Planning is fundamental to any endeavor. It is fun and the way we do it is quite mental. Let’s assume, or in this case, take as the truth, that we are initiating the planning phase of a two-week trip. It could be anywhere, but since you’ve read the title of this post, you have, correctly, deduced that this trip is to England.
Well, in the previous episode we ( England… royalty… you amused yet? ), gave you a short ( don’t snigger!) background on why England is such a big deal for me. Now it was time for the planning. We never go anywhere without a plan. Especially when making a first ever trip to the country of my dreams, viz. England. As chief dreamer it fell upon me to produce the initial draft. I picked up my MS -Surface, cracked open an Excel sheet and set to work. We would land in London, obviously. Each day, as is usual, had a goal attached to it. Here we go then.
This would involve the basic tourist hot spots in London. Walk a leisurely walk along London Bridge, walk leisurely to the Tower of London via the an upward look at Big Ben. The camera would be used copiously to snap for posterity this my first trip to the capital of England, the seat of power of the erstwhile British Empire, of which it was said that the sun never set upon some remote piece of land that formed part of the most magnificent Empire ( Capital E ) ever known to man. Yes, yes, there was the Roman Empire, but that was in the years labelled BC and therefore can be discounted.
Day 2 consisted of another easy visit – St Paul’s Cathedral and a stroll through London City. The first two days were deliberately kept light, to get a dekko, run a recce, get the lay of the land and to recover from the flight, the frenetic prepping that characterizes our night before the flight, the stress of the airport prior to the flight and the rigors of the landing and passport control after the flight. .
<Digression Alert: I used to fly every week, commuting to and fro for work, mostly in moldy turboprops and smallish jets. This has left me with a horror of flying and airports. Remind me to tell you about some memorable flights that I have taken. There was that celebrated time when my 1 hour 15 minute flight from YYZ to CMH took the better part of the day and 5 planes… But, as usual, you say as you tap your feet, “You’re digressing!”>
This is where things got interesting in that we left London and drove out to areas outside. This would take us to Salisbury Plain, where the druids apparently left stones in an obvious ploy to create a tourist trap that would capture the imagination of hippies, mystics and archaeologists. I can see them now, giggling over their cauldron, smoking their pipes filled with a mixture of saw-wort, round-headed rampion and field fleawort.
“I know, I know! Let’s just put some stones in a concentric circles! That will keep them guessing for years!”
Having gazed upon the stones and wondered at what really they represented, we would press on to Bath. Bath is called bath because the Romans, who walked the wrong way on all roads that led to Rome, thus heading in all directions except Rome, I lost the thread of the sentence and you’re just as lost as I am, aren’t you? Anyway, the Romans took healing baths there in the healing waters that contained all sort of healing salts and minerals. Day 3 would end with a night in a hotel in Bath.
The day entailed a morning spent “doing” Bath and then a drive through the Cotswolds via Oxford. The Cotswolds are scenic and pretty and little villages lie dotted across the very pretty land. Oxford lies at the edge of the area and contains Oxford University. As a student, I never entertained thoughts of attending such an historic institute, because my academic credentials were crappy.
The plan for the day included the city of Bath, right after we had taken a bath in our hotel room. This would be followed by a trip through the Cotswolds up to Stratford-upon-Avon. Why? Well, I had to answer that question to She Who. The answer is simple. I will leave you to work this one out for yourself. A colorful hint may be found at the upper left, no, I mean right, of this page. We would then continue North to Newcastle-under-Lyme where an old friend lived. A night in the area would cap off the day.
The plan for Day 6 was heading further north to Liverpool. One word. The Beatles. Ok, two words, four moptops. Beatle tour done, keep going north to the Lake District. Poetry, lakes, walks, pretty, pretty, pretty. There was danger on this leg of the trip. Yes, you guessed right. Poetry. Either I would spout it, write it or buy it. Still, it was a risk worth taking. I found a little hamlet called Penrith which lay at the very boundary of the Lake District barely an hour away from the Yorkshire Dales.
Which brings us to Day 7. The Dales. Herriot country, sheep, sheep dogs, open expanse of country. Yorkshire. Cricket….
Day 8 would see the long haul back south, this time to Cambridge, home of the sleepy spires, amongst which the famous university lay, home to mathematicians and scientists and purveyors of children’s fantasy about a girl falling down a rabbit hole and having an adventure to end all adventures. Also, the birthplace of some of the best loonies ever to grace TV comedy land.
The next day, Day 9, would be back in London. This was the highlight of the entire trip, the fulcrum around which the days revolved. All trips were planned Before and After this day. For this day was the First Day of the Second Test Match between England and the visiting Indian cricket team. At Lords, the mecca of cricket. This day was planned entirely around the day spent at the ground.
Day 10, the day after the heady experience of Lords, would include a quiet walk through Borough Market, the British Museum and Library. Think of this as the calm after the stormy emotion of Day 9.
On to the next day, #11, in case you’ve lost count, was planned around Westminster Abbey, ( poets corner, famous names under the flagstones), St. James Park (flahs), Buckingham Palace (11:30 guards changing. The personnel, not their underwear…), St. James Palace (more flahs ), Picadilly and Trafalgar Square (tourists, shopping, book store.)
Next up, Day 12, included Whitehall (government), Downing St, Prime Minister’s Door with the Number 10 on it), Churchill War Rooms (WWII !), National Gallery (art …. an attempt to train the philistine that resides within me)
Day 13, the wind down with a trip to the Royal Air Force ( RAF ) Museum (planes! WW2 history! planes!) and the Bomber Command Memorial.
Day 14 was the flight home.
Thus, the trip was conceived. It didn’t include some of the more iconic items and areas one might expect. We’re different like that. We still didn’t have our tickets booked. No hotels had been researched, other than a cursory review of Hiltons and Mariotts, bioth chains where my erstwhile business commutes had given me some elevated status. Flights had been looked at. I had no tickets to the cricket game.
This version of the draft was submitted for review and rejected by the authorities.
In our next episode we will explore the reasons for rejection and the Matters Requiring Attention Report will be analyzed and a Gap Analysis performed as a precursor to Replan.