Today is May Day, and apparently a reason for celebration in Oxford. The Church Bells were already ringing as Michael left the house to go run at 6:15 this morning. They rang for about an hour. While he was running, he saw men in suits and jesters hats and others punting and canoeing on the river. There were even a few who were IN the river…..remember….this is 6:30 AM.
We walked to the train station a bit before 8:00 and caught our train to Edinburgh. I kept saying that the train arrived there at 4:17pm, but about half-way into the trip we realized that it was 14:17 (ie….2:17). It was refreshing to have the trip be 2 hours shorter than we had expected!!!!
We had reserved our seats on the train and it was a good thing that we had done so. The train was very crowded initially, but then cleared out after about 1 to 1-1/2 hours into the trip. After that, we were able to spread out and have 2 seats apiece. We were in the “Quiet Car” ….they asked that cell phones not be used and that voices be kept low. It was quite peaceful. We also discovered that each seat had an electric plug that could be used for computers, so Michael was able to work for the whole trip.
The train ride was a lot fun…mostly just for the experience of seeing lots of different landscapes. The first thing that hit us was the immediate change from city (Oxford) to rural land. I don’t think that I had realized that Oxford was in the middle of the country.
We enjoyed seeing sheep with cute little black faced and black legged lambs, sheep dogs, cows, stone walls or hedge rows separating the pastures, and the occasional stone house or castle ruins.
We also saw a number of allotment gardens along the train line. These are large parcels of land that are owned by the local government and rented out to individuals for the purpose of gardening. Each person rents a small plot of ground and a small shed for storing their gardening tools. I must say that the ones that I saw were lush, green and well tended.
There were tons of fields growing Rape. It is apparently a new crop over here and the seeds and oils are used for everything from cooking oil to bio-fuel. It is also fairly controversial around the London area because people are saying that it is inflaming their allergies. It is a bright yellow plant (I thought that it was possibly saffron) and the fields are beautiful.
We were interested in the changing landscapes as we traveled. We started out in gentle farm land which changed to hillier and wilder land around Lancaster. After coming over the hills, we entered the Carlisle area which had an industrial feel to it. We had a stop in Preston which had a beautiful train station that was painted with red and green trims.
One funny event…..neither of us had thought much about exactly how we were traveling through England, but had assumed that we were following the East coast. We were VERY surprised when the ocean appeared on the LEFT side of the train. We then looked at the map and realized that we were traveling along the Western side of the country. We have booked our tickets back on Saturday and are traveling the EAST coast this time.
When we arrived in Edinburgh, we caught a taxi to our Bed & Breakfast. It is owned by John and Christine Watkins (she laughed about us being from Watkinsville and said that we were still in “WATKINSville”). They are both extremely nice proprietors and have been super helpful in getting us settled in here. Christine loves to talk and is a steady stream of information about the area. She encouraged us to go out and enjoy the “lovely weather”, so we took the bus into the center of Edinburgh and spent an hour or so walking around and enjoying the views. I admit to not knowing a lot about the city, but hopefully will find out more tomorrow while I am sight seeing.
We went into St. Giles church and really enjoyed looking around in it. They had a huge pipe organ and I was extremely pleased when the organist arrived and started practicing!! It provided wonderful atmosphere for looking at all of the stained glass windows!!!
After dinner at a great Italian restaurant we are back to “Highfield House” and hopefully a good nights sleep!!!
I am having a hard time getting the photos to load tonight, so I will post this now and try the photos again in the morning.