Leaving Victoria we were just a little stunned to be waved off by what appeared to be blue skies and sunshine. Regardless of this minor miracle we couldn’t stick around because we had to get to Seattle to change planes for London Heathrow and beyond.
As most who fly regularly into SEATAC already know, landing there means dealing with the TSA. It begins with the instructions of a slack jawed troglodyte to recheck your already checked baggage and then subject yourself to a full cavity search. If they like what they see or touch you may proceed to the next stage in the process.
Next comes the train that takes you on a magical mystery tour from terminal to terminal that actually turns out to be a waste of time and way faster to walk. We made it to the area of our connecting gate in terminal S and found a comfortable chair in a quiet nook of the departure lounge.
For the first couple of hours it was joyous. Then arrived a family of seven that appeared to be supervised by parents (and I use that word loosely) who couldn’t care less how much noise their children made, damage they caused or mayhem they created.
All 5 kids appeared to be under 6 years old and were left to do as they thought fit while mom applied layer after layer of makeup and dad looked away in silence and what appeared to be regret. I will never know if they were from a flyover state, but I can almost guarantee you that somewhere in Iowa, there is an evil farmer’s corn field missing it’s horror movie children.
At 6:30 we boarded British Airways flight 48 and took our seats in the 26th row. This does not sound like choice seating however for those frequent flyers that know the Boeing 777 it is. As it turns out we were in the first row at an exit that provided more leg room than we could have used if we wanted. Our flight attendant was an example of the grooming standard set by BA for their crews. Lawrence was a man of mid to late 20’s and not only was his uniform impeccable but his recent hair cut, perfectly trimmed beard and manicured eyebrows spoke volumes.
I knew several things about Lawrence just by taking time to listen to his softly spoken banter with other members of his team and the odd traveller. Foremost, at no time should I refer to Lawrence as Larry or Lar. Lawrence would not stand for it and was easily the most passive aggressive, surly slightly built man I would encounter for the next 9 ½ hours.
I could sense that on most transatlantic flights Lawrence would have not been providing his standard of service to any passengers seated in row 26. He flew amongst those in rows 1-8 and as such was uncomfortable trying to make small talk with the plebs back here.
I thought to myself at some point that I would try and take the chance to break the ice however I was met with “do you want the butter chicken or the spinach ravioli? There isn’t much chicken left you should know.” “I’ll have the Chicken Lawrence”. That didn’t make Larry happy but c’est la vie.
We arrived a little before schedule and made our way through passport control in no time flat. Grabbing our bags we were whisked out of terminal 5 and into the Enterprise shuttle. We grabbed our Ford Focus diesel (side note it goes almost 700 miles on a tank.) and made our way for the M40 and north to the Lake District in the north west of England.
Once past Lancaster we looked for the first opportunity to get off the motorway and into the lakes. We drove through slate roofed village after village that stunningly lined the southern lake shores. The sun was setting on our left over the water and the pub goers were starting to fill the sidewalks peeking in windows to investigate which one looked the best for dinner and a pint.
Many families and couples with their dogs all looking for the perfect Cumberland sausage with mashed potatoes and onion gravy. Windermere and Ullswater are absolutely jaw dropping and it’s clear to see why so many writers, painters and poets have made their way here over the years.
We soon after arrived at the Dale Head Inn on Lake Thirlmere. The Inn is 300 hundred or so years in age but in great condition. We were welcomed by the manager/owner and not unlike my favourite episode of Fawlty Towers he advised us that the kitchen was closed and he couldn’t offer any food. I thought about the offer of cash for a Waldorf salad but I think that may have been rude.
But from every negative there is a positive and in this case we were directed back down the ¼ mile driveway to cross the dark road that brought us here. From there turn north for a hundred yards and we should find the King’s Head.
This was an epic recommendation and we stepped inside to a roaring fire and the happy faces of the young bar staff who took our orders. Two pints of bitter and dinner was to be roast lamb and an outstanding gourmet burger. We relished the ambiance and made friends with those on either side of us and their dogs. After dinner and the short walk back to the Dales Head where we’re out like a light.
