Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Three, Two, One....Take off

Our last three days abroad. Sigh. They've been lovely.

We spent our last day in Coventry at a place called Lunds Roman Fort. Or something like that. Somewhat like our Civil War Re-enactment groups or our SCA or Renaissance Fairs, but with much older history. There was a Celtic group, a Roman group, and a Viking group. And a couple people representing Spartans. You could wander their "villages" or watch the events in the main arenas or fields. Lots of families. Rain off and on despite the little altars the Roman's had set up to appeal to their Gods for the day to be fair. They event organizers had scheduled a free bus to and from the event because it was a few miles out of town. The bus driver said we were two of only five, well, seven counting the other couple that came back with us at the end of the day, that used the bus all day. The area was the closest to a "suburb" we've seen the entire time we've been in England, and almost everyone had their own car.

The newness of travel has worn off for William and I have had to fight with him progressively harder over the last week to get him out of bed in the mornings. I won most of the battle yesterday and we got a fairly early train to London. We met the first person that was really close to William's age, a girl of 13 traveling with her parents and her pet catepillar (along with a giant glass jar full of wisteria branches for him). She chatted with William and I most of the trip and she was one of many people who I will cherish the memory of meeting.

We booked a hotel close to the train station to save time. It was pleasant and clean, like an upscale Motel 6 - actually the same company. We dumped our bags and headed straight to Leciester Square to stand in line for tickets. I really wanted to see a play in London. We scored front row seats to our first choice, Chicago. Afterwards we walked around a bit, saw Picadilly Circus (uhm, okay, whatever - don't bother with it if you come) and then through Soho and Covent Garden districts which were totally artzy, bohemian, fringe, and wonderful. William put up with me digging for goodies in a bead shop for a bit. And we found a couple books in a Borders Bookstore, including a signed copy of Joshilyn's Gods in Alabama (we took a photo for her although the guy at the information booth by the front door thought we were daft Americans for doing so). We found exactly where the theatre was for later that night so we we didn't have to wander around looking for it at the last minute.

I really wanted to go to the Tate Modern (museum of modern art). William had completely reached his saturation point with museums of any kind and wanted to go back to the hotel room and take a nap. I did NOT want to waste my last day in London sleeping. So I took him back to the hotel and then headed off on my own for the rest of the afternoon. I took the tube over to the Tate. It's free to get in. It's really amazing to me how most of the cultural events are free, or nearly so. If you can afford to get over here to see them, that's the expense.

The Tate Modern is fairly new, it's in a giant old factory building on the banks of the Thames directly across from St. Paul's Cathedral, although there's not much else located directly around it. Although I really liked the street fair atmosphere around the Centre George Pompidou in Paris, the Tate won my heart for their galleries. Picasso, Pollock, Chegall, Warhol.... even a Klimt and a Monet. Also a lot of much more current artists.

The thing about modern art is that some of it, I look at it and think "Huh!?" But then some of it is wonderful. It evokes as much emotion as the finest of the Old Masters. And some of it, despite it's simplicity or abstractness, despite the fact that I wouldn't want it in my home, still pulls you in to interact with it. It teaches you how to see things in new ways, ways you hadn't thought of before or ways you take for granted and don't notice any longer. Some of it isn't meant to be pretty or beautiful, it's just meant to make you think or react. Not the same as making you "feel", but still a valuable experience. And frankly, it's not like I like all realistic or old art either. Some are awe-inspiring, tear-welling, some are..... eh, an old painting of some guy dressed in a frilly shirt.

I left the Tate and walked over a pedestrian bridge across the Thames. The air was still cold and windy, but the skies were a vivid blue and the clouds were so white and perfectly cloud shaped, it's as if they were painted up there by some brilliant stage designer. I walked up to St. Paul's Cathedral, tried to take some photos of it against that sky, but it was too big to truly capture. Instead I just walked down the street and people watched and finally found a metro station and went back to the hotel to collect William.

We took the bus directly down near the theatre so we wouldn't have to worry about the time and then wandered a few blocks until we found a place for dinner. Morrocan! We hadn't done that yet. It was all low slung couches and little mushrooms of round pillows scattered around tables lit with candles. Having no idea what to order, we splurged and got the dinner for two which included a little bit of everything. I was as comfy as Little Miss Muffet atop my tuffet (no spiders), but William had a bit of a problem trying to figure out where to put all the extra leg he has. The food was delicious and most of it was actually recognizable or similar to things we've had before. It was fun that the few unknowns were the same sort of dishes we'd just learned about the Romans serving a thousand years ago and involved honey and dates. William ordered a Coke but I had the traditional very sweet mint tea which William tasted and then I had to fight him off of finishing up the pot of it.

The play was wonderful. Billy Flynn had an Italian accent. We sat by a woman traveling alone from Germany and a teenager with her aunt and uncle from South Carolina. We chatted before, between, and after. At intermission they sold ice cream cups!

I couldn't have asked for a nicer last full day in London. The rain we dealt with on our first run through the city was gone and so was the pressure to fit in any specific site seeing. Instead it was relaxing and fun in a "no expectations" sort of way. And I got to do the two things, see a play and go to the Tate, that I had really wanted to do while I had the chance. William has been an incredibly good companion, but I have to say I enjoyed my afternoon alone. In fact, it's been interesting how each location has caused us to comment that we wished this person or that person was here with us. We thought of my mom when we were in the Cotswolds. William knew Papa would love the Car Museum in Coventry and of course I wished he were with me in Paris (it really is a city made for lovers). I wished I had had a gaggle of girlfriends to laugh and share around the table at the Moroccan restaurant. Joe would have loved the theatre. Sam would have been such a hoot and had so much fun meeting all the different people we met. Noel would love the kids and the fringe communities as much as I did. Lisa and Kyla and I would have been fiendish shoppers.

Well, gotta go do some of that shopping now, even though William thinks shops are evil, mom-sucking black holes. Hey, I've been incredibly good! That and I've run out of room in my suitcase. In fact, it's splitting at the seams and hopefully will stay shut with a line of safety pins and a prayer. We're off to Heathrow in a few very short hours. Goodbye England!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Uhm, Sent to Coventry

I missed a day of blogging, but we didn't miss a day of adventures. Yesterday we woke up and spent the morning back at the Louvre. It was so packed with tourists it was hard to see anything in the more popular halls. We climbed up to see the Mona Lisa again, just because we could, and found the room packed with hundreds of people, ten deep or more, trying to get up close to get a glimpse of her. I realize how lucky we were to stumble in to an open evening at the Louvre on our first night. We had walked right up to her on that first visit and had all the time we wanted to see her without jostling or waiting admirers. Many of the halls and rooms we actually had entirely to ourselves. Basically, we had the Louvre as much to ourselves as is probably possible. Still, yesterday morning we concentrated mainly of the areas we'd missed on our first visit, which were the less accessible branches of the museum, and so we didn't have to deal with the crowds as much as if we'd saved the more popular areas for last.

We spent the last couple hours in Paris actually near the train station, Gard de Nord, as we were simply too tuckered out to do much else. William was feeling better, but still not 100%. I tried to find a beret for Jeff but, alas, none were to be found on the streets we walked. Mainly sidewalk cafes. I think there must be a bazillion sidewalk cafes in the city. Rain or shine, al fresco is a way of life.

We slept most of the Eurostar trip back to England, although we had one of our best meals so far from the train diner car. Speaking of food, we enjoyed the food in Paris, but honestly, I think we like the English food better. French food is heavy on cheeses and I'm not a big cheese eater. I kept thinking of the scene in French Kiss where Meg Ryan is moaning and wailing "It's the cheese!"

We had sort of figured out what we wanted to do with the few days we had left in England, go to the Cotswolds and rent a car. We didn't want to stay in London last night if we didn't have to because it's so expensive there, why use it just as a stopover spot if we didn't have to. But we couldn't really make reservations from Paris because we didn't have access to information like train schedules to make sure we could actually make it to our destination. So we had to wait until we got back to London to plan the next leg of our trip. That's when it started to get exciting...

We found out we could easily take a train to Stratford Upon Avon, so we took the tube to the right train station and had an hour and a half to get some money (we spent down to our last Euro before we came back so we were completely without cash until we got a new stack of English Pounds) and find accomodations for the night. An ATM took care of the money and then I started calling B&B's from our tour book only to discover what I'd already feared - it's England's equivalent of our Memorial Day (they call it a Bank Holiday Weekend) and so there was nothing available. William suggested I try

I did. And to make a long story short, with a number of problems, including getting cut off the website without being given all the information we needed and being unfamiliar with the keyboard, we managed to book a room but not be sure where it was. We decided to hope for the best and got on the train to Stratford only to have second thoughts just as the train was about to leave and jump back off again. Another half hour of investigation and we figured out we had booked a room in Coventry. So, we had a place to stay. Only problem - we had no idea where in England Coventry was located! Or even if it was in England at all! Turns out it was, WHEW, and it wasn't terribly far from London and was accessible that night by train and... well, train and bus, as they were digging up some tracks and so the last half hour of the trip the train travelers were transported by bus. No matter. We had a place to sleep and we were off.

We made it to Coventry and to our hotel. (I'd actually written a much longer post at this point but the fucking computer just ATE the last bit I wrote AND with it the £3 it cost me. So now I'm pissed.) ANYWAY.....

We woke up this morning and set out to see what we could see. We wanted to rent a car and drive out and about t he Cotswolds, but because today is a Sunday and tomorrow is a bank holiday, that turned out to not be possible. We were bummed about that but there was nothing to be done about it. Our choices were to spend today on the train trying to go somewhere else, or make the most of where we were. We decided on the latter.

I'm so glad we did as we've had a marvelous time today, met all sorts of interesting and nice people, and had a lot of fun. Turns out Coventry is sooo not a place that tourists would come. Not from other countries, that is. There's actually quite a lot to do around here but it's more the kind of place that people in the general region would frequent, not international visitors. So we've enjoyed mingling with the ordinary folk instead of the tourists. Not that it's an ordinary town by any means, there's a lot going on here as the city has two universities and a lot of history and shops in it's city center.

