Monday, September 30, 2013

From Beatles to Boating and From Kilts to a Canine... Our Journey to All Things Great British (Part 1)

We arrived in Liverpool, England on our first Ryan Air flight.  Ryan Air is one of Europe's low cost carriers offering many flights as low as $10 per flight.  We were lucky enough to find a 19.99 Euros deal that got us safely to our next land of adventure.  Although the tickets are cheap the airline makes up for it by elevated costs for checked baggage.  This leg of our journey cost us approximately 100 Euros.  We would definitely recommend it when in Europe and need to move around between countries.  In comparison, to take the trains and go through the chunnel from where we were would have been about 600 Euros.
Boarding our flight to Liverpool
It was a quick 1 1/2 hour flight to the overcast skies of England.  Our stay in Liverpool would be only a couple of days, but we were determined to make the best of it.  After seeing all that the land of the Beatles had to offer we were to meet our friend Ken in Chester and then take the journey with him to Stone to board his friend's canal boat for a week long cruise on the Trent and Mersey Canal.  

While in Liverpool we used our Hilton points to pamper our stay a bit in the heart of the City near the Albert Dock.  Liverpool's strong working class roots appeared to be developing and turning itself into quite a cosmopolitan city complete with a repurposed dock area filled with fancy shops and high end restaurants.  There were plenty of new buildings, central shopping areas and entertainment near our hotel.  This area provided us with a nice balance between the old town section with its pubs and Beatles mania and the new section with its bustling crowds of the young and posh.  

We ran into some computer troubles along our journey and had many questions about a variety of encounters we have had with our laptop.  Luckily Liverpool had an Apple store with two very helpful, blue shirted guys that answered all of our questions and set our computer straight again.  
Mathew Street, the Beatles old stomping grounds
Our long awaited meal at an English pub.  Amy had the fish and chips and I had the steak and ale pie.
The moisture started to come down, so we ventured inside to find an umbrella and of course shop for  hats and fascinators.  Amy was particularly impressed with this one.  I called it 'a collection of dead ficus branches'.  We both agreed that the 90 pounds price tag was a wee bit too much and found our way to the umbrella section. 
Photo opportunity for Villa in front of the White Star pub
The Cavern Club where The Beatles gained much of their popularity.  We had a couple of pints here listening to Beatles cover bands.
White Star Lines had their home base in Liverpool and the Titanic had Liverpool as its registered port.  Liverpool was port to many departures to various western ports.  We found the small print to the right of this old poster interesting.
The storm clouds disappeared just in time for our departure from Liverpool.  We took the train to Chester and met our friend Ken at our accommodation for the night, 'The Ye Olde King's Head'.  This old pub and the top floor accommodations date back to 1622.  We stayed in the most famous room where an old sword was found in the floor boards during remodeling.  It was not until the morning after that I discovered that Ken and Amy were withholding information from me that this pub and the rooms that we stayed in were on Britain's most haunted buildings.  I found out from the guy checking us out.  He explained that they were expecting some paranormal specialists and other guests (living and long past) to hold a session and conduct some poltergeist research that evening.  I told him I was glad to be leaving.  I am happy to report that our night was uneventful and unvisited.
Ken and Amy the day after.  Our room was the one on the left.  I could have sworn I closed the window before I left.
The Ye Olde King's Head pub where we met Ken, had a couple of pints and a great meal.
Chester is surrounded by an old wall, so we spent the day walking around it with Ken. 
Mike and Ken on the wall above the main street
The town of Chester
From Chester we were off to the town of Stone where we met Ken's friend Dave (the captain of our narrow/canal boat).  After spending a night in this beautiful old pottery town and touring its pubs we boarded 'Sometimes' for a pleasant week long journey with wonderful company.  

Amy and I were stowaways onboard this vessel crewed by our mascot Tina (mini Jack Russell); Ken, the Engineer; Dave, the Captain from Durham, England and Winnie, the Captain's First Mate.  The max cruising speed was 4 mph and all systems were a go for a pleasant journey through English culinary delights, a picturesque countryside and scenic canalways.  
Curiously the town of Stone was the home town of the couple we worked for in France.
The Sometimes' (Dave's Boat) Crew
We boated on the canal located under the star.
This was our home for the week. 
Mike and Ken working the locks.
The fruits and berries were ripe for the picking.  

