Callicrates (callicrates) wrote,

Vacation trip report

We got back from England yesterday. It's time for me to start
reporting in... I'll post this entry quickly and then update it with
more days as I get time.

Getting There

We had everything packed on Sunday night except for the last-minute
necessities that we needed on Monday morning. We were ready well
before time (a relative rarity), easily enough to go out and have
lunch (calzones from Pepper's, which we haven't had in... um, a year
and a half?) before we took off for the airport.

Given that this trip was meant as a long-awaited vacation, we decided
to do what we could to add extra luxuries here and there. Cat had two
one-way one-class upgrades sitting around from when she flew enough to
get Silver Preferred status. Our flight from Raleigh to Philadelphia
was too full to use them, but the leg from Philadelphia to Gatwick had
plenty of room in Envoy class... so we used them. We've taken a
transatlantic trip once before when we went to Italy in 1999. We did
it in coach class, which was reasonably comfortable, on a 767. This
was much nicer. The seats were comfortable, the food was
surprisingly good (a decent steak on an airplane!), the movie was
enjoyable (Harry Potter), and I got in a few hours' nap before we
landed at Gatwick.

Just before we landed, the flight attendants brought around the usual
immigration paperwork. People in Envoy Class got two extra pieces of
paper. One was a pass good for the short line at immigration. That
turned out to be unnecessary: the lines were short enough that it
wasn't worth the hassle. The other was a pass to the first-class
lounge in the airport. They had perhaps the single most wonderful
treat I could have hoped for before meeting erish that
day: showers. A good hot shower after a (short) night on an airplane
did wonders to make me feel more like a human being.

Tuesday, March 25

Our first task after we had cleared customs was to make our way up to
University College to meet erish by noon. We were in a
bit of a rush since our flight had been delayed leaving Philadelphia.
Luckily, airports worldwide appear to be designed to accommodate
dazed, jet-lagged travelers who might or might not speak the language.
We caught a train from Gatwick to Victoria Station, then the
underground from Victoria to Kings Cross. We wrestled our luggage up
and down the stairs, through the construction, into and out of the
stations and trains, and finally got it safely stowed at St Pancras
(the train station right next door to Kings Cross) just before
lunchtime. UCL campus is about ten or fifteen minutes' walk from
there. No problem.

After lunch, willowisp settled in for a nap, erish marked exams, and I went out for a walk. It turns out
that Paperchase is just
down Tottenham Court Road from where we were. How could I resist?
Along the way I passed a club called the Spearmint Rhino, which has to
be one of the strangest names I've seen in recent history.

Once erish had finished the exams it was time to head up
to Nottingham. It was a quiet 2-hour train ride. The train left St
Pancras at 6PM, at which point we had been up for about 30 hours, so
we were pretty well dazed. We checked into our hotel and dropped off
our luggage. Dinner followed (good Japanese), then back to the hotel
for a desperately needed good night's sleep.

Wednesday, March 26

We slept late on Wednesday morning and completely missed breakfast.
Given the events of the previous day and the fact that we were
jet-lagged five hours in the wrong direction, this was no particular
surprise. When we finally fell out of bed we met up with erish and caught a bus for the city center. Lunch was
sandwiches in a small, out-of-the-way cafe, with a slice of excellent
Belgian chocolate cake afterward. Then it was off to see a couple of
her favorite haunts. First among these was Page 45, a comics
store which is almost as hazardous to my budget as Paperchase. As I
write this, the words "comics store" conjure up an image of someplace
cramped, slightly grubby, with staff who Really Need to Get Out More.
Page 45 is none of that: it's a specialty bookstore with staff who
know their stuff and are passionate about it, not in the sense of
explaining the precise significance of the color of Delirium's eyes
but instead knowing the current state of the field and being able to
discuss and recommend just about any corner of it. It's a neat

After we left Page 45 it was time for erish to keep one of
her meetings, so willowisp and I went off on our own for a
few hours. Our first stop was the Museum
of Costume and Textiles
. I was expecting to be rather bored --
old clothing isn't really my thing -- and was quite pleased to be
wrong. I could easily have spent an hour or two poring over the great
big map tapestries they have hanging on the walls. I'm afraid I don't
have any pictures from there. The fabrics are old enough that the
lights are kept low to slow further deterioration. By the same token,
they don't allow flash photography. Take my word for it: it's neat.

