Friday, May 8, 2009

Assault on Western Europe: Part I - Conquering the Empire


April 3, 2009
For all the wrong that Delta Airlines has ever done to us, we give thanks for the right that is the Salt Lake City to Paris direct flight. Now, you can check in at the world’s most convenient airport, take a nap while experiencing the miracle of human flight, and wake up in Paris! What a perfect way to start a 3.5 week adventure in Europe.

On April 4th, we landed at Charles De Gaulle Airport and picked up our little “Hippo”. Hippo is the name we gave our leased Peugeot after we discovered the awesome European automobile feature of rear view mirrors that fold in when the car is parked and locked. These folding mirrors looked like hippopotamus ears. Thus, Hippo. No time for Paris… we took Hippo straight to Callais, France and caught the ferry boat to Dover, England. Onboard the ferry there was proper tea, a scone, jam, and clotted cream. Our trip to England really couldn’t have started out any better than that, and we were glad we didn’t take the tunnel.
Little Hippo

Once we arrived on British soil, Edwards had to make the physical and mental switch to drive on the left side of the road. He noted that it is easier to do when the driver gets to stay on the left and not complicate matters by altering the side of his body he has to drive the stick shift with.

Our destination was Canterbury to visit with Todd and Patty who shared their flat, a delicious home cooked meal, martini’s, and wine with us. Todd is a bit notorious, being the co-writer/creator of the renowned and oft’ quoted film, Icarus Descending. Actually, maybe he is more notorious for the photo of him doing a one armed pull-up while drinking a beer. Obviously, one of Edwards’ closest friends.
Todd, Patty, and Lisa in the flat in Canterbury.

April 5, 2009
The next morning Todd and Patty blessedly let us sleep in and then poke around the flat for awhile. At some point the boys decided that we were to head off to Brockwood School to visit Brian immediately after lunch. We had lunch in the back garden of The Dolphin pub in Canterbury… the best part for me… proper tea! I adore ordering tea and having all the important bits and pieces come with it! – tea, tea pot, tea cup and saucer, tiny pitcher of cold milk, sugar, and a little spoon. Why is this so hard in America?

After lunch we actually did make a feeble attempt to see the Cathedral. We got right out front then discovered that I have already seen it, Edwards simply doesn’t care about such things, and Patty and Todd left their “locals pass” at home. We walked on by… in a hurry. Do you know there is a Starbucks Coffee immediately to the right of the entrance door to the Cathedral? Seems a little… commercial?

Brockwood (sort of, I like the daffodils)

After that, we said goodbye to Patty (who had much work to do), and the three of us went to Brockwood School, Hampshire, England. Brockwood is special. The landscape is special. The sheep had just had lambs and birds were singing the sounds of the British countryside.
Sheep and Lambs at Brockwood

Brian was on-duty until 8:00 p.m. so we all chatted and explored the school for a bit… had more tea… then headed to a perfectly appointed, quiet Sunday night pub. Edwards had the best fish and chips in all of England – so said the owner, and at least relatively close to truth – mostly though, it was the setting that made the night. Just perfect.
An evening at the pub

April 6, 2009
Todd and Brian made fun of us for sleeping in again… I think this was before Todd made fun of the luggage we brought. I believe he called it, “ugly” which is entirely unfair. It was good looking luggage in its day. Plus, it made my first journey to Ireland with me and that position demands respect! (even if that did happen an entire half of my lifetime ago). You cut me deep Todd, you cut me real deep.

We ate brunch at another pub, this one of particular importance to Edwards and Todd. The Thomas Lord, or “the Tommy lord”. When the boys filmed Icarus, they spent a lot of time in this pub and even filmed here. Not much has changed, except the food. The food was awesome. Even after 3 weeks in France, etc. this was one of the most memorably delicious meals of our trip! I had a cheese and pickle sandwich. That’s it. Cheese and pickles and bread. Memorably delicious. Oh, and tea.
Edwards and Brian on the coast with a British sky.

