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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Trip One, Part One

May 19, 2006 (10:22am)

I have purchased my tickets to England with much fear. This really surprised me! When I wrote the check there was much anxiety. Now as I wait to leave, I feel much anxiety also what am I going to do in England when I get there? Do I have enough money? Where am I going? All in, all I still intend to go, at this point there is no turning back unless I wish to give Continental Airlines $800 dollars. I don’t think so!

I can’t begin to think what I’m going to do for 13 hours in the air. This laptop, purchased just for this occasions, only keeps a charge for three hours. I have a lay over in Cleveland so I can recharge there it if need be. Guess I’ll buy another battery just in case so I can keep myself somewhat busy during the flight. The flight leaves Phoenix at 10:30am on Saturday and arrives 8:30am Sunday at Gatwick Airport. I chose Gatwick so I would be closer to my first stop Salisbury that much I know. Kevin and Stacey are going to take me to the airport.

I walked into the travel agency after spending the better part of the morning looking for fares on the internet. The woman handling the reservations was Mary Carol, we joked about her being a nun. We spent about a half hour looking then it was time to pull out the old check book. How much fear your mind can fill you with is amazing. As the years roll on

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Stacey dropped me off at the airport, so much for long goodbyes. Kevin called before I left, both report being concerned that I may never find my way back home. Also report that they have discussed my adventure with friends who seem to think it was O.K. The big question was had I working out on a bike for the ride? The kids seem not to want to deal with the idea that I will not be staying a Motel 6, and intend to peddle my . . . all over England.

Pissed off the gate agent because I didn’t have my laptop and camera out of the bags for them to inspect “on one of the busiest days of the year.” I asked him where the instructions were to take them out to which he replied “Everyone knows this.” “Guess not everyone” I said off to the plane thank you very much.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Left Phoenix Saturday at 10:30 am, arrived Cleveland 5:00 pm, left for England at 7:30 pm arriving 7:22 am. I had gone on line with Stacey where we printed out boarding passes and picked a seat that looked good. It was the first seat just as you enter the plane, however, on this plane there was no bulkhead there was the door and lots of leg room. The flight was really smooth and we had a head flight attendant who made sure all went smoothly. My seat mate, from Phoenix going to visit his sister in London, we had three seats to ourselves and having the galley right there was very convenient. As warned I stood up every 90 minuets to stretch my legs so I did not get Thrubitus or something. The stewardess’s were sitting directly in front of us, as we landed, so we had a nice chat with them.

Arrived in Gatwick, went through customs, then went to pick up my “bag.” I started looking around for a cart that someone had not returned to the rack, and low and behold they were all over the place. Then I realized that they were free for the taking. Yep! No fumbling for coins just take one and go. Can you imagine an English tourist arriving in the U. S. and being surprised at having to pay for a dolly.

There was much relief to see that my “bag” held together, only one strap was a little lose. Why should I be worried about the “bag” coming apart you should ask? Because it was two bike panniers, oops cycle (in England a bike is a motorcycle), bags, a tent and sleeping mat, Mark let me use for the trip, all held together with straps. The cycle panniers had been purchased years ago for a trip to England now they were actually going. I had purchased a tent and mat, but they were a bit un-wheedling so I took them back to Wal Mart, along with a few other things, re-packed the “bag” hoping it land in England safe and sound.

After putting my bags, consisting of the “bag,” my back pack, bought to hold my laptop securely, a small bag used to hold snacks, and my camera I was ready to find a way out of the airport. Low and behold there not 100 ft from the baggage claim was a place to buy bus and train tickets. Imagine the train and bus lines came right into the airport. They were right there! Heading all over England, not just around the airport. I purchased a ticket to Salisbury and walked to the bus stop...Oh my God just outside the airport door, not ten blocks away. Buses came in like flies on ... Zip, zip, zip, bus after bus. From where I stood I could see the trains, also zipping in and out. More then one bus, more then one train with in the same hour? How crazy was this? My bus arrived, off we went to Heathrow.

Now I had flown into Gatwick because it was closer to Salisbury which I planed to make my first stop in England. The bus did not go from Gatwick to Salisbury as you might have guessed. I had to change buses in Heathrow then off to Salisbury. Now I am guessing, by seeing the size of the plane’s that arrived at Gatwick and those at Heathrow, next time I’ll fly into Heathrow save the bus fare, and fly on a bigger plane. Thankfully, I guess, I changed $100.00 to Pounds in Cleveland. I was also promptly ripped off. Which I later read in the travel book they would do. The price advertised for conversion is for converting pounds to dollars. The price for converting dollars to pounds is not advertised and I quickly found out why.

