The final leg of our Eurotrip ended in United Kingdom. Although I have been to London several times, I have not had the chance to explore other cities and admittedly I was overly excited to be exploring Manchester because of two reasons:
i) It was where Nazeef went to study for his degree. It is a special place for him and finally he was able to bring me around to go to his favourite spots during his student life. It was going to be a tour around his ‘hood’ where he had spent most of his time frolicking, making fond memories that he ultimately misses until now. (I had my chance of bringing him for a tour around my ‘hood’ in New Jersey, United States in 2014).
ii) Old Trafford, ’nuff said (this should have been the first choice haha).
I am an avid fan of Manchester United since god knows when and it has always been my dream to step foot here… much to Nazeef’s disapproval. My loyalty for Manchester United is among the many other things that we don’t see eye to eye, but ‘sokay we still love each other very much, haha!
First day in Manchester
Our flight into Manchester arrived late at night and the airport was deserted with only a few people lingering around. We were staying with Nazeef’s friend, so we hailed a cab and drove straight to the house. His friends; Fit and Nadiah’s place is located near where Nazeef’s old place used to be, which was in Rusholme. To be honest, I am not very familiar with their place since I leave it up to Nazeef to be my guide. It was the only city that we did not have to depend on our phones to get information.
When we reached, Fit greeted us and helped us carry our luggage upstairs. Nadiah and their two kids were already sleeping, so we didn’t get the chance to say hello. Once settled in, I let Nazeef and Fit get reacquainted just like old times. (Funny to know that on the day I first contacted Nazeef back in 2013, he told me he was helping his friends move – and it turned out to be Fit and Nadiah! And three years on, there we were, staying at their place with our little family. Allah works in miraculous ways.)
Second day in Manchester
It was Old Trafford day! It was a perfectly sunny day and the weather was not too cold. Along the way to the bus stop, Nazeef was prickling with excitement, reminiscing about his student days. There was a huge smile plastered on his face as he gushed on about where he always eats, which bus station to go to to catch the city bus, where he always played football – basically all about his life as a student. It was fascinating to hear his stories and as I was to listening him, mental images automatically sprung into my mind of a younger version of him, doing whatever he was telling me.
We took the bus that goes straight to Old Trafford. The feeling of seeing ‘The Theatre of Dreams’ with my own two eyes… it was surreal. The atmosphere is just amazing, overwhelming and incredible. I wished I could have brought the whole lot (my siblings) together with me to savour the moment.
It was still quite early, around 10-ish so we thought we could catch the 11 AM tour. It turned out to be fully booked until 1.30 PM! Nazeef thought we could just buy the ticket from the counter, thus did not book the tickets in advance. So bear in mind to book your tickets in advance to manage time. We killed time by going to the Museum, Red Cafe, Megastore (of course) and also taking lots of pictures (but of course!)
The 80 minutes tour was honestly, worth every penny. It was insightful, our guides were hilarious, I get the privilege to sit at SAF’s stand AND I also sat in Juan Mata/De Gea/Martial (OK basically all) seats in their dressing room!!!! (also got to know Rooney was temporarily banned from choosing the songs to be played in the dressing room because he kept playing demotivating songs lol). It was definitely an eye-opening experience. I think all football lovers would enjoy the tour, (despite supporting different teams) so I highly recommend to visit the stadium.
We headed back to have our lunch at Pizza Co – the best place in the world to have pizza (my husband insisted I put this in because this is his favourite restaurant). He actually ate the whole beef pepperoni pizza by himself and DIPPED IT IN BBQ SAUCE AND MAYO. WHO EATS PIZZA LIKE THAT. Well, apparently all Mancunians do. I just had their fried chicken because I don’t eat pizza. Have heard that their spicy chicken wings are the bomb too, but didn’t manage to try.
Apparently the two main attractions in Manchester are (i) the stadium (ii) the food. So please expect more food stories – this blog will temporarily be a foodie blog as of now.
When we arrived at Fit and Nadiah’s place, Nadiah and Aydin were at home and we greeted each other. It was my first time meeting Nadiah, so we talked a lot about our children (Aydin’s turning four, while Alman is a week younger than Aidan). It’s nice to have someone to talk to about children, partly because I’m among the first to have a baby within my circle of friends. Shortly after Fit came back with Alman, and we let Alman and Aidan meet for the first time. They were so cute together! Aidan looked lost while Alman was so feisty! It was Aidan’s first time being around another baby his age, and his reaction was priceless.
