York is OPEN!

On 5th February 2016, I turned 33. To celebrate, I decided to take myself to York for the day. Travelling from London after work the previous evening, I had a full day planned in the City before heading back South.

Taking time out from London was much needed and other than the fact that I have a friend who lives in York, I have become very fond of the place and the people of this beautiful City.

Flood gates on Wellington Row by the Ouse
Water reached the top of these gates on Wellington Row by the Ouse

With that in mind, following on from the devastating floods a few weeks ago, I had to go and lend them my support.

Many of the businesses within the City walls were hit when the banks of the Foss and the Ouse broke. The former was an unusual occurrence (in fact one person told me it never happens) and, as such, many locals didn’t believe it would happen. Even though warnings were given.

 

Still drying out
Still drying out

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve been to York after they have been flooded, but it is the first time I have been struck by the extent of the damage. Of course I was aware that this was much more severe than the last trip I made, but I was still surprised.

As I write this, I am sitting in the Fossgate Social (@fossgatesocial) who were one of the many companies who suffered in the floods.

The Fossgate Social
The Fossgate Social
BBC Local TV interview the owner of the Fossgate Social
BBC TV arrive
Chance to relax and watch the world pass by as I write
Watching the world pass by as I write

 

 

 

 

 

The owner is currently being interviewed by BBC Local TV about the impact to her business and her concerns about the long term impact on York.

The Fossgate Social itself, is rebuilding. Replacing damaged equipment which had prevented them from serving beer and welcoming visitors and locals in to the warm, cosy and very relaxed environment that they offer. You’d probably walk on past this little place and pass it off as just another ‘tea room’, but it’s so much more than that and it’s quirky interior offers you so much more than the Costa’s of this World.

Quiet on Coney Street as you walk down to Spurriergate
Quiet on Coney Street as you walk down to Spurriergate

So what about York? What would keep people away or is it actually just paranoia from the locals that they think people wouldn’t want to visit?

I don’t think they’re paranoid. In all the years I have visited York, this was probably the quietest I have known it. Yes, it’s February, but even by those standards, it was quiet.

 

With that in mind, I decided to write down my thoughts and share some images from this trip to the North.


 

Warm welcome to all
Warm welcome to all

The most obvious thing you encounter in York, is the friendliness. It’s not just because I spend a lot of time in London, that I find this so obvious, but everyone is friendly. You walk in to a shop/bar/cafe/restaurant and there is such a willingness to help, with a warm genuine smile that you can’t help but enjoy yourself.

The offerings from the City itself are vast. You have the obvious attractions of the Railway Museum and the Jorvik Centre, but you can easily fill your days by just walking around inside the City walls (or on them!) and taking in the atmosphere.

York Minster
York Minster

The architecture alone is beautiful. The Minster stands proud and is always surrounded by cameras, phones and those just marvelling at it’s beauty.

If you’re wishing to do a trip on a budget, there are plenty of B&B’s in York which you can enjoy without breaking the bank and if you’re wanting to stay centrally, then I would personally recommend the Roman Baths. Cosy rooms, as ever a warm welcome and a fantastic breakfast all at a bargin price for the City Centre. They often have live music on in the bar too (as do most places in York) so you can be entertained without needing to leave the premises!

Y Street Band get people dancing
Y Street Band get people dancing

Buskers in York are on most corners and in most pubs. One of my favourite bands to watch and listen to is the Y Street Band (@TheYStreetBand). I was fortunate enough to time my visit with a performance they gave in the Post Office Social Club.

Playing a lot of their own material, they filled the Club and the dance floor as their supporters (old and new alike) took to enjoy their wonderful music. Finishing off with a crowd pleasing rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Lets Dance’, they were superb.

Rachel Croft
Rachel Croft

A new found musical delight was Rachel Croft (@rachelcroft27). It was the first time I’d heard her and she has the most beautifully silky voice. Positioned on a stool in Kings Square, near the Last Drop Inn, passersby stopped, entranced by her guitar skills and voice.

