Wow, what a holiday!

Stefano and I returned from England almost a week ago, last Saturday evening, but since then I’ve had a million things to do, not just heaps of laundry, food shopping, and the usual household-related stuff (cat litter, cat this, cat that, cat everything!), but also getting together with my girlfriends, a very important part of my life!, AND planning my English lessons for next week.

I still  need to fit my sessions at the rehab center into my weekly schedule. These are the workouts I still need to do both for my shoulder AND for my tendinitis, which actually behaved incredibly well after the first week or so on holiday. No pain, I mean, and I think my shoulder’s movement range has really improved…back to normal, possibly? Stefano thinks it still needs some work, so I’ll leave it up to the physiotherapist.

Oh, speaking of Stefano, he and I, together with our beloved next-door neighbor, are going to start taking Pilates classes together, just the three of us, in our living room (the last time I took a Pilates class in a nearby gym, I came down with some sort of flu bug…lots of germs in gyms, best to avoid for those of us with impaired immune systems!), starting next week. Hey, we’re all getting older, and Pilates is easy and low impact…at least at the level we’re at! Plus, Pilates, at least the way we do it 😉 , is a lot of fun…

Anyway, lots to do, busybusybusy…

But I do have a bit of time right now (note: I began this post three days ago…!) to tell you about our holiday. Very VERY nice. Stefano and I still haven’t been able to decide which part of the holiday was the best. The three areas we visited (Peak District, Lake District, and Whitby), in fact, are just too different…so it’s difficult to find a winner, but I did manage to come up with the following list…my own personal thoughts (not Stefano’s, that is)…

The winner for “beauty”: the Lake District. We visited all the main lakes, Windermere, Ullswater, Derwentwater, etc., but the last one, Wast Water (photo on right and above photo, too), a glacial lake with transparent water, surrounded by mountains, the deepest lake in the District, has something magical about it. Absolutely glorious. Gold medal, for sure. If I’d worn my bathing suit that day, I’d have gone for a swim. But, unfortunately, we hadn’t thought it would have been warm enough to do more than dip our toes in the water. Stefano didn’t even bring his sandals! (I did.) Oh well. I did take a photo of my feet (in my Teva sandals) underwater…The water is so clear, you can’t tell if my Teva-ed feet are actually underwater…

The winner for “fun”: the time we spent hunting for fossils on the beaches around Whitby and Sandsend, Yorkshire coast. More about this further on. Fantastic!

The winner for “historical interest”: one of the Peak District’s villages, Eyam, known as “the plague village.” In the 17th century, this village lost 260 (I also read 267) of its inhabitants to the plague in a period of 14 months. That amounts to more than THREE QUARTERS of the entire village. Impressive, eh.

It all began with a bale of cloth that was sent from plague-ridden London to Eyam. The cloth was infested with fleas carrying the plague. The tailor’s assistant, George Viccars, opened the deadly parcel and hung the cloth to dry in front of a fireplace. The consequences of this act were devastating. George was the first Eyam inhabitant to die of the plague on September, 1665. He lived with the Hadfield family in the so-called “Plague Cottage” (see photo on left, above and below). Every single member of that family came down with the plague and died, with the exception of the mother, Mary…

But the extraordinary part of Eyam’s plague story is that, albeit a bit reluctantly at first, as can be imagined!!!, the entire village decided that it should quarantine itself (remember, we’re in the 17th century here!!!). And so a circle of boundary stones was set up, surrounding the village, and nobody, not even those who didn’t show any symptoms of the plague, was allowed in…or out. An amazing gesture of self-sacrifice that spared the lives not only of the inhabitants of neighboring villages but probably saved the entire north of England from contracting this deadly disease.

Stefano and I walked outside Eyam to see and photograph the famous Boundary Stone (above photo and, on the left, a closeup), where food and other supplies were left by merchants and neighboring villagers. In return, the unfortunate residents of Eyam left coins inside the holes that you can see in the photos. The holes were filled with vinegar, thought to be enough of a disinfectant. Apparently, there are other boundary stones, but this is the most famous one.

On the sign next to the Stone, I read the touching story of two lovers: he, Rowland Torre, lived in Stoney Middleton, a village very close to Eyam. She, Emmott Sydall, lived in Eyam. I quote from the sign: “At first, Rowland would visit Emmott in the village, but when they realised this was too dangerous, the lovers would arrange to meet secretly but at a distance, minimalizing any risk of Rowland contracting the disease.” Apparently they could see each other but weren’t close enough to chat. In April, 1666, though, Emmott stopped coming to these meetings.

Rowland didn’t lose hope but continued for months to go to their meeting place, and he was one of the first to re-enter Eyam “when it was pronounced safe towards the end of 1666.” But, as expected, Emmott had died…in April, in fact. So sad, eh…!!!

