My Weeks 150/151: Travelling Dangerously on the Queen Mary 2 and Throughout the U.K.

I’m on a boat!

Well, I WAS on a boat. Then in a car, then on a plane, and now I’m back. I hope you didn’t miss me too much—it’s the first time in years that I haven’t made my weekly journey into the absurd. Even when I had surgery last year, I wrote something ahead of time, and had Ken post it for me. This past week though, anyone who could have figured out my computer and hit “upload” was actually with me. Plus, I didn’t have anything new to tell you until I got back. Which is now. So fasten your seatbelts and secure the overhead bins—things are going to get slightly humorous.

So, as you know, I like to live life on the edge. And while maybe it’s usually the edge of sanity, or reason, the fact is that I’m pretty much a daredevil when it comes to travel, which I will get to in a minute. As you may or may not know, I’ve been away the last two weeks, having taken the Queen Mary 2 over to the United Kingdom with my whole family, parents, siblings, and children included. Then we all split up and went our separate ways, with me, Ken, and T going first to Wales and then to Scotland. It was an excellent trip—let me break it down for you. First, the boat (which my dad keeps telling me is a “ship” not a “boat”, so if you’re extremely old and extremely rich, the Queen Mary is definitely the “ship” for you. Unfortunately, I am NEITHER, so it was an interesting experience to be on that particular BOAT, DAD, haha.)

Part One:

Things I liked about the Queen Mary 2:
a) Like most cruise ships, it was decorated like an upscale brothel, which made me feel very risqué.
b) The beds were comfortable and you could stay in them all day if you wanted to.
c) You could get breakfast brought to your cabin instead of having to get dressed, and it didn’t cost anything extra.
d) The food was OK. There was always bacon, and I mean real bacon, not those weird-ass slabs of pan-fried ham that the Brits think is bacon. Silly Brits.
e) There were two guys who played the piano and told jokes, and they were so funny that I saw them twice.

Things I didn’t like about the Queen Mary 2:
a) You could stay in your bed all day because there was literally nothing much else to do that was interesting or didn’t cost you a lot of extra money. The lectures were either on war, politics, or Broadway musicals, and the other “seminars” were sponsored by the Spa, as in ‘Come to our session on Botox and hear an expert talk about why it’s so great and then you can get a discount on a costly Botox treatment’, or by the Art Gallery, as in ‘Come to our session on this unknown artist and then you can buy his extremely expensive painting of emoji-faced lollipops for a significant discount’. The other activities all had costs associated with them, like the red wine tasting entitled, “Syrah, Shiraz? What’s the difference? Find out for a nominal fee of $120”. 120 bucks for a flight of 6 small glasses of wine? For that price, I can wait until I get home, buy 10 full bottles and find out for myself, so Que Syrah Shiraz to you. There were also art classes for a fee, and a variety of other things you could do that all cost extra. Why is that a problem? Because whenever there was any activity for free, it was a MOB SCENE. For example, there was a free rum tasting at the duty-free liquor shop one day, and people were rioting like it was the only Red Cross water truck in the middle of the desert. And yes, obviously I was there because it was FREE RUM. Just as I was about to get my tiny plastic cup, a guy beside me whined that he’d been waiting for twenty minutes and still hadn’t gotten any. I was like, “Here’s the line-up, mate. Try standing in it.” Because I’m CANADIAN, and we are extremely OCD about line-up protocols, which a lot of other countries aren’t and it makes me crazy. I firmly believe that the inherent understanding of how to line up in an orderly fashion is what makes a culture civilized, and the Fall of the Roman Empire can be directly traced back to their inability to queue properly.
b) The ship’s House Band was a group known as “Purple Haze.” Mostly because they covered the whole ship with a fog of Motown and cover songs. They weren’t actually bad if you like a reggae version of Justin Beiber’s ‘Love Yourself’—they were just EVERYWHERE. In the lounge after breakfast—Purple Haze. Poolside at lunch—Purple Haze. In the ballroom during afternoon tea—Purple Haze. In the very sad little disco that no one ever went to because most of the passengers went to bed at 10 pm—Purple Haze. I swear if the ship was ever sinking, it would be to the “fine musical stylings of Purple Haze”.

Overall, the good outweighed the bad. It was a very relaxing crossing, and the best part was that our whole family was together for the journey. And seeing T in a tuxedo at dinner was pretty cool.

Part Two:

I am a total f*cking badass when I’m travelling and here’s why:

1) Despite the fact that I’m severely allergic to shellfish, I wandered the beaches of Wales and collected seashells. This doesn’t sound dangerous, but the last time I did that in British Columbia, I picked up some shells then accidentally chewed on my cuticle (not so much an accident as part of an OCD thing), and then my lips swelled up. So now, if I want to collect seashells, I’m literally TAKING MY LIFE IN MY OWN HANDS, and have to consciously avoid putting my fingers in my mouth until I can wash with soap and water, or else risk having to use my epipen. I live my life on the edge, folks.

2) I am deathly afraid of heights, but I still climbed up ruined castle towers and stood on ramparts that were 100 feet in the air. Did I have a full-blown panic attack at Harlech Castle when I realized that I was on the top of a stone wall with no guardrails and at any moment some unruly British child could run past me, causing me to lose my balance and fall to my death? I may or may not have. (I did). But I still crawled back to the stairs like the daredevil I am instead of crying like a big baby.

3) I defied the tide and clambered over jagged rocks to make my way to a private little alcove half a kilometre from the main beach at our bed and breakfast in Wales (which is called Kilsaran House and it was amazing). I had no choice really—T and Ken announced they were doing it, and I had to go along or be left behind to worry about them dying. I figured if I was with them, I could scout out the worst case scenarios before one of them fell off a tippy rock or poked a jellyfish with their fingers. I spent the whole time with one eye on the ocean and one eye on the rocks that threatened to break my ankles. But we made it there, and I was glad I went with them, because who else besides me was going to shout “I forbid you to climb that cliff!” or “That crab might not be dead so don’t pick it up!”

4) I made an old man give me a chair, all by my bad-ass self. In fairness, I HAD the chair, and he tried to take it away, but I was like “Out of my cold, dead hands, elderly English dude!” I should probably provide a little context—on the “ship” (there you go, Dad), they had trivia competitions 4 times a day, and because it was one of the few activities onboard that was actually free, EVERYBODY went. Except it was held in a small pub with limited seating, so people got pretty testy about the chairs, especially since you could play in teams of 6 and the tables and chairs were arranged in groupings of 4. So this particular time, I asked a guy if he was using one of his chairs, and he said no. I was in the process of moving it when this big old man came over and pulled it out of my hands. Seriously. He was like, “Oh, I have this chair,” and I was like, “Um, I asked for it first, but whatever” and I let go. Because I’m Canadian, and a chair isn’t worth being a dick over. But my sacrificial, and slightly sarcastic attitude made him feel  bad, so he gave it back to me. Score one for the good guys.

5) Driving in the UK is enough to earn anyone the moniker of ‘madcap heroine’. Of course, I wasn’t actually driving—I was the navigator, having never learned to drive a stick shift. I mean, why have a dog and bark, am I right? But the Brits drive on the wrong side of the road (yes it is, don’t argue), and the bulk of my job was yelling at Ken “Stay to the left!” Also, the “roads” in the UK, especially in Wales aren’t really roads at all, at least not by Canadian standards. What they call a major roadway in Wales is what we call a “tractor path” here. For example, the so-called road to our first bed and breakfast went through a gravel parking lot and out the other side, then became a one-lane walking path with little spots to pull over in case someone was coming in the other direction. The directions we were given said “go past Hunter’s Fleece Cottage, then follow the track downhill for 100 yards” where there was an almost sheer vertical drop. Getting back up was a treat, with Ken gunning it in third gear and hoping to hell that no one was coming the other way. The best part was when the GPS would announce, “Take the next left onto A725” and it would SOUND like a real road, but it would be one lane, pinned in on both sides by rock walls, and suddenly there would be sheep.

I was a kick-ass navigator until the day that Ken decided to defy the GPS and plot his own route:

Ken: I took a screenshot of the way I want to go. Where do I turn next?
Me: How do I turn the Ipad on?
Ken: Push that button. Where do I turn?! I need to know now!
Me: Where’s the ‘You are here’ arrow? How do I know where to turn if I don’t know where I am?
Ken: We started from New Steddon Road. Where do I go next?
Me: The map goes sideways if I try to figure out which way is North.
Ken: I don’t need North! I just need to know where to turn! God, I forgot how bad you are with maps!
Me: I’m not bad with maps! You can’t just give someone a screen shot of some streets, not tell them where they’re starting from, and expect them to calculate your route! I’m not a GPS, you know.
Ken: Fine, just program the GPS then.
Me: OK. Where are we going again?
Ken: Sigh.
T: What’s going on?
Me: Just go back to sleep. I’ve got this covered.

Two other minor proofs of my bad-assedness: I walked through the haunted corridor of a castle. It wasn’t—I have plenty of experiences with ghosts (see My Week 69: Ghost Stories) and there wasn’t one there, despite the place being featured on some reality show where a woman swore there was electromagnetic energy and an angry ghost who wanted to strangle people. Also, I ate haggis. If you’re Scottish, you have to. I just love being descended from a culture whose national dish is so disgusting that you have to force yourself to eat it, but you’re so stoic that you do it anyway. My Scottish cousin Lynn put it this way: “I keep trying it because I want to like it, but it’s so gross”. So there you go. I’m a devil-may-care, throw caution to the winds kind of gal who’s happy to be home where I can use a hair dryer in my own bathroom and eat the best national dish of all–poutine.

Next week, I’ll tell you about some of my favourite places from the trip, but for right now, I’m still kind of jet-lagged. Plus, my head thinks it’s 5 o’clock instead of noon, so time for a nice glass of wine–maybe a Syrah…

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6 thoughts on “My Weeks 150/151: Travelling Dangerously on the Queen Mary 2 and Throughout the U.K.

  1. I’m thrilled you made it back without puffy lips. Overall it sounds like an amazing trip, and, really, the bravest thing you did was driving there. Or letting Ken drive. Either way. The British are great with trains and bicycles but have yet to figure out cars, so getting on the motorway is pretty badass.

    • Yes, the driving is pretty intense. We have roundabouts in Canada, but nothing like those 6 lane ones on the highway. At least if you miss your exit you can just keep going around and trying again!

  2. Your post made me re-imagine the scenes of Titanic set to the stylings of Purple Haze. Actually, in my head, it’s to the song Purple Haze, which really would have changed that movie for the better.

    This means that if you ever get to make your blog into a movie, I should probably not be chosen as the director.

    • If they’d played more Jimi Hendrix and less Billy Joel, the disco would have been better too! You should totally direct the real-life version of this blog–it would be even more surreal than it is. Who would you cast as me?

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