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Sunderland Beaches and Bamburgh Castles – UK Trip Day 11

The Rowan Tree bed and breakfast was excellent beginning to end. The breakfast was lovely and we looked out over the garden as it started to rain.

The coffee served was in a french press and it definitely hit the spot. With our bellies full and ready to go, we checked out. We had a mission to complete before leaving the area of Whitby. Victoria’s mum wanted some Whitby jet. We searched in the jewellry shops (there is a Jet District) but we found some for free on the beach! And we bought a small polished piece.

This is the most important day of the trip for Victoria. Sunderland was her ancestor’s home so she wanted to really be present and see what Sunderland had to offer.

When we had set down the pin in Sunderland in Google Maps, it had landed on a vape shop. Everyone who knew anything about England told us that Sunderland was a hole.

That knowledge in tow, we set out for Sunderland from Sleights. We drove for quite a while and then reached the beaches of Sunderland which are, of course beautiful. The town itself feels a little more city-like and less pretty than many places in the UK, but still quite nice.

We picked up rocks and shells along the beach and soaked up the sea air. It was lovely on the beaches.

When it started to rain, we ducked into the Scullery Pier Point restaurant across from the beach.

The roast beef meal (with mushrooms, tomatoes, peas, chips and gravy) was substantial and somewhat tasty. We also ordered dessert and it was quite decadent.

While we were eating, Victoria figured out a route to take in all of the family name related places in Sunderland, and the Angel of the North finally to arrive at our AirBnB in Bamburgh.

The route figured out, we set about executing this plan as best we could. Let me tell you, Sunderland has streets like a dropped plate of spaghetti. There are endless round-abouts with streets unlabelled, labelled by the largest destination in that direction, or something else generally unhelpful.

So we took quite a while actually getting a 5 minute’s drive across Sunderland to each destination. Maybe that’s why people don’t like it very much.

The last destination was an important one for Victoria. She wanted to take a selfie under the “Davison” sign, but refused to because the middle two letters had been worn so faint as to be almost invisible. She was a bit upset about that.

Now that we had all of the important check marks on our list, we headed out of Sunderland around Newcastle and toward Bamburgh.

On the way the Angel of the North is a pit stop at the side of the road. Where we were told there is no parking lot, it appears one has been created. We parked and took a really terrible all-chins selfie looking up at the angel itself, and several other neat shots.

Yay! All of our important places were found! Well, some were a little tarnished, but we did what we came to do. So all that was left was to go onward to Bamburgh.

Bamburgh unveils itself before you as you descend hilly roads with a large castle on a peninsula of the beach.

The town is quite a sleepy little place and when we tried to park in the castle parking lot, it appears to have been closed. We wanted to figure out where we were going, so we stopped in the driveway there for a moment and realised we had only a little further to go.

Once we pulled up to the AirBnB, we met the owner who was already there. She’s a lovely lady and showed us our comfy room. This one had no TV, but that’s great for me getting this blog done!

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Bamburgh! #uktrip2019🇬🇧

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Having stowed our things, we weren’t quite ready to pack it in for the day, and set out for a short walk… well it was supposed to be short.

We ended up walking straight out to the dunes, which are just stunning in the setting sun. A view I highly suggest taking in if you have the chance.

We took a lot of panoramas, and then packed it in so that I can write this blog and get a bit to eat. It’s 7:30PM our time when we came in.

Have a lovely day and I hope you like reading our adventures! We have a few more days here left!

Google Photos of Bamburgh beach & dunes

Incredible Vistas – UK Trip Day 10

We woke up in York and it was already a bit late. Sleep was okay, as it was a bit cool in our room. I turned the new-ish style radiator heater on in the room while we awoke and made some coffee.

I didn’t have time to type my notes, and we were supposed to have a whole day set aside to be in York, so I figured I could at least get an hour to type the blog for yesterday and upload some images.

We found what looked like a delightful all day breakfast place for £4.95! What a nice sounding deal! So we went in. There really wasn’t anyone around. Every table was deserted and the staff were nowhere to be seen. We waited around a while and eventually tentatively dinged the bell at the counter.

We were served by what seemed like the only staff there.

We set ourselves up on a table at the window. The full English breakfast was actually a decent size and we ate and I typed up yesterday’s blog.

I had finished typing my blog in about 10 or 15 minutes and turned around my computer to let Victoria read it. Great! Time to upload images!

Well… that didn’t work well. This breakfast place had no WiFi. No free WiFi in any nearby place, and my mobile service had 1 bar. This is in the middle of York, by the way.

