Manchester to Shrewsbury

I had a pretty decent night in Manchester except that I woke up way too early and couldn’t get back to sleep. ūüôĀ My hosts had asked me to sneak out quietly this morning as they are late risers (I didn’t meet them since they came in after I’d gone to bed). I did so around 8:45, with my train being at 9:30. It was a very short walk to Piccadilly, where I was able to collect my previously purchased ticket from a machine. I really need to do a post about sorting out public transit in England because it is such a mess. But anyway, the ticket collection process has thus far always been quick and painless.

I then went to the Greggs just outside the station to try one of their “infamous” sausage rolls. One of those with a perfect Americano were just ¬£2. The sausage roll was nice, but like Nando’s felt more than a bit over hyped.

I then found my platform, grateful that the departures boards had all destinations, not just the terminal points. But when I got on the platform, the sign above it had conflicting information that gave me the¬†impression that the train on the platform was not mine and that mine would be late. I didn’t even have time to look for help when a kindly woman tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You all right, love?” I must have looked really confused! She confirmed that the train at the platform was mine.¬†It was already super crowded and the aisle was very narrow, so I got a lot of dirty looks as I squeezed past everyone, laden down as I was like a packhorse because I had one more bag than I normally do since I had some leftover groceries from Hebden.

The trip was just over an hour and not particularly memorable. We were about ten minutes late coming into Shrewsbury. My hosts had provided me with detailed walking directions from the train station, so I got to the house without any issues. The husband had gone looking for me as they were appalled they hadn’t thought to come meet me and thought I was lost. Nope, very good walking directions meant I was happy for the walk after the train ride, especially since the terrain was almost flat!

I’m staying¬†in another quintessential Victoria row house, only this one is quite a bit bigger (still not a large house, though), with access at street level. I am minding an absolutely adorable and affectionate whippet puppy. We’re already getting along fine, but I can tell I’m going to need to be vigilant with my things as I’ve already caught her chewing on my shoes! My hosts work from home so she’s not used to be left alone for long, plus she’s still toilet training. So I can’t be out¬†for more than four or five hours, preferably in the mornings. I was invited to stay a few days past the sit if I want to go exploring further afield, like taking a jaunt into Wales. That’s likely what I’ll do as it would be shame to be so close to the border not go! All the signage on the train was bilingual English/Welsh, which was rather neat.

My hosts here were super thoughtful and left me pizzas, lasagna, wine, and beer, plus some other fresh things! Like when I got to Hebden, it was fantastic to be able to get lunch together easily. After that, I went to the shop around the corner to get some breakfasty stuff until I can get to a proper supermarket.

I think Shrewsbury is going to be a lot of fun to explore. There’s certainly more touristy stuff to do than in Hebden. I’ve got three weeks here, so even with work and puppy responsibilities, I should be able to get out and see a bit of it. My teenage self can’t believe she’s here, fan as she was of the Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael mysteries set here in Shrewsbury. It took a couple of decades, but I finally made it here! ūüėÄ

Well, I’d better get to work. I’m sure glad I didn’t stress out over the dry spell. ūüėÄ

Hebden Bridge Back to Manchester

I can’t believe how quickly the last month has gone by! Hebden Bridge was definitely not a tourist/vacation stop for me as I was able to nearly make up for the very long dry spell I’ve been in with work since since mid-December. But I’m pleased with what I was able to have seen and that I got to enjoy this quaint village for a short time. I really loved the¬†cute little house I was minding and the cat was inordinately affectionate. She’s the only cat I’ve ever known that I could shove off my lap multiple times in an evening and know that she’d come right back and curl up once I sat back down.

My next stop is Shrewsbury, only about two hours total from Hebden Bridge. With the schedule of the hosts there and the fact that I wasn’t in any rush to vacate the Hebden Bridge house since the host was coming in very late, it made sense to stay in Hebden as long as I could, head to Manchester for the night, and go on to Shrewsbury Saturday morning. This way, I was able squeeze in two last jobs for this week’s paycheque with a client who has been going through a very slow phase but was slammed this week.

By three this afternoon, the house was ready for my host’s homecoming. My train was at 4:07. Of course, little last minute things popped up and by the time I was dragging my luggage up those stairs, it was 3:38! I was not pleased with myself as I really had to hoof it to the train station and was not able to get in one last meander through the village. By the time I’d collected my train ticket and crossed to the Manchester-bound platform, I had literally one minute till the train arrived! Phew. I cut it way too close!

