Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wrapping it up

I'm getting tired of the trip posts, but I can't leave it half done, so here's the rest...

From Derby we drove up to Keswick in the Lakes District. We stopped at Sizergh Castle on the way there, mostly to break up the drive a bit. We, of course, did another walk there. Should have been a short 2 mile loop, but we made a wrong turn and ended up wandering some fields in the wrong direction for about an extra mile or so. No pictures of the castle itself, as the exterior was covered with scaffolding and the interior was too dim for photos, but here's a shot of the grounds (or near the grounds...)

grounds of Sizergh Castle

We stayed at Ellergill House - probably our favorite B&B of the trip. Room was simple but elegant, location was excellent, food very good (and they had veggie sausage!), and the owners were around our age. I think we just felt more comfortable there than at any of the other places. So thanks to Robin and Clare!

Here's the street we stayed on:

Stanger St. in Keswick

Main Street - a pedestrian zone - Moot House at the center there.

Downtown Keswick

This is Jay's favorite sign:

Jay's favorite sign

One day we split up. Jay hiked Skiddaw and Barrow

Keswick & Derwentwater

and I walked up to Castlerigg Stone Circle and then back into town.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

path away from Castlerigg

Kate's hike near Keswick

The next day we drove toward Ullswater and walked down to Aira Force.

Aira Force (Ullswater)

Aira Force 4

From there we drove toward Windermere, stopping along the way so Jay could climb up Red Screes, since its elevation is listed as 777, which happens to be his birthday. We stopped in Ambleside for lunch - great little bakery/restaurant, whose name I completely forget, but they are apparently well known for their apple pie.

After lunch we ducked over to Hawkshead to visit Beatrix Potter's home. Unfortunately, the gallery was closed by the time we got there, but we drove up to Tarn Hows and walked around the lake before heading back up to Keswick.


This was our first day of not-sunny weather, and we got lost trying to find the Guesthouse because we had a too-small map, and apparently the streets change name at every intersection. Eventually we just stumbled upon it by accident.

Ascot House

After moving in to the tiniest room imaginable (way up on the tippy top floor), we went walking on the walls.

Kate on York's wet walls

Yorkminster from the walls

York seems like an interesting place. I kind of wish we had spent another day there, but by this point, we were pretty much vacationed out. But really, how can you not appreciate a place that has signage like this:

Man Boobs

Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate

Kinky Donuts

From York we drive back to London, and between being tired and the weather being kind of crappy, we just stayed in at the airport Holiday Inn until it was time to leave (at 5am! Ack.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Derby, um, Darby, dammit

Alrighty, onwards. We departed Holmhurst (which, btw, had the best coffee of the places we stayed at... or maybe just the most generous servings.. either way, I'd stay there again) and heading northwest to Derby, which I pretty much renamed the above.

We stayed at Thornhill Guest House, which I neglected to photograph. The room was very nice, and it had a guest kitchen and computer, which is partly why I picked the place. However, the location was not ideal for our intentions, and if I had it to do over again, I would have based us further north, perhaps in Buxton. But the breakfasts were tasty, the accommodations were lovely, and I was completely in love with the silverware. Sounds strange, but it was very smooth and nicely weighted, and the artist in me appreciated the sleek design. Jay, of course, appreciated being able to cook every night instead of going out. And I have to admit that eating out every night actually does get tiresome. And expensive.

Conveniently, there were several groceries within a five minute walk of the B&B, so we strolled on over to peruse our options.

As tempting as this looked, we stuck with tuna steaks and chicken.

Wafer Thin Ox Tongue

The next day we drove up through the Peaks to Castleton, where we walked a 7 mile loop up Back Tor, around Mam Tor, and then back around the caverns on the other side of town.

Sheep on Castleton walk

Jay between the peaks

Jay on the trail around Castleton

We stopped in Bakewell on the way back to Derby, to pick up a famous Bakewell Pudding. Oh my god. Inedible. It was described to me as a tart with strawberry jam and egg custard. What was not mentioned was the three pounds of butter that must have been in the recipe. By the time we got it back to the B&B, it had soaked through the bag. It was also sadly lacking on the strawberry jam side. I would recommend enjoying one of the other treats the bakery has to offer.

Regardless, it was a cute town.


Next day, in the interest of not spending a lot of time in the car, we visited Kedleston Manor. Nice grounds - we enjoyed the long walk around the property and the tour of the garden and manor. Also a really neat old church on the grounds with graves of the ancestors of the family who still lives there going back to the 1500s or something ridiculous like that.

Kedleston Manor house

In the gardens, we saw some of the biggest rhododendron we'd ever seen.

Giant Rhodendron

And that's about all the excitement for Derbyshire. On to the Lakes!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Standing Stones (and sheep)

Pretty much everything on the trip, barring London and York, can be tagged "and sheep".

So, let's see, we're up to Sunday, May 20th...

We headed out from Salisbury intending to visit Old Sarum and Stonehenge and Avebury, but Old Sarum was closed because of some triathlon. Yes indeedy, imagine taking those narrow little roads of two way traffic with cyclists on your side of the road. Fun fun. Jay did fine, however, and I only had to shut my eyes once or twice.

