Sunday, May 28, 2006

Uhm, Sent to Coventry

I missed a day of blogging, but we didn't miss a day of adventures. Yesterday we woke up and spent the morning back at the Louvre. It was so packed with tourists it was hard to see anything in the more popular halls. We climbed up to see the Mona Lisa again, just because we could, and found the room packed with hundreds of people, ten deep or more, trying to get up close to get a glimpse of her. I realize how lucky we were to stumble in to an open evening at the Louvre on our first night. We had walked right up to her on that first visit and had all the time we wanted to see her without jostling or waiting admirers. Many of the halls and rooms we actually had entirely to ourselves. Basically, we had the Louvre as much to ourselves as is probably possible. Still, yesterday morning we concentrated mainly of the areas we'd missed on our first visit, which were the less accessible branches of the museum, and so we didn't have to deal with the crowds as much as if we'd saved the more popular areas for last.

We spent the last couple hours in Paris actually near the train station, Gard de Nord, as we were simply too tuckered out to do much else. William was feeling better, but still not 100%. I tried to find a beret for Jeff but, alas, none were to be found on the streets we walked. Mainly sidewalk cafes. I think there must be a bazillion sidewalk cafes in the city. Rain or shine, al fresco is a way of life.

We slept most of the Eurostar trip back to England, although we had one of our best meals so far from the train diner car. Speaking of food, we enjoyed the food in Paris, but honestly, I think we like the English food better. French food is heavy on cheeses and I'm not a big cheese eater. I kept thinking of the scene in French Kiss where Meg Ryan is moaning and wailing "It's the cheese!"

We had sort of figured out what we wanted to do with the few days we had left in England, go to the Cotswolds and rent a car. We didn't want to stay in London last night if we didn't have to because it's so expensive there, why use it just as a stopover spot if we didn't have to. But we couldn't really make reservations from Paris because we didn't have access to information like train schedules to make sure we could actually make it to our destination. So we had to wait until we got back to London to plan the next leg of our trip. That's when it started to get exciting...

We found out we could easily take a train to Stratford Upon Avon, so we took the tube to the right train station and had an hour and a half to get some money (we spent down to our last Euro before we came back so we were completely without cash until we got a new stack of English Pounds) and find accomodations for the night. An ATM took care of the money and then I started calling B&B's from our tour book only to discover what I'd already feared - it's England's equivalent of our Memorial Day (they call it a Bank Holiday Weekend) and so there was nothing available. William suggested I try Lastminute.com.

I did. And to make a long story short, with a number of problems, including getting cut off the website without being given all the information we needed and being unfamiliar with the keyboard, we managed to book a room but not be sure where it was. We decided to hope for the best and got on the train to Stratford only to have second thoughts just as the train was about to leave and jump back off again. Another half hour of investigation and we figured out we had booked a room in Coventry. So, we had a place to stay. Only problem - we had no idea where in England Coventry was located! Or even if it was in England at all! Turns out it was, WHEW, and it wasn't terribly far from London and was accessible that night by train and... well, train and bus, as they were digging up some tracks and so the last half hour of the trip the train travelers were transported by bus. No matter. We had a place to sleep and we were off.

We made it to Coventry and to our hotel. (I'd actually written a much longer post at this point but the fucking computer just ATE the last bit I wrote AND with it the £3 it cost me. So now I'm pissed.) ANYWAY.....

We woke up this morning and set out to see what we could see. We wanted to rent a car and drive out and about t he Cotswolds, but because today is a Sunday and tomorrow is a bank holiday, that turned out to not be possible. We were bummed about that but there was nothing to be done about it. Our choices were to spend today on the train trying to go somewhere else, or make the most of where we were. We decided on the latter.

