The roses of England, white for Yorkshire and red for Lancashire. Running down the spine of England is a moreland range of raised land called the Pennines. To the west of this spine we find the county of Lancashire and to its right the county of Yorkshire. Life is never simple, especially when it comes to history and this part of England with its odd names and variation in language grammar gives us clues as to how it got to be the way it is. The industrial heartland of an empire was born here. Our very way of life was forged in its mills and our world is today the flower of that seed. Is this, this blog to be a potted history of England? No, of course not. But, I do need to set the context in which this journey, adventure if you will takes place.
I love the north of England, always have and always will. I find a kindred friendship here that can only find compare with my Icelandic homeland, for the share a similarity in both outlook and honesty. So, it should comes as no surprise that during the long dark winters of northern Iceland that we, my family and I laid plans for our winter migration south to this northern land of England. We have undertaken several much shorter trips here in the past, but this was going to be a thorough expedition and needed detailed planning. And is this not the fun part of such holidays? I think so and this prove to be the case. My partner the expert in finding places of interest and the accommodation to go with it is supreme. The costing for this enterprise tested my spreadsheets skills during the dark nights as income struggled to balance out expenditure. Did we succeed? You will have to wait and see. The stage is set the car is fueled and loaded down with suitcases and we are ready to set forth.
From Akureyri to Keflavik:
We are now driving away from our home a day earlier than we need to, as my wife and two daughters have eye tests scheduled for the afternoon. The drive will be a long one and it will take the better part of four hours, crossing three mountain ranges as we do so. This is as is normally the case an uneventful one and soon we are in the capital of Reykjavik. My daughters eyes are fine and as expected my wife needs new glasses. The cost of living here in Iceland can be for some things very expensive and glasses are a prime example of that. This was factor in getting these tests done prior to our visit to England, where we shall have the glasses made up from the prescription. Our flight means that we need to be at the airport in Keflavik by around six in the morning. Therefore we shall spend the night with my wife’s aunt in Reykjavik. After a delightful meal we head off to bed as we shall need to be at around five the following morning for the drive to the airport. At this time of year is does not get dark during the night, but it was a dank and overcast early morning and I longed to be over the clouds.
Keflavik to York:
Airport departures are great places to watch humanity in all its greeds become as one as they share the common malaise of having to balance luggage and reading direction signs. I stand in line and listen to the voices of the world and understand not a word but, I do understand the meaning. Travels of late have brought to my ears a sound that in the past was strange and now these days common place, Chinese. However, a smile is a smile and we all shuffle along towards check-in desk. The rest of the journey passes without incident and soon we are descending towards Manchester international airport. We soon clear the formalities and board the train to York. The countryside is alive with nature drawn on a bright green canvas that is and always will be England. I spot a rabbit, magpies, another rabbit and then a deer. Towns from history flash by as we cross the industrial heartland of history. The train slows and we have arrived in York. We leave the train and a few minutes later we have found our apartment for the week. I have to say it all looks rather posh for me. An inner courtyard complete with a water feature shows the hand of design here. I think I could soon get used to this.
I could so easily see myself living here. History is of course evident here and the town is very much a microcosm of England itself. However they have managed to find that difficult balance between living in the present and looking to the future, without forgetting the past. The visitor is welcomed and not fleeced at all, something that I am sad to say is not so in many of the places to be found in England with Cornwall and Devon very much coming to mind. I recommend without hesitation the Jorvik centre. The Vikings settlement is brought to life as one rides carriage that weaves its way through a reconstructed Viking settlement of Jorvik. The animatronics are excellent and they have used Icelandic to give voice to these characters. The ride ends as of course you knew it would in a gift shop. I just wish they could have dispense with the horned hats and for the record Vikings have never used this sort of hat. I found the river trip somewhat of a waste of time with the narration dull. The York museum is a delight and records the history of the town from the time of William the conqueror to modern times. Walking along the Victorian street you might be lucky and meet a character from the past who will tell you the story of their life. The place I so looked forward to seeing was the National Railway Museum and it did not let me down. It is free to enter although they do rather try to get you to pay three pounds as a donation. Good luck chaps trying to prise out the coins from my hand. The range of trains is of course impressive with old steam trains sharing space with the Japanese bullet train. I loved the south shed and the attention to detail. Here you will find several trains waiting in the station for Kings and Queens. I wonder what it must be like to have a bath on a train? You will also find here objects waiting to be loaded onto the train and even an old post office sorting train. I actually remember these from my childhood. The staff are all very knowledgeable and very keen to spend time with you. We left York with if not a tear then certainly a little bit of sadness. All of us agreed that we must return and explore more of those narrow streets that act like time machines.
