Leeds, A City for Shopping and Architecture

Leeds 2013

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I long remember name of the city of Leeds from a play in University in which I played a ridiculous Welsh director of a small Operatic Society, Dafydd Ap Llewelyn. I think it was my lead male auditionee who I continually interrupted, every time the piano played his introduction to start I just couldn’t help but to jump-in myself with a lovely little Welsh translation of “All Through the Night”. My auditionee was from Leeds, I read it out from his application with a strong sense of disapproval. The way I said “Leeeeeds” with my nose wrinkled and voice lowered always got a laugh. I don’t remember being directed to turn my nose up at Leeds but it seemed obvious by the writing that my character might consider it to be somewhere that was below his standards. The play was “A Chorus of Disapproval” by Alan Ayckbourn.

I never heard anything of Leeds reputation throughout the years. The week before my visit my Aunt Jenny told me on Facebook that she was born and spent her first years there. I didn’t know that about my Aunt who was married to my Dad’s late brother Harold all of my life until Uncle Harold was taken from us by a heart attack a few years ago. I knew her English mother too a bit as I was friends with Aunt Jenny’s niece, Joanna. Granny Franny lived in a grandmother’s suite in Jo’s family home. In fact, Joanna was in the above-mentioned play with me; it was put-on by the Drama Department of the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. I was a student of Business Administration, but I took my electives in English, Psychology, and Drama. This meant I had no major, but I did fine in business without a major anyway. A major would make one more employable though, the most lucrative choice after accounting at the time was the very new industry of IT. “No, I think I’ll take Drama and Creative Writing instead,” I remember telling my guidance counsellor that year. She didn’t think that the best choice, but I figured since I was studying business when I’d rather be studying arts at least I could have a little bit of arts and I still get the business degree even if devalued by having no major. (I ended-up just shy of having enough credits for a Bachelor of Business Administration with a minor in Drama, but I’m not sure they make those anyway.)

I arrived this afternoon in Leeds after spending the day in the beautiful spa townn of Harrogate. An unfortunate contrast, Harrogate attracts a formal senior crowd who enjoy the many tea rooms, promenades, and lovely English gardens. I may just be an old woman trapped in a 39-year-old man’s body so that was rather my scene. I am quite happy for the excitement in my day to be having room for dessert at Betty’s Tea Room, a locally-famous Yorkshire Chain that originated in Harrogate. Sadly I am not kidding, visiting the original Betty’s was high on my list of things to do when visiting the lovely spa town of Harrogate.

I arrive to my hotel in Leeds and park what to me seems like a small car but what in the UK is a very wide car. £14 ($20) per night my hotel charges for the privilege of using their car park and normal cars don’t even fit. The receptionist talks me closer and closer until my car is a hand-width from the car next to me. I don’t know how the last person who parks is going to get out of his car, nor how I will enter mine if there are cars parked on both sides when I need to get in. The hotel is in an industrial building but refurbished quite modern and to very nice effect.

I make my way to the tourist information centre where they are not at all helpful. This feels a contrast to the warm and friendly service I have come to expect in central England. In this city of nearly 4 times the population of York, they can not refer me to a bus tour or a walking tour or any kind of tour whatsoever that I can join tomorrow or anytime. Must sees? Well that depends what you’re interested in. There’s lots of shopping. This seems not to be a tourist destination. They don’t even know a direction where they should point a tourist to. I leave with some maps but no real idea of what there might be to do or see other than shopping.

My first impression on the streets is of being in a rougher place. I notice more guys, always guys, sat on the sidewalk asking for my spare change. They seem to think that they deserve my custom, when I ignore them they seem to think I have simply not heard their request for funds. I give to one fellow who then walks alongside me. I know he is bad news and I try to get away. He asks for £10 to buy a week bus pass. No, sorry. I just gave him £2 ($3), can’t he just thank me and let me go? He doesn’t want to relent. Finally I circumnavigate a bench where two girls are sitting, I am trying to get away from this guy. It ends poorly, me yelling at him to leave me alone, that he should be embarrassed to harass a visitor to his city and give such a poor impression. He walks away and the girls throw me dirty looks. I feel badly for being so harsh, but it was what I was thinking and how I was feeling. He and others have now soiled my first minutes walking around this city. My first impression makes me want to retreat to my nice hotel but I don’t.

The shopping here is incredible. Who is buying these luxury goods? Not the people I see around me late on a Monday afternoon certainly. These shoppers are heading straight to Poundland and McDonalds. Perhaps Leeds is a shopping destination for visitors. Very near to York, I bet people from York probably come here to shop. I was surprised to hear that the receptionist who helped me park has never taken the 20-minute train ride to visit York. I cannot even imagine. I took a much longer route going through Harrogate from York to Leeds, but it was still a very short journey. It’s so close that people might live in one and work in the other.

Perhaps the shoppers of these goods are weekend shoppers, that would make sense. Nine-to-fivers. Professionals and business people. I suppose I won’t seem them about during my brief two-night stay so I am destined to get a continued dim view of this former industrial town. I am much impressed by the architecture though, Leeds has lots of beautiful architecture stock in what is now a very large shopping district. A stately town hall. Gorgeous rows of buildings strewn everywhere.

I have dinner at GBK. “Have you eaten at GBK before?” My brain scans through memories, I know I have, where was that, I can see the empty pedestrian shopping street in the evening, wide and modern, it was another shopping district that seemed out of place for the locals. . . . .”I have, in Cardiff in January!” Well done, brain. Well done.

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If someone parks in the last parking spot, which is on my other side, I don’t know how I’ll get in. “Can you get it a little closer?” No.
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The Ellington Hotel seemed to be inside an old warehouse, but was modern and comfortable.
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A patio with doors that fully open to the fresh air!
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As in Birmingham, I enjoy the new and old contrasting each other.
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In this and the following photos you can see some of the beautifully restored Victorian shopping arcades.
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I don’t mean to be rude, but where are the shoppers for these high-end stores? I don’t see anyone who looks like they shop at these stores, including myself.
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The Newest “Trinity” Shopping Centre
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“The Light”, mostly cinema and restaurants.
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Some shoppers enjoy a wee break.
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Yummy, the Wellington, and angus burger with portobello mushroom and horseradish sauce. Burger restaurants that serve wine deserve awards, I think it’s harder to get liquor licenses in Canada because I do not remember this happiness at Hero or the like. I could be mistaken. I’m sure in Quebec you could though. Canada is very odd with different restrictions province-to-province.
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Back at my hotel I am told that the shopping district in Leeds is second only to London and that yes, people do come here specifically for shopping trips from all over the UK. Much cheaper than visiting London, if you come here you can use most of your cash for the shopping. Makes sense. It’s not like in Yorkville, a shopping area in Toronto where the people are wandering about wearing the couture you see for sale alongside. No one here looks like they shop in any of these stores. There’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t either, it’s just incongruous.

Later I read, “Join footballer’s wives on shopping sprees in the high-end arcades of. . .” Ah, the notorious footballer’s wives. The British are crazy for football, the sport North Americans know as soccer. Like all sports that has fanatical fans, the players are ridiculously paid. Taking shopping trips to Leeds to try to burn-off some of that cash could be a full-time job, even when touting £3000 handbags and filling shopping bags with £200 t-shirts. And they could avoid all that annoying culture and sophistication of London. I can see the appeal, Leeds has all the shopping with none of the pretension.

