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H and I have traveled to the UK so I can give an invited talk at the University of Leicester and I have to say that Skymiles are starting to pay off as I was able to book H’s ticket exclusively with Skymiles for a nominal fee of $100 or so. We left SLC yesterday morning and it has been a long trip getting here with a 4.5 hour trip from SLC to JFK for a three hour layover followed by a 7.5 hour flight from JFK to LGW followed by a 2 hour taxi from Gatwick to Leicester. Trying to sleep in coach was unbelievably difficult, not quite as bad as my last trip to Argentina, but almost impossible nonetheless. We arrived in Leicester and checked into the Belmont House Hotel, dropped all of our stuff off, trying to make some semblance of an effort to stay awake and headed out for a walk through Leicester to hunt up some food.

Leicester, the one time home of Graham Chapman, David Attenborough and Joseph Merrick is a college town which makes wandering around the streets pleasant and ensures that there should be a place to eat with cheap food. Ultimately, we just wanted coffee and a snack so we decided upon a Starbucks that also had Internet access from T-Mobile to tide us over for a dinner with the faculty later. Did I mention we wanted coffee with lots of caffeine onboard to keep us from falling over where we stood? Unfortunately, our first taste of coffee in the UK was awful… kind of like unsalted beef broth and the sandwiches that came with it were equally vaguely beefy in flavor. That and the current exchange rate of the Dollar to English Pound also meant our lousy coffee and two sandwiches cost us close to $30.00 US. All that said, we were able to sit in a picture window with a view out to the lunchtime streets where the most wonderfully ethnically, socially and economically diverse crowds of people walked by, young and old, everyone flying their own freak flag in complete comfort and acceptance. It was an awesome scene matched with an equally appropriate sound track coming from the speakers in Starbucks.

We sat for a while, enjoying the street scene and then walked back to our hotel through a light rain (note: bring an umbrella to the UK) for a nap before going out for dinner with some of the hosting faculty, Ed Bampton, Lucia Pinon, David Read and Ian Forsythe. Dinner at W was delightful and started with obligatory gin and tonics for a summer evening and continued on with enjoyable and informative conversation where we learned about the history of Leicester, the University of Leicester, the Department of Toxicology and talked about gardening in the UK and the science of everyone at the table which was most interesting before tucking into desert comprised of fresh fruit in a simple syrup with vanilla bean and a champagne peach jelly.

We got back to the hotel and collapsed into a most comfortable bed for an early morning where H and I are going to split up for the day, with me going to the University of Leicester and H going for a walking tour of Leicester.

Categories: Travel.

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