Great Britain Exploring (Second Term)

A piece of advice that really resonated with me before I left was “explore a lot of your home country.” With that in mind, I made time to do so. Last term, I took time to explore Southampton, Bath, Eastbourne, Kingston, Lewes, Lancaster, Manchester, Glasgow and, of course, London. This term, I got to see Birmingham, Bristol, Newquay and Edinburgh and visit London and Southampton again.

Monday, 4 January: After I gave myself a bit of time to get over jetlag, I took a train to the midlands to spend time with Ben in his hometown outside Great Malvern, a small, hilly town an hour south of Birmingham. We went on the hills, where we got a lovely view of the valley, that is, until it started raining and we headed back to his house.

Tuesday, 5 January: The next day, we headed to Birmingham. We started our day by walking around the Bull Ring, a large shopping center. After that, we saw a movie (The Danish Girl, it was really good!) and went ice skating. To end our day, we went to the top floors of the impressive library to get amazing views of the city.

Sunday, 21 February: I had tickets to see Marina and the Diamonds in London and as it was on a Sunday, Ben and I decided to make a day of it, seeing sites one of both of us had never seen before. Despite living in England his whole life, like a lot of natives, he’s only been to London a handful of times, so this day was new and exciting for both of us. First, we walked to Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. After that, we took a walk through Hyde Park to the Science Museum. For lunch, we strolled around Camden Market, which has a wide variety of ethnic foods, but naturally, we settled for burgers. After exploring more of the Camden Market, we headed to Trafalgar Square, but it was blocked off. At first, we were a little disappointed, but then, we realized it was blocked off because they were filming a movie (Wonder Woman, set to release in summer 2017), and we got a great view of the action from the National Gallery steps. We made one last stop before heading back to Camden for drinks and the show: the Cadbury Creme Egg Cafe. This temporary cafe, whose dine-in tickets sold out quickly, serves up a variety of dishes inspired by a chocolate delicacy: the Cadbury Creme Egg. The show was incredible, I saw Marina and the Diamonds in December (you can read about it here), as well, but this time, I was in a general standing area, so I could dance and move around a lot more. This show was the last show on her long tour and everyone got emotional when she expressed her love and appreciation for us. She is an incredible artist and I hope to see her again soon!

Wednesday, 24 February: I returned to London for another concert, this time, it was The Used. I didn’t plan to see any of London this day, but I got great views of the sunset over the Thames from the London Blackfriars train station. I met up with an acquaintance, Dylan, at the gig where we both really enjoyed ourselves. This is The Used’s 15th anniversary tour, where they’re playing their first two albums in full in two different nights. Dylan went to both nights, but I only went to the second night, where they played their album In Love and Death. It was a great show, which my aching body and sore throat confirmed the next morning.

Saturday, 27 February: After buying tickets about eight months ago, I went to north London for one final gig this week at Alexandra Palace: Enter Shikari. I have seen them once before in April with a crowd of about three hundred people. I have never seen a venue so empty, but the energy of the crowd and the band matched an audience of several thousand, which is a conservative estimation of the crowd in London. Ben and I got to the venue just in time to see the first opener, Arcane Roots, who I enjoy a lot. We didn’t care for the other two openers, so we grabbed a drink and met up with Joe, who I haven’t seen since September. Enter Shikari was amazing, putting on quite the show with surround sound, unique intros and remixes, visual displays and more. The crowd was high energy and enthusiastic, which made the experience especially great. Enter Shikari are one of my favorite bands these days and that was one of the best shows of my life.

Friday, 4 March: Occasionally, I go to an event night called District, which plays alternative music rather than typical hits. District takes places at clubs all over the United Kingdom, each with their own special events. This week, District Southampton offered a Shikari Sound System, an electronic side project of Enter Shikari, DJ set. Ben and I met up with Dylan there and danced the night away, quite literally. After the set, I got to meet the lead singer, Rou, and the bassist, Chris. I wish I could talk to them, but the club was really noisy and I image they wanted to get home and rest. The train home wasn’t until quarter past five, we stayed at the club until it closed at about four in the morning. We didn’t get back to halls until about 9:30AM, so needless to say, we were all exhausted.

