Sunday, November 7, 2010

Quick jaunt to England

Victoria Memorial
About 3 weeks ago, I took a quick “mini-break” trip to England for a friend’s wedding! It seemed so close, so easy, so doable back in May, when I was still in Vermont. That was before the 6am train ride from Lillehammer to Oslo, the flight to Amsterdam, the second flight to London, the hour long tube ride from Heathrow to Victoria Station, and then the next afternoon the two hour train ride to Sussex.

No, it wasn’t easy. But it was a lot of fun.

Zipped up to Buckingham Palace

Yes, they really wrote "easyHotel" 
on their walls.
British efficiency bathroom: hey, it's
clean, cheap. I can't complain.

My travel companions for most of this trip were my Dartmouth midwife colleague/buddy Auben and her new beau, Rob. Auben and I both work(ed) with the bride, our Social Worker Super Star, Catriona, back in New Hampshire. Catriona is English; her husband-to-be is a New Hampshire native. I arrived Wednesday evening in London, and seeing that I had 45 minutes until I had to meet Auben for dinner, I dumped off my gear in my orange-themed “Easy Hotel” basement-level-windows-cost-extra hotel room, and buzzed up to see Buckingham Palace. Kind of my “pinch me I’m in London” moment. I then proceeded to get thoroughly and completely lost on my way back to the hotel, when I opted to take a “more direct” route. Thankfully, Auben and her beau were waiting patiently in the spacious lobby of Easy Hotel (you think I’m kidding about their name?), and we enjoyed an unremarkable dinner at a local Indian restaurant before we parted ways to see the London theatre of our choice. My choice, based solely on the recommendation of my parents, was “War Horse”. That performance might be the highlight of the trip.  I opted to walk back from the New London Theatre to my hotel near Victoria Station, nearly a 30-40 minute walk, so I could take in the sights of Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the buildings along the Thames. My time in London was going to be limited to that night and a half-day on Thursday, so I wanted to make the most of it. My morning had started around 5am in Lillehammer, and I collapsed in bed around midnight London time, 1am in Lillehammer.

Art at the Tate. I know the feeling.
Thursday morning I met up with Auben and Rob, and we spent much of our late morning/early afternoon touring the Tate Modern. The first notable Language-Learning-Moment of the weekend was when I correctly determined that the woman sitting next to me at lunch was actually speaking Swedish, and not Norwegian. (I asked her, she verified). I was quite proud of myself. The fact that I’m putting it in this blog should drive that point home.

Anyway. . . Thursday afternoon we hopped on board a train bound for Bognor Regis, Sussex, (on the shores of the English Channel) where we took a short taxi ride to our lovely B&B in Felpham, and joined the out of town guests for a very tasty dinner at a seaside restaurant. We were quite an international crowd: there were the expected American and British contingencies, and myself unofficially from Norway, but also guests from Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.
Charming Sussex church

Friday was a bright, sunny day, although perhaps around 50 degrees F. Around 12:45, church bells began ringing through the village, beckoning us to make haste, and get ye to the church! My dear friend Catriona is a rather private person, so I won’t say much more than the bride looked amazing and the ceremony was a perfectly English experience. (Some Proper British women even wore Proper Hats!) We followed the wedding party to the seashore, where a group photo was taken of the 80+ guests with the English Channel behind us. 

On Saturday, I decided to take full advantage of my time in southern England, and hopped on a bus to Chichester, about 20 minutes inland. It had a bustling shopping district, with clothes stores far more tempting than what I’ve found in Norway. There’s also a large cathedral with lovely gardens surrounding it which were still appealing, even in late October.

Second Language-Learning-Moment of the Weekend:  Saturday evening the remaining crowd met up at a local pub for dinner. I had called home to wish Greta goodnight, and she asked what I was going to do. I told her, “I’m going to get something to eat. I’m going to a pub.” As any new-language learner might ask upon hearing an unfamiliar word, my two-year-old asked me: “What’s ‘pub’ in English, mamma?” Erik didn't miss a beat and responded, "You can't get more English than 'pub'!"
Charming bride and groom
Charmed wedding guests

And it is true. It was a great way to wrap up a great English weekend. Obviously, spending a weekend with good friends was a huge treat. It was so nice to reconnect and be with people with whom you share a past. It was such a treat to be able to travel and read menus, understand signs, feel confident about which direction I’m going on the Tube. . . . or not, as the case might be.  I found myself talking more to people just because I could, because I knew they could understand me. But it was a strange experience to hand my passport to the agents in Amsterdam and tell them, “I live in Norway.” And just 16 hours after I left Felpham, Sussex, England I was in my bed in Lillehammer. Just 16 hours.

Chichester on a busy Saturday at the shoppes

Chichester Cathedral

Auben on a chilly but sunny Saturday

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a great trip! I had to laugh at the EasyHotel. We have flown EasyJet and I have surfed the web at EasyInternet cafes. :)