Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Trip to England: Day 3, part 1

Trip To England: Day Three

Raquelle: Heather and Jeannie bipped out of bed and bipped downstairs for breakfast. I, being something of a sleepy cheapskate, blearily made myself a protein drink and nibbled dry gluten-free cereal up in the room instead. That’s more efficient anyway. If it sounds Spartan, don’t worry, I eat that for breakfast at home too.

Heather: Cheapskate? The breakfast was FREE! Due to good ole Dad and his Marriott points. (World-traveler sugar daddies are awesome.)

Raquelle: NOW you tell me it was free......

Heather: I told you then too!

Raquelle: *crunches dry cereal loudly* Whazzat? Can’t hear ya! *crunch crinch grackle smack*

Heather: We each decided to have an omelette and Jeannie chatted with the chef making the omelettes. (Yes, she guessed his nationality again – India. And she knew where his town was too because she’s been to India.) I also enjoyed fruit, cooked tomatoes and grilled mushrooms. I’ve discovered that I really LOVE grilled mushrooms for breakfast.

And of course, we each had tea. It was a pleasant little repast and we had fun chatting for a while too. But alas, duty called (as well as unpacked suitcases) so we finished up and headed upstairs to grab our bags.

Raquelle: We checked out of the hotel and the nice bellman who had helped us the day before assisted us into a taxi. Destination: The train station, to take the train to Manchester, where we would meet up with the tour group that evening. We thanked the bellman and gave him a tiny packet of gen-yoo-wine American tea, made by America’s only tea plantation in Charleston, SC. We were amused by the universal reaction when we dispensed these tea packets—a surprised thank-you, followed by a reverent inspection of the tea. The English take their tea very seriously. :D

I observed that the traffic smells of London do not smell faintly of diesel like the traffic scents in the U.S. Instead, to my amusement, London traffic smells faintly of hot brakes. :D

The taxi took us to Euston Station, which brought back fond memories of our first trip to Europe. It was in this station on that first trip that we learned that the American definition of “fast” food and the English definition of “fast” food are not the same. On that trip, twelve of us tried to get burgers and fries from McDonald’s at the station before catching our train. The unhurried clerk ambled about in a leisurely fashion that would have earned him nasty words in New York City, an exasperated “What’s he DOING, bless his heart!” in South Carolina, and the rapid termination of his employment in Southern California. I have a very vivid memory of Dad resignedly telling everyone to go catch the train and he and Mom would try to follow with the food, and of them boarding the train at the last minute looking disheveled and harassed, but triumphantly loaded with a gazillion hamburgers. It was probably our fault for trying to eat on the train anyway. Silly Americans. :D

Upon arrival that morning, we scanned the departure monitors with unaccustomed eyes, trying to determine which platform the train would leave on. Finally we discovered that they don’t list the platform until fifteen minutes beforehand. If you arrive early (as we did—we always PLAN in buffer time as part of the PLAN), you can simply walk laps around the train station, clandestinely gossip about the fashions of the passerby, gorge on pastries, or post an inane out-of-focus “Diz is me at the train stashun” photo and status on Facebook. That is, assuming your cheapo Vodafone takes pictures and connects to Teh Interwebz, which ours didn’t. Rats.

Deprived of inane status-making, we made our way to the waiting room to kill time. After depositing our luggage in one corner, we went in relays to the ladies’ room. Last time we were in England it cost twenty pence to visit the restroom in a train station. This time it was thirty pence. Bah. These are terrible times. In another fifty years I can wag my silver curls and croak in sepulcheral tones, “When AH wuz a child, you could go to the restroom for just tuh-WENTY pence but NAOW dayz.....”

Heather: All right, all right. This is NOT a genteel topic of conversation.

Howsomever. While we’re on the topic… Mom and I had an adventure trying to use the facilities. To enter the restroom, one must first pass through an external row of turnstiles. One drops thirty pence into a slot, then the turnstile turns. Or at least, it’s supposed to. So we dutifully brought our thirty pence, but didn’t realize that the machines ONLY accepted 10p and 20p coins. I forget what we put in it, but it was the Wrong Combination of Coins. The machine obligingly gulped our money but wouldn’t let us in. Great.

