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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Today the sky is blue and the air is filled with the peaceful sounds of water—the ice and snow are melting, or at least are energetically trying to melt. My back yard faces away from the sun and is still mostly white, and my drive way is still half ice—but, so much better than yesterday, which completely wins the Worst Day of 2015 Prize—but heavens, here I am tempting fate. Let us say, it was a Not Very Good Day, how about. Yesterday was the day I was to travel to North Carolina for the meeting I have been working on for months—many many speakers and attendees, all needing hotel, transportation, food, and cosseting—my job. Thousands of emails, calls, conferences. Tiresome, very. And then, the grand day, when everyone packed their suitcases and headed to the airport.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

There was sleet and snow and freezing rain up and down the east coast and mid west, and the flight cancellations started rolling in. My own airline kept brightly posting “Still On Time!” messages (sly, very) so I summoned the cab and set off, after a tearful farewell to the cats (who seemed completely unmoved). My first horrid shock was finding that actually getting to the taxi—walking down the driveway—was fraught with peril. A sheet of ice, gently inclined towards the street. The kindly driver attempted to help and almost fell over himself. HOWEVER, I made it into the cab, explained how to get to airport (he understandably wanted to take the only route he knew, which was to go downtown and proceed from there). Once we got there, I was somewhat shocked to find endless lines of people waiting to get on new flights, theirs having been cancelled. But ha, mine was still On Time! So I had a pleasant supper at my employer’s expense, and then settled to wait for the plane.

On Time!

AH—small change. Delayed for an hour.

With death in my heart, I watched the sign board for another hour. Sure enough: Cancelled. All this time there was a constant stream of texts and emails from other project staff and our travel agency. I eventually got a seat on another flight arriving after the meeting ended today, but happily, my boss said it wasn’t worth it. So, out into the freezing rain to find another taxi and go home. A disagreeable ride, the roads very slippery—but nothing compared to the slippery state of my driveway. Impossible to mount that hill of ice, so somehow managed to climb the ice covered steps and get to the front door. Such a relief to come home! The cats welcomed me home, but without much enthusiasm–it was past their bedtime, after all, and the kindly neighbor had already given them their dinner.

And somehow the meeting has managed to continue without me. I find I am able to bear it.

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Back in the USA!

And happy to here! After all my ungracious kvetching about the grim duty of our (fourteenth, but who’s counting) non-optional UK trip, we had—as we always do, of course—a lovely time. While it’s true that if we had our druthers we might have spent the time lolling on some tropical shore sipping cocktails under the swaying palm trees, England is so beautiful, so gracious—her country roads so green and peaceful, her little villages so full of history and charm. We saw family and friends, ate and drank far, far too much, and–thanks to the generosity of our family and friends–did not after all drain our piggy bank dry. We are very grateful to Daniel for the surprise gift of a fine lunch, to the Drouots for their splendid hospitality, and to Joy for hers!

Shepperton-our hotel on the Thames Bodiam castle, which we visted after a grand lunch at the Curlew with John and Jane Joy’s village in Essex—completely charming

As usual, we took roughly a million pictures—the best of which I will be putting online this weekend, together with a tediously long account of the trip, which will not be of the slightest interest to anyone except myself, but I know my family and friends will not begrudge me this innocent amusement.

Hope

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Behold us in perfidious Albion! The dreaded flight past (though United surpassed all dire expectations of foulness this time: the seats crammed even more tightly together, the meal even more transcendently horrid, the tang of bathroom deodorant even more nauseating) we picked up our car and drove through the maze of dark dripping streets to our lovely little hotel on the Thames in Shepperton. Oh how I honor Samantha, our splendid new GPS device! Road signage is scorned as unmanly in this country, and except on the highways, signs are few and far between. Your map may tell you to turn left on Ticklepenny Spinney, but the roads wind about without the slightest hint as to which one it might be. Sammy was unfazed however—she sees the true nature of each unnamed road from her magical eye in the sky and belts it out with a will. We were a little taken aback by her directions to “turn right on uh-317” but when she followed up with a turn onto “B-375”, we realized that she was pronouncing “A” in a breezy slangy kind of way: the Hipster GPS person. She brought us to our hotel without a hitch.

But the evening was just beginning! A timorous youth with horn rimmed glasses and a beard appeared at the hotel desk and regarded us with anxious alarm—OH NO, customers! We announced we had a reservation and he earnestly consulted his computer screen seeking enlightenment—but finding none, turned despairingly to us. He had not, as you might say, the English. After a series of stilted exchanges, we eventually established that indeed we HAD a room, the price WAS as agreed upon, and we WERE prepared to pay for it. His air of earnest befuddlement –eh?—brought Manuel from Fawlty Towers irresistibly to mind. When queried as to what other language he might know he suggested French, but my tepid French immediately outran his. He was, it turned out, Slovenian. Just when it seemed that we might never come to an understanding, yet another youth walked in, elegantly attired in suit and pink tie, to be greeted with cries of relief from Manuel who instantly sought his aid. The newcomer was able to plumb the mysteries of the booking software, printed out a receipt for us, and showed us to our room—which was lovely, overlooking the river even as promised on the website.

But then, famished (the only edible part of the airline dinner was a small bag of chips, and man cannot live on chips alone) we ventured to the hotel bar in search of spirituous beverage, and mayhap a cracker and cheese. But zut alors, Manuel was manning the bar, and deep in a complicated many faceted transaction involving a glass of brandy and a thirsty customer. The cash machine, it went not! We waited but then bethought us of all the other pubs ringing our hotel within a minute’s stagger, and so we set off to the King’s Head—which was CLOSED. So then, onto the Anchor, which appeared to be open. We hastened to the bar, filled with hope—and who should sally forth but Mr. Pink Tie! What, did he work at both establishments? He gave us a sickly smile and shook his head. “A pint of London Pride and a glass of chardonnay, my good fellow!” Another sickly smile and the unwelcome news that they were CLOSED. And yet, there were customers about, drinking steadily. One of them raised his fuddled head and grunted “Give them a FUCKING DRINK”. Pink tie was so sorry, but the bar was closed. So, back to Warren Lodge, and Manuel now have succeeded in serving the brandy turned his attention to us. With our help, he located a bottle of white wine in the fridge, found us 2 bags of chips (man can live on chips alone, it appears, at least for a day) and even managed to correctly charge and print receipts for the purchase. Mission accomplished! After which, to bed.

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