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One World in One Lifetime

Archive for the ‘England’ Category

The Lake District

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 1, 2018

Tuesday, August 29th – 31st

Before we left Liverpool, Mark picked up a car. He was tired of dealing with public transportation in England. The buses and trains in the city are fantastic, but out in the country they come by only every once in a while. Also, there is seldom a direct route to where you want to go, unless you are going from one hub to another. Taking the train from Liverpool to the YHA in Windermere would have taken many transfers.

Mark had driven stick before… in college a long time ago, in a land far, far away… on the right side of the road. He had to quickly remember how to shift, with the other hand, while negotiating the traffic in Liverpool. I couldn’t help. Not only have I only ever driven automatic cars, but adding a second driver when renting a car raises the cost. So, Mark was on his own.

Also, roundabouts are the bane of an American’s existence. Yes, we do have a lot of them in Washington, D.C. But, when I lived there I cursed the Marquis de Lafayette every time I entered one. I have always assumed that he, somehow, had something to do with the absurd number of traffic circles in DC.

Typically, Americans don’t encounter roundabouts. I hate them. They make everything in your car pitch to the right, or left depending on what country you’re in. All this just so you don’t have to stop? How much time can it possibly save?

Once Mark left the city and the roads got less congested, he relaxed and it was smooth sailing to Windermere. The YHA there was very nice with a good view of the lake and some nearby trails. But, this time we weren’t restricted to just these trails. We could drive to any we liked.

We hiked a few trails around town. But, since we had a car we mostly drove to different spots then walked for about 15 minutes. Most of what we did, did not require us to bring snacks, water, or even a map. We still had fun though.

I understand English… I think

One day Mark and I found a place called “Holiday Park” that was very near the lake. It sounded perfect for us. We were on holiday and we wanted to walk through a park. We drove over there. We were a little surprised when we found a gate at the entrance of the park requiring a pass-code. We parked the car and went into the nearby office.

We asked the lady at the desk if the park was opened. From her response I realized that there was a misunderstanding. We weren’t at a place called, “Holiday Park” we were at a holiday park.

Hoping that my American accent would explain my ignorance of holiday parks and that this lady didn’t assume I was a moron, I asked for more information. She gladly explained the rates and when the park was available, which did not help me understand what a holiday park was at all. I had to state my problem very plainly. “I know the words ‘holiday,’ a time away from work, and ‘park,’ a place where you go to be closer to nature. But I’m sorry, I’m just unfamiliar with the term ‘holiday park’. Is it a park or not?”

She gave us more information about contracts and request forms, completely missing my last few questions. She handed us a stack of brochures that said, “Windermere Holiday Park”. I turned to Mark and he shrugged. He didn’t know what was going on either.

“Can we just walk to the lake for now?” Mark asked, handing back all the papers we were just given. The lady told us we could as long as we didn’t bother anyone. “Also,” she added. “Parking in the holiday park is only for guests.” We awkwardly walked out promising not to break any of the rules and headed to the lake. “Okay, no parking in the park. Got it!”

A few yards past the gate we understood what a holiday park was. It was a cross between a trailer park and a time share. People rent these trailers during the summer or on weekends when they head up to the Lake District. This was not what we wanted, so we left to find a real park.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Windermere

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Just pay for parking

Hours:

  • Daylight hours

Videos:

Notes:

  • Be safe while on long hikes.
  • Remember to close the gates behind you.
    • Don’t let any of the sheep escape.

Map:

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Posted in England, United Kingdom, The, Windermere | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Liverpool

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 30, 2017

Monday, August 29th, 2017

What is there to do in Liverpool?

I guess one could go check out some factories or a tunnel, but Liverpool is best known as the home of the Beatles.

So we went to a museum that told the story of the Beatles. It explained how they met, why some of them were so close, and how they became musical legends.

Mark’s and my timing was a little off that day. We entered the museum between two tour groups of huge Beatles fans. Personally, I like the Beatles. Their music was great. But, I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a fan of the Beatles or any musician for that matter.

The fans in the museum were serious. They read every sign and piece of paper on display. Many of them took photos of everything as if it were their personal duty to keep a record of the museum. It became very hard to move through the museum.

I wanted to listen to the audio guide and look at the “relics” being talked about. I would try to stand off to the corner out of the way of the die-hard fans around me. But, no matter where I stood, I was always in someone’s way. I would move and wonder why anyone would want a photo of that. After 300 photos were taken, and the fan had moved on, I would have a look at the item that I thought was nothing. “Oh, I see. It’s a genuine replica of the synthesizer used on the Sgt. Pepper album.”

I guess I had never encountered fandom at this level. These guys acted like the Beatles were the gods of their cult. I didn’t understand it. I walked through the museum thinking, “This is nice, but it’s not like any of these singers cured cancer, ended world hunger, or cause peace in the middle east. They just sang nice songs.”

I tried to think of it in terms that suit me better. I love reading. According to goodreads.com my most read authors are Orson Scott CardBill Bryson, and Stephen King. It is true that I have read a ton of their work. I would even throw Malcolm Gladwell into the mix. I read every book he writes, he just hasn’t written as much as the other three.

I really enjoy their writing, but I don’t know how I feel about them as people. I would never deify them. As far as I know all of them could be huge jerks. I love the writing and appreciate the writer. If I were to notice one of them eating lunch at the same restaurant I were in, I don’t think I would even go over to him and ask for an autograph. To me, the writing and the writer are two different things.

So, I like the Beatles Story. I like the Beatles. I appreciate their music, but that’s all.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

The Beatles Story

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £15.95
  • Comes with a complimentary audio guide

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 18:00

Video

Notes:

  • Don’t forget the British Invasion exhibit at Pier Head.

The Museum of Liverpool

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:00

Video:


Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:30 – 17:00
  • Closed Mondays

Videos:

Notes:

  • You will have to wear a hard-hat.

Map:

Posted in England, Liverpool, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Walk the Wall

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 25, 2017

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

This was my second time in Chester. I spent a Fourth of July here when I was in grad school in Manchester. So I knew that I didn’t have to do too much planning. There is an old Roman wall encircling the city. All we had to do was find the wall, walk around it, and we would see all the good stuff in town.

From the train station we walked to the northern gate of the wall and headed in a clockwise direction. There were lots of little shops and cafes on the wall that I wanted to go into. We didn’t. Mark isn’t that into having tea in a shop. Something about paying £15 for tea and scones for two, when a box of tea, a quart of milk, and a 6 pack of scones at Morrisons is less than £6 makes it hard for me to argue with him. So I made a mental note to have tea at home and keep walking.

The next thing we came to was a tower. It had something to do with Charles I, the king who was beheaded. During some battle, he supposedly stood in the tower to watch the fight. Some people say he actually stood in the cathedral. Whether he stood in the tower or not, it is named for him. It is also locked.

Next we stopped by the cathedral and had a good walk around grounds. We didn’t go in because it was Sunday. Although we could have gone in if we wanted, it just didn’t feel right. We let the worshipers worship without the addition of two tourist gawking at their church.

 We saw the Eastgate clock. We exited the wall to stop by the Roman amphitheater and the Roman gardens before returning to the wall. We walked past the river and kept going until we found Chester Castle. It is usually closed, but for part of the summer of 2017 it was open to the public free of charge.

The city of Chester brought in volunteers to dress as people from the castle’s history. They had short presentations about their historical lives after which we could ask them questions. I think Mark and I spent a few hours here. We were offered free tea and cookies, but we were so engrossed in the exhibits, we forgot to get any treats. This was the high light of our time in Chester. We made sure to put some money in the donation box before we left.

I sincerely hope that they open Chester Castle like this again next year. More people should have an opportunity to see history presented to them in this way.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Chester city walls

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Video

Notes:


Chester Cathedral

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £4  – the gardens

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 18:00 M – Sa

Video

Notes:


Chester Roman Amphitheatre

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Day light hours

Notes:

  • There are picnic benches nearby where you can eat your lunch.
  • The Roman Gardens are very near the Amphitheater.

Chester Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • ??

Hours:

  • ??

Videos:

Notes:

  • Normally, you can only get in with a schedule guided.
  • Chester is usually closed, but it happened to be open last summer when Mark and I were in town.
    • Lucky us!

Map:

Posted in Chester, England, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bath & a Mound

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 5, 2017

Friday, August 19th – 20th, 2017

On our first day in bath we checked into our hostel and walked to the Roman Bath. The museum there had a nice audio guide and the tour was very nice. We spent about 2 hours there. But when we were done, we couldn’t think of anything else we wanted to do in bath.

There was a nice garden, but it cost money to enter. There was a Jane Austin tour, but I don’t really care for her work. There were other museums, but none of them interest us… except for…

With these tools, I’ll make my own telescope!

The Herschel Museum of Astronomy is a little apartment where William and Caroline Herschel discovered Uranus. It just blows my mind that this brother and sister team weren’t even astronomers, scientists, or teachers. They were musicians. They just liked looking into the night’s sky for fun.

This was their hobby. And, they took it to lengths where they needed better and better telescopes. After a point, they could not buy strong enough telescopes, so they had to make their own; which they did.

A replica of the telescope used to discover Uranus

They discovered a new planet one day and the accolades poured in. They made bigger and stronger telescopes and went on to discover more sciency stuff like infrared radiation,  Messier 110, and many comets. But, that’s all; this was just a hobby.

My hobby is reading, but that will never get me any accolades… 😦

We took about 5 buses to get here.

We also visited Avebury to see their mound, stone circles, and other neolithic delights. I enjoyed walking through the little village and seeing the really old rocks.

What I did not like was the many buses and trains needed to go from Bath to Avebury. It took about 2.5 hours one way just to see these things. While we were walking around we had to keep track of time. The bus back to the train station came by only once an hour, then once every 2 hours after a certain time of day. We had to either hurry up, or slow down.

This meant that we could either follow the path all the way, then wait a long time for the next bus. Or, we could hurry up and quickly see only some of the path and not wait too long on the bus. We chose the latter.