We found out that Coventry is most well known for, uhm, having been almost completely destroyed by the Germans in WWII. That means the town center is a hodge podge of buildings. You look down a street and one side of the block will be buildings that are obviously four, five, six hundred years old. And the other side of the street will be buildings that are only ten, twenty, thirty years old. The ruins of the cathedral still stand, mainly some outer walls and the tall spire and attached to them is a gorgeous contemporary cathedral built to replace it. The contrast between the old and the new some how make the history seem more palpable, more real.

The area is also famous for Lady Godiva. We found her statue at the corner of a shopping mall.

Along with the universities, this city is well known for being their car manufacturing, including Jaguars, much to my husband's delight. In fact we ended up chatting with an engineer from the company this evening for quite some time, which greatly impressed William. We asked if he drove a Jaguar himself. No, he drives a ten year old Ford. Hahaha!

They have a Museum here about the history of English cars and the development of the bicycle. It was HUGE! Two stories full of hundreds and hundreds of cars and bikes. They even had the car that broke the land speed record and a stimulator so you could experience what it looked and to a certain degree felt like to be in the cockpit of that historic ride. It came as a surprise to us to discover that this all took place only about a hundred miles from Susanville, in the Black Rock Desert, where they have annual Burning Man Festival.

They were having a Jazz Festival in town the last few days and the entire city center was filled with soft new age jazz all afternoon, emanating from a giant tent set up inside of the ruins of the Cathedral. Tonight as we walked back to the hotel, we could hear more energetic jazz from the tent and loud music of all kinds coming from pubs and clubs on almost every street corner as the students woke up and came out for a night on the town.

We wandered around the historic buildings, went to the car museum, walked some gardens, went to the local movie theatre (which confused everyone when we asked where the theatre was since here theatre means a live production - we finally figured out we had to ask where the cinema was) to see the new X-Men movie. It was a lovely, lovely day.

Tomorrow we're off to a nearby Roman fort for a sort of History Fair - they'll be setting up crafts and re-enactments from Roman, Celtic, and Viking times. We're making a day of it and staying a third night in Coventry, a town we didn't plan on visiting but have had a wonderful time discovering.

Tuesday morning we'll set back off for London and will have just enough time to do a few last minute sites in the big city (and there were a few we were disappointed not to fit in before we left for Paris) before.... GASP..... leaving for home Wednesday afternoon. On the one hand, I can't believe a month has already gone by and on the other hand it seems like we've been traveling forever and ever. A few days ago I realized that I am finally ready to go home. Not that I'm not enjoying the trip any longer, but I'm ready for a more regular routine, my own bed, and time to absorb and intregrate the thousands of sights, sounds, and memories we've collected through this amazing May.

It's late. Off to bed.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Quick Wordplay Communication

A lot of folks have been asking me to add their names to the Wordplay Participants List. Just be patient my pretties. I'm saving all the requests in my mailbox and by this time next week I'll be home - WOW! HOME! - from our travels and as soon as I can catch up on hugging my hubby and my Rosie and I adjust to the time change, I'll add everyone straight away. Just keep playing with your alphabet without me.

More typing in French

Communicating here in Paris is a challenge (although thank goodness so many people of other countries speak English because as a typical American I selfishly only speak one language), but I am surprised to find I even have to deal with a keyboard that speaks a different language as well!

Stumbling along in "broken keyboard", we've been having such a great time in Paris and there is so much to see that we managed to find a room for tonight and we've stayed an extra day.

I bought a scarf. Apparently it's a rule. If you are in Paris you must wear a scarf. Fortunately they sell them on almost every street corner and I chose a pretty silk green one that went with most of my outfits here.

We went to the Musee D' Orsay last night - rooms and rooms and rooms full of Impressionists. I was almost in tears it was so wonderful. William, uhm, not so moved. He was exhausted, frankly, and today he's not been feeling well, but has been a trooper. We're in a different hotel and fortunately he's able to nap tonight while I type just across the road. Er, across the rue.

We went to Les Catacombes this morning. Deep beneath the cafe's and the museums and the tourists and the subway there are ancient roman quarry tunnels and they were used in the 1800's as a cemetery. That's simplifying. But just imagine walking past the bones of six million Parisians! It was fascinating but chilling.

A change of pace, this afternoon/evening we visited the Centre George Pompidou and the surrounding plazas full of fountains, cafes, street entertainers and musicians. It was a feast for the senses! And oh Deb! If you're reading this, I so so so so soooooo thought of you in one exhibition room (the center is a gallery and museum of modern art) and I can't wait to show you the photos I took just for you!

Last night we wandered down to the Seine and the Eiffel Tower after dark. I wanted to see the tower lit up. It was not only lit up, but for a few minutes we caught a strobe show they put on, I presume every night. And the sky at sunset and just after dark - oh my stars - it looked just like the skies in the paintings I had just spent the evening drinking in. It was magical beyond words.

I'm skipping around in the story because my brain is so stuffed with so much I can't think straight to say "First we did this and then we did this and after that we did this...." No. It's more like "Oh! We saw..... No! Wait, I forgot to tell you about....Oh! Did you know that...... And you'll never believe what we saw when we..... No! First I have to tell you about....... !"

Oh! Speaking of remembering things, we went to see the Arch de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees and forgot the address for Tristan and Jon's hotel back at our hotel. Sigh. But I assume you are both having a wonderful time even without us - hehe. You apparently were in Giverny that day anyway. Dang, wish I'd thought to go there.

Tomorrow we plan to go back and finish up the Louvre before taking a midafternoon train back to London where we hope to be able to catch another train for Stratford On Avon. Or is it Stratford Upon Avon? William is excited because I finally agreed to rent a car so we can finish up our trip tootling around the Cotswolds.

Speaking of tootling, I better tootle off to check on the boy and see if he wants to go find a cafe to have a late dinner. Oh, speaking of dinners. We have dragged in late back to the hotel each night and William too tired to eat out. The first night we found a small corner cafe just a half block from the hotel that was just closing but I asked if we could still order Take Away (that's Take Out for you Americans). They happily gave us the last of just about everything from the buffet for half the cost. The first night they piled us up with four pieces of roast chicken, rice, french fries, two loaves of bread, and a box of salad. Last night they gave us enough of some sort of pork/lentil/ratatouille stew to feed SIX, two more loaves of bread, fries and salad. Conversely, drinks almost everywhere here cost a fortune. One thing I do miss about the U.S., William misses even more, refills.

Okay, see ya. Not sure if I'll find internet access tomorrow but at least the next time you hear from me I'll be back on a keyboard that is at least a little bit familiar.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bon Jour Everyone

We're in Paris!!!

I have so much to say but this computer keyboard is so different from an American keyboard that I don't think I will be able to type fast enough to say it all. The English keyboards were slightly different, but this one is almost like relearning the entire thing!

So briefly...

We did finally make it into Westminster Abbey.

We made reservations for a room in Paris just an hour before we left on the train.

We're in fucking Paris!!!!!!!!

A lot of tourists, a lot of Parisians speak English, at least a little bit. Which is exponentially more than I speak French. We bought a phrase book. We do better by making use of lots of "sign language".

Today we have:

Figured out how to get around by tube.

Went to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Ate at a Vietnamese restaurant.

Climbed to the bell tower at Notre Dame. The gargoyles are soooooooooooo cool!

Walked along the Seine and a boulevard full of pet shops and flower shops.

Saw a guy on a bike get clipped by a car and go sailing. He was incredibly lucky. People helped him up, saved his cell phone from getting crunched by traffic, and he was bruised but alive.

The Louvre - it is open Wednesday evenings until 10 p.m. The Louvre!!!!!!!!!

William figured out we've been to almost all the places in The Da Vinci Code on this trip.

It's taken me almost a half hour to type this. Sorry to make this so concise. How boring.

For you. But not for us. We're in Paris!!!!!!!!!

Au revoir!

Monday, May 22, 2006

London and lots of errands

We had to fit sightseeing in between traveling tasks today. Oh, but first, last night. We finished up the day with a cappuccino and the biggest piece of chocolate mousse cake I've ever seen. Good thing William helped me eat it.

This morning we had to move our room. Bad, it took forever to get out of the hotel this morning. Good, our room tonight is only on the first floor (which, remember, is the second floor and because of the tall ceilings means only two flights of stairs) and having our own shower. Between moving our luggage and getting a shower, the morning was half over before we'd even started. I haven't had to wait for a bathroom or shower the entire trip but this morning some asshole took 45 minutes in a shared bathroom. I think he should be thrown in the stocks for that. Naked. With shampoo still in his hair. And cold water thrown on him every half hour for an entire day.

Anyhoo, we got out but had a lot of tasks to do today. First was finding a French phrase book and a Paris travel guide. After that we took off to see The Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace because it was something William wanted to do. It was..... interesting..... for the first, oh, ten minutes or so. It was about an hour. I bet every tourist in London was lined up against the gates or down the boulevard. After the first ten minutes, it got sort of boring, but William wanted to see it to the end, sure it would get better. It didn't. They need to freshen up the choreography. They need a new list of songs. About halfway through, I guess they thought the tourists might appreciate something more "contemporary" then regimental band music, so they started in on a vignette of well known songs - only the songs were all from the 60's! Did they think only old people have enough money to travel to London? I was finally reduced to making fun of things to keep myself entertained. I suggested they do something more modern, maybe some Gwen Stefani? "I ain't no hollaback girl! No, I ain't no hollaback girl!" Do a bit of boogying to the beat. The crowd thought I was pretty funny. I bet I got more laughs then all those red coated guards ever have!

