When you think of England immediately you think – London: Big Ben. Red Phone Booths. Fish&Chips. That large Ferris wheel. Am I right?
So, why did I spend the week of Thanksgiving in Northern England? Because Matty. If you follow my blog, or if this is your first time ever being to my website please know that I have mentioned Matthew numerous times, in various articles. I met him as a camp counselor in Pennsylvania in 2013 and we’ve been friends ever since. Our friendship recently amped up to the next level and it was time to take a trip to his country. I bought my tickets three months out, which gave me the perfect amount of time to save up. Here’s my English experience.
1. Newton Aycliffe
We drove straight into Newton Aycliffe late at night. It is a cute neighborhood where Matty grew up. This was “home base” throughout the week, where I kept all my things and felt comfy to just hang out.
We visited Cobblers Hall which is a local favorite. I had a great Irish coffee and felt super relaxed there. The city definitely has a small town vibe, which I have never really had anywhere I’ve lived. I am used to moving a lot, so it was really nice to see how people knew each other well and hear stories of them growing up together.
In this area I went shopping with Matty’s mom and had my first Mince Pie. It literally tastes like Christmas in mini pie form. Newton Aycliffe is also where to find Toby’s Carvery, a little gem where I was treated to my first traditional Sunday dinner. Dinner usually means lunch in England but this time it was actually dinner. Yorkshire puddings are like next level croissants and gammon is almost like ham but different, because I'll actually eat it gladly. It was a great meal and I got to feel authentic!
I visited the city of Durham, rich with history and gorgeous buildings. We stopped at the Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle, which is currently serving as dormitories for university students.
The Durham Cathedral is dedicated to St. Cuthbert, a monk, bishop and well known hermit. The other monks carried St. Cuthbert’s body around for two hundred years after he passed, so it would not get stolen. Inside the cathedral we found beautiful stained glass windows, and artwork to observe. Photography was prohibited, so here are some photos.
A Norman castle on a hill, from the Tudors of England. Construction of the castle began in 1072 with William the Conqueror. It had a very "started from the bottom now we here" story line. The castle started as a fortress of protection, then became a place of luxury and excess. The cost for our tour was £8 with a student discount and lasted an hour. No pictures allowed inside forreal, but it was a good way to stay out of the rain for a bit.
On my second tourist day, we visited York, not to be confused with the York peppermint patty a refreshing ice cream treat. This is where Matty went to university. It is a fun city with lots of personality. This vibrant city is surrounded by ancient, defensive walls. They are known variously as York City Walls, the Bar Walls and the Roman walls. We walked the walls surrounding the city, soaking in views of the York Minster and the streets below. York Minster is a focal point in this wonderful city. It is an intricately designed cathedral, the largest in Northern England!
York City Center had plenty of shopping and sightseeing opportunities. It's dressed up for Christmas and you could just smell chestnuts roasting, on an open fire. Jack frost nipping at your nose. This Christmas market was set up with tents where you can come in, warm up and grab a mulled wine. Check out STA Travel's Top 5 Christmas Markets.
York Minster, Ruins & Walls
Here are some Travel Notes:
Airfare to England
Tickets from LAX to MAN round trip were $830. I scoped it out for a few weeks, then purchased at 3 am in September because I saw the prices climbing.
Websites I checked for good flights include STAtravel, WOW Air, and Airfare Watchdog. Thanksgiving week is always going to be a more expensive travel time, but it made the most sense because work was closed a couple days that week.
Airport Security makes me mad
My biggest complaint about traveling is literally just airport TSA. I appreciate what they do and their roles in the airport are so necessary for global safety. However, it seems that they are implementing more and more rules to make travel torture. From Los Angeles, I was able to bring liquids in my carry on of 3.4oz or less, as long as they would fit a 1 quart bag. Without a problem I got to London. However, in London I had to go through security again on my connection to Manchester. They made me minimize my liquids to a half quart bag, resulting in me tossing out my mouthwash, and two other items. From now on if I am checking a bag ALL liquids will be in that checked bag.
- Travel as light as possible, because every country and airport has different rules
- Try Mince Pie & Yorkshire Pudding
- Don't try and copy their accents too often, they don't like it
- Bring earmuffs--no one else will have any on, but you'll thank me I promise.
I will cover the cities of Preston, Newcastle, Liverpool, and other aspects of this trip in The Cities of England Part II, coming soon!
Always remember never settle!