Day 3 of our journey consisted of nothing but travel, which made for a rather long day; a 16 hour long day to be exact. We left from Paris on the Eurostar heading back to London. From the station, we jumped on the tube towards Heathrow where we reserved a rental car. We did this for 2 reasons: a) neither of us wanted to drive anywhere in London (especially because there is a fee just to drive in the city! Preposterous, I know!), and b) it made for a pretty seamless drop off since we were flying out of Heathrow at the end of the trip. Originally, we reserved a small, 2 seater car with enough cargo space for 2 suitcases; perfect for our needs. But that would have been too easy. Instead they gave us the newer version of my car at home; a 5 seater, hatchback. First thought:
This is great! We’re already used to driving this kind of car. It will be easy.
Boy, were we wrong.
As I mentioned previously on Hey There Little Birdie!, both Fella and I have only ever driven on the right side of the road, on the left side of the car, so things were backwards, but we knew this going in. What we did not account for was the narrowness of the roads and car parks. We in America have room to spare, but not you Europeans! You like everything condensed: your cars, your roads, your car parks, your kitchens, your bathrooms, your waistlines…
After leaving the rental lot and getting lost in a parking deck at Heathrow (where we had to pay £6.oo to leave), we hit the open road, and by open road, I mean 5 o’clock rush hour on the M4 outside of London.
Fella did very well as the first shift driver. He only jumped the curb 6 times, cursed about a dozen times (a baker’s dozen to be safe), and rode the rumble strip on the shoulder about twice every half hour. We were driving from London to York (where Fella’s momma resides) which, according to Google Maps, was 3.5 hours, but between the rush hour traffic, the work zones with slower speed limits, and our pit stop for dinner at a services plaza (where I discovered my love for Digestives!), it took us about 5 hours. We made it to York around 9:30pm and found our accommodations fairly easily. But the parking situation was atrocious!
Our options for parking consisted of a) parallel parking on the narrowest street in existence with cars lining either side with the possibility of meeting another motorist head on at any moment, b) a car park behind an oriental restaurant a block away that would charge £25.00 for overnight use and allowed double parking with no attendants present (no guarantee of leaving) or c) another car park 3 blocks away that would charge £11.00 for a 12 hour stint which would leave us lugging our suitcases for 3 blocks in an unknown neighborhood (not ideal).
Since I consider myself a pretty bomb driver, I took the challenge (plus I’m cheap and didn’t want to pay).
Surprisingly Like a boss, I was able to park in the first go (of my second spot attempt, but that didn’t count)! We grabbed our luggage and dropped them off at our digs before heading out to the pub. When in Rome, right…? After witnessing some sort of birthday bash complete with hoards of people coming out of a single restroom and eventually stumbling out onto the street, all the while sipping on our beverages, we headed back to get some much needed shut eye.
The next day (Wednesday), our itinerary consisted of visiting Newcastle where Fella went to university for many years, and since this trip was all about him showing me where he grew up, it was a must. From York to Newcastle, it was about an 1.5 hour journey. Talk about beautiful countryside:
Since we hit the road fairly early, we hadn’t gotten breakfast before we left York, so we stopped at a gas station on the way. Now, I have no qualms with eating gas station food. The key is, you have to be smart. This just means: use common sense. Don’t go for the prepackaged sushi that has probably been there for a week. Don’t attempt any sort of chili that has been stewing in a vat for God knows how long, or worse, comes out of a machine (learned this one the hard way on multiple occasions). I wasn’t expecting much, but at the very least, I wanted breakfast-type food. You know, like a muffin, or a danish, or a doughnut, or some sort of Indian style breakfast burrito (you non-Americans don’t know what you’re missing with Mexican food), but alas, our options consisted of prepackaged sandwiches, bags of strangely flavored chips, and candy. Given my options and my wishlist, I settled on an egg salad sandwich (because egg=breakfast, duh) with a bag of ‘Prawn Cocktail’ crisps and a water (because they didn’t offer tea! The audacity!!)
We took our meager breakfast foods back to the car to cautiously start refueling. After deciding the egg sandwich wasn’t going to kill me, I started on the shrimp flavored chips which oddly turned out to be one of the best chip flavors I’ve ever had (second to the chicken and waffles flavor that Lays put out only for a limited time last year)! So if any of my European readers want to make me the happiest girl in the world and send me a belated birthday bag of Prawn Cocktail flavored crisps, I will forever be grateful (and I wouldn’t mind making some sort of tradsies if there is an American food you just have to have… just sayin’). Fella got the Worcestershire flavored chips and those were not all that and a bag of chips.
I just had too… 🙂
Back on the road, we set our sights on Newcastle. Where in Newcastle? We hadn’t a clue.