Day five started off later than the others, I think we’re finally getting over our jet lag. Karen and Chris’ hospitality at the Airbnb was spectacular, I wish I had taken a photo of the breakfast they had set up for us, it was like staying at a hotel! We got on the road and our first stop of the day was Bowness-on-Windermere where we spent some time wandering around the lake and chasing swans and geese (no, seriously, we are children with jobs and income). Husband decided he wanted to hire a little speed boat to ride around the lake, but alas, it’s past tourist season so they only hire them out on weekends (this was a Monday). We then drove to Windermere to see if they had any boats, totally missed the town and ended up Ambleside, turned around and went back, but couldn’t find the boat hire place. So we went back to Bowness and caught the ferry across the lake to Hawkshead, then ended up nearly back at Ambleside anyway… Navigation fail! Anyway, the point was that I though Husband would enjoy driving the Wrynose and Hardknott passes on the way to my old stomping ground in Eskdale. And he did! We took some video of the trip because it is so spectacular (some on my Instagram @meeghanw and some to go on YouTube). I forgot how absolutely spectacular the views are from the passes. The scenery of mountains and valleys, rocks and grasses, with little winding rivers and waterfalls (there has been a lot of rain recently), and fog and cloud just make the whole trip breathtaking. If you (reader) decide to do this trip, please take a car suitable to steep climbs and drops. We were fortunate that our Renault Captur has an AWD mode and it was still a bit hairy in places. But if you’re genuinely looking for somewhere that has had little human works made to it over time, this is one of the places to go. Apart from the road you are driving on, there’s nothing else man made for miles to see. It’s just stunning. At the base of the Hardknott Pass is Boot, then Eskdale Green, and finally Eskdale — where I lived in 2003 while working at the Bower House Inn. This was our destination for the night and we arrived about 2:30pm, just in time to see Gordon and have a pint and quick catch up before he left for the day (someone had to feed the sheep). However, another friendly face soon arrived in Marshall, who I quickly found out had bought the place when it was last up for sale. Many, many drinks, games of darts and ‘remember whens’ later and I was off to bed… Husband several hours after me…
Daily gratitude: not dying on the passes, and seeing Gordon.
Day six was going to be a much slower affair than other days to date. Husband was quite hungover (me less so), and so we took full advantage of the breakfast (scrambled eggs and bacon with tea and toast for me, full English breakfast including black pudding and coffee for Husband) and then the late checkout (11:00am). The bathroom was fun for showers. We only had a bath and a hose, and neither of us were short enough to stand in the bath and shower (and I’m only 5’1”), so baths it was. We then meandered into Whitehaven to have lunch with another friend and his beautiful little girl. After catch ups and for memories, we departed to do a little bit of shopping (I got some faux fur lined boots (warm and water proof) and Husband got practical things like a second SIM card, nail clippers (because I had forgotten to pack them) and deodorant. We then got on the road to Carlisle and decided to stay the night. It was fairly early still so we decided to see Justice League (we’re nerds, remember? Our biggest concern leading up to Christmas is finding a cinema in Europe that will show Star Wars in English). We had a minor hiccup finding parking as we didn’t have enough coins and the machine wouldn’t take cards. I spent about 10 minutes going through four different pubs before I could find an ATM that worked, and then getting coins. I also found a Walkabout Pub (Aussie tourist pub) and we went there for a drink before the movie started. Husband was cringing by the time he got to the end of the menu — everything is overtly Aussie stereotypes to the point of cringeworthy, and the atmosphere was a bit of a dive. The movie was alright — there were some plot holes, and I don’t like Henry Cavill, but Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck and Jason Momoa were all amazing and pulled it through for me (Husband it slightly harder to please). I’m very much looking forward to Aquaman. We had another night in an Airbnb, and it had a glorious bed that I was almost instantly asleep in, as well as three beautiful doggos.
Daily gratitude: Lunch with Steven and Eleanor, and seeing Justice League.
Day seven was epic. Just insane with the amount of distance we traveled. We left Carlisle quite early, and traveled straight through the Edinburgh, with only a stop at Gretna along the way for breakfast (totally missed the Gretna Green photo opportunity as it was raining). We arrived at the castle where it was still raining. Unfortunately Google Maps had brought us directly to the castle main gates (oops), so we had to drive back down he hill and park, then walk back up (what felt like) 3000 stairs to get back to the castle. After catching our breath we wandered in and started through all the exhibits: Mons Meg, St Margaret’s Chapel (built in 1130), the Crown Jewels, etc. We did find ourselves in the Tea Room after a while to dry off a little and have something to eat. Husband had the lemon scone with a pot of tea, and I had the double chocolate cake with a pot of tea. Delicious! After our brief drying spell we wandered through a bit more of the castle, like the War Memorial, and then we decided to head back to the car. The rain was bordering on torrential by this time, and so we decided to hightail it out of Scotland as the rental car was due back the next afternoon in London. We jumped on the highway south and after a very non-eventful evening we stopped for the night in a Travelodge in Richmond. Except I had navigated us to a different Travelodge than the one I booked, so we jumped back in the car and went to the right one. Where we discovered that I had booked for Sunday night, not Wednesday night… The girl there was very helpful though and we figured it out and everything ended up fine. Again I was asleep by 9:00pm (seriously, I don’t remember it taking this long to get over jet lag before).
Daily gratitude: Husband’s reaction to Edinburgh Castle — amazement!
Day eight started off much better than seven — it was sunny! We started on the highway back to London early again, and saw the sunrise (at 7:45am). I took some great photos (about 800 of them) while the husband drove, and we stopped for breakfast somewhere along the way. They had a Cornish Pastries truck there so we headed over, I got a bacon roll and the husband ordered a giant sausage roll. A cup of tea and a flat white later and we were on our way again. We have listened to a lot of music this trip. We’ve been through several Triple J Hottest 100 playlists (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011) and I’ve hit my limit of songs I am allowed to download on spotify. I’ll need to make more compilations instead of downloading random playlists. I also need to figure out how to make the Optus international wifi modem we brought with us work. Anyway, we made it to London and dropped off the hire car to Paddington with little fuss. We then wandered over to the local Flight Centre and sat down with Kayleigh and organised the next leg of our trip because it involves a bit of flying and some tours. No spoilers, but I think it will make for an interesting blog. We went and had a beer at The Draft House a block over, which was amazing, while Kayleigh sorted through some paperwork for us. The pub had this amazing atmosphere and the staff were great — excellent senses of humour, all of them. Finally, we picked up our papers, took four trains and ended up at Gatwick, checked onto a flight to Paris. We had dinner at Jamie’s Diner at the airport — it was surprisingly good airport food! I had a slice of the Margherita pizza and the cream soda (best cream soda ever), and husband had the quarter chicken. Finally we boarded our flight and after the shortest plane ride ever (it’s even faster than Canberra to Sydney), we landed in Paris. Not a great first impression as the taxi driver ripped us off (we paid €30 for a 6km trip), and the hotel we stayed at was literally a concrete box room with a concrete slab bed and the thinnest foam mattress over it. Now, I know we have been pretty spoilt in some of our AirBNBs, but this place had cost us £85, while we had been paying approx. £25-40 per night in the UK. And it was the biggest shit hole I have ever stayed in. And they tried to charge us twice. Also, I’m moderately embarrassed by how bad my French is!
Daily gratitude: Sunny days, Kayleigh at Flight Centre Paddington, The Draft House.