AdventureNotes #27: London (again!)

It’s been a while! After more than a year, I finally have the spirit to update my website. Back with AdventureNotes as I have been inspired by travel vloggers. This is a trip that I did in 2016 during spring. And again, it’s London!

London is a city that I visited – and would like to visit – over and over again. Yes, you can’t get enough of it. This time, I went to London because of visa stuffs. I wanted to apply for a schengen visa for my trip later to Spain. My husband and I decided to stay in London for a few nights just because we wouldn’t want to miss spending days visiting places in London.

Day 1

We went, I think, in around April/May. Having a trip in Spring is perfect because the weather is nice, the flowers are blooming, and the day is neither too short nor too long. We decided that on our first day, we will visit Greenwich area. Who don’t know Greenwich? I think it is a vocabulary that you will come across at school. That is the place where the 0 longitude lies. It is located rather in the south east of the City of London, and you can take the DLR or tube to get there. From central London, you will pass so many modern office buildings, which is really nice and also different from the old-style London touristy places. There’s also other alternatives, such as bus and cable car. Yes, if you are interested, you can take the Emirates Cable Car to cross the River Thames and get to Greenwich area.

Getting down in Cutty Shark station, you can walk straight to the Greenwich Royal Observatory. However, we wanted to take a longer route and went near the river instead. We walked to Cutty Shark, which is a kind of monument made of a real ship. You can come into the place with a certain fee. However, my main goal was to go to the Royal Observatory. Therefore, we skipped that and walked along the street to the Greenwich Pier. From the river bank, we can go inside the University of Greenwich area. The most popular view from the University of Greenwich is its Old Royal Naval College building. It is a part of the Maritime Greenwich, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site (I just knew this!). We didn’t come inside as we don’t have that much time – and part of the complex is not open for public. We walked through to the National Maritime Museum to get access to the Greenwich Royal Observatory complex.

Photo source: https://www.guidelondon.org.uk/blog/around-london/top-10-reasons-to-visit-greenwich/

Greenwich Royal Observatory is actually located within the Greenwich Park. We needed to walk through quite elevated road to get there. It was around 10-15 minutes walk from the National Maritime Museum, crossing the park. It was a fun walk and up there, not even inside the Royal Observatory, you can see a beautiful view of the Old Royal Naval College and the River Thames.

It was not cheap, but for the sake of fulfilling our curiosity, my husband and I decided to splurge on some more money to get inside the Greenwich Royal Observatory. The ticket price is 10 per person for adult. We got in and explored the complex. The Greenwich Royal Observatory consists of several buildings. We can come inside each building and go up to the observatory. The visit was educational and the highlight was the Prime Meridian. There is a planetarium as well there, but we didn’t have a chance to visit it (extra fee!).

Finished with the visit to Royal Observatory, we opted to visit the National Maritime Museum. It was an unplanned visit, but we got attracted by the whole exhibition in the museum. As most museums in the UK, the visit to this museum is free of charge (except for the special exhibition). There are so many things to see and there is also a great children area. We went around and fully covered the whole exhibition before going out to see the Greenwich Market.

Greenwich Market is a so-called historic market in London. The area is full of small shops, selling many things from clothes to crafts. There are also food stalls there. At the time we visited the place, it was very crowded, with so many people queueing for food. The price of the food ranges from GBP 5-10. We decided to have a little snacks before leaving the market as we planned to have lunch elsewhere.

The rest of the day was spent to eat lunch (this best eating spot – at least for us – in London called Noodle Stop near Piccadilly) and to meet friends. Tired with all of the luggage and everything, we ended our day by resting in our pre-booked hotel room. Again, we chose to stay in Easyhotel. It is a hotel chain that has properties in many cities and it always has a great offers. The first time we were in London, we stayed in Easyhotel Victoria with only GBP 25 per night. This was such a deal – keeping in mind that it was Christmas and holiday season! This time, we booked a room in Easyhotel South Kensington. We chose this place because it is close to tube station and many attractions. We paid GBP 38 for a night and we stayed for 3 nights. The room was super small, but it is enough if you really want to spend the days travelling and visiting places and only use the room to rest. What prime is its location with Easyhotel. All super central and really close to everything.

Day 2

We went out pretty early in the morning to apply for Schengen Visa. We finished quite early, around 10 am. We got back to the hotel to put documents away and planned out itinerary for the day. We originally wanted to visit the Natural History Museum, which is very close to our hotel. However, the queue was super long, reaching to the underground station. We skipped that plan and opted to walk to the Knightsbridge area. There are mostly shops and shopping mall in Knightsbridge – yes, Harrods is there. We didn’t spend too much time there and decided to visit another museum in London. We went to the Museum of London. It was such an interesting museum with loads of information, mostly about London. The exhibition areas are divided based on era, starting from the ice age to the current modern days. I got to learn about the London great fire, how it was in the Victorian age, and how it is today. Cool.

After that, we searched for interesting places near the museum. Finally, we found that Leadenhall Market is not too far away. On this day, we chose to go around by bus as we have plenty of time. We got off the bus a bit far from the market as we wanted to explore the surrounding area. We walked pass the Bank of England (they have a museum, too!), London Troops War Memorial, and Social Stock Exchange. The Leadenhall Market is not too far from there. What do we do in the market? Well, in my opinion, it is mostly about the architecture. It is unique and I think one of a kind. There are shops and restaurants, but not too much of a choice. After exploring the whole market, we hopped on a bus and basically just wandered around London, going where the bus took us.

Photo source: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/Pages/leadenhall-market.aspx

We went back to our hotel area and tried to explore the neighborhood. South Kensington is a quite famous neighborhood in London. It is known as one of the most exclusive real estate area and the buildings are really nice. We particularly were interested in the small shops around the Natural History Museum. There is this small bookshop with amazing collection. I couldn’t stop myself and bought quite a lot of books! Yes, the next day’s travel back to Birmingham would be heavy.

