Note: Some of you (alright, 2) have asked about our trip to England so I have written retrospective posts about it because a.) Britain should rightly be called an unofficial stop on the B Tour. We were there for 3 weeks to celebrate the holidays with Bjorn’s parents, and in many ways it kicked off our travels, so I would be remiss if I didn’t write a little something about it; b.) I really like those 2 people; and c.) It’s my blog so I’m gonna write what I want, even if it’s about events that happened in the far distant past of December 2012. Nyah, nyah.
Part 1 of 3
My first trip to England was in March of 2012 to attend the wedding of Bjorn’s sister. It was a very short trip filled with glorious warm weather. You can read about that trip on the Chico Enterprise-Record entertainment blog, the Buzz Blog.
This was a much, much different trip.
We arrived to find much more dreary, colder weather. It was, after all, early December. And yet, everyone still walked everywhere. Even when it was bitterly cold, with the wind whipping up and rain pelting down, people were out and about. We were out and about in such weather. Those who know me probably read that statement with the same high level of incredulity reserved for “He had lunch with Bigfoot,” or “She bought a baby Bengal tiger at Harrods” or “Watching ‘Jersey Shore’ increased their IQ,” but it is (sadly) all too true. People from the very young to the very old were pounding the pavement at all hours of the day, with many members of the younger generation wearing nought but their school uniform jackets and staring in open (and rather impertinent, I say) curiosity as I shuffled around in my big jacket, ear muffs, tall boots, gloves, umbrella and scarf wrapped around the lower half of my face.
However, pubbing is a real joy, and I was able to visit a “proper pub,” called the Stag & Hounds in Binfield, England. Housed in a 14th-century building, it was said to have been visited by King Henry the VIII and Elizabeth I during hunting parties, and supposedly marks the center of the old Windsor Forest. The place feels cobbled together, as it undoubtedly was, with long, low-ceilinged hallways delightfully leading to the odd nook and cranny and a large room with a high ceiling housing many books.
Pubs, contrary to what I thought before, are not bars with a different name. They also serve food, and are more akin to restaurants/lounges that let you hang out for a really long time in a casual atmosphere.
We also went to Windsor Castle (while the Queen was there!) and had fun staring in open-mouthed wonder at the excessive luxuries and opulent grandeur that only the fabulously wealthy with a long lineage of inbreeding can afford.
Queen Mary’s Royal dollhouse is a sight to behold. The thing is ginormous and the attention to detail scandalizing. Even the ceilings of the castle were elaborate. Almost every room in the castle that I saw had ceilings that were frescoed and ornate (save the public restroom and the barren room you are shunted into right before they kick you out). Almost every ceiling. Of a 1,000-room castle. They are so intricate, so stunning, so layered, and perhaps most impressive, so clean-looking. An attendant told me they get cleaned about once a year.
Our trip was marred somewhat by the discovery of a parking warden (meter maid) in the process of writing us a ticket in the car park (parking lot). She told us she was halfway done (lie). We earnestly debated with her (begged) but she said she had to give it to us (big, fat, colossal lie. Someone later told us that if we had refused to take the ticket from her we wouldn’t have had to pay it. Sigh.)
We visited Oxford too, which takes the meaning of “college town” to a whole ‘nother level. The city is the university and vice versa. While there we stopped off at Blackwells, the famous bookstore, where I managed to fuel the ire of a wannabe goth/punk/emo counter worker by asking for a “trashcan” instead of a “bin.” However, even her dour attitude couldn’t dampen the awe I felt standing on a campus steeped in so much tradition and history.
Campus? Try the entire country (or at least the section I saw). It wasn’t just castles, pubs and universities, but entire towns that felt encapsulated in the rarified air of olde tyme. It was surreal to stand in buildings that were older than the U.S. — by hundreds of years.
As much as England celebrates its past, I also like how it celebrates the future. On New Year’s Eve we lit lanterns and watched them float serenely away into the horizon at midnight… on their way to frighten birds/get sucked up into jet engines/litter landscapes, but it was very pretty to see, very pretty indeed.
Plus, fireworks are allowed in England on New Year’s Eve and it was good-hearted, honest fun to cheer for Roman Candles, wave sparklers and watch rockets flash into the night sky.
Well, mostly into the night sky.
One rocket unfortunately tipped over and launched toward us, careening around the side of the yard. Screaming and stampeding into the house ensued, and I was very nearly shoved into the bonfire. But no matter. A brush with death only serves to heighten the atmosphere, I say.
As this was a much longer trip, I was able to visit more places, but have decided to spare you the 10,000 word blog post and instead, just regale you with separate tales about: