Thursday, 27 May 2010

Seeing England on two wheels. May 28, 2010

Joe arrived home from France with nice bottle of French perfume for me! He really liked it over there and said the people were very friendly. He golfed with three Frenchmen on his golf day and enjoyed them immensely. One of them offered him a piece of some kind of cake on the golf course. Joe did his usual, "no, thank you, I'm good". He said the guy's face just fell and he looked crestfallen. He looked so sad and said, "why not"? Joe felt bad and decided to have some and the man became suddenly happy again to share. Apparently it was not good manners to turn down a treat!

I think I may have mentioned that I am sorely missing having a dog here. I am home so much and would really like the company. Although having a dog would make our traveling a lot more difficult so I have been trying to figure out what to do about it. I got Joe to take me up to the local RSPCA (animal shelter). I wanted to ask about volunteering. It was a weekend and they were very busy. As we had other things to do we finally left without talking to anyone. The shelter is almost 3 miles from our house and that posed another problem. How would I get there? I have also thought about fostering dogs but you still have the issue of having a dog here when we want to go out of town. Plus when you foster there is usually an issue with the animal, so its probably not in the dog's best interest to drop it off at a dog kennel while you are away.

After much thought and some digging around on the Internet regarding bus schedules I decided one day to try and take a bus to the shelter. There is a bus stop about 4/10 of a mile from our house. I did my best to try and figure out where I was supposed to get off so that I'd be close to the place, and left one morning around 10:30. When I got to the bus stop I saw that the next bus wasn't coming for 20 minutes. So I walked down into town and bought a newspaper and came back. There was a nice little old lady standing there when I got back and I visited with her while we were waiting. People love talking to Americans, (although at first she guessed Canadian). They laugh at our funny ways. OUR FUNNY WAYS??

The bus finally came and I told the driver I wanted to be taken to the animal shelter and named the street that the website had said was the one to get off at. He gave me a blank stare and then I said, "The RSPCA". He then nodded and promised to motion to me when we got there. I've never ridden a public bus before so I don't know how to act. I was really trying to memorize the way as we went through town. I knew that I may have to walk this route in the future. The bus cost £2.30 ($3.45) which I thought was a lot for a 3 mile ride!I was so busy looking at the streets and things that I didn't even notice when he stopped for me. An old lady started tapping me on the shoulder and I realized it was my turn to get off. I thanked him and got out. As soon as he pulled away I saw a sign across the street that said, "SPDA"or something like that. It was not the right place! And the bus was gone!

I was on Hinckley Road and I knew that the bus stop that I was supposed to get off was on Hinckley Road so I figured I'd just start walking and eventually come to it. (Hinckley Road is a LONG road that goes through many towns, like Rt. 355 at home that goes through Rockville and all the way north of Frederick. I walked and walked and nothing looked familiar. I must have walked at least a mile. Finally I asked a lady pushing a stroller if she knew of an animal shelter close by. She said, "the RSPCA?" Oh, I could have hugged her. She pointed the direction that I had come and said, "its way down that way, but its too far to walk. You'll have to cross the street and take the bus...". I said, "no, I don't mind walking". I was NOT getting on the bus again. So she told me what to look for and back I went. By now I am sick of carrying my purse and that darn paper I bought! But I finally got back to where the bus had let me off the first time and continued on. Wouldn't you know right around the corner was the turn I wanted! If I had just walked the other direction when I got off the bus I would have been so close! From there I had a 20 minute walk off the main road to get to the shelter. I was SO tired by then. I was wondering what I'd do if they said, "sure you can volunteer, you can walk some dogs right now!"

As it turned out I was only there 5 minutes. They said they had a volunteer open house coming up and I was welcome to come to that to learn all about volunteering. So I signed up and headed for my long walk home. I covered more mileage that day then if I'd have just walked to the shelter and not even taken the bus! I was pooped when I got home around 2:30. Then when Joe comes in from work do you know what he said? "Do you want to walk into town to the nice restaurant for dinner tonight?" I had been wanting to do that for some time but I had to turn him down.

Now I have gone to the shelter for the meeting (thankfully in the evening so I could use the car). There were a lot of people there who wanted to volunteer. I filled out the paperwork so we'll see. They wanted two references (to take care of dogs!) which I had to give U.S. names and addresses. They would not use phone numbers or email. So those letters will take a week to get there and another week back. I hope they call me because I really want to do it. It is a big shelter and the closest one to me.

