We’re cramming Heysham, the Lake District, one injury, and rental car hijinx into a single post (because Jo is a lazy, disorganized human), so it’s a long one. Grab a cup o’ tea, tell the kids to take a hike, curl up on the couch, and prepare to read until your eyes turn to Jell-O! Or you can just look at the pretty pictures. 🙂
The Highs and Lows of Traveling Solo
One of our favorite memories from the Highlands is driving. Just driving. Navigating the rolling hills and nearly empty winding roads, my head out the window and sneezing into the wind, the fields that smelled vaguely of honeysuckle, and the music of Enya from Lord of the Rings oozing from the speakers as we drove towards the sunset. And, now and again, Jo and I giving each other looks of pure contentment…
Until Jo hit a pothole and almost drove off into oblivion.
For me, I don’t think life really gets much better than that. 😀
* View from the train, leaving the Highlands and heading to Edinburgh
But it was time to head to our next destination: Edinburgh, Scotland! Wait a second, you’re thinking. But the title says Two Stooges in England, not Scotland. Very keen eye, reader!
Due to poor planning on Jo’s part, she didn’t realize the Fringe Fest was going to be taking place shortly after our arrival to Edinburgh, and everything was pretty much sold out or way out of budget room-and-board-wise. So we opted to stay for a mere week until we could figure out where to hang out for a month before heading back to Edinburgh.
* More views from the train as we left the Highlands
* Quaint lil train station
On the train to Edinburgh, Jo and I chuckled to ourselves as we overheard a group of senior Scottish siblings interacting with each other. One of the brothers busied himself by chatting up a lovely young Englishwoman, while the other brother and sister busted his balls for yapping her ear off.
Jo couldn’t help but burst out laughing at their witty rapport. One of the sisters said to Jo, “If he knew you were back here, you’d be next!” To which the flirtatious brother chimed in, “Oh, but there’s still time!”
Yet another amazing train ride! Finally, we had arrived at the busy Waverley Station, and Jo immediately learned a lesson about taxi ranks/queues. As in, she had no idea what the hell they were. Naturally, hilarity ensued with Jo and I and two pieces of luggage chasing a taxi down the road in the rain, but we quickly figured out the system and made it safely to our flat.
We stayed with two med student girls who were bright and bubbly, and left us breakfast on the kitchen table each morning.
We spent our afternoons hiking in Holyrood Park, sampling strawberries and macaroons at the Farmer’s Market in front of the castle, and sipping tea while looking out at Arthur’s Seat from our bedroom window as one of the roommates played Liszt on the piano.
All was going well the first few days until I climbed one too many stairs and mountain goated from one too many boulders in Holyrood…and I pulled a muscle in my back.
I guess I’m not as young as I think I am. I was in excruciating pain. Like excorcise the demons kind of pain. Labored breathing, writhing across the bed to find a comfortable position, and snarling when Jo touched me to try and locate the source of my pain.
Basically, I was Sigourney Weaver when she was possessed by Zuul in Ghostbusters, and I kept asking Jo if she was the “keymaster.”
Needless to say, Jo didn’t find me making light of the situation funny at all. Luckily, she still had some pills on hand from my last injury, which dulled the pain enough to make it bearable. Barely. As careful as Jo was, I would still yelp sometimes when she picked me up. So we decided to convalesce for a month in the quiet place of Heysham, England, near the Lake District.
* Off we went to England! I felt like a chewed up piece of rawhide…but I still enjoyed an English breakfast on the train. 🙂
After arriving in Heysham, we picked up our rental car…and cue Murphy’s Law!
It was not the car Jo reserved. It didn’t have sat nav. Jo’s phone wasn’t picking up the Airbnb address where we were staying. And I was in pain again. But the car folk were nice enough to throw in a portable GPS for the car….which was in Polish. And Jo couldn’t figure out how to get it in English. And now we were running late, and Jo had a work deadline to meet!
So we made a haphazard guess at plugging the address into the GPS…and inevitably pulled into the wrong damn driveway. Surprisingly, Jo has never had the displeasure of backing out of a driveway that’s just big enough to store some Matchbox cars and a Barbie mansion, into oncoming traffic.
“No problem,” Jo said. “I’ll just do a three-point turn and drive forward into traffic.”
Except the driveway was surrounded by brick walls, and every time Jo pulled forward, backward, or turned slightly in either direction, the proximity alarm in the car would go off. “It doesn’t look like we’re that close. I don’t understand why it’s saying we’re going to hit the wall.”
Thanks to technology, Jo no longer trusted her own damn eyes. She listened to the beeping’s instructions, stopped and started, creeped and inched along…and eventually found herself stuck at such an angle where a clean escape from the driveway was no longer possible.
She backed into a tighter spot in the Highlands with no problem, so how the hell was this happening?!
There was only one way we were getting out of there. Jo would have to fashion a shiv out of her toothbrush and saw her arm off to free herself.
Too extreme, perhaps. For a brief moment, she thought of those humans who exhibit supernatural strength in times of extreme stress, and she thought maybe, just maybe, she could lift the car up and straighten it out.
