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Daily Journal

June 24 – The Birds and the B's
Barnard Castle (Continued)

As we cross a small modern bridge to the Inner Ward and the castle ruins, a church bell in town begins to toll. Robin turns on her video camera to capture the sound and we stop for a moment to listen and absorb the atmosphere.

Onto the castle with its two incredible towers; the Round Tower with large bedchambers for the lord and lady of the castle and Mortham Tower, a residential tower with a garderobe turret built atop the upper three stories. We investigate every nook and cranny, climbing dark narrow stairs and exploring chambers with single-minded fervor. There is so much to see, and we don't want to miss a thing.

A large window in the Round Tower provides a great view of the river, with two bridges and bucolic countryside visible for as far as the eye can see. We turn back for a long view of the Town Ward and notice how the outer wall leans precariously. A very solid, almost imposing, structure, this wall will probably still be leaning at the same angle for centuries to come.

As we make our way back to the visitors' center for the requisite look around the small gift shop we stop to admire a tree with reddish-purple foliage. It's densely leafed with gracefully arching limbs that trail to the ground. Parting the branches like a curtain, I duck inside to a wonderfully natural chamber. This tree is tall enough for me to easily stand erect and I embrace a moment of solitude under the canopy of leaves. The only sound is the chittering and chirping of birds that fill the branches above me.

We make our purchases of guidebooks and postcards quickly at the gift shop; they have quite a selection of items for children, but it is still very early in the trip, and we have many places to lug our weight-gaining luggage to before departing. More important than souvenirs, at the moment, is the need for a loo, lunch, and petrol for the car.

We drive into town, which is also called Barnard Castle. The town square is bustling with activity; there isn't a parking spot to be found, so we drive on to a petrol station where we satisfy all of our needs. I'm a little skeptical about buying lunch from the convenience store inside the petrol station; this is something I would never risk at my local 7-11. The sandwiches in the refrigerated case look fresh and appetizing though, so sticking with my plan of choosing something I've never had, I pick up a cheese savoury baguette and, on Robin's recommendation, a bag of Hula Hoops.

Driving out of town, we park on the side of the road and eat in the car. The Hula Hoops taste sort of like Fritos; the cheese savoury is similar to pimento cheese without the pimentos, which I always pick out of my pimento cheese anyway. Made with shredded tangy cheddar cheese, chopped cucumber, and onion bound together with mayonnaise on a soft fresh roll, this is a delicious sandwich – but huge! I can't finish it. We collect all of our refuse into what is designated the 'trash bag' and tuck it behind the seat. The car is taking on that lived-in look of a bona fide road trip.

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