Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Trip to England

It's been more than two weeks since my last post, so I figured I'd give an update before plunging back in. I spent time visiting my sister, who lives in Newcastle, England, and while I was there, I experienced some historical sites in the country and make a foray into Scotland for a music festival called T in the Park, where I camped out for three days among 85,000 fans. It rained every day and was awfully cold (in July!), but it was a cool experience.

With all the mud and tents, it's probably the closest I'll get to Woodstock. Surrounding the festival were these green hills and mountains against the horizons, and it was pretty and was something Tolkien could write about. One strange detail: men in Scotland have no problems taking a piss along any wall when the urge strikes them. Scots certainly aren't skittish about exposing their privates in a public venue as dirty as this, and it took some getting used to on my part (My younger sister snapped quite a few pictures).

T in the Park is an annual fest in Edinburgh, and I'll be honest, most of the music wasn't for my taste. I'm a hard rock/heavy metal fan, and this was more for British alternative rock and pop fan. Still, I had a good time. I really liked Airborne, the one heavy metal band in the lineup. The four were something a cross between AC/DC and Metallica (an Australian foursome, and the frontman kept downing Jack Daniels). The Proclaimers also put on a good set. I only knew their one song "500 Miles," but they played a lot of good tracks. What I liked about them was how, in a lineup of bands comprised of people who look like they belong on the cover of a fashion magazine, the Proclaimers were a bunch of nerdy middle aged men who knew how to rock. The festival headliner on the second day was Eminem. While he put on a good show, the crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder, and it was very uncomfortable, especially when people behind kept shoving. My other pet peeve is Eminem sang medleys of some of his classics. I prefer full songs, but no one else seemed to my mind. He knew how to put on a show regardless. During his performance, Eminem was joined by D12, and they sang, among other tracks, a rather poignant tribute to the late Proof, whose image hung over the stage. Other groups I saw included Black Mountain, Newton Faulkner (really funny), the Black Keys, the Stranglers, Skunk Anansie, the Corals, Florence and the Machine, Jamie T, Stereophonics, and Muse.

I'm not sure if this makes up for missing Iron Maiden when they came to Cleveland during my trip, and as I type this, Heaven and Hell is in London giving their final performance ever in tribute of their fallen front man Ronnie James Dio. If only I spent a few more days in England, that would have been a concert to see. Oh well, I still have the American Carnage tour to look forward to.

The historical sites were really cool. Warkworth and Alnwick Castles were two castles in Northumberland I visited. Warkworth is a site of preserved ruins, crumbling walls, and hidden stairwells and passages that were fun to explore, and Alnwick is still lived in by the Percy family, which has owned it for centuries. It's a residence and museum filled with paintings, portraits, statues, cannon, and furniture. There's even a guard tower and dungeon on display. Alnwick also possesses a magnificent garden and fountain arrangement.

I also checked out Beamish, an open air museum where the village has been preserved as it was in the 1820s and early twentieth century. Not only did I go through the different buildings such as the schoolhouse, farm, and dentist office (note: it paid to be rich to afford the better tooth puller), I also went down in an old coal mine where I had to wear a hard hat, and the height fell to four feet. The guide said miners actually worked in tunnels as a low as two feet, the height boys could stoop to and still push carts. At four feet, all they had to do was lead the donkeys. At one point, the guide turned the lights down simulate candle glow most miners worked by, and it was nearly pitch black. During the peak period of coal mining, he explained, an average of three miners died every day in the mines of England.

Later in my trip, I followed William Wallace's example and sacked York. Well, I visited Jorvik viking center there. The place smelled, and I thought I'd see more armor and swords, but I rode this little cart that took me through a recreated village complete with animatronic villagers (Jorvik is the Viking name for York). At the gift shop, my sister bought me a book of Viking sayings, and you might catch a few in my upcoming writings. I also walked along the wall in the city center and visited the Minster Cathedral, a stunning display of architecture. I couldn't take pictures in the crypt area as I could elsewhere, but more than any other time, I felt like Indiana Jones and kept expecting to bump into a Crusader with the Holy Grail.

Near the end of my trip, I rode the metro to Tynside, where the Tyne River meets the Atlantic. There stood the ruins of a castle that guarded the region, and later, it served as an artillery battery during the World Wars. The bunker was nifty, and the Priory (as the castle is called) afforded a cool view of the coast.

Sorry if I bored you with my exploits overseas, but I would encourage anyone to visit and take in the sites and histories of different landscapes and regions. It's quite rich and rewarding to do so. But don't worry, I bought three DVDs over there, and I'll review them this week.

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