28 August 2010

England Vacation Part 3

Saturday, August 28, 2010

We arrived in Manchester, a beautiful sunny morning which didn't last long, it quickly turned to rain when we picked up our rental cars. Yes cars, plural - we got two identical Vauxhall Insignias. It was cheaper than one large vehicle, besides the large vehicles over here aren't exactly large by our standards.

The kids slept for about a half hour on the plane and were completely wiped. I was too, and was about to embark on the hairiest driving experience of my life. Pouring rain, no sleep and I've got to get this standard transmission car off the 13th floor parkade... and, on the wrong side of the road.

Once we got on the motorway, it was smooth sailing. The motorways move quick, we were averaging 80mph... what the hell? I thought Britain was metric? We drove into Barnard Castle, a beautiful little town with a great market and some old buildings (I suppose there will be a lot of that!). Charles Dickens stayed here once, we know because there was plaque... on the building where he stayed ... for a night or two. Marketing old country style.

We ate lunch at the Turks Head pub, a neat old place and I had my first beer in England... A bottle of Heineken. Matthew and Isabella slept at the table while we had a very tasty fish and chips.

It was time to check into our manor. We drove into Staindrop. I know, I know... the English have a way with words. We found Foxholes, our quarters for the next week. It's called a conversion, but it's really a grouping of several hundred year old barns. The Strathmore Barns were just that, barns until a few years ago when the land owner converted them into homes. They are very nicely done but they are still in the heart of a farm, which, if you arrive at a certain time of the year, the pungent aroma of cow and sheep manure is overwhelming. It's pretty gross actually. The smell has not permeated the interior of our cottage, which tells me it's a temporary thing and our arrival was just ill timed. I'm hopeful it will clear up in the next day.

We got unpacked and the kids crashed, as did I. I slept from about 3:00 to 8:30... all caught up on sleep for the next little bit and ready to take on England first thing tomorrow. For tonight, it's a cigar and a Stella Artois.



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