There was a cranky young attendant at the turnstile entrance who was snapping people’s heads off. He had supervisory power to let people in through a little gate instead of through the turnstile. He had a weird accent – maybe Norwegian or something?

Mom went over to him and observed that she put her money in but the turnstile wouldn’t work.

“Twenniestensonly,” he snapped. We looked blank. He repeated himself louder. “TWENNIESTENSONLY!”

“Well...I don’t have the right combination of coins...can I just hand you the money?” Mom asked.

“NO!” he snarled belligerently. Then he turned his back on us and walked off.

Since we’d paid our money (and did not have the right change in our pockets and it was a five minute walk back to our purses) we concluded that it wouldn’t be cheating to clandestinely scoot UNDER the turnstiles. So, um, we did. Don’t tell the cranky Norwegian though. :D

While they were having adventures, I was twiddling my thumbs in the waiting room. Suddenly a LOUD announcement came over the PA system: “WILL INSPECTOR SANS PLEASE REPORT TO THE STATION INSPECTION ROOM.” To drive home the point, the announcement was repeated. “WILL INSPECTOR SANS PLEASE REPORT TO THE STATION INSPECTION ROOM.” I resisted the temptation to cover my ears as the strident voice demanded a third time, “WILL INSPECTOR SANS PLEASE REPORT TO THE STATION INSPECTION ROOM.” The announcer was just warming up. Clearly, either the Plot of the Century was afoot or Inspector Sans was a slowpoke because the paging continued. I started counting how often they said it.

Sixteen times.

Just thought you’d like to know.

Finally it was time to board the train. We don’t DO trains over here and are woefully deficient in the secret lore of trains. Exactly which car does one get on? In some trains, it’s any car you feel like. In other trains, you have assigned seats in an assigned car. In other trains, you ain’t seen the sunshine since you don’t know wheeeeeeen, and yore stuck in Folsom Prison.............”

Er, sorry.

Regardless, being ill-versed in the art of reading our train tickets—and in the art of realizing tickets actually have useful information on them—we attempted to board the wrong car. A helpful English lady directed us to where we SHOULD go—Car A.

Guess where Car A was?

In Banff-ff-ff!

Well, it felt like that far. It was at the very (very) VERY veryveryveryveryveryvery end of the platform. “Helloooo-ooo-oooo!” we could shout to the car and the echo would come back five minutes later. (Minus the “ech,” which is lost in the currency exchange.)

Since we had wasted time trying to decide which car to board, we now felt pressured for time. This is the other mystery about trains. If you are galloping down the platform, or if you are half on and some of your luggage is still on the platform, does the engineer (does the train HAVE an engineer) have a rear-view mirror? Will he wait for you to finish loading? Or does he just smash down on the accelerator (do trains have an accelerator?) and leave your Very Best Suitcase with your Very Best Jane Austen Bonnet stranded FOREVER on the platform?

Such suspense is terrible. The stuff of nightmares. And daymares.

:cue dramatic music:

We legged it with all speed to Car A. Out-of-breath and arms aching (at least, I was....Jeannie is training for a marathon and didn’t appear to be disturbed), we wildly squeezed ourselves into Car A, with the help of a nice English guy who took pity on our haplessness and lifted some of the heavy suitcases.

The front luggage rack of Car A was ill-equipped to handle all four of our big suitcases. Nor was the aisle wide enough to actually roll the suitcases to the back luggage rack. We provided ringside entertainment for the other passengers for the next five minutes while we grunted and squeezed and pushed several of the suitcases sideways down the narrow aisle to the back compartment. By the time they were settled and the small bags were settled and we had tripped over each other six times and found our assigned seats and made general spectacles of ourselves, we all looked at each other and said, “WILL INSPECTOR SANS PLEASE RPORT TO THE STATION INSPECTION ROOM!” I mean, no, we said, “WHO’S IDEA WAS THIS TRIP ANYWAY?” :D

We're finally on the train!

