Guest Post: Annie Thompson – I Discovered These Incredible Hidden Gems in Lancaster

Hey there, I’m Annie and I’m a Marketing with Psychology Final Year student who likes good food and visiting unique and nostalgic places. Lancaster is a smallish city with its small-town charms, and I absolutely love finding new places and cool things to do here!

Now, if you love puzzles and challenging yourself then you need call up some friends and family and head down to Lancaster Escape Room… It’s an awesome activity that will entertain everyone and is ideal for teambuilding activities. One themed room, one hour, up to 8 ‘comrades’. It is up to you to hunt down clues and piece together the puzzles and break out. Pretty much Prison Break IRL, if you ask me. Get that sweet 10% student discount while you’re at it too. #GoTeam!

Oh, what’s that? You’d like some brain food after all that detective work? The KF Oriental Supermarket is right across from the Common Garden bus stop. It will provide you with all the ingredients you need to whip up a DIY delicious yet budget-friendly curry yaki udon or spicy ribs with fried rice and so much more! A lot of local students have no idea that they can stock up on interesting snacks, sauces, spices and even ingredients for a good ol’ fashioned hot pot. Or you know, there are instant ramen as well… (For those of you that aren’t too adept in the culinary field yet.)

And… Since there is always room for dessert, ice cream would definitely rank at the top of my cravings. The Walling’s Dairy Farm is such a cute little café/take away place on Garstang Road, a bit of a journey but is it worth it? Definitely! A must-try on a day out with your mates or on your cheat day! If you simply want some ice cream, look no further than the Walling’s store in Alex Square. A double-scoop cookie dough ice cream cone on a hot summer day will be something that I will truly miss after I graduate this year…

If you were wondering what landmarks or attraction that are of historical importance to the establishment of Lancaster city, then Lancaster Castle is a monumental trademark of the city. You can purchase guided tour tickets on the University Web Store. Discover the dark past of the Castle and how it was first served as a prison in 1196, as well as how it witnessed some of the most notorious trials in history such as the Pendle Witches. For you history buffs that are interested in more landmarks, I also paid a visit to the Lancaster Maritime Museum and learnt a lot about Lancaster’s maritime trade past, and its involvement in the fishing industry of the Lune Estuary. The upstairs exhibitions were pretty cool, really well put together and a delight to your audiovisuals.

Did you know that every Wednesday and Saturday, there are market stalls in Lancaster city centre selling fresh produce, accessories and trinkets, authentic street cuisine from all over the world, and many second-hand sale items etc. A chance for you to pick up some food that’s not from the local supermarkets… And get this, there are even freshly made crepes! I always go for my savoury ham and cheese fix, it never fails to perk up my day!

Besides good food, the other ‘love of my life’ would be gaming. We are inseparable. I happened to wander into the retro gaming store Game Over one day and was instantly intrigued by the selection of games and other knick-knacks they had in there. I must have said “Oh my God, I used to play that when I was younger!” a dozen times. I even picked up some collectibles to gift my ‘geeky’ friends, in case they also needed a nostalgic trip down the memory lane and rediscover some oldies but goodies.

Last but not least! Williamson Park with the spectacular Ashton Memorial – overlooking over 50 acres of woodlands and with views across Morecambe Bay to the Lake District Fells. On a gloriously sunny day, you could admire the glistening lake water under the sun, and the park coming to life with children, dogs and happy folks and the exquisite architectural design of the Ashton Memorial. I also popped into the Butterfly House and the Mini Zoo and honestly, I felt so giddy! Through the looking glass, I witnessed some of the most beautiful species of butterflies as well as some of the most gruesome ‘mini beasts’. Warning: not for the faint of hearts. But the park itself is a perfect way to take a much-needed break from the studying and reconnect with nature.

Don’t forget, if you’ve got any cool places that you love or came across, connect and share it with us on the LUMS Social Media.

Food Shopping in Lancaster

As a student, food shopping can be an event much like laundry: an annoying but necessary task that we often try do as quickly and with as little thought as possible. However, by taking stock of the various shopping options available in Lancaster, planning ahead a bit, and being a savvy consumer, you can save a considerable amount of money and improve the quality of the food you eat.