So I tried for a few minutes and gave up, frustrated. We quit the restaurant, me in a bit of a huff, and proceeded to enjoy the city of York instead. I would upload the images later.

Well York was pretty indeed, but nothing was particularly interesting. It was a lot of prettied up common brand stores with some individual shops as well. Maybe we just needed a real coffee. The downtown didn’t seem that interesting.

We headed into the Cathedral and absorbed the views. There were many great photo opportunities here. Victoria took my camera to make sure we captured some that were important to her. Some duplicates as well.

We entered the crypt and saw the underground sights as well, which were kind of neat, including some kind of markings on the floor. [Victoria’s note: the rubber markings indicated the location of the old Roman and Norman walls that predated the cathedral.]

When we felt satisfied that our £12 admission was worth it, we left and found a Cornish pasty shop! Finally one that had them in stock! We bought one just in case we wouldn’t have the chance.

Deciding it was important to have a bit of it warm, we had a bite in front of a monument in a small park and then headed on, checking out shops and alleyways here and there.

I’m sure downtown York is lovely on a nicer day, when you feel better, but we had neither of those advantages. I did take quite a few photos however.

Once we had our fill, we went toward the car park, as I had not asked Victoria how much time she wanted to spend downtown, and I picked 2:30pm as our cutoff point. Seemed reasonable as we arrived at 11:30am downtown.

The train museum was the next destination. We headed toward that, through the windy streets of York, and found that there is free admission to the train museum, and only £10 to park for the day at the museum parking lot. That sounded like a great deal! Kind-of like a £5 admission to a huge area with many trains, demos of equipment, cross sections of steam engines, and examples of all kinds of trains.

We had a coffee and I spilled that, all over the service counter. Then Victoria checked out the gift shop looking for something for her dad and spilled toy trains all over the place. We were getting very spilly so we decided to leave. They were closing soon, anyway.

We left York and finally set out for our bed and breakfast, this time not an AirBnB but a proper B&B reserved through Expedia.

The trip took us through the Moors, and it was positively stunning. We were not at all prepared for the sights we saw, and I promise to share the footage once I’m back. You’ll definitely want to see it.

The car crested hills and the whole landscape unfolded below us, with rolling hills of heather and sheep. Some of them quite steep with the road winding back and forth down the hillside.

The views were just breathtaking and when the car finally passed the RAF base, we came to a junction and Google Maps told us to go left. We parked immediately after the turn where a small ice-cream truck and a few drivers were parked.

We grasped this opportunity to take some panoramic photos of the vistas. Hopefully those will come out nicely when stitched together. Since we saw someone else having ice-cream, we walked over to the truck, which had been idling for a few minutes now.

We had a lovely rhubarb and custard ice-cream as well as a 99 with a flakie in it! They were both wonderful ice creams! Such lovely, creamy and unique flavours. Even something as simple as vanilla can be so different.

It was at this point that a few sheep crossed our paths! Hi sheep!

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UK Trip day 10 : the Moors! #uktrip2019🇬🇧

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After watching one of the sheep just squat and pee on the road in front of us. Gee thanks! We headed onward through many more twists and turns, and came out above an old railway, which Victoria photographed while I parked.

The landscape just kept showing us new wonders. We rolled into the Rowan Tree in Sleights and I parked the car. We met the owner of our B&B and apparently we’re the only ones staying here right now.

After dropping off our things we headed into Whitby proper this time. We had to get Victoria some Magpie’s famous fish and chips! They came highly recommended and they were certainly worth the trip!

On the way we saw a monument Canada had donated! It had a plaque in English and French which looked out over one of the most stunning sea views we have seen this trip.

Now I’m back in the B&B and writing this up before bed, actually on the day! (I’ve been a night behind for the past few.)

Now we can finally relax after I upload this one.

Lincoln, a town of many hills – UK Trip Day 9

Our next destination was York! A university town that we were informed would be lovely, and that we should spend a whole day there.

The roads were treacherous outside of King’s Lynn. Once on the highway the rain fell in sheets on the windscreen, making visibility pretty low at some points. Some areas of the road were flooded out. At one point we tried to pass a truck which had been spraying us with fine mist for a half hour, with a wide gap in the oncoming traffic lane, I made an attempt but quickly gave it up when a large lorry emerged from the mist in front of me.

Victoria choked back her heart while I re-took the left lane and continued on behind the mist-slinging transport truck. After a while it turned off while we continued on.

There was a very beautiful bridge near Hull where you could see for miles around, if not for the mist. We captured a bit of this on the GoPro while driving. We also came up to our first toll booth. It only cost 1p50 to cross, and we were amused to try it out the first time. I confirmed the price, tipped my hand into the hand of the booth attendee, and thanked him while driving off.

