England 2010, Day 0: Getting There (Part 2)
This post is part 2 of my travel series on our trip to England. You can also read about my getting to the first destination; seeing the English countryside by bicycle; visiting Cotswold villages and local farm animals; exploring Oxford and Blenheim Palace; our first day seeing the sights of London; seeing Soho, the Tower of London, and The Mousetrap; exploring Kew Gardens, the British Library, and the British Museum; saying goodbye; and other reflections.
After settling in a bit, we walk down to the High Street (equivalent to Main Street) to the Toy Shop to rent bikes for the next day. The friendly couple who run the shop give us everything we need. Helen—the calm one—gives us a compass and detailed map of the area and plots out a path for us to take, making sure we understand where we’re going. Then Paul (easy to remember as my brother, Paul, is also a biking enthusiast)—the enthusiastic one—takes us out back to outfit us with bikes, helmets, and a lock.
This is the part where I learn something new about Jeff. When we planned to spend a day biking around the countryside, I assumed Jeff was comfortable on a bike. He assumed the same thing. You know, like the expression, “It’s just like riding a bike.” Apparently he hadn’t ridden a bike since he was probably 10 or 12 and it wasn’t as large a part of his childhood as it was of mine. I remember saving up to buy a really nice mountain bike at about age 13. I spent many hours each summer racing bikes with the other neighborhood kids and going on family bike rides. My bike took me to Holland’s Mercantile and the public pool—the essence of summer in my small hometown. So, while I hadn’t ridden a bike in probably about 5 years, it’d been about 15 years for Jeff.
I hop on for our test ride and everything comes right back. Jeff is a bit wobbly, and now suddenly a bit apprehensive of our plan. He picks it back up quickly, however, and Paul guides us on the back way to our B&B. Interestingly, the front and back brakes on these English bikes are switched (and labeled right on the handlebars so Americans don’t accidentally flip themselves over the handlebars).
We park our bikes in the garage of our B&B and set about to find some dinner options. Our hosts strongly recommend a local restaurant/pub called The Black Bear, so we trek back to High Street to find it. Many pubs in England have two sides with two different menus: the bar side and the restaurant side. We aren’t really in the mood for pub grub so we opt for a nicer meal on the restaurant side.
Our waiter is a teenage Harry Potter lookalike only without glasses. Jeff orders the leg of lamb and a glass of lemonade, and I have the lamb curry. When “Harry” brings out the lemonade, we look at each other in puzzlement. There must be a mistake because the “lemonade” is clear. This is water, right?
Jeff gets the waiter’s attention and, gesturing toward the glass, says, “I asked for lemonade.”
“Um, that is lemonade,” says the poor kid with a confused look.
“Oh… okay, thanks.”
Jeff takes a sip of the “lemonade” and, sure enough, it has a sweet, lemony taste—but it’s not American lemonade. I try some and declare it to be different, but really quite good, maybe even better than the normal American drink.
We enjoy our meal in relative quiet as the only other couple in the restaurant has now left and our waiter appears to have gone off duty. Sounds of laughter, music, and plates being cleaned come to us from the other side, but we (mostly me) are too tired to investigate.
We walk back to Warwick House, reveling in the perfect temperature of a summer’s evening. The bed is calling my name, and we turn in early, looking forward to our first real day of English exploring in the morning.