Starting the Must List.

Left to my own devices this weekend, instead of padding around my disgustingly messy bedroom wondering where my vow to keep the place spotless went wrong, I popped on my sunglasses and went exploring. It’s been on my mind for a while that I’ve lived in this stunning city for well over a year now, and have done a grand total of NO THINGS. Excluding trips to The Willow or H&M.

A few weeks ago, I composed a York Must List- things I MUST do before I move out of this city. It’s not too long, I kept it all achievable. I promised myself I’d get through it over the next year or so, so what better time to start than now?

So me, my iPod, my camera and my copy of Simon Armitage’s Seeing Stars went on a little walk into town. After pottering around the market, and the devouring a gorgeous cupcake from this lady, I headed up to Museum Gardens. The park in the centre of town is so idyllic, as though someone has scripted the perfect summer day and set it there.

Awkward moment when hair from a Viking grave is
in better condition than mine

Now, this may surprise some of you. I’m actually a bit of a nerd. I know, it’s hard to believe. In between doing really cool things and being in really cool places, I love nerding out over poetry or history or the like. So going into the museum was actually a really exciting prospect for me. And even though the staff clearly thought I was a little pathetic for going to a museum, on my own, on the sunniest day the North has seen all year, I was determined to spend the rest of the day getting acquainted with every single exhibition. And with my student card, entry is free- so I was fully prepared to take every advantage.

Obviously, York being the centre of all things Viking-related, much of the museum was devoted to the brutal and thrilling history of all things Jorvik. There was also a natural history bit- though I’ll always prefer human history to that of animals and plants or whatever. (Saying that, The London Natural History Museum blew my mind so severely that I just wandered round muttering “science” for the entire day.)

Museum Gardens

Easily the most impressive part of the museum is the audio-visual exhibit, where they start at the present day, and take you backwards through the pivotal moments in York’s history. One particularly poetic moment of the show- “but meanwhile it flees, time flees us irretrievably while we wander around prisoners of our love of the moment” was definitely my favourite line. And other than revealing how despairingly little I know about the city I love in, it was seriously entertaining. For a pretty small city, turns out York has been crazily important in British history. Who knew?! (Apologies to my friends studying history, who will most likely never speak to me again after reading this. Especially Sam Dumigan. I’m sorry for being such a failure.)

Hello shadow/castle walls!

Inspired by my educational trip, I finished the day by walking about a quarter of the Castle Walls- I did not realise how gorgeous the view would be from up there. And seeing as almost all good roads lead to a pub afterwards, I found myself in the cultural highlight of York- the local Wetherspoons. I don’t half know how to treat myself.

So that’s me starting my York Must List! Exploring a city I already know like the back of my hand was quite a charming experience. Being a tourist for the day was so much fun- and excellent practice for my future escapades in lands less familiar to me. Doing it all on my own was interesting, too. I thought I’d get bored or lonely, but instead I was so caught up in unearthing York that I went the entire day without once drifting off. Maybe I’m more cut out for this travelling lark than I thought- or maybe I’m just being daft comparing going round your own city for a day with global backpacking. Probably. Either way, this particular Saturday is going to go up there as one of my favourites so far.

On the Walls- hella awkward.

Newcastle; A Wide-Eyed Review of an Intense Nightlife

This past weekend, I ventured (even more) up North for my fourth ever visit to Toon. Being a student, and as I was staying with friends at Newcastle University, this was never going to be a trip drenched in high-brow culture, five star rooms, fine cuisine and finer wine. Much more likely was the “Skool Disco” themed bar crawl, student halls covered in cider spills and Dubstep Night posters, and a late night McDonlads after a round or two of alcopops…

But then, who says the height of sophistication is the height of fun? Certainly not Newcastle, in any case.

Kicking off my trip with a two hour train delay (without a book to keep me preoccupied- huge oversight on my part), I was already freezing. Pacing the platform in York to avoid freezing solid in the wind was good preparation for the inevitably bitter Newcastle weather, and was just the first opportunity that weekend for me to scold myself for not owning what my mum would call a “proper coat”.