The following morning found us early to rise (03:45 hrs, stupid jet lag) and we got our hiking gear on. A flask of tea prepared in our room and back packs packed for our jaunt to Lake Buttermere. We left just before 6 and it took us around 45 minutes by car to arrive in the little village of Buttermere itself. We parked up in a National Trust parking lot and got our hiking boots on.
A 15 minute walk from the parking lot got us to the trail that goes around the lake. Dawn was breaking and we were the only ones there except for one landscape photographer clearly “getting the worm”. We stopped for a bit so I could set up my tripod and get my gear out for a few shots from this iconic location. I packed all this gear all this way and after all that I forgot the bracket that attaches my camera to the tripod and my camera battery was on its last legs. Nice one genius. But as one does when one is faced with a challenge, they adapt and overcome. And just like Clint Eastwood in one of his lessor box office successes (Heartbreak Ridge), I did just that while Deanna paced the lake shore in a hypothermic state.
We soon rambled on for real and just shy of 9 kilometres later we were untying our boots back at the car park. We recounted the Ayrshire cattle that made little effort to get out of way on the trail and the spectacular scenery that surrounded us.
Once put back together again we walked into the village to find a pub for a full English breakfast and a coffee to further set our day off right. Job done! Half an hour later, after a superb meal and some lovely conversation with the publican who told us that she and her husband had recently returned to the area after living for 20 years in South Carolina. Apparently Trump has this effect on people. Having had the opportunity to travel to South Carolina a few years ago I know it is a very nice state, however if I had the choice of either there or where I spent my early morning I would choose Buttermere a hundred times over.
We set off to the west and our next stop was Ennerdale. I first had the good fortune to walk in to this town with Dale at the end of Day 1 of the Coast to Coast walk in 2015. Since then I have visited on three other separate occasions. I love this village as well. The community spirit is high and the area is breathtaking. We stopped in for tea and piece of Victoria sponge cake that I must admit may be near the top of the many reasons that keeps bringing me back. We had a great chat with the staff and left with a very wide smile on our faces.
North to our next stop at the Ennerdale Brewery. A cheeky ½ pint of their finest each and back on the road to Keswick for a wander around the streets of this walker’s and climber’s nirvana. We parked, paid for parking and then I reached into the back of the car for my coat. I thought to myself, I hope the brewery is still open when we get back in 45 minutes to collect my coat from the chair I hung it on when we arrived their 2 hours ago.
Being old is an affliction and as far as my memory goes I can’t remember when it went south (hahaha). So back in the car to collect the jacket just before the brewery office staff call it a day. Mission accomplished and back to Keswick and the intended walk was next on the cards. The streets of Keswick are lovely. It is an outdoorsy village reminding me of Banff or Jasper on a smaller scale. We bought a few bits and pieces and then made our way back to the Dale Head to drop off our things before dinner back at the King’s. One more beautiful meal with great ambiance that set us on another crash course for sleep at all costs.
Today we rose at a normal time and went down to the breakfast room for an awesome meal at a seat overlooking Thirlmere Lake. We soon after packed up the car and set off for Perth in Scotland. About a 4 hour drive and kind of out of the way considering we are heading towards the Isle of Skye on the West coast of Scotland. Perth is not far north of Edinburgh and is not known for too much other than being a nice small city of 50,000 with a fantastic military museum and a lot of new car sales dealerships. Our reason for coming to Perth has nothing to do with loitering around new cars as you can imagine. No, in fact we are hear because Deanna knows how much I like a British comedian known as Stewart Lee. He is currently in the tail end of an 18 month tour of the UK and this gig just dovetailed perfectly into our trip. The tickets were a lovely Christmas present and tonight we grabbed a cab from our luxurious Perth Holiday Inn Express and soon after arrived at the Perth Concert Hall for a 7:30 start.
I can tell you that it is now 12:18 a.m. and my stomach is still sore from the incessant laughter of nearly three hours of Stew’s stand up routine. Stew can be found on YouTube, but I warn you to say if your sense of humour is not very dry and you don’t go in for hyper sarcasm just give him a miss.
Tomorrow we head for Skye and several distilleries and castles in between.
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