Tuesday, October 16, 2007

European Vacation - Episode #2

Warning: Long post ahead! (Remember to click the photos to enlarge!)

September 15, 2007 continued...
When we last left this story, I was in the Newark, New Jersey Airport. Upon arriving, I decided to find my departure gate so I knew where I would be going later. Much later. I found the restroom to be very interesting. In the largest stall there was this:

Upon further inspection, I discovered it's a baby parker. You know, you park your baby or small toddler into it with the straps so you can have your hands free to do your business! This is a great idea! I have never seen these in bathroom stalls in St. Louis. I thought it was nifty! So I set off to explore, I figure I'm going to need some eats later and a Starbucks. So I found the food court where I surveyed all my options.

Once I notice there was a Nathan's Famous Hot Dog place, I knew what I wanted! I mean, you can see specials about this place on the Food Network! I filed into line, which seemed to be moving at a steady flow. Here's what I ordered:

It looks great! Too bad it didn't satisfy my taste buds as good as it looked! I was a little let down, honestly. I mean, it was good. Just not great like I had anticipated. I thought, what's all the hype? I can get a better dog back in the Lou at a Cardinals game! So I decided that maybe it had everything to do with being airport food. If that makes sense. But even fast food that you are familiar with tastes different when you take it out of the neighborhood and put it in an airport, know what I mean? So I had some lunch. Topped it off with a Mocha from Starbucks. Took advantage of my ability to still be able to use my cell phone to make some calls and calm some nerves.

I stood and stared at the New York City skyline for a very long time. It's almost captivating! I vowed to return someday to take on the city and explore it. I'm sure the dogs at the real Nathan's are much better. New York is the kind of place that is so massive, it's a vacation and then some all in itself. There are so many things to do and see and eat and smell and experience! I fell in love when I saw it from the air. I can't wait to go there someday, but I also can't help but wonder, what it must have looked like from there before the towers came down.

I spent the afternoon walking, talking on my cell, watching tv, drinking mochas, revisiting the restroom and browsing the shops. Yep, it was that fun. Woo. My 6 hour layover was nearing it's end, so I decided to get up and walk over to get my last Starbucks before boarding time. Just then they called for us to line up so they could check our passports and such. That's ok, I'll sleep on the plane, don't need anymore caffeine for tonight anyways. And just like that we were off and flying again! The lights of New York are amazing from the sky!! Of course, I couldn't tell heads or tails about things down there, but we did appear to be going along the river and we could totally see all the skyscrapers from the plane. Unfortunately, taking a photo of lights at night doesn't really work so well from a swiftly moving plane. Here's the best I could get after many many tries. I enhanced it some to bring out the rows of lights better. I have no idea which state it was, honestly! LOL

The transatlantic flight on Continental offers dinner, tv shows, music, a movie or two and all the lights in the cabin to be switched off. Only the individual overhead lights of some passengers and the glows from the video screens are illuminated. It creates a very restful atmosphere. At first, the video screens were blue and toggled between flight and trip data and a flight map showing our progress. Very cool! I'd never seen anything like that. Oddly enough, we'd be flying up over Canada and making a huge arc over the ocean in a different direction than I had thought. Very interesting. It gave ground speed:483 mph, altitude: 38,xxx feet, outside temp: -11, time at destination, time at departure, total miles traveled and total miles completed. I added those together and discovered it would be about 3,500 miles. Wow!

After choosing 'chicken' from the choices of 'chicken or beef' I realized I chose wrong. It was quite horrible chicken, you see. Well, it wasn't the chicken as much as the red peppers it was swimming in. After this, I tried to sleep, I really did. I had my comfy new neck pillow, a blanket and all the other conditions were ripe for some nappy time too. It just didn't happen! I was very frustrated...and grew physically fatigued. Maybe I had one too many Mochas. Ok, 2 or 3 too many, fine! I did rest some for a while, but never slept for any significant amount of time. There was little turbulence to even speak of. Thank God! (Blessing!) I can't stand turbulence...ever since that one flight to Atlanta...'nough said. I did get up once. To stretch my legs and get some circulation flowing (and also to use the restroom.) It was my first time to go pee at 38,000 feet!! Of course, it must be documented!!

