Strolling Around Knaresborough

This past weekend, we experienced a bit of an Indian summer, so Richard and I wanted to make the most of the good weather and road tripped to Knaresborough in North Yorkshire for the afternoon. I had never been before and it had been years since Richard last visited the town, and since it is only about an hour drive from our house, we thought we’d head that way.

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What remains of Knaresborough Castle

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Knaresborough Castle from below

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The Viaduct (photo from my Instagram)

When we arrived we were both hungry and thirsty, so we zoomed around the grounds where the ruins of Knaresborough Castle are located and headed down the steep steps to the River Nidd. We came upon a few tea rooms and cafes along the way until we finally saw The World’s End pub and decided it was the perfect place for us that afternoon. I’m not sure if we were just really hungry or what, but we both really enjoyed our sandwiches and the side of chunky chips that we shared. Bellies full, we set off to explore the town a bit more.

Richard had told me about Mother Shipton’s Cave a few months ago (I have an odd fascination with caves, although this cave isn’t one that you really explore), so when we realized it was a walk across the bridge away, we decided to check it out. We paid our £6 per person (The estate is privately owned, so the admission helps with the maintenance of the park.) and set off on the walk along the River Nidd toward the Petrifying Well and the cave. We paid an extra quid for the guide to the area, so I read that aloud as we went along and we both learned some interesting facts about this supposedly magical place.

Mother Shipton’s Estate is actually the oldest tourist attraction in England and is part of both the Ancient Forest of Knaresborough as well as the Royal Forest. There are two things in particular though that have drawn visitors to the area since the 16th and 17th Centuries. The first being the Petrifying Well, also called the Dripping Well, known for its healing waters and the fact that it ‘petrifies’ items left in its stream of water for 3 months or more. The second being the cave that is the supposed birthplace of Mother Shipton, who was said to have been able to tell the future and apparently prophesied many events in British history. Along the path to the well and cave, there are some great views of the river and the sites along it.

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Weeping Willow along the Nidd

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Up close and personal with the Viaduct

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When we came upon the well, I was expecting it to be small and a slow trickle of water. However, it is rather large with the stream originating from an underground lake that keeps the water flowing over the mineralized wall at a steady rate. (The recording at the site did say the exact amount of water that flows over it per hour, but I cannot remember it. I blame baby brain.) People have been visiting the well since 1538 for it was said to have magical healing powers. No longer can you bathe and drink the waters in the well, but rather you will see items (somewhat eerily) hung in the well’s stream of water for petrification. In the tiny museum/gift shop, you can purchase one of their well known petrified teddy bears for around £35. Also, in the museum, you will find a number of items that celebrities have left to be petrified, including John Wayne’s personal hat that he gave to the family when he visited years back. Richard and I were quite mesmerized by the Petrifying Well and stood and stared at it for quite some time whilst listening to the audio recording about its history.

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The top of the well

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The items being petrified (Isn’t that doll slightly creepy?!)

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Looking at the Petrifying Well from the cave entrance (The Wishing Well is up the stairs to the right in the photo.)

Just a short walk from the well, you will find Mother Shipton’s Cave where she was said to have been born in 1488 and spent most of her life keeping to herself. As I mentioned above, it is a very small cave, almost like a den which would have provided shelter to her and her mother during their time living there. We sort of walked in and walked out as there isn’t much to see. Right across the way, you will find a Wishing Well, so I dug two 20p coins out of my purse and we followed the instructions on the sign for making a wish properly (keep your right hand in the water while making the wish, do not tell anyone what you wish for, and allow the water on your hand to dry naturally) before having a go.

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Excuse the red eye. I am still trying to master red eye reduction on iPhoto.

Wishes made and feeling like kids, we continued on the path to the museum and were impressed by the trees – some of which were originally planted in 1739 – towering above us along Beech Avenue. It is described as ‘the largest collection of oldest and tallest Beeches in the country.’ Not only are they old and tall, but they are extremely straight because their location in the gorge keeps them protected from damaging weather.

