Leeds

February 19, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Posted in Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Visited Leeds in 2012.

Some things I did:

  • Royal Armouries Museum – want to know about weapons? Here’s the place! From medieval to modern, there’s a lot to see here and it will take several hours to go through all of the exhibits
  • Leeds Museum – Eclectic mix, one of the sections that was particularly useful was the development of the city especially the impact of the industrial revolution on it and its citizens
  • Leeds Art Gallery – Collection of art, what more would you need to know?

Take a walk around town, if you like shopping there’re lots of options and pedestrian malls. Many of the buildings are impressive as well.

Probably did some other things but my photo set is incomplete so my memory isn’t getting jogged.

Some photos at Flickr.

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York

February 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In 2012 I went up to York during a particularly snowy winter.

Some of the things to do:

  • York Minster – York’s impressive cathedral, take a walk around and soak it in
  • Clifford’s Tower – on the other side of the city from the Minster (but easy to get to), at the top of the tower you can get great views of the surrounding area
  • Yorkshire Museum – not overly impressive (though I’m biased after having access to London) but covers a number of topics so something for everyone
  • JORVIK – when I mentioned I was coming to York people recommended JORVIK, it’s a Viking centre which covers the period when the Viking were in charge of the area. Part museum, part ride where you take a vehicle on rails seeing and smelling the activities of the time.
  • Betty’s – As well as JORVIK the other must do people recommended was Betty’s. A tea room in the heart of York offering teas and cakes and a very pleasant atmosphere.

Other:

  • Yorkshire pudding – You’re in York why not have one of them!
  • alleys and walking – The city is well known for it’s crooked and narrow streets and alleys, make sure you walk around
  • The city walls – much of the city walls can still be walked on so give that a go. They were closed when I was there due to the ice.

Photos at Flickr.

Dover

February 19, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Ages ago now I went to Dover. Quite possibly nothing is still relevant but hey let’s give it a go.

While I didn’t go to the cliffs I did take the day to explore the fascinating Dover Castle.

It’s walkable from the station on the way you can visit the Dover Museum (notably the bronze age boat) as well!

The castle complex is large and easy to wander around where you’ll learn about the different periods (from medieval to world war two).

There are some interesting exhibits, particularly the new (at the time) ones dealing with Operation Dynamo and the evacuation of Dunkirk. The downside is that due to space restrictions if mis timed with the arrival of a tour bus(es) you may find getting into some of these exhibits more of a challenge.

Otherwise a great day out and recommended!

Photos at Flickr.

Halifax

February 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Posted in Travel, UK, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In 2011 I went to Halifax for a wedding, which was great and I did a tiny bit of sightseeing as well.

The main place, other than just wandering around was Shibden Hall. Bit of a walk to get to but not unmanageable and if you have a car it’s very easy.

It’s a historic building (first constructed in the 1400s) set amongst large gardens that are perfect for walking around or sitting in and enjoying the day. Take the opportunity to walk through the house and learn about its stories and the people and work undertaken there over the hundred of years.

Photos at Flickr

Cambridge – The Quick Guide

December 26, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Posted in General, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Many months ago now I visited Cambridge and so you’ll have to forgive the truncated recap.

The city is most famous for the University of Cambridge and most of the colleges that make it up will allow the curious tourist entry (though this may change during term time). Some may incur a charge and most but not all will have information leaflets. Of these my favourites were:

Jesus College – While much like any other college grounds it makes up for it with some rather unique sculptures dotted around. You do get a brochure explaining much of the area but at times found its directions a little confusing. Apologies I don’t recall if there was an entry fee.

Kings College – £5 entry fee. This is for the grounds and its spectacular chapel (thought it’s the same price even if the grounds are closed as they were when I visited). Nonetheless, the chapel is wonderful and can take about 30 minutes to wander through. There are plenty of information panels as well.

Queens’ College – Charges vary depending on when you visit. This college offers a wide range of architecturally distinct buildings and the chance to walk over the Mathematical Bridge. Also check out this page on their site detailing the issues of using an apostrophe.

Trinity College – While the forecourt has some excellent buildings the primary reason to visit is for a chance to see the Wren Library and some truly amazing books including Isaac Newton’s first edition of Principia Mathematica that includes some of his own handwritten notes. It should be noted that the library is only open for a few hours every day and numbers are restricted.

Other than the colleges you’ll find that Cambridge offers a number of museums, such as:

Fitzwilliam Museum – Definitely the largest and most imposing of the city’s museums. It houses an eclectic display, ranging from ancient Egyptian burial rites to Renaissance arts. It is a fine collection and most certainly one to visit.

Round Church – I was going to walk right past this small little church. After all it looked so unimpressive (other than being round) what could it offer? What it offers is a history of the city. Granted they are also overlaying it with a Christian history but this doesn’t detract from the overview of Cambridge they provide. From recollection the other museums don’t provide such a full context.

Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences – OK I would probably have skipped his one if it weren’t raining and indeed I did go through quite quickly but if you’re interested in geology then the Sedgwick offers this in abundance and it is all well presented to boot.

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology – Now this museum was much more my style. I always find history of people and civilisations much more fascinating than the planet’s (unless we’re talking astronomy). While the presentation is a touch dated it was informative and clear.

Museum of Zoology – Having now been to several zoology themed museums I found myself a little jaded by this experience. Having said that, I can certainly see the appeal for others, with its large display cases and overviews of the various classifications it offers the more curious information and the less so a bunch of animals to gawk at.

Food and drink wise Cambridge has a wealth of coffee shops and eateries catering for students and travellers alike. Dojo Noodle Bar came with several recommendations and was indeed well-priced, fast and tasty.

Getting around in Cambridge is a breeze. It’s very easy to walk around and the train station is only a 10-15mins walk from town centre.

A trip to Cambridge is quite pleasant and a few days should be more than enough. My only regret was that I didn’t get the opportunity to punt down the Cam.

Also any of my Cambridge friends (or random readers) please feel free to correct any of this in the comments!

Maps are over at Google Maps.

Photos are over at Flickr.

V&A Museum of Childhood

December 26, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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I’d been meaning to visit the V&A Museum of Childhood for a while but it seems so out of the way that I’d put it off. However it’s near Bethnal Green so it’s really a non-issue and I wish I’d taken the chance to come ages ago. It’s very cool.

So why is it cool? Well it has things for all ages from kids to adults, with a mixture of display cabinets and hands on activities (though some of the latter you’ll have to pay for).

The museum provides both a timeline f toys and childhood activities from Victorian times while also applying a kind of scientific classification regime by having sections devoted to different types of toys such as those with a look see component (from those old time spin wheel contraptions to video games) to push/pull toys like bicycles.

Thus it teaches how these larger theories are applied to childhood and even if the kids don’t get it parents will. Although the parents might just as easily be relieving their (or their grandparents) youth by looking at some of the older items.

Personally I saw a lot of familiar 80s/90s examples. I assume there were more recent ones but these weren’t particularly clear.

On the second floor you’ll come across a wide selection of doll houses, various baby cribs through the ages and a special exhibit space. When I visited it was showcasing the work of the Roald Dahl artist Quentin Blake but these change often so best check.

One of my few criticisms is that the display cases have frosted panels providing an explanation of the contents, which is excellent, however they can sometimes obscure an individual item’s description.

All in all a very enjoyable time and one worth visiting – especially as it’s free!

Photos of some of the toys and other displays are at Flickr.

Charles Dickens Museum

December 26, 2009 at 11:58 am | Posted in General, London, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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I recently paid a visit to the Charles Dickens Museum and it was here that a rather unfortunate truth became apparent: I am not a reader nor am I ever likely to be able to discuss the works of Dickens or any other great writer. For this I do apologise to you and to me, it is one of those self-improvement tasks that will likely percolate without ever truly boiling.

So with that said this is my caveat about the museum. I am unfamiliar with Dickens in all but the Christmas Carol and Doctor Who of senses thus I cannot discuss with conviction the content of the museum.

However, I did go with more knowledgeable people and they seemed particularly interested in the various pieces of paper and information boards relating to his life and the development of various stories.

So assuming for the time being that the content will hold a literature fan’s interests let’s now look at the presentation.

The house has 4 level (including a basement) and a small garden. The basement is where you can watch a video that provides a bit of an overview of Dickens, his work and the house he lived in where the museum is now housed. While a touch long it does provide enough context to view the rest of the displays.

The remainder of the house looks at Dickens’ London, items he used, drafts of stories and information on the man and his life. After watching the movie some of this is repetitive.

