A Trip To Europe, Hold the Tourists Please


From: Philip Semanchuk
To: john, irene & scott, steve & liz
Subject: Howdy from London
Date: Sunday, August 8, 1999 9:26 AM

Arrived here very early on a rainy morning. My first stop was the West End Kitchen. My notes say, "Fabbo breakfast for $3. I am deliriously happy." Deliriously sleep deprived is more like it. On the plane I watched Goldie Hawn and the sunrise while everyone else was catching Zs. I walked around in a pouring rain to find an Internet cafe and finally found EasyEverything right outside of Victoria Station. Good place, nice flat panel displays, only £1/hour (£1 = $1.60).

Off to Sweden in a few days. Spoke my first Swedish yesterday. (Talar du Engelska = Do you speak English?) The reply was, "No, we're out of onions but the mailman isn't sick anymore." I will have to work on my pronunciation.

I have to find a phone and call my old friend Paul. He has promised to nurse me through this worst day of the trip -- Jet Lag Day.


Notes written in the light of a damp Monday morning in Paul's Islington flat

Professional wrestling with UK phone system. Do I dial zero or not? Whatever...one if by land, two if overseas. I finally got in touch with Paul yesterday and true to his somber Irish heritage he took me on a tour of two atmospheric graveyards and some atmospheric pubs. Dinner was aubergine-less Mexican. If you mix jet lag with no sleep, several pints of Guiness and two graveyards, experiences will seem much more normal if they're surreal. Highly recommended. It was very good to see Paul again.

Monday, August 9th. Notes from Cambridge, England where I stayed with my friend Wendy and met her cats Ben and Ralphie

Ralphie the cat says hi!

Brie and cranberry sandwich. An Italian and two friends board the train to Cambridge at the last minute and he never sits down the whole trip. He broadcasts his every taboo thought in heavily accented English -- prostitution, four letter words, drugs, the ultimate British taboo of talking loudly in public. His comic timing is perfect. He is one of those high energy extroverts who achieve a tungsten-filament glow on public transportation.

Went shopping in Cambridge to replace the 28-80mm camera lens I broke. Got a good deal but I wish I hadn't broken it all the same. Wonder if I can reclaim the VAT? Played frisbee with a woman from Spartanburg, SC. Drank a beer in the sun on the lawn. Forgot everything. Bliss.

Cambridge is a gorgeous town. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a college and there is lots of public green space as well. The colleges are very old, very ornate, very stone. The town is full of students and tourists speaking foreign languages and broken English.

Cultural note: No one in England puts bumper stickers on their cars.

Thursday, August 12th. Stanstead Airport.

Window seats on planes rule! Window seats rule!

Monster indigestion from a hasty liquid breakfast. Vitamin pill, orange juice, coffee. Ugh. Paid £62 for a ticket to fly from Stanstead to Brussels where I will change planes to Copenhagen so I can get a ferry to Malmö in Sweden. In the airport, heard someone's broken English mention the old TV show "The Man of Six Millions".