mitre. I tried to find a website to give these guys proper credit, but that link is the best I could do. They have really good food for a pub (the soup is delish!) and the drinks are well priced (and WELL made!) The staff there, too, was amazing and incredibly friendly. We even met some great locals who were more than happy to chat us up — they “love us Americans!” apparently :)

We only had a day or so in London so we were REALLY limited on time & there are a million things to see and do in the city. We planned it out before-hand so we could attack the city once we arrived, and that we did! The Tube is an amazing thing. Tickets are about 1.70 GBP each way (you can pick certain lines to take) and you can get a day pass for 6-8 GBP (TOTALLY worth it — you’ll save a bundle!) We got the day passes & took the tube (the Circle line)  from Paddington to the St. James Park stop. Let me just say this — if you only have a few hours in London, THIS is the place to get off. Within 5 – 10 minutes walking, we ran into Westminster Abbey (5 stars plus some!), Big Ben (not as big as I thought, but still iconic), the Houses of Parliament (amazing from the outside and cool on the inside only because of the history, otherwise rather bleh.) I know there are places for amazing shopping and other amazing sights, but for the few hours we had we got in some really historic stuff! That night we also took the Tube down to Buckingham Palace, just for kicks. Pretty cool. Very… big.

In any case, London was my (and my dad’s!) favorite city! It’s amazing, the people are wonderful (despite the rumors) and there’s a wealth of stuff to do. Next time, I’ll allot AT least four days to take in the many sights. I bet you’d stay more than occupied with a few weeks at your disposal!

Anyone have any recommendations on places to see next time? Tower of London, perhaps?

Big Ben!

Big Ben!

*****

Details, Details, Details!

So, I have officially decided to go to Bristol for university next year, which requires that I send in my official signed confirmation attesting to the fact that I have enough poundage to pay. That’s Step 1. Now I actually have to secure student loans — I signed the form, but I’m still working on this part! Hah!
Also, this is the fun stuff that I’ve never had to deal with before:
  • I have to acquire a Student Visa (which I’ve started filling out)
    FYI, for anyone that has never done this before & is planning on doing it — holy! It’s page after page of attesting to the fact that you don’t engage in, think about, have nightmares about or know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone that’s seen somone involved in terrorist activities. It’s a good thing, I know, but cumbersome to say the least.
  • I have to find housing! I’ve opted for private accommodation which means that although I’ll be saving some cash by not paying the school $600 a month for a half-assed flat with one bathroom per five people (!!), I’ll also have to find roommates. Now this is the process that I’m a little frightened about. I’ve talked with two girls (both undergraduates) looking for roommates but the closest I get to knowing these people is browsing their facebook. And let’s be honest, that’s not necessarily the most ACCURATE interpretation of oneself, but I digress. This is a big step & I need to get on it. If anyone has done anything like this before, share the knowledge <3.
  • I have to figure out the money thing. Now this is a rather broad area. I have to really figure out the money thing in terms of converting my money into sterling so it’s useful. I’ll be opening a bank account with Barclay’s but I’m not entirely sure how all the money transfers without charging me an arm and a leg for everything under the sun. I would like to (ideally) take all my money with me and have it be a nice clean transfer. As I write this, the exchange rate is about $1.429/GBP. Hopefully it will stay between $1.40 and $1.45. Cross your fingers for me!

Now, I know there are a million other things that are of some importance — getting my gym membership taken care of, getting my Skype working perfectly so I can talk with people (shannonelizabeth09) and the like, but I think these things definitely take priority!

————-

I’ll make sure to post my new mailing address once I’ve settled my living situation so everyone can send me handcrafted thinking-of-you cards
on a regular basis And if you send me your mailing
address, you may even get a postcard in mail!

 

 

Hello World!

Just activitated my handy new WordPress account; it has way cooler features than my Blogger account. Sorry, BlogSpot!

Bargain Book!

Shannon Elizabeth’s New BFF.