Mom and I ended up across from a very fun English couple whom we ended up chatting with the entire three-hour journey. I don’t remember their names, so I’ll nickname them Tom and Jane. It was quite fun chatting, although technically I guess we should have kept it down, because a sign in the car admonished us sternly that it was the “QUIET ZONE.” No loud talking, no cell phones! Tom was unfazed and had no problem with talking on his cell phone. :D

Tom was the more gregarious of the two, although Jane was quite friendly too. We talked about everything under the sun, beginning with their complaint that the train company had assigned them to seats that faced BACKWARDS even though they had expressly reserved seats that faced FORWARDS. Grumbling about inept travel bureaucracies is a soothing pastime and we had a few stories of our own to contribute. For instance, there was that time when Dad was flying to California and the airline accidentally sent his suitcase to Rome. True story. (And if you’re Dixie-centric and think I mean Rome, Georgia, I don’t. I mean Rome, ITALY.)

Tom warned us that he was old and grumpy and therefore came with an advisory. :D Together we began solving all the world’s problems. We got off discussing bio-fuels somehow or other. Tom expressed profound disappointment in the American drought, which is adversely affecting the corn crop. “I had truly hoped that the corn crop would be very good and get America shifted over to bio-fuels. This drought is very, very upsetting,” he lamented.

We agreed that the drought is distressing, but explained that bio-fuels are still very much in the minority in the States and unpopular with many people. One good corn crop isn’t going to do the trick. He seemed surprised to hear this. He is pro bio-fuel less for environmental reasons than because, as he put it, he’d love to America stop buying oil from countries that don’t like us. I agree with THAT. We told him that America has a TON of its own oil, if we were only allowed to drill for it. This was apparently news to him.

We touched on America’s economy and lamented the way it keeps getting worse. Since this is contrary to the typical U.S. media prattle, he was rather surprised at this also. Tom was quite interested to know how the average American young person sized up the political state of America. I told him my views, although I explained that my opinions don’t reflect the average American young person. :D

Tom and Jane were both surprised at the lack of U.S. coverage about the Para-Olympics. Come to think of it, I am too. I told them, though, that we don’t watch television anyway. They nodded approvingly. Not much good stuff on the “telly,” they said.

Tom and Jane were on their way to a wedding. Recently, another family member of theirs had married a guy from Texas and they were chortling over the Texas theme to the wedding. They were particularly amused at how the wedding party wore cowboy boots (only they called them “Texas boots”). :D

We had fun discussing difference between American and English words. “How does the saying go?” Tom mused. “Something like, ‘America and England are two countries separated by a common language?’” Hear, hear!

“So you’re a piano teacher, eh?” Tom asked me. He meditated on his boyish past. “Ah yes. I ‘did’ piano once,” he smirked.

As the train neared Manchester, we gave them each a packet of Charleston tea. Tom feigned suspicion. “American tea, eh? We don’t know about your tea. You people make tea out of all sorts of weird things. Just any old BOILED PLANTS!” He shuddered.

I also gave them a couple of Answers In Genesis pamphlets, which, of course, are Christian-based. Tom accepted them graciously and gave me a funny smile. “We’re Jews,” he said. “But I’ll read it, I’ll read it. What are you? Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

“No, we’re Christians,” I said.

“Ah! Mormons?” he asked.

“No......” We searched across the American/English barrier for the right word. “We’re Baptists.”

Blank look. “Protestants.”

“Ah, Protestants! Okay!”

At last we reached the Manchester train station. Tom and Jane heartily wished us well on our trip and we wished them well at the wedding.

We trundled into the train station to reconnoiter. The theory was simple: Grab a quick to-go lunch (the English call it “take away”) and board the tram to the hotel. The lunch part wasn’t too bad. But the tram was a whole ‘nother story.

