Monday, October 29, 2012
As if a personal life is such a great thing... I have my Hamish. I phone my children, sisters and parents between appointments, open houses and escrow closings. I have my herbal tea and New Yorker subscription to help me wind down before sleep. It's all good...
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Sunday, July 22, 2012
It's now April 28, 2012 and this trip is just going so fast. And, we've just now found the most beautiful spot in the world!
When last I wrote, we were on a train to Tralee where we were to pick up our rental car, and then risk life and limb driving in Ireland where no credit card company would insure us, driving on the wrong side of the exceedingly narrow roads. I do believe that our elder's prayers are what delayed us getting the car which was supposed to be ready at 3:15, but which we didn't take possession of until 6:30 p.m. But, miracle of miracles we did manage to make the one hour drive into Dingle before sunset. Cindy took the first shift driving on the wrong side of the road, and she did pretty well, only nicking the left front tire seriously once or twice. The man at the rental car threw in a GPS for free to compensate us for the delay, and, oddly it started to shriek halfway to Dingle "Blimey, woman, get into the center of the lane or you'll have us all killed!”
The town, as we came upon it, was a storybook vision of rolling hills, divided into a patchwork of grasses, sectioned off by trees and stone walls ensuring that sheep and cows and horses stayed where they were put. The Bay of Dingle shimmering, the Ocean off in the distance. Just perfect. And, what was remarkable was how the many little homes looked exactly like the houses and hotels from a Monopoly game, except they were appropriately painted.
Our hotel was wonderful, wonderful. A civilized vision of an inn. I don't know what we were supposed to take away from the fact that our in-room desk was laid with a copy of Louisa M. Alcott's "Good Wives"...
After settling in to the room, we ambled along the bay and up a hill to a restaurant that offered fresh local fare -- fish, fish, fish from the local working dock. We were entertained throughout our meal by a group of four older, Irish women who were seemingly dignified when we arrived, but increasingly sauced as the meal continued. One offering up a round of Irish Coffees, two vehemently declining... Our meal was wonderful especially the flavourful warm breads and butter. I had a duo John Dorry and Red Mullet and a smear of garlic potatoes which was scrumptuous.
I don’t really remember much of the walk back to the inn, aside from jack frost nipping at my nose. We tumbled into bed as soon as we arrived (well, truth be told, we did brush our teeth first, we’re not heathens, you know).
After a delightful night's rest, we followed our noses downstairs just as breakfast was being served which included a buffet of so many lovely things -- cereals, fruits, and a warm, fresh-from-the-oven bread and butter pudding. I was brave and when they took our kitchen order I chose kippers and scrambled eggs. Kippers are a smoked fish. Bully for me. When it arrived, the kippers laid out with twisted lemon slices and a crown shaped offering of scrambled eggs, I carefully stuck in my fork, and by golly, I can see where many people might find these kippers to be quite good. One taste was enough for me.
Note to all travelers, it would appear that in Scotland, the finer establishments warm the milk they serve you for your coffee. Not so in Ireland.
After a nice stroll through the delightful town of Dingle,...woolen shops, dock full of gorgeous fishing boats, linen shops, restaurants, local jewelry maker shops, we packed our bags, weeping silently to be leaving this darling hotel and this wonderful, magical town, to drive the Ring of Kerry. I took the wheel this time, and Cindy struggled to navigate with a map laid out for us by the hotelier. On the drive, we continually marveled at the scenery, the sheep, the cows, the horses, the green pastures, the blue, blue water. No, Papa, we weren't fighting. We never found our hiking destination, and abandoned that plan at a golf course where the local golf pro directed us to a path through the course, through the pastures and out to the soft sand beach facing the roiling blue ocean. So, so, so beautiful. I took many wonderful photos (which I was unable to upload to the iPad ...dang...I'll show you later...Cindy posted some shots on Instagram, so you can enjoy the substance there).
After we'd rung the Ring of Kerry entirely, we stopped in the town of Dingle one last time and I indulged in a wee cup of ice cream at world famous Murphy's Ice Cream -- I tried two flavours and settled on Carmelized Brown Bread. Really yummy. We filled the tank of the beast of a car -- 60 Euros!!!! And traveled down to the town of Killarney where we found our last minute hotel find, the Killarney Park Hotel (& Spa). They took one look at Cindy and my windblown faces and determined that, by golly, they should upgrade these ladies to a suite. And they did!
We dined at the hotel restaurant, which was superb. There was a woman playing the oddest songs on the piano, like a melodic, sophisticated versions of 'ladies night' and 'the farmer and the cowman should be friends'... the place was filled with mostly gabby Irish groups and the service was friendly and impeccable. Loved it. Cindy had a fish platter, I enjoyed the Kerry Lamb with aubergine risotto and black pudding. The black pudding was served up in little cubes. It was all fantastic. Cindy had been eyeing the onion rings as they went by our tables, and at the end of the meal I asked our darling waitress if she would bring Cindy just one.
She, instead brought us a whole serving gratis, which we nibbled at. When we were done with our meal and were headed out, the sweetheart headed us off with a plate of chocolate truffles, urging us to take them to our room if we didn't wish to have them then.
Lovely, lovely, lovely.
I don't know if I've pointed this out, but the sun doesn't set here to nearly 9 p.m., so though our days have been long and late, it doesn't feel that way because the sun is hiding for so few hours.
Oh no!!! it's now April 29 and our holiday is nearly over! I don't want to go home. We have absolutely found paradise here in Ireland, and I don't know why anyone would leave this beautiful, peaceful, cheerful place.
We pack up from here and head for Cork.
Oh, the sadness, the terrible sadness of leaving the one you've grown to love.
I'm on my flight from London back to Los Angeles and am as bereaved as can be over leaving magical, beautiful Ireland and wonderful, lovely Great Britain. Before I land, here is the last of our trip.
After our night in Killarney we sadly left the grand hotel with the impeccable service and, with me at the wheel of our oversized rental vehicle, on the often narrow and winding Irish roads, traveled Eastward to Kinsale. Yes, the scenery was again beautiful, mostly blue skies, fluffy clouds, scattered raindrops clearing to blue skies. The landscape changed from the patchwork quilt pastures with sheep, to rocky ledges and sheer drop offs, and then darker pastures with cows before leading us into the harbour town of Kinsale.
The heavy rain that had been forecast for our entire holiday did finally begin to catch us
here as we ducked into the fabulous restaurant Fishy Fishy, which offered delicious fish freshly caught in the waters just off the dock. Cindy felt it was time to sample the Irish beer and ordered a Murphy's Irish stout -- pronounced "Mairphees" -- I had a taste of the dark colored stuff which was covered with a substantial head and delivered a meaty taste -- in my humble opinion. After lunch, we shopped the darling town as the wind began to really pick up. By the time we arrived in Cork it was blowing like the bejeezus.
You might even say that an ill wind had blown in as well. The hotel staff at Cork wasn't properly welcoming, rushing us off to our room which was dreadfully dreary, so much so that we asked to be changed to a room that wasn't quite so dark. With much bustle and stiff intensity, they moved us over to a room that, though brighter was as cold as a crypt. At this point we rang them up again and explained that we were really unsatisfied with the way things were going at this hotel, after such a perfect many stays at hotels around Europe. Again, much bustle and getting back to us, as wind and rain whipped outside and whistled into the room which would not be heated. Finally, satisfaction, the manager came to our room with two glasses of champagne with some peculiar, red berries floating on top, goodie bags of high-end toiletries and offers of many apologies. We took the champagne, and I asked drily if the berries were poisonous… She responded that she was sure that they weren't, not getting my little joke at all! Within an hour we were ensconced in a room that was more to our liking.
After recuperating from such a dreadful introduction to Cork, a very big city, actually, and a college town wherein the beautiful countryside had been paved over and was chock-a-block with buildings instead of sheep or cows or bunnies, although I did see a pair of swans enduring the drizzle on the River Lee,.. what was I saying? Ah, yes, after recuperating, we determined it was high time that we gave our ears a treat and headed off to a pub known to feature traditional Irish music. We walked through the town, over the river Lee and found a muggy, crowded bar with 14 musicians all jamming together. It was delightful. I made friends with a girl who sometimes plays accordion there, and is a transplant from Ohio. She had been in Ireland for only a couple of years, but she had already picked up quite the Irish accent. She explained to me who a couple of the key players were, including a local legendary lyricist, and a guy who played this odd version of bagpipes -- instead of blowing into pipes, he squeezes a bellows under one arm --and another bloke who had some kind of hand-drum the size of a very large tambourine. My new friend explained that this was called a 'trad session' and that musicians can just pop in and join the group, if they know the songs. Pretty darn fabulous.