First we had to check out Lincoln which had some of the steepest streets in the UK. They were indeed very steep and it’s hard to show in pictures just how steep they are. I found it quite easy but on previously injured knees, Victoria may have had a hard time. She didn’t complain at all, but she was huffing lightly each time we stopped.

There are so many pretty shops in Lincoln. I took a lot of photos but if you find yourself in the UK in a similar situation, I definitely recommend stopping here.

The place is just steeped in history, with winding cobblestone roads and beautiful vistas atop the hill. The roads seemed to have each brick laid with the striations in the stones perpendicular to the slope, which helps. It didn’t feel slippery at all and it had been raining the morning when we drove in.

After exploring the hill, we headed down toward the famous house-on-a-bridge, which is a historical landmark in Lincoln. Winding through the streets we found our way there while stopping into a few shops with curiosities and delights to take in.

We continued onward and the rain picked up again. It had been raining on and off all day. I tried a few photos of the canal in the rain when we finally arrived. Turning around, we were able to see the famous house-on-a-bridge. It now contained several small businesses such as cafes and other eateries.

We passed a lady in a traditional maid outfit on the way in. This place was going to be something a little different for sure.

The houese inside was very well kept up, and included custom made brass fireplaces, and some simple chairs. The trims all painted black with light walls.

It seemed pretty posh and Vitoria and I were in the mood for a coffee. A real coffee. We suspected this place had the real goods. So we went to the top floor to order one from a delightful little cafe with a view of the canal.

Let me tell you, the coffee was fantastic. We ordered a Kenyan roast coffee served in a french press, which came with an hourglass I couldn’t help fiddling with. (Actually a 3 minute glass? What do you call an hourglass that only does 3 minutes?)

Having enjoyed our coffees, the host who was in a crisp outfit with a waiter’s apron picked out a brochure about the building from amongst the things under the cash and pointed to a picture asking us what’s remarkable about a picture inside.

Victoria and I sat for a moment or two and then I said, “It’s this room, isn’t it?”

We looked at the historical photo and the waiter told us all about the place, and how people want to buy the custom fireplaces from the owner. Also how the owner chose to polish them, which I agree with, rather than preserve the patina.

After that we had to get to our car. Our parking pass was running out and we had to make it to York before it got too dark.

The drive to York was lovely and the rain started to subside. At one point our rental car from Europcar started beeping every 5 miles.

Back at the rental counter they had told us the car had been topped up with AdBlue and it would be fine until our destination. It seems they were flat-out lying to us as the car was telling us now that it would simply not turn on in 90 miles.

So we stopped outside of Lincoln at a gas station and I asked if someone could help me with it, because I wasn’t even sure how to verify what the Europcar rental agency representative had told us. It turns out the only way to verify it is to turn on the car and actually heed the warnings on the dash. Thanks for nothing, Europcar.

I paid 10.99p or about 18.10 CAD to buy a 5 litre jug of the AdBlue and filled up the tank. The car ran much better afterward. Apparently without AdBlue, your diesel car will start to run poorly to preserve the emissions goals of the car. (Some cars apparently limit you to 20mph when you run out or turn right off!)

As we drove into York the hilly, sleepy university town revealed itself before us and it was lovely. Today we get to explore it in the daylight and I can already tell it’s going to be a nice time.

Coastal Drive – UK Trip Day 8

We awoke the the sounds of birds singing and sun beams peeking through the cracks in the shuttered windows. The shepherd’s hut was a fantastic idea! We sat out on the porch and really caught up with each other. We talked for a while eating our porridge and having a coffee from the Nescafe machine.

We were so very comfortable and at peace that we didn’t want to leave! But we had to get to King’s Lynn for our next AirBnB reservation. To the car!

We took off in the direction of Blyford not really knowing that it was the right one, and happened uppon a small store called K&C Northgreen Farm Shop and an antique emporium! The store had a fenced in area with horses beside it, so we walked up to them and they walked up to us. I tried to pet one, but the moment they discovered we had no food the horse was disinterested.

We ate a chocolate square with many land mines (raisins) that was nonetheless delicious, and had a coffee and chatted a bit. The store owners were friendly and spoke with us a bit about the horses and apparently some cows that had been sick. Something about collick?

We continued onward toward Norwich to see the castle there. Our one castle for the trip! We usually make a rule about keeping castles to a minimum. This comes from Victoria’s dad providing a list of almost exclusively battlefields and castles when asked what he wanted to see in Japan.

