“When it rains or shines, it’s just a state of mind.” – The Beatles, “Rain”

This has got to be my motto while I’m here. It’s incredibly true. A little rain can’t hold me back from experiencing all that England has to offer! So even on the dreariest of weekends, I still went with another American friend on a little train ride to see that city on the coast where The Beatles became famous.

Just like Stratford-upon-Avon’s claim to fame, Liverpool is known for being the birthplace of a legend. Paul, John, George, and Ringo came from humble beginnings in this port town on the west coast of England. There are museums and statues honoring their memory as The Beatles, and everywhere you go it is hard to escape their music or the mark they left on their hometown. While I didn’t get to see the strawberry fields or Penny Lane, I certainly learned a lot about their band and the effect that their music had on the world. There’s an entire exhibit honoring The Beatles and Elvis, who both helped to bridge the cultural music gap between America and the UK. But I also got to take a little ferry trip across the Mersey (a strait separating Liverpool and Birkenhead) and I was able to visit two other museums. One museum was a space planetarium with tons of neat interactive stuff and really awesome exhibits, and the other was a U-boat museum with a preserved U-boat from World War II. Both were pretty great.

Oh, but I have to show you this picture. In the space museum there was an interactive exhibit of how Earth is able to support life, and you could play with ideas like, “What if the earth’s atmosphere had a certain composition of elements?” And different answers would get you various responses like, “With that ratio, only plants could survive.” But there was another one that demonstrated how the earth’s tilt affects us, and you had to tilt a picture of Earth until it was just right. Well anyway, you can clearly see the US, and I noticed amid the swirly clouds and water, that you can clearly see a hurricane hovering right over Louisiana/Texas. It literally made me laugh out loud, first of all because no one would notice that except a Southerner, and secondly because it would be just our luck that exactly when this photograph was taken of Earth, the South was being hit by a hurricane. It was slightly amusing.
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After we had seen the sights and the museums had closed, we had a little bit of time before our train would bring us back to Manchester, so we did some shopping in the giant shopping center near Albert Docks, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a pretty big Disney store. I was even more excited to discover that not only do they sell different merchandise than they do in the parks, but I also still got my 40% discount. I was ecstatic, to say the least. We also went into a delightful little pub for dinner, where I (finally) ordered my first legal alcoholic beverage: a Pimm’s cup No. 1. It’s a British drink, usually served mixed with carbonated lemonade (what they call a “classic” Pimm’s), and is a gin-based liqueur with other flavors in it. I can’t even compare the taste to anything in particular, but it’s very good.

Then today I was able to sleep in (which was absolutely glorious) and went to get a brunch at Costa Coffee, a little coffee shop rather like Starbucks. But the only reason I mention this trivial detail is because of this: look at my adorable cup of coffee!
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Anyway, today is the Chinese New Year, so a friend and I went down to Manchester’s Chinatown where they had a bunch of New Year festivities. It was basically like a typical county fair, with lots of little vendors, prize-winning games where you could giant stuffed animals, and little kiddie rides and such. But everything was set up along the streets and alleys of Chinatown, with the great Chinese Arch at the center of it. At 6pm there was huge fireworks display, although with the crowds and the fact that it was in the middle of a city with tall buildings, it was hard to get close enough to see well. I did realize that my camera has a firework setting, so I got some of these:
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But anyway, now it’s back down to real world with classes in full swing. Hopefully I’ll go travelling again next weekend, although I have no idea where! Wherever I end up, it’s sure to be interesting. Part of me still can’t believe that I’m actually here. Every so often I get caught up in the sounds of the city, and I stop and look around and just think, “Oh my gosh, I’m in England.” Can you believe it?  It must be madness. But it was, after all, the British author Lewis Carroll who wrote “We’re all mad here.” I suppose I can live with that, and I suppose that also means that I might as well smile when it rains, travel on the dreary days, and watch fireworks in the freezing cold. Is it madness to do so? Perhaps. But it’s all simply a state of mind.  

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