I travel so frequently nowadays that I rarely get the excited butterflies right before a trip anymore. In fact, I almost forgot about one trip to the point where I went to bed the night before without packing and had to get out of bed to do so. But the night before my trip to Europe was pure excitement. I had the thrill of anticipation like I hadn’t experience in a long time. My love of Europe is pretty intense.
This trip was my first time non-reving internationally so I was a bit more concerned about how everything would play out with the flights. Luckily my concern was in vain. I ended up getting to pick from a selection of seats (including both windows and aisles) and ended up selecting an aisle seat that had an empty seat next to it. Having the seat next to you empty the entire flight is a bigger perk to me than any aisle vs window pro/con list so I was happy. The flight over was uneventful which is exactly how a flight should be! =D
One of the perks of flying into Manchester instead of Heathrow is that navigating my way out of the airport was no big deal. Finding the bus to the rental car facility was the same as any other airport in the US and was a short walk. I did attempt to buy a SIM card for my mifi device while I was in the airport but none of the shops had data only SIM cards. That ended up being a huge problem because then I had to drive somewhere in order to purchase one and I had planned on using my phone to navigate. Hard to do when your phone doesn’t have a data plan!
And thus ensued my slightly humorous adventure in Manchester wherein I attempted to find a store that was “just 5 minutes down the road” according to the people at the car rental place. They did very nicely print me out Google maps directions (still not sure how I screwed up with following those) after they tried multiple times to up-sell me to a GPS equipped car or to rent a mifi device from them. After stopping at a grocery store (basically a UK version of Walmart) to ask someone for directions once I got lost (that store did sell SIM cards but the guy in that department told me they were a horrible deal and that I should get one from a phone store) I ended up spending 20 minutes listening as three different store employees debated about which was the best way to get to this place I was going (which was actually a huge shopping mall). Since they all took the bus to get places and didn’t usually drive their opinions about which roads to take were…interesting. And contradicting.
Eventually I left armed with step-by-step directions (one guy finally won out) and set out again. Oh did I mention that I was driving on the opposite side of the road? Yep! Not only was I lost and confused but I was also attempting not to kill anyone with my bad driving skills. And at this point the jet leg was hitting me pretty hard. Luckily I got the hang of driving in England pretty quickly and if you want to read more about rental cars in England there’s more info in this post.
Low and behold I finally got close to the mall and thankfully there were then signs directing me where to go. Let me tell you, these signs are lifesavers when you’re dealing with roundabouts. I then had to select which parking lot to go into (there were huge signs telling me how many hundreds of spots were open in which lots) and brave the Saturday crowds at a massive shopping mall. Then there was quite a process that took far longer than it should have wherein I finally ended up with a SIM card in my mifi device. I’ve learned some lessons about how to handle this better for my next trip.
It wasn’t until two days later that I managed to get the car’s dashboard out of German and back into English and found out that the GPS in the car worked. !!!!! After all the up-selling the car rental place tried on me I still ended up with a GPS equipped car – I just didn’t know it. And what are the chances that the last drivers would leave the car set to German? Oy vey! So I spent a lot of time driving around Manchester lost with a working GPS unit built into the car. Yep.
Just in case anyone thinks my trips are always picture perfect and nonstop fun – I assure you there are lots of mishaps and issues that I deal with on every trip. I’ve found that having a good attitude and being ready to adapt at any given time are both essential when it comes to travel.
Long story short, I did make it to Harrogate just fine that day. The drive between Manchester and Harrogate was gorgeous. If I hadn’t been so jet lagged I probably would have appreciated it even more but unfortunately it just seemed to make me sleepier. I had to pull over at one point and take a 15 minute nap just because I was worried that I was going to fall asleep driving (which is something I’ve never struggled with before even when I’ve driven through the night).
And arriving at my friends’ house was much better than arriving at a boring hotel room so that was a huge plus. There was just enough daylight left for them to take me on a quick walk around the adorable town that is Harrogate before we went to get dinner. Sadly I didn’t take a single picture of Harrogate so I’m going to have to show you someone else’s pictures instead so that you can get an idea of how cute the town is. If you’re ever up in the countryside of northern England it’s a town worth checking out.
The next day involved a day trip to York so stay tuned for a post about that coming later this week! And if you want to catch up on all the posts from this trip you can find them all here.