Thursday, August 11, 2005


I am, dear readers, aware of the heavy obligation that I bear with respect to both all of you and that a prolonged absence on my part is almost certain to cause a level of despondency that has not been seen since, oh, any election in the last five years. Nonetheless, away I must, for my very first ever trip to England. (I would say "woo hoo" here, but I am afraid that I would be understood to be ironic, and I really am very excited indeed.)

The ball and chain and I will be flying out Friday night and arriving at Heathrow Saturday morning. We have engaged a car. (I mean to say that we've rented a car, but I'm trying to get my mind into the mother tongue, which is no small feat when you've never been there. Let's hope I don't embarrass myself. I'd worry about embarrassing the whole country, but I'm sure that the English have seen Americans far more clueless than yours truly.) V. assures me that he will have no problem driving on the other side of the road. Our first day will involve a relatively modest drive since we reckon we'll be tired. We've booked a room in Salisbury (about ninety miles from Heathrow) for Saturday night. We should be able to see both Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral on Saturday. From Salisbury, it's another 200 miles, almost exactly, to St. Ives, where we will stay Sunday night. Monday morning begins our walking tour. The first day is, apparently, the most strenuous, and involves fifteen miles of up and down walking from St. Ives to Pendeen Watch along the Cornish Coastal Trail, which is probably properly called something else. Tuesday should see us walking from Pendeen Watch around Land's End to Porthcurno. Wednesday takes us from Porthcurno to Penzance.

We plan to spend Thursday driving from Penzance or St. Ives (the walking tour people shuttle our bags from inn to inn, but I am not sure about where the car ends up) back to London. We are staying in Bloomsbury, a stone's throw away from Russell Square, which was, until a month ago, a functioning Tube station. Still, there are other stations nearby, and we are very close indeed to the British Museum. We are in London from Thursday night until Monday morning, and then we fly home.

I have not done my usual level of travel research. Last year, for example, we went to Paris for five days, and I had a relatively long list of places to go and places to eat. But I had been to Paris once before, albeit in 1979, so I at least had a framework. Aside from the Elgin marbles and Harrod's (yes, yes, yes, I know: overrated and overpriced, but I'm going anyway), I don't have much on my London list. God save the Internet, though. I have, at least, located what promises to be a first-rate fish and chips restaurant and takeaway within walking distance of our hotel. I have similar net-based leads on a good Indian restaurant (I have a good friend who had gone back to London for a while, and we were going to see him when we were there, but he escaped to Bombay just in time for the monsoons, and he is currently ensconced in an ashram, "getting spiritualized," but he sent me still more
Indian restaurant suggestions), and I'm sure that I'll find more places before I go.

Following suggestions from people of obvious intelligence, I've been browsing around the Sainsbury's site, and they seem to have many locations, so I think I'll be stopping by at least one on the trip out to Cornwall. I will need sustenance for all that walking, after all. (Forty miles in three days, much of it strenuous. What was I thinking? At least I'll work up an appetite.)

London generally, and Bloomsbury in particular, seems to suffer from a dearth of cheap eats. When I was in Paris, it was no problem at all to find an 18 Euro prix fixe menu at a bistro that served food that was wonderful. (I did not have a bad meal my whole time there, and even the food on Air France was pretty good.) 18 Euros has gone from being about $14 to about $24 (perhaps more) in recent years, but one cannot blame the French for that, and in any case, the price included tax and tip. And the meal always took three hours, so it seemed like a bargain. I am not, generally speaking, a cheap person, but most of the restaurants I find over there seem to have an average price in the thirty to thirty-five pound range, which seems like a fair chunk of change to me. But I believe that all of our hotel prices include free breakfasts, and I am fairly good at eating out of markets and supermarkets (I am a person of relatively limited travel experience thus far, but my favorite supermarkets to date were in Germany; I could have spent hours in them, as evidenced by the fact that I did spend hours in them), and this is, after all, a vacation, so I will do my best to find good food and pay for it in good cheer.

And, presuming there are no camera malfunctions, I'll be back in less than two weeks, with details and pictures.


Post a Comment

<< Home