Saturday, April 20, 2013

Adventures in the Lake District!

Ruth and friends continue their UK trek north to the Lakes.
By Ruth Richter
On Thursday, March 14th, we had a short drive of about 130 miles, almost entirely on “M” Roads (British terminology for freeways or interstates) driving from Wales to the Lake District.  In the process we managed to skirt around Liverpool, missing the homes of the Beatles in the process, as well as bypassing Manchester, both big industrial cities that held little interest for us.
Driving on a four-lane (sometimes six-lane) highway made the miles clip by quickly and we found ourselves in the Lake District area by 10 a.m.  Once in the area, we hit the lesser roads again, “A” and “B” roads and, primarily because it was recommended to us by Mary Wilson, another of our neighbors, we sought out Beatrix Potter’s home.  What a great stop it was and we all loved the home which was set up to look as if she and her husband had just been there having a morning cup of tea.  One of the interesting things we learned was that she’d used her home for the drawings found in many of her books and so in each of the rooms was a page displayed from the book where she’d drawn a corner of the room with the furnishings we were seeing there.
After a stop for lunch where I had rarebit for the first time in my life, which was simply good, we went on to Ambleside to find our B&B.  We were staying at the Elder Grove B&B rather than a self-catering cottage since we had only allowed ourselves two nights in the Lake District.  Our B&B was more like a small hotel and our two rooms were excellent and provided an exercise program in that the rooms were at the top of this old Victorian building – four flights
When our host offered to carry my bag up for me, I “very graciously” allowed him to do so!  Note the “house mouse” that lived right outside the door of our room; a charming little touch which we all enjoyed.  Breakfast in this B&B was a feast and we were even provided a menu to choose from.
Likely of interest is the menu for a full English breakfast, which is typically served at any B&B.  It includes eggs, any style, sometimes a potato of some sort, “bacon” which we would more define as Canadian bacon, sausage, beans (as in the can), a baked or roasted tomato,  grilled mushrooms, sometimes fried toast.  You can pick and choose from a variety of cereals prior to your hot breakfast being delivered and there are also several juices to choose from.  Coffee and tea is also part of the breakfast.  Much to my companions’ interest and then dismay, toast is served on a toast rack which guarantees the toast will be served cold by the time it reaches the table.  In this particular B&B, there were many varieties of this menu that could be asked for, including a vegetarian meal.  Needless to say, after eating this much for breakfast, it is well into the rest of the day before anyone gets hungry again.
We did drive around a bit that afternoon mainly on a quest for a teapot that Marla had decided she wanted to purchase as a souvenir – the teapot is significant in England right now in that it quotes Winston Churchill with the saying, “Be Calm and Carry On” which he uttered during World War II.  More on where the teapot was eventually found later!
Our host at the B&B was consulted the next morning about possible mountain drives we might take.  I remembered taking one before in this area that was just wonderful and hoped that perhaps we could duplicate it.  He directed us on the map that we all pored over and we easily found the road we were to take to go over Hard Knott Pass and Wrynose Pass (not the road I recalled, but more exciting yet).  As we started up the grade, Ken and I noted a sign saying there would be 30% grades ahead.  We figured surely that was the English way of measuring such things and it couldn’t be that steep of grades; we were dead wrong!
Since it had been raining a lot the day before, the mountains called fells here were literally oozing water everywhere and there were marvelous waterfalls, small streams gushing down beside us and under the road, and it was simply beautiful.  As we hit one of several hairpin curves, they were so sharp I couldn’t figure out how we could possibly make the tight turns.  Multiple times there were some mighty gasps from the ladies in the backseat (not to say that I in the front seat wasn’t doing the same!), and Ken was beaming with excitement the whole time, but I suspect his heart was pounding too!
This was definitely our most exciting day so far as well as a very memorable one!  The Lake District which we didn’t begin to see to its fullest is truly a beautiful spot.  It’s also very touristy so if you’re planning a trip to Great Britain, you might want to keep in mind that during the summer months traffic will be very heavy … but probably not over Hard Knott and Wry Nose Passes … which is a good thing since once again it’s basically a one-way road with two-lane traffic!
I’ve been asked about the cost of traveling in Great Britain which people assume is very expensive … certainly it can be.  We did it as inexpensively as possible.  We had “free” airline tickets because we all had airline miles available to use.  Ken was able to get our rental car through Hertz for a very low price of around $600 (and we each shared the cost of this).  As I’ve said before, the self-catering cottages were quite inexpensive but you do have to shop around to find a good price, AND we were in the off season when the price to rent them is considerably less, maybe as much as half or less. 

A man's chair!

Then, other than the times we stayed in B&Bs, we made our own breakfasts at minimal cost, we had lunch when we were out and about but noontime meals cost less than evening meals, and we mostly ate in pubs or cafes with less expensive fare than the restaurants … more ambience too!  (TIP:  we also enjoyed chatting with the staff or the folks at the next table in many of these stops; they are always happy to talk with Americans it would seem.)  Our dinners were almost always back in the cottage and were usually something rather simple such as grilled cheese sandwiches or canned soup or when Ken was craving them, we tried hot dogs which were fine!  We had purchased prior to departure National Trust passes to allow us to visit many of the historical homes and castles, gardens, Beatrix Potter’s cottage, and so forth.  These pay for themselves after the first several visits to such sites, and they also allow you to comfortably visit as many of those places as you choose knowing you won’t have to pay the entrance fee, which can be quite high.
I mentioned grilled cheese sandwiches above; if you’ve never tried English white cheddar cheese, it’s a treat!  I buy it here in the U.S. at Costco in a large block … and it’s Irish cheddar cheese, but just as good.  It keeps well and makes outstanding grilled cheese sandwiches but is wonderful to just slice off a piece and snack!

No comments:

Post a Comment