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home : opinion : columnist November 21, 2017

11/12/2017 12:11:00 AM
The Best Way To See England

Paulette Ballard
Guest Columnist


In July 1989 my husband and I were invited to England by one of my best friends.  She had married a man from England and they lived in the village of Danby in North Yorkshire.  This became the very best vacation we ever experienced. 

Anyone can go to England, visit places of interest listed in the brochures and on the Internet, but we were able to see parts of England through the eyes of someone who lived there and knew the most interesting places to take visitors.

We stayed with Anna and Bernard for a week in Danby. Did I say it was the week of July 4th?? We had a fire in the fireplace every night and slept under an electric blanket. At 11 p.m. when we retired for the night, we had to pull dark drapes so we could sleep because it was still daylight outside.

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Some of the things I learned were: (1) If a glass pane in your window is broken and you wish to replace the window, it has to be replaced by one exactly like the one that was there to begin with. (2) Shopping for food is an everyday occurrence because their refrigerator was the size of our dishwasher.  (3) Ice comes in small cubes the size of a dime and when served, it is felt that one cube is sufficient. When I asked for a few more the look of astonishment I received was hilarious.  (Anna’s mother had sent her some ice trays so she could make her own ice cubes and place them in an outside freezer in Ziploc bags.)

After dinner our first evening there we walked down the lane to the local pub, The Fox and Hound. We were introduced to many of their friends and neighbors. Anna introduced us to a young man named Paul, who was serving an internship with an electrician. As we talked, he told me when a young man reaches age 17 he has to know what profession he wants to go into and his father would arrange an internship for him with someone of that trade. I said, “What would happen if you didn’t know what you wanted to do for the rest of your life when you reached age 16?” His response was, “You have to know!” I couldn’t help but think about all the choices we have professionally.

Our day trip the next day was taking the train to Whitby, another small fishing village which I fell in love with. We explored like visitors do and climbed about a hundred steps to the top of the cliff for a view of the ocean.  Wearing sweatshirts and jeans, we shivered as we watched people swimming in water that in our opinion had to be frigid. We were standing among the ruins of what legend says was the castle of Dracula. I purchased the postcards advertising it as such and took pictures of everything in sight. We ate fish and chips for lunch, shopped, had tea and crumpets at 4 o’clock then took the train back to Danby. The train stopped often to let school children off as they go to school year long.

My friends had planned a party for us to celebrate the holiday. There were American flags and banners of red, white and blue to welcome us. Bernard barbequed bangers (English sausages) and their friends brought side dishes and we had a jolly afternoon. We were questioned about how we do things in what they call “the States” and I was ready with my dozens of questions about their lifestyle.

The next day was the July 4th 5K race. Masses of people showed up at the pub, which was the starting place.  After the race began, we went into the pub and ate Shepherd’s Pie and peas for lunch.

We had been using our camcorder for four days by now and the battery was extremely low. We saw a man using one just like ours and he and my husband talked about the batteries. He offered to take our battery home with him, charge it overnight and bring it back to us the next morning. We would not have been able to video anything on our three days in London if he had not been so kind.

We spent our last three days in London doing the sightseeing all tourists do. The underground train was extremely impressive. We could start at one end of London and be on the opposite side in under 15 minutes. We walked through the Tower of London with eyes wide and mouth open looking at the Crown Jewels and hearing how heavy the jewel encrusted crowns were.

The top of my list was to go to Kensington Palace and try to see Princess Diana. Yeah right!!  Laugh at me if you wish, but being the interrogator that I can be, I was successful. We had been walking all morning seeing everything we could on our list. Eventually we ended up in a stone driveway, walked over to a guard booth and told the guard we were lost. I asked him if he could tell us where Kensington Palace was and he told me we were standing in the private driveway of the royal family. Yes there is a God!  “Is the Princess of Wales in residence today?” I asked. He said, “Yes she is.” “Does she have an engagement this evening?” I asked.  He replied, “Yes she does.”  Knowing he wouldn’t part with some information I said, “I suppose you can’t tell me what time she’s leaving through this driveway for that engagement can you?” He said, “No Maam I cannot.”  I continued to interrogate him and asked him if it would be a good time to be standing there at 5 p.m. His answer was no. I then asked about 6 p.m. and he told me no. He knew I was like a dog after a bone and wouldn’t give up. He then said, “Maam if you would stand behind me on this sidewalk at about 7:30 p.m. it might be a good time to be there.”  I was a happy camper now so my husband and I went across the street to a pub, ate an early dinner and drank two pots of coffee to kill time. At 7 p.m. we went back to the designated place and we were able to video her and take pictures as her car passed through the guard gate. I could not care what else we saw in London, my dream had come true.

Our last full day in London, my husband wanted to record Big Ben striking noon. We went to Harrods’ food hall, bought a loaf of bread, cubes of cheese, and grapes. We went to the park across from Big Ben, ate our picnic lunch and fed the pigeons. On a park bench beside the statue of Winston Churchill a homeless person was asleep. As we waited, I purchased two sodas from a concession bus and found they were room temperature which was not the way I’m use to drinking my sodas! It was a fun afternoon though and then we still had our trip to Leeds’s castle to look forward to.

Little girls always dream of becoming a princess and living in a castle and I was no exception. Seeing this colossal, historic structure that had actually been lived in was a sight to behold.  The fireplaces were so huge I could stand in them and still couldn’t touch the top of the opening. It could hold an entire tree in the grate! I couldn’t imagine enough warmth coming from this huge fireplace to warm a room the size of my entire home.  Leather-bound chests  were in many of the rooms and were the size of two coffins standing on top of each other. The period pieces of furniture were still in pristine condition.



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