As for food, there are many places to eat and enjoy in the City. As a nut allergy sufferer, I find it hard to eat out sometimes. It surprises me that as a Vegetarian or Vegan, you can be promised food that is strictly adhering to these diets, yet something that can kill you, is never promised. Whether that be in order to protect themselves from being sued or not, my issue lies with the stress that gets attached to enjoying a meal, when they say ‘it should be ok’, or ‘you can give it a try’.

Ambiente - Tapas Bar
Ambiente – Tapas Bar

One place that I have to commend for being brilliant for allergy sufferers, is Ambiente Tapas Bar. Located just down from the Fossgate Social, they were incredibly helpful when I was selecting a bite to eat and their allergy menu was superb. Thank you to them!

Another wonderful place to eat was the Happy Valley Chinese restuarant on Goodramgate. Although their menu warned that all dishes may have traces of nuts, when I asked the staff about a dish and the risk of nuts, they were brilliant. They clarified that the dish I had chosen would be fine and I was made to feel very relaxed about it. Not easy when you’re paranoid!

Most importantly, both of these restaurants served wonderful food in a brilliant atmosphere by polite, helpful staff.

At the end of the day, the City has so much to offer. If you enjoy live music, good food and like to meet people, you should give it a try. Served by mainline trains from the South (London Kings Cross and trains via Birmingham New Street) and the North, it’s perfect for a relaxing get away.

You don’t need a lot of money to spend while you’re there. You don’t have to do all of the obvious trips and tourist traps. But I urge you to give it a try and get out and experience as much of the day and night life of York as you can.

So to echo the words of the locals… “York is OPEN”!

Gallery of pics – http://www.jemmaphillipsphotography.co.uk/p707824083


If you have a suggestion of somewhere that I should visit, please get in touch.

I’m always after new places to explore!

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Yellow socks and a crush

Commuting. You have to love it. No, seriously, you have to. If not, you leave.

I pondered this earlier when wedged between the armpit of a rather handsome man (he smelt of lovely aftershave too – would it have been wrong to mention this to him?), a middle aged lady, two young men (one rather smiley and the other behind me so I could only hear him) and a young woman. How we all managed to occupy a space of about one sq meter I don’t know, but it’s some special magic applied to the likes of the Jubilee Line at London Bridge.

Middle aged lady and I couldn’t help but laugh as we pulled into Southwark and no one wanted to get off. All we could hear was ‘for godsake’ coming from the equally crowded platform.

Eventually, as we pulled in to Waterloo, someone wanted to get out of the tin can and I had to force my way off, pushing smiley man out and to the platform, moaning as I went that I probably wouldn’t get back on. Smiley did what he obviously does best and smiled back at me. Encouraged by the eye contact of a fellow commuter I asked why we do this. He laughed and agreed and then, when the people had finished exiting the train, he waved me back on before anyone else. Thank you Mr Smiley.

I found this brief mutual appreciation of our hell from a fellow passenger rather soothing. Two stops later and I was even granted the gift of a seat! When I departed my train, I followed a rather jolly man with squeaky shoes and the most amazing socks. Yellow with black dots. I was mesmerized by these and quite disappointed that they weren’t there to entertain me while I was trying not to launch my bag into the sensitive parts of Mr Handsome from the Jubilee line. It’s these little things my friend, that keep you sane when wedged in a train/tube.

I found myself apologising profusely to another gentleman when I squeezed (ok, pushed) myself onto the Bakerloo line. I can’t help but apologise. It wasn’t his fault there was no room. Although having to spend one stop on tiptoes in order to not stand on some other poor man’s feet was, perhaps, a bit too much.

The other dilemma when commuting is hair. Men don’t tend to have this problem, but as a woman with long hair, it’s a nightmare. When you are squeezed between people, you are trapped. If the hair is down, you risk overheating. If the hair is up, you risk everyone around you getting a taste of your latest shampoo and/or hairspray when you turn. Or in my case, the latest frizz controlling product.

I was feeling rather pleased at Paddington having survived the tube part of my journey. More smiles headed my way as the guard at Platform 11 was trying to herd people to their correct trains.

