So, yes, we've been back for almost a month, and yes, we had a wonderful time... mostly.
The following is a love story ~ if I didn't really love Dr. T., our marriage would definitely not have survived.
On our last Friday in England, we planned to go into London, for our one and only trip into the city during our summer in the UK. We had already left the idyllic Cotswolds, and were heading out from Milton Keynes, home of the World's Greatest Mother-in-Law (TM), and coincidentally ideally situated for getting to London by rail.
Which is, obviously, why we drove.
Now, when we booked our train trip from TIC* to Glasgow for our visit with my gran and the great aunt**, we bought a rail card for all of £20, which saved us more than £100 on the Scottish trip. This card is valid for a year, and entitles us, as a family, to significant discounts on all rail travel in the UK, including, naturally, a one-day round-trip excursion from Milton Keynes to London.
Which is, obviously, why we drove.
[At this point it should be patently obvious that driving to London was not my idea.]
Part of the justification for driving was that Dr. T. had contacted an old friend from his high school days, who now lives in London, and who generously offered to have us park our car in her driveway, and invited us for supper after our day in the city. Since she lives just outside the congestion zone, we wouldn't even have to pay to have our car in the city, and based on her experience, the drive from MK would only be about half an hour. So we could leave MK in the late morning, drop off the car, hop on the tube, spend a leisurely afternoon exploring London, and get fed before the short drive home.
We decided it was a good idea to check the route on-line, which is when we discovered that the estimated travel time was closer to an hour, which wasn't a significant difference really, we reasoned, especially since the on-line map program estimates are based on driving at the speed limit. I was a little trepidatious about the fact that the lion's share of the journey was on the M1, i.e., the motorway, i.e., the one form of travel that every Briton I've ever encountered refers to as the only way they will never travel.
But, really, on a Friday mid-morning, long after rush hour and long before weekend traffic, how bad could it be, right?
It turns out that since we were taking the motorway, the other drivers got together and decided to initiate us to the joys of motorway travel, which explains the "unprecedented" traffic jam that added two hours to our journey. At least I was right about us not driving at the speed limit.
TWO &$^%^& HOURS.
We had plenty of time to decide whether or not it made sense to leave the motorway at the next exit, since the next exit was several miles away. Fortunately, we had a road atlas in the car with us, thanks to the WGMiL; unfortunately, a crucial stage of the journey took us through St. Albans, which was rather inconveniently located between pages and therefore unreadable. Also, my theory is that St. Albans is the Bermuda Triangle of England.
Suffice it to say that the journey did not take half an hour. We finally arrived, weary and frustrated, at the friend's house at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
Which is when I met the "old" friend, who, as it turns out, is a stunningly beautiful, petite, funny woman with cascading chestnut hair and a PhD in sociology who's now working from home on her book on life in the art world.
And I've just emerged from a hot car after three hours. My hair is unspeakable, and every piece of clothing I'm wearing looks like badly-fitting crepe paper.
Fortunately, despite Dr. T's misgivings, his friend was very understanding when I explained that we would not be joining the family for supper, given that our late arrival had thrown our sightseeing schedule off, to say the least. She escorted us to the tube station (which was, it must be said, very convenient, and on the right line to get us to our initial stop), and we headed off to Southwark. We found a lovely Thames-side pub where we had lunch (lunch!! at 4 o'clock!!), then we strolled over to the Globe, where we spent several literary minutes in the gift shop (the first high point of the day was when Dr. T bought me a t-shirt with this illustration).
By this time, it was after 5 o'clock, so we hopped back on the tube and headed for Trafalgar Square; we finished our tour on Carnaby Street, a.k.a. mecca for shopaholics, where Dr. T. made more inroads in appeasing me by buying me a fancy purse (and in turn, I managed to find a really nice one*** that was ridiculously reduced. I have a talent).
Once we were shopped out (or, more to the point, when the shops closed), we headed back the gorgeous professor's house, where we had tea and ice cream with her and her husband while Colin was entertained by their son. We very deliberately avoided the motorway on the way home, which was a wise decision, but which took us through St. Albans again, where we inevitably got thrown off. We stopped for pizza around 10 o'clock (which, given that lunch was at 4, was not as late as it sounds ~ but 10 o'clock at the Pizza Hut take-away counter in a British village is a great time to see how pub-hopping villagers refuel between stops), and finally crawled through the door, happy to note that it was before midnight!
In retrospect, of course, it's easy to laugh... screw that ~ it's still not funny!!
Small consolation: I have witnesses to the fact that Dr. T has (a) conceded that driving was not the best option and (b) promised that next time, we go by train.
*The idyllic Cotswolds
**Doesn't My Gran and the Great Aunt sound like the title of an interesting book?
***Said purse is viewable on-line, when the web site in question is behaving itself. I'll add a link if/when there is one.