2002 European Vacation, Email #1

dammit–those european keyboards have things in the wrong places!

–the @ is where the ” should be! the ~ is to the right of the @ key–and it’s a key that doesn’t exist on your (American) keyboard…

enough about that!

Hi guys! This will be a short note, basically telling you that I am alive and kicking in Glasgow… Although from Indy to Newark the lady sitting next to me was coughing, and so was the guy from Newark to Glasgow. He was also rubbing up against me in his sleep… I think it was involuntary–he was about 80 years old and didn’t know how to operate his seatbelt.

So far everything is peachy… I got through immigration with the 3rd degree, and then waited 30 minutes for my suitcase. After all of that, I got to downtown Glasgow, got on the “Clockwork Orange” (no joke!) subway to my station, got out of the station and walked up an immense hill… I mean, not that bad a hill, but I had my suitcase and my backpack. Unfortunately my room was not yet ready, so they took my suitcase and told me to come back in 2 hours…. blah!

Hungry I struck out at 11… it was all breakfast kind of things–not lunch, and I wanted lunch. so I got myself a latte and made myself content with that.

I then thought that I could solve my biggest problem… I’d left my jacket in Bloomington. Ooops… Unfortunately the university neighborhood I was wandering did not have men’s clothing stores… and I didn’t want to wander too far with my 2 ton backpack… so I ended up doing mundane things, like sitting in the botanic gardens, wandering Safeway, looking at different OxFam stores… looking at a bookstore when I decided that about ~90% of the books for sale were either widely available in America or were American to begin with.

Long story short, I went back the inn, checked in, changed shirts (long-sleeved now), and headed downtown to the arcade–found a jacket. The zipper is funny (wrong side… but it’s a men’s jacket) and it was only £18,00 (no way to get the uk pound symbol in telnet!)–regularly priced £50,00 or something like that.

Popped up a couple blocks and went into the easyInternetCafe to check email and see what the status of my statistics service learning project search is. I am pleased to report that the prognosis is good! The IU libraries may have something–and the lady with IU Service Learning thinks that 3 weeks is more than enough time to find something. thank goodness!

Now I’m off to wander… I’m seeing a play at 8:00–5 and a half hours from now, and I want to stay awake… I didn’t get as much sleep on the plane as I would have liked (see man next to me rubbing his leg against me constantly (and I was waaaaay over on my side)–the flight was only 6 hours and although I skipped dinner, they kept the general cabin lights on the first two hours and then the last hour and a quarter… I was able to ignore much of what was going on, but it wasn’t perfect.

I will write more later–although I won’t promise that you’ll see every note…


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2002 European Vacation, Email #2

Hi friends, relatives, and others who read this.

I’m in Edinburgh and I’m sick. Blah! The old man who was coughing on the plan and constantly rubbing his leg against mine must have shared. I think–at least–that I am on the upswing from my misery. The sore throat has passed completely (wahoo!) and now I have a stuffed nose. I think that it’s progress.

Anyway, I spent Saturday engaging in limited mobility–I did walk around the west end of Glasgow visiting two museums and getting exercise. I then took a nap. After my nap I went down the incredibly long hill and went to Safeway — no Marsha (family reference) — but I was able to find some food to eat and things to look at. I ended up getting some noodle salad that I didn’t like.. *sigh* all of that for £1.49. I got a few other things, like throat lozenges. I ate one of those immediately. Rather sucked on it immediately. Felt better.

Crossed the street and stopped at Woolworth’s to buy an umbrella–Their Woolworth’s are vastly different from ours–but what am I saying. Woolworth’s no longer exists in the US, so my expectations were irrelevant.

Walked back up the hill and thought to myself–I’m going to take a brief nap and then visit the one museum near my guest house that I’d missed seeing. Not to be… I woke up after 5.

British television: Survivor/Panama is amusing. They had a British version of the “Match Game”–hosted by a glamorous drag queen–it was quite amusing. They also had a version of Family Feud. All in all, I had a good time watching TV and sleeping.

