SATURDAY, AUGUST 5TH:
Okay, here is the BEST part of my trip so far and I don’t think anything will top this. Yesterday, Noah Bellamy and I were walking through the park looking for something sinful to eat (fresh baked waffles, to be exact!). My cell phone rang and “Grinch” popped up on the caller ID. I immediately answered it because “Grinch” is the nickname of a Marine that I met in Iraq in 2003 when he was the special assistant to General Franks at Centcom. He and I became best friends and I can’t tell you how many times he has come to my rescue when I push the envelope a little too far when trying to get entertainment over to the troops. (a polite way of saying, “he constantly saves my butt” and yes, Burner, I do give you a rest sometimes and get other people to bail me out! J ) Anyway, I’ve been worried about him because my emails to him were bouncing back. I finally emailed his personal address instead of the Centcom address and asked him if he was back in the “sandbox” but didn’t hear anything from him. So, I was relieved to get his phone call. He said that he was at Dulles airport heading back over to Iraq for year’s tour of duty. It was great to get to talk to him before he left.
Got up at 4 am this morning and drove to the Gothenberg airport. No problem checking in but we had a 3 hour layover in Frankfurt before flying to Manchester. We were all walking towards our next gate when this voice said to me, “I thought you were in Sweden. What are you doing in the Frankfurt airport”. I know you won’t believe this, but for once I was speechless. It was Grinch on his way to Iraq. What are the chances of running in to him in the Frankfurt airport? The Frankfurt airport is huge with two terminals and since today is Saturday, it was packed. So, I got to talk to him in person and give him a big hug before he left for his year in Iraq. Told him I’d see him either at Thanksgiving with Aaron Tippin if we don’t go to Afghanistan or for sure in December with Karri Turner and Jim McMahon.
Flight to Manchester was delayed because they had a handicapped person who needed to board and they didn’t have anyone who could assist. Our bus was waiting for us when we landed and it was an hour and a half drive from the airport to Llanddudno where the show is tonight. When we arrived, I was amazed at the area. Can’t believe I’ve never been to Wales but sure hope to come back. It is a beautiful little resort town right on the Irish Sea. All the hotels and homes are “Victorian” and the little town is so quaint. There are shops and pubs lined up and the theatre where we performed was really great. It was like a Performing Arts Center. We all had “fish and chips” and I have to say, it’s probably the best I’ve had in the U.K. The food here just isn’t great – unless you can find Indian food – but this was good except for being extremely greasy.
Howard and his wife took a nap this afternoon and Howard woke up in a panic at 6:30 pm thinking they were going to be late for the show. He woke Jenny up and she was totally confused about the day. She grabbed the “day sheet” that I had given them with all the room numbers and itinerary information on it and said, “Look. We have a day off today. We don’t leave until 10:30!” She thought it was already the next day. Traveling like we have been topped with them still having jetlag can certainly be confusing.
All the people at the theatre extremely nice and so excited to have the Bellamy Brothers performing. Jesse and Noah got a great response to their music and the audience loved the Bellamys. I would love to be able to bring an artist back here next year. The theatre has a series of entertainment throughout the Summer months and they have one country music artist come in each year.
After the show, all the restaurants were closed. It is a Saturday night and nothing was open at 11 pm! We ended up at Kentucky Fried Chicken eating chicken strips! Certainly not what I wanted but since we did not have any dinner, it was the only option.
I don’t have wireless in my room but do have a great room. Guess it makes up for last night’s room when I could only open one bag at a time because there was no space at all. This room is large with a huge bathroom and big windows that look out on the shopping street. Of course, we have less than 24 hours in this beautiful little resort.
When I tried to open my suitcase today, evidently it had been searched at the airport. Both zippers had a pink ribbon caught on the INSIDE of the suitcase. I could not get the zippers pulled apart more than about 3 inches. I finally had to sacrifice the ribbon in order to get it open.
