After a whole month of lazing around the apartment in Lyon we were craving a change of scenery to distract us from the broken foot that seems to be taking up much of our time…
Our good friends, Helen and BJ, had been travelling through Ireland with family for a wedding and were flying to the UK for a week long holiday. So we booked our cheap-as-chips Easyjet flights and took off to the UK to tag along on the holiday they had already planned.
Side note – If you have not already seen it, check out Fantastic Aida’s hilarious “Cheap Flights” song on Youtube.
As I currently have the need for only one shoe and not much goes with my foot cast, my bag was small and manageable. Dan, on the other hand, seems to over pack every time. He was stuck dragging a heavy load around for the duration of the trip.
(It was not intentional to break my foot to get out of buying the beers and carrying my own luggage. Has anyone else tried carrying luggage (or beers) while struggling with crutches? It’s just some of the perks!)
Meeting up with Helen and Bj at Heathrow Airport was easy enough, and soon we were enjoying the beautiful English countryside on our three hour drive to a tiny village near Gloucester. It was the perfect start to our England road trip.
For our first two nights, Helen had booked us at the elegant 4-star Mercure Gloucester Bowden Hall, situated down a small country lane, on 12 acres of rolling parks and woodland. After surviving the challenging roads in Ireland over the past two weeks, Bj expertly navigated the narrow laneways to our hotel, where we promptly dumped our bags and departed for the nearest pub.
12 acres of ‘rolling parklands’ were no place to be seen with a broken foot and a pair of crutches, and the walk to the pub was almost too much. But, we were kept entertained and educated by Bj pointing out every wood pigeon and stinging nettle that we passed along the way.
Unfortunately, the wet and grey English weather did not hold off, and the next day we woke wondering how we would spend our day. At Helen’s suggestion, we plugged ‘Bath’ into the car’s navigation system and took off for an afternoon exploring. Luckily, we only lost ‘the boys’ once while wandering through the English village and made it to the Roman Baths in time to shelter from the rain (who forgot the umbrella?).
The Roman Baths are below the modern street level and has four main features, the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Great Bath house and finds from Roman Bath. The Great Bath is the magnificent centerpiece of the Roman baths and is a 1.6m deep pool, lined with 45 sheets of lead, and filled with hot spa water from the natural spring. It once stood in an enormous barrel-vaulted hall that rose to a height of 40 meters.
It was amazing to see and touch pieces of the old building, statues and even coins that were used 2,000 years ago.
After a fairly educational trip to the Roman Baths the boys’ decided that their thirst for knowledge had evaporated into a thirst for beer and sport.
We stopped off at the local sweet shop for some fudge and popped into a local pub to witness Scottish tennis player, Andy Murray, defeat Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the Wimbledon semi-finals. This was quite enjoyable as a British crowd started to form in the pub, calling out their support and surprise as the game drew on. Quote of the day: “You’re British and you know it, Murray!”
Helen returned from her solo trip to the Jane Austen museum (something that we will have to return to Bath to visit, sorry Dan) and we enjoyed a lovely Thai meal for dinner.
On Saturday, our third day in England, we all jumped back in the car and set off for Matlock, two and a half hours away.
Unfortunately, due to some terrible internet connectivity (UK Vodafone!! How I despise you!!), we drove south in search of food and ended up trying to visit a castle nearby. Only when we arrived at the castle did we discover it was closed for the day and our detour in the opposite direction had been a waste of time (who put Daniel and me in the front seat?).
Eventually arriving in Matlock in the late afternoon, we settled into the Red Lion Inn (a local pub and hotel) and promptly ordered our first of many beers.
Matlock is a county town of Derbyshire, situated at the south eastern edge of the Peak District. It was here, at the Red Lion Inn, that we met Helen’s distant cousin, Richard.
Richard, who had apparently met us when we lived in The Gap (Brisbane) many years ago, made it his mission to make sure we experienced ‘the real Matlock’ and soon we were meeting all of his friends and enjoying a drink (or two) with them all. We proceeded to bar hop down the main street, enjoying a local band at Twenty-Ten, running from an over-flowing, spew filled male bathroom at The Monk Bar and eventually trying the potent and aptly named Kryptonite cocktail at Harvey’s before being kicked out at closing.
While details are unnecessary, it must be said that it was an eventful night! One that involved lots of dancing (with and without crutches), run-ins with the local cops (after trying on their hats), a broken crutch, a pervert and BJ wielding a broken wine glass to “protect the women!”
The next morning we drifted downstairs to the pub nursing our heads and ordering a ‘breakfast’ of Sunday roast and orange juice. It was afternoon by the time Richard had recovered enough to pick us up for our own private tour of Matlock and its surrounds.
With one of my crutches having snapped the night before (and no, it was not my crazy dancing), I was feeling a little apprehensive when we arrived at the top of a rocky hill and were told that we would be ‘hiking’ to the top. Well it was not a ‘hike’, thank goodness, and I only had to stumble a few hundred meters, avoiding the cow patties, before settling myself onto a rock where I could enjoy the magnificent view of the Peak District National Park.
The others hopped and skipped their way along the rocks to the other side and back while I sat and enjoyed the very hill that Elizabeth Bennet climbed in the 2001 BBC version of the Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
We dropped into the Robin Hood Pub to witness Andy Murray (“the British”) face Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final and loose in 4 sets. But, we were grateful to see such an historical moment: he was the first male British player to reach the final since 1938.
On our way back into town, we weaved our way through the countryside, avoiding sheep in fenceless paddocks, and stopped off for a photo opportunity at Chatsworth House.
Chatsworth House, a stately home in North Derbyshire, has been the home of the Duke of Devonshire since 1549. It is open to the public (for a 20 Pound fee) and set in expansive parklands and beautiful gardens. The house itself contains a unique collection of priceless paintings and furniture. While it is beautiful in more ways than one, my favorite thing about Chatsworth House is that it appeared as Pemberley, the home of Mr Darcy, in the 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. (Can you tell I am a big fan of Pride and Prejudice?)
While we did not go inside the house, we did traipse across the front lawns and path to get a close up view of the glamorous building and its surroundings. This was an achievement in itself as we navigated a path between the significant amounts of sheep droppings along the way. Try doing that with broken crutches and a wet, muddy shoe!
That night we enjoyed a wonderful cooked meal with Richard’s family and sadly departed the next morning to beat the afternoon traffic entering London.
While Helen and BJ were staying with family in Walthamstow (north London), Daniel and I stayed in the King William IV Pub and Brewery (surprise, surprise) just down the road. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by a lovely young woman who helped me lug our bags from the car, settled me down with a (free) pint of beer and promptly upgraded our room from a twin to a double so that I would not have to struggle up two flights of stairs with crutches.
They were very generous and in such a fantastic location for the upcoming Olympics. We discovered on our second day there that it was only a short bus ride from the largest Westfield I have ever seen, as well as the 2012 London Olympic Village and main stadiums.
Knowing that we could be London locals in the next month or so, we decided to experience the public transport and jumped on a bus and two tubes to Clapham North where we met up with my cousin Hayden and our friend Ryan, who are currently living and working in London. We had a great catch up and great discussion about all things travel, one of my favourite subjects!
The following night we were spoiled with another home cooked meal at Helen’s aunt and uncle’s house in Walthamstow where we met their family and Helen’s brother, Tim, and his girlfriend. Since Tim and his girlfriend have a very keen taste for craft and local beers, we continued the night enjoying a few 2 Pound pints of locally brewed ales at our own pub, King William IV. The night sadly ended at the fried chicken place across the road… I am told that this will become a traditional way to end a night out in London, one thing I am not looking forward to!
It was sad to say goodbye to Helen and Bj, not knowing when we will see them next. We had such a fantastic week tagging along on their UK road trip that I could do it all again.
The only thing I would change would be the fried chicken… WHY did we eat the fried chicken on that last night?!? !
J & D
Published on: Jul 19, 2012 @ 0:53 – #12monthhoneymoon