Monday, July 11, 2022

London, Finally: Part 4

Friday found me leaving London, on a Bristol-bound train. The furthest West I had previously been in England was Bath, which is just shy of reaching Bristol on the same line. Bristol, however, was new to me, and it was a few-hour stop on my way to Weston-Super-Mare, to visit my friend-trainer-pain-in-the-ass (said with affection) Kay, and finally meet his puppy, Zeus.

Kay and I met in 2019, when I was a passenger on the Regal Princess as it circled the Baltic. He was a trainer. I had signed up for a workout class that he happened to be leading, and when I realized he was English, it started the "I once lived in England..." conversational ball rolling, and I don't think I've shut up yet.

We kept in touch via Instagram, and a year later, I started training with him on Zoom. I knew it would be great to see him in person again.

Right, so trains and stuff. I hopped across the street to Paddington to catch my Bristol train, and before too long, I was arriving, along with a train full of younger types who boarded in Swansea. Later, I would tell Kay, "A bunch of people got on in Swansea..." and his response was an inelegant snort. I didn't have to say more. They were young, dressed for the clubs (at 10:00 in the morning), and ready to go wild in Bristol. 

Eh, I hope they had fun. It was just funny to me, to see them ready to go so early in the day.

It was a gorgeous morning in Bristol. I had planned to take a water taxi from the station to the main historic district, but I had to wait a bit for the next service. No worries, I found a Starbucks and settled in.

This is where I caught the water taxi.

The River Avon runs through Bristol, and due to its proximity to the coast, Bristol is big on boating.

On the ferry

I took some random pictures as we made our way along the Avon to the town center.

Once at the town center, I had a purpose: to find a nearby Banksy work. Banksy--you either love him or hate him. I think he's bloody brilliant. I don't condone graffiti, but his social commentary can be so deliciously twisted and dark...I love it. And I love how he is still anonymous. 

Banksy is from Bristol, or at least that's where he got his clandestine start to his career, and there are still a bunch of pieces by him on various walls all over. I was not feeling up to doing a walking tour of all of them, so I figured sticking to one particularly famous one in the town center would be enough. I plugged it into Google Maps on my phone, and set off up (literally, it was a hill) the street where I would find it.

I passed a cathedral and a statue of Queen Victoria.

And I kept walking. 

And walking. 


And then I stopped to get my bearings. Where is this thing, anyway?

According to Maps, I had passed it. Wait, what??

Turns out I missed the intersection I was looking for because the street runs under the one I was walking up. My tired, post-COVID self was sweating profusely, out of breath, and slightly irked at herself. 

So I turned around and walked back down the hill. 

I stopped at a bookstore where all books
are 3 quid, and got this. It was GREAT.

Down, down, down the hill.

Ahh! There it is! And visible from the road, if I had just thought to look up and across the street at some point during my trek up the hill.

Well-Hung Lover, sadly defaced a little here and

The street I had been looking for.

I had time to kill, so I visited the Cathedral. 

I have a long-standing disdain for 
Henry VIII.

After my visit to the Cathedral, I walked back down to where I had left the water taxi. Another boat was coming soon, and I had decided to take it the long way back--all the way down to the end and then back to the train station. I had time, and figured this would be an easy way to see a bit more of Bristol before I needed to catch my train to Weston. 

It was starting to cloud over, and we even got a little bit rained on (I was under the cover), but the cool air felt great and it was fun to see Bristol, which is a pleasing mix of historic and modern.

This yacht was called the Miss Conduct, 
and it had a helicopter. 

Our skipper

By the time I got to the station, I had just enough time to grab something to drink, and some crisps. Since breakfast at the hotel that morning, I had consumed one Frappuccino, and nothing else. I was hungry, but I knew I couldn't eat a lot yet...I had a Kay workout to get through.

Yes, they were glorious.

My trip to Weston was an uneventful half-hour, and before I knew it, I was greeting Kay as he picked me up at the station. We went back to his house briefly so we could both change into proper workout gear, and so I could do the most important thing...

Meet Zeus. 😍😍😍

Zeus (English Staffordshire) had just had his first birthday, and even if he hadn't, Auntie Meg is not showing up empty-handed. I had found a bear with an American flag cape at PetCo, and carted it all the way to England in my suitcase, and then carted it around Bristol all day in my backpack. 

Kay was babysitting another Staffie, a five-month-old named George. 


Look at this handsome booooyyy. 

Zeus has the most expressive face.

Kay has a weekly spin class on Fridays, so when I planned my visit, I told him, "I want to come!" I had taken one of his spin classes way back on the Regal, so I knew I was in for a hard workout, and also some fun. 

I snuck a pic of Kay before the class.

Let it be known, that even recovering from COVID and still feeling the effects of jet lag, I kicked butt in that class. Aside from the fact that the seat was painful on my derrière, I kept up with every sprint, every push-up, every "you want us to what?!" Kay threw out there. Everyone was laughing and good-naturedly complaining. 

After the class, we returned to Kay's to get the dogs--we stayed at his friend's that night with both dogs, where there was more room for a guest to sleep. Zeus is used to riding shotgun (on the floor), and so I got to share the space with him and George. 

George took Zeus' spot. At one point,
Zeus let out the most long-suffering
sigh I've ever heard from a dog.

After a few hours of dinner and drinks, and lots of chatting ("Hey, look, I sometimes where clothes that aren't for working out!" "Hey, me, too! And makeup! And jewelry!"), we headed home, where both of us pretty much passed out quickly. Turns out both of us had eaten too little all day--we ordered burgers and fries, and we absolutely demolished them.

The next morning, Kay had to work, so he drove me to the station, where the train I needed was waiting. We took a hurried selfie, and off I dashed to the train, where the ticket man, who had seen me hugging Kay goodbye and Zeus tugging his arm in another direction, remarked, "What a beautiful dog! There's a reason they're called the clowns of the dog world!" 

It was marvelous to see Kay in person, and not through a Zoom screen. Since I met him on the ship, we've always found plenty to talk about, and I'm glad for my weekly workouts with him and his encouragement to keep my workout goals going. I've watched through Zoom as he's raised Zeus from tiny puppy to bigger puppy (haha), and it was lovely to finally get to scratch those ears and love on him. 

I was back in London by noon, where I had a quick lunch before returning to my hotel, where I napped for a few hours. This was the one day of my trip where I allowed myself some lazy time to catch up after five days of travel and exploring. I was now about halfway through my trip, and I would need my energy.