I’m lucky enough to have friends in the UK who were quite sincere when they told me to come and stay as long as I wanted. I took them up on their offer and headed to the UK in the spring of 2016.
It was fairly simple to get from Heathrow to Leeds: take tube to Kings Cross, take train to Leeds. I was planning a fairly extended stay so I had a fair bit of luggage. That made the tube ride (an hour long journey) a bit awkward but I had booked a first-class train ticket and that was a very comfortable ride.
I was chided for outrageously splurging on a first-class train ticket when I arrived, being told that people from the north of England don’t spend money unnecessarily. I think the difference was less than twenty pounds and worth far more than that for a bit of space and comfort after a long plane ride.
It kind of set the tone for my stay though, as I found quite a few of my normal expenditures were considered outrageous splurging. I did find that cutting back a little on my meals out and expensive bottles of wine (they were teetotalers) did help stretch my dollars, that shrunk considerably with the currency conversion.
I was there for two months and staying with old friends so there wasn’t the whirl of itineraries and tours that there would have been otherwise.
I settled into the little house and spent the first little while just living in England. I could feel, deep in the soul, that my ancestors came from this place but there were a lot of little differences that I was still finding by the time I left.
- There seemed to be a real lack of Stop signs; where I would expect a stop, there was a yield or a roundabout. It took a while for me to recognize the circular lump in the middle of small intersections as an indication of a roundabout.
- The roads are narrow! On some of the country roads, pullouts have to be used to allow oncoming traffic to get by. And the roads are winding! With rock walls and hedges that grow close so you can’t see around the corners. It was definitely exciting driving there, and not just because I was shifting with the wrong hand.
- The traffic lights have an extra amber: green-amber-red-amber-green. That might make for great drag racing but everyone seemed to start off on the amber after the red.
- Most of the houses in town were attached-duplexes for the most part but there are many older row houses. I enjoyed noting the differing personalities displayed in the front gardens (usually divided by a fence) of some of these as I ran through the streets.
- They are called gardens, by the way, NOT yards. I was told about that..
- The houses are mostly made of stone, a lot of the older ones blackened with coal smoke.
- Public Footpaths. You can walk just about anywhere on them; through people’s yards, over fences (using stiles), through fields (with or without livestock), and woods. Most of them signposted and Ordnance Survey maps can be found online that show the paths for every area in England. What wonderful things.
- Accents are indicators of class and class is very much a thing in England. I never got the hang of it but then I’ve never been able to recognize accents from different countries let alone different counties.
- The separate hot and cold water taps are a common complaint from across-the-ponders. You have a choice of frigid or scalding unless you choose to fill the sink to get warm. Crazy.
- The English Robin is very different from the American Robin. Prettier, I think, with a very nice song.
I tried to get out for a walk every day, sometimes starting from the house and sometimes driving to a recommended spot.
From the house, I enjoyed regular runs of about four miles. I loved the very many ways that the same name could be used to identify different offshoots. Woodhill, for example is the name of a Road, a Crescent, a Court, a Garden, a Rise, a Grove and a Garth.
I was within easy walking distance to the Horsforth Train Station and the train could take me anywhere. I did day trips to York, Leeds, Manchester and several to Knaresborough.
Knaresborough was to me the epitome of a British village. It has a market square, a castle, a wonderful bridge over the winding river Nidd. And ravens.
Another favourite excursion was to the Yorkshire Dales. As a fan of the James Herriot books when I was a little person, the Dales were an extra special place to explore and walking the many paths that traverse the area was my travel mode of choice.
to be continued soon..