Even with the cost of the bus to Levenshulme and back into Manchester, the dump where I stayed in January was still by far the best deal for an overnight. I was not keen to go back there, but needs must. However…

I’ve been doing some testing for a new position that unfortunately did not pan out as I lacked experience for part of the work and there was no time for on the job training. That was a bummer since I spent most of a day doing the tests. Well, to my immense surprise, the testers compensated me for my time! I was shocked! They sent enough to cover an¬†Airbnb in Manchester right by the train station (about 20CAD more a night than the dump) and part of a real dinner out, which I hadn’t planned on doing since I had a meal out in Haworth. There are some really good people out there!

The only flaw in my plan is that my Airbnb host had something come up and the earliest someone could meet me with keys was six, when I was arriving at Manchester Victoria at 4:45. Changing my ticket would have been very ¬£¬£¬£. So I ended up spending only ¬£¬£ on a snack at the Starbucks where I could wait in relative warmth and comfort. Slight problem, my host thought I was coming into Piccadilly. It was past six when the hosts’ friend called to ask where I was and then almost 20 minutes to get to Piccadilly and then almost 20 minutes to find the apartment 5 minutes away because Manchester is obviously having fiscal challenges and doesn’t believe in street signage. Yes, I was very grumpy by the time I finally found my room. ūüôĀ

Then, it was time to find dinner. It was past seven by this point and between the lack of signage and my stupid phone misbehaving worse than usual, I didn’t want to go too far. I went back to Piccadilly and wandered looking for a pub, going into the first one I found (Piccadilly Tavern). I liked the set up that I had to find a table, decide what I wanted to eat, then go order and pay at the bar as that meant I wouldn’t have to hunt down the cheque after. I ordered a regular beef burger with a pint of bitter and almost fainted when I was told the price was only ¬£5.69. The pint was free since they were doing a burger and beer deal! So that bonus money 100% covered my stay!

It wasn’t an amazing burger and fries, only¬†a few steps up from McDonald’s, but with the high quality bun and huge pile of veggies, the meal still felt like an incredible deal and was very satisfying. I nursed my pint for a long while, watching the footie on the telly. Can you tell that I’m really struggling with fitting into the UK lifestyle. ūüėČ

I’m back at my Airbnb and going to attempt to get to bed early. I’ve been going to bed past midnight for the last month and I’m pretty sure that won’t be sustainable when I’m responsible for a puppy!

Manchester to Hebden Bridge

It was yet another not so great night of sleep, but still better than the previous three. I had prebooked a train ticket for 11:15 to arrive in Hebden Bridge for 11:50. Knowing how long it would take me to get into Manchester, I got up at 8:30 and took my time with breakfast and packing. When I left around 9:30, I found the morning was warmish and not too damp, which was great since I had a 1KM walk waiting for me when I arrived in Manchester.

Even though it was Sunday, the bus still ran every few minutes. So I didn’t have to wait too long for one. I hadn’t taken into account traffic being non-existent, so we got to downtown (Manchester Piccadilly coach station) in record time. By the time I’d followed the barely adequate signage to Manchester Victoria railroad station, it was just past 10:15. Dang. I could have gotten up 45 minutes later!

I happened to pass Queen Victoria’s statue. She does look like Jabba the Hutt…

The station is really not a pleasant one to hang out as it’s all outdoors (brr), the toilets are terrifying (the stench was such that I could not get close to them), and there are no benches. The only place to sit comfortably is one of several caf√©s and I wasn’t at the point of needing another coffee.

First thing I did was collect my ticket from a self-serve machine. I bought it online last night for ¬£4.25 and the site claimed that I was saving money. Just to check, I went through the process to buy a ticket for the 11:15 to Hebden Bridge and it was ¬£10!!! Am I glad I bought online! The collection process was easy. I just had to insert the card I’d used to make the purchase and enter a code that had been sent to my phone.

Then, I just found a wall to lean against and spent some time on Buzzfeed. ūüôā

The train was thankfully right on time (some other routes were delayed) and the trip was super quick, just a bit more than 30 minutes. The landscape was very foggy and bleak. There was a long bit in a tunnel. I kept my ticket in hand since it was checked after nearly every stop. When we got to¬†Todmorden, the stop before Hebden Bridge, the ticket checker just came to tell me, “You’re next.” Very nice of him!

My host wasn’t waiting when I got in, but showed up after a few minutes. She took me into Hebden Bridge to show me around a bit. It’s a very cute touristy place with a lot of shops, but not a lot of stores, rather like Dawson City. I was advised that since I’m here a month, I would do well to take a bus to Halifax to do a stock up shop and then top up at what passes for a supermarket here. So I will take that under advisement.

