May 13, 2012: In the UK

The latter portion of our long flight over the pond went decently smoothly.  After much cajoling both Liesl and Luciana managed to fall asleep.  Liesl slept on my lap while Luciana slept in the makeshift bassinette that British Airlines provides for smaller children.   That gave them a few hours of sleep each and even Dominica got a wink or two in.  No sleep for me, between having to brace my foot high on the bulkhead for hours to support Liesl in a comfortable position and being unable to turn over or recline there was no real way for me to sleep.

Eventually, once I got into a position where I could do it, I brought up the on board entertainment system and attempted to watch a movie.  Sadly, the movie turned itself off about every three minutes so I never managed to finish the film as it took several hours to watch an hour and a half long film.  It was the sequel to Johnny English.  I didn’t even know that Rowan Atkinson had made a sequel.  Sometime when I am back in Texas I will look for it as I want to see it now.

We landed in London early in the morning, around seven local time or one in the morning according to our internal clocks.  The flight had been good with plenty of food and wine.  Even the cheapest seats on British Airways get a bottle of wine.  BA knows what they are doing.

Going through border control for the UK was going to be a nightmare.  The line had easy one to two thousand people in it and snaked through the entire section of the airport.  It was easily going to take hours to work our way through it.  Thankfully, after just a few minutes in the cramped line, Luciana got an attack of “stranger danger” which we assume was triggered through a combination of people being packed in like sardines on every side (so close that people were constantly jostling), it being a bit warm, her exhaustion from the flight and her sensing that her parents were a little stressed dealing with the line, luggage and all of the people, she began to scream… scream like the Dickens (which is what a proper little girl scream like when in England.)

It took about thirty seconds of Luciana screams before UK border control agents pulled us out of the one to two hour long line and whisked us directly to a waiting “emergency” border control checkpoint and basically waived us through.  It was amazing.  So much time saved.  Luciana totally saved the day on this one.

We were able to get our luggage long before anyone else from our flight was evening thinking about walking down to baggage claim.  We  got there right as our bags came out of the “chute” so we were able to just grab them and go!

We opted to not take the expensive Heathrow Express train but took the very cheap tube instead which took a little over an hour to transport us from Heathrow to London’s St. Pancras rail station (which sits across the street from the recently made more famous King’s Cross Station of Harry Potter fame – we actually took the tube to King’s Cross (or KingsX as it is written in shorthand) and then walked over to St. Pancras.)  The tube journey, being that this was a Sunday morning, was very relaxed – nothing like taking the tube during rush hour.  We enjoyed having the time to sit and talk with Liesl and explain that we were in England.

The weather is perfect – a truly glorious day in London.  The sun was bright and warm.  This is London like we have never seen it.

We got to St. Pancras and miraculously there was a train just about to depart for Nottingham.  So we grabbed the ten o’clock train and without even having enough time to grab coffee… we were off to our final destination.  Luciana not only make border control more convenient but saved us from being stuck on a noon or, most likely, one o’clock train.  The aftereffects of her screaming saved us certainly two hours and very possibly three hours!

The train ride up to Nottingham was cramped and we were pretty exhausted.  Dominica gave Liesl the first of the secret My Little Ponies that she had stowed away to surprise Liesl with during the trip to keep her happy.  This one was Twilight Sparkly or something like that.  Liesl was very excited about that and it kept her happy on the train.

We ended up making some friends on the train and Liesl and I actually went and sat with them and discussed the weather and traveling in the East Midlands.  They said that the region has had the wettest April in recorded British history and so it was truly amazing that we were here for such amazing weather.

We got to Nottingham, got some British cash from the station’s ATM and set out walking through town looking for our apartment.  The walk was a hard one with a lot of hills and tough cobblestone and uneven sidewalks.  We have so much luggage to carry that it really hurt going as far as we did.  We were exhausted and soar when we finally made it to the apartment.  Then the challenge of figuring out how to get in – although that ended up going smoothly without any real issues,

The apartment is awesome.  Dominica did an amazing job finding this place.  We have a two bedroom, one and a half bath serviced apartment on the eleventh floor (that’s twelfth floor to Americans) with great views of Nottingham.  The place is spacious, has laundry inside the apartment, a full kitchen, a nice dining area, a comfortable living room and a nice balcony.  Liesl loved it when we opened up the balcony and she could just go out there on her own to play.

We got settled in and almost immediately Huw came over.  Dominica and the girls decided to stay in while Huw and I went out for a bit. So Huw set off to give me a quick overview of town – an overview of the punk rocker pub sites.  So I got a firsthand punk rock tour of one of England’s big punk rock cities from a punk rocker and I got introduced all over town.

We started at the Old Angel right by the apartment and went to about six pubs including The Royal Children, The Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and Foreman’s.  One is famous for being frequented by, well, the children of royals hundreds of years ago, one for being the oldest pub in the whole of England with much of the pub carved out of solid rock in the castle wall and one for being the smallest pub in Nottingham.  We also hit another pub that competes with the Jerusalem for the title of oldest pub.

It was amazing to see the history of Nottingham through the pubs.  The Ye Olde Jerusalem pub might be one of the coolest places that I have ever been. This pub was used as a stopping off point for English troops en route to the third crusade.  The pub was built in 1189 – the year that the third crusade kicked off.  It was also amazing that not just one but several people knew Huw at each and every pub that we went to.

I also was very excited to kick off my time in England with a huge selection of cask ales.  I probably had six pints on my first day!

After we did our pub crawl we went looking for fish and chips to bring home to Dominica and the girls but because it was Sunday evening every British business was closed.  We found this same problem a few years ago when Dominica and I were last in the UK.  So instead we hunted down an awesome little Turkish restaurant and got Turkish veggie burgers to take back.  The burgers were amazing.

So Huw dropped me off (we walked all over town but took a cab back to the apartment to get home quickly) and his wife picked him up and took him home and I went up to deliver food to the girls.  We ate and were in bed pretty quickly after that.  Already Liesl is really enjoying the British television shows and the new variety here.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.  It is my one day in Nottingham so we are going to try to see a lot of things but we are going to be pretty tired as the jet lag is going to take a while to wear off.

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  1. Can I just point out that it was a bit of a fluke that we met someone in every pub that knows me? 😀

  2. Normally you find at least one pub where you aren’t immediately recognized?

  3. I’m a musician, I get recognised… 🙂

    That’s my story, I’m sticking to it.

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