Next, hmmmm, I think William's foot was bothering him and he was starving. So we skipped past Westminster Abbey because I didn't think there was any place to eat around there and went straight to Trafalgar Square where we bumped into our friends who we first met in Wales and then bumped into again in Edinburgh. And no, we weren't all traveling on the same schedule. I mean, what are the odds of bumping into them not once, but twice. Three times if you count the first meeting. In a geographic area the size of California!

They suggested we eat at The Cafe in the Crypt, across the street under ..... some famous church. My brain is getting too saturated, I'm not even gonna try to remember the name. Anyhoo, it was fun. Odd though, casually sipping a soft drink while tapping my toes on someone's grave.

Next, back across the street to The National Gallery. William's foot was bothering him so he spent 90% of the time sitting in a comfy chair stairing up into the same painting. I didn't argue, he was happier then getting dragged about. But Oh! My! Oh! Wow! Paintings I've seen in pictures before. Painters who's lives are legend. Monet! Picasso! Rembrandt! Leonardo! Poussin! Gaugin! Cassatt! My favorites are the Impressionists. I didn't try to look at everything, it would have taken an entire day. So I focused on the art I liked best and just did a quick run through of the rest. Afterwards we went back outside and played around the fountains and pigeons for awhile. William made a lot of new friends. Hehehe. I'll have to post photos of it.

We went back to Westminster Abbey only to discover they had closed visiting hours just minutes before we arrived. This was the second day we'd tried to go there and found it closed - argh!

So off we went to get our tickets for Paris. We booked for tomorrow afternoon for three nights, arriving back in London on Friday evening. We figured it would be easier to get hotel rooms during the week then the weekend, but now I realize we should have booked morning departures and not afternoon, so we wouldn't have two afternoons with our luggage in tow. Oh well.

We picked up our laundry next, no, NEXT we bumped into another person we knew! Our friend Maria from Brazil who we had befriended in Bath. I mean, gee, it's getting so I wouldn't be surprised at bumping into just about anyone we know! How cool is that! So, anyhoo, laundry, which we'd dropped off at a Laundromat this morning. We got so lost trying to find the address this morning that we paid extra to have it done instead of doing it ourselves. The little map we had on how to get there was written in code apparently, it made NO sense. Anyhoo, laundry clean, we spent time trying to get a sense of what to do about hotels and what to do about the several days we'll have left when we return from Paris. All the decisions that had to be made hinge on all the other decisions, and so we sort of went around in mental circles trying to come up with a cohesive whole. Finally we gave up, our brains ran out of energy, we hadn't eaten in almost 7 hours, so we went out to eat instead. Went around in circles again trying to find the closest bus stop (the neighborhood we're staying in, I SWEAR, is some sort of bizarre warped time and space hole - directions turn back on each other, roads move around - like Alice in Wonderland! - but the good news is we finally found the street we were looking for and a great Italian restaurant. We were both happy as they had pasta AND pizza. And across the street I noticed a Vietnamese restaurant I hope to try for lunch tomorrow.

Anyhoo, I tried finding a hotel on line tonight but it's too late for me to make a decision without panicking - don't want a cheap hotel only to get there and find out it's close to Paris, not in Paris. We'll try telephoning some places tomorrow and if that doesn't work, we'll be going to Paris and figuring out where we'll stay when we get there. GULP!

When we come back, we're not sure what we want to do with the last few days of our vacation. In hindsight we should have taken an extra day in each of our favorite areas, which would be just about everywhere we stopped so far. We could just come back and stay in London except it's so damn expensive here that we probably won't. William wants to go to Dublin (yes, I know, that's in Ireland) or Inverness (which probably won't happen because it's really just too far away now). I suggested Stratford-on-Avon and/or Oxford. Or perhaps the seaside, although I have no idea which part of the seaside would be a good idea. Anyone have any suggestions?

Okay, it's late. Next time you hear from me, I'll be probably completely insane from trying to understand and be understood in French. AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Day Two in London

But first, let's finish yesterday's adventures. We went to the Comedy Club. After asking several people if it was appropriate for all ages (while pointing at William), and being assured oh yes of course even small children - uhm, I suppose one could argue that most of the jokes would have gone way over the head of small children. Although I suspect they would have recognized most of the swear words. Oh well, William has never been sheltered from the things most kids are sheltered from, and probably wouldn't be by his age anyway, even if the parents pretend they are. And he certainly enjoyed the humor, so obviously we can deduce that he understood it. He did learn a very good lesson along with the laughs. Drunk people only think they look good and are funny. Lesson courtesy of two rows of young, inebriated New Zealanders.

After the comedy show, we zipped over to the movie theatre - maybe not zipped. Ambled quickly. It was only part of a block away. The theatre was huge. The seats assigned. We had great seats. The only bad thing was that they showed so many damn previews and commercials beforehand that the movie didn't even start for almost 45 minutes after we sat down. It was a midnight showing for crissake, get the show on and let us get home to bed.

The movie was good. Just my opinion, a bit slow in the beginning, but that might be because I knew the plot and was impatient to get the plot rolling. I think they did a pretty good job of slimming it down for the movie and it was even a bit touching in parts.

We got out around 3 am to find the streets still filled with people. Apparently London never sleeps! At least not on a weekend. We rode the bus back and walked the last three blocks or so and finally got in bed about 4 am. We found it highly amusing that we were stopped and asked for instructions a lot. We look like locals? What does that say about us? And even more amusing, with our maps and almost twelve hours of experience being in the city, we could actually help people find their way!

We slept in a bit but still managed to make it down for the last bit of breakfast. I figured make do with less sleep today and get back on a more reasonable schedule tomorrow morning. William's foot is sore but we took it easy and he actually ended up walking on it a lot. At first slowly, then more normally, now that the day is over and we've covered a lot of ground, he's sort of limping again, but it didn't slow us down as much as I thought it would. And probably, it's a good thing we've gone at a slower pace anyway.

So, let's see. We went to Westminster Abbey but it wasn't open because it was a Sunday. Who knew it was Sunday!? I've totally lost track of the day. We'll go back there tomorrow. Then we went to The Temple Church. Just like we'd seen in the movie the night before - all the Templar Knight effigies. It was really haunting. We had to wait about fifteen minutes for a service to be open and there was a cardinal and a priest there, which was sort of odd, after having just seen the movie. Cardinals stand out a lot in their red .... I know it's not called their robes or dresses... just like the bird.

Next, what William wanted to see most. The Tower of London. I was expecting a Tower, on a bridge. There is a London Tower Bridge, but that wasn't it. The Tower of London is actually more of a walled castle compound. It was interesting, but really, really crowded. I think I like the farther outposts of England better then the busy cosmopolitan center. Still, it was worth it. I really liked all the horse statues in The White Tower. If you've been there, you know what I'm talking about. I think William's favorite was the suit of armor and the "mini me" suit of armor. There 's a teensy little suit of armor that was made, I presume, for someone's child. I also liked the ravens, but that wasn't what I expected either. And I was annoyed they didn't really have any raven stuff in the gift shop, just a few stuffed animals and one very tiny charm. Oh well. The Bloody Tower wasn't very impressive (without any heads dripping off of it, it looked just like a dozen towers we've seen already) and you weren't allowed to go up to the top anway.

Oh, and the umbrellas. Now I know why Londoner's always carry an umbrella. Did I mention it was raining almost all day? And gusty. My umbrella, a cheap travel one, kept turning inside out. William threw my umbrella up at one point and it blew into a walled garden. Fortunately there was a way in from the other side and a kind passerby retrieved it for me and tossed it back over the fence. I took a bunch of photos of all the umbrellas.

We ate lunch at a pub across the street from the Tower and although the food,when it finally got there, was good, we had such bad service that if it wasn't for the fact that we were both so hungry I didn't think we could make it to another place without passing out on the street, we would have left.

Travel is a lot of thinking because you are doing most things only once, and for the very first time. We had a dickens of a time (dickens - Dickens - London - get it - ha!) trying to find the subway this afternoon. Once we found it, we could of course go straight there next time we use it from that particular spot. But we probably won't use it from that particular spot again. I figure a good rule of thumb is everything takes three times as long the first time. We finally did find the subway though, because we had to go over to Waterloo Train Station to look into eurostar tickets to Paris. We've been trying to find the right info on traveling to France ever since we got to London and I think we're finally getting it all put together properly. Tomorrow we'll have to make some definite plans.

After finishing that business, we went to the next thing on William's list, the London Eye. A "ferris wheel" that's over ten stories tall. I didn't want to go but guilt is a good motivator - not that I feel guilty about William's injury actually, more accurately I mean I feel sorry for him - so we went on it even though I swore I wouldn't. I figured if I'd done huge castle walls and rocky cliffs, what's one completely enclosed glass egg going up in the sky.

It turned out to be really fun. And virtually no lines because the bad weather had kept everyone away. But fortunately for us, the sun peaked out just as we bought our tickets so the sky and the clearing clouds were quite beautiful and dramatic. I hope some of the photos I took through the glass turn out okay.

We walked along the Thames afterwards, and back over the Winchester Bridge, past the parliament building and Big Ben, the sun shining on it's gold detail. We came back up by bus to Leicester Square but we were too late to buy tickets for a play tomorrow. We'll have to put that on our schedule for tomorrow and tonight just take it easy, catch a bite to eat at the end and get to bed early enough for a full day tomorrow.

Oh, I'm sorry I'm not responding to everyone's comments. I'm trying to keep my internet time to a minimum because of course I have to pay for the time and more importantly, William gets bored. But I'm really enjoying reading them. I just wanted folks to know how much I've appreciated the small keep-in-touch's.

Okay, I gotta get out of here. It's too hot in here! I hope we get some clear weather tomorrow. Knock on wood.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Arriving in London and our first moderate crisis

So, off to the ghost walk we went. It was nice. Each storyteller is unique. We didn't have a chance to eat beforehand so we went in search of a late dinner and found a wonderful, if noisy Italian place. Speaking of noisy, the entire town was noisy as it was the last day of the races and everyone was out on the town, dressed to the nines, and well on their way to inebriated. It was entertaining to watch but we were even more careful about watching the traffic! Oh, so Italian - so much food we couldn't finish it. Then before we even made it back to the hotel William was hungry again and wanted pizza for the room. Sheesh - bottomless pit for a stomach.

This morning we woke up to.... wait, it's a surprise, not....... rain. So we took a taxi to the train station to avoid soaking our luggage. The train ride was uneventful, we arrived at King's Cross Station around 1 pm. Isn't that where Platform 9-3/4 is? I'm almost certain. We got off on Platform 8, just across the walkway from Platform 9. We got more lost then we should have trying to find our connection to the underground as we kept walking right by the elevators down. Eventually we had a porter walk us over to them and they suddenly became visible - sort of like Platform 9-3/4, eh? And a fast tube ride took us up to Victoria Station and decided not to repeat walking around the entire town trying to find the B&B/hotel like we did in York, as London is quite a bit bigger then York, and took a quick four blocks or so taxi ride to the Hotel.

We booked probably the only cheap hotel room in the entire city. We discovered why it was so cheap climbing EIGHT FLIGHTS OF STAIRS to our room!!! It's old and a bit shabby around the edges but clean and has a bit of character. We were pretty sure Rick Steve's wouldn't steer us wrong and he didn't.

After we deposited our luggage somewhere just below the stratosphere, we took off to get our bearings and some lunch. Well, lunch first, we were starving. We found a nice pub on a corner and went to the top floor to eat in the smoke free family dining area (smoking is a lot more visible and public here) and had the room to ourselves except one other family from Connecticut. We had a fantastic lunch (William a burger, me the biggest piece of fish and chips) and then attempted to leave. I say attempted.....

We've climbed castles, winding towers and rocky mountains. We've managed cobblestones and slipperly green slopes. We've clambered down into dungeons and around old ruins. But a simple pub staircase? William fell down it. Okay, he's sitting here correcting me. "Okay, I didn't fall down them. I tripped down them. Falling would be like rolling." After a few seconds he added "I didn't fall down all the stairs, I fell down like, about five."

After a half hour or so he still couldn't put any weight on his foot so we hailed a taxi and told him to take us to the nearest emergency room. We hobbled in and were seen quickly and cheerfully. The bad news is he.... can't remember the exact term.... basically ripped a ligament in the top of his foot, hyperextended it. The one in the top of his ankle. The good news is the best treatment is mild walking interchanged with putting it up to rest.

So, we're not gonna do a lot of walking in London. But we're not completely hotel ridden either. We haven't been back to the hotel yet. I have no idea how we'll manage eight flight of steps. Sheesh. Maybe we'll have to see if they can put us in a more expensive but lower room after tonight.

I bought a bus pass and we're now at Leicester Square. We've seen a few sights out of the bus windows and had a couple of very friendly older women help us figure out (William, still reading over my shoulder says "Older women? They were ancient!") what stop to get off on. William wanted to go see The Da Vinci Code.

The movie was sold out, all but the midnight showing. So we bought tickets for that. Then we hobbled off a half block to a lovely meal on a sidewalk cafe while we watched the masses wander up and down in the square in front of us. William had a sandwich that looked great and I had a dip platter that had the best taboulleh, hummus, and baba ganouj I have ever eaten! This internet cafe was just another half block hobble around the corner. At ten pm we have tickets for a comedy club back a half block closer to the theater.

Speaking of theater - in London theater means theatre. Movies are cinema. And there is more theatre here then one could possibly see in a year! I'd love to see several but William seems a bit resistant. Okay, a lot resistant. I know he'd love it though. We'll try for one tomorrow night or the next.

We lost the afternoon to the hospital, but we've manage to fill our evening full to overflowing tonight with sit down experiences. Of course we won't get back to the hotel until about 3 am. Hopefully we'll get up in time to see some sights tomorrow. Providing William's ankle doesn't protest too much.

Gotta run.

Friday, May 19, 2006

More York

Today is our first and perhaps only full day in York. William and I are pondering whether to leave in the morning for a sea village or perhaps straight on to London, or stay another day here. We didn't get to see the haunted Treasurer's House yet, and we want to do that. But we've pretty much covered everything else that I can convince William might be interesting. I can't seem to convince him that the art museum will be interesting. Gee, anyone surprised at that? I guess i'll settle for waiting for the Louvre. Ha! "Settling" for the Louvre!

We did do three museums today though - was it three? or four? Whatever, it was a lot. I'm tired. William is so tired he's back at the hotel trying to find something interesting on a television that only offers four channels, many of the shows at this time of day focusing heavily on sheep and football (that's soccer to you Americans).

So, let's see.... oh yes, we went on a ghost walk last night. Very proper gentlemen in a black suit, top hat, umbrella, pocket watch. He was a great storyteller and mixed history and horror with grisly politeness and humor.

This morning we ate at the hotel and then took off for a full day. First? Uhm, we wandered about people watching and sight seeing and waiting for the shops to open. Finally made it over to something called The Castle Museum, which is really more a museum of changing life from the Victoria era through to about the 50's. Very fun. They even had complete reproductions of streets with shops and homes inside the museum. The funny thing is that, except for a few modern signs and of course the cars, it doesn't look that much different then it still does today!

We climbed a hill to a very small, bedraggled looking castle. More entertaining then the castle ruins were the Canadian Geese families (cute baby goslings!), ducks, pigeons, and assorted other wildlife all facing off with the students trying to figure out whether each other were potentially sources of food, or something to be watchful around. There was a sign that read "Danger - please keep children restrained". It wasn't really clear whether the children were in danger or were the danger. Probably a little of both, eh?

Our travels to and fro took us back and forth through The Shambles and dozens of other shopping areas. York is for shoppers. The best thing is the shops and buildings are interesting whether they're open or closed. But today they were open and we did a bit of shopping. I bought some wool at a knitting store as I'm almost done with my hat and wanted another project for the trains. Unfortunately I'm not close enough to being done to wear it here, so I also bought myself a nice fleece hat - the wind is ferociously cold today. I also bought a bunch of cute socks. Mementos and practical at the same time. William found a bunch of cool patches for his backpack, The English Jack, and a few of his favorite bands. I found a few other knicknacks for us in the museum gift shops.

Oh, so speaking of museums... we went to the York Museum. It's in a lovely big park full of flowers and interesting trees and the ruins of a abbey. They were having a special exhibit focusing on the Emperor Constantine, which was fascinating. How often does one get to see real papyrus with writing on it that's over 700 years old! The most suprising to me though, was the delicate glass. I guess I knew they had glass, but I didn't really think about them using it. Of course the average person didn't have glass or fine silver or anything like that.

The regular exhibits were also fascinating. York has been many cities, each one built over the top of the other. I don't know the name of the first settlers, but then the Vikings invaded and built a bustling trading center called Yorvik. More English. Then Romans. And finally the English again with the BIG CHURCH and kings and queens and etc. It's fascinating as bits and pieces of ancient walls or roads or buildings are all still showing and still being used and often are rag tag added one to the other to make up new walls or roads or buildings. You can see medieval wood and waddle and a block or building away it's a Roman wall and then a Tudor and then something from the Elizabethan era, and then a double take and you realize that there's even a contemporary brick building thrown in for good measure.

Last but not least was a sort of Disney ride museum, but fun, about the Viking city they excavated under York. It had a reproduction village, which was the ride part, then some of the actual excavation site, and then a small interactive section with folks dressed up in costume and reproduction tools and such you could actually touch, and then a museum of artifacts and then a bunch of stuff on bones and archeology. I even convinced William to dress up as a Viking warrior for a photo. Such a good sport! Oh, and in the other museum, we both dressed up as Romans. Oh, I so wish I could show you photos. Sigh. Just wait until we're back home. I'll have a year (or two!) of entries with a Trip Photo of the Day Section added to the end of each entry.

There was lunch in there somewhere. We ate at The Golden Fleece, the most haunted pub in all of York, maybe all of England. I guess it's featured on television shows a lot. We didn't see any ghosts, but I had a delicious bowl of potato leek soup with wonderful hot crusty bread.

Speaking of food, I'm starving. So, I guess that's all for today. I need enough time to go back and retrieve William at the hotel before we eat and then it's off to yet another ghost tour. William really, really loves the ghost tours. And since he's too young to do the pub scene, it's a nice way to fill our nights. We've been looking to find a play at night, but so far we haven't had much luck. We just missed seeing MacBeth done at the castle in Canaervan! I was really bummed about that. There several theatres around here, but the only production I can find playing while we are here is Oklahoma! - a cowboy play done in English accent? Uhm, maybe not. Maybe we'll catch a play later in London or even go to Stratford-on-Avon even though we've been warned it's sort of touristy.

Like I said, we're sort of struggling with what to do next, where to go next. We've both come down with a cold and feel a bit travel weary. We need a break but we're not sure where to go to take it. Too, we've got extra time to fill in - we really should have taken another day in Wales and another one in Edinburgh as well. But I wanted to keep to a schedule so that we could have a few days left at the end of the trip to fill in with something we didn't see or perhaps didn't think to see when we originally made up our travel itinerary. William says he thinks we should have gone to Ireland for a few days. That would have been nice. He even thinks we should maybe spend more time in France. Gulp. Well, we'll figure it out tonight and let you know. At least we'll figure out where we're off to tomorrow, that is. At this moment, it's still up in the air.

Stomach is grumbling. Oh right! Dinner.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Up to Arthur's Seat and Down to York

I mentioned we were going to climb something called Arthur's Seat? Well, we did last night. First the weather turned a bit drizzly, but no matter, a little spattering of rain doesn't keep the Scots inside. We went to the backside of the trails, someone had suggested it was a shorter walk. Snort. I took one look up to the top of that rocky crag and said "I don't think so!" I suggested we hike up another ridge, a sort of headlands. So we did. It was beautiful but when we got to the top of the trail, William was disappointed because it didn't go all the way to the very top. I thought about it, gulped, and said if he really wanted, I was game to do the other trail.

Of course that meant first going back down the mountain we were on and starting over. Let me point out a few things. By this time it was evening and a long extended dusk. It was also raining a bit more seriously. But hey, there were still other hikers about. And last but not least, the way UP to the top appeared to be a series of rocky stairs switchbacks, although calling them stairs is being very generous.

Up we went. Eventually the stairs gave way to rock and we scrabbled up the last 100 feet or so and TA-DA!!!!! We were standing on the highest point as far as the eye could see. We were also soaked to the skin. But it was quite exciting.

The question then became, how should be get down. From the top we could see there were several choices open to us. We decided on the grassy valley on the other side. More scrabbling down the now slipperly rocks (although the only falls we made were on our butts on some slippery grass, each within a few seconds of each other, almost at the bottom again) and a few more of those "stairs" and then long sweeping hillsides of grass. And I do mean grass. No wonder the Scots invented golf, their native land is a natural golf course. This type of grass isn't native to the Americas, we have to plant the stuff. About an hour later, we finally made it back and found ourselves on the opposite side of the city. We'd been hiking for two or three hours by then. We rode back, a couple of very bedraggled looking puppies, on the city buses.

By this time we hadn't eaten in over eight hours. So we changed into dry clothing and headed off in search of food. We stumbled upon a little hidey hole pub/restaurant tucked into a row of B&B's just down the block from ours. YAH! And hey Kristen! I ordered that Shandy. Very good! I liked it a lot better then straight lager. The only problem was between the exercise and the beer, I was at risk of falling asleep face first into my dinner plate.

This morning it was very hard to leave Edinburgh. I really liked it there. No, I love Edinburgh. Rain or no rain. Wouldn't you know it we woke to blue skies on our last day there.

The train was delayed but still, an easy no transfer route and we arrived in York around midafternoon. This was the first time we hadn't made reservations before we arrived because we hadn't had any trouble making them so far and we thought it would be fun to keep our options open. Plus, some friends of ours - well, friends in the sense that we keep bumping into them - suggested a rather expensive B&B. I thought I'd check it out before committing, maybe we'd find something cheaper we liked just as well.

After dragging our suitcases all over the damn place, we discovered that it was the proverbial no room at the inn phenomenon. Why? Well, not because they were counting taxes. It was because we arrived on the only three days of some annual horse racing event.

Eventually, getting rather desperate, I inquired at a rather expensive looking hotel and after a few minutes of asking prices, the lady looked at me and said to the porter "Look at that face!" I guess I looked pretty forlorn. She offered us a twin double at a discount and I took it. It's still the most expensive place we've stayed, but it's not that much more and it's better then.... uhm.... better then the street, no matter how charming the streets are around here.

Again, starving, we got a late lunch, just across the street from the York Minster (aka BIG CHURCH). After, we went into the BIG CHURCH, saw the big ceilings, saw it cost £5 just to go in, decided it wasn't worth it. However, climbing the church tower, that sounded like fun. No problem after climbing a mountain, right!? So we paid for the pleasure of climbing the 275 very steep, very winding stairs up to the top. William of course zipped up with the energy of youth while I was keeping up behind as best I could but at least I was ahead of about four couples in their twenties and thirties. Until, that is, I just had to take a break, I was so out of wind. I curled into a window so everyone else could pass me only to find out about fifteen seconds later when I kept climbing that I was only about twelve steps from the top!

Speaking of charming streets, this afternoon we've been wandering around what's called The Shambles. It's a series of winding and curving streets, very narrow. It's apparently the best perserved medieval part of a town in England. To imagine what it looks like, just picture Diagon Alley! Really. I wonder if they filmed that part of the Harry Potter movies here?

I've found a couple of shops I want to investigate further tomorrow, when they reopen. William and I went up to a second story tea house and had a very late tea. We looked across to something called The Psychic Museum. Our waiter said it was owned by Uri Geller. I thought he was old!? So we spent the rest of the tea time trying to bend our tiny little tea spoons and watching the rain come down outside.

It's stopped now. We're just a couple doors down, at The Evil Eye Lounge. Very cool bizarre place, and internet access. William liked wandering off by himself while I typed yesterday, so he went off again today. He's getting quite brave. Or maybe it's me getting brave for letting him go off on his own?

Now it's time to say goodbye for the day - another ghost walk planned for this evening. Seems there's a lot of ghosts in England, eh?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The most amazing sight in Edinburgh.... far, was waking up to the sun! According to the locals they have a lovely climate here, except during the 12 month rainy season. HA!

Guess where I'm typing this from!? GUESS!? A coffee house called Elephant House. Yeah, you're saying to yourself. So? Well, this just happens to be very same coffee house where J K Rowling sat and looked out over the city and wrote the first Harry Potter book. Is that beyond cool or WHAT!? Here I sit writing in the same place that she did. Okay, so it's a blog, not a novel. But still. I'm jazzed.

So, let's see, last we left you, we were off to dinner and a couple of ghost tours. We were gonna take one tour, we ended up taking two of them and they were both very different and both very fun. William loved them! Especially the second one. The first one took us down into the underground of the city and focused on paranormal activity. It was a small group, just us and another couple. Our tour guide was a gothy type woman originally from St. Louis and a lot of fun. We didn't see any ghosts, but we had a couple of weird experiences. We all thought of the same name of this child spirit at the same time - spooky. And all our cameras and video cameras stopped working. They all started working again later. We know because we ended up seeing the same couple on the later tour.

The later tour was a hoot and a half. We got a sprinking of historical information and the wittiest tour guide ever. He looked like Spike (Buffy reference if you're confused) in his long, sweep the ground black coat and black clothing and boots. He took us about the town and eventually to a graveyard. I don't have enough time to tell you everything about it, but we enjoyed it so much we came back today to see the graveyard again in the daylight. Yes, I said in the daylight. By the time we got tot he graveyard, it was almost dark, full dark by the time we left. But I'll tell one story.

We all went into a crypt. They asked the tallest people to go in first. That meant William, as no one is very tall around here. Off my baby went alone into the back of the dark tomb. Then when we were all in the tour guide announced the most haunted, dangerous part of the crypt was the back lefthand corner. Everyone turned and stared at William and I standing in it.

This morning we spent a lot of the morning trying to track down the right bus route, which was frustrating, but we've had such glorious traveling luck so far I can't complain too much. William could though. Sigh. Eventually we found what we were looking for and went off to see the Roslyn Chapel. Very beautiful and compelling. It's being worked on from the outside and they have huge metal scaffolding around it. Kinda ruins the view from the outside but we did get to climb up and tour the top of the Chapel, not something the tourists ordinarily get to do. They said they number of tourists has doubled, from 60,000 to over 120,000 this year because of The Da Vinci Code.

The shops here have the most clever names. We drove past two shops while on the bus (doubledecker bus, we were on top). One one side was a health food store called Roots. On the other side of the street was a florist shop called Twigs. I thought that was funny.

Speaking of finding ones way around, the best source of info for that, or anything really, are the people on the street, in the shops and restaurants. We've just asked people, in a loud enough conversational tone that if the person we ask doesn't know the answer, someone nearby usually does and always offers help. I'd say the Scottish people are exceptionally friendly, and they most certainly are, but it seems that a lot of Edinburgh's population originates from elsewhere. Many people with a mild accent are originally from Houston, or St. Louis, or Australia, or London, or Canada..... you get the idea.

Back in town we toured the Greyfriar Graveyard again and then came to this coffee house for lunch. We bumped into a couple and their mother we had originally stayed at the same B&B with in Conwy. They're from San Diego. We all had lunch together along with a local Scottish man who was sitting at a table alone when we descended upon him. I guess the Scottish are used to that sort of thing though. The English invading. Haha.
And if that wasn't "it's a small world" enough for you, yesterday William recognized another couple who we had met at breakfast at the same B&B in Bath.

Well, I guess that's quite enough. We're off to climb Arthur's Seat tonight. So I best get a move on. Plus my time is up, busy coffee house, there might be people waiting. Although, I do have to finish my cappuccino. AND, I let William go off on his own for a walk while I typed. He's not back yet. He promised not to get lost. Not sure why I believed him. I mean, he got lost inside the museum the other day trying to find the bathroom.
Tomorrow, we're off to Hadrian's Wall, if we can find a way to get there. We might have to rent a car. And then it's York.

Oh, good, whew. Here comes William.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The rain stopped in Edinburgh

Thank goodness. We did go off and trek around a bit last night, in the rain, but as lovely as it is wet, it's lovelier when it's dry. William commented that Edinburgh would be the wrong city to attempt to parachute into. They have a love of pointy topped buildings. Spires 'R Us.

Having gone down to the high street and taken a quick look about, we knew where to go this morning to visit some of the main attractions. The first stop was the Edinburgh Castle. Very different from the Welsh castles - er, rather, the English castles built in Wales. We can't help but get a bit of an edukayshun while we're here. We're fighting it, but y'know, some of it just seeps in.

After the castle we visited another house, this one having rooms representative of both the 17th and 18th century, including furniture. Very interesting. It's nice having these British Heritage Passes, it means a lot of the historical stuff is free. If we had to pay every time, we'd probably have passed up a lot of the little things, but this way we've not worried about the cost and some of it has been quite worth it.

We stoped at St. Giles Cathedral as we walked down the Royal Mile (their High Street, aka the main drag of ol') and were treated to their choir singing. Gee, I haven't been to a church service in a while, but I can tell you this - voices in a cathedral sound a lot more inspiring then in your typical American church. We didn't stay for more then one song. William got bored. It's a balance keeping us both happy.

