Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Up all Night Drinking in London

In August my husband and I took a cruise of the British Isles to celebrate our 30th anniversary. There's lots to share, but let's start with an overview: London, Southhampton (to set sail from same port as the Titanic), then Guernsey, Cork, Dublin, Liverpool, Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Invergordon, and La Havre before returning to Southampton and London again to fly home. An exhausting itinerary except that a cruise ship makes it possible to unpack once for such a journey and sleep in the same bed every night.

We arrived a day early with good intentions of checking into an airport hotel, having a nice dinner and a pint, then off to an early bedtime to start off our UK adventure fully rested and recovered from our long flight and loss of sleep.  But as we know, travel is full of surprises. The hotel receptionist directed us to a neighborhood restaurant a few blocks away. It took us a moment to figure out there was one queue for ordering food and another one for ordering drink, but then each was brought to the table. While we stood in line a young woman struck up a conversation with me about the news from Egypt being shown on the screen over our heads. She was from a middle eastern country working for the embassy of another one in London.

She found the news footage upsetting and proceeded to explain to me that the people rioting could neither read nor write and had no knowledge of world affairs or politics other than what their religious clerics share with them. She explained that a good man with modern ideas who could get himself elected could most likely not maintain control. "These people only respect strength. The need is for a very strong leader who also has a modern way of thinking, but I fear this cannot be found." We discussed her own country which has a reputation of stability which I was glad to hear, as it also has a site high on my travel list.

While I was engaged in this conversation my husband was chatting up a young man and woman in front of him in line. 

Which is how we ended up staying up all night drinking with a Sicilian, a Serb, and a Swede.They were a crew of flight attendants on a layover for Qatar Airlines. They were quite curious about the number of Americans who are passport holders. They'd heard 8% someplace but I argued (only guessing) that the number must be closer to 30%. Luckily I wasn't far off with Forbes reporting last year that a record number of Americans, roughly 1/3, have their passports.

We eventually moved from the pub when it closed to our hotel lobby, where a bored night time manager was willing to open the bar back up for a little company. The evening was filled with discussions ranging from religion to politics, travel, family history, home, education, and love.

We began our UK adventure less rested than we'd hoped, but such encounters are always worth losing a little sleep over.
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