24 June 2012

England: Part the Second...The Rest of Woking, and Riding the Rails

The Woking (or Metro) Hotel
As noted, the ride to Woking was pretty nice. The Woking Hotel would not let Mark and I check in until 2:00PM, so we went across the street to Wetherspoons. This is a chain pub, much like an Applebee's but more bar-like. Ordering in England is very different than in the US. First, you find a table. Then you peruse the menu until you find what you want. Next, find the table number on your table (or at least figure out an apt description of same) and proceed to the bar to order and pay for your food. Pints tend to run from between £2.50 (Two pounds, fifty pence*) to £3.60 for the premium stuff. That's about $3.90 to $5.65 a piece, but to me, it's worth it - this is the real stuff, typically brewed nearby, and stored in casks, not kegs, served at about 50 to 55 degrees rather than the usual 40 to 45 in the US. It tastes GOOD! Presumably, you've already purchased the first round of beer, so by this time, you're likely to want the second whilst you wait for your food. If there is no number, you'll be given something that identifies your table. Your food is delivered, and that's it. There is no real "service" like in American restaurants, nor is there much tipping (a publican might be tipped for extra good service, but this seems to be completely voluntary and unnecessary most of the time).

The selection of beers runs like this: Coors Light, Budweiser, Corona (I am NOT making this up), etc. But also there are huge selections of ales and lagers, hand-pumped straight from the cask, with no artificial carbonation. The funny thing is, all of the labels on the taps also list the ABV (Alcohol By Volume). The publicans will warn you if it's a high ABV you've selected. They also tend to know about the selections, so if you want something hoppy or malty or a bitter or stout, they can usually recommend something you'll like.

We finally checked into the hotel after a few rounds across the street. The room was adequate. See the pictures below. Then we went back to Wetherspoons to meet another blogworld friend. We drank for a bit at Wetherspoons, then moved to The Sovereign for more beer and dinner. This visit lasted until nearly 9PM, when bloggerfriend had to return to his quarters to rest up for a long weekend of working. So Mark and I ventured back to the hotel. I was now on about 38 hours of minimal sleep (the 2 or 3 hours on the plane), and right at the edge of coherent functioning. I managed to fall asleep with the pulsing, pounding bass line of a band playing in an event hall next door. ARGH! The Bose noise-cancelling headset worked to quell the riot going on in the walls of this room.

Pretty basic room
The view from my window was of the nightclub
next door
Lunch on Saturday
was an Irish Beef Burger
Bacon and Cheese,
with a side of chips.
Saturday dawned as another typical British day, cloudy with a chance of showers. I actually got a bit of a lie-in when I noticed the text from another friend, J, who had left Wales at 5:47AM to come up and spend the day with us in his hometown. We'd expected him about 9, but it seems his shift ended late (early?) and he was on a later train. But we met for the first time in real life right about 10AM, and spent a wonderful day visiting around his hometown of Woking. It's a pretty city, only about 5000 people, but the main downtown is vibrant and bustling. H. G. Well's novel, "The War of the Worlds" was based nearby, and Woking takes advantage of it with a display of a Tripod and one of the jets that fought them. Even Wetherspoons has a fantastic sculpture of the man in the window. I forgot to get a picture of it :-(. The town is very big on public art, and if anyone can tell me what these three polar bears are doing (picture, below), I'd appreciate it; there is no explanation anywhere near the piece itself! We went to the mall, then over to the Lighthouse, the town's art museum. They had a really cool exhibit about the history of Woking, and even J enjoyed it, not having seen it since he was about 11 (he's 19 now). We then wandered back towards the center of the city, sticking our head into the Victorian era (but much modernised) Christ Church, then looking for a decent place for lunch. We settled on O'Neill's, an Irish pub. I had a very good Irish Beef Burger with bacon and cheese, and a side of chips. Note that here French fried are called chips.

The Tripod
There's amazing detail in this sculpture!

Three bears on the right, one on the left...
...what the bloody heck are they DOING?!

Christ Church, ca. 1887 (but I'll bet they sat on straight-
backed pews back then!)
After lunch, we wandered back and sat outside Wetherspoons for a while longer, until J could hardly hold his head up (he'd now been up almost as long as I had been the day before). So he called his mum who came to pick him up for a home-cooked meal (as J put it, "that's called take-away"). Mark and I had a late dinner after taking a short rest from the day, then it was time for bed, and that damned night-club thingie was throbbing again. Fortunately, it was a bit softer last night, so I managed to fall asleep without help from Mr. Bose.

I got a later start (deliberately) today, as it was mostly a travel day. That bloody club started the bass line again about 9:00AM. I wanted to go cut the electrics mains. Instead I rolled out of bed, ate breakfast, showered and packed up to leave. M and I checked out about 10AM, walked the block and a half to the Woking train station, and purchased through tickets to Cambridge (£28.60).

All of the above are of Waterloo Station, a huge
rail terminal in London.
 The rail system in England puts ours to shame. All electric (at 750 volts on the third rail), extremely quiet, and pretty darn easy to navigate. We had a couple of connections, one at Kings Cross station. Remember Platform 9¾ from a certain wizarding novel? This is the station where it's located. Unfortunately, the station is greatly modernised from the settings in the Harry Potter movies. Platform 9¾ is now a brick wall just before you get to the platforms (rather than a brick pillar alongside the tracks) and has a cut-away luggage cart unlike anything I've seen in a HP movie glued to the wall. Very disappointed. I didn't waste any pixels taking a picture of it, though there were dozens of others standing around who did.

The trains are very clean, very fast (around 80mph), and it's a smooth ride on relatively new continuously welded rail. A toddler who was just starting to walk was moving up and down the aisle quite easily! We arrived in Cambridge in early afternoon, walked to the house, then to the market. I found the exact USB cable I needed for £3.99. We bought a bit of food and some necessities, then it's been a nice slow afternoon of blogging. And now that I have the correct password to M's Wi-Fi, I can post this!

*Money will be sorted in a future post, as soon as I get a 50p coin!

No comments:

Post a Comment