Next morning we trekked back down the city streets of Cork looking for unique shopping opportunities, but only found rain and a band of Amnesty International solicitors who wouldn't leave us alone. The local Market was boring, and half empty, so we gave up, freshened up and pulled out the keys to our beast of a rental and ventured out to Ballymaloe in the rain.
Thank goodness, that brought us back to the Ireland we'd come to know and love, the countryside. We had a most delightful lunch at Ballymaloe after a bit of shopping in the fantastic gift shop. My umbrella was blown inside out as we made it back to the car to travel further up the road to view the Ballymaloe Cookery School and adjoining gardens.
This morning it was up at 4 a.m. to return the rental car, catch our Aer Lingus flight to London Heathrow, then board our separate flights back to California. We were both fortunate in that we did not have to endure a long day at Heathrow awaiting afternoon flights because both of us were able to get onboard an earlier flight; I am on mine now in my sweet little Virgin Atlantic fully flat bed, having napped after watching The Artist.
I shall be home soon and hope I'm prepared for the culture shock of fewer men being gentlemen, warmer weather and hair that doesn't curl up most unbecomingly each time I venture outdoors.
I never did get a chance to go horseback riding, nor did we kiss the Blarney Stone, or even view the Blarney Castle. I didn't see Mary King's Close in Edinburgh or go on any of the ghost tours. I guess I will have to plan another visit to Europe in the near future.
Cheers! (that’s how they say farewell here)
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Monday, June 04, 2012
Here's what's been going on in Scotland, where the sheep are funny and turn up in many different colours. I have no idea what day it is. I do know that I am back in my hotel room at the Howard Hotel. I must tell you that we chose this hotel based on the website which earnestly and extravagantly extolled the benefits of their superior concierge staff. According to the site, there was no chore too big, or too small to ask of them -- shirt ironing, suit pressing, shoe polishing, packing and unpacking, minor laundry repairs, restaurant recommendations and booking, onward journey planning including online check in for air travel, collection of shopping or gifts, hosting drinks receptions in your room or private events suite! So I knew it would be no problem for them to find me a doctor to write me a prescription for my Epipen, which had expired. I figured that since it will cost me $240 to refill it in the states, I can see a doctor here, and pay for the prescription for less than half of that. Therefore, before retiring for the night, I asked the concierge service to find a physician for me to visit. At my request, the woman at the front desk looked at me with Bambi eyes and the stuttering of a would-be king and replied that my request taxed her mental abilities and that she would have to look into it further. She called upon her partner concierge who was in a hustle and bustle to help another guest and showed little optimism for my needs to be satisfied. I gave them further information and asked them to attend to it.
Imagine my surprise when I approached the concierge at noon the next day and the 'concierge' simply stated that she didn't know: ‘But, Mary might know, but I don't see her right now…’
I, with bag in hand was ready to go out for the day, and asked her quite kindly to get off her damn duff and go find this Mary and see what they'd come up with. I'm not here for the week, you know.
Twenty minutes passed while she attended to the matter, and before the sun had set, I had an appointment to see a doctor at 5:30 p.m. which would costs me 60 pounds. The Epipen, as quoted by the Boots Pharmacy, would cost another 7 pounds so, I'd be way ahead on prescription costs in the USA.
Cindy and I trudged South up the road and toured Edinburgh Castle, which was quite fun. We paid the extra fee for the headphones and recordings tour. It's funny, but what we enjoyed most about the tour was the military prison, and the general prison. At the end of the tour, I declined to put in an offer on the Castle because there was a definite lack of kitchen facilities on view. Sure, there was that stone, bread-baking oven, but, can one live on bread alone? From there we got ripped off at the local gift shops on the Royal Mile, then trudged over to the doctors office.
The 15-minute walk to the doctor’s office estimated by that fabulous concierge was really a 30 minute walk. Nevertheless, being the seasoned travelers that Cindy and I are, we arrived just in time. I filled out forms and we were then directed to the waiting area, wherein Cindy got increasingly agitated by the sick people in attendance. Pretty soon I was called into the doctor's office, and told him my request, showed him my expired Epipen and asked for a refill. He asked if I was healthy otherwise, I responded that I was so healthy it was just wrong. He asked if I was on any other medication, I responded of course not (not, that he would ever know, that is), and he wrote out the prescription.
From there Cindy and I went to David Bann's restaurant where we enjoyed a nice vegetarian meal (please God, let me have some meat) and I embarrassed the cooks by photographing them through the little access window. Cindy and I also again made note of the proper way that people eat here in the UK. They don't just bolt down their food like people in the U.S. do, and they certainly don't eat while strolling or driving. The have their fork in their left hand, they use their knife in their right hand to gently push food onto the fork, then deftly move the fork to their mouth. So damned civilized.
