Day 1: Somewhere Beyond the Sea (aka The Journey begins)
I woke up this morning after 2 hours of sleep, to do some very last minute packing. 9AM we took Gilbert and Gary to Animal Lodge, where they will be staying while we are abroad. As soon as Stacey grabbed the pet carrier, we had 2 very different reactions from the cats: Gary was curious and meowed with excitement and sat in the carrier, he’s usually the one that wants to go out and explore new things, (I always say it’s a big world for him and he’s a kitty with ambition.) Gilbert on the other hand, was quite the opposite because his last trip in the carrier led to a trip to the vet’s office. Which was prompted when he decide to “break into” some chocolate cupcakes which led him to being treated for chocolate ingestion; in which consisted of many temperature checks, vomiting and a cathrater being stuck into him….so remembering all that fun he had then, he tried to slinker away to hide. He vocalized his disapproval all the way to Animal Lodge; I tried to comfort him and assure him we weren’t going to the vet, but it didn’t help me that the vet’s office and animal lodge share a parking lot. So I probably came off as a liar to him.
The kitty room had a full house, so they’ll have company at least. This is good because the “fish aquarium channel” on the TV was not working. Saying bye to them was a little emotional, but what can I say? We love our “kitty-children”! We came home and pulled up the kitty cam and watched them as they were being loaded into their pens. Gary kitty made his temporary escape and had his “periscope tail” swishing around as if he was saying “ha ha! I have escaped! Victory is mine!!”…. until he was ultimately collected and put into his pen.
We headed over to Stephanie’s house where we agreed for as our rendezvous point and there we realized that between 4 adults, all with connections, managed to forget that any one of us could have arranged for a ride to the airport. However, since rides are sort of hard to arrange last minute, we took Josh’s car to The Parking Spot and took their bus to D.I.A. We also realized that we forgot/misplaced Stephanie’s spare key (she’ll spend an extra 14 days in France, while we head home.) So now we had to commandeer her key and pick her up when she comes home.
Our flight to Chicago had a minor stress-out since we realized the plane began boarding 10 minutes after we land, and due to Hurricane Irene, our plane was delayed. Fortunately, we made it fine….had to run a bit.
On the flight from Chicago to London, I realized that my “wonderful” plan to just sleep on the plane turned out to be a horrible plan. Josh warned me earlier when he said “You would think that is a good plan, but I tried that and it doesn’t work, you don’t sleep.” Josh was right, sleep didn’t come to me. But it wasn’t like I was freaked out over flying as the 777 was a pretty smooth ride and I was overjoyed to see that this flight had On Demand movies!!!! Seeing a movie entitled “September 11th” on the top of the list was a complete and total W.T.F. moment (why would they even show that on an airplane????!!!!.) Anyway, I did not watch that movie, but I did watch Pirates of the Caribbean 4, which was good but probably it’ll be for the best if it serves as the last “Captain Jack Sparrow” adventure. We were served a dinner of beef and potatoes which I ate while watching X-Men First Class. I slept very briefly (maybe 30/40 minutes) before waking up and finishing the movie. I tried to sleep again, but the man in front of me was so far leaned back that I had to more or less straddle his seatback to make my legs comfortable. Unfortunately, as my legs found comfort, my head did not; the travel neck pillow felt as if it was slowly strangling me, so out of frustration I tossed it on the ground. Somehow by luck, I managed to get a hour or so of sleep before waking up again. With an hour or so to go and our plane now crossing Ireland, I decided to restart X-men First Class. Shortly, everyone was woken up and served breakfast.
After landing in London Heathrow, we made our way to the U.K. Border Patrol. Stacey and Josh made it through just fine with no issues. Stephanie and I weren’t so lucky and had angered our agents when we didn’t have an address for our first hotel we were staying at (we were travelling around!!.) I really managed to piss mine off as I didn’t remember the itinerary, let alone the town we were going to be in today. I didn’t realize he just needed an answer and even suggested things like “The hotel London?” and I being a “dumb American” was like “nooooo that’s not it….STACEY!!!! Where are we staying???”…..”I know we’re going everywhere, but this guy needs an address?”….”What about the name???”….I guess it was at this point the guy realized I was just another stupid tourist and not someone trying to stay and very, very angrily slammed the stamp down on my passport as if to say “enjoy your sodding vacation ya wanker!” (Or whatever it is they say when they are mad over here.) The important thing, is that I made it into the country….maybe due to the border patrol agent’s sheer desire to never have to see or let alone talk to me ever again.
