Richard III Car Park

Old timey town hall. 

Old timey town hall. 

So this post is a few months old after the sightseeing involved...but better late than never I guess. While pursuing some hard digging investigative journalism pursuits, I had time to explore some of the sights of Leicester down in, what is known in Scotland, as "Englandshire."

First off let me say that it's a bit of a hellish drive. The Scotland outside Edinburgh and the northern part of England are pretty boring. There's not a whole lot there once go to into and then out of Newcastle. However, once you hit Leeds, the cities come flying at you fast and furious.

photo 2

In Leicester, the highlight was the Richard III Visitor Center (Centre as they say down there). You might have been forced to read Shakespeare's Richard III in school, but it turns out he was also a real guy.

And he was buried unceremoniously in  a car park.

Miss out on your schooling? Here's a bit of Gandalf in a modern take (he's a Nazi, so he's evil - get it?) on Richard III. Yes, that's also Robert Downey, Jr. in there and, as the YouTube comments aptly pointed out, this is the movie where Magneto takes on Iron Man.

To be technical, the car park wasn't there when they buried Richard III. In fact, cars wouldn't be invented for another 400 years. In 1485, it was the grounds of a monastery and it was believed that Richard's body was buried there to keep it safe from no-gooders who wanted to molest it further.

Dude in old timey jail 

Dude in old timey jail 

When I was visiting at the time, they were 99% sure it was Dicky Three. They'd exhumed the skeleton and checked it against the physical description of the king and everything seemed to match up. They even found the hump. As of 2015, they're pretty sure it's him.

There was also a pretty cool English-y looking building in the center of town, kind of like something you'd see in Bard's Tale (1980s reference for the older readers) or Oblivion (for the hip kids of today) complete with - you guessed it - creepy mannequins!

The Oldest Pub in the UK

Outside of the Oldest Pub

Outside of the Oldest Pub

Continuing with our theme of "old time-y things", a few weeks ago I also had the chance to visit the Oldest Pub in the UK. Apparently there are about 20 different pubs in the UK all fighting for the title of "oldest." We'll leave that to the pub historians out there. The "Oldest Pub" that I visited was Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem and, according to the sign painted on the outside of the pub, was built around 1100AD. 

There's another picture of it to the right there. The pub backs into a large sandstone rock that is part of the center of Nottingham.

Another view - pretty Old Tymey! 

Another view - pretty Old Tymey! 

Did you know that Nottingham has a rock in the middle of it like Edinburgh? No? That's cool, because neither did I. The rock even had a castle at one point and then later a manor house (until it was torn down during a worker's riot).

The pub itself is tres cool, with all sorts of nooks and crannies and hidden drinking rooms where you can while away the day with your favorite pint.

And what pint would go better with a quaint English pub than a pint of "Trooper" from Iron Maiden!

Sail Hatan!!!

I had a pint and it wasn't half bad. I probably should have written up a description right after I drank it but sometimes it's hard when you're on the move like me.

Hail Satan! 

Hail Satan! 

Upstairs in the tower of the pub, they have a very dusty ship model that is said to be cursed - whoever cleans it winds up dying. Or having to live in Nottingham. Not sure which is worse at this point because, sorry to say, Nottingham wasn't a very pleasant place.

Which is a shame, because it seems like it could be a cool tourist town, what with the Rock in the Middle of the Town that Nobody Knows About and all the Robin Hood stuff.

To answer the inevitable question - YES, the Oldest Pub in the UK does have nachos. But, no, I didn't have any.  I was too much in a hurry to see the next stop on my itinerary - Sherwood Forest!!

To answer the other inevitable question - YES, Sherwood Forest is a real place. It even has, as you can see from the picture, a coach (ie: bus) and car park.

Where's Robin? 

Where's Robin? 

Gotta say that it did seem pretty forest-y, although that was hard to tell because it was towards the end of winter. I'll try to make a point of stopping back there in the summer to see how forest-y it is then.

The main thing that stuck out about Sherwood Forest is that it's NOWHERE NEAR Nottingham. See for yourself. It's about 30 to 40 miles away, through back country roads, to get to the visitor center. That might not seem far to people in the US, but in the UK that's like driving halfway across the country.

Just saying that I think Ye Olde Sheriff of Nottingham might have been a little out of his jurisdiction. I'm thinking that the case of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men should have fallen into the lap of the Sheriff of Mansfield or Ye Old Sheriff of Worksop.