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I did mention the museum/gift shop is very tiny, but it is worth a nosey just to see some of the items that have been petrified in the well. It shares more about the legend of Mother Shipton and some information about Sir Edward Slingsby, the man who purchased the land. They also have a cross-section of one of the fallen beech trees from Beech Avenue marked with dates and what happened during those years to show how old the tree actually was, so it was neat to see what the tree had lived through.

After the museum stop, we headed back to the entrance and decided to call it a day. If you find yourself in the area, I do recommend a visit to Knareborough and even to Mother Shipton’s Cave. We both really enjoyed our day out in North Yorkshire (and an added bonus is that parking is cheap in the town car parks)! I definitely could see us going back on a slightly warmer day and having a go in the row boats you can rent to paddle up and down the river.

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I couldn’t resist snapping this photo as we passed a church walking back to the car. I just loved that the door was half open giving you a tiny glimpse into the dark corridor.

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{Road Trip} A Random Day in Edinburgh

Two Friday afternoons ago, a text came through from the Brit asking if I fancied a drive to Scotland on that Sunday. I’m always grateful for any time we can spend together, so of course I was up for it. He had to make the trip to Edinburgh for a project that was set for completion in a few days and I was happy for a change of scenery.

When we arrived in Edinburgh, he went off to the job site and sort of pointed me in the direction of the city centre. I’ve been to Edinburgh before, but did not recognize this area at all nor could I catch a glimpse of any of the landmarks I’m used to seeing tower over the city, such as the castle. So, I wandered aimlessly as I was in no rush to get anywhere.

One thing I try to do in a new city, especially when I’m on my own, is to attempt to appear like I know exactly what I am doing and where I am going, even if I have no idea. It’s easy really. You just keep your head up and shoulders back, you hope it’s sunny because your sunglasses can hide the fact that your eyes are darting around to find a familiar landmark or a street sign to clue you in to where you might actually be, and you walk with every ounce of self-assurance that you have. I practiced this on Sunday, and thankfully, it was sunny so the sunglasses could be put to good use. It was a beautiful day and very clear, which was a welcome break from the wintry mix we’ve been experiencing. (Yes, I love the snow, but I also love the sun.)

I finally stumbled upon Rose Street and followed that the entire way up until I realized I was near the Princes Street Gardens and the National Galleries of Scotland. Once there, I continued my wanderings until settling onto a park bench in the gardens to soak up the sun and enjoy the tranquility of the day.

Although we weren’t there very long, it was a nice afternoon out of the house and a fun reminder of how amazing it is that a random day in Scotland is never that far away.

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I’d love if you followed me on Instagram at yankinyorkshire.

{Road Trip} Nottinghamshire: Sherwood Forest CenterParcs

The two of us had been wanting to get away for awhile, but it’s just been a little hectic this summer. Plus, the Brit has to save up his holiday time not only for our wedding, but for my cousin’s wedding and for his stag do in November. So yea, it just wasn’t happening until he surprised me with a quick weekend away to CenterParcs!

I’d heard about CenterParcs from a few people, so had been wanting to check it out. I think the most unique aspect of CenterParcs is that you are not permitted to drive within the resort outside of check-in and check-out times on Mondays and Fridays. This was especially appealing to us because the Brit drives crazy distances and hours for work, so to park the car up and walk everywhere sounded fab.

Then, the Brit informed me that we would be renting bicycles as well. I truthfully cannot remember the last time I rode a bike, so I was nervous. I was glad there would be no cars around to crash into me, but I was a little unsure about how I would do. (Yes, I realize this sounds lame.)

I could not believe how many bikes they had for rent. This photo only shows half of them. I asked the guy who helped us if they ever rent them all out and he said during summer and school holidays they do rent the majority of them!

Anyway, we got to CenterParcs around 4:30 on Friday afternoon and immediately unloaded our stuff into our villa, so we could park the car and pick up our bikes. The villa we stayed in was Birch 463, which is a shared building with villas 464 and 465. Our villa was either recently built or recently renovated because Birch 463 is very modern and contemporary inside with a separate kitchen/living space, bedroom, and bathroom. (If you’d like to see what it looked like, then you can click here.) I think the other two villas were for 4 people while ours was for 2 and just the perfect size. Each has their own kitchen which is a nice perk if you are coming in larger groups and don’t want to eat at one of the restaurants every night.