Passed by an estate home.  Not quite Downton, but still fun to see.
The path over the river leading to the estate home. 
Dave and Winnie made us Scotch eggs and pies for dinner. 
Amy and Winnie in Front of the pub where we were introduced to our first Sunday Carvery.  It was a little better than our Thanksgiving dinner, served around lunch time and it happens every Sunday in the UK. 
Our Sunday Carvery.  Yorkshire pudding, veggies, roast beef, turkey and gammon, gravy, cheese cauliflower and so much more.
'Sometimes' moored up waiting to enter a lock. 
After the lock we stopped in at the Swan Inn to try some local pints. 
Amy in front of a thatched roof in the village of Alrewas. 
Amy and Ken canalside next to Amy's dream B&B. 
Warmed up in the George and Dragon pub. 
We returned back to the boat and had a meal of pasties and veggies.  Before our UK travels those of us on the other side of the pond would have said that Britain had unsavory food.  However, Amy and I are now convinced that it was a long lived ploy for foreigners to drink more English beer while on vacation.  We did enough of the English ale tasting, but are happy and proud to announce that...foreigners visiting the Uk can enjoy the ales along with their plentiful and extremely savory food.
A lock house next to 'Sometimes' exiting a lock
A photo of our surrounding landscape.
Mike enjoying another pint with Dave.
It is just Haggis, neeps and tatties...nothing to laugh about.   Amy would agree that it wasn't bad at all.
The berry and fruit picking we did earlier was baked into a nice British crumble that Winnie made for us from scratch.
The clouds were out, but luckily it only rained on us a couple of times.
Tina got lonely down below in the cabin, so she often came up for a visit.
Cow on bridge straight ahead!  The cow sat there as if waiting to drop a "treat" on us.
Made it under the bridge without a mess.  We decided the cow just wanted  to say 'hello'.
A nice finish to part one of our journeys in the UK,...sticky toffee pudding.  Thank you again Winnie,  Dave and Ken for a fun and memorable trip on 'Sometimes'.


Mike and Amy's Glossary of Great British Terms, Cultural Intrigues and Phonetic Wonders

If you find yourself in the UK and out of the cultural loop refer to our list for a wee bit of help.

1.  Bangers and mash, neeps and tatties:  what may seem a bit vulgar and something done behind closed doors and not formally spoken about is merely a colorful way of ordering sausage and mashed potatoes with turnips and potatoes.

2.  Pasty:  an on-the-go delicious baked pastry treat with vegetables and meat inside.  Similar to a latin empanada.

3.  Steak and Ale Pie:  a baked dough encased stew meal similar to a pot pie.  It is made with beef, cooked in ale and is a popular dish in pubs.

4.  Scouse:  a term used to reference someone from Liverpool; name originates from a stew that is also made in the area.

5.  Love:  a term of endearment like "honey" in America. 

6.  Scuttle:  a bucket to carry coal in.  We did not realize that many of England's homes are still heated partially by coal.

7.  Snicket:  a small path that may not be used enough to be considered a trail and is typically found within walled/fenced properties.

8.  Posh:  also a member of the Spice Girls, but more commonly used to describe something or someone on the higher end of the economic scale.

9.  Wee:  meaning "little" or "small", also the action taken to relieve oneself of urine.

10.  Brolly: umbrella of course!

11.  "Could do":  a conditional response to a question like, "Would you like to have tea and crumpets before we go?"  

12.  Tea:  refers not to a cup of..., but often to the meal served in the evening. 

13.  "You alright?":  a question posed not to ask someone if they are okay after an accident/injury, but rather used as a greeting similar to the American phrase,"how are you?".

14.  Nick:  not a shortened name of a boy named Nicolas, but this term in the UK is used as a verb to mean to steal something.  

15.  Tip:  also a helpful note of advice to someone and while across the pond this word takes on another slang meaning which is a dump or a mess. 

16.  Knock me up:  commonly misunderstood by Americans and means to wake me up.

17.  Close:  a Scot term for an alleyway;  passageways between buildings that were often private and gated back in the day.  You can find them all over Edinburgh.

18.  Fanny:  this cute term is not to be confused with a person's backside anatomy, but rather the vulgar term for the opposite anatomical part of a woman. 

19.  Duck:  a term of endearment similar to "dear" in America. 

20.  Smart:  not often used to note a level of intelligence, but rather to describe one that looks good or clothes that fit well and make one look the part.