With the weather turning cold and wintery, we were happy to finally finish up packing, do all the last minute little jobs, farewell Charley off to his holiday with Max (the Kingdon's dog), and get driven to the airport for the start of the 24 hour journey to (hopefully!) the summer weather of England and Europe.
This time it was with Emirates and two stops instead of the usual one, and a plane change as well. However we managed a couple of hours sleep on each leg, so didn't feel too flagged when we arrived at Heathrow in the early evening. My sister, Pauline, had arranged a surprise for us on arrival - a cake as a welcome gift. Peter sailed through Immigration with his British passport in about 10 minutes while I dutifully joined the very long queue of 'others' taking almost an hour to get through. Finally handed over my Australian passport and was asked if I was travelling alone. "No - my English husband is over there waiting for me". The Immigration officer then very kindly said "Oh but you should just have accompanied him through the UK/Euro Immigration Gate". Grrr - after numerous trips to the UK I could just have walked through with Peter despite my Australian Passport. You live and learn.
Up early the next day to walk across the road from our hotel to Kings Cross station to catch the York train taking a little over 2 hours to cover the 174 miles/280kms quite swiftly. Sitting just over from us were four happy, young Japanese tourists and to sustain them on the trip north had bought bananas and punnets of summer fruit. There was a bit of consernation over one box which they thought held green grapes but tasted sharp and quite different. They asked us what they were. Gooseberries, we said, and usually used for sweet fruit pies. (I decided I had better not also add 'Gooseberry Fool' - just 'cos.)
After arriving, we left our overnight bags at our York BandB and walked into the centre of that beautiful city.
We have been here quite a few times - mainly to the National Rail Museum for someone who has a steam train interest - but I'm always happy to be in York, too.
|An 18thC Reverend's headstone used as paving.|
|Peter adding a bit of support.|
|Bettys - for lunch.|
Lunch was at Betty's smaller tearoom in a building built before Australia was settled.
This historic city always seems to have something different to reveal but even just to walk the ancient streets and lanes is quite a joy.
Always each time we come, we make sure to visit the most beautiful York Minster in the late afternoon and to attend the Choral Evensong at 5.15pm each day. It is an ethereal experience to listen to the lessons, say prayers and especially to hear the full choir of about 30 sing such heavenly music. It would be a very special experience for any Christian to worship in a building which has absorbed the prayers of millions through its 600+ years of existence.
|Waiting for Evensong|
Next day we were up early, ate our 'full English breakfast' and walked the short distance to York Station to await the arrival of the Flying Scotsman.
This iconic and well loved steam train would take us up to the Border city of Carlisle and then return to York, leaving at 11.15am and arriving back at 10.30pm. A long trip but exciting to be hauled by steam at a very fast pace with occasional stops for water, and also to allow regular scheduled trains to pass. We had about 3 hours in Carlisle, so had a good walk around the town centre and also visited Tullie Museum which detailed much history of the Romans and the Border Reivers. We thought perhaps it was a little 'child-centred' but it was very well done nevertheless. Back to the station and soon there was the Flying Scotsman, refuelled and watered, waiting ready to take us on board for the return trip.
By this time we had got to know our nearby fellow passengers and there was much talk about different experiences but mainly trains - of course! I had taken my sister's boxed cake with me and shared it around our fellow passengers. The Railway Touring Company which operated the trip served snacks throughout the journey - Danish Pastries with tea/coffee in the morning and on the return we had sandwiches and scones, jam and clotted cream again with cuppas. All delicious.
We travelled so comfortably in our restored Pullman carriage, it was quite thrilling to find that we had reached speeds of up to 80 miles per hour for long stretches. Such a beautiful train and we loved the whole experience - quite special.
Well, to be honest, Peter browsed to his heart's content whilst I found a nice comfy spot to sit, mind the cases, drink a nice coffee and read for an hour or so. Later trundled over to the main York Station (we were getting to be familiar faces there!), to catch another speedy train back to London.
Now settled into our hotel and tomorrow we'll start the "London phase" of our trip.