Saturday, 7 September 2013

Homeward Bound (Thursday 5th September 2013)

The dreaded day has finally come when we pack our bags for the last time. Ten weeks has just disappeared into thin air. Where did it go? I don't know.

After breakfast we said goodbye to Patsy and Jo at the Rosslyn Guest House, threw our bags into the Citroen and..... went for a walk. We got some cash from an ATM and headed down to the waterfront. The tide was way out so the harbour looked very different. We thought we might have gone for a quick boat ride, but you need water for that. There'd be no boat rides for a while yet.

Instead we took walk across the bridge to the other side of town where we'd spent not much time. This part felt more like the town Cook might have lived in with cobblestoned streets and lanes, alleys between the buildings leading to who knows where and many more much older shops, cafes and hotels. At the end of Church St is a flight of 199 stone steps leading to the church and the ancient graveyard that surrounds it. Spectacular views of the northern side of Whitby and the harbour can be seen from this high, cliff-top vantage point. Beyond the church is an old, mostly destroyed abbey. Sorry, I can't fill you in on the details. More research needed. Time was against us so we just took some photos from outside without venturing in.

A quick cup of coffee for the journey and it was back to the B&B to get the C3 and start the long drive down the centre of England. GPS-girl took us back across the moors to Pickering and then onto the A64. We followed that for a while until we decided to override her desire to tale the A1 and took the M1 instead. We figured the M1 would be a better road. And I think it mostly was. We struck three lengthy stretches of road-works where the speed dropped to 50mph.

Halfway down we stopped for a break at a Motorway service station and a change of driver. Kerry took over and took us down past Northampton where we changed back again. That gave me a break for a couple of hours which was good. Approaching the M25 we started to hit the legendary British motorway congestion and dropped down to a max speed of 40mph but more often much less than that. The seven hours we'd allowed to get to London was quickly disappearing. The car needed to be back at Gatwick by 6:00pm. As if by magic the congestion clear about 30 miles from our destination so we motored on at top speed arriving at the Avis check-in at about 5:30pm. The check-in process was pretty straightforward, we loaded up a trolley with our bags and caught the shuttle to the North Terminal.

There we shuffled stuff around in our cases to even the weight out, get a change of clothes and get together all the little things we might need on the flights. Check-in at the Emirates desk was no problem coming in at about 45kg, well under our combined 60kg limit. Luckily Emily had taken some things home with her otherwise it might have been a little bit of a problem.

Getting through the metal detector was a different story. We both went off! Rather than the usual “Take this off, take that off” routine we were both frisked. We were asked to take our shoes off so they could be sent through a different xray machine. Then, just to do a complete job, they thoroughly searched our backpacks, even swabbing them for drugs and/or explosives. Kerry became very upset when they discovered her souvenirs from Lourdes. The Customs Officer was a woman who was very understanding of the situation and Kerry's genuine intention for the souvenirs so after some tests and consultation with her superiors she turned a blind eye. We told a porky at Dubai and got through, lets hope the Melbourne guys are understanding also.

The flight to Dubai left 10 minutes late but got in on-time. It was a rather uneventful journey. Kerry reckons she didn't sleep and I maybe got 5 minutes so we were both very weary as it was 4:00am UK time when we landed. We exchanged 20 quid for the local currency so we could buy a coffee and OJ. With the remaining 15 dollars?? Kerry bought her last magnet for the trip.

As expected, we met with Scotty and his brother Peter in the boarding lounge. They had flown in from Glasgow arriving an hour or so after us. The 2:50 hours between arrival and departure went pretty quickly. Before long we were on the Airbus 380, seated comfortably in the back half of the lower deck. The plane left right on time at 10:10am UAE time. I've never cared much about the plane I have flown on to a given destination. I've flown on A380s before. Having just gotten off what seemed to be a cramped seat on a Boeing 777 the A380 felt quite spacious. Leg-room and shoulder room were definitely better. Maybe it was because we were in the centre aisle, I rarely fly there. We were in the back row of just four rows between two bulkheads so the seating felt a little more intimate. Anyway, it was a good, uneventful 13 hour flight back.

