Big Question Marks

Friday, August 21, 2009

Another month gone, another year older....

Hello from jolly old England, where we've been hanging out for the last little while. It's a bit colder, quieter, and a whole lot calmer than Asia, but the sun sets really late and people are pretty nice, and it's not a bad spot at all for a little exploration and some long-overdue reunions!

We've just realized we're now on our 3rd continent of the trip, which has turned into a makeshift round-the-world tour (who would've thought?). As soon as we crossed the equator for the last time (actually in Malaysia this dawned on us), we noticed the crescent moon flipped into a frown, rather than the smile we knew so well from Australia. Weird! It was a loooong plane ride from Kuala Lumpur to London-- 14 or 16 hours we think-- but as soon as we emerged in the far, far north, we realized it truly was goodbye to the warm temperatures our bodies had acclimatized to. At London Stansted Airport, it was a "pleasant" (to use the captain's words) 17 degrees, but it felt like -17 to us. We're still adjusting, in our wool socks and 'jumpers'. It's all a lot more pricey than what we've been used to, and we're missing our daily rice intake a bit, but at least we felt at home again when we ended up in Manchester's Chinatown, surrounded by red neon signs and flashing twinkle lights...

But yes-- first stop on the itinerary was Shoreham-by-Sea, a cute little town on the southern coast of England, not too far from Brighton, where our friend Laura has ended up--with her lovely English hubby Adam and their adorable baby Ella. We had a great few days there in "the south", touring Shoreham, Brighton, and London, and got to experience the 99 Flake on Brighton Pier and some Marmite (which we pretended to eat and then fed to the baby). We spotted our first real Banksy graffiti in Brighton, and got to hop in the back on one of those cliche-but-so-cool London black taxicabs when our sunny day in London turned into a downpour (they're very spacious). In Shoreham, everything was very cute-- even the graveyard-- and chock full of little old white-haired ladies and secondhand shops, and fet a bit like the town in Hot Fuzz. We learned that houseboats are the hot real estate in Shoreham, and there were some pretty crazy ones made out of old buses and general junk.... cool if you like living in the mud that is!

We left Laura and the family to head north-- completely on the wrong train, as we still have no idea how to read the tickets here... got a bit of a scolding from the train conductor but we played the dumb tourist part well!-- and found our old friends Andrew and Krissy in Macclesfield, a cute town a bit south of Manchester. Not long ago they scored a fantastically huge house with many floors and views of the green rolling hills outside town. The local pub (about four doors down) is full of characters and the men's toilet gets a great review on www.pubtoilets.com, and the lady behind the bar already knows us by name. Only problem with Macclesfield is whenever we go for a walk, we always end up in another random cemetery...

Between all of that, there was a day climbing the rugged, impossibly green grassy hills around Castleton (below) in the Peaks District National Park, a day roaming the picturesque streets and free museums in Manchester (left), and a weekend of Gaudi, sangria, and beach in Barcelona (visiting another old friend, Juan). Yesterday we spent Dayle's birthday touring Liverpool, soaking up all the Beatlemania and atmosphere of the old buildings that were everywhere. We're getting a good dose of English pop culture (Little Britain, Top Gear, Fonejacker, Big Brother...) but we're still a long way from understanding the accents. It's hard to believe we have one week left here and that's it!