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(Old) Magical Mystery Tour: Days One-Four (York and Hadrian’s Wall)

(Originally posted on May 27, 2012)

So my travels with my mom are going to be called Magical Mystery Tour, after the Beatles song. Now that that’s figured out, let me attempt to sum up the past several days.

Day One happened the very same day I saw Mary Cate off. After waiting in the train station and enjoying cheap internet, I got on a bus and made my merry way down to Heathrow. There was some confusion between online info and correct info, so I had to scramble to get to the right terminal. However, I made it in good time, especially since my mom’s flight was delayed. At last she arrived, and there were hugs and kisses, and then we were off.

Most of that day was spent on trains. We got to Paddington and had a long, relaxed lunch. Then we went to Reading, then up to York. The trains were very delayed, so we didn’t arrive until around 10 P.M. We caught a cheap cab and arrived at the B&B. We got checked in smoothly and at last collapsed in our room.

Day Two was York! Which means we did a lot of what I’d already done with Mary Cate (except much faster because my mom is a museum browser, not a lingerer like Mary Cate and I). We hit up the Yorkshire Museum. There were a lot of middle school boys out front with their sketch pads. We spent most of the museum time dodging school groups. Then we went to the York Castle Museum, had something to drink and explored. Mom really liked the prison. We discovered that a Kennedy (possibly a relation via our Scottish roots) was tried there! He was ‎hung, had his heart cut out, his limbs scored, and then was beheaded for being a Jacobite. My (inappropriate) response was, “That’s so cool!”

From there, we went up the Shambles, taking our time in a few markets. We went to Betty’s Tea House for lunch. Though we had to queue up for a bit, we got wonderful seats by the huge windows. We had absolutely amazing tea (Early Grey for me and the house blend for Mom). We split the macaroni and cheese, which was yummy and fancy. Mom got some sort of fruit thing for dessert, and I got a chocolate mousse which was amazing. It was a fantastic experience. Very relaxed and yummy.

From there we hung around, shopped a little, and then made our way to Evensong. This time the choir was all-men. We also had less devout Anglican people in the audience, because no one knew when to stand or sit. But it was fun. Afterwards we walked the wall and grabbed dinner somewhere.

Day Three we checked out of the B&B and made our way to the train station. It was kind of a bummer because I had planned on us getting super cheap tickets. But when we arrived we found out the super cheap ones had to be purchased the night before. So we had to use one of the days from our rail pass, which was disappointing. But we took the train to Hexham. There was a slight wait for the bus, and we walked to a nearby inn that was serving food. Our waitress was really friendly. Then we caught the bus through the countryside to Once Brewed, the hostel were we would be staying. We were able to check in. Our room was a tiny, tiny private, with just enough space for a bunk bed.

We got settled, grabbed maps from the TI next door, then found Twice Brewed, the tavern next door. We had a yummy dinner, caught up on internet, and then went back to the hostel.

The sun set at about 10 P.M., and we were hoping to see some stars. So we left the hostel and set out on a trek up a huge hill. It was truly beautiful. I wrote a little scene about it as soon as I got back, which I hope will make it into Blessings. If I was less lazy, I’d take out the descriptions and just share that with you. But I’m lazy so you get a cut up version of the scene. Just pretend Melle is me and Vel is my mom.

It was cool. A hard wind caught them as they began their assent. Everything was turned to silhouettes against the faded gold of the sky. The single trees stood as sentinels at random places, all black. Even Velimir was only a shadow ahead of her. […] The fields were divided by stone walls. […] The wind shifted sometimes, and made a groaning sound as it slid through the open spaces in the stone. There were sheep in the fields, but they were quiet and did not give Velimir or Melle a look. […] She kept her head up, following the slowly darkening patch of sky where the sun had been, relishing the way it slowly turned as light as hay, then jade and turquoise. At last they came to the top. […] They were on the only hill for miles, and would have been able to see on and on if the light had been better. As it was, the rolling fields stretched into haze purple masses, each a slightly different shade from the last, all under a bright moon. The stars were not out yet.

She closed her eyes. The wind was in their faces. It was fresh and clean. It was no gentle, meandering breeze, like the faerie realm. With a chill that made Melle feel alive, it tore at her, catching hair and sleeves and skirt in its dance. She had to breathe it in, again and again, taking in as much air as she could hold. This wind was not sweet with perfume, was not teasing—it was clear of all smell but grass and crisp seasons changing. The tree branches made great rushing sounds, like birds’ wings. And the tall grass. Melle had lived near fields all her life, but she had never noticed before how tall grass sounded in the wind. It made a gentle clattering sound, like a small ice storm on stone. But the grass was friendlier than even that. It was a gentle chatter that reminded her somehow of the pages of books sliding through her fingers. It was welcoming.

The stars still hadn’t come out by the time we called it quits. Maybe we’ll catch them another night.

On Day Four (yesterday) we set out for some hiking. We found the footpath that follows Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve always wanted to see this, ever since I read Eagle of the Ninth as a little girl. The views were absolutely unreal. So here’s some pictures.

As we were surveying the beauty, Mom said, “I feel like Catherine looking for Heathcliff.”

I turned to her and said, “NO. Stop that. Resist the crazy!” She laughed.

After we walked about four miles (up and down small mountains) we came to the Housesteads Roman Fort ruins. They didn’t look that exciting, so we decided not to pay to see them. Instead we ate some snacks from the shop, then caught the bus back to Once Brewed. We grabbed proper lunch (well, pancakes) and rested. Once we felt better, we set out in the opposite direction up another hill to Vindolanda, another set of ruins from a Roman fort and village. These were cool because the excavations are still in progress. The museum was neat too (though Mom rushed through it because she was tired). One unexpected and delightful find was the Vindolanda Tablets–the oldest existing pieces of writing in Britain, which includes writing by a woman. They were really, really tiny scraps, but still neat.

We caught the bus back to Once Brewed, and spent our evening in Twice Brewed enjoying meat pie and tea and waffles with ice cream.

And now you’re caught up! Except for today. Which I’ll probably write up tomorrow.

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