I can't say that our England/Wales vacation was a disaster. Mary and Graham's wedding was lovely - everything went according to my sister's well constructed plan. So much of the rest of the 9 days and 8 nights, however, was negative that on a scale of 1 to 10, I rate it a 6.5. Just shortly before the return departure, however, I would have scored it lower; but Tom and I are once again talking to each other.
Vacation - a perfect opportunity to try the endurance of a relationship. Take a filled work schedule, including one failed computer dropped off for service the day we left, mixed with an overnight flight on which sleep was impossible and you have an "ideal" beginning.
So when we arrived at Heathrow on Wednesday morning, in transit for Manchester, and without contact with other than airport employees and fellow passengers, we were totally surprised to go through security again! Even more surprising was their refusal to visually examine my new digital camera but rather their insistence that it be x-rayed like all carry-on. ("This is the way we do it at Heathrow", I was told.) Exhausted, angry, and frustrated I could only proceed hoping that the camera's memory chips would not be ruined or degraded despite the instruction booklet's warning to avoid x-ray and magnetic sources.
Things were looking up till after we had obtained our rental car in Manchester and were told that they didn't have any maps of the airport. Those who have tried to maneuver out of a strange airport will understand my growing trepidation. (Somewhat reminiscent of that old folksong about the fellow on the MTA - "He never returned, he never returned, and his fate is still unknown...") Couple that with the realization that we didn't have an instruction book for the manual shift diesel Renault rented for the "wrong side of the road" driving, and it is understandable why Tom and I were short tempered as we tried to locate a particular lesser highway route southwest to Buxton. Then I yelped, when he turned left at an intersection, upon seeing parked cars on both sides of the street facing us! Quickly, Tom turned left again into the next street and we paused to recover from apparently driving down a one-way street - but other cars had gone down that road, so such parking must be an accepted practice we reasoned. The travel book never even mentioned this!
Somehow we finally found our way out of the greater Manchester area after several wrong turns and sharp words, but no accidents or blows delivered. We were then on country roads in the Peak District - quaint villages comprised of stone buildings large and small, sheep-filled rolling hills marked off with walls of the same stones. And then there were the "wall-to-wall" roads, as Tom puts it, where you're challenged not to scratch the left side on a jagged rock wall, lose a right side-view mirror or clip a pedestrian or bicyclist as 2 vehicles pass each other.
Our stop in Buxton to view the sights in this largest village in the area was a welcome break. My picture taking began in earnest here and included several views from the center of the town before we proceeded on our way.
We located the hostel in Eyam where we had reservations for 2 nights only after asking directions and several harried minutes struggling to put the car in reverse (again no manual and a very strange reverse shift method). It was our first experience with this type of accommodation; small and spartan - more of a walk-in-closet with 1 set of bunkbeds, a window and a sink. It was one of 6 similar rooms located in the "coach house" of a fairly once grand manor that now houses the dormitory rooms, dining and lounge of the hostel. The only surface area available in our room was the generous window sill (beautiful view) and the top bunk railing supplemented the 2 hooks. The self-catering kitchen was a separate building behind the coach house - both of which we had access to at anytime. This was a feature we sorely missed several days later when we were at a hostel in Wales. ("We all operate differently", I was told there.)
Our sleep schedule was in shambles on our arrival in Eyam and never did get in synch locally while we were in the Peak District. Despite fatigue the next day we did take a nice 7 mile walk up, down, and around hills, sheep fields, and village lanes. We picked up some nice local vegetables in the small grocer and free range chicken from the friendly butcher for our self-catered supper after we enjoyed a tasty lunch and pleasant conversation with the barmaid at a local pub.
Clouds dropped light precipitation periodically, but we kept mostly dry. As long as we walked, we managed to handle the lack of good road signs - we could always stop to orient ourselves without angering a hurried local behind us. This was an absolute necessity in order to minimize misunderstandings between the two of us. (Tom has decided that his next major project - after his extended life to 200+ is secured - will be to achieve direct brain-to-brain interpersonal mental communication :>) Two visitors travelling in a strange area by way of a reversed control automobile on the "wong side" of the road following maps that are often not reflected by the road signs was our own personal version of Alice in Wonderland. I'm not sure which one of us was the White Rabbit!
(Photos online of trip through stay in Eyam.)
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