United Kingdom

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On the weekend of May 13-14, 2000, I traveled to the area of Leeds, England to visit my friend and colleague David Gunton.  It was my first trip to the UK.

I had booked my flight over to Leeds through Microsoft's Expedia site.  It was pretty easy to do and the tickets came to my house in the US and I was able to pick them up while I was home in early May.  I think I probably used Expedia because I like to use their maps on my pages.  

Map of England - Area of interest in the north (Leeds) is highlighted in yellow

Maps by Expedia.com Travel


Anyway, the flight was on Sabena - a Belgian airline - and connected through Brussels.   My impression of Sabena was very favorable.  Nice Airbus planes, good food, leather seats.  I am not the best travel critic because US Airways is my only comparison.


David picked me up at the Leeds/Bradford airport and I got my first experience in a right-hand drive car.   It is so strange to be in the 'driver's seat' and be the passenger.  Not to mention driving on the left side of the road.  Throughout the weekend I found myself being constantly startled when I would be looking around at the countryside and then turning my glance back toward oncoming traffic.  A little panic every time. 

On Saturday morning we set out for York.  York is a famous historic city in England, almost 2000 years old.   We visited the York Minster cathedral first.  It is a huge old church that has a really beautiful interior and stained glass windows.   We walked up to the top and had a look down on York and the Roman wall surrounding it.  After York Minster it was time for a coffee at Starbucks.  While Starbucks hasn't spread all through Europe yet, it seems to have established a good presence in England - we saw 3 shops in York alone.

You know those expressions like '...in a shambles.' ?  The Shambles is actually a street in York and that's where the term comes from.  The buildings are crooked and lean towards the middle of the street giving the street a haphazard appearance.

My first experience in a pub was a place called the Royal Oak.  We sat in a nice room that was very comfortable and made you feel like you were in someone's den or library.   In the pubs, you go to the bar to order your beer and food and pay right then.  No tipping in England.  Then the bartender will pour (or pull) your beer.  The food is delivered to your table sometime later.  Here I learned about 'hand-pulled' beer.  This is where the tap is actually a pump and the beer is pulled from the keg rather than flowing from the tap under pressure.   I had a pint of Boddingtons and a pint of Tetleys after which I was ready for a nap.

After lunch, we walked around York on top of the Roman wall - not all that fun but helped wear the beer off.  After that we went to an exhibit called Jorvik.  Jorvik is like a 'historical fun-house' where you ride backwards through history back to when the Vikings were in York, complete with authentic smells.  I'm glad we didn't go directly after lunch.  It also demonstrates the archeological processes they've gone through to discover all the stuff that makes the exhibit possible. 

That evening, David took me to a town called Haworth where the Bronte sisters lived.  We walked up to the museum and in the graveyard behind the church.  Even though it was still daylight, there was a spooky effect with the crows flying around and making lots of noise.

One distinctive feature of all the old buildings in that area is that they are very dark.  Most of them are made of stone.  The stone is actually still coated with soot from the times when everyone burned coal for heat.  There was so much soot that it settled everywhere and is most evident on the buildings.  Speaking of stone, the other major impression I came away with was of the stone walls.  They are everywhere, lining the roads and carving up the landscape into individual plots, fields, and pastures.  Part of the living history of the place that we don't see so much in America.

The best beer I had was in Haworth at a place called The Fleece.  They served beers by a brewery called Timothy Taylor.  I had Landlord Pale Ale.  Magnificent.   Another beer fact about English pubs.  A freehouse is a pub that is not locked into beer from one brewery.  It is free to sell whatever beer the proprietor wants. 

On Sunday, we went down to the Leeds-Liverpool canal and walked along it for a while.  This is a fairly narrow canal that still has boat traffic.  The boats are mostly pleasure craft that seems to be specially built to fit the locks.  In Bingley, there are 2 sets of locks, a 3-step and a 5-step.  Both have full-time lock-keepers that maintain the locks and operate them by hand.  We didn't get a chance to see them in operation - no boats going through.

My flight was in the mid-afternoon on Sunday so we had lunch at Dick Hudson's pub near his house before heading to the airport.   I was pleased they had veggie burgers.  

Again this trip was blessed with good weather.  I had a great weekend and David was a fine host and tour guide.  My thanks to him for showing me a little about England and the history of his part of the country.  

View of York Minster Cathedral in York

Inside view of a section of the York Minster cathedral

The Shambles in York - ever wonder where that came from?

The bar at the Royal Oak pub in York

To prevent pedestrian tourists from being run over.

View of York Minster from Roman wall that goes around the old section

Beautiful view on the way to Haworth

Cemetary in Haworth - home of the Bronte sisters where Wuthering Heights was written

Black Bull pub in Haworth

View of Bingley 5-Rise locks on the Leeds-Liverpool canal

David and Doug enjoying lunch at Dick Hudson's pub

Dick Hudson's



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