My $100.00 bought 50.00 £ and I was charged $5.00 for the exchange. Anyway I bought my English bus ticket with English money and preceded to spend the next four hours on and off busses. Next time I’ll take the train as it goes directly to, I found out later, Salisbury. The bus was crowed and some the those on board had not heard of deodorant. This is something I knew I would run to, but.... My next adventure was making #1 on the bus. I thought I’d wait until the next bus stop, make a dash for the bathroom returning to my seat before moving on. As I entered I was surprised by the low ceiling. I soon found out why standing and starting my activity on the bus was not a good idea. The bus began to back up knocking me into the door. Next, of course we moved forward causing me to fall into the wall and quickly realized my folly. There was a reason the ceiling was so low, you were to sit to do your business not stand, but I was standing and by god I was not going sit at this point. Upon finishing I turned to leave finding the door was wide open having been jarred open when I hit it; how fun is that. I returned to my seat careful not to make eye contact with anyone.

We arrived at Salisbury now what? I watched another American ask the bus driver for directions. The driver was very helpful and I listened so I did not have to ask the same questions making me appear like a tourist. What’s the name of that book? Where You Are, There You Are. Yip, I was certainly there at a bus stop is Salisbury with no idea how to find out where to go next. I had made two reservations in Salisbury, online before heading to England, one was a campground, which are know as a Caravan Parks here, the other was at a youth hostel advertised to be within walking distance of the bus station.

Of course I had no idea which way to walk from the bus station. I stood for awhile, then began to walk about sort of circularly. So I ended back at the bus station which much to my amazement had a map of the town upon which, clearly marked was the YHA, such a concept. After spending sometime studying the map I now knew which was up(north) I set off for the hostel. I found that the “bag” was a bit awkward, weighty which cause the strap to bite into my neck when I hung it there. The back pack would not sit right, or I did not adjust it right so it bit into my arms. After some trial and error I was able to get them to hang on me without causing a great deal of pain or damage.

The side walks in Salisbury are very, very narrow. The cars are parked, or drive very close to the sidewalks. They zip by at speeds which make infamous New York cab look tame. I soon found how to walk down the street without banging into cars, or have them bang into me, and buildings. My attempt to find the youth hostel was a success! Hump, who needs to ask directions. I purchased two nights in a dorm, settled in much relieved to unload my bags. The room slept eight and I wondered why the windows were blocked open. That night I found out why; body heat.

After settling in I did a walk about, this time not circular in nature, finding such ancient things as Pizza Hut, Mac Donald, Burger King, Papa John’s Pizza, and Subway. Just what I came to England for was to eat the junk food of America. Also I found a Woolworth 5 and 10 which was open for business. I could not resist I had to go in an see if it was reminiscent of the Woolworth’s of my childhood. Wooden floor that squeaked when you walked, wooden counters packed full of everything you needed, not wanted and of course the toy aisle. It was pretty darn close, the floor was made to look like the wood floors of old, but was really tile that did not squeak. It reminded me of a time lost when things where much simpler. In my head, back then it was more important to buy what you needed and not worry about getting the things you wanted.

Then I found St. Andrews church in the middle of town which had been re-build in 1200. It have a list of all the priests that had served there dating back to 600 AD. The better part of the floor turned out to be crypt lids where people who once worshiped here lie. The dates as old as the church had been etched, some so old that makings were unreadable. Next was the river walk to the breath taking, absolutely beautiful, huge Salisbury Cathedral. This beautiful house of prayer begun in 1200 and finished about 1245, that would be 400 years before the first settlements in the “new world.” The inside was absolutely wonderful, here too people had been buried in the floor, again the stones worn from the feet of worshipers making names no longer legible. Crypts older then the church lined the walls and aisles, in them lie Knights who had fought alongside famous Kings and Queens. Some had wives, sometimes sons and Daughters, in relief.

I actually touch the tombs, yes you can touch them, they are not roped off, or have guards running around yelling at you. I looked at the effigy’s of Knights there swords across their chest, at times their Lady at there side, dead 500 years or more, yet still visible. Silence filled the huge cathedral as sight seers passed by crypts with respect. The ceiling of lead, 100's of feet above, rested on stone, and wood arches raised there without the help of a steel cranes. Joints fitted together with only the smallest layer of mortar still intact. The Cloisters where once priests walked in deep contemplation of prayer and deed called to be walked through quietly doing the same.
The event had left me surprisingly uplifted with a renewal of spirit. But, now the body was hungry so I went in search of supper in an old English Pub. I soon found out that lots of old English Pubs don’t cook on Sunday, drink yes, cook no. Walking about for some time, I can’t stand this I rarely eat at them back home, and here I am in England eating at Burger King; yucky, yucky, yucky. Back to my dorm room and sleep...

But, wait my cell phone rings, who could it be? My Daughter. “What are you doing, where are you, why didn’t you call?” I had been trying to figure out how to call by putting a “+” in front of someone’s number as I was told to do by the phone salesperson. Easy right, not with a Razor its not. Anyway I gave her an update hung up, figured out how to put in the “+” and called her back. She reported that I was being tracked through the streets of Salisbury on her computer. After getting off the phone I go looking for my charger and can’t find it. No this can not be happening I must have left it at Stacey’s house so I’ll have to buy one tomorrow. Also realize I have no idea what time it is here. The cell phone, which was suppose to be my clock, is not automatically up dating the time here so I have Cleveland time, not helpful, tomorrow I’ll also get a watch.

Weather: 50 degrees, and over cast and I mean overcast.