When I was a little kid I would bug my father for money to buy souvenirs. I was driven to bring something home, an acquisition that showed “I was there”, while my father was driven to keep my hands out of his pockets. This is when I would hear his voice explaining once again to me that all that stuff was made in “Japan” and completely worthless. Nowadays it seems that all the souvenir stuff found in shops around the world is made in China. Here, Venetian souvenir shops have things produced in China, and many of the shop owners here are Chinese. These are popular by tourists thinking they were made in Italy.
Now that I am way past that ignorant stage of youth, what does an old American tourist like me bring home to Italy from a short trip to England? My main strategic approach to shopping abroad has two items always on my list. This is limited only to what I can carry back in a small carry-on. (No liquids, etc.) My list began with a quest to find food items not found in Italy. Great Britain has one item I can never pass up— Cheddar Cheese. (I do all the cooking in our home.) Being raised in New Mexico and Colorado, I endeavor to build a taco and top it with sharp yellow cheese, and then stuff my enchiladas with Cheddar cheese. If one finds this Cheddar Italy it is terribly expensive, While in Great Britain I stock up.
With my backpack filled with cheese I head for a very large music store that has shelves packed with piano music of all levels of ability. The pathetic piano shop in Padova, near where I live, is a tiny shop with music at a difficulty which is beyond my capability. Therefore, Manchester is a gold mine that I know from a previous visit several years ago . I was excited to have another chance to search for more playable books of pop, jazz, and classical. With so much music on the shelves it becomes tedious work, but worth the several hours of looking to find something suitable.
With those goals met now it was time to enjoy the sights. First up was the John Rylands Library, a very old historical Victorian library, which was actually considered to be used in the Harry Potter Movies as their school library. Unfortunately Manchester’s library was not chosen, but you can see why they were a top choice. The place looks old, smells old, and feels old. They still use the old victorian toilets. They also have on display some of the earliest printed books in existence, manuscript collections and an old still functioning printing press.
I pulled up a chair and just sat in the middle of the reading room and thought about the people who built this place and the people who came here to learn. Having access to libraries at the time it was built helped grow the middle class by offering knowledge. The stained glass and the staircases and the architecture do give you a bit of a spooky feeling. ……Vampires, and chains in the night come to mind.
The second day I took a train to Liverpool with my main objective to see where the Beatles performed during their very beginning stages. Group after group, mostly men, posed for photos outside the Cavern, the famous pub/stage that is still open for business. Just across the street is Lennon’s Bar, where John Lennon evidentially hung out.
Because my knee is still healing I took a taxi back to the Lime Street Train Station and the driver dropped me off at a popular pub, the Crown. One inside, the plates of food that went by to other tables convinced me that I was in the right place. But it was not just the food, take a look at the ceiling. I find this quite amazing, a lost art, nowadays.
In another pub back in Manchester I enjoyed watching the local fans viewing a soccer game, they lifted their heads in a one for all all for one spirit, and in loud and boisterous voices sang their patriotic team song along with the tv crowd. Their emotionally charged hands waved, as if on stage, and raising glasses of dark beer, they cheered their team on towards victory.
The next day, America would be watching the Super Bowl and singing the National Anthem with Lady Gaga (I guess it was her, no Super Bowl on tv here).
We are not so unalike, all residents of a smaller world. And the souvenirs can be a lot more fun.
|Lamb Stew, Specialty of England|