Stranded In The Southland

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

London to LA

We sweltered in London. It wasn't that it was all that hot (probably 89F), but England just isn't ready for heat. There is very little airconditioning anywhere, and buildings aren't designed for airflow. Plus, I was stupid, and didn't bring shorts.

In any case, it was a delight to see our friends, and enjoy a really good sort of nouveau Indian meal which rocked. After nearly a month of Spanish food, we were delighted to try some Indian, and while Indian food is a bit different in the UK, this was even more different, with cool riffs on several old favorites.

I & M were kind enough to drive me in to Heathrow the next morning, at what I thought was the bright and early hour of 7AM. For me, it'd be a real hardship to be up at 7AM to drive some guests around -- alas, for I & M it was a hardship to wait until 7AM to start out, as they usually awaken at 5AM. Yow.

Because we'd waited so long to leave, the normally quick jaunt turned into an hour-and-a-half misery, inching through traffic lights a few cars at a time. Yow, just like home! I was certainly grateful to I & M for braving that traffic and going late to work just to get my lazy ass to the airport.

Once there, I kicked back, had a typically heavy English breakfast, and geeked for a bit. Wireless in the international departure lounge was an unconscionable five pounds an hour, so I just didn't bother.

Once on the plane, I was delighted to discover that the entertainment system had TiVo-like features, so that I could chose from 30 or 40 different movies, plus a bunch of TV, and start and stop the show at any time. Woo hoo -- I've never had a flight go so quickly!

Unfortunately, I let me fat-fingered-vulgarian flag fly, and watched "Hitch", "Electra", and "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou". They had some up-market stuff on there, too, but it seemed simply too ridiculous to try to really appreciate "Hotel Rwanda" or "Melinda and Melinda" with a small screen and iffy sound.

I arrived in LA to find that it was cooler and more comfortable (71F) than London! Yow, now that's a switch! After a ridiculous two hours on a jitney to Union Station, my train ran an hour late due to a breakdown by a previous train. I was kinda happy to be home!

Madrid to Segovia to Madrid to London

We staggered out of Madrid in sweltering heat (well, wearing heavy jeans didn't help, either) to take a bus to Segovia for a quick overnight stay. Segovia has an amazing Roman aquaduct that's something like 700m long, plus a bizarre (Disney-style) castle, plus the specialize in roast suckling pig.

The aquaduct was fascinating (built without morter, it all just depends on the weight and shape of the stones to hold it together), the castle okay (well, there was a cool room devoted to the history of the artillery school there, but it was mostly in Spanish), but the sucking pig rocked.

We found a really old-school restaurant, with white-coat clad waiters and very fancy silverware and amazing food. now, I don't like fanciness for the sake of fanciness, but this was actually a fabulous dining experience with friendly and very attentive service. The leg of roast suckling pig that I had was tender and crispy and fallin' off the bone good. And the rest of the dinner was not bad at all.

Then we raced back to Madrid to do some last minute shopping. Our buds, I & M, who'd put us up in the UK (and have put us up on many occasions, and have been just great folks) had asked for some cured meat. That'll learn 'em to be non-specific.

All of Spain is full of these hanging haunches of ham, complete with hoof. They are really amazing looking, lining the back wall of the shops. I kinda decided that it'd be fun to bring back a whole haunch to I & M, and M. really grooved on the idea. After much searching, we found a 10 pound haunch that wasn't too expensive (the amazing high-end hams can cost as much as $300!), and I staggered back to the hostal with it to chill out and take it easy.

M. continued on her quest for cool shoes and junk. I hit the Internet, watched in horror as several hundred thousand people marched through Madrid protesting against gay marriage (ugh, that pissed me off, but it appears that very complete domestic partner benefits are available in Spain as a matter of course, so Spain is actually probably a bit more advanced than the US in these things), and just hanging out.

We had one last tapas crawl, and hit the sack late. We were up early the next morning to grab a taxi out to the airport -- with our new baby, Porky Pig, along, we had too much junk to brave the metro. We had a great flight back , and were picked up by I & M at Heathrow, where it was just as sweltering as it had been back in Spain! Argh.