All the stuff I loved about Ovation

I had something else I was going to do before this post but it can wait since it is me being a “grumpy git” as my Yorkshire friends would say.

So let’s talk what I loved about our Ovation of the Seas cruise to Alaska with our kids and grandkids. So many of you have commented that every thing seems to have been horrible and now where should they take their kids on a cruise if not Royal. Well I am here to say, go ahead and take them on Royal Caribbean, just have lower expectations and a different mindset of what is important.

As a travel professional it is my job to help my clients have the best travel experience possible and my writing about this cruise is part of that. Hopefully those clients and other readers will learn from my mistakes. So here’s the good stuff.

IMG_2009First, Mason’s viewpoint. On the last night of the cruise, at the dinner table in the main dining room (while he was eating escargot for the fourth time) I asked my 8-year old grandson, “What were the five best things on this cruise?” He was really quick to answer me:

  1. The Flowrider (he had only the day before learned to ride it and he was INCREDIBLY proud of that).
  2. The service in the dining room at dinner. (I pressed him on this because it was kind of an interesting thing for an 8-year old to say but he was adamant.) He loved Res and Putu, who took such good care of all of us.
  3. The food in the dining room at dinner. (I was sure he was going to choose the buffet because of all the choices but he said no, he loved the food in the dining room best. Guess it was the escargot, shrimp and steak.)
  4. The bumper cars. (He’s 8—what did you expect?)
  5. Spending a week with Grandpa and Grandma K. (Of course I wish this had been first but it did place ahead of spending the week with his sister, mom and dad so I was happy!)

I love his list. And he really never mentioned (neither did his sister) anything they didn’t like. Now if you ask me what they really liked, it was having the complete and total attention of their Mom, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma K for an entire week—always trying to keep them entertained.

Now here’s my list of the things I LOVED about our Ovation cruise.

  1. Spending the week with my grandkids and their parents. It was a sheer joy to have my two grandkids knock on our door every day before breakfast and say, “room service,” laughing the entire time. Even standing in line for hours with them was great. We had so many interesting conversations. I have never played so much foosball and loved it. Mason and I have a particular bond (I was lucky enough to get to take care of him when he was really little when his Mom was teaching and his Dad had to work) and we have always just been simpatico. He’s my best buddy and I am his. So spending time with him is a joy for me. And Maylee loves me and adores her Grandma K. All the hassles we had on this cruise from start to finish are overshadowed by the incredible time we had with those two and their parents. It was a vacation we will all remember for a very long time._8106881
  2. Our stateroom. In 28 cruises (barring the one time we had a suite) this was the nicest room we have ever been in. It was the best designed, had the most storage, was the most comfortable as far as just being in it. Sure, the shower could have been a little bigger but at least it was an enclosure and didn’t have a shower curtain. And the bed was one of the worst we have ever slept on (but that didn’t detract from the great stateroom design). We should mention there are entire Cruise Critic threads out there about people bringing air mattresses because the beds are so bad.
  3. _8106906The service team in the dining room. Res and Putu were actually better than pretty much any other serving team we have ever had. After having Richard and his team in Blu (on Reflection in Iceland) I didn’t think it could get any better. But I was wrong. And the fact that I was wrong is what makes RCL the right place to take kids. You see even though the management has scheduling conflicts and the kid’s club people were just ho-hum in their interactions with our kids, the real star of the ship for kids are the adults who “get” how to deal with kids. From our room steward Shetty who talked to the kids every time he saw them to the guy running the Flowrider who took time to work with kids on trying new things (he didn’t have to do that) these people got kids. And above all, these two amazing people who served us each night in the dining room charmed our kids. Especially Res who just knew how to deal with kids so well.
  4. The gym. It was spiffy! That’s the best word I can give it. I went every morning for an hour and as usual it was packed on day one and almost empty on day six. But all the equipment is still like new. Best stationary bike I have ridden that I didn’t own. The place was kept VERY clean.
  5. The ship itself. Ovation is new and beautiful. It has been quite a while since we have been on a ship this new. Everything is still clean and sparkly compared to many other, older ships we have sailed on—even though Ovation is almost three years old. She has been well taken care of and if you are considering a cruise on her you will love the ship itself. I especially loved the artwork in all the stairwells. Of course you have to take the stairs to see it all, but the elevators are so slow, you can take your time on the stairs.

