Long day........

Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Did a quickie entry this morning at the internet café (covering Windsor I belive) and went to train station to find that I was late and had missed the train! I apparently read the ticket wrong and was looking at the arrival time and not the departure time- and here I was so damn proud to have finally figured out military time (which all Europe uses I guess)- getting a new ticket was no problem but contacting Nicole and Geert in Brugge was. I dialed many times trying to reach them in Brugges but couldn't make the call work, and then couldn't figure out the system to reach the U.S. Of course, all this was done with my credit card in the phone and little dollar signs flashing before my eyes.
Eventually I did reach someone in the States who will call Brugge for me and advise of the change! Frustrating!

So I sat, on the floor, in the train station. Suddenly I am one of 'those' people I see sitting on the floor of train stations. After the initial shock of this, it was fine and that is that.

Now I am Eastward bound on the EuroStar. Ahhh, Europeans! I am in First Class- seats better than first class on an airplane, charming service ladies who offered me champagne, wine, soft drink, still water? I sit sipping Shiraz watching the English countryside go by. The train is mostly empty (they are happy as it is usually quite full for workdays). I see cricket matches in the distance while a man who sounds just like Inspector Clouseau announces the route of zee train and zee handling of zee luggage. Ah, a nice break after the floor of the train station! I hesitate to write in here as I do not know when/if I will ever reach a place with wireless and all this is really just piffle until I can post it.

Anyway, Bath. I'll finish that entry here.

Glorious town, full of architecture, built on hills and beautiful seen from afar. It glows due to the use of only honey/gold stone in all the Georgian buildings. Once fashionable for 'the waters' and now fashionable, well, because it's pretty I guess! We got off the bus, with remonstrations from Damien (remember "The Omen"? And the nanny's voice saying "Damien, Damien!") and I ran off as I remembered that Jay Price had named his store after 'The Royal Crescent' which is here in Bath- so I went to find it. Jay was an exceptionally dear and close friend of mine who died some years ago and when I found the Crescent, I had some moments of fond thought and quiet communion.

I ran back, ever mindful of Damien, and was on time for our tour of the Roman Baths. These are supposedly the most well preserved roman baths in the world and in fact appear to be almost exactly as the Romans left them. The 2000 year old lead pipe continues to supply water to [Holy Mother of God, I was just handed a menu for gods sake! It's like first class used to be! I am choosing 'Les Jamelles Chardonany vin de pays' for my wine (and I WILL have the intermezzo of champagne!) and the camargue red rice salad with lemon followed by salmon with citrus crust on sweet potato mash with baked courgettes and pumpkin cream sauce!) Nathale` approves of my wine choice and suddenly I have two bottles of wine here, with my chilled cutlery- ah, if only all the trains I will be on were like this! And the wine is superb.] where was I? Oh, roman baths, yeah, whatever........

We toured the baths and were rushed through as we were the last group- architecturally and historically a fascinating place but since we were eight (?) hours into things and our guides obviously impatient I truly didn't appreciate it as I should. Suddenly whisked back to the bus and crammed down into my seat, we faced a 2.5 hour drive back to London. And Damien yammered another hour into the drive before blessed silence descended

{oh, my filet de saumon en croute has arrived, gonna get it while its hot!
Oh my god, now I know why the English food is always being compared to the French (and did I mention that they have cold baked beans on the breakfast buffet at my hotel? I'm not sure which of those three words, in any in combination, or the whole combination, should ever be on a breakfast buffet). This train meal was magnificent, and I have to admit that I broke my rule, tried the dessert and ate every bite of cheesecake a la fraise et sauce au chocolat blanc. I am going to be big as a house if I stay in France! At least England has been good for my diet! And Inspector Clouseau announces we shall now enter zee chunnel and will be in zee chunnel for zee twenty muneetes.}

But I digres: Back to London in Friday traffic. Yawn. Ran madly about looking for Internet, did some e mail catch up and finally at hotel by 10. At that point, last food was chicken breast at ye olde thatched roofe cottage 10 hours ago so I went out- more English food; 'nuff said. I decided to say goodbye to my mate the bartender at the HtH and took the Tube up but he wasn't working so I wandered Compton Street again.

