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Monday, October 22, 2012

No worries in the North....

We chugged into Knaresborough train station over a viaduct and I was immediately taken with this picturesque town. Gareth's college buddy and best man, Kit came along to pick us up and we met Alison back at their gorgeous cottage out in Ferrensby. We relaxed over a drink in the garden, catching up on their lives - me just breathing it in and trying to avoid the bees in the blooming colourful orchard. The air was so fresh, dusk just settling in and I felt perfectly at peace. These were more new people for me - both had been at Gareth's wedding in Canada and very good friends with Beki; yet they couldn't have been more welcoming to me.
 Alison seemed quite at ease rustling up dinner for us - but I bet most people's kitchens don't boast aromas like these. The food was delightful, the company so warm and conversation just flowed. They were so open and it was great to feel like I wasn't outsider; I felt completely accepted and at home after only a couple of hours. We headed to bed early as they had work the next day and Gareth and I were still a little worn out from the night in Manchester. I loved the exposed wooden beams in our room, looking out over the garden - it was the perfect recipe to drift off to a blissful night's sleep.

 Next day we had a lazy morning and we got to take the TransAm out for the first time in our trip. Kit had kindly taken care of it (and it needs ALOT of care) and had it almost shiny and new for our road-trip (It is over 30 years old after all). As we drove through the town, we got lots of admiring glances and shout-outs but the best was whilst stopped at the traffic lights. A boy of about 3 and his gran were walking by and he just halted in his tracks and took in every inch of the car "WOWWWWW," He exclaimed and immediately launched into a story about his Dad's BMW and how it was so cool but NOT as good as the TransAm. Gareth engaged in banter with the little fella asking him if this was the car he'd get when he grew up (bad influence!) and when the Gran suggested that they move on the boy was adamant "No. I want to see it go!"....I was rather relieved we were in a line of traffic as I know if we hadn't Gareth would have torn off at speed to impress the little lad. Adorable though.
 We took a walk down by the riverside where Kit used to work as a student, hiring out punting boats. He still claims it was the best job he ever had.
Gareth then took me across to Old Mother Shipton's Cave - England's oldest tourist attraction. The park also has a petrifying well, where many items are hung and turn to stone - this can be explained by science, but is pretty cool for little ones. Mother Shipton's prophesies are famous - she predicted the Spanish Armada and even air travel - which would have been unheard in the 1500's. We also visited the wishing well - but I can't tell you what I wished for, as then it won't come true. It was a bit of fun - but a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Afterwards we visited the castle looking down on the town, did some gift-shopping, and had a proper pork pie (award-winning apparently) to ease the hunger pangs - we didn't want to spoil whatever Alison was cooking up for us that evening!
Back at the house both Alison and Kit were later than expected home, after a long week, and were both exhausted so Gareth and I coaxed them into eating out rather than slaving over a hot stove at home. Luckily just around the corner is The General Tartleton, a foodie's lucky find! I decided on "A Taste of Duck" with different duck dishes presented together in one dish - it was absolutely delectable. Paired off with some lovely wine and of course the great company once again we had a superb meal, a couple of aperitifs and headed home to sample some of Alison's home-made alcoholic specialities - She's quite the authority on mixing strange cocktails too! I declined to partake in the final one - I vaguely remember we christened a funny name - Answers on a postcard please! We debated about music tastes and covered all subjects and eventually called an end to a fun and fulfilling night. Next morning, a little light-headed we had to say goodbye to Kit, Alison and wonderful North Yorkshire; fantastic memories I'll savour as much as that first dinner in their kitchen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mancunian Exploits

On a scorching hot day in August we landed in Manchester; the start of our UK adventure. After some initial confusion we found Wayne and I think his first impression of me was that the suitcase was bigger than me! Slightly embarrassing - but girls need STUFF for a month away! We sorted ourselves out with booze at the local Tesco and headed back to meet Lindsey. Although I'd met one of Gareth's friends in Dubai, Andy, this was the first set of UK friends I was meeting and I have to say I was a little nervous! I needn't have been; they were so down to earth and welcoming and completely set me at ease (Might also have been the white wine in my hand!). After a few quiet drinks in the house and Gareth regaling them with tales from Dubai and Ireland we decided to head to Canal Street. I was very excited about going out in Manchester; I have great friends from there and had heard great things!! It was a lovely summer's evening so we had a few vodkas by the canal, watching all sorts of unusual people who would never been seen in Dubai. More than once I stood at the bar beside 6 foot women with deeper voices than Barry White. Wayne tried to offend me, which I just found entertaining and I think I received one of the best insults ever when he called me "A tranny from Middle Earth,". I had to high-five him for the thought behind that but unfortunately missed, which we thought side-achingly funny at the time. A few more cheap double vodkas and I was ready to show the camp crowd my singing chops. I'm not sure I was camp enough! A beautiful blonde in staggering stiletto's handed me the mic to do my rendition of "Valerie"; very hazy memories but I did have some lovely (gay) boys following me around for a bit afterward so perhaps I did ok. We wandered through a few different bars, were point blank refused for G.A.Y despite Gareth and Wayne's ardent displays of affection towards each other, so we took a long, long walk to The Venue. I had lovely chats with Lindsey along the way, whilst the boys hi-jinxed along the streets of Manchester. The Venue was brilliant - what I remember of it - indie tunes, double vodkas for a pound, much chaotic dancing. Obviously The Venue thought so too as they published this, unknown to us, on their Facebook page!!
Definitely my kind of place! We had more long walks around Manchester to find a McDonalds, but Wayne insisted on carrying our bags and coats - I had to grab mine back when my Dubai-acclimatised skin started to chill. We ate some disgustingly cardboard food (good to know some things never change anywhere in the world) and finally fell into a taxi around half past.....Half past what I don't know! It was a wonderful welcome to the UK for me, and I definitely have to have another night in Manchester when I get the chance! We gratefully fell onto the blow-up bed and passed out only to be woken by the smell of bacon sarnies. We wanted to move these two to Dubai - never mind have them just visit! Wayne even dropped us into town to have lunch with some of Gareth's former work colleagues. I was really hungover and definitely couldn't face a lunchtime drink before we caught the train through the Pennines to North Yorkshire. Big thanks to Wayne and Lindsey for such an epic night!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Drop into Dublin....

Mum had expressly warned me not to get back to the house in Dublin before them; she is committed to having a spic and span house when anyone comes to visit and Gareth was no exception! So, as we drove into Dublin we decided to see if we could fit in a showing of "Ted" to our packed schedule. It was on our list as films shown in the U.A.E get shredded by the censors so we really wanted to catch it on our "tour". We weren't disappointed! I'm sure I don't have to tell many people that it was the film of the summer. Back to the McBride Madhouse of Merriment and Gareth met my lovely little sister Nickki and her boyfriend, Dave. We all sat down to dinner (Gareth couldn't get over the fact that we serve more than one sort of potato - well it is Ireland!) and a few vinos. Both my parents are pretty good in the kitchen; something I have yet to inherit but am hopeful comes with age. So the food was great, the conversation lively but around eleven I started to flag - maybe it was the 5 hour drive, the constant drinking, the over-exertion in general but everything shut down for me at midnight and I had to go to bed, leaving Gareth in the capable hands of my parents to feed him Spanish liquors and whatever else was going in our little kitchen of wonders. On Tuesday I wanted to show Gareth our Dirty Ol' town of Dublin but he was loathe to get out of bed; he had indulged til the early hours with Mum and Dad and I was pleased he had made such an effort with them so I let him sleep a little longer. We headed into "town" as we call Dublin City in the late afternoon and decided to take in a little culture by way of St. Patrick's Cathedral. It is 800 years old, a stunning example of a period architecture and also houses burial chambers for many marked figures of our history. It was home to Jonathan Swift, author of "Gulliver's Travels" as he was Dean of the Cathedral in the 1700's and it also held the first ever performance of Handel's "Messiah" in 1742. I'm not sure how interesting Gareth found it, although he seemed engrossed at the time, but I really enjoyed it - I love a bit of history now and again. At this point I was getting hungry - and I can be quite a nightmare when I'm not fed. We stumbled across "Corfu" on Parliament Street and definitely thought some tzatiki would go down well. Thankfully restaurants in Dublin seem to have adopted recession-buster menu's so we ordered a 2 course earlybird with a glass of wine for 10euro each - not bad! Corfu was a real find, the feta cheese parcels melted in our mouth, the meatballs were really tasty - all in all just a really lovely meal at a great price. We then moved down to O'Donoghue's on Suffolk Street for a catch up with some of my friends. Cilla, a friend from college, arrived in first, as usual regaling us with tales from school and home. Shortly afterwards Kerry arrived in with a little shriek of delight when she saw me. We ended up with my cousin Al, my sister Nickki, Dougie, Cathal (Kerry's husband) and a few pints whilst the Olympic boxing took place on the tv. After a few hours we decided to find somewhere with music and show Gareth some other great bars in Dublin. On this we failed...miserably. We took him upto the Dakota on South William Street, which used to be one of the hippest places in Dublin but was like walking into an empty cavern that night! By this point I was hungry again so Gareth tried to bribe the barmen by any means possible to rustle up some food (the bar food had finished about 2 hours previous). The best they could come up with was a pear. Gareth proffered said pear to me, I took a bite out of it and threw it back (playfully!) - the bar staff were not amused! Apparently it could have been used for cocktails; I'm pretty sure they weren't going to get asked for any more cocktails that night - we were the only table occupied in the bar. My wonderful boyfriend was fretting about me wanting "chips" so he took to the unknown streets of Dublin to find some for me. Unfortunately he returned empty-handed so at that point we headed to Bob's diner for some garlic cheese fries - lucky him getting to sleep with me that night! It was lovely to see everyone but disappointing we didn't get to see a quality band, usually found all over Dublin on any night of the week. That was the end of our Irish trip - it had been alcohol-fuelled and full of new experiences; I was so glad to have shown Gareth a few new things for his list, and how well he'd been received. I think the general consensus was that Irish women quite like a man with a beard and Gareth's great around parents!