It’s grim in the North

October 27th, 2011 Posted in Europe 2011, Travel

I wrote last time about Crewe Services or my friend Chris’ house. The house had been rented and Chris has moved in with Secret Agent Cath and the boys. I thought I’d bring Josh up to expose him to the culture in the North. One of the interesting things about England is how dialects and places change in such short distances. I also wanted to see everyone and was glad to hear Chris had planned a bit of a soirée over at the house for Wednesday evening.

We got in a bit late at nearly 10:00 PM and had a few beers and a chat before hitting the hay. Since Josh and I had traveled from the Alps, down to Geneva, and into London, and then into the North, we hit the bed hard. In the morning we had a pretty loose schedule to get out of the house with…

We figured we’d head north to Scotland…Where apparently Fargusson comes from.

I’d never been to Scotland, so I thought it would be a good idea. We rented a Vaxhaul Insignia 2.0 diesel and hit the road. We drove along the M6 into Scotland and as the sun was setting we decided to pull off the road and take in a bit of the scenery and snap a few pictures. I’m glad we did this because the clouds and the environment we were in were actually quite amazing. It did require pushing the rental car’s limits a bit on a hard road formed of very large loose rocks.

English services food :)

I of course had to first sort out where we could get a tasty pastry stuffed with English “meats.” We stopped at a service station which is basically an American rest stop except there are hotels, gas stations and places to eat. Stopped and got a Starbucks, pork pie, and a pasty…good to go.

Cowzen enjoying a Scottish Sunset

After it started to get dark we started our journey toward Edinburgh. Josh and I were left to decide which city we wanted to go to and Chris wanted to stay impartial. I started learning toward Edinburgh as it’s the eighth largest city in the UK and also the capital. I figured since it was, we’d have a better crack at seeing some good history.

We pulled into the city pretty close to 9:00 at night and without any sort of reservation managed to find ourselves shacked up at the Travel Lodge (West End) for about 69 GBP. It wasn’t the greatest place in the world and I was once again disappointed to realize it was very cheap European lodging. The beds were a parabolic shape and the room could not have been more basic…

But what more do you really need?

We hit the city for a walk around. It was a Tuesday so the town was pretty dead and all the shops were shut but it’s still a fun city center to frequent at night. As you started to get closer to the main drag you find the castle perched atop the city. If it isn’t the highest point, it’s very close and it’s situated on a large hill with a “mile road” leading up to it. It’s actually a great sight to see in the dark since they’ve got it all lit up.

We wandered up the hill and stopped at a place called Maxies for dinner. I had decided on a ribeye steak with a “rich port sauce” and black pudding. I won’t hold the black pudding responsible for making the meal just alright, as I’d never had it before. It’s a bit of a pig mix and match in breading. To be honest, it’s not bad and it’s just not good either. It’s one of those of those foods that you think you could go the rest of your life without eating again, but don’t hate it at the same time.

Ribeye with port sauce and black pudding...

The steak was bleh, not a very good cut of meat but the sauce was nice. Our wait staff was a little inattentive at times, but they were happy. The meal was totally redeemed at the end by lemon cheesecake with a cream sauce, and a nice latte to finish it off. The latte gave me just enough rejuvenation to get myself going again for the evening.

I should also mention the beer we had. Innis and Gunn…It was supposed to have a vanilla flavor and made in an oak barrel or something like that. It tasted like whiskey that had gone off to be honest. I wasn’t very happy with this beer selection, so it was back to light beer for me. I think at this point in the trip I’m starting to look forward to the occasion of drinking water and living normally J

Innis & Gunn

We walked up to the castle to have a look in the night and I took a reference of what it was like to be there without people. It was an amazing place where you could see in most directions of the city from atop your perch. It was a cool way to take in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh at night

We wandered back down the cobblestone streets and started making our way back to the hotel. By this time I was extremely exhausted again and hit the bed pretty hard. I think in a way this trip is starting to get to me. Since we’ve been moving around a lot and have been trying to get from place to place, it’s been a bit exhausting. That doesn’t mean I’m racing to get home…but I’ve got something really nice waiting for me when I do get there and as well my own bed and bathroom are starting to look appealing J

We woke up a bit early on Thursday with the intention of heading back into Edinburgh to actually see some of the things we felt we should see during the daytime. Really this only included the castle and the same areas we had frequented the prior night.

Cowzen at the castle in Edinburgh

The spot was now full of tourists and busses everywhere…it was an absolute mad house…I find myself being annoyed by tourists, even when I am one. People are beside themselves with excitement, and that’s great…but sometimes it’s misguided.

We stopped at the pub we originally tried to get dinner at the prior evening (they weren’t cooking any longer) and had a full Scottish breakfast. Pretty much an English breakfast but a couple of black pudding hockey pucks added to the meal. I opted out of that this time and just enjoyed the beans. I’d much rather of had fried bread.

The full Scottish..

We had a wander around, stopped in at the gift shops and then made our way back to the car. We had spent enough time in Edinburgh that we had to cut the Lake District out of our trip back, but we were headed to Hadrian’s wall to have a look at that.

We sorted out where we were and hit the A702 to take the scenic road and cut down the country. I had to navigate, which was proving to be a bit difficult because there aren’t any straight roads in the UK it seems. I was tired, and trying desperately to stay awake so I could keep Chris interested in driving, but it proved futile at times, as I was nodding off for a minute or two from time to time.

We hit Hadrian’s wall in a grey cold Autumn sunset…not a lot of people were around. Keep in mind, this wall used to stretch from coast to coast, but the places you can actually see bits of it are a bit far and few between. A lot of this has to do with the fact that pieces of the wall have been stolen over the years to be used to make outhouses or sheds.

The wall stands around 10’ tall and wouldn’t be that interesting, except that it’s a few feet wide at the top and spans for miles and miles across the country. It would have required an intense laborious process including a lot of slave labor to put this thing together. You start to get that sense of it as you walk along the top of the wall and take in what it represents.

Cowzen at Hadrian's wall.

We had a look at some of the fort ruins nearby and got back in the car. We needed to make it back to Crewe as Chris was having some people over that night. It was the usual bunch and I was happy to hear that some of the people I had met from the last time would be around. We ended up being about a half an hour late, after stopping to put a tiny bit of gas in the rental and slam a few cans of red bull. I picked up a pepsi bottle for Kimberly, after I lug the damn thing across the world I hope she can use it for something. J

We got back to the house and the rest was a bit of history. Big Steve, Emma, Mick, Dan, Chris, Cath, and for the briefest of moments Rob got together, had some good drink, ate some delicious mussels and had some conversation. I think Josh and Steve fell in a sort of nerd love with eachother after the discussion of magic cards and computer gaming came up. I’m an IT Director and I still thought it was far too nerdy for me. It’s ironic, I suppose, that I don’t really do computer games, but I do work on computers.

I headed off to bed early, which was a little past 1 AM. I needed the sleep and it was quite nice to get that in. In the morning we had some more bacon croissants and Chris hit the road to drop us off at Crewe station. I’m writing this blog entry from the train, but it’s offline. So I’ll probably finish putting this together after we get ourselves sorted out and moved back into the London flat.

Easy for now,

Lunks.

  1. One Response to “It’s grim in the North”

  2. By Tolairius on Nov 25, 2011

    You know, as much as I’d like to rip on your for the cow thing I am forced to admit, well done sir, good form.

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