We made our way to the Avis car rental lot and got our rental car; a silver Saab Peugeot, which would be a normal size car here, but compared to the other cars, it was quite the land-boat. Stacey went to the left side of the car thinking it was the front passenger seat and was thrown off to see a steering wheel instead….this is going to be a little confusing.
On our way out of the airport, with the exception of the license plates and the Yield signs saying “Give Way” instead, I still didn’t quite feel like we were in England yet. It wasn’t until we were out of the city and into Dorset that I felt more like we arrived in England. We saw a few manors and lots of green rolling hills dotted with sheep. Our hotel seemed like it was randomly in the middle of nowhere alone and by itself. But the first thing we noticed about our hotel was the clay pigeon shooting gallery in the back….not something you typically see next to a hotel!! (Even in Texas!)
After checking in, we decided to explore Dorchester, a nice town with a fake King Tut exhibit and a dinosaur museum in what appeared to be old churches. While exploring the town, we found a farmer’s market which had some very, very good smelling, salivating-causing garlic prawns, having settled on lunch at a service center and having sandwiches we regrettably had our lunch already….damn that smell!!! It’s all I could think of as we explored the town! After checking out the town, we decided to head to the coast. I slept most of the way, finding the car a lot more comfortable than the plane. However, I had an abrupt awakening when Stephanie excitedly yelled “HOLY CRAP IS THAT THE OCEAN????!!!!!” I guess due to my general nervousness of us being a bunch of tourists and having to drive on the left side of the road, I guess I thought we drove INTO the ocean or something because I woke up a little panicked and mumbling things in a terrorized tone. However, those fears were quickly dissolved when I saw a breathtaking view of very green hills dotted with sheep spread all the way to the water seemingly. I would have yelled the same thing with the same enthusiasm as it was a very magnificent view.
We drove through a village called Bridport and then into a smaller village called Abbotsbury, which was stressful to drive through with the very, very narrow curved streets and blind corners, but with the exception of the stressful drive through town to find parking and worrying about a head-on collision; the town was really cool. We found an old church and graveyard and walking through that area alone was pretty fun in its own right and the ruins-like church was a delight to visit.
We lost Stephanie when she hiked to St. Catherine’s Pilgrim Church, a church on the top of a hill that we didn’t feel like hiking up. Stacey, Josh and I waited at The Swan Pub (likely named after the swanery it neighbored) and had a beer. The whole “room temperature beer grossness” is really unwarranted as the beer didn’t taste “warm” as so many people warned me about. It just tasted like any normal beer left out after 10 minutes, so it’s totally unwarranted to bash the beer.
Stephanie made it to us and we headed out to a pub called Fox and Hounds, however both Josh’s iphone and Stephanie’s Garmin led us through several 1 lane farm roads complete with hedge walls obstructing any view of oncoming traffic. After one or two near-hits and lots of time pulling into the hedges to allow room for oncoming cars to pass, we were instructed to turn on a road that more of a person’s private driveway rather than a “road”. We met a cat, who was un-phased by our slowly creeping car and refused to move out of the way when we tried to get around him. We decided to find an alternate route and while that was being figured out the cat tried to befriend our car and made me nervous about it getting ran over by us. The sound that a bush made when we finally pulled out of the driveway didn’t’ ease my concerns until I saw the cat still standing guard over his driveway.
We drove through more one-lane roads, pulled into more hedges, We stopped so Josh and I could piss on the side of the road, we pulled into more hedges, and then we finally made it to the village of Cattistock and had dinner at Fox & Hounds. Josh had scampi, Stephanie and Stacey both had fish and chips and I had bangers & mash (sausage and potatoes.) The bartender was a very nice older gentleman and the pub had a sweet Labrador that would occasionally come to our table as if to ask if we were enjoying our meals. Again, I had a pint of beer and once again I didn’t think the “warm beer issue” was an issue at all.
Back at the hotel, Stacey and I had our first of probably very, very few times with a room to ourselves. Our shower had a high rise basin, with a half-door and a detachable handheld showerhead and the controls were a little difficult to figure out at first, but I got it down…..I think…maybe…..probably not. Stacey and I took advantage of the solo room despite extreme fatigue, it didn’t take me long to fall asleep but I think I dreamed of dinosaurs for some reason…I think it’s because I had Stacey color this doodle of a old geriatric dinosaur: