Saturday, April 25, 2009

Off the rails!

Watershed day - I have banished the Ewok! The spencer came off for the first time in 133 days!

We had a lovely late start to the day. The George Hotel served breakfast until 10 am and we shared the dining room with one couple we met last night also dining late and the bride and groom from the wedding. It was so funny because I had run into the Bride in the toilets where she was lamenting how you never think of that need when you are choosing a bridal gown. Her Matron-of-honour offered to stand in front of the stall as she could not get herself and the dress in and shut the door. "I promise I wont look" she said, at which time I (in the next cubicle) said quietly "Ah, but me, I'm going for my camera!" Don't know who laughed hardest - me or her.

The breakfast was huge - a full cooked English breakfast truly sets you up for the day. Michael took a walk down to the Piercebridge Roman bridge while I uploaded the blog photos and we checked out right on the dot of 11 am. The bridge, which crossed the River Tees, is located about 300 yds from the Hotel - which was convenient considering the Roman fort (Morbium) which I had visited yesterday afternoon, is about the same distance in the opposite direction! Anyhow, all that remains is the lower elements of the southern abutment of the bridge: a washway of irregular flagstones which made the water flow evenly under the bridge arches; piers which were built onto the flagstones had become disturbed through subsequent flooding. The piers appear to have been built of large blocks and joined with iron clamps to resist the flow of the river. The piers supported a roadway of timber beams and planks.

During the time of Roman occupation, the main route from York to northern England was through the strategic region guarded by the garrison stationed at Morbium (Piercebridge). It is believed the bridge was built around 150 AD, and some time after it was washed away. The bridge was rebuilt about 250 yds downstream to where the remains can now be seen.

We then headed down the motorway for York and there was nothing of real interest to us marked on the map. So we discussed the plan for the next month and have made a major change. Who would have thought that we would be spending so much time in the United Kingdom? The mother country is fascinating and while we all know of the history, when you see it first hand, it really draws you in. And the country is beautiful. And the people are so hospitable and so friendly!

So we will be in England for about another 5 days - stopping in to see Mick's sister and brother-in-law in Stoke on Trent and then we are going over to Ireland for three weeks before coming back to England for another week to ten days. We just thought that we should finish seeing what we have started here. We drive down the motorway where the daffodils on the roadside have been replaced by dandelions, thick like a blanket.

So, decision made, we are getting closer to York. Mick in Brisbane has given us some insight into places to go and things to see and when we left Piercebridge this morning we were telling the guy at the desk what we are up to and he also gave us some great tips. So we decided that we would go to see either the Jorvick Viking Centre, or the National Rail Museum this afternoon - whichever we came across first. And as luck would have it, we got to the National Rail Museum!

Well, Michael described it as like being in a Cathedral while I just sighed after the first one-and-a-half hours and joined the other 'rail widows' moving from area to area trailing behind our other halves. Don't know why it takes them two to three times as long to see what we can see in such a much shorter time. I am convinced that it is a boy thing! There were groups of men walking around, young and old - all excited! There was even one enthusiast with tape measure and digital camera taking very specific measurements of a part one of the old engines - so he could build a true scale model. Geesh! Seriously though, it is a truly impressive collection and it has been set out amazingly.

Regardless whether any visitor does not possess any interest in railways, surely one could not help but appreciate this excellent treasure house. The museum chronologically presents the history of British Rail through the display of over 100 locomotives and almost 200 rolling stock items. It's warehouse of railway memorabilia is a wonder in itself - and it is far from being junk!

I suppose the uniqueness of the museum is not only through the exhibits, but it is also the smell. The scent of oil, grease and burnt coal just enhances the overall experience. Albeit, it is the locomotives, carriages and rolling stock we had come to see; and in my case, to absorb. The array of locomotives ranged from George Stephenson's Rocket ; branch and main line steam locomotives - such as the sleek Prairie engines ; the classic curves of the 'Streamliners' represented by way of the Mallard ; and finally through to the diesel and electric powered locomotives. I can't believe he didn't mention the Flying Scotsman!

We are at St Georges B&B in York tonight. Ground floor, walk in shower - yeehah! With ten ensuite rooms, this one is a little larger than the last few we have been at. It is in a quiet street just off the racecourse - which we are told has a huge following in York and the surrounding areas. The house next door is Tudor - yep, a real one, while the B&B is more Edwardian in style.

Andrew, the owner, has suggested that we have dinner at the Fox and Roman tonight. This is a classic English pub that although modernised, has retained all its charm. There is a good mix of locals who are socialising at the end of the day and diners wo hve come for a meal. The staff are young and very friendly. They have a relly extensive menu that is a mix of traditional pub fare such as 'Toad in the Hole' to more innovative modern recipe mixes. We made our selection, ordered at the bar (along with a Bulmers Pear Cider for me and a tonic water for Michael), collected our wooden spoon table marker and waited.
We shared a Whole Baked Camembert - oven baked with a caramelised onion marmalade, celery and crusty bread
Mediterranean Lamb (slow braised lamb with chorizo, tomatoes and rosemary served with roast pepper, baby potatoes and seasonal greens) Michael
Hunters Chicken (double chicken breast served with smoked cheddar and sweet cure bacon with smoky barbeque sauce, mustard mash and steamed seasonal greens) Maria
Roasted mediterranean vegetables and Steamed asparagus with Italian hard cheese
We each had Eve's Pudding (Bramley apples slices covered in almond and lemon sponge, topped with a buttery crumble and served with Devonshire toffee sauce and custard). I know it is hard to believe but you could distinctly taste each of those flavours as you ate the dessert! The food was fabulous. The poor little waitress nearly dies when in response to her question "How was it all?" I replied "Terrible". She stood, stunned, not knowing what to say or do until I finished "Terribly, terribly good!". Gets 'em every time!
Forgot to take the camera with us (because the batteries were charging) so you will have to use your imagination.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that you have a warm welcome awaiting you in Oxford if your extended UK stay brings you this way!