I was then treated to lunch! Wow! We went for real Italian pizza like I haven’t enjoyed since the Balkans, followed by an espresso. Only ¬£6 (10CAD), which is almost Balkan prices for such a meal.

We then went to the house so I could meet my charge and see how things work. The house is adorable and so typically my idea of an English cottage. The cat looks a lot like my Neelix (RIP) and took to me right away. She’s very chatty! I think I will be very happy. My office (Poang chair in the sitting room) has an amazing view. I will share that for sure.

Since the house is tiny, I was asked to find other accommodation tonight. As it turns out, the Airbnb I picked was literally around the corner! Since I was asked to show up in the late morning to give my host time to leave,¬†I’m going to check out at the last possible second, 11AM, and then go get settled.

My Airbnb is really lovely. The place in Manchester was fine, really, but for the same price point in Hebden Bridge I have luxury. I was just able to make myself a cup of tea from a huge assortment (went with vanilla chai!) and the bed seems comfy. I will confess that the top reason I picked this one is because they have a TV and tonight there is a new episode of Sherlock airing. ūüôā So I’m rather counting the minutes to 9PM. But first, I’ll need to get some sort of dinner sorted. Hopefully there’s a chippy or pub not too far away. For tomorrow, my host is leaving me fish cakes to reheat and Brussels sprouts to cook up! I haven’t had any of those in far too long!

Amsterdam already feels so far away. I can’t believe how quickly I’ve managed to run myself straight back down again, but four nights of crap sleep will do that to me. Now, on to my English life! ūüėÄ

Free Manchester Walking Tour

Here are a couple of random bonus Amsterdam pics I forgot I took for my last Amsterdam post…

These cute cars are all over the city.

They can only go very slowly. I think they sound like a greater alternative to a scooter.

A sign outside Salsa Shop:

And part of Salsa Shop’s wall of deliciousness. There were probably 10 times as many bottles in the shop.

Okay, so on to Manchester.

The bed here is¬†terrible so I’m shocked that I slept a solid six hours to 5AM. I then tried to go back to sleep for a few hours, but kept getting woken up by the other people in the building talking loudly as they went about their morning routine. Nothing I can fault anyone on; it’s what I expected. I was offered an air mattress to sleep on instead and I will try that tonight. I don’t have to be up tomorrow, so if should be able to get a little caught up on my sleep. I did have to be up today since I had booked a walking tour for 11.

So I got up around 8:30 and took my time with breakfast and coffee. That was pleasant, I have to say, and I’m glad I didn’t rush out the door. I was also glad that it wasn’t freezing in here at all, which I’d expected based on reviews. I did use two duvets, but slept under them in just a tee shirt and was comfortable. So, really, in the light of having had some sleep¬†my dump was much homier than expected and I continue to have no regrets for having picked it.

Besides the price, the reason I picked this less than one-star accommodation was the proximity to public transport and ease of getting into Manchester. It was a straight shot on the train and short walk from the airport and a bus into Manchester can be taken about three blocks away. With the buses running every few minutes and the 5KM ride estimated to take 20 to 30 minutes, I left around 9:45. I had done my research ahead of time and learned that instead of buying a single fare for ¬£2.90, I should buy a day pass for ¬£4. In other cities I’ve visited, buying such a pass requires making at least three trips to be worth the purchase, but for Manchester, it’s a good deal on just a return trip!

Conveniently, the final stop on my route was about two blocks from where the Free Manchester Walking Tour started, at Sackville Gardens by the Alan Turing statue.

Manchester didn’t make much of an impression after I got off the bus, despite being full of these wonderful red brick buildings that I would learn were once warehouses for textiles.

I found Alan Turing‘s statue without any problems. If you do not know who Alan is, I am very sad. Please stop reading this blog and go watch the recent film The Imitation Game. It’s okay. I’ll wait. Can’t be bothered? ūüôĀ He was a brilliant mathematician who is pretty much the father of modern computing. He helped crack the Nazi Enigma code, which surely brought about an earlier end to WWII, saving thousands of lives. He was also gay at a time when being gay in the UK was illegal, was chemically castrated for his crime, and died young, presumably from suicide. He was a great man who deserved so much better. I wasn’t crazy about The Imitation Game (was a bit too familiar with the story to be wholly satisfied), but it revived interest in Alan and his work.

 

Why is Alan wearing a scarf? It’s a homeless initiative. Have an extra scarf? Drape it around Alan. Need a scarf? Alan should have one for you.

By the way, that statue is a disgrace and looks nothing like him!

These mosaics bring attention to import LGBT sites around Manchester.