Cindy even counted the number of scrapes with knife to fork before each bite from one adjacent diner. Four to six. We intend to try to eat like that from now on. Then it was a walk back to the hotel in the drizzle where I made note of the Harvey Nicks store as we passed, for future reference.
Look how I’m speeding right through this!!!
Today we awoke in time to trudge back up the big hills and arrive just in time for the start of our bus tour of the Scottish Highlands and Lochs. I don't know if it was the lack of circulated air in the van (Mercedes) or what, but Cindy and I kept fighting to stay awake. We saw some marvelous castles and some beautiful lochs and I even managed to herd some sheep in an effort to photograph them near an abandoned castle. The rain was on and off all day. Our tour stopped for lunch at a lovely little fishing village and we chose a hotel restaurant for our midday meal. They were quite busy and we had doubts that we’d be seated and supped in time to make it back to our bus at the appointed hour. Learning of our dilemma the sweet hostess walked us through the building to the bar where we could order lunch from the same kitchen. Fantastic. I finally was able to enjoy some fish and chips and, my gosh, it was wonderful. The fish was so moist, the chips so crispy. Plus, the entertainment! The local old men draped over the bar were quite a hoot! You'd think these regulars actually owned the bar instead of just being patrons. They kept instructing the young female barkeep on how to do things. A hapless tourist mistakenly entered the back of the bar through a tiny door and they shouted at the poor woman to go away, then one of the regulars used his cane to reach through the bar and slam the door shut. Loved it.
No big dinner tonight. Tomorrow, we plan to find a pharmacy that actually stocks Epipens, visit the Parliament Building and shop at Harvey Nicks. or is it Harvey Knicks? Does it matter? It's a department store that my hairdresser insists I visit.
Today’s our last day in Edinburgh, our last day in Scotland, so I decided that I'd better have some authentic Scottish food and some Scotch, or ‘Whiskey’ as they call it here. Unless someone lied to me.
Cindy and I have worn out Edinburgh, definitely worn out the crap shops on the Royal Mile. The day started with a visit to Boots where I picked up two new Epipens. I come to find out that the prescription was more pricey than I'd been told, but still, even with the doctor visit, I obtained two Epipens for a total price of 143 pounds, (70 pounds for doctor visit, 73 pounds for two Epipens) that's $230 U.S. dollars. It would have cost me $480 for the two in the States. Ha!
After Boots we visited Harvey Nichols and enjoyed the lovely clothes, the ugly clothes, and the quite amusing food market and restaurants on the top floor. At the food counter, there was a little circling conveyor belt on which floated different deserts in front of the diners -- just like at one of those funny sushi bar. On the other side of the floor, just past the fancy foods area, was a sushi bar, with sushi dishes drifting by. Funny.
Cindy looked for Celtic salt and I purchased a wee little gift for Ma. Next up, Cindy was hot to go to some baked potato take-away that she'd read about -- (so it must be great, right?) I foolishly purchased one with cheese which was filled with restaurant grade, non-melting cheese, and the whole mess cooled off immediately, so I nipped into some of the potato, then wrapped it up and shoved it into my bag. I should have stuck to my desire to visit an authentic pub for lunch...but, no....
We walked to the new Scottish Parliament building and enjoyed the beautiful architecture. We got tickets (free) to sit in on the afternoon session and it was pretty darn entertaining, I think. I enjoyed a debate on the state of women's correctional facilities and loved the way that Brits express their opinions during someone else's presentation by drumming on their desks. Funny. Human. The Scottish accent can be so very deep, but, when you get into the rhythm of it, you can do alright understanding it. The people I speak to here probably feel the same way about me and my speedy American expressions.
Afterwards we wandered some streets that we'd somehow managed to miss and wound up at a large dining hall with a great many rooms. The drill there is to go up to the 'till' at the bar, order your food and drink, take your drink, and tell them where you've planted yourself so that the server can find you and bring you your food. The place was pretty crowded -- especially for the early hour, 5 ish. I ordered a nice British Beef and Ale pie with mashed potatoes and ate most everything up. Yum. Meat! It was good for soaking up the wine and the wee bit of whiskey.
I ordered a shot of Glenfiddich, had a little sip, dramatically aired out my mouth and then settled back with a glass of Australian Chardonnay and realized that I'd had an epiphany.
