England: Day 3

Today is the day that travel ate. After yesterday’s hard-charging schedule, we took a while to wake up, cook up some quesadillas with the tortillas we’d been surprised to find in the cabinet, and loiter around the house for a bit. While [Kathy->], [Lana->], and [Meara->] went to get some genuine English fish & chips for lunch, we were delighted to find the Delta baggage delivery man at our door — the last of the luggage had finally arrived!

And none to soon, either. As soon as we finished scarfing down the fish & chips , we made a hasty exit, leaving the house about 1:00 to try wrangle our luggage through the Underground in time to meet a 2:05 train for Exeter. This, in retrospect, was a singularly silly thing to do. It would have been difficult enough if the only obstacle had been manhandling the bags on and off the trains, but we also managed to get pretty confused by the various connections, and ended up transferring from one train to another about 5 times. We finally arrived at Paddington Station at about 2:30, missing both the train we’d been shooting for and the one after it. Fortunately, there was a 3:05, which while it wouldn’t get us to Exeter in time to pick up our rental cars, was at least an express, which meant the trip would take only two hours, instead of the 3.5 the locals require.

So we voyaged through the verdure of the English countryside, my enchantment with the views out the window alternating with attempts to contain the rambunctious junior set. For someone used to the sere beauty of the Texas Hill Country, England is a revelation. The canals that used to be a vital part of the nation’s transportation infrastructure now create a wonderful venue for a boater’s holiday. (We saw many lovely canal boats with which I was quite taken.) The hedgerows, often cultivated over hundreds of years, seem a singularly civilized alternative to barbed wire. We caught glimpses of the famous Wiltshire White Horses, which were until today completely unknown to all of us. It’s quite surprising to suddenly catch a glimpse of one of these huge chalk horses on the side of a mountain. The farmhouses and towns are every bit as lovely and charming as one’s mental image.

We finally made it to Exeter and were warmly greeted by [Chris->], Becky’s mom Betty, and her Uncle Frank. Betty had been kind enough to arrange a place for us to stay and provided our first taste of the pasty, an English staple which most of us quite enjoyed. We then took a walk around the block, spotting another of the ubiquitous lovely churches not a block from the house and stumbling across Abbey Road. (While not the actual famous one, the kids had been excited about seeing Abbey Road in England, so we decided to take photos here, since we were far less likely to be run over in the suburbs of Exeter than in the heart of London.) We visited with Chris for a while longer, discussed plans for the remainder of the week, and finally said goodnight.