20.05.2013 - 24.05.2013
We love England. Our English friends were definitely the highlights of our short stay in the gray, humid and old yet beautiful country.
A two hour train ride though the green country side took us to the Manchester area. Andy, a dear friend we met diving in Borneo awaited at the train station. He drove us to Ratclliffe, a town from which you can see a monument to Robert Peel, the guy who invented the Police (didn't you know that the English invented almost everything... right, Andy?). As we settled down in Nicola's beautiful two story home we took some time to catch up and let Ylla play with the rocks, flowers, and fish that graciously decorated Nicola's spacious back yard.
Andy and Nicola became good friends diving. Crazy Andy not only dove in Egypt after the 2010 shark attacks but goes paragliding in Tenerife, on a spot so dangerous that if you miss it, certain death awaits. Nicola, despite having a pretty intense week at work devoted some time to spend with us, bought toys for Ylla, and put together a delicious dinner for 6.
Visiting The Yorshire Dales is a must in Northern England, and we had the best guides to explore it. As we headed north into the dales we stopped at Bolton Abbey, the ruins of a 1511 massive catholic church in an impressive landscape. It was destroyed by Henry VIII when he went crazy after Catholics burning churches and monasteries.
This is where Jay attempted to cross the Wharf river over the jumping stones. It sounded like a good idea if Jay wouldn't have been carrying his backpack at the time. He fell off and got wet up to the "bollocks." Witnessing the dramatic fall made me turn back and take the bridge instead. "That was a good decision" said an old couple who laughed after watching the whole thing.
Chris (and his girlfriend Claire) met us in Skipton, their picturesque, small and cute hometown. We met Chris in Goa, India chilling out on the beach. Then, we met up with him a couple of months later to go to Ko Chang, a Thai island, for about a week to ring in the new year. We reminisced on the old times of a few months before.
After a yummy local meal (yes! fish and chips), and a brief stop at the local pub, we took a boat along the Liverpool and Leeds canal. The latter is remarkably long, covering about 150 miles of extension. The rather short but beautiful boat ride took us to some castle that I cannot remember (Andy, the man with a shocking memory should remember) the name of. I only know that currently there is an Italian family inhabiting.
The trip could not be completed until Chris took us to a tiny village (dale) called Lothersdale. In this shire he spent 5 years between 12 and 17 years of age. The day was cold and rainy but cozy houses, little streets and green hills made up for it. It amazes me how the English love flowers. They have them in pots, gardens, walls, rooftops and even on the most peculiar hanging items. The colorful and diverse flowers made a lovely contrast with the grey brick/stone houses.
We had to take turns to see what Lothersdale had to offer. Ylla had fallen asleep in the car and we didn't want to wake her up to avoid for the rest of the day. As Jay waited (probably napped) in the car while Chris, Claire, Andy and I went for a stroll.
Chris wanted to take us to see the old mill, instead we found that out of its ruins a girl was catching a goat to take it for a walk. "You only see stuff like that in the dales," said our English friend. The place is so peaceful, green and unique that makes you wish you could buy a little cottage out there to live in.
Living in The Yorkshire dales is remarkably expensive. "Only the rich can afford to buy properties there," pointed out Chris. Most of the locals newer generations find themselves unable to afford to live in their parents town and end up moving to larger towns. The rich have realized that living in the dales offers a better quality of life than in the stressful and populated urban areas, raising the price of the properties to the sky.
We said our farewells to Chris as he is getting ready to travel for 14 months across Africa. The following day Andy, took us sightseeing. Even though we were a week early to see the steam train in Hebden Bridge Village and ended up eating in the middle of nowhere cafe, driving around with a good friend makes your day. I believe it is true that in reality the journey is made up 90% the company and 10% the sights.
Despite Andy's efforts to take us to the Lake District and show us more of his lovely country we decided to chill in the house the day before our departure. Jay had to catch up with work (yes! work! online classes) and we needed to rest a little before heading to France and continue the journey. In fact, we decided it wasn't such a good idea to be traveling long distances by train to spend only a couple of days in a given place. Sadly, we had to tell my cousin in Holland and a nice couple in Germany that we were not going to visit them this time.
Andy really went out of his way to make us feel at home. He even went through the trouble to make us a real full English Breakfast which included a delicious black pudding made by his own company: "The Real Lancashire Black Pudding factory." He also drove us for about 7 hours from the Manchester vicinity across the country to Dover, one of the ferry launching points to France. The ride was longer than expected, the construction and bank holiday (what they call a 3 day weekend) created buttloads of traffic on the highways. The trip was no walk in the park having a lady who needed to pee every 30 mins (me) and a child in the back seat.