Skirting the rain (maybe)
Trip Start Jun 04, 2008
11Trip End Jun 24, 2008
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I'm not even sure what day today is but I know I haven't written anything in 3 days. So 3 days ago we spent the day in Barnard Castle, known to locals as Barney. The town is actually named Barnard Castle, not just the castle. It's Amanda's hometown so she was our guide for today. If you don't know Amanda you're missing out;she's a very bubbly person and kept us laughing most of the time. We started out at the castle ruins where Dad managed to trip while trying to climb down into the empty moat on the grass instead of on the staircase. Kevin made it down so he thought it was easy but he tripped on his second step. No bones were broken but it left grass stains on the back of his jeans. There was a crabby Scottish woman named Irene running the admissions booth/gift shop and she didn't seem to think we were funny at all.
We left the ruins and headed towards the shops and restaurants. There was a little antique store that had a restaurant in it also but it was full so all we did was buy buttons and little Union Jack hankies. Amanda got ahold of her sister Diana so we ended up going to Greggs again and taking pasties over to Diana's. She very hospitably took us in and we shared the pasties and her BEAUTIFUL slightly lopsided cake. She's an English teacher and had been grading tests before we came.
We walked back into town to a chocolatier where Amanda said they sell Phil's favorite fudge. We took the advice of the nice man behind the counter and got a bag of assorted chocolates or "pralines" as they call them. He even threw in a couple of ones with Easter decorations on them because I guess they were hard to sell.
It started raining when we headed to the Bowes museum. The Bowes is a house built by Mr. Bowes, who is somebody important but the title doesn't matter, for his French bride. It was much to expensive to get in to the French chataeu so we just went to the gift shop. We heard it's really just a painting collection anyways. While in the gift shop I saw a book about grand homes in Britain so I searched through it for familiar film locations like the ones in Jane Austen movies. I asked Amanda whether she knew the names of the places used and she showed them to me. This also brought up the fact that a long time ago Phil and Amanda babysat for some of their friends who had a castle in Scotland. One of the kids was none other than Rupert Friend who plays Mr. Wickam in the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice. Probably more importantly he is dating Keira. Amanda said she was looking in one of Francie's magazines and did a double take when she saw his name. Unfortunately they both say that he was a bratty kid. I've actually got photos of Rupert as a kid right in front of me right now.
After Bowes it was raining rather hard but luckily we were hungry so nothing outside was necessary. We met Phil, Stan and Francie at the Morrit Arms, where Charles Dickens spent two nights while he was changing carriages. We didn't eat there but instead went to another restaurant that I will have to find the name of later.
Two days ago we went to Whitby, a rather touristy town up north. I say it was touristy only because there were tourists there but I think it was pretty original. There was only one really bad tourist trap about Dracula. In the Dracula books the vampire himself comes to Whitby disguised as a black dog on a ship. His first victim is a girl sitting on a bench near this church that we got to go inside. The church lawn was full of ancient headstones that were almost all weathered away from the salt air. The ones we could read were amazing though because there were from the 1700s and 1800s yet the people were living 80 or 90 years. We decided the sea air and the 199 steps you have to climb to get to church must be healthy. While we were climbing the steps Mom saw a black dog swimming in the ocean, which scared her silly for a second before she saw the owner throwing a stick to it from the shore.
Behind the church were the ruins of an old abbey. When we paid our admissions fee, which we didn't actually pay because Phil and Amanda have "English heritage" memberships, they gave us these audio tour guides. At each station in the ruins they told you which number to press on the audio guide and you got a little story from Brother William or St. Aelfried. It was really funny to look around and see every single person holding one of these little devices up to his ear as they fought against the wind.
We decided to walk all the way around to the other side of the bay to see the Captain Cook memorial statue and the arch made from whale jawbone. We were surprised to see that the whale bones were actually donated by Anchorage. We also found that the hotel near the memorials seemed to be the source of the hoards of older people in the town. It didn't seem to be the smartest place to bring the wheelchair-bound but they did it anyway on the hills and bumpy sidewalks.