We stopped for lunch .... oh, wait. First we stopped at The Writer's Museum, in a home that Robert Louis Stevenson stayed at. Robert Burns. A few others. William bored. Me interested.

Okay, back to lunch. A nice pub. William got a burger and coke. I got a salmon and asparagus salad. Just goes to show you that you can never assume while traveling. Didn't ever expect to have to inquire if the salmon was cooked or not! But hey, new experiences. I told William "You know the ol' saying - "When in Rome...." "

William finished my thought - "....pillage?" Hehehe. Not the quote I was going for, actually.

We walked down to the Holyrood Castle. Unfortunately it was closed. Dignatories were arriving and actually going to stay at the palace, so it was closed to the public. We settled for taking the bus back up towards the castle and going to the Scottish Art Museum. Free to the public. Manet's, Monet's, Degas', Da Vinci's and a whole bunch of other artists that I recognize but won't embarrass myself by attempting to spell their names correctly. William got bored and then got lost trying to find a bathroom.

Now we're sitting in an internet spot waiting to do the ghost tour we had planned on doing originally last night. We've opted for the fun ghosts and paranormal one - still all real ghost stories, but not so much a history tour. We've had so much historical information that it's seeping out our ears. We need a bit of a break and some fun. (Last night we were just too tired. And hungry. Instead we saw an all-you-can-eat Italian buffett and headed towards it like lost travelers to an oasis. Rabbit, duck, fish, a zillioan other meats, and a zillion pastas. Nothing like an American buffett where you can't get much more then beef, chicken or shrimp.

Speaking of fun, I find myself somewhat amusing. I often feel like The Tourist from Terry Pratchett's first two Discworld books, sailing into new situations with a naive smile and a camera. And often my luggage in tow. Unfortunately my luggage comes with two wheels instead of hundreds of little feet. Too bad. I'd pay a lot for a luggage that followed me without any effort on my part.

The Scottish accent is a tad more challenging then the English and Welsh ones we've come across yet. Some people have a heavier accent then others though. And there are a lot of locals that obviously come from elsewhere, so their accents are mixed. It's a very cosmopolitan town. It's also, at present, a very cowsmopolitan town. They've got art cows all over the place. Here we are in a city full of amazing architecture but hey, you can only take photos of so many tall spires or imposing doors before they all sort of blur. But colorful cows! That's something new! Oh, and they have somethere here they called a "close", basically a very skinny long alley, only they run perpendicular off the main roads instead of parallel like an alley would, and they lead to the next street. Very cool. William says I've taken way to many photos of them. But the view down them are different every time!

Another thing, they seem to love to name their streets. They love it so much that they change the names of their streets every block or two. So, same street, two or four or seven different names. I think they just like to confuse the tourists.

I'm enjoying it here a lot more now that the rain has stopped. That and we're settled in to our B&B and gotten our bearings. Each time we've switched places, I have spent the first day feeling somewhat overwhelmed and anxious. Maybe this won't be an interesting place. Maybe we will be too far away, won't find our way around, won't like it. I've figured it out finally, a pattern. I feel much more adventuresome after a good night's sleep and a new day. So I didn't worry about it last night.

Well, I've used up my time, and it's time to wander back out and wait for our catacomb tour to start. Since it's underground, I figured it would be just as scary during the day as at night. Duh.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Goodbye to Wales and hello to Edinburgh

We spent one more night in Conwy and took the day to do the Conwy Castle and just mill around the shops a bit. At the castle they were doing re-enactments, so we got to hear troubadours and watch knights fighting. We sort of made a buddy of one knight. Unfortunately he was from France, so everyone "boo'ed" him. I kept booing and yahing for the wrong knights, which entertained the locals. We stayed the, night above a pub and had the prettiest room, all done in melon and orange colors. OH! And we say a Royal Navy Cadet's parade, all marching up High Street unexpectedly. We also had wonderful fish and chips. I don't know what everyone is up about the bad food in England - so far we've had delicious everything - although they sure do like their bacon and sausages.

We woke up to rain this morning but it didn't matter since we spent most of today on the train. It was still a pretty trip, lots and lots and lots of sheep. And pine trees as we got into Scotland. I presume they were Scotch Pines?

We got into Waverly Station just before two and wandered in a couple of circles looking for a map to tell us where our B&B was located. We finally realized we were in a much bigger city then we've tackled so far, and took a short taxi ride to our accomodations. It's more like a hotel really, but pretty. It's quite a way off the main tourist stops, but it seems all the hotels and B&B's are, except the really high priced ones. It's only a block off the bus route, so that's not so bad. And it's closer to a nice walk up a volcano our taxi driver recommended.

My only complaint is we booked this place because Rick Steve's Tour book said it had laundry services. Well, yeah. A six block walk in the rain juggling backpacks, sacks of dirty laundry, and umbrellas. I do not call that laundry service. But now it's all washed and dried and we found this internet cafe just a couple doors down so I'm doing a quick update before we trek back to the hotel and then get ready for our evening. So as not to waste the entire day on travel and laundry tasks, we're going down to the high street for a nice relaxing meal and then we hope to find one of the many ghost tours that go on around here at night. Takes you down into the catacombs and such. OoooooOOOOooooOOooooh! Sounds fun.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Long time no see! Well, just a few days. But it seems like a lot of time passes when you squeeze so much into a few days. Last you heard from your intrepid travelers, they were off to Wales. A few dashes between trains got us safely to Conwy, where after dragging our bags around in circles a couple of times, we found our B&B, on the top of a hill. Between the luggage and the circular staircases, we're building up good arm and leg muscles.

So, first thing we did was get settled in and then walk back down to the village where we toured the harbor and walked the city walls. The guard railings were very short, and the city walls and William are both very tall, so I got a bit of vertigo, but it was worth it. We ate in the garden of a pub, George and Dragon. William had an American Hamburger - that's what it said on the menu - and I had Bangers and Mash. I didn't know that it was Bangers and Mash at the time, but it was delicious. We chatted with several local fishermen who were enjoying their beers and a bit of sun.

Saturday we took the bus off to Canaervan - have no idea if I spelled that correctly. Speaking of spelling - Welsh spelling is a kick. Both English and Welsh are spoken here and so the signs and information is written in both languages. Anyhoo, went off on the bus to Canaervan to see a big ol' castle. We had a great tour guide and learned a lot, as well as speaking with a young woman from the 14th century who was waiting on the steps of the castle while her husband, the architect for King Edward, was engaged with work. I was really impressed with her ability to stay in character.

Oh, we also saw a hobbit! Well, no. It was really a little person. But hey, everything is so different around here that I had to shake my head and remember the difference between reality and fiction before I could make sense of what I was seeing.

Then, last night, after returning to Conwy, we went back to the George and Dragon, walked inside and discovered a hald dozen knights and ladies buddied up to the bar. Another blink or two.... it was a historical re-enactment troup in town. They're going to be doing shows up at the Conwy Castle today and we'll leave to tour that in just a bit.

This morning we went visited a Tudor house. It was really wonderful. The kitchen was filled with all sorts of kitchen tools and herbs. It made the entire house smell glorious. I asked William to take a photo of me in front of the herbs and kitchen hearth and the docent picked up the broom and handed it to me to hold. Hehe, the perfect prop for me.

Did I mention yet that the call the first floor the ground floor? The second floor is the first floor. The second is the third... and so on. Why is this important? Well, it means one climbs quite a few more stairs with heavy luggage then one expects.

I think I've used up my time - a half hour for a quid and twenty.

Off to the castle! ("Where castle? There castle. There werewolf." That line has been running through my head ever since we've arrived and of course no one gets it. Name that movie.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Today is our last day in Bath - we spent it doing one thing - going by bus to Glastonbury.

The bus trip itself was a trip. Big bus, often teensy little roads. And if there's only room for one vehicle, the cars give way to the bigger bus. It's amazing how fast folks can drive backwards around here!

The first stop was the Glastonbury Abbey ruins. Beautiful. The site was filled with schoolchildren. We've missed the heavy tourist load of summer, but I'd forgotten about how many field trips schools take in the spring when the weather is good and the days are longer. Some English schools, but a lot of the kids are obviously French. I love all the school uniforms, which is odd considering how I hate the uniforms on American kids. I enjoyed the ruins, the Abbey kitchen, the herb garden, and sweeping green gardens. William got kinda bored and I thought I'd have a crabby teen on my hand.

Fortunately he liked climbing the Tor better. In fact he went off without me while me and the cows were still at the bottom. The cows happily eating grass, me desperately trying to get my backback strap to work around my hips. I'd only used it slung casually over my shoulders before today. Eventually I managed something half helpful and up I went. Gasp, gasp, heavy breathing.

But it was worth it. So pretty from the top. I would have loved to focus in on the spiritual aspects of the walk, but with William in tow, that wasn't gonna happen, so I didn't try. But it is obviously a very high energy area. Several times I tuned into it - it's like a physical buzzing.

The walk down was easier and William was kind enough to carry the backpack and head on down himself so I could enjoy the walk alone and unencumbered. I stopped to admire some buttercups, got in a conversation with a couple of guys about dandelions, and when they went on their way, one of the guys left with a "Cheerio!" Yes, he really used the word "Cherrio". I couldn't wait to get down to the bottom and tell William.

Next we stopped at the Chalice Well. Did you know it's considered a ""World Peace Garden"? It might very well be my favorite part of the entire trip. It was so, so, so, so, so lovely. Beautiful. Peaceful. Stunning. Wonderful. Even William the Teen was respectful and quiet. Okay, so he did pretend to be the lion fountain and spent several minutes trying to spit sacred water in just the right arc. But other then that.....

Back down in Glastonbury town we had tea. Even though I was really hot from the walk, I had tea, scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam. I had to so that I could tell my friend Shelly I had a proper afternoon tea. Shelly, if you're reading this, I did it for YOU! William had a ham sandwich and a milkshake. No,wait. A Thick Shake. Did you know in England a milkshake is just frothed milk - no ice cream? A Thick Shake is with ice cream. Even then, it was only about as thick as that bottom couple inches, when you let the last of your milkshake melt a bit. It was so confusing ordering it - two waitresses, William and I, and the couple from Australia at the table next to us were all laughing by the time we managed to communicate. One language, many different ways of using it.

We still had time to walk around a bit. Oh. My. Stars. An entire town filled with New Age shops. I kid you not. Not a block. Not two blocks. The entire town. Well, as much as we could cover that is. I could sit and people watch and soak up the counterculture atmosphere for days. But alas, we rushed for the bus and had another wild ride back to Bath. It was too late to stop in Wells, apparently the home of the largest Cathedral in England. We could see it from the outside though. Yep. Very large.

Tonight we're just taking it easy, planning our next stage of the trip, taking a few more photos around Bath, and having a late dinner. Tomorrow it's off on a series of train rides that will take us to Conway in the north of Wales.

Stay tuned......

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

William and Laume's adventures - Day Two

Today we took a tour bus called Mad Max Tours - the tour guide was great and we had a lot of fun. First we went to the village of Castle Combe - or is it spelled Coombe. Anyhoo, we had a special treat as they are filming a movie there so they had covered the asphalt to hide it and put up all sorts of props so not only was the village hundreds of years old, but it looked it. We had to get there early to see things before they starting filming at 10 am. The film crew even let us wander in to see some of the inside props for the movie. Cool, huh!

Next we went to Avesbury. Another cute little village and of course the stones. And sheep. People were having as much fun photographing the sheep as the stones. Our guide brought dowsing rods and told us about the water that ran under the ground around the stones. William was the first to use them and you should have seen the look on his face when they worked. I used them too and it looked like they weren't gonna work and then whoosh, they swung around.

We went to Lacock next - Lakock? Whichever way it's spelled, it was another charming village,this one with people milling about and living there. The school children all laughing and playing on the school grounds in their British school uniforms. The best part of this stop, however, was the Abbey where, in the cloisters, they filmed many scenes from the first and second Harry Potter films! It was tooooo cool! Unfotunately William was starting to run out of energy at this point, so I think I was more excited then he was. He was more interested in the pub we were going to eat lunch at, The George Inn, serving ale since the 1300's. We ate with one of the other tour members, a nice woman from Brazil traveling alone. I had been complaining about the exchange rate, a pound is worth almost two American dollars, until Maria told me the exchange rate for her was four to one!

Last but definitely not least. Stonehenge. Wow. Amazing. It was tooooo cool! Hmmmm, I seem to be repeating that phrase a lot. I took lots of photos, especially at Stonehenge. It's different then seeing photos of it - all up close and 3-D and with people and birds and sheep. Tooooo cool! You can't go up and touch the main stones (although you can see and touch some of the ones that are outside the main circle), but you get really close.

William is now resting at the B&B, figuring out which of the four channels he wants to watch on the telly, while I ran out to buy a piece of fabric at the quilt shop around the corner and came here to write my daily post to let hubby know what we're up to for the day. Yes, the first thing we ran into in England after checking in to the B&B yesterday was a quilt shop. We went in and - GASP - fabric costs a small fortune around here - anywhere from $12 to $20! That's American dollars. I guess if I lived in England I would have a considerably smaller fabric stash. So I'm only gonna buy a fat quarter just so I can say I put some fabric from England in a quilt. It was closed though for the night, I'll have to go back, perhaps tomorrow.

I'm getting used to the money. William is annoyed when I say dollar or penny instead of pound or pence. Although, the tour guide was calling a pound a dollar today, so maybe the terms are somewhat interchangeable. The hardest part to get used to is that pounds come in coin form. And they have twenty pence instead of instead of 25 cent quarters. The tour guide told me something was worth a quid and I asked what a quid was - he cracked up laughing - at himself, for assuming I'd know.

Everyone has been very nice when we don't know what we're doing. The area is saturated with tourists from all over the world. It certainly puts a different perspective on being an American - no big deal around here. Except it is indeed a small world - another couple on our tour today was also from California, and in fact lived not far from us.

Tonight we are going on a comedy tour of the streets of Bath, and we'll find someplace new to try for dinner. And tomorrow we're thinking of taking the bus to Glastonbury to see the Abbey and walk up the Tor.

Oops, my minutes are up, so see you later.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

We're here

In England. Bath specifically. The plane trip was just fine - I think they accidentally doublebooked William's seat because at boarding they gave us free upgrades to nicer seats, which was lovely. The train was easy to catch straight from Heathrow and we arrived here midafternoon. Of course it's 9 hours difference from California and five hours difference from New York, which we'd adapted to, so with only about 3-4 hours of sleep, we're pretty tuckered out. But we're gonna stay awake another few hours so we get on the right schedule.

A few random first impressions:

Traveling here on the train, looking out the window, if I hadn't seen any buildings, I would swear we're simply in Oregon. Green. But the buildings - all those row houses with the odd shaped roofs, they're the giveaway.

Their keyboard isn't the same as an American keyboard - ACK!

The exchange rate dollar to pound is even worse then when we planned the trip. A pound worth almost twice an American dollar - double ACK!

Our B&B is fine but we have many many stairs to climb to our room.

Our first night in England, we went to a Spanish restaurant. Had tapas, which are all sorts of individual dishes meant to be shared, kinda like eating at a Chinese restaurant. William and I both liked it.

We've already gone to the Roman Baths - toooooo cool. Tribute to the Goddess Minerva. I threw an offering in the pool, just like folks have been doing for almost 2,000 years.

Everything is picturesque - there's no way to turn without wanting to whip out my camera and snap a shot. I'm trying to be selective as we'll be here for 3-1/2 weeks - I only have eight SD cards with me! William has a camera too. At the last minute I bought a second camera. It will be fun to see what he takes pictures of - he's a pretty decent photographer already and I think he'll only improve with all the photo ops here.

Traffic rules - I don't think anyone finds them particularly useful - they certainly don't follow them! I think the main rule is - Don't get run over!

Well, my 30 minutes and a cuppa are almost up, so I'll sign off.

Except for that damn exchange rate (and I have a sneaking suspicion that Bath is sorta the English equivalent of Santa Cruz or Ashland or some other upscale tourist community - maybe things will be better in the wilds of Wales or Scotland, our next stops methinks) this is really a mind stretching experience - even on 3 hours of sleep. And a glass of sangria.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Live! From New York! it's Saturday Night Live!

Ha! Actually it's Live! From Connecticut. But that's pretty close to New York. About an hour by train. I learned that yesterday when we took the train (and the subway) and went there. We spent all day in the city, had a wonderful time, and we all ended up absolutely exhausted. I think William was actually walking and sleeping at the same time.

I won't tell you all about it. You'll have to wait, my pretties. I'm too tuckered out from today's fun in Connecticut (Mystic Seaport) and Rhode Island to stay up any longer then a quick kiss kiss hug hug because tomorrow Deirdre is dragging us all out of here on another early start to another long day in New York City. Isn't she wonderful! No, wait. That wasn't sarcasm. She keeps us all together and on track and makes sure we see everything we asked to see. She's also been doing all the thinking to make sure we catch trains and meet people on time and feed ourselves before we fall over faint from hunger like Raggedy Ann dolls (or in William's case, a Raggedy Andy doll), face down on the sidewalks. I am gratefully impressed!

She also loves to take photographs, just like me. We both have captured some great shots of scenery and life and artsy things like that. We've also taken some for the family scrapbooks. This means the poor teenagers, my William and her daughter Morgan, have had to pose for endless shots of themselves in front of memorable backgrounds. I mean, we could take photos of ourselves in front of things but let's face it, the young'uns are just more photogenic then us old.... er, mature folk. For the most part, they were incredibly good sports. I'll leave you with a couple of the most touristy ones.

I surprisingly didn't even think to ask William to do this. He thought of it all on his own. He's either incredibly witty or incredibly well trained to do silly things in public.

Here I ended up in the picture with William and Morgan because some nice, well meaning lady came up and offered to take the photo for me. I didn't want to be rude and say no, so I joined the kids in front of this boat museum. Not a bad shot, eh?

And here are William and Morgan in a boat. I saw the boat and yelled "All teenagers - get in the boat!" A couple of elderly people walking by overheard me (wasn't hard, I was loud) and cracked up laughing, remarking ""Good luck with that!" I must be hard to ignore - or maybe they just wanted to shut me up as fast as possible and get it over with - they climbed in. After this shot I told them to pretend to be falling overboard. They decided it was time to disembark quickly before I asked them to next lean over the sides and pretend to be seasick or something else embarrassing.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Miss me?

Yeah, I've been gone for..... 24 hours? Ha!

Yesterday was just travel, travel, and more travel. William got his first plane ride. And his second. I think he enjoyed them. Sometimes figuring out whether this kid is having a good time is a very tricky assessment game. The difference between boredom and intense enthusiasm might mean a fractional difference in the set of his shoulders, a mild smile instead of a deadpan face.

We had good weather. So on his first (and second) plane ride William got to see a lot on the take offs and landings - mountains, rivers, towns. Our last descent was at night so he got to see eastern seaboard city lights stretching on for miles in all directions. Me, I got to see a lot of passenger heads. I gave William the window seats.

My friend Deirdre and her very talkative daughter (not), picked us up at the airport in Connecticut. The long day of traveling helped us be tired enough to fall asleep at a reasonable EDT hour and hopefully we'll have minimal jetlag issues, as it will only be more of a time difference when we leave for England. This morning I'm enjoying talking with Deirdre's hubby and wandering around her home and studio looking at all the art and small details that make up a home.

