Arrival

Trip Start Aug 03, 2006
1
9
Trip End Aug 23, 2006


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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Saturday, August 5, 2006

I arrived in England yesterday but my bag did not. No reason for this mishap, given the 2 hour layover I had in Frankfurt, but so it was. Upon arriving into Birmingham airport, sans bag, I got my first introduction to the highly-acclaimed English efficiency.

Before dealing with my bag, however, I needed a phone card. So, I stopped by the money exchange desk to ask where I could procure one. "Yes!" the man said, "Phone cards are available outside. You go out the doors and..." his voice trailed off. He was busying with some calculation, so I waited, and waited, and waited, and after about a minute I said, "Yes?" "Just a moment," was the response. So, I waited about another minute and said, "Okay, I'm just going to get some money and I'll be right back." He gave me a perplexed look as I moved to the ATM a few feet away. While I was getting money, he called out, "Okay, I'm ready." Great! "So, where can I get a phone card?" "They're available here. What amount would you like?"

HUH?

"Oooookay..." I said, wondering how he had suddenly gotten his hands on some, "I'll take 5." And he started busying with something, pulled out some papers with a bunch of numbers on them, started doing some more calculations, which I could see clearly had NOTHING to do with giving me a phone card, so I asked, "Is this a bad time? Should I come back later?"

"Please be patient. I'm moving just as quickly as I can." was the response.

Welcome to England!

So, after an agent told me to wait in a half-hour line, or queueueue, as they say, to talk to the baggage clerk only to find out that I was at the wrong counter and I needed to wait in ANOTHER half-hour queueueue, I was finally out of the airport. No bags, no phone card, and no idea how to find either one. A hearty HAZZAH to that!

I made my way to Leamington Spa, where, thanks to renaissance of the Couchsurfing Project, I am staying with Pietro, an Italian from Napoli recently transplanted to the Arsch der Welt of England. After a call to Lufthansa answered zero questions on the whereabouts of my bag, just that it was somewhere in England, it miraculously showed up at the house at around 5:00 PM. Amazing! Pietro has been a most gracious host, and last night he took me to Stratford upon Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare.

Like every town I've seen here so far, including Leamington Spa, Stratford upon Avon was an adorable and quaint little town. We walked around, visited the birth house of William Shakespeare, and finished the evening with a traditional meal in an English pub. I was on a somewhat masochistic quest to have English food, and I selected a meal of broccoli stilton soup, chicken and bacon pie, and warm beer. To my surprise, everything was edible, I would even venture to say tasty . The service was naturally horrible for U.S. standards, but the staff friendly. By the end of dinner, I was dying, however, borderline falling asleep in my warm beer a la Hafemeister over a veg plate. So home we went and I passed out for a solid 11 hours, catching up with my long forgotten friend Sleep.

So far my impression of England is that it is cute but weird. Everything just HAS to be a little different: the driving (on the left), the electric plugs, even the bathrooms... shower water turns on by pulling a string that dangles from the ceiling. This is, of course, because bathing is a somewhat recent phenomenon in England, barely outpacing dentistry in the race for modernity, and many bathrooms were added to apartments as afterthoughts. Pietro tells me that he looked at about 50 places in Leamington Spa before finding one that actually had a shower. Imagine that!

Searching for nail polish yesterday, I was told to see the chemist. I envisioned tracking down some crazy scientist with a bunsen burner and getting him to mix me some nail paint. Turns out, the chemist is a pharmacy. So, as long as I remember...

chemist = pharmacy
banger = sausage
And there is no "2nd class" on the train (as the buffet manager explained to me on with a hearty laugh), because England, of course, is a classless society

...I should be fine.

Signing off,

Baroness Krisztina
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