Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The trip days 1-7

The trip Day 1.

We arrived at LAX at 12:30pm for a 4:50pm flight. We get in line at the British Airways counter. Line is long, but moving fine. Then we get kick out of that line and put in another line because we are for such a later flight, there’s another 20 or so couples and families also moved. Finally we get through that. Then we have baggage screening and our screening. No cavity searches.

Plane ride was the usually. Turbulence wasn’t too bad except for a short spell that had Yecenia looking nervously at me. Landed at Heathrow right on time. Hertz didn’t have an intermediate vehicle ready and asked me if I wanted an upgrade. I declined and they gave me one for free. A Ford Galaxy minivan. Nice little ride but it has no real luggage room. Maybe a bag or two. It has 7 seats, I am sure that there are configurations that have fewer seats. We just folded the last two seats down so we could put the luggage in. One 24 pound bag, 1 8 pound bag, a third 9 pound bag, an 8 pound laptop bag and a 14 pound carry on bag my wife packed…. I know the weights so well because I have been handling them so much…Thanks honey!!!

The Drive out to Mildenhall wasn’t too bad, we made a couple of wrong turns but we got there. Stayed at the travel lodge. No internet access at the hotel. Drove across the street and got an open wifi connection while sitting in the car. Checked email and booked the next nights stay in Stowmarket.

After checking in at the lodge we drove over to RAF lakeheath to take a look. Went by the back of the base housing. Felt very nostalgic, they erected a fence and new gate there because of 9/11 so we couldn’t get on base. Drove over to Lakenheath Village and got some money out of the ATM at the Barclays bank. Drove around to the other side of base and say the elementary school. It hasn’t changed a bit. Then we went back to the hotel.

Day 2.

Woke up and had oatmeal and tea that my wife brought. Checked email and saw that Donna Grommes was going to be available after 3 pm, to sign us in the base. Drove down to Ely and showed my wife Ely Cathedral and another local church. She was amazed at the architecture, and how it was built. Then we headed down to Bury St. Edmunds. Showed Yecenia Bury Gardens, the Daffodils were in full bloom. She liked the gardens. We walked the ruins and then walked thru the town. It was funny and sad to see a burger king, McDonalds and a Starbucks all in the town center next to each other.

Yecenia was Hungry so I took her down to Needham Market and got her Fish and Chips at 11 high street, which is right next to my old house at 12 high street. The house hasn’t changed, guess it should in 26 years since it was that way for hundreds of years before I lived there. She liked the cod, but found the chips to be to soggy, and didn’t like the idea of paying for ketchup, 15 pence a pack!!!!!

I noticed a Chinese restaurant there and saw chicken cashew on the menu, we will have to have Chinese before we go. Anyway we went around back of the house and the gate was now a metal rod gate so I was able to look down to the back door, once again, noting has changed. Then the wife and I walked back around to the high street as I told my wife how I would walk around that street with my boom box blaring queens “we will rock you” and ACDC’s Dirty deeds… What a rebel I was.

Glanced over to the housing that the Smith’s and Gulyas lived in, they also look the same. We then drove to the travel lodge checked in and took our luggage in. Drove back up to Lakenheath and waited at gate 1 for Donna. I left a message at her house that we’d be waiting at the gate for her and to do whatever she needed to first.

I had to leave a message because her Daughter was living on the phone.. (She is in the 11th grade, so there you have it) Donna was able to sign us in with no problem. She dropped us off at the BX was her daughter got her haircut. The BX was in the same place but it was remodeled. As far as the actual store it was really the same set up, but it now had an indoor food place (and other stores) as you first walk in.

Donna then had us over at her house briefly where I met her Husband Leo and her Six year old son. He is immersed in Spanish at school so Yecenia spoke a few lines with him, he did very well. We talked a few more minutes then Donna took us to the Golf course were they have a restaurant. We also met Nikki Stark there and we talked for several hours about life at Woodbridge and how we loved everyone at school. Donna never had a bad word about anyone. Donna and Nikki tried to pay for the bill but I wouldn’t have it. Then Donna took us shopping at the Commissary so I could get my Soda cheap plus a few other things. Donna then found a way to force me to let her pay for some of the Dinner. FINE DONNA!!! I will find a way to slip you some money later on down the road!!! Perhaps next year I will be able to return the favor if you make it out to California.

