Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 28 - Back to St. Albans by way Durham Cathedral and Harrogate for Tea

Yet another splendi morning spent chatting leisurely over rich coffee and a tasty Northumberland breakfast — I’m going to miss those free range chickens in the backyard; they’ve been the source of some scrumptious scrambled eggs on toast these last few days.

Toward the end of the meal our hosts Paul and Kathryn came out from the kitchen and we all talked about one thing or another, but usually about travels; places visited and those we’d like to see. It turns out that our hosts have a great affection for the United States and talked at some length about their numerous visit to "the states."

We had put off the inevitable as long as possible and it was time to go. After settling our bill and saying our goodbyes we loaded the car and headed off east to Newcastle to pick up the A1 south.

Our first stop on the way back was Durham to see the cathedral — well worth a stop to be sure. The cathedral and nearby castle are located on the summit of a peninsula of sorts, really a sharp bend or loop in the river Wear with a commanding view of the surrounding village and vicinity.

Durham cathedral overlooking the River Wear
After finding a place to park the car in a nearby “mall” parking lot, we strolled across the river, up a steep hill (the path is hidden by the trees in the photo) and on to the church grounds. As we made our way to the entrance of the church we walked past the remnants of the church burial ground next to the cathedral and caught sight of a memorial to the men from Durham who died in the Boer War, an oddity I thought. Indeed, a Englishman standing next to me said in passing that the memorial was very unusual and he couldn’t remember ever seeing one dedicated to the Boer War.

Durham Cathedral burial ground

Entrance to the cathedral

We spent the next half hour or so exploring the interior of this enormous edifice, finding the tomb of St. Cuthbert (7th century) as well as that of the Venerable Bede (also 7th century), the first true English historian. We then made our way to the cathedral coffee shop for coffee (of course).

Relaxing in the cloisters

George Washington's ancestor presumably

Wedding photo shoot outside the University of Durham Music School

After making our way back to the car park we continued south eventually pulling off and stopping in Harrogate. The idea was to experience real British high tea at Betty’s one of the most famous tearooms in England. No sooner had we arrived in Harrogate than the sun came out at long last and we enjoyed soaking up the warmth as we strolled a few blocks from the car park to the tea room.

Turkish baths in Harrogate
Afternoon tea the British way at Betty's in Harrogate

Betty's exterior

Richard, Pauline and Susie
Back to the car we turned our attention to getting out of Harrogate, no mean feat believe me. But our steady guides soon had us back on the road where we switched to the M1 at Leeds, finding ourselves caught up in the swirl of traffic stops and starts until well south of the city. 

Dusk was falling as we neared the greater St. Albans area and Richard thought it best to stop somewhere short of home for dinner. I believe it was Pauline who suggested ZaZa, an Italian restaurant in Harpenden and we soon found ourselves striding inside hoping for a table without booking.

We were ushered upstairs to a lovely open space and spent the rest of the evening enjoying delicious food and warm company, talking about the wonders of our trip and the wonderful things we had seen and those things that still awaited us.

I had the fish with a tomato sauce

Susan had grilled chicken salad
Richard had pasta
and so did Pauline.
From Harpenden it was a quick drive to Ellis Fields and home.

During our sojourn to northern England  and Scotland we (or rather Richard) drove, with Pauline navigating, a total of 1,022 miles: 302 miles to Hexham, 422 miles while we were up north and then 309 miles back to Ellis Fields in St. Albans.

And the trip wasn't quite over yet. . .

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