16 March 2008

march european vacation part 1: aye, nots'bad

Jet lag is taking its toll on my blogging efforts today. Not feeling so creative in the writing department. But, will have a go and post in parts.

West Yorkshire, England: 7-12 March. So much green space, fields, sheep and cows. The people are hearty, good and fun-loving ... although the accent can cause ear strain. I tried hard to include articles in my sentences and refrain from sounding like British Madonna. Although dropping in some Brit lingo is OK: like describing the "bloke" behind me in the Post Office "queue" as a "nutter" (who said to me, "Sorry luv, don't mean to keep bumping into you; it's not sexual, like" and then went on to show me his PO credit card and talk about his 6-year-old son and how it's quite chilly outside, "damp, like"), or telling Richard that I was "chuffed as heck" to find two lovely dresses at Debenhams.

I get what Americans say about English food: that it can be bland or strange. But it's not all jellied eels, blood pudding, soft meat and overcooked veg. I ate to my heart's delight during our stay:

Fish & chips (twice!), covered with malt vinegar
Bangers & mash with leeks and carrots
Mashed swede
Yorkshire pudding
Sticky toffee pudding
more Cadbury's chocolate than a sane person should eat
Eccles cakes (I ate 3 of the 4 that Richard's mum bought)
sticky ginger buns
salt & vinegar crisps
chicken pasty
and a fair few pints of John Smith's Extra Smooth

One morning on my own, while Richard, his mum and dad were being all healthy and working out at the gym, I walked around the center of Wakefield. I mailed some items back to the US at the Post Office (where the nutter conversation happened) and tried to spend money on fine English goods. Instead, I had a cafe latte at modern coffee shop in central Wakefield, where the clerk shocked the hell out of me by asking: "Would you like a chocolate twist with that, luv?" while pointing to a sweet pastry next to her. Now, it wasn't her speaking to me that shocked me; it was that a Brit, and more astonishingly, a Yorkshire lass, was going all American and doing the upsell! Good on her, but I didn't buy one.

Now, I've been to Yorkshire many many times, so it's not like this trip was about sight-seeing, rather it was more about spending time with family. However, I thought it a crime that Richard had never been to the Brontë estate, considering he grew up so close to it, so we had a day out in Howarth. I grant that the $12 entrance fee was a bit steep, but a) Richard's dad paid and the money goes to the charity that cares for the estate, and b) we're talking about a house...

...and lands that inspired some of the greatest literature ever written. OK, so we probably didn't need to get that close to the couch on which Emily died, yet what an artifact!

After the tour, we walked down the Howarth high street:

There were a couple of lovely sweet shops, a bakery where we bought parkin and ginger buns, a few reliably British pubs and bric-a-brac (i.e., tat) shops.

Aside from Howarth, we caught up with family and friends, played lots of Crash and Take 2, and otherwise had a lovely time.

On our last night in England, we went to a big fish & chip restaurant in Leeds, then had some pints at a pub "over the road". From there, Richard's parents dropped us off at the Travelodge directly across the street from Leeds-Bradford airport. Surprisingly, for $50 a night, the place was not bad. More worrisome was the weather, as Richard explains. The 5am walk across the street was great exercise, as we pushed ourselves against gusts of 70-80 mph. And by 8:30, the wind had subsided enough that they let us fly to Italy.

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