With most of the ports on this cruise — Dublin, Edinburgh, Copenhagen, St. Petersburg — the question wasn’t “What do you do?” but “What don’t you do?” Knowing what to leave off the itinerary can keep you from running around trying to do it all. But that didn’t seem like it was the problem with Barrow-in-Furness, England. Looking over the list of cities in the itinerary, little Barrow in the northwest of England looked like the 100-to-1 bet in the Kentucky Derby. But then there were intriguing bits of information about the countryside providing home and inspiration to both Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, and so we opted for one of the two excursions offered — “A Scenic Tour of Cumbria.”
And scenic it certainly was. Almost worth being crippled for the rest of my life.
My fault, really. I forgot the constant truth of tour buses everywhere, which is that since they’re designed to have the maximum number of buns in seats, they’re designed more for midgets and double-amputees than the rest of us. If my femur had be four inches long and my hips and shoulders able to telescope inwards, it would’ve been fine. Unfortunately, I have not been blessed with either of those mutations, and the 3-hour time in the bus went from uncomfortable to just plain painful.
So the best endorsement I can give to Cumbria is that it was worth the drive. The bus took us up winding roads that wouldn’t have seemed to fit a VW van, let alone two lanes of traffic, and the countryside turned from merely green to downright bucolic. Little English gardens spilled over walls and embankments as buildings gave way to cottages in villages full of jumbled stone. Inside fields blocked off by mossy stone walls, ruddy cows, Clydesdales and fat sheep grazed or laid about in perfect contentment. Calves and lambs capered occasionally while their mothers blinked up at them in the dappling sunshine.
We made our way through many little villages with names like Coniston, Haverthwaite, Ulverston (where a Laurel & Hardy museum pays homage to the birthplace of Stan Laurel) — to Lake Windamere and Hawkshead, where we were allowed (praise be!) to get out and take a 2-hour stretch and stroll.
That was where I took most of the pictures, but as so often happens, they don’t feel like they do it justice. The thing that you can’t show in a photo is that the view is all around you from many different vantage spots. Sometimes I walked down a street and found better and better pictures to take as I walked.
In the end, I finally stowed the camera so I could just take my own pictures in my head, though that kind may be harder to share (and a lot harder to frame!). It was a fine drive in fine countryside, and Greg and I asked the tourguide for the nearest airport so we could consider coming back again.
And I wouldn’t even mind taking the same bus tour, if I ever lose both legs. That might be a very nice consolation.