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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