Monday, April 18, 2011

Puttin' the Kae in UK

Kae's visiting again! Woo hoo!

Trooper that she is, after much excitement and a big breakfast, the three of us then went shopping in Gloucester. Well, Tea and Kae shopped, for our imminent tour of Belgium and the Netherlands, while I'll kicked back in the New Inn with a book and a pint. I got chatting with a local, Don -- thanks, again, to the Roots swag I picked up in January; that stuff is aces for starting conversations about Canada -- who'd visited a fair bit of our beautiful country.

Many of the old travel guides I've been reading lately reference rail lines that no longer exist, including the old Honeybourne Line, which Don remembered from his college days, travelling from his home, then, in South Wales, to Cheltenham. I said that our rail network pales in comparison to theirs, and while he agreed, he said it's as the modern system does to that of his youth, when, for example, Cheltenham had three stations, and there were twice as many stations along his route to the college.

He and his family visited Canada in 2008, and had planned that part of the journey would be by rail. When they got to the station in Toronto, they learned that some signalling error had caused a derailment, and that Via was now putting buses on. (Their destination was Montreal.) Coincidentally, this was in late July, and they'd just learned about the terrible fate of Tim McLean. None of them slept a wink on that leg.

Overall, they really enjoyed Canada, though. They got to see Niagara, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal during their time there. I was surprised by what impressed him the most about our country, however: how apologetic the French Canadians they met were about their poor English. He said it was just so unexpected and genuine.

As I packed up to move on, he said I could come back and visit him at his 'office' any time. I love the New Inn!

From there, with the girls still occupied, I moved to another pub I'd been meaning to try: Dick Whittington's. Like the New Inn, it is also a historic building. I was surprised to find, in Darrel's book, The Story of Gloucester's Pubs, that the pub had suffered from poor management recently. I strongly suspect that's no longer the case, as the publican who served me was very friendly and generous with bar snacks. He also had an excellent spread of real ales on, including two from the Great Western Brewing Company, which I'd never tried before. Excellent stuff.

* * *

The next day -- a very special one for Tea -- we decided to go to Birmingham, for a day out and supper at Jamie's Italian. While standing around at our train station wondering why there were only buses on, who should appear before us but Matt, picking up his tickets for Edinburgh in a week's time. Having nothing better to do, he agreed to join us, on what would now be our drive to B'ham (for the first time).

The trip was seamless -- surprising, considering we were driving in the second biggest city in the UK -- and, as happened the day before, the girls soon left me -- with company this time! -- agreeing to meet at Jamie's later.

Aside: prior to splitting up, we'd all been shocked to discover a wide range of 'American' foodstuffs at the Food Hall of beautifully-designed Selfridges store in the Bull Ring: we're talkin' Jif and Skippy peanut butter (from Ohio!), Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Lucky Charms, a whole 'American baking' section... The list goes on. How the heck we've been ignorant of this mecca for so long is beyond me.

You'll no doubt be shocked to learn that we found ourselves at a pub shortly thereafter. First, the Wellington, which was much calmer than the last time I'd been there, and then the Anchor again. The highlight of the afternoon was definitely Beowulf's Killer Stout, which we wisely consumed as half-pints (7.9% ABV).

Eventually we found our way to Jamie's -- much later than the girls, we learned, sitting in the Anchor. Having had to walk by the patio at Jamie's to get from the Wellington to the Anchor, both Matt and I somehow failed to notice them waving at us. Ahem! A few missed calls and texts later, we sheepishly finished up our pints. Thankfully Jamie's wasn't busy, so we were quickly sat, once we'd made our way back -- and only ten times off our agreed time, I must add!

You must (must) be tired of hearing this by now, but, yet again, Jamie's failed to disappoint. In fact, my special of pork loin with beetroot and basil that had been honey-glazed and roasted, was one of the best dishes I've had to date. We got the antipasti plank again, and the bread selection; just a fantastic spread. This was Matt's first time at a Jamie's, and I'm sure he'll be bringing the family to one when they're over for a visit.

All in all, a great weekend. Now, off to pack!

Up next: Brussels


  1. Hey hey!

    Bojana and I are in London now, and I managed to not bring your contact info... Silly me! This comment should contain my email address though, so let me know when/if you come into town!

  2. Or not, jeez.

    My last name with the domain of the association of computing machinery is where you'll be able to get in touch with me!