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I have a first-time experience here in Leeds. Walking through busy crowds, a grown man, seemingly able-bodied, looks to be on his way back to work. Near to 50, wearing a trench coat, appropriate for the on-again off-again rain. Here’s what happens. He coughs a great, chesty, wet cough right in to my face. I am covered by his spray. I am too shocked to react but I stop in my tracks. He bumps into me as he continues past.

I am absolutely disgusted. Maybe his arms don’t work? Perhaps he’s actually very mentally challenged but hides it well? I did meet someone at Castle Howard who was a regally-dressed woman and when she opened her mouth she sounded like a 5-year old. “I really like your shirt because yellow is my favourite colour,” she had run over to tell me. Very sweet. She had the posture of a cave-girl and had a handler with her who was of average appearance. Perhaps years of nobility in-breeding, I thought. The gene pool too narrowed. She had looked like she stepped out of a film set, so lovely was her sun dress, hair, and bag.

But today near the train station in Leeds, I cannot imagine what ignorance would cause someone to seemingly intentionally discharge directly into someone’s face. Square-on. At close proximity. I can remember when my own arms didn’t work, I wrote about this briefly in one of my Edinburgh postings because I was living there when it happened. I would have at minimum pulled out of the crowd to cough into nothing and if possible (ie. were I able to stop a moment in a moving crowd) I would have bent over to cough into my lap. He must be a sociopath. He’s sick and he wants to make others sick. I’m really going to hate this place if I get sick now.

The closest experience this reminds me of happened in Harbin, a city of about 3 million in Northern China, about a decade ago. I was walking down the street on my way to work when a huge ball of garlicky phlegm splat on my face. It was an enormous, warm goober. It was so big that after hitting my face it trailed all the way down my clothes before settling on my shoe. I am gagging now as I write about it. But this was possibly far more innocent. Completely thoughtless and careless, but less intentional than this face-to-face assault. Someone had spit out their window over the busy sidewalk. It may have been in malice too, but at that time people were spitting all the time in Harbin. Even inside trains and buses, shopping arcades, public buildings. It certainly was not limited to the outdoors.

How can people spit so much? I wondered that because I never spit myself, except at the dentist when he tells me to, or at the end of brushing my teeth. But that’s mostly water and dental stuff, not great gobs of secreted slime. I never have occasion to spit, it’s not as though I use my willpower to stop myself from spitting, the thought doesn’t pass through my head, “Wouldn’t it be nice to spit now.” Additionally, it seemed to be a (mostly) male condition. So I looked for causes of this behaviour. For one, around the world women tend to be more polite and conscientious than men anyway, so that explains the high male to female ratio of spitters adequately for me. Women tend to have stronger empathy, they can see themselves more as the other than can an average man. I think that is why we so often use that low “stupid voice” when quoting men. Even men sometimes use the “stupid voice” when quoting other men.

One main cause for the great amount of spitting was the chewing of tobacco, but that kind of spit is apparent. It’s brownish. This also supports the sex ratio, since I have only on occasion seen women chewing tobacco. Those who do also have the look of having generally given-up on life and any possibility of having a feminine demeanour. But brownish spit seems to account for well-less than half of all spit I encounter in Harbin.

I found my second answer in a type of pickle-relish that the Northern Chinese eat with many meals. It also explains the garlic stink-slime that covered my face that unforgettable morning. I made the discovery when I forced myself to eat this harsh-tasting pickle (chutney-like concoction) with my breakfast. I was being polite, my host was saying, “Try it, it’s so delicious! No, take more!”. Perhaps deep-down he was punishing me. Anyway, when I ate this pickle-relish it made me barely able to swallow. It gummed-up my saliva for an hour or more and I was constantly clearing my throat and feeling the need to spit. I nearly felt like I was choking on my own thick, disgusting saliva. I never accepted eating that pickle again, I would just poke at it and pretend to have some.

I know that Chinese government tightened it’s reins on spitting before hosting the Beijing Olympics. It must be lovely to stroll down the streets today, not a care in the world with no fear of being slimed anonymously from above. I should go back again.

There were education campaigns and spitting police giving fines to violators as they tried to stamp-out this bad habit. It could have been fun making the slogans. “See that rubbish that you just dropped in the street? Now, don’t also spit on the street.” One thing at a time. I was always shocked when doing things with well-educated Chinese when they’d have a chocolate bar and just drop the wrapper wherever they were. Or have a bottled drink and truly just toss the bottle to the side as they continued walking. The same happened a lot in India. Walking down the street with University students I met I am carrying an empty bottle to put into a bin should I ever encounter one. “Just drop it, that’s what everyone does.” “I know they do, but I just can’t” Then the same people blame the government for there being rubbish all over the streets. It’s probably a bit difficult to pick-up after more than a billion people, true for both India and China.

It’s unfortunate, I will probably always remember Leeds as the city where a professional-looking man hacked right into my face and left me stood there in shock. In 2013, I might add. NOT 1713 before germs were invented.*

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The handsome Post Office building stands off a square near the Train Station in Leeds.20130625-173813.jpg
There is no shortage of handsome listed buildings in Leeds. I read that the number of listed buildings is 2nd only to London. I also read this “fact” in Birmingham so I’m not sure. Let’s just say that they both have lots of fantastic architecture.

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I go through a list in the “This is Leeds” book provided in my hotel room. “Ten Reasons to Love this City.” It seems like they had a hard time coming up with the ten things, but here is my abbreviated interpretation.

1. Lots of shopping.
2. Some nice restaurants.
3. Some good bars.
4. A concert that took place here performed by The Who in 1970 was made into an album. (Really? This is a reason to love Leeds today? Sounds more like a piece of trivia than anything.)
5. Yorkshire Dales are not too far. (Yes they are lovely, but they are not in Leeds, so that’s a bit of a stretch.)
6. A good Art Gallery
7. Leeds Carnival in August. (Doesn’t help me in June.)
8. Leeds International Concert Season, September-May. (See comment for number 7.)
9. The Carling Festival is near Leeds in August. (That’s lovely, but it’s not in Leeds and also – See comment for number 7, which now also applies to 8 & 9)
10. One of UK’s largest rep theatres.

Basically, when you come here to shop, you will be able to enjoy a good meal and possibly find some entertainment. Unless you come in June.

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Someone did not do a great job on that list. I would certainly have, “Lots of fabulous architecture” high on the list.

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I don’t know what Pleasure Time was but it sounds naughty.

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Like “Pleasure Time” this Horse and Carriage Repository seems to have become redundant.

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Sadly, I think the converse might also be true. I imagine my visit to the information centre from the point-of-view of the workers. “There’s lots of great shops,” they had informed me when I first inquired what one should see in Leeds. “I don’t really want to do any more shopping, ” I had replied.

If the tourist worker had cared, I could see this playing-out like a skit on Little Britain. I imagine the tourist worker calling head office with this conundrum. “I have a gentleman here from Canada who says that he doesn’t want to shop. What should I tell him?”

