National Railway Museum in York (NRM) Topic: Day Trips
I know where Platform 9 3/4 is... or at least the sign for it! It's at the National Railway Museum (NRM) in York! Monday, Larry and Ryan and I took a trip there. (Unfortunately I forgot the camera, but I had my phone, so I snapped a quickie of this!) http://www.nrm.org.uk/events/index.asp (I recommend checking out the website.) Entrance to the NRM is free, which is all the more amazing given the depth and scope of the displays, which span over 300 years. Of course Ryan loved seeing all trains in their full sized glory. He wanted to climb on them, which unfortunately is quite frowned upon! We spent quite a while walking around, looking at all the trains. It was a really nice day out.
September's been a busy month. It was great that Larry took leave and we got to travel. On Thursday, Sept. 13, we drove out to Filey. Filey is a nice beach community on the east coast. It's funny, because first I went to Scarborough, and it was wonderfully boardwalk tacky (but the beach itself was nice). Next I went to Whitby, which was still very touristy, but was a step up in class from Scarborough. Weirdly, the beach at Whitby looked very similar to the one in Scarborough, topography-wise. Filey is definitely the nicest area of the three, but again, it has very similar topography to the first two beaches.
It was later in the afternoon, a weekday, and the summer season was officially over with school back in session. This left the beach very quiet, which was very nice, and relaxing.
For some reason, Ryan always throws a fit when we first try to put him in his swim diaper and trunks. However, once we're done and he hits the water, we can't drag him away! We had a lot of fun running around on the beach. Ryan is FAST. I actually got a bit of a workout chasing after him.
We had a bit of a detour on the way home. We wound up going through a small village which had a tiny, and very scary one-way toll bridge that just didn't seem capable of holding a car's weight. However, it did, and we were much relieved to be safely over it.
(Photos from Filey to follow on an upcoming post.)
(Click on the above slide show to view as a web album.)
On Wednesday, Larry and Ryan and I went to the aquarium, The Deep, in Hull. http://www.thedeep.co.uk The aquarium was pretty amazing. Ryan was well behaved (mostly), but of course with a nearly-three-year-old, you're not going to get to spend as much time looking around as you'd like! I recommend going to The Deep's website, and taking The Deep Tour. It gives a good idea of all the things there are to see and do at the aquarium.
One of our favorite things - and definitely one of Ryan's - was a mirrored jellyfish tank. (See my web album.) Of course Ryan's other favorite thing was getting to run around in a play area specifically designed for the toddler set!
I loved the Endless Oceans, a 2.5 million liter tank with 12 species of shark (among other amazing creatures). All three of us also enjoyed the viewing tunnel (think Sea World), and the world's only underwater elevator (made of acrylic) that takes you through the aquarium's main tank.
There was one particular area that all three of us liked as well: The Kingdom of Ice. This part of the attraction had walls of real ice! One wall was used as a movie screen. Ryan was fascinated by it. He even backed up against it and got wet!
We all had a nice time, and it was fun to see all the marine life.
(Click on the above slide show to view as a web album.)
On Tuesday, the baby sitting co-op had its monthly meeting at Poplars Adventure Mega Maze in Knaresborough. http://www.poplarsmaze.co.uk/ It's a Maize Maze (a cornfield maze), with a big outdoor play area in front of the maze.
The maze itself was in the shape of a griffin. At the entrance of the maze, we were given maps, and flags to wave in case we were in need of rescue. The map was difficult to read (even for those in the group who have passed Land Nav). There were platforms in a couple of places where you could climb up to get the lay of the land. There were also little signs along the way that gave clues to a puzzle in an activity pamphlet we were also given at the start of the maze.
It was fun, but I think most of the kiddos there were just a bit too young to really enjoy it. The maze wasn't meant to have strollers go through it. Also, it was hard to keep track of energetic, wayward toddlers and preschoolers who didn't want to stick close. Ryan had a bit of a meltdown because we didn't let him run off (also he was tired and getting hungry).
After we finally found our way out of the maze, we adjourned to the play area and enjoyed a picnic lunch. I took some video of Ryan running around, since I hadn't done that in a long time.
(Click on the above slide show to view as a web album. The first photo is the only one I got from our trip to Tropical World. The rest are from today's trip to see Thomas the Tank Engine.)
