Sorry to have to start this with a complaint but the one thing I really did not want to happen on this vacation, has happened…again. I am sick. All day yesterday (Saturday) as we transitioned via train and then car (driven by our dear friends Paul and Gail) I felt like I was getting a sore throat. Tried to pretend it was because I was around smokers and all the people on the train who used too much perfume. But by the time I went to bed, I knew…someplace about four or five days ago I had found a way to catch a cold. Woke up in the middle of the night with all the usual symptoms. I guess if there is a bright side to this, it’s that I should be over before we get on the ship a week from Monday. On the bad side…so many things.
As those of you who knew me from before I started posting on this site, on our last big vacation in October, the same DAMN thing happened. I got sick. It was on a cruise ship. And it pretty much messed up our vacation. All the most vivid memories I have of that trip are about being sick. I despise being sick when I am not at home. I feel miserable but I am stuck just living through it without the comfort of my own bed, my own illness rituals and just being able to be miserable. I am sure you know what I mean, don’t you? For instance, when my head gets so stopped up I can’t breath and I am at home, I go in the garage and ride my stationary bike for a while and it breaks things up. Or when I just don’t want to deal with people, I can go hide in my room.
When you get sick on vacation, you still have to do what’s planned and soldier forward. And being sick when you are with friends is even worse since you don’t want to infect them…or Kathleen (it’s probably too late to think about that—DAMN! I sure hope she can miss this one) You just hope it’s a light one and you can get through it but since this is the first time I have been sick since October, I am not sure I will get that lucky. I just wish I knew how to avoid this. I am a religious hand washer, can’t remember the last time I got close to anyone that I could tell was sick (other than my grandkids about three weeks ago) and I do just about anything I can think of to not catch this and now for the second major trip in a row, I am sick. Like I said, DAMN!
OK, complaining over. And please don’t fill the comments with cures, sympathy and/or ways to avoid this in the future. We all know, there is no way to avoid a virus. You get it or you don’t. On to travel.
Besides starting to feel this coming on, yesterday was a pretty great day. We were up early in the morning to catch our train from Waverley Station in Edinburgh down to York in England where we are to spend the next few days with the aforementioned Martini Mate buddies, Paul and Gail. We first met them on a Cruise Critic Roll Call back in June 2013 and we have sailed together three or four times since then. When we did our last Martini Mates reunion cruise to Alaska in 2017, we picked them up at the airport in Vancouver, BC and toured almost a week, first in Vancouver and then at our place in Redmond, before the cruise. We had such a great time and they have been wanting to show us Yorkshire (as they have shown other Mates) so this trip gave us the opportunity to see them and stay in their lovely home where I am writing this now at 5:00 am.
First a couple of notes about our train trip. I was worried about getting our luggage on the train. One of our fellow TAs at our agency that travels even more than we do (hi Marjorie) suggested that I just look for a porter who would help me get them onboard and then give them a nice tip. We checked the day before we were to board the train and were told that “Waverley Station has no porters!” so I would have to struggle with them on my own. Thankfully our train originated at Waverley so I had plenty of time to get all five bags on. We were in first class so this also meant we didn’t have to struggle for seats as they were reserved. Suffice it to say, it all worked out…getting them on the train.
A quick note about First Class on this train (can’t speak for others). It’s almost funny but when we sat down in our FC seats, (which were very comfortable) we found a beautiful menu detailing the breakfast we could order once the train was under way. I wish I had taken a picture of it. It showed our food being prepared and served in a truly first class manner (table cloths, linen napkins, silver service). Now the reality: After we left Waverley, two very nice guys came through with a coffee pot and a cart with tubs of yogurt and ice-cold, cellophane-wrapped danish (worse than what you get on Celebrity) and that was it. Kind of false advertising? Not only that, but we were in the second car of three first-class cars. Our car’s restroom was out of order so we went through to the first car to use theirs. That was fine but then after using the facilities, Kathleen discovered there was no running water in the loo. Which is great after she had completely soaped up her hands to find that there is no way to rinse them off. Kathleen always carries wipes with her so she got to wipe off all that soap—fun (where’s that sarcasm font when I need it). Other than those two things (which were more funny than irritating) the train ride was great…for about half of it. When we first boarded, we pretty much had the entire coach to ourselves with only two or three other people until we got to Newcastle and then it started filling up—first with some really posh folks headed to (we later learned) a big horse race in York and then it became standing-room-only when a huge crowd of footballers got on to head to London for a big match that will happen later today. From that point on it was almost impossible to move around at all. The train staff kept coming on the public address system to apologize for the overcrowding but that didn’t help if you needed to use the facilities or move around at all.
