Sunday, September 09, 2007

Grasmere: getting there

Trying to blog about my trip to England seems really overwhelming, so I've decided to take a page out of Nicole's book and write about it over several entries. This one, as the title suggests, is about getting to the conference.

The flight over was uneventful, which in itself surprised me. On the first leg of the trip my seat mates were very nice, by which I mean "not interested in talking." I was glad. I changed planes in Cincinnati, which means that I have now technically been to Ohio. (Verdict: humid.) From Cincinnati to Gatwick, I sat next to a lovely Frenchwoman named Sylvaine, whose name I have probably spelled incorrectly. She was very charming, and complimented my French accent, and chatted pleasantly until they turned the lights out. She was on her way to France to see her daughter perform in an opera.

Gatwick airport in London turned out to be a bit downscale, and somewhat poorly labeled. It might not be like that normally; they had signs posted that said they were "refurbishing." I took this to mean remodeling. Gatwick is also where I started to enjoy my trip a whole lot less, mainly because I was tired and confused and couldn't figure out where I was supposed to go. Eventually I made it onto the train that took me to Victoria Station, which was a completely bewildering place, especially to someone who had been awake all night. (Did I mention the two babies on the plane who took turns crying all night? I am so not taking my kids to Europe anytime soon.) Half the ticket machines at Victoria weren't working, so there were huge lines everywhere, although in England they are of course called queues. There's even a verb: queueing. So I queued.

I made it from Victoria to Euston Station, where I bought a ticket for yet another train, this time from a very snooty person who looked at me like I had just crawled out from under a rock, and ignored me when I asked her where to catch the train that I had just bought a ticket for. Nice! Catching a train at Euston Station is kind of an adventure, because they don't tell you what platform your train will be leaving from until it arrives at the station. So everyone stands around looking at a bank of monitors that lists the various departing trains, and when a platform number comes up for the train people are waiting for, they bolt for the platform as fast as they can, in order to get a good seat on the train.

I fell asleep on the train to Oxenholme – it's something like a four-hour trip. After a couple of very uncomfortable hours, I woke up to the sound of someone in the train shouting, "Elvis is in the 'ouse!" for no reason that I could ascertain. I then realized that I had no idea where I was, or how long it would be until I needed to get off the train, nor could I understand the person who was announcing the stops. Somehow I managed to get off at the right place, then had to cross the station and get on another train, which took me to ... OK, I'll be honest, I don't even remember where that one went. Probably Windermere. From there I caught a bus, which is referred to locally as a "coach," and which inevitably let me off at the wrong stop in Grasmere. I had to call Sara to come into the village to get me, because I was totally lost. But I made it one piece, with all my luggage. Yay!

This is our room in the Bed & Breakfast:

and this is the view from the room:

Our room looks right into a graveyard. How Romantic is that? (Answer: very.)


Heidi said...

Hee. I must say, that sounds like a rather funny story of how you got from one end to the other... and you got here on the tail end of all the problems they had with flooding down south, which meant that getting trains to and from where you want to go anywhere between London and Leeds was a nightmare for a long time, and probably still is! Shame I couldn't have escorted you through the 50 different accents you probably experienced between there and here... ;) Glad you landed safely, though!

Octavia said...

I have to admit, the accents were a bit daunting. I'm used to hearing British accents in movies and television shows, but hearing a huge variety, in person, with ambient noise ... it was like listening to people speaking Spanish. I could understand about one word in four, but had no idea what they were actually saying.

Nicole said...

first of all, it should be said that EVERYONE should take a page out of nicole's book. she's awesome.

secondly, what an adventure! it reminds me of my flight to paris. i was only 20 and completely alone, plus it was just 4 months after 9.11.01 so security in San Francisco was horrendous, plus my command of French at the time was less than perfect. and yet somehow, you survive.

anyway, i can't wait to read about the rest of your trip. i'm still waiting for my souvenir...

Octavia said...

@ Nicole: don't hold your breath. :)