I’d never visited England before, a fact that many people seemed to be shocked at. I guess it’s just one of those places most people (Americans?) travel to earlier in life: it’s easy to get around, everyone speaks English, the culture isn’t too different from our own. But, considering I didn’t even get a passport until I was 25, I just hadn’t gotten around to it.
The United Kingdom ended up being the thirty-first country I visited. And I’m happy that I left it until later in my travels. You see, when you travel, you meet a whole lot of English people. A whole lot. And then you meet a lot of people who are living in England to work. A lot.
And so, when I eventually got to England, I could meet up with a whole lot of people I’d previously met (in person or online) and definitely got to see a side of England I probably wouldn’t have seen on my own…
Harrogate. (And York. And Leeds.)
At the end of October, I flew from Dublin into Leeds. Not your typical first stop in England, but since I arrived at a smaller airport it took approximately five minutes to get off the plane, go through customs, and retrieve my backpack from baggage claim. No one even really looked at my passport, I just walked through a line holding it open.
I started up north to see my friend Tom. While we’d never actually met in person, I’d known him online for a long, long time. And I was excited that he would be the first person I’d get to see in England!
He was in town for a bit, living in Harrogate with his family between teaching English gigs in Asia, and offered up his bed for a few nights.
While there isn’t a whole lot to do in Harrogate I was grateful for the time he let me use with his laptop (it was shortly after my laptop had been stolen in Ireland) and for the amazing meals his mom cooked for me.
We spent one of the days in York: eating pork sandwiches and pork pies at a street fair, checked out York Minster (but didn’t go inside, who wants to pay £10!), and went through a cheesy tour of the dungeons (in which Tom was murdered or sent to be murdered twice and I almost got my head chopped off on suspicion of being a Southerner).
And he took me out to the gay bars in Leeds with his brother Harry. Which was awesome. I got wet from a drag queen’s pussy (she had a stuffed cat that squirted water…), I almost lost everyone, and a woman asked me to kiss her and then asked “not even a little bit?” when I told her I wasn’t gay.
All in all, totally successful night. And weekend. And introduction to England.
He just started Uni in Birmingham, and, since it was a stop anyways on my way from Bath to Manchester, I decided to swing by for a night to grab dinner and say hello. He’s busy studying, so we didn’t get too much time together, but we got some burritos and chatted for a bit and got lost amongst the Christmas markets and canals.
While I’d just met Mia at TBEX Dublin a month before, she eagerly told me that I had to come visit her in Manchester and it had to be on a weekend. So, on a Friday, after Birmingham, I took a bus over to Manchester and we spent a weekend hanging out at bars (we even met up again with Tom and Harry, who happened to be in town, to check out Canal Street — the city’s infamous block of gay bars), checking out the Christmas markets, and taking a little walking tour of street art and sites. And she made certain that I saw Manchester’s version of The Bean before I left. Seriously, last photo, check it out, totally epic…