Kaitlyn and I arrive at Heathrow airport at 11:00, an hour after mom and Christina arrive at Gatwick. Before the flight, mom and I arranged to meet at the McDonald’s in the Gatwick avenue level of the North terminal at 13:00. Kaitlyn and I don’t arrive at Gatwick until 14:00 due to “a couple of unfortunate events.” (1) Although I had made reservations with Hertz Gold, they don’t yet have a car ready for us, so we wait at Heathrow with no way to contact mom and Christina. (While we’re waiting, Kaitlyn bets me that I’ll get in on the wrong side of the car. I take her on because I know I won’t. We finally get a car and sure enough, I open the left door to get in. Doh!) (2) So we leave for Gatwick and end up stuck on the M25 for about an hour, through 2 traffic jams, one of which the result of an accident that causes four lanes of traffic to merge down to one.
The drive is nice, though. Driving on the left of the road is fairly easy to get used to, until it comes time to enter a roundabout. I have difficulty learning to look to the right for oncoming traffic rather than the left, but I do fine with no incedents to report. whew
Mom and Christina are glad to see us when we arrive, and I realize one minor problem: the directions to Patrick’s house are on my work computer rather than on the Mac I have with me. While eating an overpriced McDonald’s quarter pounder, I send a panic e-mail to Patrick at work. But then I see that I did save at least the address and phone number on the Mac. Since the airport has Internet access, I am able to find directions to the house and we are finally on our way. In route, Patrick calls us and gives us some useful tips, such as the exit number from the motorway. This information makes his house very easy to find, even though I do manage to miss his street on the first pass.
Good friends and good food
Isabelle and Patrick’s house is very nice. Patrick says that they repainted, wallpapered, and refloored most of the house. The artwork of Isabelle and the rest of their family give it that warm touch, too. The old style house is not without its own charm, however. The intricate ceiling work and crown molding are the kinds of things these two like. Very nice. Our accomodations were nice, too. Since we aren’t the only visitors expected this summer, they decided to prepare the guest room with a new bed and furnishings. Top all this off with an excellent dinner! That’s why I call the place Château Dantressangle. It feels like we were getting royal treatment!
They of course want to give us the quintessential French dinner. I’ve had their various dishes at different times while they lived in the US, but this night they give us every wonderful thing all at once: salad with mustard-vinegar dressing, fresh herbs and green beans from their garden, cucumber salad, and delicious Quiche. We then sample a full plate of various cheeses. Earlier in the evening, Christina and Kaitlyn had fun sampling various mixtures of flavored syrups and tonic water. Kaitlyn is a little hesitant to sample all the cheese flavors, especially those with noticeable traces of bacteria and mold (such as the skin of Brie and the blue knots in the Roquefort-like cheese). Finally comes the chocolate mousse. I sleep well that night.
But before bed, Patrick plays a little guitar and he and the girls share and compare their music. Like I was when I first heard it, Patrick is surprised when Kaitlyn plays her favorite song “Love Addict,” by Family Force 5. Reminded me of myself at her age.
A note on shower economy: their shower water is heated by a small electric heater above the tub. Pretty cool and it looks safer than the one I remember from the hotel in the Philippines. Speaking of safety, every single electrical outlet in England is not only grounded (and huge), but it has an on/off switch next to it.