Whitley Bay did turn out to be quite a nice town. The ocean looked quite beautiful, as well as absolutely freezing.
We headed out through Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. The city seemed quite nice, from what little I saw. I did recognise some familiar placenames – Jesmond, Wallsend, Gateshead and Morpeth.
Next we drove for a couple of hours to York. Finding a parking spot in the city, and consequently paying through the nose for it, we had a quick bite to eat before hopping onto another open-topped city tour bus (our fourth since coming to the UK – just about the best way to “see” a city in an hour or so).
York is an ancient city. The centre of town is surrounded by a stone wall, built fairly early on in the piece. Through the town is some great architecture ranging from the Victorian era right back to the Roman era. York Castle, or Something Tower is actually a relatively small fortress built on a mound. It provides a decent view of the city.
Below the tower is the tower museum, which in all honesty is one of the least tedious museums we have visited so far. Among other things, the museum has a huge indoor section that has been restored to look like a Victorian street complete with cobblestones, horse drawn carriages, shops, workshops, side streets, and a handful of real-life Victorian era characters.
After visiting the museum, we had dinner at a pizza place. The food was great and certainly hit the spot after a long day. I ordered some Irish Cider to drink, which was just like a dry Appletiser. Anna had the house white wine – an Australian Chardonnay. From the bottle-shops, supermarkets and restaurant wine lists that we have seen, Australian wines seem to be as popular here as any other country’s. It is not unusual for the Australian selection to be the best represented, often moreso than France or UK. So, yay us.
After tea and a little stroll we drove to our B&B in “Stockton-on-the-Forest”.
After another fine English Breakfast, we decided to head back into York and check out the National Railway Museum. This was well worth it. The museum was built in and around what must have been railway sheds. As well as the usual artifacts and information that any museum worth its salt seems to have no shortage of, the NRM had dozens and dozens of real trains on real tracks. They had mostly steam trains, because let’s face it they’re the only interesting ones. First thing we saw were passenger carriages, and got to have a poke around inside a first class compartment, c1900.
Then we saw a display of Royal carriages dating from before Victoria’s time, right up to the 1960s. Good grief, they live in style. After that we saw a bewildering array of just about every type of steam, diesel and electric train in a full range of size, age and condition. I was particularly impressed by the “Mallard”, the fastest steam train in the world (202 km/h achieved in 1938 and never beaten by a locomotive). These things are huge – their wheels are taller then me. Outside we even saw a steam train pull out of the station and come back in again. This was one of the first museums we have been to where Anna was bored and worn out long before I was.
While driving out of York we saw a greying Vicar with a mustache riding a wobbly bicycle with a basket on the front. Have I mentioned how much I like this country?
Okay, another two hours drive brought us to Cambridge. We have just settled into our B&B in a little village outside of Cambridge starting with a B, I can’t remember the rest. I think we will stroll down to the pub for dinner shortly, which is something you can do in English villages. Our plan is to do a lightning tour of Cambridge tomorrow then head for Gatwick Airport in London where we farewell the British Isles and see what France has to offer.