Nov 11, 2005

Day 7 : “Let then the beauty be undisfigured”

Munching the tomatoes from the vegetarian English breakfast without the eggs that was set before me, I glanced the brochures. Too bad the English breakfast didnt have hash browns.

Preston also turned out to be a historical town with old churches, including a mormon one, and a famous battle where the Jacobites - Bonnie prince Charlie, surrendered. I was by now reading words like fifteenth century church, priory from twelfth century, doomsday book etc., without batting eyelids. I might actually yawn if I kept this up I thought.

In one sense lake district was a good break. I had seen too many man made buildings, now I had to see nature at its best. We were off catching the motorway first thing that morning, speeding towards Windermere. Sheeps still grazed, enclosed within stone fences. The black things I had noticed earlier were definitely not any exotic animals, it seemed like giant trash bags actually.

It was so peaceful, it must be a farming community. I wondered the demographics, I had this feeling of meeting more older people once out of London, Of course, it could be the places I was visiting.

Windermere, Ambelside, Grasmere those were our stops. It was a gorgeous day with the Sun shining bright. It was mildly cool without the harsh biting wind. I couldnt have planned a better day for a visit to the lake district. We stopped wherever we wanted, walking, visiting small shops, sitting on benches near the beautiful lake, just enjoying the scenery. Parking was the only sour point.

I had to walk quite a bit of distance to the original gingerbread shop. I usually hate gingerbread and cant stand it, but I had to check off my list - Ate gingerbread in Grasmere. It turned out to be delicious and within minutes I finished a huge piece.

The lake, the tall trees, the mountains behind - it all had a picture in a calendar, unrealistic quality to it. Wandered into the Rydall mount. Literary reference - check. I took a peak from Wordsworth’s window - what a breathtaking view. I could see the valley down below and suddenly could understand how he could have the authority to write the words “I wandered lonely as a cloud”.

AS and SR had gone up to his summerhouse, SS urged me to come along. I trudged up on the slippery path, full of wet leaves smashed to a pulp, stepping somewhat gingerely. I sat on the log platform that he had built himself.

It was late in the afternoon when we set off again. I didnt talk much, my heart was filled with poetry.

“Next stop Gretna Green,” I announced much later. “Heres where they eloped to get married without waiting for license,” I explained to the uninitiated. How many regency romances I had read where this border town played an important part.

‘First shop in Scotland,’ the board announced. Yes, I was in Scotland. After a brief stop, we continued on to Edinburgh.

SR was a good driver. He obviously enjoyed driving. He talks, fiddles with the radio, runs his hand through his hair all in a relaxed manner. “Ah, a scenic route,” he announced and on an impulse, which I dreaded, took a turn into that road.

“There arent many cities in this part of the map,” I said worriedly. “In fact I am not too sure which road we have taken”

“I am sure we will be fine,” he said casually more interested in fiddling with the radio. “Did you notice there arent that many FM stations,” he remarked. “There arent that many cities,” SS responded darkly. There were hardly any houses; one or two in white and brown at a distant point and cars that occassionally crossed. “There are sheep,” I said reassuringly. These sheep had something marked in their rear. The fences were of stone.

“Perhaps they come to check on it once a week,” SR said blithely.

“This is going to be like that night in Bath,” AS was beginning to be worried. “Worse, there arent any towns nearby,” SS agreed.

The good news was sun hadn't set yet. It seemed like we would have at the least another couple of hours of sunlight, we were heading west. So we’d have to come across something, perhaps the sea. There wasn’t a single sign post for miles together except a very rare sign that announced the road number. These numbers didnt make any sense according to my map. It felt like I was truly in the middle of nowhere.

If the car broke down, I’d probably freeze to death. I didnt have any blankets except for a jacket and except for the mobile phone, which was off at that moment, I had no connection with the rest of the world.

Despite the worry, I had to admit the beauty of the place. The landscape was undulating, but these were no hills. These were mountains, wooded with tall coniferous trees. The history I had read so much in the last few days, the wide open spaces and the majestic mountains added such a romantic quality to that evening. We crossed a place called La Mancha. “For I am I Don quixote, the man of la mancha,” sang SS in a surprisingly strong baritone. I joined and soon we were belting out melodies at the top of our voices.

After about an hour, we finally reached Peniquick that I could spot in the map and we got to Edinburgh just as the sun started setting. Our hunt for hotel began. I asked in atleast three to four places before we crached in a holiday inn express. In the process, we must have driven through, more than two three times in some cases, the important parts of the city.

I thought I would by now be blase about old buildings, but I couldnt be about Edinburgh. I have often told my friends I liked cities with character - San Francisco, Delhi... Talk of character! Edinburgh had plenty of it. The architecture was absolutely stunning.

I ate a nice huge sandwich for dinner and watched a TV program. It involved someone buying an old house and remodelling it. Outside the neon lights announced an ‘Ocean View terminal”

Was there an ocean here, I thought puzzled. I dreamt I was near the arctic ocean that night.

November 11, 2005