In this piece I’ll lay out the main food shopping options you’ll have as a Lancaster student, and their respective pros and cons. Hopefully, having read it, you will avoid the fate of living solely off Pot Noodles and Greggs pasties.

Campus Convenience Stores

As a first-year student, you’re likely staying in accommodation on campus, so your first ports of call will be Spar and Central. Spar is centrally located nearby to Alexandra Square, whilst Central is on the other side of campus near Pendle and Grizedale colleges. These are relatively small stores that provide convenient access to basic cooking ingredients, drinks, and lunch foods. Though they are useful for bits and pieces, you’re probably best off not making these shops your go-to for a weekly shop: prices are higher than supermarkets and the selection is limited.

The Farmers Market

Every Thursday, in Alexandra Square on campus, there’s a farmers market which sells all manner of local produce, handmade and homegrown foods, and lunches ranging from sushi to hot dogs. It’s a good way of getting hold of local ingredients as well as local delicacies – such as ‘lemon cheese’. Yes, really (its less weird than it sounds).

Sainsbury’s

Going to Lancaster’s largest supermarket on a Wednesday became something of a ritual for me during my first year at the university. Why, you ask? Well, like a more wholesome version of the free bus trips to the Sugarhouse on a Friday night, on Wednesday there are free buses from the university to Sainsbury’s – and back. Sainsbury’s has by far the largest selection of food on offer of Lancaster’s food shops. There are all the staples you’d expect: meat, vegetables, ready meals, alcohol, frozen foods, world foods; as well as a butcher’s counter, delicatessen, and bakery. Sainsbury’s strikes a good balance between value and quality – their own-brand goods are generally of a high quality compared to other major supermarkets. Furthermore, much of their food is ethically sourced or locally grown – for example, all of their own-brand fresh meat is British. There’s also a selection of non-food items, such as homeware and toiletries. The bus takes you to and from the carpark, meaning its easy to buy and transport large quantities of food. This is your best bet if you want to do a week’s worth of shopping at once and save on money.

Lancaster City Centre

Beyond Sainsbury’s – but, handily, only a short walk away – are the shops of Lancaster’s city centre. There’s Marks & Spencer if you’re looking for something more upmarket, but on a student budget there are some cheaper stores that will probably be of more use to you. Home Bargains and Poundland can be very useful for toiletries, tinned foods, and essentials like tea and coffee. There’s also Iceland, which specialises in frozen foods, has some nicely priced fresh fruit and vegetables, and is also handy for those summer barbecues you’ll no doubt be having. Lancaster is a fairly compact place, so its easy to drop into all of these stores in one trip – or have a quick look through before you do a big shop at Sainsbury’s.

Morecambe

Just outside of Lancaster is Morecambe, which has some great budget options for food shopping. There’s Asda, which is a similar size to Sainsbury’s and has a huge selection of food at low prices; and Aldi, one of the ‘German discounters’, with very cheap prices but a comparatively limited selection. Although both of these options are cheaper than anything available in Lancaster, they’re also further away, so you’ll need to take some time and money out to reach them on the bus. Fortunately, buses to Morecambe can be taken straight from the university underpass.

Online Shopping

Of course, if you don’t fancy venturing out on the bus for your shopping, there’s always the option of home delivery. Both Asda and Sainsbury’s offer this service, and it has been extremely useful to me in saving both time and money. I often find that being able to sort products by price, and being able to see all of the special offers together in one place, leads to me spending much less money on food than I otherwise would have. Additionally, once you’ve done a few online shops, the websites will remember which products you buy frequently and suggest them to you, making shopping even more convenient. The downside of this option is that there is a minimum spend of £25, and you’ll also have to pay a small fee for the delivery. This can be alleviated by ordering a few days ahead of the delivery date, or by spreading the cost amongst a few people by ordering a shop with a few of your flatmates or friends. The latter option is especially useful as you can buy products in bulk amounts, saving even more money.

That just about covers all of the main options for food shopping in Lancaster. With a bit of knowledge of the choices available, its easy to find the sort of food that you’re after. Plan ahead, save money where possible, and use all of the resources at your fingertips.