We have decided not to get another car right now. I can drive Joe to work anytime I want to use the car and the insurance is very expensive. Plus there are all kinds of road taxes and things on top of the car costs. What we did instead was, we went to the store and bought me a bike! ME, a bike! People walk and ride bikes everywhere here. I don't mean the bikers with the cute little neon outfits that ride all hunched over their handlebars either. Regular moms, dads, grandpas and yes, grandmas. No helmets, just backpacks and off they go! I decided that I could do that to get around too.

We went to a good store where they were very knowledgeable about the bikes. Of course I go straight for the cheap ones, which happened to be mountain bikes. The guy did not recommend them for riding on the street. They are much heavier and not built as well as the street bikes they had. I was nervous to spend a lot of money because once it is spent then I am obligated to use it! But I relented. Joe wanted me to get a good one and this one had a real good seat (important for my wide you-know-what), made very well to handle abuse (changing gears etc,) without repairs. A good thing as we know nothing about fixing bikes.
When we got home I wanted to try it right away. I hop on and in two seconds I am heading straight for Joe and telling him to stop me. Which he did. Then I took my time and off I went down our driveway. How come when you remember riding bikes as a kid there are no memories of being nervous, almost falling, or hitting a large pebble and falling? It is a lot harder at age 50 than I remembered. But I have been riding every day this week, trying to get my strength and coordination up. I don't remember U-turns being so hard either.

I did take my first fall the other day. BUT IT WASN'T MY FAULT! I was riding up our quiet street and you know how I've told you that there are hedges around all the houses here? Well this kid delivering newspapers came shooting out of someone's driveway on a bike and we almost collided. I couldn't see him coming as he came straight out between two hedges and he couldn't see me for the same reason. I just about lost it but managed to stay on the bike when an oncoming MERCEDES SUV was coming up the road right at me! She had to see the whole thing as the road is straight and good visibility. Instead of going around me, she keeps coming straight at me and puts both hands up in the air like, "what are you doing??" I swerved to the side so as not to get hit and ran into the curb and fell off the bike. Do you know what she did? She kept right on going? I was SO MAD!! I wasn't hurt, I had fallen onto the grass, but still!

Today I actually rode into the village which was scary because there are a lot of cars. I am not real comfortable yet when faced with cars, walkers, etc. I told you how people just park on the road and cars are continually having to go around them into the other lane. Very scary on a bike. The road to the RSPCA is a very busy one so I am going to have to work up to that. It does have a bike lane though.
A really cool house on main street in the village with a tree literally growing on the outside of it!

The cars here are very small and very good on gas mileage. There are fewer gas stations than in the states too. Much fewer! Joe has a SAAB 4 door, which isn't tiny, but not very big either. You don't see many SUV's either. Except rich women who drive Mercedes ones. But seriously, they are few and far between. The other day when we were on the highway we were passed by a Chrysler 300. We both exclaimed at the same time how BIG it was. It looked like a giant cruising up the highway! Oh no, this country is rubbing off on us.

Last Saturday morning while I was still in bed Joe got online and looked up theaters to see the new movie ROBIN HOOD with Russell Crowe. There were theaters nearby where we could go to see it, but no, he wanted to see it in Nottingham, 45 minutes away. He was so excited to tell me when I got up. He loved the idea of seeing the movie in the city the story took place. It was a beautiful day so we went early and sat outside at a restaurant in an old courtyard and ate while we watched all the crazies walking by. We then went around the corner to a huge beautiful new looking theater to watch the movie. It's funny because where we ate was an old old cobbled street with restaurants and shops on either side, no car traffic. Then you go around the corner and here is this big modern theater. During the beginning of the movie "Nottingham" came up on the screen announcing where it was taking place and Joe gave me a sly look. I leaned over and asked him if he was expecting the audience to break out in applause!

The British are very loyal people and fussy about their reputations. We have heard some of them say that they don't care to see the movie because "how could they dare get an Australian to play and Englishman!" We read that Russell Crowe studied the local language so that he could get the accent right. Apparently they did not think it was authentic enough. We also heard that a lot of Scottish folks were mad when Mel Gibson (another Aussie) was chosen to play William Wallace in Braveheart. They are still complaining about that one! I also read in a newspaper article that people were unhappy that Brits always play the bad guys in movies too. Funny people!