I woke up this morning completely stuffed up–went downstairs and had breakfast. Whilst it wasn’t the greatest breakfast in the world, it worked. (MT–It was about 1,000% better than ours in London.) I then attempted to navigate the phone system to order a car–but they didn’t have one and I didn’t feel like trying to get another one over the phone–my ears are feeling the effects of the cold, as well as my voice.

So I walked down to the bottom of the hill, clueless about hailing a cab–fortunately one stopped anyway and I got to the bus station, on a bus, and to Edinburgh.

After getting to my guest house (the gay one) my host started talking at me–the only thing I wanted to know was where the drug store was… he pointed one out on the map and then observed that it wouldn’t be open before noon on Sunday.


from America’s obsession with 24/7 stores to Europe’s obsession with people getting time off–I’m not sure America is better, but when it comes to drugs– 24/7 rules! (Emergency toilet paper purchases at 3am are a different story — see me a week ago in Bloomington.)

Anyway, I walked down to the easyInternetCafe and checked my email and will move on to the drug store before looking at touristy things. (Rather, the chemist.)

I hope all is well back home. Hopefully all will be well with me soon!


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2002 European Vacation, Email #3

Hi everybody–This is a rather quick update–after this you won’t hear my random emails until Friday–I suspect.

Happy news: I found Sudafed yesterday and I was able to make full use of the oxygen that floats around.

After I took the Sudafed I crossed the street and made my way up to the Edinburgh Castle–which is rather impressive looking–and well worth the time. I lost count but I think the castle has 6 different gift shops scattered about–some hidden behind every turn in the wall. There were also two cafes (that I noticed), and the loo. Yes, the loo–and what a loo it was. Loo of the year, for several years running… they had the certificates to prove that point… was it a nice loo? yes!

After that I wandered through a weaving shop–fascinating place–I wanted to buy a kilt, but at the prices that they are charging and the frequency with which I would wear said items, I decided against such a purchase… although it still tugs at my heart.

Then onto the Scottish Whisky Tour place thingy, where the bar tenders will help you sample some of the more than 200 different whiskeys, and help you make a “friend for life.” (Seriously!) I found myself laughing throughout the presentation and really enjoyed it–although I doubt that I enjoyed it for the same reasons they wanted me to enjoy it.

– – –
random observations:

They have a brand of butter here called “anchor free range”– the original free range butter. I know what free range means, I know what butter means, but I am unclear what the two terms put together means.

My gay bed and breakfast has had the best breakfast I’ve experienced abroad, but it has the worlds softest mattress–any springs inside this sucker died several years ago. The clientele that I met this morning also appears to be straight–the woman librarian I ate breakfast with was into rhododendrons (sp?) — 40′ tall ones!– and had received a bottle of whiskey somewhere along the way at her rhododendron conference–she’s saving it for her husband. (She’s a retired librarian from U of Toronto.)

– – –

Today I’ve mostly wandered around town, no specific destinations–wandered through two museums and the Parliament of Scotland visitor’s center. Ate lunch at a French cafe. etc….

cheers for now!


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2002 European Vacation, Email #4

Hi folks!

I’m in Cheltenham Spa, England, right now–having spent the last couple of days traveling, seeing different things (more on that in a bit) and recovering from my cold.

Illness front: I am mostly recovered–still a wee bit stuffed up at times, but in general its not really slowing me down-I’m plugging right along.

Since we last spoke, I have done a number of random things–as I recall I emailed you in the morning of my first day in Edinburgh, but I’m not sure–maybe it was the evening… who knows… it’s not important–I will just try not to be repetitious.

Edinburgh is a great place–I had a really good time (save for the bed, which I remember writing about)–the bed at the b&b was horrible and hot. I was extremely uncomfortable and overheated while asleep. I should have just slept on the floor–probably would have been more comfortable. My second evening in Edinburgh I went to a comedy club to see ten acts for £1. They never bothered to collect my £1–but I was prepared. The performance space was about the size of a bathroom at your local McDonald’s–including the stage and the audience. It was very crowded and very hot–but funny. I, however, got a bit claustrophobic and headed for the door during the first break. The host was funny–the first act was funny–the second act was dumb (and not especially funny) and the third act wasn’t doing a good job… I stopped listening during the third act and wondered if I could make a fast escape out the door without drawing too much attention to myself. I decided to wait–naturally he was the longest act of the bunch.

After I left I went down the street toward my B&B stopping by the “Planet Out” Pub. Noisy. Smokey. “Edinburgh’s #1 Gay Bar.” Small. Monday night was in for a £ and all drinks (except mixed drinks for a £ as well. (in case that doesn’t show, it’s a pound.) I had something to drink, but my ears were still dramatically affected by my cold and I didn’t think I could carry on a conversation with anybody. The only thing I can say is that Edinburgh’s #1 gay bar was smaller than Uncle Elizabeth’s.

Tuesday was a traveling day–I spent the morning wandering around Edinburgh and looking at two local museums. I also wandered by and watched the guards do something at Holyroot (sp?) — the royal residence in Scotland. I couldn’t go in because they were getting ready for the queen’s visit.

I went back to the B&B and took a bus down to the bus “station.” I got to the bus “station” an hour early. It was a street, no benches. So I hopped the first bus to Glasgow instead of waiting for mine and left town. Got to Glasgow, decided I needed to visit the loo– well not at 20 pence for visit, so I opted to get a bite to eat–and discovered that the small cafe in the bus station had a free toilet associated with it. Wahoo!

The next bus ride was somewhat amusing–it was from Glasgow to Carlisle–and shortly after we got really got going our bus driver made some announcements–kind of like a pilot on an airplane–which is somewhat amusing. He even detailed the fact that there was a bathroom in the back of the bus “on the driver’s side!” Anybody who couldn’t tell the difference between the bathroom and the row of three passengers sitting next to the bathroom must have serious issues. Amusingly the announcements on this bus were shorter than on the next bus I took when the driver spent about 15 minutes going over the rules of the bus. Mind you that most people on the bus are about 2x my age and didn’t look like troublemakers.

Buses in England cost about 50% of trains and actually keep a schedule–that’s the general consensus of people I’ve talked to on the bus… and people I’ve talked to who weren’t at the bus station.

Anyway, that bring me to Carlisle–and Hadrian’s Wall:

Rural. Rural. Rural.

As I saw the wall.

As I saw the wall.

There is no Disneyification of Hadrian’s Wall at all. It’s really rather remarkable. I took a bus out to the Roman Army Museum and then had 2 hours before the next bus. I did the museum in about 30 minutes. Any longer and I would have needed to examine each detail in the dioramas in more detail. So I took a walk and went up to explore Hadrian’s Wall–which was really cool. I walked across a sheep pasture and right up to the wall — where I found a couple workmen working on the wall. I walked a distance along the wall and then climbed another wall and into a quarry–which was really rather nice, then back to the museum. Which gave me another half hour before the bus, so I grabbed a bite to eat and a cup of tea before buying a small object.

See my Hadrian’s Wall photos on Flickr.

The bus came along and took me to Houstead’s Fort along the wall. It was AWESOME. I had three hours to explore this spot–it was very very windy and somewhat cold. It also rained sporadically. My explorations of this area took about two hours and upon returned to the starting point. At this point I was worried that I had overlooked something and perhaps could have done more at the wall, but the Canadians who were on the same bus I was on, returned to the base camp about 5 minutes after me, so I didn’t think it was a case of me going too quickly–the bus was just taking its sweet time returning to take me to Carlisle.

The area was really rural. The bus was going down these lanes that were about 1.5 car widths and zipping right along. Every so often it would slam on its brakes and pass a car going the other direction. We passed a B&B called the “Golden Fleece.”

The next day (Thursday) brought me to Cheltenham… which is really a charming city. My lovely hosts took me to a rural pub/restaurant called “The Green Dragon.” It was awesome… I had three pints of a British Ale–Hoops (I think) and was pleasantly not sober very quickly. I’ll babble about this in another email later.

