austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Every year when summer comes round, off to the sea I go

There was no music to wake us the next morning, at 8:30. It was just shipboard announcements that the docking would be in an hour and a half. We showered in the adorably tiny bathroom --- using the weird combination soap/lotion/shampoo that was turning up in more and more of our hotels --- and snacked on remainders of what we'd gotten in Amsterdam the day before, and made sure we had everything packed, and checked that we had filled in our Immigration forms as best as we could figure out. (We weren't terribly sure about the name of our vessel, and actually paying attention to any form is a good way to become unsure about the answers to even the simplest questions on it.) We had over an hour to get ready for our 9 am landing because, as we realized, the ship ran on Central European Time while our 9 am landing was based on British Time, one hour later, or earlier, or, you know what I mean. The relationship Central Time has to Eastern Time.

The shipboard announcements begged people not to crowd the stairwells and corridors that people needed to get off the boat. bunny_hugger and I, fairly confident that England wouldn't disappear out from under us, were content to wait in our cabin for an announcement we could leave. And when the word came out that it was now time to leave, we turned out to be almost in front of the main gangplank; we couldn't have deliberately worked to have an easier time getting off the ship.

The incoming customs folks chided us for getting in the wrong line --- apparently there was a separate aisle for non-European tourists which we counted as even though we were tourists coming from Europe --- but since we didn't know about this until after we'd waited through the whole line it saved us only a few seconds. We got, remarkably, the first of quite a few ``aw, congratulations'' from official-type people when we said the purpose of our trip was ``honeymoon''. And then we were let out into the seaport, where the signs and styling were suddenly familiar to me despite never having set foot in England before. Of course, that was because of the Singaporean experience, and getting used to things like ``Way Out'' not being said like a hippie or Flintstones guest character.

There was a bus to take us from the ship to the train station, and we eventually found it, and I believe this one failed to charge us for the journey too, just as the earlier ferry from the Victoria Hotel to the ship failed to. What we did get was a thick barrage of Northern dialect, people talking intently in that Newcastle style which delighted us and which didn't pass beyond the realm of our understanding. But there was something utterly, wonderfully, intensely English about the experience, particularly as the bus driver and some elderly gent were going on about --- well, I'm not sure, but it sounded really nice to listen to, just from the way dialogue can be music.

bunny_hugger had worked out a series of train rides and transfers which should get us to Blackpool, to a station allegedly just a block or so from our hotel (it was closer than that description suggests), but when we got to the station we were hopelessly baffled about how to buy tickets, or where, or for what, so we went to the information desk. The man there thought about it, then went to work on the computer, and then gave us a completely different itinerary (preserved in my notepad, so I have it: the 12:22 from Newcastle arriving at Carlisle at 12:47; then leaving Carlisle at 13:09 to arrive at Preston 14:15; then leaving Preston at 14:15 to arrive at Blackpool Pleasure Beach at 15:34). All we had to do was buy tickets saying we'd be leaving the train system at BPB and that would do it. Just like a subway system one-way pass, really, except with the stations farther apart. That still feels a little weird to me; I'd have expected separate tickets for each leg, and still kind of do.

The first train was perfectly decent, with a good spot to put our suitcases and sit down. The second leg --- on a Virgin Rail train, which also felt a little odd, what with long-distance American railroads being mostly Amtrak and/or getting kicked in the shins --- started about two minutes late, and the announcers apologized for that, which we thought was pretty good, particularly considering that time one of bunny_hugger's trains was delayed by over 143 days and she was forced to winter over in Lesser Spranksville, Oklahoma. Between the second and third we had the chance to sit in an actual waiting room, complete with plaques talking about the role the room had played during the Great War in providing for the soldiers. It also gave us the chance to look into the vending machines. bunny_hugger had been longing for a candy called a Starbar, which just doesn't get to the United States at all, and doesn't get into the vending machines at Preston either. There was a Pocky-like candy advertised as ``more than a little bit tempting'', although we were not sufficiently tempted.

The last train was a wonderful trolley-like conveyance, just two cars long and rambling through villages packed close up to the tiny threads of steel, until it finally stopped at a tiny platform, without even a station, barely even a shelter, like the spot where a city bus might unload passengers. To the right of us, behind a fence not tall enough to hide any attraction, was Blackpool Pleasure Beach. To the left was a street which lead to --- ah! The street our bed-and-breakfast was on. We barely got onto that street and found our hotel, right there.