The holidays here are called "bank holidays". Although technically there are three types of holidays. The original (statutory holidays) bank holidays are where the banks are closed so that the financial system comes to a stop that day. These are Easter Monday, the last Monday in May, the last Monday in August and Boxing Day (day after Christmas). Common Law (or public) holidays are Good Friday and Christmas Day. Then there are the Holidays designated by Royal Proclamation. These are New Year's day and the first Monday in May. When New Year's day falls on a weekend the Queen traditionally designated the following Monday the proclaimed holiday. We only get 8 holidays, less than you all (especially if you work for the government!)

So your Memorial Day weekend coming up is our spring break bank holiday. Whatever, I am glad we have it. We have planned another trip for the three day weekend. We are going to the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is an area of about 790 square miles in the upper southwest region of England AND is the country's largest officially designated 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. A travel guide I read said it is one of the most 'quintessentially English' and unspoiled regions of England. Gentle rolling hills, river valleys, meadows, sleepy ancient limestone villages, and so typically English where time has stood still for over 300 years. What I have learned through researching travel in England is that there are many many places you can walk in the countryside. Either with a tour or a self-guided tour. Apparently there are walking paths all over the country. The public paths many times go right through a farmer's field or other private land. But these paths have been here forever and so they remain public to walkers, bike riders and the like. I haven't quite figured out how all that came about but I will probably learn this weekend. For right now I bought an Ordnance Survey Explorer Map for the area we are going. This is a map recommended if you are going to walk trails through the country. Each area of the country has their own map. The detailed scale of 1:25 (4cm to 1 km) means that bridleways, cycle trails and paths are clearly shown, including public rights of ways. It is a map just for walkers (also bikes and horses) and looks wonderful. They also show stately homes, museums, gardens, country pubs along with all the different types of trails and landmarks along the way so you don't get lost. Just looking at the map they name barns, tons of farms, one place named Betty's grave, cottages, churches, and the kind of trails; rocks, gravel, sand, mud, even the incline. The list goes on and on. I hope I can make heads or tails of it while we are out there. I can't wait to try it out! I will be the one responsible because I was the mail carrier! I plan to take many beautiful pictures.

Speaking of are a couple of pictures of a friendly kitty who lives up the street. She lets me pet her when I am out walking. Everyone have a great Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Bits and Bobs as the British say May 14, 2010

I just feel like writing today so this is going to be a blog about all things British.  So many of you have been asking about their peculiarities and ways.  I had hoped we wouldn't be picking up these things but it seems that little by little we have.  Joe called someone a mate the other day when he was talking to me and didn't even know it.  "Mate" is their word for friend (male or female) and used liberally.  He picks up more because of working with them all day.  Plus his co-workers make it their duty to correct him whenever he says something especially "American".  He got a verbal warning (as his friend at work called it) for saying potato chips and candy instead of "crisps and sweets" yesterday.  They have many laughs over these things at work apparently.  Joe comes home and reports these things to me and we have a laugh.  Because of his daily exposure to the language and accent he can understand what the Brits say a lot better than me.  I have a hard time if their accent is very thick or if they talk fast.  We got a call the other day from a guy who was late for an appointment here.  For the life of me, I couldn't understand most of the message.  Joe was out in the yard so I took the phone out to him to listen to it.  He said, "his truck broke down".  I was just dumbfounded.  It didn't sound anything like that to me.  I went back inside and listened again.  Sure enough the part I couldn't get was "sorry, I had some trouble with me lorry".

We have had to hire someone to do some of the yard work.  We have hedges so high that Joe would have to buy a tall ladder AND a hedger to do the job.  There is a hedge that runs along one side of our driveway that is over 8' tall and about 90 yards long (I counted it out in strides the other  day).  That is the long one, but we have even higher conifers along the back fence and up one side of the back yard.  This guy will also do edging around all the flower beds.  He said he doesn't weed but knows a retired gentleman who weeds for people and just gets paid by the hour.  That should help me get out from under all this weeding.  It is never ending.  The dandelions started coming up in the lawn the other day and Joe started having a heart attack.  So in came Green Thumb to do a treatment on our lawn.  When the guy got here he said he'd been here a year or so ago and that the grass was practically up to his knees.  I knew that this yard hadn't been taken care of for eons!  They said we have about every kind of weed imaginable in our grass.  Great, I knew Joe would be happy about that.

