16.08.18 — Travel

An English City Hopping Extravaganza

Following a three part tour of the north of Spain (check out Part 1 in Oviedo, Part 2 on El Cabo, and Part 3 in Bilbao), I finally made my landing four hours late in England, and it’s from there where I shall now pick up my horrifically delayed blog posts…

As mentioned in the Bilbao post, I headed pretty much straight to be upon arriving in Burnley, and not only because I was tired, but also because the next day I’d to be up bright and early to catch a train to Blackpool! Me, my sister, and her boyfriend had arranged to make a little sibling trip to visit Blackpool Pleasure Beach, as it’s been absolutely ages since I last went, with the last blog post I can find there being over three years old!

After a long train journey, stopping in Preston for a transfer and a chance to have a dirty McDonalds breakfast, we arrived in Blackpool. It was Johanne’s first time in the coastal town, and it certainly proves to be an experience for those who’ve never been!

The many coasters of Blackpool Pleasure BeachThe many coasters of Blackpool Pleasure Beach

We seem to have unknowingly timed our trip rather well, as we were told that the week before was crazy with school groups visiting for the end of term. This meant that everything was relatively quiet, and as we started racking up the ride count we were hardly waiting in queues at all. We first hopped on the Big Dipper, the theme park’s oldest coaster, and were treated to it’s usual offering of a good bashing about.

Once we’d taken a ride on a few other coasters, it was time for us to take on The Big One (yes, that’s its actual name). As the tallest and most imposing looking ride in the park, it’s views alone are worth the trip, but they are complemented by plenty of huge drops and screeching corners. It was up here, whilst zipping over the seafront, that Ellie decided was the opportune moment to redo her hair. Sat behind her, I was naturally treated to a good whipping as she replaced her bobble, as well as a mouthful of hair. Thanks Ellie.

Views over Blackpool from The Big One

After this, I announced that I had waited long enough and that I wanted to ride the park’s newest and fanciest coaster: Icon. It was much to my horror then when, whilst nipping into Burger King to use the toilets, I noticed that it wasn’t actually running. Panicked, I got in touch with Danni, and was told that it actually takes a while to get going sometimes as it’s a double launched ride which pulls a lot of power from the grid.

Whilst waiting for it to open, we made another run around of the park, re-riding some of our favourites and doing things we hadn’t had chance to do earlier. Eventually we returned to find it running, and after a moment of panic as the ride music shut off and we thought it had broken down, I soon ended up strapped in on one of the front seats!

Without trying to do a fully fledged ride review, let’s just say that I’ve not had that much fun on a roller coaster for years and years. Both of the two launches are followed by plenty of airtime, quick turns and inversions. The first time I rode it I literally spent the entire 2 minutes and 41 seconds grinning like an idiot or literally laughing out loud. If you ever find yourself in Blackpool I’d say it’s worth a visit, even if only to give this ride a go!

Infusion from the queue

After squeezing even more rides in, we eventually called it a day as out feet gave in, and headed back to the train station. After a long journey back on a rather busy train, it was with great joy that we received the news that my mum had put together a delicious roast dinner for us all. Once we’d devoured the lot, it was to bed early once again for me, as the next day was to be spent in Leeds catching up with the guys from university.

It's a bit grim up north
A delicious roast

The next day we rocked up in Leeds just before lunchtime, as Johanne was catching a train back down to London after staying with us up north for a few days. As he and Ellie went off to say their goodbyes, I met up for a catch up with Danni over some delicious lunch from Trinity Kitchen, and then wandered back with her to her workplace, eating half price pic’n’mix as we went. Some things never change…

The familiar sights of Leeds

Once Danni had to return to work, I wandered back over to the other side of the city to meet Luisa, after having seen her here in Madrid just a few weeks back! We wandered through the city, checking out a few of our old haunts for designer books and kooky stationery, before hopping on a bus and heading up to the campus we once studied on.

Leeds University looking resplendent in the sun

Upon arriving we went back to the University Union, as I had an insane craving for steak and ale pie from the pub there, but alas it was closed for refurbishment. Luisa knew another spot nearby though, and so we made our way there and dined like queens on cheap chicken wings, which I accompanied with a cup of tea.

After eating we caught a bus down to Luisa’s new house, which she is sharing with another ex-housmate of mine, Rhea. It was lovely to have at least some of the gang reunited again, and we had a good proper catch up over some homemade biscuits, cured meats I’d brought from Spain, and some 2-for-1 ciders from the Co-Op nearby – it was like final year all over again!

All too soon I had to leave to catch the last train back to Burnley however, as it was Wednesday night and my dad had taken the Thursday and Friday off so that we might have some family days out together. This meant yet another early night for me, as we were up (relatively) early yet again to head southwards to Chester.

Crossing the river into Chester

I’ve never actually been to the city of Chester, but I knew it was an old walled city dating back from Roman times – sometimes I forget how old my home country is! It didn’t feel much like England when we visited though, mainly because it was cracking the flags as we arrived, and we kept having to find shade as we wandered around the city.

Entering the city over the wall
Looking down the high street

After we’d poked around a few shops and had some lunch in a park just outside the city walls, we soon headed back down to the water to have a drink to end the day. My mum and dad had visited before and so knew of a cheeky little pub which had an outdoor terrace, and in the warm weather it was simply begging for us to sit out and enjoy a couple of ciders on it.

A lovely little arcade
The bridge out of Chester

That evening we headed back in good time to Burnley, as I’d decided I wanted to pay one of my favourite Italian restaurants a visit for a family meal. We just about made it to be one of the last tables seated for the night, and I tucked into my favourite dish of spinach and ricotta cannelloni, saving half of it for breakfast the next day.

On the Friday we had another family day trip planned, this time to Liverpool, and so we all jumped in the car together as in years gone by and set off on our way. As I visited just a few months back when I was last in England, I didn’t really have much in mind which I wanted to do, so me and my sister split off from our parents and did our own bits of exploring along the way.

Bold Street, one of my favourite places in the world
A cool piece of signage

Most of our exploring, as usual, was centred around Bold Street (my favourite part of the city) and the commercial district, Liverpool One. I decided I wasn’t too fussed about visiting the docks, as I’d been down last time and a while back with Kevin, and because the wind was picking up and I was (naturally) feeling quite cold being back in old Blighty and all.

A cool installation along one of the streets
The Playhouse

Once we’d grown tired and weary, we returned home to Burnley, picking up some Chinese takeaway for tea. After eating that I was pretty full and pretty tired, but I wanted to meet up with Jess and Amber from my old work, and it just turned out that that evening they had gone to the pub after work. It’d been a while since we’d all had a proper catch up outside of work hours at Burnley Youth Theatre – the last time probably being way back in 2016 when they came together to visit me in Madrid – and so I couldn’t turn down the offer of a couple of drinks!

Well, as per usual, two cheeky drinks turned into a few more, and before I knew what was going on I found myself dancing along to all the cheesy hits of the 90s in Smackwater Jack’s – or simply Smacks as it’s called by us locals. With an equally busy last day in England ahead of me (I guess I’ll rest when I die, eh?), I didn’t stay out too late, and arose before midday the next day to sort out some packing and find some books to take back with me to Madrid.

Once Abi had finished work, it was time for us to get the high school gang back together, involving me, Abi and Danni meeting up at an old haunt, Sycamore Farm. We used to go to the pub quiz there pretty much every Wednesday, grabbing some of their enormously huge cake to see us through. As it was Saturday however, there was no pub quiz, but we stuck to tradition and grabbed ourselves some delicious huge cake!

Our huge cakes

After a quick cider it was time for us to head back to Abi’s house, where I cracked out some jamón and Abi’s mum cracked out a fresh litre of Pimm’s. We stayed there a while until Abi had to leave for work, catching up on as much as we could before we all had to part ways.

When I arrived home I had to finish my packing, which was a great excuse to ask that we order in an Indian takeaway from another of my favourite places. All too soon I’d eaten my way through that though, and it was time for a really early night ready for my 2:30am wakeup for my 6am flight – the same one I caught when I moved out here back in October, in fact. A little bit of nostalgia there!

As you’re probably aware by now I am indeed back in Madrid, and it’s back to the routine as usual until I return to bring you more updates in due course. Until then!