Very early start this morning for Lynne's and my flight from New York to London - 5am!We managed to get to the airport just before 6am and go through all the screening again.Our flight was OK, and a bit bumpy, but I managed to sleep for a few hours which made it pass more quickly.
It took ages to get through border control in London, so we kept Danni, Todd and Ian waiting.It was great to see Danni and Todd after such a long time, and Danni nearly strangled me with her cuddle.We were both too tired for tears, and she probably used all her tears that morning when her Dad arrived.Poor Ian was almost asleep standing up as he had arrived at 7am and been awake about 40 hours.It took him about 2 minutes to fall asleep once he hit the bed.
The next day we caught a couple of tour buses to have a look around London.It was great to see all the sights which seemed somehow familiar - I think I have watched too many British crime dramas!After our second bus tour, we then went to Danni and Todd's place for dinner.We were joined for dinner by Todd's cousin Owen, and Danni cooked us a delicious dinner, and we spent a happy time chatting.We then took a taxi back to our hotel, and the Indian driver and Ian talked cricket all the way home.
The next morning we had a bit of Tom-Tom trauma.Ian and I made our way to Hertz to collect our hire car, and as we are Tom-Tom novices, we asked the Hertz staff member to help us program the device to get us back to our hotel, which was in Gloucester Road.Unfortunately, she programmed in 'Gloucester Street', and we got terribly lost, ending up down near the Thames River.Fortunately, Danni came to our rescue by phone, and we finally made it back, although much later than we had planned.We were able to program the device to get us to Danni and Todd's place, and once we picked them up we programmed it for Manchester.Unfortunately, there had been a fire under the MI to Manchester the day before, so it was closed.Tom-Tom did not understand this change of plans, so we tried to follow the detour signs, but ended up going round in circles.Danni and Todd were then able to program in our trip to Manchester using another route, and we did finally make it.The boys were anxious to see the FA Cup Semi Final at a local pub, and found room at the nearby Waldolf pub for themselves, Danni and me.The pub was an old style building with low ceilings, lots of wood fittings, and low lamplight.It smelled like beer and men, and was very crowded at game time.Ian was very happy - he was in a Manchester pub watching an important game between Manchester City and Manchester United surrounded by very passionate and demonstrative Manchester fans of both teams.He was as happy as a pig in mud.
The next day we all headed west to visit Liverpool, home of the Beatles.Ian spied a local soccer game in progress, so we stopped and watched for a while.It was a nice, green soccer ground by the river, the weather was beautiful and although the players were around 16-years-old, their skills were quite impressive. Afterwards, we had lunch at a lovely restaurant overlooking the Mersey River, and then went into central Liverpool to visit The Cavern.This was a highlight for me.It is down two flights of stairs underground, and there was a performer on stage singing Beatles' songs.He sounded great and had the crowd singing along.There was memorabilia of the Beatles and other artists who have performed there, and I purchased a Cavern T-shirt.
After this, we left Liverpool proper and, avoiding the motorway, found our way to Ormskirk, a beautiful little town in West Lancashire.There were some wonderful old homes with lovely gardens in the area.We discovered a gorgeous park with eye-catching beds of tulips and pretty pink blossom trees, and we stopped there for a quick snack before returning to Manchester in time for Danni and Todd to catch their coach back to London.Lynne, Ian and I then returned to our apartment for a light meal and an early night before we head off to Newcastle tomorrow.
We set off fairly early for our trip to Newcastle, took the scenic route and meandered through picturesque villages and farms.Our first stop was Haworth in Yorkshire.This little town is famous as the home of the Bronte sisters, and there are tributes to them throughout.It is a beautiful little town surrounded by farms, and on our drive there we passed through many narrow roads lined by hand-made dry-stone walls.The dry-stone walls were also used to define the separate, large green fields, most of which had cows or sheep grazing in them.Our next stop was Richmond, another scenic town with quaint shops, a castle (the first in England) and a beautiful church whose bells rang on the hour.Our plan was then to go to Whitby on the west coast, but I accidentally chose Wigan from the Tom-Tom list, so we found ourselves travelling in the wrong direction to London, instead of west.Fortunately, I noticed the error quite quickly, so not too much damage done, but we realized that we had not planned our day very well, taking into account the distance we needed to travel.Whitby, in northern Yorkshire, is a charming harbourside township, popular with tourists and also a working harbour for fishermen.Captain James Cook, who was born not far from Whitby in Marton-in-Cleveland in 1728, was apprenticed here in Whitby under shipowner John Walker and the award winning Captain Cook Memorial Museum is housed within what was John Walker's house where Cook would have stayed.The scenery a little way out of town is very different to what we are used to.The landscape of tightly matted, low-growing, grass tufts ranging from pale yellow to tan to chocolate brown in colour, spread as far as the eye could see in some places. There was also low-growing gorse bushes, which have ugly, spiky, dark brown branches and leaves, but are redeemed by the golden yellow flowers that open on them in spring.After our brief visit to Whitby, we then set our Tom-Tom to get to our final destination in Newcastle.Unfortunately, it wanted us to enter a motorway that was closed for roadwork, and we got a bit lost trying to find another way, which of course lost us more time.Nevertheless, we finally found our way, and after stopping for horrible take-away food, we made it to our accommodation.It was 9.15pm by this time, and we could not figure how to turn the TV on, and the wireless internet did not work, but we were tired anyway and ready to sleep.
