Friday, March 6, 2009

Vacation Part 1: The Middle of England

On the way to the airport I realized that I’d left my Swiss Army knife on my keychain, where it normally lives and was a little worried about this because I didn’t want it confiscated at the airport. We didn’t have time to turn around and go back however, so I just took it off the key ring and placed it in the front pouch of my back pack thinking that if they found it I could just say I forgot it was there and at least avoid looking like I was blatantly disregarding the rules. So we get to the airport and check in, no problems. I even make it through security, even though I got stopped. However, not for my tiny knife, which they seem to have missed, but for my deodorant, which I forgot to take out of my bag along with all my other toiletries. Ooops! That really was an accident and I found this highly funny, the French are quite amusing. I find it ironic that this is the country where I get stopped for a hygiene product and not a possible weapon. Anyway we made it to the plane and got through customs in the East Midlands Airport, which was interesting seeing as the English actually ask you questions about why you’re entering their country. Something which the French just couldn’t care less about. It was really really amusing explaining couch surfing to the lady at customs and my friends in Cambridge thought I was quite stupid for mentioning it in the first place. She thought we were crazy I’m sure, but it all worked out and she let us into the country after close examination of our other plane ticket receipts which indicated we did plan on leaving again. We caught a bus to Derby where we wandered just a little bit and then met our very nice hosts who made us dinner that night, which was quite delicious green curry and tofu (they are vegetarians, just like my friend Lindsey who I was traveling with). After that we talked a little while with them, they’re a cool couple who actually just recently moved into their house, and who are also expecting a baby! It was nice to talk with them, but it’s amazing how quickly traveling can suck away your energy! It’s quite awful, so after chatting for a little bit we went promptly to sleep.

Anyway, the next day, Saturday just for the record, we were all rested and ready to explore, so after some breakfast our hosts took us to an official English market, which was cool to see, they’ve got lots of really random stuff all together in one place. And I mean very random stuff. We bought some fixings to make pain perdu for our hosts like we’d promised them and then went back to their house to store it all. After that we drove up to Chatsworth Mansion, the location for Mr. Darcy’s house in the newest Pride and Prejudice movie. Unfortunately we couldn’t go up to the house because it’s closed during the off season, but we got to see it at least and then go to the market near the house, which had loads and loads of really awesome sounding food. We each ended up getting something and everything we tried was as awesome as it sounded. We got a shortbread cake with rum soaked raisins and apricots inside. We had it for dessert that night after dinner, OHHH so yummy! After the market we went farther into the country to find some cool underground tunnels/caves that we wanted to see. They were neat, but quite small, the tunnels were filled with water, so we took a boat through them to the cavern and then back. You can see pictures of this in the Derby album if you so feel inclined. After that we drove through the peak district some more. It would have been fun to walk a little but our host who was pregnant wasn’t feeling up to a long hike, so we drove just a little ways and then went back to their house. We ate some dinner, complete with awesome dessert already mentioned, and then went out a little bit later with our hosts and some of their friends. The British are funny when the drink. And we got to see a bunch of women show up looking crazily ridiculous since they were on a hen night (bachelorette party in American). We also took a ride in a real live British cab, which look funny and large, but are handicap compatible, so they’re just more progressive than we are in the states I suppose. After that we returned to their house and prepared to sleep after our long day out and about.

