Monday, January 09, 2006

From the Equator to Snow and Back Again

Happy 2006! We spent the holidays in the UK. We promised Cooper cold and perhaps snow, and delivered on both. We have a copy of the Daily Mail to prove it, with the headline SNOWBOUND! Except we weren't snowbound, thanks to some happy accidents.

The snow didn't start until Boxing Day, which of course is the day we rented a car and left London for points north and Scotland. We didn't care- it made the scenery beautiful and since we both learned to drive in snow and spent years driving on the left side of the road in Australia, we didn't really have any trouble. We stopped for the night in Leeds, then York, made a side trip to Thirsk to see the "James Herriot" stuff and then headed to Edinburgh. About three o'clock, the roads iced up. And I mean right now. We were basically out back of beyond and came up to a roundabout (traffic circle) where a car had flipped onto the center island and was in the process of having its occupants cut out as a helicopter waited to airlift them to hospital. Eek. As we exited the roundabout we were about sixth in a line of cars slowly making their way up a slight incline, all of us losing traction and skewing slightly with the effort. It was starting to snow heavily. Ted said,

"I saw a small hotel back in the last town we just went through, what do you think about going back there for the night?"

Being unwilling to take over at the wheel and knowing we were 90 miles from Edinburgh and 90 minutes from darkness, I told him that would be fine. Best decision we ever made. The B&B was The Duke Of York and we got a lovely room with a nice fluffy bed, a soft comfy rollaway for Coop and a very nice pub and dining room. The people who owned it said there was 90 miles of basically nothing between us and Edinburgh except a fairly high mountain pass that would surely have been snowed in completely within the hour. Sometimes Ted is SO smart. :-)

We took a long walk in the snow which thrilled Cooper who stayed outside to build a snowman on the The Duke of York's patio while Ted and I ducked inside to warm up and have a pint. Or two.

It snowed all night and most of the next day, but we took a more westerly route and dodged the dangerous roads.

Edinburgh was one of our most favorite cities ever. A truly ancient city, just soaked in history and atmosphere. We could have spent a week there and not done all we wanted.

As we headed back toward London for New Year's Eve (Hogmany in Scotland seemed like too much for us this trip), the weather got even worse on the East Coast, but we didn't see so much as a flake of snow the whole way back on the western side of the island.

New Year's Eve we got a room on Trafalgar Square and joined a couple hundred thousand of our closest friends at Big Ben to ring in 2006. It was a neat experience but we have NEVER been in a crowd that big and don't intend to ever do it again. Cooper remarked that he now understood how people are trampled at soccer games. Hopefully he got his fill of mega-crowd events too.

After that we left for the Cotswolds to see Bath and Stonehenge. Both are very cool- we spent hours at Stonehenge listening to a very good audio program and circling the stones slowly while soaking up what it must have been like there 5000 years ago.

And just like when we returned from Amsterdam, it was a relief to get off the plane in Accra and enter our warm little corner of the Earth. We hadn't been out without coats and hats and stuff for more than two weeks and our feet were screaming for sandals so they could breathe again. Of course Duke was waiting for us at the airport with a big smile and the closed up house wasn't even terribly awfully hot.

So Ted went back to work today and Cooper is back to school Wednesday and we're waiting to see what the New Year brings.