When I travel I usually go to one city or one region and spent a week or so in the place soaking everything in. By the end of my time I've got a regular coffee spot and wine bar. So this trip, which spanned three countries and five locales, was an unusual one for me. I left each place I visited reluctantly (with the possible exception of Glastonbury), feeling as though I had whet my appetite with a drive by but had no real chance to sate my desire for immersion. I was looking forward to standing still for a minute, and Paul's parents' house was the perfect place to do so.
By this point Paul had finished the business he had to take care of in London, so he and his dad met me at the airport in his hometown of Manchester and chauffeured me back to the family homestead. Paul's mom was standing in the front yard amongst the flowers smiling and ready with a big hug. It all felt like something out of a Beatrix Potter story.
After a fortifying dinner of beef in beer and vegetables from the family allotment (how much more British can you get?)
Paul accompanied (dragged) me into town to see an aging Irish punk band play at the university's student union. Now the band was not even remotely my cup of tea, but I have to say the scene at the student union was pretty unbelievable. The building had several floors, each with multiple rooms serving as venues and all of them were full! It's not too often that you see so many bands in one place, especially on a Tuesday. When I commented on it Paul responded that it was not an uncommon occurrence. "Babes, Manchester is the giggingest city there is!"
We slept like logs in our twin beds that night, and for the first time during the whole trip I truly lounged the next morning. Paul's parents always take their breakfast in the conservatory off of the kitchen, and I could have sat there with them and Toby the Jack Russell for hours among the flora.
But Paul's Auntie Pat, who is one of those sharp-as-a-tack, says-what-she-thinks octogenarians that every family should have, was due for lunch. And as I had never met her, it seemed only appropriate that I should shower and dress in preparation for her visit.
I love big traditional British lunches. I think I should start hosting them. Paul's mother had cleaned out Marks & Spencer and laid the store's inventory on the family table. We had cold meats, quiche, salad, root vegetables (again, from the allotment), wine, pavlova with cream and berries...there is something so luxurious and rare about eating that well in the middle of the day.
After lunch, more lounging, some tea drinking, some wandering in the back garden,
some peeking in the greenhouse,
and some more lounging. I believe that it was on this afternoon that I noticed this fantastic idea for toilet paper storage in one of the bathrooms...
...am I alone in loving this?
Eventually Paul and I were off for another night in the great city of Manchester. After checking in at the venue with a certain band we all headed across the town center to meet up with some of my favorite of Paul's old, old friends for an Indian feast for the ages at East z East. The food was delicious, made even more so by the fabulous company.
Walking back through Manchester it wasn't hard to see why Paul loves it so. The spirit of the city reminds me of a very cool, edgy and beautiful girl who either doesn't know or doesn't care that she is good looking. She's a little rough around the edges, has a vaguely dirty sense of humor and never wants for loyal friends. The kind of person you just want to be around.
Despite the massive quantities of indian food the band had consumed, they still managed to play quite the show. I consumed my last cider of the trip (I had been in withdrawal since Glastonbury), we bounced around town for a bit, and then back to those comfy twin beds in Paul's childhood room.
I woke up the next morning feeling a little melancholy. My European sojourn had come to an end, and I was scheduled to be back in New York that evening. I relished my last morning eating breakfast in the conservatory, packed my things and said my goodbyes to the parents and my beloved, who would not be returning to New York for another two weeks.
It was cold comfort that I got to spend two hours in the Amsterdam airport, a place I had heard so much about, where they have Bjorn Borg boxer shorts on sale in multiple locations, and that I got to fly for the first time on a double decker plane. Whichever way you sliced it I was sad to leave. But then again I was happy to come home.