Eventually, we would rent a car. But, that wouldn’t be until much later in the trip.

It helps to listen to podcasts as you wait.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

The Roman Bath

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £15.50
  • Complimentary audio guide
    • There are 3 types of audio files:
    • One for adults
    • One for kids
    • And where Bill Bryson talks about his visit to Bath.

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Videos:

Notes:

  • Built in 60-70 AD.
  • Don’t touch the water. The pool and pipes are lined with lead.

Avebury Stone Circle

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Parking is free for only National Trust and English Heritage members.

Hours:

  • day light hours

Videos:

Notes:


Herschel Museum of Astronomy

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £6.50

Hours:

  • M – F 13:00 – 17:00
  • Sa – Su 11:00 – 17:00

Videos:

Notes:

  • The garden in the back is where Uranus was discovered.

Map:

Posted in Avebury, Bath, England, Somerset, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Henge

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 30, 2017

Wednesday, August 16th – August 17th, 2017

Second Time Around

This was my second time visiting Stonehenge. The first time, it was very cold and I was very young. I made the mistake of going in the winter and not doing any research before seeing the monoliths. I didn’t know much about the site except that it was very old and druids… did a thing… maybe.

This time, I think I got more out of the experience. The ticket price did go up and I could no longer get the student price for tickets. But it was a lot better because of the audio guide. Sure, you can read up on stuff before you go to see the henge, but will you remember all the things to look out for? It is a wholly better experience to have the guide tell you what to look at and why it’s important. Bravo English Heritage, Bravo!

Reality vs Expectation

Because we visited Stonehenge in the summer and not the winter, Mark and I were more willing to do the 1 hour walk to (and another hour walk back from) Woodhenge. I was expecting something awesome. I didn’t look at photos of the thing online; I wanted it to be a surprise.

My first reaction was, “I stepped in tons of sheep poo for this!?” (Note: It is not a requirement to walk in sheep dung to see this thing. There is a poo-free trail. Mark and I just thought we would take a short cut…)

I’m glad I saw it, but I would not recommend it to anyone who didn’t have a car.

I very much enjoyed the exhibit on the Magna Carta. The last time I was in town the Salisbury Magna Carta was out for restoration. This time it was on display. At the exhibit you can learn about how the paper used for old important documents were made. They also explained why this copy has survived for so long. The key was to misplace it for stretches of time when people were not handling old documents very well.

We also got to see and read the Magna Carta. It makes very little sense to modern English readers, mainly because it is written in Latin. (Who learns Latin these days?) But you can look out for some key words. There is also an English translation of the whole document on display and a staff of very knowledgeable people ready to answer any questions.

Sampling local ales

Mark and I also enjoyed the pubs of Salisbury. Not just for their beer, but also for their food. Though, Mark did really like the beer.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you’re going to travel around the United Kingdom, you might want to get membership at one of the following:
    •  English Heritage – £54 / year for 1 person
    • National Trust England – £64.80 / year for 1 person
    • Scottish Heritage –  £49 / year for 1 person
      • All of these are a little cheaper when getting a group or family membership.
      • Many come with discounts for other things, like:
        • The Scottish Heritage gives you 20% off at all of their gift shops and cafes.
        • English Heritage gives you free parking at many of their sights.
      • As a bonus, it helps you when planning what to do and see in the country.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Stonehenge

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £17.50
  • You can buy a Stonehenge Ticket & Bus Combo:
  • Cost with the following membership – the membership – cost of membership
  • £5 refundable parking charge

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 19:00

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • It is believed to have been made from 3000 BC to 2000 BC.
  • Mark really loved the Cornish pasty sold at the cafe.
    • He talks about going back their, not to see Stonehenge again, but for the pie.
  • Don’t forget all the other things around the henge.

Woodhenge

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24hrs

Videos:

Notes:

  • Was probably still being used around 1800 BC.
  • Remember to close the gate.
  • It’s a 1 hour walk from Stonehenge.

Old Sarum

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:00

Video

Notes:

  • New Sarum is better known as Salisbury Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • To see the Magna Carta – Free
  • Tower tours cost £12.50
  • It’s free to see the Cathedral but donations are strongly encouraged

Hours:

To see the Magna Carta:

  • 1 APRIL – 31 OCTOBER
    • Monday-Saturday:  09.30 – 17.00
    • Sundays: 12.00 – 16.00
  • 1 NOVEMBER – 31 MARCH
    • Monday-Saturday:  09.30 – 16.30
    • Sundays: 12.00 – 15.45

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Don’t miss the Magna Carta.
  • The fictional Knightsbridge cathedral in Ken Follet’s Knightsbridge series is based on Salisbury Cathedral.

Map:

Posted in Amesbury, England, Salisbury, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Everything in Here is Stolen

Posted by Heliocentrism on November 25, 2017

Tuesday, August 8th – Tuesday August 15th

Hey, isn’t this part of the Parthenon in Athens?

Museum Heaven

Since starting this trip, I have begun a love for museums that I’ve never had before. Maybe it’s because a museum visit takes very little planning. I can show up, stay as long as I like, and even have lunch there. Museums are usually very near to public transportation. It’s just super easy and fun, especially if there is a good audio guide involved.

London has the best museums I’ve seen so far. DC has some good ones too, but London has more. Most of them are free and most come with audio guides. And London has all the best stuff. Some would say, too much of the best stuff.

Mark and I were looking at things in a room in the British Museum when a man walked in with his friend. He tried to whisper, but his words came out a little louder than he expected. He looked around the room and told his friend, “Everything in here is stolen!”

All the Artifacts

There are many people protesting all the things in the British Museum that they feel belong to other countries. They say that Britain received these things by less than honest means. The UK isn’t the only country to do this. You can find Greek statues in the Louvre. You can find Egyptian artifacts in London, Paris, China, the US, Greece, and the list goes on. All the bigger more powerful countries have done this.

This is part of Greece’s Parthenon artifacts.

As you might have guessed, this blog entry was written long after I visited London. I’m actually in Greece writing this. (Of course, by the time you read this I will be in Holland or Texas or… I’m not sure.) A few days ago I was at the Parthenon Museum in Athens. Their collection of Parthenon artifacts was sparse in comparison to what I saw in London.

The photo at the top of the blog is an example of what the museum in London had. London had bigger, more complete pieces. Greece had less and what they did have was very fragmented.

It’s not so much that they have all of this stuff, it’s more of how they got it. Everyone involved has a side of the story, but it comes down to this.

Country A wasn’t taking care of their items. They ran out of money, had a war, or just didn’t care. So some rich guy comes in and offers to buy the items. He buys them either directly from country A or some citizen of country A who has or claims to have ownership of the items. The money is paid. Then the rich guy turns around and donates or sells the stuff to the UK or some other government.

Years later country A is back on their feet financially, the war has ended, or now they have start caring about their past. But, it’s too late. Britain, Paris, or the US have most of their items. They have hired a team of experts to restore and study the items. They have written papers and are learning so much about the past. The items are in museums and people come from all over the world to look at the items.

The items have been gone for so long, it’s hard to track down just how they got to these far away museums. Country A says that along the way, something shady went down. The museums say that not only did nothing shady happened but they saved these items from being destroyed when no one was looking after them.

Who is right?

London

I did enjoy seeing all the items though. I learned a lot from them. Mummies, statues, art, tools, helmets, I enjoyed them all.


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • If you’re going to do a lot of travel by train or bus, looking for a Rail card or bus pass before you buy your first ticket.
    • Railway Cards
    • Oyster Card
    • Even getting a day pass on a bus could be cheaper than getting 3 single passes, or a return ticket and a single pass.
  • If you are going to stay in hostels, join Hosteling International, or any of its subsidiaries.
    • YHA – England & Wales
    • SYHA – Scotland
      • Membership at any of these will get you the discounted rate at any of the other hosteling organizations.
      • These hostels tend to be better than most hostels.

Oyster Card

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Oyster Card £5 deposite
  • 7 day pass £33.00
  • You can also pay as you go without a 7 day pass.

Hours:

  • 5:00 – 0:00 Monday to Saturday
  • Reduced operating hours on Sundays

Notes:

  • It lowers the cost of a single fare ticket.
  • This can be used on the subway, buses, trams, boats, and other transport around London.
  • When your vacation is over you can return it at any tube station and get your £5 back. Yes, there is a tube station at Heathrow Airport.

The Tower of London

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • £21.50

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:30 Tu-Sa
  • 10:00 – 17:30 Su – M

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • If you are traveling into London by rail, you might be able to get a 2 for 1 ticket.
  • There is a free Beef Eater tour every hour on the hour starting at 10:00.
  • Don’t Miss:
    • The crown jewels.
      • Sees these as early as you can; the line gets very long later in the day.
    • The spot where the beheadings took place.
    • The spot, in the White Tower stair case, where the “two princesses” were found.
    • The chapel where the bones of Anne Boleyn might be buried.
    • The historical graffiti.
    • Traitor’s Gate

Museum of London

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free
  • free wifi

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Videos:

Notes:


National Gallery

Basic Information

Website

 

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t miss:
    • The Monty Python Foot
    • Venus and Mars – Botticelli
    • Rokeby Venus – Velazquez
    • Sunflowers – Van Gogh
    • The Water-Lily Pond – Monet

The British Museum

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • free
  • £6 audio guide

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:30

Videos:

Notes:


Westminster Abbey

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

  • The audio guide
  • You can download the guide to you phone, but you cannot use your phone in the abbey.
  • An audio guide is complementary with your ticket.

Cost:

  •  £20.00
  • You can find cheaper or combination tickets online

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 15:30

Video

Notes:

  • It’s pronounced “Westminster” like how it is spelled, not West Minister.
  • An audio guide is complementary with your ticket.
  • Buy your tickets online to save time, money, and hassle.

Guildhall Art Gallery

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free
  • Free Audio Guide

Hours:

  • 12:00 – 16:00 Su
  • 10:00 – 17:00 M – Sa

Video

Notes:

  • They were sitting atop a Roman amphitheatre and had no idea until they did some renovations in 1985.

The Imperial War Museum London

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Videos:

Notes:

  • I’m not a fan of war museums in general, but I like this one. It’s very well done.

Lots of things to look out for:

Notes:

Map:

Posted in England, London, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My Shiny Little Balls

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 8, 2011

June 26, 2011

All Pictures

No establishment in Japan has parking like a pachinko parlor.

Do you want to pachinko tomorrow?

If you’ve ever been to Japan, chances are that you’ve seen a pachinko parlor or two. They are everywhere, even in little boondock villages in the middle of swampy rice fields. They are always open and have plenty of parking. Many of them have little restaurants or cafes that serve food until late at night.

I have gone into many pachinko parlors, but have never stayed longer than the time needed to use the bathroom. The machines are noisy. The people are very zombie like. Everything is written in Japanese. And the whole thing is very overwhelming. So when my neighbor, Brandy, offered to go with us and show us what to do, Mark and I jumped at the chance.

I hope this ends well.

We got in and sat down at some open machines. We each put in 1,000YEN into our machines and little silver balls came out. We put those balls back into the machine with hopes of getting more silver balls. Sometimes more balls came out, but more often none did.

We ended up losing all our balls. Well, I kept one as a souvenir.  We spent one hour playing pachinko, but many people spend half their lives there. I know I used to work in a place like this.

This place is probably closed down by now.

Would you like a sandwich or some tea?

When I lived in London I needed money to pay for my flight to Japan. It was the summer and my contract in Japan started in November. So I found a job working in the “arcade” in the picture above.

It was a miracle that I got the job, because I showed up about an hour late for the interview. I somehow ended up at Victoria Station which was no where near where I needed to be. I managed to charm Wendy, the manager and was hired. (I honestly think she hired me because she liked my American accent.)

The odd thing was that I thought I would be working in a gaming arcade. You know, the kind where little kids come in and spend all their coins. What it actually was, was a casino with only slot machines.

My job was to give change, clean the machines regularly, serve coffee, tea, and sandwiches, call the hourly bingo, and basically chat up customers to make them want to stay and lose,… um, spend all their money.

“All my balls are gone!”

He asks for tea, but that’s not what he wants.

It was a pretty easy job and I liked most of the customers. One day a guy came in and asked for ” a cuppa”. Later I got to know him better and found him to be a fairly decent guy who wished to keep his anonymity. He asked to be referred to as “Ghosty” and he never wanted to talk about his life outside the arcade. But even on the first day I met him, I knew he was a bit strange.

me – “What?”

Ghosty – “a cuppa”

me – “Copper?”

Ghosty – “Ah-cup-ah”

I stared at this guy waiting for more of an explanation. He put on his best fake American accent. “I want a cup oFFFF.”

me – “A cup of what?”

Ghosty – “You know, a cuppa…”

me – “Oh, you mean tea!”

He lit up and nodded. “Yes, please.”

me – “Sure, I’ll get you some tea. Would you like milk and sugar?”

The people around me laughed. “You don’t put milk in tea dear, unless you’re Scottish. Oh Americans!” said a lady not looking away from her machine.

“I would like some milk and sugar,” Ghosty said.

So I got him some tea, with milk and sugar and handed it to him.

“What the hell’s this!?” he asked.

me – “Your tea, with milk and sugar, like you asked”

Ghosty – “But I didn’t want this!”

I stood there, completely confused. He asked for tea. I got him tea, just the way he asked for it. Then another one of the floor girls, as we were called, came by. She call me over. With her thick Polish accent she said, “Never give that man tea.”

me – “But he asked…”

“I know,” she cut me off. “He comes in everyday and asks for tea, but he doesn’t want tea. He wants coffee.”

“So why doesn’t he ask for coffee?” I asked.

“Who the hell knows! But give him coffee with 2 sugars and a little milk.” As she went back to the break room she shouted under her breath while waving her hands, “These people are driving me crazy!” She was joking… somewhat.

How could something so cute take all of my money and give me nothing in return?

But you speak English

Another day while I was on break at work, two of the floor girls came into the break room. “We need your help. You are a native English speaker; talk to this woman.” My co-workers were from Poland and Estonia. I got up and went onto the floor.

I walked over to the red headed lady they wanted me to talk to. “Could I get you anything?” I asked politely.

She replied with a bunch of rolled R’s and some cackles. What ever she was saying, she seemed to be in a good mood about it.

I walked away, turned to my friends, and told them that I couldn’t help. I had no idea what the lady was saying.

“But you speak English…”

“Yes. But that lady doesn’t. She is Scottish. Her accent is too thick for me to understand. But I guess I could try again.”

I walked over to the lady and said, “I’m sorry, could you speak a little more slowly. I’m having a hard time understanding your accent.”

It turned out she wanted an egg sandwich, but she didn’t say it like this, “I want an egg sandwich. What she said sounded more like this, “Ay won’t un eggy…” and then a word that didn’t come close to sounding like the word “sandwich”.

