Happy (late) Independence Day to you all.
No doubt all 3 or so of my readers have been waiting on pins and needles to hear about my recent trip across the pond. Well, the suspense ends here. I was gone for several days, so I’m kind of embarrassed by how long this post is. You might want to read it in phases if you are easily fatigued. And, believe it or not, I’ve actually cut back.
Day 1 (the beginning and ending of this day are a little hazy, so bear with me)
After the 8-hour flight to Manchester, we landed at 9 a.m. and checked into our hotel. There is quite a time difference (6 hours), so to us, we had to fight to stay awake until a decent hour of UK time. And as anyone will tell you, the best way to do that is to shop. Bearing in mind that the British pound to the American dollar is not the best exchange rate, “shopping” actually consisted of a Starbucks frappuccino and some window shopping (Laura Mc, we DID go to Lush – it was awesome). I of course left my eyeliner at home and wanted a calling card, so we stopped by one of many Boots stores in the UK. Boots is essentially a drug store with high-end makeup counters – imagine a Walgreens plus Chanel and Dior. After an anti-war rally in the streets of Manchester spoiled our fun, we returned to the hotel and met up with some friends from other Deep South states and had dinner and tried to keep each other from falling asleep. I don’t really remember anything after that, except that I was so drunk from the medication that I evidently said some strange things and threw something up. (Those who know me well understand what a benefit it was that I was drunk during this vomit episode.) My boss was so worried about me that she slept in my room that night. Kell thought I was being a drama queen.
Day 2 (somewhat)
Due to the Ambien debacle the night before, I was unable to walk straight until about 2 that afternoon. Fortunately, I didn’t have to check out that morning, and I only missed a lunch of corn-fed chicken and a round of small talk. I’m over it already. We hopped on the Gibson guitar bus and headed into downtown Manchester where we did our first round of selling the Deep South. Each guest got some made-in-Lousiana Zapp’s chips (or crisps) and made-in-Georgia Coke and was forced to listen to a sales pitch and watch a few videos on our states while captive. After we’d had enough of that, we visited the Trafford Center, a huge mall in Manchester for dinner and some shopping at stores like TopShop, Next, Zara, H&M and Marks & Spencer. I bought a quirky British-esque article of clothing, and we ate at a Spanish tapas bar. No Ambien this night.
We left our little home away from home and drove into downtown, where we held a few training seminars. Sounds boring, yes, but we did hand out made-in-Tennessee Southern Comfort in the end. Free liquor has the same effect in every country. After getting lost on the drive from Manchester to Birmingham, we had only 20 minutes for lunch and had to eat at a roadside trailer. I probably don’t have to illustrate for you my crippling fear of food poisoning, but needless to say, I spent the next few hours steeped in worry over the hot dog I had just wolfed down. Yikes.
(Here's Buckingham Palace. You can barely see the flag, but the Queen was home!)
After that, we headed into London (painfully passing signs for Liverpool all along the way) to check into our next hotel. I feel it necessary to inject here my very first observation of London - the US is so young. Looking around at the buildings, streets and parks, I was overwhelmed by how much history and culture other parts of the world have. 1776 seems like a long time ago, but we’ve got nothing on their thousands of years of past. We wandered around downtown and had dinner at an Italian restaurant (carefully avoiding roadside trailers and authentic British food). No sign of Paul McCartney, who was in Vegas for the one-year anniversary of Love, the Cirque du Soleil show based on the music of The Beatles. Hugh Laurie was nowhere to be found either. Still no Ambien.
I was glad for the opportunity to sleep late today, although “late” is relative considering that I was making my first attempt to wear my hair curly. I also stayed pretty glued to SkyNews (UK sister network to FoxNews) watching the changeover from former Prime Minister Blair to current Prime Minister Brown. I am fiercely proud to be an American, but it’s impossible not to appreciate the Brits’ devotion to tradition. Anyway, a little while later, we were off to The Ivy, the world-famous restaurant and favorite of the late Princess Diana and other celebrities. After lunch and some small talk with travel people, we wandered around Oxford Circus and visited a beautiful old English department store, Liberty.
After hours of waiting for a cab and finally taking the tube to Victoria Station, we went to see Wicked, the musical based on the background of the witches of Oz. If you ever have a chance to see it, you MUST. Amazing. You guessed it – no Ambien.
Another work day. My group of partners and I met to ride the Gatwick Express to our next meeting, where I felt very professional and important. Handing out business cards does that to me. A few meetings, presentations and shameless sales pitches later, we ended up at our final sales call – a good friend in Knightsbridge. There were no conference rooms available, so what’s a girl to do? How about have your meeting at Harrods, complete with scone with clotted cream? Of course, they had a Wimbledon special of strawberries and crème, too. Conveniently, I was able to spend the hours between our meeting and dinner wandering through Harrods. If you’ve ever been, you know what a tourist attraction it is in and of itself. The biggest surprise, however, was a Krispy Kreme counter in the Food Hall. What’s good enough for Harrods is good enough for me.
Affectionately known as “go home day.” Up at 4 a.m., gone by 5, we boarded the plane none the wiser of the terror plots that took place right where we spent Wednesday afternoon. Ignorance is bliss – certainly in this case. I got my passport stamped and made it back on American soil all in one piece. I got so used to the impeccable grammar of the Brits, entering the Atlanta airport was a stark reminder that we had arrived home. My husband met me in Jackson, and the twins were ready and waiting to greet me. Kell of course felt it necessary to remind me about how spoiled I am with my job.
It feels good to be back to the blogging world.