Brits, OxFord, Chipotle and Leffe; A Freezing Cold Vacation Adventure

   When I planned my trip to England and Venice in 2009 I thought I was going to have to cancel at the last minute. England was hit by massive snow storm for a week straight and all the flights into and out of Heathrow were cancelled.

Photo by John Cramer

      Some areas of Britain saw more snow then they had seen in 18 years. For England to get eight inches of snow in a storm is very uncommon. Not only were flights delayed but the roads were a disaster. There were not enough plows to keep the roads clear, plus they were quickly running out of salt to help the English with their already wretched driving skills. Even the London Underground, the tube service was delayed, it was a bloody mess! Lol.
     Luckily for me, later in the week when my flight left sunny southern California, Heathrow bound, the weather had improved. My flight was on time, and I even managed to sleep the whole way to England. Yet, when I got there it took me forever to get through passport control. Why do the passport people always pick on me? If they are not yelling at me to
     “Take off that ridiculous hat!!!!!”
      They are giving me the third degree on why I want to visit England for the third time in three years. I really think the passport control guy thought I was trying to hide out in Great Brittan or smuggle drugs or something. Really? I’m a republican! Couldn’t they tell from my tattoos and mountain smell?
      ”Why would I want to stay in your ridiculous country?”
      I wanted to shout.
     “You don’t have garbage disposals, screens on your windows, fluoride in your water, or anything but instant coffee. Sure you might have tangy, creamy Mueller’s Yogurt, public transportation that actually worth using, mouth watering Indian food and Marks and Spencer’s, but why would I ever want to stay in this ridiculous country?!”
     Instead of causing a scene in a foreign airport, I calmly explained myself, that I was just here on holiday again, can I please go enjoy my two weeks off now. Oh and that’s another thing; the passport guy did not believe me that my job working for a grocery chain allowed me to travel globally like I had been. Yeah, it’s nice to have a good job at a time when the economy is pure shit. After I escaped passport control I went looking for my friends who live here in England, stationed here with the Air Force for four years. I  finally found my friends Mimi and John in Costa Coffee. When I explained what happened Mimi told me
     “Yeah, the Brits hate the military, that’s why he hassled you so much.”

Fun times in a pub in Cambridge

     With that behind us we were off to check out a lovely old castle on a foggy cold February day. I had been to England twice before, once in the winter, but that winter?
      Was freezing!
       I love the cold, but it was actually a bit much for me. Mimi said its a damp cold, that’s why it feels like the warmth is being sucked out of your bones.. I felt like a flatlander even admitting that I was actually cold! After briefly getting Mimi’s Sedan stuck in the mud (Wops! Forgot it’s not all wheel drive like mine) we hurried back to Cambridge to get some spicy, authentic Indian food for dinner. I never appreciated Indian food until I went to England. It is so spicy and has so many flavors all going on at once. Raita, lamb, pickled vegetable goodness tastes so good on a bone chilling cold U.K. night!
     In the next few days between drinking way to much Leffe Beer (I always forget it has twice the alcohol of beer in the states) playing lots of British board games in a pub, falling down a snowy hill, losing my new sweater in a pub, ripping my brand new jeans, and recovering from Leffe, falling, etc we decided to brave the snowy wet weather and explore the English countryside. We got on the motorway heading for Oxford; unfortunately the motorway was completely stopped so we decided to take back country partially plowed roads. Multiple times we almost spun out, thank god for John’s driving and rear wheel drive cars. We drove through some charming old country towns, snow covered, and smiling British people walking their dogs to and from the thatched roof houses. It was such a great drive! England in winter is so quaint and pretty in a freeze your balls off sort of way.
     We finally slid into Oxford, stopped in a pub for a pint, then walked around checking out the  famous Oxford University at sunset. We signed up for a ghost tour of Oxford, which was spooky and fun. We had dinner in a little pub, trying mulled wine (Which I did not care for at all) sausages, and a mash that included carrots which was really tasty. ( Weird thing for me to say; I hate carrots.)
      What was the main reason to go to Oxford? Oxford has a Chipotle. Of course, it’s not called Chipotle, but it’s the same graphics on all the signs and packaging, and the food is exactly the same. For two Americans trapped overseas for four years, driving three hours for Chipotle on a snowy day is worth it. What else are you going to do in England?  We purchased  Chipotle for friends back in Cambridge and off we went through the snowy night.  So with the car stuffed full of burritos we made the drive back to Cambridge. The next day, on to Venice!