We got up just a little later Saturday, but in time to get to the first half of breakfast. We were again alone, although some other folks joined us by the end of the breakfast period. We got beans on toast this time, with toast on the side, and a basket of toast, and the owner's son was distressed to see that bunny_hugger hadn't got any cereal, and wondered if some more toast might make up the gap. Again, the beans on toast were a pretty good combination, and I can see the logic of it as a meal.
Sadly, we couldn't sneak into Blackpool for a couple hours this time around. We not just had to get the train to London, and work our way around the Underground to the hotel, and we couldn't put that off indefinitely because we were meeting family. bunny_hugger's uncle has been living in London for decades, and hadn't been back to the United States this century, and (sadly) looks unlikely to be able to move back home, or even visit. We couldn't go to England and not see him, and his wife.
So we had to trundle off to the railroad stop --- no station, not even a ticket dispenser, so we'd have to buy them on the train --- and waited with one other family for the early morning train to Preston. The park was just waking up as we waited; we could see the roller coasters making test runs and, soon, real runs. bunny_hugger went off in search of a pay phone with which to tell her uncle when we looked ready to arrive.
We had no trouble getting the little train to wind our way back to Preston, as there were plenty of seats and we weren't forced to be too far from our suitcases. At the train station we got tickets for London-Euston, and waited for the (Virgin Rail) train, which jumped to a couple minutes late, then back another minute, and to another track (on the same platform), in just enough time for us to both get to the bathroom.
What we didn't realize was the train cars we got into had reserved seating, so even the seats that were temporarily empty would be filled up soon enough. We found available and unreserved seats about two cars ahead of the one we boarded on, and left our suitcases in, which is fine since there was no getting our suitcases through all that train space anyway.
I should mention here as I forgot before: on the train going to Blackpool, coming from Carlisle, we got a seat sitting opposite a man and his (we assume) dog. We were delighted to have a dog-friendly train, although when one of our bags dropped on the dog we felt awful for rather longer than the man or the dog felt it.
There were several early stops, which was how we discovered we were sitting in reserved seats; if the reservees hadn't turned up we'd have never guessed. But after four or five stops these ended; we had a clear, straight shot into London, with no interruptions besides one another.
Of course, just because we were at Euston the train station didn't mean we were at the hotel. We had to get to the proper subway station, which, as best bunny_hugger was able to determine, required taking three separate legs. (Later research suggests to me that had we gone outside the station we could've cut it down to two legs, but, we had no reason to think that possible.) Getting the one-way fare ticket was familiar enough; getting our luggage through was ... well ...
bunny_hugger had worried about the difficulties of moving too much luggage around. I was more glib about the prospect, since, after all, very nearly all the distance we'd have powered machines doing the heavy lifting. We'd have to negotiate them around airports or train stations, and from the station to the hotel, but those are a handful of special occasions amidst a major journey and we needed the packing space, really. Desperately.
Of course what we hadn't counted on --- what I hadn't counted on --- was that London underground stations are Escherian nightmares, mazes stretching out for hundreds of miles in each direction and stuffed full of spin-two intersections. (Ask a physics major.) Also stairs. Lots of stairs. I may be exaggerating but I believe we needed to take 840 steps leading up, somehow to get to the platform underneath the one we started from. So we got our exercise in, but also, we were in London, wrapped up in those wonderfully familiar place names, looking at maps that promised entry to all manner of appealing spots, from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich (the only destination I really wanted to see), or Wimbledon (neat although not of particular interest to us) or Underground lines I'd heard of or ... well, just, London. Isn't that fantastic?
After an hour-plus on the subway system --- less than half of it actually underground, if I'm not mistaken --- we got to our destination and wondered how to get from there to our hotel. We went up to the candy and news stand attached to the station and said, we were looking for a hotel --- ``just up the street and turn left''. Didn't even get to say which hotel. But the direction was spot on: it was exactly there. The hotel, which bunny_hugger's uncle had picked and made the reservation for, was barely out of the train station.