I was super early early, so I found a caf√© with Barcelona coffee prices (that’s a good thing after Amsterdam) and had a macchiato with cinnamon. Mmm.

When I got back to Alan’s statue, a crowd had start to gather and our host, Josh, soon showed up. Introductions were made and the tour started around 11:10. I’m just going to say here that Josh’s tour is one of the best I’ve been on and he was very interesting and funny, but my brain is so fried that I can barely remember anything he told us. ūüôĀ

He started with a brief history of Manchester, separated into four epochs, from the Romans in AD 79, through the Middle Ages, during the Industrial Revolution, and then modern Manchester. His tour focuses on the latter two periods of Manchester’s history, but the intro helped to set the city into its historical context. I remember that “chester” means that there was a Roman fort in the environs and that the original name of the city was the Latin equivalent of the name of a mountain range in Wyoming for the exact same reason: Mamcium — Teton — breasts-shaped mountains.

He also told us a bunch of grandiose quotes about Manchester that betrayed how¬†full of itself the city can be. There is quite a rivalry with Liverpool and to a lesser extent London. Much later in the tour, I asked if it’s true that Manchester is becoming a more affordable answer to London and Josh said that’s right and that one of the results is that he’s been priced out of downtown. He’s quite concerned about a new train link that will put London an hour away as that’s commuting distance.

One of our first stops was UMIST, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. I wish I could remember more than that because I know there was more, but my brain really is mush tonight.

We then learned a bit about Alan and the legend that the Apple logo originated with him (not true). There was also a plaque in the area saying that we were standing by an apple tree grown from a seed from one of Sir Isaac Newton’s apples, but there was not an apple tree to be seen.

Next, we went to the monument to Vimto, a drink I’d never heard of that was invented by a Quaker (I think) as an alternative to alcohol. It is apparently hugely popular in the Arab world.

Josh gave us a sample of the fizzy version of the drink, which was apparently a travesty. It smelled and tasted like cough syrup. Some Mancunians (residents of Manchester) on the tour said¬†that the non-fizzy drink is nice diluted with hot water, but I don’t think it’d be to my taste.

We moved on to Orient house, which is the building with the scaffolding.

Josh told us how his friend Ben lived in this building in quite a grotty apartment that was very Manchester with its view to train arches and other things, but Ben was evicted with four weeks’ notice so that the building could be renovated and turned into luxury housing. I asked if Ben is homeless now. Nope. The story has a happy ending. Ben is living in a lovely new place that’s a bit more expensive. Why am I telling you this? Josh said Ben would get a kick out of seeing his story in my blog. ūüôā

We moved on to the shores of the mighty Medlock River…

This is right by the building where Noel Gallagher of Oasis wrote the songs for “Definitely, Maybe.” Oh, that reminds me of something!

So Manchester was the first industrialised city in possibly the whole world, or at least in the UK. Its industry was textiles, primarily cotton. But the city went into decline in the early 20th century and industry pretty much ended after the 1940 Blitz. The city rather reinvented¬†itself as an alternative music scene and was the home of that techno punk type music, with lots of raves and a ¬†club scene. Totally not my thing, but it was interesting to see the contrast of this very classical looking city with its rather liberal attitudes. There’s quite a large gay scene here as well.

We walked along a canal that reminded me of Amsterdam.

To the heart of Manchester’s gay village. Josh told us how gay men would hang out at the Union Hotel and there were frequent raids while prostitutes hung out a few blocks away and were also frequently raided. They finally had the bright idea to hang out together and pretend to be a legitimate hetero couple when the police came knocking. It worked. LOL! But the owner was finally told that he couldn’t keep running his business that way and that something had to change. So he appended the word “New” to his establishment…

Manchester’s animal is the worker bee, which symbolises all that Manchester wants to be.

I love the pub names and Josh found it funny that we North Americans are so enchanted by this.

I am really distressed by how little I’m remembering. Sorry for the worst travel post ever. Josh’s tour deserves better!

This was a neat building in that every floor is in a different architectural style.

We went into Chinatown. The ratio of Chinese to non-Chinese here is the highest in the UK.

This was a neat building. It leads down to… a nuclear bunker. It was built during the Cold War for a whopping ¬£4 million to house only 40 people. It was a classified and very top secret building that, really, was useless. There are tunnels leading out of it and British Telecom ran phone lines through them. A homeless person caused a fire down there that not only took out phone service in the area, but also the internet in part of Sweden. Josh is not sure how that happened but swore it’s true!

The city library.

The Midland Hotel. Hitler loved it and wanted it for Nazi headquarters after Germany won the war.