“Yes, he seems to know that he has come to Leeds. Yes, intentionally. No, I don’t think he’s lost, I think he came specifically here to look around the city. He seems surprised that there are no tours whatsoever that he can join, not a bus tour, not a walking tour, nothing. Yes. Yes. I know. Right, there is that occasional walking tour so I gave him the number for that guy rather than call myself to have that information here. I doubt he’d be doing anything on a weekday anyway, he didn’t before. Yeah, I only have the information for up to last week. I can’t be bothered really, I mean if people come here not to shop I don’t know what they expect. No, he doesn’t seem mentally unwell, not that I can tell. Hmmm? Right. No, I haven’t asked him if he’s a football fan yet. He’s shaking his head, he doesn’t want to see our (soccer) stadium. He’s not interested in the art museum either, he wants to see some local flavour rather than a world collection of works, apparently he travels a lot and has seen a few museums already. Yes, I have told him that this is an excellent centre for the performance arts between September and May. Since there’s nothing on this month he’s not that interested. Yup. He is, definitely. One of those American-types who expects us to help them plan their time in Leeds, as if I have nothing better to do than to hand out maps and give out sight-seeing advice. Yeah, yeah, I know that’s my job description, I’m just sayin’. I know, I know, well I would suggest maybe he’s come to the wrong place but he only just arrived today. There must be something we can suggest because he just won’t give-up already. No, I don’t think he’s fat enough to try out one of the private medical facilities advertising in our tourist information book by having lipo. Well, now that I take a better look. . . . just a second, I’ll just ask him . . . . he’s shaking his head no, oh he’s leaving now. Excellent, thanks for your help! Bye-bye!”

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I found the Market Stalls at Leeds City Kirkgate Market interesting, more so than all the chain stores certainly.

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Inside the Leeds City Kirkgate Markets. This is where Marks & Spencer’s started, as a stall!

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Behind the City Markets is an Outdoor Market.
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If I had visited Leeds directly from Canada I would have been impressed with the architecture and found the local culture an interesting change from what I’m used to. As it is however, arriving after 8 weeks of visiting towns, cities, and villages throughout the UK I am more comparing this apple to other apples and it really does come-up short. If you love shopping, this may be the best place in Great Britain for that, much cheaper than London but with many of it’s stores. Apart from that, I would not plan to return myself.

It’s not a bad place, it’s just not for me. I don’t know how many times I was asked for change and stopped by people with clip boards. Mostly I ignored them or tried to, but sometimes they saw an easy target in my slow wander as I tried to take in the sights. Also being alone makes an even easier target, and perhaps here I look well heeled. But when you spend most of the day wandering about zig-zagging through all the streets, you encounter a lot of this here. Far too much, in fact. The last one asked me a dozen questions about travelling between English cities before it was all voided with the question, “How long have you lived in Leeds?” “Well why didn’t you say so! This is a local survey!” I didn’t know why she had charged across the pedestrian street to block my way and interrupt me with a survey, probably for a budget airline or coach service, but I didn’t find out. And anyway, did I really look and sound like a local? Were there no hints, possible indicators in my manner of speech that might have given her pause to ask before unnecessarily detaining me?

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Along the River Aire in Leeds.

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It isn’t possible to go very far along the river, it’s not been redone in the way it has in Birmingham.

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The handsome Town Hall.

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Just some random lovely architecture throughout the city centre.

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Wow. Look at those windows! I’m not a traditionalist, but my goodness aren’t they an interesting choice.

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Oh my, I seem to have stepped out of the zone.

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I tend to notice things that locals have never seen before. Look at these interesting smoke stacks, or something?

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Picked-up this hat today because I didn’t think to wear one and my goodness, the sun was out ALL DAY!

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Big Building – Little Building – New Building – Old Building.

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I got some odd looks when taking this photo, but it’s a great natural composition.

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*Yes, I know germs were discovered and not invented. I was being silly.
**UPDATE: Three days later and I am sick. My throat is killing me and I can hardly swallow. I hope it doesn’t last too long.

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Beautiful English Countryside of the North York Moors from staying in a Country Hotel

This is a very short posting. I may change my posts to become weekly from now as to have more time to work on each story and improve the quality overall. Expect some more interesting stories coming soon!

I stayed in a beautiful country hotel near to Scarborough in the North York Moors. Sadly, I would not recommend this hotel no matter it’s lovely surrounds due to the extreme incompetence of it’s staff unless you are looking for a Faulty Towers type of experience. I did write a piece during my stay there but it seems to have completely disappeared.

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View of the country hotel from the car park.

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A lovely view from the grounds of the hotel.

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The lovely dining room where I had breakfast the first day. I didn’t bother to have the included breakfast on my second day though.

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WIFI was available in the well-appointed bar. This was a place where we were off the grid, no cellular signal here so WIFI was the only communication available with the outside world.

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This was a lovely place to sit and work. Less so in memory if you later lose your work, as in my case.

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Despite being advertised, lunch was not available. The ducks asked me to share my veggie snacks that I had brought with me but then spit them out. Click on the next image to view a short video.

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Hiking on little trails around the property.

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A hotel guest fishing for mackerel.

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Another view of the hotel.

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The charming green lounge off the main hall near reception.

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Looking across the pond.

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So beautiful, but I do warn that the staff were very untrained as of my visit in June, 2013. It was as if none of them had ever been to an inn or hotel before. Or the people in charge had gone to get some eggs and never returned. Some years previous.

Thank you for reading my blog! I hope you will look around and click on “Follow” at the bottom right of your screen so you don’t miss an adventure! One easy click to unfollow so it’s no risk. Cheers! Darren

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The Waterfront of the Handsome City of Liverpool – Liverpool Part 2

I am still unwell on the day I have allocated to visit Liverpool’s impressive waterfront so this is just a few pics and explanations. I am staying very nearby, just around the corner from the stately Royal Liver Building and the Cunard Building so I have no distance at all to make my way over from Castle Street.

Liverpool’s waterfront stands on the River Mersey and faces the city of Merseyside opposite. There are tunnels under the water rather than bridges over, as well as ferries that cross the river. It’s a shame that my energy is low, there is so much to do here. There are lots of interesting and entertaining options but I will partake of very little this visit.

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(Even my hair looks sickly! I feel horrid today!)
Behind me to the left is the Cunard building and to the right is the Port of Liverpool Building. (The Cunard Line today is a British-American enterprise but was originally founded by a Canadian, Samuel Cunard of Nova Scotia, in 1839. Throughout it’s history of transition, the Cunard family mostly owned the line throughout various it’s incarnations until 1998 when it was purchased by Carnival. ) Some distance behind but appearing to the right of that is the red brick building that is the White Star Building. The White Star Line head office, it was from this building that a very famous announcement was made to the media below.

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A closer side-view to the White Star Building from which the world officially learned that the Titanic had sunk.
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A better picture of these waterside buildings, from left to right: the Royal Liver Building which holds the LARGEST clock face in Great Britain (yes bigger than the one on in London paired with the bell of Big Ben), the Cunard Building, and the Port of Liverpool Building.