Green Thumb has only been in the UK for a few years.  Most people hardly have any grass here.  It's really amazing.  But when you learn some of the statistics of this country you understand why.  For example, the United Kingdom (including Ireland, Scotland and Wales) is about the size of Wisconsin.  The population of Wisconsin is 5.6 million. The population of the UK is over 61 million!  Another telltale figure:  US population per square km (1 mile = 1.609 km) is 32.3.  The UK population per square km is 250!  So you see there are many many people here but very little space.  That is why houses are close together, yards are practically non-existent unless you get into the higher price ranges.  Even those homes still don't have huge yards.  

Many of the Brits go to the US for holiday (vacations are holidays here, they never use the word vacation).  They love the newness,  openness, convenience of tons of stores and parking, and the warm weather (Florida is very popular).  They don't really have much in amusement parks and Disney World is a big destination.  When they holiday in Europe they go to Spain, Greece or other warm weather locals.  It's all about getting to warm sunny skies.  They don't even think of visiting all the historical locations here in England.  Kind of like us living near Washington, D.C. but never going down there to sightsee.  

Speaking of their vacation.  Wow are things different here than in the US.  When you are first hired you are given 20 - 25 days of annual leave per year!  Starting with the first day you start work.  When Joe tells people that you have to work at Aireco for a year before you get 5 days paid vacation people just can't believe it.  They all say, "Well, I'd never work there!"  They don't realize how good they have it.  United gives 20 days and the employees think they have it bad because most companies give 25 days!  The sick leave policy is even more unbelievable.  They are allowed to "self diagnose" meaning if they are sick they don't have to go to a doctor for a note or anything.  Joe thinks that the sick leave allowance is around 20 days a year too.

                                                             Houses with names...

Many of you know we don't have a house number, just a house name, which is Bramcotes.  I have been fascinated by the names of the houses on our street.  I have no idea why they are named rather than a house number.  Although people here aren't particularly surprised when we say "Bramcotes" instead of a house number when asked for our address.  I tried to Google it to see why it is done.  The best answer I got was way back in time the rich people named their halls, castles, manors and lodges according to ancestry, location and family titles.  However, the same website told me that all houses now have numbers and very few have just a name and the majority have no name.  Well, they missed us on our street!  The first houses on our street have numbers and names but then there is a little one lane bridge and the houses after that are only named.

                             Lyndhurst                                       Prior's Wood   

  Wyken House                                                                                         The Brambles

Brickman's Hill                                                                                    Spion Lodge


                                                Another strange thing here is the banking system.  When we came here to visit last October, the American who did the last stint here took us to Lloyds of London bank and introduced us to someone there with a signed letter of introduction stating that we were of good character and that he has known us for 5 years.  At the time I didn't think too much about it.  I thought maybe it was just because of Lloyds being a fancy bank or something.  But I have since found out that when you open a bank account here, any bank here, you must have a letter of introduction from someone who can basically vouch for you.  At home banks are falling all over each other to get customers.  Not so here.  I have also read on websites where people are giving advice to expats moving to England that it can be VERY hard to get an account without the introduction.

I think I've told you how the authorities close down the highways whenever there is an accident.  Another thing that we've noticed is all the highways have a nice shoulder and if they don't they put a sign up that says, "no hard shoulder for 1 km" or whatever the distance.  They also have FREE roadside towing when you breakdown.  There are signs all over stating that if you breakdown go to side of road and wait for help.  With all the junky cars driven in the US the tow trucks would be busy 24/7!

I also thought it would be amusing to list some of their terminology here:  

advert                            advertisement
bonnet                            hood of a car
boot                                 trunk of a car
grafter                            worker
trainers                          tennis shoes
bobbies                           policemen
nick(ed)                          steal (stolen)
motorway                      highway/interstate
telly                                TV
garden                            yard
petrol                              gas
windscreen                    windshield
tip                                   dump (the place)
drunk as a lord             drunk as a skunk
shut your gob               shut your mouth
cheers                            thank-you, good-bye
lift                                   elevator
lass                                 girl
lad                                  boy or man
bloke                              man
ring me                          call me (phone)
have a lie-in                  sleep in
thin as a rake                skinny as a rail
car park                         parking lot
partner                          husband/wife
red sauce                       ketchup
barrister                        lawyer
bobby                             cop
burgle                             burglarize
till                                   cash register
chips                               french fries
hob                                  stove
cuppa                             cup of tea
fortnight                        two weeks
granny flat                    mother-in-law apartment
lads night out                guys night out
queue up                        line up
take-away food             take out
brown sauce                  HP, popular British sauce used like ketchup
lorry                               truck (any)
sat nav                           GPS
wellies                            knee high rubber boots
mum, mummy             mom, mommy
crack on                         go ahead
trousers                         pants
pants                              men's underwear
knickers                         women's underwear
tick the box                   check the box (when filling out forms etc.)
chemist                          pharmacist
knock me up                 wake me up

