*** A NOTE TO MY WONDERFUL READERS & FRIENDS***
To my awesome friends and readers who have been following me on this trip so far, thank you for continuing to read. Don’t worry, 8 more posts and we should be done with this crazy adventure.
I’d also like to apologize for not being able to respond to your comments on my blog as I’ve been doing in the past—or visiting your blogs as often as I’d like.
The thing is I’ve been incredibly busier after the trip—what with writing these tiring and complicated yet incredibly satisfying England Trip posts, preparing materials for my bi-monthly scheduled writing group, facilitating the said writing group meetings, helping out various family members with random things, feeding and petting two incredibly needy cats, querying agents, dealing with rejections, plotting my next book—and preparing for my martial arts belt test next month!
I promise I will definitely visit your blogs more regularly after this England Trip Series. Rest assured that I read every single one of your comments (several times per day to keep me going) and that I appreciate you visiting my blog and accompanying me as I relive the most memorable trip of my life.
Now on to our regularly scheduled programming!
May 10, 2011 Tuesday
Maiko and I spent the previous night packing. There was barely enough room to lay out one suitcase on the floor so we had to take turns. One person would be packing while the other one tried to keep at the farthest edge of the bed so the other one could spread her things.
The following morning we woke up at 6am to eat a quick breakfast, do some last minute packing and check out of our tiny London hotel.
As we were leaving I told Maiko I wanted to take a picture of the room to show everyone how small it was. She said, “Forget it. I don’t want to remember this room ever.”
I quite agreed. It was the 2nd worst hotel I’ve ever stayed at (the first one being the Vagabond Inn in San Francisco which I renamed the “Bugabond” inn after discovering several species and sizes of bugs crawling all over the headboard and under the pillows. Eew.)
After dropping off the key at the front desk for the last time (we were required to leave the key with the front desk whenever we had to go outside), Maiko and I lugged our huge bags (She had two and I had three!) out the door and trudged toward the King’s Cross tube station.
I was pretty mad at myself for not thinking the packing through. After six days of touring and buying souvenirs our bags were almost bursting—and incredibly heavy. Why oh why did I have to buy books for myself and bottled candy for my cousins!
The walk to King’s Cross/St. Pancras Station was painful. When we got there, Maiko rented a luggage cart so our shoulders and backs could get some rest. We took the elevator down and then up again (we went out the wrong level) to get inside the station.
The cart really helped, but the problem was that we weren’t allowed to take the cart through the ticket gate. So we strapped on our ginormous backpacks and dragged our heavy suitcase through the cart and toward the tubes.
We hopped on the long, narrow escalators going down to the trains. In London tube stations, people are always in a rush. So the unspoken rule is that if you’re in no hurry and you just want to enjoy the ride down the escalator, you have to stand on the right side near the handrail so other people can pass on the left side.
That morning, however, our bags were so huge and completely blocked the steps so no one was able to pass on our left. I tried so hard to adjust my bags and get them out of the way but no matter what I did, people just couldn’t get past me. Yes, I caused a bit of traffic on the escalators that day.
The worse thing about traveling with big ass bags in London is that we had to actually take three transfers to get to Salisbury, which was two hours from London.
From King’s Cross/St. Pancras Station we got off at Leicester Square. From Leicester Square we had to climb up steps to cross to the other side of the station in order to hop on the tube going towards Waterloo. Dragging three heavy bags up and down stairs is no circus, believe me.
At the Waterloo Train Station, we looked up the schedule for the train to Salisbury.
We had a little time to breathe as our train to Salisbury wasn’t leaving until 8:20am and we had arrived there at around 8am .
We inched closer to the gates into the train platforms. As soon as they announced that we could board the train to Salisbury, we passed through the disabled access gates (since our bags were too big) and boarded the train.
We found a seat with a table. I placed our two suitcases in an assigned luggage corner, then set our big backpacks on the seat across from us.
I sat near the window to enjoy the view while Maiko immediately set up her laptop and books and began to work on her translation.
Thirty minutes after the train had begun its journey, a ticket attendant came by to check on our tickets. We hadn’t bought tickets figuring that our oyster cards and travel cards would suffice.
Of course, we didn’t know that our oyster cards and travel cards only worked up until zone 6 of London. Beyond that, we had to pay for our fare. We paid the ticket attendant £27.50 each, and using the fancy ticket machine hung around his neck, he printed out two tickets for Salisbury.
The journey from London to Salisbury took about 2 hours. Within that time, Maiko continued to work on her book translation and I struggled to keep my eyes open so I could take in all the green fields and rolling pastures we passed by.
We arrived at the Salisbury Train Station around 10:20am.
After consulting our map, Maiko announced that the hotel we were going to stay at was only 5 minutes away. I told her I wanted to use the cab because of all the things but she insisted that we could save ourselves some money if we walked to the hotel.
I agreed and trudged sulkily after her. My shoulders had been hurting since King’s Cross and I was about ready to throw all my bags away.
It turns out the hotel was 15 minutes away. It isn’t too far of a walk, but when you’re lugging bags twice your body weight, 15 minutes can feel like forever.
The place we would be staying at for the next three days had a restaurant /bar on the ground floor and rooms upstairs. The restaurant didn’t open until 12nn and the room check in time was at 3pm.
Qudos Inn (formerly the White Horse Inn), Salisbury photo courtesy of Asia Rooms
We had arrived too early, but luckily the workers in the hotel let us in and allowed us to deposit our bags in one of their stock rooms so we could walk around Salisbury freely.
Maiko and I, still sulking from our long and tedious walk, ate our sandwiches for lunch on a table outside the inn. We packed our leftovers which included some chips, and apples into our backpacks and headed out to explore Salisbury.
We passed by the Salisbury post office and Maiko bought more stamps for postcards.
Salisbury was a beautiful place and our spirits began to lift as we saw more of the town.
We crossed the market square and found that they had a Farmers market going on that day. We decided to come back later and check it out.
Salisbury is where my middle grade fantasy novel, Urth, was set. This is the main reason that we decided to stay here for three days.
One of the most important locations in my book is the Cross Keys Bookstore in Salisbury. So that was the first place I headed for during our first day of exploring Salisbury.
I had only seen pictures of the bookstore’s exterior from my research on google. I had imagined it to be bigger inside—like a Borders or Barnes and Noble store. So when I had written my story, I imagined my characters browsing through bookshelves and wandering the bookstore’s many aisles.
I went inside and found it to be a cozy little bookstore. It was very different from how I had imagined the store to be—but I was just happy to finally be there. This was the bookstore my characters hung out at. I could almost imagine them browsing the books and plotting schemes here.
Maiko and I explored the area near the bookstore. We discovered that the bookstore was actually part of the Cross Keys Shopping Centre.
Here in the US, TJ Maxx was one of our favorite stores. So we were quite surprised and amused to find a TK Maxx over there.
We headed out of the shopping centre and on to Winchester street, where I spotted a Surplus Store.
We went inside and explored the various shelves. I imagined my main character Will, buying things from this surplus store for his next adventure.
From Winchester Street, we turned left on Queen Street and made our way to the Salisbury Tourist Information Centre.
We took several free flyers there and Maiko bought a map of the Wiltshire Region, which would serve as our main map for the rest of our stay.
The Tourist Center was located on Fish Row, and right beside it were several interesting shops.
One of them was Reeve the Baker.
The bakery sold many amazing pastries and treats and displayed them proudly from the big windows surrounding the entire shop. We stood outside the bakery, looking at the treats and making a mental list of what we wanted to buy before we even went inside.
Maiko bought some pasties for dinner and the next day’s breakfast.
We walked down the narrow alley toward the Salisbury City Centre Arch.
And we found a farmer’s market stall selling a bowl of fruits for a £1.