Our section of the villa is the front part with the bikes in front of it. I realize it looks like there are no windows in our villa, but the whole back is floor-to-ceiling windows, so we had lots of natural light.

I have to show this picture I took of one of the treehouses, which appear to be absolutely incredible! They have 4 bedrooms with a separate games room, an outdoor hot tub, and a sauna. Anyone want to rent one of these with us for a weekend sometime – we could take turns cooking evening meals?! And, it just seems like such a fun thing to do with a group of friends!  

CenterParcs has a number of restaurants and places to grab a snack or even takeaway (Chinese, Indian, and pizza). They even have a market where you can pick up pretty much anything you might need to make a meal. On the first night, we walked into Strada, which is an Italian restaurant, without a reservation and were seated right away. I imagine if you visit during peak times, especially school holidays, that this wouldn’t happen because the restaurant was still packed during this low time.

There also are a lot of activities available to participate in and for all age ranges because CenterParcs does really cater to families. There is even a spa, which we didn’t use but I would definitely check out if we ever return. A few weeks prior to our arrival, we each picked an activity and signed up for those. I wanted to do stand-up paddleboarding, but wasn’t too keen on being colder than I normally am or to do this in the rain. Instead, I chose hydrospinning. Yes, spinning in the pool! I take a spin class here, so I thought this could be good fun. We both ended up loving it and got a killer workout. If you have an opportunity to try this, I would highly recommend it! The Brit chose badminton. So, on Sunday morning, he crushed me in game after game of badminton for nearly an hour. This proved to be another amazing workout for us and we had so much fun laughing at ourselves!

Other highlights for me include the water slides in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise (felt like a kid again!), our meal on Saturday night at Forester’s Inn which included a delicious lamb shank on mashed potatoes and a slice of apple pie for dessert, a Sunday mid-afternoon snack of a waffle with berries and ice cream at the The Pancake House on the lake, and not crashing my bike (seriously!). We took some long walks, watched the Ryder Cup in the pub in the Jardin des Sports, and slept. It was a relaxing weekend and I don’t think either of us were ready for it to end!

{Road Trip} The Sunny, but Chilly Welsh Coast

This past weekend, the Brit and I decided we needed a little break from home and just some down time for life, so we escaped to Abersoch for an overnight stay. As you all know, it has been terribly dreary here this summer, so we had our fingers crossed for sunny days. Luckily, we got just that!

We arrived early on Saturday morning and settled in then decided to stroll into the village via the beach. This was a recurring theme throughout our 36 hours in Abersoch, as we managed to cover 10 miles walking on Saturday and 5 miles running and 3 miles walking on Sunday. It was so nice to stretch our legs and to not have to drive anywhere. There are some absolutely beautiful views in Abersoch. This visit, I mainly took photos of the coast in all its glory.

The other theme that ran through this trip was good food. So, I’d like to share with you what we enjoyed and where it was from should you ever find yourself in lovely little Abersoch. First, try the baguettes at Abersoch Deli. They are the perfect lunch and we made sure we had them both days. I really enjoyed the turkey cranberry and the Brit enjoyed the coronation chicken, and, yes, we both ordered the same thing both days – they were that good! The baguettes are perfectly baked and the toppings are added in just the right amount. As the Brit said, “I don’t think most people realize how important the bread is to the sandwich.” So, so true. On Saturday, we were lucky enough to grab a table outside, but as there are only 3 tables, we didn’t have the same luck on Sunday which was not a big deal to us at all.

After you finish your lunch, take a quick stroll across the street to the ice cream shack at The Vaynol for some Cadwalader’s ice cream. Yes, this was enjoyed both days as well! I highly recommend the vanilla with sprinkles (hundreds and thousands in the UK, but it was actually listed as ‘sprinkles’ on the menu here!) in a cone (or a wafer in the UK). This ice cream took me back to my childhood as it is a favorite combination of mine, that I obviously still enjoy as I approach 30. (No shame here, folks!) You won’t regret having this ice cream after lunch!