She then asked me how long I had lived in England. I told her that I had been in the country for over 2 years, but most of that time was spent in Manchester. I had a conversation with the Scottish lady in which I understood less than half of what she said and smiled and nodded through the rest.

Ironically enough, my grandmother’s family comes from Scotland. Her brother still lives there, but I’ve never talked to him, but I’m guessing I wouldn’t understand him any more than I understood the Egg Sandwich lady.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and callyourbanktoaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Any Pachinko Parlor
(パチンコ)

How to get there:

  • Go to Japan.
  • Look out your window.
  • If you don’t see a pachinko parlor you might have to go outdoors and walk in any directions for about a block or two.

Website:

Cost:

  • Usually a minimum of 500 or 1,000YEN to play.

Hours:

  • They NEVER close!

Notes:

  • They are everywhere.
  • They have tons of free parking.
  • Never use a machine that has someone’s stuff on or near it.
  • It is not gambling. That is illegal in Japan. Pachinko is “gambling” which is quite legal.
  • Never ask where you can exchange the balls you’ve won for cash. That would make it gambling, which is illegal in Japan. Instead just look for the nondescript place outside in the back where they exchange the balls for cash. This is how “gambling” works.

Map: (Any where in Japan)

Posted in England, Japan, Kyūshū, London, Oita 県, Oita 市, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Put My Toes in the Thames

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 20, 2010

November 26 – 27, 2004

All Pictures

Piccadilly Circus

Bright Lights, Big City

This was another trip planned by the International Society in Manchester. They made all the reservations for accommodations and tours. Two of my classmates and I took the big I.S. charter bus to London and had a great time.

My roommate for the trip was Nalleli along with 2 other girls I’d never met before, and haven’t seen since. They had thick European accents that sounded exotic to me.

Since the hostel was segregated by gender, David, my other classmate, bunked with some other guys who had the misfortune of not travelling with any male friends.

Dinner at McDonald’s

We ate our breakfasts in the cafeteria in the basement of the hostel then boarded the bus. The mornings where packed with tours and activities. There was so many things that we did that I can’t remember a single one now.

In the afternoons we were free to go where ever we wished. The girls who stayed in Nalleli’s and my room went shopping. In the evenings they came home, tired with bags and bags of overpriced designer goods. They brought empty suitcases to be filled with the spoils of their hunts. “These are just such great deals! There are just no good shops in Manchester.”

Nalleli and I sat on our beds each evening as the girls paraded their new clothes for us. During these fashions show the ladies would tell us how much each item cost. Nalleli and I kept a running total in our heads. They blew through almost a thousand pounds each by the end of the trip.

Dali’s Elephant

My group, however, was there to see the sights. David, the only British one among us, had already seen everything. He showed us around.

Nalleli and Me: “What should we see next, David?”

David: “I don’t know. What do you want to see?”

He was very helpful.

Big Ben

For the Old and Learned

London is expensive. I don’t care what those shopping girls said, everything in London is overpriced. But there are discounts to be had. For every tourist attraction we went to, we looked to see if there was a student rate. Sometimes the student rate was £2 off, other times it was half price. Even students from schools outside of Britain can get the discount. Just bring a valid, up-to-date student I.D.

The only thing better than the student discount, is the senior citizen discount. If you are over 60 and you are traveling the world, carry your passport with you when you go sightseeing. That thing will pay for itself!

Don’t focus on the river. Focus on the bridge.

Wait until you see it…

Before the trip began I made a proclamation that I was going to wade in or at least dangle my feet into the Thames. How could I leave England and not be able to tell everyone that I touched the most famous British body of water? David looked at me incredulously. “You should really hold off until you see the water before making any oaths.”

I only took pictures of the Thames at night. That way you cannot tell how dirty and gray it is. I never did touch it. eww!

All Pictures


The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Videos:

Books: 


The London Eye

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 51°30’12.0″N 0°07’10.3″W
  • Go to Waterloo Station.
  • Look up, the Eye can easily be seen.
  • Walk to it.

Address:

Merlin Entertainments London Eye
Riverside Building
County Hall
Westminster Bridge Road
London
SE1 7PB

Phone

Website:

Cost:

Hours:

  • Usually 10:00-20:00
  • Open everyday, but Christmas
  • Time changes each season

Notes:

  • You can have parties in the Eye.
  • You can get some of the best views of the city. The best time for romantic looking photos are just before sunset.

Buckingham Palace

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 51°30’04.5″N 0°08’31.3″W

Use any of those underground stations:

  • Green Park (Jubilee. Piccadilly and
  • St James’s Park (Circle and District lines).

Website

Cost:

  • Tour                                      £8.7515.50
  • Changing of the Guard   Free

Hours:

  • Tour: July 31 – Sept 29  9:45 – 15:45

When the Queen is not in residence 19 State Rooms are open to the public. Make sure to book in advance to ensure admission. £8.75-15.50

  • Non-Tour

Well no one can stop you from strolling by at any time day or night, but it’s best to pass by during the changing of the guards.

  • Changing of the Guards

It takes place in front of the palace at 11:30 everyday in summer and every other day in winter. In the summer it’s gets pretty crowded so come with some sort of icy beverage and grab a good spot.

Notes:

It’s great to just walk around and see the gates of her Majesty. Who knows, you might even get a quick glimpse of one of the Queen’s butlers.

Map:

Posted in England, London, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

We’ll Go in December

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 20, 2010

December 06 – 07, 2003

All Pictures

See, not too many people here.

I know how to avoid the crowds…

Anne and I planned a trip to Stonehenge. Well, Anne planned the trip; I was just the tag-along. At this point in time I was still pretty useless when it came to planning activities, remembering directions, and finding places. At the end of this trip, Anne had to walk me to Oxford Road, the main street of our university, because I couldn’t remember how to get home from the train station.

I think I was the one who came up with the brilliant idea of going to Stonehenge in the middle of winter. I thought that we would have the place almost all to ourselves. Anne apparently thought it was a great idea too, because she put the trip together.

I told several people about the trip. I should have guessed that something was up when no one ask to join us. Who wouldn’t want to take a trip to Stonehenge?

Well, there is a reason why Stonehenge is crowded in the summer and not the winter. In the winter it’s COLD!! Thermal underwear will only do so much.

But… other than one bus filled with Japanese tourists, it was just Anne and me.

Anne walking to see a mound

Lets go see the mounds.

I didn’t know that there was anything other than Stonehenge in the town of Salisbury. In fact, I didn’t know I would be going to Salisbury until I went with Anne to buy our train tickets. I wasn’t much help in doing any of the planning on this trip at all. I did no research. I just left it all up to Anne, but she did a great job.

In case you where wondering Salisbury steak and the town of Salisbury, either in England or in Maryland, have nothing to do with each other. The dish was name after a Dr. Salisbury from New York.

Warm enough to take off my hat and mittens

So after we stared at the monoliths long enough to make our noses hurt from the start of frostbite, Anne said, “Let’s catch the bus to Avebury and see the mounds.” We left the freezing Japanese tourists behind and waited in the frigid air for the bus. I was so happy when the bus finally arrived. I thoroughly enjoyed the warm bus ride to another cold destination.

At Avebury we walked around looking at mounds and rocks as we shivered. No one knows who put them there or why. Some think the whole thing is some sort of message for aliens or by aliens. Others, say it’s just a great gimmick to lure tourist to the town.

Afterwards, we had a long wait for our bus back to the hostel. There was a pub right next to the bus stop so we went in to warm up. I ordered something to eat and a hot cup of tea. I was so cold I was willing to drink tea!

Saints

He was eaten by dogs, you say…

The next day we visited the Salisbury Cathedral. The most astonishing thing about this church is that it houses several original copies of the Magna Carta. They usually have it on display, but for some reason, the day we went there, none of them were available for viewing.

Jesus fell

We walked around the church yard and the church itself. I notice that there were many statues of saints on the exterior walls of the cathedral. Some of them were holding their heads in their hands. Others were impaled, while still more were tied up with fire at their feet. One was standing next to a sinister looking dog.

“The statues depict how the saints died,” Anne told me. “That one there, was eaten by a dog. And that one was beheaded.” I noticed very few of these saints passed away peacefully in their sleep.

Anne and I posing in the crypt

… and this was the great dining hall.

The last thing we saw was Old Sarum. It used to be a fort and royal palace back in its day. But now, it’s just a bunch of rocks on a pretty lawn in the quiet country side.

There are lots of old ruins like this in England. Sometimes there is an overly enthusiastic, underpaid tour guide who would like nothing more in life than to share his or her joy of history with the world. Their words do nothing to stir any passion in the hearts of tourists, because all the tourists see are rocks.

It was amazing to walk on the pretty grass knowing that a long, long time ago, people lived here. Those people were there before there was a thing called England, before the Romans, before Christianity… Eventually English speakers would come along and build the fort that I didn’t see that day, because all I saw were rocks.

All Pictures


 

The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Videos:

Books: 


Stonehenge

How to get there:

Address:

Wiltshire – SP4 7DE

Phone:

  • 0870 333 1181

Websites:

Cost:

  • English Heritage Member Free
  • Adult                                         £7.50
  • Child                                          £4.50
  • Concession                             £6.80

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 19:00

Videos:

Notes:

It gets really cold here in the winter.


The Avebury Mounds 

How to get there:

Address:

near

Marlborough, Wiltshire SN8 1RF

Phone:

  • 01672 539250

Website:

e-mail: avebury@nationaltrust.org.uk

Cost:

  • Stone Circle – Free
  • Other Actives cost money

Hours:

  • Stone Circle – Sunrise to sunset
  • Shops – 10:00 – 16:00 (Time varies a bit depending on the time of year.)

Notes:

No one knows what’s inside the mounds.


Salisbury Cathedral 

How to get there:

Address:

The Chapter Office
6 The Close
Salisbury
SP1 2EF

Phone:

  • 01722 555 124

Website

Cost:

suggested voluntary donation…

Hours:

General Times: Varies things open at various times and change throughout the year.

  • M-Sa 9:00 – 17:00
  • Su    12:00 – 16:00

Notes: 

  •  This church holds several copies of the original Magna Carta.
  • The best ones are on display.
  • In the novel The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follet based Kingsbridge Cathedral on the cathedrals of Wells and Salisbury.

Old Sarum

How to get there:

Address:

Wiltshire – SP1 3SD

Phone:

  • 01722 335398

Website:

Cost:

  • English Heritage Member Free
  • Adult                                         £3.70
  • Child (5-17)                           £2.20
  • Concession                             £3.30

Hours:

Times varies depending on the season.

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Salisbury YHA

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 51°04’08.5″N 1°47’15.5″W

Walk east from Tourist Information Centre along Milford Street, which leads into Milford Hill and underneath road bridge.

Address:

Milford Hill
Salisbury
Wiltshire
SP1 2QW

Phone:

  • 0845 371 9537

Website

e-mail:  salisbury@yha.org.uk

Cost:

  • Check their website for prices.

Hours:

  • Open 24 hours a day
  • Reception  7:30 – 23:00

Map:

Posted in Amesbury, Avebury, England, Salisbury, United Kingdom, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Did You See the Undercroft?

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 20, 2010

November 22, 2003

All Pictures

Two of my friends exploring in the cold

The Wheels on the Bus

While attending the University of Manchester, I spent a lot of time at the International Society. There was always something going on there. At the very least, they served delicious, inexpensive meals and the staff was always friendly and willing to chat your head off.

In those days at the International Society, every meal was a surprise. The head cook was an Indonesian lady named Maria. She mostly cooked what ever she felt like. But, if you asked her to, she would cook a dish from your home country, as long as you gave her a recipe. I read in an e-mail from the International Society, a few years back,  that she died. She was a great cook and she was always very friendly to me and my friends.

Other than food, what I like about the I.S., were their trips. It was always well planned out. All you had to do was sign up, pay for your ticket, and show up on time. The I.S. did all the planning and provided a bus.

Sometimes there would be an hour by hour tour planned. That mostly happen on visits to big cities. But for smaller areas, you were left to roam free. Either one was fine with me.

They also had a take-a-book-leave-a-book library when I was there. I hope they still have it.

We’re pretending not to be cold.

All right already, we’ll look at your crypts!

This trip to York was an agenda-free trip. They parked the bus downtown and told us what time we were expected back. They also gave us an idea of some of the stuff that we could see in town.

“…and be sure to see York Minster,” the leader called as we bounded out the bus.

In the US, churches aren’t very old. Therefore, they aren’t very interesting. I was surprised that a church would be a tourist attraction. I wasn’t interested in it. My friends and I went wondering around downtown aimlessly looking at statues and old buildings.

It didn’t look anything like New York. Everything was so old. It looked like a Christmas card version of a small English town. And the fact that it was around Christmas time and all the decorations were up, only helped. The town was romantically beautiful, but at the same time it was really cold and we wanted to warm up indoors.

Visiting this on a cold day, was a very bad idea.

We stopped a lady on the street and asked her what indoor things were there to see in this town. She recommended York Minster. “A church, really?” I whined. “Yes, dear. It’s really nice. And make sure you see the undercroft.”

I turned to one of my friends and asked her, “What’s an undercroft?” She explained that it is a place under the church, like a cellar, where dead people are kept. “Wow, these Yorkers are very morbid. And how horrible that the city’s claim to fame is a bunch of dead bodies under a church.”

We did go to see the church, but it had no heat. We walked around the freezing church, looking at grotesque images of Jesus on the cross and ones of Mary. We looked at more statues while losing the feeling in our fingers. As we were about to leave a lady stopped us.

“Where are you going. You haven’t seen the undercroft yet. It’s the best part of the tour!”

Nice sandals…

So we went downstairs. It wasn’t too bad. Down there you could see the original streets and foundations of the roads and walls the Romans built. It was all very interesting, because until then all that “Roman conquering Europe” stuff had just been a bunch of forgotten pages in my high school history book.

Then someone asked us if we were ready to see the crypts. “Sure, why not? I’m already walking around on old Roman roads several feet underground. I can’t possibly get any colder.” No photography was allowed in the crypts. It was very creepy.

Later we found a museum of Roman history in York. We asked if the museum was well heated before paying to go in. Since it was, we stayed in there until it was time to get back on the bus and head to Manchester.

All Pictures


 

The United Kingdom

How to get there:

You can enter this country by land via an underwater tunnel, air, or sea.

Check with your local UK embassy for visa information.

Phone:

  • Use 112 or 999 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance

Website:

Videos:

Books: 


York

How to get there:

Websites:

Videos:

Notes:

  • This was a day trip I did through the University of Manchester’s International Society. They have lots of great trips for all the students and people living in Manchester.
    • Here is their address and phone number:
      • 327 Oxford Road William Kay House, Longsight Manchester M13 9PG
      • +44 (0) 161 275 4959
  • Make sure to see:

Map:


Posted in England, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom, The, York | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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