England, pt 1

Ah, England.  I feel as though I should preface this part of our trip with a little bit of information.

First off, there were parts of this trip that I believe were literally out of experiences in hell.  I don’t actually like road trips, as anyone who grew up with motion sickness may understand.  Additionally, my in laws and I travel very differently.  I tend to stay in larger hotels, figuring the room is an insignificant portion of why I am there anyway.  I also have no problem eating lunches or dinners in a fast food place such as McDonalds.  If saves a bit of money that can be used for more fun things, and feeds everyone quickly.  It’s an all around win in my book. However, my in-laws prefer to stay in bed and breakfasts, and eat in pubs.  It’s not like I don’t like these ideas, but it all comes together to make it a very different experience on this trip.

Now to the hell of our first day.

When my in laws first discussed coming to visit us, they made a request to travel to England and Germany as well.  It is surprisingly common for people to want to visit other countries when they visit us, even in conversation.  I guess not everyone knows what to find in Belgium, but they can see how close it is to countries.  It’s sad.  Anyway, my father-in-law is retired from the US Air Force, and was once stationed in both places.  The desire to return has been there for a while.  It’s been over 30 years since they had been to England, and they were anxious to return.  Additionally, my Mother-in-law was very excited to take the chunnel, (officially the Eurotunnel).  Approximately a decade ago she gave a speech on the chunnel and really wanted to go through.

We left early in the morning to drive out.  The plan was to drive the three and a half hours to the chunnel, cross, then drive up to our B&B and check in early enough to still see some of England that afternoon.  This first drive wasn’t too bad; a little traffic, a few stops for gas and relieving ourselves of bodily fluid, but nothing excessive.  Until we arrived at the terminal.

We had given ourselves an extra hour and a half from our scheduled chunnel crossing.  We figured that would give us an hour of extra time, plus our checkin.  With the time of day we were traveling we didn’t think we would need more. By the time we arrived, we were beginning to push our time limit, and were worried.  Buying a chunnel crossing in advance is significantly less expensive than a last minute fare, and we didn’t want to miss out slot.

As we arrived, there was traffic due to construction.  We were following the signs to where we needed to be, but somewhere along the way we got a little mixed up.  Trying to find the right lane for us we asked someone for help.  Their English was either not good, and my French is horrible.  We thought we were communicating, telling him “touriste” lane.  Somehow we were directed to the lorry lanes instead and being herded long with the large trucks.  We couldn’t get out, but we also couldn’t get through.  Eventually we found someone who could help us get out and to where were were supposed to be, but we had already missed our checkin time.  Luckily for us, the nice woman informed us that we actually had a two hour window, and we would still make our crossing.  We got in the correct lane, and on we went.

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The chunnel is a pretty cool thing.  You drive right onto this train thing, park your car, and when you drive again 35 minutes later, you are across the English Channel.  This wasn’t my first time crossing, so I was mostly just wanting to get it over with.  Trust me, if you are claustrophobic or have a very sensitive stomach this isn’t going to be very fun for you.  However, if you are my Mother-in-law, you will be giggling like a school girl.  It was adorable how excited she was.

Arriving on the other side, we continued on towards the B&B we had booked the day before.  We were out in the middle of no where, lost and looking for a place called the Brambles.  Pulling over to ask for directions, we learned that somehow we were in the wrong town.

While waiting for good directions, a nice English man pulled up next to us and gave us a friendly greeting.  It was adorable how surprised he was to discover than in spite of seeing a Belgium license plate, it was a van full of Americans.  We talked about American football, because apparently there was a recent game in London with a couple of NFL teams coming over to play.

After we received directions we moved on, driving to our B&B.  As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with a large dumpster filled with construction waste and a locked door. When we finally found someone to talk to, we were informed that our reservation had been cancelled the day before.  We should have received an email.  We did not.  We were now in the middle of England, outside a closed B&B, planning on staying for three days and having no place to sleep that night.  The only good news we received for the next four hours was a random phone call from my husbands work informing us we would be receiving his rank promotion soon.  It didn’t solve the place to sleep problem, but it still improved my mood a lot.

We drove around for an hour or so, receiving very little help from places nearby until we finally found a Travelodge in Cambridge where a very kind man named Georgi was able to get us situated into rooms for the night.  Unfortunately, no matter how much he wanted to help us, there was no way for him to book us for more than one night at at time.  In order to book a room for more than a night, we needed to go online to a faulty website which used up my 30 minutes of free internet access and still didn’t get us booked.  It was exhausting, and frustrating, but with the help of a kind person we had a place to sleep.

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The view from our room wasn’t that bad either.

From there we went out to see some of my in laws old friends.  It had been over thirty years since they had seen them, but it was as if they had never been apart.  It’s always nice to see real true friendships like that.  We went out to a pub for dinner where I began consuming my typical UK food, fish and chips.  I’m not supposed to eat them, as the gluten in the beer batter does make me sick, but I LOVE fish and chips and there is no where better to overdo it on fish and chips than England.

The pub was a cute place, slightly rustic and everything you would want from a stereotypical English pub.  Somehow I ended up with only one bad picture from inside the pub.  I guess that is a good statement on the food there.

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Seriously.  I have no idea how I ended up with this as my only picture.  I guess it wasn’t my day.

In fact the only disappointment was having regular peas instead of mushy peas.  Most people I know, whether they like peas or not, hate the mushy peas that seem to come with every order of fish and chips.  I actually love them.  With a little salt, they taste just like split pea soup.

While we had thought we might be continuing to rent our hotel rooms night by night until we left, we were also able to book a small cottage for the next two night which would cost half as much as the Travelodge.  It was too dark that night to take a picture of where we were staying, but we were able to snap this picture later.

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Adorable, right?  Everything inside was so tiny, my husband actually hit his head on a door frame.  It was like a dollhouse.

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We were informed that this house was once owned by a Mrs. Bradford, and named after her daughter Hilary when it was added to the property of a Bed and Breakfast.  While I can’t help but feel as though we wouldn’t have had any trouble with where we were staying if we had booked a hotel from the beginning, it was definitely cool staying in a house with history.

So that was our first day in England.  A mess, exhausting, but ultimately good.

And for anyone who is wondering, the story with the first B&B did have a bit of a happy ending.  Sure, it was an inconvenience having our reservation canceled almost instantly after it was made, but a couple of days later (we had a lot of internet issues while we traveled) my in laws received an email from them.  They said they had been trying to reach us, they were very sorry for the problems it may have caused us, and in addition to the refund, they refunded us the cost of an additional night, knowing last minute accommodations can be more expensive.  I can’t be sure of what went wrong, but I have to give them credit for trying to make it right.  And no, I don’t think they have an idea that I would be writing about it on a blog, or that this would reach enough people to ruin their business (which I don’t think it ever will).  They made it right simply because they felt they should.

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