Ambleside, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; York, England: The Whistle-stop Tour

We set off from Glossop by about 10 AM and headed north towards the Lake District, a mountainous area of northwest England and home of the Lake District National Park. In fact, all the land in England higher than three thousand feet likes within the park.

We drove through some of the smaller towns, around several lakes and tried to figure out what we wanted to do. It was nice enough just driving, so by the time it started to get dark, we found one of the villages to stay for the night. It was called Ambleside and I’m sure if it had been during the peak winter season, or even the peak of the summer season, it would’ve been filled with outdoor enthusiasts and travelers. But to our benefit, we found a room at a really nice B&B for a pretty good price.

That night I actually had a second phone interview with Pixar (the first was conducted from Rebecca’s bedroom phone), so I spoke with the team manager while sitting on the floor near the hotel room entrance. After the interview Phil — who had been listening in the whole time — raised his eyebrows, pursed his lips and blue out a gust of air, “That sounded intense, mate.” It certainly was. In fact, I now use some of the questions I was asked during that interview when I grill prospective rocket scientists (more on that later).

Phil and I got changed and went out to a local restaurant for dinner. Hangovers hit Phil like Tyson’s right hook so he usually saves up and plans for nights to go wild. That night wasn’t one of them, and since we had missed the last movie time at the town’s small, independent theatre, we called it a night after a very rustic meal.

The next morning we set off for Scotland, which was only a few hours drive away. As we drove into the city we looked up places to stay and what to do. We had arrived close to sundown, so by the time we found a suitable & cheap hotel near the Royal Mile, it was already getting dark. The Royal Mile is Edinburgh’s main drag, starting at Edinburgh Castle and moving down into the city.

We went out for dinner, then back to the hotel to get ready for the night, and finally down the street visiting a couple pubs. The first place had a great selection of Scotch and I did my best to sample a few that I had never heard of. They also had haggis on the menu, and after hearing so much about it, I had to try it. For those of you who don’t know,

Haggis is a dish containing sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally boiled in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours.

As the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique puts it, “Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour”.

I ordered the half-plate, which actually ended up being quite large. And guess what, it was freaking delicious. Exactly as Larousse puts it, it had an excellent texture, like the inside of a mince meat pie, and an incredibly savoury taste. If I had the stomach to make it myself, I totally would … Sorry, I had to.

Sitting next to us were two middle-aged women and one asked if we would watch her purse while she went out for a cigarette. The two of them had been there the whole time and were previously talking quietly to themselves. I can’t remember the details, but one of them suddenly started asking us about using a coin to dictate the night’s activities. Phil and I were trying to decide on what to do next and where to go. We took the ladies’ suggestion and flipped the coin, which then told us to head to the next bar. As Phil and I were walking up to the bar to pay our tab he remarked, “You know, I bet they flipped a coin to decide to talk to us …”.

We went to another pub down the street and surprisingly the two women followed us shortly after. To be fair they were two of the only pubs open in that area, so it wasn’t THAT surprising, but Phil was quite convinced we had a couple cougars on our tails. We managed to escape without much ado back to the hotel. It was a quiet night, but we were gearing up for the next night in York.

The next day we found ourselves in York just after dinner time. My guidebook suggested a quite nice, small hotel near the center of town, but they were booked solid. The landlord was very helpful, and he helped us get a room at another hotel just around the corner.

York is a college town, and also a very pretty, medieval English city. It’s walled in, with the famous York Minster dominating the inner sanctum. Phil’s ex-girlfriend (now again-girlfriend, more on that later) went to school there so Phil was familiar with the area. We ate at a mediocre Italian restaurant, then followed some college kids who looked like they were in the middle of  game of Pub Golf to a bar down the street. It was surprising empty, but after a couple hops we finally found a couple places that were lively. One had a line half a block long, and eventually, Phil and I were waiting to get in. It was a really strange place, a 3-story building with various rooms and atmospheres. At once a house party, club and lounge bar, it was intense. Phil ended up meeting a girl and disappeared, and after some time, I got bored and went back to the hotel. Not ideal, but I still had a good time. Mostly because on the way back I found a food truck run by the Most Friendly Kebab Seller. Ever. And the food was amazing. Before I went to bed that night I drunkenly scribbled in my notebook “BEST KEBAB EVER – YORK – NICE GUY”.

Somewhere around 5 in the morning there was knocking on the door and Phil stumbled in. Even half asleep, I grin and probe him for details. We slept in a little longer before checking out and walking into town. The weather wasn’t great, but I got some pictures of the cathedral and we strolled around the town for a bit. After lunch we drove back to Glossop.

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