Once I’d eventually pulled into the station and met my friend, we walked back to her university halls. We immediately started getting ready for a night of drinking games & trip into the city centre to experience the infamous Toon nightlife. Originally we intended to go to Digital, possibly Newcastle’s most famous club, but the (at least) hour long queue dampened our spirits a little bit, and having already turned down a night at the Student’s Union, we opted to go to Powerhouse instead.

Easily amused by a flashing dancefloor.
Being a student in a city where the nightlife is humble, and the peak of most wild evenings is generally spent in The Willow; a former Chinese restaurant’s function room which serves free prawn crackers all night and plays Rod Stewart in between Pixie Lott and Nero hits; walking into any club in Newcastle can be a little overwhelming at first.

For a starter, I’m yet to go into a club in the North-East that isn’t massive. On another (entirely unrelated) note; I’m yet to spend a night in a North-East club without getting lost at any point. The first time I ever went into Riverside, it took me a good half an hour to find the rest of the people I’d gone in with. Perdu is aptly named.

Easily amused by unusual lampshades…
The clientele was a mixture of locals and students, the music was your standard chart & club hits, and the drinks were a little overpriced for my pauper/student budget. Exactly what you’d expect from a Saturday night on the tiles. What was new to me, however, was the sheer size of the crowd, and the extravagance of the venue itself. Flashing dance floor, enormous and bizarre light shades, and enough podiums and platforms for everyone to have a go at being centre stage. I was impressed.

The second night was a student bar crawl, cringingly called “Carnage” (bit too much of a “Gap Yah” term for my liking, but the branding isn’t really up to me). It’s a notorious event among students, and tickets (t-shirts) are hotly sought after in the hours leading up to the event. Although it officially began in Players Bar at 8pm, most students hadn’t recovered from the previous night’s hangover by then, and were still customising their Carnage t-shirts into something related to its school kid fancy dress theme.

As a side note, how weird is dressing up as a school pupil when you’re only just at University yourself? Many Uni students will have only been out of school uniforms for a summer, or at the most for two years whilst at college. It’s a bit like doing a beach themed fancy dress a week after you get back from a holiday on the coast. Whatever, Carnage needed an obligatory theme- and having already previously used up “Cops & Robbers”, “Sexy Santas” and “Nympho Nurses & Dirty Doctors”, the Ann Summers catalogue they seemingly use to decide on a costuming premise was probably looking a bit battered. Not that the women of Newcastle had any difficulty in providing all kinds of imaginative ways to turn up wearing a compulsory t-shirt ticket and very little else, all within the theme’s limits.

Vast crowd in Liquid
Finally, loaded with 3D glasses and drawn on freckles, we gave Tiger Tiger a miss and headed straight next door to another unfeasibly enormous bar, Sam Jacks. Was pleasantly surprised at the price of a double vodka cranberry, so decided to order another one at the following bar to be met with a disappointingly higher price in Bambu. Another Bambu related complaint- the entry stamp took severe and repeated scrubbing for several hours before disappearing. Loved the oversized discoball, loved the balcony from the upstairs bar area overlooking the downstairs dancefloor. That is, until the spectators watching the dancing realised how hilarious it would be to spill a little of their drink to watch the dancers’ outraged reaction. Other than these (admittedly minor) complaints, this bar/club didn’t fail to impress.


Once we’d had enough of it here, we headed to the final destination, Liquid. I’ve been to the franchised club before, once before on a similar event the year previous in Newcastle, and in the Halifax version when I’m a bit closer to home. Liquid Newcastle dwarfs Liquid Halifax, though you can clearly see the similarities in the décor and style of the clubs. Not as edgy as other Newcastle nightlife venues, it’s probably my least favourite club I’ve visited so far in the Toon, but it still makes an impression- if only due to its sheer size and labyrinth of routes to and from the smoking terraces, bars and toilets.

The nightlife in Newcastle is definitely a major attraction. With so much competition so many different demographics to excite, and such a notorious reputation as the party capital of the North, the clubs and bars really strive to stand out, in an off-hand and impossibly cool way. Rather than being home to several massive and soulless venues, most place has real character and soul, in a way many other cities’ clubs omit. A Toon night out mightn’t have any class, but it certainly has its own unique style.


