Our First Days in England
Saturday afternoon, we departed for our parents' house from Manchester, where we were being driven to the airport. It was harder saying goodbye to the Goldens than expected; they are being "babysat" by a family friend for the ten days that we're gone. We were all giddy on the way to the airport ... well, except for Dad, but Dad gets excited over few things, so that wasn't much of a surprise. We were flying out of BWI and got through security and such with no problems. The flight departed at 9:30 from Baltimore straight to London, and it went perfectly. After growing accustomed to American airlines and their tendency to nickle-and-dime every little need on the flight (we were joking that we expect sometime soon to be told to fasten our seatbelts ... for a $2 charge), it was refreshing to get food, beverages, and movies for free.
Unfortunately, I was sitting in the middle seat of the middle row of the 767. I had Bobby on my left and a stranger on my right. My plan was to read, check out a movie (they had the new Narnia, yay!) and then get at least a few hours of sleep, but when one person wasn't shifting around, then the other was. I fell asleep once ... and two hours later, heard some jerk exclaim loudly that we had only an hour and fifty minutes left on the flight. The jerk, of course, turned out to be Dad. :^/
So much for that idea.
From London, we navigated through Heathrow to an hour-long flight north to Newcastle. We waited for our bags and could see Sharon and Kirsty just beyond the door ... and that was where the first hiccup on the trip occurred.
Mom and Dad's two suitcases came off. Bobby's and my big backpack came off. We waited ... and waited ... and waited some more for our red suitcase. Finally, an employee circulated around, telling everyone that all the bags were off the plane, so if we didn't have ours, we need to report to the desk in the corner.
Our red suitcase, of course, had
- all of our clothes,
- all of our toiletries,
- and most of my schoolbooks, including my cinderblock-sized Norton Anthology and the university-produced "textbook" for my modern fantasy course.
Bobby was told that Heathrow had already contacted Newcastle International that some bags would be sent up on the next flight. Hopefully, we were told, ours would be on it. As the night wore on, though, all I could think about was all that was in that suitcase that would be irretrievably gone if the bag happened to be lost entirely. I do not own a lot of possessions, and those that I do own are things that I really like and plan to keep and use, hopefully forever. I had jewelry in that bag that, while no single piece was worth a great deal of money, I would weep to lose: jewelry I've been wearing since middle school, the Viking pendant hrymfaxe gave me, years of items bought one at a time at the boutiques in Ocean City ... each piece was special to me in some way. Not to mention my books, meaning that I'd have to email my professors and ask for extensions on my assignments, which I loathe to do more than almost anything (being as I despised those classmates, in school, who always whined for extensions ... and then won the awards at graduation *ahem* but I digress). Not to mention my clothes, which included most of my cold-weather clothes and my hiking boots.
It was not a good start to a much-anticipated holiday.
On the plus side, we did get to meet Kirsty's dad, Joe, one-third of our "UK family" who we've been looking to meet for ... well, two-and-a-half years now, since Sharon and Kirsty got married. Joe took my parents and Sharon in his car while Bobby, Kirsty, and I rode the Metro back to their flat.
It was pouring rain when we got off the Metro. It was hard to see through the water dripping off of my eyelashes, but I did see enough to know that Tynemouth is gorgeous: a seaside town like something off a postcard with the castle and priory right at the end of the street. My sister and sister-in-law's flat is gorgeous as well; Bobby and I have decided that we could be perfectly happy living here! We also got to at last meet our niece, Sharon and Kirsty's little black-and-white dog Maggie.
We had a traditional supper of fish and chips--well, savoury and chips for me--and then started to settle in for the night, Bobby and I in borrowed clothes, of course. I was frankly exhausted. I'd slept about two minutes the night before, on top of jet lag. I was falling asleep wherever I sat, embarrassingly enough.
Luckily, around 8:30, there was a ring at the bell ... and our suitcase was delivered! This was such a relief; in my mind--what my tired brain could spare--I was already trying to arrange life without the things in that suitcase. I felt, with this, that I could finally enjoy our holiday.
The next morning, I slept very late. Late enough that Bobby had time to walk around Tynemouth by himself and he and Kirsty went to the bakery and post office. Eep. However, since I was squeezing two night's sleep into one, I didn't feel too bad.
And it was still raining like crazy. Bobby and I have a list of things we'd like to do, having learned the hard way that planning is often futile, when rain (or lost suitcases!) come in the way of the schedule. We'd hoped to see the Tynemouth Castle and Priory, so when the rain slowed down, we headed down the street, only to find that it was closed because the rain had been dangerously excessive even for stereotypically "damp" Britain! We wandered around the grounds, though, and still managed to spend a ridiculous amount of time "nerding over stones," as I like to say. At the least, it was something to stand in the doorway and imagine all the feet that had graced those stones during the castle's long history: to imagine an era long past where, instead of tires sloshing across the not-so-distant street, we would have heard clinking armor and clopping hooves and an English spoken quite different than ours (or even the "Geordie" English spoken in these parts!) One of the amazing things about Europe, I think, that I miss so terribly in the United States, is the depth of history here: where something "old" by the standards of our own local histories is not necessarily unimpressive here but is certainly less so; it has a feel of being newer when set beside a castle that is one thousand years old.
After seeing what we could of the castle, we headed down to the sea. It was very angry today, not surprising given the wind and rain of the past few days, and the waves were breaking far off shore. We saw the Hollingworth monument, a "new" piece of history from the 19th century. There was a footpath leading along the Tyne River, so we took it and watched a ship being drawn in by a tugboat and marveled over the surfers and just ambled until we reached the end of the path about a mile later, then climbed up to the Tynemouth quayside and strolled around there a bit before turning back. Unfortunately, when we were about halfway back, it started to rain harder, and by the time we'd reached the castle and priory again, it was pouring, and we were climbing up a hill into the wind, which meant rain in our faces. I discovered the purpose of my eyebrows today! They kept most of the rain from running into my eyes; my nose, apparently, is a convenient place for the water on the rest of my face to run and drip off the tip. We were soaked by the time we were back to Sharon and Kirsty's flat.
I attempted to read some of Thomas Hoby's "The Courtier" (one of my assignments this week for Beowulf to 18th Century), without much success, and then we met Kirsty's parents over at their favorite Italian restaurant, Il Forno.
It was a great time. Our families have hit it off immediately, which is good, since ours tends to be a little silly and eccentric. Kirsty's parents are wonderful (we will meet her sister next week in Stirling), and the restaurant was quite good as well. We came back for coffee and tea at the flat, then Bobby, Sharon, Kirsty, my mom, and I walked down to see the lighthouse at night. And that brings me to this moment, sitting on the floor with Pengolodh Lord of Gondolin and typing a journal entry into Notepad. :)
Of course, no one clicks on posts like this to hear about lost luggage and the purpose of my eyebrows (though Elf cookies to anyone who actually read my blathering!) but for the pictures, and I would not want to disappoint, so ...
Tynemouth Castle and Priory
Looking out from the castle onto Front Street ...
The castle door ...
The moat ...
The priory through the castle portcullis ...
The Angry Sea
Yes, they surf in Tynemouth (brrrrrr!)