My old GPS used to say “Recalculating! Recalculating!” if I ever missed a turn or went a direction other than what she directed me. She just couldn’t help but announce to me and the entire car that she now had to recalculate her well-laid plans because of my errors. Siri, however, just keeps her mouth shut and lets me keep on driving. If I manage to glance down at the screen, I’ll see the word “Rerouting…” on there, but otherwise she keeps my mistakes to herself and just tells me the next turn to take (there’s usually a U-turn in there somewhere).
She’s had to turn me around a lot these last few days, usually because I didn’t manage to exit off a roundabout at the right place. There was also the time I headed down a street in downtown Oxford that was only open to pedestrians and to buses going east, not to cars headed in any direction, especially west, which was the direction I was headed. The bus and the pedestrians all waited, patient yet smirking, as I backed up our little rented car to continue our wild ride through the city in a different direction.
Driving in England has not been my most relaxing experience ever, that’s for sure, but we have gotten to see and do things we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to manage. Also, between you and me, it’s a mighty good thing I bought the collision coverage.
There have been plenty of little snafus and mild misadventures in our four days here, and so far, we’ve managed to recalculate as needed. But last night, I discovered a major mistake – an error so enormous I wasn’t sure how we would get ourselves righted and rerouted. I was just about to check in online to our hotel in London, where we would be headed today, when I discovered the reservation was wrong. It was not for 2 adults and 2 children in a family room. It was for 1 adult in a double room. Meaning, there would be one double bed and no room for a fold-out or rollaway. All I can figure is that on one of my many, many, many times going through the online reservation system for this particular hotel, I didn’t realize it had reset itself back to its default (1 adult), and I somehow didn’t notice the error when the confirmation came through to my email. When you’re making 45 nights’ worth of reservations in 13 separate establishments in 5 different countries, and you’re also sleep-deprived, stressed-out, and grieving, I suppose you shouldn’t be surprised when you make a mistake.
It wouldn’t have been a disaster if I had discovered it in time – like last month, or maybe even last week. The problem with not noticing it until last night was that there were no other rooms of any kind available in that hotel. Or in any hotel nearby. Or, it seemed, in any hotel in our price range or the general location we wanted. I tried every trick and website I knew, and they were all unanimous, some of them even carrying banners near the top proclaiming, to my horror: “London is 96% booked!“
I hadn’t booked a swanky hotel – it was just a basic Premier Inn – but it was right on Leicester Square, and I was excited about being so close to so much we wanted to see, and at an unusually good price (of course now I know that one of the reasons the price was so good was that it was for one person rather than four!). I stayed up into the wee hours last night, searching for a place for us to stay, and then I continued my search this morning after getting up. It looked like I had two choices – I could pay well over double what we’d planned, or we could stay way far away.
We looked at every kind of possibility, including just staying in Oxford and making day trips to London. At last, we found a deal on a flat through AirBnB, in a sort of upscale residential area, within London proper but not right up close to all the touristy stuff. The boys are excited about having their own space for a bit, and we all love the looks of our light-filled flat with private garden. It isn’t exactly what I had in mind for this part of the trip, but I’m recalculating my expectations.
We’re staying in Oxford an extra night, and we used the unexpected afternoon here to go over to Coventry Cathedral, an excursion we’d missed doing yesterday when other plans went a bit awry. On the drive up to Coventry, I finally got to have my first Starbucks of the trip (believe it or not!), and it was outstanding. The coffee and tea service in each of our accommodations has been adorable, but I can only drink so much instant coffee. Also, I was really glad the latte tasted pretty much like my normal latte, which was not at all the case at the Beefeater the other night when I ordered a fillet expecting it to taste like filet.
I’m sure the recalculating we’ve done regarding London won’t be our last, but I do hope it’s our biggest. In the meantime, on this night when we expected to be living it up in London, I’m so glad for the time and space to catch my breath in Oxford.
I’m also really, really glad to be returning that rental car tomorrow.