Well, we were supposed to get some sleep. That didn’t happen.
I actually finished drinking on the flight by finding that the Flight Attendant could get me some Johnny Walker Blue from First Class. It was the only “Plain” whiskey she had on stock, so I had her pour me half a glass. I ended up spilling the second half glass she poured me, the counters in the galley are seriously slick – or Larry’s ghost wanted his share. Either way I was done and went back to my seat to try to rest. But I simply couldn’t sleep on the plane. I did get to watch the new Tolkien film, that was great, but sleep would have been a better option.
It didn’t seem very long before the attendants were serving breakfast, and bringing up the lights. All three of us were beat. The breakfast itself was fine, I got some coffee to try to brighten up, and the whiskey had long since worn off. Once we were on the ground I packed everything up and we headed to Passport Control and Customs. I was prepared to go through a bit of a mess to get Larry through, I had his Cremation Papers and Tag, plus a Death Certificate. I had checked the UK Embassy and travel sites, and this was listed as what we needed. But things can change, so you never know if something will be a hassle.
We shuffled over to Passport Control, and for US citizens, it’s all automated now. We just stuck out Passport in a scanner, and in a few seconds a gate opened. Next we waited at the Bag return, and pulled out our bags from the infinite stack of Black bags that all had the same rainbow strap to help tell them apart. Our bag is blue.
From here, I saw two exits to customs, a importing/Declaration line, and a Nothing to Declare line. From the website Bringing ashes isn’t actually a declaration, you just need to inform the person, so we went to the nothing to declare line, and I had our papers ready to show just in case. We went through the tunnel and we were out. There wasn’t even anyone to talk to.
Welcome to England Larry.
I had a car rented with Hertz, and we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us to Nottingham. We caught the shuttle right at the bus stop and grabbed the last 3 standing spaces, so no waiting! Fortunately I booked ahead and have a Hertz Gold account, so the car was waiting for us and ready to go. It was a Honda Civic, which is a lot larger than the old 1970’s Civics I remember. (It’s a full-on mid-sized car). Naturally, I opened the passenger door even though I new that it was wrong – being tired was starting to catch up with me. I walked around like an idiot, opened the trunk (wait, it’s England now – the BOOT) and we loaded up and got out of there.
So I’ve driven a right-hand drive car before, it’s not that hard, but the first few minutes are the hardest. I had to be extra careful getting out of the lot as i kept glancing in the opposite direction of my mirrors. We made our way out, turned on Google Maps, and headed north. It took me about 15 minutes to get comfortable, but it’s a pretty easy drive. We took one stop at a British rest station. Man I wish we had these in the US. It’s a rest stop with a Gas station, fast food, and convivence store all together. Each one has several businesses running in them, usually with a Costas Coffee or Starbucks. We had a no-name coffee place in ours, and the coffee was rubbish, but I grabbed an energy drink instead and we were back on the road.
By the time we hit Nottingham I was wiped out. It took real effort to navigate the traffic circles and get to our Hotel. The room wasn’t ready, but we got the pass to the Car Park and stashed the car in the garage. We figured that we would walk around the city center and get a bite of real food to kill the time. We didn’t really plan any big tours in Nottingham, we were here mostly because it was a good central stopping point to break up the drive. But wow, the pedestrian center of town is beautiful! We were really tired and moving pretty slow, but this whole area was a wonderful blend of new and old architecture, with new shops built into preserved buildings. Everything was clean and people were super friendly.
We came across a cafe with some organic and Vegan offerings (I don’t eat vegan food, but it’s usually a sign that the place uses clean ingredients, also Sasha has some food sensitivities, so that’s a way to find somewhere that can substitute out dairy, etc) We grabbed a table, ordered some water and some breakfast. It was already past lunchtime, but this place had breakfast all day, and we could really go for a traditional English Breakfast. Eggs, Beans, Hashbrowns, Toast, Tomatoes, Sausage, and Bacon. It was great. They even did a homemade hot chili jelly that was excellent on the toast with eggs. But one the food hit our systems the exhaustion hit as well. It was a slow walk back, and we still had almost an hour until the room was ready, so we went to the car in the garage and napped there a bit. It wasn’t real sleep, but we were dragging, so it helped. Once the room was set, we hauled everything up, dropped our bags and immediately passed out for a few hours.
I was close to 5:30 before we managed to get cleaned up and back out of the room. We went back to walk the city center and see the Nottingham castle (part of the city museum now) We wanted to wake up a bit so we could reset our clocks and get at least some sleep at night. We took a long tour around the castle, the local streets and pubs, and anything else within foot distance. Frankly we felt bad we didn’t have more time to spend here. There’s a lot of kitschy Robin Hood tours that look fun, but the castle is beautiful, and once it is remodeled and open again apparently there is access to a portion of the underground tunnels that date back. And everywhere we turned we were amazed at how beautiful the streets are. The funny thing is that the tourism website for the city doesn’t come close to showing how nice it is here.
We worked our way back and found a restaurant called “Alchemist”, which is basically a restaurant that specializes in cocktails with smoke and effects. (dry ice, etc). That was interesting, but the menu itself was not expensive and really good. We ended up having dinner with a very nice Steak and fries, Curried Chicken, and some Falafel and Duck appetizers. It was all spot on. And the cocktails were not just for show, they were really excellent. I had a smoked Whiskey Old Fashioned, and it was excellent. Sasha was pleased to order her own cocktails as well. It’s nice for her to be of legal age here. Once we ate, we continued wandering a bit, and headed back. We are now on about 36 hours with only 2 or so hours of real sleep. We drive up the coast to Edinburgh tomorrow. We need some rest.