For dinner, we weren’t sure if we wanted a takeaway or to sit in at a restaurant. We wanted to try Zinc, but we didn’t act quickly enough and they were already booked up. (This is a good time to mention that Abersoch is very small, so if you want to eat out, it would be a wise idea to book in well in advance.) While we decided on our plan of action for dinner, we sat on the covered terrace at St Tudwals and enjoyed a couple of drinks…me on the Strongbow and the Brit on the lager shandy.

We settled on Thai takeaway from The Coconut Kitchen. (Because it is also a sit down restaurants, they get very busy and will stop taking takeaway orders if they are swamped, so plan ahead for this as well.) We ordered two curries – green chicken curry and red king prawn curry – and shared. Both of these were delicious! I can honestly say it was the best Thai food I have ever had. So, check out The Coconut Kitchen.

We ended our night with another walk back into the village for drinks. (I obviously wasn’t thinking as I wore wedges and nearly twisted my ankle jumping over puddles on the way…nice one.) We first went back to St Tudwals for one drink before heading to Zinc to split a bottle of wine. If you are looking for somewhere a little more upscale than a pub, then I recommend checking out Zinc. They have a great back deck which was full of people even though it had come fairly cool outside. We nabbed two bar stools along the railing and talked the night away over some Sauvignon Blanc. It was just a perfect weekend for us to relax with some sun and good food and drink mixed in!

Jubilee Weekend in Wales

I’m very behind on my posting and am slowly catching up. Hopefully, my next post will actually be about how we traveled to London for the Diamond Jubilee Flotilla on June 3rd — because we really did go!

After taking the train back up north from London, we hopped in the car and headed to Abersoch, Wales in hopes of finding some sun. (This seems to be the theme of the blog lately — where is the sun?) We arrived late to Abersoch where the Brit’s parents were waiting up for us and then we promptly crashed into bed. Monday morning revealed that it would be another cloudy day, but we were lucky in that we had some really beautiful patches of sun throughout the day. We enjoyed walking along the sea and lunch in a cafe.

Later in the afternoon, I joined the Brit and his dad in a rousing game of boules on the beach. Maybe there is a similar game in the US, but I have never played it if there is. There is a small ball that is thrown first and each round is focused around getting your two larger (and heavier) balls as close as possible to the smaller one. The person with the closest ball gets 1 point, and if you are lucky enough for both of your balls to be the closest, then you receive 2 points. The winner of each round then throws the small ball and it starts again. We played to 11 points, but apparently you can use any number as the winning number. I definitely need to practice this for our future trips to Abersoch as the guys crushed me. I had a few lucky plays, but overall I was in last place (of three, remember!) for the duration of the game.

That evening, we had a barbecue, toasted with champagne, and enjoyed wine/Pimm’s/beer while watching the Diamond Jubilee Concert on telly. Although the weather wasn’t fab, we were happy to have a day of relaxation in Wales before returning to West Yorkshire early on Tuesday morning. I’m really looking forward to a few more weekends in Abersoch this summer…and to some redemption in boules!

{Road Trip} North Berwick, Scotland

When it came time to book a hotel for Edinburgh Marathon weekend, we checked out hotels in the Edinburgh city centre and they are all nice, but the ones we were most interested in were completely booked. (We have previously stayed at the Apex in the Grassmarket, which I would recommend for a clean, well located, and reasonably-priced option.) Ultimately though, we decided to stay outside of Edinburgh and we were both really happy with that decision this past weekend.

We had to go into Edinburgh when we arrived on Saturday afternoon to pick up the Brit’s running vest (he ran for MacMillan and has raised over £1000!). Our original plans included spending some time walking around the city we love so much (we really do!), but after 4 hours in the car, we were ready to be at the hotel and for some relaxation.

So, we headed out to North Berwick, which is about 30 miles to the east of Edinburgh and is located right on the sea. We chose to take the coastal trail drive out to North Berwick and it was absolutely beautiful with the sun shining the entire way. We were booked in at the MacDonald Marine Hotel. And, when we arrived, we got to chatting with the front desk attendant who was running the half marathon on Sunday. He had run the full marathon before, so he gave us some pointers about the course. I’m quite sure he really enjoyed speaking with us because when we got to our room we had definitely been upgraded. I know for certain that I booked us into a standard double room (and the price we paid reflected that booking), but we walked into a suite that was larger than the downstairs of our house — king size bed in a bedroom with double doors, a full sitting and living room, and a massive bathroom! Regardless, we enjoyed every moment of that suite (and the Brit made sure to watch his share of the England cricket match on the satellite telly)!