First, we had to figure out WHICH tram to take, by dint of reading an incomprehensible tram map. We couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Finally in despair we hailed someone who Looked Official. He was a tram driver himself. “Ah yes, yes, you just hop on any tram that says “Piccadilly or Altrincham,” he said politely. His accent was so thick I had to ask him to repeat this a few times. (Our English friends warn us about Manchester accents.) We still looked puzzled and he said genially, “Tell you what. Just wait for MY tram and I’ll help you. I can get you where you need to go. Just cross ‘round to the other side.” I looked at him blankly, trying to understand his thick accent.

“I’m sorry....what?” I asked apologetically again.

He visibly smothered a grin and said, “WILL INSPECTOR SANS PLEASE REPORT TO THE STATION INSPECTION ROOM!” Er, uh, no, he said, “Just go ‘round to the other side and wait for my tram.” He politely refrained from adding, “You dingbats!”

Right. The Other Side was where we needed to be. So we crossed to the Other Side, muttering and mumbling things about Piccadillies and Altrinchams.

“You know, we could just take a taxi,” Jeannie suggested sweetly.

Heather was inflexible and too busy working out the square root of Piccadilly and the cosine of Altrincham to heed this sage bit of wisdom. Taking the tram was part of her carefully prepared PLAN. WE NEVER MESS WITH THE PLAN.

Our troubles were not over, however. Before we could get on the tram, we had to buy tram tickets from the little ticket machine. Or at least, we thought we did. I think some of what I didn’t understand the tram driver saying might have been him offering to take us for free, since our hotel was only two short stops down the line and the tram lines seem very casual about whether you pay or not. They never bother to inspect your ticket. Tickets, schmickets.

However, we were being Dutiful Citizens and we approach the ticket machine with Stern Determination. You can buy tickets from the machine in two ways: with coins or with your credit card. A quick glance through our loose change apprised us that we did not have enough coins of the proper denomination to buy tickets. (We knew better than to attempt something beyond twenniestensonly!) We looked at each other in Grave Exasperation and Mom fished out a credit card. HOWEVER, in England, credit cards are equipped with some nifty little chip that our American cards did not have. This meant that the card reader wouldn’t read Mom’s card either.

“LET’S JUST TAKE A TAXI!” Heather snorted.


We took a taxi. And to Jeannie’s credit, she did NOT say “I told you so,” although I’m sure she was thinking it.

The poor helpful tram driver is probably still wondering what became of us.

Our destination, the Midland Hotel, was not far away and the taxi deposited us at the door. A wedding was going to take place that evening and the hotel was buzzing with wedding staff. Someone was preparing a red carpet to roll out on the outside stairs.

“Oh look, they’re rolling out a red carpet for us!” we snickered to each other.

Because, of course, it's all about US!

The chandelier of the Octagon Room
The Midland Hotel is a lovely place. The lobby has a raised area off to the left side with cozy couches and chairs and coffee tables. Part of it is a charming restaurant area known as the “Octagon Lounge.” (The guest booklet in our rooms informed us that having tea at the Octagon Lounge was on some mucky-muck’s list of the top 50 things to do before you die.) The Octagon Room has a ginormous chandelier that was Perfectly Gorgeous. We couldn’t get into our rooms yet, so we handed our bags to the concierge and seated ourselves on the outskirts of the Octagon Lounge to relax. People began to arrive for the wedding and whom should we see on the scene shortly? Tom and Jane! The wedding they were attending was the one at this hotel! We exchanged genial howdys! (We patted ourselves on the back that despite our inept wrangling with trams and taxis, we STILL beat them to the hotel, haw haw!)

Enjoying our tea!
We ladies ordered hot tea to drink and a few sweet munchies and proceeded to have a lovely time for the next two hours, drinking tea and watching gorgeously-arrayed guests arrive for the wedding. It was a ringside seat to a fabulous fashion show. The wedding was a black tie affair and everyone was dressed to the nines. We enjoyed the parade of astonishing fur coats, sequined dresses, and flamboyant ladies’ hats. We saw two adorable tiny twin boys dressed in charming suits and wearing tiny yarmulkes. (Ushers stood by with a stack of yarmulkes to hand out to male guests who wished for one.) The groom’s immaculate dress was completed with an old-fashioned top hat and a walking stick.

