Harrogate with an interesting shop combination

I opened the front door to Diamond House, our accommodation in Harrogate, knowing there would be stairs but hoping our room would not be on the top floor. Wishful thinking I’m afraid. Once the door was open fully I could see the narrow staircase in front of me…”bugger” I whispered to myself as Ty mumbled something I didn’t want to hear. Now it was just how many stairs did we have to climb this week.

We checked downstairs, there was a lounge and an eat in kitchen with a little back garden. No bathroom or loo down here!! Ok, there was no other choice now but to head up the stairs. The first landing uncovered a double bedroom and a large bathroom, more stairs and another landing uncovered more stairs and the last landing!!! We were now at the top of the house…where we found another smaller bedroom and a double bedroom with ensuite. Darelle asked Maryanne if she wanted the bedroom on the first landing and Maryanne said “No, you can have that room if you like”. Maryanne took the smaller room and we had the double with ensuite. It was sensible to have 2 people sharing each bathroom, if Darelle or Maryanne had the ensuite room one of them would have to walk through the others bedroom. I did offer that option just in case…..

Once the rooms were organised it was time to bring the luggage in. There were 37 steps and three landings…..2 long ones and a smaller one as the staircase had a couple of twists and turns to it. It would be a good idea to spend as much time away from the house as possible to ensure we don’t get o.s.s (overuse of stairs syndrome).

We had also found a better way of transporting our luggage up all these marvellous stairs. Ty didn’t need to be alpha male carrying everyone’s bags up stairs, huffing and puffing by the time he got to the 3rd bag. 2 people would carry each bag which, on some parts of the stairway was difficult, but worked much better. It also helped ease my guilt on booking these lovely character houses. Although, Ty has made noises about sticking to hotels from now on. Is he losing his sense of adventure???

The house is situated in a quiet cul d sac, a 10 minute walk from the High Street and with a small group of shops less than a 5 minutes walk. Very conveniently situated.

Harrogate is an old spa town in North Yorkshire and is ideally situated to travel west to Liverpool or east to York or Whitby….hmm, I could have those mixed as I have trouble with directions!! It’s a beautiful town with majority of buildings being made of stone. The High Street is much the same as many UK towns with stores such as H&M, M&S, Primark, HMV and others. Of course we aided the economy of the town by purchasing items of clothing, a new camera battery and various other items. We also helped British Mail by posting boxes of goodies home…..yes, I’m sure some of you may remember me saying “I won’t be purchasing much this trip as this is my 5th or 6th visit to UK”. Unfortunately they have summer sales on and aren’t we heading into summer???? I also purchased Xmas decorations for our tree..I buy decorations from different places which makes our tree decorating more interesting as each decoration recalls a memory. Ty says thank goodness we only put the tree up once a year for a short time, I’m sure friends and relatives say the same thing to each other!!! Ty has also been making rumblings about the number of UK decorations I’ve purchased this trip, he thinks our tree will have too many UK baubles and not enough “other country baubles”. That’s rich given we have at least 4 Vegas baubles so that’s cause in itself to ignore him.

Back to Harrogate….the name is said to come from ancient words for lots of stones or something similar. As well as magnificent stone buildings this town is full of parks, small parks with lovely gardens and larger parks (commons) that take up entire blocks. One such common is called The Stray and is 200 acres of lush green lawns. We saw people walking their dogs, football teams playing, joggers and people just sitting around relaxing, Many smaller ones are in and around the town centre.

Harrogate spas were first discovered in the late1500s and once the medicinal properties of the waters were published the town started to develop around the 1630s. Harrogate did not rest on its laurels as just a spa town, it also hosted a Eurovision song contest and, as you’ll see driving into town and wandering round town, they won a ‘flowers in bloom’ contest. Believe me the flower baskets and the flower beds are magnificent I wish I could grow them so successfully although the weather probably has a lot to do with the success. Living in a semi permanent dismal state, too many dull skies and lots of rain does not appeal to me at all.

If you’re thinking of moving to Harrogate house prices are very expensive and you would have to love lots of stairs!!!! There weren’t many single level dwellings, lots of fine grand houses though. Harrogate has prospered quite well given many spa towns become less important or lose their appeal as the years pass. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the Yorkshire area, even make a detour it’s very well placed for a day trip from many places. you won’t be disappointed.

