When we planned this trip, we thought it would be in the glorious summer weather. Wrong, it was wet and miserable as we set out about 8.30am on the Wednesday morning.
Still, we made good time and arrived at the first stop for the day at Springfields Outlets at Spalding. Karen almost ran from the car to the M&S store and in particular their clearance section which today had the offer of an additional 50% off their clearance prices. Even I succumbed to buying a couple of things at almost 90% off their original prices.
We both had poached eggs on sourdough in the garden centre for our lunch before wandering round a few other shops. Our final stop was at Café Nero to top up Karen’s caffeine tank before our next drive.
It was then time to meet up with Karen’s sister at a Garden Centre near to her home in Alton. In mileage terms it wasn’t too far but the roads in Lincolnshire are incredibly worse than Norfolk and it took us over an hour to get there.
Karen was very pleased to catch up with Debra and I think she was pleased we had made the effort to see her. She is still working stupidly long days 7 days a week trying to keep the cinema in Mablethorpe afloat. She was happy with the terrible weather as it drove more customers into the cinema. After a couple of hours though, she had to get back and we left her to start on the 2-hour drive to our hotel in Harrogate for the next 2 nights.
We put the address into Waze and headed off. One of the things about using these apps is that you don’t get to see a high-level view of the direction you are going, nor the places you will either go through or see. We were therefore somewhat surprised to find ourselves in Grimsby at one point.
On our drive I concluded I could still see no point in Lincolnshire. It is worse than Suffolk as at least that has nice places like Southwold and Bury St Edmunds. I still think we should just let the sea reclaim Lincolnshire and use the money saved on sea defences protecting places in Norfolk instead.
Our original booking of a hotel was at Wetherby services but then I had found an offer on Travelzoo for the Harrogate Inn in Harrogate. For only £10 more per night, we were promised a newly refurbished Hotel, £40 credit towards dinner and a full English breakfast each day.
It didn’t get off to the best start though. The car park was not signposted and we sailed past the entrance which was down a side alley next to the hotel. The car park was small, chaotic and full. I managed to ‘create’ a space for us. It was then a maze to find the reception which for a bizarre reason was part of one of the bars. Then we told it would be £10 a night for parking. I was not happy and said so but decided to let it go for now.
Everywhere had been nicely refurbished as advertised except the lift didn’t work. Fortunately, we were only on the first floor. The room itself was very acceptable and after dumping our bags we headed down to use our dining credit.
The bar and eating areas were lovely and the staff were very proud of them. All the staff were very young and we concluded they probably all under 18 so they could pay them a smaller minimum wage.
I went to the bar to order our food. My first choice was unavailable, as was my second. As we settled in our seats to have our drinks, I was then told they had run out of my third choice as well. I was starting to get a bit concerned. The food when it did arrive though was fine though.
Back in the room Karen wanted to watch the news. The TV signal was not strong enough for BBC1 and so we had to resort to ITV. Definitely not the best of starts for the Hotel.
Breakfast the next morning turned out to be help yourself despite being advertised to the contrary and was actually not that bad. We were in no rush but were back in the car heading to York for the day at 10.30am.
The drive took about an hour. Parking in York was expensive and so I had looked at using the Park & Ride but the last bus back was 7pm and we knew we would be later than that. So, through JustPark I had booked a spot on the Sainsburys Car Park at Foss Bank at a reasonable £6 for 12 hours. We arrived and as instructed parked on the upper level ignoring all the signs advising there was a 2-hour limit and to display your parking ticket. I was somewhat nervous that we would return to a screenful of parking fines.
It was a 10-minute walk to the Minister and the weather was damp. I could not believe the number of tourists everywhere the closer we got. It was like being in London. The paths were chaotic, but generally there was a nice atmosphere. We peered in a couple of shops en route and arrived at the Minister. We have never been in it and we still haven’t. There was a large queue to get in and it wasn’t moving at all. But what put us off finally was the £16 entrance fee. I wanted to have a quick look round, not have a personal blessing from the archbishop. Actually, the only thing I really wanted to see was the ‘Blue Peter’ boss that was installed after the big fire. It will have to wait until we can find a back door to sneak into.