The problem of knowing where your train will leave from, is when things change. He saved multiple people from missing the right one and mostly because he recognised them! Good work that man!

The little things

It’s strange what can bring a smile to the face of a weary commuter into the capital.

Having faced regular train delays getting both to and from London, I found myself on my usual train this morning staring out of the window. My usual routine of doing some work or listening to music interrupted, I gave myself the chance to just, look. How often do I forget to do that? It’s actually quite relaxing watching the world fly by.

As we sped past Slough, I glanced up at the dappled sky and watched as two swans gracefully flew over the train and I couldn’t help but smile. While sat in my office over looking the Thames, I forget about nature. The glass buildings and concrete jungle masking this beautiful, giant beast which continues to live no matter what. I’m starting to understand why so many of my fellow City workers go on retreats!

If you can spare 5 minutes from your day today, stare at the sky/grass/tree or whatever nature has to offer near you. Just appreciate the free anti-stress experience she offers us everyday. I think I’m going to try and make it a regular thing.

Have a lovely day everyone.

Walking and walking… and more walking

It has been a beautiful day here in South Yorkshire. The perfect day for a walk. Luckily! I had planned the day for doing a site survey ahead of the software launch next weekend and was hopeful the rain would stay away.

The software is to be used for the Angling Trust’s Winter League final and as such I had 3 miles of the Stainforth and Keadby Canal and Lindholme Lakes complex to check and ensure it had adequate mobile signal. I opted to head for the Canal first as it was the biggest bit of walking. I was pleased I did as it was lovely. I parked near Staniland Marina in Thorpe and walked down from the pegs in the 280’s. A barge going through the lock gave me time to watch a couple of local anglers, one of which was catching a few small Roach.

Barge in a Lock

The walk down from the lock saw me get a bit lost in the long grass. Now, I’m not the tallest of people (a struggling 5 foot 5), but the grass was taller than me. There were a couple of guys fishing but I daren’t have a chat with them as I wasn’t too sure I wouldn’t stand on something. There was a moment when I wondered if that was going to be my entire 3 miles, but soon the grass cleared and I was faced with a brief walk along the road.

When I got to around peg 180, I encountered another group of anglers. It  transpired that several teams had made their way up to Thorne to get in some practice on the Canal ahead of next weekend, some of whom were staying to fish the Open tomorrow. A team from Oxford/Reading were very friendly and they were doing ok. I informed them of my mission and they wished me well.

By far the chattiest, was a gentleman at about peg 120 who was with Maver Image. He was sat behind one of his team mates and we had a long chat about the matches, travel, London and technology. By this point I had been walking for 2 hours and was starting to feel it. I had plenty of water with me luckily and I made my excuses and carried on walking. Other than a couple of other gentleman, there was then no one until I reached peg 20, where Ossett (forgive the spelling!) were fishing ahead of their League match tomorrow.

Canal

On my walk back, I filled in the guys with as much info as I could and again had a nice chat with the Maver Image guys. I saw quite a few fish caught, the highlight of which was a nice Tench of about 4 pound. Beautiful fish.

4 hours after I had started out, I arrived back at my oven of a car and headed over to the Lindholme complex to check the signal there. After several missed turns and spending 20 minutes messing about with EE (I really do not enjoy dealing with them!), I managed to get out and have a walk around.

It’s a wonderful place and is very well managed. Most of the guys were weighing in and as I rounded one corner, a group of chaps in fine voice, were handing over the brown envelopes of cash to the winner. As I walked past, a very cheery gentleman of advancing years, who I believe was called Lesley was holding the envelopes with a beaming smile. He asked me for a kiss to celebrate his win and, encouraged by several others and despite my first attempt at saying no, I gave in and gave him a kiss on the cheek. His smile broad and his friends cheering away, I carried on my walk around the lakes.

Lindholme Lakes

So now I am faced with a need to input some data into my system and look at one minor issue ahead of Friday. I’ve had an amazing day, but 18000 steps and over 7 miles later, I think for now I will enjoy my dinner and well earned beer… or two!

