Manchester and South of the Motherland
When you’ve been travelling for so long and have arrived at an innumerable amount of bus stations, ports, train stations, and airports with not a familiar face in sight it is exceedingly wonderful to walk through the doors to where your beloved aunty is waiting with a warm hug and a big smile! We had arrived in Manchester on the evening of the 30th of July ready for a full month of being spoiled by our family, lovely catch ups, beautiful road trips and good food, not to mention the ease of English speaking shopkeepers and drinkable tap water.
Since it was evening we piled into Nett’s car and headed for Stalybridge. Jono and I were a good combination of hungry and lazy so we grabbed a lamb curry to share. Now I like to say ‘there’s no point to regret’ But I’m going to admit I regretted this decision immensely at 3am…. and the next day and the day after, also the one after that, then the next 3 as well. You didn’t read wrong, as much as I’m sure you wished you did. Together Jono and I lost 6 kgs between us and shared way more grossness than I ever thought possible. If we weren’t bound together before we are now.
Turns out we shouldn’t have blamed the poor lamb we should have thought more about our lifestyle choices in Morocco. Specifically how while been extremely vigilant about only drinking bottled water we brushed our teeth with tap water, didn’t carry hand sanitizer, ate with our fingers, ate street foods, touched our feet when they probably should have been cut off instead and ate salads and fruit galore. Fools. We were fools, and thanks to those several oversights we now had pet intestinal parasites – yay!
Towards the end of this lovely week I was starting to get pretty peeved. Since we don’t live in England it’s actually nigh on impossible to get a doctors appointment. We went to a drop in medical centre place since I already knew what medication we needed and waited for hours to see a ‘doctor’. Turns out after all that time we got seen by a nurse, who while being pleasant and sympathetic, couldn’t write me a script and had no bright ideas. I could have cried with frustration. If I’d wanted a nurses opinion I would have…oh wait a minute…asked my-flipping-self!
Knowing full well the ED would make us wait until every man and his dog had traipsed though the department before seeing us in our non acute state Nett started harassing her doctors surgery and they eventually agreed to let us see a doctor… for the low, low price of £90. Ahh well we would be fixed thanks to this visit, don’t think I’ve ever swallowed tablets as fast. Thanks very much to Nett who looked after us, cooked for us and opened her home for us to flake out in during this week! Couldn’t have imagined a better place to be sick! 🙂
We did rally and manage to leave the house 2 days out of this week. What would have dragged us out? Just a little something called…The Ashes!! A massive bucket list tick for Jono, we went to the first 2 days of the 3rd test match at Old Trafford. It was awesome!!! The weather was sunny, the Aussies played really well (about the only days they did) and Jono couldn’t have been happier! I know lots more about cricket than people give me credit for and thanks to a handy animation I saw a zillion times I can quote to you the 10 ways in which a player can get ‘out’. This was especially awesome because it helped me to breeze through a trivia question of the same impressing my mother and father later in the month – win.
We sat next to some super nice English people who gave us some stick about being Australian and then chatted to us for the rest of the day. We saw Clarke get a century which was awesome! On the second day we had better seats, we were right down near the ground next to the members stand. In the front of this section there was a flat area for disabled and wheelchair bound people – a prime location. I snorted with laughter when we heard two older, quite refined English people behind us say “next time we should put Jules in a wheelchair so we can sit down there!” It was pretty funny after the end of play there were so many people the metro was swamped and it took us less time to fly from Paris to Manchester than it did to get home on the train from Old Trafford.
We had some really lovely times with Nett during our week at her house. We shared some lovely dinners, walks, coffees and even a bit of education at the science and industry museum. We’d like to think we also helped open Nett’s eyes to certain cultural events too such a taking Nett through maccas drive through for the first time ever! Crazy times.
Since we’ve been busy travelling I haven’t always been as organised as I probably should have. When I finally got around to booking a wicked campervan in the UK there were non left!! Oh dear me! After exhaustively emailing practically every campervan company in the UK I realized, as crazy as it was, it was still cheaper for us to fly to Amsterdam, pick up a van there and drive it back to the UK!
So we got a nice early flight, thank goodness for Nett dropping us, and popped into The Netherlands for the day! We had such an awesome day!
We got dropped out to the van, which just happened to be probably the creepiest wicked van in Europe, and parked it in a sweet park-and-ride system they’ve got running over here, which we should totally embrace back home! After a falafel for energy I began ‘Clare’s great walking tour’ (thank you Google).
Amsterdam is a really pretty city! We wandered down through narrow alleys, past the canals, over cute flower-laden bridges and found a busy park to sit and snooze in the sun while the smell of pot wafted through the warm air. There are pot smokers everywhere and many of the ‘subtle’ cafes where you can buy it. There are also heaps of cool cafes with eclectic furniture and delicious food and coffee.
That evening we had the most delectable Thai dinner in Chinatown then went for a night walk to spot the prostitutes. Bit wrong but you really can’t miss seeing it since they are everywhere! After dark falls all the little alleys that during the day look bright and innocent become the haunts of curious tourists, pimps, seedy men and drunk teenagers. The women stand, wearing basically nothing, in a glass doorway surrounded by red lights. There are hundreds of doorways side by side, even 2 levels up sometimes. They say the narrower the alley the hotter the girls – some of them are extremely good looking, even all their plastic bits. You obviously can’t take photos but I got one looking down one of one of the main canals so you can see what the areas like. All the lights are actually quite a sight.
So even though it’s very unsavory at night Amsterdam is one of Jonos favorite European cities!
After the days shenanigans we did a crazy thing. We drove from Amsterdam to Dunkirk to catch a ferry back to England. I say we but given my tender age (under 25) Jono is the sole driver of this vehicle. Sucks to be him. After a few hours shut eye in the car park, been checked by immigration to see we weren’t harboring any illegals in our van we were on a ferry and the white cliffs of Dover were in sight.
We drove down the coast road to Brighton beach. I some what underestimated the miles and we were driving most of the day. We drove through very scenic, winding forest, stopped at the ‘beach’ for lunch, stopped to sleep at Brighton Beach (desperately needed) then walked to the pier coffee in hand. Brighton seems like such a happening place! There were people everywhere, playing volleyball on the beach, basketball on the promenade, riding bikes, staking, coffee-ing in cafes and eating hot fish and chips on the sand while the sun set. On the way to our evening destination we passed Arundel Castle and popped over for a peek – it was quite impressive!! That night we slept at a cute little cricket ground in the New Forest.
The next day on our way to Bude, Cornwall we stopped for lunch up on Dart Moor under a clear, blue sky with wispy clouds skidding across it. It was cold but very beautiful! After a fair amount of rock scrambling we sat on the top of a high tor and watched the world float by. That arvo we arrived in Bude. This name still cracks me up every time I say it. It seemed like a chilled little town so we parked right at the beach car park and went for a wander. Jono got chatting to a hippy dude holidaying with his son in his VW van. He gave us the inside word on where to park for free with a beach view and we sat on a milk cartoon and shared a beer. Nice guy!
Considering we were at the beach it was pretty freezing, the next morning we got up and went for a cliff top walk and even a swim. How we had missed that delicious feeling of diving under a wave! We must have looked fairly ridiculous in our bikini/shorts, there were about 30 other people out all learning to surf and everyone was in a full steamer wetsuit. How depressing – its SUMMER people! Hypothermia started to set in so we bailed for a hoodie and a Cornish pasty. Seriously love these things. This is the sole reason I wanted to go to Cornwall and I have travelled half way around the world for an authentic pasty. It did not disappoint!! We visited the Tasty Pasties shop, which is a certified genuine purveyor of fine pasties. Amazing.
After saying goodbye to fun Bude we aimed for Stone Henge. Yes, they are a bunch of Rocks no one really knows what the heck they were ever used for but they are pretty cool and were another bucket list tick for me too. You pay a crazy amount of money to walk around them and they are in a field in the middle of nowhere!
The place was packed with tourist’s coaches. We snuck off in the arvo and wound our way through tiny country lanes to the town of Marlborough in time for Friday evening drinks! We camped that night next to a green rugby field.
The next morning after a hearty full English breakfast at a teahouse we returned to Nett’s to pick up some clothes, have a shower and a chill out with Nett before taking on Scotland!