That about does it. Not perfection but not horrible either. And I can say this unequivocally—if I had to do it again, and I could avoid a few of the bigger problems (like having a passport—that we just got back from renewal today) I would. Just avoid the buffet, eat in the dining room and take your grandkids.

Nothing always stays the same. You don’t stay happy forever. You don’t stay sad forever. —Cat Zingano

 

Day 7: Victoria, BC–almost home

The last day full day of this cruise we stopped for a full day in Victoria, BC. This stop is facilitated by what I used to call the Jones Act but my friend Bob keeps informing me that  this Act only applies to cargo and that there is a Passenger something-something act that applies to people. Either way, it you haven’t heard of this before, it’s STUPID, ANTIQUATED, OUT OF DATE (can you tell it ticks me off?) law that was created back in the 1800s to protect the U.S. shipping industry. The law says that a foreign-flagged ship can’t sail from one U.S. port to another without first stopping in a foreign country. And since only one cruise ship in the entire world (NCL’s Pride of America that sails the Hawaiian Islands) is registered in the U.S., every other one has to stop in a foreign country (in this case Canada) before they can go back to the U.S. So every single Alaskan cruise out of Seattle must stop in either Victoria or Vancouver. Most stop in Victoria just for the evening. For instance, the day we were there, Celebrity’s Solstice arrived around 5:00 pm and left again around midnight just to satisfy this law.

To prove how really stupid this law is, we sailed from San Diego to Hawaii and back a in 2012 and we had to stop in Ensenada, Mexico for about 15 minutes at 11:45 pm. No one was allowed to get off. We just stopped there to satisfy this crazy law.

So, because Ovation had come to the Alaskan market a year before they were supposed to, my theory is that they could not get a spot in any other Alaskan port (most go to Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan) so they did the two they could get into and then headed for a full day in Victoria. That’s cool. Victoria is a great city and we (Kathleen and I) have been there many times. In fact we went there for our anniversary last August so we really didn’t see a reason to go into town…except my kids and grandkids had never been there so they wanted to go.

So in the morning, we all watched the Masons (M1 and M2) do the Flowrider thing again and then had lunch on board (the buffet was again quiet because so many people were off the ship—but the food was still horrible) and then we took the shuttle bus into town. A quick note about the shuttle bus. On the daily cruise announcement sheet it stated that the shuttle into town (less than 2 miles) was $10 each, either in U.S. funds or Canadian funds. Now that made me laugh because $10 U.S. is $13 Canadian. So the Americans on board were paying a $3 per person premium to ride the Canadian shuttle.

It just so happened that due to our going to Canada as much as we do (when you live this close and your best friends are Canadians, you go a lot) I had about $100 in Canadian money with me. So when we got off (everyone but Kathleen) I paid for the shuttle in Canadian $$$. Then I got a laugh again when the guy taking the money for the shuttle realized I was paying with Canadian funds, thought I was a Canadian. I did nothing to dissuade him because he said, “Oh, Canadian kids are half price,” with a grin. I let him go right on believing we were Canadians and paid half price for the grandkids.

In town we walked around a little, took a horse and carriage ride (35% off due to the exchange rate) and then walked around some more before heading back to the ship for our last dinner on board. It was a nice and easy day. We spent the evening packing our stuff up and putting it out for the attendants to take it off the ship so we could pick it up in the terminal the next morning.

And that’s about it. I have a few more pics to share before I wind this all up tomorrow or Saturday. I don’t have another day to post about but I do want to add some closing comments. You see there are a bunch of people out there who think we had a bad time on this cruise and that nothing was any good. This is just not true and I am so sorry if I have given that impression. The cruise started off really poorly because of problems that RCI and Ovation could have fixed easily but it got better and there were some really standout things I loved about Ovation despite all the problems. So come back next time and find out what they were. I promise, nothing but positives.

 

 

Day 6—At Sea again, headed south

This post will be short and to the point. For some reason I awoke today (August 7, not the day I am writing about August 1) at 12:35 and could not get back to sleep so I am writing this quickly before I fall asleep.