We had a bit of confusion trying to check in because we realized we had no idea what name the reservation might be in: bunny_hugger's last name? Her uncle's last name? Maybe even my last name? It's a good thing I give off vibes that suggest me as someone ``genial but kind of confused by everything'' because I was, and it kept us from looking too clearly like some kind of scammers glomming onto somebody else's reservation. (It was under her uncle's name.)
Her uncle had apologized to use for the ``spartan'' rooms. We want for nothing in hotel rooms but (a) bed, (b) bathroom, (c) wireless. We could not have called this roo ``spartan'', particularly since it had enough room to play Canadian football in. At least compared to the other hotels we'd been in, especially coming off the bed-and-breakfast and the ferry. The room --- the hotel --- were also quite purple, following the chain's decorating scheme, but we didn't mind that at all, and it made a nice coincidental touch to the purple/lilac which had been bunny_hugger's wedding dress.
We had some time before we were to meet up, so, I took a nap and bunny_hugger figured out the Wifi (which was not free, our first experience with that barbarism this journey --- maybe the ferry had Wifi for sale, but we didn't figure to need it --- but which bought a week at a time would be not too hideously obscene).
He parked in the hotel parking lot, past a draw gate that seemed to have him trapped in. The desk agent had promised to let him out, but when we tried leaving he wasn't getting any response. So, he drove his car around the gate, managing somehow to make it through the space between the concrete wall of the entrance and the concrete abutment of the gate mechanism. I would have thought it impossible. bunny_hugger was sure it was impossible. He made it with finger lengths to spare. After this feat we would discuss the problem: was her uncle really lucky or a really good driver, despite his age and the infirmities thereof? I voted for really good, on the grounds that if he were just lucky then there'd be a lot more scratches on his car. We will come back to the question.
Family members often resemble one another. My mother and one of her sisters could be twins despite the better part of a decade separating them. bunny_hugger's mother and her uncle look strikingly like one another despite the better part of two decades separating them, particularly when he laughs. I was my typical tongue-tied, vaguely anxious self at talking to brand-new people who were part of the family (bunny_hugger has been much kinder to me than I to her in this regard; I keep finding relatives or near-enough relatives to introduce her to, while the uncle was the first relative she's had me meet since her brother). Her aunt noted that if it were just me and him in the room we'd neither of us say a word. Perhaps, but I pointed out, ``neither of us would complain.''
For this first night they made dinner, a spaghetti dish, along with salad and strawberries-and-cream, so we were quite well-provided for, and we spent most of the evening --- they kept, or at least tolerated, the sorts of hours including for meals that bunny_hugger and I are accustomed to --- talking. Much of this was family gossip or history, so I was catching what I could as it happened, but I think I followed well enough.
He drove us back to the hotel, where we gave in and bought a week's worth of Internet (the alternative was 30 minutes each day for free, which wouldn't do for us), and we got ready for bed. This was another hotel with a combined all-purpose gelatinous fluid for body cleansing, too, although it had two dispensers in the bathroom, one an all-purpose fluid for washing hands and one an all-purpose fluid for bathing, shampoo, and conditioner. The dispenser for soap alone kept jamming on me, so I would do most of my hand-washing with unified soap-shampoo-conditioner, but I did make it out alive.
Trivia: In 2004 Athens became the first Olympics host city with a unified management responsible for both the Olympics and the Paralympic Games. Source: Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement, Editors John E Findling, Kimberly D Pelle.
Currently Reading: Redcoats' Revenge: An Alternate History Of The War Of 1812, David Fitz-Enz. I picked it up from the library because a glance through suggested it was a nonfact textbook, kin to For Want Of A Nail. Actually, it's just a not-very-good historical novel with a lot of expository lumps and a belief that ``The World Turned Upside-Down'' was played at the end of the Revolutionary War. The decent premise is, what if Wellington were sent to take over the British forces in Canada around 1814? He battles Jackson in a new Battle of Saratoga and, well, Canada doesn't actually get some new states because Britain carves a new Province out of their conquests. Also there's an irritating bit where (after the Battle of Plattsburgh) a character talks of how Americans won't forget the 11th of September. Bah and pfaugh.