Heather: I was dying to take pictures of all the gorgeously arrayed ladies (silk, satins, and spangles, anyone?) but thought it would be a little too Ugly-American-ish. However, I did manage to get one or two pictures by holding the camera discreetly down in my lap and turning the flash off. Such as this one, a lovely be-sequined silk gown:

Jeannie enjoyed herself as well as we did (she helps plan weddings all the time) and flattered some of the more stunningly dressed ladies who passed by our couch by openly admiring their outfits. “You look gorgeous ma’am, I hope you don’t mind me saying that!” They never did mind and seemed a pleasantly surprised that anyone noticed them.

It was so fun to watch that we prolonged our tea until 4:00 when the bride came through. She was very pretty, but after all the be-furred and be-sequinned wedding guests, she was a bit of an anti-climax. Her dress was just a simple white sparkly  gown with a small flowing train. She was charming, however. Since she passed within about six feet of us we paid our compliments and told her we’d been waiting just to see her go by! She grinned nervously.

In the midst of all this, we spotted Jennie, the tour leader, checking in at the desk. We hurried over the say and hi and exchange quick hugs. We hadn’t seen each other in person since 2001 or 2002, I think, though our families have known each other for many years. If I remember correctly, our families first met in 1993 at a conference in Virginia. Jennie now lives in Kenya and of course, we live in South Carolina, so that’s a little too far for a quick get-together. LOL

Once the wedding began, we decided to go into town for a little while, as there was nothing else scheduled until after dinner that night. We, in our ignorance, decided to see if Manchester had any antique stores. Now if we had only known it, Manchester is proud of its MODERN improvements, and antiques are pretty much ignored or stuffed in museums, at least in the downtown area. But we didn’t know this.

Raquelle: So we asked the concierge to direct us to antique stores. In our minds, we meant the quintessential American antique store....a nice rambly building, smelling faintly of Grandma’s attic or basement, stuffed with things Americans consider “old,” (which is not the same as what Europeans consider “old.”) At the very least, however, we expect to see mismatched settings of preposterously boring glassware, a few old LPs of long-forgotten artists, outrageous blingy costume jewelry from the 1960s, a ubiquitous stack of doilies and tea towels and hankies, a few faded Christmas ornaments, some weathered Nancy Drew books, and a perhaps a prim and pedigreed old butter churn. (I defy any of you to produce an antique store in America that does not supply at least 6 out of 7 of those items.)

However, the concierge was from India. I don’t think he’d ever been to an American antique store. Consequently, he had no idea what we were talking about. He presumably had never read Nancy Drew or fished through stacks of old tea towels. He appeared puzzled by our request.

“Antiques…you know…a place where they would sell old things,” we explained.

He pondered. “Ahh….hmmm….ah….yess…..lets me directs you….ah….over to zees place,” he suggested. He fished out a street map for us and made Conspicuous Notations on it. “And eef zat doezn’t work, summon Inspektor Sanz to ze Station Inspektion room,” he concluded. Or something.

Heather: It turned out to be a not-so-helpful street map because Manchester is so busy improving itself all the time that they quit making detailed street maps because things change all the time. At least, as much as a British hundreds-of-years-old town can change. Piffle, who needs MAPS? We quickly took off in the wrong direction and walked briskly for about half a mile before discovering our error. Then we turned around and walked even more briskly in the RIGHT direction to make up for lost time.

The exterior of the Midland Hotel
Raquelle: Mom kept saying, “Are you SURE we’re going the right way? This just keeps getting more industrial. It doesn’t look like a shopping district.” Of course we were sure! It was the right street name, wasn’t it! Finally, a closer look at the map apprised us that there is UPPER Squawkenbop Street (or whatever it was) and LOWER Squawkenbop street. We, presumably being elitist upper-crust individuals, blindly wandered to the UPPER one when we should have gone to the LOWER one. Snobs, we're snobs.

