Having lived in Wales for an exact month, with mountains limiting my sight on one side and sea (or rather Anglesey) on the other, I thought it was time for a change. I had not seen Katie for a month either and therefore booked train tickets to Nottingham to visit her in her temporal residential town of choice.
The public transport system disappointed me once more and an hour late I arrived in the well-known city in the heart of England. And quite a culture shock it was, too! So many cars! Streets with two lanes in one direction! And lots and lots of red brick-houses. For the first time I became aware of the differences between a small city in rural Wales and a typically English one: no sheep here.
After the intake of some refreshments (pasta with delicious, home-made pasta sauce) we went straight to the first pub, The Salutation Inn. There, I finally found something I had been looking for during the past 4 weeks: Welsh cider! I ignored the fact that I was in England now and rather enjoyed the paradoxical situation of having a pint of Black Dragon (7.5% alc.) outside its natural habitat. Tastes interesting...
After a long night of dancing, drinking and chatting, we finally went home where I rolled out my sleeping bag and tried not to freeze to death in my sleep. Tom had kindly lent me his camping mat and Katie gave me an extra warm, furry cardigan, so I managed to survive.
The next day, Katie took me on a uni-themed exploration trip around Nottingham and I have to admit that I have rarely seen a uni campus that I liked so much: A vast park area, complete with pond and various water birds and the occasional uni building. Peaceful and quiet.
we ran - first away, then (with new courage) past it and out of its sight.
Aspire : with 60 metres of height the tallest free-standing sculpture in the UK
- aesthetics can be debated, but it definitely goes well with the red uni building next to it
*like a barbecue, but with slightly different dishes - very South African
We passed the rest of the afternoon in the Pit and Pendulum, a very dark and wood-panelled place, reminiscent of an alchemists lab. Sipping our Pride (one of the cocktails named after the 7 deadly sins) we took in the atmosphere and observed the customers - most of them long haired rockers, clothed in leather jackets. Especially entertaining was the appearance of a colourful hen party, a phenomenon that I still cannot quite grasp - before the music got too loud to communicate and we left.
Nottingham seems to be a city of superlatives. Besides the highest free-standing sculpture they also claim to have the smallest cinema in the world: The Screen Room. A long and narrow entrance way leads to a small and narrow foyer. No popcorn machine, just tea, coffee and cake available. (And Ben&Jerry's. Alas, only vanilla.) One door leads to the (doubtlessly narrow) toilet, the other one to the actual screen room.
We purchased two tickets for "The Road" and took two of 22 seats that form 3 1/2 rows. Tiny.
"The Road" is - I can savely say - the most disturbing movie I have EVER watched. Feel too happy? The Road will take you down to depression immediately. We left the cinema, barely able to speak. Not to mention smiling or laughing.
Back home a nice glass of wine and some chocolate restored our humours and we managed to distract ourselves from what we had seen.
The next day we did some more walking around - this time along the canal...
... past the castle on the hill-top and some cave-entrances in the hill-side...
...to the oldest pub in the UK (city of superlatives - there we go again): Ye olde trip to Jerusalem.
Crusaders used to have a final drink there before they sat out on their cruel mission to the Middle East - at least that's what legend says. The pub is halfway built into the castle rock and connected to the system of tunnels and caves that prevents Nottingham from getting a subway (They have trams instead).
It goes without saying that we popped in for a pint: Aspall's cider (not a bad choice at all), accompanied by the best Sunday roast I have ever had. This way I was also introduced to a new vegetable that immediately became a favourite with me: the parsnip. I'm not yet sure what potential this beetling has, but I bought some today and will experiment.
With falling darkness we entered a cinema yet again and treated ourselves to Avatar and a pair of 3D glasses, so that I finally got my fill of cinema-visits for a month. (Have I mentioned that Bangor's only deficit is the lack of a picture theatre?)
Thus the weekend found an end, but I still had Monday. Katie deserted me and went to uni and I set off in the opposite direction with the plan to visit the castle. The site was closed, though, and a friendly passer-by informed me that this was the normal state of things on Mondays. Great. What now?
Half-heartedly I trudged around in town trying to find something equally interesting. I followed the ubiquitous signposts, visited a church and finally found the tourist information centre. It did not take long to find an alternative to the castle and soon I had a badly-fitting helmet on my precious head and an audio-guide in my hand and stepped down to The city of caves, where I was sent on a journey through Nottingham's past.
The caves were home to poor people, underground taverns and settings for gambles and cock fights, hiding places for criminals and plotters, and shelter from the bombs in WWII. Not all of them have even been discovered yet, some have been blocked and most entrances are fenced off to the public, so that it is only possible to enter in designated areas.
Good-bye to brick city, good-bye to Robin Hood and good-bye to England: Rural Wales, here I come again! (I and my pair of absolutely perfect new shoes!)