Staying close to (my European) home

My time in the United Kingdom has flown by — in less than 48 hours, I will be on a plane back to the U.S., and I can’t believe it.

I’ve spent the past few weeks in the country, seeing more of Manchester and its surrounding cities.

A few weeks ago, I went to my first Manchester United football game. We played Hull City and won 3-1. My friends and I found them to be more polite than Americans during sporting events (OK, except for when the 3-year-old next to us shouted the f-bomb every two minutes when participating in their cheers), but I was later informed that this was unusual — Hull City just “isn’t that good of a team.”

IMG_2746The front of the world-famous Old Trafford.

The next night, a few friends and I went for a pint before seeing “Rock of Ages,” a musical that had just left the West End. It’s essentially the story of how “Don’t Stop Believin'” became a song, with lots of other rock references and numbers along the way. I really liked it — the acting was great, and it was a lot funnier than I thought it would be!

Two weekends ago, my friend Caitlyn came to visit for the weekend. On Friday, I showed her around the Piccadilly/City Centre area, and we went to Trafford Centre, apparently the second-largest shopping center in Europe. I was not at all expecting the mall I saw — one with statues everywhere and a self-playing piano. Caitlyn said it was a lot like ones she’s seen in Dubai and Beijing. We browsed a lot of stores, including Forever 21, a rarity in Europe.

IMG_2857Yeah, I never expected to see anything like this in Manchester. But I’m glad I did.

On Saturday, we took a short train to Liverpool. Our first stop? The Magical Mystery Tour, of course. The first album I ever loved was “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” — my dad would play it for me in his workroom when I was very, very little, and we’d sing along to all of the songs — so I was super excited to see these places in person.

We went on this psychedelic-looking bus ride that was absolutely worth the admission price. We toured the city with a rather amusing tour guide, who pointed out landmarks such as Penny Lane, the church where Paul McCartney first played with the band and the gravestone of Eleanor Rigby (though whether the song is named for that particular Eleanor Rigby is up for debate). My favorite spot, though, was the Strawberry Field that inspired “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

IMG_2896The song says nothing is real, but this seems pretty real to me.

We also went to The Beatles Story, the museum about the famous band; the Cavern Club, the place where The Beatles first played; and a museum about the Titanic. (Liverpool used to be the largest ship port for destinations in North America.)

After that, we went to see “Bad Neighbors” at a local Liverpool cinema. It was absolutely hilarious. We were laughing hysterically at some of the jokes — sometimes when the rest of the theater was silent because a large part of the joke contained an American reference.

On Sunday morning, before Caitlyn left, we walked up and down the Curry Mile, the largest string of South Asian restaurants and shops outside of South Asia. I’m not sure if I’ll get to go again, so it was nice to walk that one last time.

I’m hoping to do some more exploring of Manchester tomorrow morning before I meet up with people to say goodbye(!) — there are still a few parts of town I’d like to hit before I leave!

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