Information was easily accessible and clear but alas much of its importance was lost on this dullard.

It must be clear by now that the museum will be of most benefit to fans of Dickens and literature of the period. Given it’s the Charles Dickens Museum that’s hardly a revelation. For what it is and it’s target demographic the museum does a good job. For the rest of us though you could give it a miss.

The Charles Dickens Museum costs £6 and takes about an hour or so to look around (including a 30 min video).

Madame Tussaud’s

May 17, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Honestly, I didn’t expect to like Madame Tussaud’s but I was pleasantly surprised. I’d bought my ticket in conjunction with the London Eye so it was cheaper and gave ‘priority’ access thus I skipped the ‘on-the day’ ticket line. Very easy.

Tussaud’s features multiple galleries each with their own theme such as sports, politics and celebrity. There’s definitely a focus on the latter what with sections on movie, music and other stars.
Madame Tussaud's (4) Madame Tussaud's (29) Madame Tussaud's (63) Madame Tussaud's

Each room is quite well done and the characters are fairly realistic. There’s a display at the end of the tour that provides an overview of the wax works process.

Madame Tussaud's (34) Madame Tussaud's (42)

What made the endless (albeit varied) array of models bearable was the use of a few ‘rides’ to break up the journey. One being a ‘black cab’ trip through the history of London and another is a ‘horror’ walk through a dungeon.

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I rather liked walking around and taking photos of the famous and infamous but given the price and the other attractions in London I wouldn’t call it a priority.

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Not clear in this pic but the girl's parents told her to salute. Apparently as a joke!

More photos over at Flickr!

Changing of the Guard

March 19, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Posted in General, London, Out and About, Tourism, Travel, UK, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A few Thursday’s ago I woke up shockingly early (for an unemployed hobo like me) to attend the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. The event begins at 11:30 although with the number of tourists in attendance it’s best to arrive a little earlier.

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I initally set myself up at one side however after the procession entered the courtyard I realised this was a miscalculation as most of the activity was in the centre. As a result I moved to a better spot and while I wasn’t at the front luckily I could look over the heads of most people.

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Apparently the average tourist is quite short – except for those climbing on the fence. I feel quite sorry for the police who were constantly having to get the attention of these people and often through signaling advise them to climb down.

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Unfortunately those with children or shorter than the average relied on climbing atop a parent or partner’s shoulders to get a glimpse. Anyone too far back was not going to see much.

The most entertaining part of the event was the music played by the respective guard’s bands, which ranged from traditional to modern soundtracks.

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After about half an hour the changing of the guard was finished, while I admit by the end I was a bit bored it was still a reasonable bit of  pomp and ceremony- assuming you can see it!

Canterbury

January 21, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Posted in cafe, Cafes & Restaurants, Food, General, museum, Tourism, Travel, UK | Leave a comment
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Back before the Games Release Craziness ruined my social and blogging life I went to Canterbury. About an hour out of London this is an easy day or weekend trip.

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The City’s most well known attraction is Canterbury Cathedral the seat of the Anglican Church. The Cathedral looms over the city skyline and is easy to find as you walk through Canterbury’s medieval streets. The history of the building is fascinating with murders, money and of course faith all part of the picture. I’d strongly recommend an audio guide or getting onto one of the guided tours as it will add much needed colour to the history of the building.

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St Augustine’s Abbey– The ruined Abbey complex lies just outside the city centre and is easily accessible by foot. The Abbey was founded in 597AD by St Augustine and flourished for a time before being dissolved by Henry VIII and ultimately destroyed in 1703. The ruins were eventually excavated as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site that is Canterbuty city. I would recommend hiring the audio guide as it provides much needed context but I found myself getting bored quite frequently and having to pace around the same spot for prolonged periods while the guide blathered on. Nonetheless still interesting and a very picturesque experience to walk around the shattered remains of a building that once rivaled the Cathedral.

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St Martin’s Church– The UK’s oldest and longest in continual use Christian parish. This small church nestled at the top of a hill in amongst gravestones and next to a prison is this stone church. It’s free to enter and there should be a member of the parish on hand to provide some background to the building. Informative, reasonably quick, not far from the city centre and St Augustine’s Abbey.

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Westgate Gardens – Lying on the Western side of the City (past the river) is a stretch of gardens that border the Westgate Towers. They’re pleasant and a brief diversion from but nothing particularly different. Although being there on a wet day has probably influenced my opinion.

West Gate Towers – A medieval tower at the western side of the city, while it has a small museum, it’s not very informative and the main reason to come is to climb to the top and look out over the city.

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Roman Museum – A small, cheap museum that’s fairly well appointed. The museum is found on one of the side streets near the Cathedral. It provides a run down on the ancient history of the city from its early days as a Roman outpost to the decline that happened when Roman rule fell. The museum also features some excavated mosaics.

Museum of Canterbury– which also features an exhibition on Rupert the Bear (if you’re interested!)  The museum covers the history of the city from its earliest beginnings to today. It does duplicate much of the information from the Roman Museum so you could probably skip that one if you’re pressed for time. Within the space available there seems to be a reasonably good amount of well presented information.

Norman Castle – Near Canterbury East station are the ruins of the Norman Castle. The ruins are free to enter and there are a few information boards around the site that explain the building and its use as a defensive structure, prison, factory and historic relic. Take a few minutes to soak it up before moving onto the rest of the city.

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The Canterbury Tales Experience – Not a site I would particularly recommend but if you’re bored or a fan of the Canterbury Tales then this might be for you. Actually if you’re a fan of the tales you might want to avoid it! Over the course of about an hour you’ll enter into a long road (mimicking the journey of the tales) and spread along it are spaces representing several of the tales. At each of these you’ll stop for about 10 minutes to listed to one of the stories. Unfortunately, this method of translating literary works leads to a fair amount of boredom and pacing around as each area is a static display with only the words to entertain.

 GreyFriar’s Chapel – Closed when I was there, the chapel straddles a small stream in a pleasant field and nestled within the city limits but accessed through a narrow alley.

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Another attraction closed during the colder months are River Tours. I did walk along the some of the river and it was quite nice and presumably either a river tour or walk during the better months would be an excellent break.

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I stayed at the  Canterbury Cathedral Lodge . It’s run by and within the Cathedral’s grounds. It was reasonably priced and well appointed with a complimentary breakfast. Admittedly, I don’t think it’s the place for a boozy weekend but that wasn’t an issue for me this time around. While the precinct gates close at night you’ll be able to come and go as you please with your hotel key.

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Food and Drinks

Cafe St Pierre a seemingly popular and busy french cafe on the high street

Inpresso for lunch, it’s a homewares store meets deli. Mediocre mocha, reasonable quiche, great side salad. Nice atmosphere, excellent value.

The Old Weavers restaurant. I ate a salmon fillet for dinner. It was a very large serving with mash and side of vegetables. Nice but not great. Still price to amount of food ratio is good. As the name suggests the venue is an old weavers house that dates from 1500AD.  Reasonable service.

Cafe Bohois a small, loud and brash. Filled with loud walls and many many clocks. The small tables and chairs makes me feel gigantic. I didn’t eat but there appears to be a reasonable range – desserts looked delicious. The cafe was doing a bustling morning trade. The service reasonable and while the mocha is good it was a little burnt. The manager runs a tight ship with the staff in spite of the cafe name. He was very friendly buying roasted chestnuts from the vendors outside and offering them to the customers. That was my frist chestnut – won’t be rushing back – but that’s not the cafe’s fault!

Coffee and Cork– It has lacklustre mochas but an excellent coffee shop atmosphere. Couches, board games, music and a bar. Appears popular with students and knitters as it also has a Knitting circle.

The Old Buttermarket– Is a Nicholson pub that’s like a Weatherspoon’s. It’s a sprawling pub and very busy, which is understandable as it is near the cathedral. While cheap the roast was tough and chewy. Not recommended – although maybe for a pint.

Tiny Tim’s Tearoom. A small wooden tearoom with a 30s style. Offering a variety of freshly made food and high teas. Mocha was nice and rich.

Final Thoughts:

Canterbury is a wonderful city and a great way to recharge from life in London. Canterbury has endeared itself to me with its winding medieval streets, centuries of history behind it and touches of modernity. I managed to get most of the sites above done on Saturday and by the time my train departed at 5 on Sunday I was well and truly done – it wouldn’t be a stretch to say bored. As a result I’d say Canterbury would be good for a day or day and a half, any longer and you’ll have to look into going further afield.

More photos over at Flickr and the map is at Google!

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