Day 3

This was our last day in London (and now I know that it was our last visit during our year in the UK). We only had the morning as our train leaves at 2.00 pm. After having breakfast in the hotel (nah, we bought our own food), we checked out and went to visit Camden area. I’ve always wanted to know the area since I watched this movie when I was in middle school. Now I already forgot the movie, but I’ve always wanted to go there. So this day was THE day.

Camden Market is located rather in the north of London. It was a huge complex with many crafts and food stalls. What they sell in the market is similar from one to another, and coming from Indonesia (where the crafts are beautiful), I didn’t really find an interesting stuff here. What was tempting was the food. There are so many food stalls with so many choices. There are foods from all around the world, I guess. However, it was nowhere near lunchtime and we were still full. We just walked around the market and the area. Again, we decided to take the bus back home. What interesting was that there are so many shops too outside the market. The road was just full with sellers, many of those sell London souvenirs. People say that the souvenirs here are quite a bargain and lots of tourists come here to buy gifts for their loved ones at home.

Photo source: http://retiredandtravelling.com/little-venice-and-camden-market/

Overall, it was such a relaxing and fun visit to London. We didn’t have that much in our itinerary, but for me, it was more enjoyable. Well, again, it was not enough. I don’t know how much more visit that I have to make to London until I see the whole thing. Anyways, see you next time, London!

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Tentang Mata (dan Otak

Ya, beberapa minggu ini saya ‘libur’ menulis karena sedang menghabiskan waktu bersama keluarga untuk berlibur. Jalan-jalan. Agak unik juga liburan kali ini karena biasanya saya hanya off 1 minggu. Sekarang, sudah hampir 3 minggu saya banyak kesana kemari, mulai dari pergi berwisata dengan suami hingga menemani orang tua menjelajah kota-kota di UK. Tulisan ini adalah refleksi saya selama berjalan-jalan. Bukan review jalan-jalan yaaa.. Silahkan cek edisi AdventureNotes berikutnya untuk tahu cerita jalan-jalan saya.

Ini cerita tentang mata. Mata yang membantu saya melihat segala sesuatu. Yang saat saya jalan-jalan kemarin telah dimanjakan. Liburan kali ini saya gunakan untuk pergi ke Spanyol. Negara di Eropa Barat yang juga terkenal karena ada sekelumit sejarah Islam-nya. Dulu, bahkan sebelum menikah, saya dan suami sama-sama punya mimpi ingin mengunjungi tiga kota dengan sejarah dan peninggalan Islam di Spanyol, yaitu Cordoba, Granada, dan Sevilla. Alhamdulillah kami diberikan kesempatan untuk mewujudkan mimpi kami. Selama 10 hari kami berkeliling kota-kota tersebut (ditambah Barcelona dan Malaga). Setelah itu, orang tua saya datang mengunjungi, membuat saya (dan kadang-kadang suami) harus mengantar mereka berkeliling. Kami mengunjungi beberapa kota di sekitar Birmingham, Bath, daerah Costwold, dan Liverpool. Setiap kota memiliki cerita sendiri. Setiap kota pun memiliki keunikan. Namun, ada satu kata yang bisa menggambarkan semua: INDAH.

Karena saya dan suami memang suka fotografi, setiap pengalaman perjalanan kami pun berusaha kami abadikan melalui foto, dan kadang-kadang video. Kami berusaha untuk ‘membawa’ sesuatu dari tempat yang pernah kami kunjungi, sesuatu yang tidak perlu bayar mahal untuk membawanya. Seperti slogan yang dulu sering saya dengar, “kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprint, and take nothing but picture”. Jadi, satu-satunya yang harus saya dan suami bela-belain untuk lakukan adalah foto-foto sampai lelah dan ngantuk-ngantuk. Kami berusaha untuk merekam semua hal yang indah-indah tadi.

TAPI, what is captured by the eyes can’t be captured by camera. Rasanya meskipun beratus-ratus kali foto, masih tidak bisa merepresentasikan apa yang dilihat mata. Jadi mengingat-ingat lagi, dan juga membayangkan apa yang dulu saya pelajari di kuliah Psikologi Kognitif dan Psikologi Faal. How complicated it is for our eyes and our brain to process those light signals to produce images and to make us understand what we see. Amazing. Segitu canggihnya organ-organ tubuh kita bekerja sampai bisa menikmati keindahan yang amat sangat. Dan semua itu, yang ingin saya ingat-ingat itu, tidak bisa tertangkap oleh mesin buatan manusia yang katanya merupakan alat yang punya kemampuan seperti mata kita. Nyatanya, kamera memang bisa menangkap, tetapi tidak bisa mem-preserve keindahan seperti aslinya. Yak, meskipun katanya kamera itu bagus banget, meskipun harganya mahal banget, atau meskipun fotonya sudah diedit segitunya.

Dan kemudian, diingatkan lagi untuk bersyukur. Satu hal kecil, kemampuan melihat, tapi tidak bisa tergantikan oleh apa pun. Saya merasa seringkali menyepelekan apa-apa yang biasa. Bisa melihat? Ya biasa. Wong dari lahir saya Alhamdulillah dikaruniai kemampuan melihat. Tapi, seringkali saya lupa bahwa apa yang saya bisa harus disyukuri. Ya toh, nggak perlu belajar untuk bisa melihat yang indah-indah. Allah langsung berikan tanpa saya harus minta-minta. Nikmat melihat baru satu. Masih sungguh banyak lagi nikmat-nikmat yang Allah berikan bagi saya, bagi kita sebagai manusia, yang sering sekali lupa saya syukuri.

