My husband and I went on a trip to England, Scotland and Wales in August 2000, and had a wonderful time. Here are some pictures and my travelogue…
I decided to go on my trip to Scotland in January, 2000, when I heard, via the McKenzie genealogy circles, that there was going to be a Clan McKenzie world gathering at our ancestral home in Scotland in August 2000. I am very passionate about my family heritage and genealogy, since I’ve started doing research (about 20 years ago!) Well, I decided that this would be a wonderful opportunity to meet 400 of my relatives, so I started saving and planning for my boyfriend and I to go.
We managed to secure plane tickets through Northwest Airlines for $550 each, round trip, from West Palm Beach to Gatwick in London, via Detroit. We paid for a bed and breakfast package for two weeks, reserve as you go, plus a rental car for $1300. This was a fly-and-drive package through Brendan Tours, and it looked perfect. All we had to do now is wait… and wait…;
As the day of our departure, August 8th, approached, I got more and more nervous especially as Jason did not yet have his passport. He had procrastinated the application until the end of June, (partly due to lack of funds), and found out a week before we left that they had lost his application. He sent in for an emergency application, and got it in the mail the day before we left… Whew! Here we go!!
Tuesday the 8th:
We arrive at the airport at noon, as our flight leaves at 1:45pm. Our friend Todd drops us off in our car, as he will be house-sitting and feeding the cats while we are gone. Our flight up to Detroit was uneventful, but very crowded. Advice to travelers who are larger than normal: if you cannot afford first class, ask for the exit rows or bulkhead seats, otherwise there is very little leg room! However, there is a caveat here — sometimes the bulkhead or exit rows have the tray tables in the arm rests, so leave LESS room in the seat, even if there is more leg room. Plan accordingly! If you go to Seat Guru, you can see which seats have which features for most planes in service. Our flight dinner (lasagna) was nothing special, but decent. We arrived on time in Detroit, crossed the whole concourse to the other side for our second leg, and boarded without fuss.
Neither of us were able to sleep on the trip over, although I had been able to do so on my last trip overseas, four years ago. Jason had a ‘friend’ in the seat in front of us, who delighted in pushing his seat back until his bald head was practically in Jason’s lap…again, go for the bulkhead seats!
We arrived 45 minutes early at Gatwick, 7:30am the next morning. We found our baggage, and I started to breathe easier, the last of our hurdles over impending disaster had been crossed without a hit. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions, though, for we then went to pick up our rental car.
After walking through, around, and under all sorts of pathways to find the car rental place, we waited a relatively short time for our turn, and then discovered that, although the car rental was prepaid, there was a £500 deposit required, that our agent (AAA) had never mentioned! Since our total trip budget was only about $1100, a cut of $750 put a serious dent on our available funds! Sure, we would get this deposit back when we returned our car for our last three days, which would be spent in London, but that still made our trip MUCH more of a budget trip than we had expected!
Since we had no choice, we bit the bullet and got the car. As I started the car (which was a manual transmission), I almost lurched into the car parked in front of us; whoever had parked it neglected to put on the parking brake, and I neglected to check that it was on. Great way to start the day, eh? Oh, wait — this is 24 hours since I’ve been away, hasn’t it??? Great way to continue a loooong day, then! Now, I hadn’t driven stick shift in about 3 years, and Jason couldn’t drive it at all, but it was cheaper, and we were sort of stuck for cash, so off we went!!
A couple words of advice for those renting cars in the British Isles. Automatic transmissions are MUCH more expensive, sometimes more than twice as much, as manual transmissions. If you can drive stick, rent one. The gas mileage is much better than we are used to as well. It’s not the left side of the road driving that gets you — it’s the other drivers! There is very little sense of personal space over there, when it comes to driving. Other drivers will come right up to your bumper, and very close next to you. We are spoiled in the US with our spacious highways and amber waves of grain.
Being on the left side of the road didn’t bother me much, when there WAS a left side of the road. However, turning this way and that in the city was a bit rough. Add to that, we hadn’t yet looked at the road map as we pulled out of the car rental lot. Therefore, we decided to stop at the first place –McDonald’s — and park to look at our route, figure it out while we are NOT moving in a strange place. Of course, that’s when we discovered we had no idea how to get the stick shift into reverse — after about 10 minutes of fiddling with it, we figured out you have to pull UP on the stick to get it into reverse. This was not nice to the sleep-deprived traveler!
We figured out our route; luckily mostly motorway driving, as I was beginning to fade away due to lack of sleep since we started out. It drizzled a bit on and off, but as I was on a 6 lane divided motorway, we did fine. Driving in the fast lane, all the way to the right, was almost like driving on the right side of the road, as long as I didn’t look at the traffic on the other side of the divider!
We found Nottingham, and drove through looking for a spot for lunch — was about 11:30, and we were getting quite hungry. We stopped at the first quaint pub we found, the Rose and Crown, and pulled in for lunch. We both had chicken with mushrooms and gravy, with cokes, (had to ask for ice). It was very tasty, although some of it may have been our extreme hunger. We came across a tendency we noted many times on our trip almost every meal was served with mushy peas. They tasted like a very thick split pea soup; not bad once in a while, but a little much at every meal. We learned to like it, though.
After lunch, we figured out the route to our B&B, which was in a town called Ragnall, just outside Nottingham. We arrived at 2:00pm, which was very early for check-in (normal check-in is between 4 and 6pm).
Ragnall House B&B
Our hosts were very understanding, though, and showed us to our room. It was on the second floor of the add-on section to what used to be a farmhouse. It had two single beds, a TV, a heater, and a shower/bathroom downstairs. We brought up a change of clothes, our toiletries, and went straight to sleep.
Around 8pm I woke up, completely rested, and ready to go out — as well as a bit hungry. Jason woke up while I was dressing, and so we started out. What we didn’t realize, as we left, was that in towns (and many cities), most eating establishments are closed by 9pm. So off we went on our first quest!
We went first to the town we had passed by, East Drayton. We got out our video camera, took some footage of the picturesque church in the town, and went on to the little pub next store.
Pub in East Drayton without food!
I knew from previous experience that not all pubs served food, but this one had a little chalkboard sitting outside, with daily specials on it. In we went, only to discover that the owner had just bought the place the day before, and had no food yet! We got directions to the closest pub — the next one was back in Ragnall, all of 5 minutes away. So, into our car we went to find the next one, which we arrived at around 9:05. It had stopped serving food at 9, ARGH!
