Friday, October 4, 2013
England: From Plane to Thatched Cottages
We began planning this trip in February. Our oldest son surprised us at Christmas with a gift of tickets to any place in the world we wanted to go (with a certain dollar limit, of course!). I knew immediately where that place was: England.
When to go? That's a problem when you have a garden, critters, and storytelling to consider. Spring would have been nice but I needed to get my ID documents in order--starting with an official birth certificate, replacement Social Security card and updated driver's license that showed our new address (we didn't move, but all roads were named and addresses assigned as part of a project to make emergency services faster). Once all those papers were in place, we needed to get our passports, and allow time for them to arrive.
We considered traveling in the summer but with the gardens in full swing and my usually hectic storytelling schedule, we ruled out summer pretty quickly. Fall then? Friends and relatives advised that after mid-September prices on fares and hotels dropped. October is usually a busy month for me, so we finally zeroed in on late September-early October.
Getting ready for a trip is a process, isn't it? Get all the bills paid up, as much laundry done as possible. Pack and weigh and repack suitcases (I did mine at least 10 times, trying to get the right combination as I watched weather reports for Britain). Hold the mail. Get someone to take care of the animals and watch after the place. Notify our booths that we'd be gone and couldn't be reached for prices, etc. Arrange to get booth rents paid. Clean the house, because there are few things worse than coming home tired to chaos. Write down phone numbers. Print travel information, tickets, etc. Double-check flight times. Arrange to be dropped off and picked up. Figure out what money is needed and how to access it.
Lots of stuff on that to-do list. And if you're wondering why I wasn't sharing all this on my blog, it was because in these times it didn't seem prudent to let the wider world know our house would be vacant. So I tried my best to keep it quiet, although I was bursting at the seams with joy and anticipation.
The day arrived; Derek drove us to the airport for the red-eye flight. We were traveling first to Charlotte, NC, then to Dublin, Ireland, and then catching a flight on a discount line to London, saving about $500 on our tickets this way. The red-eye was no fun, I can tell you. Cramped, noisy, uncomfortable, but we were so excited I think we'd have sat on the floor.
When we arrived at Stanstead Airport near London I wondered if my cousin would have any trouble finding us. No worries--he was there as soon as we came though the doors.
What a pleasure it was to see Les again after 30+ years! Talk came easily and quickly; it seemed like we'd just seen each other a few days before.
England was everything I expected, and more. I was surprised by the traffic, and even more by the roundabouts! I was glad that Les would be with us to do the driving because I think there would have been some bumps and bangs if I had attempted it. I knew England would be green and well-kept, but to know something and to actually see it are two different things. The gardens were like little jewels of green and color. I recognized many plants that also grow here, but saw many that were new to me. Another surprise was the apples, growing wild along the roadsides and loaded with fruit. Blackberries and elderberries were also profuse and ready for the picking, and we saw several people out gathering them.
There were lots of little things that were markedly different from the States. Coffee, my sister had warned me, is completely different from American coffee. It's stronger, more like espresso and seems to be made usually in a machine like an espresso. We stuck mostly to tea--guaranteed to be excellent anywhere we went. Bathroom light switches in the homes we visited were a string that ran up the wall to the light--effective and simple. Many items, from appliances to vehicles, seemed designed with an environmental viewpoint: England is not just physically green, it's mentally green too. People recycled, rode bikes or walked, drove small, efficient cars. Many homes had solar collectors on their roofs and we saw several wind generator farms.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.