However, in a few minutes we leave for THE BIG APPLE. Tourist R Us. Well, except for Deirdre, who probably thinks ho hum, big city. I wonder if I will embarrass her as much as I do William when I'm out acting all "Oooooh! Shiny! Big! Pretty!" in public, completely non-urbane. Yep, just call me Minnie Pearl. Agog at all the fancy streets and buildings. Okay, maybe not that bad. But silly, always silly. Life is too short not to have fun. I've got my camera ready and I'm set to go.

Later alligators!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

All packed and ready to go

The big day is almost here. We're all packed and ready to leave early tomorrow morning. All except I'm trying to come up with a last minute knitting project to do on the plane. If I can't find one laying around in the studio, maybe I can pick one up in Connecticut. It's not that big a deal. I have a book to read, William to keep me entertained, and several very heavy tour guides to finally get a chance to peruse. And of course it always takes a long time to eat the peanuts and soda they provide on the flight. Ha ha.

William is most excited about the immediate adventure, the plane ride. I assured him that after this trip, he would have his fill of air travel. It's exciting the first few times, then it's mostly a lot of sitting in a very cramped seat. Me, I'm looking forward to what comes after the plane ride.

I might get a chance to post a few entries inbetween adventures, so check back from time to time. And if I'm having way too much fun to remember all my internet buddies for the month, I'll be back in June ready with a ton of new photos and stories to share with you all.

Until then, in the words of the great William, the words of my great William:

Good'ay, Good'ay, fish and chips, God save the Queen!

And I'll add:


G is for..... (and some announcements for WordPlay participants)

Before I do my G List, I'd like to make a few general announcements. I'm trying to play catch up on all my computer tasks before I leave everyone to fend for themselves for a month, and I ran into a couple of snags. Pat, I tried to send you the HTML, but I keep getting e-mail to you returned as undeliverable. If you're name is Mim or Jennifer, I can't find an e-mail or a Blog URL in order to add you to the participants. Well, Jennifer wasn't sure she wanted to join - but her blog is wonderful, so she SHOULD. And I just couldn't find Mim. Even though I couldn't find you, you found me, which was lovely - and you should just go write ahead and play. I'll figure out how to add my e-mail address for folks to find - some place inconspicious (damn spammers, y'know) or you can add your e-mail to the Wordplay post comments and I'll delete it again after I e-mail you - if that works for you. Or you. Or you, or whoever is out there. A couple of people have used the "anonymous" option when writing and asking to join and, uhm, yeah, that doesn't work well.

Also, if I haven't mentioned you specifically, but you've asked to join or would like to join in the next month (that is, be added to the WordPlay participant list so folks can find your blog), then the same applies. Just jump in and start working your way through the alphabet. If you've written to me and I haven't responded (and you're not the people mentioned above), then you can assume either your message never got to me or somehow you fell through the cracks. For argument's sake, let's just say it's all my fault, since I've been so busy and out-of-town-ish and scatterbrained this last month. Just send me a post that somehow leads me to an e-mail and a blog URL. You won't hear back from me until June, but just start right on up and have fun. We'll get all the button adding and whatnot done when we can.

So, I guess that's it. Now, for G....

Green - my favorite color to wear, have in my house, in my garden. In our snowy, bare, long mountain winters, by spring I physically and emotionally crave the color green.

Guitar - one of the instruments I have learned to play. Not well, but I can play it.

gardening - I love to garden. It grounds me. (ha - pun!) It enriches me. It calms me. It helps me think things through. And then there's the rewards of gardening well - tasty homegrown vegetables, pungent fresh herbs, colorful bouquets of flowers.

George - George Weasley, Fred Weasley's twin brother. Not the redheads in the book. These two are velvety black shorthaired cats with orange eyes.

Ginny - Ginny Weasley - George and Fred's sister. She's a rather plump little patchwork tortoiseshell

Gargoyles - My son Joseph loves gargoyles and I share his fascination for them. I often search for them while on vacations. They used to be difficult to find. It's become easier in recent years, which, although taking some of the frustration out of the search, it also makes it a bit less exciting at the same time.

Green Day - one of my favorite bands

glasses - I've worn them since I was in the 3rd grade. I'm now up to two prescriptions, in the form of bifocals, as well as having to take my glasses off altogether for really close up work. And a pair of prescription sunglasses.

Grammy - the name I go by for my grandchildren. When Noel was expecting my first grandchild, she asked me what name I wanted to be called. I hadn't really thought of choosing for myself. I'd called my grandmothers Grandma followed by their last name. As an adult I thought that was sort of weird calling someone who I was so close to by their last name, so I had my kids call their grandparents Grandpa and Grandma and then followed by their first names. But since she asked, I realized I didn't really want to be Grandma, my mom was still using that title. I decided I liked Granny because it seemed a bit different, a bit eccentric, a bit like a grandparent who might not be completely a good example. A bit uppity. But when it came down to using it, it didn't feel or sound quite right, didn't roll off the tongue comfortably. Grammy did. It's a nice blend.

grandchildren - yep, now I've up to three! And boy oh boy (and girl), they're a lot of fun. Exhausting. But it's so wonderful to have wee ones of my own to love and cherish and spoil again. The only down side is not getting to see them as often as I'd like and worrying about them being far away.

Garret - one of the aforementioned grandchildren. What a goofy guy! What a smile!

Green Bay Packers - my dad had season tickets for his favorite team all his life, until the year he died when he sold them to a friend. Makes you wonder if he didn't know.... y'know. Anyhoo, I've always followed the Pack because of my dad, and now it's one of William's favorite teams too so they share this love of the green and gold even though they never got the chance to meet each other.

geometry - it's not like I didn't like algebra (I know, I liked math, I was a a wierd kid), but I liked geometry more

Gandhi - we need more people who are willing to sacrifice for their beliefs, who are willing to be a strong and humble example of what one voice can do in this world

gab - I tend to do a lot of it

grief - it's not a stranger. I wouldn't call it a friend. But I've learned to accept it as part of the family of human experience and try to use it to become a better person rather then a bitter one

garage sale - I think garage sale loving is genetic. I know I certainly got the trait from my mom. It's not the cheap stuff that's the appeal, although that isn't a bad thing. It's all about the thrill of the hunt, the anticipation of finding buried treasure, the giving love and a good home to something someone else was gonna trash.

gardenia - this scent always reminds me of my maternal grandmother. I don't really know why. I don't have any conscious memory of her wearing the scent. But, there ya go.

garlic, ginger - two of my favorite spices

garnet - my birth stone, January

garter snakes - I really liked snakes as a kid. I was fortunate in that we lived in a part of the country that had no poisonous snakes, so I was never afraid of them. I used to catch them, keep them for a few days to handle and enjoy, and then release them back into the wild. One of my most magical childhood moments was the time I found a nest of baby garter snakes in the leaf mulch of the forest near my house, probably a dozen of them, all of them together so small that they would have all fit in my cupped hands.

gates - I have a thing for gates, specially old ones or artistically created ones. I love the look of a gate in the garden. I like to take photographs of them. I like the mystery of wondering what lays beyond a closed gate or the temptation of seeing a small glimpse of what lies behind a half opened one.

gratitude - I try to always remember to have gratitude. I am so blessed in this life and realizing how much I have to be grateful for is one of the few things that keeps me from becoming a spoiled brat

Grandmothers - I didn't have grandfathers. I have a few very vague memories of my paternal grandfather and a lingering sense of how much he loved me. My maternal grandfather died when my mother was a child. However both of my grandmothers were very strong influences in my life. Very different women, I am grateful (there's that other G word again) for having them in my life. They both taught me that women could live any sort of life they wanted to live and they could certainly be a lot more then the stereotypes of what women should want or could be that were prevalent during my formative years.

genre - a word I use a lot. It's hard to do without it when you love books and music as much as I do

gentle - I think it's an often overlooked skill and strength - the ability to be gentle, whether it be to others or to oneself

grades - I was always very grade driven in school. No. Scratch that. Start over. I was very grade driven for most of my school years. The last two years of high school I was mainly driven by social desires. I let my grades slip. But by that, I mean to A's and B's, so you can see, it's all relative. In college I was almost always one of the top two or three of students who would compete not only fora good grade, but for the highest grade in the class. Nowadays I'm less impressed and less concerned with the ability to get a good grade simply for the sake of a good grade. It's not that I think wanting a good grade is a bad thing, I certainly encouraged my children to get good grades. But from my current perspective, I can see that it's a lot healthier to be driven by an internal desire for knowledge and skills then it is to crave the external stamp of approval that a grade, in part, represents. Fortunately my children and I have all had a strong love of learning regardless of whether a grade is dangled in front of us, so I think my own love of a top grade is more an indication of how much fun I find a challenge to be then it is a desire to please others in an unhealthy way. If you can keep things balanced, and understand that getting good grades might be the means to an end in reaching a particular goal - a school slot or a job opportunity - then it can be a good thing to play the grade game. Still, I wish we had another method other then grades for assessing what someone knows or understand of a subject. I don't give William grades.

ghosts - I believe in them. I haven't seen any human shaped ones, as far as I know that is. I've seen what I think may have been ghostly apparitions. I've seen things move in strange ways. Not just slide or fall off a shelf. I've seen things fly out off a shelf. I sometimes wonder if fear of seeing a ghost keeps most of us from ever seeing one. I think I'd like to see one.

Goddess - my favorite anthropomorphic way of understanding the greater sentience of the universe, my language for communicating with "spirit." I find that I use different Goddess aspects to work with different lessons. Kwan Yin or the Virgin Mary for compassion, Kali or Demeter or Isis for strength, Brigid for creativity.....

Gaia - the earth is our mother, we must take care of her, as she takes care of us

geraniums - a flower that reminds me of my very own mother. My mother used to grow them in small, wooden, barrel-shaped planters. As an adult gardener, I've also discovered scented geraniums, another plant entirely, but such a wonderful range of scents they offer - rose, lemon, cinammon, lime..even caraway! They only last one summer around here, but I always like to keep a pot or two on my front porch to remind me of my childhood.