For the second week of our trip, we embarked on Dom’s Complete Railway Tour of the UK (Abridged) using our magical BritRail passes, which grant non-residents an unlimited ride on trains across the country. It does feel like a scheme set up in the glory days of British Rail and then buried under a carpet, as the passes you get haven’t been updated in almost 20 years, but weirdly the merest glimpse of one is enough for a ticket inspector to decide not to bother investigating any further. And so, thus armed, we set off for our first destination. (It’s worth noting that our B&B in Bury St Edmunds was several centuries older than the country I’m writing this from.)
Our next stop was a rather wet and windy Cambridge: partly for the history, partly so I could pop into the bookshop. After a day of sightseeing and sheltering, we were joined in The Eagle by Mandler and Calaresu – two of my supervisors from uni – who were kind enough to make time for a drink and some catching up. This also proved to be Randi’s opportunity to try fish pie, which she took up with relish.
(Deviation: I do wish ordering at the bar was more of a thing in the US.)
Heading up north, we impulsively changed trains for Scarborough – which I’ve never been to before – and spent an afternoon at the seaside. There’s not a huge amount to write about Scarborough – and at one point I may have been over-ambitious in my expectations of the cliff lift “tramway” – but it was very nice to stroll along the beach and see the castle from a distance.
Our best B&B was in Durham, because we were hosted by none other than Katie “I live here” Self! The three of us had a great time together touring the city, while also finding time to stuff ourselves with a pretty representative sample of my British food longings: Indian curries, English breakfasts, jacket potatoes and lots and lots of biscuits. It’s not about food being fancy, guys, it’s just about food being great.
Talking of great: bowing to Randi’s repeated requests to see Edinburgh, we headed there next and were equally blown away by how beautiful the city is. Along with the castle, I ticked off a couple of things I didn’t manage last time, including a fantastic walking tour and a hike up Arthur’s Seat.
And of course, I checked back in with my old friend David Hume.
Finally, we headed to Windermere in the Lake District, which was a perfect place to walk and relax at the end of the holiday. There were sheep. There were cows. There was a bus which cost £4.20 per-person. Most importantly, though, there were stars at night – and it’s been a while since I’ve been in proper darkness, able to lie down and look up at the milky way.
So, that’s it: a condensed account of a whistlestop tour, which hopefully did a good job at selling the country to an American. The tourist board can thank me later.
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