Forgot to mention when I finished last night’s post that last Wednesday, the day of the glacier, July 30 was also my daughter Jenna and her husband Joel’s 14th wedding anniversary. Way back on Christmas when we had surprised the whole family with the cruise, Kathleen had also purchased a special dinner for just the two of them at Jamie’s Italian, one of Ovation’s specialty restaurants. We picked up the kids from their stateroom at 4:45 and they went to the dining room with us. We had an AWESOME time with just kids and Bob, Judy and their family at the next table. Then we took the kids to see the evening show, the comedian/juggler. Even though (thankfully) many of his jokes went over their heads, they loved him and we found him pretty funny as well. He’s a typical cruise ship entertainer and he says so and is proud of it. After the show we took the kids back to our stateroom for a little television before Mom and Dad picked them up. Jenna and Joel loved Jamie’s Italian and we loved having the kids to ourselves.

The next morning was a sea day. The kids slept in and we went to breakfast by ourselves. Joel was coming down with a cold so the morning was pretty quiet. I took the kids up to play another round of foosball and air hockey and do some arcade game. This was the first cruise we have ever taken where we spent more on air hockey and arcade games that on adult beverages for us. That’s a huge first.

We did lunch at Fish and Ships, Ovations fish and chips restaurant where they have a grand total of seven items on the menu. Three (fish and chips, chicken strips and chips and a fish sandwich and chips) are free and three (halibut and chips, popcorn shrimp and chips and lobster and chips) are available for an added cost. The seventh item on the list was a deep-fried candy bar for dessert. We stuck to the free stuff which was good and of course the kids had to try a deep-fried candy bar which only costs $1.

The afternoon was spent watching M1 and M2 surf on the Flowrider. (Explanation here: M1 is Mason, Bob’s grandson. He is 13 and we have known him since he was three. When our grandson was born eight years ago, he became M1 because our grandson is Mason as well, thus he is M2. And the Flowrider is RCI’s surfing simulator at the back of the ship.) M1 had been using it all week. He had started with the boogie board on his knees and by the end of the week he was doing stand-up surfing. We had gone to watch M1 surf a couple of days before as something to do with the kids one afternoon and M2 became convinced he wanted to surf too, if only on the boogie board. I will be totally honest here, I was not sure if he was going to be able to do it. He’s not the athlete M1 is but he blew me away when he just jumped in and kicked butt. By the end of the cruise he had gotten to where he could get up on his knees and surf with his hands up off the board. What an awesome kid. I am sure that Maylee would have been right there with them if she had been four inches taller and a year older.

After surfing, we headed off to formal night (not that formal) but the kids dressed up in what they had worn to one of their Dad’s work banquets and looked great. Mason and I split some escargot and Maylee spent dinner poking Grandma K and talking her ear off. All-in-all, it was one of my favorite days on board.

Here’s some pics with captions that are mostly Mason.

My grandkids are AMAZING! —Me

Day 2: Not a lot of improvement

The first part of this was written on the afternoon of our second day on Ovation of the Seas. As you can see, things did not improve on day 2.

Breakfast and lunch this morning were in the buffet and the place is a freaking zoo. Seriously. We actually heard three announcements asking people to eat quickly and leave so others could sit down. (I HAVE NEVER HEARD THAT BEFORE IN 28 CRUISES) The food is some of the worst buffet food I have seen. Really bad. Even the lemonade is beyond watery. It’s yellow colored water. So sad. The burgers were cold, the pizza lukewarm, the salads mediocre to say the least.

It’s not just the food. It’s the crowds. They are oppressive. And because of the poor systems for handling them on the ship, it makes it worse. We later learned that there were at least 1,000 children under age 12 on this cruise. That means that the ship was almost at full capacity. You could really tell on sea days and when you tried to get an elevator or in the buffet. And their systems and scheduling were ludicrous.

_8104992
A pretty awesome area for kids that was almost IMPOSSIBLE to get into. It took our grandkids six days to find the area on the left open and available. RIDICULOUS!

