Day 13: York (Museum of York, Yorkminister, National Railway Museum)

We stayed in York at a local B&B. It was incredibly hot on our second floor room and even though we opened the windows, it did very little to help. It took way too long for the kids to finally sleep, but at last they fell asleep and we did too. In the morning we had a full English breakfast. Our host was wonderful.

  

And we left from there in a taxi to the train station “left luggage” lockers where we could put our stuff for the day. We then started to walk around York, headed to Yorkminster. Below you can see the train station straight ahead/on the left and the old city walls on the right. It’s a neat mix of old and new in York.

We headed to Yorkminster.

When we got there, we found out it was closed for mass (which we should have realized, it being Sunday and all), so we left to go to the York Museum and see the Vikings exhibit.

York Museum

Shelley paid for us to go into the museum, but unfortunately Micah was having none of it, so Erin waited outside. Zeke had fun, though, at the prehistoric exhibit and the viking exhibit. In the picture below, he’s not quite as tall as a Deinonychus dinosaur.

And here he is rowing toward English from Scandinavia.

And here’s Zeke posing like the statues. He thought it was funny.

We then decided to have lunch outside the museum. We found a food truck and got BLT sandwiches.

  

When we heard the bells ringing at Yorkminster, we packed up and headed back over there. It was a short walk.

Yorkminster

This was a massive gothic cathedral where the Romans built their headquarters when the town was a fort, then the Saxons built their church on top of it, followed by the Normans, and finally a gothic reworking and expansion of it.

Inside it was pretty amazing. The stained glass windows were taken down and protected during the World Wars, so they are quite old and still original.

We found out that Yorkminster almost collapsed several times, but quick work by engineers, architects, and archaeologists saved it from structural failure. I’m glad I learned about this AFTER I took the tower tour: climbing 275 narrow steps to the top of the main tower.

It was amazing at the top!

In the undercroft (below the church), they had an exhibit set up about the various layers under the church: Roman, Saxon, and Norman. They also had on display the York Gospels, which is a copy of the Gospels in Latin brought by an archbishop in 1020. It is one of the few surviving artifacts from Saxon-era York.

Below is a picture from their website.

And below is the picture I took of the York Gospels as they were at the display.

And here’s the sign that was next to it.

I also saw this (below) on the wall in the undercroft and it was moving for me. It reminded me that Yorkminster is a place of tourism and ancient heritage, but it is also a holy site and has inspired generations of Christians.

After this, we got a few things from the gift shop and headed to the next location.

National Railway Museum

This was pretty much all for Zeke, as he is currently obsessed with trains, but it was still a lot of fun to go to and see. We were able to ride a small train from Yorkminster to the museum.

Inside the train museum, Zeke could hardly contain himself.

He got to play in one of the engine cars and thought it was the coolest thing.

 

 

The bottom right picture above is Micah and I in the mail railcar.

After we had walked around the museum and looked at all the neat trains, it was time to head to the modern train station to head back to Oxford.

Return to Oxford

At the York train station, Zeke was exhausted from a full day and fell asleep in the stroller.

  

Micah was tired, but didn’t fall asleep. She had taken a nap earlier at Yorkminster.

Once we got on our train, she did eventually fall asleep. We weren’t together at first, but as people left, we eventually got four seats together.

 

Our train went from York to Birmingham where we would have to catch a different train to Oxford. We had planned a 35 minute layover in Birmingham to be safe. However, the train faced delay after delay and we were certain we had missed our connecting train to Oxford. But when we arrived in Birmingham, they told us that the train going to Oxford had also faced long delays. So we raced from platform 5 to platform 7. Perhaps a minute after we stepped up to the platform, the train to Oxford rolled into the station and we made our connection!

On the second leg of the trip we had four seats together from the beginning and it was quite nice.

We arrived in Oxford about an hour after we had intended (due to the train delays). We tried to get a taxi, but there was a long queue and were told it would be about an hour. So we hauled all of our junk from the train station to city center (about half a mile) to catch the bus up to our street. Walking to our flat from the train station is 1.1 miles, so it saved us quite a bit of work.

Finally, at last, we were back in the flat at Oxford and ready for a little bit of regularity.