We were now ravenous, and went on to the next place, courtesy of our friends at the Ragnall pub. This one was in the next town, 5 minutes away Gainsboro. It was called the White Hart, and was still serving food! Huzzah! We ordered drinks — Guinness for Jason, a Strongbow Cider for me, and dinner. We both ordered meat pies, and they were wonderful! Thick gravy and savory meats… perhaps it was the hunger, or the jet lag, but it tasted like ambrosia! Another cider and 2 Guinness later, we basked for a bit in relaxation, listening to the pub quiz going on in the next room. From the few things we heard, it was way out of our league — the non-UK specific questions were very difficult. We couldn’t even hazard guesses at the local stuff, like sports or politics, so we just contented ourselves to listen to the general hilarity.
We headed back to the B&B, thoroughly sated and ready for a full night’s sleep — watched a bit of TV and drifted off around 11.
Wednesday the 9th:
We woke up around 7am, well-rested and ready to start on our adventure. The breakfast was wonderful, and of course more than we were used to. There was a choice of cereals (I chose the equivalent of raisin bran), apple juice, coffee, tea, milk, eggs, ham (sort of like canadian bacon), sausage, toast, fried tomato — definitely plenty to fill us up. If you ever go away hungry from a Full English Breakfast, then it’s your own darn fault!
We decided to find the Games Workshop factory, so Jason can look around, so we looked up the address of a shop in the business directory (which, by the way, just happened to be yellow pages!). We found three addresses, so we wrote them down and went on our way.
We tried to call them from the phone booth out across the street from our B&B, but there was no answer. We also tried to call our next B&B, but also no answer. So we drove back to Nottingham, explored a little bit. It’s nice town, busy enough for some entertainment, not so busy that it was very dirty or run down. After about three circuits of the downtown area, we found one of the Games Workshops stores, but it was closed until 10am (it was about 9:30), so we walked around and people-watched for a bit. We found a church nearby, and sat on the bench under a tree to watch for a while.
At 10, we went into the shop, looked around at the nifty displays (Jason took some photos of the storefront display) and got directions to the factory/museum, which was only about 15 minutes away. We drove to the factory, and it had a huge Chaos Marine out front in stone. We went inside and took the tour of all the gaming convention displays, and Jason took a roll and a half of pictures. We had a drink at the Bugman Bar at the end of the tour, and phoned our next two B&B’s, to make reservations.
We drove on to York that afternoon, and found the parking lot near Clifford Tower to be completely full — in fact, it took us 10 minutes just to drive past the entrance, as the traffic was stopped up — each person on that street was waiting for another to leave the lot, rather than driving by! We parked in an alley close by, and proceeded to walk into the centre of town. We saw a museum called the Jorvik Viking Center, which had some wonderful displays, but it was £30 each to get in and looked like it could be rather cheesy, so we decided to instead wander around the town. We did meet a local Living History-type gentleman at the entrance, entertaining those waiting in line to get in. He was dressed quite historically accurate as a Viking, and had a large axe that he let kids hold. He talked up the Viking Centre as he strode up and down the aisle.
Clifford Tower, York
We stopped at one shop that had all sorts of swords and historical-style nicknacks, very tempting. However, since we had very little cash, we bought nothing.
We went down into the center shopping district, where the street is strictly for pedestrians, no cars allowed. The streets were cobblestone, and there were two floors of shops facing the street.
We went on down the street to York Minster, and walked around the church before entering (Jason has a tradition of this — it keeps him from bursting into flames as he enters, or something). The walls, ceilings and windows were amazing. There was a line of sculptures representing each king of England from William the Conqueror to about 1400 — I don’t remember who the last king was, but I know Henry VIII wasn’t there!
We heard the choir practicing, and toured the rest of the Minster. There were tombs and memorials to merchants, civil servants, military men, and many church officials. They covered the walls, the halls, even the floors!
After our visit to York Minster, we headed back to the shopping district for our supper — found a small fish & chips place and had that and a chicken & mushroom pie. It was ok, but not as good as last night’s supper. It was a fast food-style place out front, with a sit-down restaurant in the back, and the restrooms off the back patio.
When we got back to the car, we found a ‘parking ticket’ on our car! We had a bit of a time getting out of the walled town, as rush hour traffic was starting (it was about 4:30), and there are only so many exits through the walls!
We headed towards our next B&B, which was in a town called Ravenscar on the northeast coast of England. We found it, across the street from an old mill; it was called Smuggler’s Rock, and was cute — the room was small but adequate.
We checked in and went exploring. We drove first down to the right and towards the coast (you could see the North Sea on the horizon from the B&B), and stopped to look over the incredibly beautiful inlet. A local woman was walking her dogs, and told us that the town across the inlet was called Robin Hood’s Bay, and was built on the side of the incline, rather on the bottom near the sea, for a reason. It was so they would be able to see the Vikings coming in from the sea easier, and be able to more easily defend their town.
We drove back past the B&B, and continued on North, along the shore (up about 500 feet!). This was a small, windy, up and down road, the first of such we had really dealt with, and we felt we were going to die at any moment! We drove really slow, and explored where it went — which was nowhere. It led to a couple private, gated driveways, and it was a rock road (like a dirt road, but with gravel, not sand). At one point, I swear the angle was about 45 degrees!
We went back to the B&B and went the last direction we hadn’t taken, west, back towards the main road. Once there, we took that road to Whitby, a harbor town of decent size.
We explored the ruined Whitby Abbey and the church grounds (right next to a youth hostel), which had a spectacular view of the sea, being on a promontory over the harbor.
Jason started getting a little faint, we think the jet lag and lack of blood sugar started getting to him, so we found a take-out fish & chips place, and shared an order, while sitting on the docks, watching the sun set. It started getting chilly at night, and I knew we were getting farther north!
We drove back to the B&B and dropped off to sleep pretty early, about 10:30.
Thursday the 10th:
We woke up around 7:30, and had our breakfast. This was a much busier B&B than the last one (we were the only guests at the last one, there were 4 other couples at this one, and a few kids). The breakfast was not so hot, but it did the job, and we were off to Scotland!
Well, first we went through Middleborough, a dreary industrial town on the coast. We did follow the coast most of the way up to Edinburgh, and it was fun trying to catch the glimpses of the North Sea as every hill peaked.
We went through Newcastle, and made our first major navigational error. We decided (well, I decided) that we wanted to see Hadrian’s Wall. As per the maps, Newcastle was where the west end of the wall was, so when we saw a sign pointing to a borough called Wall’s End, logically we concluded that we would find the end of Hadrian’s Wall there. No such luck — instead it was an industrial port area, with lots and lots of Georgian houses around. So we turned around and went through Newcastle, looking for the road north out of the town, so we can make it to Edinburgh in decent time.
