Sunday, November 20, 2011

Absolutely No Nasties!

Our European Vacation: Part I

Conor had to travel to England & France for work, so we planned a little vacation around it all!  The first week of our trip was in Cambridge, England where Conor was very busy with work all week. For me, however, it was just the beginning of my 3 week vacation!   We arrived on Saturday and walked around  for awhile to get our bearings and feel for Cambridge.  It's actually quite a small town with almost everything within walking distance.  Very small curvy streets and people everywhere!  We stopped at our first pub which was long, narrow, and absolutely packed.  When I ordered a hard cider, the bartender asked if I wanted a pint?  I must have given him a strange look because he proceeded to ask if I wanted a half pint or a pint!  Who wants a half pint?!  "Oh sure, just give me a little splash of beer please!" Silly English.

Although everyone speaks "English", half the time I felt like they were speaking a completely different language.  Some of the accents are very thick, and I frequently found myself asking people to repeat themselves. Some of their sayings just crack me up!  I noticed the label on a soda I was drinking that read: "Absolutely no nasties!" Nasties?  Is this something I should be worried about? Have other things I've drank had nasties?!  After trying to forget about "nasties", we went to an Indian place, aptly named The Gandhi, for dinner with a few of Conor's coworkers.  It was some of the best Indian food I have ever had!  We quickly learned that Indian cuisine is quite popular in England, so we ended up having it more than once!

Another thing I enjoyed about England: They drink lots of tea here!  Tea in the morning, tea at lunch, afternoon tea, tea after dinner.  If you're bored....make some tea!  To say the least, I drank a lot of tea and cider!  On Sunday, Conor had some work stuff, but luckily I got invited to join them!  We went to the Imperial War Museum where we had a private tour and got to see many different air craft from World War 1 and on.  Some early commercial airliners were there as well, like the Comet 4 and a Concord jet.  It was pretty interesting, but... we were there for 5 hours, so I got a little bored.  One can only look at parked airplanes for so long. :-)

Day three rolled around, and I still felt jet lagged.  Woke up early with Conor. Couldn't go back to sleep.  Tried to take a nap at noon, didn't work.  Took a nap at 4pm, finally slept til Conor got back from work.  Pretty exciting day!...  I hoped that the next few days would be better.  The food in Cambridge proved to be more and more interesting as the days went on.  The hotel had a great hot breakfast so I hit that up every morning.  However, I'm pretty sure they put tons of cream in the scrambled eggs because they are waaaay too good!  I found a fun place for lunch that wasn't too far from our hotel, but still proved difficult to find.  Its hard to find street signs here and the roads are so curvy.  I ate at a place called The Cow which is known for their pizza.  Thin crust, pretty similar to something you would see in the States except that the ingredients are just a little different.  Mine had prosciutto, marscapone, and red onions and it was delicious.  It wasn't cut into slices though, they just gave me a fork and steak knife....kinda interesting.  This was my first meal alone, and I think I did okay.  That glass of wine at noon helped! :-)

I got invited to one of Conor's work dinners at the Cambridge Chop House.  It was a very nice restaurant in quite an old building.  The main room was tiny with a bar and a few tables, then you took a wooden spiral staircase downstairs to a much larger room, and then down another half floor to the room where we ate.  So our room was more than an entire story below ground...little bit creepy.  The menu was fixed since we had such a large group and was definitely interesting.  I believe the choices for the main course were: a rump roast steak, sausage and mushroom pudding, fisherman's pie, some type of vegetable and cheese pasty, and "coil" which is pretty much a coiled up little sausage on a plate... Where's the chicken?!  I am starting to get more adventurous with my eating habits, but this was a little much.  I took the safe route and ordered the steak.

Conor and his coworkers
After dinner we went to the oldest pub in Cambridge called The Eagle.  This is supposedly where DNA was discovered as the men who discovered it frequently visited and talked over pints.  Exciting stuff!  Also, World War I soldiers took lighters and burned things into the ceiling which was very interesting to see.  Once again, I had my fill of cider while Conor got to work tasting every kind of warm beer he could find.  There are plenty of cask ales over here, some of which Conor thought were very different but good.

While Conor was working, I spent most of the days walking around, figuring out where I was going, and taking in everything around me.  Such a fun and fascinating place to be.  The weather had been sunny and clear skies most days, which is so rare for the London area.  I enjoyed being out in the Fall weather and seeing all the old buildings at many colleges and universities.  My days pretty much centered around my meals, and I spent time in-between out exploring. :-)  The streets are packed here everyday since it is a college town.  Everybody rides a bike and has these massive wicker baskets on the front.  Even the manliest guy out there has this cute little basket on his bike.  But there is nothing cute about these cyclists!  They are crazier than the cars on the road and stop for no one.  One day I even saw a bike wreck!

One evening when Conor had to work particularly late, I had dinner by myself at a sit down Thai restaurant (I had to get away from all the English food for a night).  I have to say this is the very first time I have gone out to dinner alone.  I sat at a table in the corner by myself.  I had a glass of wine while waiting for my food, and I have to say it was pretty awkward.  Finally, I pulled my kindle out of my bag and just started reading.  I had become the person that I always feel bad for at restaurants.  The old maid reading alone in the corner with her wine... :-)  I survived though and my meal was delicious.

Eventually Friday afternoon arrived and after our driver dropped us off at our airport hotel, Conor & I took a train into London for one crazy night of sightseeing!

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