Friday, February 12, 2010


I know, I know, another blog post, and a pretty long one at that. But, I hope it’s a good story. In the end, that’s what I would like these posts to be, stories; not just a boring statement of what I did and when, but a coherent narrative (yes, fancy words) of what I found interesting about my trips. That will come with time…

I had been looking to go somewhere, on a short day trip, for the past week or so. I figured since I wasn’t doing anything on Friday, I might as well go somewhere. So I looked on a map, and chose a random place. Well, relatively random. On my first try I ended up with Brighton. The train tickets didn’t look too bad, it was by the water, and there was outlet shopping. Some neighbors here said that they wanted to join me, and so we were figuring out tickets. But then, one of them pointed out that it was going to be cold, and that if we went in the spring it would be better. I realized that they were right, so I had to find new plans. After a little looking at the National Rail map and googleing, I landed on Colchester. Now, who in the world has heard of Colchester? I hadn’t before I started looking. Turns out that it’s the earliest settlement in England, and according to Wikipedia “it was mentioned by Pliny the Elder in AD 77,” and the Castle is older than that. I looked up the train and tours and all that fun stuff, and figured I’d just get the tickets the day of, in case I couldn’t get myself up or changed my mind at the last minute and went somewhere else.

This morning I got up at 7:30 (pretty early for me, although I was helped by the people going to Amsterdam talking outside), showered, had breakfast, and headed out around 8:30. I took the Tube from the Gloucester Road station to the Holborn station on the Piccadilly Line; then I went over to the Liverpool Street station from Holborn on the Central Line. From there, I went and got my ticket, one way for 22.70. Turns out I probably should’ve gotten a return ticket (meaning you get one trip there and back in a day) but I’ll remember that next time. Turns out when you buy your ticket, you can use it anytime that day, I thought they were just for a specific time. Anyways, I got my ticket, hopped on the train, and was off. It was nice, I got my own seat, the train wasn’t crowded at all. As you’ll read about it wasn’t that way coming back.

The train up was a pleasant experience. I saw where the Olympics are going to be held, there’s a lot of construction going on in the area, and saw what I would guess is the main stadium. I also saw some of what I assumed were the less well off parts of London, providing at least some perspective for me. Most of the trip was though fields and farms. I listened to some music and a podcast. When I got to Colchester, I transferred to another train for the short trip to Colchester Town (I didn’t want to walk, and turns out it was a solid distance).

Olympic area:

The town is a reasonable size, and I liked it. On the way walking up to the Castle (the main thing I wanted to see when I was there) I ran into some Mormons, who asked me a few questions and gave me a pamphlet. I kept walking up Queen Street, until I got to the park that the Castle is in. The Castle isn’t a big building, but it’s in a relatively big park. So, I stopped into the Castle, got my spot on the noon tour, and found that I had about 45 minutes to walk around. The park turned out to be nice, even during the winter, and as I was walking down along one of the paths, the sun came out. To be honest, I wouldn’t have been shocked if I met some amazing girl while walking around, it was just one of those odd, almost cliché, moments. Although it was chilly so even if I had met a girl I wouldn’t have been able to communicate very well, by the time I got back to the castle my lips were a little stuck. I took a bunch of pictures, including one of a squirrel that came about 6 inches from me, stopped, looked up, and went along on his business, obviously not caring about me.

The park:

The squirrel:

The castle:

Eventually I turned around and headed back. I grabbed a coffee at a local coffee shop, and the woman there was telling me she had just been on a trip to the US: Miami, Orlando, and Las Vegas. So we chatted while she got my coffee, then I went and drank it outside before heading to the tour.

The tour was good. A lot of bending over to go through small tunnels in the basement. On the tour was with a bunch of what I think were middle school kids. I had known they were gonna be there, but I wanted to do the noon tour; overall, they weren’t all that bad. The tour lady we had was interesting, and she took us down to the dungeons, and then up to the roof, talked about the different designs of the building and its various uses. At one point Colchester Castle was a Roman temple, and then it was transformed by the Normans into a fort. I’ll let you look up the information on Wikipedia. I will say that it was cool touching a wall (part of the base) that had been there since at least the 60s AD. Crazy.


View from the roof of the town:

When I was done with the tour, I made the decision to just head back “home,” well really just to London. I did wander around a little bit, and saw a local market and a few shops. But eventually I made it back to the train station. I got a ticket, went to the next stop, got a little lost, and eventually made it onto the train that was going to London’s Liverpool Street. This time the train was crowded, much more than it was leaving London. So that wasn’t as exciting. But when I got back to the London station, I had a thought. I was already reasonably close to the Canary Wharf area, which is where a lot of the modern buildings are. So, I took the DLR (Docklands Light Railway), which is an aboveground train similar to the Tube, to the Canary Wharf Station. The DLR like to bounce back and forth a good bit. But, Canary Wharf was interesting. It’s a very impressive area, and it reminded me a lot of New York City. Citi, HSBC, and Barclays (all huge banks) have big buildings there. I walked around a bit, got cold, and then found the Canary Wharf Tube Station. I got on the Jubilee Line, which has relatively modern/fancy stations compared to most of the other lines, took that to Westminster, and then headed back to Gloucester Road. Overall, I think I accomplished something today. I am pretty tired though, 7:30 is the earliest I’ve been up in a while.


DLR around Canary Wharf:

A few of the buildings:

Walked around a little here, and the Underground station is on the left:

Entrance to the Underground station:

Who knew I could write so much about a short little trip? Hopefully these aren’t too long for you, I don’t want to have people getting backlogged on them. Although, if nothing else, this process is good for my memory.

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