Category Archives: travel

What not to do in England: Part one

First things first: The Lisas had a brilliant holiday abroad. That being said, it has taken us awhile to process the experience and translate it for you, our glorious reader. There were plenty of adventures – enough for several rounds of blogging, you lucky devil.

We think the Rolling Stones got it wrong: When you can’t rolling stonesget what you want, you don’t always get what you need. This is the best excuse we can come up with for our terrorizing the people of England with a tank (in the form of a Range Rover) that we didn’t want, didn’t need, and should never, ever have been licensed to drive.

In a truly just and beautiful universe, a chauffeur in a Rolls Royce Phantom would have conducted us in a refined and leisurely progress through the breathtaking countryside of Devon and Cornwall. In the harsh real world, we went to pick up the sensibly sized and priced car we had reserved at Heathrow. A short time later we found ourselves perched in a gadget-filled Range Rover, safely ensconced against any and all road hazards, Queens of All We Surveyed!

I can’t remember the actual words Mr. Hertz Agent used to convince us to rent the behemoth, but convince us he did. What a deal! For only a few measly pounds-per-minute extra we could ride in pure luxury. And did he mention it ran on dirt-cheap diesel, not over-priced petrol? Obviously we’d be fools to turn down such a rare opportunity. Mr. Hertz Agent had a deep voice, reminiscent of Mark Sheppard who does the promos for BBC America. As his warm, gravelly tones rolled over us, The Lisas punctuated his sales pitch with breathless giggles. Driver Lisa blushed. Passenger Lisa winked. I hope he pocketed a big commission for sending us out in that hellish beast–at least someone should have profited from the deal.

Admittedly our suspicion that we taken on more than we could handle should have been obvious with our inability to maneuver the parking lot without rolling over road blocks (oh-so-easy in off-road gear!), but we jauntily waved bon voyage to common sense and chalked it up to needing to “get a feel” for things.

We started off on the M-something-or-other which should have been fine. A divided highway with vehicles all traveling in the same direction. Should not have been a problem at all. Wrong. Driver Lisa really doesn’t swear very often. Really. Except apparently while driving a Range Rover through England. Then iOops! Road Signt seems she cannot stop a steady and entirely shocking stream of profanity.

Hitting quaint rural roads only amped up the terror and the internal noise level. Passenger Lisa’s strangled cries of, “Hedge! Wall! Curb!” broke through the spew of curses at regular intervals, but Driver Lisa payed no heed to those piteous pleas. Didn’t Passenger Lisa know there were cars, trucks and buses–dear Heaven, BUSES–to be dodged on the other (Wrong. Wrong. Just Plain Wrong.) side of the road!? What was a tiny tendril of brambles or a crumbling wall compared to that? So what if there was a 16th Century church actually taking up part of the road? So what if we scratched the gold-plated armor of the Range Rover that would cost us selling off select family members into indentured servitude to repair? Innocent British lives were in Driver Lisa’s hands–which were already plenty busy clenching the steering wheel at 10 and 2. (In fact, no body parts remained unclenched at any time during the drive from Heathrow airport to our destination, charming Budleigh Salterton.)

The sidewalk which passed for a two-way street up the cliff (yes, cliff) to our B&B overlooking the seashore was the final challenge. We pulled onto a postage stamp driveway and sat, panting slightly, to let our blood pressure lower. We were alive! We had not killed or (seriously) maimed any fellow travelers! Hurrah for The Lisas!

