Monday, October 8, 2007

Sherwood Forest Full of Foreigners

Happily for us, Nora and Phillipe whom we met Wednesday night, gave us a ring Friday and invited us along with them on a hike through Sherwood Forrest the next morning. We trekked over to the university bright and early the next morning, and a few minutes after 9 Nora showed up and walked us over to their flat where Phillipe was tiredly looking for his hiking boots.

They managed to get university housing, which was very nicely equipped but tiny. They have a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. No room for a couch. But their appliances are brand new. I guess its a toss-up, good condition but no room, or acres of room but falling apart. Nora agreed with me that English housing is dirty, and said their place was filthy when they moved in.

We got in Phillipe's Italian car (steering wheel on the left) and after a few "detours" and Nora asking every English person we could find where it was, we made it to Sherwood Forrest. It was surprisingly small, coming from a land of vast national parks. It is an odd mix of ancient oaks and recent plantings. The largest oak in the forest is called "The Major Oak" and is approx 800 years old and 33" around its trunk. Legend has it that this is where Robin Hood and his merry men gathered before raids.

Apparently there was a real, documented person named Robin Hood. He was an outlaw, and though many of the stories about him are probably legend, word spread about him and many people took up his name as an alias and carried on in his grand tradition. Sherwood Forest honors this by erecting a hokey-looking statue and a fairly sad carnival. It was very touristy. But they are planning on tearing this down and building a new visitor's center, which would probably be for the best.

Anyway, we walked around the tiny forest, taking the longest trail which was 3.5 miles. We felt a little over-equipped with our hiking shoes, backpacks, and etc. But we had a good talk about the different countries we had been to, the culture shock of England, politics, and the NHS. I must make a correction, I think last blog I stated that Phillipe is French but he's actually Italian. He and Nora met while they were both working in Monaco, which is a minuscule and bizarre place full of millionaires and NO TAXES. Amazing. Phillipe was a tanker engineer and Nora used her many languages in international business. Also, when I say talk, I might add that Nora is kind of the mouth for both of them. I think Phillipe is self-conscious about his English, though its very good, but he is very quiet when he talks.

After our brief walk, we ventured into nearby Mansfield for lunch. We walked around for about half an hour, with Phillipe and Nora poking their noses into places, then walking out and apologizing to us, in what appeared to be a foreign dining ritual. Ryan and I followed the two of them around, wondering what criteria the pubs and cafes were being judged on. Finally Phillipe turned to us and broke his silence. In his low, accented voice he said "I hate zees place." I almost had to laugh, it seemed like something from a movie. Nora joked "they invented spaghetti so now they are the culinary authority."

We finally settled on a pub, and Phillipe was excited to find the Australian/English rugby game on. Nora and Phillipe coached us through the rules, and I have to say the sport is infinitely more exciting than American football. This one in particular was an intense grudge match, since the last Rugby World Cup was between England and Australia, wherein Australia was stomped on their home turf. The game was pretty intense, and it was exciting to hear the cheering in the bar. The English won, 12-10 and the bar was full of hoots and hollers. Only Nora was disappointed, she said as an Irish person it was against her principles to root for England.

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