From York to Blackpool by train:
I should say that I love train travel and this journey confirmed it. The train in effect traverses the country moving from the eastern shores to the bracing Irish sea. Each train stop is akin to a page from the history books devoted to the study of the industrial revolution. It is perhaps the silly things that capture ones attention and for me the greenest of the landscape and the towering trees that I gaze upon. For you see I grew up in a landscape like this and for all of its charms, and there are many, it is here that I find a hint of homesickness. The rocking of the train and the side of effects of my medication lull me off to sleep. I am awaken to find our train pulling in to Blackpool’s north station. Phew it is hot and humid today and as we depart we noticed the smell of cigarettes as many of the passengers draw upon that vile drug that thankfully legislation has prevented them from using on the train. A family conference is called and we agree to take a taxi to our apartment for the week. At the moment we are pretty much in central Blackpool but we need to go a few miles north. I am so thankful that my wife has chosen this as our base. Blackpool can, indeed does get very lively in the evenings, fueled no doubt with copious amounts of booze. That said it is still a great place for families to stay and have fun but, you must be mindful that this town is a construct to the tourist industry. Its history is both rich and vibrant and should hold as much importance as any other artifact that created the industrial revolution. Blackpool can be divided into three areas with each area having its own pier. Most of the towns and cities of the UK have given up their trams in favour of other systems, usually cars but, not Blackpool. The tram runs the full length of the town and in fact its northern terminus is the fishing town of fleetwood which is famous for its candy “Fishermens friends”. We took a trip to this village and sad to say left disappointed to find it rather run down and in need of investment. The central pier is very close to the tower for which Blackpool is known for. It is a copy of the top part of the eiffel tower. Should you feel the need to test your courage then you may take the sky walk. This is a see through floor and you get to see all the way down to the street far below as you feel like you are suspended in thin air. In this building you will also find the famous ballroom, a room known to most ballroom dancers as being its very home. For thrill seeks which does not include me I might add, then there is the “Pleasure beach”. A area devoted to roller coasters and other things to scare the bejeebers out of one. I should like to recommend the more sedate and top of my list is the Blackpool zoo. They really do know how to entertain and educate at the same time and we all had a ball. Close by you will find two other jewels, Stanley park and the model village. We rented a boat and the girls all had a great time playing on the lake. The model village is wow, yes wow with each and every turn you see village life, I would recommend this place just for its plants. But, here is the caveat and effect only those of us that do not have a car. The bus service is not good really with the closet stop being the hospital which is a good ten minute walk way.
From Blackpool to Manchester:
The week has passed oh so quickly and once again we find ourselves at the train station in Blackpool waiting to board the train to Manchester. Ah, this was the journey from if not hell then not a fun place. Fortunately, we got to the station in time to ensure that we had seats for the trip, something that could not be said for oh so many of our fellow travellers. Then another taxi and we arrive at our hotel in the trafford area of Manchester. We had planned these last thee days of our trip to do some shopping but, as it turned out we had in fact done most of the shopping. We still found time though to do some shopping in the Trafford centre. A note though, the hotel Premier Inn. This is a budget chain and yet the service was first class. I recommend this hotel without hesitation. I manage to spend a wonderful hour or so with my sister. The years flyby and body may weaken yet memories of time spent as kids is never far away.
Manchester and home:
Soon we are home and trophies are unpacked.
THAT WAS FUN!