Well, we LOOKED for the road going north, but every sign we saw said south! We did the downtown circuit three times, looking for a north-bound road — even a west-bound road, since Edinburgh was northwest of us; no such luck. Finally, we took a south-bound road that mentioned the road we had come in on (hoping that road continued on north), and glory be, it did!
Thrilled to be free of the trap that was Newcastle, we had a beautifully scenic drive through rolling hills covered in heather and sheep to Berwick. In Berwick, we stopped at the Safeway (the national grocery chain) for some lunch and petrol (gas). We perused the wonderfully strange and unusual items offered at the British grocery stores, and ended up with a big loaf of focaccio bread, some sliced deli chicken, and apple strudel cookies for dessert. We filled up our tank (it took £), made sandwiches on the side of the road, at a carpark looking over the coastline.
We went onward, and crossed over into Scotland (as I started singing Scotland the Brave), and headed towards Edinburgh. Once in the city, we got a bit lost looking for the bridge across the Firth of Forth, to continue north to Perth.
After several trips around downtown (aggravated by the fact that the International Festival was due in town later that week, and setup made for lots of traffic and rerouting), we finally found the Forth bridge and headed up to Perth.
The drive into Perth was wonderful, as we started seeing the mountains rise around us, covered in patterns of heather and sphagnum moss, and making incredible designs. We stopped of for a rest at a carpark, and looked at all the wonderful flowers and trees.
Once in Perth, it wasn’t difficult to find the B&B (they all seemed to congregate in one area), and check in. This was a town home, our room was in the back, and had bay windows and was quite large compared to our last couple rooms. It had sitting chairs, and an en suite bathroom, and was very nice.
We went off to explore Perth downtown, and started looking for a dinner establishment. We parked at a church to call Jason’s Mom at a phone booth (we had purchased phone cards at the Safeway) and check our bank accounts for available funds. I decided to postpone my car payment, and thus we had an extra $480 in the account to spend. We sighed in relief a bit!
We parked in the real carpark (it was free after 6pm, and it was just 7pm now), and walked around the twelve block area that was downtown. We passed all sorts of restaurants; steak, seafood, Indian, pizza, tandoori. We finally stopped at a pub (Bebar Pub) for a Guinness and a Cider, and took stock of what we wanted. We ended up at a Cantonese Chinese restaurant down that street, and it was absolutely delicious. We got an appetizer of mussels in garlic butter sauce, and I had lamb with spicy sauce, while Jason had chicken & mushrooms. It was all wonderful.
We went for another set of pints at another Pub, Dickens, and then got our car and went across the river back to our B&B. We watched TV for a bit, and caught a show that had us howling in laughter. I don’t remember the gent’s name, but he reminded me of a british Dennis Miller with more personality. He evidently had his own stand-up show as well as a game show, and both were great.
We went to sleep shortly afterwards, and slept very well
Friday the 11th:
We woke up around 6:30, tried to sleep some more, but it didn’t work –, up at 7, shower and breakfast. There were several couples at breakfast, which was served in a glassed-in patio similar to a Florida room, and off to Dundee.
Today’s agenda started with a search for castles — Glamis, to begin with. We got lost in Dundee, and got directions from two ladies walking along the docks. We had to go further, to a town called Forfar, and then follow the signs. Up and down the hills we went, winding in and out, and found it — a half hour too soon; it didn’t open until 10:30, and it was not yet 10am. So we went around and found a spot we could see the castle from afar, and then went exploring down a small side road. We found a broken down farm house, and LOTS of wildflowers. Back towards the castle, we went in and found the admission to be a bit much, and we decided it was a bit too dear for us, so we went on to the next , Scone Palace.
Scone was back in Perth, so we headed back (it sounds out of our way, but the Glamis trip was a side trip — had to get back to Perth to continue on our way to Inverness that evening). Scone Palace was cheaper, so we decided to do this one. The grounds had peacocks, white and colored, everywhere, and we got quite close to some of them.
The palace had a replica of a cake made in the shape of the castle, as well as a room where Queen Victoria stayed when she was there, a couple stuffed bears, and the scottish regalia. I bought a toffee crisp bar at the gift shop, and we checked out the replica of the Stone of Scone, out on Moot Hill, where Scottish coronations had been held for hundreds of years.
We drove on out of there, got more petrol, and headed on to Inverness. Inverness is a much larger city than Perth, much busier. The civic offices (court house, city hall, etc.) is in Inverness Castle, in the center of the city, and one can climb the walls and see the city spread over the valley around you. We passed by a petrol station with a huge plaster Loch Ness monster in front of it. We parked, walked the castle walls, got our bearings, and tried to figure out a place to eat. We did find a little celtic new age shop, and had fun window shopping, but of course bought nothing.
We walked a couple blocks randomly, and found a pub called the Phoenix that looked promising, so we went in. I ordered a Mixed Grill (ham, steak, sausage, and chips) and Jason had a Ribeye, and we shared potato skins with chili. The skins were wonderful, everything else was barely acceptable. Dessert made up for it, though, I had a toffee ice cream sundae — sinful! As I went up to the bar to order it, one of the locals tried to chat me up, even after I indicated that my boyfriend was the 6′ guy over there!
We found the Youth Hostel we were staying at that night, just past the Safeway we stopped at to call them from. We found out that we could have booked a room for two, but they were all full up now, and we had to take what I had reserved — bu nk space in girls and boys rooms, respectively. I was in a room with 5 other girls, Jason shared his room with 3 other guys. We dropped off our luggage in lockers, and went down to hang out a bit in the lounge. We both read for a while, and agreed to meet down in the lobby the next morning around 8:30am.
I went into my room, and found it dark. I turned on the light, and realized that noone else was in the room, so I changed into my sleeping togs and climbed up onto the only bunk without someone’s gear on it — th e top bunk near the door. I was just drifting off a half hour later, when someone came in, and turned on the lights for about 10 minutes, while rustling about in her gear. Then she left (with the lights still on) and came back 10 minutes later, and rustled some more, and then turned them off. I was just drifting off again, 20 minutes later, when another girl came in and did much the same thing. A half hour later, I finally drifted off to a fitful sleep.