This week we've had some really nice weather. I was worried we'd seen the last of summer, with the rain, wind, and cooler temps we'd been having. However, the last few days have been wonderfully sunny and warm. I think it was Wednesday I took Ryan to Valley Gardens (and got ice cream from the cafe, of course!). Thursday evening Larry came home too late for me to run with the Harriers, but I went on a run on my own. It was a nice evening for it. Friday, Natasha came over, and we took our kiddos to Valley Gardens. This time, Savannah and Ryan went in the paddling pool. They had fun splashing around, and Natasha and I had fun watching. Later that evening, I babysat at Carissa's. Saturday morning I went on a nine mile run with Emma and Jane, two of my fellow Harriers. It was long and I was very tired afterwards, but it was good because I now am pretty sure I can survive the half marathon coming up in less than a month.
Today Larry and I took Ryan to his third Days Out With Thomas. The first one we took Ryan to was Easter of last year. I think Ryan enjoyed it, but he was only about 18 months old, so he couldn't really do that much. The second one I took Ryan to was in York, with Carissa and her boys. That one was overcrowded and wasn't as nice as the first one.
Third time seemed to be a charm. We went back to the first one we'd taken him to, at Embsay and Bolton Abbey Stations. It was a perfect day, weather wise. We got there right when it opened, so it wasn't too crowded. There was lots for Ryan to do. The first thing we took him on was an enormous Thomas the Tank Engine bouncy castle. Ryan was on it for all of about 30 seconds, then the train pulled in. That was it. Ryan jumped off the bouncy castle, grabbed his shoes, and made it very clear he wanted on that train!
We were at Bolton Abbey station. The train there connects to Embsay station. The Days Out With Thomas had events at both stations, with the train ride in between being one of them. It was an old fashioned steam train that loped pleasantly through the pastoral countryside. Ryan enjoyed the ride, and had fun looking out the window. The train ride was about twenty minutes long, which was the perfect length. It was nice and relaxing for me and Larry, but not too long for Ryan to sit in one spot without getting too antsy.
We arrived at Embsay where the bulk of the activities were. We jumped in line to actually board Thomas. It was a good thing we got there when we did, since the line behind us got ridiculously long! We tried to have a professional picture of Ryan with Thomas, but Ryan wasn't cooperating. Once we got on board, Ryan seemed fascinated, but a bit overwhelmed by everything inside Thomas. He got to pull the cord to make the whistle blow, which is always fun!
We thought Ryan would like an ice cream cone, but he actually didn't, so I wound up having one! What Ryan did want, was to check out all the cool Thomas toys that were on sale. There was a long row of all things Thomas. It was pretty amazing. Ryan picked out a train set he wanted, and we got him some pj's as well. After that, all Ryan wanted to do was open up the box and play with the trains!
The price of admission included a "gift" from a selection inside a tent. I took Ryan in to pick something out, and he immediately picked a package of four race cars. He really, really only wanted to play with them. We figured we'd get no peace until he did, so we found a park table and bench next to a magic show where Ryan could enjoy his cars for a while. (See photo in the above album.)
From there, we took Ryan across the bridge to platform 2 where he got to control a model railway with Thomas characters. He even got a special certificate from the model railway society!
We got a snack, then took the train back to Bolton. I could swear I heard whispers of "Harry Potter" and "Hogwart's Express" somewhere in the air. Once at Bolton Abbey Station, we let Ryan have an actual turn on the bouncy castle. Our last activity was to ride the miniature railway, pulled by Toby.
It was a fun day for all three of us, especially because Ryan's getting old enough to participate more and appreciate more when we go out and do things.
This year it went a lot more smoothly than it did last year. Ryan actually held my hand and didn't run off - much. I think this time he was able to appreciate the visit more, though I also think he still just enjoys running around more than anything.
After a circuit though Tropical World's various environments and animal displays, we headed to the adjacent park to find the playground. It turns out the playground was quite a trek away. I wound up having to carry Ryan part of the way there. (The boy seems to have boundless energy, but had been walking/running for at least an hour. At that point, even Ryan needed a break!)
Once at the playground, the kiddos seemed to perk up and enjoy themselves. Unfortunately for Ryan, his enjoyment was cute short by being clobbered by a girl on a swing. I had just gotten done pushing Ryan on a swing, when he ran behind the girl on the swing next to us. I grabbed him out of the way, only to have him run right back before I could grab him again. He was ok (after some crying), but lost his zest for playing after that. It was lunch time anyway, so we made the long trek back (up a huge hill, I might add) toward the car. We found a nice spot on the grass and had a picnic.
It was a nice day and - Ryan getting hit by a swing aside - turned out to be a fun visit. After lunch, Sarah drove us home.
Natasha had called, and needed someone to watch her girls on short notice, so not long after I got home, I had Savannah and Lauren over. Ryan loves Savannah, so not only did he get to have a fun outing, he got to have a friend over, too!
