Day 8: I was up at 5 AM Thursday, the last day of May. The water in the shower was super hot that morning. The hotel bathroom had not just soap but "seaweed therapy hydrating body soap." I went out for a walk in the brisk morning air. There was a pedestrian bridge over the Clyde near the hotel. On the other side, there was... not a lot. We all went down to the restaurant for breakfast. The tables offered jars of apricot jam, blackcurrant jam, and "set honey." We got packed and loaded onto the coach, and hit the road by 8:40. 
We drove around Glasgow, getting an idea of the place. It was a modern city, with lots of buildings post-World War II. Because of its shipbuilding industry, Glasgow was heavily bombed during the war. George Square had some impressive 19th century buildings. The square was decorated with a war memorial and statues of many famous people, such as James Watt, William Gladstone, Robert "Robbie" Burns, and Queen Victoria. We also passed by McDonald's, Staples, and Pizza Hut. The coach went down Finnieston Street, then turned around at the Citroen dealership. At the City Centre, we went down Nelson Mandella Place. We rode near St. Mungo's Cathedral, and passed next to the oldest house in Glasgow: it was built in 1471! Just then, Nick the tour guide got a call on his cell phone. It was for us! We planned to spend an extra day in London after the tour, and had decided on going on the Tower of London afternoon tour. The phone call was to finalize our plans. I was a little embarrassed at interrupting everyone's tour. 
The coach took us out of Glasgow on a modern 4-lane highway, the A74. We rode past suburbs of smaller houses and into bright green farmlands. The sky was unsettled. It looked like rain off in the distance. We turned southeast towards Carlisle, almost the same direction Mary Queen of Scots took. Nick gave us another history lesson about Mary as we rode along past emerald mountains. A windmill farm churned in the distance. Sheep grazed in fields. Mile after mile of farmland passed by us. In the cities of Britain, you get overwhelmed by the history surrounding you. A 400-year-old building can be next to a 500-year-old building, both of which on a street where some big historical event happened. Going through castles, battlegrounds and historic sites, you get the feeling like every square inch of space had a story to tell. As I watched the miles of farmland roll by, however, it occurred to me that for the vast majority of land, the story it had to tell was more of peace and wildlife. We passed farms and tiny quiet villages, where perhaps generations of people had lived theirs lives filled with honest work, but outside the history books. The ones that did live near ancient historical sites –which might be thrilling and inspirational to tourists like me– could easily take them for granted. But every place has a history-- every place has a story to tell, whether it makes it into the history books or not. That's why I didn't want to miss anything on our trip.  
A little over an hour out of Glasgow, we passed by Lockerbie, where Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in 1988, killing 270 people. We couldn't see any memorials or anything from the road, but I noticed all the houses on that side of the highway were new. At 10:30, we turned off the highway and stopped in a little place called Gretna Green.  There was a famous blacksmith's shop there, one that held a story. At one time, it seems, there weren't enough ministers in Britain to perform marriages. So, the law granted blacksmiths the authority to marry people. It happened that the age of consent was younger in Scotland than in England, so many young couples would elope north from England and get married right over the border in Scotland. And right on the border of Scotland sat Gretna Green. It had turned into a beautiful spring day. There were several gift shops, and we managed to find some souvenirs and gifts. Donna found a Scotland plate she'd been looking for. I found a folding backpack to hold a bunch of the gifts we had collected so far. Our suitcases were not big enough. I also saw something I'd been noticing ever since we got to Britain. Every place we went to had three restrooms: one for men, one for women, and one for "handicapped." It was like, rather than convert every restroom in Britain for handicapped access, it was easier to just add a third restroom. 
Before we got back on the coach, I got some snacks, including a Dr. Pepper and a bag of "roast chicken crisps." Did they taste like chicken? Maaaaybe. By 11:30, we were rolling again. It was a little stuffy in the coach, so Nick asked the driver, "Can you put the air con on?" We passed a business called the Last House in Scotland Marriage Shop– and it was. Just past that, and over a short bridge, we were back in England. We had entered the Lake District. 
The western end of Hadrian's Wall was nearby. Off to the left, we passed a charming, typical little English village snuggled up against a short, wide hill, complete with narrow streets, compact little houses... and a Domino's Pizza. We went through Carlisle, where Woodrow Wilson's family came from, and headed west on the A66. A sign on the highway said, "Tiredness can kill. Take a break." Off in the distance, we could see mountains to either side. 
Closer to the highway, we saw lines of drystone walls around every farm. Some of those walls had been around since the 12th century. In fact, the National Trust had a summer program where volunteers would go into the country to repair the walls of stacked stones. We entered an awesome shaded valley. Along the road, hikers with backpacks were heading out into the fields. A bus with a sign that read Outward Bound Trust carried a load of hikers. The land was stunningly beautiful. 
