Closing In On The End……..

One more interview to go here and that will be via telephone. Then I trust that “Serena” of Tom-Tom can get me back to the car rental place. Part of why I chose to return to the Hare and Hounds is because it is a relatively direct route to the rental car office and I don’t have to wind through the lanes of Heathrow to get there. The process after that though is grab the shuttle to the airport and take the Hoppa to the hotel. I expect that I will be in need of rest after that if it compares to the very drawn-out process of picking the car up.

At any rate, tomorrow has the potential to be calm and productive which would be nice. I have taken a few photos, but nothing of great interest – more as reminders. I’ll add a few to my posts after I get back. In actuality, while this trip is by far the longest, there was the fast-turn trip to CA and there will be an even faster one to MA to complete the list of interviews that I have. I will be going to a fascinating place where ocean exploration has been and is being accomplished at an incredibly high level. Once again, my only regret is that Hubby can’t come with me, but it just isn’t feasible this time of year for him. In fact, he’s been working almost non-stop while I’ve been gone. Since that also means he’s on the morning and afternoon boats, I can only talk to him between midnight and about 3:30 a.m. my time. That happens to be around the time when I will often wake up for a bit and with the cost of international calls, we don’t talk for long anyway.

A Return and Another New Hotel…..

Not all of the planned interviews for this trip could be locked into place ahead of time, so in order to get as decent as possible an airfare in traveling at peak tourist season I had to make a decision using an estimation of how many days I would need. That also meant there was a certain amount of “fuzziness” in where I would be for some of those days, especially since I was moving about in areas that I was unfamiliar with. The one thing that I knew for certain was there would be “backtracking” involved. As the trip has unfolded, I will now have one more day in London than I had planned, but trying to change a flight is so burdensome these days that it will be better for me to keep with my original flight and use the extra day as a “writing day”. No, I won’t be dashing into the City for sightseeing. First, I’ve visited London twice before and have done the major sights. Second, I am on a very ambitious schedule with this project and can use the day for work.

However, after I leave Poole today, I will go back to the delightful Hare and Hounds Inn in Newbury. That was an enjoyable stay and they are very friendly. I will also return to the Crown Plaza at Heathrow for Saturday night, but will have to be at the Sheraton for Friday. I will have definitely covered a lot of the airport hotels – that will make the fourth one that I’ve stayed in for this trip. By the way, Tripadvisor is getting several reviews from me which they always like. I am also becoming quite familiar with the Hotel Hoppa – a shuttle service from Heathrow to a number of the surrounding hotels. They run every 30 minutes on a circuit and are much less expensive than a cab.

Making Progress…..

I seem to have finally gotten the grasp of Tom-Tom thanks to a couple of people who assisted me. I managed two different trips yesterday with no appreciable directional issues. Traffic – now that was another story, plus I was later leaving my interview than I expected to be. There was a lot of information to cover, but between that and the numerous congested sections of the drive, it was dinner time when I arrived, then a couple of glasses of wine and I was too whipped to try and post. However, I will say that dinner was delicious. For the third time on the trip I am staying at a charming inn rather than a franchise hotel and each has had some nice things about them. The lack of an elevator in this one is really the only drawback and that did require some exertion. The young man at the desk offered to carry the bag up, but I managed. Once upon a time I could haul around a forty-pound load with no trouble – those days seem to be past me.

My interview today will be by telephone since there was some question as to if the guy was going to be available and the only reason for me to drive the extra two-plus hours was to talk to him. As it turns out, he didn’t have to go off as he thought he might, but this method should work just fine. Then I intend to take a stroll around to actually see what looks like a pleasant seaside town. It’s Poole and I don’t think I am close enough to get to their beaches by walking, although I do believe I can get to a water view. Being in England, however, I do have a small umbrella that will fit into my purse.

When Technology Isn’t Useful……..

I know that I am not the only person in the developed world who is not good with technological gadgets. When I had expressed concern about the driving portion of my trip – it was not so much about the actual driving, although I would truly prefer not to have to cope with the “other side of the road” aspect. The core issue is navigating in very unfamiliar territory while simultaneously dealing with that. I had already mentioned that the breezy, “Oh they have GPS” did not fill me with comfort and that came all too true yesterday. For reasons that I don’t understand, there was an amazing amount of delay and almost disorganization at the rental car company, then a mishap that I won’t get into until I’ve had some time to mentally process it. Anyway, the upshot of it is that the GPS system is one of the dashboard ones and the attendant whipped through it so quickly that it was obvious I would need more time to work with it. I actually had written instructions that I had taken from the computer before I left home and they seemed relatively straightforward. Okay, I thought. I’ll use them, get to the place, play with the GPS when I get there and have it ready for the next leg of the trip this afternoon.