However, by the time Natasha came and got the girls, I was pretty exhausted. On the bright side, so was Ryan, so he did nap! However, my day was not done yet... (To be continued under "running and racing.")
(Click on the above slideshow to view as a web album.)
The week of July 30 through August 5 went by in a flurry of babysitting, running, errands, and appointments. On August 1st, Carissa and I went to see the remake of, "Hairspray," which was fun. I'd never seen the first one, so I had absolutely no expectations, and nothing to compare it to. It was a fun, musical, colorful, popcorn movie.
On Sunday, August 5, Larry and Ryan and I drove to Whitby, which is on the east coast. It's only about 50 miles away, but it took two hours to get there. It was a gorgeous day, so everyone wanted to get out. That made traffic pretty bad.
We got to Whitby and found a place to park. Parking is expensive, and with the amount of cars that can park in the lot we were in, we figured they made a killing. Everyone was waiting in line just to pay for parking. There was another ticket machine not far away. The scary thing is, most of the people there preferred to stand in line, rather than walk a little way to an open machine!
Parking was on grass, up on a bluff. It was lunchtime and we were hungry, so we walked toward the town center in search of something to eat. We found a great little cafe called Beckett's. It was a cozy little place with just a few tables, and full book shelves lining one wall. The service was friendly and the ambience homey. It was the perfect little place for a tasty bite.
While Ryan and I waited for our lunch, Larry went in search of an ATM. He had quite a trek! I started to wonder if something had happened, when he came back and told me how far he'd had to walk to find a cash machine.
We had a pleasant lunch, then walked through the village to the pier. The view was amazing. Abbey ruins on one side, with the beach on the other. The place was bustling, but not overly crowded. We walked out to the end of the pier to look around. After that, we went down to the beach and let Ryan run around on the shore.
After a while, we decided to head back to the car. There was an elevator from the beach back up to the top of the bluff, but with a 60 pence per person fee to use it! We decided it was well worth it. The elevator was set back at the end of a long tunnel. It reminded me and Larry of the tunnel we walked down to take the elevator to the Bird's Nest in Germany.
It was a fun and relaxing afternoon. It was great to get to the beach on a warm, sunny summer day!
(Click on the above slide show to view it as a web album.
The first three photos were ones I took with my cell phone while on a walk with Ryan. The next few were just taken messing around the house. The rest are from our day at Fountains Abbey.)
For some bizarre reason, Ryan decided he wanted to wear his clip-on tie. Of course I took pictures! (See above.)
On July 28, there was supposed to be a baby sitting co-op meeting at Fountains Abbey. Turns out that Larry and Ryan and I, and Natasha and Savannah and Lauren were the only ones that showed up! It was a gorgeous day, perfect for being outside. It was warm and sunny.
I'd been to Fountains Abbey a couple of times before. The first time was almost two years ago for, "Fountains by Floodlight," where the Abbey ruins are lit up at night, and there's a live choral performance.
(Click on the above thumbnails to see the whole albums if you missed them the first time, or simply want to check them out again!)
We grabbed some sandwiches at the cafe at the entrance (Natasha had brought some fruit and dessert as well), then made our way to the playground, where Ryan and Savannah had a great time! After a while, we made our way down to the Abbey to enjoy a picnic lunch. Natasha and I kicked back while Larry chased after Ryan and Savannah!
After lunch, we packed up the kids and ourselves and went for a walk around the beautiful Abbey grounds. We went to parts of it I'd never seen before. We wound up on the far side of the grounds, next to a lake. We got out our map and realized we were FAR from the parking lot. It seemed it would be almost farther to go back the way we came than to solider on, so onward it was. However, it was about a mile back to the cars, and some of that was uphill over some non-stroller-friendly terrain! I pushed Ryan in his stroller, Larry pushed Savannah in hers, and Tash carried Lauren. Whew! It was quite a workout! Even so, it was a lovely afternoon out, and I'm glad we went.
It all started on our trip to Alnwick, when I was telling Susan all about seeing the play the first time. She was very interested, and wanted to go before she moved back to the States. Before I knew it, I blurted out that I would see it again with her!
I have to admit, I had a bit of an ulterior motive. The first time I saw it, I wanted to get Dan Radcliffe to autograph my Equus program, but I chickened out. So this time around, I had a mission! And of course, having an avid interest in performing arts, I wanted to see how (or if) one performance varied from the other.
Saturday morning I dropped off Ryan at Natasha's, and met Susan at the train station. I saw an SUV in the parking lot (or "car park," as they're called here), and thought, "Isn't that Kim's?" I rounded the corner only to be greeted by Kim and her husband, who were heading to London on the same train Susan and I were!
