Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Apologies for the delay but as they say good things come to those who wait! As promised, here is the tale of Miranda's first visit to the United Kingdom and meeting the in-laws...

I've always loved travelling and new experiences which is why I think my first visit to the UK at 21 years old, despite the more disasterous moments, is in my top 10 favorite experiences of all time. I was excited to embark on my first international flight and eagerly looked through the little plastic bag of goodies that was sitting on my seat after setting up my books, cd player and case for the 6 hour flight out of Newark. The flight wasn't very full and being in a center row I was happy to discover that I'd be able to stretch out my 5'11" frame across the other seats if I decided to sleep. It was the largest airplane I'd ever been on and loved feeling the power of the engines as they lifted us off the ground and into the darkening sky. After BBC News played on the little tv screen that we now take for granted on airlines today, the flight attendants started passing out everyone's food trays and I got to experience my first cultural faux pas. I looked down at little packages of crackers, cheese, creams, sugar and cookies surrounding my little chicken dinner. I got through dinner alright, having decided to ignore the little packages for the time being until they came around again with coffee and tea. Not being a tea person, I asked for coffee and my dinner was cleared away and once again I found myself staring at the little packages. Through some dissection I figured out what went with what until I found myself holding two packets of cream in two different types of tubes. I looked around trying to see what everyone else was doing and not wanting to discover the correct answer the hard way. Finally, as they came around again I called an attendant over and told her, look, I know it probably sounds stupid but what do I do with these? She just smiled, probably thinking stupid American girl, and informed me that the clotted cream was for spreading while the other was for coffee or tea. That was when I first discovered there are no stupid questions, only stupid people as I was getting ready to do it the other way around!

The rest of the flight was uneventful. I stretched out and slept until we flew over Ireland when I freshened up in the bathroom, contemplating the purpose of the hot towel the attendant handed to me but deciding not to ask. Although I assumed from the looks I got from the other passengers as I sat with it sprawled across my face that once again I wasn't doing it right, but who cares, we were about to land at Heathrow! I slipped into one of the empty seats by the window and looked out to get my first glimpse of London as we circled and my heart lept when I was able to pick out Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament! It was great seeing Paul again after a 3 month absence and strange to not be the one waiting at the gate this time. I won't tell you how in an effort to show off Paul managed to hit a pole while pulling out of the parking lot and burnt the clutch at our destination, oh wait, I just did he he

Being students, Paul got me a room at the Halls of Residence at his school in High Wycombe as a kind of headquarters as he whisked me around the country to meet my future in-laws. First up was a trip on the fastest train I'd ever been on in life, followed by a ride in my very first double decker bus (and of course I had to sit in the top level) zipping down a road so narrow I couldn't fathom how it could possibly be a two way street, especially when approaching and passing another double decker bus doing 70! Upon arriving in the sleepy little seaside town, we walked up what I "lovingly" nicknamed The Hill of Death that thankfully had a bench halfway up to sit and catch your breath. I have to say, and not because there's a chance of any of my in-laws reading this, but I like Paul's parents. His mum is a sweet lady who dotes on her family and who at one point I think went into Mama Bear mode when during one conversation we had I'd mentioned buying and sending Paul several pairs of pants during our years as friends before our engagement. I was of course talking about the multiple pairs of Levis I'd picked up and mailed for him as at the time they weren't available in the UK without costing a mint. However, my future husband neglected to tell me that in the UK pants refers to underwear and I should've been calling them trousers! So while she was in the kitchen making tea, I asked Paul why she was looking at me like I had 15 heads and when we discovered the issue, Paul quickly explained away the second cultural faux pas of my trip. Paul's father is just awesome. Upon first meeting him, he immediately reminded me of Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances. Very down to earth and no frills and at times more than made up for my uncle during Paul's first trip to NY!
During that trip I also got to meet Paul's sweet little Irish granny who was ecstatic that he was "marrying a good Catholic girl," and all his siblings. Our first meeting, I think, went very well however the second meeting involved the biggest, most embarrassing faux pas to date!

It was a few days before my flight home so we were invited to my sister in law's home for dinner. Everything was going well until the Chinese food came which consisted of several takeout containers that here in the US would contain a personal meal (meat, rice, veggie). So I sat down opened the container and was prepared to eat when I noticed a silence... an uncomfortable, awkward, BAD silence. I look up and quickly discovered the custom was for everyone to order something and then pass all the dishes around so that everyone could partake. Needless to say I immediately wished with every power of my being that the earth would just open up and swallow me!

My visit wasn't all horror and embarrassment though. I got to see the sights (somehow I always thought Big Ben would be taller) my favorite is still The London Dungeon, discovered my favorite pub food is a toss up between steak and kidney pie (which I misunderstood to mean steak and kidney beans) and fish and chips (I'm still sad that they've recently done away with serving fries, excuse me chips, in a newspaper), and learned that when you ask for lemonade you're gonna wind up drinking Sprite. Oh yeah, and most importantly, I discovered even if you come prepared with a power converter it's not a good idea to leave it plugged in and attached to an American oscillating fan. That little mistake ended up blowing out power to the entire dorm and I quickly buried the evidence DEEP inside a garbage can (whistles innocently and walks away). We also decided to take a side trip to Paris which we'll talk about next time.

All in all it was a very interesting experience, as is every trip I take to Europe, and over a decade later I find I'm still learning and making mistakes but hey, if you can't laugh at yourself when you screw up life just gets too damn serious!

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