Friday, 21 July 2017

Another Year, Another Reunion

This time it took place in Hull, City of Culture 2017.

Hull town centre
We would not normally have been able to make it had there not been an eclipse due in August, but due to my desire to see a total eclipse first hand and also due to the fact that it was going to pass very close to TS’s (The Son’s) abode in Kansas, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss and most of the family involved agreed. So, not being in the USA in June, off we went to Hull. The hotel we were booked into was the oddly named Lazaat hotel a little way out of Hull and that was our first destination.
Driving up was easy, being a Sunday the roads were free of most of the larger vehicles and for a change, there were few roadworks, although the lower part of the M1 had a 50mph stretch.

Once there we gathered in the hotel meeting old friends as they arrived until it was time to eat. After the meal, our group organiser had arranged for a local lad to give a talk on the history of Hull. What the poor man did not seem to realise was that firstly no one but the organiser and his wife had ever been to Hull and secondly that we were all professional presenters, and he was not. Although we were too polite to mention what a crap performance he made, it was not completely uninteresting and we were able to find some of the places he was talking about whilst we toured around the town the next day.

The next morning we set off for Hull town centre, where we parked in the Princes Quay Shopping Centre, a modern shopping mall with a car park that has no barriers or ticket machines but works by number plate recognition. We had taken two of our crowd with us, to save the number of cars being used and we all decided to head for The Deep.

We had been advised to take the road train, which is a hop on hop off tourist guide. This takes you in a circular tour that included The Deep which is an aquarium and we decided to hop off there.

 The commentary on the road train is canned and aimed at the average four year old with an interest in historic buildings that look like owls. It was very loud, so everyone could hear you coming and get out of the way of what was obviously a bunch of tourists. The ride was interesting both from the point of view of the commentary, although ear plugs would be useful, and the state of the suspension of the train. Every time the train went over a speed bump, there was a lurch and then a bump followed by another lurch as each carriage went over it.
The building that the road train commentary claimed looked like an owl
At one point we all had to join in a singing competition, which set each coach load of passengers competing against each other. Unfortunately whilst the canned commentary was aimed at three coaches, that particular day only two coaches were attached. So the singers in coach two seemed to be strangely quiet all the way through the competition. We separated from our two passengers, arranging to meet up around four PM. From the Deep, we walked back into town, since it meant waiting for about forty minutes for the train and anyway it was a nice day and no obligation to sing on the way.

 Hull is an interesting city with a lot of odd buildings that have been spared the demolition man in a random sort of way. Of course, one of the demolition men was a German called Schicklegruber or something who took a dislike to whole buildings in England on general principle. Hull claims to be one of the most bombed cities in England and did suffer a disproportionate number of casualties during that conflict.

One of the interesting features of Hull is Holy Trinity Square, outside Hull Minster. Several flag stones have a very shallow pool of water over them to form a reflecting pool at intervals all across the square.
One of the reflecting pools in Holy Trinity Square

 After walking around the town centre for a while, we took the road train and stuck with it until we had done the entire circular tour. By that time it was around four PM and we made contact with our passengers and we all headed back to the hotel.
That evening, instead of eating in the hotel, we all went to Papa’s Fish and Chips, a really good fish and chips restaurant, which is much more than just a chippy. It is a little way out of Hull, on the A164. The meal was one of the best of its kind I have had for some time and well worth a visit if you are in the area.

On the second day we returned to Hull without any passengers this time. In town we walked to the museum quarter where there are four separate museums, one of which is a trawler, the Arctic Corsair. After doing just one museum, we were pooped and ready for a sit down, well I was anyway. So we had a sandwich in a local cafĂ© and then once recuperated, we walked into town to the People’s museum. This is centred on the two world wars and was quite tiny, consisting of a single room inside a shop. After a short look around, we encountered a man sat at a computer who asked the Better Half if she had any relatives who served in WWI. Since her grandfather had been one of the fallen in WWI, we then spent an informative half hour being shown various records, including his grave in Amara.

 Our last visit was to see the smallest window in the world. This is in an hotel and must have been impossible to see if you did not know it was there. There are various legends about what it was used for, from avoiding the press gang when they were in the area, to spotting when a coach had arrived at the hotel and getting ready to receive guests. Without the plaque it would be dismissed as a deep slot between two bricks and never recognised as a window.

The vertical slot is the window
That evening, we went to eat at The Humber Bridge Country Hotel, which is in Lincolnshire on the south side of the Humber. This meant that we had to cross the famous Humber bridge, which is a toll bridge but not as expensive as the Severn crossing.

The hotel is set by a lake and is a really pleasant spot with views across the lake from the dining room.  The meal was really nice, but there was some problems with service, since they did not have a full staff on duty for reasons beyond their control and some meals were a bit delayed.  However, the meals were worth the wait.

The view of the lake from the hotel
On the last day, we said our farewells and headed off for home under the most appalling conditions. The motorways were saturated and there was dense spray, particularly around lorries, so the journey was not as relaxing as the journey to Hull.  On top of that, we heard on the radio that the M42 was blocked, so we kept on the M1 and went home via Oxford.  There is not a lot of difference in mileage, but the M1 had a 50 mph limit most of the way to our turn off.

Besides that, we encountered four wide loads at different times along our route, which caused the traffic to bunch up and slow down on each occasion. When we finally got home, I started to come down with a cold and for the next few days was as weak as a kitten and did not feel much like doing anything but sit and feel sorry for myself.  It was not such a bad cold, but it seemed to knock me sideways, probably a result of getting old. As a result, this blog post is a bit late and has formed a queue as other events have piled up which are worth blogging.