Sunday, July 3, 2016

England 2016 - Finale

June 11 – Saturday

We had to leave Tintagel by 7 to get to the Enterprise Car Rental by 9 when they opened, so we missed Peter’s wonderful breakfast.  Instead, he packed breakfast for us to take along! (What a sweet guy.)

It was an uneventful trip to Exeter, and we arrived a tad early.  Still, a nice lady (Rachel) let us in and went over our bill.  It seems that Enterprise were saying that I still owed for a broken down car in Knaresborough!  When the manager arrived, we discussed the issue with him, but it was out of his hands.  To release our car, we had to sign over 1000 pounds of deductible to Enterprise (about $1500).  I wasn’t happy.  But, at least they were able to get us to the train station in time for our train to Chiswick (an outlying area of London).

Have I mentioned how much I love trains?  We were whisked away to Clapham Junction and then to Chiswick where we got a taxi to our lovely hotel, the Best Western Palace Suites.  Our room was nice, the area, beautiful, and our time there short.  I was only to be there for a night while Sharon was spending an extra one beyond that.

We got settled, then walked to the underground station so that I could see how early the trains left for Heathrow the following day.  Well, just across from the underground, a church fair was going on!  It was such a lovely way to end my trip this year… craft booths, bands, food smells… so quaint.  So English.  We had a blast, then found a nice restaurant for our last real meal out. I love Chiswick.  It’s so much more relaxed than central London.  It’s about half the distance to Heathrow from there.  And, there are so many quaint shops and tree-lined streets that I feel I could almost live there (if I didn’t like the North so much!).

Booths at the Fair
Band at the Fair

Interesting Semi-Circular Building Next to the Fair
Back at the room, much packing occurred, and it was nearly time for me to leave the land that I love.

June 12 – Sunday

I got up early and got things together for my trip to Heathrow.  It’s about a half mile to the underground station and then I had to change trains once for Heathrow.  Still got there in plenty of time to check bags and get through security.

I shopped in the duty free hall and boarded my flight well on time.  In fact, we were due to get into Houston early, but that fiasco is also documented in Surviving the Ride.


I learned a lot from this trip.  I learned that I will likely not rent from Enterprise again.  I may not even rent a car again!  I learned that people are kind, friendly, and charitable almost everywhere you go in the UK.  I learned that, while traveling with someone can be challenging, it can also be fun.  I learned that I belong there.  With all my trips and all my friends and all my classes and studies… I am currently living in the wrong place.  I don’t know how I will get there, but I know it’s in the works. I learned that Devon is way too far from Tintagel, that the weather in the UK means very little to me (I didn’t feel uncomfortable at any point), and that I don’t care much for cities.  I’ll bypass them as much as possible in the future.

I learned that it takes longer than you think it will, that Pete’s brulee porridge is still “da bomb”, and that I can still climb mountains.

God Save England, and God Save the Queen!

England 2016 - Tintagel

June 8 – Wednesday

Today is Cornwall day!  Tintagel! Coastline! My favorite B&B!!!

It didn’t take long to get to Tintagel – about an hour and a half.  It’s so interesting to watch the changing countryside along the way.  Rolling hills, barren moors, rocky cliffs… and narrow roads.  As you get to Cornwall, the single lane roads are lined with 10 ft. tall hedgerows so that no one can pass and anyone coming from the opposite direction may have to back up quite a way to the nearest side slip.  But, no such fun for us this day!

We arrived in Tintagel, drove up to the B&B, and were met by the effervescent Peter.  The Avalon B&B is the nicest B&B I’ve stayed in with all my travels to the UK.  If you get the sea view single room, you will be looking out over a beautiful garden and out to the Atlantic ocean.  You will also be within short walking distance of the town centre, King Arthur’s Castle, and Merlin’s Cave.  If you are an intrepid hiker, it’s only about 30 minutes from Tintagel to the woods leading up to St. Nectan’s Glen, a magical and very pretty nature walk.  We’ll talk about that later… for now, Sharon and I are checked into our beautiful room and about to explore the town.
View from Our Room
There’s lots of shopping in Tintagel (it’s a tourist town), and restaurants out the wazoo!  My favorite, from the last trip, is the King Arthur’s Arms pub.  It’s got a wide menu and plenty of drinks.  It’s also central to everything in Tintagel AND allows dogs.

