Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Road warriors

We hit the road on Friday afternoon with no hotel reservation. On a bank holiday weekend. We felt incredibly adventurous. We figured we'd just drive until we didn't feel like driving any more.

On the way, we were treated to a really lovely sunset.

Great music on the iPod, a drop-top Benzie, wide open countryside, and no schedule. Not a bad way to travel. We made it as far as Leeds and decided to find somewhere to bed down for the night. We found a great place on the cheap, took a bottle of wine up to the room and enjoyed some Olympics coverage.

Saturday morning we continued up the A1 motorway, playing fast and loose with the drop-top. This picture is what the sky looked like on Jason's side of the car:

And this is what it looked like on my side:

Thankfully, Jason's side gave way to my side and there were blue skies all round eventually.

We decided to pop into Richmond, a classic English market town. (Not to be confused with our lovely Richmond-upon-Thames.) I immediately felt right at home, with the guns and tackle store.

We continued to rack up mileage on our English Heritage memberships since there was a castle in Richmond. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to get out and stretch the old legs a bit. Booooorn freeeeeee, freeeeeee as the wiiiiiiind blows!

View of Easby Abbey in the distance.

"I dare ye to enter mine castle! I will crush ye like grape!"

"I don't really dare ye to enter her castle. Ye come on in if ye want. She puts up a good front but she is weak like baby bunny."

Lovely, if a bit drafty...

The castle sits perched above the River Swale.

We finally arrive in Gateshead, our base for the weekend. We made a pit stop to see the Angel of the North. She's made from 200 tonnes of steel, is 20 metres tall, has a wingspan of 54 metres (which makes her wider than the Statue of Liberty is tall) and turns 10 years old this year!

I turn my head for just a few seconds, and he's off buying ice cream.

Pretty impressive, no?

My, how original. I'm sure no one else has taken a photo like this.

Jason is clearly enraptured.

Next stop was Aydon Castle, a 13th century manor house. Originally built as an undefended residence, it soon had to be fortified because war broke out on the borders of England and Scotland. Not only was it pillaged and burnt by the Scots in 1315, it was seized and robbed by the English two years later. It changed hands a few times over the years but actually remained in occupation until 1966...

Crikey! I think those Scots have returned to reclaim the castle!

We noticed the big cahuna on the farm adjacent to the car park. And yes, there were lots more "big cock" jokes and sniggering about "large talons".

Arrrggghhh! They've hopped the fence! It's a chicken run! Let's get out of here! He's coming at me with his large talons!

We escaped unscathed and made our way to the Hadrian's Wall Path for some hiking. Some facts about Hadrian's Wall:
  • It is the best known frontier in the entire Roman Empire.
  • It is 73 miles long and crosses the whole of Northern England.
  • It took Hadrian's army over a decade to complete it.
  • Its purpose was to "separate the Romans from the barbarians in the North".
Can anyone point me to Brunton Turret on Hadrian's Wall?? Anyone???

Just chillin' on 2nd century Roman remains. You know how we do.

Setting out on our big hike. This is one section of the wall that you can actually walk on top of. The drop off the northern side of it is about 150 feet!

Woah-oah-oah-oah! Just kidding.

Wow. Just wow. (We hiked to that third summit and back.)

Jason said I'm like a different person when you throw me out in nature - giddy and carefree. Huh. Who knew? I've traded Prada loafers and Louis Vuitton bags for North Face waterproofs and backpacks. Didn't see that coming.

At some point or another, we realized that we had to walk back all the distance we covered. So we decided to turn around and head back.

Why do boys look at cliffs and rocks and think "I must climb that."?


Trailmaster J leads the way.

This is the remains of one of the milecastles, where the Roman soldiers kept guard.

King of the hill.

I don't know why I'm entertained by trying to sneak up on farm animals. Those sheep were so on to me though.

On the drive back to our hotel, we pulled over to watch the sun setting over this river and spotted a crane standing in the fall.

Sunday, we made it our business to cross some borders. Namely, Scottish ones. So we plotted out a drive up Scotland's East Lothian Coast.

Our first stop was in Berwick-upon-Tweed. This is actually in England but between 1147 and 1482, it changed hands between England and Scotland 13 times. You can see a little sliver of the North Sea back there...

The acqueducts crossing the River Tweed...

Have you ever in your life seen someone so enthusiastic about acqueducts??

Layers of bridges...

The lonely lighthouse.

Pew pew pew!

Ahhh yes... Aaaand we're back to the whole "Arrrggghhh! It's got meh! Halp meh! Halp meh!" routine. This will never get old.

Now that's what I call a border! They even have a lane so you can pull off the motorway and take photos. (Wales, take note.)

Even though we LOVED the drop-top Benzie, we kind of did feel like the "Two A-Holes" couple from Saturday Night Live driving such a flash car. "Hey, babe. Where you wanna go, babe?" "I dunnooo. Hogwaaarts?" So this is Jason making his "I'm an a-hole." face.

Second stop of the drive was in Eyemouth, a tiny little fishing village. We took a walk around the harbour, stopped in a pub for a half pint, and had some award winning fish and chips for lunch.

Oh yes, and we watched the seals get fed... They're so cute! They were making these little snuffling sounds which I'd never heard before. Probably because I don't generally make it my business to be around hungry seals...

It cracks me up that even though it's the same currency, England's and Scotland's notes look totally different.

The church in Eyemouth...

Next up was St. Abbs, which is famous for its craggy coast line. I like saying "craggy" in a Scottish accent. I must have said it a thousand times during our hike. I'm a joy to be with. Truly.

Ummm, again.... wow. Just wow.

I even got my very own Braveheart moment. Jason plucked a thistle for me and said "Ah lofve you. Always 'ave." (My favorite line from that movie...)

Yo, yo, yo! You gottah recognize your sedimentary rock formations!

The lighthouse at the halfway point on the hike.

Mire Loch - much like "craggy", I also enjoy saying "loch" in an exaggerated Scottish accent.

Hey look, it's heather on the hill...

And Heather on the hill...

After our exhausting hike around St. Abb's Head, we were off to North Berwick to see Bass Rock. It sits in the Firth of Forth and all the greyish-white you see on the surface there? That would be some of the 40,000+ gannets that reside there.

Leaderfoot is a railway viaduct over the River Tweed. We were just driving down the motorway and caught a glimpse of it. We saw there was a designated viewing area for it and it looked so pretty with the sunlight behind it that we turned around to go back. We weren't there for more than five minutes but the light changed so significantly while we were standing there. It went from this:

To this:
To this:
Final stop of the day was Melrose. We had a quick peek at the abbey and then went for a nice pub dinner before heading back.

And of course we had to take a photo crossing back into England... Although we were on a smaller road this time so there wasn't quite as much pomp and circumstance. No flags, for example.

Monday morning, we spent a couple of hours in Newcastle before heading south. How do you like my impression of Queen Victoria, Catherine?

Newcastle has a really nice riverside area, complete with LOADS of bridges...

I love this shot of them stacked up on one another...

And finally, we made one last quickie stop in Durham to see the cathedral and grab some lunch. The cathedral would have been much more pictureseque in sunnier weather. We can't complain though. We had two amazing days of sun and blue skies. And it was the two days that mattered the most.

Almost back into London - trip over...

And that was our bank holiday weekend. I have to say, though I'll never give up my love of Louis Vuitton bags and Diane Von Furstenberg dresses and four inch Tory Burch heels, living here has definitely made me realize that I'm more outdoorsy than I ever thought. And it is incredibly liberating to pack for a weekend away and simply take a pair of jeans, a basic tee for each day, knickers, pj's, socks and the shoes on my feet. Just don't ask me to start doing my private business in the great outdoors.

A girl's got boundaries, you know.


andrea said...

Lee and I stayed in Melrose on my first trip to Northumbria, I love that part of Scotland! And Newcastle, well, yes, it has a lot of bridges. And drunk stag and hen do's. Otherwise, not much else :)

Suze - Cheshire, UK said...

So glad you've really discovered the North - so many people come over and never venture outside the M25. And yeah, you are rockin' the goretex like noone I know.

geo said...

How fun!!! I'm so glad the sun came out to give you some perfect pictures. I like them all.

Anna said...

You guys are so attractive, keep on doing whatcha doing

Beth N said...

Only you would get a Mercedes as a rental car. Pretty fly ;)

Sarah D said...

I love the photos. I also love the idea of just getting in the car and going... no plans, no reservations.