Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Travelin'

It's nearly the night before Christmas and at this time for the past few years, I've been on a beach in a tropical place. Such as Hawaii. Or Costa Rica. I think the perfect cure for the holiday blues is travel.

But this year, my travels took me in another direction with more temperate weather but lots of things to do and see.

I was invited by my friend and critique partner, Sheryl, to go to London and Paris with her. She'd cashed in her travel miles and with some great research, we booked two flights on Iceland Air to London, with a side trip on the Eurostar to Paris. I found several great hotels and we made plans.

Warning: If you ever decide to invite me take a vacation with you, I will plan the bejeesus out of it. I got a dozen books from the library, (I work for the library, remember, so it's a curse) and five sets of French language tapes. (I couldn't be sure which one would give me the conversational travel French I needed to learn in a month). I read, made notes and reviewed those notes. Sheryl combed through websites and interviewed co-workers who had traveled to England and France. We spent hours developing our plans.
On December 3, we boarded our jet and set out on our adventure, which will forever known as: "Deb and Sheryl's Excellent European Adventure".

If I could fly Icelandair to any point on the globe, I would. The seats were comfortable, (eventually I had an entire row to myself with 5 pillows and 2 blankets.) The crew gave us cookies and they were all so friendly and lovely. The only complaint I really could have is that in Iceland they made us stand in the security line for quite a while, but since the really nice Irish guy told us all about Paris while we stood there -- I won't complain. They told us the reason for the extra security is because "America is too lax". I assure you, the people of Iceland are safe from terrorists. I had my passport stamped three times while I was there. You can see that the crowds of tourists require that tight security.

Finally, we arrived in London, a bit time disoriented, a bit scroungy looking, (hey - flying all night is not attractive no matter how much you'd like to pretend) and we managed to figure out customs, purchase our transportation passes and get to Earl's Court. Some friendly workers gave us directions and we found our hotel.

It was so cute. And look at the neighborhood. My friend Gudrun had called her sister in England to tell her we were going to be staying in Kensington. She told her "that's posh".
We felt like we'd stepped back into the Regency or Victorian period. There was a view of the park from our window and pretty live birds in the lounge. The bathroom was teeny-tiny, but Sheryl and I are not giant people, so it worked for us.

We took off to see London as soon as we could, and we did have a plan. If we made all the right connections and worked quickly, we might visit the Geffrye House, which was on both of our lists. We made it to the right stop, but fate was not with us. The attendant at the information booth said to "cross the street" and she was wrong. We headed in the wrong direction and it was a mistake we didn't have time to correct. So we climbed off the bus and started back towards the train station. We decided to ride the "Piccadilly Line" a little further up -- but again, we were cursed. It's Friday night, in London and every person in the city is in the train station. We were forced up the escalator and out on to the street.

We were LOST. But since we hadn't really had anything to eat since the day before, it seemed a good idea to get a meal. And we found an interesting pub right there on the street. We had decided that we needed to eat in a pub as part of the English experience, so in we go.

There is only one other woman in the place. Men stare at us. I feel like I probably have a t-shirt on that says, "American Tourist" or something. Or is that we are two women in a pub, which maybe isn't done. We don't know but we're hungry.

We decide to try the local ale and fish and chips, so I go to the bar to order dinner for us. A man asks me how I am tonight, I answer "fine". He asks where I'm from and when I answer "Seattle in the US" he says, "Seahawks" and laughs. Do even the English know our shame?

Another man slides up and joins the conversation. He shows me a card in his wallet. I know he's speaking some sort of English, but I don't really understand what he's saying. Then he asks if I'm alone. I quickly point to Sheryl's back and say, "No -- my friend is traveling with me".

The barmaid comes in the back door, notices me and takes my order. She frowns at the man who has now shifted his attention to Sheryl, (who has no idea what is happening since she's had her back to the bar and was visiting with the couple from Poland). Within minutes the barmaid has yelled at one of the bartenders to pay attention, stomped over the man showing Sheryl the same card and quickly throws him out of the place. I hear her say under her breath.

"I won't have any of these blokes harrassing the nice American women."

It's our first day in England and we've flown through time, managed to get lost and got a guy thrown out of a bar.

Actually -- it isn't even a complete day yet.

Stay tuned for more....


Emma Lai said...

I love traveling. Thanks for sharing!

Helen Pilz said...

Quite the adventure! Three cheers for the lady bartender. Love the pictures. Looking forward to reading more.

A few years ago, I spend December in London and fell in love with The City.

Mary Ricksen said...

Sounds wonderful!! You are so lucky to have gone. And you got a guy thrown out of a tavern! Cool!

Lisa said...

The Bartlett Aunt's would be soproud to see you shopped at a Sally Ann's in London.
That's Posh!

DG said...

Jimmy Choo ruby red slippers? Oh my goodness. How delicious!

Sounds like you had a real adventure! :)