England SwingsFlew to England (London Heathrow) on March 9, leaving at 2pm and arriving in London at 11am on Monday. We were supposed to have had a 6-1/2 hour layover in Newark, and as planned, I took a taxi with my coworker/traveller to Landmarc restaurant in Tribecca in Manhattan for dinner with my oldest daughter. This place was only about 4 blocks from the Holland Tunnel exit, and the cab ride from Newark airport was still $80 each way, woo-hoo! Dinner was excellent, and it was great to see Erica. They had as an appetizer "Roasted Bone Marrow" -- I had to see it. Umbeeleebabul -- 3 pieces of bone on end, some caramelized onions, with bread to spread the greasy, marrowy mess on -- yum!
So we get back to the airport and our 10:30pm Virgin Atlantic flight has been delayed until 4:00am :-( They gave us an option to give us a voucher to take a cab to JFK for a 12 midnight flight on American -- which we did. It wound up leaving at 1am. But, in changing our tickets, Virgin managed to cancel our homeward leg from Newark to Lexington. So coming home on the 14th, we get to Newark and have no ticket to Lexington. By the time they straigtened it out we missed our connection and had to come home through Cleveland, getting in at 11:15pm rather than 6:00pm. Given that I'd been up since 1:40am, it was a long day. I am hoping my lower back is going to forgive me soon and stop hurting. I had a great massage Friday, she really did a great job on the lower back -- it still hurts but at least I could stand up straight.
So England was fun, my 1st time there, only my 2nd time in Europe. I was at the Hotel Russell on Russell Square from Monday through Thursday morning. Tuesday through Thursday, I got up at 7:00am, walked over to Russell Square and ate breakfast there, with a large cup of coffee, and then took a few laps around the square, then went back and showered. In the evenings I drank enough to fall asleep at 11:00p every night. They were only 4 hours ahead of us (not on daylight savings yet), so the jet lag was really minimal.
My meetings for Tuesday and Wednesday got cancelled so I spent both days sightseeing. Tuesday I took The Big Bus 4 hour tour of London. Wednesday I spent 3-4 hours in The British Museum (just off of Russell Square) -- man, did they score a bunch of loot. Many many mummies and cases, and 60% of the statuary from the Parthenon ("protecting it from acid rain and vandalism"). I think I'm getting too old for museums tho.
Then I walked north around 6 blocks to The British National Library. Saw the magna carta and lots of other old books. Didn't do too much for me -- it didn't help that the lights were real dim, making it hard to see. I did like that their central glass cage with the fire walls that drop down from which the air can be evacuated was 10 stories tall. I think the one we saw at the Princeton library (which had the really cool 1/4 inch thick white marble walls instead of windows) was only 5 stories.
I then walked about 12 blocks south to Aldwyck, then west to Strand, past the Savoy Theatre and the Coal Hole Pub (out of the Gilbert & Sullivan movie "Topsy-Turvy" that my wife and I love) to Tralfagar Square. The bus tour the day before had shown me, the touristy parts of London, from Kensington Park in the west through Hyde Park, by Buckingham Palace, parliament, Big Ben, and finishing up with the financial district and the Tower of London, is only about 2 miles, very walkable.
Then Thursday morning we took the train west to Bristol, which is almost in Wales, I think around 1.5 hours. The English countryside was suitably quaint. The houses are all small, lots of tudor (shocker). I liked their streams with little boats and lots of swans.
I felt very comfortable there. I think that having a fondness for BBC series and English movies over the years helped make it feel relatively familiar. My coworker/traveller, who had lived in England, did me the solid of warning me about stepping off the curb -- the wrong-way traffic only almost ran me over once. They also have "Look Left" and "Look Right" on most pedestrian crosswalks through most of London. They also impede jaywalking where they don't want it by putting fences between the sidewalk and street.
It was also weird, the mimic in me so wanted to try a British accent. I was really conscious of the fact that anytime I opened my mouth anyone could tell I was an American. But, I never did. Two or three times, they spoke quickly and used terminology different from American English, I couldn't understand it at all.
I liked a lot of their different usages. I should have kept a list there, there were dozens of them:
- "brilliant", shortened to "brill", for "cool" or "outstanding"
- "way out" for "exit"
Right now listening to "Here Is What Is", by Daniel Lanois, who is apparently a British pedal steel player studio musician. Very nice and quirky, 3.5 stars. I got it from Walter Tunis's blog. Walter is the Lexington Herald-Leader music critic, who I have pretty much always thought does a pretty good job. I have thought several times that it seems like he has been their critic pretty much forever. His blog says he started in 1980, and since we moved here April 1, 1981, I guess that makes sense.