Another “dropping off supplies” site is Mompesson’s Well, which is high up on a hill, rather far from Eyam, well, “far” in terms of walking distance. We visited that, too. During the plague, the villagers of Eyam dropped coins (as payment for the food, etc.) into the water, thinking they would be “purified” from the plague.

Anyway, if you go to the Peak District, you MUST go to Eyam. Very very VERY interesting. Very good tearoom in the village, too!

Close runner up for “historical interest”: the Neolithic Castlerigg Stone Circle, above photo, near Keswick, Lake District…This is one of the earliest stone circles in the UK, probably some sort of meeting place, but what it was actually used for still remains a mystery. Beautiful setting, as you can see, with 360-degree views of the countryside.

We went back there twice…just couldn’t take enough photos…Incidentally, it wasn’t as easy as it looks to get a photo with just the stones, that is, without any people in it…It’s a favorite place for people to go for a picnic, walk their dogs, take their children to play, etc. So we had to wait…and wait…and wait…No tourist crowds, though. I had the impression that most were local residents.

The winner for “took my breath away,” literally!: Stanage Edge, Peak District. Quite a climb for me, at the beginning of our holiday when I was still in a bit of pain from my tendinitis. But, oh, the views…Terrific. It’s not surprising that Stanage Edge was used in, as far as I know, at least one of the “Pride and Prejudice” movies (not my favorite one, for sure…but…). Anyway, after that rather steep ascent, noticing how much my walking stick helped me on the rather unsteady ground and rocks, Stefano decided to buy himself a walking stick, too…He loves it! 😉

At one point I was standing on top of a rock, taking in the view and taking photos, when a head popped up right at my feet and exclaimed, “Well hello there!!!,” giving me such a start that I almost lost my balance. Very amusing…well, I suppose that if I’d lost my balance and fallen off that rock, perhaps it wouldn’t have been so amusing. ;-) Yes, Stanage Edge is a popular place for rock climbing, as you can see in the first SE photo…

The winner for “cutest animal/s”: this is a difficult one, but I’m going for the sheep, which were everywhere, not just munching grass in all the fields but also strolling about in the roads, often stopping traffic. In the Lake District, there is a particular breed known as Herdwick sheep. I became a bit obsessed with trying to take a good photo of at least one. I think I was relatively successful with this sweet little lamb who hadn’t been shorn like his mother, I suppose because of the chilly temperatures. Isn’t he (she?) adorable?

I was also impressed, especially in the Lake District, by the number of people with dogs, dogs of all shapes and sizes…dogs everywhere. And you could take your dog anywhere, even in stores. There were quite a few dogs in our inn, too. Very dog-friendly areas. I approve, of course. At times I would just sit on a bench and enjoy watching dogs fetch balls from the lakes or the sea…Fun.

Note: during our entire trip, I never saw one single cat, not even sitting or lying in a window. Evidently, these are mostly dog areas…?

Let’s see…what else can I tell you? I think the best thing to do is give you a few snippets of things that we did. Here goes…

An  adventure in the…Devil’s Arse: I almost got stuck, no no no, I am incredibly serious…literally STUCK!!!, inside Peak Cavern, also (lovingly, hehe) known as the Devil’s Arse. Well, that Arse almost got me! I was the last member of the group to bend down and almost crawl through a very low spot, and I didn’t realize until it was too bloody late that I was on the lowest side of the passage, the right side. About halfway through, I realized that I could barely move…I couldn’t go back, couldn’t go forward. My knapsack was up against the ceiling of this low passage. I admit, I almost panicked. Stefano had gone ahead and couldn’t see that I was in a bit of trouble.

Finally, I put my hand down in the mud and crept slowly over to the left side. That worked. I managed to “unstick” myself and was able to join the rest of the group. A bit scary, though. For that reason, I didn’t visit the Treak Cliff Cavern, even though it had much more appeal to me than the Peak one. Stefano went into the Treak Cliff Cavern, though, and took enough photos for the two of us, while I waited in the museum and gift shop area, which had absolutely beautiful Blue John stones and jewelry (see photo above, taken in the museum).

York Shambles: the Shambles, allegedly the best preserved Medieval street in the world (hmmm…), is located in the lovely city of York. The main appeal for us is that it was the inspiration for Diagon Alley (Harry Potter). Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones to be aware of that: the Shambles was absolutely jammed with tourists.

I went inside the three “Harry Potter” shops, especially The Shop That Must Not Be Named, see photo (sign’s on the left…You can park your broom right outside the shop, hehe, cute idea…), and of course I bought a few things for us and a few gifts for our cat sitter, who is the only other TRUE Harry Potter fanatic in my acquaintance.