Keeping healthy at university

Pizza for tea, lunch and even for breakfast. The daily intake of a student. Ok, maybe not for breakfast, but the point is that students are notorious for loving cheap and cheerful meals, regardless of their nutritional value. It’s hard not to love tucking into a good kebab from time to time but eat out every day and you may find your student loan diminishing quite quickly, and perhaps gaining pounds elsewhere. Fortunately, it is in fact possible to maintain a well-balanced diet on a low budget, without opting for the fast-food and ready meal options! I’m going to share with you some of my tips on how you can maintain a healthy and enjoyable diet whilst at university.

My first piece of advice, which has already been touched upon, is to limit take outs to once or twice a week. Right from your first week, Dominoes will try to hook you in through free pizza and some attractive exclusive student offers. It’s very easy to make it a habit of getting a delivery order a few times a week, and not only is this not the healthiest approach but it is also far from the most cost effective either. This is not to say never eat out however, Lancaster has a range of fantastic restaurants and takeaways that are definitely worth trying out.

There are a tonne of low cost and healthy meals that you can make yourself whilst at university. The best thing is that you don’t have to be a fantastic cook to do so either. I know some students who are put off from cooking and trying new dishes at university as they doubt their own skills in the kitchen. However, the truth of the matter is that even if you have done very little cooking prior to university, there are some things that are still very simple to make.

I’d recommend a well-balanced range of food, so make sure you aren’t just piling on the carbs, but you have a mix of protein, fats, and vitamins. Pasta is a very straightforward, enjoyable, cheap, and potentially nutritious meal that many students opt for. Make sure to throw in some veg (onions, garlic and pepper tend to go quite well together). You will most likely be using a ready-made sauce from the jar, but maybe even try making the sauce yourself after a few goes. Using chopped tomatoes can often be a much healthier alternative to ready-made sauce.

Other healthy and uncomplicated options include stir-fries, Caesar salads, and sweet potato wedges. For you vegetarians and vegans, lentil soup and chickpea curry are two very easy dishes that have a load of health benefits, and they provide a good source of protein. If you don’t fancy cooking, instead of heading straight for the fast-food outlets, give some of the University’s healthier outlets a go. You will find that they will tend to use locally-sourced ingredients, and offer plenty of vegan choices.

Multiculturalism in Lancaster University

Lancaster is a melting pot of a wide variety of cultures. Lancaster is home to almost 3000 international students and the university has a very welcoming environment which encourages students from different nationalities to interact with each other and share stories about their respective heritage as well as their experience of living abroad. There hasn’t been a student I’ve met here who doesn’t have a fascinating life story to tell. Ever since I came to university, I have met people from all corners of the world such as Eritrea, Thailand, Portugal, Ghana, Canada, France, India, Cyprus and Mexico. Meeting people from different countries may sound intimidating at first, especially if you’ve never heard of their country or are unfamiliar with their culture; however, with time, you realize the many striking similarities we all share, and maybe you’ll even be able to pinpoint more and more countries on a map (which I am fortunately getting better at).

But to simply say that there are no misunderstandings or disagreements that arise between students would be a lie. Sometimes, opinions may not completely align with my views but by being exposed to this international environment I’m still able to approach each topic with an open-minded and global mind. What’s important to remember is that respect is the key to life.

One of the main thoughts my international friends and I share is that we all decided to leave our home countries and study in the UK. Despite our cultural differences, it was rather easy to reach a consensus on what surprised us the most while living here: the weather. The weather is ‘absolutely mad’. (Now that’s an expression I’ve learnt here but never used before. Definitely sounds better when the locals say it.) It is simply unpredictable and plays a big part in setting the mood for the day. One day it’s raining, the day after it’s snowing and there are even days where it can all happen at once! I don’t understand the logic nor the science behind it (which is why I don’t take science as a subject) but we can all agree it can throw us into a frenzy at times.  But life does come with its surprises. Now, as I am writing this, the sun is shining warm upon all our faces, and there’s a cool and gentle breeze passing by.

Besides the weather, I was naturally and quickly introduced to the culture of sports and food here in the UK. Although the last time I watched a football match was around a year ago, I still admire my classmates’ fascination with the sport. Sports have the unique ability to transcend cultural borders and our sport teams and societies on campus are a true testament to that. Student also like to watch live sports on the TVs in bars throughout campus which is exciting, especially during important matches.

