12.07.2011 - 28.07.2011 60 °F
We left Kendal and the lovely sunset this morning in a bit of a drizzle, but it truly embodied the gently rolling hills of what I think of England. I can't even begin to describe the number of sheep grazing in the meadows all along the countryside, and they are all framed by the 600-800-year-old stone fences that have remained standing because of good masonry and gravity. Every time we'd move back and forth among the hills, I could just imagine running across them to meet Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen, of course...Colin Firth isn't my Darcy!). All I could see was Pemberley in all her glory and how lucky I would be to have Darcy come and take me to the beautiful English countryside for the rest of my days...Ah, England, how quaint, romantic, and misty!
We did take a nice drive through the Lake District and see the area that Beatrix Potter called her later home and eventually bought 10,000 acres in order to preserve it from being developed. Currently, those acres have turned into a national park, so it has been preserved for (hopefully) years to come. We also stopped in Grasmere and saw William Wordsworth's grave. I always find it funny to amble through a graveyard and come across old headstones, especially as an English teacher. I was excited to see that David Hume was buried in a cemetery in Edinburgh even though I didn't get a chance to go in, but that was just because of my strange debate/philosophy fascinations. We also sampled some Kendal Cake bars, which are really just super-sweet sugary things that taste like a slightly denser version of the inside of a York Peppermint Patty. Strangely enough, no one mentioned the peppermint patties while we were in York, but these Kendal Cakes were quite delicious.
We then stopped for lunch on Windermere (don't call it "Lake" Windermere--apparently, a "mere" is a lake, so it's redundant) and found it easier to just stop in Tesco and grab the cheapy sandwich/chips/drink before our lake cruise. Once on the cruise, we saw some lovely verdant hills with some great estates upon them, and they were made even more beautiful by the emerging sun and the Canadian Geese that dotted the shoreline. We arrived at our port and hopped on the steamtrain for a brief ride back to our coach before heading off for Chester and our stop for this evening.
We went through Manchester (go Man U!) and Liverpool, but I decided that resting my head against the seat of the coach was a better option, so I guess I missed Nigel's (our tour guide) impression of a bad "Manny" Ringo Starr accent. I didn't wake up again until we pulled into Chester, a sleepy little town similar to York. We arrived at the Queen Hotel, which seems very Victorian in both decoration and lack of air conditioner, but we also discovered its ecclecticism. I've never seen a hotel decide that the decorations of every time period and style would work together. Our wing of the hotel is lined with modern art, but the wing immediately before it has old Edwardian buffets next to modern office chairs. The "grand staircase" is lined with Roman, Greek, and 19th century Eastern sculptures, and the courtyard below has Roman busts, heads of Buddha, giant ants and turtles, and grecian goddesses...weird. We did find a cute little pub across the way (The Town Crier) that served pints of beer for 1 pound 25 p, significantly cheaper than the 3 pound 50 p the hotel charged. After a pint of Carlsberg with Peter and Helen from Australia (LOVE their accents!) we walked back to the hotel for dinner, noshed on some food for a while, and then decided to walk around Chester to see what it's all about.
It's all about closing early. How strange! The buildings are all very similar to York (think of Shakespeare's and Ann Hathaway's house with the dark crossbeams and the small-paneled bay windows), but nothing but the bars and restaurants were open. Walking around seemed like a ghost town, but we did get to see the Chester Cathedral and hear the organist practicing. It was almost haunting since no one was on the streets...I kept waiting for the sky to turn dark, lightning to strike, and a hunchback to walk out during the music. Much to my chagrin, the sky was blue and the young revelers looking for food and drink were out instead, so we walked back to the hotel in time to catch the sun set and settle in for the night.
I'm very excited about tomorrow...we depart on the ferry for Ireland, and I can't wait to see the coast. I think the stark contrast between the ocean and the green cliffs will be amazing, and I really want to meet the people of Ireland because of my ancestry (Laughlin). It sounds as if they have had an extreme economic downturn recently with about 30% unemployment among people ages 18-30 and 15% overall, so I'm excited and also sad to travel to a country that's struggling to make ends meet while I've just visited a couple of cities that seem to be living off the fat of the money gluttons (i.e., London). I don't think this last week to Ireland, Wales, and back home will disappoint.
Until later (or when I have free WiFi again)...goodnight from Chester.