As for the Shambles, apparently you can touch both sides of the street if you stand with your arms outstretched, but, because of the crowds, I wasn’t able to verify that…

Whitby: we spent three full days in this very pretty coastal town on the Yorkshire coast, famous mainly because it was used by Bram Stoker in his “Dracula.” Lots of Dracula references in Whitby…

Anyway, on our first day there, we took the steam train from Whitby to Pickering and then back again, and that was fun (our first steam train trip ever), although I expected the scenery to be more spectacular, to be honest. But we enjoyed stopping at Goathland Station and taking photos of the bridge that was used in the first Harry Potter movie. Actually, the entire station was transformed into Hogsmeade Station, for those of you who have read the HP books and seen the movies. Oh, yes, I know, I know, stop it, Margaret, with all the HP stuff! Okay, I won’t even post a photo… 😎 

On our last day in Whitby, with its very interesting ruined Abbey (photo on right), I read that the entire surrounding coast is Jurassic…and that you can find 150-million-year-old FOSSILS right on the beach, if you’re lucky. Well, even though the best period to find decent fossils is in the autumn after a heavy storm, we set off anyway on a fossil hunt, which is always fun, even if you find…absolutely nothing (which happened to us in fact on the Jurassic coast in Dorset years ago…we looked and looked but found nothing except a pile of rocks, some of which we brought home and are still unopened, sitting on a shelf in my study…).

Well, surprise surprise, this time we found what we consider to be some really good fossils on two of the beaches near Whitby! Yes, a REAL fossil hunter would probably scoff at the fossils we found and toss them back onto the beach, but we were soooo  excited and happy with everything we found…mostly ammonites. At one point we had so many that we put the broken ones we’d found in the beginning of our search back on the beach. Here’s the photo of one that we brought back with us…

An official sign stated that if you find fossils ON the beach, you can keep them. What is absolutely forbidden is hacking away at the cliffs, which we would never have done in any case…but I did see a young couple encourage their little boy to hit the cliffs with a hammer. I went up to them, such a busybody, eh!, and asked them if they’d found anything (they hadn’t) and if what they were doing was “okay” (obviously, I knew that it wasn’t). The mother answered that she was a resident in the area (as though that made it OK, hello???) and that normally she wouldn’t let her little boy use a hammer on the cliffs, but today she’d made an exception. Hmmm. I left it at that…But I’m sure my face expressed my disapproval…

Anyway, as I mentioned, the fossils we found were right on the beach, under the cliffs, possibly discarded by the serious fossil hunters. Since it was all perfectly legal, we brought a few of the best ones back home with us, to Florence…

Chasing balloons: at one point, on one of the fossil beaches, I noticed a white balloon flitting about, unattended. I began chasing it, as did a woman nearby. During the chase, we exchanged our thoughts on balloons, which can be summed into this one sentence: balloons are VERY BAD for sea and land animals. They kill countless numbers of turtles, dolphins and other animals that mistake them for food, for jellyfish, e.g…I mean, it’s simply outrageous. Oh, and balloons are also a total waste of helium. Anyway, for all those reasons, balloons should be BANNED all over the world. No more stupid releases of balloons into the air. We need to find a less noxious way to celebrate festivities. Anyway, she and I reached the balloon together…She popped it and went off with it, since I was still walking ahead, whereas she was about to leave the beach.

We visited so many places that it’s hard to list them all, from Chatsworth House and marvelous medieval Haddon Hall (Peak District) to Hill Top House (Beatrix Potter’s home in the Lake District…by the way, this photo shows one of her original drawings, on display in the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead).

We had sticky toffee pudding (well, many of those, to be honest, hehe, as we always do when in the UK) in the place where it was invented, now how about that?, that is, the Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel in the Lake District. Best sticky toffee pudding I’ve ever had…And I’ve had some very good ones!

We also ate in one of the UK’s best fish & chips place, named for the 2019 National Fish & Chip Awards (it didn’t win, but…no matter). Best fish ‘n chips we’ve had so far, and, again, we’ve had A LOT of those, too, believe me.

On a rainy day, in a small and quaint village in the Peak District, we stood in line in front of the Grasmere Gingerbread shop, a tiny shop where you can buy yummy (world famous) gingerbread made from a secret Victorian recipe. Mmmmh.

We also visited a few ruined castles, namely Brougham Castle (I climbed up to the very top, to the third storey…well worth it, but beware of the slippery steps, hard to see in the darkness!). And then, the Lake Distillery (make sure you go on a tour…our guide was excellent, although her, er, accent was difficult for me to understand at times)…And let’s not forget the beautiful scenery, plus all the adorable villages we visited (Straithes. see above photo, Cartmel, etc.), all the waterfalls, such as Aira Force (I walked all the way to the top of that waterfall and stood on the bridge, looking down)…And, and, and…Oh my, we visited so many places that it is impossible to list all of them…!

In short, we had an excellent, diverse holiday. And now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get back to work. But…for a few weeks, it was simply absolutely wonderfully lovely to forget about myeloma, to forget about the blog (yes, even my beloved blog), and, especially, to forget about Facebook, which I’d leave in a second, to be honest, if it weren’t for the fact that I have a Page there for my blog that might be helpful to some users…eh.

Anyway, off I go. I hope everyone is doing well!!! Ciao ciao ciao for now!!! Take care!!!