Part of the sitting area of our room was in the first level of the small turret in the right of the photo.

We walked into North Berwick along the golf course and ended up on the beach that was full of people enjoying the British summertime. It was so nice to soak up the sun and the fresh sea air. It was the perfect temperature for shorts, so I couldn’t help to chuckle at the little kids running in and out of the freezing sea water in their bathing suits. It was just the perfect afternoon to be on the beach.

One of the great perks of this hotel was the pool and indoor/outdoor jacuzzi, so when we got back from our walk (and enjoying some delicious ice cream from a nice Scottish man who once lived in northern Pennsylvania), we took full advantage of the jacuzzi and pool. It had been such a long time since we both had a chance to relax like that together. It was just so nice.

The hotel has a fine dining restaurant called John Paul at the Marine and also the option of ordering food in their bar area. On Saturday night, the Brit was in the mood for fish so we decided to book in at John Paul at the Marine. The food was very good. The Brit had a salmon and lobster ravioli for his starter and turbot for his main while I enjoyed the monkfish cheeks for my starter and the basil gnocchi for my main. We were both tempted by the desserts and normally we would order two separate things, but the apple and rhubarb crumble with ginger ice cream appealed to both of us so we each ordered our own. (We are not so good at sharing when it comes to dessert.) So delicious. We do ‘carb loading’ in our own special way…haha!

We booked the ‘bed and breakfast’ rate, so we had breakfast in the morning before heading into Edinburgh. They had a nice breakfast buffet with cold and hot food, but my stomach is touchy when I run so I couldn’t eat much off the hot buffet. I had four pieces of toast with jam, a banana, and a sausage — breakfast of champions!

After the marathon, it was so perfect to come back to more than just a small hotel room. We could spread out and lounge on the sofa in the living room while we watched television. For dinner on Sunday night, all we had on our minds was a massive hamburger with chips (chunky fries) and a few pints. Unfortunately, there was no burger on the bar menu at the hotel so we inquired at the front desk if they could recommend a place for a burger, and we were really happy when they said that anything on the room service menu could be ordered while seated in the bar. Oddly, there was a burger on the room service menu, so we were overjoyed not to have to walk far to get what we were craving.

Let me just say that these burgers were 21-day aged Scottish beef and absolutely amazingly delicious. Oh my. Also, it was the most expensive burger I’ve ever eaten at £14 (roughly $21), but we both agreed it was worth every penny (or shall we say, pence). I had two pints of cider and the Brit had two pints of lager during the meal. When we finished I had remembered seeing a little placard for their drink special that sounded delicious, so we ordered one to take to the room and share. It is now quite possibly my favorite drink — a cucumber collins with elderflower juice. Wow. So, so good. Both of us enjoy our gin and tonics, so I figured this would be something we enjoyed and it definitely was. I definitely plan to learn how to make this drink!

I’m pretty sure the drink after the 26.2 miles helped us both to fall asleep before 9:30 PM and bring to a close what was truthfully a great weekend. Despite running the marathon, both of us said multiple times how relaxed we felt, and I’m so glad we had a chance to get away for a few days.

{Road Trip} Blackpool, England

We had a lovely week or so of spring-like weather (cold and cloudy again now!) here in England, so we made sure to get out and enjoy the sun. Two Saturdays ago, we headed to the west coast town of Blackpool in Lancashire.

Truthfully, I had no idea what to expect. When Blackpool is mentioned in conversation, people usually get a suspicious grin on their face that leaves me wondering what wild and crazy things will be awaiting my arrival.

So, after a 6-mile sprint (not even kidding) that morning, we got ourselves ready and off we went to Blackpool! Remember how I said I had no idea what to expect? On the drive there, I even asked the Brit, “Do people actually live in Blackpool or is it just a holiday town?” Come to think of it…that was a dumb question anyway.

