Our UK adventure came to an end Sunday after a smooth flight from Heathrow back to good old MSP, where we were greeted with the always startling rudeness of US Customs officers. (Seriously, I crossed into several Iron Curtain countries back in the '80s and was treated much more pleasantly by the Commie-pinko "enemy".)
I have to admit that I was surprised how much I loved London. That sounds stupid and provincial, doesn't it? I've never heard anyone speak ill of the city if they'd spent any time there on vacation or for work, but I still had doubts as the trip approached.
Here's the thing: after spending nearly half my life trying to make myself the best German speaker I could possibly be, I can't easily escape the feeling that the misery of a trans-Atlantic flight is endured in vain unless I get to speak German once the plane lands. It's a ridiculous and limiting mindset, but I struggle to shed it.
While I didn't get to speak any German on this trip, I sure heard plenty of it: on the streets, in cafes, in pubs, on the train, you name it. Eavesdropping is always fun, apart from having to bite my tongue so I don't chime in.
You're probably tired of my travel pics, so I'll hold off (for now) on posting more. I'll content myself with listing some highs and lows of the time Darren and I spent in England.
- Spending nearly six hours chatting with my London-based colleague Pete W. at the Museum Tavern just across from the British Museum. Pete kicks arse, and you can quote me on that.
- Finding delicious food at every turn, whether it was in charming little restaurants or in fabulous "fast food" chains like Pret a Manger, which offer freshly made sandwiches that delight, satisfy, and put the USA's pathetic Panera in deep dark shadow by comparison.
- Spending time with our charming and witty pals and Jerry.
- Enjoying the enormous comedic talents of Graham Norton live on stage in La Cage aux Folles
- Basking in eight days of sunny weather. I actually got a tan in London!
- Seeing young college students we traveled with experience a foreign culture--and in some cases air travel--for the first time
- Discovering the outdoor urinals of Soho. I can't even use urinals in a men's room, so I would never in a million years be able to pee right out in the open on a public street surrounded by hundreds of people strolling by. Still, these little relief stations provided some images of London I won't soon forget...
- Relying on an extensive, convenient mass-transit system. (You mean there's not just ONE rail line like at home?!)
- Taking a Thames cruise with Darren, feeling so lucky to be with him on a great vacation.
- Re-connecting with my friend Raphael, whom I hadn't seen in fifteen years, and meeting his lovely wife and kids.
- Visiting Oxford and realizing that I would have been miserable there had I received the Rhodes Scholarship I applied for and didn't get. (Bastards.) Nice place to visit, though.
- Having poor Darren get food posioning after a romantic dinner at a hip Soho restaurant.
- Choking down the worst Continental breakfast I have ever endured--bar none--in any country, in any city, and country I have visited, including Austin, MN. Picture baskets of cold white toast, cornflakes, prunes, watered-down orange juice, and muesli. After the first breakfast at our hotel, we never went back. Pret a Manger kicked off the rest of our mornings.
- Seeing young college students we traveled with experience a foreign culture--and in some cases air travel--for the first time. (Some of the kids adapted to life abroad more easily than others.)
As you can see, the highs (even the partial list above) far far outweigh the lows. Hurray for us!