Thursday, November 3-- My husband and I headed back to England for the Channel Swimming Association's Annual Dinner & Presentation Evening. The dinner was being held at the Dover Town Hall on Saturday, November 5. Our flight was delayed due to a stranded pilot, so we finally left Detroit Metro around 9 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. I watched half of the movie "Hangover 2" and fell asleep. After a late dinner, I slept for three to four hours. Around 6:30 a.m. (London time) they served a banana, blueberry muffin and OJ. London was now four hours ahead of Detroit time since they had already switched to Daylight Savings Time. We heard London was currently 54 degrees with a light drizzle. Traveling with such a light swimbag felt weird. Last time we flew to London and drove to Deal/Dover, we carried over 150 lbs of luggags and swim gear. This time our bags weighed 21 and 31 lbs respectively. I did not travel without a swimsuit, cap, and goggles, however.
Friday, November 4-- We picked up a red Kia at Hertz after a long wait in the Customs line. We were making the turn by the Dover Leisure Center and I saw a lot of red lights so I told Noah. Turns out, we had green lights too, but it was too late. We slammed on our brakes and were rear-ended at noon. After that was sorted out, we made it to Deal around 12:30 p.m. and knocked on the house we were renting. The owner welcomed us, told us about Guy Fawkes Night and the upcoming firework displays and said, "Brilliant, then. Enjoy your celebration." We were so excited to be back in Deal, that we quickly left our bags in the house and walked into town. An employee at Greencades card shop recognized us and asked whether or not I had ever left, or if I came back. It was nice to recognize friendly faces from our first trip to Deal. We shared tea for two, and sandwiches at Kings Coffee at the end of High Street for a late lunch. Of course, we stopped at Al's Bakery and ordered one grasshopper brownie for 80p, to save for dessert. We figured we'd come back tomorrow to get our baked goodies for our friends back home. We walked back home to move the car and check e-mail. We had made plans to meet pilot Andy for dinner. We walked back up North Street, along Deal Beach to feel the water. I expected it to be much colder and was surprised to find the water in the low 50s. We stopped for a lot of chocolate at Poundland and walked home. For dinner, we met pilot Andy at Cullins Yard Pub in Dover (11 Cambridge Rd, Dover www.cullinsyard.co.uk). I enjoyed a seabass dinner with seasoned potatoes while Noah raved about his kingfish and crab risotto; and a few pints of cider. Andy said he expected about 150 people at the CSA's Dinner/Banquet the following night, at Dover Town Hall. After dinner, Andy drove us down High Street to point out where the town hall was located. We returned to a chilly house in Deal and had to figure out how to turn on the heater.
Saturday, November 5-- We woke up to a chilly, drizzly, overcast morning and walked into town for coffee. We picked up coffee at Costa and one chelsea bun from Al's Bakery. We mozied down to Kings Coffee for breakfast. We shopped for a while and then walked to the Royal Lifeboat Station so I could buy the Deal cards I liked the last visit. The rain began falling harder, which was just like the weather we experienced when all seven of us walked to Walmer Castle along the same path in August. Later we picked up the car and drove to Ramsgate so we could go to SportsDirect.com, where I brought a London 2012 shirt. By lunchtime it was pouring and chilly, so we ran into a fish & chips place and shared cod and onion rings. On the drive back to Deal, we did see some bonfires, being Guy Fawkes Night, but the rain really dampened the day. When we returned to the house, we got ready for the Channel Swimming Association's 61st Annual Dinner & Presentation evening. Hosted by the Dover Town Hall, attendees were dressed in ballgowns, sparkles and most men wore bowties and suits. Dinner included pate maison, salmon and veggie lasagna, carbonnade of beef with carrots, potatoes and peas and rolls. For dessert, they served creme brule. Each table held several bottles of wine. The Town Hall foyer featured CSA displays with facts and photos of Channel swims. Around 7 p.m. we ventured into the dining hall were round tables were decorated with red, white, and blue balloons. Seated at our table was CSA swimmer, Alister Stocks, his mom, three friends, and our skipper, Andy. Alister, from the UK, swam the Channel in 15 hours on 20 August 2011 and departed the Dover Marina about an hour before us. It was his mom who said to us "Be Well" before we pushed off for my swim on 20 August. It was nice to share their table and stories. Shortly after dinner, there were speeches by the Mayor of Dover, and Chairman of the CSA. But first, we toasted the Queen. Clive Burbage, Master of Ceremonies, announced the awards on stage. CSA President, Michael Read, and a Channel swimmer celebrating her 50th anniversary since her swim presented awards, along with the Dover Mayor.
Each of us received a "trophies and awards" program. When we first sat down and looked at the program, I saw my name listed as a winner. I was so surprised that I won the CSA's Robert Lyle Memorial Trophy, awarded to the fastest American swimmer of the year. I was honored to jointly share the title with fellow American Paul Robinson in 11h 31 min. I walked up the stairs to the stage where I shook hands with the Mayor and Mr. Read and accepted the sterling silver cup (1.5 feet tall). I located my engraved name on the back, beneath other brilliant American swimmers. Award winners were asked to return their trophies/plaques by night's end, so I proudly walked the trophy back to table #10 to share it with Noah, Andy and our dinner mates. Each award winner was given a shield plaque which had the CSA logo and said "award winner" to take home. My name will forever be on the Lyle Trophy, housed in the Dover Museum on the 2nd floor.
After the conclusion of the awards, swimmers in attendance were presented their certificates on stage. The certificate is 8.5 by 14 inches and is on vellum paper, with hand calligraphy, stamped with the CSA logo, packaged in a hard cover folder, resembling a restaurant menu. The gala ended shortly after 11 p.m. and people mingled and snapped photos. We said goodbye to Andy and Alister's family, and walked into the drizzling darkness to the car park.
Swimming has given me friends and acquaintences around the US, but Channel Swimming has given me friends around the world.
Sunday, November 6-- We walked into town in Deal for breakfast. Our plans to return home with creme puffs and blondies for Karen and Cheryl were thwarted, as our beloved bakery was closed on Sunday. We walked by the water and saw bibbed runners passing us and turning around at the Deal Pier by the fish statue. A race marshall wore a neon yellow bib saying "Deal Tri." She said the Deal Tri Club hosts this annual 5 mile run from Walmer Castle to Deal Castle and as she said, "It's always this windy and rainy." Most male runners wore shorts and tank tops, not bothered by the weather. Some, more dressed for the conditions, wore wind jackets and long pants. We watched the huge waves pound the rocky shore and I pronounced, "It's definitely NOT a swimming day." After packing the car, we stopped in Dover and walked to the White Horse Pub for lunch. They had karaoke and a nice crowd. I took photos by my old English D signature on the ceiling where the steps lead towards the restroom and second eating area. I noticed that 60-year-old Pat Gallant-Charette signed next to my name. Pat had set the record for the oldest successful swimmer, at age 60, in 15h 57 minutes. Noah ordered a beef roast with veggies and I had a salad and burger. We sat next to swimmer Brian Tate, 34, and his parents, girlfriend, and sister. Originally from Zimbabwe, they now live in Plymouth, Devon, England. Brian's swim, in late-September, lasted over 19 hours. His mom, who taught him to swim joked, "I should have taught him better." We swapped stories and looked at each other's signatures on the wall. Brian's dad, a retired physics and science teacher said Brian swam six to eight hours parallel to shore, past Calais, before the changing tide took him back to Sangatte. As a fellow educator, I agreed as his father spoke of the mental attitude required and how no one really knows what the swimmers go through until you witness it firsthand. He said he can't teach the mental focus and drive until his students try something for the first time and experience success. He said both kids have run half or full marathons, and his daughter climbed to base camp at Everest and climbed around K2. But swimming the Channel, he argued, was much more demanding. "No one can touch you or help you," he said, "but people can help push you up the mountain." It was wonderful to exchange stories and handshakes.
