After our exciting time in London (Riots! Kidney stones! Indian food!) we headed south-east to Kent, where my aunt and uncle live. It was their 50th anniversary, and the ensuing party was mostly the reason we were in Europe in the first place.
We took the train from Victoria station, in London, to Sittingbourne in Kent. Let me tell you, the public transportation systems in London are fabulous: easy to navigate, reliable, clean and reasonably priced, and they get you where you want to go. Coming from a country that has decimated it's rail system to the point where there is really only route from one end of the country to the other, the British system is wildly accomodating. (In Canada, there's no train service in Newfoundland at all. And if you want to go to, say, Saskatchewan, you only have one place to get on and off. And that place is Saskatoon, and come on, who wants to go there? 22 hours on a train and then you're in Saskatoon? Please. )
We stayed at one of the strangest little hotels I've ever been in....they didn't even have phones in the room. But it was clean and accomodating and close to where we wanted to be, even if it was inexplicably 100°F in that room. Seriously, it's in England....why was it hot enough to grow bananas in there?We went to my aunt and uncle's house for dinner, and they were so welcoming and generous; it was wonderful. I hadn't seen this family for almost 20 years, and they could not have been more congenial. My cousins are lively, funny, delightful people, and I don't get to see them nearly enough
The next day Mister slept in while the girls and I went to McDonald's for breakfast. He's not a big breakfast eater (and I love him anyway) and he was still jet-lagged from the kidney stone.
They had a breakfast buffet at the hotel, but since it cost a lot and we decided that we were too spoiled by our breakfast buffet in France, we'd take a pass. Besides, we were more thirsty than hungry, what with sweating out 10% of our body weight overnight.
Breakfast in McDonald's is never going to be the highlight of anyone's day, but I have to say, it was one of the oddest breakfasts I've ever had. I ordered bacon and egg on a bagel, which you'd think would be pretty straight-forward, but no....the bagels in the McDonalds in England are really just bread shaped like a bagel: round bread with a hole in the middle. I could fold it in half and eat it. The girls got pancakes which came with no syrup. When we asked for syrup, any kind of syrup, the pimply youth behind the counter looked at me like I had asked him to calculate the square root of time or I'd shoot him, and offered up some jam. I didn't want him to wet his pants, so we took it. The coffee was a very pleasant, warm, brown liquid, but it bore no relation to coffee. We did like the British nomenclature for "no-pulp" orange juice; it said "no bits", which we used for the rest of the day to express delight or pleasure. ("How is your cake?" "NO BITS!")
(We also liked the signs for the fire doors: "This door is alarmed!". Seriously? Did it just hear about J.Lo's divorce?)
The party was that day, and it was lovely, real English garden party. (Like in a book!) The weather was wonderful (always a bit of a gamble in England) and the food plentiful and delicious and the company was utterly fabulous. I had such a great time seeing my extended family, and they made us feel like rock stars, just for showing up.
We made our way back to our hotel and then, naturally, to the pub for a drink or two. And then it was Sunday, and time to go home.