What I mean by that is that everything is controlled and scheduled in a really poor way. Let me give you an example. After lunch on our first day on board we took the kids to the outdoor pool. It was a beautiful day and the pool wasn’t as crowded as we thought it would be. There are three parts to the outdoor pool area. There is a large pool that is about 5 feet deep, a small round pool for younger kids. They can get in it and go around and around. And there is a bunch of water slides and sprinklers for kids as well. When we first went out and went to the pool, it was about 1:00 pm. The two parts for little kids were closed. When I asked a lifeguard when it was open and he said 2:00 pm. Great, we nursed the kids through an hour of swimming and ice cream cones and then went to see them open the kids area. Guess what, they only opened the little round pool that would hold only about 20 kids so a line quickly formed. We never did see the water slide area open—The one thing the kids really wanted to do. RCL—open your damn facilities. We found this to be true so often. For instance, the bumper cars which you have to strand in line for, are only open between 4:30 and 6:30 pm. And if you have early seating as we did, that’s when you need to get ready for dinner and eat it. Get it together people! We can’t count the number of times we have seen people wandering around empty venues with no one to open them. The activity staff on this ship must either have very few people or they get a lot of time off. Or it is POORLY SCHEDULED which I believe to be the case.

We have had a really hard time finding things for the kids to do these first two days. We took them to the “Ocean Adventures” Royal’s highly regarded children’s program and my daughter and son-in-law were met by some of the most bored and uninterested-in-children people on the ship. Their answer to what the kids would be doing, is a gesture and them saying, “playing in here.” Nothing was going on except some unruly kids running around while others were trying to play. No real supervision at that point. Add to that, that our granddaughter who will turn 6 next month was put in the 3-5 year old group while our grandson is in the 6-8 year old group. Our granddaughter is quite mature for her age, so she did NOT want be left in a room full of three years olds while her brother had a good time with kids more her maturity level. So that program was out the window for us. 

Then we have a daily schedule for a ship where almost a quarter of the people onboard are under the age of 12 and practically nothing for them to do. I am going to put a copy of today’s schedule online when I get home and point out all the things that are available for kids (next to nothing). We ended up spending the entire morning in the arcade, spending grandpa’s money playing skeeball and air hockey and some free foosball. Even if the Kid’s Club had been viable for our kids, they have a limit of how many kids can participate at one time and they exceeded that regularly as many parents just want to dump their kids for as much time as possible. 

Then this afternoon at lunch, the cherry on the top of all this. I asked Joel (my awesome son-in-law) to make sure it showed on his daily schedule that they had reservations for the evening show that night—Pixels. It was the only thing I had been able to reserve before the cruise. Nothing else had been available for reservation (even thought now that we are onboard we keep hearing crew ask us if we made reservations) other than shore excursions. I tried on a regular basis for at least 12 weeks prior to the cruise to reserve things like the iFly, the Northstar and other attractions and not been able to do so. The only thing I could reserve were things that cost money. If they couldn’t charge you for it, it wasn’t available to reserve online. I even went so far as to call Royal’s travel agent line and discuss with them why we weren’t able to make reservations. We were told not to worry, that we would be able to make reservations once on board. Excuse my language but that was BULLSHIT! At no time could we make a reservation for any of those activities but the only thing we could make reservations for was this show, Pixels. So I did. I made the reservations for us, my kids and my grandkids. And they showed up on our reservation cruise planner right up until we came aboard. Then all of a sudden when I checked at lunch time today, my kids and grandkids no longer had reservations. I went to Customer Relations and they couldn’t figure it out and all they could do for us was offer us the show tomorrow night, immediately after we get back from a day-long excursion. The show starts at 7:00 and we don’t get back in time to eat dinner before the show. The woman who arranged it for me suggested we drop by the buffet for dinner after the show. She obviously has never had hungry 5 and 8 year olds traveling with her. Just another screw up. It’s funny how the only things they have not screwed up is things we pay money for. All the shore excursions I paid money for are there just fine but the “complimentary” reservations I made at exactly the same time, disappear. 

I now need say that when I went back to our stateroom later that afternoon, just before dinner, there was a phone message from the woman in Guest Services telling us that she had found four cancellations and that we now had our reservations back. While I appreciated her help, this never should have happened in the first place. The show, by the way, was excellent. The kids loved it. A really great multi-media show. And a great way to finish our second day which was a mild improvement over the first one.

