Friday, September 27, 2013

Matt's Trip to England

Last week I went to Norwich, England (which they pronounce NORR-idge, mouse over for IPA) with my boss for a conference related to the research I'm doing with rhizobia and cereals.[1] I was supposed to depart at 7 am on Saturday the 14th but I missed my flight because 1. my cab was 40 minutes late and 2. I forgot my passport. T-Mobile service in Madison is pretty shoddy, so my calls kept getting dropped. It was just as well, I suppose, because the first four tellers I talked to wouldn't let me keep the original flights I'd purchased tickets for. They all wanted to sell me new itineraries for an additional $1100 to $2300. The fifth teller put me back on my original flights and just sold me a new ticket from Madison to Detroit. (Leann brought me my passport.)

On the flight from Detroit to Amsterdam I watched a movie and then slept the rest of the time. Or, rather, semi-slept. There was a large man to my left who spilled over into my seat. Every time he moved the armrest between us popped up. To make matters worse, an elderly Japanese man sitting behind him kept punching his seat because the television wasn't working properly. Towards the end of the flight, the teenaged Hispanic girl to my right began flatly singing along with the music in her headphones ("Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons).

This is Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. On my way to the UK I had a 5-hour layover here. While I waited for my next flight, I bought Leann some Belgian chocolate truffles. While walking on one of the trams, the screw that holds the left lens of my glasses in came loose and popped out. It was lost forever. I wandered around the airport trying to find a shop where I could buy a tiny replacement screw, but to no avail. Finally I found a discared bread tie, stripped off the plastic, and tied it through the screw holes on either side of the frame to hold it together around the lens. Unfortunately that tiny piece of metal tripped the metal detectors at the next security checkpoint and I had to be thoroughly patted down.

This is a shot of the Dutch countryside as seen from the plane departing for Norwich.

This is the taxi that delivered us to our hotel (The Georgian House Hotel). It looks so British! I was delighted. Despite intellectually understanding that they drive on the left side of the street, I still felt a little anxious every time the driver made a right turn (because to me it seemed he was turning into oncoming traffic). The roads were so small and cramped that the driver often had to pull onto the sidewalk to let by a car coming in the opposite direction (either because the lanes overlapped or because there was a single lane for both directions of traffic).

Most of the rooms in the hotel had card access, but I was put up in a tiny room that was separate from the rest of the building. So I actually had to use a key. After checking I realized that I'd forgotten to purchase a power adaptor, so there was no way to plug my computer into the outlets.[2] So I was forced to use my computer sparingly and to recharge it whenever I could borrow my boss's adaptor. This, along with the fact that I shut off my cell phone in order to avoid international roaming charges, limited my contact with Leann.

I spent a little of my free time at the hotel watching television. I think about half of the channels were BBC or Sky and their derivatives. I was hoping Sherlock season 3 would come on while I was there, but alas, in this I was disappointed.[3]

I spotted this lime tree in a courtyard inside the John Innes Centre (JIC), where the conference was being held. Since in recent history the British were nicknamed limeys [4], I just had to take a picture.

Tuesday night we went into the city for dinner, to a restaurant called Tatlers.[5] I tried the foie gras terrine, the spiced monkfish, and a selection of fine cheeses for dessert. While we waited for our food, a few of us wandered around the nearby shops and churches, taking in the sights. Left to right, top to bottom: a couple medieval churches, the cobbled streets of Elm Hill, Norwich cathedral (which was completed in AD 1145 and has a 315-ft spire [6]), a statue commemorating Admiral Horatio Nelson, a British mail box, and The Forum [7][8].

The day of our departure (the 18th) my boss had a meeting, so I went to the JIC library to wait for him. Minutes later he came to inform me that Leann had gone into labor. I was nearly 4000 miles away! I was escorted to an office where I could call Leann and see how things were going.

When it came time to leave, to our surprise, you have to pay £10 just to enter the airport. Talk about extortion! Once in, I bought a stuffed pterodon for Lilli at a gift shop. On the left you can see the English shore as we cross over it on our way back to Amsterdam and on the right is the Dutch shoreline.

Here are a few more shots of the Netherlands. In the top right photo you can see a field of red tulips and in the bottom left photo there is a windmill. The bottom right photo shows the Amsterdam skyline in the distance.

On the flight back across the Atlantic I managed to finish four movies.[9] When we reached Detroit I turned on my cell phone and called Leann to see how things were going. It was too late for me to make it in time—our baby boy had already been born.[10]


[1] The entire project, of which I am just a part, is called Engineering Nitrogen Symbiosis for Africa (ENSA). Learn more at

[2] The US uses type A and B plugs and 120 V at 60 Hz are available at the socket. The UK uses type G plugs and 230 V at 50 Hz are available at the socket.

[3] Read my reviews of Seasons 1 (here) and 2 (here) of Sherlock.

[4] See

[5] See

[6] I also took a picture of Erpingham Gate, but it was too blurry to post.

[7] See Forum, Norwich.

[8] I also took a picture of the Norwich Market, but it was too blurry to post.

[9] See my post Airline Movie Reviews here.

[10] See my post Unexpected Delivery II.

1 comment:

  1. really ought to follow up on the Leann going into labor part. Looking forward to that one. The pictures of England are beautiful!