Best of luck to the guys fishing in the Open tomorrow on the Canal! Here’s hoping the rain isn’t as bad as they are predicting.

Hectic

It’s been a bit of a week. In fact, if I’m honest it’s been a bit of a year! I’m currently sat in my hotel room near Sheffield wondering where the last 6 months have gone.

For those who aren’t aware, I work full time in London, but also operate two small ‘businesses’ (actually it’s one, but there are two sides to it). The first is my Photography and the second is software development. The software side has been my baby for years and it’s the reason I’m ‘oop North’ this weekend.

I find myself, complete with iPad, phones, laptop, camera kit (you never know) and a rather pathetic array of clothes, in a recently refurbished hotel room attempting to work out how I approach tomorrow. In my previous work, I was always working away here, there or wherever and I always had a brief. I knew what to expect (ish) and I delivered the goods (if my ex-boss if reading this and has other ideas… I’m sorry). But this time is a bit of an unknown. The software relates to data collection in Sport and as such I need to ensure that next weekend, the iPads have good enough internet signal to do the business. I have armed myself with an array of goodies downloaded from the App Store which are hopefully going to tell me good news and snacks.

I managed to entertain myself briefly in the rather packed (and noisy) hotel bar this evening, enjoying my beer and burger. The diet is nowhere to be seen and that’s working fine for me right now. I’m at the end of the first week of my marathon training but so exhausted from everything that it’s had to be turned into a 15 week plan. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Anyway, I’m quite excited about exploring this new part of the North. I normally skip straight past here and head for York! In fact, I think the last time I was in Sheffield, it was a day trip about 10 years ago!

Travels of 2014 -Trip 3 (poem)

A little poem I wrote on my flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK on 9th Feb (and while waiting to get to the terminal building)!

—–

Those crisp high peaks with wispy hair, no movement do they make
As crimson light from ageing sun, transforms those hills to lakes
Those sharp white clouds they are no more, they’re nestled in evening glow
With pins of gold and red shone through, natures closing show

Flying towards that dying sun, the gentle fading light
Westward bound, now clouds reveal, the mountains snow-capped white
The lights below begin to flicker, as mankind makes their way
Through darkened streets and winding roads, to finish off their day

The mountain ranges of Canada, they stretch out far ahead
With twilights glow and reflected white, the ground so few do tred
Now rested here at JFK, watching snow flakes fall
A blanket clean and crisp to touch, it slows us, makes us crawl

So now New York, what delights have you, for my month long stay?
Hard work no doubt, but laughter too, trying to keep cold at bay
This beautiful City, with so much to do, somewhere you have to see
It’ll charm your soul and make you smile, such a refreshing place to be.

Travels of 2014 – Trip 2

In the short period of time I have spent travelling abroad for work, I have learned a few things. Firstly that if you’re only going for a couple of days, there is no requirement for anything other than hand luggage. Secondly, for short flights, there is not need to get there any earlier than 90 minutes before your flight. In fact sometimes 60 is enough.
My trip to Sweden on Monday proved me wrong on both levels.
I arrived at Heathrow airport at 5.55am, 5 minutes earlier than planned, to be greeted by tailbacks onto the M25. Apparently, the world and his wife were attempting to park up and fly from Heathrow Terminal 5. 15 minutes later, I was stood waiting for the lift to take me up to departures so I could head for security. My colleague had arrived and gone through security so was waiting the other side.
Heading straight for security with my hand luggage and boarding pass in hand (how amazing is online check-in?!), a woman opened up one of the queues for me to go into, lulling me into a false sense of relief. With the delays of parking, I had a feeling that there would be more trouble to follow before I was sat in my seat on the plane.
I was right. Standing and waiting for my luggage to fly through the scanner, I watched as my bag was swiftly moved to one side in order to be searched. A good 5 minutes passed before anyone came to search said bag (due to a shift change) and I was left starting to wonder if my colleague and I would both make the flight. 6.30am and a lovely woman from security had removed everything from my bag and placed it into a container. Another 5 minutes and she was repacking my bag for me, happy that some antiseptic wipes must have been the item responsible for setting off the alarm that liquids were in my bag.
My colleague and I looked to see the gate we needed to be at only to find that we had to head for A10. We caught the lift and walked to our gate and I suggested we sit down as we had 20 minutes.
We hadn’t been sat for 10 seconds, before they announced boarding so that we could catch our bus to the aircraft.
As my boarding pass was scanned, the woman frowned and informed me that my seat had been changed as we were on a different aircraft. I had to laugh at this point. I had never had any of this happen before and it all managed to occur on the same flight!
Tired and frankly a little frustrated at my day so far, my mood was lifted as we emerged from the London cloud into a sky painted with orange streaks. The sunrise was beautiful and the rapid change from dawn to daylight was a sight to behold. Our flight was smooth over the sea and as we began our descent into Stockholm, the land was bathed in white.
As we emerged from the balmy air of Arlanda airport, we were hit by a bitter wind which struck like pins into our skin. A shock to the system it’s true, but the cold was completely different. Crisp, clean and cutting. Completely different to the thick, damp cold of England.
The rest of the day passed without issue and in the evening we took a walk around Stockholm, near Karla Plan. It was beautiful. A small amount of snow on the ground helped to light our way through the streets of this beautiful city. Lights were strewn across the streets in a dazzling display of cream and red. A true sight to behold.
My UK colleague and I enjoyed the trip immensely. Learning a lot about some of the software we needed, seeing our wonderful colleagues in Sweden and sampling the food on offer in the City.
To those who haven’t been yet, I highly recommend it. For just a 2 hour 30 minute flight from Heathrow, you can experience this wonderful and very friendly place. It has to be one of my favourites to visit. I can’t wait to go back.

