We woke to the sound of rain hitting the van roof, though by the time we had breakfasted and showered it had stopped. Stepping outside revealed it was no warmer, though watching one of the site wardens doing his rounds on his Kubota in shorts and a tee shirt you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was July.
We are all packed up and pulling off site by 10am. Everything is still frozen as we take off down the long driveway to the main road with the heating on full blast, the heated seats on full and music blaring out of the Bose speakers.
The built in sat nav has been very reliable so far and guides us expertly as we thread our way through the early Saturday morning shoppers in Chesterfield before hitting the motorway network for our 85 mile journey north to the Caravan Club site at Beechwood Grange in York.
The approach to the site is somewhat complicated and needs many lane changes on traffic signal controlled roundabouts. The air is blue and the atmosphere inside the X Trail is a little tense to say the least. Sometimes it would just be easier all round if herself just closed her eyes and hummed a happy tune, leaving me to cut people up with gay abandon.
We pull up to reception just after 12 noon. Checking in takes a little longer than usual as we still cannot remember the X Trail's numberplate and it is parked out of sight. The compute system then flags up that we are competition winners and we have to explain everything to the very friendly and very chatty warden. By 1.30pm we are set up, have had lunch and are ready to go out for the rest of the day.
Some Internet research revealed that there is a Dickensian Christmas festival taking place at the Lightwater Valley centre some 30 miles from site. The roads are busy and the going is slow. We stop briefly for some Polish immigrants to wash 500 miles worth of winter grime off the X Trail.
Now sparkly clean again we pull into the car park just as the light is starting to fade. I know I'm never going to fit into a pair of 32" skinny jeans, but does that really mean I have to be the easy target for anyone manning a food stall at a fete?
We've only just walked in and a woman in fancy dress forces me to sample some fudge, and of course I then feel obliged to part with some hard earned for a slightly larger sample! We spend an enjoyable few hours browsing and soaking up the Dickensian atmosphere and buying some wares off the craft stalls as Christmas presents before retreating to the coffee shop for a brew.
I've not done much conversing with the locals yet. Herself does most of that for me as I'm deaf. Anyway before coming away herself treated herself to a new pair of boots, and has had them on all day. Her feet are now talking to her so I let her take the weight off them at a table while I go and get the tea and coffee.
Immediately the staff behind the counter clock my strong West Walian accent. It's immediately apparent that I'm a bit of a novelty and I'm afraid to say my sense of mischief got the better of me. The conversation went something like this......
"Can I have a tea and a black coffee please?"
"Oooooo, you sound like you've come a long way."
"Yes, I'm from Wales."
"I went to Wales once on holiday, what part do you come from?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, you've probably never heard of it."
"No, I haven't."
"That's OK, not many people have. It's a village just over 3 miles from Llanelli!"
I turned away giggling to myself as they gave each other bemused looks. Back at the table herself refuses to let me have the fudge I bought earlier, and not even my best puppy dog eyes and quivering bottom lip changes her mind, so I sulk while drinking my tea.
Refreshed, we set off back to York. As we hit the A1(M) I take the chance to play with another of the X Trail's toys. My phone is blue tooth paired to the car and we make some phone calls home with the cruise control set to a steady (ahem) 80mph.
The website promises a fantastic winter wonderland on the outskirts of York with pictures of the ice rink and many wooden cabins selling traditional Christmas goods. We pull into the vast but packed car park and wrap up against the biting wind.
It's far too cold to stay anywhere near the chav filled ice rink for anything longer than a photo opportunity so we make out way to the log cabins.
The cabins however are somewhat disappointing. They are either locked shut or house a frankly crappy Christmas decoration display. The fairground is struggling with more gyppos working the rides than there are customers. I'm so glad we didn't set aside a whole day for this!
We retreat into the warmth of the McArthur Glen shopping mall. We have one of these back home in Bridgend, but this place is something else. There are some very exclusive shops here, including a Tag Heulier shop. Herself walks off disowning me as I call over one of the snotty assistants to tell him he's left a decimal point off the price label.
Some of the shoppers here think they're really something special and I'm beginning to feel a little out of place. Until that is we round the corner and come face to face with a designer shop for campers.
Herself is freezing and has commented more than once that she is looking forward to getting back to the nice and warm caravan. I say nothing.
When we left site earlier the sun was streaming through the windows, and frankly it was too hot, so in my wisdom I turned it off. Too chicken to enter the van with her, I stayed outside and pretended to do some jobs until she had stopped swearing at me!!
Tea is a hastily thrown together effort of spicy mince and peppers with rice, but is very nice none the less. We settle in for the night. I'm on the net book and herself is getting her Saturday night fix of Merlin and Casualty.
Either herself is really very cold, or she's making a show of it to make me feel even more stupid for turning the heating off earlier. I am sat in the van in a pair of shorts whilst she is wrapped up in a fleece blanket.
We're both tired after a long and busy day, and I can't see it being a late one tonight.
Sunday 2 December
The frost outside tells me it's been a cold one overnight, I wouldn't know, having slept well outside the duvet last night. I think I'm wearing herself out with the pace of this holiday, so let her sleep in this morning. If the truth be told, I would have still been there myself, but with my build I can only lie down for so long before my back starts to hurt too much.
