Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ahhh!! Where's my jacket/beanie/gloves/scarf!!

Hiya from Leeds!
After two flights, one sleep in an airport, and a night in an actual bed, we are finally in Leeds. The flights from Sydney to London were, to put it plainly, long. After saying goodbye to our family and friends we left Sydney just after 10pm on Sunday night. The flight to Kuala Lumpur was not so bad, Malaysian airlines were nice enough and we had a really nice flight steward who gave us extra snacks and real milk for our tea. He was a bit of a joker, who, after asking us where we were going and we replied "London", he helpfully said "hahahah, you have ages to go!".

Our arrival at Kuala Lumpur was at around 3.30am, and we were dreading for the six hour stop over ahead of us. We wandered around the terminal for a bit, briefly considered getting a room in the very expensive, and very 1970s looking terminal hotel. Deciding that the money would be much better spent in  Berlin, Budapest or Paris, we decided to catch what sleep we could in the terminal.  Following the advice on the surprisingly helpful, we headed for the leather lounges on level four, but unfortunately these were already occupied by like minded sleeping travellers (pretty sure they weren't homeless people). We managed to snag a couple of hours of poor and interrupted sleep on a variety of undersized and uncomfortable metal benches, with the cackling of what we are fairly certain was the whole of the Kuala Lumpur airport security team, only metres away. After an atrocious breakfast of Malaysians-trying-to-be-French croissants (beef penang or chicken curry croissant anyone?) and abysmal coffee, it was onto the next leg. Also, tiny teaspoons!

We boarded the next flight at about 10.30 local time, and settled into the next 17 or so hours of flying. This was not our favourite flight, as it was incredibly long and we were feeling the effects of not much sleep. This is what we looked like as we were coming into London.

I think the best way to describe us at this point, was bone tired.
We did have the opportunity to see some pretty cool views as we were flying. Here are some pics, the first is of the desert in Turkmenistan and the second was the East Anglian coast line, as we fly in to Heathrow.

We got into London at about 4.20pm local time (+11 hours for Australia), and got through customs with no problem. We were a bit surprised at the extra attention groups of Nigerian travellers received from the Border Agency guards, but going from what we see on Border Security Uk and the like (TV is always accurate, right? haha) there may be some justification for it.
At this stage we were both ready to find a box and sleep for a year or so, but luckily we were met at arrivals by Steve, who had kindly offered to drive four hours from Manchester to pick us up. He even had M&S sandwiches, snacks and drinks for us! Needless to say, we couldn't thank him enough! With the bags loaded it was off to Manchester, where Steve and his mate Lee had organised a hotel room for the two of us to stay and catch up on some sleep. I crashed out half way to Manchester, awaking briefly to stagger to the room. 

We went to bed earlier than we have since primary school, and awoke a little more refreshed at 5am and watched some quality TV, including a show where people were rescuing badgers from a barn. At about 8am, dawn began to break and we could look out the window of the hotel room. We had a great view over Salford Quays, but when we opened the window to check the outside temperature, the chill took our breath away. In retrospect, the inch thick ice in the roof gutters below our window should have been a giveaway. Anyway, we closed the windows up, rugged up and headed downstairs for breakfast. After 30-odd hours of airplane food, the full english breakfast was a godsend, however the coffee was atrocious. Steve had warned us, and so we used Ben's aunty Carol's trick of adding a pinch of salt to bitter coffee (it works, try it!), which made it almost palatable. Despite the freezing temperature outside, there were lots of people jogging about the Quays, including quite a few old men wearing big padded jackets, beanies and short running shorts... a little odd. 

After breakfast, Steve arrived to pick us up, so we checked out and headed east across the surprisingly rugged Pennines to Yorkshire and our home for the next 4 and a bit months, the city of Leeds!  
Once again, Steve was a massive help, driving us around for most of the day, taking us to meet with our landlady and get keys to the flat, helping us stock up from Ikea, sort a wireless toggle for the laptop, and even do a run to the local Morrisons grocery shop. Without Steve's help, we would have needed ten arms, a load of bus tickets and a plethora of patience. We owe him more than just a few dinners and drinks :)

The apartment we are staying in is located in Kirkstall, a lovely little suburb named after the ruined but still imposing Kirkstall Abbey around which it is based. It's about 5 mins drive (10 on the bus) to the northwest of Leeds city centre. The flat is quite homely, well heated, and well appointed with oven, microwave washing machine and even a dishwasher.  We are very happy to have a place to call home for the next 4 and a bit months. Emma, the owner, was kind enough to organise a whole bunch of bedding and kitchen stuff for us to use whilst we are here, including an awesome duvet (13.5 TOG...whatever that means) which has thus far stood up to the cold very well.

Wednesday morning, after a delicious breakfast of British bacon, eggs and toast, we rugged up and headed into town. The bus stop is about 10m from our front doorstop, and with services running to the city centre every 10 minutes getting in to town is a breeze. Buying a ticket from the bus driver provided me with my first language barrier incident. Manchester was bad enough, but in Leeds they seem to talk a lot faster. The bus driver was a mumbler as well, which didn't help, and besides I don't think he understood me either! 5 pound and two adult tickets later, we hopped on, going up the stairs to the top of the double decker.  It's very fun sitting right at the front of the top, a bit like a ride and you get a good view. We got off at The Headrow, the main drag of Leeds in front of the huge neo-classical Town Hall and headed into the bitingly cold wind, up the hill towards the University where we were to take part in the international student meet and greet. The group we were in had 6 other Australian students, one German and a French girl and a guy from New Jersey. The staff of the international office seem very friendly and helpful, and we found out that we can buy a term pass for the buses which should save us a heap of money. 

After the orientation, we headed up to the student union building. This is immense, with restaurants, bars, eateries, even a beer garden and two nightclubs! We had a delicious and very cheap lunch from one of the restaurants, before heading out to wander around the grounds. The Great Hall is amazing, like something from Harry Potter. Not wanting to look like tourists though, we didn't stop to take any photos - we'll get some soon though. Next on the agenda was to buy some boots! Ben had bought a pair back in Australia, but while his feet were toasty and warm mine were freezing in a pair of Nike trainers. We wandered around the commercial district, which is pretty impressive with so many stores. I eventually ended up finding a decent warm pair of boots from, of all places, a store which specialises in Ugg boots.  Funnily enough, the denizens of Tuggerah will be delighted to know that Ugg boots are, in fact, fashionable! Not so much the worn out trackie-dacks though I'm afraid. Maybe next season. 
Anyway, it was getting dark (so about 3.30pm), so we caught the bus back to our flat and, after dinner and a delicious Rekorderlig Cider (they're only 1.50 over here!), still feeling a bit of the jetlag, we crashed out at about 7.30, after watching the beautiful sunset (on the right side of the double glazing).


1 comment:

  1. such a beautiful sunset. You're really on an adventure now - enjoy every minute of it. X Mum and Dad