Friday, May 26, 2000
After a wonderful breakfast we loaded the car and headed for the Vindolanda Roman site. As I was pulling out of the parking lot I remember I had left my glasses on the table in the breakfast room. After retrieving my glasses we were on our way.
Our first stop was the Vindolanda Roman ruins. We arrived just after 9 a.m. and they didn't open until 10, so instead of waiting we continued on towards Housesteads Fort. We arrived just as they were opening. Once again the Heritage Pass came in handy.
Housesteads Fort is located next to Hadrian's Wall. To reach the fort requires a half-mile walk up a fairly steep hill. There was one tour group that had arrived just before us but Alan and I quickly outpaced them and reached the top before anyone else. Located just beside the fort is a very small museum.
The ruins of Housesteads are slightly more impressive than Birdsowald. The main advantage Housesteads has over Birdsowald is the view. Located high on the hill you can see for miles in all directions.
We spent about 30-40 minutes wandering around the fort before starting back down the hill. On the way we got to see a farmer/rancher (I'm not sure what you call someone who raises sheep) using two sheepdogs to move a herd of sheep into a larger barn. With the use of the dogs, he was able to herd several hundred sheep out of two large fields in only 10 minutes.
A quick stop in the gift shop and then we were on the road again. The next planned stop was to be the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby. On our way there I saw a sign for the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum. I got confused and thought this was where we were going so I followed the signs. This is an excellent museum for children. Although I was personally disappointed with the museum I would recommend it to anyone with kids. It has many multimedia and interactive displays; however, it really doesn't have that much to do with Captain Cook beyond being located within a few miles of where he was born. There is also a small (free) zoo on site and a large lovely park. We didn't spend much time in the museum's exhibits but they had a great cafeteria.
Alan had scampi, chips and smashed peas. Pat and I both ordered turkey sandwiches, soup and bread. This was the cheapest meal (less than £6 total for all of us) as well as having the largest servings and being extremely tasty. When I ordered the sandwich I was asked if I would like salad with that. My thought was a small dish of lettuce with a tomato and other assorted veggies and some sort of dressing. What was meant by the question was did I want lettuce, tomato, onion, and beets (yes, BEETS) on my sandwich. I said, "Yes, I want salad" and ended up with a turkey and beet sandwich! I would have never thought to put beets on a sandwich. [Writing this a few weeks after returning I can now say I made myself a turkey and beet sandwich just last weekend.]
Leaving the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum we headed south towards Whitby and the actual Captain Cook Memorial Museum. For a more scenic route we cut across to the road that runs along the ocean coming into Whitby from the North. I drove through town and didn't see any signs for the Museum. We soon found ourselves on the top of the hill next to an old ruined abbey. Having seen plenty of ruined abbey's we drove back into town. Looking more closely I finally saw a small sign pointing down an alley to the museum.
We had to drive back across the one lane bridge before finding a parking lot near what I believe is the city center. We had to pay £3 to park - the most of anywhere we had been. Whitby is a charming little town and it would be nice to stay here a day and explore it fully. The harbor was filled with fishing boats that could be chartered for a few hours or a full day. We walked back over the bridge and down the small side street to the museum.
The Captain Cook Memorial Museum is located in a house that the young Cook lived in during his stay in Whitby. The museum has 8 to 10 rooms filled with artifacts of Cook's voyages, information on his life, some journals and letters, and other exhibits. This was my kind of museum. We explored it from bottom to top and back to bottom. Back at the front desk I asked where the closest public toilet was located. The desk clerk said that we could use the toilets in the historical society next door, but not to tell them that she had sent us over.
I am glad that she did send us over. The historical society was just as interesting as the museum. There was room after room filled with antiques, newspaper clippings, public records, etc. all dealing with the history of Whitby. Unfortunately, there was a sign asking for donations as they weren't sure how much longer they would be able to keep the doors open. If you are in Whitby, stop in the historical society and gain a real appreciation of the town, and leave a few pounds to help out.
I was waiting to use the restroom when I noticed an old newspaper article telling about Whitby's role in Bram Stoker's Dracula. I had known this at one point but it had completely slipped my mind. Whitby harbor is supposedly where the ship came into port on which Dracula was a passenger after he had killed all the crew. No one was alive on board except a large wolfish dog that ran ashore and disappeared, Dracula in disguise. The ruined Whitby Abbey also plays a role in the book. Bram Stoker often came to Whitby and used the surrounding countryside, especially the moors, as inspiration for his book. Of course, there are now "Dracula Walks" you can take around town. In the small bookstore inside the historical society I purchased a 30-page pamphlet telling about the connection between the town, Stoker, and Dracula. On our way out I dropped some money into the collection box.
We spent some time shopping in several small stores before getting in the car and heading back out of town. Instead of taking the direct route from Whitby to York I wanted to drive through the Moors National Park. The moors are an open desolate land filled with brush. I found the area fascinating while Pat and Alan were less than thrilled.
We were going down a very small one-lane road and hadn't seen any other cars so I decided to let Alan drive. I had done all the driving on the trip. Only being 19, we could not add Alan as a second driver. But being out in the literal middle of nowhere it was a good place to let him get a flavor of driving from the right side of the car. After a few miles we switched back.
Approaching Rosedale Abbey from the north we encountered a hill that had a 1:3 gradient! As we continued along we begin to pass a steady stream of cars pulling very, very small camping trailers. It was the beginning of a bank holiday weekend and people were heading out to the country. We passed a former WWII Prisoner of War camp that is now a large military museum. I would have like to have stopped but it was already closed for the day.
We arrived in York just before 6 p.m. Friday evening. Large sections of York are pedestrian only. The town still has its city walls and is renowned for the huge York Minister. A "Minster" is different from an "abbey" or "cathedral" in that it was a center from which "ministers" were sent out into the countryside to preach and teach.
York is also a very popular tourist town and seems to have tourism down to a science. There are large parking lots located outside of town along the major roads. You can park and take a special tourist bus into town. There are also several large parking lots just outside the city walls but I assume that these may fill up quickly during the summer. Of all the towns we visited, York was probably the most crowded with people - during the day. At night, however, everyone disappears.
We made our way into town and with only minimal difficulty found our B&B. We were staying at the Feversham Lodge B&B. It is run by an Englishman and his Asian wife. They have a small parking lot where we were able to leave the car for the two days. Our hostess was very friendly. We had an extremely large ensuite room with three single beds, closets with a television.
Unfortunately the room completely stunk of the smell of cigars. It smelled as if those cigar-smoking, poker-playing dogs had spent the last several weeks holed-up in the room. I should have refused the room on the spot and demanded a different room or gone elsewhere. However, I was too tired to fool with it so instead we opened the windows to try to air the place out. This helped some but the odor was still there two days later and nearly just as strong. With this exception the B&B was nice but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else - mainly due to its location. It is at least a mile out of town and we passed many other B&Bs just outside (and some inside) the city walls.
We decided to walk into town and take a walk along the city walls. This is the big tourist thing to do and if we could do this tonight it would save time tomorrow. One of the thrills of walking the wall is to see down into everyone's backyards and enjoy their beautiful private gardens. There are also many wonderful views of the city and the Minster from the wall. We walked the section of the wall behind York Minister. A lady we had met at Vallum Lodge told us that she had walked the entire wall but found this section to be the best.
Having done our wall walk we headed for the Minister. It was 7 p.m. but my guidebook showed that it stayed open for another hour. I hoped we could pop in and take a quick look around. The streets of the town were empty and every shop was closed. Entry to the Minster is free but there is a charge to take pictures and to climb the tower or enter the crypt. These charges are nominal. There was no one at the counter to pay for a pass to take pictures. So, living by my philosophy that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission, I started snapping away.
York Minster is big, really big. And it was empty, really empty. There were only 10 or so people in the cathedral so we had the place almost to ourselves. I believe I took a hundred or more pictures. The stain glass windows (including the largest in the world) were just catching the evening rays of the sun and glowing with magnificent colors. York Minster claims to be the largest cathedral north of the Alps. We left the cathedral just as the guards were closing the doors.
We had passed a Chinese Buffet on our walk into York and decided to stop there for supper. The place was crowded and we were asked if we had reservations. I said no and was about to leave when a waiter said we could sit at a small side table. We sat down and were preparing to order when the head waitress came over and apologized but said that table was already taken. So we left and went next door to a Chinese Takeaway. I had ordered Egg Foo Yung and a Chicken Curry thinking they would be small because of the reasonable prices. What I got was two huge containers of food as well as two large bags of fries. We took our orders back to the room having stopped at a gas station to purchase some colas. I tried as hard as I could but was only able to eat less than half of the food. (Now, I am a real big guy and can really pack it away so this should give you a hint as to how much food we got). Regrettably, with no way to store the food I had to throw the rest away.
I laid down to read and Alan and Pat watched television for a while. I was worn out from the day and soon fell asleep.