The other aspect I found interesting while first living here is the food. It’s quite different to the food I have at home but even then, there are still slight differences in the cuisine among different areas in the UK; and even terms such as breakfast, dinner and tea (I could expand on why I still find it rather perplexing as to why dinner is lunch and tea is dinner, but that’s for another time). To put it shortly, try the pie, the scone and their traditional “fish and chips”.  And by the way- it’s not fries but chips. And it’s not chips but crisps. Try those dishes and know those phrases and you’ll be fine. And of course, don’t forget an umbrella!

Take care!

 

The Great Indian Breakfast

“What should I have for breakfast?” I don’t know about the last thoughts people have before going to bed, but this is fairly commonly the one that I tend to sleep on. You might think as a PhD student I would have far more serious thoughts whirling in my mind as I finally lay it to rest after a long day, but… no, this one overrides them all.

Breakfasts in India, where I come from, tend to be elaborate. I love the simplicity and lack of fuss demanded by bread, butter, jam, eggs—I can quite see why it’s so popular everywhere and I won’t deny that I fall back on this option time and again when I wake up not having made any clear decisions. But being away from home, there is nothing that offers the soothing comfort and smell and feel of home as a warm breakfast made as it would be made at home.

For many of you wondering what these breakfast options might look like, here is a sample:

  1. Idli Chutney/Sambar: This counts as a number 1 on my list and it also probably takes the most time and effort. Steamed rice cakes with a flavourful and spicy coconut chutney and something like a tangy lentil gravy to go along. (recipe: https://indianhealthyrecipes.com/idli-sambar-recipe-tiffin-sambar/)
  2. Poha: Beaten or flattened rice mixed with potatoes, peanuts, and some spices (recipe: http://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/kanda-poha-or-onion-poha/)
  3. Upma: Much simpler and quicker to make. Semolina cooked almost like porridge with or without vegetables such as peas, carrots, and so on. (recipe: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/05/sooji-upma-indian-semolina-breakfast-recipe.html)
  4. Aloo Paratha: May be enjoyed for lunch as well as dinner but it makes for a rather scrumptious breakfast option in my opinion. Spicy mashed potatoes stuffed inside a whole wheat flat bread best had with curd or pickle (recipe: http://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/aloo-paratha-indian-bread-stuffed-with-potato-filling/)

These are just the tip of the Indian breakfast menu iceberg, if I may use the expression. The one thing that is needed to make the effort of making these delicacies worth it would be some good company. I can’t say I have that on most days unless I count my articles and books in that category, but there is always the second best thing that never fails me: a hot cup of tea!

Cultural Food Night, What’s There Other Than Food?

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”

– Wendell Berry

Hi! My name is Nila Sukmawati, and I am a postgraduate student at LUMS, studying MSc Information Technology, Management and Organisational change (ITMOC). As an International student who is going abroad for the first time to study, everything about Lancaster, UK and any places that I have visited are all exciting for me. I had so many firsts during my 4 months experience of living abroad. First long-haul flight (yeah, I took 18 hours flight from Indonesia to Manchester, and another 1.5 train ride to Lancaster), first time being away from home for such a long time, first time visiting Europe and my most fascinating “first” would be my first time of having 21 classmates from 15 different Nationalities!

As I have classmates who is coming from different culture and background, it is really interesting to see how we speak in different English accent, how we talk and share to each other about how we missed home or about how much we are craving for foods from our hometown. Fun fact about my class is that we regularly held social events so that we get to know each other better and of course to get away for a while from tons of reading lists and assignments 😀 . One of the most exciting and unforgettable event for me (and maybe for the rest of the class) would be…. CULTURAL FOOD NIGHT!

Can you imagine when 22 people from 15 Nationalities had to bring foods from their country to be shared together? Food overload! 😀 I tried various kind of foods that I have never tasted or seen before. Blinis from Russia, Special pancake from The Netherlands, beef meatball and potato salad from Germany, egg frittata from Italy… and these were all yummy. Our friend from Taiwan also made delicious sushi and I made corn fritter, Indonesia special noodle and… fire noodles from Korea (it is not from Indonesia, but it is still from Asia though hehe). I was thinking about cooking fire noodles because I know that my classmates from Western countries might not be able to handle its spiciness. It is super spicy that your whole mouth would feel like it is burning. So, I want to challenge them!

Without any bias, I might say that this fire noodle was the “most wanted” food during our food night. Some of us can handle it, some can’t handle it and some did not have any courage to try it. But at least, I was really happy to get to introduce this food to my lovely classmates.

