As I look back over the hundreds of trips I have taken over the course of my life: short and long; alone or with friends or family; by car, bus, bicycle, train, boat, plane and more, this one really does rank among the top 3 crappiest of all time trips!
I was supposed to take a the airport bus from Marble Arch in London (which was close to where I was staying) to Stansted Airport. I got to exactly where I was supposed to be with 10 minutes to spare but the bus stop was out of service. I moved up the street thinking it must stop at the next bus stop but decided to double check with the concierge at a nearby hotel. Well, I have to tell you that this was the beginning of my loss of all faith in the ability of the English to be orderly, straightforward, or in any way coherent. Every person gave me a different answer, everyone was sure their answer was right, and yet, you guessed it, not one of the answers was correct!
Fast forward about 30 minutes when I have now run around and around in circles trying to find the (expletive) bus, asking strangers and street-cleaners, bus drivers and tour bus operators if they have any (expletive) idea where the bus stops, when I finally land up discovering that it doesn't stop at Marble Arch at all. Haha, the joke's on me: it only goes from Victoria Coach Station where I should have just gone in the first place. I grab a taxi (and anyone who knows me knows that I do NOT believe in taxis), wind my way to Victoria coach station, trip out of the taxi narrowly missing a fall flat on my face and race inside. I wait 15 nervous minutes but finally one does show up. Once we pile on, American, French, Polish, you name it, of course we then hit Friday afternoon traffic, then we hit M25 traffic, and so on. Well, with literally seconds to spare, we arrive at the airport, I locate my check-in area, as politely as I can ask if I can cut the line (only the German couple was resentful and nasty), manage to hurl my bag at the lady at the ticket counter and book it to my gate. Having bad-mouthed Ryan Air to no end, I must say they did manage to handle this relatively well. Shaking and disheveled I got on the plane... but I did make it!
Today was better. A lovely student of my teacher's has generously put me up in his sweet little flat in Gothenburg and is taking excellent care of me in a city where I feel more like a stranger than I did even recently in Botswana. This morning he made us breakfast and then we took the dog for a walk in a lovely park by a lake. After that he took me on a walking tour of the city, passing through Haga and the downtown area, and of course by the opera house as well. Because he works there we were able to go in and practice for about an hour, then we walked back through town and home and are now relaxing before dinner.
It's frustrating not being able to speak the language at all (although now I know a few choice words thanks to an excellent Swedish film we watched last night - probably not the best idea to repeat them here). I'm not very used to being somewhere where I really cannot communicate at all, but at least everyone speaks English, which I don't like but is indeed very helpful. The place is beautiful, very, very clean, orderly and everything functions well. Of special note was the (one and only) state-run liquor store... yep, you heard right. No privately run wine shops or liquor stores in the entire country. Funny place. But I'm so excited to be here and tomorrow we leave for Tjorn which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful parts of Sweden. I will take lots of pictures although without my camera chord I sadly won't be able to share any of them with you until I get back to New York.
5 days ago