Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Back from England

Jetlag. It's not just a buzzword, it's real. And it's kicking my ass. I keep getting up between 3:30 - 4 a in the effing m. I can't stay awake past 9pm, just can't. So here I am waiting to go to work.

Okay, so England. Went to a lot of pretty places there, parks, a castle, London, the Ritz, and some neat pubs. We stayed at a flat that belonged to a relative of Gary's, that was away on vacation. They let us use their car too. It was right along the Thames (pronounced tims) river in Kingston Upon Thames. The flat was very nice and clean and charming. Here are some oddities I found interesting:
  • No central heat in the flat, only radiators, and there was no radiator in the master bedroom
  • No freezer in the house!
  • No shower, and the tub is raised, narrow and long.
  • Separate hot and cold water faucets
  • No clothes dryer, they use a drying closet, and then iron a bunch of stuff
  • No plug outlets in the bathrooms. Cords for hairdryers and curling irons are 6-7 feet long
  • TV stations go off the air at night
  • People are so used to the cold there, I was freezing and they were sitting on benches chatting on cell phones and not even bothered by the cold. I saw the neighbors standing in the back yard in short sleeves, drinking beers with frost on the grass.
Things I found interesting in the grocery store there:
  • Their whole milk is our half and half. People drink half and half there ha ha. Lots of heavy cream and clotted cream. They love their dairy.
  • Cheese is really cheap there. What we'd pay $4-5 for brie, goes for about a dollar there
  • The whole store was full of appetizer type food, and ready to eat dinners. Lots of Indian food.
  • Vitamins (they say vitt a mins) come in glass containers.
  • Not much green in the produce department.
  • More varieties of potato chips (crisps) than I've ever seen in my life. Flavors such as prawn cocktail, roast chicken, and their BBQ flavor tastes like smoke, and nothing at all like our BBQ chips
  • You have to put a dollar (pound) coin in the shopping cart to unlock it, and you only get it back if you return the cart to the cart area
  • They charge you to park at the parking lot at the grocery store
  • You have to bag your own groceries and the clerks at the registers sit in chairs
We took the train to London a couple of times, and it's very relaxing if you get a seat. The above ground train station has shops in it and the vending carts sell beer. The underground trains in London make you feel like you're a mole walking from tunnel to tunnel with turns and stairs down and up. I had no idea where I was at any given time once we went down to the underground trains.

People love their dogs there. I never saw a loose dog anywhere.

We stayed at Weir Cottage at Leeds Castle in Kent on New Year's Eve and the night following. It was a (now) funny ordeal when we got there. We got there at dark (4pm ish) and after getting through the main gate, and driving down the dirt road to the cottage, we find that the key doesn't work. Oh yeah, skeleton keys are still used over there. We drove back to the main gate where the guard walkie talkied the maintenance man. After a 15 minute wait in the car he informs us that the maintennce man will meet us at the cottage, "he's up a ladder at the moment"
About 20 minutes later, maintenance man shows up. He tries our key like we are key impaired. After it doesn't work, he decides that he needs to go get his keys! We wait another 20 minutes ( in the car, cold) for him to return with his keys which do not work. He calls a locksmith whom we wait 30 minutes for. Locksmith gets his ladder to crawl in through an upstairs window which is not latched. Another hour later, a new lock is installed on the door (all the time working with the door open) Brrr, now we get to start to warm up the place. The cottage is adorable, but I was glad we brought the electric blanket Gary bought for me for the flat. We drove over to the castle to enjoy the midnight fireworks show that was spectacular.
We spent the next day exploring the castle and the grounds. The castle has black swans there, one was pretty friendly so we took too many pictures of him. Leeds castle has the only Dog Collar Museum. The collars were impressive.

We went to the National Gallery In London one afternoon and saw original Van Gogh's and Monet's paintings. No photos allowed inside, so I could only take pics in the foyer.

We drove in to London one evening to enjoy an elaborate dinner at the Ritz, complete with champagne and live music. We lingered as long as we could in the dining room, then had a cocktail in their bar. Photos are not allowed inside, so all the bad photos were a result of us sneaking pictures.

We spent another day in London walking about and taking photos. We went up in the London Eye, which is how we got the aerial shots. The Eye is totally worth the price and was a nice, warm and slow bubble where you could see most of London. We walked through London's Chinatown, I looked everywhere for "Lee Ho Fooks" as mentioned in Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London song, but it's not there anymore.

We went to an out of the way pub for some pub fare and beer. Their pints are imperial pints which are 22oz, not 16, bless their hearts. The weirdest food I ate and liked, was called whitebait. Yes it has bait in the name and I ate it. It's tiny little fish fried and you eat them whole. They're so small there's no detectable bones or scales. Their little eyes are still there ha ha. It was yummy.

The cars there are all weird. I didn't see one pickup truck while I was there. They have Ford cars there, but they have models not sold in US. GM has a line called Vauxhall or something, there. I saw one and only one Corvette that was parked in someone's driveway.

The sun doesn't rise very high in the sky there, and the days were pretty short. It never rained or snowed the 8 days I was there. It was just about freezing in the mornings and just under 40 degrees during the day.

There was hardly any fat or bald people there. Smoking is not allowed inside there now either, so that was nice.

That's all for now, I'll write about my flight home hell later. The flight out there was very easy. Not so much the way home

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