|Date:||September 21, 2000|
|Location:||Lisboa to London|
Before the alarm goes off, I spend a few minutes at the window, taking a few last photos. I suddenly realize that I can see both the ruins of the gothic convent (in Bairro Alto) and, through a construction mesh, some of the trees and statues of the old Moorish castle (in Alfama). Below, two kinds of trolleys trundle along: some from the 1920's, and some articulated ones that must only be a few years old, from the 1998 exhibition.
At breakfast, we say one more goodbye to Jack I. & Kathleen, Bob & Reiko, Marie, & Jack H. I eat two breakfasts -- one for Susan, whose flight left too early for breakfast in the hotel, and one for me. That bread pudding tastes good, but it will be better for my health to get back on my oatmeal again!
We manage to pack everything into our large packs, allowing for BA's policy of 1 carry-on per person. One carry-on is a collapsible bag, which now holds our fragile or expensive booty. The other is Brig's daypack, holding essentials, jackets & umbrella (hey, we're going to London, after all!). Brig's big leather bag? The one that's as big as her daypack? That's full of booty, too. Brig insists that womens' bags don't count as a carry-on. Hmmm... We shall see. I decide to try the same game -- just as an experiment, mind you -- with my camera & binocs, hanging them in my small camera bag. I can always stuff 'em in a "carry-on" if necessary.
We leave Brig's Dean Koontz novel, plus the Rick Steves guidebook & phrasebook at the front desk, hoping they will offer them to a fellow English-speaking traveller (we have one copy of each Steves book at home, for reference). I ask the receptionist if she can call for a taxi, while Brigid settles into the couch, to wait. Almost before she bottoms out, a cab is waiting, trunk open & ready to go! We duck traffic, flop in, and the cab takes off, bobbing and weaving between aggressive drivers, double-parkers, aggressive pedestrians, clueless drivers blocking roundabouts, ... At the airport, the driver secures a baggage cart for us, and puts our bags on it. Cost? 1,090 esc. With a 200 esc. tip, $6. Pretty good deal!
Misc. overall impressions:
Lucky us! We've been selected to participate in an uncompensated survey by British Air. No less than sixty questions. I had better get started, then...
Lunch on the plane is decent enough. Chunks of beef, I think, in a gravy, soggy fried potatoes, and overcooked string beans. I'm still craving greens, even when they're cooked to grayish! A quarter bottle of French shiraz helps the situation, a bit. Crackers and a small wedge of brie also are a nice touch. The chocolate cake is rather dry, but it pacifies my sweet tooth.
We land at Gatwick, and the weather is surprisingly good -- a light jacket does the job. The skies are threatening, but not producing any precipitation at the moment. Once we find the taxi "kiosk", we have a taxi to nearby Horley in around 10 minutes. Five minutes later, we're signing in at Cumberland House, a B&B that Brig found via the Graffiti portion of Rick Steves' web site. We meet the one of the proprietors Sarah and her baby son. Our room, we learn, used to be an outpatient operating room. No problem -- it's a lovely bedroom, now. Breakfast is betwen 7:30 and 9:00, and we let her know that we'll probably be ready at around 8:30.
Sarah tells us that there's a wonderful pub within 5 minutes' walk, dating from the 15th century. The food, she says, is good. And Horley Station is the most economical way to get into London. It's around 15 minutes away, by foot. Sounds like we're set (as soon as we get a map! Hmmm. I should have seen to that months ago!).
The pub, Ye Olde Six Bells, is indeed just a 5 minute walk from Cumberland House. I think that its Internet exposure has affected this pub (for the better, so far as I'm concerned -- I don't know how the locals feel about it). There is a distinct emphasis on food, which is not my impression of the quintessential pub. Through the windows in the waiters' doors, you can see a full-boogie kitchen. And more space is devoted to food service than bar service. Anyway, we order a "steak and bass ale pie" for Brig, a "spicy bean pancake" for me, and a pint (of what? Beats me. I don't know ale from beer from bitter. I just passed along Brig's request for "something fruity, and not bitter"). The pie was pretty good, with a flaky crust over a delicious stew, and served with cheesy mashed potatoes, and steamed string beans and carrots. I thought the veggies were fine, but Brig put up her nose. Three weeks of fresh veggie deprivation may have skewed my senses. My "pancake" is quite good (but far less authentic as "pub grub" than Brig's meat pie). And, of course, this concoction is spicy only by British standards -- you can detect a faint picante "bite". Anyway, the "crispy pancake" at top and bottom is really just a deep-fried wheat flour tortilla. It's filled with a nice, flavorful bean/sauce mixture, and some "creme fraiche" (sour cream), all on top of shredded lettuce (it's a glorified tostada). The pint really is to Brig's specs -- both of us enjoy it at first, but eventually the bitter character started to come through. With the tip, the cost was £17 ($24). The dessert menu was very tempting, particularly the profiteroles with chantilly cream and hot fudge. As usual, we didn't have the room for it.
Then, we take a short-cut through the graveyard of the adjoining 15th century church (no biggy, everyone does it). We're looking for a Tesco, so I can have my grapefruit. And we found it right where Sarah said it was. Brig was too tired to browse the store, so I just bought my grapefruit. Two for 24p (30 cents), what a deal!
We take the more direct route to the B&B, bypassing the graveyard. Ah, the grapefruit is sweet, and from the U.S. (The nasty ones in Spain were all from South Africa.)
The bed is comfortable, and we turn in early. Hey, listen: this tellie has English-speaking channels!