Monday, July 23, 2018

The Trip to Europe Continued (Tenth Post In Total)

One   Two   Three   Four   Five   Six   Seven   Eight   Nine

I missed something from Tuesday night, the night before we headed North in England.  When we drove from Oxford, we were able to return our rental car just under the wire to the Enterprise in Hammersmith, London.  I was so happy to return that car safely after two more days of driving on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the car.  It was also a happy moment, because I wasn't sure how we would return the car the next morning after it opened, and then make it to King's Cross Station from the Hammersmith Station before our train left King's Cross.  We caught a bus that brought up right by our flat.

The next morning we walked to the bus stop with all of our luggage.  The bus stopped, we embarked, and our oyster cards did not work for at least two of us.  We had used them up.  If you have money on a card, you touch a bright yellow card reader on entry.  I wanted to pay the bus driver.  Couldn't.  He didn't take cash.  I had seen people put their credit cards on the card reader, but I really wasn't thinking.  I had not even seen a contactless card in the United States.  Mine wasn't one.  He was growing very impatient, and then a woman stood up and volunteered to run her card for us.  She had to run two cards, one for each ticket.  It was very generous of her.  It was three pounds for two of us.  I handed her the money to pay and she wouldn't take it.

The most interesting part to the story of the woman on the bus is that she was Moslem.  She was a fifty-ish Moslem woman, dressed in Moslem garb.  As she looked at our family, I'm sure we looked different.  My wife and two daughters wear longer skirts or dresses, past the knee, most often to the ankle on this trip.  As different as we were, it was also obvious we weren't Moslem.  She was being kind to a non-Moslem family.  Would we have done the same for her?  I believe we would, because it is something I would do.  Was it a lesson?  I'm quite sure she knew we were American.  There's a lot in the news about the so-called "Moslem travel ban."  I don't know how Moslems look at our country, but she stepped up and made a point.  Her act of generosity doesn't make Islam true, but it for a moment it made life better on earth for our family.  My wife sat next to her and engaged her in a conversation, and as we left the bus at the Shepherd's Bush underground station for the last time, we thanked her again.

Our oyster cards were empty, but we were leaving London and wouldn't need them.  We bought four paper tickets to King's Cross.  This was our first train ride in England.  I had ridden Amtrak maybe four times in the United States and train transportation is just not the same as in England.  Many more people ride train for transportation all over the UK and the rest of Europe, perhaps because of the comparative size and the fact that people drive in the United States.  Driving the car is a way of life in the modern history of the U. S.  Trains are less expensive, faster, and better in Europe.

We arrived early enough to find out where we needed to go.  We had our tickets already and a train employee directed us to our track.  There are 12 platforms at King's Cross.  Platform 9 3/4, a fictional one, from the Harry Potter books, is there.  It's not an actual platform, just for your information, but a sign to give the impression a platform exists.  We were sent to the wrong platform, we waited to get on that train, and someone was in our seat.  It wasn't our train.  We were sent about 6 platforms down, where our train was waiting.  We were traveling to the York station on the Edinburgh bound train.

Even the most economic tickets on these trains are comfortable.  They aren't extravagant, but nice.  It cost us 47.60 pounds for a two and a half our train ride from London to the middle of England.  We four sat facing each other at a table.   Out the window you see the English countryside, except at high speed.   I would compare it to the country in Pennsylvania, as far as green grass, hills, and trees.  All over England are sheep, much more than what I've seen in the United States.  Like everywhere else, everything is old too.  You look out and see very old places all over, which is different than the U. S.  A conductor comes through the aisle and checks your ticket.  A very small cafe on the first deck offers beverages and snacks.

When we arrived in York, the train station was near our "car hire."  We rented a car for one day there at a local place, which was less expensive than the chain car rentals.  I could walk there less than half a mile from the station, and I passed through an archway of an ancient wall to get there.  It was the official entrance into the original city, I found, and the way the queen enters whenever she might visit York, which isn't much, but there was a photo of her in the rental place.  My car wasn't ready, so my family continued at a Starbucks at the station and I walked out to explore.  I walked up some old rock steps to the top of the wall.  This was the original wall of York, some parts of which go back to Roman times.  I walked along it and could easily see the train station from there.