It took us just over an hour to arrive and we parked up on the south end of Blackpool with the plan of walking to the north end and back. As we walked to the waterfront though, we had to walk through part of town and most of the streets are looking quite rough and tired with small bed and breakfasts lining the streets. It made me wonder how so many of them stay in business…there are that many.

South Pier, Blackpool -- it had one of those bungee ball rides!

We came out onto the front and there is an amusement park (Pleasure Beach) along with a pier (there are 3 piers in Blackpool — South, Central, and North) with amusement games and rides on it. Think old-style carnival games with guys shouting, “Come on, son, don’t you want to win a teddy for your girl!” Hilarious!

Looking toward north Blackpool and the Blackpool Tower

Anyway, we walked through one of the arcade areas and played a pound on one of the mechanical carnival games, which we won back! We ventured out onto the South Pier and I could totally picture this place in its heyday a couple of decades ago. A really fun and lively vacation spot for families and beachgoers! These days, as I mentioned, it is looking a bit tired, but that didn’t mean it was empty at all! For a Saturday in March, the place was buzzing and the front and the beach were full of people!

The coast at Blackpool...I could not believe how drastic high and low tide are.

Apparently, Blackpool is a popular destination for stag dos (bachelor parties) and hen nights (bachelorette parties), so the two of us played a little game in which we counted the obvious groups stags and hens. Disappointingly, we only saw 4. One odd thing was that the pubs lining the front were all blasting house and club music during the early afternoon. It just seemed a little much or a little strange or a combination of all things weird.

Lunch time soon was upon us and we both were really just in the mood for a nice sandwich. Finding a normal sandwich on the front in Blackpool is apparently not that easy! Fish and chips? Not a problem. A hamburger? Sure! A ham and cheese sandwich? Not greasy enough! We decided to venture one street back from the waterfront and found a shopping center with a Costa Coffee…perfect spot to grab a quick lunch.

After our abnormal Blackpool lunch, we headed back out into the sun and to check out Blackpool Tower. We decided not to pay the fee to go to the top, but we looked around and then continued heading north until we sort of ran out of things to see/people to watch.

Blackpool Tower

As we got closer to south Blackpool, we decided to play a rousing game of mini golf. It should be noted that both of us are super competitive when it comes to games like this. The last time we played mini golf was this past summer in Pennsylvania and I lost! Ugh. This game was going to be mine! And, it was — I won by a lot! I won’t rub the score in his face anymore, but victory felt great! 🙂

Me winning at mini golf!

Him not happy to be losing!

By this point, we had spent quite few hours wandering around so we decided to head home after grabbing a 99 ice cream cone from a local shop. I don’t think it would have been a trip to the sea without an ice cream!

We really did have a nice day out! I don’t think Blackpool will be on our list of places we return to any time soon, but it was fun to go somewhere Richard used to visit with his family when he was younger!

{Road Trip} Burnsall, North Yorkshire

Burnsall could also be known on this blog as ‘the-place-we-decided-to visit-because-we-saw-it-on-Don’t Tell the Bride-then-the-Brit-remembered-he-used-to-take-school-cycling-trips-to-the-village-a-mile-away-and-he-thought-it-was-a-beautiful-place.’ Phew!

The lovely River Wharfe running through Burnsall

The bridge in Burnsall...you can see the clouds that rolled in later in the afternoon.

This past weekend, we had beautiful spring weather here in England. On Saturday, we went for a run, but when Sunday rolled around, we nixed our normal running route in favor of a walk to somewhere new. We still had to drive about an hour to Burnsall, but the scenery and the leg stretching (and rope swinging!) once there was well worth it.

Having some fun on the swing we stumbled upon!

Wheeeeee!

On the drive there, we passed Bolton Abbey and The Devonshire Arms, which we both decided we’ll have to return to when we have more time and/or when we want to have a day of luxury.

Once in Burnsall, an extremely small village (I believe Wikipedia says that the 2001 consensus listed the population as 112 and I doubt it has increased much since then), we headed along the river towards Appletreewick, which is the even smaller village where the Brit would camp on his school cycling trips. The round-trip walk was about 2 miles and we could have kept going on the trail, but the clouds started to roll in and it was getting chilly!