Maka nikmat Tuhanmu yang manakah yang kamu dustakan? Jalan-jalan setitik ini mengingatkan bahwa banyak tempat indah di dunia. Namun, yang lebih penting, juga mengingatkan saya bahwa saya perlu lebih-lebih banyak bersyukur lagi.

 

Photo Source:

http://i0.wp.com/santri.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/ar-rahman.jpg?resize=500%2C200

http://www.sciencephoto.com/image/308503/530wm/P4200486-Human_vision-SPL.jpg

AdventureNotes #26: Peak District

Edensor, Peak District

Most of my AdventureNotes talk about traveling to cities (except if you consider Hull not as a city, haha!). This time, I will share my experience traveling to villages. I think around February, I got a chance to visit Peak District. It is an area categorized as one of National Parks in the UK. It is located to the north of Birmingham, just beside Sheffield. If you love the greens and nature, you will sure love it here.

It is not easy to reach this place. First of all, Peak District is big! There are various villages and green areas included in this district. Therefore, you have to be specific as in where you want to go to. As an Indonesian, we (yes, I visited the place with some of my friends) are inspired by a novel written by Andrea Hirata that is titled Edensor. Indeed, Edensor is the name of a village in Peak District. We don’t know why he chose that title for the novel, but it is legendary. We decided to visit the village as our main destination and then explore the surrounding area later on. So how did we manage to get into the village? By car. There is access by public transportation, but the service is scarce. You have to go to Sheffield first, and then take a bus to somewhere near Edensor. It is even more scarce in the weekend.

Actually, it was my first time experience renting a car to go somewhere in the UK. The process is not difficult and we can do it online. My husband just had to collect the car in the appointed place (usually airports) on the allocated time and to return the car also at the allocated time. We paid a little bit more for the insurance because it ‘safeguard’ us from further claims from the car rent company if something happen to the car. As a common policy here, we take the car with full tank of fuel and we have to return it in the same condition. So, don’t forget to calculate these costs when you are comparing the price of renting a car and of taking a public transportation. Oh! One more thing. We can use our Indonesian driving licence here as we have been living in the UK for less than a year. If you have lived in the UK for more than a year, you have to apply for the local driving licence.

The journey from Birmingham to Edensor should take around 1.5-2 hours. We took longer time because we got a bit lost. The intersections in UK is just confusing! Haha. Starting our journey from Birmingham at 7, we finally arrived at Edensor at around 10. The journey was pleasant and the surroundings and ambience was really different when we start coming into the Peak District area. It was just green and beautiful. Finding a parking space is not too difficult there. There is one big parking area near the Cathsworth House, but we chose to park just along a street in the Edensor Village. Edensor Village is a very small area that consists of maybe around 20 houses. It has only one main street, a church, and a tea house. At the end of the main road, there is a huge green area for farming. We explored the village, came inside the greenery area and enjoyed the view.

Having had enough of the village, we then walked across the road to a park. I think the name is Cathsworth Park. The view from the park onlooking the Edensor Village is even more beautiful. We seriously thought that it was the place where the inspiration for the book cover was. We endlessly took pictures there. Walking through the park, the scenery was amazing. At one end, we could see the Cathsworth House. It is the house for the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Nowadays, it is open for public, exhibiting numerous art collections. We can also visit the farm, garden, and annual Christmas event there. Unfortunately, at the time we visited the area, the house was closed for renovation. It was such a shame. I would love to see the inside of the house as the outside is so grand!

After having a picnic near the house, we just drove around the Peak District area. There are many little villages and the so-called towns. The villages are not far from each other. Again, it is all about the beauty of a country-side. We drove to a high point in Buxton. Climbing up to the hills, we can see such a beautiful scenery. Along the way, we saw many cyclists. I think it is a popular area for outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling, and motorbiking. What’s interesting is that with that contour (steep hills and slopes), the outdoor activities are really for everyone. I mean, we saw kids with their parents, and even senior citizens doing the same activity. Gosh! How strong are they!
Anyway, the visit ended there. It was such a refreshing escape from the hustle bustle of a city. Peak District done, but I still have a long checklist to go. Maybe next, I will visit Lake District!

AdventureNotes #25: Liverpool

Liverpool is blue. I don’t know why but the two times I visited Liverpool, I was welcomed with great weather and the blue sky. Therefore, I associate Liverpool with blue. I don’t know a city with bluer sky than Liverpool. I just love it. In this article, I will share my experience visiting the city. It is such an interesting city so that I want to visit it again and again.

Going to Liverpool is quite easy. The city is accessible by train or bus. As it is a popular city, the train station is big and there are a lot of services from and to Liverpool. We can also go by bus as Megabus provides service to and from Liverpool to many cities around the UK. The last time I went to Liverpool from Birmingham and the journey takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes. It was quite a pleasant journey. I arrived in Liverpool at around 9 so I could take my time to reach my destination.

In my opinion, Liverpool is not too big. At least the city center and the location of most attractions are within the walking distance. Therefore, I chose to just walk around the city. Well, at least the last time I visited. The furthest distance was covered in around 25 minutes. Not too bad, right? The first time I visited the city, I opted for the Hop On Hop Off bus. There are many tourist bus providers in Liverpool and it is quite an efficient way to explore the city in limited time. However, these two options may not be good enough for you if you want to visit the football stadiums. Anfield is located a little bit out of town so that you have to take the city bus to visit the place.