The next morning, not very rested, I woke and chatted with two of my roommates, Anika and Erika. They were Dutch students, hiking around the country with 16 kilo packs on their backs. They were little girls, maybe 110 pounds soaking wet, and they said they had already hiked about 80 kilometers so far! I showered, changed, and went down to breakfast. I waited for Jason in the lounge, and waited, and waited; fi nally, about 9am he showed up, and we went in to have our rolls, cereal, juice and coffee/tea. (I preferred tea on this whole trip, he usually had coffee). He had been talking to his roommate, the overeager Japanese tourist who loved everything western, such as Duran Duran and M*A*S*H. We went and straightened our bunks (I put my gear on the lower bunk this time, as I was the only guest in the room staying on another night, and didn’t relish being on the top again).
We drove up to Strathpeffer, where the McKenzie Highland Games were to be held on the grounds of Castle Leod. This castle is the home of our clan chief, the Earl of Seaforth.
McKenzie Highland Clan Gathering 2000
It was a wonderful drive up into the highlands, and the weather was misty as we parked. The sun came out around 10 and made everything bright and fairly warm. I wandered around the McKenzie tent, looking at the genealogy setups and gifts, while chatting with some of my distant cousins.
There were about 450 McKenzies and McKenzie descendants there. I was wearing my beaded tartan sash, and that afforded many good comments. We had ostrich burgers with onions for lunch, and some chips with curry on them. The burgers were delicious, the curry was passable.
I participated in the March of the McKenzies, organized by country of origin, as we were presented to the Earl en masse. I then spoke to Graeme McKenzie in detail regarding my current brick wall in my McKenzie research. He runs the official McKenzie genealogy website, and gave me some suggestions. I left him a synopsis of my research, and he said he would look into the database he had to see if there is any connection.
As the games wound down, around 4pm, we discovered that there would be a ceilidh later that evening at the Ben Wyvis Hotel in Strathpeffer, where most of the traveling McKenzies were staying. I wanted to attend, so we drove around exploring for a while, killing time until dinner. About 20 minutes down the road, we came across a sign and carpark for Rogie Falls, so we stopped and started down the indicated path.
Rogie Falls, north of Strathpeffer
About a half mile down craggy pine forest, we came upon the falls — th ey were spectacular! Rushing water over diagonally jutting rocks, a long rope bridge across the falls, and lots of little side paths to explore. Jason went climbing a bit on the rocks, while I sat on the bridge and just soaked in the power of mother nature beneath me.
We headed back on a different trail, which was a bit longer (and rougher) than the previous one. A couple times we came near sliding down the path (such as it was), it was so steep. Breathless and feeling wonderful, we returned to the car and headed back into Strathpeffer.
We stopped at the ONE pub in town that served food, MacKay’s. I had an unexciting Yorkshire Pudding, and we discovered that they didn’t carry Guinness ; Ja son was mortified. He had a Harps and dealt with the deprivation. After supper, we went down to the town square (across the street, there is only one street through town) to watch the pipers give a march through, and some demonstrations by the dance winners of the day. There were highland flings, sword dances, etc. An d the temperature started getting down into the 40’s as the sun went down!
We went to the ceilidh at the hotel around 10 (the sun was just now setting) and discovered it was mostly the older people, playing scottish polkas, so we went back to the youth hostel for some sleep.
I went into my room, and found it dark, so I turned on the light , only to be yelled at by one woman that lights were out, keep them out! Well, considering my experience last night, I found this unusual, but I turned them out and fumbled around with my stuff to change. In doing so, I discovered that someone had moved my stuff up to the top bunk , like same woman who had just yelled at me about the light! I told her my stuff had been on the bunk, and she claimed she didn’t move it — whatever! Grumbling, I made my way up to the top bunk, making as much noise as possible for my sweet bunkmate. Again, it was an unrestful night.
Jason and I reluctantly woke up around 7:30, and went down for breakfast — we’d both decided we could do better at the Safeway than here. Jason had a less than manly experience in his room — he had been reading in his room when his roommates came in — three italian men who proceeded to undress down to their pink silk underwear (not boxers!) before getting into bed. Jason felt his testosterone was in danger.
We checked out and were shortly on our way. Of course, we didn’t count on it being Sunday, and most things were closed this early in the morning! Regardless, we started our fairly straight drive down Loch Ness towards the Isle of Skye, our destination for the evening.
We drove by a couple castles, including one that looked wonderful, but was closed to tourists for renovation. We kept looking for Nessie, and made lots of jokes about Monster bait (sheep). We were both fairly giddy from lack of good sleep.
We passed a site of the Battle of Shileil, and then came across Eileen Donan Castle. This is the most photographed castle in Scotland, and I definitely wanted to see it, so we parked and went up to the ticket window — we were again about 15 minutes early. We went in for breakfast at the snack shop, and I had a prawn sandwich and a can of Irn Bru, the local popular soda. We took our time, as bus after bus of tourists started showing up, and we wanted to let them go through before we did.
Eileen Donan Castle
We finally got off our butts and went across the stone bridge to the small isle the castle was on. The water around the castle was salt water, from the Irish Sea, for it is near the coast on the Loch. There was seaweed everywhere, showing that the tide was quite low. The castle was built around 1200, on an old Viking fort that predated the castle.
There was a Living History member there, named Gordon, who chatted for us for quite a bit about his organization. He and his group tried to make things historically accurate ; his clothes were sheep-sheared wool, and dyed with local flora and materials. The swords and axes he had were hand-forged, and the blankets hand-woven. He gave us his website (Regio.org) and we took some pictures of him, and went on to Skye.
At the ONE bridge over the inlet to the Isle of Skye, the toll was £10! Ironically, the bridge was owned by the Bank of America (Jason’s bank account is there). We discovered that pretty much everything was expensive on the Isle, and this was the cheapest way to get over (the ferry was over £20 for a car). We went to locate our B&B for the evening, Tir Alainn (means Beautiful Country in Gaelic) and drove down to an old graveyard we passed. The little road down there was all gravel, and we bottomed out the car as we stopped , realized that we shouldn’t drive any further, and backed out of there CAREFULLY. The B&B, by the way, is a delightful spot, with spacious room (we stayed in the Hamish room) and a wonderful view!
We drove into the nearest town, and found a place that supplied all our immediate needs; a laundromat, a grocery store, a petrol station, and a phone booth, all on the shore with a wonderful view of the islands off the mainland. We stopped, put in our laundry, bought some lunch, and relaxed for a while. I had a spicy chicken pie and a prawn sandwich, with a Schweppes sparkling lemonade (suprisingly delicious). We sat by the seashore, and read books on the rocks. We explored the rocks for a bit, saw all sorts of crabs and mussels living there. Jason found a huge piece of hollowed whale bone, and I found lots of beautiful purple bivalve shells.