It was then about 9pm so we said our goodbyes and Yecenia and I drove back to the travel lodge at Stowmarket. When we arrived around 1030 the front desk clerks (man and woman) where outside and we talked for a bit. It was fun to talk about the old shows I watched and they had also grown up with… How Grange hill was still on, that the new Dr Who series was brilliant and that they are looking at the possibility of Dr Who being a female!!! Wife and I then went off to our room.

Day 3.

Woke up and turned on the tele. Figured out it was 1130 am and we were to be out of the room by 12 noon. Besides being out of the room by noon we had lost good morning hours of sightseeing. Anyway we took off and drove down to Ipswich. Couldn’t believe or eyes, there was an ASDA (or something like that) there…. AKA Wal-Mart. Anyone didn’t bother to stop there. We drove through to Woodbridge then I took the wrong turn in Melton and drove through Ufford and ended up at wick. Market. Drove down to Campsea ashe and then to the base. Got to the roundabout, drove thru to the TMO and got lost!!! There were houses everywhere. I finally got my bearings when I drove to the old officers housing row and saw the single story houses and then the park…. The Tabors house and Halts house look the same. The BX, Commissary, bowling alley, barracks, etc,etc, etc are all gone, replaced with new houses. I found my old house on redwald it is still there and was sold soon after the base closed for 29000 pounds!!!! They are now valued over 150k pounds. The new houses being built are as big as 2212 sq feet, but have no closests ….. Very British… going for 270k pounds!!!

We then went to RAF Woodbridge. The housing is still there, and the smith’s house is selling for 142k pounds it was very strange to see the housing. The food land and post office were gone. The elementary school was still standing as well. The AYA, Church and our Beloved Woodbridge American High school were gone. It was so sad. They are building a new Barracks there for the MOD. Bastards!!!!

We then drove down to Orford and saw the Church and Castle there. We also went down to the Quay and watched the river for a few minutes…. It was rather Choppy. We then took off for Colchester and went to the castle and a couple of churches there. The castle has a nice garden and you can get a good view of the city from there. We then took off to Canterbury and arrived here about 9pm. We called home to my parents, talked to my son. My daughter was out playing with friends of course so we couldn’t talk to her.

Tomorrow should be Canterbury Cathedral, white cliffs of Dover, Dover Castle, perhaps Leeds Castle and who knows from there… then in the next day or two across to France….

Day 4.

We didn’t do Leeds Castle, but we did all the others. At Dover Castle we went into the tunnels that were created during ww2, cool…. The view from the castle was awesome. Then we went and crashed for the night after setting up the eurotunnel trip.

Day 5.

Woke up at 5am. Got to Folkestone before 7am. Loaded up on the train and had to wait an hour to get going because a train had broke down in the tunnel… Once going it was less than 40 minutes and we were in Calais. Took off down the road and realized we were heading north, whoops, turned around and got money at a post office. Was fun trying to speak to the French. Got back on the Road and paid about 20 euro’s in toll and arrived about 5 hours later at Omaha Beach. Yecenia really liked the memorial and Cementary as a whole. It moved us both looking at the names of those who died for our country. We saw the Roosevelt brothers Crosses.

After driving around the Normandy countryside we headed back down to Paris. We stayed just outside of Paris at a “fast hotel”… 32 euros… That should say it all. Very interesting shower arrangement.

Day 6.

Did the tower, Notre Dame and drove by the Lourve. Best fun was the Arc de Triumph. We circled that bad boy one time and I loved it… If you have never drove around the roundabout that is the Arc de Triumph you haven driven. Yecenia was a little scared but got a kick out of it. Oh yea, one more thing…. I do not know how I did it but we parked in a parking garage that had NO room to drive in it. I made turns and parked in ways I never thought possible.

We then headed out and made it back to the eurotunnel by 9pm france time and were back in England by 915 england time. We got a room at ashford and went to sleep.

Day 7.

Drove from ashford to Hastings. Walked the ruins of the castle and then drove on down the coast. Saw a little castle at Prevensy. Then continued on down the coast to Arundel. There is a beautiful castle there as well as a Roman Catholic Cathedral. Continued to Portsmouth then drove on to Bath and stayed in town.

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