Liverpool is home of The Beatles. This legendary band was founded in Liverpool and all of the members are Liverpool boys. It is rather difficult to separate the fame of this city from The Beatles. For those who are hardcore fans, visiting this city is a must, along with entering The Beatles Museum. To enter the museum, we have to pay around GBP 30 admission fee. It is expensive, indeed. I would not recommend it if you don’t really like The Beatles or not interested in getting to know the band. However, for the fans, it is a worth visit. You can read stories of The Beatles, soaking at the atmosphere of the band, seeing the replica of the Tavern Pub where they first had they performance, etc. I must say that the museum is not boring at all and very attractive. Ah! And don’t forget to take a picture with the life-size The Beatles statues just in front of the Pier Head.

Keep calm, Liverpool is not just for The Beatles fans. It is also a city for football fans. There are two quite famous football teams in Liverpool, which are Liverpool FC and Everton. If you are a football maniac, visiting the stadiums of those clubs can be heaven. Similar to many football stadiums in the UK, the place is open for visitors and you can take a tour for some amount of money. I didn’t visit the stadium as I was not too interested in it and my husband is not a Liverpool fans. For you who want to know the stadium but is on a limited budget, you can always take a picture outside the stadium as there are also many players pictures and statues outside.

Still not too interesting? For me, Liverpool is a city with many museums that all are very interesting. One day is not enough to visit one museum in Liverpool. However, as I only went for a day trip, I had to cram two museums into one day. The museums I visited were Liverpool Museum and Maritime Museum. There is one other museum, which is World Museum. My favorite? Liverpool Museum, off course. The museum is not themed, but it is about Liverpool. I just love how everything is explained clearly and attractively. I felt like a child, there. I played around, read stories, experimented with things, and such. There are also two movies being played daily, one about The Beatles and one about football. There is also a repeated short movie about the movie industry in Liverpool. How nice! I really didn’t want to go out of that museum. My friend who lives in Liverpool said that it took him three days to finish the museum. I guarantee that you won’t be bored here and the image of traditional museum will vanish!

I also managed to visit Liverpool Maritime Museum. It mostly tells us stories about Lusitania and Titanic although there are also stories about warships. It is quite interesting to know the history of warships and megaships. On the top floor of the museum, there is a slavery museum. I forget the exact name for this museum. For me, this is even more interesting than the Maritime Museum. Haha. It tells stories about slavery, how it was and how it is now. Indeed, there are many forms of slavery and there is still implicit slavery all over the world. It is such an inspiring exhibition.

There is also a newly opened exhibition at the basement of the Maritime Museum building, which is about customs. As its name, the exhibition is about tax and customs and how illegal goods are transported from one place to another. It also highlights the danger of imitation goods to the economy and our health and daily functions. Interestingly, there is even an exhibition of imitation goods, such as shoes, bags, and electronics. I bet many Indonesian people’s goods deserve to be there. LOL.

Those museums are located very close to each other in the areas called Pier Head and Albert Dock. There is also Tate Liverpool gallery in Albert Dock. It is such a touristy area, an interesting one. I really like the ambience in Albert Dock, such a unique and beautiful place. Nearby, just across the road from Albert Dock, there is a shopping district. There is one unique shopping place called Liverpool One. It is like an outdoor shopping center. If you like to shop, it may be a good idea to visit this place and wander around the shops.

For me? I’d rather go to other attractions, such as Liverpool Cathedral and Metropolitan Cathedral. I love to stroll on the small alleys with unique shops and cafes. What a lovely city! You can certainly visit the cafes and the independent shops. They are one of a kind. I was also determined to eat fish and chips there as cities nearest to the sea always have the best seafood. Indeed, the fish and chips is sooooo delicious! The best one I’ve ever had in the UK, I must say.

Liverpool has it all. Good place, good attractions, good people, and good food. Do visit the city and experience it by yourself.

AdventureNotes #24: Chester

Chester? Not Manchester? No, they are different cities. This time, AdventureNotes will be about Chester. Where is it? The city is actually located not too far from Manchester or Liverpool. It is rather small, but indeed such a beautiful one. As usual, this piece will be written based on my experience and further information from the official Chester tourism website, http://www.visitchester.com/.

I went to visit Chester at the end of March. My first destination was the Chester Zoo (https://theadventureofizzao.com/2016/04/15/adventurenotes-22-chester-zoo/), but having known that the city is also famous for its beauty, I allocated a little time to explore the city. However, indeed it is not enough. Chester is too interesting to be visited for only a few hours. I think a day should be okay, though. Here, I will describe my few hours in Chester.

So the first place I visited was the tourist information center. It is located at the center of the city, near the Grosvenor Shopping Center. As I arrived there quite late, 3.30 pm, there are not many places that are still open. Therefore, I decided to just see the city and walk along the Chester Wall.

In my opinion, Chester is a bit like York. The city center consists of small streets with old-style buildings. In Chester, the buildings are more into the Tudor style. You know, the white color on top with list of wood. It is very interesting to see those modern brands’ store in the old-style buildings. Very unique, indeed. There are many shops in Chester so that the city also proclaims itself as a paradise for retail therapy. If the shops in the city center are not enough for you, you can always go to Cheshire Oak Designer Outlet, a little but outside of the city for a cheap bargain of designer labels.

DSCF5622

The city is surrounded by a wall, which is known as the most complete city wall in Britain. At one part of the wall, there is a gate called the Eastgate, which is famous for its clock. It is quite beautiful and has become a city icon. From there, we can also go up to the city wall and start our exploration.

DSCF5629

After taking pictures near the clock, I went to the city wall and started walking around the city. First, we can see the Chester Cathedral. You can always visit the place for free, but from the outside, it is already majestic. The scenery is very beautiful from the city wall. I walked pass the Falconry and along a canal.  It was very calming. Alongside the wall, there are also some shops and tea houses. At that time, all of them were already closed, but during the day, it can be fun to have a cup of tea on the city wall.

