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Day Thirteen: New Year’s Eve

February 20, 2007

The previous evening was our last with Collin. The five of us gathered briefly at a local pub for a farewell pint after Drew and I returned from Macclesfield (I believe Sara toasted with a soda). Our morning was relaxed: Sara napped and Drew worked on uploading his photos and blogging.

Mark and I took off to look for a new pair of shoes for me, since I was having issues with my feet. I had only brought two pairs of shoes with me, and one of them gave me problems after a few hours of city walking. We didn’t have anything planned for the afternoon, so Mark volunteered to take me shopping. We ventured into numerous shops, but I could not find a thing. At the last shop we were at, I finally found something reasonably priced that felt and looked nice. However, in the box were two different sized shoes and no one in the store could find another U.K. women’s size eight of this particular shoe (I think I needed a left one). Such is my luck. Since it was New Year’s Eve, all the shops were closing early so I decided to throw in the towel. I had one more week to go in the U.K., and if I had to stick to the one pair of shoes that didn’t rip up my feet after hours of walking, then so be it. After admitting defeat, we decided to drown our sorrows at Caffè Nero. I had a caramel latte the size of my head, and Mark and I split a piece of cake and a bag of crisps (lunch of champions!).

Back at home, I decided to make some phone calls to Mom and Dad, to wish them a happy new year. I also called a few friends and left some messages. By the time I called Robin, I was in full caffiene-sugar overload. It was time for some real food before I rocketed through the roof and into space.

Sara made us coronation turkey again, so we had dinner before our guests arrived. The first over were two neighbors with their son Josh (I can’t remember their names for the life of me). Josh was decked out in his Spider-Man robe and pajamas, which he got for Christmas. Drew got brought out our glowsticks from Poundland, which were a big hit:

Of course we had to turn out the lights for the proper effect:

Mark and Sara’s closest neighbors, Vicki and Andy, were over a bit later with their son Thomas. It was a quiet, but fun evening. We watched the Brit New Year’s Eve shows, and I watched Paul Weller perform on one of them. I called my brother Shane a few minutes before midnight, so he could hear us ring in the new year. Mark and Sara called Drew and I the year before, and it was cool to hear them welcome the new year when it was only 7 p.m. back in the States. We had a champagne toast, then shortly called it a night. I fear that I am getting boring in my old age…

A few more photos:

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Day Twelve: Macclesfield

February 17, 2007

My next rockstar pilgrimage occured on December 30. We visited Macclesfield, home of the legendary Ian Curtis. The night before at Grandma and Grandpa’s, Drew and I spent some time talking to Paul’s Sarah about Macclesfield, since she works there and knows the town well. She said it was a great town to visit, lots of shops and such, plus it’s rather quaint and charming.

Drew and I left around 9 a.m. to walk to the train station. Mark and Sarah live a ten minute walk away from the station, which was wonderful because they didn’t have to drive us around when we embarked on our numerous day trips. Before our train left, we stopped for some coffee at the little shop at the station. The same girl was always working the register when we made our pre-train pitstops, and everyday you could tell she was wondering where we crazy Americans were running off to next. For some reason, I decided to poke around at the magazine selection that particular morning, and I came across the latest issue of Mojo, which just happened to have Ian on the cover. It was a sign, right? I had to buy it.

Macclesfield was a short train ride, only 15 minutes away. When we got off the train, we wandered accross the the street and up the steep cobbled street into the center of town. A beautiful old church was to our right, which we decided to invesigate. The churchyard was covered in old tombstones, and some people were outside doing rubbings of them:

From the church, we had no idea where to go next. We followed another cobbled street that was lined with shops, and did some browsing. Since we didn’t have a map of town, we were hoping to find a petrol station (also known as a garage – the Brits are good at confusing us Yanks!) so we could either get a map or some directions toward the cemetary. Thankfully it didn’t take long to find a petrol station, and the woman working there seemed a bit puzzled as to why we were looking for the cemetary, but she was pleasant enough and very helpful. As we left, it began to rain (surprise, surprise) so we huddled under our umbrellas during our 20 minute walk to Macclesfield Cemetary.

I had seen some photos of Ian’s grave online, along with some directions towards where it is in the cemetary. I generally have a poor sense of direction, but we found it quite quickly, even though it’s a tiny stone:

The cemetary was large, so I’m glad we found it so fast! It would have been a long day in the cold and rain if I wouldn’t have checked online before our trip. After paying our respects, we explored more of the cemetary, which was really beautiful:

Drew and I stayed for about an hour before we headed back to the center of town. From there we explored more of the shops, and bought more Thornton’s chocolates. Then we discovered the Brit version of the dollar store – Poundland!