The campground in Appletreewick, which apparently 'looks smaller than I remember it!' 🙂

We finished up with a glass of Diet Coke each at the The Red Lion & Manor House, which is where the groom hosted the wedding in that particular episode of DTTB, before heading home! All in all, a really great day out!

The River Wharfe in Appletreewick

The sun came out!!

{Road Trip} Whitby: Summer in October

It’s October in England and summer has finally arrived! I’m not kidding. This past Saturday, the 1st of October, was the hottest day in October since 1895. So, we decided to enjoy the temperatures with a road trip to the east coast, specifically Whitby.

A week or so ago, the Brit and I were watching the news and they flashed up a photo of this beautiful sunset at Whitby and since then we’ve sort of been wanting to visit. I think we both just assumed that visit wouldn’t be until next summer. Lucky us!

Apparently, the rest of the country saw this same photo as well because the roads to the east coast were rammed with people. It took us about 2 1/2 hours to make the drive, which is usually a bit shorter than that. Even when we arrived in Whitby, we were shocked to see the ‘No Vacancies’ sign in nearly every guest house and bed and breakfast window.

Well hello, rest of the country of England!

Once we got to Whitby, we were both starving. Fish and chips seemed to be the theme of nearly every restaurant in Whitby and the queues for takeaway were SO long. We chose to go to a pub called The Shambles. The food was just okay. I had a crab sandwich on ciabatta, which was odd. It had fresh crab on it, but then this spread that resembled hummus with chunks of carrots in it. The Brit had fish and chips. He said it was good. The chips definitely were as I stole a few. 🙂 Overall, I’d say it’s a good place for a drink, but not much else. And, if you can score a spot on the deck overlooking the water, then I bet that pint will taste a whole lot better!

After lunch, we wandered a little more on the narrow and cobbled-stone streets until we came upon some stairs leading to St. Mary’s Church, its cemetery, and the ruins of St. Hilda’s Abbey also known as Whitby Abbey. Whitby is a classic old seaside town that apparently was in its heyday years ago, so you still get a sense of that history walking through the town.

View of Whitby Abbey from West Cliff

St Mary's Parish of Whitby

The Parish Cemetery

The ruins of Whitby Abbey

We did some more walking around in the town and browsed in a few shops. We also watched some kids go crab lining in the inlet with nets and buckets. It was quite cute watching them get so excited about the crabs they were pulling out of the sea and then trying to get them from the net to the bucket without getting pinched!

I’m so glad we took the day to enjoy Whitby and the beautiful summer weather because as of Tuesday fall is in full force. It’s scarves and boots and raincoats and wellies from now on.

Enjoy these last few glimpses of a beautiful ‘summer’ day on the east coast of England….

People enjoying the North Sea

Loving the surprise dose of Vitamin D!

Sailboats on the Sea

Whitby Port

{Road Trip} The ‘Great’ North

Two weekends ago, we road tripped further north to Durham on Saturday then to Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the Sunday. This weekend away was prompted by the Brit’s participation in the Great North Run. (Does the post title make more sense now? :))

It just so happened that the Brit’s friend was also running the race, so he and his wife took the train up from London and we all made the trip north together. I love road trips with friends because the time just flies by as we’re chatting away and catching up on each other’s lives. The two and a half hours was gone in a flash.

We (really the Brit) were in charge of the hotel for Saturday night and they were in charge of the hotel for Sunday night. So, for ‘our’ hotel, we stayed at the Durham Marriott Royal County right in the city center. Upon entering, the staff offered us a glass of wine plus canapés. We all indulged in a glass of wine…we were on a short holiday, after all! After enjoying some more chit-chat in the lounge, we made our way to our rooms, which were nice, clean, and spacious plus with a jacuzzi tub for two in the bathroom. Not that I was surprised, but the Brit had made a great choice!

We strolled around Durham for a bit and towards the Durham Cathedral. To me, it’s a city that personifies what I always pictured of Britain before I visited for the first time in March 2010…cobbled stone streets with not many cars, little shops lining the streets, a castle and a massive cathedral overlooking the city. It was this perfect combination of quaintness and beauty that made Durham so charming.