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A great view through a window of the Tate gives better perspective of these buildings. Closer to us are some of Liverpool’s many museums and galleries, the one on the left is the Museum of Liverpool. Notice the maintenance crew on the black building furthers to the right, there are two tiny people in the basket at the top of the mechanical arm that show the scope of the building.
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More views of the Museum of Liverpool.
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And closer of these galleries.
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Colourful sculptures alongside the Museum of Liverpool.
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A view of Albert Dock, the largest collections of Grade 1 listed buildings in the UK. Surrounding 2.75 hectares of water, this is also a World Heritage Sight.
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The enormous orange columns are actually cast-iron.20130701-183038.jpg20130701-183121.jpg20130701-183142.jpg20130701-183210.jpg
I have my lunch waterside at Revolution, a cafe named after the Beatles.
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I am dragging myself about, such a shame to be unwell during travels but it’s bound to happen sometimes. As I mentioned already, there are lots of interesting places to visit. The only one I end-up actually visiting is the Tate Liverpool. I choose to do this because it is having the first exhibition in 15 years of Marc Chagall. When I was 22 and backpacking alone through Europe I stayed a few days at a hotel in Nice in the South of France where one of the highlights for me was visiting the Chagall museum there.
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Visiting the exhibit on the 4th floor also had the added benefit of providing some great views. The photos from a higher vantage point in this posting were taken through windows of the Tate Liverpool.20130701-184126.jpg
Looking down at the mud at the waters edge from Albert Dock.
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Looking across the river to Merseyside.

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There are numerous souvenir shops along the dock and I am able to find some gifts for family at home. This artistic creation at a sweets shop is made of jelly beans.

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More views around Albert Dock.

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After a short day of sight seeing I collapse on my bed back at 62 Castle. I did not visit The Beatles Story as planned, I did not take a bus tour or a walking tour, the only gallery I visited I only viewed one specific exhibition. I was not able to go out and socialise to meet any Scousers or Liverpudlians who are famous for being warm, friendly, and hospitable so I don't have any fun personal stories from here. In a note, I need to visit Liverpool again if I am to really experience this handsome city.


Click on the image above to enjoy some street busking.

The Handsome Waterfront City of Liverpool – Liverpool Part 1

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I arrived to Liverpool in a sad state with a nasty cold that unfortunately coloured my stay with a grey tint as I was simply not well-enough to go out and play with the friendly locals in their local pubs. I arrive mid-afternoon, around 4PM, but after a full day I do not feel well enough to go out and wander. I try to over room service but the small boutique hotel is overwhelmed with the wedding party they are hosting this weekend. This was obvious during my check-in when I helped staff carry chairs out of the only elevator and then to unblock the hallway so I could get to my room. A hotel of only 20 suites, the staff are run off their feet and no one answers the phone. Over the weeks I have come to stock some packaged foods for such occasions so I tuck into a tuna pasta salad and a cup of noodles. Fortunately Liverpool seems to be an affordable city and my hotel room is a nice place to spend time, it’s three times the size of the room I had in Manchester and the ceilings are twice as high. Also, I enjoy listening to my iPod attached to the nice-sounding stereo provided. This a rare offering in hotels because they generally do not equip guests to be able to bother their neighbours with provided sound equipment.

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Driving towards Liverpool I cross one of these two handsome bridges.

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Colourful row housing on the outskirts of Liverpool.

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Driving towards my hotel in the city centre.

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The hotel has me park in the enormous modern car park hidden under the waterfront road, I think it houses 5000 parking spaces. I exited the car park into the impressive open-air shopping structure of Liverpool One.

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My first impressions are of an old city rich with traditional buildings mixed with new modern structures. Basic but traditional and warm housing on the outskirts. An impressive modern shopping zone and a car park where lots of well-healed shoppers have parked late-model cars a good proportion of which are German.

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This statue of Queen Victoria is in the square just outside my hotel. Oops, you can’t see her from this perspective, she’s in the middle.

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The Hotel I will call home for the next few days. It looks big but it only has 20 rooms.

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It’s a good place to feel unwell. Sometimes I’m in rooms that are cramped, noisy, or otherwise not well appointed to spend much time in, so this was very lucky indeed. Perhaps not lucky to feel unwell, you know what I mean.

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You can find my room by the white metal balcony, it’s in the middle.

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Nice big windows, the four door sections are full-sized doors.

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Looking towards Lord Street.

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Looking towards Dale Street, the dark building at the end is Liverpool’s Town Hall.

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I think that all the rooms at “62 Castle” are partially elevated. Named after it’s address, I would recommend staying here. It’s very convenient, comfortable, and good value. When travelling for a long time it’s a good strategy to enjoy nicer accommodation in cheaper cities (which this one seems to be) and save the budget accommodation for more expensive places. I also try to avoid large hotels which usually lack in character. After the fun of staying at a pub in Manchester, I have booked another pub accommodation for one of my next destinations. Coming-up after Liverpool are Chester, Shrewsbury, and Birmingham again.

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I wake-up not feeling better so I linger and take my time before heading out. I have found handy cups of oatmeal that I can just add water to, I’ve never stayed anywhere in England that didn’t provide a kettle. It’s strange arriving to a new city and taking so long before seeing anything, it’s 21 hours after my arrival before I finally head out to take-in the streets of Liverpool at 1PM on a Sunday.

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Notice the plants growing out of the gutters!

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An actual tree growing in the gutters! But things do grow very quickly in wet climates.

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I am finding a lot of impressive building stock in Liverpool, although some of it is in need of urgent attention. This seemed to be only partially in use.

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Liverpool has a lot of museums, in fact it has “the most museums and galleries outside of London” according to a tourist information brochure. This is the World Museum.

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This is quite the Library. I am reminded of Toronto, except that we have nothing like this.

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Tourism is a huge industry in Liverpool and it shows. These wonderful sign posts were everywhere. Notice they even indicate the walking times to get to destinations. Very smart to provide distance location in terms of walking times. They were especially helpful because I forgot my mobile phone at the hotel and nearly the only thing I use it for is GSP when walking about.

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I do love a good mish-mash of new and old and in-between.

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Planning a party? This hall is available for hire!

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Side-view of the same.

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Liverpool Lime Street Station. (Railway)

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The very famous football (soccer) club.

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Looking up Bold Street towards a roofless church.

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Only now did I notice the church is a contained courtyard where once was it’s main hall.

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In this close-up through the window you can see the sky and the other interior wall.

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I edit photos while waiting for my lunch at an Italian cafe on Bold Street.

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A variety of housing as I make my way to Liverpool’s enormous cathedral.

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This, the largest Anglican Cathedral in the world, was designed by a Catholic. Notice the scope of this side entrance by looking at the people who are near to the structure. The much larger central tower was not accessible from outside, but you can see it in one of the coming photos.

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The side entry to “Liverpool Anglican Cathedral”.
“How did it get it’s name?” I want to inquire at the information desk but alas at the end of the day it is unmanned.

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I captured this front view somewhat later from afar after wandering through Chinatown.

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Some interior views of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.

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Yes, neon tube signage. They must have had some debates over adding that little touch. The side I would have been-on didn’t win.

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In case you were wondering, I am pleased to inform you that the pipe organ (which you cannot see here) has a lot of pipes.

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How many, you wonder? See, I just somehow knew that you would want to know that. It has 9765 pipes. Which is quite a lot. Someone was playing with it, hopefully not a tourist, when I was inside but they weren’t playing anything, just a few notes. I think you can hear it in this short video. Click on the video image below to play the video. (Email followers, it will hopefully open in to a browser so you can see it.)