Heather: So eventually, with many a doubtful look at our doubtful map, we finally found the “antique store” he had directed us too. Turns out it was in the “Boho District” and was not at all what we had in mind. I don’t know if it was the steam punk posters on the building or the mobile tattoo parlor that tipped us off first, but it bore no resemblance to the typical American antique store.

Raquelle: Heather is not doing this place justice. It was something of a shopping mall and its name is “Afflecks.”

Doesn’t that make you think of the Aflac duck? *quacks* AFLAC! AFLAC!

Anyway, the website for Affleck’s assures us that it is, “An emporium of eclecticism, a totem of indie commerce in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and above all else a fantastic place to SHOP for anything from Top hats to tattoos…Within Afflecks’ walls we have many alternative shops and stalls. Some might say eclectic or even quirky. And some would just say nothing because they were so dumbfounded by the incredible variety of wares.

*quacks* AFLAC! AFLAC!

For instance, Afflecks boasts the Frankie Knuckles store. Consider this description, verbatim from the website. Don’t ask me what half of this means: “Frankie Knuckles is a new outlet for American consumables. We try to stock the best that is coming stateside that would appeal to British urban youth. Our main products include ranges from Neon Green whom are making the sickest fixie bikes across the water...Fydelity Bags, a company that started in sound and developed sachels & skate bags with inbuilt speakers, to bring your favourite sounds to the street or bowl and the legendary KNUCKLECASE for the iPhone. This is an aluminum knuckle duster...and without saying too much we have just supplied to a big London name.


No, definitely not the place for four prissy ladies who want to poke about some shelves of old china and Grandma's handkerchiefs.


In the concierge’s defense, one of the stores in Afflecks does carry used costume clothing, so perhaps he felt that would fit our criteria.

Heather: Regardless, the place was closed so we turned around again. This time we found Market Street and decided to wander along it and maybe get some supper. That is, everyone else was in the mood to wander. By that time, I had had a long day and my gluten free luncheon was a mere memory. I was HUNGRY.

Raquelle: A Hungry Heather is a fearsome object. When Heather is hungry, I try to go hide in Banff-ff-ff or a classified undisclosed location, preferably underground.

Heather: For those who don’t know me, I have blood sugar issues, which means that when I get HUNGRY (as opposed to merely “hungry”) my blood sugar has bottomed out and I need food immejate or dire things happen. I get cranky. Then I get mouthy. Then I get foggy-brained. Altogether, I become a less-than-desirable traveling companion. Jeannie knew this vaguely about me because we’ve been reenacting together for years. But she had not ever seen me truly “bottomed out.” So among the other curiosities of our England Tour, she got to observe a Hungry Heather. I probably needed an explanatory plaque and maybe a small guide book with instructions.

At any rate, after a minor explosion from the famed Hungry Heather we decided to postpone further wandering. We headed for a nearby second-story food court that had several chain restaurants and ordered chicken at KFC. After that, everyone was much more cheerful and we went back to wandering with happier faces. :grin:

Raquelle: In the U.S. if you order a piece of white meat chicken and fries, you get a hefty piece of meat and the fries come in their own container. So when the cashier at KFC handed me a tiny folded cardboard box, I thought she’d forgotten the fries. “And the fries?” I inquired politely.

“They are in the box,” the cashier assured me.

I must have still looked dubious as I processed this new cultural experience, because she sort of smirked and said with a hint of impatience, “Would you like to open it up and see?”

She was right of course. The fries were in the bottom and on top reposed a piece of meat about half the size of the typical American KFC white meat chunk. We concluded upon eating it that it’s the same amount of actual meat however, as it was boneless.