Anyway, time for random asides:

  1. I met a guy at the Glasgow bus station who had traveled from somewhere in Wales to meet a girl he’d met on a national personals phone line in Edinburgh a few weeks before. They were now boyfriend and girlfriend 🙂
  2. Newspapers here continue to amaze me at how much they editorialize the news as they are reporting it. I haven’t really read the broadsheets, but the tabloids make no pretense of objectivity. It’s like reading the National Enquirer, but it’s all true!
  3. V. Graham Norton has a late night talk show on Channel 4 here that is absolutely, positively the funniest talk show I have ever seen on television. Two nights ago he had Joan Collins on his show, and he brought up that ancient television show, Dynasty–which was before my time, but as people may bother to recall was set in Denver. So Norton had taken the time to find out that there were two Joan Collins who live in Denver. He called one of them… the famous Joan Collins pointed out that the other Joan Collins was probably at work, but she happened to answer the phone, and Norton (without saying who he was or what he was doing, etc…) asked Collins 2 if she wanted to talk to Collins 1. This led to a very predictable guarded American response that ultimately ended up with the Denver Joan Collins saying “Fuck You!” and hanging up the phone.
  4. I went to see the Hugh Grant movie, “About the Boy” at a movie theater in Carlisle my first night here. I got there at 6:21 for a 6:20 showing… no problem, she was willing to sell me a ticket… She then asked me where I wanted to sit! They had reserved seating in this theatre… She gave me a seat by the door. So I go in, sit down in a seat (it was kind of dark) and once it got light I got up and moved to a better seat. They had reserved seats for a movie that had about 20 people watching.
  5. In Edinburgh I stopped by a post office to buy stamps. It was also a Welfare office dispensing place–When I asked the guy for stamps he had to go searching for the stamps.
  6. Showers here have too many knobs and features–I’m still not sure how last night’s shower worked–nor the one in Carlisle. I think one knob adjusts pressure and another adjusts temperature, but in Carlisle both knobs were somehow affecting the temperature. Last night’s was a similar problem only I could either get boiling hot or freezing cold.
  7. In Edinburgh and Carlisle it was still light out at 10pm–and it has been light long before I’ve woken up every time. It’s really cool–and opposite of what I experienced in November when it was pitch black at 5pm.
  8. Hadrian’s Wall bus timetable warned that if Housesteads was close because of Mad Cow that it would go to a different stop. *MAD COW*?! 🙂 interesting warning to put on the tourist sheets…. not that it really made me that scared.
  9. They are doing sobriety testing in Scotland now (e.g. Walking the line, counting backwards, touching your nose) by the side of the road. Except the ads on TV say that in America we do it for drug testing. it’s difficult to describe here, but the ads warning Scots about this featured US police having stopped drivers. Clearly it was drunk driving tests… but it was odd, I don’t know how to describe this… so this may be a pointless part of my email.

Anyway, enough babbling… will write more later!


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2002 European Vacation, Email #5

Howdy everybody-

I am here jotting a quick note before my time expires. Internet access in London is a whole lot more expensive than in Glasgow.

After my last note, I left Cheltenham via bus heading for London. I had a very cheerful and humorous bus driver named Ian–who took the time to tell us about the bus–but not where the bathroom was–more useful information like where the button to lean your seat back was hidden.

I arrived in London at the Victoria Coach Station, walked to the Victoria Train station; got my tube pass and then grabbed a cab to my hotel. Glorious place that it is.

The Hotel is on Glower Street, which is very near the British Museum and a bunch of other interesting places. Upon getting settled I went for a walk, found a grocery store and returned home to eat and take a nap. I then discovered that the British Museum stayed open until 8:30 on Fridays, so I grabbed a shower and headed out.

I saw the Rosetta Stone.

Wow. I really cannot say more here–it was one of the three principle things I wanted to see in Europe, and I saw it.

It was a lot smaller than I expected, but still absolutely positively amazing. That alone makes London worthwhile.

