Where to begin?

Well, I’ll start with “Happy New Year” to all. I know it’s been three months since I last had a chance to write, but life’s been REALLY hectic. I’ve just really not had time to write anything… but hey, I’m resolving that now, right? 😎

So want to read all about the last few months? Well, just so I can keep the blog nice and short on the main page let me summarize. Busy, busy, busy, vacation, holidays and work.

Want to read more? Well, click away…
OK, well first of all at the end of September I took a vacation with Rebekah. We went to the UK for two weeks and had a whale of a time. If you want to see our pictures from the trip, you can go here , but be warned; there are like 2000 pictures in the album so it might take some time 😉

Anyway, we had a great time and got to spend time with my family. It was interesting introducing Rebekah to my family for the first time, but she got along famously with all of them. I think she was definitely a hit.

To start with, we arrived at Heathrow on Saturday 29th October, 2007 after a long flight from Chicago. OK… getting ahead of myself at Heathrow… the first few pictures you’ll see in the album are in Chicago… and hopefully I’ll get some time soon to add captions to some of them! Anyway, we spent that Friday (28th) in Chicago and headed out to the airport in the early evening for an 8:30pm flight. We had a lovely day that day, wandering around and generally spending some time together. Both of us were excited but we also both knew it was going to be a long night.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of the flight. If you’ve ever been on a long haul flight you’ll know that it’s boring. Yes, the plane had screens in each seat to watch movies… and yes, I had noise canceling headphones that made the flight a lot more bearable… and no those headphones didn’t block out the two babies on the flight. However, I still got a couple of hours of sleep on the flight (which is why I took the red-eye in the first place) and was reasonably refreshed when we landed at Heathrow.

Heathrow was pretty much as I remembered it, though it’s obvious they’ve been spending a lot of money on renovations even since last time I went through there, two years ago. We got to the rental car counter only to be informed that the car we had reserved wasn’t available. I had deliberately booked a diesel Ford Focus for our trip, in part because I like diesels but also in part because it generally is a lot cheaper to run a small diesel car in the UK than it is to run a petrol car! At first I was a little disappointed, but was the informed that the only thing they had was a diesel Alfa-Romeo. Hmm… let me think now… go from a rather generic cloth-seated Focus to a rather nice diesel Italian car with leather. Uhm… YEAH!!

So, we had a car… and I had a mission! Yes, indeed… I had a game plan. We were headed to Brighton. OK… that might not sound TOO exciting, but remember I grew up in that area. In fact, the town I was born in is a mere 6 miles from Brighton… but I wasn’t going there that day.

The drive down to Brighton was interesting at first. Primarily I had to adjust to driving on the left side of the road again, and driving at the same speed as the rest of traffic. It’s not that traffic goes faster in England, it’s just different and because of the fact that you’re sitting on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road makes it interesting to adapt. At first there was a little sensory overload, and I had been driving for about 15 minutes on the M-25 since I left Heathrow before I realized that the car itself was dogging a little. I wondered why it felt like it lacked power… then discovered that the car in fact had a sixth gear.

OK, valuable things to remember from this; (1) a diesel car doesn’t rev nearly as high or as quickly as a petrol car. Consequently you can feel like the car’s dogging bad. (2) Always survey the car before you leave in detail. Familiarize yourself with minor details… like how many gears it has.

The drive to Brighton after that was relatively uneventful. Rebekah kept worrying profusely because she was uncomfortable sitting on the left side of the car with no steering wheel in front of her… and the fact that roads are a LOT narrower in the UK. That means that she was a lot closer to parked cars and kept worrying I was going to hit something. Well, I didn’t… and she did freak out a bit at motorbikes splitting traffic on her side (that’s illegal here in Missouri). We also got caught up in lousy traffic in Brighton… which wasn’t really surprising. Still, we got to Brighton in time to see an hour or two of Brighton on a Saturday afternoon.

So we walked around. At first I think it was sensory overload for Rebekah. I don’t think she’d ever encountered crowds quite like this before; these just don’t happen in the midwest even at the busiest times of years. You also don’t get centralized shopping districts like you do in towns in England; most shopping here is done at malls that are decentralized throughout the suburbs. Anyway, she survived and started to enjoy herself, particularly when we went walking down by the Pavilion and finally went walking down on the seafront. Of course, we were both tired at this point; it had been a long day that had really started for us yesterday in Chicago. We were still wearing the same clothes, had traveled thousands of miles and had finally reached a small seaside town.

So what did I insist on next? Of course, it was real fish and chips down on the seafront. You can get some good food in the Midwest… some good fish… good chips (fries)… but they’re just not the same. The fish invariably has that “slightly frozen” texture that comes of having been frozen to be shipped into the middle of the US. It’s OK, and since that’s about all I can get in the Midwest USA, it’s not bad. However, it’s not the same as the stuff I grew up with; horribly unhealthy smothered in salt and vinegar. So down on the seafront, with the sun setting and the chill starting to set in I introduced Rebekah to fish and chips like I remember them. They were good… as good as any I can get back home in St. Louis… but cheaper. And wrapped in paper, to boot 🙂

After dinner, we walked a little more and made our way slowly back to the car. We visited The Lanes in Brighton and browsed a few shops on the way back… and once back in the car we headed out to the bed and breakfast called Nightingales in Lewes where I had booked our stay for that night.

Not much to say… except that Nightingales was lovely. It’s a beautiful place in the country just outside of Lewes with some gorgeous gardens. But I’ll save more information for my next update.

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