I managed with the assistance of most drivers being able to pass me as they no doubt had unkind things to either say or at least think about my being on the road. The one turn I missed was frustrating, but I used the old-fashioned method of stopping and asked for directions which worked. Okay, I get settled into the room, discover that the instructions for the GPS are, shall we say, minimal, but I was ready to give it a shot. This is when I discovered that you need an actual street address to put in. As it turns out, the next hotel where I will be staying doesn’t have a street address that is either posted on their website or known to the woman whom I called. We had a bit of a discussion about that. Once again, I had run off instructions from the computer before leaving home and between those and what she told me I think I can manage. In her cheerful way, it was, “Well, get close now and then we can help you find your way.” We’ll see how that goes.

The Meals Are Okay……

For those who travel much in Europe, England does not in general have the best reputation when it comes to food, although if you are a breakfast person, you can’t do much better. There has been a great deal of talk within the food world about an upsurge in British cuisine, particularly with the advent of the Gastropub. The thing about the trip that I am on, however, is that I’m bouncing around to different hotels and by the time I am ready for a meal, I’m looking for convenience, as in what is available in the hotel where I am staying. Except for the one night when I was taken to the loch-side restaurant, there hasn’t been much to get excited about. Everything has been okay, although pricey as you always find in hotels that are close to a major airport.

Since I’ll be headed out later this morning for other parts of the country, I’ll see if there is a difference in the places where I will be staying. One in particular sounds as if it will be very limited, however, there might be something else close by. The others have some potential I think, but information on websites isn’t always as accurate as you would like it to be. More to follow as I make my way through the various towns. Oh, as a beer drinker, I would be enjoying that except that my menu choices are also a bit limited and fairly high in carbohydrates. That makes adding beer into the mix a drawback, so I am being judicious with that. Not cutting back on drinking, mind you – it’s just that wine and Irish whiskey are more carb friendly.

And Another Move….

This particular trip has a major challenge that I will be facing tomorrow and that is renting a car to then drive to parts of England that I am not remotely familiar with. This is the real drawback to traveling alone and I sincerely hope that the GPS and I will get along. For reasons that are not important, I have had troubles with these things in the past. However, we shall be optimistic and as I mentioned earlier, I have allowed extra travel time so that I may go slowly and not feel rushed.

The other aspect is that no, I don’t have any sightseeing days built in, not with being gone for two weeks. The moving from hotel to hotel pretty much every day is a tiring piece, but again, it’s the nature of this trip. The individuals that I’m interviewing are scattered about and there’s no way to have a central location that I can hub from. So, last night is a good example of constantly moving. Notwithstanding the photo on a website, you never quite know what a room will be like until you check in. The place I stayed on my first night was okay, but the room was too small with no desk for me to be able to work comfortably. That dashed my hope to re-book there to spend last night and tonight. Not wishing to repeat the experience, I booked into a different hotel for last night, determined that the room would be just fine and then discovered that they couldn’t accommodate me for tonight. Okay, I am now booked into a different hotel for this afternoon/tonight and will see how that is. If it’s suitable, I will reserve a room for the last evening of my trip and possibly for one day prior. The “possibly for” is because there is one more individual whom I would like to interview, but that hasn’t been firmed up yet. Since I don’t know for certain where that individual lives, I haven’t the faintest idea of how I will handle that day or where I will be.

Anyway, I have been fortunate with the weather and do hope that continues.

Day Four and Titanic……

Part of my research with my host was a tour of Titanic Belfast, an exhibit rather than a museum since there is an agreement about not retrieving artifacts from the ship. Yes, there are traveling Titanic displays and artifacts for sale, but those are not sanctioned by this organization. The exhibit is very nicely arranged and actually focuses on the “modern” history of Belfast as an industrial city in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. The shipbuilders of Harland & Wolff (that’s the proper way to show it) were among the premiere shipbuilders in the world in the age before air travel was conceived and made practical. One of their primary clients was the White Star Shipping Line and it was the head of that company and one of the head individuals of H&W who came up with the idea of the Olympic Class of Ocean Liners – of which there was to be Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic. Cunard, one of the main competitors of White Star had created the Mauritana and Lusitania as what were the largest liners at the time. The Olympic class ships would be even bigger – like nothing the world had ever seen. That was the idea and it was carried out right where I was walking yesterday.

The sky had clouded over and there was a brisk breeze blowing across the water. The two “drawing buildings” where the ship designers did their work are no longer open as they are going to be transformed in the near future. We did peek in though to see the cavernous room that used to be bustling with drafting tables, naval architects, assistants and apprentices.