We were quickly through customs with no issues and onto the Skybus with Scotty and Peter to Southern Cross station. After a breakfast, which included a meat pie, we jumped on the 8:36am Swan Hill train. Scotty and Peter were in the tax-payer funded 1st class carriage. Before the train departed Scotty showed us his World Championship Gold Medal. I've never held one of those before! He gave me an Australian squad training cap which was really nice to receive. We said our good-byes and the train pulled out of the station.

Just as at the beginning of our journey John and Margaret were at the station to meet us and drive us back home. Margaret had prepared some scones for morning tea, the best we have had on our journey. The Pom's need to re-learn how to make scones! We threw the bags into the Koleos and drove around the the corner to home.

Our journey was ended!

One more blog entry to come. Check it out tomorrow.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The North York Moors – A Heartbeat Adventure (Wednesday 4th September 2013)

The lovely ladies at The Rosslyn Guest House had made us a full English breakfast this morning even though we had neglected to get out breakfast preferences in on time the night before. I can highly recommend this B&B if you're ever in this region.

Today we had planned to visit the North York Moors famous for its rugged, windswept hill-tops, its deep, verdant valleys, Its friendly, little hidden villages, its numerous, wandering sheep and Heartbeat the long-running Yorkshire Television program about the life of a village bobby in the 1960's. Well, after today's travels I can say it has all of those things in spades.

We started off roughly following a suggested route we found in a guide book, The village of Egton provided the first glimpse of the landscape. The moors are immediately adjacent to Whitby, so we were only 6 or so kms from our B&B, but already it felt like we were a world away. Down the bottom of the hill that Egton sits on is Egton Bridge by the River Esk. Apparently its famous for its gooseberry jam but we didn't see any. It was a tad too early for scones, jam and cream anyway. Back up the hill we went and took the road to Glaisdale.

We were intrigued by the name of a village called Fryup so we took a detour to see it. Not much to see but on the way we passed through Great Fryup Dale. It's so hard to describe what a dale looks like, but I'll try. It's a massive, largely treeless valley that sweeps down from the high moor, across a green valley floor dotted with small farms, stone fences, little woods, winding lanes and tiny hamlets. It then sweeps up the other side to the high moor there. The tops of the moors look like they might be the roof of the world. The Citroen bravely climbed a sharp, steep lane near the entrance to the dale from where we had a superb almost 360 degree view of the dale. It was a magnificent sight to behold.

Onwards to the village of Danby. We stopped at the North East Moors information centre for coffee and cake. The cake was good, the coffee not so although it suited Kerry. For me, all it needed was some coffee in it and it would have been fine. Nit much action in Danby so we looked for and found a by-way to take. We traveled along a county lane to the hamlet of Westerdale just to see what was there.

BTW, the distances between villages is so small – 1 mile here, 2.25 miles there. Its a big journey if it's 4 miles to the next village. These are miles, not kilometres so that can be deceptive but, nevertheless, they are tiny distances. Which actually makes you day disappear more quickly than you think. “Oh, it's just 2.25 miles, let's check it out”. “Only 3 miles! Let's go then”. Before you know it all those little miles have added up to a lot of time. We did about 100kms today. It took 12 hours!

From Westerdale we took a small lane up the side of the dale to the ridge of the moor and the main road. Approaching the top one could really begin to feel that sense of wilderness. There's something special about being in a place where the whole world is at your feet. There is nothing that you can see near or to the distant horizon that is above you.
We traveled along the Blakey Ridge road for about five miles stopping many times for photographs or just to feel the cool, stiff breeze on your skin and take a moment or two to let the view sink in. We then took a detour back down the side of the dale to the village of Church Houses. Once again, because of its unusual name. Of course, there was a pub down there and a lot of construction work. It beats me how these little places survive.

It's worth mentioning at this point that all of the descents from the moor to the valley floor below are short and steep. Roads or lanes that wind gently down a hill-sides are just not found in these parts. It just straight down and straight back up the other side. I couldn't tell you how many descents and ascents were in places as steep as 33%. That coupled with the narrow, hedge-lined lanes, blind corners and undulation pavement makes for fun driving in a small, manual car.

We continued down the valley towards the village of Hutton-le-Hole. Along this very quiet road we passed countless sheep grazing on the road and spotted countless pheasants popping in and out of the thicket. We even tried to get photos of them in flight by stopping the car and creeping up to them, the other with camera at the ready. We got a couple of shots off but the pheasants won the day. Hutton-le-Hole is a nice secluded little village with a museum, a pub and a dozen of so residents. The sun was shining so we stopped for a drink to watch the sheep grazing on the village common. Distance-wise, Hutton-le-hole was about half on our route and it was already 3:00pm. 

