Keep Left Through Roundabout

Today we were basically in transit. We had an option of heading to Edinburgh directly on our first day. But that would have been a mess as we were beat from our flight and there’s not way I would have made that drive. So that’s what prompted out stop in Nottingham. Even from here, we could choose to drive directly up, or see some sights, so we always choose to see some sights. This time we decided that a quick stop in York was in order. W loved our last rip to York, which was also last-minute, and felt a short stop in was worth the time spent.

We made it out of Nottingham easily, and the drive itself was pretty quick and uneventful. The hardest part of freeway drives is that its pretty much static scenery most of the way. Things look really uniform at that speed. And that wears you down and puts you to sleep. But once we hit the outskirts of York things were just amazing. If you’ve never been to York, it’s hard to understand the appeal of driving out of the way to visit a small town in the English Countryside. York is a beautifully preserved town, with old buildings and streets, almost fully intact city walls (to the point where getting into the old city core can be a bit of a hassle.) It was raining off and on, but we were able to find parking in a Car Park by the river and start walking over to the York Minister. We didn’t actually have any plans more complex that “Visit York” so we started with the York Minister because it is tall. And for a Cathedral, it’s really Cathedral-ly. it actually looks like a smaller Notre Dame, which it basically is. The rain was getting harder, so we moved quickly through the streets and ducked through the tiny door into the cathedral. 

York Minister is in beautiful shape. The stained glass is all amazing, and the vaulted ceilings are amazing. We first walked over to the Prayer Candle section by the front door, and lit a candle for Yulia’s mother.  It has been exactly one year since she died, and we needed to light a candle for her. We didn’t have time before with all the travel and sleeping, but we wanted to burn a candle for her. We did at the Cathedral, and I’m glad we got a change to do that. We were expecting only a short stop here, but we wanted to head into the interior market of York. The market area is lined with what I used to call Shakespeare houses, the beam and plaster homes, all old black and white style. Now it’s “Harry Potter” style. So much that there are literally Harry Potter shops all over the center of town. (They do cater to all tastes, so they include Game of Thrones merchandise as well)

The real downside was that the rain was picking up. We wanted to wander around for longer but we were getting soaked pretty fast. We jumped into a restaurant and had some lunch. I had “Toad in the Hole” which is basically Bangers and Mash in a Yorkshire pudding. For the Americans in the audience, bangers and Sausages, mash are mashed potatoes, and a Yorkshire Pudding is a flour, butter and meat drippings pastry shell.

Do I have to explain everything to you people?

Oh, then cover everything in gravy because England. The Girls ate something that wouldn’t kill them in a week, and we all had some strong tea to keep us awake for the long drive. It was actually a good thing that it was raining, or we would have burned a half of a day in York. It’s amazing and we have to go back.

Heading out of York, we had about a 4 hour drive up the coast. The rain was pretty bad, but that didn’t seem to impact the drive time as far as google maps was telling us. I was even able to get Android Auto working in our rental car so the trip map was displayed directly on the car’s screen. That’s really handy. I was getting much better at driving on the left side of the road now, it didn’t feel natural, but I wasn’t having a panic attack at each roundabout. We made great time as far as Newcastle on Tyne, and went through the tunnel there. It’s a toll, and we had to scramble a bit to find a few Pounds to toss into the bin in the booth.

At that point, traffic started to choke up, and Google pinged us with an alternte route. It saved about 5 minutes, so we left the freeway and took a smaller highway for a while. This was going to loop us around the current snarl on the Freeway then drop us back in after a few miles. As we were going I checked the alternate routes, and we had the option of staying on this highweay instead and going direct to Edinburgh. The freeway was coastal, and this routwe headed through the hills. With traffic, they were just about the same time total. So we tool the hill route

We made the right call.

A long drive on the freeway gets hypnotically boring rather quickly. But the time flew by as we had something new to see and talk about for the whole route. We wound our way through gentile rolling hills, and we drove through small villages every once in a while, each one being slightly different. The curves in the road also do a great job at keeping you alet. The only real downside was we got stuck behind a pair of Camper vans for about an hour, they weren’t too slow, but they did cut into our time. We lost them just as we crossed the border into Scotland.

We passed a “Welcome to Scotland” sign and went through yet another village. That opened into a long diveacross local farmlands dotted with the occasional sheep or cow. This was the best drive we had had on a road trip in a long time. We were tired, but It is so much better to have had something to talk about the whole time with scenery and everything. The road eventually connected back to the main freeway and we were heading into Edinburgh proper. We could enter via either the south or east, and east appeared to have less traffic, so we gave that a shot.

We knew that there was a music festival going on this week. We were excited for that as I got us tickets to go see Madness on our last full day. What I didn’t realize is that this is the largest event of the year in Edinburgh, and the city was packed! Our Room was right by the Royal Mile in the center of town, and traffic was a mess to get there. I dodged as many of the traffic cones as I could and worked our way through the buses until I was across the street from our door. It was as close as I could get, and even then I had security guards telling me I couldn’t stop there. I dropped Yulia and Sasha with the bags so they could go in, adn I got back in the car and got back into traffic. I had parking reserved at a little garage just on the other side of the castle.

I fought my way through traffic and down the winding streets until I was at the alley for the parking garage. I pulled around and was ready to turn left into it when I saw the alley. It was tiny! I could probably have stood in the middle and touched both sides at the same time. There was no way I was going to get my car in there. I could probably do it with my Fiat500e at home, but not this Civic. I pulled around the corner and parked on the side, flipping my hazard lights on.

I cancelled my parking reservation at that place and started searching for another. I found a garage for about the same price on the far end of the Royal Mile. That wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately This was the worst traffic direction and it took may about a half hour to go one mile. The grage was easy to find, and I squeesed the car into a small spot on the main floor. The ramps were skinny in this garage too, so I was glad to avoid that.

I walked back to the Royal Mile, and headed up the hill to our flat. I called Yulia and found that they were still walking around, and they were headed my direction. I stopped and waited for them, and then texted Henry. He and a few freinds from our group were at a scotch bar at their hotel, which was just down the block. It’s nice that everything here is so close.

Once Yulia and Sasha showed up, we all walked over to the hotel to meet our freinds. You could tell that everyone had been travelling, as we all looked tired, but too wound up to actually rest. They had just finished some food, so now it was time for Scotch.

Yulia and Sasha headed out to look at some stores and get a full dinner. I stayed with Henry and our freind Michael and our new freind the bartender. The bartender recommended some excellent scotches based on our tastes, we were trying a couple of different types, a Highland, and Spayside, and we finished with an Islay. He found three different Islay scotches that seemed interesting, so we had one each and passed them around to test. Each one had a different level of smoke and spice to them. I know I ordered an Ardbeg, but I can’t remember the others. We were all beat at this point. I’m lucky I was able to remember which side of the glass to drink from. (Hint: the once closest to you)

Vacation was fun already, but we still were on our travel days.

Not actually Hogsmeade