By popular demand, here is a first sampling of some of the images and musings from my Europe trip. I’ll keep them coming- and keep them short and sweet.
So, yeah, I decided to pull the trigger and visit my friend Sue in London and my cousin in Dublin. It’s not the off-peak flight period I’d been eyeing, but sometimes you just have to spill the miles. The weather was good, I’d never been to Europe, it fit my work schedule, we’d been talking about it for awhile already, and my parents lived in London for years. In fact, I visited their old house. If things had gone slightly differently, I would’ve been born there like my older brother.
From Heathrow, I caught the tube with little difficulty. The tube goes overground on that route and I was surprised to see, even in the distant outskirts, nothing but classic British brick houses on little hills, packed in tight on tiny streets. Where are the strip malls? The sloppy slap-dash houses with vinyl siding? Is there no vinyl siding on this entire island? As I was to find during my travels, the answer is apparently “no.” The British believe quite firmly in not living in houses that look like they were extruded from plastic.
That familiar fast-growth landscape that we’re used to in the US? Walmart next to TGIF, Starbucks and McDonald’s on the corner, all in boxy beige buildings? Does not exist anywhere near London or Dorset. This was one of the biggest shocks of my trip. The Brits have chain stores, but they blend into the surrounding architecture and often inhabit buildings that are centuries old. I’ll post some pictures soon.
We headed off to the River Lee canal, about a mile from Sue’s place on the north side of London, where we saw a houseboat traversing a lock and picked up some ice cream (70p, or about US$24). Two little girls were out picking berries by the footpath with their father, and they offered us a few. (Sue tells me that despite the bucolic surroundings, the area has been plagued by thieves who ambush bicyclists, stab them in the leg, and make off with their transport.) We had above-average curry delivery for dinner. I love a country where you can get curry delivered. Sue wasn’t impressed with the quality though.
We also turned on the BBC digital radio for a bit in the kitchen. It happened to be on a classic rock station, and sure enough, the second song played was Mellencamp’s “Small Town,” a song that I was already weary of in the US. I changed the channel.
River Lee houseboats.
River Lee lock.
The back of Sue’s flat. Every house in the country looks like this, by law.
(Would your kitchen look this good if your fridge were broken?) Three observations about this part of the world, which held to be generally true in Ireland as well: 1) The fridges are really tiny by American standards. 2) The clothes washers are in the kitchens. No one has a dedicated laundry room or garage, in general. 3) That white box on the wall in the corner is an on-demand electric water heater, another standard feature. Uses less energy because you’re not paying to keep 60 gallons of water piping hot all day and all night.