Saturday, August 20, 2005

aimee says - a little more detail

Right, well I appreciate lots of detail and I don't mind it in this main window, so here I go again. (Sorry Joyce =)

So it was a bit stressful at first learning the left side of the road. Delonna started out doing the driving and she insisted that only one other person at a time, the navigator, be allowed to talk. This sounded okay in theory, but Chrissy and I (or maybe really just myself) were back-seat-drivers trying to be helpful in pointing out road signs and every other thing we saw. This created a bit of tension, but we survived.

I kept my eye out for things that were different from driving in the US, other than driving on the left side of the road. One of course is all the roundabouts. Instead of exits that go off to the side, every now and then you reach a roundabout in the middle of the highway. You travel around it and go off in the direction of the place you want to go. Takes up less space than exits I suppose. I also saw signs on big trucks saying "abnormal load." We followed signs to "The North," and tried to figure out the meaning of the round sign post with a red x on a blue background. We passed signs for many towns: Tickencote, Doncaster, Pickworth, Clipsham, Cottesmore, Woolsthorpe, Colsterworth, Buckminster, Sleaford, Harlayton, Nottingham!, Claypole, Bathley, and Kneesall.

We got into York on Wednesday night just about dusk. We were going to be staying in a backpackers hostel and had some vague directions on how to get there. We had already found out a few road rules for England which Joyce has alluded to. One, they don't really label their roads. There are street signs every now and then, posted on buildings on that street. But they aren't everywhere and it's hard to see them, especially at night. There are also lots of one-ways and roundabouts to help you get lost. Also, streets seem to change names about every three blocks. The street we were staying on I think had about 5 different names on in within about a 12 block length! We drove around lost and asked directions a few times and the stress levels increased! We were tired and just wanted to go to bed! And all the directions sounded like - 'go down that road, turn right, then left at the roundabout, can't miss it.' But we did! Anyway, after speaking with the hostel we finally found the place, which we'd passed at least once thinking it was on the other side of the road!

We came up a few steps, rang the bell, and were invited into a beautiful old house. Dark hard wood floors and a sweeping grand staircase climbing to the second story. It was a beautiful old house with a lot of charm. We signed ourselves in and climbed up the stairs to our room. I was last in line as Chrissy, Joyce, and Delonna crowded in to the room. They stopped in the doors and seemed concerned. I peeked my head in and saw there was a bucket of water in the middle of the room, with a steady drip into it from the ceiling. That one bucket was not enough. The entire ceiling was leaking! It was like a waterfall coming down right in the middle of the room. The ceiling (very high up) was cracked and had signs that this was not the first time it had leaked. The carpet through the whole middle of the room was wet and it seemed that the floor was sloping in toward the middle.

We cautiously put our stuff down at the edges of the room. The bunkbeds were circled around the outside of the room so we thought it would be okay to sleep there. Another traveller came in then and exclaimed, 'ah! it's still going!? They said it would stop soon!' "When was that?" we enquired. 'About two hours ago.' We then discovered that several of the beds were getting wet and perhaps the management didn't know about the severity of the problem. Indeed they did not and they moved us all to a different room.
Some of us were a bit sad about this as we thought the drip-drip-drip sound might be soothing. Of course then they changed the bucket out and it was more of a plunk-plunk-plunk, followed by bits of plaster falling from the ceiling.

Thursday morning we woke early (finally!) and managed to make it to York Minster Cathedral for their morning service. The Cathedral was very beautiful and quiet in the morning. I think the girls managed to find a reference to Quakers there. I read a bit of history about a lightning strike in the 80s that struck the roof of one wing and set the Cathedral ablaze. The roof was destroyed as well as one grand rose window. They spent years fixing it and renovating.

After the cathedral we went to the Merchant Adventurers Hall. This was a really old building still in possession by the original organization. This was a merchants organization which sort of had control over who could sell what in town. The building was hundreds of years old and quite interesting to wander around. (Sorry I don't have much more detail!)

We then cut across town over to the Castle Museum. It was probably quite similar to other small town museums, with recreations of what the town looked like in the early days, and a portion of the gaols (english spelling!) and shops and a millworks, etc. They had a spy game to play where you searched for clues amongst the artefacts in the museum and tried to figure out the mystery. I didn't play the game all the way through, but did go into the 'solution room' to find out what the solution was. The man there told us it was based on a true story of WW2 when spies were all over the country trying to find out what was going on, what the plans were, etc. Many business were closed down or shifted over to making different things. In York there is a chocolate factory and this factory did not shut down. But, part of the factory was not making chocolate. It was making ammunitions! And none of the spies ever found out.

After we finally got out of the museum (Joyce was having a blast with the spy game) we wandered over to The Shambles, a really picturesque little street with many, many little tiny shops selling all sorts of things. The cobblestone street was only wide enough for a small car and there were hundreds of people milling about. Many of the shops were only big enough for a couple people to stand inside. Chrissy, Delonna, and I had lunch at 'the sandwich man' - or something like that. The one-man shop made about 50 different kinds of sandwiches, to order, for £1 each.

We realized that one morning in York was certainly not enough! There was so much to see, but we really needed to get moving and get up to Edinburgh. It was going to be about a 4 or 5 hour drive, or so we thought...

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