Joe told me a funny story about the use of the word partner.  United's headquarters is in Philadelphia.  Occasionally a British or French (they have a French division too) employee will have to go to Philly for a meeting or training.  So this Brit goes to Philly for a big meeting with a bunch of his American counterparts.  While at a large table of men the first night there, he was discussing things that he and his wife had done and kept referring to her as his "partner" as the British do.  He noticed over the next several days of meetings that the men were being standoffish and kind of unfriendly.  Finally on the last day someone tells him that they thought he was gay because of his term "partner" the first night.  In disbelief he yells, "No, no!"  But it was too late to save his reputation.  Most of the guys were already gone.

I don't remember who it was that asked me if we've met any of our neighbors.  The answer is no.  I have said "hi" to the next door neighbor twice while rolling out our trash bin but that is it.   He waves but makes no other move to be friendly.  The way the houses and yards are with the fences and the hedges it is pretty much impossible to see your neighbors.  We can't see either one of ours unless we are down at the street.  All the yards on the street are surrounded by hedges and/or fences.  This neighborhood is full of old established homes and the people are the same.  They really are snobby, there is no other word for it, and value their privacy.  Even when I'm out walking on our street I rarely get a wave from a car passing by.  
But we can't judge the British by this street.  Every where we go they are very friendly and nice.  I don't even mind the neighborhood because I love the house and the garden.  Since I am here all the time, it is important that I like the place.  I like the village too, so it is fine.

See what I mean about hedges?  These are pictures of our street.

Today is Friday.  Tomorrow morning Joe and I are driving to London (a two hour drive).  One of his vendors is taking us to see the singer Michael Buble Saturday night.  They are putting us up in a Marriott, taking us to dinner and a champagne reception before the concert and then we will watch the concert from a private suite.  Guess they want United's business, huh?

Next week Joe is going to France for four days.  He and the GM from United are going over to visit the France division, tour a factory and then play golf in a tournament there.  My sneaking suspicion is the golf was the main event and other things were planned around it.  No, the wives are not going.  BUT, I will have his car here while he is gone so I have a huge shopping list!

Just a note about this blog.  When I type it out and get it ready to post, rarely does it post as I had it looking in the draft form.  For instance, the list of British and American words.  Those lists were completely even and the columns were perfectly straight.  But somehow when it posts the blog formats it the way they want.  I am such a perfectionist on that kind of stuff and it drives me crazy!  That's why I had to tell you.  Also, all the captions on the pictures are right by the right pic and that changes too.  Very frustrating.

Until next time.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

York, England May 6, 2010

There is an old saying in England: "Ne're cast a clout till May is out". The word "clout" is a 15th century word for warm clothes. The saying means, "Never put away your warm clothes until the end of May". Why do we always have to learn things the hard way?

We have been having wonderful weather here for three weeks. Sunny days, temperatures in the low 60's, no rain. The Brits have been acting like it is hot! We have loved it. I read in the paper that the rainfall is way down compared to the norm. I have been using the time to work outside. It is so great to work in the yard and not get all hot and sweaty. The temperatures here are more mild than ours were at home. They are not as hot in the spring/summer and not as cold in the winter. However, there is a lot of rain, but it just rains for a little while and then the sun comes out. Up until 3 weeks ago it rained almost every day for a short period of the day. So we got fooled by this wonderful weather and went up to York unprepared. Oh, we had our umbrellas, we have learned not to go ANYWHERE without them. But we weren't prepared for the cold snap that occurred. Thinking that I was at home, I planted all my annuals just like I do every year after the first of May when there is no worry of frost. Off we go to York with light jackets and no sweaters.