Great Pub
We were in town fairly early, so we decided to do laundry.  There was no waiting at the laundromat (yay!) so we were in and out fairly quickly.  By that then, it was time for lunch at the King Arthur’s Arms and afterward to shop at the local gift stores.  We found out that the following day the Women’s Institute (WI) was going to have a tea in honor of the Queen’s 90th birthday.  Sharon would likely be doing that while I hiked to St. Nectan’s Glen.  For now, we were just enjoying the great weather, the shopping, and the laid back feeling of Tintagel.

June 9 – Thursday

Today, I get to have Peter’s fabulous brulee porridge!  Peter is an amazing cook, and his breakfasts are to die for.  Most of the other guests are really nice.  There’s one New England couple where the lady seems a bit strange, but not in a Jeffrey Dahlmer kind of way.  More of an insecure, uptight way.  But, that said, Sharon and I make our way to King Arthur’s Castle.

Peter's Famous Brulee Porridge
Now, the castle is atop a cliff that is accessed via steep stairs.  Like a mountain goat (with a broken leg), I make it to the top.  Sharon, to her immense credit, made it as well and we were able to snap tons of lovely pictures as well as see the lovely ocean views and the castle ruins.  Merlin’s Cave lies just below the castle and is only accessible at low tide (which it wasn’t during our time there).  I was done much earlier than Sharon with my sightseeing, so I went downhill to the little café for a pear cidre and a nice rest.
Sign to the Castle
View from the Ruins

Meeting King Arthur

After awhile, Sharon appeared, and we headed over to the Castle gift shop to see if there was anything we couldn’t live without (there wasn’t).  So, we made our way back to the B&B where I changed for my walk and Sharon got ready for the Queen’s tea.

I drove the car to the car park just outside the woods to St. Nectan’s Glen.  It’s a lovely walk through the forest which begins at St. Piran’s Well, through a faerie wood bounded by a babbling brook, and ending at a café run by (what appear to be) Wiccans.  The Wiccans are very sweet (one gave me a wildflower bouquet), and the food is good.  There is an alcove dedicated to the memory of loved ones who have passed away where you can leave pictures and mementos or light a candle in their memory.

Wildflower Bouquet


There is also a gift shop and sell tickets to see the waterfall below.  As you descend to the waterfall, you feel as if you are descending into history and time.  St. Nectan supposedly lived here in the 5th century.  His legend is closely tied to the waterfall and pool (or kieve). I took off my shoes to wade in the sacred water only to find that there were others (apparently not knowing of the spiritual history of the place) that were running and frolicking in the waterfall.  I envied them, actually.  I wanted to go into the waterfall, myself, but didn’t have a change of clothes with me!

I sat and prayed for a bit.  Soaked in nature for a bit.  Then, as others had done before me, I tied ribbons to a tree and made wishes with each ribbon.  You will also notice faerie stacks (small stacks of rocks) that evidently are meant as a form of communication between our world and the faerie world.

Faerie Stacks
I never want to leave this place… but (looking at my watch), I might just make it to the Queen’s tea if I leave sooner rather than later.  So, off I went, up to the café, and out through the woods.  Ahhh… I could definitely live here.

Back in town, Sharon had made several friends at the tea service.  I had a couple of cookies and sat and chatted for a moment with an elderly gentleman.  The tea was winding down, and I wanted to rest up a bit so we headed back to our B&B and rested before dinner.

June 10 – Friday

We were unsure what we wanted to do, but after some discussion, we opted for a trip to Brixham in Devon to see Agatha Christie’s summer house.  On paper, it looked easy.  Only a two-hour drive and I’d never been to Devon before.  Well… two hours on paper, maybe.  But NOT two hours by car!  It was a long and winding road that got us to Greenways.  It’s a bit off the beaten path as well.  But, we made it to the place and were whisked to the house in a golf cart from the car park.

