Friday, November 18, 2011

Europe Trip - Part 1: DC and England

August 31, 2011. Herein beginneth the journey. Successfully dodged a creeper at the airport, enjoyed Bloody Marys at the Earl Campbell bar, and now we're about 40 minutes from landing in DC for our 1 hour layover. Oh, Washington, DC. How I miss you...

And then the 1 hour layover turned into a 21 hour layover. We were stuck at Dulles with nowhere to go.. we were like cattle being herded from Gate C-20 to C-4, then back to C-20, then back to C-4, then back to C-20 (I'm not kidding). Picture the rage. People get upset when they have to sit on the tarmac an extra five minutes. Note to self: Continental Airlines is going downhill fast thanks to United, and no one seems to care. Add another airline to the list of airlines to avoid.

So then they gave us vouchers at Holiday Inn Express (Emily) and the Landsdowne Resort (Amy), so we opted for the Resort. Time check: it's 2 in the morning. Shuttle buses quit running at 1:45am naturally, so we had to pool our cash together to get a van to take us (Amy, me, and 3 other exhausted travelers) to the Landsdowne. One of the passengers was quite the know-it-all, traveling with his rather irritating hair slicked back into a tight ponytail, complete with ringlets.

Amy, when reliving the trip: "I just wanted to cut off his curly ponytail."

Upon arrival at the hotel, we asked for any sort of toiletries they had available, as ALL OUR LUGGAGE WAS STILL ON THE PLANE.. and the guy hands us each a toothbrush. "New technology," he bragged, "the toothpaste is already inside the brush."

Gee. Thanks.

So we slept in between trying to connect with Mom's sweet friend Patty in London to tell her we were going to be an entire day late.... got up, taxied in to town (hi $100 fare. Reminder: never fly into Dulles), and barely made it to prayer at IJM. How WONDERFUL to see them! This was my first time back to my old job since my ridiculously rapid departure last December. After prayer, we walked to Costco for DDL (Dollar Dog Lunch), and I soaked up as much as I could of these fabulous people.

Warmed my heart to see so many old friends. Made the ever-present Austin vs. DC dilemma all the more difficult.

We rode the Metro to the American History Museum and Old Post Office where I snapped my new favorite photo:

Amy: "All I gotta say is we'd better get the royal treatment. I expect a hot towel."

We watched Louis CK's "Everything is amazing and nobody's happy" routine a couple of times. Arrived in London AT LAST.

When debriefing the flight, specifically the family that climbed over us the majority of the flight:
Amy: "They might as well have taken an entire row. They had four children."
Emily: "And the dad had terrible breath."

Met up with Patty, Gregory, and Olivia Easter and headed over to a lovely little Italian cafe for breakfast... we had a whopping 2 hours time in London and sadly couldn't visit their home in Windsor. Patty looks exactly the same as I remember her, but the kids have grown up so much!!! (And yes, I've totally become a cheek pincher despite the fact that I am only 27).

King's Cross? Pancras? I can't remember. Something about the Olympics coming.

Yes, we backpacked... unnecessarily.

Precious family...

Ok, I was told by dweeby Harry Potter fans (yes this means you, Eray, Patrick and Traci) that Platform 9 3/4 had special significance in life. So here I am, doing what pretty much every other tourist (ahem, the ones who knew what they were doing) did: woowoo! Look at me! I'm pushing half a cart into a brick wall!!.

This is a big deal.... if you're into this sort of thing... which I'm not.

And then our two hours were up, so we said a quick goodbye and boarded a train (this tour would come to be known as the Modes of Transportation Tour.... ) for Edinburgh, Scotland. Four hour ride...and it was just marvelous outside.

Views of the sea are gorgeous.
On the left is freshly cut hay piled high,
paddocks lined in green
Steep hills almost ripe for harvest
lush fields chocked full of life
Quaint roads winding dark and steep
Old buildings - how old?
Trees stout and stumpy like green
cotton balls
Of course a brook
Fences made of little rocks
A pine forest? Sure.

I could get used to this place.

Ernest Henningway

Brace yourselves, folks.

There is a chicken (hen or rooster TBD) living in our backyard.

Yeah, crazy. I know. Its name is Ernest Henningway (because he/she is a rogue traveler).... not sure where it came from. Neighbors Maggie and Ashley saw it crossing the road, and instead of telling themselves the old joke that is just plain pointless and laughing (as I would have done), they took pity on it and put it in our backyard (they asked us, and besides, the feathers spewing from their backyard that would inevitably follow the introduction of the dumb dogs and Ernest would be all over our pathetic excuse for a yard).

So yeah, hyper-terrified-of-birds me has one in the backyard. This is progress. I've even been out back twice, witnessed the squawking and haven't a) shot it or b) run inside terrified.

Deep breaths. Small steps. There is a monster in the backyard. Knock knock.