Sunday, July 12, 2015

The GMTs Invade Europe: Plymouth 2015

#6 Seven Sisters, Green Pond, NJ
I am rapidly falling behind on my travel blog. It's been 12 days since I left home, and except for an occasional email or the daily InstaBookTweet, I have been pretty quiet out here on the Internet. If anyone is interested in the nitty gritty, I am happy to forward on my lovely traveling companion's missives home. Aunt Karen is recording it all for posterity, and I am admittedly too lazy to duplicate the process. 
A.K. at Brown's Hotel bar

It took me a while to ease into the vacation, as I spent the first 7 days trying to squeeze in some relaxation between finishing up three different projects. My stay at Green Pond was wonderful, and yet I think I got a record-low 15 minutes in the water, plus one paddle board ride to the cove. The only other time I get so little pond time is in the winter! But it was great to see everyone and watch the fireworks from the boat flotilla (thanks, Eric and Maggie for letting me tag along). And thanks mom and dad for taking such good care of me while I stared at my computer screen and completely ignored you!

The first sighting of our superstar
Mom and Dad dropped us off at Newark Airport, where we breezed through check-in and security and got on our flight without a hitch. The flight was over all too soon. I barely had enough time to get any work done or catch any zzzz's before it was time to land. In addition to only having 15 minutes in the water, I was getting maybe 4 or 5 hours of sleep per night plus a whopping 45 minutes on the plane. So by the time we landed in lovely London, I was a bit of a zombie. But Karen had excellent details on how to get exactly where we needed to be, so I just followed along behind her.

Great Niece and Great Aunt
We had a delicious but crazy expensive breakfast at the Brown's Hotel and then wandered the streets of London to see what we could see. I accidentally sent a Sudanese woman in absolutely the wrong direction to the Sudanese Embassy. That'll teach her to ask Americans for directions in London. It'll also teach me to learn how to read the Google Maps on my phone. We found Buckingham Palace and fought like salmon to get away from the place. Apparently the changing of the guards was rapidly approaching, and every tourist in the country was making his or her way down the street to get a view of the fuzzy-hatted men.
PIC at the Mayflower Steps performing for BBC
As we fought our way back to Brown's, we saw a small group of people standing on the side of the road, staring at St. James Palace. So we joined the crowd to see what would happen. To our surprise, it was where the guards emerge to go change with the guards at Buckingham. So we got to see some of the hoopla without all the crowds. It was like our own private Changing of the Guards!

The Plymouth Pilgrims
We then dragged our bags up and down stairs, through Tubes, along cobblestone streets, down alleys, past crowds, all the way to Paddington Station, which sadly was under construction, so we couldn't get the full feel of the look of the place. We also didn't see the little bear anyway, so I guess he is off on an adventure of his own. We had barely made it out of the station before I fell asleep. I missed the entire first half of the train ride. Apparently I missed a series of pastoral scenes of thatched-roof homes, estates on hillsides, and miles and miles of sheep and horses and pigs in hedgerow-divided fields. But luckily, for the second half I got to see a series of pastoral scenes of thatched-roof homes, estates on hillsides, and miles and miles of sheep and horses and pigs in hedgerow-divided fields. So that was nice!

Waiting outside while Megan sings for the Lord Mayor
I have been watching way too much BBC lately and reading too many English novels, as everywhere I looked I could imagine a crusty old detective chief superintendent and his young sidekick sergeant, driving through the narrow lanes to solve the latest murder; or an English lady walking through the fields and over stiles; or a small-town doctor dashing through the cobblestoned streets to get to her next patient.

Loitering on the steps of the Lord Mayor's neighbor
Plymouth turned out to be a surprise of a town. We didn't really research what to do here, as we were mainly focused on Megan and her performance. But we have had a never-ending list of things to do, including just wandering the Barbican and Hoe, discovering the Elizabethan Gardens, stumbling upon the Merchant's House, enjoying delicious meals (yes, in England), loitering outside the Lord Mayor's home, riding trains/steam trains/passenger ferries/steamboats, rambling through the moors, trying to find a pub to enjoy a pint while waiting for a train, meeting up with one of the many other PIC families, talking with locals, learning all sorts of history, touring the fascinating and tasty Plymouth Gin Distillery, or sipping coffee as we watched a naval cruiser being pulled through the narrow sound into port.

Just a little tapas for dinner
And of course being here for Megan was fantastic. We got to watch her learn to play netball (where she did a fantastic job of fielding the ball to other players) and cricket (where she got some pretty good hits!) during a typical English school field day. We heard her and the fantastic chorus sing twice at the lovely guildhall. We fed her healthy meals of cheese and butter sandwiches and ice cream and fruit. We explored the moors of Dartmoor and did some shopping with her in the old market town of Tavistock. And most of all we watched her be such a grown-up, poised, but fun-loving girl--a fabulous representative of her school, family, home and self. What a special time. We definitely miss her smiling face already.
We are now sitting in The Imperial Hotel bar, catching up on our missives home petting Charlie the dog, and deciding what to do for our last (drizzly) day in Plymouth.
Overlooking the Tinsdale Lido
[Note: The photos on this page are mainly from our first day here. I'll set up a Picasa album as well for anyone who is interested.]

No comments: