|One city I was
trying to avoid completely was London. Not that I'm conservative or boring,
it's just that London is so huge, so expensive, too much to see and bloody hard
to get out of. The fact that I had made several journeys to the nation's
capital before made it even more mandatory that this was one place I would have
to skip if I were to keep to my original itinerary.
London is not an
easy place to avoid. In fact, without making the most ludicrous detour, when
traveling by train, it's virtually inevitable that one is going to have to stop
through London. The problem is London, being the largest city in the world, is
the centre of so many train lines that there is not enough room for it all in
one station. In fact, there are ten main-line rail stations! This means a
simple "change trains in London" requires leaving one station, locating the
alternative station and getting there by Underground. You want some examples of
the inconvenience? If you're going from Norwich to Portsmouth, this would
require arriving at Liverpool Station only to have to leave from Waterloo St. A
trip from Liverpool to Canterbury would require a transfer form Euston Station
to Charing Cross St. and a simple skip from Reading to Southend would bear the
aggravating change of Paddington Station to Fenchurch Station
the Loch Ness Monster is not the only mystic creature to attract thousands of
visitors each year; the Bastard Beast of Borough Green (aka; Damien) is
slightly lesser known but just as terrifying an animal. I was not only
privileged enough to capture this photo of the dreaded creature but also to
have survived the encounter.
Unfortunately ladies, Big Ben is only a clock after all.
was rather ironic that the one English city I was trying to avoid was the first
I embarked in. I arrived from Cardiff to Paddington not realizing that my
connecting train to Kent was at a completely different station. Thinking I was
an experienced traveler, I had foolishly not read too closely into the
itinerary given to me from the Information Center in Cardiff, and spent the next half hour
looking trains going down the Maidstone Line. A closer look at my printed
schedule and I finally saw the words "Victoria Station". This meant a rush down
the Circle Line Underground to catch my connecting train. I wound up missing my
connection but fortunately Maidstone Line trains leave Victoria hourly so it
wasn't too long before I found myself on my way.
"I just can't seem
to get away from those Boroughs!" was what Damien cursed. The truth is
Middlesborough and Borough Green could not be any more opposite from each. One
is an industrial coastal city, tarnished with high unemployment, crime and
pollution. The other situated on the gorgeous grass plains of Kent; peaceful,
unspoiled and a booming agricultural industry.
Borough Green Farm
lies in the middle of an area known as Weald. Weald is known for its vast
countryside fields, fertile rolling hills and its sensuous natural beauty.
Damien and his girlfriend Laura had found themselves a job working on a farm,
picking fruit. Although the cities of Canterbury, with it's historic cathedral
paid homage to it in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Dover, where the
ferry can be caught to take one across the Channel to Calais, France are the
two main tourist destinations of Kent; Weald is a huge destination for locals
due to the employment created through it's thriving agricultural industry.
Workers can make wads of take home cash through picking and distributing fruit
on one of its many farms.
|The farm that
Damien and his girlfriend were staying at was only a 2 pound taxi ride away.
Damien, one of the funniest men alive, was his usual jolly self. It had not
been nearly as long since our last reunion as it had been with Kyle as I had
visited Middlesborough one and a half years prior. Although he and his
girlfriend shared only a small tent on the farm, there was a room in a porter
cabin available for me to crash out in.
It was wonderful to see Damien
in so much better of a condition than he was in when I had thrust myself upon
his families hospitality eighteen months prior. The workers on the farm had
formed their own little "gypsy town". Every night, the workers would gather
around campfires and porter cabins and socialize, have a few drinks and share
laughs. Damien and I entertained just as we had our classmates in Oman before
passing out for the night. While I was allowed to stay as many nights as I
wanted in Borough Green, the problem was, everyone had to work during the
dayshift. I decided I would utilize my trusty Britrail pass and pop off on
various daytrips during this time. I left my luggage in their storage tent and
headed off to Manchester.
Manchester may seem
a little strange of a place for a tourist to visit, with no real unique
historic monuments to visit but it has been producing brilliant musicians and
football teams over the past century. Tarnished with the label "Britain's
industrial capital", You need to know what to be looking for in Manchester and
I was hoping to crash the Manchester City v Sunderland match, visit the Band on
the Wall Club as well as catch some music.
"A complete waste of a trip" would
be a little harsh of a way to describe my experience of Manchester however
"disappointment" may sum it up a little better. After a nice little stopover in
London, changing from Victoria to Euston Station, I arrived in Manchester
towards the middle of the day. I made my way to the Piccadilly Circus Gardens
Tourist Information Center before selecting a little B&B down Oxford
I've heard Manchester
United have won this a few of times
The City game
was predictably sold out. Finding this out required a nice little stroll
through the luxurious Moss Side to get to Maine Road. "East of the University
is Moss Side, a ghetto with unemployment and a thriving drug trade controlled
by violent gangs. Don't even go near it!" was what the Lonely Planet Guide had
warned but I was still determined to get to this match.
became obvious there was no way in hell I would be getting into the City match,
I set off to find some of the famed Manchester nightlife that got the city
dubbed "Madchester". Unfortunately, this was not happening either. Manchester
has been the home of such superlative acts as the Smiths, Oasis, the Stone
Roses, the Charlatans, Simply Red, Joy
Division and New Order. None of whom were performing tonight. The famous Band
on the Wall club was closed and the streets were empty as if the whole town had
gone on holiday.
This may not have been too far from the explanation.
Manchester's youth culture relies heavily on its herd of university students.
With this being the summer time, they were obviously non-existent and the city
was surprisingly dead for the night.
A trip to Old Trafford the
very next day was an absolute must do for football fans all over the world. I
woke up the next morning and immediately headed off that way. The stadium is
easily accessible through the Manchester Metrolink and its surroundings are
much more pleasant than that of Maine Road. It's already easy to see why the
City fans are just a little envious of their rivals. And then there's the
ground itself. It's incredible just how huge Old Trafford is. Not just the
pitch and stands itself but the gift shop, the trophy cabinet, the museum and
surroundings all adding to one impressive setup.
After a thorough tour of Old
Trafford, it was back on the train to Borough Green to meet up with Damien. I
can safely say the trip to Manchester wasn't a complete waste of time but I
couldn't help feel a little disappointed that I hadn't grasped a little more of
the nightlife and I was still a little gutted at missing the football game. Oh
well, better luck next time.
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