We drove back in to Keswick to visit the town's tourist information office to see if we could figure out our day. We knew we were interested in visiting Hill Top (Beatrix Potter's home) and Dove Cottage (William Wordsworth's home) but we didn't know the best way to go about doing it because we needed to turn the car in by that afternoon. The tourist information staff told us about bus passes that we could get to Grasmere and then Hawkshead.
After we finished up at the TI we went to the shops Margaret had told us about in search of a Beswick heilan coo for Mom. We found one but it was over £200 so Mom decided to pass. We also went back to the antique shop we had been in the day before. Mom had had the idea that since Seth is interested in economics it might be fun to get him some old English coins. There are several kinds that aren't minted anymore--ha'pennies, shillings, tuppence, thrupence, sixpence, half crowns, and so on. I was able to get a nice collection for him and also a couple of real Roman coins as his souvenir.
We left Keswick and drove to Windermere to return the rental car and catch a bus to Grasmere. We had to wait around for the bus for awhile but it was nice to be car-free again (although that meant we had to drag our luggage along with us) and to be able to enjoy the scenery on the bus ride.
We stopped at a cafe and grabbed some sandwiches to eat as we walked. After we ordered, Mom shopped around a bit in a gift shop adjacent to the cafe and Anne ran back to the bag shop to find out what time they closed so our luggage wouldn't be locked inside, while I waited for our order. Once our sandwiches came, we all headed toward Dove Cottage.
We arrived with just a few minutes to spare before the next tour began. Anne used the time to phone Hill Top to see what the lines would be like (this was a Rick Steve's suggestion--apparently Hill Top can get very busy during tourist season) and found, to our disappointment, that we wouldn't be able to get in that day. Lots of children on holiday were visiting, and Beatrix Potter's birthday had been just the day before so it was even more crowded than normal. Since we knew we wouldn't be able to see Hill Top we just decided to take our time at Dove Cottage and enjoy Wordsworth's home and the affiliated museum.
|I can't resist wild strawberries. This one was growing on the wall in front of Dove Cottage.|
|"In vacant [and] in pensive mood. . ." I'll let you decide which one is which,|
but Anne does look a little more on the pensive side .
|Wordsworth's window seat.|
|Wordsworth's dog, Pepper.|
|Wordsworth's chair where he would have sat to write many of his poems. He hated desks. He found them restrictive.|
|THE couch--"For oft when on my couch I lie, in vacant or in pensive mood, |
they flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude. . ."
|The colored spectacles and the fact that Wordsworth hated desks made Anne and I wonder if Wordsworth struggled with ADD or Dyslexia.|
After the tour we puttered around the garden for a few minutes admiring the lovely atmosphere, the bracken, mossy rocks, flowers and herbs, gates and the stone steps that Wordsworth would have climbed to take in the gorgeous views from his property.
|Me and W²|
|Wordsworth's waistcoat. Try to say that five times fast.|
|Wordsworth would have rambled through these hills when he was wandering lonely as a cloud.|
After we were done at the museum we made our way back to where we had gotten off the bus originally. We retrieved our suitcases and tried to pay the lady for keeping them for us--she wouldn't hear of it--and after about a half and hour or so wait, boarded our bus back to Windermere. We had no idea which stop we needed to get off at and were afraid of missing it. We tried consulting our map but it wasn't much help so we asked a nice older couple that was sitting behind us. They were from Leeds and were on holiday themselves but they seemed to know what they were doing a little better than we did. There was also a cute young couple sitting across the aisle from us. They didn't say anything but I kept catching the man glancing at us and smiling so I knew they were listening to our conversation.
The older couple told us there was a bus stop that was also a train station but they weren't completely sure which stop it was. They said they'd help us watch for it. When the cute young guy and his wife/girlfriend got up to get off the bus, he leaned in to tell us that we wanted to get off at the next stop. We were so grateful for the kindness of strangers on this trip. So many people cheerfully helped us on so many different occasions. We were sure that lots of the people must have found our cluelessness amusing, but no one was mocking or unkind about it.
Getting off where the young man told us worked out perfectly. The train station was probably only 20 yards from the bus depot and when we bought our tickets to Manchester we only had to wait about 10 or 15 minutes before our train arrived.
The TransPennine Express train to Manchester was quite crowded at first. A woman from Bahrain sat at our table with us. She didn't speak much English but we managed to learn that she was traveling with her large family, her husband, three children and several other people--mostly women. Not sisters. Not nieces. We're pretty sure that it was a polygamist family. She was nice and we shared pictures of our families and talked a little until her family got off the train a few stops before Manchester.
|View of Manchester from the train.|
It was a short ride to the hotel. We checked in, ditched out luggage in our room and went down to the hotel restaurant for a decent but unremarkable dinner.
When we got back to our room, we tried to check into our flight for the next day. That is when Anne saw an email from Thomas Cook Airlines telling us that since our flight was an international flight we were supposed to check in a minimum of three days in advance (remember how we had only had wi-fi sporadically for the last few days?). There was panic and praying and attempts at phone calls but in the end we decided the only thing we could do was get up early and go to the airport to see if we could sort things out.
The first thing we said to the lady at check-in was, "We're worried because. . ." and she immediately reassured us with a kind, "Don't worry." We were able to check into our flight without any problems and made it through security with lots of time to spare. We did a little shopping in the duty-free shops and stocked up on English candy bars to share with our families once we got home.
I thought our flight included meals but Anne didn't remember reading anything about it, so once we got Mom situated at the departure gate we went in search of food. We learned two things: 1. Apparently some Europeans don't know what you mean when you say "taco salad". "You can have a taco or you can have salad. You can't have both." and 2. The younger generation of Europeans don't know how to swipe credit cards because all the cards over there are chip-and-pin cards.
We got mom a taco salad (even though they didn't call it that) and Anne and I got Cornish pasties for the flight. When we got back, people were starting to arrive at the departure gate to wait for boarding. It hadn't occurred to us before, but we were flying into Orlando. Do you know what's in Orlando? Disney World and Universal Studios. It was the end of July and all the English children that were on holiday from school were going to Florida. All. Of. Them. There were tons of kids on our flight--no, really, there were probably literally tons of them if you combined their weights. I have never seen so many kids on one flight and I have never been at such a noisy airport gate in my life. I should have known then that I probably wouldn't get much sleep on the nine hour flight back to the US.
I did have about a 45 minute nap though. And I watched a couple of movies (The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Star Trek: Into Darkness and maybe something else too, but I don't remember). I also ate. A lot. Because, yes, there was a meal included in the flight. Just about the time I was finishing my Cornish pasty, the flight attendants came around with food. There was a snack box with crackers and cheese and fig date compote and some other deliciousness before the meal (curried chicken and potatoes) and some sandwiches, a scone and biscuits for tea after the meal. There were also the cutest miniature ice cream cones you've ever seen. I think I gained ten pounds just on that return flight across the Atlantic.
I think I would have been really sad that the adventure was over if I hadn't been so tired and missed my family so much--kind of like how I am sad that I am finished recounting my travels here on the blog. It has been fun to relive them as I've tried to remember all the little details. I hope you have enjoyed coming on the journey with me.
P.S. I've finished sharing my UK adventure but I have lots of other things I want to share too. Please check back often or subscribe to my blog updates by email. I love having visitors here at Predilections. It's kind of like when a friend drops by for a surprise visit, but I don't have to worry that my house isn't spotless.