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.