My travel diary is relatively empty under the 18th and the 19th, except for the things we’ve done and a few lines –
“I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”
The stanza belongs to William Wordsworth’s poem ‘Daffodils’, a piece that was inspired and/or written especially for the Lake District. I only remembered the first two lines and kept repeating them in my head until later on our first day when I had WiFi again. Whilst we were definitely not alone, the entire piece makes sense, somehow.
It’s six in the morning when my alarm goes off and for some reason, I’m unsure of why. With six weeks under our belt, we’ve constructed an already deeply rooted routine here in Scotland. We usually wake up between six and half six, lazily hang around in bed until around seven, jump into our running gear and head out. By eight, I’ve showered and we’ve both had our breakfast. There was no need for an alarm. So why’s the alarm going off?
I look around my room and noticed the packed bag, Mace looking up at me with big eyes, several notes on the pillow next to me. Oh yes. The Lakes.
I was supposed to go to the Lakes for a while, having found a host through Workaway that was more than happy to have us, but due to certain circumstances, she unfortunately had to cancel. I tried to find a new, different host in the Lake District for weeks, but only got a few replies back. For a while, it seemed like I had found another host, but in the end she also fell through when I heard nothing else from her ever again. When I left Beccles, I was more or less in a rush – not so much a hurried rush, but an eager rush. I wanted to see more, do more, explore more. So I took the first opportunity that was given to me and travelled to Scarborough. I don’t regret doing this, but I did feel like I missed out on Leeds and Sheffield. Despite the fact that I was NOT going to simply swoosh right passed the Lake District, I also remembered how I felt about having to ‘leave’ my plans to visit Leeds and Sheffield and put them on a backburner. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I hired a car.
Yes, I did. When mum was visiting, I drove our left-handed car on the left side of the road a few times so I knew I was more than comfortable with driving ‘on the wrong side of the road’, which led me to feel rather comfortable about renting a car and driving around the Lake District. I booked a night at a – as it turned out incredible and lovely – B&B in Penrith and the train to Leeds was booked for the following day. Through AirBnB, I booked a two-night stay in Otley, close to Leeds and perfect for exploring the city.
After six weeks of staying at K’s and enjoying his hospitality, we finally said our goodbyes to Scotland. K was kind enough to drive us all the way to Carlisle, where we were to pick up our rental. The guy from Budget was extremely friendly and chatty, and came across as very helpful. Not even two minutes after leaving, I ran a flat tyre and was lucky enough to park across the road from Budget and popped back in. Sure enough – the guy from Budget was extremely friendly and also very, very helpful and he set me up with a new car right away. A good half an hour later, we were finally on our way – Lake District here we come!
The first minute I was dead excited and glad to have satnav with my new car. My joy ended abruptly as I begun to realise the challenge of driving a right-handed car – I had no problems with being on the left side of the road, it was having a car on my left that proved difficult! I’m no good in measuring distances as I can’t really ‘see’ it, which meant that for a good two hours, I was clutching the steering wheel, nervous, anxious, stressed out of my mind and unable to relax. I was also too afraid to take my eyes off the road, so in the end I was feeling upset with myself and even slightly angry because I was missing so much. I saw shades of green through the car window, blurred together. The window was open and I imagined the scent of the trees, the mountains and the lakes. I saw mountain tops peak over the trees and then tore my gaze back on the winding lanes of grey stretch out in front of me.
I needed a break. So I pulled the car over at the earliest opportunity, my mind already going there (“This was stupid, the Lakes are stupid, it’s raining, you’re stupid, you’re going to crash the car and kill your dog and Lord this is the stupidest idea you’ve ever had”), grabbed my beloved companion and my gear and simply started walking.
There are people here, as in they are present, in the same area as I am, but I can’t hear them. Instead, I hear the soft lullaby of the water washing over the pebbled beach, sounding like a distant applause as the water retreats only to come back for me. The wind is quiet, playing with strands of my hair and carrying the cleanest kind of air I’ve smelled in my life. Despite it being mid-July, there’s a hint of winter, of that frigid, water-cold taste of winter in the air, along with a trace of old, wet forests.
The lake – I can’t remember which one – is laid out in front of me, the waters almost touching the horizon when a mountain climbs the vertical line until it meets the clouds. I imagine hiking up the mountains, picturing a tiny, tiny creature, right there, in the distance, making its way up to the top. Oh, the view.
A gush of wind pushes the thoughts from my mind and I’m back there again, at the foot of the lake. We make our way back to the car, Mayson upset for having to leave the waters behind, and continue our journey with unknown destination.
The following morning, we wake up to the smell of typical English roses in a room too big for us and the sun is there to greet us. Hurriedly, we gather our things (by now, Mace has learnt how to pack his own bag and while this is a slow process, it’s adorable. In a few years time, perhaps, he’ll be able to do it on his own completely) and head out. We march up the hill in Penrith as an improvised morning walk before thanking the owners of the Glendale Guest house for their hospitality and friendliness (I had the best gluten free toast I ever had!).
From Keswick, we find our way to Grasmere which was by far the cutest town I’d seen in the Lakes. We enjoy ourselves as we gather among the other tourists, have a cup of tea and a wander about before heading off again. I am more relaxed now, as I drive. I still slow down when seeing oncoming traffic and I’m well below the speed limit (English drivers were so patient with me) and I don’t realise I’m holding my breath when it gets narrow until I’ve passed the tricky bits. Mace is on the back seat, at times sprawled out across the seats, at times his nose is pressed against the window.
For two days, we inhaled the magnificent scent of the Lake District, observed the beauty of this piece of incredible nature, its magical atmosphere and were pulled into a calm, comforting and peaceful hug. For some reason, England has always been a gentle giant to me, and the Lakes have been no different.
As I drop off the car in Carlisle, I make a mental note to return and this time, this time we’ll grab a tent and a pair of proper boots.