We left Dover by 4 p.m. and drove towards Samphire Hoe, stopping at Shakespeare Beach for a moment to pinpoint where I started my swim on 20 August. The drive to London was dark, congested and rainy. We missed one turn towards Heathrow and since there are very few "exits," we added an hour to our drive. After returning our rental car, we checked into the Yotel at Terminal 4, which was compact, for short stays.
Monday, November 7-- 9:25 a.m. Flew home to Detroit.
This morning we walked to Paddington Station, where I had a meltdown because porridge isn't the same as oatmeal. So I ended up getting a toasted bagel at the Bagel Factory. We took the Bakerloo line from Paddington Station to Regent's Park, where we enjoyed Queen Mary's Gardens. Laid out in the 1930s, these beautifuly tended gardens lie at the heart of the park's inner circle and are a place of enchanting roses, delphinium, and a more natural setting including dahlias, sedum, sunflowers, hostas, bell flowers, coral bells, ferns and verbena. After walking through Regent's Gate, we took the Bakerloo line to Charing Cross Station. From there we crossed the Thames River, walking on the Westminster Bridge to the London Eye, a huge Ferris wheel that rotates at one revolution per half-hour. Since it was 18.50 pounds per person, with super long lines, we passed on it but it was a supurb location for people watching. Karen finally bought her London, England hoodie, that met her specifications. It was nice to get a different view of the Parliament building and Thames River. To return to the north side of the Thames, we walked north along the Hungerford Bridge back to Charing Cross. Next, we took the Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus, where we changed over to the Central line, to get to Nottinghill.
In Nottinghill, I half expected to see Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts walking around the parks, but what we saw was much different than Hollywood. The police presence was still in the area after Europe's largest street Carnival ended last night. They had over 200 arrests this year, which was less than 2010. We walked around a few shops and then walked over a mile back to our hotel. We jammed all kinds of souvenirs into our suitcases, checked in for our flights tomorrow, and then enjoyed a nice pub dinner (steak, pasta and burger) at the Pride of Paddington. It's been interesting people watching and seeing London on foot. If you're ever in a vehicle stopped at a red light, don't worry about paying attention to the light's color. The guy behind you will honk at you in 0.2 seconds when it turns yellow to green (lights go from red to yellow to green here). At least at home we typically give a five second grace period before honking, and then feel guilty about being so impatient. When walking the narrow streets, you do bump elbows with about every third person and the British politely say "sorry dear."
Monday- We departed our hotel around 9:30 a.m. and walked to the Lancaster Gate Underground Station. We purchased two more Oyster cards and reloaded the one Crista had given to us. Around 10 a.m. we arrived at the St. Paul's stop and walked around the St. Paul's Cathedral. It was in the low 60s today. We walked across the London Bridge (the Tower Bridge is the one most people picture) towards Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Located a minute's walk from the site of the original, it was rebuilt with painstaking detail. Noah and I took the theatre tour and learned that these days the theatre seats 900 people, 700 standing and umbrellas are not allowed. You must dress for the weather in the open air theatre. In the late 1500s/early 1600s, Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies were performed in daylight by only men. Acting was considered immoral and ungodly. The first theatre was burnt down when a cannon fired in a play, set fire to the roof. Back then, we learned that women could be prostitutes but not actresses. The King of England owned the brothels and would bring in what they called "Winchester Geese" to the plays. The women resembled white geese, dressed in white aprons, white uniforms, and would wave white hankerchiefs to attract the men, from the stage balcony. In that time period, there were two ways to get to the Globe. You either had to hire a rower to get you across the Thames River or you had to walk across the London Bridge, with swarms of people. The south side of the Thames was for fun and considered rubbish. People would come to the south side for fun and entertainment and then go back across the River. Currently, the cheapest ticket is five pounds if you can stand for three hours and they have seats for 15 pounds or shaded seats for 25 pounds in the "gentleman's room." Back then it cost one pence to stand, two pence to sit anywhere else, except for the gentleman's room (shaded private room), which cost six pence. The balcony, as they said, was the best place to be seen and the worst place to catch a scene. Now the musicians sit on the balcony. Heaven, Earth, and Hell are portrayed in all of the plays. To send the audience home in a good mood, even after seeing a tragedy, the actors still come out at the end and dance a gig. They've continued this tradition and they say it works. They are only open five months now and have no understudies. In 2012, in part with the "Cultural Olympics," they will be performing 37 plays in six weeks from 37 languages. Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and they just discovered a 38th, which they are debating. Italy chose to perform Julias Cesar. There will be only two performances of each play with 20 minute intervals (intermissions).