We were greeted by --- not the owner, but her son, an enthusiastic (and one-armed) man who saw us coming, and was ready with the key to a room accessed by going under the stairs, and who promised to get us the password for the Wifi although he didn't know it himself as he didn't know anything about the computer stuff. He was also eager to fry up a breakfast for us, for tomorrow between 8:30 and 9:00, although we could see the light dying from his eyes as bunny_hugger said she was vegetarian and I confirmed I was trying to eat vegetarian, taking the sausages and bacon and such off the table. He suggested eggs on toast, and bunny_hugger leapt at the idea of our having such a distinctly English breakfast.

The room was the tiniest we'd stayed in, other than on the ferry, with a room facing the street just large enough for the bed. We would have to take turns opening suitcases, and even then were better off putting one suitcase on the bed to do it. The bathroom suggested some slightly mad do-it-yourself project, as it was accessed by a diagonal door folded in the center which one pushed in its center to have slide open, and which opened into another shower with no division besides a slight step down between the shower basin and the floor of the bathroom with sink and toilet and such. The bathroom was set off from the bedroom mostly by the wardrobe, and there was space between the top of that and the ceiling, filled in by some thick panes of colored glass. Oh, yes, and on the side was a flat-screen electric fireplace, offering a simulacrum of light or the option of heat or both.

And we could hear the roller coasters, and the squealing of people on them, from the room.

We were exhausted, though --- certainly I was exhausted --- between the relatively early day and all the time spent in transit, so we lay down for a nap before heading into Blackpool and don't go thinking we were failing to learn from experience. After rousing and getting a little tea, we set out --- the owner's son assured us again that he'd get the password for us --- and walked up to the entrance gates to find that they were closing for the night. After all, it was nearly 6 pm.

What could we do? We walked around the outside, and the fronts that showed things like a Blackpool Museum with various pieces of equipment or train cars or whatnot that weren't in use anymore, and the outside of the Ripley's museum, also closed. We did find an open restaurant, where there were chips with mushy peas, among other things, on offer and bunny_hugger was enthusiastic to share this experience with me. We were ready for a real meal, too, and when she noticed there was a cheese and onion pie available too she got that for herself. When I took a bit too long in looking over the menu --- after all, who knew when I'd be back here, and might there not be something even more North English to try? --- she said I should get the cheese and onion pie too, and this strong recommendation and direction from my darling bride delighted the cashier.

After this we walked down the ocean front, where we got to see fine displays of the un-lit illuminations, all the way to a giant metal sphere which we picked as the point to turn around and start walking up the waterfront. There's several piers jutting out into the ocean, two packed with flat rides and games and restaurants and attractions ... it evoked a lot of the sense of being at Seaside Heights, which gave us a wonderful, warm resonance to our first deeply romantic day.

Of course, Seaside Heights may be akin to Blackpool in rough description, but in magnitude, in scale, there's no comparison. For an example: there's tilt-a-whirls over there. Naturally. But over there's tilt-a-whirls where the ride operator leaps out onto the rotating platform, grabs the cars, and gives them an extra whirl when the riders aren't motion-sick enough. He'd even leap over the edge of the rotating platform, itself riding going up and down, at high speed, to better take riders by surprise. One poor woman looked brought to the edge of her endurance by the ride. They were fast, they were loud, they had showmen running them.

bunny_hugger was enthusiastic for the idea that while we were there we should get a 99, an ice cream with a Cadbury Flake inserted to it, and there were places ready to sell it to us, except it was a touch cold for that. There'd be time for it. I also had heard about Rock, which we didn't get then, but would. We also peered into a McDonald's: they had some sort of onion snack that looked interesting, and we considered the silliness of being Americans in Britain going into McDonald's for the least-American thing on the menu (which wouldn't be a bad idea, I think), but they were closing, and we should start wandering back to the hotel so we'd get enough sleep to take a whole day at Blackpool.

We got back after the owner's son had gone to bed, so we didn't know the bed-and-breakfast's Wifi password. Since we'd just come off a hotel with hilariously obvious password we tried a few hilariously obvious ones, but gave up. When we were finally told what it was, bunny_hugger realized she was maybe five minutes away from cracking it. We went to sleep, with the electric fireplace turned on to produce light and no heat, where it served as an awfully good nightlight and way to find the deranged bathroom in the darkest hours.

Trivia: Preliminary volleyball matches for the 1996 Atlanta Games were moved out of Cobb County (to the north of Atlanta) after the county government passed a resolution declaring homosexuality incompatible with community values. Source: Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement, Editors John E Findling, Kimberly D Pelle.

Currently Reading: A Few Quick Ones, P G Wodehouse.

Tags: honeymoon
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