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09 July 2011

The Lake District: Climbing to the Top of England

Day 40: Wednesday, 29 June 2011

England's Lake District is well-known for having the most scenic areas in the country. And in my 3 days there, I must whole-heartedly agree! There whole area is full of rolling hills and mountains, sheep grazing, slate-exterior cottages, and quaint towns that provide a perfect postcard of English countryside!

I spent one night in Manchester, and then I took a morning train to Windermere, a town right on the lake of the same name. My friend Nick picked me up (in his car - yes!) with his girlfriend Vicky and his flatmate Claire. We grabbed some lunch at a carvery, a kind of restaurant where you get roast meat served to you as you want, with veggies and yorkshire pudding.

We dropped my stuff off at the apartment, and then drove to Keswick (pronounced "kezzik"), where we got some food from Booths to prepare for our hike the next day - we were hiking up Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England!


Day 39: Tuesday, 28 June 2011 - Liverpool Day!
I decided to visit Liverpool on a day trip, since it's only a 45-minute train ride from Manchester. I started the day with a walk to Old Trafford, the stadium home to Manchester United. There was construction going on, so I couldn't see too much, but I guess it'd be better if I were a more devoted football fan.

After a bit of rain the night before, it was warm and sunny yet again in Manchester. I took the tram to the Piccadilly station, used the automatic machine to pick up my train tickets, and got on the next train to Liverpool (I had to show my ticket to enter the platform area, odd…). I put some Beatles songs on my ipod as I drifted along into the city, and as I emerged from Liverpool's Lime Street station, I was greeted by a chilly sea breeze that instantly made me regret wearing shorts.

I picked up a city map from the train info stand and walked first to the Walker Art Gallery. Gotta love the UK's museums with free admission! There was a good selection of art ranging from classical sculptures to Victorian to modern.

I was too antsy to stay around looking at art for so long, so then I headed out through St. John's Garden and into the old streets in the city's center. I passed some locals, and their accent - "scouse" - was really hard to decipher. (I had been warned that the accents here can be particularly strong.)

I soon found Mathew Street, home to the Cavern Club, the place famous for being the birthplace of the Beatles.

Welcome to Manchester

Day 37: Sunday, 26 June 2011
The flight from Reykjavik to Manchester was only about 2.5 hours. I sat in front of an obnoxiously loud child, about 6 years old, who kept whining about everything. The didn't deter me from falling asleep for most of the flight. I groggily passed into the airport and through immigration, where I got held up for a quite a while, because the immigration officers had no idea what kind of visa I had. They had to look it up online, because it was a new category that had just been introduced (so apparently I knew more than they did).

It felt hot in Manchester, especially compared to Iceland. It was apparently 27°C, which is like 81F. I took the train from the airport to the main train station, Manchester Piccadilly. It only cost £3, which is much cheaper than the analogous train in London. I then took a tram to Kieran's place, which was also quick and easy. I arrived at the house, but Kieran wasn't there and his housemate Johnny didn't have the key to unlock the door. No worries, I sat on the front ledge and laptopped away.

Kieran arrived with Amy and another guest, Tsachi from Israel, whom I at first called Ducky. We went for a long walk into the city center, which was pleasant. It felt good to be back in a city, surrounded by people.

Final Day in Iceland: All Day and All Night in Reykjavik

Day 36: Saturday, 25 June 2011

We tried to get as much sleep as possible at the hostel, because the next night we were planning for the possibility of staying out all night before our early morning flights. So we slept until 10, but had to check out at 10:30. Taking it easy, we checked emails and other internet stuff for an hour or so. I also frantically tried to help out Ueli, who had texted me that he was stranded in San Francisco at 3am with nowhere to stay.

The day's drive was short, less than 2 hours to Reykjavik. Along the way we passed along a fjord (Halfnafjorthur) with some spectacular views. We stopped at a lone church, decided against making a 2-hour hike to Glymur (Iceland's tallest waterfall), and drove offroad to find a hot spring that Georg had recommended to us. The hot spring was pretty isolated, a natural jacuzzi right by the water. We didn't really feel like jumping in, as rain had begun to sprinkle and I wanted to get to Reykjavik anyway.