A little after midnight and I’m going to bed soon. Can’t wait to get up and jog by the Irish sea tomorrow. Hope the weather cooperates.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 6TH:
Okay, I am in love with Llandudno, North Wales! How did I travel the world and never know about this place?
I feel like a “new person”. I got 6 hours of sleep and got up to run along the seaside. Oh my God, what a fabulous run. Howard and Jenny were already sitting on a bench by the water. They had been out walking early morning. My plan was to run up to a long pier and go out on the pier. But when I got there, the pier was fenced and the gate was locked. So, I continued up behind the pier, up a huge bluff overlooking the sea. The view was fantastic. I entered a wildlife reserve and nature park and kept climbing. But, it started to get real isolated and my brain started working overtime on what kind of “wildlife” might be living there. So, I turned around and ran back down the other direction, past our hotel and the venue where we performed and into another little village. Perfect 5 mile jog.
Went into breakfast and they had HEALTHY food! Special K cereal and that great thick natural yogurt. I want to stay here for the next few days instead of going to London. I’ve seen London many times, but not this amazing little seaside village. I will make it a point to come back here.
My room was located in the newly remodeled part of the hotel and it was really nice. Really high ceilings and lots of windows that wrapped around the room and went all the way up to the ceiling. The bathtub had one of the new big shower heads but the strange thing was, there was a mirror built into the wall running the length of the tub. I was so fascinated with the mirror and the fact that they would spend so much money on something that immediately fogged over when the water was turned on, that I didn’t notice the problem with the window across the room. The bottom half of the glass was frosted so that no one could see in. But the top half was clear and there was a “drop down” shade over it. Only the shade was pulled up and everyone in the hotels across the street had their windows open, looking right in at me in the shower. Sure I gave all of them quite an early morning fright!
Hey and get this! While I’ve been over here, I’ve negotiated two performances for the Bellamy Brothers in SRI LANKA in December. I think they will be the first country artist to perform there! I’ll go with them, come home for a couple of days, and then go to Iraq over the holidays.
We packed up and departed to the airport for our flight to London. The trolleys at the UK airports are so difficult to control! None of us were able to get them to roll straight ahead. We finally figured out if you rolled them SIDEWAYS, then they would go where you wanted them to go. We were a pretty funny sight – 14 people with huge suitcases and large guitar cases rolling their carts sideways across the terminal. Of course, every once in a while, one would still break lose and crash into someone. We were supposed to be on a Lufthansa flight but it turned out to be a British Midland codeshare flight. They didn’t want to honor our “international weight restrictions” and were only going to allow 20 kilos per person total (about 44 pounds!). It would have cost us a fortune in excess fees but we were finally able to find someone who agreed to honor the international weight limits (2 bags weighing 50 pounds each). I got stressed and left my computer case sitting in the middle of the terminal by the check-in counter. Fortunately, the drummer saw it and grabbed it for me. Otherwise, they would have evacuated the terminal and blown up my bag. Not good!!
Then Howard Bellamy called me over and handed me the drummer’s airline tickets for the remainder of the tour. He had left them at the check-in counter. We had a little fun with him but let him off the hook pretty quickly.
We were pretty concerned that something would go wrong once we arrived in London. Our show for tomorrow night cancelled but the buyer agreed to honor all the terms of the contract. He was sending a bus to pick us up and take us to the hotel where he had pre-paid the rooms for 3 nights. I called the bus driver only to find that he had been sent to Terminal 2 and we arrived at Terminal 1. We had to wait about a half hour for him to drive around. The little “traffic cop” in charge of letting the buses come in told Howard he looked like Colonel Sanders! The bus finally arrived and was driver by an elderly gentleman who refused to let us load our own suitcases. He insisted on picking each one up himself!
It was supposed to be a 30 minute ride to the Holiday Inn in Camden. But, an hour later, we were still driving. We entered the Camden area and it looked like Soho. Lots of sidewalk shops and restaurants, tattoo parlors, people picketing outside the subway entrance, etc. The bus driver couldn’t figure out how to get to the hotel. We circled so many times, the people on the sidewalk were beginning to wave! Then, he started backing down a tiny street to some dumpy little hotel. I asked him if he was taking us to the Camden Holiday Inn and he said, no that his instructions were we were staying at the Camden Lock hotel! I had a printout from the Holiday Inn confirming our pre-paid rooms, so he agreed to take us there. He circled and circled again and had no idea where he was going. He finally called his office and got directions.
The Holiday Inn is “new” and is great. We have wireless internet in our rooms, air conditioning, and Wash Cloths!!!! I went to an Indian restaurant for dinner with David and his family. It was really, really good food.
I’m not sure how to act with THREE nights in the same hotel room! What a special treat. J Guess we will take Jesse and Noah sightseeing tomorrow since they have never been to London.
MONDAY, AUGUST 7TH:
Two nights in a row of 6 hours of sleep. Unbelievable and wonderful!
Got up to go jogging in Regent’s Park only to find that it was raining. Went to the “gym” downstairs at the hotel. They have 3 good cardio machines but no weights. Did 20 minutes each on stationary bike, elliptical trainer, and treadmill. Then walked down to Marks and Spencer and picked up some fabulous Greek Yogurt and stopped at Starbucks for a Fat Free Latte. Showered and met the Bellamys in the Lobby. We took the “Tube” over to Harrod’s to have lunch with their record distributor. It was a fabulous buffet with everything imaginable to eat. Afterwards, we browsed through Harrod’s. It is insanely expensive. Just a little magnet for the refrigerator cost $10! For once, I didn’t buy anything. David purchased some Pate and cheese. He also got some Cuban cigars and got a better deal on those than anything else in the store!
We took the tube over to see Big Ben and then walked past Westminister Abby to Buckingham Palace. I’ve seen all this before but it was the first time David’s sons have ever been to London. Of course what they want to see MOST is Abby Road and the Beatles old recording studio. Think that is on the agenda for tomorrow.
Took the tube back to the hotel and then had Thai food for dinner. It was really, really good. I am amazed that I have found such wonderful food this visit to London. Either the food has gotten better or I’ve learned where to eat here.
Camden is an interesting area. By day, it has great shopping and restaurants. By night, there are dozens of drug dealers up and down the street and it’s frightening to be walking around!
I was amazed that I was able to figure out the tube and get everyone around today. It’s is really frightening when I’m the one “leading the pack”. But we didn’t get lost one time.
It’s 2 am now so I won’t get my 6 hours of sleep tonight! L
TUESDAY, AUGUST 8TH:
Paid 10 pounds (about $20 U.S.) to use the gym close to the hotel this morning. It’s a great gym…but $20????
Susan Bellamy and I went to see the Tower Bridge and London Bridge this morning while David, Jesse, and Noah toured the studio at Abby Road where the Beatles recorded. Then we all met at a great Italian restaurant by Harrod’s for lunch. I still can’t get over the fact that:
A. The food in the UK has been GREAT this time
B. It hasn’t rained every day
Hard to believe I am in the UK!!!
Susan and I bought tickets on the Big Red Bus and went sightseeing all afternoon plus we took the river cruise up the Thames. I think I have seen all of these sights a couple of times, but it was fun to see them again with her. We only got lost on the “tube” 3 times today and it wasn’t my fault.
Met David and the boys for dinner at a STRANGE restaurant in Camden. They served Asian food but the décor was Egyptian. But, again, the food was great. Camden streets were really crowded today and you wouldn’t believe some of the things the people were wearing. Also, lots of drug dealers out offering drugs to people passing by. Funky part of town but great hotel we are staying in. Very odd.
Trying to get all my emails answered before my time runs out on my internet service. Have to leave EARLY tomorrow for Austria. “Free time” in London is over. The venue in Austria is only accessible via a gondola. Should be interesting.