Since there was nothing available on short notice for sightseeing by coach or train and we dared not leave the country again by ferry, I persuaded my husband to embark on a car trip the next weekend. We drove a Ford hatch-back and driving on the wrong side of the road required his full attention and both of us had to stay alert to all the different road signs and highway, pardon me, motorway, markings.
Since road signs weren't necessarily on sign posts it became a game of hide-and-seek to find them, much less follow them. They were often posted on the sides of buildings and it was my responsibility to determine whether they were the name of a business or the street we were looking for. We invested in a Michelin Tourist and Motoring Atlas of Great Britain & Ireland and it was worth its hefty weight in gold.
Road signs were not the only thing difficult to locate. Parking meters were seldom where they belonged either, especially in car parks. We had already acquired a twelve pound ticket in the city centre of Hull while shopping at ARGOS. We misread that one and thought it showed enough time to last till the shops closed but we returned to find a ticket on our windscreen. I wrote a letter asking that the fine be overlooked as we were contributing to UK's economy at the time, but they wanted more so we paid.
We spent the weekend in York where a fair was in progress. Vehicles clogged all the streets and we almost despaired of parking until we reached a square block that appeared to be a grassy park surrounded by parked vehicles. We spied one empty space, fed the meter, and walked about the city, mindful of getting back to the meter on time. But much to our shock, we had a ticket on return even though the meter had not expired. We walked across the street where a shopkeeper stood and questioned why we had the ticket. He asked if we had a handicap sticker on our car and we didn't, but there had been no recognizable signs to indicate to us that one was required. A policeman came by as we were leaving and we explained the situation. He suggested we write the city council, explain, and send no money and assured us we would probably not have to pay the twenty pounds. I wrote and they wrote back that we should pay up or come to court. We paid.
The following weekend I dragged a reluctant husband on another tour, this time to visit the magnificent ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in the Rhy River Valley and more castles and great houses. Driving on the narrow country motorways was less stressful than navigating the dual carriageways and round-abouts of the more populated areas like York and Leeds. And we both relaxed and enjoyed the lovely site of sloping hills covered with grazing sheep and miles of stone fences with jonquils and other colorful spring flowers popping out all over. Our planned agenda included a tour of Duncomb Park (a great house and gardens) but when we entered the gates and drove up the entrance we were told a wedding was scheduled and there would be no tours that day. I was sorely disappointed because this was one of the places I had most wanted to see but there were many other sites to visit along our route so I made the best of it. To a man whose theory was if you've seen one great house, you've seen them all, this was no particularly loss. At noon, we stopped at a car park in Helmsley. Looking around, we saw no pay booth, so we assumed the parking was free. We had a nice lunch of soup, sandwiches, shortbread, and tea. Then we visited some of the shops and found jackets at the Edinburgh Woolen Mills shop. When we returned to our car, you guessed it, we had another ticket. We asked the first person we saw to explain that for us and he pointed to a meter box across the street. Well, how were we to know the meter wasn't even in the car park? Yes, I wrote another letter to the city fathers when we arrived home. And my plea bargaining had improved or this village was more understanding because we were forgiven this sixteen pound fine. I guess one out of three is not bad. But a disgruntled husband informed me the car tours were over and I should schedule our next trip by coach, rail, or ferry or plan a quiet weekend in our flat. So I paid a visit to the Visitors Bureau in the city centre and brought home an armful of travel magazines and spent the week checking on weekend holiday tours.
Join me here tomorrow for a couple of them.