The word mere is Welsh for "lake." We passed the rocky shores of Thirlmere, famous for its trout fishing. A pumping station sent water from the lake to nearby Manchester. Black sheep were grazing under some trees. We rode through the wooded hills until we came to a little English village called Grasmere. That's where we came to a stop for lunch. There was an old church surrounded by an ancient graveyard. It was there, off towards the back, that English poet William Wordsworth was buried. We visited his grave, which is surrounded by the graves of other members of his family. 
Grasmere is a charming if touristy little village. There were souvenir shops, little cafes, and businesses selling camping equipment. Every town in Britain had a place selling backpacks and tents. Many places sold books by Wordsworth, as well as by Beatrix Potter, who also lived in the area. One shop had a sign out front saying "Beware of the ramp." Donna and I stopped in a tiny little restaurant and shared an egg & cress sandwich. I washed it down with a Becks beer, while Donna had a ginger beer. There was an older couple sitting at the table next to us. The woman stood and started packing things in her handbag. The husband looked at her and said simply, "I take it by your getting up it's time to go." 
We all met back at the coach at the appointed time and headed out. Thunder clouds were moving in. The coach took us through some more wooded country and past a lovely meandering creek. In the busy town of Ambleside, we passed the Bridge House, called "the smallest house in Great Britain." That took us to Windermere, England's largest natural lake. Boats were everywhere. We hurried to the docks for our boat ride on the lake. There was a line of people to get on board, but since we were a tour group we got straight on. It was a big boat, with a long, wide observation deck. Some Japanese teenagers had me take their picture. The boat cast off, and we started up the lake. 
Once past the jumble of docks and boats of every size, the shore of the lake yielded some lovely scenery. There were some big, expensive houses along the lake. We found out the average lakeside house goes for between $6 and $20 million! The ferry ride was very relaxing. The boat docked on the east side of the lake, at a place appropriately named Lakeside. That's where we got on board the train! It was an authentic 19th Century steam train, with many of the original passenger cars, lovingly restored. The wood paneling showed the kind of workmanship you rarely find these days. The train took us through a farm that had been in the same place since the 1400's. Workmen were busy putting a new roof on the barn; it was the barn's first new roof since... ever. 
The short train trip delivered us to the Victorian station at Haverthwaite. That's where the coach caught up with us. Sharon was talking to someone on a cellphone. I mentioned I couldn't get my cellphone to work. She said she got a special cellphone especially for the trip. That's what I should've done. There was a little restaurant inside the station, but there wasn't time for us to try it out. As soon as we got on board, it started to rain. We passed through Kendal, the birthplace, we were told, of Catherine Parr, the 6th wife of Henry VIII. We also passed through Low Newton, where I saw signs for the Holker Festival. Off to the right, we could see the blue of the Irish Sea. Just as quickly as it had started, the rain stopped. The Sun shone bright as we left the Lake District. Stone walls gave way to squat hedges between fields. 
At 5 PM, we arrived in Lancastershire. Specifically, we were in Preston, just east of Blackpool. In our hotel room, there was no TV remote. I went down to ask for one as Donna waited for our luggage to arrive. I also asked about Internet access. The girl at the desk said it was three pounds for 15 minutes. There was also no laundry service. With our luggage and a new remote in the room, we went down to the restaurant for supper. We ate with Colin and Joan, and we found out they had two girls. They said I didn't look old enough to be ready to retire in less than two years. After supper, Donna and I went for a walk. There was nothing anywhere. The hotel they booked us in was in an industrial/office area, and everything for blocks around was closed. One business had a sign with the silhouette of a man being struck down by a lightning bolt that said ominously, "Danger: risk of death!" Another building had circular stairways hanging off the back of the building as fire escapes. I kept seeing car makes and models I'd never seen or heard of before. I started to make a list. 
Back at the hotel, Donna went to the room while I tried to get online. The new person at the front desk said they couldn't give me 15 minutes on the Internet "because more minutes haven't been delivered." Huh? The only option they gave me was to pay 10 pounds for 90 minutes online, and I wasn't going  to do that. They couldn't even tell me when I could get online at the original rate. It put me in a sour mood the rest of the evening. All I wanted to do was check my stupid email. I got a Guinness, then went back to the room. I watched a rerun of "House" and tried to watch some English football. In the news, Bush announced global warming plans that didn't stop global warming. British TV showed pictures of him smiling, like messing up the environment delighted him to no end. 
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
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