Sunday, March 23, 2008

Planes, Planes, an Automobile, a Train, and Another Plane

I originally wrote this on an airplane, so it was fresher in my mind than it is right now.  Enjoy.

My girlfriend decided a bit ago to leave her job and travel for a few months before moving on with her career. Luckily, this coincided with the weakest dollar in the history of currency so we took the opportunity to go to the UK.

First off, the rumors of bad food in the UK are grossly exaggerated. 90% of our meals were terrrific, and the 2 “bad” ones weren’t inedible or anything. One highlight among many was a fish and chips shop that used some sort of nut oil for the fryer. They used olive oil just for me because I am allergic. I’m pretty sure that that would never happen here (here being the US, in case it’s not obvious by my speech patterns).

So, down to business. What did we do? Cindy was already there a week ahead of me spending some time with her friends and seeing the sights. Day one found me being rushed over to Cambridge and finding some sub par hot chocolate to warm me up from a place called, I think, Costas. I’m writing this from a plane so I don’t have an internet connection to fact-check.

Cambridge was beautiful, and that’s about all there is to say about it aside from showing some pictures. In my Picasa album you should eventually be able to find the collection of photos from this trip.

I slept on the drive back, and the 2 year old daughter of our hosts was apparently asking “what’s that?” when I was snoring. I think she was pointing trees out to me as well.

On Monday (Sunday was my arrival), Cindy and I took a trip out all by ourselves to London and saw some pretty interesting stuff. The worst thing I saw all trip was the Sherlock Holmes gift shop (if the shop was that bad the museum would not be worth entering), but I still grabbed a few trinkets for my dad who reads and quite enjoys Sherlock Holmes.

One of our next stops was Trafalger Square, and it looked pretty much the same as it did in V for Vendetta. We went over to Big Ben (and got a picture of me by it) and implicitly Parliament, and then we walked along the mall over to Buckingham Palace.

We had a romantic dinner at a place called the Wollesley (sp?) where I will say we had our first “bad” meal. Now, the food was definitely tasty, but the 7.5 pound (about $15 US) bowl of soup that they served me was basically broth and a few floaters. It lacked even the flavor of Swanson’s chicken broth. The dumplings (about 2 pounds more for them) were 3 marble sized pieces of bread, or something. Complete waste of $15, but the rest of the food was at least tasty, if not filling at all.

We took some more pictures and went over to Harrods. They sell, I shit you not, saddles. We took a couple pics in there but the main highlight was that and also the absurdly gaudy Egyptian set of escalators. It’s as if someone moved the garishness of Las Vegas into one of London’s finest department stores.

We next made our way over to the Hard Rock Cafe to buy some shirts (Cindy calls them forced souvenirs for her dad, and it’s actually better than a random doo-dad), and then found our way back home. We watched some game shows and went to bed.

The worst game show that I've ever seen is called Golden Balls.  It consists of contestants lying to each other for a while, and then randomly getting money at the end as they pick the remaining balls.

If I could get a free pass through the first 10 questions or so of the UK's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" I'd do extremely well.  The beginning is filled with easy questions that I would have no chance on (Paint your what?  Apparently it's wagon).  At the end they ask difficult ones like "which of the following is a US State?  North Virginia, anyone?"

Their version of Family Feud (I forget the name, but it's the same game) is also impossible in its own right.  A slang term for your head?  How about nut (number one answer) or loaf?

There was some old 80s show involving teams of 2.  A dart player (who would throw darts to figure out how much the questions would be worth for their teammate), and a question answerer.  The show featured an animated mascot named "Bully."  I thought it was some weird cowpotamus mutant until I realized that I was a dummy and it was a show about darts.  I believe this show had to have been on in 1986 or so because a prize was a Sega Master System.

Lastly, I'll mention that they do not have "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?"  They have "Are you smarter than a 10 year old?"  The song is funny if you can somehow find it online.

The next morning we flew up to Edinburgh, Scotland, and this was the real highlight of the trip. It was quaint and had even better food than London. Bangers and mash, Haggis (it’s good if you get it from a good place), and various ales put some extra pounds on both of us.

We spent a day in the city, looking at the Castle, Holyrood Palace (pronounced kinda like a non-native English speaker from Asia may pronounce Hollywood), and various other things. It was a really great place, and I’d go back to Scotland before London (well, our friends in London would be a reason to go there, but London itself is not up to par with Edinburgh for what I look for in a destination).

That was nice, and the next day we made the drive up to St. Andrews. Wow. It was amazingly beautiful, cold, windy, and the Old Course is exactly what you’d expect it to be. We obviously couldn’t get a tee-time (and my handicap is definitely not 24 (the requirement)), but we walked out onto the course a bit after everyone’s rounds were done for the day. I got a pic by the bridge on 18, and we were too lazy to check out the road hole, but it was great. We walked out to the beach and got some neat pics and videos of the ghost-like sand blowing across the other sand.

St. Andrews is one of the best places I’ve ever seen.

We had a great dinner there at a place called The Seafood Restaurant. It’s kinda swanky, but the food is great all around. Preparation, presentation, taste… it had it all. I’d recommend it. Next time I’d try a normal entree (we got the cheap 25 pound meals because we weren’t sure of the quality, and the 38 pound meal would have been like $55 more in USD). Now we are sure.

After returning to London we hit up the Prime Meridian in Greenwich and got some pictures. I never knew a lot of the stories they told in there (Newton stealing information from the initial head of the observatory, and so on). I wouldn’t go back there, but it’s something that I’ve now seen.

There are a million things that I’ll forget to mention in this entry, but they’re in my mind and can’t be taken away from me. In a week I flew a third of the way around the world, saw some cities that I’d never been to, and experienced things that a lot of people never get to. In the past year I’ve been to 4 continents, and before that I had been limited to 1.

Life goes by so fast
you only want to do what you think is right
close your eyes and it’s passed
story of my life

This has been my best year so far, and I’m hoping to improve on it in 2008 and beyond. Great trip, great life.

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