Anyway, much of the Museum was closed (evening thing) and I headed out fairly quickly and wandered randomly around ending up in some pretty well known spots–Charring Cross Road. I even found G-A-Y at the Astoria. It is very close to where I’m staying and I decided that I was going to go to this Gay Club Mecca Friday night. However it was only 8:15 or so and that was a wee bit early. So I went back to my hotel and lay down to watch something that had been recommended by my hosts in Cheltenham.

It was some kind of comedy news quiz show. They were worried that it was going to be filled with inside British humor–but thought I would understand it no matter what. Unfortunately the host of the show had been caught in some kind of sex-drug-prostitute-whatever scandal in the past week (that day?_) and it’d been front page news in the dailies–so they talked and talked and talked about it–he turned red, the contestants made fun of him and they had a jolly old time of it. I didn’t really get that part of the show–I did find the humor about the news amusing.

After that they had an episode of Black Adder on– yeah! I fell asleep.

I wok up… looked at my watch and realized it was now 12:45am.


G-A-Y was open from 11pm until 4am, but I was too cozy in bed. In bed I stayed. Oh well… The next time I looked at my watch it said 7:00 or something like that, and I was feeling really refreshed.

Ate breakfast and headed out. Took a walk to find the train station where I catch the train on Wednesday. Depending upon how with it I am, it is within walking distance–but I will have my suitcase and backpack with me, so I might opt for a taxi and eliminate the street crossing hassles. (Kings Crossing Thameslink station is well hidden!)

I then took the tube to a random stop on the south side of the Thames, and found a fresh vegetable market. Alas, it was 9:30, so I had a cup of coffee and a smoothie (not simultaneously), and wandered around. Randomly.

Eventually found myself at the Britain during the war museum. — amusing. not really well done, but amusing.

They had smoke machines to help simulate the dust.

Went from there to the Design Museum. Very nicely designed. Very Pretty. Interesting exhibits.

Walked across the London Tower Bridge. Didn’t pay to go in the bridge (per rough guide), but went straight to the Tower of London. I spent 3 hours there–I don’t want to try and describe it right now, but it was awesome! My favorite part was seeing the clothes lines (complete with clothes) within the Tower of London. I didn’t realize there were private residences there!

Wandered some more.. wandered, and here I am.

Writing a quick email.

Hope y’alls having a great weekend!




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2002 European Vacation, Email #6

Hello friends & family!

I hope this note finds you enjoying your Memorial Day.

I suppose that it is still 4am (in Bloomington) and that most of you are sound asleep, so I am the early bird. I should get moving soon… it’s 10:00 here.

Anyway since my last note to you I’ve had a nice and enjoyable couple of days.

Saturday evening I went out to some bar on Old Compton Street and watched the 2002 Eurovision song contest–live from Estonia! It was very enjoyable to watch–Eurovision is some kind of international (European) song contest that 24 different nations participate in (including some non-European Countries: Israel comes mind). Each song is performed and then voting takes place (country by country) and it is all tallied up. A 3 hour long extraordinary event.

At the bar it was hosted by an old drag queen who made appropriately catty remarks about everything that was going on on stage. The audience cheered for the UK (as expected), liked Spain, and really, really, really loved Slovinia because of the transvestite nature of the band. Then it was on for voting and counting the votes–a 30 minute effort in and of itself, during which the satellite gave out twice. OOOpppss… the audience chanted 101 over and over until it was fixed–101 being the code for BBC One television on that particular company’s satellite setup (Sky). It was really amusing watching the crowd be involved in the contest. Naturally, I as an idiotic American had little emotional connection to the contest. I will be buying the CD though today. (I have the 2000 CD already. The German entry in 2000 was AWESOME!!! and the guy standing next to me at the bar had a T-shirt with the key lyric from that song on the front of his t-shirt.)

I’d had the opportunity to watch this at G-A-Y but there was a uk9.00 cover charge. Not worth it to me.