Please — if Paris Hilton can have a new one every day, why can’t I?
I was gifted $25 in Hornet Bookstore money for Christmas and needed to use a bit up after spending a whopping $3.15 on test supplies. After browsing the Travel section, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the most amazing European travel book! For only $16 ($18 if you’re Canadian), I got the coolest manual on how to travel Europe on the cheap. It covers every country in alphabetical order and touches on where to stay (the cheapest & best hostels and hotels in the area), where to eat, sights that are worth seeing (and sights that are overrated!) and how much you can plan on spending on any given day. It also comes with sample itineraries depending on how much time you’re planning on spending in a given country (3 days, 1 week, 3 weeks, a couple of months, etc.) and includes maps of the national transportation in different countries. Amazing, I tell you. Worth every penny — and what a steal when compared to the $30 book that was sitting right next to it! I’m in love — I sleep with it next to my bed.
I think my boyfriend’s getting jealous!
For anyone that’s travelling Europe — and wants to do it on the cheap — it’s called
Let’s Go! Europe 2008. Check out their website, too!

Brilliant Bristolian Bliss.

I’m sitting in the Sacramento Airport right now waiting for my flight down to San Diego & thought this would be the perfect opportunity to update my blog with pictures & info on our trip to Bristol this past Friday!
Bristol was an awesome (beautiful!) town, the university is spread out like a small city (occupying converted homes, basically) and it soooo cute & amazing. There’s an amazing museum, an old town from the 1300s, and a great shopping area. I love, love, LOVE it!

The university-owned buildings where classes take place; only 30ish students were accepted into the entire program so the classes are tiny! (10-15 kids, typically).

Part of the University (the Law School, I believe.)

I have tons more to upload but I’m getting ready to board for SD.
Tune in later for more… :)

 

Lovely London!

Days Two through Four.
Alright… so a little catching up to do. Let me preface this with the fact that I haven’t had internet for the past few days — not only is it not free at most hotels, a lot of them don’t actually offer it (saddening). In any case, I have managed to steal it from a neighboring pub for now <3.
Sooooo, Tuesday was fantastic! Dad & I made our way to Chester (near North Wales) to visit the medieval town per the suggestion of a tour guide at Manchester Cathedral. Chester has been the cutest town ever! The rows are streets are medieval (think 1100s, 1200s, 1300s) that are used as modern-day shoppes. Darling! AND, the Cathedral in Chester was PHENOMENAL! We thought Manchester’s was great, but this thing was unbelievably out of this world. Pictures can’t do it justice, but here are some snapshots anyway:

Streets of Chester <3.

Amazingly beautiful cathedral. Early 1200s-ish.

Unlike Tuesday, Wednesday was not so brilliant.
We spent the day in Birmingham looking at the University, interviewing with the admissions team and exploring the (awful) city. Hands down, from what I’ve seen thus far, the armpit of England. Let me first say that the people at the University were VERY nice, very cordial, but still…  it couldn’t save the city… Not scenic. Not historic. Very industrial. It’s sort of the Modesto of England. On top of that, my dad & I ended up getting lost in this god-forsaken town and walking around at night in the snow fearing that we were going to be the victims of a knifing.
Luckily we made it back to our oh-so-lovely hotel for dinner & drinks. The best part of Birmingham was catching the train out of town. Pics below are of the most beautiful part of the university… nothing else was worth seeing :)
** As a side note, I would like to mention that I was, in fact, forewarned by my dear friends Stuie, Rob & Andy that Birmingham is a sh*thole, I just thought it was an exaggeration… Hah. Next time I’ll listen! **

(Above) Me faking a smile.
I’m really thinking, “fuck, this place is cold as shit & smells like onions.”
Thursday (today) brought us smiles for sure. We got into London today & the day has been jam-packed and amazing from start to finish! We dropped our stuff off at our hotel and ran back out to catch the tube to do some sight seeing.

Houses of Parliament above. We were able to get in and listen to a debate going on inside!

Big Ben!

Last stop of the afternoon — Westminster Abbey. Probably the most amazing sight I have ever seen/experienced in my life! We got to see where kings & queens were crowned, where King Henry, Mary Queen of Scots & Geoffrey Chaucer (and too many other amazing, influential people to name!) were buried. We couldn’t take pictures inside, unfortunately, but the sights were astoundingly breathtaking. There was too much to actually take in, but it was definitely unforgettable & amazing!!

I still have to upload photos, but we took a jaunt down to Buckingham Palace (so we could say we’d seen it) around 7P. No Westminster Abbey, but the palace is quite a sight!

Note to travelers under 26 :: Let them know that you’re a youth traveller!!
I saved £3 on the entrance fee :)

I’m in love with London & the amazing people of England.
<3.

Off to Bristol tomorrow!