After filling in our tummy with various kind of foods, we started to play games and shared the story about our life. My friend from Russia brought a special drink from his country and introducing the way to drink with “Russian Style”. We also played “Guess the Movie” game together where someone had to describe a movie title with body gestures or drawing some pictures and the rest of us will guess the movie title. We can’t stop laughing and we felt happy together even though we are all far far away from our home.

Throughout this event, I really feel like I can get closer to my classmates. Sometimes, we are too busy working on our assignments or doing something else outside class that we forgot to socialise with people whom we met every day in class. For me, homesick attack is coming to me quite often and I can’t help myself to not complain about life. But on event like this where you can play, share and listen to the stories from your classmates, you will somehow feel like “Hey, chill! You are not alone here. You are here to discover yourselves and get to know others better. Be strong and you will be a better YOU!”.

I highly recommend this cultural food night event to be held in another class in Lancaster University. Not only we get the experience of tasting the whole new savory from another part of the world, but we would also be able to get to know about interesting culture and stories about another country. Additionally, this kind of event makes us realise that we are struggling here in Lancaster together and you don’t have to feel alone, because you are not! 🙂

 

Exploring Lancaster: food shopping

Students' Union

Once you arrive in Lancaster University, you will find yourself in a completely new environment, and probably the most important question for you will be where to buy everyday essentials and food. There are plenty of supermarkets in Lancaster, which is positive on the one hand. On the other hand, it makes your choice more difficult. In this post I will try to compare different means of shopping.

1. On campus Convenient Stores (LUSU Central and Spar)
These are two small stores located on campus. LUSU Central belongs to the Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) and Spar is a well-known brand. I consider them together since they are quite similar, they have almost the same assortment and pricing policy.

Plus Minus
Convenient location – if you want to buy something on spot (spontaneous purchase) or if you immediately need an ingredient for your meal, these stores are always in the vicinity.

Spar offers good deals on vegetables.

LUSU Central offers good meal deals, plus Purple card holders can benefit from discounts and special offers.

Prices are significantly higher than in the big supermarkets.

Product range is rather narrow.

2. Sainsbury’s
Sainsbury’s is the biggest supermarket (I would even say a department store) in Lancaster.

Plus Minus
Product range is extremely wide.

On-line delivery (your basket must be worth of £40+) with convenient time-slots.

First-purchase discount. Excellent client service.

There is a free bus that goes on Wednesdays every hour from Lancaster University to Sainsbury’s and back. If you want to use it when returning on campus from the town centre, you must show to the driver a receipt from Sainsbury’s worth £5 or more.

Prices are lower than in Spar or LUSU Central, but I would argue this is one of the most expensive supermarkets.

If you order online delivery, they quite often replace 2-3 out-of-stock items with what they call ‘a suitable match’. The delivery man always asks you if you are happy with the replacement or not, if not, money for this item will be returned.

3. Marks and Spencer
M&S is a famous department store which sells fine clothes and food. In Lancaster, it is located on the main street – Penny Street.

Plus Minus
Undeniable quality. Products from M&S will be good souvenirs from England for your friends and family. There are many special offers before Christmas, New Year and Easter.

Quality. Quality. Quality.

Price is rather high compared to other supermarkets/food retailers.

4. ASDA
ASDA is located in Morecambe, not in Lancaster. Like Sainsbury’s, it is a department store, but of a slightly lower scale.

Plus Minus
Prices are quite cheap (definitely cheaper than in Sainsbury’s or M&S).

On-line delivery (your basket must be worth of £40+) with convenient time-slots.

The same issue with product replacement as in Sainsbury’s.

Quality of food is slightly lower than in Sainsbury’s (on average, not always).

5. ALDI
ALDI is the cheapest supermarket in Lancaster (imho), although it’s located in Morecambe.

Plus Minus
ALDI provides the lowest prices on the market.

Product range is wide (but narrower than in Sainsbury’s or ASDA).

No food delivery available. That is a very big minus.

6. TESCO
TESCO is a world-known brand. There are no TESCO stores in Lancaster, however you can order food from them online.

Plus Minus
Online delivery.

Good quality of food.

Slightly expensive (Sainsbury’s level, sometimes even higher).