May 05, 2008

Setting the scene : EuroTrip (Week 1, Day 1)

A promise is a promise, and so the Beaver has many to keep, including the one to tell nothing and everything about her time off travelling. For a travelling beaver to chronicle trips abroad is nothing extraordinary, but these trips were not as ordinary as usual.

Why, you ask, oh gentle reader? Because this one beaver has, to this day, never blogged about personal trips, and always about work-related ones. Why, you ask again, o curious one. Because this has never happened before. Ta da! Now it has. I got 6 weeks of unpaid leave to enjoy myself, and between work and other things, I planned the whole thing almost to a tee.

Week one was special, because it was the onset of the trip. The stepping stone. The alpha. It was my arrival in England, and my first experience couch surfing. Well… let me tell you that the whole thing was a complete success.

Day 1 (Tues): Setting the scene

I arrived at Heathrow at around 12PM, and had agreed with my host to make my way to his home, in an ex-centred academic town. At the luggage pick-up, I strike a conversation with (you’ll never believe it!) an American contortionist who lives is Wales and works on cruise ships in the Caribbean. Thanks to him, I locate the bus station, or at least, the beginning of the way. In the tube transfer, I lose him and step on a lady’s foot who is a French-friendly English lady, actress by profession. After a short conversation on worldly things like the beauty of Niger and the pleasantness of TS Elliott’s writing, we split and I finally find my ticket to Ox.

Again, in the bus, I strike a conversation with a gentleman, Canadian (!), who just came back from volunteering in Tanzania and is off to visit a friend in Ox. After an hour of so of commute, I get off at my stop, and five minutes later, my host, whom I have never met, picks me up. For the sake of this blog, I shall refer to him as the Maltese Falcon. There is a joke in this, but only those who know will pick it up. Too bad, such is the nature of my blog.

The Maltese Falcon is a lovely man. Twice my age, crafty, story-telling, generous, quirky, full of life. His house, where I get my own room AND a set of keys, is a mish mash of items he cumulated throughout his life. I suspect they all have a story to tell, but he tells me they don’t. I choose to believe him, but I really don’t. Within 10 minutes of my arrival, a friend of his pops by, and a long conversation about diving in the Maldives and the Indian Ocean ensues … a universe I know nothing about. Another couch-surfer is bound to come by, and I am asked if I mind sharing the room. Since it’s not a bed I’m sharing, I don’t mind, and thus arrangements are made to meet at the bus stop the next day.

That done, I rest some, and wake up to join Falcon at the general rehearsal of “The Mary Rose: A boat of ill-repute.” The comedian, Kate, is wonderful. Her text is funny and socially-relevant. The interpretation of all parts is magisterial, particularly considering the fact that all are performed by Kate. After a pint of Cider at King’s arms, which is now my favourite pub in the known universe, my day ends.

Wed Day 2 … the mysterious Couch Surfer arrives
Thurs Day 3… A magical encounter
Fri Day 4… Off to London, and the underbelly
Sat Day 5… The bus tour, The Eye, Drinks at the Fire Station
Sun Day 6… The cruise and The Tower of London
Mon Day 7… A restful day and LOTR

Week 2
Tues Day 1... A silly day
Wed Day 2… Solitary at the Gallery and the Abbey
Thurs Day 3… A one hour flight
Fri Day 4… Dinner with family
Sat Day 5… Notre-Dame and Red-Beard Red Beard
Sun Day 6… Brunch with the girls, Ballons and missing the Train
Mon Day 7… Day one in Lux, walking around, the Tube and Zanzen, dinner with Matt

Week 3…
Tues Day 1... The City Museum
Wed Day 2… Art museum again, piscine and drinks at the Tube, meeting Loren and Elle
Thurs Day 3… Lazying around, and an evening entre filles
Fri Day 4… Le petit-train… Drinks at Scott’s and Café des artistes
Sat Day 5… Party at Andrews’
Sun Day 6… Bus to Frankfurt and flight to Madrid
Mon Day 7… A sick day

Week 4…
Tues Day 1… Walking around Madrid to Puerta de Alcala and Tapas
Wed Day 2… El amor en el tiempo del cólera ; Goya at the Prado and the Palazo Real ;
Thurs Day 3… Living Spanish, cooking for Gemma
Fri Day 4… A day in the air
Sat Day 5… On the town and a family dinner
Sun Day 6… Boot Sale, A Soldier’s Tale and crepes
Mon Day 7… Homebound

The Beaver
My guest map is wonderful ! And you'd all be wonderful to post, all of you lurk mode readers!
Thanks and may the winds of Fate blow your way !

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