Sunday, May 11, 2008

Day 9 - The Lake District 3

Pics taken once the rain stopped

So I'm starving and we decide to get out the car and find some food. Shouldn't be too difficult, right?


We go to cafe after cafe and they all only have sandwiches that have been made hours earlier (I don't eat sandwiches that haven't been freshly made because I hate soggy anything; Dion's not fussy, of course). Their kitchens are all closed at 4:30 in the afternoon - what on earth?! In a tourist destination!!!

And here's another difference between South Africa and England.

If you walk into a restaurant here and the kitchen's closed, they'll usually say "try so-and-so, they only close at ______" which is normal South African helpfulness. You might even get the person walking you to the place.

Over there, it was just "sorry, the kitchen's closed" with a "you can like it or lump it" expression on the people's faces. Okay then!

Eventually I remembered "that lovely smart place we saw driving in" and we went to see if their kitchen was open. Indeed it was - happiness is... I mean, look how happy I am just to be warm and about to be fed :)

And then while they were making the food, I took pictures of some of my favourite things - trees!

This is what the hotel looked like from the outside

To date, the most expensive sandwich ever. We paid about 13 pounds for this (R200 - in South Africa, you'll pay about R25 - R30 for the same ham and cheese, and you'll get chips with it)

The tea was delicious and more importantly, hot! And those 6 chips were the entire portion - I think it cost about 3 pounds (R50)

And then we set off for Edinburgh!

Day 9 - The Lake District 2

More pics driving through the rain...

Look at the car's display. 4 o'clock in the afternoon and 18 degrees.

the rain's finally stopped and it's time to get some food!

Day 9 - The Lake District 1

It was pouring with rain when we got to Lake Windermere so the Dry Macs came out to play.

I was amazed at how rude the drivers were (compared to the courteousness of drivers on the "motorways" in the rest of England), hooting at us if we even dared to roll down the window to take a pic or two (which is why the angles on some of these are so weird) in the rain.

And I thought Joburg drivers were aggressive!

Day 9 - leaving Birkinhead on the way to the Lake District

Only South Africans will really "get" why I took this picture. We are so lawless that we dump our trolleys anywhere we feel like so to see people actually putting their trolleys back where they belong deserved a pic :)

This one too! hello - we don't have these in SA and I don't think they'd work either because remember, we see people parking in disabled spots all the time without being disabled, in case I didn't make that clear!

look at those cute, fat sheep

on the English highways (or as they say, motorways), it all looks like this - green, lush vegetation

driving into the Lake District - don't these look so charming and oh so English?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Day 8 - Hanging around Birkenhead (near Liverpool)

I love this set of pics - they are some of my favourites from the entire trip!

Dion was still not better the next day; in fact, he was worse and then I started to get a glimpse of why it had not been happening accommodation-wise in the Lake District.

Meanwhile, we were getting the MOST wonderful “text” messages from our friends. Maybe they were concerned that we’d get lost in England (impossible)??? I don’t know. I loved David and Victoria’s messages which usually started like this - “Poor D” and of course, Poor D loved being poor D because men do love being taken care of, don’t they?

Anyway, so after showers and breakfast, Shereen and I left Dion sleeping. I told him that we were going to Tesco and that when I returned from buying up the whole pharmacy, he needed to make a decision – stay for another night (S & S kept offering but we didn’t want to intrude) or suck it up and drive to the Lake District. The weather was warm at around 22 degrees Celsius.

Now, Tesco. My word – it was one of those mega-stores. And the accents of the people I was hearing???? You’d swear I was in a foreign country. I had to ask the cashier to repeat herself so I could REALLY focus on her words.

They have this weird system where they won’t sell you more than 2 boxes of tablets. We’re from South Africa where we can buy 4 bottles of Panado if we want, and I do when these things are on special. But not in England.

Dion gave me a whole list of cold and flu medication which I dutifully threw into the basket but the cashier then told me (a couple of times because I couldn’t understand her accent!) that I could only have 2. So Shereen had to buy 2 for me too. Crazy!

I also took the opportunity to buy a couple of notebooks and plastic envelopes. They had the most gorgeous 5-section project notebooks 

Once we got back, D decided that he really was not well enough to drive anywhere that day so we just took it easy. Dion did a lot of sleeping while Steve and Shereen and I chatted while pottering around, reading, computing, doing laundry (do you know how happy I was to do laundry?!!!), eating, etc.

We also phoned our friend, Wendy, in California and it was just LOVELY to talk to her after nearly 7 years.

We then had a delicious supper of chicken, mashed potato and creamed veggies. Took lots of photos, went to pack and then went to bed.

And that was Saturday 10th May.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Day 7 (ctd) - Wirral, Birkenhead

So we left Ps Dave and set off for Steve and Shereen’s place in Wirral, just outside Liverpool, about a 45-minute drive away. Ps Dave insisted that we phone Steve when we got nearer because “you’ll never find their place otherwise”.

Okay then.

Driving in England is SOOOOO easy and so different to driving in South Africa.

For one, the roads are clearly marked and there are plenty of signboards.

The weird thing is …not that they call their highways “motorways” or that the exits are called “junctions” but that EVERYONE knows the number of the exit. They’ll say “take junction 5” or whatever, and sure enough, junction 5 is the correct exit. Here in South Africa we say “take the Edenvale offramp” and I’d have to search long and hard to find a person who knew if it was the 3rd, 4th or 10th exit off the highway. All we look out for is that “Edenvale” sign.