On Sunday, we woke up and got ready to go, then cooked the some breakfast, using some colis (pronounced cool-ee), which is basically ever so slightly sweetened pureed fruit, instead of syrup that we’d found at the market the day before. So far the two times I’ve cooked pain perdu in Europe it hasn’t even been sort of close to what I usually make in the states, but it still turns out well. I think anyway, and I haven’t had any complaints. Around 11 we hopped a bus to Nottingham and met our next host, then went to explore our new locale. First we wandered the town a little bit and then went to find the oldest pub in England our host had told us about quickly. It’s carved into the cliff that it sits next to, which we thought was cool. And it was cool to see, but we didn’t go in since it was a bit early for that. Turns out it’s pretty close to the castle, so we went to see it and it was a bit disappointing to be honest. You see, Nottingham castle has been blown up at least twice in its history, once due to war and once due to angry citizens revolting. So, instead of rebuilding a close replica of the actual castle, they built a museum house in its place. On top of that, the museum barely has anything to do with Nottingham, which we found odd. It has lots of random exhibits which range from art works to a display about Greek pottery, a room with random objects that has to do with their history and uses, and other really random rooms which don’t all tie together in any way shape or form. Don’t get me wrong it was interesting, just not what we expected. Even the part that was about Nottingham was weird and not quite expected. After that we wandered more and went to find a place for dinner. Find a place we did, it was an Indian restaurant which had won some local awards, but was still affordable. Hurrah! It was quite delicious. We also found an excellent little tea shop, called Lee Rosy’s Tea Shop. Logical name I think. Anyway, we instantly fell in love with this place. It’s quite the epitome of English tea shops. And not too expensive, a pot of tea which is four cups of tea (normal sized cups too) was only 2 pounds! So we split a pot of the best pomegranate green tea I’ve had in my life. Then we went wandering a little bit more, and then went to the town center to meet our host. While waiting for him however, some Nigerian guys that were there to visit asked me to take their picture. I complied with their request but before we knew it they were asking Lindsey to come stand with them in the shot. She hesitated and said they should have one of just them so they agreed, but then after that made her go join them. At this point our host, a guy in his 40s, shows up and comes over to us and offers to take the picture so I can join them too. When the guys from Nigeria ask who he is, he says he’s our dad and starts giving the guys a hard time for having approached us. All in good fun of course and they figured out pretty quick that he wasn’t telling the truth. Anyway pictures got taken, and then the guys are talking to us and once they find out we’re American immediately go, “But you’re not fat enough.” That’s right. To which Lindsey and I just kind of went, “Thanks… I guess.” Anyway then we started going our separate ways and they said something about seeing us again they were sure. What is it with Nigerians and immediate friendship? Remember the guy on the bus to Paris? Yeah, so apparently it is just a cultural thing, or at least with all the ones that travel. These guys at least said something about how unlikely that was. I still feel bad about not being able to contact the guy from the bus. He was nice. Anyway, we went for a drink with our host and then went back to his house to sleep for the night. With only one small problem, he doesn’t heat his house, meaning we had about 5 blankets each and were still cold, I’m used to this and quite like sleeping in the cold, however Lindsey is from Texas and didn’t manage quite as well as me. I felt bad for her.

The Monday was slightly less adventuresome. We took our first showers since we’d set out and were quite happy about that, but they were fast, seeing as it was so cold in the house, at least there was a water heater. We ate some food and then wandered around Nottingham some more. We both bought three scarves for 6 pounds total from a street vendor. Which I’m very content about. They’re nice scarves too. So that was really fun. Then we went to find the Alley café which our hosts in Nottingham had told us to find. It’s a vegetarian café with good food, so we walked up the street where it was, didn’t see it, back down the street, didn’t see it, tried again, nothing, then as we were giving up and going to find something else, Lindsey saw the sign that pointed back into the Alley where it was. We were really excited that we found it so that’s where we had our lunch. Complete with delicious gluten free brownie and vanilla ice cream. Then we went to explore the underground tunnels our host had told us about. During this it occurred to me that I’ve now seen the underground of three of the cities I’ve been to, and they’ve been the only locations I’ve paid to get into. Just an observation, but it makes me wonder about my priorities… Anyway after the caves we went back to Lee Rosy’s Tea and ordered another pot, but this time we tried something new, I don’t remember the name because it was really odd. Then we promptly ordered another pot, Lindsey bought three bags of tea, and I bought one too. Then our host came to meet us, and ordered another pot of tea. It was marvelous. Then we decided to find some fish and chips since we were in England after all. We got these huge fish and lots of chips and at the insistence of our host also got some mushy peas because apparently that’s just required, but not mentioned in the name because fish, chips and mushy peas is much less catchy and a bit long. While they were fixing us the food we had a nice chat with all the workers at the place we’d gone to and then, once the food was done and wrapped up, we went back to his house to eat. It was better than I expected it to be, but it won’t become my new favorite food anytime soon. I got so full I couldn’t even finish my fish, and our host had a really happy cat who got to polish the rest off later. After that it was pretty late and we were pretty cold, so we promptly ran upstairs where were staying in his attic like room and went to sleep to avoid the chilliness. Plus we also had a really early morning so we could make it to the airport in time for our flight into part two of our vacation.

That's where I have to leave it for now, the last two parts of the vacation story will be here on monday, or else you can point your finger and call me a lazy bum.

But for now, Peace.

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