At one point, I stopped for quite a long time to see how the canal system works. There was a boat wanting to pass by a water gate and the people on the boat had to come out, open the water gate and balancing the water level before the boat can pass by. It was such an interesting sight. I didn’t know that we should do that. What a good to know fact!

After we parted from the canal side, the wall turns to the horserace area. Chester is also famous for its race days. The area is just so big! There was nothing at that time, but the view was certainly mesmerizing. I feel that the whole city is just charming. At the end of the racecourse area, we can see the Chester Castle. The place is now used as the Cheshire Military Museum.

Passing the castle, I walked neat the university area on my left side. On the right is River Dee. Walking along the river side, we can see a meadow in front of a church on the other side of the river. With spring coming, the colorful flowers are just gorgeous. There are actually many things that we can do on the river side and on the river. There are people canoeing, you can take a boat trip, or just walk along the river, enjoying the scenery.

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Passing the river side, the wall then makes it turns towards our starting point. However, before we arrive at the Eastgate, we will pass a Roman Amphitheater and some kind of Roman Garden. Then, we would have completed our walking on the city wall experience. It took me around an hour or so to get around the city wall. It is not boring at all because the city is indeed so very beautiful.

I wish I have another opportunity to visit Chester. I’d love to come inside the museums, watch the Town crier (a traditional ceremony of some kind of proclamation), and explore the shops. It is such a recommended place to visit and now is on my second most beautiful city in the UK!

AdventureNotes #24: More on Manchester

Manchester again? Yes. For several times I visited Manchester, I always went because I had something to do. It was not for the sake of exploring the city, but rather to apply for visa or for transit. However, my sister is now living in Manchester. Therefore, I went to visit her last Christmas. I only stayed there for one night, but I could manage to visit some other places, not just the Old Trafford.

Although for me visiting Old Trafford is not my priority as I had visited it before, I couldn’t escape from it! My husband is a hardcore fan of Manchester United so we went to visit the stadium. The stadium itself is quite far from the city center, but is easily accessed by tram. You can take the yellow tram from Manchester Piccadilly station or from the Piccadilly Garden. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the place. To enter the museum and join the tour, people have to pay the admission fee. It is rather expensive, but according to some friends, it is worth it. Currently, the price for museum and stadium tour is £18 for adults. You can check the ticket availability here: http://www.manutd.com/en/Visit-Old-Trafford/Museum-And-Stadium-Tour/Price-Lists.aspx. While booking our ticket, we also have to choose the date and time when we are going to the museum. You should come at around the allocated tour time. If you are arranging to visit some other attractions besides the Old Trafford, the total visiting time for this attraction is around 2 hours. During my last visit to the stadium, I noticed some differences in the museum as well as the tour. I think the museum is a bit more advanced than before, I like the new layout and I think there’s a new small added exhibition. How they start the tour is also more organized as now there’s a waiting room for us before the tour. For those who haven’t read my previous AdventureNotes on Manchester, here’s a little bit preview of the tour. We started off by coming inside the stadium, sitting on the supporters’ seats while listening to the tour guide about the Old Trafford stadium. The tour guides here have always been delivering very exciting stories about Manchester United and the stadium, bringing a good atmosphere and spirit on the tour participants. We also went to the changing room, the press room, and were able to sit on the players’ bench. At the previous tour arrangement (approx. 2012), we also went to the Munich Tunnel and were told the history of the Munich tragedy. However, the current tour does not have this feature and focuses only on what’s inside the stadium. The tour is finished at the shop we not only can buy MU souvenirs, but also print a tour certificate for free.

After visiting the Old Trafford, my husband and I went to the city center to meet my sister. We met her near the Piccadilly Garden and walked to the Manchester Library and Albert Square. As it was Christmas at that time, the place was crowded with people strolling through the Christmas market. We walked along the Christmas market up to the John Rylands Library. It is named as one of the most interesting attraction in Manchester. Indeed, the place’s architecture is interesting. I didn’t notice it at first as it looked like a modern building, but as I entered the place, I could feel the gothic. The rooms are totally decorated in the gothic way and it has one of the oldest still-functioning study rooms. As we went to the rooms, people are learning and doing their tasks. It actually still functions as one of the University of Manchester’s libraries.

It was getting dark and we went around the city center once again, amazed by the magnitude of Arndale. The shopping center is very big, indeed. There are also many interesting outdoor places around it, such as the one between the Arndale and the National Football Museum. At around 8 pm, almost all of the attractions were closed. We took a bus from the Piccadilly Garden to Oxford Road area. It costs £1 per ride for the bus. Oxford Road is actually the university area, and nearby there’s an area called the ‘curry lane’ because there are many Indian/Middle Eastern restaurant there. We had our dinner in one a restaurant there, which is Al Jazeera, the most famous one among Indonesian people. It tasted good, actually.

Our day ended there. We stayed one night in Manchester but had to catch an early train the next morning. It was quite interesting to see another part of Manchester besides the stadium. I haven’t had a chance to visit the museums so I hope (if I get decent review about them) I can visit the city again someday.

AdventureNotes #23: Birmingham

 

It’s been a busy time for me and I missed last week’s AdventureNotes. And although this week’s article is late, I’m going to make it up to you! This week’s AdventureNotes is about Birmingham. It is the city where I live in now. I’ve lived here for more than six months now and I can find more and more interesting places to visit.

Birmingham is the second biggest city in the UK. It used to be an industrial city where car manufacturers do their production. Indeed, it becomes a quite busy city until these days. People come here for business, but less for tourism. Yes, as it is more perceived as a ‘metropolitan’ city where people trade and conduct business, it has less tourist attractions. There are more office buildings and shopping malls.