Travels of 2014 – Trip 1b(?) – well it wasn’t for work and wasn’t abroad

Following my week in New York, I had a week off booked. This was my first week off since September last year, however I didn’t feel like I’d had any time off for a lot longer. Work has been hectic and with a lot of deadlines and difficult project work to complete. My week away from my mobile and laptop was to be spent tidying up the house and then taking a trip to the North to see some old friends.
Thursday morning I hopped on my train and headed up to Durham. Frankly this was a trip that I shouldn’t have bothered making. N, was due to meet me in Durham so that we could have a bite to eat, a drink and a catch up. He’s been working hard on building his own business and I did have a sneaky feeling that our catchup wouldn’t happen. Sure enough, at midday, he asked if I would be able to meet him a little further North. With a serious lack of funds due to waiting on expenses (and the fact that I was already travelling for 4 hours) I declined and we had to cancel. I was very disappointed, however understanding that he has been putting his heart and soul into trying to get his business going, I sadly conceded that there was nothing to be done or gained from being too upset.
However, emotional and still suffering the after effects of jet lag, I found myself, watery eyed, staring out of my train at London Kings Cross, contemplating what I could do with my short time in the Durham. In fact, I spent most of my journey trying to work out what to do. And there was a lot of journey. I left my house at 10.30am and at 3pm I was still sat on my train, just outside Grantham staring at the fields. At 5pm, I arrived at my hotel. Slightly worse for wear due to enjoying one too many glasses of wine.
Tired, emotional, tipsy and feeling generally rubbish, I headed for the hotel bar and had a meal there before retiring to bed early.
Friday morning I woke with excitement as I was to head to York to meet an old (and very close) friend. As I departed the hotel I looked across the River Weir and realised that my last trip to Durham had also been very short. It had centered around the building opposite, as I was there to train some staff joining the BBC (well, it had become Siemens) Technology team. It was at this point that I also remembered the steps that you have to take up to the train station.
After too many steps to count, a big hill and lots of regret over bringing spare shoes in my luggage, I arrived at the station. Frozen, hungry and a little hungover, I awaited the packed train heading to Manchester Airport, which would see me arrive at a slightly warmer York.
When I arrived, I walked through the City, aiming to locate my room for the night. My usual hotel choice had been spurned for this trip and I had booked myself and 3 friends (joining me on Saturday) into a pub in town.
The Roman Bath was a place that I had only ever walked past and glanced in before. It had been chosen primarily because it would allow one night stays on the weekend and secondly for its central location. When I arrived I was greeted in the most cheery and upbeat manner by Chris. His bright conversation and quick wit was welcomed after my dismal Thursday and I looked around to see several people enjoying a drink and food in the bar. I was shown to my room and I must confess to being pleasantly surprised. A small, but functional double room with an ensuite shower, TV, wardrobe and a proper key. None of this swipe card fun and games which usually results in being able to access your room at 3am and waking up everyone around you!
When I re-entered the bar later in the day, following a walk to my favourite Tea Room (Chloes, near the Last Drop Inn), I was greeted by Paul (who runs the Roman Bath), as if I were a regular. By this time of the evening, the place was buzzing, every table occupied by diners and drinkers. I had a swift half (of very good beer) and then proceeded to meet my friend, V, in the pub down the road.
The night was a lot of fun. We had a meal and then went back to our meeting place, where we sang along with the pianist (sorry Ali), before then heading to watch a band perform at the Golden Fleece. Much fun (and beer) was had but I must confess to being glad to get back to my room for some much needed sleep.
The room was perfect. Quiet, comfy bed and in the morning a good shower awaited me, followed by an even better full English breakfast.
Ready to start Saturday, I walked around York and then went to the train station to meet one of the party due in at 11.30. I ensured he could check into the hotel ok and then we took a walk to a pub to catch the Liverpool match. By this time, my other two friends were attempting to navigate their way into town from their parking position. This should have been fairly simple, however D, has never been the best with maps. Or directions. Or instructions.
Then, while we were in the pub, the heavens opened. It rained so hard that when my friends made it to the pub, D’s jeans were soaked through. They both looked like they had just stepped out of a power shower.
Once the game had finished, we agreed to take a walk back to our rooms so that we could all get changed (and that D and S could dry off/warm up!).
When we met up again we walked back to the pub in order to watch the Stevenage game (as D is a life long fan). The beer and company was brilliant… The football, not so much. V met us (once her hangover from the night before had settled down) and we went off in search of food. The rest of the night was brilliant. We talked about old times, old friends and faces that we hadn’t seen in years and of course caught up on some gossip.
We called it a night fairly early on and V headed home while we went back to the Roman Bath. We were just in time for a swift pint, so sat on the corner and continued our chats. It was at this point that I realised just how much some people have to deal with on a day to day basis.
S (who is D’s wife) went through a lot last year. My blog isn’t the place for detail, but I have the upmost respect and admiration for her. She’s a beautiful woman, tall, slim, blonde and walks with a confidence that few have. But every hour of every day she battles with anxiety and worry. So many people would hide away or let it drag them down, but she copes brilliantly. I’m so pleased and proud to be able to be considered her friend. I just hope that we all get to spend more time together soon. Never easy when you don’t live near to each other, but it’s a sign of true friendship when you can meet up after a few months (or years) and pick up where you left off.
As for D and S finding their car on Sunday morning, well… What should have been a 15 minute walk turned into nearly an hour. In the pouring rain. All due to D’s map reading ‘skills’.
It must be love.

