New Journal Entry
Dana and I started our trip by taking a Greyhound bus from Boston to Port Authority in New York City, then caught a connecting bus to Newark Penn Station. From Newark Penn Station we caught a train to Newark Airport about 3 or 4 hours before our flight to Bristol. Since she and I were flying standby it was a bit frightening, wondering whether or not we were going to make the flight, but fortunately we did, and we were in First Class! First Class was amazing, dinner alone took about 2 1/2 hours, and it was delicious (I had lobster bisque, followed by a salad, then the osso bucco, then a fruit and cheese plate, and lastly a hot fudge sundae), and we satched Cabaret.
After Dana and I slept for a few hours on the plane, we were woken up for breakfast. After we landed in Bristol, we caught a coach to our friend Fallon's flat (Fallon was studying abroad at Bristol University). Though Fallon wasn't there yet, we were let in and we unpacked. Then we spent the rest of the day exploring Bristol. Bristol is beautiful! We walked through the town center, up to Cabot Tower, around a few parks and museums, explored the cathedrals, and then went back to Fallon's flat to have dinner and crash because we were jetlagged and exhausted.
Dana and I woke up and popped in to the local grocery store to pick up some pastries, fruit, and bottled water, then caught a coach to Bath (after figuring out that in Britain a "bus" is like our city buses, while a "coach" is like our big tour buses - that's how you can figure out which is which). We spent the morning at the Roman Baths and they were as amazing as they were the last time I saw them. Unfortunately, Bath Abbey was closed for a funeral service, but the outside was just as pretty as ever. Then we wandered Bath, and headed over to one of the little parks along the river where we fed swans and ate a late lunch. We explored Bath a bit more, then headed back to Bristol to meet up with Fallon and her friend Becca, who was also visiting from the states. We went out for drinks, then headed back to the flat.
Fallon had class, so Dana, Becca, and I went to Stonehenge and Salisbury! First we caught a coach to Bath, then from bath we went to Salisbury. From Salisbuty we caught a coach to Stonehenge. The last time I was in England I didn't go beyond the fence at Stonehenge because it seemed too expensive, but this time we had a British Heritage Card so the three of us got in for free. I think I took about 30 photographs just of Stonehenge. Then we headed back to Salisbury where we wandered the markets and explored Salisbury Cathedral. The Cathedral is beautiful. Unlike most cathedrals, which take decades and decades to build, this one was built in only 38 years, which means that the entire cathedral was built in the same architectural style - early english gothic. Most cathedrals are a hodge-podge of architectural styles because they take so long to build, that's why this one is so special.
On Wednesday, Dana and I took a coach into London. We were scheduled to meet up with our friends Nora and Laurel at 5, so Dana and I split up and explored London until then. I had already been London once when I was 14, so I hit a few of the sights I hadn't seen then (or had only seen in the dark). I went to Buckingham Palace, explored the parks, went over to Parliament, and then explored Westminster Abbey. After that it was time to head over to the SOAS dorms to meet Laurel and Nora. I ran into Dana outside the dorms, and we dropped our things off inside. Then the four of us headed out for dinner at a great Indian restaurant in the area. After dinner we grabbed a few drinks (well, I only grabbed one, since, at 7 quid for a martini, I could only afford one), then we decided to see "Becoming Jane". After we headed back to the dorms, Nora and I watched "Tipping the Velvet", which everyone should watch, it was fantastic! A note to anyone heading to London - expect to pay a good amount for public transportation. I couldn't believe how expensive the underground was! 8 quid, one-way? Good thing I bought a pass.
Nora and I slept in and grabbed lunch at a kebab shop across the street. Wanting to just soak up the culture, we wandered the local shops and sights, bought a few books. Since I needed a haircut, and I was in London, I decided to get a haircut at a salon in the area that Nora had just been too. Since her hair looked fabulous, I figured I was in the right place. Then Nora and I just wandered for a bit more. We met up with Laurel and went to an organic pub for dinner.
Last day in London; I headed over to the British Museum because I wanted to see the Reading Room, which I hadn't seen the last time I was there. Unfortunately, when I got there I discovered that the Reading Room was under renovation, and was closed. So I saw the rest of the museum (again) instead. After the museum, I picked up some postcards and went into a tea shop to have tea just like the British! I ordered the Cream Tea (Tea with cream and sugar, scones with jam and clotted cream) and wrote my postcards. After that I went over to St. Paul's Cathedral and happened to wander in on an evening service. It was amazing. The voices of the choir just soared up and over your head, and all around you. If I were religious, I would describe the sound as the voices of angels. After the service I went over the Globe Theater. Then I headed back to Nora's to say goodbye to her and Laurel, then hopped on a coach back to Bristol.
This was the day that Dana and I were supposed to head back to the US, but unfortunately during the very early morning we discovered that the east coast was slammed with blizzards and all the airports from DC up into Canada had shut down. Nothing was heading in, and nothing was heading out, which meant that the airports in England didn't even have the planes to get back to the US, since they were grounded on the east coast! We decided to try anyway and headed over to the Bristol airport, but unfortunately the flight was booked (ah, the hassles of flying stand-by). Since there is only one flight to the US per day out of Bristol, Dana and I bought an ID-90 ticket on Virgin and hopped a last-minute train to London (50 quid, ouch!), hoping to make it to Heathrow before everyone else who had had their flights cancelled. We made it to Heathrow, stood in line for at least an hour, only to be told that the flights were all booked on Virgin, and if we wanted to purchase a new ID-90 ticket on another airline or get ours refunded we had to go to our airline's main counter which was in Gatwick. No problem, right? Except the counter at Gatwick had closed at noon, and this was close to 2. So we caught another coach back to Bristol, figuring that we could stay at Fallon's flat if we were stuck in England until the following Wednesday, which was when the backed-up flights were expected to catch-up, and spaces were expected to open up on flights. I called my boss and told him that I probably wouldn't be in at work that Monday (he was very understanding; turns out his brother was also in England and had had his flight cancelled, and wasn't able to get back to the US until Tuesday!), then emailed my professors to let them know that I probably wouldn't be in class.
Though we weren't really expecting anything, Dana and I went to the airport anyway and stood in line. There was only one open seat when we got there, but we weren't sure if someone else on the stand-by list would bump us and we needed two seats, so there didn't seem to be much hope, especially since we expected to deal with people whose flights had been cancelled or overbooked earlier that weekend, and now had to buy a ticket on a later flight. They let us through though, and we hung out in the terminal, waiting to find out if we would make it on the plane. To our eternal amazement, we did! There were exactly two open seats just before take-off, so we managed to get home that day. The flight was longer on the way back to Newark, expecially since I was flying coach, but I was sitting next to some very nice people, so it wasn't so bad. My seatmates were part of a British tour group heading to Nashville and Graceland (the rest of whom were sitting behind us), so we talked about the US and the sights, and they explained a few nuances of British politics and life that I hadn't understood by virtue of being from the US, and I explained a few nuances of American politics and life that they hadn't understook by virtue of being from the UK. It was actually very nice, and luckily I was there to tell them that the US had moved its daylgiht savings time up by several weeks this year and our clocks had to be set back that very day - they hadn't known that, and may have missed their connecting flights! As we were landing the turbulence was terrible and all I could think off was sliding off the tarmac on black ice. We got off the plane and gathered our bags, and Dana's mother met us outside the airport and was kind enough to drive us both back to Boston in time for work and class the next day.