Sunday, May 27, 2012

Travel to Wales and England

27/5/2012, 8:38.   We have just departed on our 4-hour bus ride from York to London, and so I’ll take the opportunity to catch up on some journaling-- several days worth, I hope.

    On our last morning in Dublin (and Ireland), we woke up for a 5:45 breakfast.  Although it was an ungodly hour, the completely risen sun made it seem like it was 9:00 in the morning, making me much perkier than I otherwise would have been.  We loaded the buses and drove to the port, where we boarded a giant ferry.  It was not what I imagined: it was a mammoth ship eleven floors tall (only the top three were accessible to passengers), with an open-air deck above the eleventh floor.  The ninth through twelfth floors were “rather posh,” as they say in the U.K.  Molly, Kelsey, and I strolled the red carpeted floors and found two cinemas, a game room, a few restaurants, several comfortably-furnished seating areas, a gift shop, and a complex of cabins with beds.  The choir divided into its typical cliques for the four-hour ferry ride.  I read a bit of my book for the Peace Scholar program, Jan Egland’s A Billion Lives, and took a nap on a couch.
    We spent much of the afternoon in transit as well.  As has been my job at every Nordic Choir event this year including this tour, I lugged around the 20-pound bag of nine thick velvet robes.  Naturally, the curious looking cargo was questioned by the ferry port security, and after telling them what it was I made the mistake of suggesting it was big enough to hold a person, to which one officer replied, “Don’t implicate yourself.”  We boarded the buses and departed for Chester.  On the way, we drove a delightful windy road through a beautiful region called Snowdonia, a national forest preserve with thick trees, rolling hills, little towns with narrow streets, and sheep dotting the countryside between low medieval stone fences.
    Our hotel in Chester, the Doubletree, was one of the nicest in which I’ve ever stayed.  (Ya dig my grammar!?)  Though the beautiful stone buildings, large green lawns, fountains, and the complimentary cookie at the door were nice, it was the sauna and pool area that made the hotel spectacular.  It was a ritzy complex of four or five different themed saunas, a low-lit pool, a giant hot tub with a second open-air room, and fancy showers.  Needless to say, probably half of the choir suited up for the opportunity. 
    Though I spent an hour or so in the pool area after dinner, I wanted to explore the city center, since it was our only night in Chester.  Though most people were still at the spa, I found Christina Dudley and Allie Schnier waiting for a taxi in the hotel lobby.  I joined them, and we rode to a pub called the White Lion.  I made conversation with the cab driver (a South African) and the locals in the pub, and doing so set the tone for a great night on the town.  After great beer and conversation with the bar tenders (and some blurry pictures taken by a drunken old man), we took a walk around the city.  On one street, we encountered a young drunken busker, who stroked and complimented my hair and offered me his guitar.  I took the instrument and accompanied his drunken singing for five minutes or so.  Allegedly, the coins in his hat would be going to charity...
    The ladies wanted to visit a second pub, so we set off again.  I stopped a group of passersby to ask for directions, and they invited to follow them to a nice pub.  They seemed trustworthy, and I learned on the way that a probation officer and a cop were in our party.  Shortly after we reached the pub (which was a nice place mostly occupied by thirty-some year olds), the 11:00pm bell rang to signify the bar closing.  I made conversation with a cute waitress named Hannah (I was delighted by her accent and choice vernacular including “rubbish”) who suggested a pub a few hundred yards away.  Christina, Allie, and I went, and I made conversation with a nice old man named Craig.  We returned to our hotel at midnight after an evening well-spent.

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