We got up this morning around 9, I think. I slept really, really good (but my back was screaming at me by the time 9 rolled around). William did too, but I think the girls said their room was too hot or stuffy.
Today, priority #1: DO LAUNDRY! This was the first laundry day of our trip and we were all desperately ready for clean clothes. Laundry here cost 60 pence (about 60 cents) for the washer, and about 40 pence for dryer, so about a buck a load. That took about 2 hours to finish up, which gave me time to almost catch up on my blog posts.
Seriously, it’s tedious work to keep up on these posts, but I know that I won’t regret it later. Plus, I know my wife reads all of them, and shows the pics to the kids at home, so it’s a way to stay in touch 🙂 On our last two cross country trips I wanted to do something similar, and didn’t, and now I just have my fleeting memory to go from (and a bunch of pics :p).
I had about an hour to spend in the temple, which was super. I have spent the last couple of months with my terrific physical therapist, who’s goal was to get me good enough to walk all over Europe, and when he found out we’d be here he said “my parents are there!” I met his dad today and had a really nice chat…. that was really cool 🙂
After my time in the temple the Trio was just about done with their laundry and we were ready to go into town. “Into town” means getting a taxi to drive us four miles south (I think) into East Grinstead. There are closer restaurants, we were assured, but we wanted to go get some food from a grocery store, too. It’s been really nice to have fruits and granola bars and stuff to snack on, especially in places like this where you can’t just walk out the door and get some grub.
When we went down to the receptionist desk to ask for help or advice for getting a taxi, there was a lady just leaving that had a taxi van waiting for her. Turns out she was going to East Grinstead too, so we piled in with her. She’s been working here for ten years and was really delightful, and helpful with her advice.
A few minutes drive down the road and we got out and tried to figure out where to eat. “Do you guys want thai, an authentic pub, Cantonese/Vietnamese, or do you want to walk around until we find something?” The response was kind of a mix between zombie-I-don’t-care and someone-else-decide… so Sam made the executive decision to go to some English sounding restaurant. Fortunately they post their menus on the window, so we were able to see what they had, and nothing really said “yes, I will satisfy you!” So we went across the street to a very pub-looking pub (I have never seen a pub, but this is kind of how I imagine them) and sat down at a table.
It’s been weird trying to figure out, in each country, how to enter a restaurant. Do you meekly wait at the door to be seated? Or do you go in like fearless Americans and just sit down? Which of those two will be offensive? Who knows. There were no signs that said to wait, nor were there signs saying to seat yourself. Afterall, it’s a pub, where everyone around us had a beer in one hand… I’m guessing we sit ourselves.
We looked over the one menu that was on the table and waited… and waited, and waited for someone to take our order. Then, I finally got up, went to the bar and asked “do we order at the table, or do we order here?” You order here. Ah, okay, that’s why no one has taken our order.
We hadn’t really eaten yet (although William told me there were was a Cliff bar, after he had already polished off three of them :p), and were all famished. So I order (Sam: currie with naan bread, Ellie: spicy chicken sandwich/burger, William: spicy chicken sandwich/burger, Me: Fish and Chips!!), and then clarify, “Do we come here to the bar to get our food, or do you bring it to the table?” To the table, of course! Okay, great. So we wait… all anticipating some great food.
Below is a picture once we got our food. I should note that I’m travelling with three people who are models… if you point a camera at them, they move their heads and faces and mouths to the right positions so they are magazine worthy. You can see that William did that. You can also see that I’m learning from them, and positioned myself to be magazine-worthy, too:
Let’s walk through this. At the top (twelve o’clock) we have, under the fish, untoasted white bread smeared with butter. This went untouched, for the record (If I were to make this at home, I would have toasted it and put garlic seasoning on it). Then, on top of that, at one o’clock, the “fish” part of the fish and chips. This was as good as I have ever hoped it could be. Really, delicious. At four o’clock was the obligatory healthy part of the meal: peas. Taste the same as in the U.S. And I ate most of them. I’m not really a pea guy, but it worked with this meal. From six to nine o’clock are the fries… er, the “chips.” They were normal fries. At ten o’clock is the dipping sauce for the chips… started out as mayonaise (a la Holland/Belgium), then I gave in and mixed ketchup in (a la Utah Fry Sauce), and all was well in the world. Not pictured was the little dish of tarter sauce, which was excellent with the fish.
In the picture above, on the bottom-left, you’ll notice Sam’s curry. It was supposed to have naan bread (which is a real delight) but instead it had unseasoned french bread. She wasn’t impressed. But the curry was good. William and Ellie didn’t like their spicy chicken at all, criticizing it on multiple points (tasted frozen, wasn’t spicy, etc.).
So, enough of our English meal experience. To sum it up: Pub + fish&chips = awesome.
We walked up the street and found an alley that looked like it had some shops. Indeed, there was a fruit vendor named Jack… probably late twenties or early thirties, and he was entertaining. He was helping an Asian lady with her order “you are my best grapefruit customer! No one buys as many grapefruits from me as you do!,” and when he got to us you can tell he was a jokester. I told him this was our first visit to town, and what does he recommend we do or see. That’s a hard question for this town, with not much to do or see, but he said if we went “down to the roundabout, and then turned left, we’d be on a street that’s been there with those buildings since the 1100s. Then, go to the next roundabout and chuck a left, and keep walking, and we’d get to a nice park.”
As he was telling us this, and explaining a bit about our walk, I asked “is that true?” “Oh, I never let the truth get in the way of a good story!” He was a crackup.
Before we set off, we went into the store in front of Jack’s fruit stand and a few minutes later exited, by Jack… I said “Jack, we went to the roundabout, and all we did was walk in circles and couldn’t get off!” He looked totally surprised at first, but then regained his composure and laughed. Good times in Sussex :p
So off we were, walking with about twenty pounds of mangoes and berries and stuff (which William mostly carried – what a jolly good chap!), to the old street and then to the park. It was a delightful walk, and not very far, even for my bad ankle :p
Near the funeral home was this really cool tree. The tree trunk looks like all the wood from above just sunk down over the centuries, and settles towards the bottom. It was cooler than it looks in this picture because the rest of the tree, above this mass, got thinner and thinner:
Here’s the full statue of hero surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe, I think this is the Queen Victory Hospital (not in service now) behind it. Please read this info about him on wikipedia… he touched and healed a LOT of people that were injured in WWII!
Right on the corner where the statue was was the second roundabout… so, like Jack the Fruit guy said, we “chucked a left” and started walking on this really narrow sidewalk (that was going to get as narrow as about 8 inches, with cars speeding by us! Yikes!):
On the ground William spotted this mirror that had fallen off and said to get a picture of it, because just recently I replaced the mirror on my van TWICE (the first time it fell right off, like this! The second time was just before a hit-and-run driver knocked the whole thing off, and we had to get it repaired properly (by a mechanic)). So, here it is, we finally found the broken off mirror (we actually spent time back home looking for our mirror on the side of the road :p):
When we first started walking to the park I saw an ice cream truck and thought “I want one!” But, you know, I’m 43, and I’m not going to hobble across the street in traffic that I don’t understand to get some ice cream. Lucky for me, when we got to the park, this guy had caught up with us, and we were the first in line (before all the kids). I wasn’t having any ice cream regrets this time! We got three “feasts,” which was a chocolate ice cream covered in fudge with this really big and hard fudge bar in the middle. You had me at fudge x 3, and it was totally worth the 60 pence each we paid.
I don’t know what the park name is, but one day I should look it up. Anyway, all the trees had “in memory of” or “dedicated to,” and it was a memorial park for the people of this town who lost their lives in WWII. It was really touching. There was even a wall listing all of their names. It’s amazing the impact WWII had on Europe (of course). Anyway, the guy who owned this house/manor apparently donated it to the city or county, to be the park… here’s a picture of his manor (which now houses businesses):
While the Travelling Trio were trying to catch a nap, I went up to the manor to take pictures and met a really nice Italian lady who I chatted with for about twenty minutes. She talked to me about this town, her home town, living in England, learning English, the park, the kids at the park, etc. It was a nice, delightful chat. I said “I was told to speak Italian I just have to move my hands a lot….” She replied, “Yeah, but you have to make sense!” Okay, maybe learning Italian will be harder than I thought 🙂
Here’s a pic from the backyard, of Sam and Ellie post nap… I love how the sun catches their hair:
On our way back into town, to find a grocery store, I asked William to take this picture of the roundabout. There are no barriers or curbs, just paint. As we were waiting for him to get this shot the girls were counting the cars that didn’t go around the roundabout… just through it!
We went to a store called “Iceland” to get granola bars and room snacks, but it turns out that Iceland mostly sells frozen and fridge stuff… not what we had in mind. Luckily, across the street was a good sized grocery store (we didn’t notice it, but happened upon it) and it had everything we wanted. What do we buy in Sussex? We got various chocolates (ridiculously inexpensive at about a pound each), four boxes of naked bars, two six packs of “healthy” soda… this added to the four huge mangos and a bunch of raspberries… I’m travelling with health(ish) people.
Outside of the store Ellie was downloading an app to call a taxi, but I went inside (I was at the exit only, so I had to wait there until someone came out, Jason Bourne style!) and asked the customer service dude how to hail a taxi, or what service he recommends. He said: “See that white phone there on the wall? Just pick it up and it will dial the taxi for you. If they don’t answer, let me know.”
What? A White-Taxi-Calling-Phone at the grocery store? That is pretty cool!
I picked it up and this guy in a thick accent said something-something-something. “Can you send a taxi to … WHAT STORE ARE WE IN?” No, I didn’t really shout it out, but the guy on the phone asked “Do you want us to pick you up in front of the library (by the store exit) or in by the trolley park?” What the heck is a trolley park? Is there a park a block away?
I knew I didn’t want in front of the library… the store customer service guy said to ask to get picked up in the “car park” (or, as we yanks say, parking lot). “Um, pick us up by the trolley park please. How long will that be?” “Five or ten minutes. What’s your name?” “Jason.” Great…. let’s go find this trolley park!
I’m not sure if you can read that but on the green sign is says something about trolleys. GREAT! A trolley is a buggy (a la Ohio), or as anywhere in the U.S., a shopping cart! We found the trolley park (which wasn’t much of a park at all, but it there was a lot of green :p).
The guy picks us up, but wouldn’t let us in the car until we verified the password. What’s the password to get into a taxi in Sussex? “Jason,” apparently. I said my name and then he let us in his car. We asked where he was from and he made us guess… finally, he said “I’ll give you four choices: India, Bangladore, something else, and Pakistan.” Turned out he was from Pakistan! “I heard that Indians and Pakistans (who share a border) don’t like one another?” “Oh, the people like one another, but the governments don’t.”
I tell you what, this kid was awesome to talk to. He talked to us about countries, religions, tolerance, the Quran, etc. all in the short four mile drive back to the temple accommodations. It was entertaining and educational.
We got back fairly early (7 or 8) and I’ve been catching up on email and my blog, the Trio is chilling watching netflix or something… here are my impressions of England so far:
The driving doesn’t work in my brain. I see cars coming at us in the right lane, and it feels like we are going to crash.
The power adapters are unique. That means they don’t work with the power adapters we got in The Netherlands (and which should work for the rest of our trip). Luckily the reception desk here has a box of loaner adapters, so we plug in the UK adapter, put the EU adapter in that, then put in our US adapter.
They say “miles” and other non-metric things here. It feels weird and out of place, but it’s cool because we know exactly what it means 🙂
They are very nice. We’ve stopped to talk to various people and everyone has been really nice. Surprisingly, at the last grocery store when I said something to the cashier (who must have been all of 16 or 17 years old) she replied in delighted shock “Oh! You are American!!?!!” I wasn’t sure what that meant to her, but it wasn’t bad.
People here say things that I haven’t heard elsewhere. Like “howdy doody,” which is not a TV show but an actual greeting, “cheerio” which means goodbye (maybe hello sometimes) and is not referring to Cheerios, “brilliant” which makes you feel really freaking smart but it isn’t meant as a compliment saying that you are smart, “chuck a left” which means turn left, not throw anything…
Also, the accent is so very amazing, charming, cool, etc. It’s interesting to try to listen to an accent and see where someone is from (my guess is: England, or Not England, although I’m sure locals can get it down to specific regions). To hear people drop letters in words is really fun… it’s something that is super annoying in Spanish (like in the Dominican Replublic and Puerto Rico, but that’s just because I haven’t mastered those regional pronunciations), but here it’s just really, really cool.
So that’s it… it’s after 11pm here, and we’re headed to bed. Tomorrow we should be going to the beach, we hope. Apparently it’s pretty popular here, although I thought all English beaches looked like this: