We have arrived in England. I have heard much about Heathrow airport, but apparently our plane time-traveled because we arrive in a terminal that looks straight out of the 70s, and not in a good way. However, I am charmed by how the elevator signs say “Lift.”
And though we are in England, we are not at the wedding site. Bjorn’s sister is getting married in Ilfracombe, Devon, England, which is on the coast, and about a 5-hour car drive away from the airport.
Fortunately, his father has rented a minivan/bus to take us, his mom and three other relatives to the wedding. All seven of us pile into the car and I get the odd sensation that we are going on tour, ala the Partridge family, but with a lot less singing and a lot more Swedish involved.
We stop at a carvery/restaurant that is situated in a house for lunch. Our waiter takes our order in such a thick Cockney accent that I stare at him in open-mouthed wonder. Finally! We ARE in England!
A thatched-roof inn
I sleep in the bus/van until we stop in a little town for a gas/toilet (that’s what they call restrooms there) break. The town looks like something out of a Charles Dickens novel. The streets are tiny and winding and there are thatch-roofed houses and oh yes–a TANDOORI restaurant. It seems that no matter where you are in England, you will find at least one Indian restaurant. I knew I liked England for a reason.
While at the gas station, I make a wise selection of snacks (read: anything chocolate that his uncle tells me is good.) After paying for my goodies, the counterman tosses off a casual “Cheers!” that has me instantly captivated. I want to give back an equally elegant and understated salute, but I think my overt giggling and too bright and overeager “CHEERS!” does not quite carry it off.
I receive a few pounds as part of my change, which look like extra thick coins. They have writing on the sides, and one word catches my eye, “DECUS.” In my head it sounds like “dickus.” I decide to keep it as a souvenir for my brother.
Aunt Maggan and I with our snacks by the bus/van
We tarry on, on impossibly narrow roads through green, rolling hills, past black-faced ewes and frolicking lambs and darting pheasants (no, really). I realize I am in a Jane Austen novel (should her novels include things like automobiles and multiculturalism) and the English major in me is swooning in rapturous delight. Of constant comment is the weather, which is sunny and warm and very unusual for this time of year.
We take a scenic (read: much longer) route to Ilfracombe that has me clutching at my seat in fright as we travel up what seem to be 5-ft wide and 75 degree roads. Legend has it that wild ponies are to be seen on this route. I envision silken-maned, noble creatures thundering across the moors. What I see: horses with decidedly underslung bellies with frizzy, almost mangy coats, munching on grass. The wild life does indeed have a dark side.
We make it to Ilfracombe around 8:30 p.m. (which means we did travel on death roads in the dark ). But our day is not over. It’s time to eat again, at yes, a tandoori restaurant, with Bjorn’s friends.
Then it’s off to a secluded beach where we attempt to hit golf balls into the ocean (adding insult to injury: If your ball doesn’t make it into the ocean, you have to retrieve it, which I had to do — TWICE.)
This is probably why I didn’t hit my golf balls very far.
This is the groom’s stag party before the wedding, and as the only women there are his friends, who are piling on clothing (it gets cold there at night) instead of taking them off and the only metal poles are golf clubs, I must say I wholeheartedly agree with the way this affair is handled.
We finally head to our bed and breakfast, which again, is at the top of a winding and steep road, but is the cleanest, most charming B&B I have ever been in. The night is still not over though, as Bjorn’s friends come in to watch the “the best bit” of the “Shawshank Redemption.”
Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins finally reunited on a beautiful beach in Mexico, I head off to take my first shower in 48 hours.
END OF THE SECOND DAY