We scooted on past the big town of Pickering and took a detour to the village of Levisham. This village is one of the stops on the North York Moors Railways, a route from Whitby to Pickering which has been totally restored to reflect travel in the 1950's. We were keen to take the 1.5hr journey (in each direction) the next day but after a lengthy consultation with the Station Master we agreed it would be very difficult to do the journey and make our car drop-off tines at Gatwick, 5-6 hours away depending on traffic. Oh well, we'll do it next time!

Finally we reached the village of Goathland, the one known as Aidensfield in Heartbeat. We had heard mixed reports and opinions about it but for us it provided plenty. We shopped in the Aidensfield General Store for a magnet and a tea-towel. We took a photo of the police car, a 1965 Ford Anglia,, outside the Aidensfield Post Office, we looked inside the Aidensfield church (St.Mary's, on the site of a chapel built in 1179AD. The original altar stone is still there), the Aidensfield Garage, The doctor's surgery, The Aidensfield Station (which has also doubled as Hogwarts Station) and of course the Aidensfield Arms hotel. Like in Hutton-le-Hole and in the TV series the sheep graze freely on the village common.

The village wasn't as busy as I thought it might be but it is certainly bigger than I expected. I know the townsfolk are probably sick to death of tourists visiting because of the TV series. But they still trade heavily from it, some more heavily than others, so a co-ordinated approach to marketing the town and managing the tourists expectations and their enjoyment of their visit would go a long way towards helping the town even more.
We went for a long walk in search of Claude Greengrass's farm. The directions for this 3.5km walk were shockingly ambiguous and unclear. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the walk down country lanes, across green fields and by dense forests. At one stage we flushed out two deers from the place they were grazing in long grass. They fled at a great rate, leapt the wire fence and disappeared to safety in the dark wood. It was great to see. We saw Greengrass's farm from a distance so we must have missed a turn somewhere. Back into town we walked, got the car, drove out there, got a photo and headed for the station. I must say old Claude kept the place in better nick than it is now. The station looked very nice in period dress but we only stayed for 10 minutes to get some photos.

We had left the Aidensfield Arms for last for tactical reasons. The public bar was quiet, “Gina” served us some drinks and we waited for the dinner service to begin. I had a lovely steak and kidney pie with potatoes, peas, corn and carrots. Kerry had roast silverside and yorkshire pudding with similar vegies. Servings were a plateful and very tasty. The meal over, we bade farewell to the ghosts of Heartbeat, all standing around the bar, and headed for Whitby. Dusk was rapidly descending upon the moors. It made for yet another incredible view of this magical landscape. We were home in 20 minutes.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Whitby, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors (Tuesday 3rd September 2013)

We were up at 8:00am for breakfast. The accommodation in Glasgow was actually very reasonable. We got the room for 55.00 pounds, car-parking for 6.00 and breakfast for 8.00. The rack rate for the room was 140 pounds.

Kerry drive the Citroen today just in case I was still over the limit. Well, it's been a while since Scotty and I had caught up so we gave it just a little nudge last night. Once she got used to the clutch she did very well getting us out of the city and back into the M6 with no problems. We scooted down the M6 turning off just near Penrith and swung onto the A66 across the Yorkshire Dales. Just before midday we stopped at a large bar/restaurant/pub recently renovated for a coffee and a breather for Kerry. The waitress there was the polar opposite to yesterday's “sweetheart”:.She was a lovely English girl who was only too happy to look after us. She even had one of my favorite Neil Young tracks playing when we walked in! At Scotch Corner we joined the A1 briefly and then continued pn past Darlington and Middlesbrough.

Our objective was to reach Whitby on the coast early enough to get a good room. Whitby is famous as a fishing and trading port. It is also the home town of a chap called James Cook – you may have heard of him. I believe he's also got a house in Fitzroy Gardens.
Not far from Whitby we were diverted by a road-block on the A171. We ducked down to the coast at Loftus and, as luck would have it, actually came into Whitby along the scenic coast route. Still don't know why the road was blocked.