The Oldest Toilet in the UK


Who else but yours truly could stumble upon the oldest toilet in the UK? For those of you looking to trace my footsteps, the toilet is located at Housesteads Fort, way up in the North of Englandshire.

The Roman fort on the wall was called Vercovicium and was built around 140AD. Yes. 140AD. As in 140 years after JC died.

Pass the paper, please....

Pass the paper, please....

So it's pretty old time-y.

The foundations of the fort are pretty well preserved and English Heritage has put up lots of interperative displays to help you imagine that this outpost in the middle of nowhere was at one time a bustling Roman fort.

The fort had the usual features - bunkhouses, a granary, administrative centers and a bath - but the coolest part was the oldest toilet in the UK!

You can see it a little better in the picture to the right. Despite what you may think, those basins AREN'T the toilets. They're meant to hold water for washing. That's right. Running water back in the olden days. Here's another view. The toilets were over the trenches on either side of the center. The trenches were covered with wooden planks and then the toilets were on top of the plants. Then MORE RUNNING WATER carried the sewage in the trenches away outside the walls of the fort.

Pretty incredible when you think about it.

Just another brick in the wall. 

Just another brick in the wall. 

You'd be inclined to think that Romans weren't exactly happy to be posted to the middle of nowhere back in the olden days, but apparently that wasn't the case. Also, many of the soldiers that garrisoned the walls were drawn from some of the local tribes, so living in a fort in the middle of nowhere might be a step up for a few of them.

Hadrian's Wall runs up to the fort and down through the other side. It's pretty cool to see it in person.

Here's a picture of the wall with some sheep for perspective. Most of the wall base is buried several feet below ground.

Oh yeah, and DON'T WALK ON THE WALL if you go there. Sure, it looks like it might make a good trail but you'll get all the local walkers upset. And for good reason.

That wall's been there for thousands of years and they don't want any lunkheads knocking it over.

Jack the Ripper Pub and the Rolling Stones Lingerie Shop

Recently had the opportunity to travel down to Londinium on the company's dime. That's always sweet. The first thing that makes me laugh is travelling down there from Scotland. The fight from Edinburgh to Heathrow is just under an hour. Which is approximately what the flight time between Houston and Austin is. Mileage wise, it's almost twice as long - 400 miles between Edinburgh and London vs. about 160 miles between Houston and Austin. Except you don't get that sweet, free British Airways booze for free on the flight to Houston - unless you're taking British Airways to Houston, I guess.

After finishing with company business, I had the chance to slip away down to Londinium for a poke around the City.

Freshen yer drink, guv'nr? 

Freshen yer drink, guv'nr? 

My time was to be limited, so I had to stick to just a few of the key highlights. I figured I'd make my way to Soho, see Big Ben, check out East London and then back to the tourist mecca that is Wembley.

My first stop, after checking Wikipedia, of course, was the destination of none other than the legendary Marquee Club in Soho! Why is this place famous, you ask? Well, I don't know if you might have heard of a little band called The Rolling Stones who used to play there?

What used to be the Marquee Club. 

What used to be the Marquee Club. 

Nowadays the club is the home to a Ann Summers lingerie shop, which somehow seems weirdly appropriate. While in SoHo I had a falafel, which was pretty good, but I got a look when I handed the counterperson a Scottish £10 note to pay for my middle eastern goodness. You'd think that in London they'd be more used to seeing notes from all over the country (yeah, Scotland is part of the same country guys, remember?) but they sometimes give you a hard time if you try to use non-English currency. Don't even think about trying to spend some of those crazy Space Shuttle £5 notes from Northern Ireland there....

My final destination for the evening was the White Hart pub in East London (that's it up there at the top of the article) and the only stop of my aborted Jack the Ripper Tour. I thought I had more time than I did, so I wound up calling the tour off after one stop, but it was a good one. The White Hart pub is where Ripper suspect George Chapman lived. Well, not in the pub, exactly, but right underneath.

There was even a creepy Jack the Ripper-esque arched alleyway conveniently behind the pub that I didn't take a picture of. But it was there! And creepy!

I didn't manage to piece together the Ripper mystery while I was there (perhaps it was the same person behind the Servant Girl Murders in Austin!) , but I did manage to sip on a nice pint of Spitfire beer.

I returned early enough to Wembley to hopefully have a nightcap on my way to the hotel room, but the town was closed. I mean EVERYTHING was closed.

If you're ever looking for a late night drink in Wembley, you're much better off having a drink with Jack the Ripper, or trying on some panties in the Rolling Stones lingerie shop .