Goth Panda

Days Three and Four: Oxford and London 2008

I traveled to the U.K. in June 2008 on a combination work/vacation trip. I posted about it on my old group blog Population Five. Now that I am writing more about traveling at Goth Panda, I am reposting these here for thematic unity, and also because reading them reminds me of the trip. I want to go back! Anyway, that explains some of the dated references.

Day Three

Day Three was the conference day. It seemed to go pretty well, and I have high hopes of coming back next year. There is the chance that this will become an annual event.

I got back to the hotel room after the conference, and Mike and I went out to search for sustenance. We ended up at a faux-Irish pub. I was still nervous at this point about ordering at the bar, but it was the young bartender’s first night working, so he was nervous, too. We had Bulmers cider on tap here, and that proved to be our favorite throughout the trip, although Strongbow Extra Cold was a close runner-up.

We amused ourselves back at the hotel by watching television. The hotel made a big deal of the fact that they had satellite TV, which gave us a total of — wait for it — twenty channels, two of which were in French. We did manage to see Simpsons reruns, and we inexplicably watched the horrible Godzilla 1998 remake. I told Mike it was because we were missing American culture.

Saturday morning we went to a little breakfast cafe right around the corner, where Mike was introduced to thick-cut English bacon. We then took the train to London with all of our luggage to meet Kris and Barb at our new hotel.

Since the Oxford portion of the trip was funded by my work, and the London portion of the trip was funded only by myself, there was a big stepdown in hotel quality when we got to London. Gone were the soft bed, down pillows, heated towel rack, and fourteen of our twenty channels. The London hotel wasn’t terrible, just budget quality as compared to the Oxford one. It was conveniently located near Paddington station, and the neighborhood looked like it was predominantly tourists.

We met up with Kris and Barb, who were slightly bedraggled from their plane ride and Underground journeys. If you plan to travel to London ever, please remember to take a taxi from the train station or airport. I had unfortunately directed Kris and Barb to the Underground, which while it is in many ways a wonderful system, lacks escalators and elevators at many of its stations. If you have luggage to wrangle, you are better off with a taxi.

Since we couldn’t yet check into the hotel, we wandered down the street, where I had learned beforehand was a real neighborhood pub. Apparently in England, and particularly in London, many pubs are being bought up by corporate chains. We only discovered that two of the pubs on the street near our hotel were of this type when we went to both and discovered that they had exactly the same menu. The bar staff was also, strangely, Eastern European.

This pub, the Victoria, was (along with the Kings Arms) the best pub we went to while we were in England. It was here that we discovered that one could buy cider in half-pints (inspiring quite a few Laura Ingalls Wilder jokes), and that in addition, only ladies could safely order half-pints, without having their masculinity called into question. We also had a lovely lunch. I had a baguette with shredded cheddar cheese, and diced cucumber, red and yellow bell peppers, and red onion, along with chips. The amount of chips I consumed in England is truly astounding.

Then we went back to the hotel, checked in and took a long nap. We went to a resturant for dinner that Mike insisted on calling the British TGI Friday’s. It was mostly unmemorable, except that they served us apple pie with custard on top, and the custard was delicious. Everyone began scheming how next time they would order apple pie with custard, only hold the pie.

After that – more sleep.

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