Saturday, 7 May: My dad arrived on Thursday, 5 May, where that evening we had dinner together and spent the following day in Brighton. On Saturday, we hit all of my favorite attractions in London. Throughout the day, we watched several street performers the first of which were in front of the Eye. After we rode the Eye, we walked through Camden, an up and coming part of London with a unique rock culture and plenty of various food stalls (just thinking about it makes me hungry). Then, we went to Leicester Square, where we saw our favorite street performers of the day: talented break dancers. After that, we went to Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden, where we had lunch. We walked around Piccadilly Circus before taking a break in Green Park, which was crowded on such a lovely day. Finally, we walked to Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and lastly, Millennium Bridge. Needless to say, it was an exhausting day, but I’m glad we could do so much together over our long weekend.

Monday, 9 May: After a weekend with my dad, I set off on a trip to the west coast with my friend, Alex. Originally, we wanted to do a roadtrip all around Great Britain, but due to lack of planning, that fell through. Instead, we settled for a weekend at the beach in a small town called Newquay (pronounced “new-key”). I took a train to Southampton where Alex picked me up and drove us to Bristol. Although it was raining (what else is new), we had a good time walking around for a little while and a delicious meal at an all-you-can-eat buffet. We spent the rest of the evening with Alex’s dad and his family, playing pool, having a few pints and watching a film before setting off to Newquay in the morning.

Tuesday, 10 May: We drove about three hours from Bristol to Newquay. It was a beautiful, sunny day, so we took a long walk on the beach. I’ve never experienced such a low tide, it must have gone out for about a quarter of a mile. We also got an amazing view of the beach from our hostel (a good shout on Alex’s part, I usually don’t trust anyone else with that stuff!). Since we were both pretty tired, that night, so we settled for a film and saw Captain America: Civil War.

Wednesday, 11 May: That morning, we went surfing. Although it was really foggy, we still had a good time. We suited up in the early afternoon, carried our boards to the beach (by far, the hardest part of the day), got a quick lesson and then went out on the water. The water was really shallow, but not too cold and the waves were decent for learning on. Both Alex and I had a great time and ended standing up a few times.

Thursday, 12 May: That afternoon, we went coasteering. I’ve never heard of it before, but when we were looking at places to go cliff jumping, we decided it was in our best interest to do a guided tour. Coasteering is basically the exploring of a rocky coastline that involves rock climbing, swimming and cliff jumping. As Alex and I were the only ones on the tour, we got to take our time, ask questions and even do a few jumps several times. It was definitely more intense than I thought it would be (we didn’t have any proper rock climbing gear, we just sort of winged it), but it was still a lot of fun. Our guide did a great job of keeping us safe and making sure we were having a good time.

Friday, 13 May: For our last day, we took a long walk on the coastline. Thankfully, it was really sunny, so we soaked up as much as we could before heading back. The drive from Newquay back to Southampton was about five hours. We stopped outside of town so Alex could pack for his trip to London before dropping me off at the train station, where I had another three hours before I got back to halls. Needless to say, I was exhausted, but nothing could keep me from getting excited for my next trip!

Sunday, 15 May: It was kind of a bummer that the roadtrip with Alex fell through, on the bright side, Newquay was incredible. However, I still really wanted to go to Edinburgh, so I invited my friend Dan and he accepted. We took a coach from London to Edinburgh and made plans for our time there.

Monday, 16 May: That morning, we took a walking tour, where my favorite sites were the Greyfriars Kirkyard and Calton Hill. After that, we walked up to Edinburgh Castle (which was had a lovely view of from our hostel) and walked around, but neither of us were bothered to go in. Then, we went to the National Scottish Museum for its wonderful balcony view. We continued to enjoy the unusually wonderful weather by laying on a hill in front of Edinburgh Castle close to our hostel, where we made a friend: a dog approached us with an empty water bottle and wanted us to play with him.

Tuesday 17 May: We took a train to Glasgow and although walking around was nice for a bit, we both agree Edinburgh is way better and took the rain as a cue to head back. That evening, we met up with my friend Khalid, who I met in Rome. It was great to see him again and be reminded of how small the world is.

Wednesday, 18 May: For our last day, we decided to walk around Edinburgh, particularly The Royal Mile, for a bit before our ghost tour. It was more like a horror story tour, rather. At first, it was interesting, mainly highlighting ghost stories and superstitions, but when our guide told us a true story of a brutal murder right outside that flat where it occurred, pardon my French, but shit got real (if you’re interested, look up Allan Menzies). We headed back the next morning and about twelve hours later we were back in Brighton.

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