Today was delightful. We began by taking a rather precarious drive toward Buttermere (south and west of Keswick) in search of a hike we'd heard about in the Newland Valley. The hike did not disappoint. The view of the valley below was stunning. I remember not being all that obsessed with hiking as a kid - Iowa is pretty, but the hot and sticky weather in the summertime was uncomfortable and I didn't enjoy it at all. I learned to love hiking in the Lake District. The weather is generally pleasant and cool, the views are incredible - what's not to love? It felt good to be back on the trails (even for a short time) today.
The bulk of our day was spent exploring Keswick. Keswick is a great little town, full of hikers and their dogs. Rick Steves describes Keswick as looking like the Westminster Dog show. I've not noticed this before, but I definitely did today. We had a lot of fun watching the owners and their dogs wander around - it was like the first scene of 101 Dalmatians. Many of the dogs were really friendly - one dog we saw near the Newland Valley this morning wouldn't leave us until we'd properly greeted her. I love a dog that craves affection.
We began our time in Keswick with a trip to the Wild Strawberry - a tea shop that I love. Tea and scones are, of course, a must. After tea we wandered around the city, stopping in shops that looked interesting. Some highlights include a chocolate shop (where I spent far too much) and a used book store (same story). The used book store is one of my favorites - I always find something great and the owner is really nice. This time around I bought Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd and Dickens' Little Dorrit. This, incidentally, brings my total book number up to seven. My poor suitcase. We're only half way through our trip! (My library is going to be beautiful, though. . . )
We also walked over to Derwent Water lake - calm and peaceful as ever. Last time I was here we took a boat out onto the water but the rain that's persisted since we got here seemed to be on its way again so we opted out of that in favor of taking a trip up to Castlerigg Stone Circle to try and beat the rain. We weren't entirely successful - it was pouring by the time we got there - but it was still worth walking around. I like Castlerigg. The setting of the stone circle is particularly lovely. Granted, the first two times I've been, it wasn't sharing space with a herd of sheep and all of their poo. This time there was a lot of both. Ah well. 200 miles worth of hiking gives you 200 miles worth of poo-dodging experience, and clouds give pictures some drama and mystery. Weather prospects are supposed to improve for the end of the trip.
It's a good thing too - our time with the car (christened "Fezziwig") will end tomorrow as we arrive in York. We'll spend a bit of time there, then head off to London for just over a week of a mad dash around the city, trying to catch as many museums as we can. The pace of our holiday will shift pretty dramatically. That in mind - we've decided on an early night tonight. We're all curled up in the living room of Applethwaite, watching the news and writing letters home. It feels so normal - it's easy to forget that I'm half a world away from home. Even looking at pictures of things I've done just hours ago feels somewhat disconnected from reality. I need someone to constantly pinch me and remind me that, for now, this is my wonderful and glorious reality.