Can you tell that it’s the little details that make us happy? We had to go in and explore, though the place was packed. Drew picked up a few bags of glowsticks for some jollies on New Years Eve. While browsing I came across this calendar of Sharon Osbourne:

As you can see, it was half-price at 50p. Who in the world wants a Sharon Osbourne calendar anyway? Maybe they should try giving them away…

When we left Poundland, it was getting dark. It was still raining, we were cold, and we decided to find some food. We hit up a local pub first, but they didn’t sell food. They directed us to The Queen’s Hotel, which was down the road. Once there, we ordered some pints and looked at the menu. Since it was a more respectable establishment, I was admonished by the bartender to take off my hat. A local came up to us for a chat, turns out he’d spent a number of years living in the States. Naturally, he wondered what would bring us to Macclesfield and I sheepishly mentioned my Ian Curtis pilgrimmage. We talked for a bit longer, then we finally settled in for our meal (Drew: chicken tikka masala, Me: fish, chips and mushy peas – boring aren’t I? but it’s good stuff).

On the way out of town we stopped at Tesco’s so we could pickup some odds and ends (chapstick, antacids, Boddingtons for Drew for our New Year’s Eve gathering). We hopped another train, then headed back to Sara and Mark’s. A few more snaps from the day. At the train station:

Self-portrait on the way back:

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Day Eleven: Part Two

February 6, 2007

Following the day trip to Manchester, we all headed over to Mark’s grandparents’ house where we had a post-Christmas feast along with Mark’s brother Paul and “his Sarah”. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this yet, but I love Mark’s grandparents. Such fun and interesting people. According to Sara, Grandma loves entertaining and always goes all out for such events. Apparently, her big thing is to pick up the best cuts of meat she possibly can from the butcher, then not allow anyone to eat until they’ve guessed how much she paid for the meat! She’s a riot that way, though she didn’t do that for us…

The meal was wonderful though, and it’s fair to say that we all ate like pigs. We had lamb with Grandma’s mint jelly, ham, turkey with her cranberry sauce, pork pie, stuffing, potatoes, salad, etc. We had Christmas pudding and cream afterward, and she put a silver sixpence into it, of which she only has five left. She made me dish out my dessert first and the coin came out with my first scoop. Perhaps it’s a sign of good luck for this year? Grandma was so excited that I found it that she grabbed me and kissed me on the forehead. Now that I am home I am still trying to figure out what I will do with this unique souvenir from our trip. We finished up dessert with mince pies, marmalade tarts and an assortment of cheese, then our clan gathered for some photos.

We had another go with the Christmas crackers afterward, and we put on our crowns and exchanged more terrible jokes. Then Grandma came out with a bag of little gifts, which we all took turns opening. Drew and I were tired from having walked miles across Manchester, but it was such a good night with the family. They’re all such nice people and I miss them already.

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Day Eleven: Part One

January 30, 2007

Drew and I were up and out the door early to spend the day exploring Manchester. Our first stop was the Central Library, which I’d heard good things about. It’s one of the largest municipal libraries in Europe, and it has separate music, theatre and literature libraries. We made our way through each floor, and tried not to disturb all the studying students. I probably could have spent much more time there going through everything, but our time was limited as we had to get back to Sara and Mark’s by 6 p.m. to have dinner at Mark’s grandparent’s house.

From the library, we headed to an information center for maps. While there, Drew found a Manchester Music Map, which contained a detailed walk to various places made famous by such bands and artists such as Morrissey (of course), Oasis, The Happy Mondays, James, New Order, etc. Since we had other plans (and Drew was already being a good sport about going to Morrissey and doing other music-geek related things that yours truly just had to do while in the U.K.), we didn’t do the walk. I still have the map though.

Sigh.

I’m such a brat, aren’t I? But I digress…

From the information center, we made our way to the Manchester Museum, which is part of The University of Manchester:

We went specifically to see their wonderful collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts. We didn’t see the rest of the museum due to our lack of time, but the exhibit was fascinating (especially the mummies) and it was nice to warm up for an hour. Back to the pavement once again, this time in search of lunch.

I think I’ve left out Drew’s insatiable demand for curry during our trip (the word “curry” being used quite generically, I know). You see, we love Indian food. Unfortunately good Indian food isn’t available on every corner here like it is in the U.K., so Drew decided that he would eat as much Indian food as possible during our journey. Looking back on the trip, I think we averaged eating curry at least three times a week. And being back home, we are now sad and going through extreme withdrawal, though we are going to try to make our own Indian concoction tomorrow for the first time. And again I am getting way off track…

Back to lunch. We stopped at Monsoons, which was a hole in the wall:

Super-cheap and delicious. We split a large chicken tikka kebab, with chips and cheese. I discovered that kebabs were completely different in the U.K. than they are here. Here, when I think kebab, I visualize either meat or meat and veggies on a skewer. Normal, right? Well, our kebabs consisted of shaved meat, that is served on flatbread with salad and sauce. Salad meaning lettuce, tomato and onion. Anyway, it was sooooo good. However, our best curry experience occurred in Edinburgh. I’ll get to Scotland one of these days, I swear.

After lunch, we went in search of where the legendary Hacienda once operated (see, I still ended making a music pilgrimmage of some sorts). We got a bit lost, but we finally found it. It closed in 1997, and has since been turned into an apartment complex, nothing terribly exciting, but I just had to go there(I bet you’re all feeling sorry for Drew now since we walked a few miles in the cold, just to see an apartment complex). From there, we made our way to the Cornerhouse, to check out their art gallery.

As it grew dark, there was one more music geek thing I wanted to do: go to the Salford Lad’s Club and get a photo in front of it, like the Smiths from their famous album cover:

We took the tram from St. Peter’s Square to Salford, but once there, we walked in the wrong direction. I was wearing the wrong shoes for the day, and at this point, I could feel the blisters forming on my feet. It was cold, and we were both getting cranky. We did walk along Salford Quays though, which was pretty alongside the canal. The pedestrian bridge was lovely, so we walked over it, before heading back to the catch the tram:

Back in the city, we hit up a pub called the Bull’s Head for a quick pint before heading back to Sara and Mark’s. A few other photos from the day:

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Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!

January 26, 2007

 Wonderful news!

Felicity Hope was born this morning at 2:14 a.m., and weighs 9lb., 4oz.  Both she and Sara are doing well, and according to Mark, she’s perfect.  Drew is so happy to be an uncle!

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Day Ten

January 21, 2007

Moving right along (the day before we all toured Staircase House, then Drew, Collin and I checked out the Stockport Air Raid Shelters)….

For Sara’s birthday last September, she and Mark went on a canal boat lunch trip. They loved it so much that they planned a day for us, plus Mark’s grandparents (they were such a blast – I really enjoyed all the times we spent with them during our trip) and their friends Jean, Rachel and Andy.

It was a great afternoon on the Judith Mary:

We were on the boat over two hours, had a delicious lunch, and spent our time chatting with everyone and taking in the views of the beautiful countryside around us.

Here’s Mark’s grandparents:

And our table (Jean, Mark, Sara, Drew, me):

For lunch, we all started with French bread and pickled red cabbage. Then we had a choice of either hot pot (like a beef stew – it was wonderful and reminded me of my mom’s which is a big favorite of mine) or bangers and mash. For dessert, we had apple pie with fresh cream.

This is the best photo I took from the boat of the countryside:

Such a beautiful area! Lots of people were on walks along the canal, and we got plenty of waves from children out walking with their parents. On the way back home, Mark stopped his car on the side of the road so I could get a few more photos of the area at dusk.

Can you see the sheep in the first photo? During this trip I saw what seemed like millions of sheep! They were everywhere.

P.S. For those of you who were also reading Drew’s blog, he hasn’t updated in ages because the day after we got back to the States, his back went out. Almost two weeks (and many visits to the chiropractor) later, he is still recovering. He has a hard time sitting for more than five minutes at a time, so he hasn’t been able to work at his computer. Poor guy feels bad, as he had good intentions with his blog. I will continue to plug away at mine when I can and I hope that everyone is still enjoying this!

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Day Eight – Boxing Day

January 18, 2007

I’m slowly catching up! The past few days have been hectic as I am in a frenzy in regards to grad school. I found out that the program I want to get into begins in May and everything needs to be turned in by Feb. 14! Time to write some killer essays…but back to England.

Boxing Day was another nice, relaxing day with family. We had no major plans, so again, Drew and I were able to sleep in a bit and take things easy. Collin came over in the morning, and by afternoon it was time for all of us to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.

Mark and Sara took us to Bramall Hall, where we strolled the grounds and took photos. There were lots of other families out and about, many with their dogs who enjoyed playing fetch and splashing in the water there. Mark grabbed us all some sticks and we played Poohsticks. If my memory serves me right, he won and I was last! Here are some photos of our outing:

Mark’s brother Paul and his fiancee Sarah (a.k.a. Paul’s Sarah, while “our” Sara is referred to as Mark’s Sara) came over to exchange gifts and visit as they couldn’t make it over on Christmas. They brought Drew and I more wonderful Thornton’s chocolates! So good. What I wouldn’t give for one of their cappucino chocolates right now…

Later Sara put our Christmas leftovers to good use with coronation turkey for good sandwiches. Mmm…curry.