I had booked a bed and breakfast which was an old townhouse turned into a small hotel. It was very quaint (what isn't here) and had friendly owners who gave us all kinds of tourist information. I had asked for a room with a view overlooking the city, as I had read about online. After going up one flight of stairs to the reception area we were given our key and told ours was room 11 "at the top". I look at the stairs and see tall fairly narrow steps going up. Apparently asking for a room with the view means you are on the top floor. We have our bags, our computers, our backpacks and head upstairs. We get up three flights and I am winded. There is a chair there, but somehow I didn't see it the first time up. Of course Joe is behind me not out of breath at all, muttering that "you just have to get in shape". If I wasn't so tired I might of launched him backwards with one shove. Do you know how much harder it is to go up steps with both your hands full of stuff? Not to mention someone behind you who is waiting because you are going so slow? We get up the fourth flight and I saw room 7. OMG we still have to climb. We were up 5 flights of steps before we got to our room (6 if you count the one to get to reception). All I could do was collapse on the bed, breathing hard, practically getting a case of asthma. Joe is calmly walking around the room looking out windows. Sometimes I really hate his fitness and love of exercise. Up until this point I had been feeling pretty good about myself, I have lost some weight from all the walking I have been doing. But you wouldn't know it this weekend. I pacified myself by telling myself that that is the last time I'll have to walk up those stairs carrying baggage.

The room did look over the town with the huge Cathedral in the distance. But it really wasn't like you could see that much. Not to the town center or anything. Just across lots of townhouses and yards with the city beyond. Anyway, it was already late afternoon so we headed out for the 15 minute walk into town to just browse and get something to eat. We had our umbrellas and backpacks. Good thing because just as we started out it began to rain. This is when I realize that Joe didn't bring his nice jacket with the hood, only the light jacket he had on. Well, too late now.

We hadn't eaten all day and were anxious to get into town to a pub or something. Plus it was raining, so there's a good chance that if you could wait it out it would stop. Leaving our hotel we walked towards town and we were surprised when we came to a stone wall. Somehow I had missed the fact that York is still surrounded by a huge stone wall! Sometimes I am amazed at my naivety. Most large cities in Europe were surrounded by walls for protection back in the day. We Americans are clueless.

                                   MICKLEGATE ENTRANCE TO THE CITY

If you walk the perimeter of the wall it is 3 miles around. The first wall was put up by the Romans to keep out the Scots. When the Vikings came along they buried the original wall and built a tall fence of pointed wooden spikes. That wall was there until it was replaced in the 13th and 14th centuries with the stone wall that remains there today. It is so neat to see these things and imagine life back then. There are four gates into the city, north, south, east and west. However, each entrance comprises of two gates close together. They would open one, allow people in, then close it behind them and trap the people between the two gates. If the people were enemies the guards would go up on top of the wall and throw rocks at them from above. If they really wanted to make them suffer they would then pour barrels of boiling urine on their heads. This is how the term "adding insult to injury" came about. They were injured by the rocks and then insulted by the urine. It was human urine though. The animal urine was saved for tanning leather. They would put a hide in a barrel, pour boiling animal urine and oak bark in there and then young boys would have to get in there standing up to their armpits and stomp on it all day, to tan the hide. Life must have been so hard then.

The streets were named by the Romans. The Roman word for street was "gate". The first part of the word would be what was happening on that street. So "Castlegate" was the street that the castle was on. The street "Monkgate" was where the monks lived and so on. We entered through the gate on Micklegate Street, but I don't know who or what was Mickle.

It didn't take us long to find a nice pub to go in and enjoy a meal and a drink. Not liking beer or wine I have discovered cider here. It is about as strong as beer but tastes like a sour apple cider. Pretty good actually. Joe continues his quest to try a pint of all the different lagers in England. He doesn't like dark beer so stays away from the bitters. But he has found there is a life without Coors Light! So far I think a German beer called Kaltenberg is his favorite. He enjoys going up to the bar maids and getting advice on which lager to try next. We both had gammon (ham) with a fried egg and pineapple on top with fresh homemade chips (french fries). Then I had Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert. Yum YUM! We were in there about an hour and a half and don't you know by the time we left it had stopped raining?