Greenways is interesting enough, but I find that museums and galleries are typically not my bag.  I liked seeing how she lived.  The rooms were full of clutter (collections).  Evidently the family were ardent collectors of just about everything!  The house sits right on the River Dart and has lovely scenic views.  It’s gothic proportions make it seem anything but homey; however.  But, it had a little café and gift shop, so I could be easily entertained. J  I really wanted something “Poirotish”, but could find very little.  So, I waited for Sharon and watched the river drift by.

Personal Photos of Agatha Christie

Getting back to Tintagel from Greenways was a nightmare! When we finally got onto a major road, we ran into traffic.  “Let’s exit and find our way on the backroads,” said Sharon.  So, off we went… into a never never land of tiny roads, tiny towns, and wrong turns.  It took us forever to get back on the main road, and forever to get back to Tintagel.  I think I don’t have to do Devon ever again!

Back in Tintagel, we were trying to decide where to have our last meal.  There is a lovely Cornish Pasty shop in town, but we decided on the King Arthur’s Arms, and returned to the B&B to pack and ready ourselves for the next leg of our trip.

Cornish Pasties


England 2016 - From North to South

June 3 - Friday

We left Knaresborough around 9:00 am heading North toward Hadrian’s Wall.  On the way, we stopped by a landmark known as the Angel of the North to see my good friend Ray and his lovely dog Bross.  It was a very short meetup, but everso nice to see the two of them.  I’m sorry we missed Ray’s wife, Lyn, but she was home handling some remodeling contractors.  Maybe next time!
Ray and Bross
We found Hadrian’s wall with no problem, but my recollection of the Farmhouse restaurant location was a bit off.  We were both hungry, but ended up at Birdoswald Roman Fort and Hadrian’s wall, so we forewent lunch to take a few snapshots.  It was a lovely day (again), and we took some super photos.

Hadrian's Wall

While at Birdoswald, the cashier told us about a priory nearby called Lanercost that had a lovely café.  Off we went in search of!  The lady was so right, too.  The food was fabulous, it was a wonderful day, and we were able to sit outside in the sun and admire our surroundings.  I also made friends with a black lab who was begging for treats from everyone! There is a B&B at the Priory that I must look into sometime.

Cafe at Lanercost Priory

After lunch, we made our way into the town of Lanercost, Brampton  (which is lovely, by the way, and should be a stop on one of my next trips!).

Onward, northward… past the Scottish border and up to Gretna Green (known as the wedding capital of Scotland).  It was there we met up with the lovely Frances Shanks and her gorgeous pup, Pippa!  We had such a nice visit while Sharon made the rounds of all the local shops (Gretna Green is fairly small). 

I saw at least three weddings while I was there and the plethora of Asian tourists was phenomenal (just as it would be at Bibury later on in our trip).  There was no personal space with these folks as they asked wedding party guests, brides and grooms, or pretty much anyone who looked Anglo to have their picture taken with them.  I found this odd, and probably cultural?  One lady wanted her picture taken with Pippa!  (Of course, who wouldn’t!)

Frances and Pippa at Gretna Green
Frances had brought us a gift bag of things from Scotland… coloring books, Scotty magnets, and even a “spurtle” which is used to stir porridge.  Thanks, again, Frances for the lovely gifts!

After Gretna Green, it was now our turn to head down to Keswick.  This was a Friday afternoon, and we just weren’t prepared for the traffic we ran into on the way in.  The Beer Festival that weekend, the draw of the good weather, and the fact that they closed two lanes down to one for road maintenance (whose idea was that???) caused us to take over an hour to travel only seven miles.  It was brutal, but like I said to Sharon, “I’d rather be stuck here in traffic than be at my desk at work!” 