Sunday morning I got up and went to some cafe where I had an enjoyable breakfast and read The Times. It was almost as good as sitting at some cafe in the USA and reading the NYT. It was just so enjoyable and — I dunno — Urbane. I could have more Sunday morning like that–Although the Times cost uk1.20 while the NYT costs $4.75. The Times costs less–although i should factor in the plane ticket and the hotel.

I finished breakfast around 10:30 and wandered off toward Buckingham Palace. Watched the guards change. Wandered some more and got to Victoria Station by mistake… I really wanted Harrods–so I wandered there finding a few embassies along the way (Belgium, someplace, someplace, Germany, and Lestho (sp?). Harrods was closed on Sunday.

SO I grabbed the tube and went to the Museum of London. I highly recommend the Museum of London… It was very interesting and quite well done. About the only bad thing related to the Museum of London was the HORRIBLE entrance. It’s hard to find the entrance… I ended up walking around a few spare blocks even though I was a couple of feet from the stairway.

After that I wandered back to the area near my hotel where I first picked up a movie ticket to see the movie “The Closet.” Then I went to Borders (I know, I know, I know). To be honest, I don’t think Charring Cross Road is so great for books any more… it’s all big bookstore chains. If not Borders, British chains. And let me say–once you’ve been to one Borders, you’ve been to all Borders.

So I went to the movie theater (cinema as they say here) and watched “The Closet” a French film about a str8 guy who pretends to be gay in order to avoid getting fired. Well worth the time–go see it. [And for those of you keeping track, whilst the theater in Carlisle had assigned seating for about 20 people, the big movie theater in London did not and there were probably about 50 people in the audience (it was a smaller facility as well).

The movie had about 10 minutes worth of commercial adverts before the show actually started… The first one I thought was a health advisory thingy–but it turned out to be for some sporting goods store or something like that. I had to ask the gentleman sitting next to me in order to find out.

I had dinner at a small cafe last night– mussels and salmon, plus I got banoffee pie for dessert. Yum!

And here I am….

Time to close and I will chat with y’all later.


PS- Internet access at 10am costs a whole lot less than internet access at 5pm. When I got on each pound lasted 4 hours. Right now each pound lasts for 48 minutes. I seem to be grandfathered in at the rate I was offered when I logged in.

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2002 European Vacation, Email #7

Hi everybody–

I have but 5 minutes before my friend returns from teaching–I have just spent 4 hours on the internet as follows:

  1. Ordering a new computer (“Dude, I’m getting a Dell!”)
  2. Figuring out what kind of public service project my statistics class is going to do this summer.

Most of the time was spent on the later–there is a lot to chose from and I had to sort my email in order to figure out what offers I had.

Anyway, that leaves me with no time to write a very long email detailing everything that I’ve done since the Museum of London, so I will fill in details later:

  • Saw musical: The Full Monty
  • Saw musical: Fame (front row ticket!)
  • Flew a brand new 737-700 from London to Amsterdam
  • Toured Heineken in Amsterdam (a waste of €5)
  • Got semi-lost in Germany on my way to Hamburg
  • Watched World Cup game between Germany and Saudi Arabia (Germany won 8-0)
  • Got drunk
  • Toured Hamburg Harbor — in German, so I didn’t understand 95% of it
  • Ate Portuguese and Turkish food
  • Got from my host’s apartment in Hamburg all the way to Berlin by myself!
  • Discovered that the z and the y are inverted on German kezboards
  • Told somebody speaking Dutch to me that I did not speak Dutch, and he went American on me, proceeding to speak LOUDER in Dutch.
  • Got another Dutch passport stamp, but no German stamp
  • Pretended not to know English in Amsterdam in order to avoid talking to some panhandler/tourist
  • Went to a nightclub with two professors (it was Student night, and they skewed the distribution). The professors danced… it was a Cuban themed restaurant/bar/nightclub. The next morning everybody showed up late to breakfast.

I have said a lot here, and was going to be more verbose about it (there are stories to tell), but she should have been here by now… I don’t know where she is.

I will write more to you at a later time!

Berlin and its former wall await me–the history here is Amazing.

Cheers for now!


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