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Published: September 7th 2009
Thursday, May 28
This was a pretty busy week for me. I started out by going to Liverpool on Sunday, coming back Wednesday, and then on Thursday I had made reservations to go to an outdoor adventure place called Go Ape. Here’s a link to give you an idea of what I’m talking about: http://www.goape.co.uk/days-out-in/berkshire/bracknell/the-course. If you click on the video, you’ll see the one that I went to. Before my trip, I had spent a great deal of time researching which location would be the easiest and best for me to go to. Go Ape has quite a few locations across England, but there aren’t any in London. All of them seem to be out in the middle of nowhere, which makes it particularly difficult if you don’t have a car. I had considered renting a car for a day, but apparently I wasn’t even old enough to do so. All of the car rental businesses wanted me to be at least 25. I would have been scared to drive in England (hey, just crossing the street in England is something to get used to), so I guess it worked out for the best.
I had thought about going to the location at Leeds Castle. It was one of the closest locations to London, and I had contemplated visiting Leeds Castle anyway. The timing of the transportation just did not work out, though. By the time I would have arrived at Leeds Castle, there wouldn’t have been enough time to even complete the Go Ape course and return back to London, much less to see the castle. I thought about the Bracknell location in Swinley Forest, too, and I even made a post on a travel message board to try to get some help to figure out how I’d get there. Well, I did end up booking the Bracknell location, and from London I took a train to Bracknell. I was tired that morning, and I left extra early because I didn’t know how long it would take me to find the actual place. I looked like a bum, too, (especially to London standards) because I wore comfortable clothes that I didn’t mind getting dirty. I had on some black velour pants and a big gray t-shirt from the psychology club that I’ve had for years. I had on my tennis shoes and a rain jacket, and was carrying a small purple purse with black fringe. I looked great! I had read on the website that Go Ape had no place for people to store their belongings, so I figured I’d just have to wear my purse (which is why I brought that one). I only brought the bare essentials, which included my printed-out confirmation page. I didn’t even bring a camera, so I have no pictures from that day. I’ll know if I go again one day that I could have actually taken my camera and anything else I wanted.
I had bought a train ticket and was supposed to leave from Waterloo Station, one of several train stations in London. So I took the tube to get there, and ended up having time to kill before my train left. I hadn’t eaten anything yet, so I stopped in a restaurant at the station and had my first English breakfast! Two unusual things that were included with my meal were beans and sausage. It also had fried eggs, toast, and I think some tomato. I asked for a glass of water, and they gave me a small glass of water with no ice! I guess that’s just how they do it over there. I left a 2 pound tip on the table, which for England I think is especially good, considering my bill was not quite 7 pounds. I then went to buy a bottle of water at a little shop/newsstand, as that small glass of water just did not cut it. Plus, I had a trip ahead of me. As it turned out, the employee there told me that if I bought a newspaper for 1 pound, I would get the bottle of water for free. Why not? I saved a few pence that way, and I had something to read.
I actually ended up sleeping on the way there, which was kind of foolish. I would often wake up whenever the train stopped, but I mean, what if I did end up missing my stop? I actually did nearly miss my opportunity to get off the train. Still half-asleep and with the train already stopped, I heard/saw that we were at Bracknell. I totally think God allowed me to wake up in time, because it was a really close call.
My appointment for Go Ape was at 11:30, but they had actually e-mailed me a few days earlier, asking me if I could move it up to 12:00. I wrote back and said that was fine, as long as I didn’t have to print out a new confirmation page, as I was already in England and had no way of doing so. They never wrote back, so I took it that I was still scheduled for 11:30.
Right across from the train station was the bus station, so I walked over there. I didn’t remember exactly which bus I needed to get on (I had seen directions on the Go Ape website). I asked an employee, and as we were discussing it, another employee joined in on the conversation. I told him where I was going, showed him my confirmation page, told him it was near “The Look-Out”, told him it was in Swinley Forest, etc. Once again, God definitely helped me to find someone who actually knew what I was talking about. The employee told me which bus to get on, and I waited for a few minutes. When I got on the bus, I handed the driver a 20 pound note. That was all I had brought with me, because I didn’t want to be carrying heavy change in my small purse. The driver was like, “You better be glad it was me who was driving, because not everyone would be able to give you change for that.” People occasionally kid me or pretend like they’re giving me a hard time, so I just smiled and almost laughed. Then he was like, “I’m serious. Blah blah blah.” I told him where I needed to go, and I believe he told me when I needed to get off. The man at the station had been very helpful by trying to tell me when I needed to get off the bus and where I needed to go, as well.
So, there I was at the bus stop, still not really sure exactly where I needed to be going, but I decided to go down this pathway, in what seemed to be a park. After I came to a road and crossed it, I found this man and girl standing in what was sort of a gravel driveway to something. I asked them how to get to Go Ape, and they led me in the right direction. I knew it was by the Look-Out Centre, which is some type of fun place for children. I came upon a building that had a big, fenced-in backyard with a lot of children playing in it (with their parents). I opened the gate, walked on through (I probably seemed kind of out of place), exited at another gate, and pretty soon I saw Go Ape up ahead. All of this was in a very woodsy area (obviously-it was in Swinley Forest). I was pretty early, but they told me I could go ahead and do the course at the next available time if I wanted to. That worked out well…So I had to go through a brief safety course before I could walk on wooden planks high up in the air and zip line through the forest. I was a little bit nervous. I didn’t want to do something wrong.
It was just me, a dad, and his young (10-year-old) daughter listening to the instructor. I figured if a 10-year-old could do it, so could I. She helped us put on our harnesses (the instructor, not the 10-year-old!), tightened them around our legs, and showed us which cords we should clip on to where and at what point. We did a little practicing first, and I know at least one time, I did something in the wrong order. I went ahead and started the course first, and the dad and daughter were behind me. It became very routine and easy to attach everything to where it needed to go. I was looking forward to the zip line, and in fact, I had wanted to try to book a location that had a fairly long zip line. However, when I arrived at the long, metal line leading into a pile of wood chips, I got nervous. That was a pretty good ways to go, and I would be going pretty fast. As is always the case in situations like that, it was fun. People could actually watch their friends/family from down below, and at one point before I went across a zip line, there were a few children and a dog right around where I was supposed to land. The kids were trying to hold the dog back, but that was not providing me with any reassurance. I waited until they started moving away from the area before I set off. At one point, it was kind of unclear where the next station was (there were 4 or so), so I wandered around for a minute til I found it. The part of the harness that was around my legs was becoming loose, but despite the fact that the instructor had said to let her know if that happened, I just hoped it would be ok.
I got my exercise climbing up ladders and hanging on to nets, and I could feel it in my muscles the next day. It was fun, and I would do it again. A few hours later, when I came across that man and girl again (who pointed me in the right direction), he joked and said something to me like, “I thought they had taken you somewhere!” I was all dirty and the back of my shirt was stained from landing in those wood chips, so I looked even cuter than I had earlier in the day. I was happy to be getting back to London earlier than I had planned; I could still have time to do stuff after getting back.
Later that day, I went and found Hummus Brothers (a restaurant), which was no small feat. I walked and walked down Waldour Street, but I just could not find it. I think I had looked at my map wrong or something…surprise surprise. At one point, I found myself in an area with what seemed to be a whole lot of Asians. I was thinking to myself, “Why are there all these Asian people around here?” Then I started seeing evidence that I was actually in Chinatown. That would explain it.
I had read about Hummus Brothers before I went to London (yeah, I did a lot of research before I left the States). Basically, almost everything you eat there is hummus (smooshed chickpeas), but you just get to pick what kind of topping you want in your hummus. I think I ordered the chunky beef. They provide you with warm pita bread, and a placemat that explains all the different ways in which people eat their hummus, and what your particular method says about you. I had only eaten hummus once before. I just treated the pita bread kind of like it was a tortilla. It was pretty good, but I think if eaten very often, I would tire of the flavor. They gave me a really hot mint tea afterwards, which I did not enjoy. I didn’t ask for it in the first place, but I didn’t want to waste it. I tried it, but it only reinforced my opinion that hot tea is nasty (although later on in my trip I changed my mind!)
I guess I was just feeling sort of bored— well that and I wanted some ice cream—so I headed on over to a movie theater which had a Ben and Jerry’s inside. I went hog wild. Not only did I buy like 3 scoops of ice cream (coconut and some chocolate ones with hot fudge on top!), but I also took advantage of the fact that they had assorted bulk candies in the theater as well. I saw Night at the Museum II, and I had never even seen the first one. I guess I just wanted to sit down, relax, and eat some ice cream. I became pretty sleepy and didn’t particularly like the movie.
By this point in my trip, I was getting fairly tired of not having any hand soap in one of the bathrooms in my room at the hostel. We had also run out of toilet paper in one of them, and of course, there were not any towels to dry your hands on either. I decided to take matters into my own hands and went and bought some soap, toilet paper, and paper towels at Superdrug and Sainsbury’s. I am known (at least by Mom anyway) to love paper products. If we run out, it does not make me happy. She says I should buy a stock in some sort of company that produces paper products. Also, I wanted to find a hook to hang my clothes on but did not have any luck with that. It was kind of annoying having to set my clothes down on top of my toiletry bag when I took a shower, and then having to pick them back up again whenever I needed anything from the bag. I certainly wasn’t going to set anything important on the floor, with the constant bathroom stench (of urine!) and all. Pleasant, I know. At least they provided a towel for you to step on after getting out of the shower. Well, one towel for everyone, that is. The Liverpool bathroom was so much nicer!
Then I went to Primark because I really needed to make sure I had something to wear to the London Clothes Show the next day. I only ended up getting some black socks that I could wear to work. It was only 1.96 pounds for 7 pairs of socks! Even when converted to dollars, that is a really good deal! On the way “home”, I picked up a container of strawberries at Spar, which was like a convenience/grocery store.
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