Day 4: I woke up after only four hours of sleep, and tossed and turned for the next hour. Donna got up and suggested I take a hot bath, so I did. I have to admit it was very relaxing. The Brits do like their deep bathtubs. I was wide awake. I went downstairs to the lobby to see about getting on the Internet. They didn't have any open computers for people to use. The hotel was wired for wi-fi, so anyone with a laptop could hook up in their rooms right away. People without a laptop, like me, were just out of luck. I had really been expecting easy Internet access, to keep up on things back home. There was an Internet café nearby, but it didn't open until 9. Newspapers wouldn't arrive until 7. 

Back up in the room, I had some hot chocolate and a cookie. At 4:30, it was already getting light out. Birds were chirping. I turned on the BBC news. There was a 10-second comment about 8 U.S. troops killed in Iraq, and two minutes devoted to a British soldier killed in Afghanistan. There were news stories from Palestine, Ukraine, and Pakistan; nothing about Bush, nothing about American politics... except it did mention Lindsey Lohan got arrested. I found the weather report– it looked like it would be a wet day, but clearing up later. The forecast predicted 1 to 2 inches of rain for London. Instead of clear & sunny, the weatherman would say "dry & bright." I found a computer show where the host pronounced router as "rooter." I turned off the TV and tried to nap, but with no success. My schedule was all messed up. By the time my days & nights got worked out, it'd be time for me to go home. I figured I'd have to tank up on soda that day just to stay awake. At 6 AM, I went back downstairs, but the restaurant didn't open for breakfast until 7. 

Donna and I decided to take a little walk. It was overcast with a light drizzle as we stepped outside that Sunday morning in Harrogate, May 27th. Harrogate was where mystery writer Agatha Christie went missing for several days in 1925, something she never really explained. The empty, misty streets looked like something from a mystery novel. There was no traffic. We walked past the Exhibition Hall and down past St. George Swallow Hotel. We crossed the street to the Royal Baths– an amazing 19th century structure. Donna called it "Victorian gothic." 

There was a row of Victorian houses across the street. Many had been turned into hotels or bed & breakfasts. They looked like fun places to spend the night. Around the corner from the Royal Baths was the Winter Garden and a Turkish bath. Across the street was the gate to the Victorian arcade– a kind of early indoor mall. It was locked up, but looked neat. We kept thinking of skits from Monty Python or the Goodies. 

Breakfast was another buffet. I chose cooked ham, scrambled eggs, orange juice, a croissant, and since I was in England I tried the grilled tomatoes. I liked them. Also, in English tradition, I tried a piece of blood pudding. It was horrifying. It took me all morning to get that taste out of my mouth. Someday, I may be able to talk about it. The eggs were awfully pale. From the fruit table, the orange slices were tasty, but the grapefruit was an unpleasant surprise. We sat with Elaine and Brien, a super nice couple from New Zealand. It took them 24 hours on a plane to get to England. They explained the difference between vegimite and marmite: it's all in the yeast. Donna said they had a "lovely accent." We all loaded up on the coach about 8:30. Leaving Harrogate, we passed a street with the redundant name of Avenue Road. 

We saw a beautiful bridge over the River Nidd near Mother Shipton's Cave. From Harrogate, we got on the A59 headed for York. Fields of barley and canola passed by. In the distance, we could see a dome on a hill, part of a large estate that included a manor that looked like the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. The guide said it was all owned by "some rich Texan." Along the way, there was a short traffic jam, and we passed dozens of tents just off the road. It was some kind of dirt bike competition. As we approached York, we went through some moors, which was uncultivated uplands used for grazing. York originally became famous for its wool. In medieval times, merchants came to York up the River Ouse (pronounced "ooze"). 
The coach stopped next to a little park in York. We were just outside the impressive city walls, which run for three miles around the city. York is a modern city, but its grown around buildings hundreds of years old. We walked up Museum Street and across the river bridge. It didn't take long for the group to be spread out, but we tried to keep up. The guide took us to the Shambles, a narrow street pretty much unchanged since the middle ages. It's York's oldest street and the best preserved medieval street in Europe. It was even mentioned in the Domesday Book, which means it's been there for 900 years. The fifteenth-century buildings still hold busy shops. The upper floors lean out towards each other because that's how they built buildings back then. One of the buildings was the home of Margaret Clitherow, who sheltered Catholic priests when they were being persecuted in the 16th century. She was brought to trial, and sentenced to be crushed under a huge rock. She died in 1586, and was later canonized as a saint. 