I've decided that in my next life, in whatever World is set before me, I will enquire after an instruction book straightaway so that, next time, things will go a bit more smoothly. No, there is no established religion that talks about such a concept, but, as I said, I had an epiphany, and in this vision I feel that, just before I'm sucked into the new world where I'll spend who knows how many years...perhaps they won't even measure it in years....it will be all so different...but before being thrown into my next life, I'll call out to God, or one of this messengers and say: "Eh, Pal? Can you give me the instruction book on how to do things right this time? And, make it quite quick, if you don't mind, because I need to absorb the knowledge completely just before landing naked in the new place.” I'll remember to do that. Perhaps one of the readers here will remind me of this plan on my deathbed so I'll have a better shot at achieving this new goal.
After that, we stumbled into some other precious stores -- Camper, Cath Kidson and Anthropologie, then returned to our little room to make arrangements to fly to Ireland first thing the next morning.
After flying into Dublin tomorrow, we will board a train for nearly 4 hours. Fun, fun, fun. We disembark in Tralee, the get a rental car which we will expertly steer out to Dingle. What a great name, right???
Cindy and I were tallying up and reviewing the hotels we've stayed in thus far. None have looked anything like they were advertised on the web. Ah, the genius of creative photography. But they've all been safe, cozy, adequate, and so far the bathroom never disappointed. In hotels number two and number three, we had heated towel racks which are a wonderful thing. But, neither of them worked. Poo. Let's see what happens in Ireland.
Good morning, it is now Friday, April 27, 2012 and it's been a long day already. Cindy and I had to get up before the crack of dawn to make our Aer Lingus flight from Edinburgh to Dublin. After checking our bags, we strolled through a lovely cosmetic and doodad shopping area, then found a table in the oversized bar/restaurant. The place was perfectly busy with men in kilts and team shirts drinking beer -- at 7:30 a.m.!!! I went to the till to order our breakfasts and waited for some kind busboy to clear the previous diner's rubbish from our table. That never happened, I bused the table myself. Oh well. I did my best to eat my scrambled eggs on toast the European way -- knife in right hand, fork in left hand, upside down, scrape food onto back of fork and bring it delicately to your mouth. Tricky business that! How will I ever get plump doing that?
It was one of those flights where you drag your things out onto the tarmac, then climb the stairs into the train. The stewardess was very sweet, especially in her demonstration to naughty travelers who put their suitcases in the overhead bins, but clearly failed to notice that it was too jammed for the bin door to close. She had long dark hair, and freckles up and down her arms, but Cindy let it be known that she was actually a natural redhead. She was quite cheerful under all conditions. We napped a bit on the one-hour flight, and then got the sweetest cab driver at the Dublin airport who was originally from Dingle. Nice, nice man.
He told us we'll really enjoy it there once we get used to the language…says they pretty much ‘sing’ to you when they are speaking, they don't know they are, but that's the way it is. We talked of politics, and his impression of Obama when he visited their country recently, 'seemed a nice enough man', then chatted about the many Republican candidates, the Eurozone, austerity measures, Brussels, Greece. When the rain started coming down on the cab his said: "here comes the soft day" -- what a lovely way to say that the rain is falling!
Once deposited at the train station we got our tickets, queued up for the train and were pleased to see our names in lights over our table seats facing each other. I am traveling backwards and am enjoying the countryside. We were joined by a couple who are taking the train to Cork for her brother's 60th birthday. She MUST be the older sister. I'm sorry to say that we weren't as welcoming as we should have been to them joining us at our table, but we were then into a week of travel, joined at the hip, and just not as gleeful as before. Bad us. To make matters a little more difficult, I tumbled a little onto the little metal strip between the seats and bruised my tailbone.
More to come...including: rental car debacle, Cindy drives in Ireland and we arrive in the most beautiful, magical countryside in all creation.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Day one of my fabulous UK/Ireland vacation with my sister Cindy, and the universe is making it perfectly clear that this should be a journey with as few electronic communications/comforts/entertainments as is feasible in this day and age. I think I know why. I think that I, as a human in the 20th century, am so happily tethered to my devices that I am no longer obligated to be in the moment, to enjoy the here, the now.
And, that is why when I plopped myself into my little nest of a seat in the Virgin Atlantic upper class cabin, and found that the many personal, on-demand video options that were going to provide me with instant information on wherever the flight was in the world, and to catch me up on movies by offering up ‘The Artist’ prior to my falling off to sleep, that is why the blasted system went haywire. After several attempts by the frustrated British flight attendant to re-boot the system, I gave up, had my little bed made up, threw back a glass of wine and a sleeping aid and tried to sleep. But never really did. Don't get me wrong, that upper class flat bed was very comfortable indeed, especially with the lovely, white duvet tucked around me. But, the universe, as I said, wanted me to fully appreciate the journey and I soon came to realize that drink, which as you all well know, I haven't sipped in the year 2012, has a tendency to make me irritable.
The universe was seeing to it that I was indeed 'in the moment' as some ridiculous young professional monopolized the flight attendant, loudly describing for her his current and past projects, with me, his captive audience, even as I nudged the little orange foam earplugs more firmly, more completely into my ear canals.
Or perhaps this was my penance for my impatience as I was stalled earlier in the day during my endeavor to board the flight. The entire line had snaked behind me as I was held at bay, for what seemed like forever, as some buffoon and his father and another passenger took their sweet time about settling their belongings in the overhead bin, blocking the aisle the whole while as we waited, and watched and waited and watched and waited until I could take it no more and said to the one just ahead of me 'excuse me, may I get by you, the line of people behind me is now jammed up completely, back this aisle, down the stairs and through the jet-way.' The guy looked at me with either complete incomprehension or aghast disbelief, and I was able to use that moment of his confusion to push past the numbskull and get to my seat.
So yes. The universe wants me to pay attention to everything. And, that is why I soon learned upon arriving in London that my mobile phone, the one I had so properly set up to work in Europe to guide me with GPS maps, to alert me to what's going on back home, to locate me and offer me up advice on what to do and where to go and when I'd planned to do and go, well, it decided that it was not going to do those things at all. It was going to take a vacation too, because it had left its precious SIM card in the desk drawer back in Los Angeles because, although it was necessary for international roaming, it had never been necessary in the U.S.
So, by golly, I'm rolling with it, and being in the moment and not missing any of these glorious sights, which, as you remember, I had every intention of sharing with you along the way, but, naturally, it now turns out that the itty bitty camera with the Wifi device that could magically send my fresh vacation photos over to the iPad i'm currently composing on and beam them out to you using some sort of magical photo sharing software, well....no such luck with that linkage either.
3:26 a.m. London time.
Yesterday we saw the tower of London and the crowns and the jewels. I told one of the guards that I was saving up frequent flyer miles to purchase the biggest of the crowns, but he offered me a better opportunity -- it just so happened that he was selling raffle tickets to win that crown encrusted with diamonds, emeralds and sapphires! I'm sure its legit, because he had such an honest face, and a badge.
We road the tube, a double-decker bus, and a funny little taxi cab. We had a nice vegan dinner in the basement of one chi chi restaurant -- its walls tiled with little white sound-enhancing tiles. The bathroom walls lined with a jagged arrangement of mirrors. Delicious green lentils with radishes. Cindy opted for a nice white wine, I enjoyed a warm cup of chamomile tea.
Our room is in a tiny, quaint hotel and I love, love, love the old fashioned skeleton key that is inserted into the little hole in the door that is itself covered by its own little door. The key is attached to a very heavy brass thing with the hotel name engraved on it, and each time you leave the hotel, you just hand it to the friendly person at the front desk who gives it back to you when you return. Sweet.
The light switches are little brass levers and when you wish to turn on the lights, you flip them down, not up. The light switch for the bathroom is outside the bathroom, so you must trust your traveling companion not to switch it off while you're doing whatever you wish to privately do inside the loo. The bathroom is small but perfect, and I enjoyed a nice soak before bedtime. This is an old building, and the taps take a moment to consider, when you turn them on, before offering up the water. The pipes groan and squeak a bit as well, but that's okay. Penhaligan toiletries were thoughtfully left on the counter and it was a sweet way to get ready for a good nights rest.
I've decided that London is a city of people who prefer patterned garments more than we Los Angelenos are accustomed to. Big loud patterned coats, boldly floral blouses, and some wild shoes for men...I saw some proper men's dress shoes actually encrusted with a pattern of rhinestones!!
We've been blessed with wonderful weather so far, with just a little bit of rain and no real need to button our coats up to our chins.
Tomorrow we drop back into Paddington Station and start our journey North. We stay tomorrow night in the historic town of York, and I hope to find myself a pub for some rib sticking British food like steak and kidney pie or fish and chips.
