Thursday, March 26, 2009

OMG - who turned off the sun?

It is spring.
It is supposed to be getting warmer!
But someone forgot to tell the weather today. It is blowing a gale and was all night, and wet as well. While it was nice in bed with the sound of beating rain being pounded into windows that date back to the mid 1650's, I did not relish getting up. But the room was as warm as the oh-so-comfortable bed I have just left and the shower was a joy. Not some tiny little thing jammed in a corner, nor a shower over an impossibly high bathtub. No, a shower almost as big as the one at home and with a power head - yeehah!
After a bit of a search through the public areas of the pub we found the breakfast room. It was a lovely room with exposed beams that was a more recent addition to the pub (probably in the early 1700's). It is set up for 12 people only and would make a fantastic private dining room for a group of friends. Colin is in fine form this morning and brings lovely hot pots of tea and coffee before taking our cooked breakfast orders. We had already helped ourselves to juice and cereals. I am not all that hungry this morning after the hearty meal we had last night so I just order a poached egg and some local bacon. Michael however, true to form gets a full breakfast - eggs, bacon, sausage and mushrooms. Tony - you are getting a bit of competition for the top breakfast!

Colin asks us whether we have been to Arles as he and Jill are planning a trip there just after Easter. We say yes and enthusiastically share our experience - referring him of course to the Blog for all the details! He in turns tells us about a fantastic guesthouse they stayed in while in Tuscany -in a little town called Palaia. The guesthouse describes the area beautifully - see it here.

We set off from the String of Horses to continue our look at the Roman influence in this area. First stop is at Lanercost Priory. Its Roman claim is that is was partially constructed with materials from part of Hadrian's Wall. It was completed in 1165 by a local Lord and was a working priory for local service by Augustinian monks. That was until Henry VIII dissolved the church in 1538 as part of his fight with the Pope over his desire for a divorce from one of the Catherines. At this time, the Priory was sacked and most of the outbuildings destroyed. Thankfully the main body of the church was left standing and today is a remarkable ruin. Now administered by English Heritage and is not open until 1 April.

BUT, luckily for us, Angie, the caretaker guide was on site getting ready for the season and shows us through! How was that - a private tour by perhaps the most passionate person about the Priory at the moment. She points out specific pieces of Hadrian's Wall that had been used and showed us where the young boys being schooled at the priory had scratched games such as Nine Men's Morris into the stonework (no doubt when the monks were not looking!) So there - graffiti is nothing new!
As we get talking, Angie tells us about a couple of B&Bs in northern Scotland - so it seems it is a day for making useful contacts. Cards and information exchanged she promises to send some photos of Lanercost and the fantastic snowbells this year and to follow us on the blog - the crowd reading is certainly growing. We will publish the blog with a lot of additional photos when we get back, so get ready to place your order!!
We make a quick visit to the parish Church of St Mary Magdalene that sits in one portion of the former priory. The view through to the former religious house through one of the leadlight windows is just wonderful.

Leaving the Priory to the rain we then drove a couple of miles around to Birdoswald Roman Fort. The site seemed abandoned to the now gale force winds. There were a couple of painters giving the attached learning centre doors a fresh coat and a delivery man in a refrigerated truck - I told him I thought that is was probably warmer inside the freezer and he agreed! As we get around to the fort remains at its site on Hadrian's Wall we could see a couple of archaeologists undertaking a sensor reading and sectioning off a part of the land for an excavation. God - you can have their job today. Even Michael agreed that is was freezing and the Ewok has returned as I donned the scarf and gloves again. At one point we are in real danger of being blown over by the wind, literally. Walking back to the car into a headwind was hard work and the rain was coming in again.

Birdoswald was one of the largest wall forts and housed up to 1000 soldiers. Wonder how you would have felt as a member of the Thracian Horseman 22nd Legion when posted here for 4 years in this inhospitable miserable weather?
So we decide to go into Carlisle and have a look at the Cathedral, but the rain is setting in so we decide to keep travelling. We are heading into Scotland now - further north and into predicted colder weather - brrr. The rain is setting in and there are wind warnings all along the motorway. We debate heading towards firstly Edinburgh and then Falkirk, but the weather is making us a little hesitant and as the afternoon is progressing we decide to just get to Glasgow.
We get to the Kings Head Hotel a little after 4 pm thankfully during a break in the rain. But no sooner are we in the room than it started again - with a vengeance and with SLEET. Could have been worse I suppose - the weather bureau has said not to be surprised if we get snow in the next couple of days. It is supposed to be getting warmer!

We had booked a superior room as we are here for 3 nights. However, there has been a mixup and they have no suite available tonight. They will change us tomorrow morning. Not a great start - especially as the heater is old and does not throw out much warmth - it will be worse in the morning I suspect. We head off to the restaurant for dinner where they have a set menu - 2 people, 2 courses and a bottle of wine for £24. That should have given us some idea of what to expect.
Homemade soup of the day with a crusty roll (Vegetable) Michael
North Atlantic Prawns (with Marie Rose sauce, fresh leaves and buttered bread) Maria
Roast Lion of Pork (with Sage and Chestnut stuffing) Michael
Supreme Chicken (with creamy peppercorn sauce) Maria
Served with vegetables (crinkle cut frozen variety), with both meats on a mash of potato and peas and roasted chat potatoes. No wonder they eat so many carbs - to shivering helps to burn them off! The meals were OK - but nothing to write home about. Still, value for money.

There are a number of locals dining tonight - they are easy to identify - they are wearing short sleeves. Our waiter has a thick accent and when we comment on the weather his rather laconic reply was that it wasn't too bad once you get used to it - r-i-g-h-t!

Off to bed to keep warm (:-)) See you all tomorrow.

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