Once in London, Susan and I went to Harrod's. Susan wanted to get in some shopping, since it would be her last time in London before her move to the States. I love Harrod's. http://www.harrods.com/Cultures/en-GB/History/ It's got to be the most incredible department store on earth. (And probably one of the most expensive. However, they stock enough fairly reasonably priced stuff that tourists can come away with some nifty items without losing their shirts.) I did indulge in a few things, since I didn't know when I might get to Harrod's again. I also picked up a couple of plush toys for Savannah and Lauren, and a bag for Natasha.
Harrod's is definitely somewhere you could fall in and not surface for days. And I'm not even that big a shopper!
After shopping, we got a quick bite to eat before heading to the theater. Unfortunately, there's nowhere to check bags at the Gielgud, so we had to take them with us to our seats. Luckily we didn't have too much (and we weren't the only ones with shopping bags). Speaking of seats, we were only three seats away in the same row from where Kim and I had sat!
As the play began, I felt such a sense of familiarity - and not because I'd been there a couple of weeks before. It was rather a feeling of ease, and oddly, of belonging. I felt at home there in the theater.
The first time I watched the play, my mind kicked into overtime, note-taking and observing in almost an academic way. This time, I forced myself to quiet my head, and just relax and take the play in as a whole. I did notice though that there wasn't much difference between the performance I was seeing, and the one I'd seen previously. I read online reviews from audience members who had seen performances farther apart, and the consensus was the play evolved quite a bit from its opening to its closing. I'm sure it must have, and probably the reason I didn't see much difference was because the performances were relatively close together.
At intermission Susan and I got ice cream. I love that you can get tiny little tubs of Haagen Dazs right there at the end of the aisles! It was a lovely, warm, sunny day, and the ice cream went down nicely.
Before I knew it, the play was over. It seemed to fly by. As the actors came on stage for the curtain call, I noticed a very sparse and reluctant standing ovation. I feel a little bad, because I didn't stand this time. (I stood last time, however.) I heard later that standing ovations aren't so much a British thing to do (it was probably mostly Americans standing that afternoon). I don't know how true that is, but I hope that would explain it. I couldn't tell, but I think the actors may have been slightly disappointed.
After the show, Susan and I headed for the stage door. Unfortunately we were met with a hand-written sign that announced that Mr. Radcliffe and Mr. Griffiths (the other lead) do not come out after matinees. Ah well. Once I thought about it, it made sense. I was disappointed, but actually not surprised. We decided to get some dinner before heading back to the train station. On the way, I formulated a plan to mail Dan Radcliffe my program with a nice note, asking him to sign it.
Susan and I found a little hole in the wall Italian place. The food wasn't bad, and the service was exceedingly friendly. (It made me think of an old Saturday Night Live skit with Kirsty Alley at an Italian restaurant where the waiter's friendliness devolves into quite an overt display!)
When Susan booked our train tickets, she managed to find a train that got back to Harrogate around 10pm, I think. It was nice to be back a bit earlier. (We didn't have to walk around the block to get to our cars, for one thing!)
Honestly, I was a little embarrassed at first that I went to see Equus twice. However, the more I talked to people, and the more I looked around online, I realized that it's very common for people to see shows multiple times. Nothin' to be ashamed of. There was actually a lady who would not give an exact number, but she did say she was on a first-name basis with the ushers at the Gielgud!
I love the internet. I was able to find some very well-written thoughts and reviews from other people who went to see Equus. It's great to feel a part of a bigger community, and to be able to share thoughts and feelings about a common experience.
I did mail off my program. I was surprised to get a package back exactly a month later. The good news is, I got my program back. The bad news is, it wasn't signed. I got the stock photo and newsletter, and a polite notice saying that enclosures can't be signed. Oh well. It was worth a shot! I found an article online written by someone who did get to have their program signed. It was fun to be able to read about someone else's experience.
All in all, I had a great day, and lots of fun going to London, shopping, and seeing the show. Even if I had known ahead of time I wouldn't be able to get my program signed, I would have seen the play again in a heartbeat.
Before I say anything else, I have to explain this nifty new feature I just discovered on Picasa Web Albums. Not only can I now post cool little slideshows (like the one above), but if you click on it, it will take you to my online album, where you can view much larger versions of the photos. (Just click on "View Album" in the top left corner of the Picasa Web Album page.) I hope you like it. It's a mini-sized preview of the entire album!
So, "What am I looking at?" you ask?