We arrived fairly early at Stonehenge, fortunately. It wasn't all that crowded at 9:30am, but that soon changed as the big tour buses (coaches) arrived. In some of our pictures, you can't even tell that the place was swarming with touristas.

Jay @ Stonehenge

Stonehenge B

The reality looks more like this:

Stonehenge 1

Then we drive a bit further north to Avebury, which has an even older, even larger stone circle, plus a nice manor house/garden and museum.


Here, as you can see, the sheep and the people can get right up next to the stones. The village of Avebury runs right through the middle. Unfortunately, the 4 mile loop walk we had intended was derailed due to current restoration of part of the site.

Avebury Stones and Sheep

Jay especially enjoyed the garden. Just the kind of guy he is...

Avebury Gardens

Next up, Derbyshire and the Peaks.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Wiltshire etc

As we departed London, we stopped back at Heathrow to pick up our rental car. There we had the unfortunate experience of meeting Claude at Europcar. Guy obviously either had mental problems or some sort of thing against Americans. Maybe both. He insisted in speaking to us in Spanish for some unfathomable reason (he wasn't a native Spanish speaker) and then asking snottily, "Did you have any idea what I'm saying to you?" Bizarre. And enough to make me never want to rent from them again.

Anywho, once we escaped Claude's clutches, the drive to Salisbury went remarkably smoothly, considering the whole reversed driving situation. It helped that it was only a two hour drive, and that it was pretty much a straight shot.

We checked in at Holmhurst Guest House

Holmhurst Guest House

and parked our little Fiat Punto

Jay & the Punto

before heading over to check out the Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral 1

and into town for dinner.


The next day, we headed south down to Poole and Swanage. I might be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure that it's Bournemouth on the opposite side of the bay behind me in the next picture.

Kate with Bournemouth in distance

We walked the Coastal Path about two miles west from Swanage and back. Gorgeous.

England's Coastal Path

Caves near Swanage

Kate & Jay England Coast

We ogled Corfe Castle on the way back,

Corfe Castle

but decided not to go in because we were getting tired and we wanted to detour out to see the Cerne Giant near Cerne Abbas. Not really on the way back to Salisbury, but Jay and I saw it in a documentary recently and we couldn't resist going a bit out of our way to get a first hand look

Kate & Cerne Giant

so to speak.

In the interest of not crashing anyone's computer, I'll pause here.

Next up: Stonehenge and Avebury.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Starting in London

Days 1-2

After a two hour delay due to thunderstorms in Toronto, we flew into Heathrow only to discover that our bags had not made the transfer with us. Fortunately, after the German adventure of 1997, I always carry the essentials with me: mascara and clean underwear.

We took the tube to Canary Wharf and attempted to call our friend T. Sadly, T was having cell phone issues and we couldn't get hold of him. Fortunately, I remembered the name of the back where he works, and we walked over to his building. This was probably easier without our luggage, so the delay wasn't all bad. The security guards outside the building probably thought we were nuts, but they allowed us to sign in and enter the lobby to see reception. T was quickly located, and came down to walk us to his flat. Yay!

Jay Kate Tarig

We crashed right after he left - dead unconscious for about three hours. The airline claimed that our bags would arrive in the early afternoon, so we waited around. They told us that if we weren't there when they did arrive, the bags would not be delivered. I guess that was the one bad part about staying with friends instead of in a hotel. Alas.

We had intended to get in a bit of touristy stuff that afternoon, but five, six, seven o'clock and the bags still hadn't arrived. Eight o'clock, T came home from work, and we went out to dinner. Still no bags. But T's lovely girlfriend I got home jut as we were going out, and apparently, the bags were delivered five minutes later. Fricking airlines.

The next day, we hit the London streets.

Big Red Busses

Knights in Shining Armor?

Narrowly escaping exhaust fumes and other excreta, we made our way through Hyde Park to the Natural Science Museum.

Natural History Museum - outside

Then over to Buckingham Palace

Beefeaters Buckingham Palace

Jay @ Buckingham Palace

and through Green Park.

Green Park, London

Then we hopped on the tube

Green Park Underground

and headed over to the Tower of London

Jay @ T o L 2

where we declined to pay the $60 to go inside to look at old stuff. Instead, we walked over to the Tower Bridge.

Kate & Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge 2

Jay insisted that we needed to walk across the bridge completely before going back for the tour. I resisted trying to explain that the tour would require us to walk across anyway, mostly because of the greater pay off of watching Jay realize his silliness later. Heh. Love you, hon.

After that, we foolishly believed the map, and decided to find the tube station that was closer to T's place instead of the one that was closer to the Bridge. Much farther than we thought. This was also the point where it became clear that Jay's usually excellent direction is completely foiled by the presence of steel and concrete. Put the man in the woods, he's amazing. Put him in the city, and he will guide you in the wrong direction for days.

And that pretty much sums up day two. Days 3-5 coming soon.