There are many tearooms in Harrogate, I could go so far as to say there are more tea rooms than pubs, but I won’t because I’d probably be wrong. One famous tearoom is Betty’s….we would have to sample their scones and cakes!!!!

We wandered to the High Street looking for a place to have morning tea and found a couple of clothing shops along the way. We came across an interesting looking arcade, very of old fashioned facade and wrought iron work. I had to go in to see what, if any, interesting shops it held. A couple of dress shops on the ground floor and a large billboard pointing us to a tea room on the 1st floor. “Shall we?” I asked the trio. “Why not” came the reply. Up the stairs we went, ahead of us we could see a hairdressers, on one side was a shop selling accessories and on the other side the tea rooms. They were had a couple of tables with people seated, some eating, others waiting for their orders to appear. It was a cute little place so we sat down and perused the menu.

Service was a little on the slow side but we weren’t in an hurry so we kept ourselves occupied by looking in the Accessories shop…..we thought it a bit odd there was no sales assistant on hand. However Harrogate also had signs everywhere that mentioned how they were a crime free town. A range of very pretty handbags sat on shelves or hung on racks around the walls of the little shop. All colours and types of scarves, some were draped over store dummies wearing costume jewellery to get the best effect, but we were trying to pace ourselves – we still had The Bullring in Birmingham, London and Singapore for shopping yet…don’t want to suffer burn out too early. Costume jewellery sat on glass shelves in the window shimmering and sparkling under the bright downlighting. Costume jewellery isn’t my “thing” so I ignored those.

The tea room waiter came to take our order…..scone with jam and cream and a weak latte for me, Ty ordered a sandwich and a cup of tea, Darelle ordered a scone with jam only and a cup of tea and Maryanne ordered a coffee. It took a couple of goes for him to write the order down correctly. Another couple arrived and sat on the lounge in front of us. I wondered how long they would have to wait to be served.

As we were sitting there I looked across at the accessory shop and still no sales assistant had appeared. Written on the window beside the entry to the store the following was listed:
Fashion accessories
Podiatrist
Make up artist
Spray Tanning
Waxing

An interesting mix of businesses so perhaps the person was out the back spray tanning someone. Whoever owned the shop was certainly embracing the multiskilling regime to secure their income and fair play to them it’s tough out there. Spray tanning and tanning beds are big business in UK given they don’t normally get enough sun to manage a gradual tan naturally.

Our waiter suddenly scurried past us, it had been 20 minutes since we’d placed our order – he had that rather rushed air about him – had he thrown a wobbly and left the building or was he off to borrow some milk from the hairdressers?? We watched in amusement as he came scurrying back with one of the hairdressers following close on his heels. The young man from the hairdressing salon helped make the coffees and served them, we never saw the kitchen hand but assumed there was someone out there organising the food. Eventually our harried waiter served our food and, obviously had noticed us wandering back and forth to the Accessories shop, told us that if we needed anything to let him know as they also own that shop!!!! Ah, it all fell into place, they obviously own the hairdressers as well! Hmm so who does the waxing and tanning and, if he does, does he do it between taking orders for tea??? Not an image I wanted to dwell on I can tell you. You could end up with wax on your cake instead of icing or icing on the parts needing waxing………don’t even mention the podiatry…..eewwhhh.

Whilst delivering our food the waiter was telling us about the business, suddenly a raised voice was heard from the kitchen….he immediately stopped chatting and headed straight back to the counter area. We assumed his wife did not condone idle chatter with customers. He did manage to impart, among other things, that his wife was also a trained podiatrist…….hmm note to self if we go back don’t order anything with slivered almonds……well you never know!!

After morning tea we headed off in search of other shops, namely clothing or shoes. It wasn’t long before we found both. We also took the time to sit in one of the parks and watch the people around us. Young people buying their pints of lager from the pub then finding a spot on the grass in the welcome sunshine to drink the amber liquid, older ladies in their pleated skirts and blazers siting on a park bench chatting. Visitors, like us, choosing strategic places in the park to take a photo. We also spied parking police wandering the street below us booking motorists who dared to go over the 2 hour parking limit. As you can imagine parking in this ancient town is at a premium and very costly. luckily we had a parking sticker supplied with the rental house.

Things were very relaxed and it was so warm in the sun 3 of us decided to have our own little picnic in the park as well. After lunch Ty laid down on the lawn and promptly fell asleep so Darelle and I moved away to a better vantage point. He was happily snoring away people would wander near him, stop, look at bit closer, then give him a wide berth.

Darelle and Maryanne decided to have dinner in…..they were fine dining….a microwave meal from Sainsbury’s Local, we opted for the Fat Badger…..not as our meal but as the place to eat. It was a pub about 5 minutes walk from us. The food was very good, more upmarket than the usual pub.fare. Talking about badgers, the only ones we’d seen were lying on the edge of the road with their little legs in the air. A sad sight but not as many badgers lying around as there are kangaroos at home on our country roads.

Later in the evening we decided we would visit Blackpool, given it’s only a 2 hour drive we will leave Harrogate after an early lunch as we intended to stay in Blackpool for the illuminations – so it’s good night from me.

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Off to Dublin via Gortin and Bellini’s Pub Newry

This morning it was another early start for the trip from Belfast to Dublin via Gortin in Co Tyrone……. Maryanne had ancestors that lived and were buried in this little town and she wanted to visit the graveyard. The town was well off the main road, quite a number of miles along narrow winding roads with hedges very close to the road, no room for overtaking. On several stretches the road was narrower than our car. Luckily we only encountered 2 tractors on these tiny roads, one farmer managed to move over so we could pass but the other had no room which meant we had to follow him till he turned off. It seemed like we crawled behind him for an hour but it was probably only 10 minutes.

The scenery, valleys and hills, was a beautiful deep shade of green, dotted with sheep and cattle and a fabulous looking farm house or manor house sitting on the side of a hill or on top the hill. Just like a scene on a chocolate box. Every so often a field had been ploughed and now stood brown and bare in contrast with the lush green fields around them.

Whilst Maryanne wandered the cemetery looking for headstones, Darelle feed an apple to a cow and her calf in the field next door, Ty wandered the cemetery as well, whist I stayed in the car. Well, it was a very chilly morning!!

Maryanne came back to the car within a short time, I thought she mightn’t be able to find them. “How did you go?” “Did you find them” I asked. “Yes, I did”, Maryanne replied, “but my camera has run out of battery so I need my Tablet”. All sorted off Maryanne went to take the pics. The area was so quiet and peaceful, very relaxing just a shame it was so cold but what graveyard is ever sunny and welcoming???

As we left town Darelle had postcards to send and I thought I’d but a couple of stamps as well. The little supermarket was also the post office. A funny little shop filled with all sorts of odds and sods. On the far aisle in a little office was the post office……naively we ignored the line of people (3 in total)at the register and headed to the post office window….’closed’ sign on the window. Oh well, it’s back to that line up at the front of the store. There were still 2 customers in front of us, we waited patiently for our turn. Finally, our turn came….”is it possible to get a couple of stamps please?” The lady behind the counter nodded as she closed the register, lifted a section of the counter and stepped out into the store. I thought they might hold stamps at the counter, not so. Our friendly assistant hurried to the post office door, unlocked it, turned the light on and asked “where are you sending the letters to?” “Australia” I replied. “Each stamp will be 88 pence” came the reply. As we took our money out she stood up, turned the light off, locked the door as she left the little office and returned to the counter. Darelle and I looked at each other as we followed her to the store counter where we paid for the stamps. By now there were another 2 customers in the store. We thanked her for the stamps and as we left she said, to no one in particular, “I’m rushed off my feet today”. We laughed as we both agreed that in a town that size 4 customers would amount to a busy morning!!

It was now time to find our way out of these country lanes, back to the main road and resume our drive to Dublin. However, it wasn’t long until food was on our mind. It’s been like that for most of this holiday…..breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and, not always last, dinner!!!! There was no morning tea break on this drive, Gortin had 2 businesses that had a cafe sign but we felt they might not know exactly what a latte or cappuccino was let alone serve one that suited our palate – we resolved to drive on and have lunch instead.

