Yes, as you might have already noticed, I’m back. And here’s what I’ve been up to.
Wednesday, May 21st, Vienna:
I spend the day doing some laundry and trying to clean a little bit of the messy state my flat’s currently in, rather unsuccessfully. And I pack, of course. At 5.30 pm, I leave and catch the bus to Bratislava.
Still Wednesday, Bratislava:
My flight leaves from Bratislava for two reasons: a) There’s no direct connection between Vienna and East Midlands and b) it’s cheaper. I fly with RyanAir, although I really, really, really don’t like them (because of my trip to Glasgow, but that’s a different story) but I figure that it’s a short flight and a direct one, so what the hell.
Bratislava Airport is the smallest airport I know, it’s got two cafés, two duty free stores and one with magazines and water and chewing gum and stuff like that. Fortunately, I don’t have to spend much time there (unlike in Nairobi, which had an equal amount of stores and one café, albeit on a bigger area, but again, that’s another story). So I get out my book and start reading (“Motherless Brooklyn” by Jonathan Lethem, btw. Review follows). Boarding starts, our tickets get checked but we are not allowed to actually board the plane, we have to wait in a glass waiting room until everyone’s there and then we are allowed to proceed. We are late which is not good because I should catch a bus about a half hour after landing – if we’re on time.
I get a seat in the last row, near the door, which is good because I will be out quicker and probably still be able to catch the bus. I try to explain to the woman next to me that she’s sitting in an emergency row and therefore has to either speak English or move [the stewardess asked me to do that, it’s not something I made up], which proves quite hard because she doesn’t speak any of the languages I speak and my Russian isn’t good enough and not close enough to her Slovac. With pointing and mimicking, she finally sits somewhere else and I have all the three seats to mysels (ha!). And we’re ready to take off.
I spend the flight reading and, as the conclusion of the book draws closer, I start listening a little to my English neighbours, because it’s the only book I’ve packed, except Labour Law, which I really don’t want to read. I know, once there, I will spend all my money on books and DVDs, so why pack more? That I’d almost finish my book on the flight already, I didn’t foresee.
Amazingly enough, still Wednesday, East Midlands – Nottingham:
I make it over the ocean and we safely land in EMA – and we’re too early. My reaching of the bus should be safe. Nevertheless, I jump out of the plane and try to be the first at the passport control (I’m 5th or so). And then I have to wait for my luggage, of course. Grumbling I stand there until my backpack turns up. I change some money (inwardly cursing the UK that they don’t want to have the Euro, but at the same time grateful that the pound is rather low), and still have time for a smoke before the bus comes. Yay!
Everything seems to work out fine. I am reminded that you really can’t read in a British bus, roundabouts and all. I arrive in Nottingham, I see Beeston busstation and give Babsi a ring to let her know that I’m almost where I should get off and that she please come to the busstation I need to get off to pick me up.
The bus drives on and stops a couple of times, every time I almost twist my head off to see which station we’re at and if it’s already Dunkirk Lace Street (I have to look at the bus stop signs outside because the thing inside’s not working). In my effort to see the sign, I actually miss Babsi, who’s at the station already and thankfully makes the bus stop (or else I might have gone on until I was out of Nottingham again).
We walk to her place and she tells me about the first part of the trip, where she and abstrakt went to the south and that they lost one of the mirrors of the car. We arrive at her flat (which she shares with four other people), where abstrakt is waiting, I get a toast (in the unbelieveably filthy kitchen) and a room and finally, I am able to sleep.
Thursday, May 22nd, Notts:
After some breakfast, which is not English yet, because no one bought baked beans or tomatoes or bacon or ham or sausages, we drive to the car rental place to show the broken mirror (interesting thing: It looks like somebody took the glass because nothing else is gone or damaged. Maybe somebody needed a new mirror). They don’t have another car, so we decide to continue our road trip without the left side mirror and on the day where the gas price hit the highest level ever and we’re off to York (it only takes us about 35 minutes to find our way out of Nottingham).
When we arrive in York, I get an SMS with the message that my sister just had her baby. Just great. Perfect. Not 24 hours after I’m gone. She couldn’t wait until I get back or get it before I leave… *grumbles*
York’s a sweet city, with it’s medieval city center and the shambles and there are loads of street musicians around.