Travels of 2014… Trip 1

New York, New York… Well, what can I say. The City is superb. this was my first ever visit to the US, let alone to NYC so I had no idea what to expect.
The apartment I was staying in was on the corner of 38th Street and 6th Avenue with a wonderful view of the New York scene. My first night in the apartment was pretty quiet as I was too tired to even eat, so I simply went to bed. The 6am alarm call was not well received, but I awoke, collected my things and headed out to the station, armed with directions. Sadly the directions weren’t entirely accurate and, after a slight detour, I arrived at Penn to meet my colleague.
Penn station was huge but surprisingly quiet (being used to London Kings Cross at 7.30am had prepared me well). We boarded the 7.39 (which made me smile – thinking of the Sheridan Smith drama of the other week) to Farmingdale and I was entertained to see that the buildings on Long Island were exactly as I expected.
We were joined on the train by a bright, intelligent New Zealander, M, who proceeded to talk me through the cab situation once we arrived at our station. The Checker cab company are something that I have never experienced in my life. You all pile into a cab, that Larry has sent you to, and the driver proceeds to drop you off in a (random?!) order. However you still pay the full fare. To say I was a very confused Brit, is an understatement. Still, 20 minutes later, we arrived at the office and I was soon settled into a desk with a coffee ready to start my training.
That evening, I got home at about 8.30 and by that time I had no will to go to a restaurant. I had been subjected to the mother of all ham sandwiches from a local deli (it was awesome but enough for 10), so I headed for Pret. I was greeted by a friendly American who served me and then said I should pop back as the manager was also from London. This did amuse me however I didn’t go back.
The days that followed were basically the same (although a slightly later train in the morning as my jet lag was kicking in) and I must confess that by the Wednesday I was craving vegetables and food that didn’t contain cheese.
I flew home on the Friday, but I had a couple of hours to kill (and to pack) so I decided to walk the few blocks up to Central Park. When I say few, I mean loads. It felt like miles. But it was worth it. The horses and carriages were waiting patiently as couples took the romantic jaunt around the park. I took the obligatory selfie with various high rise buildings behind me and then realised I needed to walk (at speed) back to the apartment and pack my case.
In my wisdom I decided that I should opt to go to the Airport (JFK) via public transport rather than paying the $80 for a cab. This was fine until I reached the steps at Jamaica. This was not a fun experience! The airtrain however, was a delight and once I’d worked out how to find the departure area, I was away. What I wasn’t prepared for, was having to kill over 2 hours in the tiny food court that is JFK Terminal 7. It’s safe to say that I was bored senseless.
The flight itself didn’t help my mood. The couple in front of me decided that the best thing for them, was to put their seats back for the entire flight. It was the red-eye so I expected people to sleep, but they insisted in keeping the seats back. I had no room to move. Luckily the woman and gentleman next to me were friendly and we had a nice chat about how their son was at university in Glasgow and about the town they were from in Azerbaijan.
At 5.30am we arrived over the West of England (a lot earlier than scheduled thanks to the tail wind) so after a lot of circling around Brighton and the South East, we eventually landed at 6.30. The rest of my morning was spent sleeping through my alarm and then driving back to Gloucestershire to see my family.
To those who think that travelling for work is glamourous… Think again. It’s fun and obviously I get to go to places that I would otherwise never go to, however sometimes, it’s just nice to come home.
Speaking of which, I’m off to Sweden on Monday….

Ten years have passed, but it’s still in my heart

It’s nearly ten years since I first stepped off the train and visited York. This beautiful City captured my heart straight away. My job, a Digital Audio Trainer for the BBC, took me to several cities around England, some of which I’ve never been back to, but this is one I have had the pleasure of revisiting many times.

I remember that first experience. From getting into the taxi at the train station and heading for BBC Radio York, to the late night walks back to the hotel, the restaurants and most of all the people. Not just those working at the Radio Station, but the locals I met while out shopping or eating in the evenings, were some of the friendliest I have met.

On 8th February I took myself back up to York to meet a good friend of mine (V) who has settled there after spending a few years at University. Even the train journey makes me feel content. Particularly going through Sheffield. I have no idea why, but I always catch my breath when I see the brick work just before you get to the station, which signifies (to me anyway) that I am in the North.

My trip this time was due to be a couple of nights of chatting, drinking and eating while celebrating my Birthday with V, which had fallen in the week before.

I stayed in that same hotel which I was booked into for work in 2003. With views over the River and just a few minutes into the heart of the City, I felt the hotel (Park Inn) was a good choice. I wasn’t disappointed. The staff, friendly and welcoming as always and the room, with a view over the river and toward the Minster, was just what I needed to help me to relax.

York Minster at nightI met V in the shadow of the beautifully lit York Minster and we headed to the Three Legged Mare for a drink and catch up. As we walked in, I immediately fell in love with it. Filled with people relaxing, chatting, drinking ale courtesy of the York Brewery and soaking up the piano music being supplied by a well-known local Busker. Approaching the bar, V was hugged and welcomed by several people and not once was I made to feel like an outsider. The two gentlemen she knew at the bar, chatted away and included me in their conversations as if I had known them for months.

The evening progressed and we moved on to The Golden Fleece to take in the sounds of another local Busker and his band. Again, it was filled with people laughing and enjoying themselves. The band started up at 9pm and the music was brilliant. A great mixture of songs from the 60’s to the present day, which got everyone singing along, clapping and cheering for more when it was over. The skeleton at the bar was a surprise, but I’m reliably informed he Skeletonwas wearing a Santa hat at Christmas, so at least he likes to get involved.

The evening finished as it started, in the Three Legged Mare, where we planned our Saturday. Rather than my usual walk around the City, involving too much coffee, the Hog Roast and walking the walls, V suggested a road trip with another of her friends.

Saturday’s road trip was brilliant. After picking up K, we spent an hour heading East to Bridlington. The journey was worth it. Parking in the Harbour, we decided to go to South Beach. We walked toward the sea, with the harbour to our left, blue sky overhead and the warmth of the sun on our faces.

538080_10151243113800946_1868307437_nHaving decided to go down the gangway toward the seawall where the fishermen were, we noticed there was a lack of dry land between us and the beach. The three of us and another couple who had the same idea were stood staring at the water, approximately 4 feet across, which was covering the sand by about an inch. V made a dash for it and made it across, as did the man who had appeared. Minutes later the water was gathering momentum, so, sensing a break in the tide, K made a run across the water, only getting her trainers and bottom of her jeans wet. The man was trying to encourage both myself and his partner across, but she gave up and said she would walk up and along South Cliff Road (a good 10 minute walk). I waited a minute or two to see if the water (now 3-4 inches deep) would go out. It did, but as I stepped onto a slightly raised bit of sand, it came gushing back in. Shrieking, I got out the other side to laughter, soaked trainers, socks and jeans (halfway to my knees). I squelched my way down the beach for the rest of the afternoon.

We walked for an hour or so, the warmth of the sun was welcomed and somewhat surprising. Soon, realising just how far we had walked (and how hungry we were), we headed back to find somewhere to eat. Walking around the town, we found a little cafe for Fish and Chips. Red seating and numerous old style heaters propped up on the windowsill gave it a very old fashioned feel and smell. I opted for sausage rather than fish which turned out to be two jumbo sausages and a plate of chips! The food was fantastic, but I couldn’t finish it all.

IcecreamNo trip to the seaside would have been complete without an ice cream, even in a rather chilly 4 degrees, and so we set off in search of one. Eventually (5 or 6 places later) we found what we were after and headed for a short walk toward North Beach. This turned into a very short walk as the temperature plummeted. A brisk walk back to the car and we had decided that enough was enough. We were all frozen stiff.

Saturday night was spent with V and a couple of her friends from University. I could direct you to the places we visited by I’ve no idea on the names. Mainly because we spent a good 20 minutes trying to find somewhere ‘quiet’ so we could have a chat! However the quiet locations were soon traded in for louder, busier bars and we eventually finished the night off in a club.

Sunday was a relaxed affair. I headed for breakfast, which was packed. The staff quickly found me a table and soon I was happily tucking in to a large Full English Breakfast and coffee. Over the 10 years I’ve travelled for work (and pleasure) I’ve had some awful experiences of breakfast, but this was very well done. No congealed beans or rubber scrambled eggs, instead it was hot, fresh and very tasty. After breakfast, I had planned to take a walk out in York and soak up the atmosphere, but the weather had turned and the wind and rain put me off. Instead, I returned to my room to stared out of the window at the City.

What strikes me most of all is that my thoughts while there, are always my most creative. There’s something about that City, like Liverpool, which inspires me. I don’t know why and being able to tap into that inspiration when I return home, is something I’ve never managed.

Inspiration and creativity seems to be so muted in my everyday life. It’s there, I know it is. It’s just a case of finding it.