Instead, she just ripped the proverbial Band-Aid off and turned a bit, pulled forward and drove out of the driveway, all while the car shook hands with a good portion of the brick wall, metal screeching and popping in slow motion, and Jo nodding and waving at a group of people waiting for the bus across the way, their mouths agape. I slumped down into the seat and covered my face with my paws, pretending not to know this crazy human.
Then Jo quickly and quietly killed any and all witnesses to the incident, and we casually made our way to the correct house.
Getting out of the car, Jo feared the worst and hoped for the best. “Just because it sounded like a robot being disemboweled doesn’t mean it’s going to look like that, right, Penny?”
I gave her the thumbs up. But then I remembered I didn’t have any thumbs, so it looked more like my paw was saying, “Up yours, Jo.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” she said, a defeated look clouding her face.
Jo turned and assessed the damage.
Well, it certainly didn’t look that bad to me, but by her reaction, you would have thought she had run over every baby animal known to man!
“Fuuuuck!! How did this happen?! My credit card said they would cover stuff like this. But what if they don’t?! I can’t afford this! I’m gonna be sick. What if you didn’t just pull a muscle, Penny?! What if you slipped a disc? What if you end up paralyzed? What if I have to put you to sleep? Shit, damnit!”
And just like that, it was clear this Quentin Tarantino outburst had little to nothing to do with the car at all.
We settled into our temporary home, and Jo called Gma and Gpa, breaking down into tears, convinced that something more sinister was taking place in my body.
As our photos have shown, there have been so many fun, amazing moments on this trip. But the heavens don’t open up and rain down dog biscuits and penis lollipops every day, as fabulous as that would be. 😉 There are no photos that show all of the stressful, scary moments. The stressors of long-term travel and planning, worrying if we’re going to have a place to stay (we’ve been turned down multiple times because of the fact I’m a dog), as well as wildly fluctuating paychecks and currency exchange rates.
Now my injury was weighing upon Jo too. She feared maybe this trip was too much for this old crotchety dog, and she couldn’t bear the thought of me being disabled or dying. This adventure was as much for me as it was for her, but she wondered if I was now telling her that it was time to go home. Jo was reminded yet again that she must handle all of these factors and stressors flying solo.
And she realized for the first time in a long time that she missed having a loved one by her side to laugh away the craziness with her and say, “Hey, tomorrow’s another day.” She missed the simple act of hugging someone. Anyone!
Even though we’ve met so many wonderful folks along the way, traveling alone is still isolating at times, and Jo struggles to connect with people. She’ll go to make eye contact and say “hello” or “good morning” to someone, and that person will look away or play on their phone. Awkward and frustrating don’t begin to cover it.
I, myself, have forgotten how to properly interact with other dogs over the years and am still in training to not be a complete and utter Cujo whilst walking in a park.
Maybe if we were staying in hostels and surrounded by other solo travelers, we’d have better luck at connecting. But we haven’t found a hostel yet that will either allow a dog at all or allow a dog without having to pay out the ass.
Do any of you other solo travelers experience similar difficulties as above? Besides acting like Cujo in the park, of course. 😉 What are your tips and advice?
In any event, after a trip to the vet (turns out it was a pulled muscle after all, and Jo tried to
steal buy these adorable inflatable fleas at the vet’s office…but no dice!), pain meds, and three weeks of some much needed R&R, I made a full recovery, and we drove off to the Lake District to get some hiking in.
* Enjoyed some reading and dreaming…while watching my buddy, Ron Perlman, and eating popcorn!
* Poshcorn…this really says it all. 😀
* Finally, I told Jo I was healed and ready for more adventure!
Kendal Castle, Lake Windermere, and Castlerigg Stone Circle
So off we went about a half hour north of Heysham, to the ruins of Kendal Castle! It was practically a vertical incline climbing up this hill, and Jo and I thought we were going to blow an artery from all of the exertion. But we made it! And the views of the town below were worth it.
* I was more interested in all of the bunnies running amok. I imagined the bunnies donning chain mail and ruling over the castle at night. The hill was covered in their poop…and I thoroughly enjoyed rolling in it.
* Kendal Castle was built in the 1200s, probably so some rich arsehole could host orgies away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk who slaved away below
* I look like a real estate agent. Dost thou liketh the damp, mossy look? An open floor and roof plan? Well, do I have a sweet deal for thee!
Next stop was the World Famous 1657 Chocolate House! Ironically, built in the 1630s, not 1657. Houses a floor of chocolates (but of course!) and a little restaurant upstairs. Jo took a shortcut through an indoor mall (usually no dogs allowed), and the superintendent on lunch was nice enough to walk us right towards the chocolate house. 🙂
As I wasn’t allowed inside the store, Jo tied me up outside, and I looked on forlornly through a window, putting on my best Oliver Twist face. Jo didn’t buy it.
