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A trip report on a visit to the United Kingdom in August and September of 1998, primarily for business, but with some vacation at the end. All of the links on this page are to a reference page which has a link back here. If you head off into links on that page you'll need to use the Back buton to get back.

August 28

Off to London by way of Newark. As a parting gesture to the beer to come I have a Fat Tire with lunch.

I am glad I had lunch in Denver: the airplane food du jour was a cheeseburger. I am re-reading Thomas Merton's The Way of Chuang Tzu which seems somehow appropriate.

Waiting for the plane in Newark, I meet Kathryn (and a few friends of hers) who are off to Medjugorje. Her fifth trip! I can't complain about any travel problems: she has an eight hour layover in Heathrow, followed by six hours to Zagreb and then a three hour bus ride.

No food in Newark: it made the cheeseburger on the plane look good.

The plane from Newark to Heathrow is a new 777! I like the little televisions (about 6 inches by 6 inches) on the back of the seat in front of me. My seat mate is Sara Jayne from New Zealand: off to work in London. It's not first class, but the beer and wine are stll free.

August 29

Off the plane, through customs and I find the new Express train from Heathrow to Paddington. Alas, they do not honor my Britrail pass so 10 pounds lighter I am off. It is a lot nicer than the tube. Then by tube from Paddington to Euston. Then train from Euston to Birmigham New Street. Finaly a local to Gravelly Hill.

I am spending one night at the Erdington YMCA. The person I spoke to at the Y gave good directions, but it's a LONG walk and when I arrive the Y is closed. However, it is next door to the Queen's Head pub. AHH.. Guinness!

Finally got into themy room, it's nice, although on the 3rd floor. Wandered around Erdington, unable to pass a bookstore having a 75% off sale; picked up a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Master of Ballantrae". Neat on two counts: he wrote it in Saranac Lake, New York (near Plattsburgh where my mother's family is from) and most of the action is in Scotland, where I'm going later. For beer: Feller's Firkin DogBolter. Food was a baked potato (jacket) with chicken curry from a street vendor. Not bad. Crashed at about 4:00 p.m. local time.

August 30

Got up at 6:00 a.m. after hitting the sack at 4:00 p.m. I woke at 11:00 and went back to sleep. No noticable jet lag! Erdington is pretty dead at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday - the only signs of life are the newsagent and the homeless guy who was playing a tambourine yesterday rummaging for breakfast. I feel rested and ready to head to Hereford.

My first British breakfast(this trip) : sausage, muesli, orange juice and stewed tomatoes. Actually better than it sounds.

By 9:00 a.m. I am waiting for the train from Erdington to Edgbaston, where the University is. I got lucky: no need to change trains. The first day was perfect; mostly sleeping, no jet lag. The Queen's Head was an old-fashioned family pub: kids, dogs, nice people.

Got to the University around 10, dumped stuff in my room and back to the train station to head out for Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire. My former manager Malcolm Hall and his wife Janet run the Lough Pool Inn there: that's today's picture. First step: Brimingham to Worcester: mainly suburb looking. Weather is fine.Second step: Worcester to Hereford: more agricultural, some nice hills around Malvern and lots of sheep.

Hereford is a medium size city and Oh look ANOTHER firkin pub. The Dogbolter is better here (smoother tasting ) than in Birmingham. Pizza for lunch. Thus I killed an hour waiting for the Third Step; Bus from Hereford to Ross-on-Wye. Several people on the bus have heard of the place and inform me it should be pronounced "LOVE Pool Inn." They showed me the closest place to get off the bus and I only had to do the Fourth step: a two mile walk. The sun is shining, the blackberries along the side of the road are ripe,this is no problem.

It was good to see Malcolm and Janet again. Malcolm regales me with tales of learning the pub trade. Dinner was delicious: the stilton pate is outstanding, goat stew and a fancy ice cream for dessert.Wye Valley Bitter is a nice hoppy beer. I have missed the last train, so Malcolm drives me back to Bimrmingham.

August 31

I am in Birmingham to present a talk at the Eighth Mathematics of Surfaces conference sponsored by the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications. Campus (the British version of SIAM) We are lodged in University House, an old dormitory now used for conferences.

