No matter how many museums or historic sites we’ll see while in the UK, nothing will compare with spending time with good people. Our day with the Samanis in Leicester (approx. 100 mi. north of London) was fantastic, including way too much Indian food, a tour of "mini India," and a heart-stopping experience with a spider.
The Samanis include Sanjay, his wife, Sonal, and their two beautiful little girls, Vaidehi (age 5) and Eesha (age 2). Sanjay and I worked together for years at Weber Shandwick, and he has recently moved his family to Leicester. Sanjay and Vaidehi picked the Fry family trio up at the train station at 11:00, and we proceeded to their house just outside of Leicester, where we immediately began eating all kinds of delicious, traditional Indian food. Henry got on famously with Vaidehi and Eesha, and I think they were all thrilled to have extra playmates.
After eating enough to keep us full for a week, we packed up the car and headed into Leicester, where Sanjay and Sonal (who is from Leicester), showed us around a "mini India" that’s full of shops selling saris, traditional Indian jewelry and sweets. The Samanis introduced us to pan, a kind of pick-me-up snack made of sweet spices and syrupy juice folded into a minty leaf. After a stroll up and down the row, we bought some more sweet and savory snacks (because we hadn’t eaten enough already) and headed back to the house.
Outside of a few wrong turns by Sanjay, the car ride back to the house would have been uneventful – except for the massive spider that crawled across my headrest. Sonal, who was sitting right behind me, calmly alerted me to the fact that there was something crawling near my head and "not to panic." She and Vaidehi, who was on her lap, proceeded to scream bloody murder and hide their faces, while I was faced with the biggest spider I’d ever seen, practically barking at me two inches away from my face. My family and friends all know that I’m more afraid of spiders than death. Meanwhile, Sanjay, who couldn’t see the spider, is in hysterics from the driver’s seat and is telling me to close the door, which I’d opened as we drove down the road to scoop the spider out. I refused to buckle my seat belt or get off the dashboard the rest of the way home. I’m afraid that I’ll forever be known to Vaidehi and Eesha as the wussy American friend who came to visit one winter.
It was so great to see Sanjay again and meet his amazing family. Like life-long friends, it was easy to slip into conversations and laughs. Kristine and I are hoping they’ll visit the Fry Lodge in Seattle someday.
Sanjay dropped us off at the station at 7:00, the train sped us home in just over an hour, and we were jammied up in our Pimlico flat by 9:00.
P.S. Henry’s lip is all better.
We packed a lot into our weekend trip to Bath, including a tour of the Roman Baths, the Jane Austen Centre, a few great and not-so-great pubs, and yes, the emergency room. All in all, we had a wonderful time, and we’re happy to be back home in London.
We arrived in Bath late Friday night and walked 15 minutes to our hotel – a bed and breakfast called Hotel Saint Clair. It’s run by a very nice couple, Andrew and Carol Brookes, who have two little munchkins of their own. Andrew is from Bath, and Carol is from Ireland. Andrew checked us in, and we went to bed straight away.
We got up early on Saturday, had an English breakfast (eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, mushrooms and grilled tomato) and headed out. It was pissing rain all weekend, so getting around town was a damp experience. First, we checked out the Roman Baths. After conquering the British 2000 years ago, the Romans constructed a series of baths on top of a natural hot spring. Six civilizations have since built on top of the Roman ruins. And this is what we toured. We didn’t exactly know what to expect, but we were impressed, overall. We couldn’t take the stroller into the museum, so we had to use a baby backpack provided to us. Henry didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he fell asleep almost right away. Though when he did wake up, he of course made friends with everybody we passed. Kristine not only drank the water (for its healing effects) she bought a tourist trap souvenir bottle of the stuff as well as a Latin translation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
At the end of the bath tour, we had to get Henry out of the backpack and get our things back into the stroller. We set Henry down while he was still in the backpack, and he took a little spill. There was blood. We were panicked. But we managed to keep our cool long enough to stop the bleeding and ask for a first-aid kit from the museum personnel, who directed us to the nearest NHS (National Health Service) clinic. We felt so bad. Henry had a swollen lip and a cut inside his mouth, which produced a lot more blood than two first-time parents were expecting. Luckily, we got him into a doctor fairly quickly to ease our concerns. No surgery required. Henry had his first fat lip. After an hour at the NHS, we all needed a drink, so we proceeded to the nearest family-friendly pub, The Cork and Bottle, where we ate a late lunch and drowned our sorrows.
We spent the rest of the evening at a great gastropub, Marlborough Tavern, where we had an excellent meal. We all slept like babies Saturday night and woke up refreshed this morning ready to check out more of Bath. Jane Austen used to live there, so we spent 45 minutes at the Jane Austen Center (near the corner of Queen Square and Gay Street, by the way) to get out of the rain. Not quite as eventful as the Roman Baths, but Kristine did buy an out-of-print copy of the two Jane Austen novels set in Bath – Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. After that, we walked around Bath, watched the rushing Avon, and ate a great lunch at Garfunkel’s, where we had our first treacle (pictured below). By mid-afternoon, it was time to collect our bags at Hotel Saint Clair and catch the train back to London. We loved our weekend away, and plan to visit again, perhaps during summer when Henry can walk.