I finally got the car, met my family at the station, and drove to our house.  This was the only night on the whole trip that we got a regular place to stay, but it was still the York Priory Guest House on the fourth floor, almost an old attic by means of a very narrow stair case all the way up.  Our room was the family room, so it had enough bedding for all four of us.  We purchased the English breakfast for three for the next morning.  We got back in the car and drove forty minutes North to Thirsk, UK, where we parked in this small English town near the veterinary clinic of Alf Wight.  Who is he?  He's better known as James Herriot.

My wife and I first came across the books of James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small.  They are wonderful, very humorous multiple volumes.  We didn't know what kind of best sellers they were and how popular they were also in the UK, where they originated.  Then we began watching the BBC series by the same name that dramatized Herriot stories.  The town of his actual veterinary is Thirsk, which is now a museum.  The museum is essentially the clinic set up just like it was when Alf Wight, aka, Herriot, was alive.  There was a short film and one section of the museum showed how the series itself was made.  Just down the road was the church where Wight and his wife were married.  My daughters walked into town and my wife and I went into that church building, an Anglican church.  Every one of these old Anglican church buildings in England are a bit of a museum.  First, they are very old and there is a lot of local history that goes back a long ways.

We met back up in town to have supper at the White Horse cafe for our second and last fish and chips experience.  It didn't match our first, which is the best I've ever had, but it was very good.  An oddity, but also a throw-back for me was our elderly waitress asking us if we wanted bread and butter with the fish and chips.  We said yes, and she brought us white bread, cut diagonally, with a thin spread of butter.  I had not seen anything like that at a restaurant, or even offered, but it sent me back to my elementary, public school cafeteria in a small town in Indiana.  The meals very often came with bread and butter identical to what she gave us.  It was my only connection.  Did anyone else grow up with a public school cafeteria that served white bread, maybe Wonder Bread, with just butter spread on it?  I especially remember it as a side for days you could choose between chicken noodle and chili soup.  It seemed as normal as anything for the waitress to bring that to our table.

Then we drove about 25 minutes to the town of Ripon, a very small one even though three times the size of Thirsk.  We witnessed the country scenery of Yorkshire between the two small English towns.  We went to Ripon to attend Wednesday evening church service at an evangelical Baptist church.  We arrived at least an hour and a half before the service, so once we located the building, we went into town.  We got some coffee at a shop that was just closing right in town, and these people were very interested.  There was a lot of history to Ripon, but they don't get visitors from America like bigger towns in the UK, so they wanted to talk.  If you read the Wikipedia article I linked to, you'll see a lot about the town that is interesting, but they said the city was most known for its hornblower every night once at each of the four corners of the obelisk right in the middle of town.  That night after church, we heard the horn blowing as we were leaving.

I wrote earlier about the church there.  About 15 gathered, including us.  It was a very worshipful time.  We were the second people there and the pastor arrived, who had just retired.  Another elderly Christian man taught out of Ephesians, who I heard later had sat under the ministry of Martin Lloyd Jones, was discipled and married by him.  We sang old hymns, every verse and slowly, and prayed long.  They were in no hurry.  It was how we would have really liked it.  I think we were a great encouragement to them.

We talked for quite awhile afterwards, then left to get back to the York Priory house.  The next morning we would have our second English breakfast.


Joshua said...

Hey Pastor,

I'm enjoying this read greatly. Missing out on Yorkshire was a big disappointment for me on my trip to England, but my tour didn't go there.

I discovered James Herriot when I was in school, but my wife had never read it, so over the course of a year I read her a chapter a night when we were first married. Alf Wight sure had the ability to make you desperately hungry (those descriptions of roast meals!), then roaring with laughter, then have you tearing up within minutes. He inspired me to want to be a vet when I was younger, but the Lord had other ideas.

I'm glad you got to see Skeldale house and for your brief description.

Have a blessed week.

God bless,


Kent Brandenburg said...


My wife and I had a similar experience with All Creatures. We didn't experience that as much as we would have liked, because it was probably our favorite part of the trip, the York, Thirsk, and then Alnmouth parts in the Northern part of England. I like that kind of food. It's comfort food. I like the traditional English food and this was the first time I had it. I'm speaking as a whole. The people are nice in those parts of England too, much better than London. I liked the historical aspects of London, just to see them, but I don't like London itself. It's sad what it has become.