I cannot believe everything that's happened in the past couple of days, but will try my mightiest to be as thorough as I can...I'm not sure how much I'll get through now, so there will be more to come.
So - travel.
Alison came down to CT via the esteemed Concord Trailways bus line (and the less esteemed Peter Pan), and we settled in for some tasty sushi as our last supper in the U.S. - for a while at least. After a nice long walk with Nugget on Tuesday morning, we were set to take off for Newark. As it turned out, we left at almost the exact right time to have a bit of a tour of Darien, CT, Chad's old stomping grounds, and a couple of Nugget romps to tire her out a bit before hanging out in her crate for what ended up being about 10 hours. I was super nervous to drop her off with Cargo, but the folks helping at the desk were super (even giving me a high five for how organised her paperwork was), and that hurdle was jumped with a minimum of fuss from the Nugster. She pretty much just settled right down in her crate. It was a huge relief to me to have her taken care of without her totally freaking out. Not sure I could have handled that on top of everything else.
The larger challenge came when we went to check ourselves in, or rather, our luggage. The night before we left, I'd checked our baggage in on line, paying the necessary fees for extra baggage and bags weighing more than 50 pounds. Unfortunately, the website neglected to inform us that the bags couldn't weigh more than 70 pounds. I'll bet you can guess how much one of our bags weighed - 77 pounds. Sigh! The baggage handler was most helpful, though, offering to help move our belongings from one bag to another, and we finally passed through after only taking out a pillow from one of the bags (which came in rather handy on the plane ride!).
After a few stiff drinks at the airport bar, we were ready to board the plane to Manchester. Lucky us, we had requested emergency row seats, so we actually had leg room, and Continental's got these nifty video screens on the back of each seat, so we could watch a selection of movies or TV shows, play games, or listen to music. I found a few cooking shows and was good to go.
Six hours later, after virtually no sleep whatsoever, we found ourselves in England. Only three hurdles remained: pick up our rental car, pick up Nugget, and drive the three hours to Keynsham.
Hurdle one went off without a hitch. They gave us a SWEET silver Audi hatchback that just barely fit all our stuff. I was driving and (naturally) got in on the wrong side, making a bit of a food of myself in front of the gentleman helping us. Ah, what else is new? It was a bit tricky finding the happy medium of being on the left hand side of the road in the right hand side of the car and not run over the curb whilst trying to avoid the traffic coming in the opposite direction. By the time we'd made a few laps around the airport searching for the Cargo pick-up to get Nugget, my nerves were fried, and it had started to rain - my first English rain. Luckily, my husband kept his wits about him and found someone who pointed us in the right direction.
We had been told that it could take up to 4 hours to get clearance for Nugget, so when we arrived two hours after the flight had touched down, we weren't expecting much. Lo and behold, Nug had been there waiting all along, all her paperwork went through without a hitch, and she was in a small holding pen (I could not thank Pets on Jets enough for getting her out of that crate and giving her some water!). She was a most confused pup, but was so relieved to be reunited that she simply passed out in the back of the car as we were getting on the motorway (how do you like that lingo?). Hurdle two, check!
If only we could have passed out, too. After a night of no sleep and a significant amount of stress, I could have used 40 winks. Alas, the final hurdle was before us. Drive to Keynsham. After a quick stop for some caffiene, it was actually a super drive and rather uneventful...until we got about 12 miles away. For about 45 minutes, we drove round and round searching for a route that would lead us to Keynsham. We were following some directions from Googlemaps, which had been great up to that point. Then it all went to heck. We finally found a route that looked right and made it most of the way to our destination before giving up, getting an atlas, and asking for directions. As it turned out, we were about 2 mintues away from the town, and arrived at our new house about 5 minutes later. Our new roommates weren't home yet, so we were allowed to get settled, which pretty much consisted of us looking at each other and shaking our heads while we made our nest.
A couple of hours later, James and Sophie arrived, a super sweet couple who are engaged and own the home. We all went out to our local pub, which is really smashing, all stone and timberframe and plaster with CIDER ON TAP, serving all sorts of English specialties - Toad in a Hole, Fish and Chips, etc. We had a good time poking fun at each other's accents and generally relaxing and learning the ropes of ordering at a pub - You order everything at the bar, and are given a number on which to run a tab. Servers bring it out to you with a huge selection of vinegars, dipping sauces, and spreads. And no tipping. That's the one I'm going to have a hard time getting over, especially with how sweet most of the servers are and how well we're treated.
So, all in all there's definitely a bit of culture shock going on, but we're settling in quite well. I'll try to write more later on, talking about the past couple of days, but for now, Cheers!