Streets of Durham

Durham Cathedral is completely awe-inspiring. We toured the interior with mouths agape for most of it. (Sadly, we could not take photos inside, but check out the photos on the web site.) The stained glass, the spires, the tombs, the organ, and the overall attention to intricate detail…it was just phenomenal.

The center spire of the Cathedral.

The view from our hotel room window as sun shines upon Durham Cathedral on Sunday morning.

Durham Castle overlooking the River Wear.

That night, we enjoyed a delicious and fun meal of tapas at La Tasca. The guys probably drank a bit too much wine the night before a big race, but the four of us had a wonderful time laughing and eating!

The next day, we enjoyed the hotel breakfast, which was included in our room price. Of course, the typical English breakfast was being offered with bacon, eggs, beans, tomatoes, potatoes…you get the picture. But, the runners chose wisely and avoided those foods (as did I). Hilariously, after the Brit finished his porridge, he went to get some toast and as soon as he sat down to the table, I was overwhelmed with the smell of garlic. He had actually toasted garlic bread and put jam on it! He didn’t realize until I mentioned it smelled of garlic. Awesome morning selection! 😉

Soon, we were off on the 30-minute drive to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where the Great North Run would start. Luckily, we were able to find the hotel, so we could leave the car and our bags there until we were able to check in. You could tell the guys were getting a bit nervous as we started the long walk to the start line. It was a nice way to enjoy a little tour of the city, though I think I was the only one actually looking around! (I’m not afraid to admit I can sometimes be a bit of a tourist!)

Situated at our place for the start... This run is apparently the world's largest half marathon. I don't doubt it. There were masses of people everywhere.

We said our goodbyes to the guys and wished them lots of luck. We met up with another friend whose girlfriend was running the race and had just come into town for the day. Once we found him, the three of us situated ourselves close to the start to try to spot our runners at the beginning of the race. Immediately before the start the Red Arrows, which are the Royal Air Force’s acrobatic team, did a fly-over and then the elite male runners were off followed closely (but only for a short while!) by the rest of the pack.

The Red Arrows at the start...quite cool!

In the throngs of people, I caught a glimpse of the Brit, but we didn’t see the other two. So, after waiting for quite some time to see them, we decided it was likely we missed them and took off to South Shields via the Metro train to hopefully see the three of them as they finished.

The Brit is in the blue shirt and black shorts almost exactly in the middle of the photo right before coming upon the blue column thingy.

It was wishful thinking to believe we could make it from where we were to the finish in enough time to see them cross the finish line. We were still on the Metro when I got a text from the Brit’s mum saying she just saw him finish on tv. (This race is such a big deal that it was broadcast on BBC!) Mr. Speed Demon totally surpassed his goal time! Once off the train, we still had about a 20-minute walk to the finish. So, a solid 25 minutes after he finished we found him and gave him his jacket and change of clothes. We tracked the other two runners (they also did awesome!) down shortly after and walked to the pub for a celebratory pint…or three.

Happy guys, after the race!

So proud of this guy!

Soon, we said goodbye to the two friends who had just come up for the day and we headed back to the hotel. The Hotel du Vin, which our friends chose, is quite posh. Our rooms had two levels with the bathrooms complete with claw-footed tub and enormous walk-in shower, which were situated upstairs. The toilet and a very small sink were downstairs. (There was a large sink in the upstairs bathroom area.) I wish that I could remember the name of the room (it started with a ‘Y’, I think) we stayed in, but each is named after a brand of wine. Our room was situated in the new section of the hotel, which you can see in the photos below.

The downstairs in our room.

The bathroom area upstairs.

This is the courtyard of the hotel -- the main entrance is to the left, the Bistro is directly in front, and the building we stayed in is to the right.

Since the hotel is a little outside the city center, we chose to eat at the hotel bistro that night. According to our friends, the Hotel du Vin chain is known for its attention to food and wine. The food was good, but the service could be improved. We received the best service from the sommelier, who not only knew the wine list impeccably, but also the entire menu. Of course, he was not serving us, but did help us quite a bit. It was a night to celebrate though, so we brushed off the service and enjoyed each other’s company!

Overall, a great weekend with friends! Big congrats to the Brit for his incredible finish in the Great North Run!