Lunch at The Parish, which used to be a church and now is a nice restaurant, where they have Yorkshire Pudding (not bad). Then shopping and city-ambling: we get some handmade fudge (mmmmmmmmmmm…. fudge) and I buy a book at Oxfam’s (Superstition by David Ambrose. Review follows). We have a look at the cathedral but don’t really go into it because we’re not willing to pay the high entry fee.
Then we conquer the city wall and are off to Manchester (time to leave the city: 20 minutes).
The first thing we do in Manchester is look for a parking space. After about 3 rounds through the city center, we find one, and we’ve already seen the Ferris Wheel and The Printworks. We call the youth hostel (they still have beds – yay!) and then slowly make our way through the city center. We stop to see a group of dancers on the street (they don’t really have a planned out show, most of what they do is improvised HipHop), then stop again to get some blister plaster for me because my old sneakers decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to kill my feet.
We leave our bags at the hostel (Hatters, ok one), have some tea where Babsi and abstrakt start drooling over a Spanish looking guy and then I try to convince them that Manchester would be the perfect city to go to a pub with live music (seeing as so many good bands come from there). We ask at the reception and the girl working there tells us, that there’s a pub with live music right on the next corner. So we decide to go for a little walk and then go there and listen to whatever they have to offer. Well, after walking to all the corners around the hostels and not finding the pub, we ask someone on the street who has never heard of any pub near there and sends us in a completely different direction, which takes us through the Chinese quarter to Oxford street where we actually find a pub with live music on Thursdays, but starting the next week only. Exhausted, tired and hungry, we finally end up in a Wetherspoon’s (zero points for originality, zero points for non-existant live music).
When we get back to the hostel, we almost straight away head for the bed, barely noticing that the drool-worthy upper body Spanish guy is in the same room.
Friday May 23rd, Manchester:
We get up in the morning to have breakfast at the hostel, burning some toast and generally making a mess (although not more than anybody else) all the while talking about the Spanish guy in German, who sits next to us, turns out to be Texan and talks to an Australian guy. (Sentences like “From the left he doesn’t look that good” and “I think, from right-above is his best angle” and girlish giggling shape the conversation.) When the Texan gets up and leaves, the Australian guy turns to us and says in German: “So, where are you from?” After a moment of embarrassing silence I tell him that we’re from Vienna and he tells us that he’s been working there for three years. We talk a bit till we’re finished with breakfast.
Babsi and abstrakt head for the bathroom and I stay there and start taking some notes on what went on the past few days and some quotes, when a guy asks me what I’m writing. We get to talking (he’s one of three guys in New Zealand sweaters) until Babsi comes back, when one of his friends tells her, “you’re pretty tall for a girl!” Babsi is about 1m80, which really is rather tall for a girl, even by my standards. I’m 1m73. But anyway, that’s not really polite… I tell him, “Well, we’ve never heard that before…” [Unfortunately, I didn’t think of saying that he’s rather short for a guy. He was about 1m60.] Then the following conversation ensues:
Babsi: “So, you’re from New Zealand?”
Kiwi 1: “How did you guess?”
Babsi: wordlessly points at sweaters
Kiwi 1: “Wow, tall and can read!”
Kiwi 2: “And pretty.”
Kiwi 3: “Pretty tall.”
Which basically had us laughing the whole trip.
Well, after that we walked through Manchester some more, this time in daylight. Well, Babsi and abstrakt are walking, I’m limping behind them (damn those feet and shoes and blisters!).
Manchester is a really cool city, it’s got flair and action and really cool architecture (also really bad architecture, but there’s no need to mention that). It’s a city I can very well imagine spending more time in. It reminds me a bit of Glasgow. And I love that accent.
Finally, it is time for us to get back to the car and drive on to Liverpool. (40 minutes to find out of the city.)
We park the car and get out and I have to give up right away. I make it to the tourist office where I see all the cool Beatles stuff and then I need to sit down and nurse my feet while Babsi and abstrakt look at Liverpool. From what they tell me, I haven’t missed that much as it was almost completely a construction site and we didn’t have time to go to the Beatles Museum anyway, but still… I love the Beatles, I’m in their hometown and all I saw was what we drove by (which is the Hard Day’s Night Hotel). *sniffles* Well, I already decided that I need to go back there. And to Manchester.
When they get back, we get something to eat and then make our way back to Nottingham. (1 hour to find out of the city, first bathroom break therefore about 10 miles from the city limit.)
We arrive late, but thanks to the great opening hours of Sainsbury’s (generally, English supermarkets. Austria should really loosen up on her opening hours regulations), we can still buy food, which is sorely needed for the next days.
We get back home, have dinner, talk a bit to Babsi’s flat mate M. and then go to sleep.
Saturday May 24th, Nottingham:
After breakfast (and this time it’s English), we drive the car back to the rental place, bid our farewells to it and then continue on foot through the city. We see the train station, go past Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem (the oldest pub in England, since 1189), up to the Lace Place [I’m not sure if it was actually called that, but I think it’s very fitting], where I find Robin Hood in lace which I find so disturbing that I have to have it. Now I just need to find out what to do with it.
Then we take fotos with Robin Hood himself, or better with his statue, which we abuse as William Tell, sit on the lap of and hug.
Finally, we make it up to the castle, with another short stop in the souvenir place, where I buy Robin Hood and Maid Marian Action Figures. (Makes me grin just to think about them.)
The castle is really nice, especially the park around it and there’s a cute little guy running around in a Robin Hood outfit (I wonder how often I will have typed Robin Hood at the end of this post). We wander through the museum and then Babsi and abstrakt are off to take the tour through the caves under the castle, which I’m not able to do because I still can’t really walk.
I turn to go to the Olde Trip, when I run into a colleague from my summer university certificate programme, who is a Canadian but studies in Austria and is in Nottingham to visit a friend. We are both flabbergasted by the coincidence, talk for a while and then we both go in opposite directions.
When Babsi and abstrakt are done with their tour, we meet in the pub and have meatpie and fish and chips before we hit the city centre to empty Primark. I buy some new shoes (and am finally able to walk more or less without pain) and some tops and some earrings and and and… When we’re done, or better, when Primark closes, we head back home to get ready for a girl’s night out.
We stop at a small shop to get some tomatoes and I find a Cosmopolitan (which I usually don’t read, but every once in a while it’s funny. And they have a free book this month – Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell, which I’m sure will be high class literature). So before we actually get ready to party, we leaf through sex advice, naked men and fashion guides.
Also, we eat spotted dick and wonder about the origins of that name.
Well, finally it’s time to go dancing. We go to the Oceana, a club with 3 floors – House, Disco and HipHop (a concept which also could come to Austria at some point).
At one a.m. my feet start to give up, but I make it until 2.30 (I’m so getting old). Then we drive home, have some midnight crisps and go to bed.
Sunday May 25th, Nottingham:
After sleeping rather long, we head again to the city centre. We go to Chocolate Utopia – the perfect place.
After that, I go to WH Smith and Babsi and abstrakt give Primark another go. I finish slightly earlier then they do and spend some time at Starbucks, finishing my book so I can start with one of the newly boughts right away.
When Babsi and abstrakt come back, fully loaded with new clothes, we go to the Pitcher and Piano, once a church and now a really cool pub. We drink something, eat some nachos and then we flee from the English weather into the safety of Babsi’s home, where we cook and spend a nice night inside.
By the way, the Dalai Lama came to Nottingham that day. Probably to spiritually cleanse the city after we were there.
Monday May 26th, Nottingham:
In the morning we go to the university to see where Babsi spend most of her time (probably) the last year. And damn, that’s a beautiful university. Although we are almost blown into oblivion in the park, it is quite a place, full of ducks, geese and squirrels.
We go for a walk, then have a look at the library and finally go to the pub there. Then it’s time to go home and finish packing. And at three, abstrakt and me take the bus to the airport. We check in and then go looking for somewhere that sells postcards. But unfortunately, the only place at the airport that sells some only has postcards from Derby and the Peak District. No Nottingham. So, everybody who expected a postcard: I’m sorry. We didn’t have time to write some and when we did have the time, there were none. So no postcards this time.
Finally it’s boarding time and it’s time to say good bye, England.
At nine, we arrive in Bratislava, grab our bags and look for the bus to go back to Vienna. The first Austrians are already about and it almost feels like home. Also, it’s pretty warm, 20°C and no wind – after England that’s pure luxury. We have to wait for almost an hour till the bus leaves and we spend the drive talking and recapulating the trip.
Finally, we arrive in Vienna, at about 11.30 p.m. Abstrakt’s dad picks her up and is nice enough to drop me off at home. Finally. And that’s the end of the trip.