* After the chocolate house, Jo didn’t realize she had to pay for parking at a different machine inside the parking structure (she thought she could pay at the exit gate). She tried to leave the parking garage to no avail and had to signal to the line of cars behind her that she needed to back up. Jesus, Jo. Thankfully, everyone was nice about it. 🙂
* Next stop was Castlerigg Stone Circle, about an hour from Kendal and nearly all the way at the top of the Lake District. But we took a wrong turn and, instead, went down a road towards The World of Beatrix Potter, author of Peter Rabbit. We saw a stop-off with a trail and just had to investigate! Turns out it led all the way down to Lake Windermere. Now this was a charming lil town I could see us living in!
* Lake Windermere!
* After relaxing at the lake for a bit, we headed back on track to Castlerigg Stone Circle
* There are more than 300 stone circles in Britain, but the majority of them are from the Bronze Age. This bad boy (97-1/2 feet in diameter, with 38 stones from 3-1/4 to 7-1/2 feet tall) is from the Neolithic era, constructed around 3000 BC! And only one of two to exhibit a rectangle of standing stones within the circle. Well worth the drive to see this in person!
* I was centering my chi here, becoming one with the Earth. Really, I was keeping an eye on the suspicious-looking sheep grazing nearby. Their poop was everywhere! And I did not enjoy this poop like the rabbit poop. I tripped over it, and it scared me.
* Jo nearly killed us pulling off the road when she caught sight of this amazing squirrel sculpture. As much as I love chasing squirrels, I may have met my match in this giant.
World’s Oldest Sweet Shop and Hiking Brimham Rocks
* Another day, we headed about 2 hours east of Heysham to Pateley Bridge, Harrogate, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park…another charming lil town lined with shops and nearly impossible to find parking spots. We circled the area 3 times before finding a spot! And the streets are so narrow in some areas, we had to drive on the sidewalk to make room for other cars
* Not just the oldest in England…but now officially the oldest in the WOOORLD! Giving young and old alike cavities since 1827. You can find all sorts of sweets here, including rhubarb and custard bon bons, milk teeth, coconut mushrooms, chocolate mice, and even retro drink concoctions such as dandelion and burdock cordial
* After Jo went into diabetic shock from all the candy, we drove just a few minutes away to Brimham Rocks, formed 320 million years ago, eroded by wind, rain, and ice…long before dinosaurs ever walked the Earth! Humans and dogs have free range to hike and climb all over this place, but Jo kept me on lead out of fear of re-injury. Ho-hum, Jo.
* Even Peeny joined us for this adventure!
* The balancing Idol Rock
* The Druids Writing Desk
* The Dancing Bear…which looks more like a dog if ya’ ask me.
On the way home, we spotted Toft Gate Lime Kiln, pulled over to check it out and hiked up to Coldstones Cut and Quarry. The Cut is Yorkshire’s biggest and highest public artwork.
* I don’t want to be the one to state the obvious…buuut the Coldstones Cut looks a bit anatomical (photo via nidderdale.co.uk)
* Coldstones Limestone Quarry
The day we returned the rental car, we spent a rainy morning at Williamson Park in Lancaster, just a short drive from Heysham. Over 50 acres of trails, fountains, a butterfly house, and the Ashton Memorial, built in the early 1900s by Lord Ashton in memory of his second wife.
Geez, nowadays you can’t even get a guy to throw his dirty socks in the hamper, let alone expect him to erect a building in your honor. 😀
* The Ashton Memorial – I wonder if Jo will build a monument to me??
* Just a reminder to stop and smell the flowers!
* There was a gang of ducks headed towards me here, and they looked like they were going to cut me. It was West Side Story all over again! I half expected them to break into song…”I want to liiive in A-mer-i-ca!”
* Another day, we hiked around Heysham, the town where we were staying. We walked the seaside promenade and visited the old downtown, a place full of 17th century cottages and St. Peter’s Church. The area is also full of Anglo-Viking artifacts (see photo below)
* Hogback Stone at St. Peter’s Church – these types of stones are generally accepted as grave markers or monuments to the dead, this one being from the 10th-11th century…Viking times, baby! (photo via Wikimedia)
* Detail of carving – this side reportedly depicts the very weird Legend of Sigmund, one of seven brothers condemned to death by being eaten alive by wolves. His sister saves him by covering him in honey. The wolf licks Sigmund clean, then goes to put its tongue in his mouth. Sigmund declares, “Not today, muthawoofer!” and bites the wolf’s tongue clean off!
The other side of the stone shows Yggdrasil, the mythical tree that connects the 9 worlds of Norse cosmology and depicts the Legend of Sigurd, famed dragon slayer! (photo via Journal of Antiquities)
* St. Peter’s Graveyard
* Hippest dog in England, me thinks. 😉
* Ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel. The chapel, rock-cut tombs below, and surrounding site all vary in age…but it’s safe to say they’re really, REALLY old.
* Jo could’t figure out why she was taking such crappy pictures, until she realized her wide-angle lens was dirty. Brilliant!
FUN FACT: The above graves are actually pictured on The Best of Black Sabbath album cover.
* singing * Peeny on my shoooulder makes me haaappy…
* Of course we had to bring Peeny along for the hike to continue our Adventures with Peeny and Penny!
And that wraps up our adventures in Heysham and the Lake District of England! Thanks for hanging in there, readers. 🙂