This revival of delicious food in England apparently comes from the leadership of Prince Charles. He started with his own garden and some chickens and began to vocally promote fresh, local food. The trend caught on, certainly in Hampshire, and all the pubs that we ate at were just brimming with fantastic local fair.
The approach to Dancing Ledge

After brunch, and dropping Todd off for the train back to Canterbury, it was time to go climbing. We drove to Dancing Ledge located somewhere along the coast. This was the most beautiful climbing approach through fields, a farm, and down a steep slope to the rocky ocean shore. It was absolutely magical. I only did one climb, and Edwards barely three because it started raining, making the hike out a bit treacherous. The climbing was nice though. Parts of the rock had been so polished by they ocean that they looked as if someone had pour hot wax over them.
Climber and Belay at Dancing Ledge

That night we ate at another great pub. I had my first fish pie and Celtic Coffee. A Celtic Coffee is really just an Irish Coffee of another name and with two inches of straight cream on top. If only we had such delicious cream in the United States.

April 7, 2009
My biggest disappointment before coming to England was that I Capuleti e I Montecchi at the Royal Opera was sold out the nights we would be in town. This was devastating news as my favorite soprano, Anna Netrebko, was singing the Juliet role and another woman I had been hearing about, Elina Garanca, was singing the Romeo role. I most desperately wanted to go.

Fortunately, Brian found out that the morning of a performance 67 tickets will be available to the public and all you have to do is queue for them. The box office opens at 10 and to be safe we needed to be in line by eight o’clock. This meant leaving Brockwood at 5:30 in order to drive to London, park the car, and walk to the box office.

The line when we arrived at 7:40 a.m, having made very good time, was short. We were 13, 14, and 15. Surely, this meant we’d be getting tickets! Now all we had to do was survive the cold, windy London morning for a few hours. We all took turns getting coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. We had friendly neighbors behind us and we rested easy as the gentleman at the front of the line was making sure that absolutely no one cut the queue! Actually, we firmly believe that that gentleman attends every opera, but has never pre-purchased a ticket because he LOVES the line so much. Just the kind of cheap but cultured man he was.
FYI: Romney is a FULL Dragon. Conceived and born in the year of the Dragon.

Promptly at 10:00 a.m. they opened the doors and we got three tickets, not all together, but three tickets just the same! We then took breakfast at a Parisian CafĂ© (our little taste of the Paris we wouldn’t be making time for) and then started walking to no one really knew where. We did no shopping and only sight-saw the things we walked passed. Of course, when we found the burrito place in London, Chimayo, the boys had to stop on the simple principle of the thing. It wasn’t good, but it was entertaining just the same.

Brian set up a rendezvous with Valentine, one of the actors from Icarus. Time: 1:00 p.m. Place: Mayflower Pub all the way across town. Even though it was far, we had nothing better to do, so we walked… finally arriving at 1:25 and definitely ready for some Guinness.

Valentine is great and has been invited to Utah any time he would like.
The best cup of coffee in London Town

After a meal at the pub, we took a double-decker in search of the best cup of coffee in London. The boys all imbibed. After that we changed clothes and went in search of the best Martini in London. Turns out the Savoy, the home of the best martini, is closed for renovations. So, we went for the second best Martini in town. There, I had a delightful cupcake that made me smile and that Brian said was the type of cupcake an Aquarius would be interested in.

The opera was absolutely brilliant. Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca singing together was otherworldly. I was enchanted by the entirety of the opera. The simple orchestration, the minimal set, and the siren voices on stage. It was so beautiful my heart ached. I Capuleti e I Montecchi by Bellini remains one of the highlights of the trip.
One very bad cell phone photo as everyone left the opera for the evening. What can I say? They don't allow cameras in the Royal Opera Hall.

It was the best day in London my daydreaming mind could have conjured. I am so lucky to have my fantastically energetic husband who was more than willing to go on this adventure with me. Not to mention his wonderful and peaceful brother, Brian. Thank you both!

Simply exhausted we put Brian on the train back to Brockwood and slipped into Todd and Patty’s flat in Canterbury at 1:00 a.m. only to wake up to catch the ferry in Dover by 8:00 in the morning. Thanks to Todd and Patty for their patience given our whirlwind tour!


Steve Edwards said...

I love that Vali is still known as one of the actors from Icarus. I'm sure that will follow him throughout his life, especially when his film, Chasing Icarus, plays Cannes.

"Dicky knows that tune. You sing it from a soapbox and you finish it from a coffin."

Reedster said...

Your trip sounds awesome. I can't imagine being able to take one like that anytime soon, so I'll just have to subsist on your stories. Todd and Brian look good, so apparently the British climate is agreeable to some, God knows why. Can't wait for "Part 2 - Boar Hunting in France."