13 October 2008


We had to be in London before 7 for the 7:30 start of the Rosh Hashanah dinner. We were aiming to get there between 6 and 6:30. We were driving from Chester to Warrington (to see DDD and have brunch), then to Birmingham (to meet WW and have lunch), then to London. We planned to spend about 2 hours at each place, and we pretty much stuck to that. We would have been home with plenty of time had it not been for roadworks on the M1 just outside London. That delayed us for about half an hour, but we were still in with time for a shower and to dress. Yay!

Anyway, we said goodbye to the lovely F and her kittehs, filled the car with petrol, and made it to Warrington almost without incident (only right at the end did Google maps stuff us around and tell us to turn right instead of left). DDD let us in to her cool apartment, where we admired her drool-worthy bookcases, and she very awesomely popped the second episode of Merlin on D's USB. I LOVE MY FELLOW FEN!

I find this picture terribly amusing - something about the border I put on it in iPhoto just makes it!

DDD took us on a grand tour of Warrington town centre (the candy! the new shopping mall! the mad hatter's tea party sculpture! the oldest building in warrington - now a goth pub!) and out to a wee cafe for a 'healthy' breakfast.

Funnily enough, this was the place that had what was some of the best tea I was served at a cafe in the UK on this trip. Yum. I then stocked up on less (or more?) 'healthy' snacks for the rest of the drive.

After a brief chat to Zaphod the hamster (SHE IS SO CUTE!), D and I said goodbye to awesomesauce DDD, hopped in the car and drove off in the pouring rain towards Birmingham. The weather up until that point had been consistently good, and the rain amused me now because WW in Birmingham had almost died laughing when I suggested it might be sunny when we visited. BUT I WAS TO BE PROVED RIGHT! Because the rain cleared after an hour, and the sun was out as we negotiated the 18023937 roundabouts, flyovers, underpasses and tunnels to get into Birmingham, where we found a parking spot and then got lost in the Bullring - a large shopping centre. But fortune prevailed, and we made it to the designating meeting point only a few minutes late. I forgot my camera, but luckily WW had her new one, and let me get snap-happy! You can see them here.

WW, who I've known online for a while, but never been able to meet IRL before, had planned out a fabulous exploratory walk around some of the canals in Birmingham (did you know it has more miles of canals than Venice? OR SO THEY SAY!). And so we grabbed a baguette and set off. Birmingham is a relatively new city by UK standards, the majority of what we know it to be today having grown up around and since the industrial revolution (WW was super informative! it was excellent! i learnt thingumies!) Thus, the architecture was far more reminiscent of Australian and Canadian cities than other old English or Scottish cities (for example). Even the churches/cathedrals were fairly 'new'.

The canals, however, are very much a UK/European fixture. I had a lot of fun looking at the undersides of bridges, and we stared for quite a while at the cool reflections of rippled sunlight playing on the curved underbelly of one tunnel.

We learnt how to sink a canal boat, and also how to operate a lock - unfortunately after one canal boater yelled at us rather aggressively to open the lock gate for her. It took us some time to work out what she wanted.

We managed to stay out of the way of the armies of pigeons, and also out of the way of most of the tories - who happened to be having some big conference in Birmingham on that day (kind of random, after the races in Chester...) They were fairly easily avoided, as they stood out a mile! We thought one of them looked particularly like Percy Weasley.

We had a pint at a lovely canal-side pub (we sat on the upstairs balcony, as far away from the tories in the bar as possible), then toddled off back to our car. WW was a really great tour guide - and very thoughtful, because she'd even done the research and knew that one side of the canal was closed off because of the conservatives (it's to keep everyone else safe, we think). I recommend her services!

And then it was just driving back to London, freshening up, meeting people, welcoming SJ and Es back from their trip to Paris (I'm envious!), and having a lovely dinner! Rather a quiet day, wouldn't you think?!

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