More to come, in spite of my reduced access to electronics as I LIVE ... on vacation.
Do you remember how I started this trip with a lot of difficulty with my electronics? Well, I just wrote this whole travel journal about yesterday, and poof it disappeared., so I have to draft the darn thing AGAIN!!!!
Do you know how I'm always saying that I love to ride on trains? Well, yesterday may have pushed that joy to the limit.
Cindy and I started our day with a very long walk through Hyde Park over to Kensington road and Knightsbridge. After two nights of not really getting a night's sleep, it was wonderful to be strolling out in the brisk air amidst such beauty -- green grass and trees, flowers, cobblestone walks.
--[oooohh...Ocean views from train right now...sheep...lots of sheep]--
where was I?
Yes, so we enjoyed our walk, saw three little girls in the Park riding horseback, and there were just a lot of people out walking as well. It was Sunday after all. We walked and walked, checked out the windows at Harrods, then got back to the hotel and walked over to Paddington Station. Everyone so far has been just so very friendly. And polite. Holding doors for each other, pleases and thank you's .
I inquired of an attendant at Paddington Station Information which train we should take to get to our main train to York, and encountered our first jerk. This guy first gave me the wrong information about which train, and when I politely asked him which side of the platform we should be on, he shoved a tube map at me and said: ' As I was told as a child in Australia, READ!’
Cindy and I did make it to our train at the London King's Cross station on time, but the mishaps had only begun. We sat on the train, in that station for 2+ hours because there was a stalled train on the track blocking all other trains. There was a mass exodus from the train after hour two, and Cindy was especially joyous because those leaving the train included a father and a crying child who was driving her mad.
We were soon joined by a second set of traveling companions, a sweet couple who live up in Newcastle, they say its God's country. Lovely, they were. Even despite the fact that the gentleman had the longest white hairs sprouting from the top of his nose. Curious that. A decade or two older than us, they regaled us with information and stories and endured with us the raucous group of people in adjacent seats who dealt with the stalled train by getting more and more drunk. Our Newcastle friend continually rolled her eyes, arms crossed over her chest, at the absurd things one of the women getting drunk was saying -- like proclaiming that the odor of the brakes of the train was 'coming from the tires'.
Hello! It's a train! Has the 50+ woman never looked at the wheels of a train?!
Several trains that were to depart after us were cancelled, so we had a mass influx of travelers and the train was so jam-packed that people were standing in the aisles and sitting on the train floor. The train started up, got two stations north, and then waited again forever at that station. Our companions actually apologized for the odd delay and assured us that train travel here is usually much more civilized. We have a new way of saying that something is good: it's 'a bit of a rainbow, that...'
Our original train was to leave the station before 2p.m, and arrive by 4p, but instead, we sat on the train until after 10 p.m. We then stood in a long queue to get a cab, which was quite silly when we found how incredibly close our hotel was to the train station. The cab driver, Cindy and I had quite the laugh over that. Oh, yes, and we stood in that silly taxi queue just behind the raucous woman who weaved and stumbled and I was afraid would soon vomit on my shoes. She actually offered to share her cab with us.... uh, yeah...no...
By the time we got to the hotel, the restaurant was just closed, so we threw down our bags, went to the bar, ordered bar food and killed a bottle of chardonnay in a lovely big old room of our very old hotel. We then had a completely lovely full night's sleep.
What day is it? It's the 24th. How many days have I been on vacation? What city are we in?
I have two days to write about before I sleep, and tomorrow morning is the first time that we actually need to get up early. Dang. Timing. Dang.
So, here's what happened in York.
When last I chattered on about our journey, we were getting mildly plastered at a hotel lounge in York.
Next day we awoke feeling none the worse for wear and were again delighted to find that the weather was being very, very kind to us. Although all weather reports had shown cloudy skies and rain, we seemed to miss most of the raindrops.
After having self-made French press coffee in our room, we walked out into York with no real destination in mind, except to see the famous walls of the city and take in the sites. We had a most dreadful lunch at some lame-ass vegan restaurant and then wandered about enjoying the shops and green landscapes and wonderful people. There were many delightful shops with pastries and musical instruments on sales...not just the usual guitars, but also a variety of autoharps and accordions. From the looks of the shops, I would think that music is a bigger part of UK lives than it is for us jaded Americans. And, I'm a music lover! We enjoyed a visit to the local Marks and Spencer where I once again was intrigued by how very many different kinds of cream you can find in British dairy cases. We found the city wall and scaled it and walked along the wall and took goofy photos of one another with our hair all frizzing out from the moisture in the air. I nearly dropped my iPhone from the wall down into an inaccessible garden, but the fates were with me.