Maiko bought some plums so we could have fruits for the rest of our stay.
We made it to the corner of Silver and Minster Street and I had to stop and take a deep breath.
Minster Street was a very important street in my book.
This was where “Z.A.P.S or Zamm’s Amazing Psychic Shop” and Charlie’s Tattoo Shop were located. ZAPS was a hang out place for Will (age 12), Finn (age 10) and Taylor (age 11). Zamm is the tarot reader who owns the shops and she serves as the children’s unofficial older sister. Charlie’s Tattoo Shop, is where Finn actually lives and works as Charlie’s unofficial assistant.
Both of these shops are figments of my imagination of course, but the street and the town they are on are real enough.
I tried to soak in everything. I couldn’t believe that I was finally there. My characters walked the same streets and saw the same sights. It was an amazing feeling.
We walked up Minster Street, which became Castle Street and continued on to where I knew I would find the house that I had picked for my character Taylor.
After 10 minutes of walking we stopped at the Castle Roundabout, which is a roundabout full of busy, speeding cars.
Thankfully, there was underground passage that allowed pedestrians to cross to the other side of Castle Street.
Up Castle Road we went, passing by some beautiful houses, until we reached Quensberry Road.
We turned into the street and went all the way to the very end until we saw Ridge House.
Ridge House is where I had imagined my character Taylor living, so Maiko and I stopped to take pictures here and just marvel at the fact that we were traveling my characters’ paths. Maiko is the only one who has read the first and fifth drafts of my book from beginning to end and so is the only one who can fully appreciate the amazing journey we were now taking.
I peeled my eyes from Ridge House, and upon looking down, saw a strange (rather creepy sight)—a very small snake was right in our path.
I took a picture of it, ignoring Maiko’s jokes about how it must be an ominous sign or something.
We hadn’t gone a few paces down the street when Maiko suddenly declared she was hungry.
She pulled out an apple from her pocket and bit into it. My eyes went wide and I started laughing.
Maiko: What? Do I have something on my face?
Me: (Pointing to the apple and laughing) You just decided to eat an apple right after you saw the snake?
Maiko: What’s wrong with that? I got hungry.
Me: And you couldn’t have eaten the snack bars or chips in your bag?
Maiko: I felt like eating something juicy and sweet. Why do you want some?
Me: (bursting out laughing) Do you know the story of Adam & Eve and the snake?
Maiko: (looking peeved and suspicious at the same time) No. Why?
So I told Maiko about how Adam & Eve starting out as innocent creatures before the snake had tempted Eve to bite into the forbidden fruit—an apple—and they were driven from paradise and all that.
Maiko finally understood why I found the situation with the snake and her eating the apple funny. And we both started laughing again—and from then on I started calling her “Eve”.
As Eve-er-Maiko and I walked back down Castle Road, we realized that we were both in need of a restroom. We turned into Victoria Park, hoping to find a restroom.
After stumbling into the lawn bowling association, and asking a woman there where we might find the loo, we eventually found a small structure which was clearly the toilet.
Maiko went in first while I looked after our things. When it was my turn, I was alarmed to find that the bathroom had no sinks. Then I found this strange contraption on the wall.
The metal panel had three buttons labeled “Soap”, “Water” and “Air”. I placed my hands underneath the hood and pressed each button. I was so amazed at how incredibly efficient and hi-tech the sink was there! Maiko had only tried the water and I forced her to go back and try all the buttons.
We made our way back from Victoria Park onto Castle street. We passed by Butts Road and Maiko thought it would be fun to take this picture of me:
We also passed by Leena’s Inn and we remembered our best friend Lena and took a picture beside the sign.
After crossing the underground passage again, we found a small pole near the bridge and decided it would be a make a good tripod for my camera. Maiko set up the timer and we took our first picture together in Salisbury.
We made our way back to Market Square, where we sat on the steps waiting for our tour guide Pat, who would take us on an incredible journey to Stonehenge.
245 total views, 5 views today