The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, October 11, 2013

To Iceland and Beyond...

Wednesday, 9 October 

Dear Diane and I are aboard an Icelandair Boeing 757 flying from Sanford, Florida en route to Iceland. Seated here in our economy class seats, we are surrounded by tall, blond people who speak a language that I am certain can be learned only from infancy. To the untrained ear, Icelandic sounds like something that might be spoken by the Klingons of Star Trek or Tolkien's elves. Nothing sounds at all familiar. I am convinced that the Icelanders must be as intelligent as they are attractive to speak such an incomprehensible language.

Air travel has certainly changed. The seating is cramped and uncomfortable, so I expect sleep will escape me. And onboard food now comes at a price. Two substandard ham and cheese sandwiches and two bottles of "sparkling" water set me back about $25. I think I'll pass when breakfast rolls around.

We will spend all of 90 minutes on the ground in Iceland before boarding our next flight that we trust will take us (and our luggage) safely to London's Gatwick Airport. There we will claim our rental car from Avis and head east into Kent and to a B&B quaintly named The Old Barn. We will no doubt be exhausted and in need of sleep so I expect tomorrow (Thursday) to be a wasted day. On Friday we hope to visit Canterbury and then catch a glimpse of the white cliffs either at Dover or Beachy Head. In the afternoon we'll drive to the village of Chawton in Hampshire and take up residence in the little cottage we've rented for a week. From there we'll explore the countryside of southern England. I'll try to include photos in future posts.

It's now time to catch some sleep, assuming the nearby Klingons stop talking...

Thursday, 10 October

They didn't. They are young and apparently don't need sleep.

We arrived at Keflavik a few moments ago -- a nice airport, very modern terminal. Dear Diane especially liked the bathroom facilities. I was impressed by the coffee machine that quickly generated almost acceptable cups of cappichino and espresso at a reasonable price. I was here once before, in the summer of 1965, when as a Naval Academy midshipman I hitched a ride to Europe on an admiral's plane. We had stopped to refuel and to allow the local commander a chance to schmooze with the admiral. In those cold-war days Keflavik was a strategically located US Naval Air Station responsible for tracking Soviet submarines as they entered the Atlantic from the north. Times have certainly changed.

As we await our Icelandair connecting flight to Gatwick we sit in the terminal watching others as they board a WOW-Air flight. I'm not sure I'd want to fly on an airline with that name, although the flight attendants were both young and cute. I have found that the presence of attractive female flight attendants can overcome a multitude of airline sins.

We finally arrived in the UK at London's Gatwick Airport. I actually managed to grab an hour or so of sleep on the flight from Keflavik (Dear Diane probably slept better than I), so we're only partially, not completely, exhausted. Immigration and customs were a breeze, a pleasant change from what one experiences when entering the US. Our luggage was there to meet us and Matt, the nice young man at the Avis counter, had our car all ready for us. In fact, he upgraded us from a VW to an Audi A5, so we'll be touring in style for the next ten days.

After a wee bit of confusion departing the airport, I managed to drive to our first night's B&B without crashing or scaring Diane too much. The Old Barn in the quaint village of Bethersden (just south of Ashford in Kent) is a lovely B&B run by Leslie and Andrew who couldn't be more pleasant. Our room is large and comfortable with a huge bathroom equipped with a wonderful shower. After checking in we stopped by the local pub, The Bull Inn, and enjoyed a late lunch/early dinner. The young ladies who waited on us treated us like royalty and they, too, we're just as cute as can be. Predictably, I ordered the fish and chips but Diane had the steak and ale pie. It was all very good. 

After dinner we slept for several hours and now find ourselves wide awake at 9 p.m. Ah, well, eventually we'll adjust to the new time zone. Tomorrow we hope to visit Canterbury Cathedral, the scene of St. Thomas Becket's martyrdom, stop by Godmersham Park, and perhaps see Dover Castle and the famous white cliffs. Then it's on to Hampshire and our little cottage in Chawton.

At midnight...back to bed...perchance to sleep.

Friday, October 11

It's 6 a.m., still quite dark, and Dear Diane sleeps soundly at my side. I can hear the rain peppering the skylight. When we arrived yesterday the weather was perfect -- sunny and crisp -- but I knew it wouldn't last, not in England, especially in October. I can only hope this is just a passing shower. We came prepared, though, with new umbrellas, hats, and raincoats. Ah...the rain has stopped, at least for a while.

Leslie, our landlady for the day, has promised us a full English breakfast at 8:30. And then we'll be off to begin our English adventure. I look forward to the sunrise.

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