Isle of Skye: the view of the store, the view from the store
Once the laundry was done, we decided to check out Portree, the largest town on the island, which was just up the coast about 10 miles. However, that was 10 miles as the crow flies , driving along the one road, which hugged a ragged shoreline that would make a Norwegian proud (fjords) took a lot longer than we thought it would! The fact that the roads were very narrow, and lorries barreled down them frequently also kept us pretty slow. About an hour later, we still hadn’t reached Portree, we realized we wouldn’t have time before we needed to check into our B&B, so turned about and headed back.
We saw some hairy cows on our little trip, reddish-brown hair about two feet long on them , very ice age looking! We made it to Tir Alainn without mishap, and met Tom, our host. This was the first B&B host that sat and chatted with us, and he was very talkative. It took a bit to get used to his heavy brogue, but I didn’t have too much problem with it. Maybe I was just getting used to it! We went to our room, which had plaid on everything , curtains, bed, lamp covers, towels, etc. It was a very comfortable room, and the bathroom had a towel-heater, cool!
Asking Tom’s advice on where to find a good dinner, he gave us three possibilities. The seafood restaurant at the end of the lane was over-priced, he said, as was the restaurant in Portree, but a place back a bit called Crofter’s house was a good deal, with good food. We took his advice, and went there — it was a combination restaurant and gift shop, and looked very homey. They had an appetizer portion of haggis, so I decided now was the time to try this infamous dish. It was served out of it’s traditional casing, in a dish instead, with oatcake crackers to eat it on. It was spicy and tasty, and I would order it again, even without a dare! J For dinner I ordered grilled salmon, which was pretty good, and a black forest cake for desert, which was delicious.
We went back to the B&B, watched the sunset out our window over the islands. About 10pm it finally started to color the sky on the horizon. We watched TV (Fawlty Towers and As Time Goes By) and fell into a deep, restful sleep.
Monday the 14th:
We woke up rested and ready for anything , well, almost anything. Breakfast was wonderful, in a small dining room with one other couple, our host singing Scottish songs and prancing in with our food. However, I discovered that we had not prepaid this B&B like I had thought. This was separate from our B&B deal, and I thought I had paid through credit card before; not so. There went another chunk of our precious budget! However, it was the nicest and friendliest stay we had yet had, so we considered it worth it and moved on.
Today we went down the east coast of the island to Sabhail ag Mor, the college that teaches only in Gaelic. I took a brief tour, got some pamphlets, and talked to the tour guide (Fiona) about financial aid, and such. It was a surprisingly modern structure, with adequate dorm rooms on campus.
Sabhail ag Mor College
The road to get there, however, was an hour’s worth of winding little sheep trails not big enough to be designated roads. On our way back, we half-heartedly looked for Arnadale Castle, but gave up quickly, as we were utterly tired of this little, winding, road (which other cars didn’t seem to notice and raced down).
We went back to Broadford, the town our B&B was in, as it was near the bridge to cross back over to the mainland. We got some money at the ATM, some chocolate swirled with praline (Cadbury, delicious!) and headed over the bridge on the A82. Our goal today was a town called Oban, where La Lunga (tonight’s B&B) was located. We filled up our tank, picked up a lunch to go (Smith’s pastries with chicken, pretty good) for £5 and drove on.
More and more of these windy little roads! They wouldn’t be so nerve-wracking if it weren’t for the lorries coming the other way at 60 mph, from around a blind corner! We took drove about 90 miles, and got to our B&B around 4pm. It was in a town south of Oban called Craobh Haven, which was a port town on the Irish Sea.
La Lunga was a 15th Century mansion still owned by an Earl’s family, and our host was this Earl. There were 14 rooms to let, and a recreation room bigger than half my house. There were stables, servant’s housing, archery ranges, all sorts of add-ons for the idle rich. Our room was fine, the beds very soft, but the shower was a closet in a recent lifetime , with no light in it. The road in and out of this estate was VERY rocky, muddy, and very unlevel . We were very worried that this little rental car would not make it, but it did.
We checked in, and drove off in search of dinner — those pastries were a long way away! Down in Craobh Haven, there was one restaurant, the Lord of the Isles, but it was only 5pm, and they didn’t serve dinner until 6:30. We tried to call tomorrow’s B&B at the phone booth, but it was busy, so we drove around a bit to look at the last town back, hoping to find a dinner place.
The next town back (about 5 minutes away) was Arduaine, and there we found a nice hotel with a restaurant attached called ‘The Skerries.’
They didn’t yet serve dinner (we were about a half hour early), so we had a couple of drinks , a pint of Guinness and a cider, of course! For an appetizer of smoked salmon, which was delicious, served with whole wheat bread and butter. For dinner we shared a deep fried cod with chips, served with tartar/horseradish sauce that was excellent. We watched a wonderfully powerful storm blow in, rain and blow out, all while we watched out the picture window next to our table. It afforded a wonderful view of the inlet we were on, with islands in the distance.
After another round of pints, we went driving south of our B&B, exploring a bit.
Just driving by, we saw a standing stone and a ring of cairn stones off to the side of the road, and got out to see it closer . Unfortunately, some barbed wire fencing kept us from being too adventurous and we just took some photos and film. We drove back to La Lunga for some TV and reading, and slept a good sleep.
Tuesday the 15th:
After a refreshing night’s sleep (the pints probably had a lot to do with that), we showered and went down to breakfast. The dining hall (much bigger than just a room) had a banquet style table in one corner. It could have seated 12 people and 8 more tables that size could have fitted in that room! All throughout the manor house, paintings of the Earl’s ancestors were hung, as well as suits of armor, weapons, and various decorations of that sort.
The breakfast table was set with about 20 different types of bread spread — apple jelly, lemon curd, black cherry jam, Nutella, Rose’s lime jelly, apple pear spread, etc., just to name the more unusual. Our host asked us what we wanted for breakfast, and we got eggs, saute’ed mushrooms (he grew them fresh on the grounds), sausage, thick cut bacon, and cereals.
After one of the best breakfasts yet, we headed out back to Oban, to get on the main road south. There was a structure like a small coliseum, but we couldn’t get close enough to find out what it was. Oban was a small town, built on the side of a mountain cliff near the sea-side; very picturesque, but quite cramped. We drove through Connel and towards Glasgow. We stopped to see Inverary Castle, but was unimpressed with the 18th century modern structure, and went on.
Above the castle, though, on a tall cliff, we saw this tiny little tower — it conjectured it was some medieval sniper tower.
