Monday, October 5, 2015


Our train arrived in Durham around 4:00 PM. Anne telephoned Enterprise to come pick us up at the train station. She spoke with a guy named Tom. He told her he'd be "the chap in the smart blue suit" so that we could recognize him. There was some confusion as to which platform at the train station he was supposed to meet us at, but it all got sorted. 

Tom's suit was quite smart indeed, but his hair left a little something to be desired. It was short and he had a bit of a receding hairline, but the sides were long. It was like he was going for this look:

Bradley Wiggins--not Tom.
but he couldn't grow thick hair on his face so he just grew out the sides and they formed kind of a bizarre cousin of the comb-over (I Facebook stalked him just now to see if I could describe it better. I found him, but decided it would be a violation of his privacy to post his picture so you are stuck with Bradley Wiggins and your imagination). Anyway, his hair was weird, but he was very pleasant and we liked him right away. Once we got back to the rental office there was more confusion because someone had taken the car we were supposed to be renting out. We sat in the office and waited. Tom told us about growing up in the town where the Brontë sisters are from and how he used to work at a bar and offered us tea (we just wanted water) and chocolate buttons. He felt bad that we had to wait, so he included our sat-nav for free with out rental. We planned to return our car,the next evening--Sunday to Byker but apparently that isn't the best neighborhood so at Tom's suggestion we switched our rental return location to the Newcastle Central Station.

Durham Cathedral. Final resting place of The Venerable Bede.
Our plan for the evening was to attend Evensong at Durham Cathedral. Once we finally got our rental car we were starting to feel pressed for time. We drove through the narrow, pedestrian filled streets. I took a wrong turn up an alley and Anne had to get out of the car and back me down while the back-up sensor alarms went crazy because we were so close to a wall on one side and the curb on the other. We survived that little drama and managed to get up to the cathedral. We started in just as it began to downpour. I was in the process of getting my raincoat out of the trunk when the deluge hit. Anne and Mom were already halfway to the door. I ended up jumping back in the car and bawling for a few minutes because that's how I often deal with stress, frustration and being exhausted. Once the rain let up a little I put on my raincoat, dried my eyes and hurried up to the cathedral. I was just in time. We got to sit in the choir seats for the service and the beautiful singing, the scriptural readings and the peaceful cathedral all helped me feel more calm.

Largest, lushest begonias we have ever seen.
After the service, the rain had stopped. We went and checked into our room for the night in Durham Castle (*squeal*) and dragged our suitcases all the way up the stairs to our rooms. There are no elevators in castles so this was hard work. We each had our own room for the evening so we dropped Mom off at her room first, my room was a couple more flights of stairs up and Anne's room was at the top. The water closet for each floor was shared.

After depositing our belongings, we asked a couple of different strangers for a recommendation for a place to go for dinner. The consensus seemed to be that Bell's Fish Shop was THE best place to eat in town.When I asked a rather intimidating bouncer at a place called The Shakespeare if he could point the way to Bell's his face lit up and he happily pointed the way and said he was going there himself as soon as he got off work.

Bell's was an excellent choice. I have never had such delectable fried fish in all my life. We tried the mushy peas--fabulous! The chips were delicious too. I had Dandelion and Burdock soda because when would I have another chance to try that? It sounds weird but it was very tasty.

There was a mother and son from Michigan sitting at the table next to us so we chatted a bit and told each other about our adventures on our trips so far.

Possibly the most glorious fish and chips and mushy peas in existence.
Bell's Fish and Chips Shop
Post box sighting. I got almost as excited about these as I did about the phone boxes.
View from Durham town square.
View looking the other direction from the same spot across the town square.
My father-in-law calls the little grandchildren "Mugwump" sometimes.
 I had never heard the name before that. I still don't know what a Mugwump is.
The bouncer I spoke to was off duty when we passed by again. I'm sure he was at Bell's.

After dinner we checked out the town a little bit but most of the shops were closed so we decided to go back up to the Palace Green (the area up on the hill near the cathedral and the castle). It was a beautiful evening and we wanted to take pictures. If Cambridge failed to live up to expectations, Durham far exceeded them. I enjoyed every moment of this beautiful place (well except the moments at the beginning with the backing the car and the crying in the rainstorm).

The Palace Green
Dreamy door.

Phone box AND post box in the same shot. Heaven.
This is the alley I had to back down.

Moon between spires.
Durham Cathedral.
Buildings on the Palace Green.

More photos of Durham Cathedral because the light was beautiful and the cathedral looked so majestic.

View of Durham from Durham Cathedral church yard.

There was a wedding going on at the castle so the security detail tried to turn us away but when we told them we were staying in the castle they let us pass.

Panoramic view of the castle courtyard from near the front gate. The great hall is on the left 
and the castle tower where we slept is on the right.
The gate to the castle courtyard (viewed from within the castle courtyard).
The Great Hall

We slept in the tower. The rooms are usually dorm rooms but when the
students are on holiday, they rent them out to guests like us.
Entrance to the castle tower dorm rooms.
View from Mom's window. Yes, there was grass growing on the roof.

