Happy 2012! This comes to you from Minneapolis, the place from where we took off to start the Grand Tour in April, and now a place to which we have returned to rest, clear our heads and plan next steps.
Why are we back here? It all started with an officious UK immigration lady who interpreted Steve’s desire to re-enter the UK from Paris in December (I stayed behind in Paris for two more days) as a quest to seek employment there, thereby reducing his length of stay from the usual 6 months to a measly 16 days. The notion that someone could be an Anglophile who wants to spend more time on England’s green and pleasant land legally never occurred to her. No amount of pleading (she had no heart), cajoling (she had no soul) or appealing to reason (she had no brain) would deter her from thinking ill of him. She asked to see credit card balances, bank statements and, when told that we would be flying from London to Moscow on January 3, proof of onward travel. “If you let me use a computer I can get into my email and show you the e-ticket for the January 3 flight to Moscow, as well as the credit card balances, bank statements and any other documents you may require since I don’t travel with paper copies of these things,” Steve calmly told her. WRONG ANSWER.
The bold black stamp discharged from the screechy metallic contraption. On the stamp’s sharp black lines the pasty-faced, bottle-blond, never-been-kissed harridan used her gnarled talons to scratch her decree: Leave to enter until “5th January 2012.” In her munificence she bestowed upon him two days beyond January 3 to leave Her Majesty’s lands. Forever.
Despite this hiccup, Steve caught the next Eurostar (barely) from the Gare du Nord to Paddington Station where we met and did indeed have a lovely time, first in Cornwall with our friends John and Carol for a few days and then back in London where we spent my birthday and Christmas with good friends Sheryl and Donny from New York. The city was bedecked with lights and garland, pubs were serving mulled wine and hot cider and the people were in a festive and joyful mood.
However, our festive and joyful mood was cut short again when applying for a Russian visa at the Russian visa processing office near the Old Street Tube station. The intake officer informed us that, since we were applying outside our home country, the processing would take 10 business days, which would place our passports back in our hands after January 5 since the processing center closed for a portion of the holiday week.
We couldn’t get a Russian visa, had exhausted most of our visa options in the UK and Europe and found ourselves without a plan. Our original plan was to fly to Moscow, spend some time there and in St. Petersburg, hop on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Beijing after which we would explore China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and who knows where else. But now, without said plan, we felt…lost. And not in the footloose and fancy-free way that we crave.
So we had a decision to make and our footing to regain. Go we had to, but to where? For how long? And what would we do after that? And after that? And that? And that? And…you get the point.
That brings us to Minneapolis, Minnetonka to be exact, a quiet place where we can recharge, regroup and research, spend time with family and friends, drink Surly beer and try some of the great new restaurants that have opened up here in the last year. To be frank, we are tired. Tired of running late for trains, tired of dealing with spotty wireless connections, tired of negotiating cheaper lodging rates with landlords, tired of carrying heavy backpacks.
It also gives us time to catch up on all the blog posts we promised ourselves (and others!) including eating the best meal of our lives at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain; tasting malt whisky on the Isle of Islay; visiting Charlotte Bronte’s home in Haworth, Yorkshire; volunteering at beer festivals in England.
So Moscow will have to wait. For a little while at least. It’s just as well since I can’t get the eponymous song out of my head. This song, “Moscow”, by the German group Dschinghis Khan (Genghis Khan), came into my world during the the 1980 Olympic Games which were held in Moscow. I was living in Australia at the time and watched the Games on Channel 7 who, in a stroke of sheer auditory genius, used Dschinghis Khan’s song as the theme music each time it began coverage. The song was popular in Australia and stayed on the charts for several months, most likely because you can’t get its simple refrain out of your head.
So I share this song with you, replete with visuals of the group who sing it. Revel in the oh-so-awful-it’s-awesome-ness.
My New Year’s gift to you. You’re welcome.