Manchester & the Peak District

A full month after the fact isn’t TOO bad for finishing these spring break blog entries, is it?  Okay, it is.  But without whinging about my inability to get blog posts together in the last month, let me just plunge into my final four days in jolly old England:

I left London with a heavy heart and a five hour bus ride to sulk about it.  While Oxford was technically my last day in London, I still had that last night to soak in the city before heading up north, and did I.  My love affair with London was amplified by its short duration.  But I digress.  I did manage to get on the bus and actually leave the city, because despite what everyone (literally EVERYONE) I’d met had said about the north (it sucks, don’t bother, their accents are terrible) I was Manchester-bound.

Now the North is where my trip got interesting–I had originally booked my Manchester hostel for four days, and hoped to do a day trip in the Peak District.  However, having met Natalie, and her being so hell-bent on changing (“wrecking”) my plan, I ended up canceling my Manchester hostel for the two middle days (and lost no money, my deposit just went towards the two nights I actually DID stay there!) and we booked a hostel in a town we’d never heard of but that the YHA lady assured us was in the Peak District.  We planned to relax in the countryside and do a hike, although neither of us had any appropriate (read: waterproof) gear, nor footwear and it was all very last-minute.  And contrary to what she seemed to believe, I have NO problem with last minute, I only planned out my whole trip (Booked months in advance) so that I would be able to get hostels WHERE I wanted to stay, and not have to pay exorbitantly for last-minute accommodations.  So there.  I can DO spontaneity, damn it!

I got off the bus, dazed and neck all jammed up from sleeping awkwardly, and managed to wander to the hostel without any real problem.  And as I walked in, still quite dazed, who is just checking in (and apparently asking after me) but my favorite Aussie friend!  Other than catching each other up on our adventures between Bath and Manchester, we didn’t do a whole lot that first night in Manchester.  We even tried to go out for a beer but had no luck because it was a weeknight!  So I’ll reserve talking about Manchester for the last day of my trip, as that was when I saw more of it.

So, early the next morning, we checked out, leaving our big bags behind, and took a train to Buxton (pictured above), a bus to Bakewell, and ANOTHER bus to get to Youlgreave (Yohr-grohve), Derbyshire.  A 600-population town outside of Bakewell, with exactly one post office/grocer, one deli/grocer, and three pubs/restaurants.  And one YHA, at which we were two of four guests the first night (the other two guests were a very interesting Indian couple from London who were staying there on their way to a conference, as the husband was a professor.  We cooked dinner around the same time, so we all sat and ate together, and they even shared some delicious/spicy Indian rice dish!)  It was absolutely adorable.

The staff at the YHA was incredibly kind and helpful. Both of them really bent over backwards for us, giving us a rain jacket and a map with a plastic cover, and explaining how to go about our hike. Yes, there were two of them. Chef (in the background of the photo above), and a bearded fellow who seemed to run the register. We got to be buddies with both of them. We borrowed ingredients from Chef while cooking, helped him babysit his (?) kid, the bearded guy would come find us before he locked up the hostel for the day (because it was only open from 6am-10am, and 5pm-10pm!) to make sure we knew the code to get in! And another bonus of being the only people there: we paid for an 8-person female bunk but had it all to ourselves!

Trusty map in action the next day during the hike.  Thanks Chef!!!

We spent our first afternoon exploring the small town and taking photos. We got sandwiches at the deli. And we ran back to the hostel every time we got caught in the rain; luckily it was never more than 10 minutes away.  It’s a really pleasant little town, although we found out from some of the townspeople later that night (we stopped at one of the local pubs for a pint and to chat with some locals) that the real estate in the town has gotten so expensive, a lot of people grow up there and are forced to move to the next town over.  I can understand why, looking at all of the perfectly kept cottages, but it’s a shame.

After finding out that I hadn’t yet had yorkshire pudding and Sunday roast, Natalie burst into one of the King George pub (the pub that also served as the bus stop in town…it seems to be a popular thing in small towns, having the main pub be the bus stop as well) to see if they had it available. As they did, we went there for dinner.  But before heading there, we sat at our window, drinking a bottle of red wine, chatting and watching the town and surrounding countryside.  On the subject of yorkshire pudding, let me just say that I am officially a HUGE fan! Puddings in general, after this trip, but yorkshire pudding has been missing my whole life–it completes the meal!

The next day, we both woke up slow, each spending two hours in bed before we eventually went down and made a big breakfast. I think it was sometime after noon when we finally made it out of the hostel to go on our hike. It was rather cold out (the poor Australian had stronger words for it) but we set out on our hike.

Natalie had never seen a map cover like that before, and thus teased me for wearing it around my neck like that.  However, the cover was pretty important when it rained later!

I’m not sure if you can see from this photo, but the path we were supposed to walk down was completely flooded.  We managed to walk around the flooding a fair way, hiking through the brush, but at the point shown in this photograph, we realized we were totally stranded and had to just walk through the water.  We took off our socks and shoes, ran quickly through, and then had lunch on the little bridge that you can see in the photo below.  We probably lost safe hiker points for taking the shoes off to run through the water when it was probably around 40 degrees out, but it kept our shoes dry!  Also, below, Natalie’s poncho.  Her mother sent it to her (“You never know!”) and lo and behold, she was happy to have it when it started to rain!  It served as comedic fodder for the rest of the day.

I don’t think you can really see in these photos the incredible heights we were looking/hiking up.  We were mostly hiking along this river that was at the bottom of a narrow valley with very steep cliffs/hills lining it.  It was stunning.  Below, losing more safe hiker points as we go up slippery steps to see the valley from the top!

This is my bliss face.  Just climbed to the top of the cliff edge, there are funny sheep to my right, and the ground drops off to my left.  I’m just giddy here.

Again, this is looking from our side of the valley, across to the other, with a 150-foot drop in the middle that you can’t really see.

Finishing the hike by crossing through a cow farm…

It got too rainy to keep taking photos after we crossed the fields of cows, but what a great hike.  It was probably around 8 miles, so not a whole lot for one afternoon of hiking, but it was so incredibly gorgeous.  And I was so thankful to have met Natalie and been able to go on a hike like this!  If I’d been alone, I never would have headed out to the Peak District for two days and I certainly never would have gone on a crazy hike up and down cliff/hills, dodging flooding and chatting up fellow hikers.  We really had an amazing time out in the countryside–so insanely relaxing!–and the hike was one of the crowning moments of this trip.

So the next day, my last day in England, we spent a good long time heading back into Manchester (bus-bus-train) but eventually made it back to our hostel.  While waiting for our bus in Bakewell, we bought a famous “Bakewell pudding,” which we ate later that night; I highly recommend it to anyone heading to Northern England!!!

In Manchester, we were staying in a great location at a really fun hostel called Hatters on Newton St., and ended up having a great/ridiculous night with some other Australians staying at the hostel.  I, unfortunately, don’t have that many photographs of Manchester because it was wet and miserable out and Natalie and I could only force ourselves to walk around for so long before we headed back to make dinner and just hang out at the hostel.

It’s actually odd, I don’t have any photos of what Manchester “really” looked like; that first one, the red brick building, is what almost all the buildings in Manchester look like.  You can feel its industrial past EVERYWHERE.  It’s a bit of a steam punk city, that I would personify as an angry soccer hooligan with a green mohawk, playing guitar and wearing a lot of leather.  It was certainly interesting, and very different, but not really my cup of tea.  Worth visiting, sure, and I would definitely go back, but of all the places I was in England, it was my least favourite (but, to be fair, everywhere ELSE I went in England was “My favourite” so Manchester might have stood a better chance if I didn’t love Wiltshire & London so ardently!).

The next morning, I got up early and headed to the airport with an interesting Canadian girl (who was Romanian but a Canadian citizen) who was taking the same flight as me to Paris.  She too was staying at our hostel, and we’d met the night before on our hostel’s Saturday Night Bar Crawl.  It was nice to have one last random travel buddy, too.  And while I felt my heart break as soon as I lost sight of Southern England flying across “La Manche,” I was happy to be back in Paris, at the very least to have my own room and see my host family & Paris friends again.  I took the photo below out the bus window heading into Paris from Beauvais airport.

I feel so lucky to have spent as long as I did in England.  I have so many fun stories from that trip, so many amazing memories, and childhood fantasies fulfilled.  England lived up to, and exceded, every expectation I ever set for it (which is impressive, considering it was up against 15 years-worth of expectations).  I’m pretty serious about relocating there.  I’ve been doing a lot of (futile) research into the visa process, and while their push against immigration in the last few years has certainly made it a lot more difficult, I’m still hopeful.  If I can’t get there immediately after college, I will eventually.  And until then, I’ll have this trip to fuel my fever dreams.
This entry was published on June 3, 2012 at 5:23 pm and is filed under Bon Voyage, Photos, SUPER BIEN. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Manchester & the Peak District

  1. Maelenn on said:

    i don’t know if it’s just me, but based on your country-side photos, this looks a lot like Brittany (Bretagne)!! well, the center of it at least. You’d probably like it there, especially around the Monts d’arrée!!

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