We took a break here as we’d been going for two whole hours that would have flown by had it not been so bloody cold and wet out. We stopped for a hot drink at a Cafe Nerro where I also splurged on a giant oatmeal raisin biscuit since I hadn’t realised the tour was so long and wasn’t going to make it to lunch. This is where I discovered my useless phone had dropped from 70% battery life to 9% despite having no apps open and being on Airplane Mode. I’m going to miss Siri, but I’m going to a better phone next… I had a Lightning cable on me, but no way to plug the phone in. Josh saved the day by offering me a wall charger! We were in the caf√© just long enough to get my phone up to 52%, which got me home.

We continued on to Manchester Central, which is a convention centre, not a train station, and the site of the Peterloo Massacre. Please go read up on it, but the short of it was that a bunch of unarmed protesters for the reform of parliamentary representation were slaughtered in 1819.

This Hilton hotel is the tallest building in the area and howls when the wind blows.

We moved on to the Free Trade Hall, site of an important moment in the history of the suffragettes. It’s the only hall named after an idea rather than a person. Manchester was a bit late in getting parliamentary representation, so it was poorly supervised and taxed, allowing free trade and commerce to flourish.

Next door is the Royale Theatre, the oldest in the city.

Now, Manchester City Hall, which rather looks like Canada’s Parliament Buildings.

This is Albert Square and that’s Albert’s monument. Albert as in the consort of Queen Victoria, who did not attend the opening of the building. Her statue is somewhere else in the city and she apparently looks like Jabba the Hutt… which reminds me that except for that statue, there are no statues of women in Manchester! Within a few years, there will be one of a suffragette, though.

I correctly guess that the decoration at the top of the tower is a cotton ball.

Next we moved to Lincoln Square. What a good likeness of Abraham Lincoln this is! This statue represents Manchester’s link with the US during the US Civil War. Manchester was a procurer of slave cotton, but ultimately put an embargo on it and instead moved to non-slave, inferior cotton from the Middle East. This contributed to speeding up the collapse of the Confederate economy. This is in no way to say that Manchester brought about the end of the Civil War, but its actions did speak loudly.

We then went into the wonderfully warm Royal Exchange, which is now a theatre and café.

This board is where the stock prices were advertised. The numbers shown are from the last day of trading, which I believe was 1969.

I forgot to ask how the numbers got changed considering how high up this thing is, but I now see the railing, so I imagine there’s a catwalk behind it.

Right in the middle of the space is a theatre in the round for 755 people, with none of the seats being more than eight feet from the stage.

We finished our tour here, where we learned about the June 15th, 1996 IRA bombing. I learned that authorities got about a 90-minute warning that the bomb was going to go off and they found it, but it could not be diffused in time so they decided to let it explode. They evacuated about 75,000 to 80,000 people, which is an amazing feat. There were injuries and heaps of property damage and economic consequences, but no one was killed. This would be a watershed moment for a city in decline as the rebuilding efforts brought a new vitality to the city.

This is the corn exchange building.

The bomb detonated just about here.

I remember that bombing so clearly. It was the month that I graduated from high school and just weeks ahead of my last trip to Quebec City.

Thus ends Josh’s tour. One last time, do not judge¬†it based on this post. ūüôā

It was probably the weather, but Manchester didn’t make a huge impression on me. Museums are free, but I’m really museumed out and glad I have an excuse to stay home tomorrow.

After the tour, I headed back towards the Royal Exchange as I’d spotted a Barclay’s, where I was able to take out some more cash. You may wonder why I didn’t simply make a larger withdrawal yesterday and the short answer is it’s what I had in that account and I had to move money around to get more. ūüôā

By this point, I was very wet, very cold, very tired, and getting grumpy, so it was time to find food and get home. I was disgusted by how many streets downtown did not have signage so my map was all but useless, plus it was disintegrating in the damp.

My original plan for the day, when I thought the tour was two hours long, was to have a cream tea after and then get a takeaway later for dinner. But the tour had run way over and it was three by the time we were done (four hours!). So it was time for a proper meal. I decided to splurge and get a full tea even if I knew that would be around ¬£20. I’d done my research for the cream tea and wanted to try the Richmond Tea Rooms, which were conveniently right by Sackville Gardens and on the way to my bus.

I passed this mural on the way, which had a much better likeness of Alan.

I found the Richmond Tea Rooms without any trouble. They have an Alice-in-Wonderland over the top theme. Very cute! As expected, a full tea was over ¬£20, but they had a “Hatter’s” tea for just ¬£10.50 with sandwiches, a scone, and a pot of tea! I knew that would be plenty.