Sadly I did not take a photo of the pipe organ as I didn’t notice it at the time and I only read about it later.

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Through this lovely gate stands Liverpool’s Polish community.

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A moment ago I mentioned that this was home to Liverpool’s Polish Community. I was just kidding. This is an entry to Great Britain’s oldest established Chinatown. I just made that up. No I didn’t! Aren’t I silly tonight.

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If I had been writing when I spent 4 months in China I’d probably remember what these cute little hybrid creatures are called that you see me getting fresh with at the other side of Chinatown. In China what I did do a lot of was paint. I’ll do a posting of my paintings someday, many of you probably don’t know that I made my living as a professional artist for a couple of years before I went back to school (OISE/U of Toronto) and became a high school business teacher.

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The famous flower boxes that the Beatles gave to the city.

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Okay, so I did make that up to give me a flawless segway to mentioning the Beatles. But the Beatles gave the city a LOT over the years by coming from here, so in a way they did. An estimated £21 million per year from Beatles tourism. (Tourism overall represents £1.3 billion yearly in Liverpool, so lots of visitors don’t come because of the Beatles too. Most. Actually, I think they may be wrong in that, how could it be so little? £21m is only 1.6% of £1.3b. Don’t believe these figures, they can’t be correct. Don’t blame me, I’m just passing them along from the tourist board who perhaps needs to employ someone who owns a calculator. Or even a mobile phone, that’s all I used myself.)

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The area between Chinatown and downtown was lacklustre but still interesting.

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By lacklustre I might mean desolate. Unsafe-looking. Verging on ruin.

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Trees growing on the walls and here’s the mystery – how can they see out those windows? They’re made of wood!

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Doesn’t this look like a fun building to rent!
Of course, “To Let” is British for “For Rent” but I always want to put an “i” between. That would be funny if someone did that on this huge sign. We’d laugh and laugh, wouldn’t we. Because that would be the British sign for “washroom”.

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I don’t think there is anything notable here, but isn’t it pretty.

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See previous comment.
No wait, I did think of something!
Liverpool has the most Grade II listed buildings in the UK outside of London.
Score!

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Don’t look at this photo because it’s at the waterfront and I’m going to spend my time there tomorrow.

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There she is! A better view of Queen Victoria, I’ve now circled back to my hotel where I will listen to some gorgeous music, have dinner from Sainsburys, and do this posting which I am now completing.

For my next posting I continue visiting the lovely city of Liverpool! But then you already knew I wasn’t finished with this handsome brute of a town yet. The waterfront contains Liverpool’s most iconic sites and is home to the Beatles Story. Anyway, tune in – in 4 days for part 2 of Liverpool.

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(The above photo taken in Bayswater, London last summer (August 2012) on a trip with my then 15-year old niece, Abbe. It looks like I may have been on Sudafed that day also. Poor Abbe was horrified by me making her take photos, people had stopped on the pavement, they were wondering if I was busking! Nope, just another day in my life.)

More Walks around the Medieval city of York

There are always two walks scheduled to start at the same time by Yorkwalk. I arrive on site to join the Graveyard,Coffin, and Plague Tour but being the only one who has shown that tour cannot go so instead I join a merry group of about 10 led by our very erudite guide, John. We start off through the lovely Museum Gates, where all of the tours commence. This is a wonderfully personal tour for although John was not born and raised in York, he has lived most of his active adult life here. His main quality is understanding what is interesting for the general public who are not themselves mostly historians but merely curious.

At the ruins of St.Mary’s Abbey (constructed 1270-1294) John shares with us how in the 1940s England requested cities to have performance festivals as part of the renewal of lives after the war. During this time the Edinburgh Fringe started as did many others including York’s Mystery Plays. Dame Judy Dench was one of the first actors to entertain audiences in front of this Abbey ruin, which has been repurposed as a backdrop ever since.

In another area of the gardens John points out the sone work use to contain flower beds. He pulls out a photo from the treasure trove he carries with him and shows us a drawing of the Abbey ruins perhaps over a century ago. As we can see, much of the rocks used in the gardens were pilfered from the ruins. But they don’t do that anymore, now they are more valuable as they are.

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Look at me with my healthy breakfast! It is, look carefully, my egg is poached and I had them hold the fried bread, baked beans, potatoes, and toast. I may need my cholesterol meds again after this trip with all the included English Breakfasts. At least my clothes still fit. Mostly.

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I stay just outside the back gate to these lovely Museum Gardens where all the Yorkwalk tours commence. Here you can see our guide, John, walking backwards as he narrates the history of the Roman wall ruin to our right.

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After showing us a drawing of what the Abbey ruins looked just over a century ago, John takes us nearby to see where some of it was pilfered to.

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You don’t have to look too closely at the flowerbeds to notice that many of the rocks used have been very much altered after being quarried. Ah ha. Pilfered from ruins. Ancient ruins had not been as cherished in the recent past as they are today.

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There is simply so much to look at everywhere, I had not even noticed this until John pointed it out. I had passed through this park nearly ten times up to this point. Remarkable. And that is why I am so pleased to enjoy these walking tours with a variety of interesting and unique guides. No, I do not work for them. Also, when travelling alone taking walking tours is a great way to meet locals and other travellers. It’s good to have the social interaction.

Along the city walls he tells us how the walls impeded the development of York throughout time, when other cities were becoming major trading places the walls of York hindered the coming and going of goods and inhibited growth. In the 1800s parts of the walls were disassembled to build roadways and to give the city new life. Like taking a tourniquet off a limb and allowing blood to flow.

We stop at the location of one of the main city gates where John shows us a photo of what it used to look like, quite a sizable tunnel-structure has been removed that would have disallowed a street to run along the wall. The photo is not of this gate, it is of another gate where the tunnel has been left in tact and he points out where there is evidence of the removal of this one.

Inside the gate, he points out some architecture that was redone in the 1900s. When the railways connected York in the 1830s, with it came tourists to enjoy England’s most complete Medieval city. They wanted to see the York Minster and the city walls. They expected to see gothic architecture here on the gate, so sometime in the 1900s they removed lovely windows from this space where a guard keeper would have lived and changed it with more harsh gothic defence-looking walls that visitors expected to see. But these arrow slits are pointing inwards, it would have been very unusual for the gate to have defences like these pointing towards it’s own. As for changes at York Minster, a group of homes were removed to have a clearing, opening the view to the Minster from much further. I had noticed myself that I had to go more than half a block away to be able to capture the Minster in my camera’s viewfinder. Before the clearing, I wouldn’t have been able to fully capture the front of the structure.

John went to University in Brighton, in the South of England. I don’t know how he ended-up in York, but I do know that for some time he worked in the accounts department of a bookshop under a Polish woman who was born during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. The offices of the bookshop overlooked the toilet shop that was later discovered to have some medieval innards and today is a type of small museum. He finished his career at the York Minster Library from 1994 to 2010. He shares a few fun stories from his years there as we stand behind the great York Minster from where we can see the building where he worked on the same grounds. A couple donated their “Wicked Bible”, a book that was printed in the 1600s and nearly immediately destroyed intentionally by fire due to it’s heresy. A printers error that could not be overlooked, the missing of one short word made so much difference. “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Oops. Obviously the missing word was “not”.

Throughout the tour I also enjoy sharing comments with an interesting woman from the West Coast. She is visiting York for her 50th University Class Reunion. She joined the tour a few minutes in having stumbled into us by the Abbey Ruins where John was showing us photos from the year he joined the Mystery Plays. Photos of the stage work set-up in front of the ruins. John played a demon.

I’m going to call her Judith, but I didn’t catch her name. Judith studied at what was the 3rd year of this young university. She has not visited York since her school days so she was in that blur of struggling to remember days so long past they nearly seem like they were from someone else’s life. We walk through an interesting compound where she actually had classes. I think she’s a bit stunned by it all, surprised by the unfamiliarity. I share with her that it took me some days to better remember my life in Edinburgh. It took some time and effort for memories to sift through the deep sand residue that has since accumulated. Such a different time, such a different life. I hope she is able to visit for long enough for the memories to flood back, she has much more sand to sift than I had. Although I have a lot of sand from having had a lot of variety in my experiences over the past 16 years. If I had lived in one city and had one main career I would have had much less to sort through myself. I have had very distinct shorter chapters whereas many people have one or two longer chapters.

I always think of Universities as being old, so I am quite surprised by the age of this one. But my first university was oddly old for being in Canada. Originally named Kings College, the University of New Brunswick is tied with Georgia State as being the oldest university in North America, both founded in 1789. Those were the very early days of formal education on that continent. (It was still Kings College during the era of the book series, “Anne of Green Gables” and was the setting for her studies.)

We end the tour with some overlap of my other tours and again visit the lovely owls. I really don’t mind having overlap, I only capture half or less of what is presented to me anyway. With ADHD I have a natural filter that automatically only captures the most interesting bits while my mind wanders during the presentation of minute details that might fascinate me were I a historian.

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Much of the walls we walk on today were recreated in Victorian times. This bit is Roman.

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Notice the tiny little window. We are told that this is located in a toilet. Well, not IN the toilet, but British also call the room in which a toilet is located the toilet.

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John asks us if we can guess what has happened here. Iron fencing removed for the war effort.

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“Judith” was excited when we rounded the corner to this building. Most of York University is located outside the city walls in newish buildings but she happened to have attended some classes here when she was a student during the University’s early days.

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During the poring rain last night whilst I was enjoying Verdi in the comfort of York Mister a university group was doing an outdoor play about Anne Boleyn. They have tarps for over the audience but the actors were soaked. We meet the director who lets us lift the incredibly heavy costumes to feel their weight.

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These arrow slits of the construction reconstructed to look “more Gothic” are facing into the walled city rather than towards intruders.

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With my hair it’s longest since high school, my facial hair (since November 2012), and full-time travelling, I think I may have become a hippy.

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I explained the purpose of this little plaque in my previous posting about York.

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A little ornamental devil in the middle of the colourful medieval streets of York’s centre.
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After walking past lots of crowded lunch spots, I settle on having lunch at the library. I have chosen this because of it’s quiet setting and being located directly beside where my next tour will commence in just over an hour. Lunch is simple and good and has the benefit of being cheaper than in the tourist restaurants. Sadly the fluorescent tube lights are too bright for me and I have forgotten those glasses, but I leave soon enough not to have gotten a headache.

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In the afternoon I join a tour called, “Guildhalls & Hidden Places” which has a largely English crowd in attendance. When I say “largely”, I mean 5 Brits and me. This is a well travelled group, three of them have been to Canada and are happy to share about their travels. In our conversations about England I have now added Chester to my list of places to visit, and it may even happen on this trip after Liverpool.

The other solo walker is a local nun, she lives a 2-minute walk away from the York Minster in a Maisonette. She too has visited Toronto, she stayed for a month there with some sisters in Willowdale. She enjoyed her stay.

We walk past a pub that once was the city dwelling of country folks who were the parents of General Wolfe. The Wolfe who defeated the French and took Canada for the British Empire.

Our first stop is to visit St.Cuthberts, a church that has been made redundant three times. The first time was during the reformation when nearly half of all Yorks churches were made redundant. The last time was more recently, the priest in charge decided he didn’t like the groups that were making use of the church and made them find another home. Now, empty and unused, it has less chances of survival from things like moisture damage and vandalism. It’s much better for a building like this to have people coming and going.

Our guide, Warwick, removes some carpet floor tiles, then wood, then support beams, to unveil a secret entrance to under the floor. Two of us climb down the fixed ladder to see the marked grave below. There are many, many unmarked burials below us and outside surrounding the church.

PHOTOS

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The Black Swan pub in York was once the city home of the parents of General Wolfe. (I was told that they spent most of their time in their country home.)

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St. Cuthburts has had been a church long in disuse and has been made redundant again recently because the person in charge did not like it’s uses. But any use is better than no use when it comes to preserving an old structure. It was being used by Christian groups, just not ones the person in control approved of apparently.

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Trying to save this structure, self-sufficient offices were built in the middle so the building would be used without touching it’s actual structure. They have been made empty recently though.

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Notice the floor tiles in front of the jacobean pulpit. They hide an entrance to underneath this modern sub floor.

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The entry opened, two of us venture down for a peak. General public cannot enter this locked church, and fewer people still have access to this area.

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Some views under the sub-floor.

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It’s not a beautiful church inside.

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Showing the patchwork of brickworks outside St.Cuthberts.

We visit part of the York City walls where we come to understand that most of what we see today are Victorian recreations of the walls. In this location we can see some of the original Roman walls, from the 200s. They seem very short but this is because the ground level has risen by a few meters.

Lastly we visit a Guild Hall that was once part of a priest’s commune. It was another case of the priests misbehaving and then being housed together under a watchful eye. Even then, it was known for the occasional priest to sneak in male tradesmen to do work who were in fact women in disguise. Naughty priests.

Today this is a modern guildhall, serving as the meeting place for several different guilds and being rented out for functions.

When I return to the hotel I am introduced to my new room. I had originally only booked to stay 3 nights. To increase my stay to 6 nights I need to move twice taking what accommodation they have available. The feeling at the Coach House Hotel is fantastic, very homey and welcoming so I didn’t want to move anywhere else. This is a wonderful home away from home and in a great location too.

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A section of York’s city walls.

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The walls high above are the Victorian reconstructions. The darkest part are the most modern ones, they are retaining walls holding the earth away from the unburied Roman walls, which our guide has trekked down into.

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There are numerous Guildhalls throughout York.
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“England’s Other City”, a Silly Look at a City that has a Silly Slogan.

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If I tell you that this city’s motto at my time of writing is, “England’s Other City” I am certain that you would never guess the city that I am referring to, so disparate must be their self-image to actual. Good for them, it’s been proved that those who appraise themselves more favourably than actual do better than those tho appraise themselves harshly. A good self-image is important although one should also have at least a teensy bit of reality to avoid wearing one of those funny coats where the arms are tied around back. But just try to think of a few places it could possibly be before scrolling down to see. Perhaps even click on the comment button to tell everyone what your guess was. If you’re from there or have read it before than you may know, but that’s not the same as a motto actually suiting a place.

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I am experimenting with my writing, this first bit is some added fiction and the main story starts after the next line.
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Imagine you are in your mid-thirties. You’ve finally landed the job you’ve always wanted, the career you’ve been working towards since you entered university seventeen years ago. You love your city, you enjoy the life you’ve set-up for yourself, and financially you don’t have a care in the world. You have a lovely set of friends that you’ve built-up over the years, an eclectic mix of differing personalities that suit your various moods. I guess you’re a bit of a moody a-hole that you need to do that, but never-mind. The point is that life is good and you feel satisfied. You’re dreams have come true.

You are an art curator and have worked your way up to one the most prestigious art galleries in New York City, an accomplishment that you like to flaunt at every turn. You went back to your hometown high school reunion for the sole purpose of making others feel badly about themselves. “It must be lovely to serve the public at the hospital cafeteria, your family must be dead-proud that you climbed such dizzying heights from where you started at McDonalds and in only twenty years!” “You must feel good about your contributions to the world, I can only imagine how doing the book-keeping for ABC Pesticides must be an exciting and rewarding position for you. I’m sure one has to experience working in a basement office to really appreciate it.” You don’t try to hide your pretensions either, you are the leader-of-the-pack in your pretentious circles.

You have no appreciation for the fact that people are not dealt the same hand. True, you did work hard, but you were also given a free pass when your family easily afforded to send you to the University of your choice. Growing-up, your Uncle Malcolm would take you to fabulous places and show you works of art that most kids will never see during their lifetime, let alone with your uncle’s explanation of why he loves certain pieces so much. (You can remember clearly that there was a modern abstract piece he loved that he claimed was a uterus. Actually, now that you think about it, he could find the uterus in a lot of abstract pieces, almost like it was a fixation of his. You couldn’t quite see it yourself.)

By the time you exited high school you had already visited some of the worlds greatest art galleries in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin. You had private art-tuition on weekends and although you had no talent (You were terrible! Remember!) it aided in your appreciation and somehow it didn’t injure your ego one tiny bit, so strong was your sense of being better than others. You were Daddy’s little Princess and Mamma’s little Cabbage. (She wasn’t calling you retarded. It’s a term of endearment in French.) You won a scholarship by being the only applicant who fell within it’s parameters. (Awarded to a white female candidate who has travelled extensively by age fifteen to at least 5 of the worlds 10 greatest cities with their uncle and who might be considered differently-abled when it comes to the actual creation of art. The scholarship coincidentally coming from your Father’s company and creating a tax write-off for him. Interesting.)

No, apart from these tiny benefits you enjoyed, you are completely self-made and there’s no excuse why Sharon who group-up one of 5 children to a single mother who cleaned homes for a living should not have created a life just as fulfilling and successful as yours. The fact that she was excited to get her first job at age fifteen because it meant that her family could keep their 2-bedroom apartment despite the rate increase holds no water with you. That her family immediately became dependant on her income and she then never had a chance to advance herself career-wise because of her desperate situation will never occur to you as anything but an excuse for her to be lazy. Lazy in a working-two-jobs-seventy-exhausting-hours-per-week sort of way.

Or what about John who became a pet-groomer, loves his wife and two kids, and he would not have his life any other way. You look down on him too because you don’t understand that his success exceeds yours. He’s happier than you are, and he gives back to his community as a volunteer fire fighter. He does that with his Dad, it is something they can share together in the small town you also grew-up in. But because that town was not your destiny you judge others when it is theirs, as if liking one place is better than liking another. Well it’s not, it’s just personal preference. Imagine if we all had the same preference, what would the world look like then? Hmmm? You’re being pretty quiet now, aren’t you.

Well, you are just delightful. How have we not met and become fast friends.

One day you wake-up and you can’t see a thing. Not a spec of light. The darkness that is your view of others who differ from you is now all that you can see. Sad.

Can’t see the pretty pictures now, can you. I’m sure my readers feel so very sorry for you. But lets have some fun with it anyway. We deserve to have some fun, don’t we. Your social worker is one of those people who yells when talking to blind people. You thought this was funny before you went blind yourself, how people with all their senses seem to confuse which-ones-do-what when dealing with the differently-abled. Now that you are blind yourself you notice that your hearing is actually heightened, so dependent you are on it for information about your environment. Its startling when someone yells at you from close proximity, especially when you didn’t see they were there. In fact, you never see they are there. I sometimes find noisy situations disorienting myself and I have the aid of having full visual guidance. I can only imagine that a noisy place where you cannot differentiate specific queues of comings and goings and activities by their sounds must be very stressful.

You have a type A personality and your social worker has decided that it would be best for you to just jump in to your new life by going to a special boot-camp, an island full of people just like you where you should be able to master your change of ability within a matter of months. Three months actually. But once you go, there’s no leaving early under any circumstance apart from being air lifted due to having a medical emergency.

After packing a nearly-random assortment of clothing (Because you can’t see them. Were you intending to wear the top-half of your halloween crocodile costume with those jeans today? And you have some food stuck to your lips. Oh sorry, I must have forgotten to take my glue stick out of your cosmetic case. Easy mistake, I do tend to forget things.) you reluctantly leave your perfect life. You’d take-up massage, an ideal profession for the sight-impaired because they tend to develop a gifted sense of touch, if you didn’t dislike people so much. You’re not sure what you are going to do yet, but you know you can’t just sit at home and listen to tv all day. You need to learn how to walk with a cane, you need braille to read, you need strategies and you need to train your brain to experience the world differently than you have for the past 35 years. You oscillate between feeling depressed and anxious and then one of your self-help books kicks-in and you feel slightly invigorated by the challenge.

At the conclusion of a considerable world journey you arrive to the island and something seems wrong. You can’t see what it is because you still can’t see. Perhaps you didn’t read the fine print of the forms your social worker had you sign. Oh dear. Your social worker seems to have made a bit of a mix-up. He’s sent you to a boot camp for people who suddenly lost their hearing. It was all the same to him I guess. Oops.

The first days you spend your time stumbling around getting slapped in the face a lot. Sighted people practicing their new language. No one can hear you, even the staff are deaf. Must be hard not being heard. Kind of like how you refused to see the real lives of those you looked down on. Bit judgemental, weren’t you. Hmmm.

Apart from feeling alienated you feel painfully bored, unlike anything you have ever experienced. (Although perhaps you’ve come close while reading this blog today. I’m experimenting a bit.) You’ve alienated yourself before, so that’s not entirely new, but never have you been unable to read, unable to watch a movie, but especially unable to sit and admire the new artwork that you just acquired for your gallery at auction. Attaining things with other’s money actually turned out to be your greatest passion, you felt like it was yours. The powerful feeling of wielding an auction number with a two million dollar budget for the afternoon, you like that.

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I am not saying that Norwich is boring like this island must have been for our dear friend who so sadly lost her sight, it isn’t quite. That it was England’s second largest city in the eleventh century did surprisingly little to alter my experience of it only ten centuries later. But I suppose a lot can change in a thousand years when you really think about it. In my five days of wandering it’s lovely streets (it really is pretty) somehow nothing happened. I didn’t find anything particularly interesting to do, I was not able to meet anyone, I found it difficult to find meals away from very noisy chain restaurants, and I found no stories to tell. I’m sure it has lots of these wonderful things and much more, I just didn’t find any of them myself. It is a handsome place though, with some great buildings and I loved the narrow streets of the old town. If you are out for sightseeing, this is a very pretty town. And perhaps there are events that go on there from time-to-time that would have considerably altered my experience.

There were some interesting bits from history, just nothing during my visit. It was the only English city to ever be “excommunicated” in the twelve hundreds, so that’s something. In the fourteenth city they completed city walls but then someone had the brilliant notion to make it illegal to build outside them which caused complete stagnation and meant the end of the city’s growth. Seems obvious enough today that a city that cannot grow will not be able to keep-up with rivals but then again our life expectancies today are longer than thirty-years so perhaps we do have more foreskin. I mean foresight. Perhaps both, I’m not a doctor or a geneticist or anything.

Speaking of foreskin, since you brought it up, Norwich had a very disgraceful event in it’s history when in 1190 the Jewish population was executed apart from a few who found a safe-place in the castle. I can only suppose this had some tie-in to an event in 1144 when a boy was found stabbed and the Jews of Norwich were accused of his murder. The executions took place an entire generation later, but there is no other explanation presented that I could find so I am guessing that the event triggered a feud. I have no evidence or knowledge of such, I am just drawing a possibly ludicrous conclusion. I am not a historian.

Norwich’s famous department store, Jerrolds, is only located in Norwich so one could probably say with some conviction that it’s not actually famous. (Yes, I do know that locals might argue that it was something larger a century ago and therefore famous but I am referring to those of us who are alive today. In 2013 it is probably known only to people of Norfolk.) The name does remind one of Harrods though, so that’s something.

Perhaps the most interesting fact I pulled from Norwich’s long and fascinating history was that in 1976 it installed speed bumps on one of it’s streets to encourage drivers to keep to the 30 mph speed limit, making it England’s third street ever to do so.

Incredible.

They really should promote that more to draw-in more tourists. Makes one pause and wonder where the first street was, doesn’t it. Can you hardly imagine, now that would really be something. But being number three is not too shabby either and the fact that I stumbled upon that amazing fact shows some civic pride for sure, that someone took the effort to make sure the world didn’t forget. And the world surely won’t forget, or at least several readers won’t – it now being encapsulated in my very informative book as it is.

Norwich seems to have sometime recently changed it’s motto from “Norwich – a fine city” which I would say was arguably true, to the very head-shaking, “Norwich, England’s other city.” This latter incarnation, so ridiculous in it’s implication that perhaps England has two cities, gives me the impression that they are perhaps reaching just a little. Like a thousand years. If you don’t like how you compare to other cities today than you shouldn’t have had your silly “no building outside the walls” rule for hundreds of years. Just sayin’. It was number two before it fell gracefully over the centuries to become what it is today. It does have a lot of medieval churches though, which are nice to look-at. Unless you’ve been touring around England continuously for some weeks and find that the churches are starting to blur your vision.

I can only imagine that this new motto was conjured by an illiterate cave-dweller who had only ventured into public the one time during-which he conveyed this, his greatest idea to a motto-starved public who embraced it with some controversy. He could hardly be blamed, he had only seen cave drawings from the time when that phrase would have been true, how could he have known how drastically the world had changed. According to Wikipedia, the city itself, standing at around 140,000 inhabitants, Norwich ranks number 139. Which is also quite far from being second. Actually in a different listing I found, they stood at number 156 but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt since this seems a touchy issue.

Perhaps those in favour of the new city slogan had never watched Bob Newhart. “This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl,” is a more accurate grammar usage by a not-overly erudite character on that programme. Note that the total number of brother’s named Darryl that he had was two.

I am a cat lady. I have thirteen cats. This is my cat Margaret. This is my other cat, Bob.

Something doesn’t add up. What happened to the other eleven cats. I don’t trust myself now. Am I even a real cat lady? I don’t think so. See what I mean – it’s like they’re trying to hide something. “England’s Other City,” as a motto applied to a city such as this is an embarrassment that just highlights that really it isn’t. I hope they change it back. Or why not correct it, “Norwich, One of England’s other cities”. They don’t need to necessarily mention that it’s one of England’s more insignificant other cities.

Here are some other possibilities, and perhaps readers might add to my list using the comments button below:
“Norwich, we have several hundred more people than Horsham does.”
“Norwich, we might be friendly but we don’t really talk to strangers so it may be hard for you to tell. Sorry about that.”
“Norwich, chain-restaurants are welcome here.”
“Norwich, proud of our heritage. Well, apart from some of the latter middle-ages. But no one is perfect. Shut-up.”
“Norwich, we may be insignificant today but you should have seen us a thousand years ago.”

Without further ado, here are some photos from my time in Norwich.

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The very handsome train station.

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I found Norwich to be very pretty.

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A local was displeased when I took this photo, but I’ve never seen this kind of very narrow gents street urinal before and I though it was interesting. Actually, I was starved for interesting at the time. There was no equivalent for the ladies, it appears that they are addressing the problem of gentlemen peeing in public. The guy who yelled a sarcastic remark to me was working at the bar nearly opposite with a black sign, something to do with mojo I think. I just though of another slogan, “Norwich, pretty but also pretty dull.”

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Here are some comparisons for the non-British person to be able to fully comprehend Norwich’s grammatically-flawed and false assertion.

These are other cities that also rank number 139 in their countries:

“Cowansville, Canada’s other city”

“Fort Lauderdale, America’s other city.” (Oh, I’ve heard of that one!)

“Matsusaka, Japan’s other city.” (Not the more familiar Matsuyama, which is in the top 40.)

“Cottbus, Germany’s other city.” (Actually, this is ranked number 80 in Germany, I could not find an inclusive list that would include towns below 100,000 which seems to be the defining number of what makes a city in Germany. I suppose the need for such comparisons has no real purpose. Honestly, I didn’t look very hard. Just a couple of minutes at the Second Cup as I was writing and now I throw my arms in the air in defeat and move-on, causing fellow patrons to edge away from me a tad as it looks odd to make such a dramatic gesture to an iPad. I’m about to leave anyway so it doesn’t matter. Anyway, please don’t write me with the answer, I don’t actually care, Cottbus sounds obscure enough to make the point. Feel free to share other cities that rank 139 in their countries by population in the comments below. That’s fun. And very informative. Useful.)

“Meudon, France’s other city.”

“Montesilvano, Italy’s other city.”

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A wonderfully-unique Guild Hall. It was my friend’s birthday back in Toronto so I took a photo for her Facebook.

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Cute market in the centre.

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I do love Victorian Shopping Arcades.

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Other tourists told me not to bother going into Norwich Castle but I did anyway. Don’t bother. Unless you’re a complete history nut or an archaeologist.

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The glass structure in the background is the Forum. I’ve read that it draws tourists.

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I suppose that if I had not spent four days having no friendly encounters whatsoever I may have felt completely differently about Norwich. If on holiday, I’d suggest two nights max. That would probably lead to a better impression. It is a beautiful town.

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Having coffee with my oldest niece. No, we weren’t Skyping, I was that desperate for company!

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The video isn’t fascinating, it’s just a live slideshow from the day that I took most of the photos.

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