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Published: June 21st 2019
Back on the coach we bid a fond adieu to Scotland and cross over into England at Northumberland. There was an amazing view of the North Sea as we crossed back into England. The sun was shining and the warmth of the day was upon us. Quite the welcome back.
We are heading today to York, our last stop before returning to London. Our first stop the town of Alnwick. It means town on the clear river. We examined the outside of the castle from the 11th century. It is an outstanding example of a Norman castle. It was updated by Queen Victoria and the outside was used in the movie as a back drop in Harry Potter and in the TV show, Downton Abbey. A quick photo stop, and on to the center of town for a quick scone and coffee.
The story of counting. One of the most important skills of a tour director is counting. We get on and off the coach several times a day. When we stay together, getting back on the coach is usually a group thing, so there is little risk of adding one or losing one person.
The risks multiply when we are
on our own and only given a time and place to return to the coach. The problem intensifies when there are several coaches parked in the same lot. All of the coaches have their tour operators name emblazoned on the coach, but sometimes there are several coaches from the same tour operator in the same lot, understandably adding to the confusion. Now when this happens and people are rushed, it can get interesting.
With people being basically strangers or elderly or speaking different languages, arriving at the proper coach can be a challenge for some. The tour guide’s job is to get his folks rounded up properly, on the right coach and off on time to keep moving on our incredibly tight schedules. Most of the time it works, sometimes, not so much.
Tom has done the job of a professional sheep dog, keeping his sheep in line and moving properly in the right direction. He did share a story, however, that shows perfection is not always achieved.
On a tour once with a large group, someone was late getting on the coach. Tom did a quick count and off they went. Well, he just may have been off that
day (it was his first tour, after all), but he had one less person in his group. Since there are usually empty seats on the coach, people will often stretch out within the coach. Unfortunately, neither the group nor Tom knew it until Tom noticed that someone was missing their traveling companion, a full 25 minutes down the road!
Ever the problem solver, they turned the coach around, retrieved the lost passenger, and still made it to their destination on time. Tom learned that you can’t count too much, so he counts the passengers two or three times before moving on. Good plan.
We were treated to an extra stop, Hadrian's Wall. The wall was built as a demarcation of the northernmost border of the Roman empire. There was not much left of the wall as people have stolen stones from the wall to build their homes and other buildings. Roads have also been built over the stones burying the wall forever below. Quite the shame really.
We stopped at a rest stop for a quick bite and it was most entertaining. First, one of the food options was McDonald's! Now this is not any place I frequent even at
home, but the call of a Big Mac, well it drew me. So I saunter up to the cashier to order but, lo and behold, no Big Mac. They have something called a Kansas City. It was two burgers with bacon and cheese, really good.
Cathy and Leonore ordered salads with chicken. They ordered separately and each was asked, “Would you like bacon with that?” They both replied in the affirmative. They were quickly served and they joined me at the table.
They opened their salads and boom, neither had any bacon. I guess it was a survey; they want to know if you want bacon, but they did not say you were going to get bacon.
Ready to depart, I decided the restroom was a good idea. As I stood there, I noticed a unique advertisement. It was an ingenious invention designed to improve your life. It was fart filtering underwear. They have a long boxer brief style underwear with a replaceable charcoal filter in the proper place. You may look like a 2-year-old with a load on, but you fart like a rose! Back on the bus for the final leg to York, our home for the evening.
York is a beautiful old city right in the middle of England. It was founded essentially by the Romans as far back as 79 AD who called the city Eboracum, which means place of the yews. The city is located at the confluence of two rivers the Ouse and the Foss providing the city with superb trading options. The Romans built a wall around the city and it was here that Constantine found out he had just been appointed Emperor of the Roman Empire. So safe to say the city is old.
The Romans abandoned the city around 350 AD and the area was inhabited off and on by various groups until 866 when the Vikings came into the picture. It was a very turbulent time for the city under Viking rule. Wars and squabbles resulted in Kings having a very short reign. One Viking of fame was Ivar the Boneless one of the sons of Ragnar Lothbrook. He was defeated in battle by William the Conqueror who claimed the land for the Normans.
William built castles, fortifications and many city improvements. Cathy and Allan and I walked all around the city marveling at many of the
quaint shops still functioning since the time of William. We climbed the 55 steps to Clifford's Hill one of the city's earliest fortifications under William.
The city is very lively with many pubs, markets, food shops, and confectionary stores. The Kit Kat bar was said to have been invented in York as well as many different sweet treats. While walking around we stopped into one of the sweet shops bought some chocolate and a solid white sugar mouse for Tom. A tour director can never have too much sugar.
We visited the York Minster or central cathedral built in stages over 250 years. The edifice was built to the glory of God and boasts one of the worlds finest collections of medieval stained glass telling the entire story of Jesus Christ. The building is beautiful and rivals any cathedral in the world in size.
Eventually, we made our way back down several side streets, taking a side trip to visit the ruin of Clifford's Tower the last remaining towers of the original fortification known as York Castle. The view from the tower is amazing.
York is the home of Guy Fawkes, he of the Gunpower Rebellion
fame. He was born here in York and his home is now a proper Pub named Guy Fawkes, of course.
We made our way to the hotel just in time for a quick change of clothes and back on the coach to our final group dinner. We drove out of the city and into the countryside to dine in a local pub called Ye Olde Sun Inn. It was a very old pub, more than 250 years old and served a dinner of meats, fish with an amazing dessert the waitress called "a Dinky." The dinky was actually small portions of three different desserts, a white and dark chocolate terrine, a sampling of caramel pudding and a sweet ice cream with toasted confection. All were delicious and way too much for one meal, we ate it anyway.
Our festivities soon ended and we returned to the hotel for our last evening together. Allen is staying in York for a few days with friends. Tomorrow we head to London where we will say goodbye to the tour director Tom and coach driver Jeff. Cathy and I have one special treat left, a night at the theater to see Present Laughter starring Andrew Scott.
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