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Published: March 17th 2015
I've had a busy 2 days, and I still think the most awesome thing that's happened was watching Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace in London with Eno!
Where shall I begin? Let's start with the good from Monday. St. Albans is a quaint suburb of London, 30 minutes by train to the north. There are Roman ruins - my first of this trip, but certainly not my last - and they were worth the 2.5 pounds to visit. The Abbey was massive there - St. Albans is a cathedral town, so the abbey dominates both the history and the skyline of the area. They give a free tour a couple times a day, and it was so good - an old fellow showed me and a retired couple around the cathedral for an hour. It was almost like a private tour, but not awkward at all! At the end, we were given a small badge for St. Albans pilgrims. Very cool.
I had lunch at The Waffle House, which is nothing like the American Waffle House (aside from the waffles). They were thicker than those in America, and I got mine covered in cheese and ham, which was
fantastic. The tea for lunch was good, too. The weather was pretty good, too - I mean, typical English weather for March, but light on the rain. Probably one of the biggest (good) surprises came in the wake of a big goof on my part. I had memorized the name of the street I needed to walk down from the St. Albans train station (Victoria), but I went the wrong direction, since the train dropped me off on a different side. I walked probably a mile before I stopped at a bus stop and found a nice elderly gent who told me which bus to get on to get to the Abbey. He was getting on the same one, and not only did he show me where it was, he got off the bus with me and walked with me to the tourist info center. How fortunate that I ran into a kind stranger!
Monday night was "Billy Elliot" - and I cannot recommend this show enough! OK, it's not for children. If it were a film, it would probably be rated R for the language. No real sexuality or drug use, etc. I don't know what led me
to suggest this musical, but it was worth every penny. By the way, we sat on the front row, and though they weren't the best seats in the house, they were some of the least expensive. I'm going to have to download the music soon - it was my first time seeing it, and I've never seen the film either. I'll definitely be checking out the film now, and I may try to see it again as soon as I get a chance. B.E. Yourself! (That's the theme of the musical, just so you know.)
Today was my last full day in England - and I chose to get out of town again. I spend most of the day in Lewes (pronounced Lew-iss), about an hour south of London by train. This town is on my must-visit list now. I cannot recommend enough a side trip from London to Lewes. The people were beyond friendly to out-of-towners. They kept asking me where I was from - probably for 2 reasons: 1st, the town is small enough that they recognize outsiders; and 2nd, I didn't speak like them. They all kept asking me where I was from, constantly telling me
that I didn't sound like an American. I consider that a compliment.
There was a castle to take in - again, my first of this trip, but not my last. The views from the top were spectacular; even the people at the castle museum said that they would be particularly good today. The weather was almost sunny. Even though I left my student ID in London, the cashier only charged me the student rate, so that was cool. It was quite a ways to the top, but hardly anyone was there, which made me happy. Back in the town, everything was walkable, even with my hurting foot. (More about that later...) There were far too many French teenaged students touring around the town, but I've gotten used to that over the past few days. Another site worth viewing in Lewes is the ruined St. Pancras Priory - it's in an open field, roped off and signposted. It's also free!
I got lunch at my first true pub of the trip - the King's Head. Their burger was great, and they even made their own awesome ketchup. The staff are pretty friendly, too; the inside of the pub alone
is worth visiting it. I spent a while in the Southover Grange Gardens, which were well manicured and a nice bit of color in a mostly-gray town. I found a bunny-shaped paper clip on the ground, so it was even more of a success.
The last thing about Lewes - they print their own banknotes, in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 21 (yes, 21) pounds. Of course, they're only for use around the town, so you can't use them once you leave. But they're printed on the same paper as banknotes, with holograms and raised numbers and all that jazz. I got 1- and 5 pound notes to keep for myself; I guess that's my souvenir from Lewes. Honestly, I feel like Lewes is a place I could retire to, which makes it one of those rare spots in the world for me.
On the down side, I've had a couple of mix-ups with trains, which were frustrating. It's nothing that really got me down, but one thing I really hate is wasted time. And then there's my left foot. On the way back from Emirates Stadium, it became very painful to walk, especially down stairs. On
my way to St. Albans yesterday, I stopped by the pharmacy and picked up some new insoles, and they've really helped out. The pain hasn't gone away entirely, though. I don't know if I've done any major damage, but it really does hurt. I feel like it's muscular - if it were broken bone, I don't think I would be able to walk nearly as well. I do my daily stretches, but I think I'm going to start doing them twice a day, just to see if that improves. Needless to say, I've been very grateful for a place to come to, where I can put up my feet.
Now we're relaxing at Eno's flat and watching "Sherlock" - my first time, and Eno said I needed to watch. So far, I could get hooked. Tomorrow, I'm flying to the Isle of Man, but it's not until after 6PM. So, I'm going to do laundry, grade a couple of tests, write an assignment for my TCU class, and stay off my feet as much as possible. Maybe they just need some time to recover and get used to all the walking. If not, this is going to be a
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