Look at the bags under those eyes!! And of course, there was the proverbial test flush to inspect the water coloring. Would it be???? YES! Why is it blue? I mean, that is some seriously blue water! The ocean could learn a thing or two about blue from that water! These are not the pictures everyone has been asking to see, I'm sure, but this is my trip.

So, I rested. It was announced at the beginning of the flight, that flight time would be about 5 hours and 55 minutes. Although, I had no real concept of time at all. I was in my own world on that plane, under that blanket, in that seat. My mind was full of wonder and excitement and nervousness. Would I be good with my money? Would I be safe? Would my big butt be able to keep up with the others? Would I run out of space on my memory cards on my camera? Let's face it, I love to snap pictures (If you haven't noticed & I've left out many)! I was only on my second flight and I had already taken about 100 photos. Before I knew it, and I mean that will all honesty, before I knew it I saw a glow of light under the wing of the plane.

September 16, 2007
Sunday's first light. I was on a journey into it! It gave it's warm welcome to the clouds and the sky.

It seemed to be almost pushing against the night, and it was winning the battle with all it's fiery might! The earth began to give way as well as the sky. There gave off the most beautiful exchange between the sun and the sky and the earth. A spectacular array.

A new day indeed, but where did it begin? For on the other side of this day was yesterday's night? Or tomorrow's night? Only God knows that, I guess. I was worried I hadn't gotten enough rest. The sunlight brought the final chapter to the long flight and yet seemed to begin an entirely new chapter. For where the one story ends, the next one begins. After a while, they brought around a wonderful breakfast. Hot croissants and butter along with fruit.

Soon, land was below again and the final descent was upon us. England, I can tell already, will be a beautifully green place for me. I can see white dots on the ground which are sheep! And the dark ones are cows!! I always thought the ground looks like a patchwork quilt, well England does too, except all the pieces are shades of green!!! Fantastic!

So, I'm here, in England. Bristol, England to be exact. I'm tired and excited and nervous! When we landed, I noticed that we were no where near the airport building. I wondered how long that walkway would be, when I noticed the sunlight coming in the open plane door. Cool! My first stairs!!!
By the way, I got into trouble for taking this picture. The officer on the left at the bottom of the stairs noticed me take this and began to yell at me, "No photography!!" I said, "Oh, I'm so sorry, it's my first stairs!!" It turned out ok, but it's not the last time on this trip for me to get in trouble with my camera. More on that later. After being in the wrong line in passport control I made it through successfully and retrieving my bags, I walked out into the airport. Looking around, I saw many people waiting for arrivals. For the sake of privacy, I'll call my friend "A" in this series. A had not yet arrived to fetch me. I stepped outside, I couldn't wait to smell the air. It was a very brisk air that met me with a bit of force. The sun was shining-some. It was around 10 am. This will be the only day she and I will share with just us on this trip. (Her husband, whom we will call "P", will return from a short stint in the states tomorrow.) She arrived shortly and off we were! Let my English experience commence!

The roads are sometimes extremely narrow and twisty in some of these towns, the speed limits are rather high and you have no choice but to go that fast! If not, someone will come along behind you going that fast and meet you unexpectedly.
You even get points taken off your driving test if you use your breaks on those curves! Insanity! I love it!! It was maddening when we would be just going along and all of a sudden, we'd have to share the road with oncoming traffic!

Bristol was about an hour or so away from Cheltenham, which is where my friends live. It's quite a beautiful little town. Everything here is so lush and detailed! And the hills!!! One hill just rolls into the next hill which rolls into the next hill and so on! First we went to their house, called Sturmy's Cottage. Actually, everything is so old there, you don't really have number addresses for each house. You tell them the name of the house and which street it's on! Cooky, I love it. We dropped off my luggage, took a tour of the house, I took a shower to refresth (but actually had the opposite effect on me) and off we were to go to the grocery store.

We stopped at the petrol station to fill up. Notice the palm tree on the very left? I love palm trees, and they were everywhere! I didn't even think about that, and you know I have a thing for fun trees! Also, notice all the cars and even the trucks were so narrow! To fit the narrow roads of course. You'd have all these lorries buzzing here and there that were so thin, but very tall! Right away, everything looked different-culture shock begins!

Before going into the grocery store, we ducked into a Sally Beauty store so I could splurge and get a hair dryer, since this wasn't something she had. I also used the ATM for the first time to get my first round of English Pounds. This was fun! At the grocery store, they even have different sized trolleys (shopping carts).

