Friday - When I woke up on Friday morning, it was hard to believe that we were flying over the Atlantic Ocean and only about an hour left before landing at the Manchester airport. My mom and I were so excited to be finally approaching our destination. There was a sense of anticipation along with a little apprehension as we knew that our first big hurdle to get over would be driving in the UK on the opposite side of the road, but that was something we would tackle when the time came. Shortly after we were served breakfast on the plane the Captain announced that we had made really good timing during the night and would be ready to land about 45 minutes ahead of schedule. This was greeted with a lot of cheer but alas it was short lived when we hit our first turbulence pocket during the flight, which brought mom and I back to reality a little, but nothing was going to dampen our excitement.
Our landing was a little rocky, which didn't go over well with my mom, who is terrified of flying. She was definitely ready to get off the plane at that point, but much to our dismay, we found out that landing 45 minutes early wasn't necessarily a good thing. It turned out that the airport didn't have an open gate for us to dock in so we had to sit on the tarmac until the gate opened up for us. We both quickly agreed that it would have been much better to circle around over the airport than it was to sit on the ground as you knew you were so close to reaching your destination, yet so far away. After what seemed like an eternity (but in reality was only 30 minutes) we finally docked at an open gate and were able to get off the plane.
The customs checkpoint was fairly slow, but as we were talking to everyone around us about their reasons for entering the UK and watching a little girl constantly escaping from her parents and leading them on a chase around the customs area, the wait didn't seem that bad. After going through customs and picking up our luggage it was time to go and collect the dreaded car. To this day, I have no idea why people who have never driven on the left hand side of the road or in a country without roundabouts are only expected to show a drivers license and place a �500 deposit on a vehicle before being handed a set of car keys, shown the general direction of where the car is parked and told to enjoy your holiday! When mom and I finally got to the car and loaded our luggage into the back and then looked at each other and noticed the apprehension and self consciously I walked to the passenger side (which felt like it should have been the drivers side) and mom walked to the drivers side (which felt like it should have been the passenger side) and had a seat. At this point we both started laughing uncontrollably while mom was saying "This is horrible" over and over and over again. I think the biggest mistake we made while planning the trip was trying to save a couple hundred dollars and renting a manual transmission vehicle. I hadn't driven one often, well never if you want to get really technical about it, and mom hadn't driving manual for a long time before this. This meant that most of the driving would be mom's responsibility, which actually turned out to be a good thing because she is a very nervous passenger at the best of times and I think she would have had a heart attack had she been a passenger in the UK!
We spent a lot of time "familiarizing" ourselves with the vehicle, getting our maps out and just trying to feel a little bit comfortable before setting off. I think a snail could have come down the 5 floors faster than mom did driving that car! She came to a complete stop before every corner and behind each car that we passed, adjusted her mirrors a million and one times and generally did everything she possibly could to prolong actually arriving onto a proper road! My job during all of this and for the vast majority of the vacation was that of navigator. As a navigator, I didn't have much to do while we slowly made our way out of the parking garage so I had plenty of time to study the map only to realise it didn't do a very good job of showing how to get out of the airport, so I told mom we were going to have to figure that part out as we went along, which as you can imagine didn't go over very well.
Andy had tried to warn me what it was going to be like driving in and around the Manchester area and explicitly instructed us to do anything and everything we could to avoid driving into Manchester itself, especially on a Friday morning during rush hour. This was advice that I had every intention of taking. Unfortunately, Andy neglected to mention anything about how poorly positioned all the roads signs are and we somehow managed to miss our turn off to stay on the highway and unexpectedly found ourselves driving through a residential zone inside Manchester without any maps of the city, minimalist knowledge of round-a-bouts and two very scared individuals trying to figure out how to get out of the city during rush hour. All mom could say was "Get me out of here!" and each time she said it her level of panic was increasing. I was in a state of shock and fear as she was driving extremely close to parked cars, pedestrians were popping out of everywhere and each side road we passed seemed to have someone speeding towards us. Mom would ask me for directions and my reply was simply "Follow the car in front of us!" while I tried to find any road sign or name or indication about where we were heading so I could get us out of the mess we were in. Within minutes of being in Manchester my nerves were completely frayed and the vacation had just begun.
Eventually we found our way back onto the highway and back on track to get to the Haworth Youth Hostel where were planned to spend our first night. Along the way we came across warning painted on the road that said "Slow" so mom, who was only going about 20 mph, slammed on the breaks and crawled around these corners and bends. Meanwhile I was laughing so hard that tears were coming out it was hard to point out that those warnings were for people who were actually traveling at speed and that didn't include her, but she insisted they were there for a reason and she was going to obey them! Anything so she could justify going slower than she already was.
Before leaving for the trip, Andy and I had exchanged contact details and he asked that I call him upon reaching the youth hostel and then we could make arrangements to stop in and visit since he didn't live too far away and it would be nice to see him before heading up north to Scotland.