Norwich is a beautiful town with a large town centre with tents and old buildings. We walked through Norwich’s “Royal Arcade” and across the street to Norwich Castle. The castle is fairly well preserved and came recommended for its cafe in the bottom level.

What we found inside was actually pretty neat. There is a lot of stone work intact and some of it seems to be missing in other parts. The museum inside explained the many uses of the grounds over time. There was some speculation and more historical accounts as we approach modern times.

It had been converted into a prison at one point and we agreed that we were glad they had kept that area off limits for study. We didn’t need to see an old prison anyway.

Some of the areas were missing displays as they are apparently in the middle of a big renovation. Some school children were making their way through while we went.

I took a lot of texture and archetectual shots while inside to maybe use as reference for modelling later.

The tour group of children were told to check out some intact ancient toilets, so we followed them in after to see what they looked like. Basically just a circular hole on a bench, with a bench across from them for someone else to join you on your royal throne.

The next set of toilets had two circular holes per bench, with two benches on either side of the room, and a sound accompaniment when you approached, sometimes.

Many of the smaller rooms had been covered in graffiti by children when they visited, a history of their own.

We headed for the cafe which had been suggested to us for lunch and they supposedly served Cornish pasties, but did not have them either. Every place we go they are missing the pasties! Victoria says I really should try one. Some day…

We checked out the wildlife and Anglo-Saxon parts of the museum and headed toward our AirBnB in King’s Lynn. Not content to simply drive straight there, we decided a day along the coast would be fine.

So we went north to Cromer, along Westgate Tollbar, then to Hunstanton. We made a stop at the coast to take photos and walk along the beach. It was lovely, and we could see a wind farm off the coast in the distance.

Satisfied with our day, we headed for King’s Lynn and ended up in front of a plaza with restaurants. So we decided that Frankie & Benny’s would be a good place to try. Apparently it’s reviewed as equivalent to the nearby Pizza Hut. Inside it was decked out in 50s/60s decor and played old music. We both had their signature burger and talked a bit. It was a perfectly acceptable burger. I rate it ? / ?

Our AirBnB was in a sleepy part of town in an old converted church. What could be very generously called a parking spot was blocked, so the owners came out, moved their car because they had to leave early, and let us in.

It was a fitful night’s sleep (that’s right, I’m writing this the next morning), but I’m ready to see what the day has for us. Oh… it’s a little rainy. Welcome to the UK.

The road to Colchester – UK Trip Day 7

We hit the road in the middle of London. Our goal: to make it to Colchester from London with our car, our wits, and no damage to either.

We started out just after lunch and instead of doing the sensible thing and getting lunch, we hit the road straight away.

Driving in London is obviously done on the other side of the road from what we’re used to. So that’s a thing. It’s also all listed in miles instead of kilometers. Stops for pedestrians are different. There are some differences in street signage, etc.

All of this might make you wary of driving in London, but as someone who only drives maybe twice a year when I rent a car, I can tell you now it’s no big deal. Sure, you have to reverse a lot of things. Keep left if you’re a slower vehicle (but it’s still to the outer edge of the road rather than the inner edge for faster vehicles, same as North America.)

Traffic tends to actually let you merge, which is nice. In Toronto you have to really want it. Wedging your car in between two others and hoping neither of them want the trouble of a fender bender. In London there’s none of that. First of all the congestion charge seems to keep traffic away except in some circumstances. Secondly, it seems like they’re a bit kinder to everyone on the road.

Once we were out of London, the highways to exit the city were all marked with speed limits and cars seemed to roughly stick to them. Once outside of the greater London area, it seemed to be a free-for all. When getting onto the biggest part of the major highway it said it was a speed variable zone, and I did not see a single other speed posted until I arrived at another town.

I simply did what I always do and followed the flow of traffic. It’s the safest thing to do, and I have yet to find an officer to give me grief over it.

Victoria had a message from her mother about a farm where they had stayed, so we took a little detour to go see that. It was down some single lane roads where you have to pull off to the shoulder, or back up to the next spot where you can if traffic comes the other way. Thankfully this didn’t happen, and we soon found the farm! It was just on the other side of a railway crossing. When trains cross here, it seems like they get their money’s worth for putting the sign down, about 4 trains, maybe more, passed us by before the gates came back up. At this point there was a big line of cars behind us. I pulled off left to let Victoria take some pictures. After that, we hit the highway again.