I am not sure about churches charging for admission. Presumably if you want to attend a service then you are not charged, or do you pay and then reclaim it from God? There was a sign saying it costs £23k per day to keep it open. That is a stupid amount and I would respectfully think they should look at their overheads again. We were not the only people turning away when we saw the ticket price. Places like this should be free but with a heavy emphasis on voluntary donations.
Instead, we wandered down the Shambles and other narrow streets, generally acting like typical tourists. The only shop we went in was a classy Christmas shop but we almost choked on the prices.
It was then time for a break at one of the Café Nero’s where we sat for a while. It was there that Karen found she had an email saying that the M&S sale started today. So, after hurrying me along we went in search of the York store. It was a bit of a Tardis as it was much bigger outside than it looked from the outside.
After Karen had checked out all the bargains, we bought some sandwiches which we ate outside on a bench on the pedestrianised street whilst listening to a talented young busker singing songs like Nessun Dorma.
Eventually we wandered further around the outdoor market and other streets before deciding we needed another drink. We found another Café Nero, used more free vouchers and tried to plan what to do next. We concluded that as Karen had never been to the National Railway Museum to walk the 1 mile to it. The fact it had free admission had no influence on our decision!
The trains themselves were fairly interesting. We saw Stephenson’s Rocket, The Mallard and The Flying Scotsman. More interesting were the artifacts and miscellaneous items like old Station Signs. Sadly, we only came across this area just as the museum was closing and so we had to hurry through.
We ambled back to York Centre where we waited for a while by the river waiting to meet up with Karen’s brother Kevin for dinner. Karen was pleased to see him in what is now his home City.
Firstly we had a drink at Thor’s which is a pop up bar outdoor in the City centre, We then walked to dinner at Rustique which is a French style chain restaurant, but not one we had been to before. Both the food and service were good and we all had a good catch up.
Kevin walked with us back to the car park and as we did so it started raining. We left him to go into the car park staircase that we had come down only to find it locked. We walked to the entrance and walked in. As we did so we were called over by a security guard who told us the car park was shut. I said I had booked until 11pm but he said the car park closed at 8pm and he was only still there as he was running late. He told us to walk up the slope to get our car. We did so but found that we couldn’t get up to the very top where our car was.
Karen was now in panic mode as she was worried, we were now locked in the car park, not able to get to our car or get ourselves out at all. Back on the ground floor though the security guard was still in his car. We explained we couldn’t get to the car. He then asked if we had parked at Sainsbury’s which we said we had. He then explained that we were in a different car park and that the Sainsbury car park was built on top of this one and completely separate. With great relief he told us that their car park was accessible 24 hours and how to get to it without going through this car park.
It was a dark dismal wet drive back to the Hotel. Again, I had to block some kitchen doors to be able to find somewhere to park.
We headed to the Hotel bar. Before leaving this morning, we had agreed to forgo having our room serviced today in exchange for 2 free drinks. As we sat drinking them, I said to Karen that I had no belief that in the process of registering for the offer of drinks and that I reckoned our rooms would still have been serviced. I was proved correct.
For our last morning we enjoyed our cooked breakfast again before checking out. Overnight I had checked our booking and the Hotel website, neither of which mentioned a car park charge. Very politely I mentioned this and they quickly agreed to remove the charges, which I was pleased with.
I then moved the car into a now vacant proper spot before we had a quick walk around Harrogate, the highlight for Karen was another M&S store with the sale to check around. Harrogate itself is a nice place but unless you visit the Pump Museum there isn’t much to see in the Centre itself. After using another Café Nero voucher, we decided to start the journey home.
The journey was not fun. It was raining much of the way and there was roadworks every part of the drive along with far too much traffic. It took about an hour longer than it should and we were glad to finally get home.
The next trip is only 10 days away, so stand by your blogs.