Finally, we made it to the Seven Oaks B&B and checked in… but not to the room I’d reserved!  Instead, we got a smaller room a floor up from the one I wanted. That was the first thing.  We were tired and in need of dinner, so we went into town and ate at the Packhorse Inn (a decent pub in Keswick).  I had a lovely vegetarian wellington, but Sharon wasn’t as fond of her meal.  Afterward, I took Sharon around the town square to familiarize her with some of the shops.  I just wanted some alone time after that, so I retired to the churchyard at St. Johns for a little bit before heading back to the B&B and bed!

Vegetarian Wellington!

June 4 – Saturday

We got up, had a lovely breakfast, and went into town for the Saturday market. Keswick’s market is about twice the size of Knaresborough’s.  There were lots of things to choose from.  I got myself some Keswick dish towels and a dachshund purse for my friend Sarah.  After the shopping was done, Sharon and I made it down to the boat launch to take a cruise of Derwentwater.

Boat Launch at Derwentwater
It was a hazy day, but a lovely cruise and we chatted with several people sitting near us.  The cruise took about an hour (maybe a little less).  We took some pictures, walked back to our room for a bit, and then headed out for some lunch.  There’s a bakery chain called Gregs, so we each got a sandwich and a drink and sat on the front steps of a (closed) bank to polish off our food. Just as I’d finished up, who walks by but Don Dawber and Dawn Sharples! My two buddies from past hikes and one of the couple we were to meet at the OddFellows pub at 1:00 pm.  We ordered drinks and were waiting for another couple (Karin Crossman and her husband) who I’d not yet met in real life.

Left to Right: Me, Dawn, Karin, Don, and Sharon
As it turns out, Karin’s husband, Brian, found us before Karin did!  We all sat down at the table and I handed out gifts and got some lovely flowers from Karin and hubby.  We must’ve chatted about an hour and then Dawn and Don worked out that we could still get to the top of Walla Crag if I wanted to make another Wainwright happen.  Well, as it ‘appens, I did!  So, Sharon stayed and chatted with Karin and Brian while I went along with the two D’s and Kimmi, the dog.

On Walla Crag
It was a brilliant walk.  Perfect weather.  Gorgeous views.  We came down by Ashness Bridge (evidently, very historic).  And then by the Lake and the Millenium Stone.

Ashness Bridge

Some people go THAT way... (Wizard of Oz)
Millennium Stone
As we made our way back into Keswick, we got some pings from Chris Drake that he and Alison were in town and wanted to meet up.  I was so happy to see the two of them and my favorite Fudge Labrador!  We had dinner at a really sweet café and caught up with each other.  This was the first time I’d met Alison – what a sweetheart she was!

Chris and Alison

Fudge Labrador
Sharon had taken the bus to Grasmere to have a look around, and got to our café just as we were about to leave.  She decided to go to the Keswickian for some takeaway fish n chips while I headed back to the B&B.  I was exhausted (in a good way) and so happy to have been able to meet up with great friends both new and old!

June 5 – Sunday

We took off from Keswick in search of the wilds of Bromsgrove where we were to meet up with the next (and last) friend of mine on the trip, Judith Yates!  We’d found a farmshop/tea room near the main road which should have worked out perfectly.  When we got to the farm shop, however, it was the ONE day of the year where the tea room was closed and the farm had been opened up to families as a petting zoo and farm product test area.  Judith was easy to find, but food not so much.  We kept having the gorgeous hunk man who was handing out cheese samples to come by our table over and over again!

Lizzie's Farm Shop and Tea Room

Judith Yates

Judith, an artist, had given me a gorgeous painting of an English country garden with my dogs in the front yard!  I was so blown away by that… she really is a gorgeous person inside and out!

Judith's Painting
Our time with Judith was much too short, but we had to drive on to the Cotswolds and Bibury where we were to stay for the next three nights.  After a sad farewell, off we went to locate our self-catering cottage. Now, Bibury is often touted as the quaintest village in England.  And, it should be and would be if not for the busloads of double-decker buses that had come into the village and dropped off hundreds of Asian tourists!  A town of normally a couple of hundred was beyond over-full with the advent of these day trippers.  We couldn’t turn around, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t park… and it was just an awful experience.