It did help us having the soccer guys onboard because when we went to get off in York, a bunch of them were standing in front of the luggage area where our five bags were. I excused myself and told them we needed to get the bags out (which had others luggage who had boarded after us, on top of our bags) and the guys immediately asked if they could help the old people 😀. I (smartly, if I do say so myself) offered that I would get the really heavy ones as I didn’t want anyone hurting themselves with their weight. Well they took this as a challenge and said, “You just get off mate, Neil and I will get you your bags…” and so they did. Placed nicely on the platform in York. Outstanding!
I hope I didn’t make it sound like the train trip was bad, it was just funny how different the advertised First Class was from the actuality of it. We loved the train. I was totally geeking out about train travel in Europe, which I love. We had free, speedy WiFi and comfortable, reserved seats. It was truly a great trip.
Which brings us to York where Paul and Gail were waiting on the platform to greet us and start our tour of their Yorkshire. They had made an awesome sign Gail was holding up with our names and the details of our upcoming tour and it’s upstairs in the bedroom where Kathleen is sleeping or I would take a pick and toss it in here.
As soon as we had put our luggage in the back of their car, we were off to do a walking tour of York, one of the most medieval of British towns, a true walled city. The photos I will add at the bottom of this post will tell a better story so make sure and check them out and view them as a slide show so you can see my captions. After touring York and having a nice lunch (hard to find a place that sells sandwiches on a Saturday—really) we were back to the car (the walk took a lot out of Kathleen—she was wearing the wrong shoes and it killed her back and hip) we were back to the car and off to Harrogate.
Much of this week we will be playing by ear as we are trying to dodge the weather. Paul and Gail have some great plans—some of which will work better if dry and others not so dependent on weather. After four days of glorious sunshine in Edinburgh our weather luck ran out in Yorkshire when the skies kind of opened up. Since we had seen this coming Paul had headed to Harrogate to take us to a truly British institution, Bettys (no apostrophe—really) Tea Room. Bettys is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year, so I guess they really are an institution. Amongst our Mates they have become almost legendary because you really can’t say you have had the entire Martini Mate experience until Paul and Gail have taken you to Bettys for a Fat Rascal (think really, really good scone…but bigger). Between that and some proper English tea, we were all set except for the obligatory Harrogate picture frame photo. Others who came before us (Mike and Carol) had posed in the same spot, so we we had to do it too.
Then it was off to Knaresborough to see their castle (as Paul said, “Every proper English town has a castle”) and some great views from the castle’s parapets. The pictures do a better job of explaining this. After some time there we stopped by a beautiful old, British hotel where Agatha Christie had disappeared to for a few days in what might have been a mid-life crisis. It was all the scandal at the time. Google it. Really. The hotel was truly lovely even though we couldn’t see some of the historic Agatha stuff because they were having a wedding in the room where we needed to be. (How rude—didn’t they know American’s were coming to see things?) I thought I should just go in and wish the bride and groom a wonderful marriage and take the picture I wanted but I was terribly underdressed so I skipped it (much to Kathleen’s relief).
After that I think our two good friends realized how exhausted their American Mates were so we headed back to their place to get settled in before going out to a late dinner at a wonderful Greek restaurant, not far from their house. Originally Paul was going to grille and Gail had made some great salads so we would eat at their place, but as I said…we go with the weather here and Paul really didn’t want to grille in the rain. So it was out to Greek last night and (weather permitting) a nice grilling tonight after a day of touring…to be determined by…the weather.
PS: One piece of good news health-wise: my knee is doing MUCH better. Hardly any problems with it at all…or the cold has me so worried that I am not noticing it. 😀
Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. —John Ruskin