Whitby is a lovely town, surprisingly large but not overly so, It sits partly atop a majestic line of cliffs to the north dropping sharply to the inlet below. The far side rises just a sharply through a less populated part of town up to an old decaying abbey that sits on the cliff-top to the south. Both sides of the steep-sided inlet have the narrow streets, lanes and houses from the time when Capt. Cook was but a cabin-boy. Up on the less steep parts sits row upon row of three-story terrace houses providing B&B accommodation. Over on the cliff-top promenade to the east are the sea-side houses and hotels. We found a very nice place called Rosslyn Guest House a couple of blocks back from the promenade.and booked in for our last two nights.

The sun was shining and bathed the port and the houses across the port in a beautiful warm glow, We strolled up the port past many hotel, restaurants bars and three huge amusement parlours. Chaps were on the dock selling 25 minute cruises out the harbour and into the open sea. The going rate was just three pounds. Some were restored life boats, some were old fishing boats and one was even a half-size replica of the Endeavour. I don't think Cook's boat had a diesel motor like the replica we saw today, but I could be wrong.

The wharf was lined with vessels of all shapes and sizes making for a very colourful sight. Kids were lined up along one part with stick and string and meat and net trying to catch Whitby crabs. They are a local staple and seem to be pretty easy to catch. We walked out to the end of the long jetty to watch some boats come and go. Speaking of which, the single bridge linking the two sides if the harbour is very low and most boats cannot get under it. Unlike most other bridges in this situation which lift up this one swivels on a huge gear. Fascinating to watch.

We stopped at a pub called The Ship for a drink as beer o'clock was rapidly approaching. Kerry got talking to an elderly couple from Manchester way. Who had relatives in Australia. Nearby was a little cafe that served proper, simple food which suited us down to the ground. After tea we wandered up the streets of the old town and turned for home for an early night and to plan tomorrow's trip up to the Moors.

The Lake District and Glasgow (Monday 2nd September 2013)

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Up to The Lakes (Sunday 1st September 2013)

Today was split about 50/50 between travel and touring. We left Broadway after breakfast and after I finished yesterday's blog, just before 10:00am. We had an objective to reach the Lakes District a couple of hundred kms to the north. Taking the M6 we traveled past Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Blackburn and Lancaster. A pretty uneventful trip apart from the hour we lost trying to find a place for a coffee. The sky was overcast and dull but it didn'r rain. To be honest, the area we drove through matched the sky pretty well. Oh, there was one highlight when a woman riding a horse down a narrow lane yelled at me for being a maniacal driver because I went past her horse too quickly!

When we got to Cumbria the landscape changed almost immediately. Now there were mountain peaks, winding roads and green fields bordered by stone walls. We traveled westward towards Lake Windemere and then along its shoreline to the town of the same name. It was very busy there, full of tourists, so we continued on. Kerry had picked Ambleside as our objective anyway.

Before long we had reached the town on the shores of Lake Windemere. It's a lovely village with plenty to accommodate for tourists but quieter than Windemere. We found a place jusrt as we entered town called Ambleside Lodge. It's a very large house probably built for the purpose of accommodating tourists. They had two rooms left so we snapped up the cheap one on the ground floor. Yay, we're back at the 70 quid price-point! The room is very large and comfortable with all the usual B&B stuff like en-suite, Wi-Fi, kettle and full English breakfast.

We went off to the village and found a cafe open where we had a cuppa and some fruit cake. Then to the Bank to cash-up and off to the mini golf course. I haven't even held a golf club for almost two years and boy did it show. This was “serious” mini-golf, by the way. Not the mucking around obstacle course stuff. It was nine holes on grass with “tees”, “fairways” and “greens”, real golf clubs (a wedge and a putter) and proper golf balls. The standard of the golf played left a lot to be desired but I must say Kerry was a killer around the greens sinking 3 or 4 long puts and even chipping one in from off the green. I always knew she was naturally adept at the game. I've just gotta convince her to take it up. Maybe there's a glimmer of hope now :).

In the true spirit of the game we shook hands, grumbled about what might have been except for rotten luck (I did the most of that) and then headed for the pub. Ambleside has no shortage of pubs. We chose the Queen's Hotel because it served a roast dinner. Not within cooooee of a Les Bryan roast but not bad just the same. We sat and watch the world go by through the windows overlooking the main street while we ate and drank. I made it three quarters of the way through the selection of local ales before we thought we'd leave and have an early night.