We stood next to the stage while the workers were busy changing over the stage for an early evevning production.
The Tate Modern, Britain's premier modern art museum, was next on our sightseeing adventure. The museum is housed in a gargantuan shell, that was once a power station. Colletions were displayed by theme rather than period. We spent a few hours enjoying work by Dali, Matisse, Warhal, Picasso, Diego Rivera, Mondrian, and David Hockney.
For lunch we grabbed huge salads from Marks & Spencer Foods by St Paul's and ate on the steps of St Paul's. We walked along the waterfront to the Tower Bridge and stopped for a soft-serve ice cream. The HMS Belfast is anchored there for tours. A large cruiser from Brazil was moving down the Thames and the Tower Bridge's drawbridge was up. We walked back to Bank Station to take the tube back to Lancaster Station. Karen wore her Garmin GPS and it said we walked 8.6 miles today (so yesterday was close to 20 miles, non-stop walking, no tube yesterday). There were a lot of police at the Oxford Station, due to the huge volume of people on the tube, heading towards the Nottinghill Carnival. We heard over 50 were arrested the previous night, and over a million people line the parade route each day, in Europe's largest street festival, so we haven't ventured out there yet. We had dinner at the Pride of Paddington Pub. The crowds in the tube reminded me of riding the jam packsubway around Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic Games.
Sunday- We walked to Paddington Station to see how the walk would be when we fly out on Wednesday, if we opt to take the Express Train to Heathrow. We ended up buying a Bagel Factory sandwich and coffee and saw the Paddington Bear statue. From there, we walked to Hyde Park and cut through the middle and south of The Serpentine Lake. We saw the bronze Peter Pan statue sculpted in 1912, the Princess Diana Memorial (contemporary granite fountain, across the Serpentine from the Boat House), the Rose Garden, and a lot of "stay out of the water due to algae" signs. Yet, there were still a few swimmers in The Serpentine in the swimmers section, which was roped off for laps. Next, we walked from Hyde Park to St James' Park. and Lake. We observed various types of ducks and wildlife. A giant building caught our eye, from there, so we walked over to see what it was. It was the Cavalry Guard. We took photos by one of the horses. We walked to Buckingham Palace and were hoping to witness the pageantry of the Changing of the Guard, a London tradition, that was sure attracting hopefulls like us. We finally saw a sign that said "No Changing today" so we left and walked to the National Gallery. We grabbed sandwiches and water and sat next to the fountain in front of the Gallery for lunch. The Gallery is the revered museum that dominates Trafalgar Square. The National is now home to some 2,000 works representing the world's major artistic periods from 1250 to 1900. The museum is free but they do ask for donations to keep it free. We paid respects to Michelangelo, da Vinci, van Gogh, Monet and Seurat.
Westminster Abbey was only a mile or two from there, so we walked there next. We stopped for pictures at Big Ben (the bell in the famous clock's chime)/Parliament. Westminster was closed for tours, being Sunday, so we took photos in front and walked around the gift shop. Then, we walked northwest towards Piccadelly Circus and Regent Street, for a few hours of shopping. From there, we had a 1.5 hr walk home. We refueled and rested our aching feet at an Italian eatery near our hotel in Paddington, called "Bizzarro." We clocked 9.5 hours of walking. We figured we'd take our GPS watch with us tomor to clock the distance we were walking.