We've been lucky with the weather this trip, and dawn reveals clear skies in the low winter sun. After a cooked breakfast and showers we are read for the off by around 11am. A brief detour for fuel is needed before we hot the road northwards.
I'm starting to get used to the gearing and handling of the X Trail while driving solo, and it's impressing me. We pass through Pickering and follow the A169 up onto the North Yorkshire Moors. Making quick progress is effortless, and as we reach the highest point there is white stuff at the side of the road.
The reason for coming up here is to visit the remote village of Goathland. Better known as Aidensfield in the TV series Heartbeat. It's a coat colder up here, and after wrapping up we leave the comfort of the car to explore. It's like walking onto a film set. There is an old Ford Anglia police car parked outside the village stores. They are cashing in on the TV connection up here, with the stores retaining the 'Aidensfield' name on a full time basis.
Everything on the shelves seems to be endorsed by Claude Greengrass, and we splash out a whole 25p for a leaflet map of the village telling us where the film locations are. Next stop is Scripps Garage before diving into the Aidensfield Arms for a rather expensive pint of dishwater masquerading as a pint of bitter. I am a little dissappointed that Gina was not behind the bar to pull the pint too!
Just down the hill from there is the village railway station. This is doubly famous and not only features in Heartbeat, but was also the location for Hogwarts Station in the Harry Potter movies.
After a while soaking up the atmosphere we head back to warmth and comfort of the X Trail to make tracks. We pass by the police house and village hall before rounding the corner and going down the track to take a crafty look at Claude Grengrass' farm. It really is that scruffy in real life!
The road takes us to Whitby where we drive along the cliff road with views of the abbey before dropping down into the town and harbour. There are chip shops every three paces here and we are starving. Herself however has us on a diet so they are out of bounds. We spot a Co-op and park up to dash inside. The car park to the front is pay and display. The people behind me nearly have to dial 999 as I realise it's £2 to park for an hour. Now I know Dick Turpin is from these parts, but really? He was hanged in 1739 for taking less liberties that Whitby Town Council.
We pick up some reduced (to make up for the parking fee) sandwiches for our very late lunch and park up (without paying) on the harbour side. Time is getting on and the light is fading fast, and I don't really fancy traversing the moor in total darkness in the rapidly dropping temperatures.
On the way back to site we detour into the centre of York for a nose. The traffic on a Sunday tea time is horrendous and our minds are made up that we will make use of the park and ride to go into the city centre tomorrow.
Back at the van herself prepares a chicken and bacon melt for tea which is washed down with a few cans of Boddington's finest.
Monday 3 December
It hammered down overnight and but has stopped by the time we peeled ourselves off the sheets at 8.30am. We open the blinds to find the site shrouded in fog. By the time we've got ourselves together the winter sun is doing it's best to burn it off.
I did something today that I've not done in 20 years. I caught a bus. Once I'd got over the initial shock of sharing a mode of transport with the masses, it was nice for someone else to carve their way through the traffic into the city, and at only £2.50 each with free parking thrown in, I am now a fan of Park and Ride.
The bus dropped us off close to The Shambles, the historic York Street. We walked its length taking in the atmosphere and browsing as we made our way to take a quick look at the Minster. What a building!!
There was no avoiding it any longer and I'm obliged to accompany herself around the shops. We pass a chocolate shop that has a 3ft chocolate Santa on sale for the bargain price of £200.
Herself has had enough of window shopping and I get dragged into a Superdry shop. It immediately becomes obvious to me why herself does not let me come when she goes clothes shopping for the boys back home. My asking the till assistant if they keep a Defibrillator on the premises earns me a dig in the ribs from herself. We go in and out of a few more shops, and I'm starting to cry inside as I keep a mental running total.
Herself can sense I about to tip over the edge, so reluctantly agrees to visit the National Rail Museum. It's free to get in, so I'm won over already, but herself get conned into buying a guidebook from the anorak on the entrance.
We have a nice lunch in the restaurant which is sited on the platform between the Royal Train and the 3rd class carriages. We note that even the 3rd class carriages are in better nick than current rolling stock!
We're not really train buffs, so after lunch the place holds our interest for all of 30 mins before we move on. Not far away we'd walked past the York Wheel. I'd done a crafty Google over lunch, and the cost was not too much. Herself is not too keen but I drag her along. We get into our perspex capsule and herself seems to have lost all of her colour.
I always liked to think of myself as an attentive husband, but in 20 years of marriage, I had not realised that herself was scared of heights. We'd done the London Eye with the kids, buy as I've now been told, she did that for the kids. Thinking back now, she's never really gone near the parapet in castles and on the London Eye she sat in the centre of the pod.
As we start to move and climb herself closes her eyes shut tight and will only open them as we start to descend. As we approach the bottom she lets out a huge sigh of relief and prepares to disembark. Only we don't stop, and go round again ........ and again ........... and again ............ and again. She is now in bits, and things are not made any better when we stop at the top for what seems like a decade.
When we eventually get off it's safe to say I'm not winning any popularity contests!!!
We catch the Park and Ride back to the car and tour the numerous out of town shopping areas that York has to offer, before having an evening meal out and then returning to the comfort of the van for the night.