There’s always room for improvement no matter what. —Ali Krieger

 

A different kind of cruise

Tomorrow we embark on a different kind of cruise for us. After 26 cruises, we are going to take one that is less about us than it is about family. On Friday of this week we are taking my daughter, her husband (who we love very much) but most importantly we are taking our grandson and granddaughter on their very first cruise. We are boarding Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas for a seven-night cruise to Alaska and we can’t wait!

Neither Kathleen nor I cruised until we were almost 50 so the very idea of starting our grandkid’s cruising life at five and eight years old is way cool! I am posting this news because I want you to know that I will be doing a complete set of posts on our cruise but I am not sure when I will be able to upload it. We won’t have (because that isn’t a perk that Royal gives its repeat cruisers…what exactly does Royal give its repeat cruisers that is worth a damn?) internet on board. We will have T-Mobile when we are ports so I should be able to post on those days. We are in Juneau on Sunday so hopefully I will get online there.

On the other hand, we may be having so much fun, you just might have to wait until we get back for a full report. Either way, more content is coming—hope you are ready. By the way, we are also going with two of our best friends, their kids and their grandkids as well so it is bound to be amazing.

AWESOME! I went looking for a closing quote about grandkids and found one by one of my personal heroes, Rita Moreno!

My grandkids are everything to me. For me, family is all! —Rita Moreno

Incredible Iceland— Akureyri-Day 2

I was glad we had come back a little early from our first day tour so I could be up at what would be dawn at home (5:30 am) to see old town Akureyri and I got lucky and had a great walk. I didn’t get rained on but the by the time I got back it had really started coming down. I will leave it at that and you can see what I saw in my photos. Later on, some of the group went into town but Kathleen was wiped out so we stayed on board and the whole gang was back for a late lunch at The Porch (a Reflection alternative seafood restaurant) and it was wonderful. A great lunch. Some super fresh seafood and some of the best sangria I have ever had. Drank way too much of it. We sailed out late in the day and it was a beautiful sail out up the fjord. This was followed by two sea days before we would dock in Cobh, Ireland. More about that coming on Sunday.

When I prepare, I am not messing around. I find the right places, the right people, and the right environment. Iceland is one of those places. —Conor McGregor

 

On to Dublin

After six days in Yorkshire we bid a fond farewell to Paul and Gail. Paul drove us to the airport at 6:00 am (thank you again Paul) and Gail got up to tell us goodbye (thank you again Gail). We caught our 8:22 Aer Lingus puddle jumper flight from Leeds-Bradford airport to Dublin. Arrived 10 minutes early, but unfortunately, our ride to the hotel arrived an hour late. After that snafu, we got a great driver who took us in to the city to our luggage drop where we…dropped our luggage. Then we walked a few blocks to meet our buddies Bob and Holly for lunch at a great little place called O’Neals. A real Irish pub. It was great seeing them again. Bob and Holly, not O’Neals.

After that it was back to pick up our luggage and head to our AirBnB where we got settled, welcomed my brother and his family around 4:30 (they were wiped out after flying non-stop from LA) and went out to dinner to Brookwood, an outstanding restaurant that turned out to be right across the street, we watched a little more of Britain’s Got Talent and it was off to bed.

A couple of quick thoughts about Dublin and our AirBnB. Dublin seems more crowded and crazy than Edinburgh and definitely more than wonderfully sedate Leeds and Yorkshire (where of course we were staying in a neighborhood and not right down town as we are here). For instance, we have a very famous pub (Toners) and a couple of bars across the street from us. Normally when I get up to walk in the morning (like today when I am up at 4:30), it’s quiet in the neighborhoods. Not here. There is still a loud crowd out in front of a bar down the street (I can see the bar from our front window). At 4:22 am??!! Do these people ever sleep? Our AirBnB is pretty cool. The host, whose name is Phil, met us and has really taken great care of us. A super guy. We have a big living room, a gourmet kitchen (not that we will cook) and a four bedrooms. Check out the listing at the link above. Another win for us picking great AirBnBs. It even has a bakery downstairs and we will see how great they are later today.

As I was finishing this up at 4:30 am I realized that for the first day in 10 days, I hadn’t taken any photos. Well, I took two. Both out the window from the living room. One of the world famous Toner’s Pub and the other of Brookwood, the restaurant where we had dinner (they make a wonderful lamb) so sorry, that’s all you get today. But as I am going out in about 10 minutes for an early morning walk, you should have much more tomorrow or tonight.

Fabulous place, Dublin is. The trouble is, you work hard and in Dublin you play hard as well. —Bonnie Tyler

Wensleydale, Ilkley and back to Leeds to meet a special lady

Our last full day in Leeds was all about getting home and getting ready to head to Dublin tomorrow. When I posted last night we were on our way out to dinner at the Wensleydale Heifer. Their food is the main draw to the inn. It makes it a destination and the reputation for food is well deserved. I wish I had taken more photos but you will have to settle for dessert photos.

After a very filling dinner it was off to bed, a good night’s sleep and then I had my encounter with the Wensleydale Heifer shower. Our room came with a spa jacuzzi tub (that if you tried to fill it with hot water, would have taken more than an hour—worst water pressure ever) and a shower in that tub. No matter how I tried, I could not get that shower to turn on. Tried for more than an hour. Of course I did try to call the front desk to ask them what the trick was but that’s when I found out that no one is at the front desk until 8:00 am. Seriously, no night manager.

Finally at 7:30 I went down and found a very nice lady who was cleaning the lobby and she told me to look for a black cord on the opposite side of the bathroom and to pull it. If I did that the shower would come on. Seriously? How were we supposed to know that. At first I thought it was a British thing but Paul and Gail said they had never heard of it. Just crazy. Thankfully we did finally get showers (still worst water pressure ever!) Other than this one thing, the hotel and especially the restaurant were outstanding.

After a large and really great breakfast we were headed off to Leeds by way of some of the narrowest roads we have ever driven on. It was crazy. Paul did an amazing job of getting us back. We had considered a stop in Grassington but when we got there it was POURING rain and we decided to forego a stop.

It was on to Ilkley where we stopped for our last proper Yorkshire tea at the Ilkley Bettys (remember, no apostrophe) and one last Fat Rascal. After that (since the sun had finally started coming out and the rain had stopped) we decided to walk around Ilkley before heading back to Paul and Gail’s.

When we arrived back at their place we got to meet the best (and definitely the cutest) person we met on this trip, their adorable granddaughter, Jemima. We have never met such a smart and creative six year old (in case Maylee reads this, remember you are only five) and she was a true charmer. And Paul and Gail are obviously very proud and loving grandparents (another thing we have in common).

I am finishing up early tonight because we are going to dinner in a few minutes and then we will come back, watch a little more Britain’s Got Talent and then off to bed as we have to leave for the airport at 6:00 am to fly from Leeds to Dublin. See you there.

You have to accept the storms and the rainy days and the things in life that you sometimes don’t want to face. — Bai Ling

Off to the Lakes and cheese!

Woke up today to get out of the house for a day long road trip to the Lakes District,  winding up in Hawes, home of the Wensleydale Creamery (we bet you Wallace and Gromit fans know what we are talking about). We are spending the night at the Wensleydale Heifer, a truly British country inn that has been serving guests since the 1700s.

Our day started out with me feeling much better! I think my cold has turned the corner. That said, we were out of Castle Howard by Paul’s set time of 8:30 and headed to Windermere in the Lakes District. The drive out was beautiful. Not sunny but not raining either. Truly a typical northern England day (or so we have been told). We got to Windermere around 11:00 am and set off looking for a…what else…tea. We have really grown to love our tea stops and proper English tea is really good. It has helped me get over this cold. And this time we had it with scones. Yummy!

After our tea and conversation (we always have the best conversations over tea) we walked back through Windermere to the lake side where we decided to jump on a tour boat for a 45-minute run up and down the lake. It was pretty cool in more than one way. The tour was cool but the weather was COLD! We tried sitting on the open deck and Kathleen and Gail gave up and went in the cabin in about 15 minutes. Paul and I gave up at the 35 minute mark. One thing of interest that kept happening while we were in Windermere was that military jets and vintage WWII aircraft kept flying overhead at a VERY low altitude. I am pretty sure the first two planes were WWII RAF Spitfires. After that it was just jets. Nasty looking Blue Angel-type warplanes. They would buzz the lake at about 1000 feet or lower. Got a couple of good pics.

Back on the road after our boat ride, heading here to the Heifer we had the one real scare of the trip. As we came off motorway in Nateby all of sudden Paul’s Audi started making a horrible noise. We were able to get into a neighborhood where we could look at the car and some kind of cover that is supposed to protect the undercarriage of the car had somehow come loose and was scraping as we drove, making a horrible noise. Paul tried knocking it back into place but no luck, so we started driving again. It didn’t scrape unless the wind blew it down so there was no noise unless the car went over about 15mph. Of course at that rate we would reach Wensleydale around midnight. So as we were trying to figure out what to do, Paul drove (slowly) around a corner and lo and behold, an independent auto repair shop. In the middle of absolute nowhere. Seriously. It was a gift from God.

We pulled in and Paul asked the mechanic working on a car out in front if he could take a look at it. He put the car up on a jack, slid underneath, tightened three screws and we were on our way. He even refused to take any money. He told us there was a charity box on the desk in his office and we could put something in there. They got a bill out of Paul’s wallet and all my coins. What a champ he was!

Then it was on to the aforementioned Wensleydale Creamery where you can sample about 30 kinds of cheese—which we did. After that (and buying a couple of trinkets) it was back in the car and on to the village of Hawes where we walked the small downtown and stopped for…no, not tea this time…a proper half pint (Paul had to drive still and we didn’t want to make him feel bad so we got a half pint too) of beer. Delicious.

After our quick stop, back in the car for a half hour drive to the Heifer. If you look at the website (linked above) make sure and check out our room, the Heifer suite. Paul and Gail are in the Herriot suite. The rest of the rooms are totally themed and a hoot to look at. Check out the James Bond cow in the movie room.

We are here and in for the evening and in about so minutes will meet Paul and Gail in the hotel’s bar for a pre-dinner drink and then we have 7:30 reservations in their dining room (which is world famous…according to their website). I will let you know after dinner.

Sadly, I even though I can post this today, I don’t have any photos to add because even through I brought my Mac, I forgot the card reader so I can’t get the photos off my camera’s card until we are back at Paul & Gail’s in Leeds tomorrow. I promise there are some good ones.

Well, time for dinner. More tomorrow. PS: Not the greatest quote below but how often do you get to quote Amanda Peet, who I have always thought was awesome.

If I had to give up cheese or chocolate, I’d give up chocolate in a heartbeat. —Amanda Peet

Late to Leeds but we saw it all

Last night (Monday) my cold was at it’s worst so I popped two NyQuil tablets and that was a big mistake when it came to today. It knocked me out and that meant we didn’t get out the door this morning (Tuesday) until well past 10:00. But that was OK because Paul and Gail had planned today as a local day where we could see the local sites and architecture of Leeds which is amazing. I am going to let the photos speak for themselves. They don’t even really need captions. We had a nice lunch in a kind of a food court (where Gail recommended an outstanding Vietnamese salad) and headed home so that I could take a nap and try and kill this stupid cold.

After a little rest we set out tonight to go back to Harrogate for a lovely Italian dinner and then we stopped at the Bingley Arms, Great Britain’s oldest inn. Now I have to say that this is a pretty broad claim to fame but they have historical proof that this inn was founded in that same building in the year 970. That means this inn dates back more than 1000 years. Amazing. Think about what Washington State (or any other state) was like 970. A few native tribes and that was it (probably a lot better off than it is now). We were very lucky to come in on a Tuesday night when there was a very light crowd of regulars who were happy to tell us all about the Bingley and her history. The manager of the inn even took a few minutes to give us a quick tour and show us things like the “Priest Holes” which were holes carved into the inside of the fireplace in the main inn where Catholic priests could hide to evade capture and execution after Henry the Eighth founded the Anglican Church and ordered all priests to leave England or die. I even got to go in the basement to see the start of the tunnel that leads under the road outside to the church across the highway.

Stay tuned tomorrow. Not sure if I will be able to post on Wednesday as we are headed to Wensleydale and the Lakes district and will be overnighting at the Wensleydale Heifer. Not sure if I will be able to post. May have to wait until Thursday.

That was about it for yesterday. As I said, a very easy day.

What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past. —Victor Hugo