We also saw, as we drove by, a castle that in all regards resembles the one used at the end of the film, Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail. The Castle Aaaarrrrggghhh, out on a giant mudflat on a coastline, looked just like this one we went by. We tried to find a sign showing the name, and get a closer look, but it was evidently private property and wasn tourist item.
We did go to one little castle we saw a sign for, just before Glasgow. I believe the name was Bunratty Castle, or something — a very small square keep. Almost not worth mentioning , except that we almost died trying to get to it! We were driving up the narrow mud road to it, when someone coming the other way almost hit us ! We couldn’t see eachother through the brush that grew up to each side of the road, and came VERY close to one another! I think it was a tourist family, looking for a glimpse of the castle, like us.
We passed by the legendary Loch Lomond, and watched the fog and mists on the mountains next to it — very romantic!
In Glasgow, we got some cash, gassed up the car, and had lunch at a traditional Scottish eating establishment, McDonald’s! Let me tell you, McDonald’s in Glasgow is much different from the States. The manager not only smiled and chatted with the customers, but was refilling napkins and straws that didn’t yet require it, the food was less greasy, chips were available (in addition to the normal fries), and the McFlurry had Cadbury Chocolate flavor available. It’s the little things that make the difference!
We drove on through Glasgow after lunch. We were warned that it was a very dreary and industrial city, but it was cleaner and nicer than Middlesborough was! We drove down the motorway, and made much better time than we had on the little, windy roads. Just before we got to Carlisle, which was on the English side of the border, we took a side trip to Hadrian’s Wall, as per the signs we followed. We saw a couple of forts, and saw the three feet of wall that was left. It wasn’t too impressive to look at. However, just touching it and knowing this was built 1700 years ago was humbling enough. The panoramic view from the wall over the Scottish side and English side of the country was incredible.
As we left, I got the bright idea of continuing down that road in the same direction, as the signs did mention the A7. Little did I know that it would be a long, long time until we could hook up to the A7 again! Through an eternity of back roads, sheep trails, and 7 foot grasses on either side of the road, we finally made it back to the motorway, and headed into Carlisle.
Looking down the main street in Carlisle
We made our way into downtown Carlisle (with another navigational error ), and followed the sign to downtown, and discovered it was only a bike path to it!), and found a walled downtown area. We parked near Crescent Drive, just inside the wall, and walked a couple blocks to a phone booth, making our B&B reservations for the next two evenings.
Jason went on to the Games Workshop store while I made the calls. We wandered about the town for a bit and then got our car to find the evening’s B&B. We were fairly exhausted from our earlier sojourn into sheep paths, and were quite frankly tired of driving!
Our B&B for the evening was a working farm, and it was quite quaint. The entrance road was between two fields with lots of cows and sheep, and we parked in front of one of the three barn structures. Our room was pretty spacious, and certainly adequate to our needs, the decor very country-style.
We checked in with our hostess and headed out for dinner at a pub down near town (the B&B was about 5 minutes out of town) called the Coach & Horses. We each had our usual pints, and we started with an appetizer of fried mushrooms with garlic sauce (passable). I had a steak and ale pie that was delicious, with wonderful gravy to dip my chips in. For dessert we shared a slice of strawberry cheesecake in heavy cream– heavenly!
We headed back to our B&B for a little reading before bed, and went to sleep.
Wednesday the 16th:
Despite our fears, we were not woken by roosters — evidently noone in the immediate vicinity farmed chickens! We woke up around 8 and went down to breakfast, with about 3 other couples. A very country-style dining room, with doilies and trivets with pictures of vegetables on them, etc.
We were headed to Wales today, so we started off on the M6. After our crossover into this country, we saw Rhuddlan Castle on the side of the road. It is such an incongruous sight to see a 1000-year-old castle next to a modern motorway! We kept near the northern coast of Wales as we made our way down to Conway, our first stop for the day.
We drove into Conway, which has the most complete wall of the walled cities in Europe. The entire downtown area is still within the walls, and the castle is fairly complete. This was one of the first castles built by Edward I in the 1300’s. We parked next to the city walls, and noticed that the signs were in Welsh and English. Someone had evidently had the bright idea of removing certain vowels from the English half of some of the signs, rendering them Welsh-looking!
We parked and started up the city walls, and towards the castle. It started raining a bit, and it was a VERY cold rain. I huddled under my shawl, and we ran to the city walls, the towers of which offered some shelter. Shortly, the rain let up some and we headed towards the castle itself, on the northern corner of the city. The city was on the shore, as well, which meant the entrance to the city was a bridge that looked like it went into the castle (it actually went next to it, and under the city walls).
We spent quite a time exploring the castle itself. It had towers about 5 stories high, stairs going round and round inside. It had several courtyard-style areas inside, and a grand hall that at one time had a wooden floor. We saw massive hearths here and there, and a couple oubliettes.
After exploring the castle, we picked up several castle guidebooks in the gift shop (each included floorplans of the castles) and went down to a shop we noticed from the ramparts , called the Knight in Arms. It had a suit of armour out in front of it, so of course we took interest. It was a combination armory and coats-of-arms shop. We drooled at some of the armour and swords on the walls, and went into town.
We passed the Merchant’s Guild building (still being used as such) and went down to the docks. We saw the World’s smallest Livable House, and went into a fish & chips place called Schooner’s for lunch. It was a three story establishment, and the only empty table was on the top story, with a family of children. It was not a wide or long place , only about three or four tables per floor , and the service left much to be desired. We both ordered Cokes, and she brought up Diet Cokes, as they were out of regular. Instead we asked for Sprites, and two orders of fish and chips. We ate quickly and left quickly.
Off to Caernarvon, the castle of the Prince of Wales! We took the A55 and parked near the docks (in sight of the Isle of Anglesey) and walked the three blocks to the castle.
It was almost 4pm, so things were beginning to slow down. On the way to the entrance, we quickly stopped at a bookstore out front, and I picked up a copy of the Mabigoneon, a book of Welsh legends and traditional tales.
The castle was in better shape than Conway was, but then it was still being used for crowning the Prince of Wales. There was a museum for the Royal Fusiliers that Jason went through, while I walked through a diorama of the history of Wales. In the center of the castle was a great dias where the ceremony of crowning the Prince of Wales is held.
On our way out, I bought some more film at a store, just as they were closing down. Evidently, as the castle closes to the public at 5:30, so does everything else around here! We went to find our hotel, the Prince of Wales Hotel (imagine that), and we passed it before we could find any parking. We turned around and found a space, and checked in. The room was quite large, with a spacious bathroom with a tub, rather than a shower. For dinner we went down to the restaurant in the hotel. We had appetizers; garlic mushrooms with prawns, which were wonderful, and calamari, which was woefully lacking (only 4 rings of calamari!) For dinner I had Welsh Steak, which was really beef stew, and Jason had Country Chicken, which is similar to Chicken Kiev.
