ENGLAND DIARY, Part I
Slept about 4 hours last night. Up by 5am, finished packing for trip. Showered, ready to go by 7:15, when Shane picked me up. Stopped at pharmacy to get happy pills then got to the airport in time to catch my flight to Detroit, the first leg of my international trip! Sat by friendly middle-aged couple on their way to Syracuse. I read the new Mortified book and dozed off. Now in Chili's at the Detroit airport waiting for my beer and spinach/artichoke dip. Chatty college girl sitting in next booth gabbing into her cell phone. Detroit is a cool airport - an overhead tram takes you up over the shops and deposits you at your gate. Seeing a lot of eighties hair in the airports today, sported by people way too young to be wearing them. Eerie. Beer is good--Chili's sucks. Not much in the way of vegetarian friendly food. The music in Chili's is like the best (worst) of my high school jukebox. They just played C&C Music Factory and before that Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Now it's something (I think?) by Expose, and I also heard Creep by TLC. That pretty much sums up Chili's--a restaurant forever trapped in early-90's hell. Oh, just heard Janet Jackson Love Will Never Do Without You and Whitney Houston - All the Man That I Need. God, I forgot songs like this even existed! (Probably a good thing). I'm almost tempted to stick around to see what they play next. Oh finally--something good: U2 Even Better Than the Real Thing.
Almost to Amsterdam
time in US - 10:30pm
time where I'm going: 4:30am
Good flight, couldn't see much out the window because of clouds, then darkness. It's weird to travel into such a radically different time zone. Almost like time travel. I went to the loo before the plane took off and haven't been back since; amazing considering I've had two sizable meals, three glasses of water and a cup of coffee. Prehaps (sic) the air pressure does weird things to my bladder? International flights are cool, with the huge planes and three rows of seats and movies. I watched Dan In Real Life (not that funny, contrived, heavily cliched) then Things We Lost in the Fire (uneven and overlong, but interesting, with strong performances). I dozed a bit in between movies, not very much though. My drowsiness was drug-induced. I just finished Mortified. My ears are exploding. I am ready to land!
Time in US- 1:32am
Time in Amsterdam 7:32am
I've been waiting FOREVER and I can't even get into the fucking gate area where there are real seats. The Amsterdam airport is cool looking but it was completely desolate when I arrived, which sucked. I was hoping to see some action. Finally, they're letting us in the gate area. How nice of them.
USA time 3:56pm
England 9:56 pm
I was searched at airport customs by very polite Muslim British woman. Willing to bet American customs are not so polite and apologetic. Ian picked me up at London City airport and we ate beans and toast at ASDA, shopped for food and came back to Cambridge, Ian's place. Slept for 8 hours, now drinking wine and watching Top Gear and Alan Partridge. So nice to snuggle with Ian. :-)
On our way to London and the Tate Modern. We've taken protein bars, cous cous and pasta to eat on the way. The roads are very twisty in Cambridge and (all) the stripes on the streets are white, so that it looks like we are always going the wrong way on the roads! No way to tell if they are one way or two way, you just have to guess I suppose.
Saw Tate Modern, then across the street to St. Paul's Cathedral. Couldn't stay long, as a service was starting. The mosaics inside were gorgeous! Hiked from the East End to the West End (stopped at an Irish pub on the way), then passed Parliament House, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye.
Ate at a dodgy (but nice on the inside) Korean restaurant. Then took a cab back to the car and hung out with Ian's friend Mariella and some of her mates. Spent today watching Alan Partridge and Some Mothers Do Have 'Em with Michael Crawford while Ian did his taxes.
2-26-08Made a stop by Ian's office to pick up 27 computers. Saw a bit of what their casino monitoring software does, and learned about a card casino game called Punto Banco (apparently popular in American casinos?) Now we're driving down to Canterbury to deliver the computers and do some sightseeing. After that we're off to Dover to see the white cliffs.
Walked around Canterbury today--it's a great town! Very posh, lots of cool shops and trendy people.
Did some window shopping, then had a pickled egg over chips at a fish and chips place. Ian had fried mushrooms and a fried Mars bar. He also finished my chips for me. I had so much grease in my system (it was a massive portion of chips) that I was afraid I would explode. I don't know how Ian stays so skinny.
We walked around Canterbury and walked for a bit along the wall. Saw two rats on the sidewalk and nearly peed myself in terror. Walked up a big steep hill with a monument at the top built in memory of some famous dead Canterburian. It was an amazing view at the top--you could see the whole city from there! My feet were freezing by this point, so I had to stop and buy some cheap boots on our way back to the car. We also tried to go in the church (where the Archbishop of Canterbury is), but it was too expensive and we decided to save our money for the hotel tonight. We're in Dover now, it's nighttime but I did catch a glimpse of the white cliffs and Dover Castle (breathtaking!) Looking forward to seeing them in the daylight tomorrow.
Stayed at Castle House B&B in Dover last night, had a beer at Ellie's (Ella's?) pub, then Italian food at a quiet, friendly little restaurant. Woke up early this morn and had breakfast (eggs, baked beans, hash browns and toast), then went back to the room. Two pissed-off cleaning people chased us out of the room--came by once and groused "It's half ten!" but Ian was responding to some work emails and wasn't ready to go. He said "They're just trying it on, I'm sure they've got other rooms to clean." I said, "Okay, next time they knock, YOU answer." They came by again as we were getting our stuff together, and this time Ian was all apologetic to them and said to me, "I think we were the only guests, that's why they were keen to get us out." When I was leaving the room I was all smiles and apologized, but they just glared at me and the woman said (again!) "It was half ten!" I would have told them to kiss my fat American butt, although I'm sure that wouldn't have gone over too well.
Visited Dover Castle after that, which was awesome. I especially liked being up high and seeing the views of the English Channel (you could barely see France for the fog) and of course the white cliffs. Toured the entire castle, learned what a pain in the ass Henry the VIII was (as well as how he selected some of his brides), saw his "throne," saw how he took a crap--all very interesting, but my favorite part was climbing to various points outside the castle and looking out onto the town and the English Channel. The views were absolutely amazing. I got some good photos (despite my digital camera repeatedly assing out on me). We also toured a WWII command center built inside one of the white cliffs (this was on the castle grounds) and saw the inside of the church, as well as the remains of a Roman lighthouse built in the 1st century A.D.
We drove along the south coast, through some cute fishing villages, saw lots of sheep, stopped in Eastbourne ("a seaside resort for old people," according to Ian), walked along the pier and the gravel beach, then stopped for Indian food at a tiny place in Eastbourne that took us forever to get to ("all the good restaurants are in dodgy parts of town"--Ian) Great food, but I think I left my favorite scarf there.
We then drove up to the very top of a lookout cliff called Beachy Head (Alan Partridge made two Beachy Head jokes in series 2)...it's supposed to be a suicide hot spot. The morbid (and hilarious) thing was that there was a little red emergency car that said "Chaplain" prowling the roads at the top of the cliff, shining a flashlight and presumably looking for potential suicides. He seemed awfully interested in us, but must have decided that we looked too happy, so he moved on. We wandered around in the dark on Beachy Head and saw more stars than I've ever seen before. It was one of my favorite moments here so far. We then drove down to Brighton and looked for a B&B (I wanted to stay at one by the seaside that had a cat in the lobby named Mr. Watts, but Ian deemed it too expensive), we settled on a place called Valentine House run by a girl with bright red hair that looks about 25.
We spent about an hour driving around looking for a pharmacy that was open late so I could buy contact lens solution, but no dice. We went to bed about midnight and woke up at 8:30 for a full English breakfast (with vegetarian sausage for me) cooked by the friendly red haired girl. It was much better food than the B&B in Dover.
Yesterday we explored Brighton. The first thing I had to do was buy a new top because I'm sick of wearing the same two tops (the rest of my clothes are back in Cambridge at Ian's). We stopped at a mall (Churchill Square?) where I bought a top, then we went back to the van so I could ditch my old shirt and change into the new one. Then we walked along the beach and collected shells that Ian called scollocks (sp?) very smooth, white shells edged with soft brown flecks. I got enough to make some cool jewelry for myself when I get back home. Saw the crumbling Victorian pier, took photos of the ocean, and then went to the pier that's actually operational. Had some fried donuts and went to an arcade. Ian played a flight simulator game that he scored high on, then we played air hockey (he beat me by one point).
We went back to the town and looked at some more shops. I dragged Ian into a hippie tarot card faerie emporium. He said "we'll get posessed by the devil." After that I bought a scarf at an Indian Hindu hippie place, as I had misplaced my scarf the night before. I got a giant purple chiffon one so I can blend in with the locals (all the woman in England are wearing giant silk or chiffon scarves around their necks). We stopped at a pub and had a beer (an old weird drunk Englsihman was wandering around the bar and laughing weirdly). Then on the way back to the car Ian spotted my scarf that I thought I'd lost the night before--someone had found it and hung it up on a little wrought iron fence! It's amazing that I even got it back. Ian said I'd better wash it before I wore it again as some bloke could have used it to wipe himself after shagging a crackwhore. ("You're such an optimist," I told him). At any rate, I haven't worn it since I got it back.
We set out for Weymouth (about a 2 hour drive from Brighton), and I fell asleep in the car. Had a minor hissy fit when I woke up because we were deep in the small fishing villages along the coast and there was nothing bigger than a convenience stor anywhere (I still needed contact lens solution and was getting desperate!) Since the pharmacies here close at like 4pm and it was about 6:30, I started to think I was S.O.L. We managed to find a big grocery store that had one, tiny bottle of solution on the last shelf that we looked on. Breathed a sigh of relief and promised Ian "no more hissy fits." We drove around Weymouth and then found the little village where Ian grew up (Preston?), including the houses he lived in as a wee one. So cute!
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT POST...