I'm so glad we did as we've had a marvelous time today, met all sorts of interesting and nice people, and had a lot of fun. Turns out Coventry is sooo not a place that tourists would come. Not from other countries, that is. There's actually quite a lot to do around here but it's more the kind of place that people in the general region would frequent, not international visitors. So we've enjoyed mingling with the ordinary folk instead of the tourists. Not that it's an ordinary town by any means, there's a lot going on here as the city has two universities and a lot of history and shops in it's city center.

We found out that Coventry is most well known for, uhm, having been almost completely destroyed by the Germans in WWII. That means the town center is a hodge podge of buildings. You look down a street and one side of the block will be buildings that are obviously four, five, six hundred years old. And the other side of the street will be buildings that are only ten, twenty, thirty years old. The ruins of the cathedral still stand, mainly some outer walls and the tall spire and attached to them is a gorgeous contemporary cathedral built to replace it. The contrast between the old and the new some how make the history seem more palpable, more real.

The area is also famous for Lady Godiva. We found her statue at the corner of a shopping mall.

Along with the universities, this city is well known for being their car manufacturing, including Jaguars, much to my husband's delight. In fact we ended up chatting with an engineer from the company this evening for quite some time, which greatly impressed William. We asked if he drove a Jaguar himself. No, he drives a ten year old Ford. Hahaha!

They have a Museum here about the history of English cars and the development of the bicycle. It was HUGE! Two stories full of hundreds and hundreds of cars and bikes. They even had the car that broke the land speed record and a stimulator so you could experience what it looked and to a certain degree felt like to be in the cockpit of that historic ride. It came as a surprise to us to discover that this all took place only about a hundred miles from Susanville, in the Black Rock Desert, where they have annual Burning Man Festival.

They were having a Jazz Festival in town the last few days and the entire city center was filled with soft new age jazz all afternoon, emanating from a giant tent set up inside of the ruins of the Cathedral. Tonight as we walked back to the hotel, we could hear more energetic jazz from the tent and loud music of all kinds coming from pubs and clubs on almost every street corner as the students woke up and came out for a night on the town.

We wandered around the historic buildings, went to the car museum, walked some gardens, went to the local movie theatre (which confused everyone when we asked where the theatre was since here theatre means a live production - we finally figured out we had to ask where the cinema was) to see the new X-Men movie. It was a lovely, lovely day.

Tomorrow we're off to a nearby Roman fort for a sort of History Fair - they'll be setting up crafts and re-enactments from Roman, Celtic, and Viking times. We're making a day of it and staying a third night in Coventry, a town we didn't plan on visiting but have had a wonderful time discovering.

Tuesday morning we'll set back off for London and will have just enough time to do a few last minute sites in the big city (and there were a few we were disappointed not to fit in before we left for Paris) before.... GASP..... leaving for home Wednesday afternoon. On the one hand, I can't believe a month has already gone by and on the other hand it seems like we've been traveling forever and ever. A few days ago I realized that I am finally ready to go home. Not that I'm not enjoying the trip any longer, but I'm ready for a more regular routine, my own bed, and time to absorb and intregrate the thousands of sights, sounds, and memories we've collected through this amazing May.

It's late. Off to bed.

4 Comments:

Anonymous jeff said...

Je vous veux. J'ai besoin de vous. S'il vous plaît retourner le plus tôt possible.

8:40 PM  
Blogger :-D eirdre said...

Don't forget to send me your return flight information = or you might miss seeing Jeff

6:23 AM  
Blogger Diana Troldahl said...

*Happy sigh* Your serendipity Doo Dah Trip to Coventry reminds me of my favorite travels in Japan. I just grabbed some food and some money, and hopped a train, then read about stops on the line and got off where it looked interesting. FUN!!!

9:53 AM  
Blogger fivetoze said...

hello, i just read your blog...i live in coventry, its my home, and i love the place. yes, its grey, its busy, and more often than not, its a little grubby...its almost a 1000 years old!

i'm glad you enjoyed your visit and take plesant memories of being sent to coventry.

take care.
stuart lanigan

1:48 PM  

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