The next morning, we had a quick look around Newcastle, then made our way via Berwick Upon Tweed (a lovely town with a large viaduct just outside of the township) to fantastic Edinburgh.We took a tour of the city, which made us realize what a wonderful city it is, and that we would need to come back for a week to see it properly.Edinburgh is a city of very old and new, with a fascinating history.We reluctantly left Edinburgh and made our way to our final destination for the day, St Andrews.There are a lot of golf-oriented businesses here, and the town is full at the moment because the local university is having Open Day.We visited the hallowed St Andrews golf course, and Ian envied the guys who where playing (although not their plus-four outfits!).We took some photos on the famous little stone bridge on the course, then made our way to our accommodation.Our accommodation in St Andrews was excellent, and after a lovely breakfast the next morning, we had a quick wander around St Andrews town, where we noticed that you could get a free whiskey with every (male) haircut!It is basically a university and golf town, and both St Andrews University and the golf courses are quite near the township.The university generates a lot of business in the area, and provides a lot of the labour in the town, e.g., bar staff, B&B chambermaids, waiting staff, shop assistants, etc.The golf club also attracts tourists, and some very wealthy ones at that.St Andrews golf course is not a spectacular course as such, but it is when the weather turns bad that it becomes a challenge to play.It is located on the North Sea coast, which influences the climate a great deal.
The next day we planned a long trip in the car from one side of Scotland to the other, so we head off just after 10am for our 4-hour drive to Stranraer, the location of the ferry terminal for our trip to Belfast.We stopped at Glasgow for a quick lunch and a look around.Glasgow has some very old buildings, and some very new, and comes second to Edinburgh for attractiveness.The cities here are quite self-contained, and it was not long after leaving Glasgow that we found ourselves again in a rural landscape.As with all that we have seen of Scotland and rural England, there are beautiful, rolling green pastures scattered with farm animals, mainly sheep with their sweet little black-faced spring lambs nearby.Luckily we were not tempted to make any diversions today, as our drive to Stranraer was punctuated with a couple of roadwork delays of quite a long time.We arrived at the ferry terminal at the correct time, and boarded to sail on calm seas over to Belfast.
Of course, our highlight so far was seeing Danni and Todd again, seeing where they live and spending time with them.As well, we have really enjoyed our travel in northern England and southern Scotland.The rural areas of England and Scotland are stunning with their lush, verdant hills and fields that look like patchwork quilts - some fields are bright green, others brown and ready for cultivation, and others bright, almost fluorescent yellow with flowering canola crops.All these different fields are divided into huge squares by hand-made dry-stone walls or low-growing green hedges.The homes are mostly old, with lots of charm, and even when we see new homes being built, they are in a similar old-fashioned style to match their surroundings.Also, the flowers have been stunning all through our journey.Daffodils and jonquils have naturalized along some of the roadsides, and along with an abundance of small, bright yellow daisy-like flowers (which are a weed in Australia), everything looks very pretty and happy.There is also an abundance of tulips blooming in home gardens and public parks.I am very jealous as Sydney is too warm for such wonderful displays.We certainly chose the best time of year for our road-trip here. We have spent a fair amount of time travelling on the roads here, and they are pretty good.We have noticed that they have a different class of road kill over here, which is pretty exotic to us, e.g., we have seen squashed rabbits, a fox, a little deer, an otter, a couple of hedgehogs and several types of fowl.We are all now looking forward to our Northern and Southern Ireland travels.