Having arrived at Sheffield by train, I proceeded to collect my things while Lindsey, my girlfriend, stood outside wrapped in her warm jacket looking around for me in the windows. It was somewhat funny because as I lugged my heavy junk off the train she still didn't see me. So I snuck my way over and waved at her until she saw me. Then I got a hug for my efforts and all was well.
A moment later and we were heading for her mother's car where her mother was waiting. I half expected there to be a confrontation of sorts, but there wasn't. This was good news of course (except the part where she was just putting on a happy face and instead was saying lots of horrible things about me behind my back, but so be it).
So we left Sheffield, with Lindsey and I in the backseat holding hands and generally making other people sick (get over it, this is us and we're cute and cuddly, so ha!). Then irony struck. We were talking about the car, which was a Ford (why they have Fords in England is beyond me, but they have them...I thought English folks had better taste in cars...), and how Fords are crappy cars in America. Her mother remarked that her car never had any serious problems and then--duh duh DUH!--the car starts smoking. The good news of all this? Lindsey and I got to walk for a bit in Sheffield while her mother called for assistance. The other good news? Nothing was actually wrong with the car (nothing serious anyway, just some run off from the radiator), but it was still incredibly humorous that just as we were talking about how crappy Fords are in the states and how her car is good, the car decided to break.
Anyway, so we're going to skip ahead of getting to Lindsey's house and getting me checked into the hotel (the Brecon Hotel, which I would recommend if you stay in Rotherham simply because it's like a real house and sort of cozy even though it's sort of a cheap place. I really liked it, but that's me).
Okay, so day one went well enough. There was lots of nice things between Lindsey and I (cuddling and what not that is necessary for the salvation of mankind). Jet lag hit me that day, but not in ways that you'd expect. Yes, I got a little tired towards the end. I slept a bit on the plane over the ocean, so I was well prepped for England time. What killed me was the change over for my natural bodily cycles. What I mean is going to sound nasty, but tough: bowel things (going potty in any form). The problem is that I'm used to a certain time schedule for things, so when I'm suddenly thrust into a new environment where the light is different, my body started weirding out and gave me a good talking to, which sounds gross, but it wasn't that sort of talking. Think of it more like "hey, I don't feel good, just so you know" sort of talking.
I won't go into any other details, but after I slept I was fine, for the most part. The next day Lindsey and I decided to go to Conisborough Castle, since the one thing I really wanted to see (other than Lindsey of course) was a castle. This is probably my favorite castle of the three I saw because it just looked like a real castle. What I mean by that is that it just looks like it would have been used for defense since the walls and the keep are separate and it clearly has the build of a castle that could sustain a real medieval battle.
So we went there and it was awesome as you can see from these pictures:
After that things do get a bit fuzzy. I think we watched some Simpsons that night, but I'm not entirely certain. I know there was lots of mushy stuff, but since I said I wasn't going to really talk about that I'll leave it out. So, what I will talk about is some of the other stuff I got to try, in no particular order, as I'm not sure the order they happened in (though I imagine that my pictures have dates and could tell me, but I'm too lazy to really look).
One thing we did was go to the Blue John Cavern, which is in Castleton (Derbyshire). If you don't know what Blue John is, don't worry. Most people have never even heard of it. Blue John is a sort of precious gem/rock/crystal thing. I'm not sure how to describe it, so here is a picture of two forms it comes in:
Basically, it's rare because it is only found in this one string of mountains. Apparently it was discovered by a coal miner who, as it turns out, was possibly the worst coal miner in history since he never actually found coal...ever. What he did find was Blue John. The interesting thing is that it is quite valuable, but not nearly as valuable as gold for the following reason: nobody really knows about it. Yup. Apparently the folks who have been mining it really haven't taken the time to create an effective ad campaign to boost sales. They only mine so much of it each year, on purpose, and it seems to me that if people started to desire it the value would go up exponentially. Maybe that's what they are trying to avoid.
In any case, the mining resulted in actually opening up some natural caverns that had been created from underground rivers. You can see in the following pictures the kind of neat things we found (including some sort of plant that was growing in the dark):
The caverns were quite fun, actually. I've seen caverns before and there wasn't really anything "impressive" about these caverns, but there is something neat about being down inside a mountain and stuff. Plus, there was a point where the guy turned out the lights in the cave and Lindsey and I snuck a little snog while everyone was blind (*insert giggle here*).
Once out of the Blue John Cavern we decided it would be a good idea to go check out Peveril Castle, which sits above Castleton. It's mostly a ruin, as you'll see from the pictures, but I still find it impressive in its own right. Apparently it was built primarily as sort of head quarters for managing the laws in the area (in specific: forest law). While it is certainly in one heck of a strategic position, it seems to have basically succumbed to nature rather than battle. You should look up a diagram of the castle to get an idea of just how cool it is. They even built this bridge across the ridge where they kept a small walled town (or resemblance of a town). Here are the pictures of that (the castle and all I mean):
There was also a neat church. I took some pictures of the gravestones because my mother has a thing for graves (something to do with hunting down history and what not). Here the pictures:
Now, of the things that I had to do beyond seeing castles (of which I saw three) I had to have a good taste of English food. I'm told it is supposed to be "not so great", but really, it wasn't that bad. One thing that Lindsey's mother made was a "full English" breakfast which was pretty decent. The only thing I would never try again is the black pudding that came with it, which is a delicacy of sorts in the Yorkshire area and is made from pigs blood. Yeah, I'm not having that again. One thing about the food in England is that they have the best bacon EVER. I mean it. I had some at the hotel and I about died from my own saliva. It was that good. So, England = damn good bacon.
I think I'm going to intentionally leave out all the bits about shopping, mostly because there's no point in mentioning them here. We went to a place called Meadow Hall, which is probably the largest mall I have ever been in, which isn't saying much considering there are malls in the states that have roller coasters in them that I have never been to. Still, it was fascinating to go in there. As a result I bought some books, because that's what I do regularly. We'll discuss those in the after thoughts of this whole thing. For now that's the first half of the journey, leaving out, of course, the vast majority of the mushy stuff (such as the kissing, the snuggling, the cuddling, the silly whispered sweet-nothings, and other things likely to cause many of you to vomit). And with that, I think that's it for the first half of the trip! Sorry about this being so late, but I've been hit with a lot of personal stuff of late. More pictures to come!