Interestingly, despite it’s focus on history, the main building is quite modern and includes several interactive displays as well as some wonderful photographs, posters, paintings, and a ride through part of the construction phases. A section of the lower floor is devoted to the underwater exploration of the wreck and the gift shop has plenty of items from large to small. That includes t-shirts that say, “Titanic – She Was Fine When She Left Here”.

Day Three……

This was my third day using my arrival as my actual first day. It was fairly intense with almost 12 hours by the time we did all the work and then I took my host and his family to dinner as a thank-you for all the running around, plus they are enjoyable company. That also gave me the opportunity to see more of the lovely countryside during this too brief visit. I saw my first pheasants in natural setting as one scurried across the narrow country lane and another swooped low past the car. Dinner was at a charming lakeside (loch-side) restaurant that was a bit of a drive through more rolling hills.

Work-wise, it was jammed-packed with interesting information and the confirmation that some of what I thought was true appears very much not to be. The unfortunate aspect of writing non-fiction is that when you discover a source to have been in error, you pretty much have only two choices – perpetuate the error or change what you have. This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this and I doubt it will be the last.

This morning we will be off to Belfast for another lengthy day and what I hope to be verification of a couple of areas that I have a special interest in. On a personal note, the time difference and my hubby’s schedule means that we haven’t spoken since I left, although with connectivity, the emails are zipping back-and-forth and I did leave him a voice mail. Hopefully, we’ll connect before too long.


Day One Plus Two…..

Well, the “down” day I planned to get my body aligned to the time difference worked pretty well and I also discovered that the hotel was fine for that, but not set up for how I needed to work. I’ve booked into a different place for the night of my return to Heathrow and we’ll see how that goes. I seem to be having difficulty with sending photos from my phone, although at this point I’ve only taken a couple of inside bar/restaurants, so that’s not really taking away from the posts. This is a situation where photos may have to wait. Yesterday I discovered much to my chagrin that there are two airports in Belfast and despite the fact that my host in Ireland had clearly implied I was to land at Belfast International, I hadn’t picked up on that. I have apologized for the inconvenience as much as possible and hope to make it up with a nice dinner out for the family.

Ireland is indeed green and for this part of the very short trip, I am in the country with a sampling of that. There are indeed rolling hills, plenty of pasture, cows, sheep, a few goats, and the cod at dinner last night was delicious. The hotel I’m staying at is family run and appears to be a very popular place for locals to come for drinks and dining as well as for the guests to enjoy. It’s early morning here and as soon as I post, I’m going to try a brisk walk around. My ability to exercise while traveling is limited, but I did meander around Heathrow yesterday for a bit lugging my carry-on which is the one that does not have wheels.

Today will be delving into historical archives with a fascinating gentleman whom I will discuss in the upcoming book that I will be able to explain about in detail later next month, I hope. He has already revealed a couple of mistakes in some reference material that I have been using and while it’s disappointing, that’s also why I am here.

A Startling Start….

Okay, I’ve logged a lot of air miles for a non-road warrior type, but in all my years of flying, I had not been around for a medical emergency. The plane from Atlanta to Heathrow was pretty full. We had backed out from the gate and were on an active taxiway when people started shouting from a ways behind me. It turns out that a gentleman wasn’t feeling well and had passed out. Naturally, there was a rush of flight attendants and then a gentleman left his passenger seat and went back – I am assuming he was a doctor or other medical provider. We obviously returned to the gate, and EMTs came on-board. The gentleman was able to be evacuated by wheelchair instead of a stretcher so I took that as a positive sign. A woman deplaned with him and then there was the point of their luggage that had to be located and taken off. No, that isn’t as a courtesy (although that may well be a part of it). For some time now, there has been a computerized system that matches all luggage to ticketed passengers and while you can have less luggage than passengers such as when someone with a connecting flight makes it on-board, but their luggage doesn’t, you can’t have pieces of luggage on board that don’t belong to someone who is supposed to be on the plane. (“Extra” baggage catching up to someone is specifically noted as such.)

Anyway, that all meant it was 11:30 p.m. by the time we actually departed. They couldn’t really make up the time and I’m glad that I had already decided to lay over in an airport hotel today instead of continuing my flight to Belfast. I did get some sleep on the plane and I do intend to make it an early night. One of the keys to adjusting to the time difference is to stay up until around 9:00 p.m. local if possible. The hotel is not one I’ve used before and it isn’t quite as convenient as I had thought, but it’s fine for one night and the staff is friendly and helpful. Hopefully tomorrow’s flight will be without incidence.