We drove for quite a few miles and went through many round-abouts. The rules seem simple. There are lights at bigger ones to tell you when to join the circle. The signs tell you which exit is which. If there are no lights, there’s a line where you wait until there’s a gap and then you join the circle, and exit whichever branch you need to.

Closer to Colchester there were tons of roundabots. Every junction was a roundabout. They must be cheaper to construct and maintain than a typical north american overpass highway crossing. Maybe not cheaper than a regular stop light, but apparently this idea is better somehow. I’m not seeing it.

That said, round-abouts are nothing to be afraid of. The one at Trafalgar square was nothing special and the ones on the distant and unknown highways seemed more daunting.

My whole day was spent driving, which is why this log is and probably will be heavily focused on driving, unless we stop for quite a while somewhere. Today it was lightly raining and there was nothing interesting to do that we knew of, except…

We had a message from Victoria’s mother about the house she lived in when she [Victoria] was 4 years old! So we had to make a detour to find out what that looks like now.

The town definitely had a slower pace than London, but still seemed built-up in some ways. We found ourselves down an increasingly narrow and precarious drive until we reached a tiny car park, where I tried to turn around.

A lady who lived there told me how difficult it was going to be to get out of there, and gave us step-by-step guidance in getting out. It was a huge help in getting out of there quickly. I would have figured it out eventually, but she knew the size of the space and exactly how to turn to get a sedan out of there. Apparently she had helped many people out of that same situation.

We told her Victoria had possibly lived in one of the houses on that street and they talked about that for a minute and we said thank-you and left, looking for a car park, which ended up being right at the end of the street. The Butt Road car park. BUTT. ROAD.

We put in 2.45 pounds and were given until 6PM to park, which we knew would be plenty of time to get something to eat. It was now just after 2 and we were getting peckish.

We found a corner store which seemed familliar to Victoria and bought a sandwich combo, just one, to share for the both of us. I’m still not really sure why we went with that when we had only had a bit of oatmeal for breakfast, and nothing for lunch, but here we are.

We then checked Victoria’s messages and her mother had clarified the street where she had lived when Victoria was 4. This was not 100% consistent with what she had said before, but it was more of an omission. We took this new information and headed for the old homestead.

It’s now painted purple and seems to be under a bit of renovation.

The cute little street seemed like a nice place to live with a young kid. We were satisfied with our photos so we headed for the town centre to see what that was like and find a place to eat our sandwich.

Once in the town square, we found many cute little shops, and a larger area with some name brand stores. Here there was also a Crepe stand.

We had our sandwich and decided that was clearly not going to be enough, so what else to do but buy crepes!

They were delicious and probably not the most nutritious choice, but we’re on vacation so we get to indulge, okay!

We took our crepes and walked along the streets and admired the stores when it began to rain. I had a hooded rain jacket from Muji with me, so I flipped up the hood and kept mostly dry until the rain picked up. Then my jeans started to get a little damp, but not much. Victoria only had a hoodie on, but since we had a car, we just returned to the car and were able to be dry again.

This is where the trip gets a little freaky. The roads as we neared our cabin got windier, stranger, and narrower. Each turn seemed to bring a new challenge and the distance to our next stop was actually about as much as the distance between the edge of London and Colchester. Maybe more. We seemed to go on so many winding paths through round-abouts and wavy roads, over a huge bridge, it seemed to never end!

We finally arrived at the cabin, where I sit now, and Victoria decided we had better go out and get dinner. I think she was getting hangry. I was ready to just relax. I had been driving all day in a foreign country, on tiny rain-slick roads, and I just wanted to have whatever we had on hand to eat and rest.

We walked about a mile down the road before we realised there was no sidewalk and the cars were passing awfully quickly. The walking was my idea, but I didn’t fully grok what 1.8 miles on a strange country road with no shoulder looked like.

We would have had to walk basically on the road so we turned back.

Along the way we had found many neat little bits and bobs, and many blackberries which were ripe and ready for the picking. Victoria picked them as we walked along. Some of them were very sweet.

When we finally had walked the mile again back to the car we were ready to go inside and cook soup or something because we still had some from the grocer in London, but I headed for the car. I gave in and drove us back along the road we had used to get to the cabin to Halesworth. We found some public parking and right beside it was a pub called the White Hart with wonderful food.

I had sausage and mashed potatoes and Victoria had fish and chips. Her meal was huge and mine was pretty big, but the right amount it seemed. We had a half pint each of a Southwold cider that was quite sweet and tasty and their stout.

Once we had sat and talked a while and had our dinner, we headed back to the cabin. A shower under the rain shower head was wonderful and we’re now both tapping away our adventures and relaxing. A rest well earned, I think.

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