Phil picked us up at the train station and the rain finally found us on the way home. Amanda had a steak pie waiting for us and it was amazing. The Hodgsons really know their cooking.
Yesterday we went north again, this time to Alnwick and Amble. Alnwick is home to Alnwick Castle, home of the Duke of Northumberland. As the brochure stated, it's one of the two largest inhabited castles in England. I guess they just really didn't want to say they are second. The Duke and his family only live there October through March so we tours are open to the public. But before we went to the castle we walked around Alnwick Gardens, the charity gardens of the Duchess. The first thing you see when you walk in is this huge cascading fountain that does shows every half an hour. We were only ten minutes away from that so we sat there laughing at the mini tractors they give kids to play in in front of the fountain. The show was pretty, but I don't know any other adjectives to call it.
To the left of the cascades they had the coolest of the gardens, the Poison Garden. The gates have to be locked at all times and they have skull and crossbones on them. You can't just walk around in it so we had to wait for the tour. Our wait was prolonged due to the fact that a schoolboy from the previous tour vomited violently on the sidewalk in the garden. The little old lady assured us that he was motionsick from the drive and didn't eat any of the plants. She proceeded to talk in barely above a whisper and said she wasn't going to get the microphone because her voice carries easily in the wind. I'm not sure where it was being carried to but it wasn't anywhere near us. While she was talking, if you can even call it that, there was another woman talking on a cell phone and rustling these bags around. I don't think Kevin was paying attention at all because the fountain happened to go off and he said "Look!" in a fairly normal voice that sounded like a shout because we were all straining to hear. We quickly gave up on trying to hear because I don't think anything she was saying was important. Kevin even walked over to one of the school tours and stood behind all the 7 year olds in their yellow hats. We were slightly disturbed to see juniper, rosemary and cilantro all in the poison garden. She assured us rosemary is only dangerous to pregnant women but said the entire juniper plant is deadly. The other people in our tour were mainly of retirement age and they seemed to know much more about the plants than we did. We continued on to the bamboo maze, which was too easy, and the rose garden, which was beautiful.
It was about lunchtime by then and we still had a castle to get through by 2 o'clock if we wanted to make the boat ride. Phil and Amanda stayed at the gardens and the Learys paid a fortune and a half to get in to Alnwick castle, home of the broom lesson scene in Harry Potter. I recognized the spot at once. We toured through the important rooms like the library and sitting room and such but the real draw was Harry. I asked Amanda later if its all over the news where they film these and she said it's pretty secret unless they need extras. She said Stan has always been busy or the wrong age when they ask.
We left Alnwick and headed for Amble where we were told we could take a boat ride with a man named Dave to an island to see puffins. Dave was there and we could barely understand a word he said but we did get to see the puffins, and seals too.
Francie made us supper last night and she could definitely give her dad a run for his money. We dined on pasta with a choice of different meats as toppings and for dessert each of us had our own dark chocolate souffle, except for Stan who doesn't appreciate chocolate. After our feast we caught the overtime and penalty kicks to the Turkey-Croatia game. It is definitely worth Youtubing that. Croatia broke the tie with 1 minute left in overtime and Turkey got the tie back with seconds left in stoppage time. I won't tell you who wins.
I'm tired of typing so all you need to know about today is that we went to York and it drizzled all day. I don't think our luck is still here. OH, I also bought a 6 dollar DVD of Mansfield Park that probably won't even work on our DVD player. Apparently it's for region 2 and the US is region 1, but it would work on a multiregion player. You learn something new every day.
FYI-We fly into Dusseldorf Monday night and will get a hotel. Tuesday morning we fly to Atlanta and then to Wichita, getting in to Wichita at 8 something. If whoever is picking us up in Wichita would drop me an email I will call from Atlanta to tell you if we are on schedule. I think our layover is 2:30 to 6:30 Atlanta time, but we have customs so it will be closer to 6:30. As far as we know nothing has changed.