There is no clock in my room. So when I wake up in the dark, I tiptoe downstairs to go outside and check out the Chancellor's Clock tower. . It's too early to get up, but I did get to see a fox checking things out. This makes me feel at home as I often see foxes on my drive to work. Also British magpies look like Colorado magpies.

It's a Bank Holiday so most things are closed. I had set up to meet Carol Percy who wanted to interview me for a research project on disability, but the time we picked was too close to my talk, so we re-scheduled for Wednesday. After the conference a few of us head out for the Old Varsity Tavern which ALSO has another firkin pub. The house beer is quite nice, not quite as strong as Dogbolter.

 The bar at University House is looked down upon by some of the Real Beer snobs, but the Worthington is not bad.

September 1

Mainly a full day of talks. A bunch of us also went for a walk along the canal, south from Edgbaston train station. In the dark, but one of us had a flashlight. Birmingham, like Lowell Massachusetts, grew in the 19th century partly thanks to water power and transport.We thought we could get back up on the road, but fences and gates got in the way.

The conference dinner was a nicely done duck, accompanied by a nice red wine, preceded by a sherry reception. I really enjoy conversing in English, French, German, Italian and Roumanian at dinner. Even though i only speak 2 and 1/4 of those languages.

I took time to go to the Barber Art Insitute, but didn't get any further than the Museum shop. Some nice postcards: a Lautrec I liked a lot.

In e-mail Irina wrote:

A propos de l'Institut d'Art Barber - moi j'y suis allee mais il n'a pas ete grand chose. Ou pas apres avoir vu des galleries d'art "serieuses"... Quand meme, c'est important pour les etudiants d'art de Birmingham d'avoir quelque chose a regarder quand ils discutent une certaine epoque.

September 2


Last set of talks. I also spent about two hours talking to Carol Percy. She is a social psychologist at Aston University doing research on disability issues. We talked about her research and using the Web to gather information.

One more train trip pleasantly replaced by a ride in a car: Malcolm Sabin is giving me a lift back to Cambridge. It's a pleasant drive and I arrive at Arundel House with ample time to get to dinner. I am spending 2 days in Cambridge to work with D-Cubed, they are doing consulting for Spatial. I have been here twice before and feel comfortable around Cambridge. The hotel is close to the river and downtown, for dinner I decide on Italian at la Margherita. Calamari salad and pasta with gorgonzola sauce. Yum! And the house redwine is not bad either.

September 3 and 4

Mostly work, eat and sleep, so this is mainly about food. Breakfast at the Arundel: continental, not bad. The dining room is about the same but the bar has been refurbished since my last visit, and there is now a conservatory out back. Tuesday lunch is pub food at the Castle pub near D-Cubed. Dinner is at Pizza Express at 7 Jesus lane. It's like eating at an old British club, complee with Victorian photographs staring at you from the walls. Appetizer include really good dough balls - sort of m ini breads. I had a tuna and anchovie pizza which is MUCH better than it sounds.

Wednesday lunch at the office: smoked salmon, great cheeses.David Plowman took me for an inside tour of the Cambridge colleges. My favorites: a moon dial at Queens' (apostrophe after the s: it was founded by two queens), the Eagle pub where Watson and Crick worked out DNA, Erasmus' rooms,and Prince Edward's rooms (the current prince) which have bulletproof glass.Dinner at the Maharaja: Bombay Special Prawns - a shrimp omelette.

September 5

And so off to Edinburgh.

10:00 a.m (roughly) Waiting for the cab from Arundel House to the train depot. A productive 2 day visit AND I had a telly in the room. At the moment I am at the "Why am I staying 3 more days steage, bu the train trip North should help alleivate that.