Nevertheless, I digress… but this kind of weirdness is what I LOVE about travelling and this is my blog, so I’ll ramble on.

The second thing that’s so different about the driving is that everyone is so courteous, again, VERY different from the aggressive driving style native to most Johannesburg drivers. People obey the rules of the road and it’s actually a pleasure to drive and as a result, not very stressful at all. Even for us foreigners.

We’ll get talking about driving in Ireland later in this blog because that, dear friends, is another thing totally.

Of course, I had no idea of distances because I’m used to kilometers, and not miles.

Anywayyyy, when we started seeing signboards close to our “junction” ;) I sent Shereen a “text message” to let her know we were close. She, in turn, alerted Steven who “rang” me to give us directions to some gigantic hardware outlet (something like BBQ, maybe BRQ?) just off the “motorway”. Okay, I’ll stop with the “ “– I can’t resist.

Clearly Steven moonlights as Speedy Gonzales because he was there waiting for us when we arrived. To my question, how will we find you, he said, don’t you worry, I’ll find you. And he did ;)

After all the kissing and hugging (Marcia) and shaking of hands (Dion), we followed him to their flat which did not look like it was that difficult to find. But our friends obviously don’t think much of our navigational abilities.

We spent a lovely hour drinking tea and chatting while we waited for Shereen to get home from work. Their home is lovely and comfortable and feels very “Shereen” to me LOL

As an aside, I must say it is so easy to get into the whole English tradition of drinking tea. That suits me down to the ground and was a habit I adopted very quickly and happily.

Both Shereen and Steven sounded EXACTLY the same after 8 years in the UK. Steven is English so that’s understandable but I was surprised by Shereen. Although I did catch her saying “yeah?” a couple of times. I love hearing that and even now, it still makes me smile ;)

It was like we’d seen them just last week the way all of us just slipped right back into our friendship and chatted and chatted, and then chatted some more about serious and silly things. Lovely!

We went out to supper to Queen’s Hotel (Dion’s notes in my journal say “overlooking the River Mersey”) where we had a delicious carvery. Yummy!

When we got back we did a very un-Dion&Marcia thing and phoned some B&B’s on the spur of the moment to find accommodation in the Lake District for the following evening. Everybody was very English (no problem with being rude) and said “no, we don’t have place for just one night; we only rent rooms for two nights or more, and no, I’m not prepared to change that. Alright then, bye!”

You’ve got to have a grudging respect for them setting such good boundaries though.

We then decided to really just BREAK LOOSE, drive up there and just look for accommodation willy-nilly. I don’t do willy-nilly but both Dion and Steve & Shereen were quite comfortable with this devil-may-care attitude so FINE!

And that was Friday.

Day 7 - Llangollen (Wales) and Chester (England)

Ok, before I forget, here's Ps Dave and his daughter, Jade (all of 18 and making plans to get married!)

By morning, things had changed for the travellers. We had agreed on an early start for us - 9am. We'd left the warm sun behind and it was now raining. Also my sore throat from the previous day had developed into a head cold. Yuk.

Anyhoo, we left with Ps Dave and a church buddy of his, Brian, to go into Chester, which is just inside the border of England. We were treated to a tour of the cathedral there - but Marcia was kinda bored so forbade me from publishing all the pix of the arched ceilings and decorated columns. Still, the outside is not bad:

Then we walked through the streets of Chester, looking for signs of the old Roman city. It's full of cute streets like this:
You can see all the Tudor style buildings on the main street (note how each storey up leans out further):
The place was actually packed so I'm not sure why they weren't working! We also saw several people dressed to the nines. Turns out a day at the races had just ended and they had come into town. So the 5-star hotel wasn't exactly enthusiastic about hosting us for 'morning' coffee, as it's called, but Ps Dave has never suffered from shyness so we pushed our way in:
Our Chester visit ended with a walk down to the river, where you can always count on prettiness:
(The bridge is not too bad, either, what say you?)

From there we drove into the Northern Welsh countryside to see Llangollen (a gutteral sound that just has to be heard!)

But first we made a quick stop to see Ps Denise as she zipped in from one job to another.

We drove up into the mountains up to Horseshoe Pass, where we stopped at a restaurant-pub for some lunch (time for me to get some long-overdue fish 'n' chips!)

Sheep are everywhere - these playing around nearby. Mother let me get this close before she got her lamb out of there.

Check it out, here's some Welsh for you:We drove past the village of Llangollen, which is so cute:

I mean, how cute can you get:

Then we went over to the aquaduct, where they hire out barges large enough for family holidays. Here's what I assumed to be a typical Welsh villager (but for all I know, he could be some German tourist waiting for his barge to be repaired):
Each barge has several rooms, including separate kitchens:
Apparently you can travel all over Wales and England by barge along a network of canals. Here's what the barges look like:
Now the barges can go across the narrow aquaduct - and there's even a walkway:
We went halfway along the aquaduct's walkway to see the views. To the right:
And to the left:
Here's what the aquaduct looks like from the side. You can see a barge crossing and some people walking:
We certainly packed in the sights today! After a cuppa tea at 4pm, we had to pack up and head out.

From there it was only a 45-minute journey north to Birkenhead, just south of Liverpool, where we were to stay with Shereen and Stephen Arbon (friends from S.A.) We filled up on a traditional roast buffet at the Queen Hotel, on the seafront overlooking the River Mersey. And chatted. And laughed. And chatted...

But lurking in the background, a malignant force was digging its dirty claws into our wonderful time, ready to pounce and spread its contagion...