We arrived at Newry, on the border between Nth Ireland and Ireland and found a pub that looked interesting, looked more Italian than Irish. Bellini’s was the name of this establishment, not a common name for a pub in Nth Ireland that’s for sure!!

As we stepped inside you couldn’t help notice the intricate timber carvings on the walls and ceilings, the windows were framed by heavy brocade curtains in maroon and gold with large tasseled ties. We chose a table by a window…..not that we had a view but I like a view to the outdoors when I dine!! There was a table of 4 or 5 young people sitting in front of us…..they had lots of empty bottles on the table and food everywhere. I could only see the back of the girls seated at the table but noted they wore fancy hair clips in their 60’s style hairdos. The males would have been late teens, early twenties perhaps and one well dressed males would join the lunching party every 10 or minutes. They were a little noisy but so were we with our chatter and laughter.

The staff were extremely friendly and so were the locals……Darelle went to the powder room and was admiring the woodwork and decor when a woman sitting on a stool at a tall, round table, you know the be I mean, asked f she’d like a tour of the hotel. Darelle came back to our table “Come on, we’re getting a tour of the place while we wait for lunch”. “Who is giving this tour” I asked. “This lady here will give us a tour”. Maryanne and I wandered over but there was no woman there. “Where’s this woman?” I queried as I looked around and saw a half empty glass and a pack of cigarettes on the tall table. “She’s gone to the ladies and will show us around in a minute” replied Darelle. A bit strange, I thought, this customer is going to give us a tour. Next minute out we comes and says ‘follow me’ as the commentary starts….”This hotel was once a theatre and this s the original staircase” Ah that explains the ornateness of the place, Ok, lead on McDuff” I said in my mind. Perhaps it should have been Mrs McDuff……

We ambled through the upstairs, McDuff (for want of a better name, I’m sure she told us but my memory is slipping) tried a number of doors, “no, that ones locked” and then she was off and we followed once again like the mice followed the pied piper. Eventually McDuff led us to a beautiful ballroom all decked out for a wedding, blue and white was the theme (I know you need details – don’t want to leave you wondering what colour the bridesmaids were wearing). As we were leaving the ballroom for the cocktail lounge McDuffs mobile rang. “Hello”, pause whist she listens, “I’m just in town getting a wee something for lunch I’ll be home in 10 minutes” McDuff says into the mobile….imagine this in your best Northern Irish accent as I’m not much good on accents. We were hurried downstairs as she said ‘I hope you enjoyed your look at our wee pub”? “Yes, it was lovely thanks” we three mice said in unison.

We returned to our table and noticed that she was now chatting with our waitress. As McDuff turned to walk away, I assume to purchase lunch for the hungry person at home, our waitress said “Bye Ma”. We didn’t need to wonder who McDuff was any longer!!! She wasn’t just the ‘wee’ lady sitting on a very high barstool drinking ale and chattering to herself she actually belonged to someone and that was good news.

Our lunch duly arrived, I was having a hamburger minus the tomato, onion and cheese. Ty generally says to the waiter “she’ll have a burger with no bun, no meat, no lettuce etc etc”…..he’s such a rude person sometimes……poor waiters often aren’t sure what to say.

I must mention the faux par of my sister ….. the waitress cam to take our order and, as I previously mentioned, she was very friendly, very amiable so we were having a chat. As the waitress started to write down our orders Darelle looked up and said to the waitress “You have black ink on the tip of your nose, you must have accidentally touched your nose with the pen”. We slunk back in horror, (probably an exaggeration) as we could see what is was, and waited to see what would happen next. “It’s not ink it’s a wee mole” replied our waitress and with that she returned to the task at hand. After she walked away from our table we looked at Darelle and shook our heads. All she said was “What”?

Remember the young ones at the table in front of us? Well, one of the males called out “Woman, bring us the bill!” We thought how rude he was and continued eating. Suddenly they all got up and left the table, the mess was incredible, as if a group of pigs had rummaged around the table. Food was squished into the floor all around one side of the table, it looked like they’d hardly eaten any of the food just used it to make a mess.

