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Friday, September 2, 2016

East England And Back

The renewal of vows we traveled to England to attend was to take place near Ipswich.  We had decided to stay in Ipswich for that portion of the trip (along with some other friends we made in Kazakhstan!).  We had, in essence, a full day to explore Ipswich itself, most of the next day dedicated to the renewal of vows, and another day to explore pubs and the coast with our friends.  The day after that, we were to return to London to catch our flight back to the US.

One of the first things we did when we got to the hotel room was to contact two friends of our who were also staying at the hotel, a couple we had met in Kazakhstan who had traveled from the US for the occasion.  These were some friends I had really missed terribly, and it was wonderful to see them again!  I'm happy to have lived so many places, but one of the notable downsides is that you're always having to say goodbye to someone.  Anyway, they came over to our room and we talked there...then talked while strolling around Ipswich to get the lay of the land...and then talked more at a Bangladeshi restaurant.  Ipswich had so many south Asian restaurants, and this one, at least, was excellent and had some dishes none of us had heard of before.

The next day brought more exploring Ipswich (as well as more talking and eating).  In spite of some of the British people we spoke to at various points in our trip seeming less than enthusiastic about Ipswich, I thought it was charming.  Being from the US, I always love seeing the older architecture that other places have.  Ipswich also had large numbers of very vocal seagulls who sounded like they were laughing(!), and creatively painted pigs all over the downtown area!

Sailor Pig! 

Architectural detail
Street market against beautiful old buildings

We also visited Christchurch Mansion, the local tourist attraction, which contained an assortment of interesting art and the like.  I liked how they tried to cover up the renovations going on!

Christchurch Mansion

That afternoon, our British friends who were renewing their vows had arranged for a group tea, so we got to have yummy tea, scones, and cakes again.  Mmmm.

I didn't take nearly as many pictures at the renewal of vows as I should have, but we had a wonderful time in a beautiful venue.  All of the "Kazakhstan guests" were together at one table, and we had a good time hanging out.  Most of us probably won't get to see each other all that often at this point, now that many of us no longer work there.

The next day, our British friends--who would have been forgiven if they had just wanted to nap all day after pulling off a large event--arranged for a group of us (including them, some of their local friends, and some of the Kazakhstan crowd) to go to a local pub, and then to a pretty coastal town (Aldeburgh) for a walk on the beach and some fish and chips.  The pub was fun.  I'm not much of a drinker, but they had great lemonade.  I was impressed that they allowed dogs in.  They also had a relatively relaxed attitude toward human children:

Aldeburgh was a very pretty beach town with a pebble beach!  I was tempted to bring home bags full of pebbles, but restrained myself and just took a few.  I was delighted to find one with a hole already in it (nature's bead!).  Our friends knew of a great place for fish and chips.  It did a very brisk business, so we got very fresh fried fish.

Crowds waiting for fish and chips 
The next morning, we took a train from Ipswich back to London.  We had been debating how to get to Heathrow, dreading the prospect of paying for an expensive cab, but also not feeling like figuring out public transportation.  Luckily, a gentleman at the Ipswich station struck up conversation with us and explained exactly how to take the Tube to Heathrow.  He didn't even have to consult a map.  I was very impressed.

It is worth mentioning here that the gentleman in question was not some young hipster.  He was a conventionally dressed man in his fifties who told us he had voted in favor of Brexit.  His counterpart in the US would almost certainly not be able to give detailed, useful mass transit information, but he could.  I think many Americans look down on public transportation and infantilize adults who don't drive, so it was refreshing to remember that it doesn't have to be that way.

My only regret on this trip is that we didn't have more time to spend.  But I'll always be glad we made this short trip now, when we had a chance to see a number of friends.  Some day, maybe we'll get to go back and see other areas of the country, but whether we do or not, we had a wonderful short vacation this time around.

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