Service was super slow and I rather regretted going when I was tired, grumpy, and starting to get a headache, but I’m glad I stuck it out. The server asked if I had any dietary restrictions and offered to sub tomato and cheese for egg salad when I told her. This is what they brought me:

I had three¬†small sandwiches with a bruschetta-type thing and also an onion and bell pepper tart that I was told had no egg in it, just cheese. SO good! The sandwiches were chicken, ham and butter, and tomato and cheese. Dessert was a huge raisin scone with clotted cream and jam. For tea, I picked their house blend. This was definitely plenty. It’s now four hours later and I’m only just starting to get peckish.

The Richmond Tea Rooms really put on a nice tea. The food was at least as good as at the Wolseley in London, but, of course, I didn’t have the same level of service.

It was past four and pitch dark when I got out of there. I went back to the area where I got off my bus only to see one with my number at a bus stop on the correct side of the way to head home. I didn’t bother rushing to it since I knew another would come along quickly. Sure enough, by the time I’d made my way to the bus stop at a leisurely pace that respected the traffic signals, another one was pulling up. It was very full, so I went upstairs, my first time riding in the top level of a double decker since Edinburgh!

Unlike in most other cities with bus services, Manchester’s buses don’t announce the stops, so I had to keep an eye out to make sure I didn’t get taken for a ride. I ended up missing my stop, but the next one wasn’t much further and I would have ended up walking the same amount anyway. I popped into Tesco to get something light for dinner, settling on some Pot Noodles that would just need water from the kettle and a huge salad.

Weather aside, it was a good day in Manchester. I’m glad I picked the walking tour as my only activity here as it gave me a good idea of what the city is all about.

A Tedious Travel Day

It’s been one of those travel days where every step was painful. Just a few of these annoyances would have been fine, but there was just one thing after another. What did not help is that I got zero sleep last night. I went to bed fairly early, dozed about an hour, and then was rudely woken by fireworks that did not stop until it was too late to go back to sleep. I was not impressed.

I finished preparing the house for my hosts, cuddled one of my charges, and headed out at about 7:30 or 7:45. It felt really weird to just leave like that without confirmation that my host had made his flight and would be home around noonish, but I emailed two days ago and haven’t heard back. They’re very laid back and were always slow to respond to my emails. So I’m sure everything’s fine, but I left the cats extra food and water just in case there is a delay. At some point, I have to say that I did my due diligence, have everything about departure in writing, and just let it go.

I headed out into a dark and bitter cold Amsterdam morning to catch a tram to a rail station that is much closer than Centraal. One came quickly and the conductor gave me a dirty look when I gave him my fare. I thought it was because it was a lot of small change, but he finally spit out that I had to get my ticket “in the back.” Well, that was news to me. This was my fourth tram ride and the first time that I could not buy at the front. Aaaaaanyway. The guy in the back was nice like my previous three tram drivers. He counted my change and thanked me for having it exact, so there’s that. ūüôā

I only had to go three stops and had thought to walk, but they are stops that are quite far apart! I made it to the train station and all the ticket machines were for transport card holders only. A sign said that there was one somewhere that would sell a single fare, but that I had to find it myself. By the time I found the machine and bought a ticket (a painless process since you can do it all in English), I missed my train by literally 10 seconds, but it was only a 10-minute wait for the next one and then maybe 10 minutes at most to the airport. I was there by about 8:15.

I was flying with Flybe, a budget airline based out of the UK. I had checked in online, but did not have my boarding pass because I didn’t have access to a printer and their mobile app is UK only (dumb). It took almost an hour for a Flybe desk to open so that someone could¬†check me in again and print me a boarding pass, and then I had to argue that I should not have to pay for that “service”! So that was rather a waste of leaving so early and I regretted not having had breakfast and coffee at home.

Next step was security, but guess what? Schipol doesn’t have one main security area. You have to go to the one assigned to your gate. And I did not have a gate number on my boarding pass and my gate was not showing up on the electronic billboards. *sighs*

I went to an information kiosk and a super sweet woman did some research and was able to find my gate number. Off I went to queue to scan my boarding pass so I could enter the secure area. Then, I queued for about 30 minutes to get to the head of the security line. Then, what happened in M√°laga happened again and I found myself quite separated from my belongings, this time because no one could agree if I should keep my boots on or not. And I had volunteered to take them off from the get go and was told not to waste time…

I finally got cleared and reunited with my valuables, but my suitcase had been selected for secondary screening. My day just kept getting better!