Darelle watched them leave and said “they’ve left without paying their bill”…..”no, surely not” I said. I looked around and there were no staff anywhere so perhaps they had left without paying.
Suddenly the waitress appeared and looked towards the table then went to speak to another waitress. They had left without paying their bill, they were gypsies so that explained the mess, the way they spoke to the waitress and, of course, the fact they had scarpered when the staff were out of sight. Gypsies have a very bad name in UK and Ireland but are seemingly untouchable. Seemingly untouchable because if, for example, the bar staff had apprehended them they would return at another time and damage the premises. Yes, we’ve all probably been watching the shows My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and it’s easy to forget the antisocial things this group can do if they perceive you’ve ‘upset’ them. But their story or antics don’t belong in this story…..perhaps they’ll be mentioned in another story on another day!!

We’re off to Dublin in the green, in the green …… Sorry I’ve forgotten the rest of the words you’ll just have to carry on singing without me!!!!!

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Swift trip – Dublin to Harrogate via Bangor

The Swift was leaving Dublin at 8.45am and passengers were supposed to arrive for embarkation an hour before the sailing time. As was the norm now, Darelle and Maryanne asked what time we needed to leave the hotel. Ty replied 7am. The groans from my fellow travelling companions could be heard by the diners at the other end of the large restaurant I’m sure. We had moved from the house in Kilmainham to a hotel closer to the port so we wouldn’t have to get up too early but Ty, ever the project manager, would have had us up and at ’em even if we were sleeping in the car at the port. Everyone up at 6am, showered, packed, finished eating their banana (our only food source at that time of the morning) and in the foyer at 7am. Showered in freezing cold water…..we had showered the night before and the water was boiling hot, a great shower. This morning was entirely a different matter …..there was no hot water, not even lukewarm water just icy cold water coming from the tap. Had they forgotten to tell us that hot water was rationed and if you showered at night you wouldn’t be allocated any further hot water until the next evening??? This was not a cheap hotel, it was Sandymount Hotel near Landsdowne Rd and very popular. Perhaps we were just unlucky.

Yes, we were all present for muster at 6.55am, car was packed and we were making our way out of the hotel driveway by 7.05 am. The project manager wanted to have extra time in case we got lost between the hotel and the port of Dublin which was should be no more than s 15 minutes drive. The GPS had been set the night before in preparation for the drive so I couldn’t understand why Ty thought we might get lost but I wasn’t going to challenge his logic…..project managers can be a little odd at times so it’s best just to humour them in these situations!!!

We arrived at the port at 7.15am to be the 2nd car in line for the Swift…..the Ulysses had just commenced losing it’s trucks, cars and foot passengers. Ulysses was due to sail 45 minutes before us. The Ulysses is a monstrous ferry and quite luxurious inside but it’s a slower trip than the Swift, which is smaller. Ty suffers from seasickness so a fast ferry ride is a good ferry ride for him and me, of course. I don’t fancy having to provide him with sick bags, I’m not good with sick people so I was also thankful for a calm crossing.

We had booked Club Class for this trip of 1 hour 55 minutes. Club Class provided faster loading and unloading of the car, also offered complimentary food and drinks. A full cooked breakfast was also available for an additional charge. Magazines and newspapers were available for those who wanted to read. The free WIFI was a little slow but to be expected given we were on a ferry with several hundred others and a good percentage in CC had an iPad, a laptop or tablet with them.

There was an English couple seated near us who had ordered the cooked breakfast and he must have requested a certain type of bread or bread roll because he was complaining he’d received the wrong bread. The waitress apologised and said she’d bring the one he wanted. When the waitress she brought the wrong item again and by now he was becoming more frustrated and louder. He was not a happy chappy……I thought somebody should point out this isn’t a restaurant where you expect 5 star service this is a ferry taking people from one country to another quickly and cheaply. So just accept you were given a different bread roll to the one you ordered….get over it, get on with eating your full English breakfast before it goes cold and becomes a greasy mass. I’m sure sausage, beans and eggs taste the same whatever bread they’re eaten with….I’m not a connoisseur of English breakfasts so perhaps I’m wrong. Can you be a connoisseur of breakfasts??

