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Published: October 18th 2016
The drive from Oxford to York is three and a half hours, so leaving Oxford at 9:30 am should get us to York comfortably by 1:00 pm; right? Absolutely! So at 4:30 pm we pulled into York. Those of you still awake after reading our previous blog may have noted a discrepancy here. Yes, thrillseekers; a three and a half hour discrepancy. Did we get lost? No. Did we break down? No. Welcome to the M1 and British traffic jams. A combination of road works and a road accident left us with no real alternative. BBC Radio Two was excellent at entertaining us and keeping us up to date while we turned off the engine and sat with all three lanes completely stationary. The locals stuck with us on the M1 agreed that there was no real alternative and if we wanted to get off the M1, the next exit was beyond the blockage anyway. Once past the problem it was 70mph all the way and Betty (satnav) took us safely to the Queen’s Hotel.
Checked in. Brilliant location on the river Ouse (pronounced ooze) with all the attractions within walking distance (yes; within “a block and a
half”). We crossed the Ouse and explored this delightfully ancient city to get our bearings for the next day’s exploration. Experiencing possibly the worst coffee ever during this initial foray served us right for not wandering a bit farther afield; but Judy spied a restaurant right near the Queens’s which did the trick that evening. Surprisingly, it was an American themed Montana restaurant – beef and red wine pie with mashed spuds was on the menu which did not seem to have anything to do with Montana, but it was lovely, and what do we know about Montana anyway? Perhaps Montana is the inspiration behind Yorkshire’s cuisine.
There were a couple of aspects of the Queen’s that set it slightly apart from our previous accommodations. We’re not saying that the Queen’s Hotel is not serviceable nor is it disagreeable, but we are confident that neither HM Elizabeth the 2nd
nor Reginald Dwight would have ever stayed there. There was a vague aroma throughout the entire place of air freshener or similar; not unpleasant but a bit unusual. Then there were the other guests. Most appeared to be over seventy and we would confidently wager they were travelling
with their parents. Perhaps the aroma was formaldehyde. Many of them were extremely wide, and in the morning, waddled very slowly along the corridor to breakfast, lured inexorably by bacon, black pudding, baked beans, Cumberland sausages and eggs. There was no chance of overtaking and Ron thought we were back on the M1.
Despite the evening chill outside, the room was comfortably warm (a bit too warm for Ron – why is there no adjustment??)
Hoping to get a reasonably early start, we were grateful for the 7:00 am fire alarm and evacuation which was fortunately a false alarm. Fortunately, indeed, since the traffic jam and clatter of walking frames in the main corridor presented a bit of a difficulty but at least everyone was up for breakfast. We were offered coffee while waiting for the breakfast room to clear sufficiently. Ron has dubbed this lounge “Gods Waiting Room”.
Next morning, a cruise on the Ooze was in order. Despite the name, the Ouse did not resemble yesterday’s coffee. An entertaining and appropriate commentary contributed to a delightful morning filled with interesting facts and excellent historic scenery. Found a good place
for coffee and scones, then ambled up to the Shambles; what an interesting locale. Unfortunately, some good shops, so we recommend stay away for the sake of your wallet. The next natural stopover was the iconic York Minster which has a commanding presence over the city, then a downhill wander (“a block and a half”) to the incredible York Railway Museum; which was a highlight for engineer Ron. Great stuff and filled the rest of the day. That evening, perfect fish & chips at the ‘Golden Fleece’ pub; complete with a theoretical archaeologist barman and a skeleton sitting at the bar savouring a soda water. They had live music later in the evening but as it was not Death Metal we passed on that opportunity and repaired to our comfy room (still too bloody warm acc. to Ron).
On Wednesday, we awoke Betty from her slumbers in the centre console and she took us to Scarborough. Picturesque seafront, with a fleet of amusement arcades. Then to Whitby. Despite Betty’s protests (“please take a U turn”) we exited the main road just before the town and detoured to Whitby Abbey. Whitby Abbey’s massive ruins dominate the skyline in
most dramatic fashion. The site has been in use from 657AD and the current ruins are from the thirteenth century. The shoreline, the Abbey, St Mary’s Churchyard and the Church steps are the settings that inspired Bram Stoker to write the gothic Dracula story. Today, Whitby celebrates the Dracula legacy and it is a magnet for Goths worldwide. The old town quarter has many Goth inspired shops with curious and grotesque items for sale. Whitby is, of course, the home of Captain James Cook; who discovered a good site for a penal colony. Ron was looking out for the vacant block of land from whence Cook’s cottage was repatriated to Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens. No luck! Whitby was one of our favourite towns with wonderful vistas and a delightful ambience. Pity we didn’t have an extra day.
Down to the harbour, and refreshments in Sherlock’s coffee house; supposedly owned by the Holmes family. Except that Sherlock was a fictional character; despite being the most portrayed detective in movie history. Never spoil a good story for the sake of the truth, I guess. Back through the moors to York. The moors indeed look like a bleak and desolate place
to get lost. The thought of the Baskerville hounds howling in the twilight would certainly raise the hairs on the back of one’s neck.
Off to Windermere, arrived at the Beech Hill Hotel, nicely out of town with brilliant views right on the lake. Too early to check in. Back to Bowness: brilliant fish and chips and a lake cruise. A place of incredible beauty, beauty that has inspired many English poets. Apologies then for the bleak prose in this blog. Back to Beech Hill, check in, and the steepest stairs and smallest room but very cosy. Warm Chardonnay in the bar before dinner made us question our decision to eat in the hotel restaurant but once in the dining room, we were graced with an excellent meal with decent wines, correctly served. The kitchen and the cellar however was more sophisticated than the waiting staff. They were very earnest but poorly trained. We noted with delight that they had listed Campbell’s Rutherglen Muscat as a suggested dessert wine. Yes please! They served it to us in a 250ml wine glass each. No complaints from us, but the stairs seemed a trifle steeper than before. Next morning
back in to the town of Windermere and a stroll. Such an attractive town with meandering streetscapes and stately homes on acreages. We avoided retail fervour but noted the location of “Hooked”; a restaurant recommended by Adrienne and Tony. We managed to make a booking for that evening.
Off to Ullswater via the most beautiful Kirkstone Pass. This is the highest road in the Lake District that is open to normal traffic and near the highest point is located the Kirkstone Inn; the third highest pub in Britain. What a glorious road. Ron was in his element; heel and toe crisp down changes, feeling the grip on turn in, balancing the car, clipping the apex and accelerating to the next bend. The daydream was broken only by Judy remarking that we can now leave the lay by – the cars we were holding up (and a bicycle) have now got by. Ohhh well. If Windermere is beautiful, Ullswater is divine. Less crowded and more tranquil. The prospect of a tour on an original steamer was irresistible. The steam engine has been replaced by a diesel but the history remains. Glorious scenery requiring a poet’s description. Braved the Kirkstone Pass
again, returning in good time for a brilliant repast at “Hooked”. This restaurant is owned and run by a Melbourne lad; an East Brighton fellow who has the common sense to remain a Geelong Cats supporter. We were amongst friends! An excellent restaurant by any standard and we recommend it highly. Next; off to Wales
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