By now the sun had gone down and it was getting cold. We couldn't believe how cold it was! We just walked and walked all through the town looking at the shops and people. We weren't going to try to sight see that night. We were cold and tired when we walked back to our room. And yes, up the flights of stairs again. The room was not real warm and we couldn't get the heat registers going. I don't know what was wrong. Joe said he didn't care and I wasn't going back down those stairs for anything. Thank goodness something had made me throw in a flannel night shirt. I thought of the wonderful warm thick sweater that my sisters had gotten me for Christmas, the perfect English sweater, sitting useless at home! Our wool scarves we had home!!

The next day was going to be a full day so right after breakfast we set out. The first thing to do when you go into these cities when you don't know your way around is get on one of those bus tours. You pay one price for the day and they either have head phones where you can listen, or, a tour guide who talks giving a history of everything you pass along the way. You can get off at any stop and then get back on whenever you want. They are called appropriately, the "hop on hop off bus". The buses come by the stops every 5-10 minutes. So we ride the whole circuit first to see everything by bus and then hop off when we want to see something. It is a great way to get an idea of the lay of the town. It costs us £10 each which is like $15. One driver tried to be funny and charge us £10 for the free earphones. I said, "Get out of here, what do we look like Americans?" He thought that was really funny. Joe did his famous little chuckle.

I think I'll give you a little timeline of York. It is a city full of old history as it is one of England's oldest cities.

- Prehistory up to 71 AD: York is founded at the junction of two rivers. There is evidence of
human activity from up to 6000 years ago.

- Romans: 43 AD - 410 AD: Roman governor of Britain Quintas Cerealis founds York then
called Eboracum. In 211 the Emperor Septimius Severus died. Constantine the Great named
emperor in 306. He is the only one to allow Christian freedom.

- Anglo Saxon: 410 AD - 866 AD: A wooden chapel is built for King Edwin's baptism in 627, this develops into the famous York Minster. [More later on that.]

- Viking: 866 AD - 1068 AD: The Viking Army led by Halfdan and Ivor the Boneless takes
York in 866. For the next 80 years "Jorvik" is the new Scandinavian kingdom. It develops into a bustling industry with metal workers, pottery and cup makers and many other tradesmen. King Eric Bloodaxe is the last king forced out by the English Army in 954.

- Norman: 1068 - 1199: William the Conqueror marches into York in 1068. He destroys the
city and builds two castles to control it. The famous Clifford's Tower is the only part of the
castle that remains today, as a symbol of the Norman conquest.

- Medieval: 1199 - 1485: Edward I moved his court to York and it briefly became the capitol
of England. York Minster is re-built over 2 centuries and becomes the city's centerpiece.

- Tudors and Stuarts: 1485 - 1714: Henry VIII takes possession and moves his King's council to York in 1540. Guy Fawkes is born in York in 1570. He meets two of his fellow plotters who attempt to destroy Parliament in 1605. Royalist York surrenders to the Parliament army in

- Georgian: 1714 - 1837: York becomes the social capitol and center of fashion. In 1796 William Pitt builds the first cavalry barracks to prepare for war with the French.

- Victorian: 1837 - 1901: York's first railway station is built. One of the first in the world.
This starts the railway boom, the population grows.

- 20th Century: 1901 - present: German air raids 1942 devastated York. Many lives were
lost and property destroyed. The Minster was left unscathed.

The first thing we wanted to see was the Jorvik (pronounced Yorvik) Viking Center. I am just fascinated by the Vikings. Maybe its because of their horrible names (Eric Bloodaxe!). Or maybe its because they come from Scandinavia which includes my ancestors, from Norway. It's obvious I'm Norwegian with the maiden name of Elefson. That's where the tradition of surnames having "son" at the end started.

About 30 years ago archaeologists started digging on the site of an old factory. After 36,000 layers and 8 tons of sieving soil they discovered an old Viking city from the 10th century! The earth was spongy and moist around the old buildings. The damp conditions helped preserve everyday viking items such as leather, wood, cloth, bugs and even a viking toilet and its contents! I kid you not. There was a big petrified turd from a toilet on display! It had its own display box. But this was good because they were able to determine what the person had eaten from it!

What the city did was build a museum right over the old town. One section of the floor in the museum is made of glass and underneath you can see the outlines of a real viking house. Where the original door threshold was, where the garden was. The house was TINY. Then there were all kinds of artifacts to look at and stories to read about. The last part of the museum was a slow ride in a indoor roller coaster for lack of a better term. It took you in the dark through a "real" viking village where there were wax figures of vikings doing everyday chores. They had speaker systems and had the people talking to each other in their language. It was really interesting. The average viking male lived to only 21. The women lived longer, but still had a short life because they were bearing children from age 12 on up. Their average lifespan was 31 years. During this time they would have 17 or more pregnancies.