We docked at Holyhead without further incidents and on time. Our next port of call, so to speak, was Harrogate in North Yorkshire. It was Sunday so we hoped for less traffic than you might come across on weekdays. Not so, roads were busy with trucks, camper vans, cars and caravans….the residents of the UK were on the move. Ah, yes, and the Stobbard trucks were also on the move, Ty was spotting them faster than me and in my haste to spot one before him I was making errors of judgement and shouting out “Stobbard” when it wasn’t so I was losing points rapidly (anyone who read one of my previous tales will understand this).

I’m not sure how many people know or, dare I say, remember the song ‘Didn’t we have a lovely day we went to Bangor’ but it was a favourite of mine for awhile…..don’t know why, maybe because it was a tongue in cheek send up British song (well that’s what I thought it was) to amuse. Anyway, I felt it appropriate to take my fellow travellers to the town of Bangor, Wales, to the Pier for a walk along the pier and a photo opportunity. Of course there’s no Ferris wheel and you couldn’t have lunch for under a pound as the song says – it cost one pound for parking and 50pence to walk onto the pier!!! When our companions realised it cost money to set foot on the pier they said ‘no, we’re not going, we’ll wait for you”! I paid their 50 pence entry fee as we had specifically came to see the Pier ……I’d been here before. This tour does all sorts of things you won’t find on the traditional tourist trail!!!

Bangor is also the town where the Beatles went to meditate with Maharishi Yogi and it has been said that this was one of the ‘nails in the coffin’ of the Band. It was whilst they were doing whatever they were doing in Bangor that Brian Epstein (their manager) committed suicide. This left them without a manager. A little bit of trivia before we step not the Pier!!!

Any thoughts of wandering the pier whilst eating an ice cream left us immediately we stepped onto the pier. It was so cold and windy we had trouble speaking to each other but the scenery is worth the walk. A men who was opening up his little shop saw us all rugged up, me with my earmuffs commented, in his best Welsh brogue, “it’s not THAT cold! Perhaps not for some, but 13 degrees celsius with a wind chill factor of 8 is cold in my book it certainly isn’t weather for wearing sleeveless tops and skimpy shorts as some were!!! If someone told me we were going to Bangor for a summer holiday I certainly wouldn’t be excited at the prospect.

After packing away our gloves, earmuffs and face warmers it was back into the car for the next stop, lunch, somewhere along between here and Harrogate.

Unfortunately before we managed to find a little place for lunch we were on the motorway. This meant we would need to turn off to a town or stop at the Services area. Put to the vote the Services area was chosen. We had stopped at others and they were fine but this one was crowded…..car park was full and inside every area was taken up with people. It was quite grubby but given the number of people around this was probably understandable as they wouldn’t have much opportunity to clean up spills.

What will I have – a hard decision….. there was lots of food choices but it’s what I will eat that narrows those choices. I finally opted for potato and leek soup with a bread roll. It turned out to be a bad choice for several reasons. Firstly I had trouble ordering as when I reached the head of the queue an OAP would suddenly rush forward and demand attention from the cashier, cashier would then serve them, this happened a couple of times before I got his full attention. Of course I couldn’t have my soup straight away one of the 5 people in the back would need to place the soup in the container and then he would deliver it to me. “Right, so how will you find me” I snapped, patience wearing a little thin now, “we’ll if you keep an eye out for me when I come out with your order and then wave to me”. “Of course, how silly of me” I replied. Thinking to myself that he is never going to find me in this crowded food hall……sure, don’t we all look the same after awhile???

Ten minutes passed, the others had their lunch and had almost finished, “this is ridiculous” I said to Ty, I would’ve just left it but it had been a long time since breakfast. That’s it, I went over to the outlet, where I had ordered the soup, to a female cashier standing around and asked for the soup and roll. I had obviously disturbed her rest time because she was not a happy customer service person. Armed with my lunch I sat down at the table took the lid off to find a lot of chunky potato pieces and large slices of leek….not my idea of potato and leek soup……generally this soup doesn’t have chunky bits…..luckily or as usual Ty was still hungry so he ate some of the soup whilst I ate the bread roll!!! I’ll be sure to eat dinner……

As we drove into Harrogate and saw all the wonderful old houses a feeling of terror came over me…….our rental property would be the same…..3 stories high with small winding staircases and our room will be the one in the bloody attic!!!!!

We found the key and opened the front door…………to start our week in North Yorkshire.

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