She talked about it for months, a conference coming up in the United Kingdom. It was some sort of international charity programme with fundamentalist dress codes, need I say more?
We were living in different countries, dating for a short time. This was apparently the event of the century, and my attendance would be beckoned. Having just returned home in the U.s. from a three week vacation in Europe, spending one week at home was barely enough time to catch up on work.
Well, well… can you guess what happened next? I agreed to go, purchased all the tickets, and took the flight, back to Heathrow, a week later.
The Immigration Ministry looked surprised to see me, again. I'd been passing through this particular airport far too often. After providing computer printouts of hotel locations, transportation information, and tickets to leave the country, entry was approved.
Meeting someone at Heathrow airport can be interesting. However, a quick yahoo search will reveal some good maps, and a few convenient meeting spots. Heathrow also has a great website with plenty of information.
After the white shirt inspection to enter the country, a couple hours of waiting, we met up as my travel partner arrived on a later flight. A quick dash to the underground, minding the gap as it were, departed for Kings Cross St. Pancras.
After purchasing a couple train tickets, we were off to Grimsby with an entire different pace. The train ride was fun as our car was empty, and we had it all to ourselves. Sounds romantic right…
Arriving at our accommodations was a bit disorganized as I'd not been the person planning this detail. Stopping at a pub was the only option, we'd arrived in the evening around 9:30. Taxi service took a few minutes to arrive, prepayed the drive, and straight to the destination near Lincoln.
Lincoln is host to a lovely little castle containing a copy of the Magna Carta. There is a small entry fee to the castle, but it's well worth the self guided tour. Walk along Castle walls, indulge in views of the town.
Aged stone buildings fill the landscape, chances for photography never run out.
That night, as we were led to our room, it was actually two rooms in very separate locations. So, we'd be fundamentally apart. A dorm for men, and a dorm for ladies. Looking back, that was probably a good thing considering what happened that following day.
Having not been able to fall asleep until midnight, and being disturbed at six in the morning…. could have slept until nine! We were off for the full day of events.
After a breakfast of styrofoam dixie cup coffee, it was off to listen to conference lectures. The stories were interesting, and speakers engaging.
A couple who were long time friends of my girlfriend were also attending. In fact, she was so adamant on going because of this particular couple.
The two seemed friendly enough, but they sure asked a lot of questions. Apparently, they were her 'agent', or something. They asked many questions about my late wife, it's not uncommon, but I'm always happy to chat openly.
After the morning lectures were complete, the four of us packed into a very British little car and headed for Lincoln. A tour of the cathedral, and a short walk to the castle later the weather turned from sunny and became a little English.
While walking slowly around the castle the ladies walked together and chatted while us guys hung out and the other gentleman continued asking a million questions. A once warm, friendly girlfriend became shivery cold. Later that day I would learn of her friends disapproval, it was fine, who cares, not me.
That evening, we had another invitation to spend time with another couple she had known for many years as well. Something the two ladies had been discussing in Lincoln seemed to have flipped like a light switch. Now, for no reason she was enraged with anger toward me. The weirdest thing about the castle in Lincoln was the prison chapel with wood cells to lock the inmates in a standing position for the sermons.
As we walked in the dark a light rain fell from the coastal weather she walked ahead fast. I pleaded for answers trying to understand why my girlfriend was mad. Being exhausted from long flights back to back, switching time zones, and now this. It was all very confusing.
"Go away, go to your room, I'm going by myself". She said.
Sadly, there were no stores, restaurants, or even a phone nearby. The nearest town was a good five or six miles. I should have just got my things and left, but I agreed not to talk much at her friends, and we went together to their house. The tea was nice, and this new couple didn't ask me many questions, we simply had normal conversation without pressure.
The remaining day as we stayed at this conference the weather was good, but I was generally ignored, questioned by her "two friends" from the castle, or talked to in ways that give an appearance of pretty deep anger.
Taking the train back to London was a relief, getting away from that odd couple asking all the questions, and seeing my girlfriend in a normal dress was helpful.
And then, someone jumped in front of a train.. I think it was our train, gut wrenching. This was the part of the journey that would later burden my mind the most. Sitting on a train two miles from our final destination while the investigation took place. The little train station began to fill up with oncoming passengers as the train doors remained opened.
The worst part about sitting at a train depot for hours before everyone had an IPad, Android Phone……
1. It's noisy.
2. It started to get very hot, and people began sweating. (Arriving in London sweaty is not a good option, this is the land of fashion).
3. The train and platform became crowded full of people.
Arriving in London after a couple extra hours on the track we needed to find a place. I knew of just such a lodging to rest.
Hotels near Tavistock Square offer easy access to the underground, decent rates, and a little bit of a college neighborhood atmosphere without much noise, and pubs looked sparse.
Where to stay.
1. Tavistock Hotel ~a little antique
2. Royal National Hotel ~modern and luxurious
Although the prices were the same, these two options were clean and budget friendly for a good night sleep. This time I chose Royal National Hotel as the Tavistock referred us to that location. From now on, I'll always check ahead for events, availability, and other things that tend to get guest houses, b&b's, motels, hostels booked full of people.
Window shopping for a decent place to stay is fine on foot, but be sure to check ahead.
Returning to London was not greatly eventful. The girl I was dating slowly returned to her normal friendly self. That evening I walked from the hotel for chinese take-away, and we ate in the room. Later that evening, a trip to Camden Town… dress shopping.
Where to Shop:
1. Camden Town ~smaller shoppes of all sorts
2. Oxford Street ~larger retailers
Frommer's has a more complete detailed list of shopping venues, we happened to choose these.
In the end as she came around back to reality, we made up and patched things up good enough. I thought things were almost back to normal, little did I know the hot/cold treatment would outlast the relationship which ended shortly after this trip.
Finally making it back to the airport, walking to the gate for my return flight from Heathrow to Denver…
I thought to myself "I'm Never Doing That Again"!