Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Random Week Fully Packed With Good Times...

So last week was what LIPA Students (and quite possibly other university students) refer to as 'Reading Week' more or less the same as Mid-Term Breaks. Even though I am no longer a student but being currently 'unemployed' (well I am a musicians but that often is the same as being unemployed!) I still hold 'Reading Weeks' dear and consider it an excuse for a vacation!


It was my birthday 2 weeks before and so I decided to go away for a couple of days and picked the city of York to be my destination. I had a great time! For those who are familiar with the city of Chester and have never been to York, York felt like a bigger version of Chester, with its Roman walls mostly still intact and open for visitors to climb and walk round. Its people are very friendly (at least the ones I came across anyway!) and beautiful churches and little streets and round almost every corner. It had several old houses which were all crooked and bent and the lack of right angles in doorways and stairways gave my OCD a bit of a hard time!

The day I arrived, after a bit of walking around, we decided on having some tea to drink and perhaps a light lunch before making our way to the hotel to check in. We came across the 'Earl Grey Tea Room' where you walk in, initially, to a small tea shop where another door, a few steps in leads you to the 'Tea Room'. We were shown to our table and handed a menu. I decided to go with the soup of the day - which happened to be Pea soup - even though I wasnt a huge fan of Pea soup but really fancied soup! It quickly arrived and I was taken to heaven! It was hands down, the best soup I had ever had! Thick and creamy, full of flavour and with pieces of peas, Yummm! I would definitely recommend it to anyone heading up there!

Checking into the hotel and getting there all went smoothly. It got close to dinner time and as all I had had for lunch was a bowl of soup I was quite hungry! I took a look at the reviews in a 'Guide to York' that was placed in my room and decided that the restaurant 'The Waterfront' sounded appealing. It was by the river and served Steak and Seafood (two of my favourite kinds of food!). So I called a taxi and we headed down there and again got there with ease. We were greeted by a lovely lady and shown to our table. At that point there was only one more table occupied but the place had a cozy atmosphere.

We placed our order; Mussels for starters and a medium rare steak with a side of fries and vegetables for the mains, and I nipped off to the toilets. I must say I was very unimpressed by them. The decor was not very appealing and seemed to remind me of the old bathroom in Heliopolis Sporting Club back in Egypt. They had actual towels laid out on the side instead of paper ones and the toilets themselves were not very clean. Anyways I pushed that aside looking forward to my meal! Sitting at the table the music they had playing felt very out of place, for reasons I cannot quite explain but they had Bon Jovi, Kings Of Leon and the like on and it really didnt seem to fit!

I return to the table to find that my starter was already there! - Woah that was quick - But I was actually relieved as I was starving! The Mussels were great! However we had to ask for a side of bread and we were never supplied with spoons - which I believe are essential to having mussels since you really dont wanna miss out on the yummy sauce! Anyhow, the mussels were attacked and we were very much satisfied. No sooner had the lady removed the empty plates off our table, our mains arrived and immediately I could tell that they had been ready for quite some time and had been waiting as the sauce had developed a wrinkly layer. I overlooked that thinking ahhh it will be lovely (I really do love a medium rare steak) and started tucking in. With my first cut into the steak I realised it had been overcooked and that immediately brought my enthusiasm for my dish down. I was deeply disappointed with my main course, so much so that I actually started feeling full before I was a good half way through. As the bill came up I felt that for what I got I was definitely over paying and left a very unhappy customer =(

The next day we headed into town and started walking the city walls. I must say I was very impressed with how well they have been looked after and the fact that they were open for the public was even better. We walked around the city centre after coming down one of the wall's set of steps and then decided to pop into 'The Perky Peacock' for a quick drink and a little treat. Its based in an old tower that was part of the old city wall and has sooo much character for a little place. Even though we were the only customers there we loved it!

We later decided to have lunch at 'La Tasca' a Spanish chain we had visited before in Liverpool. We ordered a Seafood Paella along with a small salad for a starter and it was all quite enjoyable and hit the spot right on! My only complaint on my lunching experience there was that the wall I was facing had a couple of tiles that had broken off and so instead of looking at lovely Spanish looking orange and blue tiles with floral patterns, I was looking at the dried plaster that once held it in place!

We resumed with walking the ancient city walls until the sun set and continued to walk around other areas of the city we hadnt been to already. We walked through some gardens which were beginning to prepare for the festival of light which was taking place the following evening and then decided to make our way back to the hotel where we were to have our dinner.

The next day - waking up bright and early to have breakfast and check out, we headed back into town to have our final walk around and then to have our 'Fish and Chips' lunch before heading to the station to catch the train back to Liverpool. I had my first Fish and Chips that were not at a pub or restaurant but rather from a 'Chippy'. We found a spot in the gardens of an old church that was no longer used for worship but was open for visitors and devoured our Fish and Chips!


A day after arriving back in Liverpool I was due to head down to Oxford to meet two Egyptian friends. One was in Oxford studying for her masters and the other was in the UK for a wedding and we decided we should all meet up in Oxford, spend a few hours and have lunch.

I had to catch two different trains to get to oxford. I changed in Wolverhampton on the way down and at Stafford on the way up. The train I got at Wolverhampton was very crowded, with several people having  to stand up as there were not enough seats. I couldnt even get to my reserved seat which was also taken and had to stand up for a few stops in the compartment between the different coaches. Unfortunately, those compartments stank! They had beer cans and bottles all over the floor (not quite sure whether they were from the Friday night before or from Saturday day) and the carpets were soaked with beer and it just smelt horrible. After encountering several groups of drunk guys who seemed to be having a good time and were teasing and bantering random people on the train, I managed to find an empty seat that I held onto until I arrived in Oxford.

I got to Oxford a bit earlier that I had originally planned and so I decided to walk around the city centre for a bit until my friends were ready. I followed the signs and the swarms of people into the city centre and then followed my feet wherever they felt like going until I got a phone call off one of my friends saying she was now free and available, asking where I was and we arranged to meet. We then visited a few shops searching for a few items she needed for her Halloween party that night - She was going as Michael Jackson =) My other friend arrived an hour later and we decided to go for lunch as we were all starving. We picked a Pub 'The Royal Oaks' and decided on having a typical english lunch; Cottage pies and Sausages and Mash =) Yum Yum Yum!!

We then walked down to my Oxford studying friend's flat and met a few of her friends then quickly had to walk down to the station (with the help of google maps on my blackberry ahhhh what would I do without you?!). I managed to just catch my first train - which was quite empty and also seemed to take forever to get into Stafford. The train from Stafford was running late and so waiting out in the cold was quite unpleasant but I was kept entertained by occasional fireworks that were being set off near by. I got in at Liverpool a little before 11pm and hobbled along to my flat and more or less passed out in bed... It was lovely to see my two friends and get a little dose of Egypt, especially when I'm missing home so much.

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