Category Archives: England

Taking the air in Brighton

We were ready for a beach day after spending time in the UK and the Netherlands so when Danielle suggested that we take a day trip to Brighton, I was all for it. She (knowingly) persuaded me by reminding me that Brighton wasn’t just the beach, but was the Rehoboth Beach of Southwest London and if we were very lucky we might spot a Banksy. And get some sun. And eat fried things.

So, twist my arm why don’t you.

Danielle and I were so excited the morning we woke up! We both wore summery outfits! We brought things so we could sun ourselves by the pier! We smugly put on sunscreen before leaving the house, proud of ourselves for being so responsible. We took a very early bus to Blackfriars station and hopped the hour-long train ride to the seaside, READY FOR THE BEACH. A Jersey girl and a Philly girl love us a beach. DaveKlein just trailed behind us for the morning journey while we giddily talked about boardwalks! Fried things! Tan lines! He was so smug in his hoodie and was waiting for the moment that did not occur to me and I think Danielle was trying to ignore:

That the weather was going to be total crap.

I froze. It was so cold. But so cool! We had a great time walking around!

We left the train station in search of coffee and immediately found an original Banksy which excited me way more than it should have.

Exit through the Gift Shop

Exit through the Gift Shop

There is great street art in Brighton (here’s my other favorites).

Audrey Hepburn in a surgical mask?

Audrey Hepburn in a surgical mask?

"Scream"-era Michael Jackson

“Scream”-era Michael Jackson

We had a lovely coffee to warm up (#BritishSummer) and then went straight to the pier.

CAFFEINE!

CAFFEINE! (mis-spelled? British-spelled?)

We rode a roller coaster for 8-year-olds which scared the crap out of me because I am a HUGE BABY.

Brighton! (And the sun trying to come out!)

Brighton! (And the sun trying to come out!)

Dave and I mugging for the camera

Dave and I mugging for the camera

We ate fish and chips to console ourselves about the sun and to calm my fried nerves from the baby coaster.

FRIED! (it was only OK)

FRIED! (it was only OK)

We stubbornly sat on the VERY rocky beach determined to see a peak of sun. We saw about one silver of sun. Everyone else was in long pants and shirts. CLOSED TOED SHOES, EVEN. We shivered in the breeze and stubbornly ignored everyone else’s sensible (GERMANS! DAMN IT!) attire.

BOOOOOOO

BOOOOOOO

The sun came out for about 6 minutes.

The sun came out for about 6 minutes.

notice all the sunbathers...

notice all the sunbathers…

 

posing, as usual

posing, as usual

Danielle then said the magical sentence that turned the day around for me.

“In the gay part of town there’s a tea house I’ve been wanting to go to — wanna try and find it?”

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YES, my sister.

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YES.

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IT

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WAS

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GLORIOUS.

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Then we unexpectedly ran into the “Brighton Naked Bikeride” and learned WAY MORE about our fellow man than I ever had before. The Naked Bikeride was about 98% male and to summarize: I saw things that I can’t un-see.  And this is coming from me who after three years at HRC not much makes me blush. Ok everything still makes me blush but I’m not surprised by much. AND I AM AN ALLY IN THE BLUSHING.

Then the sun came out for real and after a bit of window shopping

(that is a pillow)

(that is a pillow)

we tried to erase our memories in rosé wine on the train home because while the UK isn’t the sunniest country, it’s not a police state.

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(as you can sense, we are at home and enjoying ourselves except for Pennsylvania’s ridiculous liquor laws. Oh and the “unemployed” part.)

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London: Like coming home, but with a queen.

So after fun biking around a park, drinking beer, drinking beer, and drinking beer, we left Neil for something very exciting: the English Language. Also, my sister from another mister: Danielle! We were off to the UK! We were VERY EXCITED because:

1.)    London is AWESOME

2.)    Time with Danielle and JP!

3.)    We could ask for things without worrying about vocabulary (other than the standard lorry: truck, etc)

4.)    We could understand things around us. We’d been calling conversation “ambient noise” because seriously, no matter where you are, if it ain’t a romance language, it all sounds Korean to us.

5.)    We could read all signs

6.)    LONDON IS AWESOME

Neil suggested in weeks prior that we try flying out of “Dusseldorf” instead of Amsterdam purely as a lower-cost option and also the fun of going to Germany just to go to the airport. Schipol airport in Amsterdam is 2 trains and an hour and forty-five minutes from where he lives. Weeze (pronounced: Veeyyyytzaahh)  a small, regional, low-cost carrier airport in very suburban “Dusseldorf” was a 45 minute shared taxi ride. Off we flew from “Weezey”(airport code: WZE)  as we affectionately called it.

Only…. The UK wanted to make it difficult for us. To be fair — we had little to offer. Having no plans when you enter the European Union as an American was no big deal. We had no onward travel plans when we flew to Spain but I’m sure they figured we’d be someone else’s problem.

The UK was not amused. To be fair—it sounded way worse than it was. I’m also sure if we had not been American we would have been denied entry. The Home Officer who talked with us for nearly an hour made us sound VERY menacing.

Summary of questions and comments from the immigration officer:

“You mean to tell me you don’t have the full address of the friends you are staying with, neither of whom are British citizens… You have no onward travel plans… You cannot tell us where exactly once you book said travel plans where you might be going… You have no idea how long you’ll be here but it will be three weeks to one month… You have no proof of means to exist here in the UK and we cannot exactly trust that you won’t try to find work… You have been gone from your home country for many months and we cannot presume you are employed and will LEAVE the UK to return to those jobs…”

Gulp.

Needless to say, after an hour of pleading, politely sharing more information, swearing up and down we wouldn’t overstay our visa and we had no interest in staying, they begrudgingly let us in with a cautionary warning stamp. And a serious talking to. Needless to say,  we booked our onward travel and took screenshots of bank information and learned Danielle’s full post code.

That’ll be fun when we return to the UK to visit them next. Also for a country who was mainly concerned with us trying to work and for us to RETURN to the US to work, they never outright asked us if we were currently employed….

#oops.

So Danielle is my BFF who went to Syracuse (holler to SU – the GW of the north) from whose illustrious alumni have cobbled together an oddly large number of friends. D and I met while being ladies who plan things for a mutual friend’s wedding and we’ve been comparing family recipes, the Way Our Mothers Do The Same Things, how we were raised, food we ate,books to read,  music we like and gossip ever since.  She moved away to London a few years ago and though we don’t see each other as often as we used to, she has an excellent incentive for us to visit in London: a guest room in an awesome house that she and her man-partner just bought in North London. So yes, she wins.

By way of this backstory is why, you see, we didn’t do like, ALL! THE! THINGS! In London. I lived there as a student for 5 months. We’ve been to visit her numerous times. Gone are the days tromping around dying to see the Tower of London. Hello us rolling our eyes at tourists who think “London Bridge” is what they see when they look at Tower Bridge. For us it’s like going to New York City—the fun is a few museums, eating strolling, getting lost, and then finding your way. It’s familiar, we generally don’t need a map, and if you squint it’s like being home only home has gotten crazy person expensive.

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We did take a few detours which we will share later, but here are some fun things we did that may not be fun things to you but MAN OH MAN are they fun when you have been living out a suitcase.

  • Went for runs
  • Did laundry
  • Cooked dinner. In a kitchen
  • Did dishes
  • Ran errands for friends who are real grown-ups with day jobs that keep them long hours
  • Food shop
  • Watch daytime TV
  • Tear up a little when Ina Garten reruns show up
  • Sleep in
  • Yoga
  • Use their INSANELY fast internets before Google Reader bit the dust (RIP GOOGLE READER)
  • Drink NECTAR OF THE GODS—SWEET, SWEET AMERICAN FILTER COFFEE.
  • Get my hair cut (Sayonara, pinky)
Cropped!

Cropped!

 

Here are the fun things we did with friends:

  • Go out to eat
  • Chat
  • Tease the menfolk
  • Have the menfolk be none-too-pleased with our teasing
  • Drink rose wine
  • Drink beers
  • Perv on other people’s awesome dogs together
  • Stroll
  • Window shop
  • Visit a craft brewing festival
  • Visit them for lunch at their awesome office
  • GET SOME AWESOME NAIL ART
yesssssss!

yesssssss!

  • Wander around the canals and find some 20-somethings rafting and drinking

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  • Shudder at the thought of what might be in those canals

Here are the fun touristy things we did in London proper:

  • See the David Bowie retrospective at the V & A
  • Visit the Tate Modern where we got engaged lo these many years ago (Danielle had offered lots of advice/help to Dave and the event was coined “Operation Penguin)
  • Visit the Portrait Gallery
  • Visit the British Museum
  • Walked along the Thames, Parliament and Westminster Abbey
  • Had coffee in a coffee shop that used to be men’s’ public toilets

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  • Take 100 pictures of awesome street art

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  • Had pie and mash from the oldest pie shop in the city

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  • Visit Borough Market
  • If you are Dave, have a great time riding the Emirates Air Line

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  • If you are me, pretend you are having a great time riding the Emirates Air Line (TERRIFIED)

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So thanks heaps to DZ and JP and their awesome house in Stokey. It was also really fun to not tourist too hard, and just BE. WITH. FRIENDS. Acting normally! I will forever know your gate code so please don’t change it before we come back! Also let it be publicly known, that Danielle and JP are on THE LIST.

THE.LIST.OF.PEOPLE.WE.OWE.BIGTIME

Also on this list:

  • Neil
  • Brock & Josh

Everyone likes a house guest until they announce they are staying for over two weeks.

Naturally, due to Danielle’s upbringing, she had fresh flowers in the guest room, lent us a subway card, and would report back on all the good dogs she saw that day while we were apart.