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Michael’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 03 Oct 2007

Location: Chester - Edinburgh, UK

MapSunday morning (23rd Sept) we woke up and did what we had done the last couple of days take an open top tour bus! Chester is quite a lovely town with many Tudor houses lining the streets with the black and white look. For a long time it has been a tourist city, ever since they built a weir through the River Dee and the slower water flow resulted in a build up of silt and eventually the river narrow, became shallower, and the massive port that was there in the past was abandoned. Funnily enough, that resulted in the birth of Liverpool becoming the city it is today, as previously it was nothing more than a small fishing town. This town was also home to Grosvenor, the man that in Dad's words 'must own half the damn Monopoly board'. If you've spent any time in England you've heard the name Grosvenor (pronounced grove-ner), be it attached to roads or towns, restaurant or hotels, or even casino's. Turns out he married a lass who was the only descendant of a VERY wealthy man, who had more property than you could shake a stick at. When he married her, as was the custom in the old days, everything that belonged to her, now belonged to him, and when the old man kicked the bucket, Mr. Grosvenor inherited a very tidy sum. He continued to expand his empire for the rest of history

Anyway, Chester was an old roman town (essentially any English town with the phrase 'ester' on the end is a roman town – Chester, Leicester, Manchester, etc.) and the old city walls still skirt the outside of the city and can be walked the whole way around in just under an hour. But more than just walking around the walls, you can actually still walk on the old walkways on the top of the walls looking down into the city, and out at the 'approaching enemy'.

Another interesting point about the Tudor houses in Chester, they all lean forward out over the street. Some of them just lean forward from the base, but many of them have a base, then build over the footpath with just a couple brick pillars supporting the overhanging part of the house. The reason for this is essentially the first form of tax evasion. The houses were taxed on the are of ground they used up, so by building up and out, they minimised the amount of tax that was payable.

From Chester we pressed on to Liverpool, home of the Beatles. We didn't really have any plans aside from looking for The Cavern, the place where it all started of the Beatles. They performed in the Cavern 292 times (damn thats a lot), both before and after they became superstars. The Cavern was closed down in the mid 70's (I think) when some construction work was taking place that was never finished. So after sitting there dormant full of rubble for ages, the Cavern was emptied, and rebuilt, but smaller than previous due to the supports required for the new 9-story building sitting on the old site. The place is stale, dark, and hollow, much as you'd expect a place called The Cavern that is 3 floors below street level to be. After a beer and some photos, we re-surfaced, wandered around the Beetles district and checked the Aus-Fiji RWC scores. No threat of loosing we had lunch and made our way north to Blackpool.

Once in Blackpool we wandered around for a while looking for a laundry, internet and eventually after finding neither open on a Sunday (as expected) we settled for spending the night in the tackiest tourist attraction that Britain has to offer – and I loved it! We had fish & chips for dinner, and then attempted to catch the Illuminations (the main road is lit up with all sorts of light and flashy things for 5 miles along the beach) but despite being on till 11 pm, the last tram had left by 945 pm. Unable to catch the tram to watch the illuminations, we decided instead to head up the tower. A mock version of the Eiffel Tower, with all sorts of reputed entertainment inside, it too was open till 11 pm, but would not let us in when we rocked up to the front door at 10 pm. With everyone unhappy, and Dad threatening to 'write a letter' I sent Mum and Dad back to the B&B and said I was headed out.

First stop – Blackpool Walkie! I caught up with Amiee who used to work at Southampton, and enjoyed free entry and cheap drinks all night. The network extends beyond Southampton! Hahaha. We sat there and had a few drinks, and it was the leaving do for a couple of the staff there so everyone was in a jovial mood. I met a couple other regulars from Southampton there and chatted with them for a bit before the bar shut at 1230. Rather than leaving I was allowed to stay and we continued partying till about 130 before heading to a local night club with about a crew of 40 (all Walkie workers, well that's what we said!) people jumping the queue and not paying to get in. We all hit the dance floor till 3am when the place shut and I wandered the scary streets of Blackpool heading back to the B&B for a few hours sleep.

The next morning the touring was put of hold momentarily as did a huge load of laundry and sat in the laundry store waiting for the stuff to dry. The weather that had been cold and windy had turned to cold wet and windy over night the rain was coming down hard. Once the laundry was finally finished we jumped back in the car and made our way into the Lake District. It was pretty aimless driving, and I had an enjoyable day sitting in the passenger seat relaxing after a big Sunday night. The country side was beautiful, and was again I was dumbstruck by just how beautiful England can be.

After driving through the Lake District, we eventually decided to head straight to Edinburgh for the night, giving us a full day there the following day. It was a solid drive for a few hours, and I jumped back into the drivers seat. Eventually we drove down into Edinburgh, from nothing but country side all of 8 miles out of town. It really was quite surprising. Eventually we found accommodation for the night, and headed out for a curry for dinner. After dinner, with a full day behind us, we called it a night in preparation for a big day in Edinburgh to follow.

Up early the next morning, we headed into town by public bus and then jumped onto yet another Open Top sightseeing bus. We rode the bus till be reached Edinburgh Castle, and seeing the sky get dark, decided to jump off and look through the castle before the rain came. Of course, that didn't stop us from getting wet. We took the audio tour and wandered around the large impressive castle sitting atop the hill in Edinburgh. The history of the castle is amazing, with constant attacks from the English, as well as attacks from the French. Perhaps one of the more interesting things is the firing of the cannon at 1 pm daily. It is traditionally used to tell the ships in the harbor that it is 1 pm and they could set their clocks by the sound. Well, the cannon is LOUD, and shocked the hell out of me, even though I knew it was coming! The video I took of it shakes like buggery when the cannon goes off because I was shocked. Anyway, the castle was cool, and the views of the city were great from up there. Well worth it, and we spent plenty of time in there.

After the castle, we jumped back on the bus and continued the tour. There was some amazing views as we drove to Calton Hill looking back over the city, and as we continued around the town we finished the tour back on Waverly Bridge in front of the Scott Monument. Dad decided it was apt that we should get a photo in front of Maccas, eating cheeseburgers; very Scottish! From there Dad and I climbed the 287 odd steps to the top – man that was a tight squeeze. The stairs curl tighter and tighter, and you get less head room, and by the top Dad and I had to go up sideways! But the views from the top were incredible. You could see all the way out to the water over Calton Hill, amazing views of Edinburgh Castle, and all of the monuments in the town.

So then we lumbered back down the 287 steps, and yeah, it was the same ones we went up so there was some tight squeezing on the way back down, and plenty of yelling ahead to tell people not to come up the other way! At the bottom we headed for Dome, a bar inside an impressive looking Grecco-Roman building opposite St. Andrew's Square in the New Town. A couple of beers there and a plate of nachos, and we jumped back onto the bus and headed for the hotel. A quick shop at the mall opposite and some gazing at the Royal Britannia (Her Majesties Royal Yacht) which berths alongside the shopping center, and I snagged a new pair of jeans and shoes. Later that night Mum and I headed back to the Mall to catch a movie in what has to be one of the laziest nights all trip.