Exploring the Middle Ages   | Travels in the UK   | The Merkat Cross
Online since 1998
About   | Site Map   | Accessibility   | Legal Matters   | Privacy   |

June 22 – Fairytales Can Come True
Morning at Feversham

I awaken with a song running through my head: Frank Sinatra's "Fairytales Can Come True" (it can happen to you, if you're young at heart.) A warm comforting glow lights the room. I stretch like a cat napping in the sun then come suddenly and completely awake. The mental music stops. Today I am going to Fountains Abbey.

Until April 1999 I had been unaware that there was a river in Yorkshire named for me. Okay, it wasn't named for me but it is named the River Skell, and the ruins of Fountains Abbey, a 13th century Cistercian abbey, lay upon the banks. But first, there is Castle Howard to visit.

Our itinerary is comprised of two lists: the "must see" list and the "if we have time list" (which we later change to the "if we don't get lost" list.) Dana and I both have our own personal "must sees" and Castle Howard is at the top of Dana's. I really have no interest at all in seeing Castle Howard. Ruins of abbeys and priories, raided by the Scots in England and ravaged by the English in Scotland during the Scottish War of Independence, make up the bulk of my list.

Weekly online planning chats confirmed that neither Dana or I were opposed to going with the flow on days that we visited the others' list; we were both just thrilled that we had made this trip happen. But as I lie in bed admiring the shafts of sunlight slanting through the window, visions of Fountains and the Skell tease me and I think of Castle Howard as just something to get through until I am rewarded with my river.

I take a peek at the clock and am surprised to see it's only 5:00AM. Breakfast won't be served for another three hours, so I make a pot of tea, scribble in my journal (from which I decipher this, and not easily, now) and organize my belongings for the remainder of my stay at Feversham. Two hours later I hear movement outside my door and find Dana just leaving her room.

We go downstairs and outside to smoke the day's first cigarettes (cough), admiring the urns and troughs filled with bright colorful flowers just outside the entryway. Finally it is time for breakfast – my first "full-cooked" English breakfast. Plates of eggs, sausages, bacon (which is like our Canadian bacon), potatoes, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, toast, coffee and juice cover the table. On a side table are cereals, fruits and yogurts. We thoroughly enjoy our meal, and soon after, in a state of bliss, I climb back up the three flights of stairs to collect my camera and bag for our day out.

It rains off and on (mostly off) as we wind our way through picturesque Yorkshire countryside and villages. Robin has a great road atlas to ease our way. We quickly dub the roads according to the legend in the atlas: The motorways (the M roads) are now the blue roads, the A roads become the red roads, the B roads are yellow – and then there are the "clear roads," roads with, apparently, no name or number and no color on the map.

Over time we come to establish a love-hate relationship with the clear roads. We make some of our most amazing discoveries while traveling them, but they often turn into single track lanes full of rampaging Rover-wielding residents, who seem to know instinctively that we are tourists – probably because we aren't driving 90 mph.

Continue to next page