On our way up to Derby, we had a couple of stops planned.
First, we had to go up to RAF Alconbury to fill up with gas since I hadn't had the van on base since we decided to go out and it wasn't full. Gas was down to $3.50 per gallon. Woo-hoo! (then I got an email from my mom saying it's $2.15 there) As it was past lunch time already, we also ate there. We drove around the base a bit, but there aren't many choices. Commissary, for sandwiches. Pizza thing. Subway sandwiches. Club. Bowling alley. Hmm. We chose the bowlling alley. It wasn't too bad. The only thing was, when they called our order as ready, my BLT wasn't there. So I reminded them nicely, and they made it. But I got all the bacon crumbs instead of actual bacon. So basically I had toast and a little salad with bacon bits. But everything else was fine.
Back on the road.
Our next stop was at Ashby de la Zouch castle. It's an English Heritage property, so free admission for us. This castle was made famous by it's mention in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. Bob thinks there was an "Ashby" in one of his old computer games (return to zork, maybe?). We had to park in the town parking lot, but it was close and not too expensive. Ashby was a big place. The kitchen looks as big as my house. Then there's the great hall and the front room and the VIP room and the chapel. And over on one side is the private castle with its own mini kitchen, great room, VIP room, and lots of closets. The castle grounds used to extend all across the back of town. EH is doing a "haunted trail" thing for Halloween, with little ghost clues all over, but we managed to ignore it. There is an underground tunnel/secret passage thing from the main kitchen to the private castle, and that was cool. Riah was the first one down it, and he impressed me by not being scared at all, though it was quite dark.
We stopped at the gift shop on the way out, and they had little guide books to the free sites (the ones that don't have visitor centers and gift shops), divided by region. They were on sale for 2GBP each, or all 8 for 10GBP. They were out of the Midlands book, so we got two of East Anglia (I figured we'd use one up). And we were on our way again.
Traffic was pretty terrible on the A14, and it was a dead stop on the M1. We got to our hotel about 5:30; checked in and settled down pretty quickly. There was no way we were getting back in the car to find a place to eat, so we ate downstairs.
See, in England, they have these places called "motorway services," so that as you are whizzing along the motorway (or major divided highway) there will be a "services" exit. You go down the ramp (they call it a slip road) and there is a little island with a gas station, restaurant, shop, and hotel. There is one way in (from the motorway) and one way out (back on the motorway); though they are usually built with one for each direction of traffic, there is no way to cross the road from one to the other.
Our side had an "Eat In" restaurant, which advertises "Kids eat free." We figured they meant children, and asked about the children's menu. After a brief consultation, they decided that the choices were chicken or chicken nuggets. Yay. So Taryn and I ordered the gammon steak (ham), Bob got fish and chips, and we got 4 chicken nuggets (3 of which were free). There was a communication gap, as the two ladies working there are from Eastern Europe and didn't speak clearly or loudly. But we eventually got it ordered. We had to pay for ketchup. We didn't get any drinks. But we got more or less full.
Back to the room for more settling in with beds, toilet trips, etc. Naysha coughed all night. Bob was alternately hot and cold, as I played with the settings on the heater. Once, after we were all asleep, Ella started fussing, "Stop it, Naysha! Lay down!" I tried to hush her to no avail, so got up to check. Naysha had rolled over on top of Ella. No wonder she was fussing.
Part 3 to come.