Originally our plan was to organise working Visas and find 6-12 months of paid work somewhere in the UK, to boost funds and continue our travels. These plans fell through when we realised that we couldn't apply for Visas while outside of Australia.. so our sights are now set on working in Canada, who are a bit more sympathetic to our situation. With our bank balances rapidly receding, we only gave ourselves a few more days in England before jetting off to visit a few more (slightly cheaper) destinations on our wish list.
After our day in the Lakes district we cruised back down to Sheffield to return some borrowed gear and enjoy one last English-Indian curry with Richard and his mates. Our plans for the next day were a little insane, but we were sure we could fit it all in, and had a relatively good nights sleep on the lounge in preparation.
Our first destination was York, a couple of hours north of Sheffield. We drove through this beautiful walled city with it's great cathedral.. for a cup of coffee with Aidan's old mate Shaun, and his fiancée, Sophie. It turns out that they have just spent a year teaching English in India. We swapped a few stories, and thought about plans of detouring to that same region of the world for something similar before getting serious in Canada. Stay tuned..
Dragging ourselves away from the conversation in Shaun and Sophie's living room, we zoomed through the countryside down to Lincoln. Lewis and Vanessa, a couple we hung out with in China ten months ago, were living there so we met them in a little country pub for the roast of the day! Although time was running away, after lunch Lewis insisted on a brief tour of Lincoln. Another walled city with a huge cathedral, it had a nice feel and it was a shame we had to rush out so quickly.
Next stop, Cambridge. We had to drop off our rental car by 4pm, with a plan to stay the night with another old mate from Sheffield, Tom Rowley. Aidan had spent Christmas with Tom's family four years ago, so it was good to catch up again. Tom recently spent a year in Russia and Ukraine, he speaks, reads and writes fluent Russian and Ukrainian, and is now doing his pHD at Cambridge University on Ukrainian literature (to put it all in a nutshell)!
The hard part was returning the rental car. We arrived by 4.45pm, a little past the due time of 4pm, to be fair, although the office was shut, the carpark closed and there was no sign at all of any after hours returns system. After an hour on the phone to the Europcar head office, we settled on leaving the car in the shopping centre park next door and coming back to argue our case the next morning, when they opened at 10am. Determined to make a good impression, we went back at 9.45am the next day. By 11.30am someone finally turned up. She explained that they open at midday, and was so embarrassed that we were told otherwise that she took the keys and waived any extra charges. A bit stressful, but we got away with that one!
Tom showed us around some of the halls, gardens and manors of Cambridge, and we wondered about how these academic types live. Tom himself was still in a state of awe, having only moved here a few weeks earlier. Again, we were running out of time, and Tom had a stack of Russian law notes to transcribe, so after lunch we jumped on the bus back down to London.
With one more day in London before flying to warmer weather in Morocco, we made the most of it. Jess wanted to see some of the antiques shops on Portabello Road in Notting Hill, so we did that before following Aidan's sister, Emily's, advice and checking out the temporary Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It was Christmas come early, as we sipped on sweetened mulled cherry wine, laughed at a big mechanical tree telling bad jokes, and even had a go on one the biggest, scariest looking rides they had!
All full of adrenalin and Christmas spirit, we've just found a good place to sleep at Gatwick Airport, and are eagerly waiting for our early morning flight to Agadir, the surfing capital of Morocco!