There's a lot of acceptance of the end of lives that have passed through these parts. Old stone crypts are displayed open next to fields of colorful tulips. The wet earth is so rich here, and I shot some interesting photos of headstones covered with mold beside glorious flower beds. So amazing.
Now, here's a little something out of left field. Many of you know that I am deathly allergic to bee stings and I am to carry an Epipen with me at all times which will deliver a dose of epinephrine if I’m stung to keep me from dying. Prior to leaving Los Angeles, I had a bit of a scare with a swarm by my kitchen door, at which time I came to realize that my Epipen had expired last August. So, my dear doctor wrote me a prescription for a new Epipen, and when I phoned the pharmacy to fill the prescription, I learned that my insurance would not cover aforementioned Epipen, and that filling it will cost me $240. For one Epipen. And, I'm really supposed to have two on hand...one for the car, and one for my purse.
Well, here in York, I ambled into a Boots pharmacy and inquired as to the price they would charge me for an Epipen. Do you know what they told me? 7 pounds....that's, what? $10???? The pharmacy could not sell me an Epipen without a prescription, and mine was sitting in a pharmacy back in Valley Village, U.S.A., so I tucked this little bit of information into the front of my wee brain. But, think of this, 7 pounds versus $240 in America? I'll spare you my latest rant on the state of health care in America.
But, thinking back to the days before I left on this trip, Something not so out of left field is the chagrin I felt when I laid out everything that I knew I would absolutely need for my 12 days away, and saw that it would not fit into the tiny onboard suitcase, nor the medium -- 'sometimes they let me take it on board' bag, but was requiring the actual large size suitcase that would indeed need to be checked at the airport. I knew my sister would give me such grief about such indulgence, but, I do so like to be prepared.
This little suitcase has brought me more attention on this trip than anyone anticipated. Attention not only from onlookers who watched me drag it up and down a staircase at the York train station, but also attention from my shoulders, back and calves which are screaming at me to be less of a girl.
Cindy and I checked out of the York hotel and dragged our suitcases back to the train station. We met some nice people there, but I was determined that I wouldn't be dragging that suitcase up any more staircases. Before I'd even arrived in Europe and started to purchase little souvenirs, the suitcase weighed 22.3 pounds, as noted by the scale at LAX. Now, that's not really too much, but it is unwieldy. So, we got to the train station and went to find our platform...it was on the other side of the tracks. And, you know how you can be very brain dead from jet lag. Well, Cindy and I went to find an elevator to carry us up and over the track to the proper platform, and both of us were completely dumbfounded when we saw that there was nothing but air above the doors of the elevator. It was one of those simple, yet inconceivable moments, when it took us probably a full 60 seconds to figure out that the elevator would not actually rise above the first floor into the air and drop us through an invisible tube to the other side, like something out of a Harry Potter novel, but would instead go down into the earth, and allow us to take a tunnel to the other side. When Cindy and I saw the error of our thinking we collapsed into a full five minutes of hysterical laughter. It was something else.
Once back on the train, we must have been so used to a long wait, that we weren't prepared when the train stopped, at it's final destination, Edinburgh. We weren't ready at all, and me and my giganto suitcase were having such a time of it, that everyone else was off the train and Cindy was watching me from the exit as I tried to extract it from behind my seat and nearly fell over it with my carry on bag -- a scene right out of a slapstick comedy. Cindy was already laughing at me, when I was approached from behind by the station master who grabbed my suitcase out of my hands and pulled me and what was mine out of the train so that they could board the passengers for the ride back. We laughed so hard when we were out of the train that we got lost and had to double back to find a taxi to take us to our hotel. Thankfully, our cab driver was quite the gentleman, and when he swung my suitcase out of the cab in the rain, he inquired: ‘do you have a spare man in here?’
The sun stays up longer here, so although we were exhausted, Cindy and I threw our baggage into our hotel room then headed out again to check out the Royal Mile. We ended the day at a nice little pub called....hell, I don't know what it was called, and i'm not about to get up and check the receipt, so, just let it be known that I had a chardonnay, Cindy had pinot noir, then we trudged back to the hotel and turned in for the night.
Today was spent at the Edinburgh Castle, on the Royal Mile, at a Doctor's office and then at another vegetarian restaurant.