Theoretically could get to Edinburgh half an hour earlier by changing at Ely instead of Peterborough, but that train is ten minutes late making the connexion iffy, so I stick with the Peterborough train. It is actually the train I would have taken from Birmingham here if Malcolm hadn't given me a lift. On the train I meet Karen who is en route to Leicester to see her boy friend. She wants lots of rain: her boy friend is working the harvest on a farm and if it's sunny he won't get the weekend off. So far the weather looks encouraging for her. Leaving Doncaster there is a nice view of the cathedral. About 1:30 we pass thru York - I am again engulfed in English history. Durham and Newcastle (damn I forgot to bring the coal) also have nice views of the local cathedrals.

I aaked for a hotel near the train station but neglected to specify which one, so my hotel is actually one stop west of Waverly, the main Edinburgh train depot. I am staying at the Lairg guest house. I get there, dump my stuff and head into town. It's the last day of the Edninburgh Festival: the concert is too expensive, but the play at the nearby Royal Lyceum Theatreis only 15 pounds, there's time for dinner first and a Chinese restaurant Loon Fung Seafood right across the street.The calamari with ginger is great, as are the steamed rolls. My neighbor is a woman who takes the bus from London to Edinbrugh for a play and then goes back to London on the bus! The play is O'Neill's More Stately Mansions. A little heavy and I don't expect O'Neill envisioned the part where the man and wife get naked, but I enjoyed the play anyhow.

September 6

edradour True friendship: I have to get up too early to have breakfast so I can meet Deirdre Chan at Waverly. It is a delightful walk from Haymarket to Waverly. Not much open: a croissant and a cappucino for breakfast before Dee shows up. I toy with the idea of taking home a haggis, but it would probably get stuck in customs.

Dee arrives and we are off north to Pitlochry. I had said I wanted to do either castles or distilleries; she asked friends and Edradour was recommended. It's about a two hour train ride, nice scenery: Dee and I get to know each other better. Pitlochry is a small town: we walk to a dam and a salmon ladder then call a cab to the distillery. The cab driver is actually a relative of a friend of Dee's - she met him at a wedding a few months back. The distillery is relaly nice: small, hand crafted. They also (like the brandy distillery I visited in Napa) call the loss to evaporation "the angel's share". Dee is here for the scenery not the Scotch, so i get two samples. Back to town for lunch, then back to the train station.

We are off to Cupar, where Dee lives and works, by way of Perth. We have some time between trains in Perth, but get no further than the hotel across from the train station for a Guniness and a coke. Then on to Cupar for dinner at Dee's house: takeout from the Lucky Jade, run by Dee and her husband Anthony. I will apparently be a source of neighborhood gossip as the guy Dee spent the day with! The Bejing Prawns are really good.

I am tired and it's dark:so not much to say about the trip from Cupar back to Edinburgh.

September 7

777 My last full day in the United Kingdom. I get up late enough to have breakfast, and catch a cab to Haymarket, then train to Waverly. Put most of my bags in the left luggage and walk around a little. There is the usual piper in kilts playing for tips and posing with tourists for photos. I get a haggis at a fast food joint in the Waverly shopping center for um ahh low tea..This will be again a train I took in the other direction. The weather is fine. I've discovered that I can get a train from Paddington(where we come into London) to West Drayton where my (last) hotel is. Canned McEwan's and a cajun chicken sandwich on the train are a pretty good lunch.

Harmondsworth is actually a village near West Drayton: a church, two pubs, s gorcery store, and Harmondsworth Hall, a bed and breakfast. Elaine Burke, the propriotress(proprietrix?) picks me up at the train station. The Hall is a funky old 18th century place with lots of kitschy antiques. My room is fine. Dinner at The Crown is quite good: mussels, steak and ale pie, and a GREAT blackbery and apple crumble with hot custard. Yum. Washed down with some Fuller's London Pride. Harmondworth is listed in the Domesday book, and The Crown is in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide: the pub has copies of BOTH books.

September 8

777 I picked Harmondsworth Hall because they advertised pick up and delivery to Heathrow. Family, however , prevent Mrs. Burke from doing the honors, but she DID get up at 5:00 a.m. to fix me breakfast before I got my 5:30 cab. Murphy's Irish Stout for "dessert" at the Shakespeare Pub in Heathrow and I'm on my way home.

Customs at O'Hare but no delays and back to Denver International in one piece..

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Last Updated August 5, 1997
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