Initially we wanted to grab dinner together, but because Aydin was unwell Nadiah decided to stay home. So we went out with Fit and Shaz (Nazeef’s ex housemate) to have dinner at Jazeera. Rusholme is a dodgy area yet students still choose to live in this area because it’s cheap and there’s ‘Curry Mile’, where you can easily find Halal restaurants in the whole stretch of the street.
The next day we caught an early train to Liverpool to go to Anfield stadium. Nazeef is a die hard fan of LFC, so it’s only fair to go there too right haha. The trip to Liverpool was about 40 minutes, and we slept the whole way.
It was freezing cold in Liverpool prolly because it’s next to the ocean. We took a bus to Anfield, and I was expecting a huge stadium, just like Old Trafford, but it turned out to be… not alike at all. The compound was smaller, and it was difficult to take a full photo of the stadium with us in it. But Nazeef was elated nevertheless, the stadium was in the midst of construction but he wanted to see the newly renovated team stands and the walkway heading into the stadium. We were contemplating whether to go for the tour, but because Nazeef has gone for a few times, we decided not to. So we just took photos and also spend majority of our time in the megastore.
Afterwards we took a cab to Albert Dock at Liverpool’s Waterfront. They had really cute food trucks there! There was one in pink colour that sold donuts. The air was refreshing, and you can smell the salty ocean water. The gentle breeze and the sound of seagulls loitering in the sky would have made a perfect soundtrack for the movies. There were some interestingly built modern architecture buildings by the dock too.
We headed back to Manchester and went to the city center to eat in another restaurant recommended by Nazeef called Rice – where they serve a variety of Asian food in the Chinese takeout container (even when we were dining in). We had Thai Red Curry and it was scrumptious (I prefer Green Curry, but they took it out of the menu). We went shopping the rest of the evening and had a delicious home-cooked dinner by Nadiah. Spent our last night in Manchester watching movies, and had the most scrumptious ribs (again recommended by Nazeef) for our late night snack.
Day 1 in London
After bidding farewell to Manchester, we took a train to London the next day. The journey was around two hours, and by the time we reached it was nearly dark. We were staying with my-used-to-be neighbour, Aizi, who was staying in Zone 2, southwest (or was it east?) London. He met with us at the station (came all the way although he had to use crutches, poor boy!) and we chilled at a diner around the station to let the peak crowd disperse (it was massive).
We then took Uber to have dinner at Tok Din where we had the most crunchiest, addictive Ayam Goreng Bawang Putih (Garlic Fried Chicken)(also recommended by Nazeef). It was my first time there although I have been to London several times, and thought it was really good albeit a lil bit pricey (but then again what isn’t in London?).
We booked another Uber and arrived 45 minutes later at Aizi’s super chic condominium, that was overlooking London from a distance. Chatted with Aizi for a lil’ bit before turning ourselves in.
Day 2 and 3 in London
Honestly speaking, I will not blog much about what we did because our sole purpose of stopping by London is to shop… (guilty as charged). We also stopped by a few tourist spots for pictures sake and took long walks at Hyde Park. But mostly shopping, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
London was as bustling as ever, even during non-peak season. It was a good decision for us to come before the holiday season, otherwise we would have been like packed tuna in the crowd. We walked along Oxford Street for countless of times… just thinking about it makes my feet ache. It was really a test for us = 8kg baby + shopping courier bags + a lot of walking.
London will always have a soft spot for Nazeef and I, just like Bali. We came back home stronger and I knew that this trip has somehow changed me in many different ways – no matter how trivial they are. And I’m glad it did.
It was the end of our 14 days holiday and we left with such a heavy heart. It was definitely an experience I will forever cherish, and I feel blessed to have made it through with my little family (and big ones too!). It was not easy to travel with a baby (come to think about it, how did we manage???)
It never occurred to us that we would go on a Eurotrip this soon. We have always planned it to happen in two or three years to come. Alhamdulillah, Allah is the best of planners. Best part about traveling (or doing anything, really) is to use your own money. Both Nazeef and I had saved relentlessly into making this trip come true. We knew the experience would be more special and memorable to be using our own hard earned money. And we did it (while touching only a few grand from our savings), so proud of the both of us! Nevertheless, this trip is definitely the highlight of my 2016.
4 countries, 10 cities – done! #nzfnzleurope trip – checked! Next in plan? Let’s wait and see 😉