London on a Friday night is much like New Orleans, far more so than I ever expected. However, it is N.O. on a New York scale: Tens of thousands of people out carrying on as if their lives depended upon having too much of everything right now. The crowds were hugely varied and mixed, again more NY than NO- the theatre crowd with right toffs crammed into barricades at street crossings with screaming teens, Japanese tourists, a couple in full evening dress, drunk businessmen, drag queens and so on. But this is by the thousands. It was a blast just walking up the streets. Main streets even get stopped by foot traffic at points since the overflow simply cannot contain so many people (Nathale` just cleared my food service, I declined the freshly brewed coffee and am sticking with this marvelous chardonnay- and by the way, still in the Chunnel, at one point I had thought we had stopped for some reason- actually, the ride is so smooth, much smoother than usual rails that in the dark, I literally cannot even tell we are moving!).

So, on to Compton Street, hung out at a bar and watched the world go by. Much like N.O., street sweepers running up and down Compton as you can 'carry away' your drink if you wish and rubbish ensues. I was leaving but somehow was made aware of attentions of a guy so nipped into "The Duke of York" for a small pint, he followed me and we struck up a conversation. Since it was so jammed downstairs we went up and found a quiet corner to talk. We had barely started when a cute girl of about 30 came over and simply started talking to us! Turns out she was Annie and her mates were all busy and she was lonely so she joined us. In many ways she turned out to be great as she quizzed the guy better than I ever could! His name is Carmello and he's from Malta (I lost points by being the dumb American and not knowing where that is, she gained points by discussing it's cities in detail). Annie loves to travel, through her I found out that Carmello is just back from Amsterdam (loved it), couldn't get a VISA to America, enjoys Spain immensely (as does Annie) and so on. I pretty much kept quiet while she did the work.

Eventually she somehow decided it was time to go and left, abruptly. So I talked to Maltese Carmello (between him and Persian Akbar, I'm getting quite international!). We had a really good talk and when the bar closed at 12 (it stayed open later than most- this now explains why Londoners start to drink immediately at the close of work, they have fewer hours to do so- here I thought they were all lushes) we walked about and talked some more. Carmello works in theatre (something vague that sounds to me like all around backstage costume/prop/stagedoor man kinda thing- but hey, in London, after a few pints, at midnight, in a Maltese accent, it worked for me). We sat on a fountain at Seven Spokes (very Greenwich Village) and again, of course, politics. I am going to start lying and saying I am from Canada, this is getting ridiculous!

Anyway, it grew closer to one and I had been up since six, and knew a day of rigorous travel (Nathale` just offered me champagne, I passed on it again) was ahead I said I had to go- but the Tubes were about to close.

Taking my arm, Carmello walked me to the main street and down a bit- we stood at a bus station until the right bus came along, and then, with a kiss, said goodbye. It was actually rather romantic! I waved from my double decker (never been on one before) at my handsome Maltese and wondered if we would ever meet again.

Well OF COURSE I got his phone number!

I told him I'd be back in a month or so and he promised to take me to some theatre parties when I come back through. So, four days into it, I feel like some American flirt, Persian and Maltese, what's next?

**Sartorial note for Gentlemen Readers (Yes, Dick, this means you). Everyone (or those who can, and not always those who should) is wearing what we used to call 'hip huggers'- I hate em but that's the look heading our way. All the men going to work wear French Cuffs, and I mean ALL, I don't think you can buy a regular cuff shirt in England. Also, for some godforsaken reason, Izods with the collars turned up are back again (with aforesaid hip huggers). Be warned.

Ah, I just arrived in France! (and have appropriate little wine buzz going as well)

To finish up. Blast in London, only a few hours sleep each night, the food sucks, the nightlife is banging, apparently losing weight has helped my sex appeal (and no, I only kissed him goodbye) and I'm still a technical ditz.

Still upset that I missed my train today. After all my planning (done last night at 2 a.m. admittedly) I got it wrong. Alas.

I'm 'making friends' with the backpack. The hotel staff says I've got "a right nice kit" and it is spiffy- it just keeps making me fall backwards. I also find myself turning suddenly when I see someone out of the corner of my eye too close to me- to discover it's the backpack. But, as I practiced lighting my wooden match like David Niven, I now practice a self assure savoir faire walk while carrying a Volkswagen on my back. It's a learned behavior.

The countryside of France is whizzing my, Nathale` is beckoning with a snappy Shiraz, I think I'm off to relax a bit. Au revoir! Next entry from Brugge!
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geertmaene on

Gone to Amsterdam
This morning at 8.45 I left Tom at the station of Brugges, where he took the train to Brussel south. He had a connection at 14.23 (UTC+2) to Amsterdam where he had reservations in a hotel. (i think Dikker & Thijs)

You can reach him also on skype: Thomas Hardy

Geert Maene

from Geert and Nicole.

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