Pubby and Chubby
Trip Start Aug 03, 2010
100Trip End Aug 03, 2011
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For those of you not in thew "know", we settled in Beirut for about 9 months, then got the serious itch to venture out again. This time, the itch was down south. Way down south! No, not the kind of itch you get from not washing your jockstrap, but something that burned with just as much fury and right from the loins. The desire was for South America! It represented a "black mark" on us as "World Travelers" who, when asked if we had been to SA had only yo sheepishly look at our shoes. Well, no longer.
In order to GET to SA, however, you have to pass through the UK, so we decided to take a nice, hardy stop there to see it all. England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland
So, the plan was to fly to London from Beirut, rent a car (bypassing London), take a clockwise loop starting south and heading north, pop into (and out of) Wales, and up to Scotand then back to England, fly to ireland, then back to London for 4 days, then off to San Fran, then South America. Wshew!
So, we landed in London and landed at Heathrow and were whisked off to our car rental place. We picked up "Lil Jimmy" at the redheaded bastardchild of Hertz - (Dis)Advantage rent-a-car (no disrepect to our redheaded viking friends of the UK). We collected our keys to the car (from the ratty trailer in the back of Hertz) then headed out on the "non-right" side of the road with automatic transmission. I am not lying when I say that within 30 seconds we almost got into a head-on -collision in the parking lot. Ooof!
Our very first visit was to Winchester with its amazing cathedral. We stopped for our first pub beer around the corner and indulged in some warm, earthy ale. We headed out, narrowly avoiding death (BTW, we declined the extra insurance, so we were gambling) and headed towards Salisbury (famous for their delicious frozen Salisbury Steak dinners)
The next day we drove out to Stonehenge and Avbury (a much bigger, older, and less touristy version of Stonehenge). Good times. We got obsessed also with the angry, craggly trees that looked straight out of a horror flick with trillions of branches and trunks. Nice.
A brief sidenote is required to describe the cold. It was COLD, and we were not in the mood to bring lots of extra clothes, so we effectively ended up wearing every scrap of clothing which made for restricted movement and, after a few weeks, a pungent travellers odor that was hard to shake, even after vigorous washing. So, I want you, as the reader, to imagine us for the UK/Ireland entries as bundled and smelly.
The next stop was Bath, where we toodled around the adorable town, trying hard not to spend too much money. We also ran into some people with a dog that had weird toes. You know the little freak-toe that all dogs have about 1/4 the way up the leg? Well, this guy had doubleheaded freaktoes
One other sidenote is required to talk about free parking in the UK. There is NONE! "Pay and Display" was everywhere, and a constant hassle for us cheapasses. We did manage to find free parking, but often requiring a long drive out to some remote part of a city and a chilly walk back to the hostel.
After Bath we headed to Wales (see Wales entry), then popped out of Wales into the Lake District (back to England), which is a series of rolling mountains and lakes that are "fenced" into a million parcels by picturesque stone walls with spray-painted sheep roaming about eating. We stayed at a little town called Ambleside and ventured out on treks into the hills. We ended up making a little pub into our local watering hole (it had room for maybe 15 people) and the young bartender mentioned that they were making an amazing treat for the next day that was an egg encased in stuffing and was to die for. The next day we came back in and bought two huge, nasty balls which were eggs wrapped in a meat casing, cold and about the size of softballs. The only thing that made it palatable was the ultra-spicy English mustard which was tip-top. I'm not bagging on English food, but this was just plain nasty. Maya barely ate 2 bites and I, the consservationist, finished them both. I am truly the human garbage disposal, plus I felt bad that some poor animal had served up his nasty nuts for us. It was the least I could do.
With our bellies full of mystery meat we ventured into Scotland (see Scotland entry), then popped back down into York. York was amazing! A really cute walled medieval town full of character. It also had a lot of ghost stories associated with it and Maya even claims she saw a ghost late at night while sleeping
Our final stop was in Oxford. We toured this cute college town, watching people with large brains riding their bikes through cold, rainy streets in wool jackets. We visited the watering hole where Bill Clinton first (didn't) smoke a fatty. Not, of course, his last encounter with fatties.
After Oxford we went to Heathrow to fly to Ireland (see Ireland entry). Being cheap, we decided to fill the car up ourselves. So, any sane person would think there would be a filling station close to Heathrow, right? NOPE! We drove an extra 50 miles (round trip) to find a station. Needless to say, I was about to go through the roof. Luckily, being anal retentive when it comes to travel, we had been to the airport 4 hours before the flight, so we had ample time to search the countryside for a station. We finally dumped the car off at Disadvantage and were yet again on foot. The flight was to Ireland.
When getting back from Ireland we just focused on London, which was awesome, as usual
We also managed to hit up a lot of great free museums (thank you, UK taxpayers), including the museum of Britain, an art museum (Tate Modern) and the War Museum. The latter was my personal favorite and I ended up making poor Cupcake spend about 5 hours there. We were wasted at the end.
Our second to last night we toodled up and down the Thames (about 10 miles) and it snowed big frosty flakes. We managed to find a loophole in St Paul's cathedral that on Sunday (which it was) you can enter for FREE and listen to evensong. We trotted in with about 100 other people and listened to the choir sing. Even though we were inside, it was bone-chillingly cold and we sat in our little bundles. When we left, we walked by a street that we had just passed earlier and the cops were there and litter all over the street. It was like a a bomb made of beercans and bottles had exploded. When we asked a cop he just said "the Kiwis", and we later found it was a Kiwi holiday from some really drunk Kiwi's in huge afro wigs. We tagged along with them for a while, then bailed before we got sucked into a painful night of drinking. It was a close call.
So, that was England. We drove about 2000km, visited 30 pubs, ate a lot of food, and walked away lighter in the pockets and roomier through the hips.