There was a McDonald’s in the food court as well, but I was crestfallen to discover that they did not serve the usual mocha frappes. So I opted for a cappuccino at KFC instead. It was bitter and I had to stuff it quite full of sugar. However, in fairness, fast food coffee in the U.S. isn’t particularly worth writing home about either. :D

While we were munching our chicken, a Great Big Gaggle of Very Serious Firemen appeared on the scene, in full gear. Including an ax. They began Very Seriously poking and prodding the elevator to the food court, which was presumably a juvenile delinquent in need of a reprimand.

“I TOLD you to spend more time on your homework,” lectured one fireman, jiggling a wire.

“No more late nights for YOU,” scolded another, flipping a switch.

“If I catch you putting a mouse in your teacher’s desk again, you’re grounded for LIFE,” admonished a third, yanking on a pulley.

To which the elevator responded by sticking out its tongue and saying, “AFLAC!”

However, at the end of their ministrations the elevator was a model citizen once more and was no longer STUCK, which is apparently why they were summoned in the first place.

Do note that these conversations were speculative, inasmuch as we were too far away to hear them. But we’re pretty sure that’s what was going on.

Raquelle: After eating, we browsed a couple of department stores. One of them was T.K. Maxx. Yes, you read that right, it’s a “K” not a “J.” It was a step above our T.J. Maxx stores over here and we had fun ambling about. Jeannie found a chawming little dress that she decided would be Just Right for an upcoming wedding she would be attending.

Us outside of T. K. Maxx

We enjoyed browsing the shoe department and clowning around with all the Ghastly Ugly Stylish Shoes.

This one's fer Grandma R.......doncha think it's trewly fashunable?

Finally we headed back to the hotel and checked in. Heather and Mom’s room was Rather Interesting.

Heather: It was obviously carved out of a once-bigger room. It was on a corner so we had two windows with magnificent views of the city, but we also had A Pillar in the middle of the room. It was a Large Pillar. It probably required its own personal identification documentation when traveling, and it certainly would have needed its own airline seat. Maybe two seats. We spent the next two days dodging our Pillar whenever we walked across the room.

Otherwise, the room was pretty tame. Except for an interesting feature regarding room keys which will be covered with great hilarity (on the part of the non-victims) in the NEXT blog entry. (This is called "strategic foreshadowing" and it makes sure that our bored readers come back for more.)

Raquelle: Jeannie and I had a large spacious room with a small side lobby. It was very nice, although the lobby area was very dimly lit. The room only lacked an iron and ironing board, so I called the front desk to request one.

“Did you check the wardrobe?” the clerk inquired politely.

Wardrobe? What wardrobe? Oh THAT wardrobe. It was tucked away in a dark corner of dimly lit lobby and I hadn’t even SEEN it. Oh well, when you have an American accent, people expect you to act like an oblivious tourist.

After freshening up, we went down to the lobby to officially meet up with the tour group. Mom and I took the elevator. Jeannie and Heather took the stairs (I don’t know why) and promptly got lost in the hotel and arrived ten minutes late.

Heather: What is this “lost” stuff? We weren’t LOST. We knew exactly where we weren’t.

See, we took the stairs down to the mezzanine level. But then they stopped. So we went out the door and looked for another set of stairs. Which we found. But it went somewhere else. And then we found some stained glass windows and then we found an alcove with humongous red drapes and pretty soon I started expecting a Gothic villain to pop out and then we found some stairs DOWN and some stairs UP that weren’t right so we finally found the elevators again and meekly got on board for level G (for ground) which was where we were supposed to be in the first place. :looks sheepish:

But it was an ADVENTURE.

Raquelle: There were about twenty of us in the tour group, counting Jennie and her co-tour guide, Suzi Clarke. Suzi was determinedly going from person to person, impressing our names upon her brain. I was impressed. I can’t remember names for more than ten seconds.

When we were all assembled, we went upstairs to Suzi’s suite for a time of fellowship and “Show-and-Tell.” And since that part officially begins the official tour and this blog entry has gone on Way Too Long, we’ll stop there for tonight.

Stay tuned for more......and meanwhile, would you PUH-LEASE ask Inspector Sans to report to the Station Inspection Room IMMEJATE?

No comments: