|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."
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 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.
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.