The group stopped for a break at the foot of Clifford's Tower. In 1190, 150 Jewish citizens sought refuge from a wave of anti-Semitic persecutions in the original wooden tower. The Jews set fire to the tower and committed suicide rather than allow themselves to be captured by the mob. The rest were slaughtered when they came out of the tower. The present stone structure was built in 1270 on the orders of King Henry III. I climbed up the steps to the top of the mound, but didn't go inside. (It cost money, and I didn't have time to take the tour.) We followed the group to the beautiful York Minster cathedral. There has been a church there since the year 627. The present structure was started in 1154, and added on to over the years. We couldn't go inside because there was a church service in progress. It was cold and windy, and every now and then we felt sprinkles of rain. We hurried back to the coach. 

Back on the A1 motorway, Nick the tour guide went over a list of optional side trips we could take in addition to the tour. Each one cost a little extra. I was disappointed we wouldn't be able to visit Rosslyn Chapel, built in the 15th century and featured in the movie "The DaVinci Code." It seems the chapel was closed on bank holidays. We didn't think about stuff like British holidays when we planned the trip to start over the Memorial Day weekend. Donna and I saw the list of side trips before we left on the trip, and we weren't all that enthusiastic, but since we were already in England, we said what the heck. So, we went ahead and signed up for several extra excursions. 
By 12:30, we arrived in the ancient British city of Durham. There were young people all over the place. Durham University is the third oldest university in England, with 16 colleges. We climbed up the steep, narrow streets, dodging the occasional car, and at the top of the hill were greeted with an amazing discovery: Durham Cathedral. What a sight! The high, soaring arches were moving and inspiring. It was a thousand years old, started in 1093, and remains one of the best examples of a Norman cathedral in Europe. 

Everybody that was important in the middle ages must have come through there. The Emperor Constantine once visited Durham. The sheer size of the church was daunting-- and amazing in that it was all built by hand. Modern engineers wouldn't even think of building anything like that without heavy machinery. Inside, photographs were not allowed, but I did get some pictures of the adjacent cloister. 

There was a long line of pews leading up to the altar. Alongside the pews were several ancient tombs. I touched one, and Donna said it was the tomb of the Venerable Bede! The church also contains the remains of Saint Cuthbert: soldier, monk, bishop, and patron saint of Northumbria. 

The beauty and sheer history of Durham was astonishing. It was one of many places on that trip I absolutely wanted to visit again. 

We didn't have to be back at the coach until 2 PM. Some folks took the chance to get some lunch, but Donna and I decided to spend more time in the cathedral. On the way back, I wanted to get a snack. I figured, being a college town, there'd be something like a drug store nearby, and sure enough I found what I wanted at the Woolworth's just off the town square. I got some candy and found, of all things, a Dr. Pepper. We got back on the highway and headed north towards the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. On the way, we passed the exit for the town of Washington, where the family of America's first president came from. (The family's original name was Hartburn.) We also passed a modern art sculpture erected next to the highway. It was called the Angel of the North, and resembled not so much an angel as a weird airplane tipped up on its tail. It looked very out of place. 
The area was called Tyne & Wyr. The singer Sting was born nearby. As we pulled off the highway, the tour guide pointed out a two-story house of pale stone right next to the highway. It turns out that house was built of bricks taken from Hadrian's Wall. When we saw Hadrian's Wall was on the tour, I rather assumed we'd be seeing the part that's mostly still intact out in the countryside. The section we visited, however, was smack in the middle of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, right beside the busy road. If you were just passing through, you might think it was the half-finished foundation for a new bus station or something. There's probably lots of towns that sprung up on top of the Wall, and lots of places it got demolished for its bricks. I guess it's a miracle anything's remained after almost 2,000 years. We stopped and walked around. That particular fragment of the Wall also had the remains of a tower, called Denton Turret. It must have been something to see it in one piece, when the Romans were standing guard against the Picts. We just spent a few minutes clambering over the Wall, and then we were back on the road again. 
I munched on some Planets: chocolate candies with various tasty centers. They were new to me. We got back on the highway and headed northwest. Northumberland National Park appeared, and we found ourselves riding through some lovely rolling hills. The road would twist, revealing hillsides of heather, dark and low to the ground. As we topped the next hill, the Sun briefly appeared through the clouds, and a rich emerald panorama spread out before us. The next turn plunged us into a deep forest. Wave after wave of tidy green fields rolled past our windows. Ancient stone walls snaked their way down valleys and over hilltops. Patches of trees sprouted here and there, accented with splashes of heather.  Fir trees grow well on the moor, and there were lots of them. We passed the turn for Alnwick Castle (pronounced "Annick"), where many of the exteriors of the "Harry Potter" movies were filmed.  The rolling hills were rolling just a little too much for me, and I started to get a little seasick. When we stopped at a place called Carter Bar, I was only too willing to get out for some fresh air. Carter Bar is on a hilltop right on the border between England and Scotland. The tour pamphlet said it had "spectacular views," and they would've been a lot more spectacular if not for the clouds. The brisk wind was invigorating. We all got out for pictures on the Scottish border. As far as I knew, I was only the second person in my family to return to Scotland in 300 years. My first few miles of Scotland, however, were spent going down some dizzying, ear-popping switchbacks. 
We stopped down the road at the remains of Jedburgh Abbey. Lots of us got out of the coach to take pictures. The abbey and church, which had stood for hundreds of years, were burned out and abandoned with Henry VIII closed all the Catholic churches. The monks that had been living there went to France. What's left of Jedburgh still stands as an example of gothic architecture. They sure built stuff to last back then. Naturally, just as we got back on the bus, the sun came out, and the beauty of Jedburgh really came out. We stopped again at a pair of woolen mills down the road for snacks and for an opportunity to "use the loo." I decided: you cannot lose if you choose to use the loos. 
We resumed our journey. The driver put on a CD of Scottish music. Of course, the first song I heard in Scotland was "Highland Cathedral." A sign said it was 48 miles to Edinburgh, but the driver said it would take us 90 minutes to get there. That's because of all the hills we had to go over. The constant up-and-down motion of the coach was making my stomach turn. Outside, every shade of green possible scrolled by, but I was too dizzy and sleepy to enjoy it. I put away my camera and tried to relax. That last leg into Edinburgh was not pleasant for me at all. We finally arrived at the hotel in Edinburgh. I just collapsed on the bed. Going straight to sleep would've been fine for me. We couldn't, though, because one of the optional side trips we'd signed up for was that very evening. I started to take a shower. The faucets were all weird in Britain. One faucet controlled the force of the water, and another controlled the temperature– and it was tricky. As you turned the faucet, it would give you hot water, but only so much. If you wanted hotter water, you had to flip a switch on the faucet. That would let you turn it up all the way. 

The travel agent told us to pack dinner clothes, so we changed for the "Scottish show with dinner." Most of us on the tour piled back onto the coach. We traveled across town to a place called Prestonfield. That was the site of the "world famous" Taste of Scotland show and dinner (featuring "the Three Scottish Tenors"). The stage was at one end of a large, round room. There were rows of long tables in front of the stage. When we found our seats, we were all pretty tightly-packed in there. When the show began, lots of people missed most of it because they couldn't turn around. The show was a collection of traditional Scottish folk songs, with some dancing and bagpipe playing. Unlike most traditional Scottish folk music, the songs were mostly upbeat. I don't remember much about the meal. At one part, they invited everyone to literally get a taste of Scotland by trying some haggis. I'd tasted haggis before, and didn't feel any need to prove myself, but I tried a bite anyway. The way they prepared it, it was kinda Spammy. The haggis was served with "neeps & tatties" (turnips & potatoes), and I had some of that, too. The house invited everyone to sample a shot of Scottish whiskey, which was tempting, but not at three pounds a shot... But then, one performer sang a version of John McDermott's song "The Old Man," and I honestly felt like crying. I got one of the shots of whiskey, as a toast to Dad. I still missed him.  We sat across from Annisa, a very nice young woman from Australia.I enjoyed the show, but towards the end I was taking peeks at my watch. It was after 9 PM when we headed back to the hotel. Prince Charles was scheduled to come up to Edinburgh that next week for a performance of the very show we'd just seen. 

It was still not quite dark yet. Edinburgh is at the same latitude as Moscow. In the summer, the sun comes up at 4 AM and sometimes doesn't set until 11 at night. In the dead of winter, it doesn't come up until 8 in the morning, and sets at 3 in the afternoon. Back at the hotel, Donna was mad that the $28 electrical adapter she'd bought at Radio Shack didn't work. The only plug it fit was one in the bathroom marked "razors only," but it didn't work there, either. Apparently, there's a difference between British adapters and European adapters. We actually considered going across the street –to the Wal-Mart!– to shop for another adapter, but decided against it. I did go downstairs, however, and finally got on the Internet. The hotel computer cost three pounds for 15 minutes of use. I was able to check my email and saw no emergency messages. That was a relief. I found the British keyboards were just different enough from American keyboards to be annoying. The clock on the computer ran out just as I was updating my online journal. With everything apparently all right back home, I was able to relax and go right to sleep. 

Preparations -- Day 1 -- Day 2 -- Day 3 -- Day 4 -- Day 5 -- Day 6
Day 7 -- Day 8 -- Day 9 -- Day 10 -- Day 11 -- Day 12 -- Epilogue
(If your image appears on this site, and you'd rather it didn't let me know.)