I’m in an odd sort of place, not uncomfortable or unpleasant just a bit strange. I can’t really say I’m in England anymore but nor am I in Spain. I’m in the limbo of the airport once again and it doesn’t even matter where I am physically…most airports are the same, just fluctuating in size, decor, and food options. All the ones I know seem to be marked by dim fluorescent lights, expressionless faces of people waiting around, and the seemingly endless array of overpriced souvenirs and pre packed or fast food items to purchase.
Its Tuesday May 8th, and I’ve been here almost 5 hours now, with my flight leaving in 3 more. Thats fine though, I’m not complaining. Yet. That will depend on whether or not I sleep in an airport tonight. But that won’t be decided for another 5 hours, so theres not much point in thinking about it, but changing into comfy pants and glasses doesn’t hurt any.
I’ve been doing lots of sitting around today, but these past days have been such a blur of activity that it might actually be good for me right now, plus it gives me a reflective moment before I head back to Torrox, where I’ll only have 23 days left.
This 5 day trip to England has been fantastic, and it was refreshing to get outside of Andalucia where sometimes I feel like I’ve been baked under the sun just like the hills behind my town, or the sand that streches along the coast. I was able to see and experience for a short time a whole other country with its landscapes and landmarks and traveled with and met incredible people along the way.
I would have to give much thanks first of all to my CS host, who despite having to work at 6am the next day, answered the 2am phone call made by me from the local ‘Planet Kebab’. She picked up and in the most groggy voice I’ve ever heard gave me simple but vague directions to her home. We later laughed about it, but there I was with all my luggage down some dark half hidden residential street and walking in the rain looking for a blue thing…like a gate… uh yea blue…and then for 2 lights…and to just knock on the window.
I walked along trying to push aside my doubts, yet in the end it all came together. My host was standing at the door in a simple T-shirt and underwear and we introduced ourselves, and spoke briefly about the next day and shortly after we both went to bed, her in hers, and I on the red carpet floor space that would be my bed for two nights. By the second night I think I was able to catch a better glimpse of the tremendous generosity and kindness she possesses, and we were able to talk a bit more and with another girl share 3 bottles of wine, and swap stories, laughs and junk food.
But the CS experience is always different in mindset and in effect, and although grateful to have stayed at my CS’s home, I was relieved when I met up with Wes, my friend who had arranged and taken care of the trip for me.
I got such a wonderful feeling when I saw him, not only because he brought me WI cheese curds and Kashi cereal, but because his smiling face brought me back to Green Bay and people like him who make WI my home. I continue to be very grateful for everything and honored to have traveled with him as well as his mother.
I have to be honest that if Wes hadn’t suggested I come with him, I would have dismissed England as a travel destination all together. I don’t have anything against England, it just never seemed particularly exciting. However my judgements were proven to be without reason because from the very instant I arrived up until the Bristol airport every moment added to our adventure, not one more not one less.
I think every discouraging thing I had thought about England turned out to be such a surprise, or wonderful in its own way. For example:
The weather. Ok, well the majority of the time the air remained misty and damp,but when it did rain, it was always brief and never miserable. The weather happens to give England lush, absolutely green and breathtaking countrysides and elaborate gardens and parks in and outside the cities. Like this morning, I woke up in a hotel that had once been a mill. Set on the bank of a river, the early morning rain made the land sparkle. Or when we were making the drive from London to Bath and we suddenly passed these bright yellow fields that seemed stretch forever like a winding yellow brick road these fields continued everywhere until we reached our destination.
The food. An absolute abundance of fried foods were to be found, and the whole fish and chips obsession is true. There were a lot of crazy combinations of things and I really don’t understand why baked beans seem to be the one of the greatest things ever (and even I, a frijolera say that) …but it didn’t really matter because London had tons of markets, and fresh fruit and veggie stands, not to mention about a gazillion Indian and other ethnic restaurants that good food was not a struggle to find at all! I think one of my trips high-lights was the Borough Market, an area that snaked around a small part of town with the exotic and normal alike, everything looking delicious….and samples! Lots of samples, I walked around eating samples (always taking two of the desert samples if I could sneak it) so that way when I settled on what I wanted to eat I was already half full. I also discovered a delicious Irish cider that comes in multiple flavors. Its only 4% alcohol, but easy to drink and apparently at Woodmans in Green Bay.
The people. Ok sorry English people out there,…I apologize I just never thought of the English as being particularly attractive looking people. London however is a huge international capital and full of so many beautiful, and interesting, and fun to look at individuals. Crazy hair do’s, fancy shoes, styling coats, and a variety of ethnicities made walking down the street just to see who I would run into was a blast! Plus I met incredible friendly and willing to help me English folk, that’s speaking in London which I found impressive.