Views from my bedroom window.
We all said goodnight and went to our separate rooms (mine had a fireplace!). I made myself a cup of mint tea in my room. I sipped it whilst I ate the ginger biscuits that housekeeping had left for me and did a little reading. I said my prayers and the next thing I knew it was morning and time to get up for church.

To Be Continued. . .

Friday, October 2, 2015

York and English Toast

Part of the appeal of staying in Cambridge had been that it would make our trip to York the next day shorter. We originally intended to stay in York but as we were trying to arrange our trip there was no where available within 20 miles. We did a little sleuthing and found out there were some huge races in York that weekend and the town was going to have something like 100,000 more people than normal. We thought of skipping York altogether after Anne read stories of drunk and disorderly shenanigans on the Internet, but we really wanted to see York. I live in a town where there are races in the summer (only ours are car races, not horse races) and I had a feeling that if York was anything like Oswego, the town might be actually a little quieter than normal during the races because most of the visitors would be there. Anne made an inquiry and was told that yes, that would probably be the case until around 5:00 PM when things would start to get a little wild. We decided to go ahead and go and just be well on our way before the five o'clock hour. We figured it wouldn't be hard to see most of what we wanted to see before then anyway.

Exterior of York Minster
Our train to York was very crowded. Mom and Anne sat across the table from a sweet and down-to-earth kid named Jimmy who was in the Scots Guard and was on his way home to see his mum. I sat across the aisle from them at a table with two handsome young men, Oliver and Andrew. Oliver and Andrew had been best mates since childhood and were heading home to Sheffield for the weekend. Andrew played cricket and Oliver was tagging along to watch even though in his words cricket is "rubbish". They were fairly well-dressed, muscley and they smelled really good--basically the British version of frat boys.

No one said much at first. I got the feeling that I had crashed their party, but after a little while we started visiting. They thought I was from Canada (not the first time someone thought that about us on the trip) but I told them I was from New York and they asked me some questions about the states. We talked about their families and my family and the places Mom, Anne and I had visited so far. They said they were impressed. I told them about how stressful the driving had been for me, then  as it often does with me, the conversation turned to food. 

I told them we'd be in Edinburgh the next day and asked them about haggis. Oliver said it was like mince and was "really lovely." They both said they loved it and I ought to try it. I told them we had loved the breakfasts that our hostesses had been feeding us. I told them we loved the toast and that it is different than American toast. They both looked at me like I was a little strange. I don't know what possessed me, but I thought, "hey we've been wondering how the English make their toast, why not ask these nice young men?" so I asked. 
"So, how does one make toast in England?"
They glanced at each other, then Oliver looked at me like I was off my nut and said, "Well, you take the bread out of the bag and you put it in the toaster. . .then you press the lever."
I hurried and explained that I know how to use a toaster and that the only logical conclusion must be that the bread in England is just better. We talked about the butter being different too--I saved face by telling them that I am for real butter all the way. No margarine for this girl. That earned me back a little cred and I guess they decided that I wasn't totally certifiable.

Oliver and Andrew got off the train in Sheffield and wished me well and Anne and Mom moved over to my table so we could sit together and eat the salads we had purchased at the train station. As we got closer to York the train got more and more crowded. When we arrived in York the station was bursting with people--great smelling men in blue suits or dark jeans and dress shirts, ridiculous women in skimpy dresses and fancy hats. We lugged our luggage (yep--just figured out the etymology of that word) to the left luggage office and headed for downtown.

York is a walled city that was founded by the Romans. We knew we wanted to see York Minster and The Shambles, do a little shopping and walk the city wall. We were able to do 3 out of 4. Walking the wall was cut from the agenda but we still had a great time.

I am totally kicking myself now for not having this guy write me a poem.
York Minster

Intricate stained glass in York Minster.

Organ and choir screen.
Detail of the York Minster Choir Screen consisting of Kings from William the Conquerer to Henry VI. I love their curly hair.

Elevator to York Minster Undercroft. Did you know that in England 0 is the ground floor, not 1. -1 is one floor below ground. 

Despite lots of signs, I didn't think York was all that easy to navigate. We had to stop to ask directions to the Shambles at least twice--maybe three times--but we did find it. The Shambles used to be all butcher shops but they have been converted to tourist shops. We had fun poking around in a few of them--I loved the antique shop where Anne found a set of spoons for my niece. Mom was even able to find a deerstalker for my brother, Carter, at a woolen mill.

Crowds of shoppers in The Shambles.

Cutest little antique shop.
Wall around the city of York.
The River Ouse.

The day was wearing on and we wanted to be in Durham to rent our car before it got too late. We ended up asking for directions back to the train station a couple of times. One kind woman said she was heading that direction and showed us the way. Anne and I left Mom to rest and retrieved our luggage, bought our tickets and we all waited on the platform for our train to Durham.

To Be Continued. . .