Photo: https://mamt.org.uk/TheSchool/About-Birmingham

Having lived in Birmingham for more than six months makes me realize that this city grows rapidly. There are more building developments each day, a newly opened apartment, a construction for a new office center, and a new mall. I feel almost like it’s growing to be Jakarta. Indeed, I think this city has so many shopping centers spread throughout the city. Birmingham itself is big with different areas with their own village centers and attractions. I haven’t had a chance to visit all of them, but here are some that I would recommend.

There are many ways to enter Birmingham. The most common one is of course by train. When you arrive in Birmingham, you will most likely arrive in Birmingham New Street Station. It is a newly built facility, just opened by Queen Elizabeth II a few months back. It is such a modern and iconic building just in the middle of the city center. Besides functioning as a train station, the building is also a shopping mall called Grand Central. It is almost like PIM in Indonesia as this shopping mall is connected with another shopping mall. The place is always bustling with people, even in early morning. Birmingham has two other big train stations, which are Snow Hill station that is located within Birmingham business district and Moor Street station that was once the central train station in Birmingham before it was moved to New Street Station. The architecture in Birmingham Moor Street station is unique and preserved to maintain its characteristic during the old days.

As I said, Birmingham is a city with so many shopping centers. Walking in the city center, you can see different kinds of markets, shopping mall, and shopping area. Besides the Grand Central, another bigger and more iconic shopping mall in Birmingham is called the Bullring. It has been a Birmingham icon for a long time. It is actually a regular shopping mall with unique layout. I really think that the first time people visit this place, they will be lost. Haha. I quite like the surrounding area of Bullring. There are outdoor market where people trade fruits, vegetables, etc., indoor market to sell meat and poultry, rug market where you can find just anything, literally anything, and the streets nearby where you can find individual stores. Walking along the city center is quite nice, really, just hopping from one shop to another.

Birmingham is not just about shopping spree. My favorite place in Birmingham is its Canal Side area. We can walk near the canal, looking at bars and restaurant alongside. Near the canal, there is an area called the Brindley Place where there are restaurants, gardens, and a gallery called Ikon Gallery. I like to visit Ikon Gallery because it is quite unique. It offers different independent exhibitions throughout the year. The garden there is nice and calming. The area is surrounded by tall office buildings, but I can just feel the serenity. Opposite the Brindley Place on the canal side is ICC. It’s a convention center where people see performances, exhibitions, and conferences. Walking through the ICC towards the street, we can see Centenary Square. The annual Birmingham Weekender closing performance is usually held there. Last year, the festival ended with an acrobat performance that was magical! Be sure to visit the city during the event.

In the area near Centenary Square towards the Victoria Square, we can see the Library of Birmingham that is shaped like a wedding cake, the Town Hall, and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Those are the usual places to visit. At the top of the library, there is a Shakespeare memorial room where we can see the city from above. There is also a sky garden where we can have a nice chat outside, on the 7th floor of the building. The library itself is massive! I love coming inside to just look around. The place is so comfy and sometimes there are also exhibitions held there. The library is indeed a very nice place to visit whereas in my opinion, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is kind of a so-so place. The layout is rather outdated compared to other museums in the UK.

An area of the city that is rather less explored is the Jewelry Quarter. It is located rather outside the city center, but not too far away. The area is full of jewelry shops where people can window shop (literally through their windows), looking at different jewelry offered. There is also a museum there, but it charges an admission fee around £10 per person. I basically haven’t entered the place because of the fee, but I think it will be quite interesting because we can see the process of jewelry making as the place was once a jewelry factory before it was changed into a weapon factory during the World War II, and now it serves as a museum.

Less people know it before they arrive in Birmingham, but the city was once lived by Cadbury – yes, the founder of that Cadbury chocolate. Therefore, one of the attractions of Birmingham is the Cadbury Experience. Located in a village called Bournville, which was really founded by Cadbury himself, the attraction offers a full experience of chocolate making and its history in the world. There are fourteen different experiences offered by the place, along with its so-called biggest Cadbury shop in the world and a tea room. The admission fee to enter the place is not cheap, but will certainly worth it. However, you need to be careful because you have to book the ticket online as the place is so popular that sometimes there is no slot available for you to visit, especially during the school holiday.

One of the things that attract people to come to Birmingham is its university. Put among highly ranked universities in the world, University of Birmingham does not only offer a good quality of education, but also a place to visit. The university area is famous for its clock tower called the Old Joe. The clock is so high and big that a double decker bus can go through its clock face. The university complex is quite interesting to visit and has its own tourist attractions, such as the Barber Institute, which is the university’s art gallery, and the Winterbourne Garden that attracts people for its beauty. The Valley area, where the university accommodation is located in, is also interesting to explore. The annual bonfire night of the university is held in the Valley.

The last attraction that I would recommend to visit is called the Black Country Living Museum. Located outside the city center, particularly in Dudley, the museum is very unique. The full review of this museum can be found here: https://theadventureofizzao.com/2016/03/25/black-country-living-museum/. Be sure to visit this place when you are in Birmingham because the experience is like no other. Indeed, we can learn many things from how people manage this museum. The place is very educational, yet not boring.

For me, a very nice aspect of exploring Birmingham is the food. Yes, the food. There are lots of different food stalls offering different kinds of food. Especially for me, who is a Muslim and have to eat halal food, the city is full of halal restaurants. I can find halal Japanese restaurant, halal Chinese restaurant, and the common fast-food joint serving halal food. I love it! There are so many delicious food offered with a very reasonable price. It is not difficult at all to pamper your stomach in Birmingham.

As I said, I haven’t explored the whole city, yet. Yes, despite of my months living here, Birmingham is indeed a very big city. I will certainly have to write some more about Birmingham later on when I have visited some more places. See you next week!

AdventureNotes #22: Chester Zoo

Visiting a zoo has never been a choice for me while visiting a city. I don’t know why but I am just not interested in seeing animals and exploring more about them. In addition, zoos in Indonesia (the old ones, actually) are not attractive. However, this one stole my heart.

Chester Zoo is named as the best zoo in the UK. I think it is also ranked within the top 10 in the world. As I said, I’ve never been interested to visit zoos – anywhere in the world. However, when I browsed the internet about Chester, this attraction is mentioned on the top of the list. I visited the website and voila! I had to scratch myself out of my curiosity. The newest attraction in Chester Zoo is called ‘Islands in Chester Zoo’. What is it? It is some kind of an area that displays animals from the South East Asia for conservatory purpose. Uniquely, five out of six islands showcased in Chester Zoo are in reality located in Indonesia territory. There are Sulawesi, Sumba, Bali, Sumatra, Papua, and Sumatera. Wow, indeed. As an Indonesian, I haven’t even visited all of those islands. I was sooo tempted to go. Therefore, despite its high admission fee (I had to pay £20 for student ticket), I went there anyway.

The access to Chester Zoo is not difficult. From anywhere in the UK, we can just hop on a train to Chester. Arriving in Chester at around 9 am, I waited for a bus to Chester Zoo in front of the train station. The bus is scheduled to be one in every twelve minutes. I didn’t have to wait for long before the bus arrived. There are two bus stops near Chester Zoo. The first one is at the front of the parking lot and the second one is inside the parking lot, only a few meters away from the front gate of the zoo. I got off the bus at the front of the parking lot and had to walk around 10 minutes to get to the gate. As it was quite early, the door hadn’t been opened yet. However, the queue was already long. At 10 am, Chester Zoo is opened for public. If we have an online ticket, we can just go through the gate by showing the barcode sent to our email. As usual, buying tickets online is always better. The price is lower and you can also buy other attractions ticket, such as the monorail ticket, etc. However, you can always buy the ticket on the spot at the ticketing counter available there.

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As our first aim is to see the Islands, we traced the map and found the nearest route to the Islands area. On our way, we passed a monkey house where there are baboons and the black monkey (I don’t know what they’re called but they’re not chimpanzee). We also passed a bear, capybaras, zebras (there are lots of kinds of them! I just knew!), and some kind of deer. The Islands is located at the corner of the zoo. It is kind of excluded, but it is indeed for a reason.

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From far away, we can already see the top of Tongkonan, a traditional house from Sulawesi. It is colorful so you can’t miss that. Entering the Islands complex is like entering a new world. I don’t know if it’s the weather that day or the atmosphere, but the air is getting hotter, just like in a tropical island. I was amazed. There was this made up beach complete with ships and the white sands. As an Indonesian, we said that it’s typical Pantura (North Java Seaside Way). There was a small cabin with Jokowi picture on its wall that in Indonesia used to be called Pos Kamling (Area Security Post). There were also cooking utensils displayed on small bamboo stalls. Amazing! We got to talk with the zookeepers who recognize us as Indonesian. They asked us whether the place looks real. Indeed, it is. Super real! As we walked along the pathway, we could see Indonesian animals, such as Anoa, Babirusa, Banteng, Cassowary, etc. It is quite impressive how the zoo helps the animals adapt with the new environment along with its very different weather to the one those animals used to. As we walked along, we met some other zookeepers who told us that all of the decorations were made in Indonesia, from the ‘village-like’ toilets, small bamboo stalls, up to the wooden chairs and stone sculptures. Wow again for Chester Zoo. It takes the whole thing seriously. It gets more serious when we came into a tropical house where there are tropical plants and birds. I was so happy I could see a real tropical banana trees in here! I felt like I want to take the leaves to cook. Hahaha… typical Indonesian, right? The temperature inside the tropical house is quite hot, maybe around the same temperature as in Indonesia or other South East Asian countries. Before the end of our visit to the Islands, we went for a lazy boat ride. We could see the whole islands from a boat. It is for free, too. Just beware that the queue may be quite long, especially in holidays. As the boat ride ended, it was time for lunch. There is this Manado restaurant inside the Islands area with fusion Indonesian food. There is also this gift shop that sells batik and other Indonesian souvenirs. Seriously, UK just tastes like Indonesia.

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After a half day in the Islands, we had lunch and went out to the common zoo area. The place is pretty big, but don’t compare it to Taman Safari Indonesia. We took a monorail ride from one point to the other end of the zoo and explored the place. There are quite a lot of animals, such as lions, giraffes, komodo dragons, penguins, sloths, leopards, elephants, etc. It is quite tiring walking around the zoo. Yes, unlike Taman Safari where we could ride our vehicle to explore the area, here we have to walk, looking at animals inside ‘cages’.

Overall, I think Chester Zoo is worth the visit. That was the first time I went to a zoo and really read the information boards about the animals and explored the place quite thoroughly. A day in Chester Zoo is enough, but after that I still wanted to visit the city of Chester. And indeed, the city is also worth another article to write.

AdventureNotes #21: Leeds

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Leeds is a popular city among Indonesian students. It has at least two universities with good reputation, added with its quite affordable living cost. No wonder there are so many Indonesian students in Leeds. Besides for studying, Leeds is also quite popular for its tourism because it is located (almost) between two national parks, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the North York Moors National Park. Both national parks are famous for their beauty; they are even mentioned as the must-visit places when you are in the UK.

I personally have not been to both national parks. Some of my friends have and they love it! Indeed, it is something worth to do. However, I have visited Leeds several times now. My purpose was mainly to visit a friend or to do something. Mostly, I went to Leeds to go to the airport, Leeds Bradford. Hahaha… Anyway, during my visits, several times I tried to explore the city. I cannot find a word that can represent Leeds, but just say that it is a combination of old and new.

