A tale that started on Giant Bomb nearly 1 year ago that turned into the best 2 week vacation of our lives.
A vacation of discovering British food, prehistoric monuments, scary Indian restaurants, lots of tourist attractions and of course, plenty of rain and snow.
Where it all started.
I've been coming to Giant Bomb for over a year now. I started as a lingerer, just watching quick looks and reviews until making an account, and then lingered some more until ever writing in the forums.
As I'm sure is the case with a lot of you guys, most of my friends didn't play games. So I got all of my game news and chat online.
In most of the threads that I looked at and were interested in, one user always stood out to me and I always liked reading what he had to say on things. He quickly became the first user that I ever followed.
We didn't talk much initially, until I asked him for some advice on a creeper. After that we ended up PMing back and forth every day for weeks, turning our correspondence into essay long responses. After a few months of this we started talking through IM, eventually adding each other on Xbox Live and playing games like Red Dead Redemption, Halo, Call of Duty, Portal 2, Saints Row 2 and Borderlands together, among others. This again carried on for a bit until we started talking on Skype, at first just voice chatting and then video. We would talk for 8 hours straight, a lot of the time even longer, most days of the week, but it wouldn't feel like we were talking for that long.
After months of this it was obvious to both of us that we wanted to be more than just friends. It's not something that either of us came to Giant Bomb or the internet looking for. We've both had “real” relationships in the past and weren't lonely and desperate for anything we could get. Which is how “internet relationships” are usually portrayed and thought of. We knew it would be difficult. He lived in Chicago and I lived in Wales. But plans were then made for him to come to the UK and for us to meet face to face. We had to see if we still felt as strongly about each other in person as we did talking online. We decided on February, and it was the most nerve wracking thing in my life leading up to it.
Our first meeting.
He was arriving at Heathrow, so I drove down to London the night before and stayed with my brother and his family. I had that weeks Bombcast to keep me company for the drive, but I was so nervous that I missed everything that was said and has since had to listen to it again. It was my first time on the tube and I was going by myself, which is scary in itself. I got to the international arrivals gate and stood next to all the suited men holding name cards and thought that I should have brought one myself for a joke. My stomach was turning and I was texting my friends and brother to try calm my nerves. I eventually went to sit down, but as I did I saw him walking down, looking around for me through the crowd. I walked over to him, thinking how much taller he was, me being 5”2 and him 6”2. Gave him a kiss and a big hug. It was all feeling very surreal.
My brother text me saying that he couldn't get off work early, so wanted us to stay the night at his before driving back to Wales, so that he could give him the big brother talk. This didn't help calm his nerves. He's just flown 8 hours across the world, met me for the first time and now my brother wanted to interrogate him straight away. We got back to my brothers, watched some TV and waited for him to get home.
When my brother got back we ordered a curry and he said that he wanted to take him to go pick it up and pick up a mattress from his mother-in-laws. They were gone for around an hour and a half. It was obviously him wanting to interrogate him. Thankfully it all went well. He had the seal of approval from my brother and my sister-in-law.
I realise I'm getting far too in-depth so I'll try to cut out all the in betweens.
The real start to the vacation.
We spent 2 nights at my mums house in a snowy and rainy Wales. Not the nicest welcome to the UK. Then drove down to our hotel in Bradford on Avon. We were told we had a free upgrade to a deluxe room with free breakfast, so we were very happy. We had brought my Xbox with us, naturally, so straight away connected it up and played some Rayman Origins. That night we drove down to Bournemouth to see stand up comedian Omid Djalili, who some of you might know as Yusuf Amir in GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony. He was hilarious, one of the best stand ups I've seen. We started our drive back at around 11pm, it was a 2 hour drive through pitch black country roads, covered in thick fog. It wasn't the most relaxing drive.
We stayed in Bradford on Avon for 4 nights, walking around the town center and visiting Bath which was near by. One day we drove down to Stonehenge. It was amazing to see, but so bloody freezing in the middle of that field! Playing games and watching DVD's like Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. Whilst there, he tried his first ever Full English Breakfast. It was a delicious one too, so I knew he must like it. I was trying to dispel the stereotype of the UK having terrible food. Thankfully he agreed that it was delicious... unless he was just being polite.. though how could he not think that, Full English Breakfasts are amazing!
The Scary Indian Restaurant.
We had trouble finding places to eat near our hotel. We were walking past an Indian restaurant on our way home from the town center that we weren't sure was open or not. It was empty so we just poked our head in to see. Straight away the owner came over and took our coats, so we felt kind of obligated to stay. As he took mine he smiled and said “We don't get much service in here”...
He sat us down right in front of the window at the front of the restaurant, trying to entice people in we thought. He brought us our drinks and some popadoms as a starter. I was facing the door and noticed the owner walking out 3 or 4 times with a big cooler box and returning 5 or 10 minutes later. The kitchen staff were lingering around, looking round the corner at us. A hooded man walked out from the kitchen, staring at the floor as he walked past us and came back with a plastic bag containing food. We started worrying about where our food had come from, I was getting a bit paranoid, not wanting to eat it, especially it being chicken. Near the end of our meal the phone started ringing. The owner answered and started arguing with the caller saying things like “No, not one person! I don't owe anyone money!” We kept looking at each other awkwardly, whispering that we'll just ask for the rest to be bagged up so we could leave. The owner, still arguing, started saying “Don't threaten me, Justin!”. As soon as he was finished arguing, we called him over, said it was delicious and asked if we could leave.
Sorry this was such a long blog, but I thought it might be interesting to share our story on the website that we met on. Thanks for taking the time to read it, if you did. There's more to our story, I might blog about the rest of our vacation if anyone is interested at all. Thanks :)