A seven hour flight, a questionable plane meal and a fitful night of upright sleep later, our Group Study Exchange team has arrived in the UK -- and we couldn't be happier. Bill, Colette, Joe, Eric and I boarded a US Airways flight from Charlotte on Friday evening and were met at Gatwick Airport in London on Saturday morning (English time!) by District 1070 Governor Iain Vernon and Rotarian Mac Warwick. The two greeted us with hugs and kisses and loaded us into a van (our month's worth of luggage in tow!) and chauffeured us the two and a half hours to Peterborough. We stopped briefly at a travel plaza/rest stop area for a cup of coffee at Costa Coffee -- a nice departure from Starbucks!
Then when we arrived in Peterborough, we met our host families who were waiting for us at the Ramblewood Inn -- a beautiful building with a very intersting history. We went our separate ways with our hosts, Joe and Eric jetting off with their joint host family to a rugby match in Leicester. From talking with them today, it sounds like they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and may even be converts from American football!
I went to the home of Mary-Helen and Martin Shakespeare (apparently no relation to the one who's just a tad famous!) and immediately fell in love with their lovely place. I took a very welcomed hour or so to shower and freshen up and then the festivities began. The Shakespeares hosted a small party that evening, with 20 or so guests, including Colette and her hosts Lawrie and Janet Cooke. It was quite a delightful evening of sipping wine, munching on yummy food and engaging in wonderful conversations.
This morning Iain Vernon and his wife Jo took Bill and me to church with them at Westgate Church, a United Reform Methodist church. Bill and I both enjoyed the service very much, and afterward, Iain walked us to the nearby Catholic church for Bill's sake (he is Catholic) and then a Baptist church close by (for my benefit). After that, our team gathered at the Holiday Inn for our official welcome lunch with a large crowd of local Rotarians. It's amazing to have been here only two days and already met so many wonderful people and had such hospitality extended to us.
This afternoon, Bill and I got a chance to go sailing at a lake a Ferry Meadows park, thanks to Bill's hosts Bob and Su Bailey. The weather was beautiful, and we each enjoyed a turn in the small sailboat. I, knowing very little when it comes to sailing, enjoyed my lessons from Bob on port side, starboard side, luffing and tightening the sails!
Tomorrow, we will tour Peterborough Cathedral and then later in the evening will give our first presentation before a club. Wish us luck!
Photos to come soon...