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Day 12: Helmsley Castle, Rievaulx Abbey, and Howard Castle

The first order of business for the day was breakfast. We started off the morning with a full English breakfast. You can see our gracious host, Emma, in the background. It was very lovely.

I gave my mushrooms to Shelley and we all declined to have black pudding.

Helmsley Castle

After breakfast, we loaded up into the car and drove to Helmsley Castle. You can see the old tower from the marketplace and it’s obvious that it was built to dominate the skyline and impress visitors.

Below is a model of what the castle would have looked like in its glory days.

And here we are walking around the outside of it.

Below is the front gates as they are now, and then you can see an artist’s idea of what they probably looked like.

 

We stopped to get a family photo by the soldiers.

Inside the gates you can see the tower.

We took a picture in the gate tower (or, rather, whats left of it).

Zeke suddenly needed to go potty. Since there were none there, we found him a corner.

Past the gates you come to the courtyard. Here’s a panorama of it.

The tower is below.

And here’s the manor house.

Inside, there were some kids clothes to play dress up.

And with that, we were out of time. Our parking ticket was expiring and we needed to move on to the next site.

Rievaulx Abbey

We got to the abbey and it was time to eat lunch, so we ate outside. You can see the abbey ruins in the background. It was a beautiful day.

The abbey ruins were amazing, serene, awe-inspiring.

There was also a museum with some interesting displays.

Here’s some more shots from the abbey ruins.

 

 

After spending about two hours at Rievaulx, we headed over to Castle Howard, which was not very far away.

Howard Castle

Castle Howard, a still-functioning estate, we pretty epic. When we arrived, we took a little trolley to the manor house from the carriage house because we were tired.

Here’s the house:

We arrived just in time to participate in afternoon tea (we had planned on it, but were unsure we would make it in time).

The afternoon tea was really amazing and quite delicious.

After tea, we toured the house. All of the rooms are still used when the Howard family has guests over.

Below you can see the ceiling of the main entryway.

After all that touring, we found the playground on the Howard property. The kids really loved it.

Finally, we drove to York, found our B&B, returned our car, and hit the sack.

It was a great little car and we survived driving 3 full days in England! Yeah! One thing that we will all enjoy NOT hearing any longer is the Garmin in the car starting nearly every direction with “At the roundabout…”

Day 11: Bronte Parsonage and Fountains Abbey

We began our day with breakfast at the hotel (complimentary). It was fantastic: cold cereal, fruit, juices, and hot eggs, sausage and bacon, hashbrowns, beans, toast, and coffee. After breakfast we took off towards our first place to visit for the day.

Bronte Parsonage

We headed out into the country to the place where the Bronte sisters lived. They wrote many famous novels, including Wuthering Heights and Jayne Eyre. Their father was a minister and worked at the local church, hence why they lived in a parsonage. Their former house has been turned into a museum and we walked through it together.

We had to wait in line behind a large high school group.

They were doing a cool piece of modern art where each guest writes one line from Wuthering Heights and when the book is completed it will go on display. We each took a turn writing. Zeke wanted a turn, too, so they let him use the “practice book.”

  

  

Shelley really enjoyed walking through the museum and reading about the sisters, their lives, and their literary works.

At the end of the tour there was a play area with some dress-up clothes.

  

Outside, we walked by the school where Charlotte Bronte taught.

We needed lunch so we found a local place down the street and got some fish and chips (chicken nuggets for Erin and the kids). It was really good!

  

Micah was a ham at lunch.

  

Finally we walked back to our car (after “last potty”) and headed out to our next stop.

Fountains Abbey

The kids both fell asleep almost immediately once we got on the road. We enjoyed a nice hour of peace and quiet driving through the British countryside. The way there was full of narrow roads through the backcountry. It was full of beautiful with ancient stone walls and countless sheep.

Once we got near the property, we began driving through an old forest.

We parked in a half-full lot, got out, and walked over to the grounds entrance. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we had been told it was amazing and that we should plan an entire day there. We got there around 3:00, so we only had 3 1/2 hours before they closed. We figured it would be enough. We were wrong.

Very near the entrance is Fountains Hall. We didn’t get a chance to go inside. Add that to the list for next time, because this is worth another visit.

Once the abbey came into view, we knew why it had been so highly recommended. It was HUGE and the ruins were in pretty good condition. It was beautiful. These pictures do not do it justice. Everything was breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and beautiful. Being in the ruins of a monastic community put me (James) in a contemplative mood.

We first headed to the cafe on the grounds to stock up on food for dinner, then we explored around the ruins for the rest of the afternoon.

These pictures below are all from the abbey’s amazing and huge cathedral.

Here’s a couple panoramas of the cloister.

And below is the layout of the abbey. It’s massive.

After a couple of hours exploring ruins, we stopped and had a picnic in the ruins.

Finally, we decided to take the scenic walk around the channel, pools, and gardens behind the abbey. Once again, simply amazing.

We had to hustle back from our scenic walk because it was almost 6:30 PM when the park closes. As we headed back, this was the view of the channel with the abbey in the distance.

By the time we made it back to the front gates, near Fountains Hall, we were exhausted.

Finally, we got back to the parking lot to find our car was the last one in the lot.

It was a good day, but tiring. So we drove to our B&B in Kirkbymoorside. It was very nice. Here’s what it looked like.

Below is the outside of our room.

And a few shots of the inside of the cottage.

It was lovely.

Day 10: Hadrian’s Wall and The Saga of the Stroller

Car Rental in Newcastle

Today we got up a little earlier than we wanted thanks to the sun coming up and through the curtains at 4:45 AM. Thankfully, we got the kids back to sleep until about 6:50.

As we packed up to leave, Shelley asked a question: where’s the stroller? We looked around and suddenly realized we had left it somewhere! After a few minutes of thinking, James remembered putting up above the seats in the train. In our rush to get off, we left it behind on the train!

Below is the church of St. Nicholas, right outside of our lodgings in Newcastle.

So we headed out to the get the rental car and we stopped by the train station on the way to see if the stroller had been turned in to lost and found.

Our “apart-tel” was on “Amen Corner” (see below), so I just had to take a picture of that.

So we walked to the train station, talked with management, and they said nothing had been turned in. However, they said that train headed off to a depot after it arrived at the end-of-the-line station in Newcastle and they occasionally send over lost items left on the trains. He called the depot, no one answered, and then left a message. We gave him our number and he said he’d call us in about an hour if anything turned up.

After leaving the train station without the stroller, we walked to the car rental agency and picked up the minivan. James was rather intimidated about driving on the left side of the road, but Erin helped him navigate downtown Newcastle’s confusing city roads and one-way streets.

We parked the car outside of our lodgings, brought the stuff down, and proceeded to put the carseats into place. Below is Erin trying to get the carseat down snug enough.

Finally we were all loaded in and ready to head out on our adventure!

Where Are We Going Today?

As you can see from the map below, we explored quite a bit of Hadrian’s Wall today. We started in Newcastle (star) and headed to Corbridge, Chester’s, and Housesteads. It was a full day!

Roman Corbridge Fort

Our first stop, Corbridge Roman Fort, had a lovely museum. Ancient Corbridge was not part of the wall, but it was a critical fortress and supply center for Roman operations in northern Britain. Below is the outside. It was a very pretty day.

Here’s a couple of shots from the museum.

Outside, the old Roman fortress had been partially excavated. Below you can see a picture of the massive granaries with raised floors for ventilation so that the corn wouldn’t mildew.

A good old selfie in front of the granaries.

The kids on a column pedestal outside the granary under what would have been the front portico.

Modern Corbridge Lunch

After looking through the museum and listening to the audio guide, it was lunch time, so we headed just a mile over to modern Corbridge. We had to park across the bridge from the town, which provided us some excellent views as we walked. Micah had fallen asleep on the short ride over.

Below is Aunt Shelley and Zeke crossing the bridge over the river Tyne.

We walked to the quant town’s center and enjoyed lunch from Grant’s Bakery, a local shop that made excellent sandwiches, pastries, and desserts. Below you can see a panorama of half of the city center where we ate on the steps of a small monument. We also found a grocer next door and bought some more fruit.

Zeke and Micah got a cupcake for dessert. It was good!

After lunch, we crossed back over the Tyne to our car and then headed out to our next stop along Hadrian’s Wall. There was no word about the stroller yet. The guy at the manager’s office should have called Erin back by now, but hand’t. James was still kicking himself mentally for leaving their precious stroller.

Chester’s Roman Fort at Hadrian’s Wall

Micah had taken a short nap earlier, so she stayed awake, but Zeke fell asleep on the 30 minute drive to Chester’s Roman Fort.

Below is an info panel about it.

After he woke up, Zeke was in fine spirits. Both Zeke and Micah loved seeing the sheep in the pastures as we explored the ruins.

Below is Micah with her harness flapping the wind, just like her daddy when he was very little in Europe.

 

Below is a picture of the ruins of the base commander’s quarters. Very lavish. You can see Zeke, Shelley, and Erin in the picture on the left.

And here is my favorite picture of the day:

Lugging two kids around was getting tiring. It sure would have been nice to have the stroller for at least parts of it, even though it wouldn’t have completely gone where we wanted it to go.

Housesteads Roman Fort at Hadrian’s Wall

Our next stop was Housesteads, which is one of the best preserved Roman forts and parts of Hadrian’s Wall. Below is an infographic from the site. Notice the path leading up to it. Housesteads is up on an escarpment that takes quite a hike to get up to!

And here’s the hike. Up that trail all the way to the top of the hill. It was about a half mile, up hill most of the way. Those white specks on right side of the hill? Sheep. Hopefully that gives you some perspective on how hard it was to carry two little children all the way up to Housesteads Fortress.

Here’s a picture from the top with Housesteads Fortress in the foreground and Hadrian’s Wall continuing onward. The north wall of Housesteads Fortress was also part of Hadrian’s Wall.

Here’s Zeke being silly on the wall.

I got to hike a small part of the wall. It was really nice. Erin snapped this shot of me.

By the time we got done hiking the wall, the kids were done. Actually, beyond done. See below:

So we carried the kids back down the hill to the parking lot and headed back to Newcastle Railway Station to see management again and hope that the depot had sent a shipment up to them that included our stroller. But it felt like we might be wasting our time because it would take 45 minutes to get to Newcastle and then an additional 2 hours from Newcastle to get to our lodgings for the night. Was it worth the trip back to Newcastle?

Journey Back to Newcastle

The kids settled down after eating dinner which Erin whipped up in the car. They were so tired they started acting silly. I’ll take silly over fussing. Micah eventually fell asleep.

  

So we parked in Newcastle and went inside the rail station and BEHOLD they had our stroller!

We couldn’t believe it! It was such a relief to see it because lugging our kids around all day today without it really taught us how important the thing truly is. Finally, we headed out of Newcastle to our lodgings in Harrogate.

A Hotel in Harrogate

We arrived at the Cairn Hotel very tired from a long day.

Erin and Shelley run the kids through their bedtime routine.

Zeke decided he wanted to get in the bed and under the covers. What a goober.

Once the kids were in bed, we turned in as well. It had been a VERY long day!

Day 9: Traveling to Newcastle

Today I let out class a little early and we began our extended free travel weekend! We are headed to Newcastle Upon Tyne. So we began our journey with a taxi to the railway station (because we have so much junk).

Inside the taxi, we headed out!

    

We got to the train station and waited for our train. Zeke was super excited about riding a train!

Once we got on board, we took a few pictures.

  

   

We saw some pretty countryside along the way. We also passed through Birmingham, York, and Durham.

Finally, after 4 1/2 hours, we arrived in Newcastle! The train station was really impressive.

We’re staying in an apart-tel (apartment+hotel). It’s right by St. Nicholas’ Cathedral. Yes, the bells do ring all…stinking…night. Our host even provided us with ear plugs!

And here’s Zeke looking up at the cathedral from our lodgings.

Here’s the inside of our swanky modern lodgings.

   

   

Zeke got all snuggled into Aunt Shelley’s bed like he was going to sleep there (spoiler: he wasn’t). We brought his small pop-up tent for him to sleep in.

Once we got the kids settled down, we showered and went to sleep.