As we exited unsteadily from the vehicle we were met by our hostess, who with one look immediately regretted ever opening her home to strangers. However, like the intrepid Sir Winston Churchill espousing the motto, “Never, never, never surrender, ” she straightened herself and pronounced, “It looks as though you could use tea.”

tea cup and saucer 1188Perhaps it is a psychological phenomenon. Perhaps our hostess slipped a powerful narcotic into the English Breakfast blend. Perhaps a little slab of sugary raisin cake, eaten with tiny forks, in a cozy sitting room, perched atop a seashore bluff, casts a magical spell on unsuspecting travelers. Whatever the case, upon consuming a Proper English Tea the Lisas were revitalized, rejuvenated and utterly determined to ditch the death-trap Range Rover at the next possible portal for the most compact vehicle available short of a bicycle built for two. Although Passenger Lisa proposed hitchhiking or hopping the rails hobo-style as alternative travel methods, she was vetoed by Driver Lisa, who had earlier been nominated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Acting Adult in Charge. But that is another story.

The moral of this story? There is nothing, nothing, a proper tea cannot fix, and never, never be seduced by a British car salesman, no matter how big his motor.

 

Are You My Money?

no vacancy signValiant readers of this blog will recall that the Lisas plan to invade London in the fall. Plan is the key word here. Entire presidential campaigns have included less strategy, discussion and all-around quibbling than just one of the Lisas B&B decisions.

However, we have finally confirmed our choices. We know where we will be eating scones in the mornings. We know which stately homes will receive our gracious patronage. We are terribly, terribly excited. Yes, we’re absolutely thrilled to be spending our life savings to soak in Jolly Olde England. We tried to go cheap, but apparently there isn’t such a thing in all Great Britain. Except a couple of places which seemed to be part hotel, part fungus farm. And folks, we seriously considered the fungus farm. We did reserve a room in a university dorm, yes, a dorm, in London to save a few pounds.

So, in the interest of retaining a tiny fraction of our savings so we can retire homelesssomewhere other than our children’s basements, or the least rodent inhabited alley we can find, we are seeking a sponsor for the trip. Take note prospective benefactors! Our standards are “least rodent filled”. We are a bargain! Answer our desperate pleas (you can tell the desperation by the exclamation points!) and show us the money, honey.

Possible sponsors include, but are not limited to:
McVitie’s–This fine company, maker of delicious digestive biscuits, is our first choice. On a former trip to England, OneLisa became addicted to McVitie’s wholemeal digestives. They are incredibly expensive to buy in the States, so at the end of the holiday she will be throwing out all her old undies (read: they’re all old) and using the extra luggage space to take home many, many biscuit packets. She may also have a fiendish plan to dump all of Lisa2’s clothes as well–imagine her surprise and delight to find a suitcase full of biscuits when we arrive back in the States. What a good friend! They just don’t make ’em like OneLisa anymore.

McVities! We love you! Give us cookies and dough and make us the center of an advertising campaign targeting the huge demographic that is middle-aged American women who swoon over digestive biscuits.

Top Gear–To say that the Lisas enjoy the madcap antics of Jeremy, Richard and James would be to use far too much British restraint. We adore them! We revel in them! Well, we adore James, think Richard looks quite sweet and feel that Jeremy can be annoying, but he makes up for that by living in a town named Chipping Norton. All is forgiven anyone who lives in such a melodious sounding town.

Dear Top Gear producers: our motto for the trip is “Keep Calm and Careen On”. That alone should be enough to give us a prime spot on your excellent programme. Follow our madcap antics as we careen about in a rental car, terrorizing the populace of southwestern England. If only we were celebrities, a whole week of episodes could be renamed “Driving with the Stars in a Reasonably Priced Rental Car.”

cadburyCadbury–Although not helpful for the negotiating table, it can be admitted here among friends that the Lisas would sell themselves out (in an advertising sense) for a lifetime supply of the Egg ‘n’ Spoon Chocolate Mousse candies OneLisa spotted on the Cadbury website.  Or perhaps a vacation-time supply?

British companies–our tour of England will take us through the hotspots of your fair country: Budleigh Salterton, Beer, Lostwithiel and Mere to name just a few. Get in on the ground floor of this exciting venture! Don’t let Iceland reap all the glory. We have a huge, massive, influential following. Even a guy in Canada. (Did we mention we’re giving you first shot over Iceland?) Because we actually are going there as well. But more about that icy adventure next time…