Architecture. I’m a big fan of interesting buildings with different looks, colors, and textures. London as a big city is full of such an interesting blend of old and modern. I swear at times I felt I was in a movie set the way the little brick houses looked so cliché all lined up in a row with flowers in the windowsills and bicycles on the outside railings. Turns out though, without thinking about it I was walking along movie sets! Lots of movies have the London bridge and other iconic places in them! I even saw the Mary Poppins’ house as well as where parts of Oliver Twist were filmed. As far as modern designs, I saw the highest building in Western Europe, all glass outside. Lots of buildings were made with glass and it was beautiful when the light shone or caused reflections.
Monuments. I’ve seen hundreds of cathedrals and churches before however the English structures were so impressive in scale and each had small quirky details. Plus I think one of the coolest things Wes, his mom and I did was to stop the car and wander around. We ended up in this old graveyard with a small church with worn and now indistinguishable tombstones. I could have spent days there I told them both,…but someday I will, so it was best to take a moment and keep up the adventures! Not only did I see churches and abbeys I also saw and walked a circle around Stonehenge!!
It was interestingly enough the things I thought I would get a kick out of that ended up being the more…not disappointing things…but not what I was thinking things. Such as:
Double-decker buses. Super expensive! I mean fun to ride, very iconic, and surprisingly efficient, modern and clean, but the price of transportation in London kills. A single ride is 2.35 pounds. Give me a break.
Red phone-booths. Smell like piss big time. They do happen to be everywhere, so it is cute to walk around and see them,…but sniff before entering!
Tate Modern. Free, so thats great. I won’t speak any negatives about free artwork….but no photography?!?! Really? I spent 38 minutes zipping through the levels and about double that looking at the books in the gift shop. ((P.S. to FB friends, I asked and they OWN original Woodman’s…but just choose not to display them. I think thats selfish. )) It was however on the other side of town I came late and had 35mins to choose between visiting the Science or Natural History Museums and I picked Science. Within 10 mins I saw the actual camera body and famous photographs taken from the Vietnam War, ones that a long time ago made a big impression on me in relation to relevance and impact of photography.
Little English bookstores. Where are you hiding?? I looked for you behind all the Starbucks and H&M’s and near the train stations and down by the river. Couldn’t find you! I wanted a place that smells like dust when you walk in, but didn’t. I would have settled with a Barns and Noble-esque type place, but I didn’t find any of those either. I just had this idea of me finding the perfect English language book at a reasonable price in some cute shop…and maybe a vintage clothing store too. But London, at least the areas to where I went didn’t have anything like that. I did pass an outdoor book fair with used books but brand new prices, and there wasn’t enough time to browse through all the unknown modern British authors. There was a second-hand book fair in one of the abbeys too, but with mainly religious themed books, funny though I found one romance novel about an English woman who falls in love in the backwoods of Wisconsin. Needless to say I didn’t buy it, and I was sort of bummed out that I would be leaving England without a joy read when suddenly this airport prison suddenly reveled a make-shift bookstand right along next to the gossip and fashion mags. There were a good 60 different titles to choose from, mainly by European authors, the majority falling under the crime genre. Each book was only around $11, so thats reasonable. I ended up buying “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. I haven’t seen the movie and only have a basic knowledge of the book/movie and lots of people have made a fuss over it, it’s a good size, and will be the determiner if I want to watch the movie and continue with the series. So I’m pretty happy about that.
I’m more than pretty happy about the trip overall. I had excellent company, CS went smoothly and I had so much fun, and more importantly I got to spend some time and deepen my friendship with Wes, as well as having the chance to meet and talk a bit with his mother and see another dynamic of their family. My little unexpected 5 day trip turned out to be something that will stay a special time for me. As always traveling to another culture broadens horizons and I feel like my mentality has already expanded a bit more as is does with every trip. I feel that it was good coming to England straight from a small Spanish village because maybe it helped allow me to notice some of the differences and similarities that I might have overlooked if I had come from Green Bay. Also leaving Torrox like I said makes the time deadline I have there very real. Tomorrow its back to work, the radio, hiking, wine and tapas, hanging with the neighbors and everything else that I do and see. I have 23 days to enjoy it! Not like I needed the motivation, but I certainly will be enjoying every minute I have.
So, Cheers! I mean Hasta Luego….well, I don’t know how to end this,…airport language is in limbo too…I guess I’ll just take my *un-entrance now
*so you (and you know who you are) may have one last laugh ; )