Day 12: Friday, October 7
So we’ve been in London barely 3 days, and we can’t stop trying to speak with a British accent. Uuuuughhh, you must be thinking. But here we are, pulling out all the hits like we can’t help ourselves (am I really claiming a “we” here?). “Can we be…quuiite quick about it?” (Alan Rickman getting the necklace gift wrapped in “Love Actually,”) is a common one that’s been belted out since Wednesday. We’ve also been heard spewing, “Are you maaad!?” as if Minnie Driver was saying it herself, and other utterances like “Is it all right, then?” Certainly you can trust that we’ve avoided such clichés as “Hello, Gov’na” and other, truly annoying American faire. That said, I in particular have caught some sort of “British Accent Turret’s Syndrome,” and can’t seem to stop turning every sentence into a sad attempt at Masterpiece Theater. It’s really pathetic… well, sometimes funny – if I’m to believe Erin’s mildly entertained face. But mostly just #Sad. Thank God United Airlines will, come Noon Sunday, stop me from “killing again” when we return home just in time for the 2nd Presidential Debate.
But that’s Sunday. Today, Erin and I walked several healthy miles as we took in the sites on our way to Buckingham Palace (smaller than it seems on TV), Westminster Abbey (about what I expected), and Big Ben and Parliament, which are just huge. But then again, I’ve seen how much C-4 it takes to blow up Big Ben and Parliament (“V for Vendetta”) so I was prepared for their collective size and scope. Regardless of sizes and expectations, I couldn’t help feeling the weight of history upon these buildings, from Empire to “mere” Constitutional Monarchy… England has some serious history “game.” Put it this way – if England wanted to ask China out on a date… it would have some impressive historical moves of its own to put in play with the ancient Chinese.
After checking off several of these famous stops, we walked across Millennium Bridge toward Covent Garden, a nice spot in London not far from the theater we visiting last evening. Our goal: Find a Pub and eat Fish and Chips. We found a “sort of” pub. We ate a burger and a chicken sandwich. Close enough for me.
We cut the afternoon short to get some rest back at the house before our big evening. Pete Norman, a journalist and, in fact, THE journalist who wrote a feature in People Magazine (September, 1999) about Erin and her family’s work with children of the war-torn Balkans, was joining us for dinner with his lovely partner, Marie, and his son Clem and his girlfriend, Dosh. The night began with a visit at the house, which Pete ventured a guess would sell for about $5 million Pounds. Wow. We’re staying in a $5 million Pound house. Granted, in the Inland Empire, it would adjust to $800,000. But we’re staying in the Brentwood of London, so it sounds about right to me. I could see right away why Fred and Carol, and Erin and Carrie, think so much of Pete. A native Aussie, Pete’s lived in London for about 25 years and is very kind and charismatic. He just LOOKS intelligent and kind. As a leading news editor for Bloomberg, Pete is naturally very well informed, so we talked current events (including the U.S. election), and also learned a bit about his job and how he and his team assess what financial and particular media markets will consider newsworthy.
We dined at a VERY fancy French restaurant called Koffmann’s, which was only a :15 minute walk from the house and a place Pete had heard good things about. He had heard right. It was exemplary. I enjoyed (probably for the first time in my life), a tender “beef cheek,” served with some of the smoothest mashed potatoes I have or likely ever will eat again. And for you West Wing fans, in a nod to Hal Holbrook’s State Department lifer “Albie Duncan,” I slowly sucked down a Schweppe’s Bitter Lemon. But the service was what defined the place. Every time I returned from the restroom, there was a staff member magically there to push in my seat (quite forcefully). Our waitress, who seemed much more like a team leader of our entire section of the restaurant, was clearly French or Belgian, and treated every question as if it were quite a good one and “ah, yes sir, it is jolavolaluuu,” or something that made me feel really rich (Joey Tribbiani can fill in the rest).
Day 13: Saturday, October 8
I woke up not feeling all that well, my clogged ears and slightly sore throat suffering a touch of that pre-cold feeling that’s just enough to make one mad it “found you.” You know that feeling? Carrie and Fred had both gotten colds along the way. Me? I start to feel something on the day before I’m to travel back home. Great. … But, thinking more appreciatively of the moment, I realized that this wasn’t too bad a deal at all. Almost two weeks, with a major flight and 4 smaller ones, walking around 4-5 miles a day, and I’m just now feeling a tinge of something. I guess I should consider myself lucky it isn’t worse.
Undaunted, Erin and I ventured off once again, this time to Regents’ Park, also in this “City of Westminster” section of North and NW London we’ve solely existed in during our short time here (we didn’t see ANY “bad” parts, something to consider next time for a little perspective). It rained, but it didn’t “dampen” (see what I did there) the beautiful park, or the sight of the lovely neighborhoods along the way and that surround Regent’s luscious grounds (including Baker St., Sherlock fans).
At 1:00PM, we met up with the rest of Erin’s family in Piccadilly Circus, at the dining club for members of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, or “BAFTA,” which is the British Oscar’s and Emmy’s rolled into one. There, we met up with a cousin of Carol’s, Dennis, and his lovely wife Lee, who treated us to a lunch. Check the “I dined at ‘the Club’” to-do box for this trip. Dennis is a music producer and sound editor, and has lived in both the music and TV/Film industries. We talked about dozens of movies and television shows, particularly the one’s Dennis has worked on. You may have heard of one or two – a little film called “Slumdog Millionaire,” for which Dennis’s team won the Oscar for Sound Mixing. Or was it Editing? I guess I’ll have to edit this in “Post.” Get it, industry friends?
Erin and I then returned home around 4:00 to pack, a good 6 hours of touring enough for a guy who isn’t at 100% and always determined to nip every (rare) cold in the bud as swiftly as possible. I had already been taking Zicam preventively, but I guess that didn’t work, so I kept going with that, and for the flight I bought some strong sinus reliever. Packing was easier despite souvenir and gift purchases, which may be strengthening the theory that “stuffing it all in” MAY be a more efficiently method than “rolling” one’s clothes or some other way of neatly folding and packing.
Day 14: Sunday, October 9
They say (“they” probably being the same people Drumpf is “hearing all kinds of stuff” from) the sign of a good vacation is that it felt long enough and one is ready to return to work. Well, it’s been two weeks, and I feel like it’s been a month. I’m eager to get back to work and see my father, my cousin, and wonderful colleagues who I have missed, and to get back to a major project we’re working on.
I’ve “conquered” just pieces of Italy, Switzerland (it counts!), Bosnia, and London England. ALL for the first time. My senses have been spoiled, the company and family bonding priceless. And of course, above all, I LOVE traveling with Erin. We travel well together and always have. I think that’s in part because we play our roles well: She, fun but responsible, with some expectation in mind of what we may want to do and see. And me, overly excited, playing several characters to make her laugh, and just trying not to be “too American” in any country we visit as I really make an effort to learn about my culture and environment. For example – have you heard about this driving on the left in England? Where do they come up with this stuff? J
As I write this, I’m in flight for Los Angeles and the little digital map on my TV monitor tells me we’ve crossed over Hudson Bay and are inside the Northwest Territories, closing in fast on Saskatchewan (and yes, I was looking for an excuse to say “Saskatchewan.”). We’ll likely be home, back to our sweet girl Orchid, in 5-6 hours. Will I be ready for the (I hope many) highs and (I hope few to no) lows of a Presidential Debate? Probably not. But this appreciative glow that I hope is visible to others is likely to last me well past November 8, with the knowledge that I’ve expanded my horizons, and can’t wait to do so again. And those stories, friends, will come in due time.
Thanks for following my journey!