My Footprints in UK – Part 1

What comes to mind when you hear “UK”? Typical answers wouldn’t be far from London, Premier League, BBC, Stonehenge, Queen Elizabeth, Big Ben, Fish & Chips……maybe even One Direction. D: This post is dedicated to my travels in the UK, covering places I was fortunate enough to set foot upon during my university days. Before I start, just to clear up a very common confusion that UK = England. Here’s the truth – UK (United Kingdom) is a sovereign state comprising four countries, namely England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As for Great Britain, that’s actually referring to the big island holding England, Scotland and Wales.

1. Manchester

Manchester

It’s my home for 4 years and it’s an awesome place! Do you know our uni is the birthplace of Chemical Engineering? :D Student life is great here, credits to the university being so close to the city centre. Supermarkets, Chinatown, train station, shopping mall, sports centre…everything is within walking distance. Talk about convenience! There’s even a free metroshuttle service running on 3 different routes around the city centre.

Of course, Manchester is also home to Man Utd and Man City FCs and the city goes into frenzy mode when there’s a match or a parade at the end of the season. What the city’s missing is just consistent sunshine – it’s always grey and moody and drizzling..sounds like UK in general? =/

Manchester 2

Western culinary wise, catch a good English breakfast at Retro Bar; the best Spaghetti Carbonara at Don Giovanni’s or San Carlo/Rosso(owned by MU’s Rio Ferdinand) for great Italian food overall; Teacup for wonderful scones; Cornerhouse for nice pizzas or even cakes in a cosy ambience; etc etc.

Asian food wise, we have dim sum (much cheaper than London!), the ever popular SSF(三烧饭), egg tarts and bubble tea, snowflakes desserts all at Chinatown, including Thai cuisine, Japanese cuisine and Vietnamese cuisine (I love Pho!). For Korean food, Baekdu is the place to be and get a plate of overflowing rice and grilled chicken at Curry Mile.

How can I not love this city?

2. London

Almost every UK tourist visits London. It’s understandable. This metropolitan, the only other alpha++ global city besides New York, holds so much iconic buildings and destinations. We all knew about London Bridge since young, then there’s Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, London Eye etc.

London

A ride on the tube is a must, to get a feel of a Londoner’s life. Just avoid the popular stops at peak hours unless you like squeezing in a crowd. But nothing beats the massive crowd at Oxford Street on Boxing Day. It’s a battle scene in the high street stores.

Fret not if you’re not fond of hordes of people, there are several lovely parks tucked away in this big city. Hyde Park is definitely the largest, host to Winter Wonderland in the Christmas season. Regent’s Park, Victoria Park, St. James Park, Holland Park are all perfect for a nice walk in the greens.

london 3

It is undeniable that London has a handsome collection of museums and art galleries. Art and history lovers, you’ll be spoiled for choice without spending a single pence. The British Museum and the Natural History Museum are my favourites. Don’t go too late in the afternoon because you’ll find yourself run out of time to finish exploring the place. For Natural History Mueum, prepare to join a long queue to get in. Go as early as possible and use the side entrance on Cromwell road where the queue should be shorter.

It’s near impossible to finish the paintings in National Art Gallery. The place is huge. Contemporary art fans must drop by Tate Modern. I don’t understand modern art myself but it was pretty eye-opening to see what art culture has developed into in this era.

London 2

Where to eat is an extremely hard decision in London. The city is cramped with good food, especially in areas like Soho. Besides, you can find almost any cuisine here – and plenty of terrific Chinese/Korean/Japanese restaurants. For those with fat wallets, London presents delectable afternoon high tea and several Michelin-starred restaurants e.g. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and The Fat Duck.

3. Nottingham

This place shall always remind me of Robin Hood, yet I never managed to visit the Robin Hood castle there despite the many times I came to Nottingham.

The university campus is one of the loveliest I’ve seen in England, complete with a lake and a park. Most of us Malaysians visit the town for the annual Nottingham Games, a sports day between Malaysian students in the UK, where friends meet up and savour Malaysian food from the food stalls set up.

Notts

Nottingham comes across as an average city which is not throbbing with people yet does not belong in the quiet category either. I have stayed in Nottingham for a few weeks prior to my sister’s graduation, and it was particularly enjoyable doing groceries shopping in the big Tesco, or dining at the restaurants in town. Tamatanga serves great Indian food at a reasonable price and Petit Paris is a small exquisite French restaurant, equally recommendable too!

Nottingham 2

 

4. Blackpool

Blackpool

One of the less interesting places I visited in UK, unfortunately. It is mainly an entertainment town more notable for its theme park by the beach. Since my friends and I did not go there for the theme park, we got kind of bored with nowhere to go, simply ambling by the seaside in the cold wind, wasting coins on game machines in the arcade and eating fish and chips for lunch. A very chillax trip but felt good to see the sea again after so long.

5. Lancaster

Lancaster

De-stress trip after the first set of exams in uni. My first proper ‘overnight trip’ in UK and it took my breath away. Lancaster is definitely not somewhere tourists head to but sometimes, a quiet average English town is enough for good times. Exploring the old castle and listening to its story, freezing ourselves out at night for night views…

There is this small town nearby called Arnside at an estuary, a mere 20+ mins train ride away. Experience full serenity here staring at the breathtaking river view, taking a stroll by the seaside and through the woods. It was January when I went, and I remember clearly seeing the moon so round and huge when night fell. Never in my life have I felt that the moon was so close to me.

Arnside

 

(Photo credits to my friend Lionel – taken with his DSLR) – This was a trip I forgot to charge my camera and forgot the charger too! *applause*

Beautiful, isn’t it?

6. York

York

One of the most popular destinations in England. I felt that it was just a little too overrated the first time I visited this place, but on the second occasion, I came to like it much more. The town centre really isn’t that big, you can easily reach all the historical stops on foot – York Minster, The Shambles (Diagon Alley in Harry Potter), Clifford Tower etc. Don’t forget to have a scone or two with English tea or some muffins at Betty’s Tea Room!

York 2

7. Harrogate

Harrogate

(Photo credits to http://www.harrogate.co.uk) – I clumsily left my camera in the car when I was there. :P

A small spa town in Yorkshire, hilly Harrogate does not have much to boast besides the Royal Pump Room, which I did not visit lol. My friends and I were simply killing time there on the way to York, stopping for a stroll + lunch there. Dropping in at the tourist information centre for fun, we found out about Brimham Rocks, a group of natural rock formations 25 mins drive away. So off we went –no regrets had we! Weave through cool-looking rocks balancing on each other and find yourself gazing across stretches of North Yorkshire fields.

Brimham Rocks

8. Whitby

Whitby

This amazing seaside jewel faces the North Sea on the East coast, somewhere north of Scarborough. Tourists throng the narrow alleyways lined with tiny shops selling anything from Whitby Jet to assorted candies to paintings of the town (Lovely! Remember to bring one home). At one end of the street, people scamper up the 199 steps leading to East Cliff where St. Mary’s church and the ruins of Whitby Abbey sit. Up here, you can have beautiful views of the town spread beneath and also the port plus the sea. The prominent structure of Whitby Abbey only adds to the grandeur.

Whitby 2

P.S. Fish and chips is THE thing to eat in Whitby. :)

9. Durham

I spent only a couple hours late evening in this historical town perched on a hilly peninsular formed by a river meander but it didn’t stop me from liking Durham! The geography of the town offers nice walks all around the town centre past the Castle, through the Cathedral, along the river bank and across the pretty arch bridges. After a satisfying dinner in town, my friends and I headed off to our accommodation for the night – a country pub & hotel located out in the moors in the middle of nowhere. Relax away chit-chatting over fruit juice in the pub lolol :D

Durham

For those on a road trip, consider greeting the “Angel of the North” – a gigantic steel sculpture of an angel, probably 30 mins north of Durham. Fun to run around it looking at it from different angles and distance. Picture-worthy! :P

Durham 2

10. Edinburgh

The capital of Scotland proves that the the country is more than just bagpipes and kilts. Edinburgh Castle itself is a sight to behold, easily dominating the city’s skyline. Take a leisure uphill saunter on High Street (a.k.a Royal Mile) in Old Town which leads to the Castle. If you want to get cashmere and tartan, there are a hundred and one shops to choose from. When you’re high up enough along the street, you can see the sea behind you in the North East.

Edinburgh

(Photo credits to mag.bent.com) – My Edinburgh pics are awful for some reason. :(

Post’s getting too lengthy, discover more of UK in my next post – moving on to Wales, South West England plus some interesting bits and bobs across the country!

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