Waiting for Chase
11 July 2012; 11:26
So far, today’s been a much better experience than yesterday. I woke around 6 and had a free breakfast in the basement of the hostel. Around 7 I walked back to the station, partly to get a sense of the time it takes and partly to see where I thought I could most easily find Chase. I went back to the cathedral and caught a bus out to Harbourne to pick up the car; I got off a stop early ad ended up walking a couple blocks through a residential area that was very pleasant. Since I was a half hour early to meet Nick, I had coffee and second breakfast at a little cafe down the street. Nick was a no-show but had his assistant (or coworker, I’m not really certain) bring me the documents and key, and I was ready to get on the roads.
It took all of about a block to find out just how different it was going to be driving over here. The streets are narrow, the signs are scarce, and you drive on the wrong side of the road. I eventually got a bit of a feel for it, right about the time I realized I had no idea how to get back to my bag at the hostel. I’m not certain the family name is an appropriate identifier for it, but I’m thankful for my Vance sense of direction; I turned enough times (after I finally got in the correct lane for turning) and eventually recognized a street name. From there it was only a matter of wrestling with one-way streets until I was happily parked in front of Hatter’s.
With the car in my possession and a reasonable handle on how I’m going to collect Chase, I’ve had a much better time appreciating the beauty of Birmingham’s City Center. With brick and cobblestone streets mixed in amongst the pavement and centuries old cathedrals standing next to modern office buildings (all across the parkway from industrial revolution brick sided factories), the city is a georgeous mix of old and new that, if they don’t flow seamlessly together, certainly stand next to one another in tribute to remembering your past without hindering progress. Or do they speak to embracing the present and future without abandoning a rich past? It’s hard to say, but I’m quickly beginning to understand why why Birmingham is the second largest city in Britain.
My hour walking and driving through Harbourne was a nice break from the busy and crowded downtown experience of the City Center. Sidewalks flanked by stone walls saw glimpses through gates of two different schools, and I was forced to remember the children in uniform that made up more than half of the passengers on the bus I rode over. When I reached the High Street, where Nick’s office is, I was greeted by row houses turned business and a traditional looking pub called the Green Man. I initially chose it as my place to sit and await Nick’s arrival, but it never opened and, I settled on the cafe a short way away.
One thing that’s struck me today has been the British understanding of American geography. When they ask me where I’m from and I answer the states, they clarfiy and ask me which one. Only one person wasn’t familiar with the position of Arkansas, and when I told him just northeast of Texas, he was surprised as I don’t speak with much of an accent. The girl working the checkout desk this morning at the hostel even said she’d wanted to visit Arkansas because she’d heard of all the beautiful natural scenery. I guess maybe we’re a bit more famous than I’d realized.
Anyway, I’m off to the station to leech some more internet and see if I can’t find Chase. Hopefully his train gets here in about 45 minutes, but I’ll try to be in the lobby area in 20 just to be safe.