After dinner we walked down to the Safeway for some snacks for today and tomorrow, and we realized that it was quite chilly and windy! Jason was just wearing shorts, and was turning a bit blue. We got some strange looks from the locals ; wearing shorts in 50 degree weather is a bit looney, I suppose. Outside the Safeway were lots of slate pieces, so we picked a few up , real Welsh-mined slate, oooh. We picked up some really strange snacks; some kiwi fruit, some dried apricots, some treacle toffee, some chocolate bars. We saw something that had us laughing and giggling — a box of something called Greene’s spotted Dick. It looks like a bundt cake mix of some sort, but the name had us rolling in the aisles!
Back to the hotel, and we went to sleep after some telly and reading.
Thursday the 17th:
I woke up pretty early, as the lorries and other traffic out the front window was a bit loud. It’s a dockside town, so I am sure they have to get up with the sun, but do they have to be so loud about it? We each took a bath, and Jason wasn’t feeling well, so I went down for breakfast on my own. He joined me shortly, though, saying he was a bit better. Dinner was good (the mushrooms were excellent!), and we started our daily drive. Today’s goal: Bath, by way of Shrewsbury and Hay-on-Wye.
We drove through the Snowdonia mountains, and the park, and were rewarded with some beautiful, lush forests around us through most of the drive. The mountains had trails and the towns were very old-fashioned looking. At one town (Llangollen) we saw signs indicating a Dr. Who exhibit. We found that the BBC Radio plays a CYMRU station, all in Welsh. We heard a song that was modern rock style, (well, 1980s style), which was all in Welsh except the chorus — which they shouted “Sausage, beans and toast!” — with lots of laughing and cheering after each chorus. Very strange!
We drove through Shrewsbury, which was a cozy little town, and on to the Abbey, which had a Brother Cadfael museum/experience, which I wanted to do.
They set up what is left of the Abbey in a replica of what it had been like in the 1100’s, when the Cadfael mysteries are set. People would go through each area, learning clues, seeing how life was like, the workshop, the herb garden, the refectory, the library. There were calligraphy lessons in the library, and ancient games in the garden.
There were monks walking around giving tidbits of information, it was very cool!
At about 2pm, I was done, and waited for Jason, who had gone in search of the local Games Workshop store. When he returned, we drove on to Hereford, and turned down the road that would lead us to Hay-on-Wye — eventually!
Hay-on-Wye is supposedly Europe’s largest repository of used book stores. Unless you are a complete fanatic, I would not recommend trying to get there — the way there is through many small, windy roads, and it took a LONG time to get there off the beaten path. Once there, it started raining, so we hopped from store to store. I didn’t really find anything I liked, except a little pocket guide to British Royalty, from the Saxons to the present.
Getting back to Hereford took even longer, as it was raining harder, and by 5pm, we were thoroughly tired of driving about. We got a grocery store dinner (chicken slices, cheese and bread) and listened to a hilarious radio show while we munched our supper. We called our B&B for the evening to get better directions, and to let them know we were running late, as well as the car rental place to extend our rental a day.
We found Bath, and couldn’t find our B&B !! Then we called again for directions. It was in a tiny town called Wellow above the hill from Bath. I think the road into Wellow is as yet the smallest and steepest we had found!
Our pub in Bath
We checked in with our hosts, and our room was a small attic room, very quaint and cozy. Our B&B was across from the one pub in town, the Fox and Badger, so we went in for a relaxing round of pints. It was quite crowded with locals, and we eavesdropped on a group of young adults at the next table. They spun a tale of a local girl, 17 years old, who was riding horses while pregnant.
We went back up to the B&B, read for awhile, and went into a blissfully quite sleep.
Friday the 18th:
We woke up rested and ready to wrassle. During breakfast, we talked to our hosts (an older married couple) about all sorts of subjects. We talked about politics in America as compared to the UK, education systems, history, genealogy, etc. They were very nice folk, and we had a great time.
Today was our day for Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. When we got there it was cold, fairly heavy rain, as well as some lightning and thunder.
This was the first time we saw actual storm conditions over here , actually it was just a drizzle of rain and lots of overcast. Nevertheless, we packed up the camera under the raincoats and made our way across (under the tunnel that went under the motorway) to Stonehenge.
It was very crowded, but we were able to get closer to the stones then I had expected. We were about 20 feet away from the outer edge of the stones, and had a really good view. There was a worn path where people walked, separated from the stones by a thin rope. We took several photographs, and as I walked across one point, I felt a tingling. Jason said we had just passed the eastern sentinel point, and we felt energized afterwards.
Heading into London, we went to Chiswick, where our B&B for our last three nights in England was. This is a borough outside of London, right near a tube station. It was a semi-detached house on a quiet street of other houses just like it. Before we checked in (we were very early), we did laundry at the laundromat down the street, and had lunch at the pub on the corner, the Rat & Parrot. I had a prawn sub, Jason had a chicken & bacon sub, and we had our usual pints. Afterwards, we cleaned up the car, checked into the B&B, stowed all our stuff there, and started our drive to Gatwick to drop off the car.
Our mistake here was doing this on a Friday afternoon at 4:30pm — the M25 circles around London, but it doesn’t do it very fast! It took us over an hour to get to Gatwick! We topped off the tank and dropped the car off. We hopped on a train to Victoria Station Tube, and took the Underground back to our B&B. On the tube trip, I saw a gentleman who looked exactly like my friend Brogan Sullivan, but about 60 pounds lighter, reading a computing magazine. It felt very strange not to have the car, but once we were at our station, Turnham Green, we were good to go. We got sandwich fixings at the local grocery, and I tried to use the facilities. I would not care to repeat the experience! The bathroom was a three sided fenced in area out in back of the store, in the alley. There were bugs everywhere, and it was NOT clean! At any rate, we went back to the B&B and settled into our room for the evening.
We caught the same comedian we had seen last week, in the game show called ?Never Mind the Buzzcocks’, his name was Mark LaMarr, and he was terrific. Then we saw some Irish sitcom about a family of redheads, 6 sons and 2 daughters, all reprobates of some sort. Their house was on the border between Northern and Southern Ireland, and one was escaping the Northern Irish Gardai by hopping over an imaginary line in the middle of the house.