Almost by magic, though, they were gone at around 4 or 5 pm.  The village, once more transformed.  Sharon and I got a bite to eat at the local pub and window shopped at a few of the shops (now closed).

Our self-catering cottage turned out not to be all that comfy and our desire to see more tourists over the next few days was non-existent.  Sharon and I talked it over.  After one night spent in Bibury, we were ready to depart! 

June 6 – Monday

We got up and slowly got going.  We didn’t know where we’d end up, but we knew it would be better than Bibury!  Sharon took off to take some photos before we left town.  I packed the car and told the owner she could have her cottage back.  We hit the road heading for Wales and Tintern Abbey (which had been on our “day trip” list).

Tintern is a beautiful little town situated along the River Wye.  It was peaceful, it was serene, and it was just what we needed.  While Sharon toured the Abbey, I walked among the few shops nearby.  We had not arranged a meetup time, so I got worried after not hearing from her for quite some time.  I finally had to send a recruit from the gift shop to see if she could find her!  When Sharon gets into photo taking mode, I think time stands still!

English and Welsh

Tintern on the River Wye
We went to the nearby tea room and had something to eat while discussing our options.  I pointed out that there was a lovely Best Western in town and that I was digging the vibe in Tintern.  Did we want to spend the night here?

We stopped by the hotel, and sure enough, there was room.  A lovely room too!  With a back door where we could hang up our hand washing.  Still a brilliant day out, so I got a pear cider from the bar at the hotel and sat out in the garden chatting with several folks.  Two (Jonathan and Tim) were a gay couple from Manchester (I think).  Jonathan was very swish and very loud (and not a little tipsy!). Tim was the quiet one of the pair.  Both were sweet as they could be, but at some point, they both needed to pass out.  I’ve never been able to keep up with the alcohol consumption of most of my English friends! 

The Royal George Inn (Best Western) Tintern
Anyway, it was a quiet evening and Sharon and I just enjoyed chilling in the serenity of the countryside.  No small wonder that Wordsworth wrote of Tintern:

Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

Tintern Abbey

June 7 – Tuesday

I got up early and walked along the River Wye.  It was so nice and peaceful… I felt as if I never wanted to leave.  But, leave we must as Glastonbury was next on our tour and I had business there. 

There was no problem getting to Glastonbury or even finding the parking lot I’d been looking for!  What luck!  There was so much to see and do there.  The first of which was to find the Chalice Well!  It’s a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the well, but worth it for the history and magic of the place.  I got some well water (which carries healing qualities, it’s said) for myself and a couple of friends back home.  Sharon wanted to spend some time at the gardens there, and I wanted to climb up Glastonbury Tor, so we set a time to meet later and off I went.

Chalice Well
Glastonbury Tor is another magical place which is said to be the convergence of a lot of spiritual energy.  It was quite a hike up the steep hillside, but worth it for the views at the top.  What a lovely day and a lovely view!  Yet, I had to meet with Sharon, so down the hill I went to the Tourist Information Centre where we were to meet.  I had some time to kill, so I had my cards read by a tarot reader in a nearby shop and picked up some cards for a friend of mine.

Glastonbury Tor

Sharon came by and we found a lovely restaurant called the Hundred Monkeys nearby for our late lunch. The food was good, and we felt refreshed enough to set off in search of a hotel.  Upon arriving at the Premier Inn at Glastonbury, though, we were told that no twin rooms were available!  Well, time for the adventure to continue, we thought, so on we headed south on the M5.  At one point, we were detoured through a tiny town (North Petherton) and saw a lovely hotel called the Walnut Tree.  It seems that decent hotel rooms are typically completely booked by 4 pm, and we were out of luck.  However, the Walnut Tree front desk clerk went out of her way to help us locate something.  She booked us in the very last twin room at the Premier Inn in Taunton.  We got there and the room was lovely! We were so happy to have a nice, clean room to stay and we were able to order delivery from a Chinese Restaurant later on as we rested in our room for the evening.