After about five minutes, just enough time to get my boots back on and my electronics repacked, my suitcase got to the head of the queue. I was asked to open it. The guy lifted out a couple of my packing cubes, then thanked me and helped me zip the case closed again! So that could have gone a lot worse. Definitely the anxiety at the thought of having to repack was the worst bit.

Next stop, the passport control queue, which was about four times as long as the security queue because they were having trouble with their system. One woman asked me super politely if she could go ahead of me because she was about to miss her flight. She had also gotten to the airport way earlier than the recommended time. Of course I let her go!

The passport control woman flipped through my passport, sighed, and snapped, “When did you enter the EU?!” I said, “October, in Barcelona.” She then slammed my passport down and said, “You’ve overstayed by a month! That’s a 700 euro fine! Now,¬†wait while I¬†get a supervisor!” I knew I had most certainly not overstayed and told her, “My date is¬†January 12th. I still have a week.” Her colleague in the next booth leaned over and asked what date I’d entered, then confirmed that I was¬†correct. I can’t believe her computer system couldn’t tell her all of this. Oh, wait, it was apparently glitchy. And I guess she can’t do basic arithmetic. So that was pleasant, but, hey, I got a Netherlands exit stamp in my passport!

It was now just past ten and boarding was clear across the airport at 10:30. I knew I had to eat and the shortest lineup ended up being at¬†McDonald’s, so that’s where I went. That wound up being a smart decision, believe it or not. A 4-euro children’s Happy Meal got me a small hamburger, cherry tomatoes, a bottle of water, and a fruit salad! That has to be the best deal at the airport, considering that just the water was about 2 euros at other places! But let’s not get into the price of coffee. At least, I got a full cup, with milk, for the price of an espresso everywhere else. Anyway, I got a reasonably healthy meal with a snack for the plane (the fruit) and water for 7 euros when 7 euros couldn’t even get me a sandwich and coffee at the caf√©. Must keep in mind this Happy Meal trick for when I’m travelling in the US!

By the time I’d eaten and raced across what felt like half of the Netherlands, I made it to my gate only to have to get on a bus and drive across the other half of the Netherlands¬†to¬†get to our plane… where I discovered that my suitcase would not fit in the overhead bins despite fitting into the suitcase sizer. It’s only now that I realise that I could have stowed it under my seat and put my computer bag in the overhead bin, but all I could think at the moment was “Move out of the way! Move out of the way!” So I quickly opened my suitcase, pulled out my two large packing cubes, rezipped the suitcase, and shoved it into the overhead bin where it fit fine. I added my coat and then crammed my laptop bag, purse, and two packing cubes under my seat. I was really not proud of myself, feeling like one of those idiots who got on the plane with more than is allowed, but my bags had been cleared! I think that if a flight attendant had told me to switch the location of my bags, I would have been fine. But anyway, I had enough room in the end.

The flight was super quick, about an hour and I gained an hour, so I landed about 30 minutes later than I had first boarded the plane. Deplaning started shockingly quickly, so I moved into the aisle to let out my seat mate, who had not been impressed by my bag shuffle. She looked at me in surprise and said, “Wow. Thanks. I expected you to make me wait till you got yourself resorted!” No, I do try to be considerate in my lack of consideration…

I was able to take advantage of a small hold up in the queue to grab my suitcase from the overhead bin and bring it down to my seat so I could put my two packing cubes back in it. The packing cubes were a smart decision that I’m not regretting at all.¬†I thought I’d be the last one off, but nope.

Next hurdle was UK passport control. A man passed out landing cards¬†that we had to fill out before going to a counter. I didn’t really have much of a wait after that. The officer I went to was very thorough and I was utterly unprepared for his questions and didn’t have anything on hand to prove where I’m going, what funds I have, and that I have a return ticket. *sighs* I’m normally smarter than that, but I’ve been enjoying such lax procedures that I forgot that I was heading back into sterner territory. The first thing I was asked for was the return ticket and I had the email on my phone, but it hadn’t downloaded. I offered to boot up my laptop as I knew everything was there, but he said that if I could find an email with my host in Hebden Bridge detailing some plans, he’d let me go. I had that so he stamped me good to go. Very nice man, thank you!

Then, I needed to find an ATM, a SIM card, and the train station.¬†I’d been told there was a Barclay’s ATM (no fee withdrawal) at the airport, but the man at information said that wasn’t true, so I decided to wait. He also told me I would be better off getting a SIM at my destination, that the free airport WiFi worked better nearer¬†the train station (LOL), and that the train station was thataway. Which ended up being about a 10-minute walk. There, I was, indeed, able to get enough WiFi to get my walking directions from the train station to my studio. I had thought to take a cab, expecting gross weather, but I landed in SUN. So that was a huge plus to my day.

The train station had self-serve kiosks and I had no trouble buying a ticket for my destination, but it didn’t tell me what platform to go to or what train destination I had to check on the departures board. So I went to a station employee and started by… asking him if he spoke English!!!!!! That’s what no sleep does to my brain! What did not help the situation is that he was wearing a turban, so my enquiry could have been taken as racist. But instead of being insulted, he burst out laughing and asked me how long I’d been travelling. He told me where to go and then chased after me a moment later to let me know that my platform at changed. Another nice¬†guy!

My train was on time and it was a fairly short trip to my station. I’d Google Streetviewed my route and knew how to get most of the way to my place. So I had a pleasant stroll until nearly the end where I had a few turns to make and the roads did not have signage. I just don’t get that as it makes it rather difficult to navigate. But anyway, I made it.

As expected, the place is a dump, but my room is clean and while I don’t have a fridge, I do have a microwave and kettle, so I can do breakfast and ready meals. Tesco (supermarket) is a block away if I want a small amount of cheese for a meal or whatever. I did a lot of work on finding my Manchester accommodation and I know I have a really good deal, so I’m willing to put up with a lot now that I have heat and internet. Speaking of internet…

I needed something to eat, so I headed off in search of the Tesco. As it turns out, I went in the wrong direction. Thankfully before I went too far, I passed two women out with a baby and I asked them for directions. They sorted me out. As it turned out, Tesco was on the High Street, so there were takeaway shops and places to buy SIM cards nearby. So first, I tried a few places advertising SIM cards before I found a vendor who could actually help me figure out plans and get me set up. SUPER nice man. My hero of the day! He got me on a Lycamobile package for ¬£15 (free SIM) that has unlimited talk and text in the UK, 100 international minutes, and 4GB of data. I wanted the data since the data at the studio¬†is crap. He didn’t take Visa, so I had to pay 5CAD for a withdrawal at the Tesco ABM (at least, they didn’t charge me a fee). Hope I can find a Barclay’s tomorrow!

Next stop was Tesco’s, where I got bread, peanut butter, and jam for my breakfasts, put a few other things, like washing up liquid (Can’t believe the studio¬†doesn’t have that. I’m going to have to wash everything before I use it!). Grocery prices were depressingly low for a country that is apparently as expensive as England is. A jar of peanut butter that would have been $4 at home was $1 here, for example…

There was a chippy right next to Tesco, so I decided I’d earned¬†a donair for takeaway. The cook was a super sweet¬†guy and we had a nice chat while he made my food. He’s from Iran and wants to go to Bulgaria next year and Canada at some point! I gave him some tips. My donair ended up being amazing. The chicken was¬†marinated in a slightly spicy sauce and I had asked for mango sauce (!) on it, so the pairing was wonderful. He gave me free salad too, usually a 50p up charge!

After my late lunch, it was time to see what I’d missed on the interwebs. Which is when I discovered that Lycamobile does not allow tethering. WTF???!!! Who cares what device I use my data on?! I spent some time doing research on how the tethering blocks are made and how to go around them. I paid for my data, so I really don’t see anything unethical about this. I finally figured out what I needed to do, but not how to do it. More Googling brought up a page in Russian that had some lines of Terminal code. I popped the text around the code into Google Translate, but what I got didn’t make much sense. So I painstakingly started to read it and there were enough words that looked like Bulgarian that I was able to make out that this was indeed the code I had to put in to get the tethering to work. I tried it and… it worked!!!! Soon as I master Spanish, I’m moving on to Russian! ūüėÄ

(Ooh, my Amsterdam host just checked in. All is good. Phew!)

I’ve decided to head into Manchester tomorrow even if that’ll mean a faster morning than I’d like, just so I can get a walking tour done straight away. That’s at 11:00 and I’m about 30 minutes from Manchester on a bus. It’s only 5KM to downtown, but there’s no sense walking there and then doing a walking tour on top of that. My knee is fine, by the way. Sore as hell if I bump it, but I’m not limping anymore. It is a very pretty shade of purple!

Manchester is considered the affordable London, so I’m looking forward to comparing the two. However, this isn’t really a tourist stop for me. So I’ll probably just do the walking tour, but who knows what wonders I’ll stumble across while doing that? ūüôā

8PM and I’m off to bed. 9PM in Amsterdam and I didn’t sleep last night! BTW, all my devices were still on Belgrade time. Rather amazing that I flew across the whole of Europe two months ago and am still in the same time zone I was in three months ago!