One thing I found very interesting. In the museum was a HUGE stone. I can't imagine how much it weighed. It was about 2' tall, 2' wide x 18" deep, all solid rock. The information on the display said in part, (Yes, I wrote it down), "This early 13th century stone fell from a pillar and landed on the head of a sleepy clerk. Somehow he lived. The event is known as Miracle of St. William". There is an ancient inscription on the stone: "QUI/CECIDIT/SUPER/CAPUT/ROGERI/DE/RIPUN". Translated means, "Which fell on the head of Roger Ripun." This stone was found in 1867 outside the Minster bearing the inscription declaring it to be the very stone.

I do find it fascinating that the Roman and Vikings cities are so far down below the street level in York. I guess when you think about any archeologist digs, they are always digging way down below our surface. I just don't understand how they get buried so far down.  Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures at the Jorvik Viking Center.

                                                          THE YORK MINSTER

The weather was pretty cold out so we decided we'd better get over to the Minster before it got too late. The York Minster is the largest medieval gothic castle in Norther Europe. I found it interesting that not all cathedrals are minsters, not all minsters are cathedrals, but York Minster is both.

Cathedral or cathedra means "seat".  It is where the bishop has his seat, which is only found in a cathedral.  A mynster was the Anglo-Saxon name for a missionary church - a church built as a new center for Christian worship.  The Minster in York was first built in 627 AD for King Edwin's baptism as stated in the timeline above.




It is estimated that half the medieval stained glass in England lines the walls. The Great East Window depicts the beginning and end of the world in over 100 scenes. There was so much stained glass and the place was huge. Joe decided to walk the 275 steps to the top of the tower for a view and pictures of the city below. No building in York is allowed to be taller than the Minster. So I sent him off - you didn't think I was going to go did you? It was COLD up there and I needed to be able to walk home! Of course he said it wasn't that bad, which he always does. He got some pictures too. 

                                       VIEWS FROM THE TOWER ON THE MINSTER

Clifford's tower is the only thing remaining from William the Conqueror's castle. Part of it's history includes one of the worst outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence in English history. In 1190, Christian merchants tried to erase their debts to Jewish bankers by doing away with York's Jewish community. One hundred and fifty jews took refuge in the tower. With the prospect of starvation or butchery they committed mass suicide by burning the tower. At that time the tower was made of wood. We did not go in the tower.

                                                            CLIFFORD'S TOWER

We were very disappointed that one of the main attractions, the Yorkshire Museum is closed for renovation and will not open until August. We didn't find that out until we got there. There is also the National Railway Museum, which didn't sound that interesting to us but has been highly recommended. They did say that Queen Victoria's Royal Carriage is there, I would like to see that.

We spent the rest of Sunday wandering through the little cobble streets that had tiny shops all along them. There were quite a few people out and about. It is a very touristy area. We walked down The Shambles, the narrowest street in York. Back in the day they taxed you on the square foot (or whatever measurement they used) of your floor space of your ground level. So people would build a couple stories up in their townhouses. On the top level they would extend the floor to hang out from the rest of the house. This street is so narrow that at one point you can be at the 2nd floor window of one house and reach across and shake the hand of the person hanging out their 2nd floor window across the street! I tried to get pictures, but the street was so crowded I don't know if I got a good shot. It was fun shopping but Joe doesn't like it. He doesn't complain too much. Except he was so paranoid when we were inside the shops that I was going to knock over a display or something with my backpack. He is such a worry wart! I could have spent days there though!

                                                                THE SHAMBLES

We had a nice anniversary dinner in a little Italian Restaurant and then walked home. By then it was very cold and rainy and we just wanted to be warm! I had such a cramp in my thigh that I had to hold onto Joe the rest of the way home. Oh, it was so COLD and my legs hurt!

We ended our weekend on Monday shopping in a huge designer mall (shopping center, they don't call them malls here) on the way home. It is the only inside mall similar to ours that I've seen here in the UK. It was packed with people. Of course Monday was a holiday here. This was 2 hours or so from our house so you see they don't have malls like that very close together.