This morning Karen went for a 5k run along the water, then her and I did one last swim (one lap) and she didn't wear a wetsuit. My shoulders felt a little better than on Wednesday but the left was still feeling funny. We walked to town in Deal and saw that the St George Parish was hosting a quilt show for the Bank Holiday weekend. Of course, we stopped in, with my mom being an avid quilter. For you quilters reading this, I bought two patterns for mom and some fat quarters. I think. We got to experience the Saturday market with lots of antiques, flowers, and books. And I can't forget the transvestite singer who was singing Barbara Streisand on the corner. I picked up an old metal sign that says "Deal & Walmer", a pillow cover for the couch with fish, a Cadbury pill tin, and a Ronan Keating Greatest Hits CD. We got directions to London and left around 12:30 p.m.
We drove to Samphire Hoe, thinking we could try to find Shakespeare Beach, where I began my swim, in Dover near the Marina. We walked along the breakwater past many fisherman and kids. The sun was shining and we spied some rocks and little caves. Karen led the way and we followed her down to explore the beach caves. That's when we heard it. Thunder! The front came through rather quickly and unexpectedly. We were trapped far from the car, and were pelted with heavy raindrops. I was screaming as we kept running, in misery. THIS was a downpour. We were miserable when we reached the toilets and car to dry off. Lots of tourists were changing in their cars and we got mooned by a kid. Noah lost his sunglass lense so once the storm blew into the sea, and I had on dry sweats, I walked back and found it for him. This is the same front that caused several Channel swimming boats to end their quest with 6-10 ft waves and 30 kt winds.
By 3 p.m. we stopped to fill up the gas tank on the way to London ($100 US). At 6 p.m. we had trouble finding the hotel and Noah was navigating the London motorways like a champ. Big Ben. Parliament. We saw Piccadelli Circus, Regent Street shopping, a rugby stadium, Buckingham Palace fencing, London Eye, and more. I don't know how but we finally found the Best Western -Paddington. We unpacked and Karen stayed in the room to relax. Noah and I ventured back to the hotel to ditch the rental car. We took the Express Train back to Paddington Station and finally got back to our room by 10 p.m.
Pouring rain throughout the early morning, so our swim and runs were delayed. We walked to town in Deal and enjoyed a hot coffee and Al's Bakery goodies. Finally the sun was shining and we walked to Walmer Castle, along the beachfront. I stopped for a soft serve ice cream cone at Deal's Beach Parlour and 10 seconds later, my cone hit the cement when the cone broke into two. Luckily, they replaced it. Karen eyed the jellied eel stand, but didn't buy anything. All of a sudden it started drizzling again. We watched the ball drop at the Time Ball Tower Museum, and paused in the protection of the Deal Lifeboat Station building, out of the rain. By the time we reached Walmer Castle, we were soaking wet. I was now wearing squishy socks and soaked mesh running shoes. The Walmer Castle was neat, but not as nice as the Deal Castle. The gardens were gorgeous but we didn't particularly enjoy the narrated audio tour (too lengthy). After we walked back home, Noah cooked fresh halibut, potatoes, garlic bread and veggies. Cheryl brought a meringue and we toasted with cider to victory.
We woke up around 7 a.m. and Karen and I walked to Al's Bakery, grabbed coffee and card for JP, Buttons the Monkey, and a book for Noah. Meanwhile Noah was on the phone with Hertz regarding our flat tire. We walked in after an hour of walking around town and Noah said, "There's good news and bad news." The good news was they found a tire for our rental car and it was free to fix, the bad news was it was north in Margate at Watling Tyres. Margate had a sandy beach and a lot of tourist stuff along the water. They changed our tire and in less than 20 minutes, we were back on the road again to Leeds Castle.
Next to Leeds' Castle is a nice golf course. While paying, we got 10% off for having our English Heritage Pass and our Leeds tickets allow you to come back within a year for free. Anyone want to go? In Leeds, we wandered through the Castle and gardens and then saw a birdshow. They showed us kite birds, an owl and a cockatoo. Cheryl, Dave & Jeanette, Noah and I got lost in the gigiantic hedge maze. When you finally reach the middle, you get to go through their grotto and see the giant green man and water falls. Karen was checking out the aviary listening to the bird speak. We also saw the Worlds' largest dog collar museum at Leeds. The majority of the collars were heavy metal with spikes, to ward off predators. The acres of gardens were most impressive with black and white swans, peacocks, ducks and sheep across the pond. When we got home, Cheryl made pasta with leftoevers: garlic, chicken and celery and Dave made some eggs.
I wondered when I would return to the water after my EC swim. It was today, Wednesday, August 24. Around 8 a.m. I swam one easy lap to the pier and back with Karen. Karen did three laps. Cheryl and Dave even got in the Channel for the first time and swam a bit without wetsuits in the 63 degree water, while Jeanette played with rocks on the beach. Lynn walked to town to find out more about the train schedule back to London so she could fly home early. I only swam about 1 mile and my shoulders, especially my left, didn't feel right. It was very tough to left my left arm out of the water for the recovery phase. It was hard to watch Karen do another two laps on her own. I was her companion swimmer today and my arms wouldn't do it. I even put her fins on this time since she wore her wetsuit. So nice to share the Channel with my crew. Just didn't get Aunt Lynn in that water. Noah stayed dry today too. After a nice hot shower, I was able to get a massage for noon. Noah and I walked into town to the Physio Sports Therapy business. It looked like a place for physical therapy and chiropractic care. I had a massage and chat with Sophie, a very nice, young woman, also a swimmer and triathlete. I asked about the local sights & towns and she said I had some very keen observations of the local places that were right on. She was suprised that I was able to pick up on some of the towns in a short period of time. I was able to sleep better on my shoulders but the massage did bruise my left arm.
When we got back, Lynn was gone on her travels back to London (Cheryl had driven her to the train station). Dave, Cheryl, Jeanette, Karen, Noah and I took two cars out to Canterbury for some sightseeing, shopping and exploring. Canterbury was very crowded with a lot of school groups and tourists. Naturally, we found the Sweetboy, a local sweet shop chain that we became familiar with in Deal. For lunch, Karen enjoyed a cream tea and scones and I had a chicken and spinach pizza. Noah enjoyed a ham panini. We were interviewed by a local radio station employee who was doing a bit for the Canterbury tourism. We left around 5:30 p.m. since everything was closing.
At 5:50 p.m., a flower pot bump out jumped in front of our car and punctured our tyre (yes, tyre in England). Noah called the AA (like our AAA in Michigan), who came out by 6:30 p.m. to fix it. Dave and Cheryl never went past us, as they got turned around leaving Canterbury. We made it home by 7:15 p.m. but we were told to call Hertz Rental Car in the morning and see where we could get the original tyre fixed.
We woke up on Tuesday 8/23/11 to a downpour so we took our time getting out of the house. Seemed like a great day to do our laundry so several of us walked into town to a tiny laundry mat. Once we reached the laundry mat, Lynn and I left Noah with the laundry and walked into town for coffee and take-away breakfasts. Cheryl and Dave joined us too, for the laundry adventure. The dryers only used 20 pence coins, so while in town for the take-away coffee, we asked for a lot of change. We had done one load of towels and swim gear a few days prior, but since there is no dryer, we were using the closelines and closepegs in the beautiful weather. With no where to dry all of our clothes, we took a wet walk to the laundry mat.
FAST's VP of Marketing, Katy Michalski, has played and continues to play an integral role on my Channel team. She scheduled a few interviews with media back in Detroit for that afternoon. First I talked to Alicia Smith on WXYZ Detroit live via Skype. This was only the third time I've seen Skype, so it was a learning experience. She asked great questions and I'm so glad they were able to show the viewers our Channel swimming clips. Next, I talked to TV20's Kila Peeples on the phone. She also asked good questions and was super nice--I can't wait to meet them. Finally I talked to David Wallace from C&G news in Farmington, live on Skype. He was terrific again, and asked to speak to each of my crew members to get their feelings on the swim.
After the interviews it was about 8pm in Deal so we were starving. We walked along the Channel and sat down at a picnic table outside the Kingshead Pub in Deal. Between all of us, we shared burgers, fries, steak and ale, fish and chips, beer, cider and mashed potatoes. Never slept better. Finally.