Those readers who don’t follow me on social media, well, you should. I have live action videos on everything from the Whitehall Horse Guards to Andy’s ongoing battle with the neighborhood squirrels.
Andy and I haven’t had a real vacation since our honeymoon. That was years ago. No, I’m not telling you how many, but remember, this is a memoir blog. It could be 3 years ago, it could be fifty! (It’s not fifty.)
But those trips involved visits with family. Spending time with family IS NOT A VACATION. Okay, maybe it is for some of you. If it is, then, congrats, you have nice parents who probably do your laundry (JOCELYN) and restful siblings . Maybe you even get both at the same time, damn your eyes. (I saw the Globe Theatre recently, people – prepare to be peppered with some Britishisms.) My family is not relaxing like that. Andy’s family is DEFINITELY not relaxing like that.
If we go to Andy’s house, he’s cooking and helping his parents with “projects.” These may include the demolition of an entire deck or installing air conditioning.
If we visit my family, we get roped into free childcare. Oh, yeah, and my siblings hound Andy until he makes them hot & sour soup and potstickers. (Two kinds of potstickers, because certainly siblings require a VEGAN option, yes, of course they do.) And guess who is doing all of Andy’s dishes? Hint: just call me “Palmolive Autumn.”
So it’s probably not surprising that when we planned a trip to London, Andy was anti- “Vacation Rental By Owner,” better known as AirB&B.
“We could get more space at a VRBO,” I argued. “For less money.”
Usually that’s a clincher with my frugal husband. But this time he shook his head. “I want a vacation. I don’t want to see a frying pan or an oven.”
I couldn’t argue with that. I didn’t want to see a kitchen sink or a vacuum on my vacation, either. I went off to research hotels.
About 16 hours later, I had a plan. Also lower back lumbar spasms. And a new appreciation for travel agents.
We would take the redeye on Friday night to London, stay in a less-than-posh but centrally located hotel by Eccelston Square, and tour the city for three-and-a-half days.
I proudly showed Andy a map with the hotel. “Look! It’s a short walk to Buckingham Palace! It’s less than half a mile from Victoria Station –trains — Victoria Coach Station – buses — and the Victoria Underground, where 3 different lines converge on the tube.”
Andy said, “The what?”
Andy the American asked, “Aren’t we going to rent a car?”
“Are you kidding? The roads are super narrow, there are roundabouts everywhere, they drive on the wrong side of the road, and you want a car in London?”
Andy sulked off to
be a backseat driver do his own research. A few minutes later, he yelled, “Hey, your tube is not that cheap! It’s like 5 pounds to ride it anywhere and that works out to about $7.50! So that’s like $15.00 for round trip every day! For 2 of us! And you can rent a car for 30 pounds!”
“Mass transit is better for the environment! And we can do a lot of walking!”
“But we’re on vacation!”
I yelled back, “Look up parking fees! Gas taxes! Congestion pricing!”
Andy stomped back in a few minutes later. “Fine. We’ll walk a lot. London is expensive.”
“Don’t worry honey, after London, we will head out into the countryside.”
Andy said, “Why? All the good restaurants and places where they tortured people are in London.”
“Because I want to see a village! Old churches! Country lanes! Places that look like they did before the wars or when Agatha Christie wrote about them!”
Andy said, “But…why?”
“Because I’ve read about them all my life. Or seen them on Masterpiece Theater! I want to see a bloody vicarage and a manor house with my own eyes and if you say why one more time I shall fetch you a cuff on the ear!”
“I didn’t understand any of that except the handcuffs?”
“Oh my God,” I groaned. “It’ll be like watching Downton Abbey or Dr. Who with you. I’ll have to be your interpreter for British English.”
“So where are we going out in the country?”
I showed him a webpage. “There’s this castle that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed in that’s now a hotel. It’s about two hours west of London.”
“A castle? Like cold and damp and has rats?”
“It’s a LUXURY hotel. With a world-class restaurant. Although you CAN have a special meal in the dungeon, although that’s really pricey–”
“No, no,” Andy interrupted hastily. “But you said it’s two hours from London. We’ll need a car.”
“There are trains, remember?”
Andy scowled. “Why do you hate cars?”
“I like to travel light. A car becomes this thing you have to haul around with you. You have to find a a place for it. Like extra baggage. And remember, wrong side of road. Tiny streets.”
Andy slouched off to the living room. I heard his fingers tapping.
He returned 20 minutes later with a spreadsheet, a smug expression, and a Hertz reservation. “Here.”
It was a cost comparison of trains and cars. And the cheapest car WAS cheaper, especially with the cab and bus fare from the train station to the hotel. Bollocks.
Andy just left out one detail. The cheapest car was a MANUAL transmission.
Which is how I came to be driving a stick shift. On the wrong side of the road. In driving rain and hail on single lane roads.
And Andy? Mr. I Can’t Live Without A Car was asleep in the passenger seat.
Apparently he was finally done backseat driving.