I had enough time to explore the city (excluding its museums and galleries) during my last visit. I visited the Kirkstall Abbey, went to the Museum Quarter (without entering the museums), and explored the Corn Exchange. There is actually I place that should worth to visit but I haven’t got time to do it, which is the first Marks and Spencer outlet in Kirkgate Market. So, here’s my story…

I saw Kirkstall Abbey a few times when I had to go to the Leeds Bradford Airport. It is located a little bit out of the city center, but not that far that you have to allocate certain time to visit it. When I passed by, I didn’t know that it can be quite interesting visiting the place. Kirkstall Abbey is a complex of park, abbey ruins, a museum, and a small café. In normal days, visitors can come inside the abbey ruins and the museum. There is also some kind of farmers market held there once in a while. However, at the time I visited the abbey, I could not get into the place because it was holiday. I had to be satisfied by just exploring the park and looking at the ruins from the outside. I was happy, though, because I could take a lot of nice pictures.

Again, visiting cities during holiday can be tricky. I went to the Museum Quarter but I could not get into the museums because of it. Therefore, again, I had to be satisfied by just strolling on the streets of Leeds. I heard people recommend Leeds City Museum and the Royal Armories Museum as places to visit. However, it was quite interesting to see how the old buildings and the new developments are blending in the city. The shopping center, which is not too far for the Museum Quarter, is also a blend of old and new. There are many shopping arcades with interesting interior designs.

Near the end of the day, I ran out of ideas of where to go to. Then, my friend suggested me to see the Corn Exchange. Basically, it is a shopping center – or a vintage shopping center if I can say. The building was quite old and has been used as a shopping center for a long time. It is interesting to see the inside of this building because although it is old, the building is preserved well. It is simply gorgeous. I also like to see how the shops still maintain the ‘vintage look’, blending themselves to the surrounding architecture. My husband was especially happy there because there is a camera shop selling second-hand cameras. I was surprised that the shop still sells the analogue camera there!

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Anyway, that is my review about Leeds. It has not been much. However, if I visit the city another time, I would love to use it as the gate to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the North York Moors National Park.

AdventureNotes #20: Cambridge

Besides Oxford, another city famous for its smart students is Cambridge. Cambridge is one of the oldest universities in the UK, dating back to 1209. Wow! In my words, I think Indonesia was still in Ken Dedes and Ken Arok era when people in the UK began attending universities. Well, besides its long history, University of Cambridge is very famous for its high quality of education. People from all around the world dream of coming to Cambridge to study. Indeed, university life is the center of the city. From my observation, it almost seems that the city basically grows around the university. Personally, besides its education quality, Cambridge is a beautiful city to visit.

Getting to Cambridge is certainly easy. Like most cities in the UK, you can just hop on a train to reach this city. However, I think people need to beware because the train fare is quite expensive for Cambridge. To compare, a train ride from Birmingham to London costs around £10-20 return per person whereas the train ride from Birmingham to Cambridge costs around £50-60. It’s almost three times the cost, right? This is why I just visited Cambridge during the second time I live in the UK. I joined a university arranged trip, which can be quite cheap. At that time, I only paid around £15 for my return trip. If you are a student, you can search information about this kind of trip. It can be useful!

I didn’t stay overnight when I visited the city. It was a lovely daytrip because the weather was so nice that day. I won’t be able to suggest which one is better, to stay overnight or to have a daytrip because I am not so sure about how expensive the accommodation price there. However, I can tell that visiting the city just for a day surely not enough to explore the whole city one by one. I mean, there are lots of galleries and museums that you can come into. Indeed, exploring a museum for a day is never enough in the UK. They are massive!

So, what did I do when I visited Cambridge? Punting! What? It’s so mainstream and expensive! Actually… no, it isn’t. I booked my ticket online so I just had to pay £8 for around an hour punt ride. Of course, I chose the one with a punter. I’m not that confident to punt by myself. I’m not that good at swimming. Well, anyway, it was a good choice. During the trip, the punter told us about peculiar facts about Cambridge. We could see the back of Cambridge colleges and the view is simply beautiful. I love it! I think most of Cambridge biggest colleges are located near the river so we can see almost all of the famous attractions during our punt ride. Besides, it really helps us navigate our way later on when we explore the city by foot.

Just like Oxford, the main attraction of Cambridge is its university. And just like Oxford, we need to pay a small amount of admission ticket to enter the colleges. Well, not all, just the most beautiful and famous ones. The ticket price is slightly more expensive than Oxford, too. Therefore, I would suggest you to choose which college you want to visit. During my visit, I entered three colleges. One of them is free, which is Clare College. The other two, St. John’s College and King’s College are not free. However, it is worth it! The view was just beautiful. Moreover, at the time I visited the city, I think there was some kind of celebration or something. University of Cambridge students were walking around with their robes. Gosh, I really want to try wearing those robes. You know, each college has its own robes? I felt like I’m in a Harry Potter movie. You surely can visit some more colleges. A friend of mine said that Pembroke College certainly needs to be visited. I also wanted to go to Trinity College, but it was closed at the time I was in the city. Well, you can check them first before deciding to visit them.

So museums, colleges, punting… Cambridge also offers unique outdoor markets. I think it is occasional, but the open market in the center of the city is regularly opened. I went to an art pop up market and saw unique things. I also went to the outdoor market and see many distinct foods. It is interesting for me. Actually, I like to soak up the atmosphere there. Cambridge is also full of interesting small streets. You can explore them. I don’t really know about the shops, but I think it might be interesting to go into shops selling the University of Cambridge robes. I tried to enter one, but non-students cannot try on the robes.

As I said, a day in Cambridge only covers that much. I think another visit to Cambridge is necessary to find out more about the city. In my opinion, indeed, Cambridge is a very beautiful city.

Mar 26, 2016