Email from June 23:
We had a lovely day today, but it didn't go nearly at all as planned and did include some major disappointments. Our breakfast was delicious in Harrogate. We were spoiled again by being the only people in the house. We drove to a Park and Ride and Rode into York in the morning. We walked around the town, saw the Shambles, and went into the minster. I don't remember seeing the downstairs display all about the Norman Church and Roman town whose remains are both still visible under the minster. Apparently in the 1960s the main tower of Yorkminster was in danger of collapse because it was built on the foundation of a smaller Norman cathedral (which itself was built over the old Roman fort where Emperor Constantine was baptized) so there was a big reinforcement effort. It was pretty fascinating. Also, the one thing we've seen happening on this trip that we wish we'd known about: the York Mystery plays! The York minster was all set up as a giant theatre space with bleachers of seats on the other side. Mystery plays were traditionally stories from the bible told over a whole town over a whole day. Each group of laborers would perform a part of it: the boatmakers would do Noah's ark, the bakers would do the loaves and fishes, etc. Well, they've taken a bunch of old scripts, modernized them and condensed them into one 3.5 hours mystery play from the creation to the passion and then the judgment. The sets and props were displayed in corners throughout the abbey and from what we saw, it looked very visually spectacular. There were giant balloon planets, a whole bunch of very elaborate animals, a giant tree, etc. It would have been cool to see. Alas.
After we got back on the bus and into the car, we raced off to Northallerton to go to the North Yorkshire Records Office with ample time before they closed. The problem with SATNAV and tiny villages is that it's so hard to tell you're going the wrong way until you're too far off the path! We were enjoying our lovely drive until we got to the end of the satnav directions and instead of being in Northallerton we were in Hull. Come to find out, we were nearly an hour off track, now too far from the records center to be there before closing.
At this point I was really, really mad. I have a whole list of things to look up in the Spennithorne records and then we were going to drive over to Spennithorne and look around the gravestones. Why is the family history the only part of this whole trip to go wrong? SATAN! UGH.
After finally pulling myself together, we realized we were close to the coast. So, we drove up the Eastern coast, stopped in Whitby, climbed its famous 199 steps up to the Church, and sat on a bench and ate our Marks & Spencer Sandwiches on a bench overlooking the sea. It's a lovely old fishing town with a harbour full of boats and brick homes lining the banks up the hill from the water. It was beautiful.
Then we called our host, told them we would be in shortly past 8:30pm. They were very kind, said it was no trouble, and then we drove right there. We're in Shotley Bridge now staying in the attic of a lovely couple that are retired Pub owners. They ran a nice pub, they said. No swearing, no TV, no food. It was a "talkie pub" where they served their own homemade beer. When we arrived, they sat us down, offered us a cheese platter, some cheese scones and some wine. We had orange juice instead. (They said we'd have been no use to them at their pub since we don't drink and they didn't serve food.) We were up talking to them until about 10pm at which point we finally came up here to figure out the plan for tomorrow. I really want to try to go back down to Northallerton, but its about 3 hours round trip (4+ if you include actual searching time) and we have to return the car by 6 in Edinburgh (and they actually close). So it's really not looking likely.