Saturday, April 6, 2013

Up, Up, and Away

After London, wemy parents and two of our close family friends, Don and Donnarented a car and traveled up into northern England towards York, first visiting the great historical Stonehenge. Though we spent most of the day in the car and nearly froze our noses off walking around the massive stonessun does not guarantee warmth in Englandthe mysterious charm was well worth the trip; I had expected them to be larger, though. (I had a Mona Lisa moment). None-the-less, I was satisfied, as the stones were over 3,000 years old. And that's just amazing. 

On our way further up into England, we sidetracked into a small town were we stumbled upon an extensive plantation now used as a boarding schoola treasure off the beaten path called Stowe. There was something thrilling about exploring small town England, as the little jewels are far greater to the unprepared eye. Advice to the traveler: veer off the busy path and make a few local friends, that's where the real country is.   

Though grand estates and over-sized rocks are pretty neat, I found great joy re-exploring York as a local expert rather than as a tourist. Unlike 2 months ago, my camera stayed in my pocket as I navigated the streets, leading the way to my favorite restaurants, gardens, and cafes while my parents gasped and squealed  behind saying, "I see now why you don't wanna to come home!" I'm not sure when I stopped feeling like a touristthough I never stopped loving and appreciating York. It took mistake after mistake like over-tipping waiters, waiting for servers in pubs, and asking naive questions such as "how much with tax?" (Their tax is already included in the listed price, as it should be everywhere). But somewhere along this adventure, I've moved in, and now I feel like an experienced England-er showing the country off to my family

As we were in York over Easter, the crowds were thick and the traffic was heavy. So, we adventured outside the city center up into North Yorkshire where Castle Howard stands tall and important in the countryside. My history of the building is weak, but I do know the grand castle has been handed down through generations to the current family with 8-year-old twins, and to keep the place running, they cash in money from tourists (just like the castle of Downton Abbey). The castle looks more like a palace, though, as it isn't a great fortress; however, it does have extravagantly carved rooms of marble and stone, decorated with fabric wallpaper, massive tapestries, and painted portraits on the ceilings and walls, and the gardens go on forever, full of fountains, orchards, hiking trails, and monuments. I can't imagine growing up in the elegance of that building.   

Though England feels like home now, I understand that there is way more to see and learnI learned that the English drive in miles-per-hour rather than kilometers-per-mile (which is what I thought they used) and I was introduced to the sweet almond desert called marzipan. I guess we never are local experts anywherewe'll always be tourists in every city until the day we die. 

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