They sell smaller packages of everything than we are used to. They have tiny sized refrigerators there, so they shop often for what they need and more times than not are eating fresher foods than we do normally. I mean, Cheltenham only had 1 drive through and it was a KFC. People there just don't get take out to feed their families with. I think it's great, actually. Real food for your family!

So we went to Waitrose (the grocery store) and then we went to High Street. I'm not sure if this was the actual name for the street or not or if it was more just the name of the shopping district. A said there is a High Street in all the towns. But this was an area of a few streets that were full of shops and stores and a Post Office and restaurants. On our way through, I saw my first taste of an English icon, the call box. Of course, it had to be documented!

A saw a restaurant we could come back to. High Street even had a mall entrance, where I noticed it was not called a 'mall' but an 'arcade.' Interesting...we went in and found a store she likes to frequent called Evans.

I heart Evans!!! It's my new favorite store!!! I really liked the style and they were having summer clearance too! So I picked up a few shirts to add to my sellection. We did end up eating at the restaurant A picked out, although it was not an English type of restaurant. Actually, it was French. But I had this:

Salmon cakes with a small salad and we had some yummy bread sticks. Great meal! By this time, I was nearly lethargic. It was around 6 pm there and I had been up basically for 30 hours. I almost fell asleep standing up while we were in the grocery store. A said that the first day would be all about keeping me awake until atleast 8 pm. I think I was up til then, I'm not really sure actually. We fed the cat and figured out what time we would have to get up in the morning to pick up "J" & his gf "A" in Swindon's train station and drive to Stonehenge by 6:45 am. Yep, you heard me right! Oh, J & A are A's friends also from St. Louis who were spending a month traveling through England and Ireland.

Meet Spyke. He's a good boy, I really enjoyed him. Here he is knocking around a plastic mouse to retrieve the treats that are waiting inside. Don't let the plastic mouse fool ya, he's a great mouser! More on that later too. Spyke slept with me sometimes, but he likes to make happy paws all over you, and he's not been declawed. I'm not used to that. The English find it very barbaric to declaw a cat, but when you have a lover such as he, ooooooooweee! Anyway, more pictures of this furry new friend later. Now, I sleep, for tomorrow brings Stonehenge and Bath!!


Anonymous said...

Delightful! I love the city at night photo--I always imagine what it would be like to go to another planet and how this would be a dead giveaway of intelligent life to any aliens visiting us, or looking at the Earth at night.

A few comments:

Take-Away in England: Lots of people get lots of take-away, but since we don't drive everywhere, there's no need for drive-thrus. A very popular and typically English take-away is a visit to the chippy--where you can get greasy fish and chips (fries) wrapped in paper. We have Chinese take-aways, but that's not really great food here; we've found it much greasier than the American version. And "curries" are also very popular. Most Indian restaurants do a fairly brisk trade in pick up meals. 'P' and I get Indian take-away almost every week!

High Street: Literally the name of the street, most towns have a street by this name where all the shops are. Cheltenham's is a fairly large, but typical High Street. Most of the smaller towns don't have an arcade, much less the two that Chelthenham boasts!

The luxury cat would like to mention that his name is spelled with an "i". Spike sends his purry greetings. He's drooling on my lap as I type.

Looking forward to more of the story!

BeccaGirl said...

Doly noted on the spelling of his name, I wasn't sure. As far as the 'take aways' go, I guess I remembered that wrong, thanks for the info on that. It was probably more my impression of take out LOL
I'm so please you can comment now!!!

Alison said...

Yahhhh I love hearing about your trip - the details are fantastic!! I can't wait to hear more. It makes me want to visit England tomorrow!

Rebecca said...

You are very funny and creative. Love this post. Oh, by the way...I'm Rebecca...nice to meet you. ;)

Robin said...

Great wordless wednesday shot. We just got back from new york and had a great time.

I love your pictures. What kind of camera do you have. I bet that answer is somewhere in your blog and just haven't gotten there yet.

We want to go to England some day since that is where my hubby's mom is originally from.

Love your blog.


shell said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, your blog on this trip! so detailed, as a knew it would be! lol!
spike is a little cutie pie :)
i loved the shot above the "quilt" in england! so lovely! :)
good job so far! can't wait for episode 3!

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

How fun. I hadn't read this before. I would have been so excited. Someday I want to go to England. Have a great GM5. :)