We tried to get to sleep, but it was too quiet for me , and then Jason started snoring, and that was worse. I turned on the TV for static, white noise, but ghostly voices came through. The radio had a beacon from the airport give a beep periodically. Eventually exhaustion took over.
Saturday the 19th:
We woke up and took a bath/shower (the tub had a shower attachment inside it). Breakfast was very well done, and our Cockney host (his wife was visiting in-laws) served us and an Australian couple on holiday. They were off to Edinburgh and Inverness, then Eileen Donan and Isle of Skye, the same route we had just taken. We exchanged some stories, and off we went on the tube to London for the day.
We checked our cash (the refund from the car rental deposit), and found it available — Good! We took the District line to Victoria, and the Victoria line to Oxford Circus. Inside a mall we found a local Games Workshop store, and I waited for Jason to get his fill of the place in the food court, sipping a Pepsi. As I was waiting an interesting sight walked by — three teenagers in Goth outfits, complete with platform knee-high leather boots and red fur around the tops. Obviously just coming in from a night of heavy clubbing, 10am being their normal bedtime.
We decided to go back to the B&B for our forgotten camera, ate some lunch (bread, sliced ham, cheese), and headed back to Westminster for some sight-seeing.
Parlaiment, Westminster Abbey
Unfortunately, we found that the main building needs a three day notice to get tickets! Oh, well. We went to the Abbey instead; admission was only £3 each.
Jason wanted to go check on some other stuff, so I went in alone. It was very crowded, but I managed to see the memorials to Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Edward I, Shakespeare, and many others.
I saw the throne which Edward I (Longshanks) used. As I wandered through, I noticed them roping off areas we had just gone through, for the 3pm singing.
After my sojourn in the Abbey, we went off towards Buckingham Palace. There was an incredibly long queue at the front gates, and we decided that it was too much trouble for the wait. Instead, we went around and looked at the statues and gates.
Gaudy is the only word that comes to mind, but then again, the rules are different for royalty. If they want gold gilt on all their gates, then they can!
We checked the schedule for the changing of the guards, and the next one was tomorrow at 11:30. Both of us were quite tired already, as we were used to driving most of the day, rather than walking, so we headed back to the B&B via the St. James station.
We had dinner at our local pub, the Rat & Parrot. I had prawn marsala, which was absolutely yummy and the rice was the very fragrant, almost sweet Thai type. We shared an order of cheese & bacon fries. Our waiter, Anthony Hill (Hilly), was on a four year work visa from Newcastle, Australia, and his fiance was the chef.
We went to our B&B for rest, as my legs were killing me and Jason had a headache. We watched television for a while, and read, but by 8pm Jason’s headache was heading towards a migraine. We walked to the gas station down the street for some Advil, and we went back to a deep sleep.
We were up and eating breakfast by 8:30 this morning. Our Aussie couple from Lisfarne joined us, as well as an Irish couple from the midlands. Jason wasn’t feeling well, a little nauseous, but we went on out anyhow. On the tube, we were surrounded by little French teenage girls, all gossiping in French.
Today we headed towards the British Museum, on Russell Square Street.
It wasn’t open until noon, and it was only 11:00am, so we went to a cafe across the street called, appropriately enough, the Forum. I had a prawn club sandwich, and a Stoffee (banana and toffee cream, very sinful!).
At the museum, there was a very long line, but it moved quickly, and we were in fairly quickly. We visited the Japanese Time exhibit, which had all sorts of ancient and modern Japanese time devices and calendars, the Oriental exhibit, the Egyptian Room, the Celt, Saxon, Viking, and Pre-Roman Britain area, the Roman section, and the Medieval section.
The British Museum
We spent about 3 hours in there, and it was very crowded (especially the Egyptian Room). We went to a pub on the corner to get our bearings, have a couple pints, and decide where to go next. Our choice was Shakespear’s Globe Theatre, and we planned our route.
We went by the site of the Old Globe Theatre, and then on to the New Globe Theatre. The Old Globe was now only excavation under protective tiles, not open for public viewing. The New Globe was taken over by a gift shop in the entrance, with a cafe/ I bought a feather quill, an old map of London, and an old map of Britain.
On our way back, we stopped by a ship harbored off the Thames, a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s “Golden Hinde”, the tiny ship in which he circumnavigated the world. We walked along the Thames for awhile, back towards the BlackFriar’s.
We took the tube home, once again fairly tired from our exertions. This time the tube was filled with Italians. We saw one young man carrying a baby in a sling on his chest, and another young man gave up his seat for him. Chivalry may have changed faces a bit, but it’s not quite dead!
A ship on the Thames, and Green Dragon Court!
We got off the tube and went towards our B&B; we double-checked tomorrow’s flight times and gate, and called Todd to make sure he knew when to pick us up. Then off to dinner at our Rat & Parrot. I had the best meal of our trip there, I think. I had a lamb Persian casserole, which was spicy and sweet, all at the same time. It was tomato-based but had cinnamon in it. We chatted with Hilly about a trip around the world he wants to take.
For dessert I had a hot rum and raisin pudding with rum sauce, and Jason had a chocolate mousse cake with clotted cream ice cream. I had a glass of port wine with dinner, and we were quite mellow and full afterwards. This was our big hurrah in terms of spending for the trip!
We wanted to get some packing tape, to seal up Jason’s suitcase for the trip back, and we walked around several blocks without luck. We decided to try to find some in the morning, and went to the B&B. We watched a program on Roman Arches in Britain, and then the Sunday evening Britcoms of Fawlty Towers and As Time Goes By, and went to sleep.
We were up early this morning, at 7am, and said goodbye to our host after breakfast. He was definitely the salt of the earth type, almost a John Dolittle type of cheerful cockney. As we were heading towards the tube station, we went by the liquor store, and saw in the window some beer.
Monty Python’s Holy (Gr)Ale
Now, we normally don’t care for regular beer, but this was Monty Python’s Burning Witch Ale! We took a photo, and laughed for a bit, and headed towards the tube. It was a little awkward with all the luggage, but we made it to Victoria station, and took the Connex train to Gatwick. There was very little fuss, and our trip back was very anticlimatic.
We had no problems with the changeover in Detroit, but our customs agent was incredibly rude and dismissive. But, on we went, back to the sauna that we call home!
Ah, the bittersweet memories! I adore the land of Britain even more now that I’ve tasted of it’s shores… but I will go back someday!
Don’t miss information on Celtic myth and history, as well as practical travel planning tips, and hidden places, in my travel books.
– Stunning, Strange and Secret: A Guide to Hidden Scotland
– Mythical, Magical, Mystical: A Guide to Hidden Ireland
More info at ,