This Is Not a Photo Blog

But here’s a couple of pictures anyway. (Variety being spice of life, etc.)

Taken on platform four of the train station, the train that takes me home to Huddersfield. Usually it’s quite busy, so this was a bit of a rare opportunity to have the place to myself.

 This is my friend on Bonfire Night last year, in the campus Costcutters. I’d always wanted to catch a sneaky shot of the campus shop, but felt a bit too self concious getting my camera out, so this was a rushed affair. and on what planet pineapples are in season in the middle of November, I don’t know.

 From my first few weeks in York, exploring the gardens on campus known as “The Quiet Place”. These bushes from the outside look oddly futuristic and (in my humble opinion) a bit over groomed.

This was “Mexican Night” in my halls of residence. Making fajitas for 18 people isn’t a job I take lightly.


New Year, Working, Travelling, and Me.

Traditionally at this time of the year (the end, in case you’re wondering), people come together to celebrate what a majestic 12 months they’ve just had. Which would be more convincing if people didn’t whinge about New Year’s Eve itself, or if they didn’t spend the day professing what they’ll do differently in the next twelve months.

People don’t enjoy New Year’s Eve for a plethora of reasons- as Alex Turner once pointed out “anticipation has the habit to set you up”, and the hype certainly piles pressure on to have A Good Time. The expense is a massive turn off for many, and the intensely overfilled transport and venue turns what should be a cheery welcome to the New Year into a sweaty, cramped stressful night to forget. Surely, someone, SOMEWHERE is having a fabulous time, following the rules by kissing loved ones at midnight and singing all the correct words to Auld Lang Syne, but whoever this person is will certainly be the envy of thousands of hungover and bruised partygoers everywhere tomorrow morning.

This year, I’m working on NYE. Most people react to this news as though I’ve just confided in them a very embarrassing illness, when really, I’m quite happy to be busy. I love the people I work with, and if I’m lucky I might get a discarded dessert from the kitchen at some point. Plus I’m sidestepping all the fuss of a typical night out, and no mixed feelings of hungover shame or horror at realising how much I spent tomorrow morning. Win-win, really.

Coming up with a resolution can be difficult. Personally, I’m not a smoker, I rarely drink (and when I do, I only need about 3 units…) and I’d be at serious risk of blowing away on a windy day if I lost any weight. Last year, I opted for a “learn new skills” resolution- which has miraculously resulted in a Pass with Merit in Level One Mandarin (hen hao, I know). It feels like cheating to have the same resolution two years in a row, so where does that leave me?

The one thing glaringly absent from my 2011 is travel. Other than a weekend trip to visit some friends at the University of Edinburgh, a week spent at the best friend’s seaside town, and countless train journeys between my student home in York and maternal home in Huddersfield, I’ve been particularly stationary this year.

I spent an entire summer waitressing/cleaning/filing, and have not left the United Kingdom in well over fifteen months. “Wanderlust” doesn’t even come close. My friends who have been on gap years, casually popping to Ghana, hitchhiking or inter-railing around Europe, sunning themselves in all manner of exotic locations, and updating their Facebooks with photos of themselves cheerily scuba diving, hold nothing but my unadulterated envy. While I’m very happy for them all to have had these wonderful experiences, the exotic background of a Manchester industrial park office doesn’t compete, somehow.

Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for my experiences; I’ve never eaten as much food in my life as when I waitressed in a Chinese restaurant; and I’ve had plenty of fun discovering the wonderful city of York since I became a student here.  I just quite fancy the idea of rocking up somewhere new, living off the last 10 euros from the bottom of my rucksack, eating bizarre food and not understanding a word of the language surrounding me. Just to see how I’d get on.

So I’ll be eagerly browsing easyjet offers, and comparing reviews on hostelworld.com, and investing in a lovely rucksack to take on my travels. I’ll just spin a globe and jab my finger onto a point, then pack a bag. And now I’ve made this resolution, to travel more, public- I have the added extra embarrassment of people asking me why I’m not globetrotting if I fail, to spur me on. Bring on 2012.