England: Day 8

The comparative difficulty of getting from one place to another in a hurry reared its head this morning. Waking early from our post-wedding slumber, we hurriedly packed people and bags amid a steady, cold rain into the two cars we’d rented while in Exeter. Since we had trains going out at 10:22 and we didn’t know where the car rental dropoff in Bath was, we figured that the sooner we could get started, the better off we’d be. We hoped to ask for help with navigation at the Residential Services office when we dropped off the keys to our room, but no luck — it was unstaffed until noon. So we headed out for the train station, dodging pedestrian streets and compensating for surprising one-way routes, and dropped the bags and everybody but me, Kathy, and Lana there. Lana slipped around the corner and asked the Hertz rental people whether they knew where their competitor was. They were gracious enough to provide a map, which got us within about 6 blocks of where we were going; a helpful passerby got us the rest of the way there. We arrived only to find it closed — a frustrating discovery, since we’d been hoping for a ride back to the train station, now several miles away. We put the keys in a drop box, parking the cars nearby as we couldn’t seem to get through the fence into the Alamo lot proper, and started a slog through the rain. We were fortunately able to pick up a bus in about 15 minutes that took us the rest of the way back, by which point we had missed both trains our subgroups had been hoping to catch to Scotland and back to London. Fortunately, the trains do run fairly regularly, and we were able to catch one to Paddington station an hour later, then to wend our way through the Underground again (a much smoother process this go-round), and make it back to the house with a minimum of (further) fuss.

Once we’d had a chance to eat, change into dry clothes, and nap a bit, I took all the kids but Emily up to Highgate Wood, a nearby park our host had suggested. While the decision to walk the whole way turned out to be a bit ambitious, we eventually made it. (My salivary glands would have been active the whole way had I not just eaten, as we kept passing interesting restaurants, including Tandoori and African cuisines, as well as several of the ubiquitous English pubs.) The park had a playground that the kids enjoyed a great deal and a cafe where we all had drinks after we’d finished on the playground. The children were interested to discover that lemonade here is fizzy. I enjoyed a Chocolate Tea, which was quite nice indeed. There were also an extraordinary number of extremely large, extremely well-behaved dogs present, every one of which the children stopped to pet. Londoners are evidently not only very careful in the training of their animals, but also very happy to have others appreciate their pets. (The relationship between Roger and Pongo in the original 101 Dalmations comes to mind.) By this time it was getting late, so we hopped on a double-decker bus and headed home for the evening.