The textiles museum is about a block from Nottingham Castle, which
currently houses an arts museum. That was our next stop. We spent a
little while wandering around the castle grounds to look at the
flowers, then made a brief trip through the museum... brief, that is,
until we reached the glass exhibition. It's a collection of
19th-century sculptures of sea life done by Leopold and Rudolf
Blaschka. I find it hard to believe that they managed such incredibly
fine detail in glass, and moreover that the pieces haven't been
damaged in the many years since they were made. (FIXME link to
pictures here) In particular, I can't imagine how one would even
package something like the radiolarian.

After a short break for something to drink and a piece of shortbread
we went back toward the hotel. We had Chinese for dinner from the
take-away place across the street from erish's flat, then
sat and talked for a while before going our separate ways for a good
night's sleep.

Thursday, March 27

Since we were staying in Nottingham, we made the obligatory trip to
Sherwood Forest. It's a 40-minute bus ride north from our hotel. The
place is very definitely set up for tourists: parts of it (the
visitors' center especially) would not have looked out of place in one
of the quieter corners of Disney World. There are several trails of
different lengths that go through the forest, though, and we had a
nice walk. Along the way we went to find a particular tree where a
rather nice piece of glass had been buried. We found the tree easily
enough, but someone had beaten us to it... there was nothing but
dirt. Oh well. The entire point of the exercise was for someone to
find it. I hope they like it.

We left Sherwood Forest to go back around mid-afternoon. I could have
spent several hours there walking the longer trails, but willowisp wanted to get back to Nottingham Castle before their
gift shop closed, and I was growing rather tired of the large and loud
crowds of schoolchildren. We made it back to the city center without
incident and Cat picked out a very pretty paperweight. We met Kirsti
when she came home from work and had excellent Japanese for dinner again.

Friday, March 28

Friday was the last day we were going to have free in Nottingham. The
origami conference was due to start late in the afternoon. We went to
the city center one more time in the morning. Cat went to the Tales
of Robin Hood show (and even got to play damsel in distress!) while I
went shopping. A trip to Lush
yielded some rather nice soap. A detour to (FIXME get URL)
Waterstone's was good for a couple of science fiction novels that
might be published in the US in several months. Perhaps.

On around 4PM we made our way to the university campus to find
Kirsti's office. From there it was a 15-minute walk to Florence Boot
Hall where the BOS convention was getting under way. I set up the
models I had brought for the exhibition (FIXME link pictures in), then
we all went to dinner. Afterward, there were a couple hours of
folding, conversation, and far too much smoke in the bar, then we went
back to the hotel. By this time we were finally getting a handle on
jet lag, although Cat was pretty thoroughly sleep-deprived.

Saturday, March 29

All of Saturday was taken up by the origami conference. Cat wasn't
feeling well in the morning, so she decided to stay behind while I
went to the conference with Kirsti. I returned to the hotel around 11
to get her up (she had just lain down when I knocked on the
door... what rotten luck) and to go do laundry. That took a little
bit longer than anticipated, as did returning to campus, so we missed
the group photo at 2PM. The rest of the day was occupied by classes
and random folding. At 5PM everyone assembled for the exhibition
review. People who had brought models were asked to say something
about them: which they found interesting, any curiosities they might
involve, when they would be taught, that sort of thing.

After the exhibition, a group of about twenty of us went out for the
Poppadom meeting. For the
uninitiated, POPPADOM stands for People Out Practising Paperfolding
And Dining On Masala. Judging from the results achieved by my
tablemates, Chris Palmer's designs are considerably more difficult to
fold after a beer and a half. It was also Cat's and my first
experience with curry. My impression was that it was quite good,
although I have little basis for comparison. It will take some
getting used to. That's fine. So did Chinese, Thai, and Mexican
(actually southwestern American).

Once dinner was over, we all walked back for a night at the opera.
There was a production of the Dollar Bill Ring Cycle by the great
Paulo Jacksonioni, featuring Dave Brill as the Father and Ian Harrison
as God. The show conclusively dispelled any myths that those in
attendance took themselves at all seriously. Afterward, I sat down
with Alex
and talked tessellations until I was falling over tired.
At that point it was 11:30. We caught a cab back to the hotel and
promptly crashed.

Sunday, Monday, and the trip home will be posted soon...

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