On Monday, May 21, Susan and her daughter Hannah, and Ryan and I drove to North Umberland to visit Castle Alnwick (pronounced "an-nick," believe it or not), and Alnwick Garden. We got lucky with the weather. It was a gorgeous sunny day, nice and warm, but not too hot. The drive up was pretty easy. It was a straight shot north on the A1M, and only a couple of hours away. It was lunchtime when we arrived, so our first stop was the cafe at Alnwick Garden.
We were met with a stunning view of The Grand Cascade, the largest water feature of its kind in the UK. (See first photo of my slideshow and web album.) It was a gorgeous backdrop to a pleasant lunch.
Our priority was the castle, so that was the first site we visited after we ate. The short walk from the Garden to the castle was pastoral and serene. The castle loomed ahead impressively.
Because it has been featured in the Harry Potter movies (among others), Alnwick Castle is sometimes known as, "The Harry Potter Castle." I suspect this is somewhat to the chagrin of those involved with the castle. However, in the spirit of supporting the castle and local tourism, the Harry Potter connection has been embraced by those at Alnwick.
Shortly after we arrived, we joined a guided tour of spots around the castle where various movies and tv shows had been filmed. I was impressed because Susan immediately spotted a location from "Sorcerer's Stone," which was confirmed by our tour guide.
After the tour, which was both short and fun, we wandered around on our own. One of the things I found most interesting about the castle, is that during part of the year, it is actually inhabited by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. It was really strange to walk through the castle, which is decorated just like you would expect - with museum-type, ornate, antique objects - but then interspersed would be modern family photos of regular-looking people, doing normal things, like going on vacation, or graduating from college, etc.!
We let Ryan and Hannah run around for quite a while in a fairly contained area on the castle lawn. Ryan seemed to especially enjoy climbing around on the old cannons near the battlements. Of course he tended to gravitate toward the one staircase that led to an area where he could hurt himself (by falling from an unguarded height)!
We made the mandatory gift shop stop. They had a fun mix of the usual items, plus a corner devoted to Harry Potter paraphernalia.
Next, we went back to Alnwick Garden. I'd never seen so much done with water before. In addition to the breathtaking Grand Cascade, there is the Serpent Garden, which is filled with amazing silver water sculptures. There are several other specialty gardens, among them a Poison Garden, a Rose Garden, and a Bamboo Labyrinth (which we managed to get ourselves lost in).
Alnwick Garden is home to one of the world's largest treehouses. It was great, because Susan and I could take the kiddos in the treehouse in their strollers. We had fun walking around crossing the treehouse's rope bridges and walkways.
From Alnwick, we drove up north a bit to The Holy Island of Lindisfarne. What was most interesting to me about Holy Island, is that it is only accessible by a causeway at low tide. We got lucky and happened to arrive during low tide, so we were able to drive right out to the island.
Driving across an area that only hours before was completely underwater is beyond weird. For most of the way, there was damp sand on either side of a two lane road, with puddles of water here and there. The ocean seemed to be creeping in from a distance. It felt utterly bizarre to know there was no barrier whatsoever between us and that water, and that if we were to sit there long enough, we'd be swept out to sea.
Of course Susan and I speculated about how often people had gotten caught, thinking they could cross as the water was coming in. We also wondered what type of rescue team there was (if any), and what people on the island did if there was a medical emergency during high tide. (The island is tiny - population 180! - and there isn't much on it besides a castle and a small village.)
We got out to the island, parked, and checked the tide tables. There was only an hour left before the tide came in. We would have loved to have seen the castle, but unfortunately it's only accessible by foot, and it was a half mile away from the closest place you could park. There wasn't time to put Ryan and Hannah in their strollers, get out to the castle and make it back, let alone actually explore the castle. The kids were getting tired and hungry, as well. We decided to go ahead and leave the island.
By the time we got across to the mainland side, we realized it wouldn't be that long before the tide came in. We were curious to see how things would look at high tide, so we decided to give the kids snacks and drive around a little until the tide came in. Not far away is Bamburgh Castle. We didn't get out and visit, but we did drive by and take pictures. It looked impressive, and definitely somewhere interesting to visit on another day. There was a village a little farther down the way that was bustling and picturesque.
We made our way back to the parking lot by the causeway to Holy Island right around when high tide was supposed to be happening. There were other people there, some with binoculars, apparently waiting to see high tide as well. Unfortunately, everything looked pretty much the same as it had an hour before. Susan and I were a bit disappointed. We didn't really want to wait, since we were in need of some dinner, and were facing a long drive back to Harrogate.
All in all though, we had a very nice day, and Alnwick, Holy Island, and Bamburgh are all places worth a return visit.