Also in May...
In a bid to see more of my home country (another unofficial 1 of my 30 Things), I organised a hair brain week's worth of whizz around the UK for a friend of mine who was coming over to visit from Canada. We spent days, weeks, months putting the itinerary together because there was so much I wanted Pat to see - and she had a few prerequisites as well...
Anyway, it went a little something like this:
Taking the rail air link to pick her up at Heathrow T4 (yet another unofficial 30 Thing - I have been pampered journeying to / from the airports over the years so it was high time I attempted the public transport route) - which to my surprise went very smoothly and I didn't get lost (I can navigate my way around foreign countries but when it comes to my own, utterly useless I'm afraid) - we then "dashed" as best we could back to Bennys B&B in South Ealing to pick up her extra large suitcase (from travels around the Greek Islands prior to coming to England) and then "dashed" as best we could again all the way back to Fleet - only to have a quick cup of tea, unpack and repack before we headed back into London to meet a friend and then catch the overnight Caledonian sleeper train from Euston to Edinburgh.
I'm sure there must have been a simpler, smarter way, but for the life of me, I didn't find it.
So we got tipsy In London, told off by our sensible neighbours for giggling too loudly once we got into our berth, and about 1am collapsed into our beds as the train gently rocked us to sleep.
If you've never tried to wash and dress in a tiny berth - you should, just for laughs. It was compact, neat, tidy and all the rest of it, but you couldn't swing a cat! That hilarious little episode kickstarted our couple of days in Scotland's capital. We arrived to sunshine so made the most of it and you know, it was just another day in sunny Edinburgh... happened to see a Royal being whisked in black limousine right by our Trike as we cruised around the city (courtesy of the fantastic Trike Tours Scotland), stumbled upon a fantastic impromptu parade down the Royal Mile with fighter jet flypast, and enjoyed a cheeky drop of 12 year old single malt whiskey under the iconic Firth of Forth bridge...AMAZING !!!!!
I never see the danger in anything until after I've done it. I seem to hone in on rating the experience on the thrill-o-metre and then jumping straight in. However, Pat was very quick to ask Gordon (our Trike driver) whether he'd ever rolled this thing. One of two questions apparently. If it hadn't been that one, she was going to ask him how long he'd actually been riding. Cracked me up just a wee bit.
Now, I wanted to show Pat each place we visited in the sunshine one day and in the rain the next, which strangely is exactly what happened for the most part. A true, wet, miserable, cold and damp to the bone day followed so we decided to walk to the highest point (of course!) all the way to the top of the Royal Mile and visit Edinburgh Castle. An optimistic ice cream van tickled us as we entered the castle and all I can say is, thank goodness for the cafes dotted around selling steaming hot soup and the little gift shops offering free whiskey tasting. They made the day just about bearable.
Before we hopped on the overnight train back down to London, we engaged in some light, hearty political conversation with a Scottish gentleman in the pub at the train station, watched Prince Charles read the weather in Glasgow over and over again and polished off another bottle or two of very very nice white wine. This time we made sure not to get told off by our neighbours and it was homeward bound.
Next up - Bristol and Bath for a couple of days for family visits and meals and socialising and impromptu wedding ceremonies - not to mention a healthy dose of lovely old buildings and street entertainers. And I was surprised to see the Roman Baths had developed into this magnificent feature of the city. I remember school trips back in the day when it was just a crumbling ruin and we were able to walk right inside the baths. Now of course it costs 12 quid, but they have done it up lush. We drove this bit of the trip and Pat was able to see our English countryside at its finest. Everything so green and splendid (well it would be after 6 weeks of rain, right) and we were blessed with two fine and sunny days.
Leaving early-ish Sunday morning with our packed lunches from good old Mum (I'd eaten mine by half 10, can't have food just sitting and staring at me), we took a taxi to Bristol Temple Meads station to catch yet another train down to Penzance in Cornwall. Pat had great trouble understanding the taxi driver as he had a thick Bristolian accent. I found that rather funny. Actually, I think in general Pat had trouble understanding us as we speak so fast and martyr the English language with missing ts and likes and innits.
It was a beautiful train journey along the coastline with my favourite bit being Tiverton to Newton Abbot dubbed "The Cornish Riviera". We set about taking pictures (although Pat always attracted a hedge every time she lifted her camera to the window) and making lists of all the transportation she'd used on her month long jolly, all the cities she'd visited and all the quirky things she'd seen. A grand total of 27 stops later and we were almost at "Land's End", well, the train line ran out at least! Can't go any further than Penzance on the train. Here we stayed in a quaint little guesthouse called Cornerways with its winding staircase and rooms jutting off in all shapes and sizes, not to mention in all directions. Very oddly shaped house but pretty damn amazing all the same. Run by a very helpful young German guy and the only hilarious efficiency we found was Breakfast served from 8am to 8:45am precisely and on the dot!
I wanted to show Pat St Ives and it was a gorgeous afternoon, the kind you dream of in Cornwall, so off we went. Here Pat sampled proper fish and chips, proper Cornish fudge and proper Cornish ice cream. Oh, and I stocked up on rock and my fave - a gert slab of coconut ice! We had a wonderful view of the harbour as we sat and ate dinner. St Ives gets me right there every time. And the giant, terrifying seagulls were on good form as well.
The next day it rained of course. Our mission today was The Lizard for Cream Teas, but when I told a local from Mullion whilst we stood waiting for the bus in the pouring rain in Helston that that's what we were planning, he laughed me off the pavement. Thought we were nutters. Fair play. I think Pat thought it too, but when she tasted that Cream Tea (just as I promised), all negatives went out the window. I can safely say... she was in heaven! We got to see the back and beyond of Cornwall as the bus trundled through the tiny villages. How it managed to squeeze between the buildings, we'll never know. Sometimes it was so tight, you had to shut your eyes.
Our mini jaunt to Cornwall ended with a visit to The Dolphin pub in Penzance harbour where I ate the freshest crab I've ever tasted. The sun came out and all was right with the world again. Abso-bloomin-lutely divine!
We then finished up the whole trip with Pat trying a proper Cornish pastie with brown sauce, thatched roofs, The 39 Steps, a sneak peak of the MIB 3 film premiere in Leicester Square and a final, farewell dinner on Fleet Pond. Many weighings of her suitcases later and she was good to go.
What I will remember most about Pat's visit is how she often called me brat but in the most affectionate way, how it always felt like I was travelling with my Aunty because they both make the same noise when they agree with me, how I fell asleep most nights giggling to myself with the way Pat puffs air when she sleeps, and finally how she attracted some right weirdos as we travelled around. Lasting memories of a truly fabulous (and hilarious) experience.
Cheers me old mucker!
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.