What would a trip across the atlantic ocean to Nottingham be without seeing Nottingham castle and/or Sherwood forest? Well it would end up being very similar to what I expereinced For whatever reason Roland and I learned that they close Castles down on mondays and so this trip I was only able to see the castle from the outside. No worries though as Roland and I jived amazingly well and we had a wicked fun day exploring the beautiful downtown area of Nottingham.
I met him at the main train station as he was catching a train in from the town that he lives in and then we headed out to an army surplus store to pick up a used military bag to hold his audio recording equipment out in the field. I had to give it to him it was a fairly brilliant move. The audio stores sold the specific small bags to carry his recording equipment upwards of 60-70 £ but he picked up this old used belt bag for a steal of a deal at only £1.00 and this way he looks way more uber cool and tough out in the field than before. We specificalliy looked for the bag with the most blood soaked on it but alas they were all fairly clean so we went away dissapointed there. After making our way out of the old industrial park which we got hopefully lost in trying to find the place my ginger tour guide led me into the city center. I have to admit after reading a Nottingham and hearing about it from Nick my expectations were fairly low, which made the trip that day that much more of a treat. From the area of town we were coming from we had to wander through most ff downtown just to get to Nottingham castle, which was our major destination for the day. Weaving our way through these awesome narrow little european streets, seeing ancient churches and buildings along the way I got a glimpse of that same beauty that Cambridge held. The main difference is that Nottingham has been more readily brought into the modern age whereas so much effort was put into preserving Cambridge in its natural state. Nottingham is definitely a much larger city and so you have just as much history but it is spread out over a much larger distance and usually poking through large steel and glass office buildings and stores.
The feeling that Nottingham’s ancient wow factor wasn’t as intense as cambridge was instantly dispelled when I came face to face with my first European castle, Nottingham Castle at that. Regardless of the fact that we couldn’t get into due to some very inconvenient rule that they don’t open the Castle on a monday, it was an awe-inspiring site. These massive walls stretched around the perimeter of this complex, thick as hell and at least a dozen meters tall. They had an ancient timless feel to them as they were half stone and half moss, causing you to forget what year it was and wander if Robin Hood was around the next bend. We did the full circuit around, my knowledgeable companion telling me all sorts of neat little facts about this window here, that cave there, this statue here, until we had finally mosied our way to what is proclaimed as the Old Pub in all of England(a title also claimed by 2 or 3 other pubs I might add), and who could resist heading into the oldest pub in England for a quick pint? Not I said the wolf, although the pint was had by Roland only.. In fact it was rather dissapointing as this fine pub serves tankards of ale, aye you heard me right: Tankards, and I was unable to convince Mr. Shaw to partake in a Tankard having him settle on a measly pint instead, silly English. I hadn’t thrown in the towel on my quest for the ultimate english chip and so I had to order the pubs finest dish of Chips, as well as union rings for good measure.
The inside of this pub was definitely something out of the middle ages as a good portion of it was built into the rock itself, making for this great closed in cave setting with these heavy ancient tables and chairs. Roland and I enjoyed our little meal and his mead but as with before the chips left me feeling dissapointed at the fact that they were no better than a bag of McCain’s frozen chips made in the oven. I suppose without the fish it isn’t the same but I haven’t a clue why there is such a big deal about English Fish & Chips as I imagine the fish will be just as ordinary as the chips are and so far I am also thinking the same about English Tea, it is decent teas in all but certainly nothing to warrant the national obsession with it, organizing the day around these cermonies. Roland however would hear nothing of my dissapointment and it became his days mission to find me a proper cup of english tea that would set me straight in my ways and so out we set in search of a geniune, earth-shattering cup of english Tea. A few sidestreets and alleyways later we happened upon a good and proper english tea house. Walking into this place instantly got my hopes up that my doubts surroudning English Tea would be put to rest.
The place was so picturesque, it was exactly what I had imagined a classical english tea house to be, the unchanging timeless tea shoppe where you’d expect to see Sherlock Holmes hunkered down over a piece of evidence in a corner somewhere. We went to the counter and explained our predicament to one of the purveyors of fine teas, telling him that under no uncertain terms was I to leave this place unsatisfied. In fact as I ordered my loose leaf english tea I had him write ‘high expectations’ on the bill just so that whoever was making this would know the vital importance of this order. A little joke which created more confusion than anything as the manager took one look at the order and started drilling the poor lad what the hell that was supposed to mean. Either way, Roland and I let them sort that out and headed upstairs to the top level of this storybook establishment to sit down and await the arrival of a tea that would alter the very fabric of my being. Sure enough within a few minutes up it came and upon
the first sips of this tea, which I had to strain myself for leaves, my opinion of proper English tea was permanently reversed. Easily the best English Breakfast tea I’ve had in my lifetime by leaps and bounds. I went back down for more hot water and helped myself to a second pot it was so good. Now if only all englishmen drank their tea like this, then I’d be able to rationalize why they need a cup of it every hour or two but at the end of the day they are drinking the same bags of tea as we get back home and to be honest there’s nothing that special about that to warrant re-arranging your life around. Go forth Englishmen! Go forth and discover the beauty of loose leaf teas, Roiboos Teas, earthy greens and even your holy English Breakfast and Earl Grey tea that you hold so dear. A country of such appreciation of tea would be taken to new heights of pleasure if they just stepped out of the mold here and truly explored their past time with the vigor that it deserved.
We finished out pots of Tea and then set out to explore more of Nottingham as well as to find an electronics shop where I could pick up a decent new headset for music as well as Teamspeak. We found the shop but for whatever reason I forgot the price difference here v.s. back home. Not speaking of the currency difference but the fact that everything in Europe costs at least twice as much back home. They leave the numbers the same on the price but they just put a £ sign infront of it instead of a $ sign.. It is completely ridiculous how much living here costs, corporations must just be bleeding the people dry because they have a VAT tax on top of that. So my thoughts of buying the headset, or anything else for that matter ended there. Roland and I made a speedy exit from the shop and went out to try to find the bus that would get us back to Nick’s place. We both had no clue where the bus came into the city and stopped but as luck would have it as we crossed the city square there was our bus just waiting for us all prim and proper. We got on, headed back to the apartment and stayed up till the wee hours of the morning solving the problems of the world and demonstrating how horrible I am at the console shooters on Gears of War 2.