Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

England 2014: Wednesday the 13th: Bath and Lacock

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Minerva Sulis, from the Roman Baths in Bath, England

Minerva Sulis, from the Roman Baths in Bath, England–simply exquisite.  I SO need to get out my pencils and watercolors and sketch this head.

Wednesday, August 13 was such a packed day that I’ve had to split it into TWO posts.  When I planned the trip, I wanted to give Eli as good a feeling for various parts of England and times in its history as I could manage in two weeks.  We went from over 2000 years ago to early Roman Britain to medieval to Georgian to Oxford/universities to modern in various places.   Stonehenge is really hard to reach (impossible) by train, and I didn’t want to drive, so that meant a coach tour.  Very early on in the planning, I discovered a special tour that ran from an 11 a.m. pick up in London to Bath, Lacock and Stonehenge, home about 10 p.m.   This post will be the first two stops.

On the way to meet the coach, I had to hug a pillar box (for mail) just in case they ecome a vanishing artifact, like the red phone booths (after all, how many pay phones are there in YOUR town now?  Precious few!)

On the way to meet the bus tour, I had to hug a pillar box (for mail) just in case they become a vanishing artifact, like the red phone booths (after all, how many pay phones are there in YOUR town now? Precious few!) .  Yes, happy to be back in England!

As with my earlier posts, I’ll put most of the info in the photo captions as there are so many photos.

The English countryside, headed west from London to Bath.  Wales is in the distance.

The English countryside, headed west from London to Bath. Wales is in the distance.

In Bath, our guide had the bus stop at the top of the hill so we could walk down to the center of town.  He said these trees were planted July 4, 1776.  Not sure how they know that, but the ring of trees must date to about them.  They are in a circle in the center of Georgian homes on a circular area/park-let.

In Bath, our guide had the bus stop at the top of the hill so we could walk down to the center of town. He said these trees were planted July 4, 1776. Not sure how they know that, but the ring of trees must date to about then. They are in a circle in the center of Georgian homes on a circular area/park-let.

Our guide wanted us to see the view down to bath but also to see a quintessential Georgian “crescent” of homes.  These would have been for the well-to-do as they are tall.  Transport yourself to something Jane Austen-ish!

This neighborhood in Bath has been well-to-do for a good 300 years.

This neighborhood in Bath has been well-to-do for a good 300 years.

We then walked down the hill through town to the Roman Baths.  The building on the other side of the horde of tourists is the Roman baths.

We then walked down the hill through town to the Roman Baths. The building on the other side of the horde of tourists is the Roman baths.

Not sure of the date of this building, but obviously it isn't Roman.  But it was decorated incredibly beautifully with "classic" themed images.

Not sure of the date of this building, but obviously it isn’t Roman. But it was decorated incredibly beautifully with “classic” themed images.

One of the triangular panels beneath the dome--just love the artwork, the "fit the space" composition, the delicacy of the lines of the figure

One of the triangular panels beneath the dome–just love the artwork, the “fit the space” composition, the delicacy of the lines of the figure

Drum roll:  the Roman Baths.  A tad green, eh?  But folks have gone to take the waters and regain health in Bath for nigh on to 1700 years.  And The US of A  is scarcely 300 years including many colonial days...

Drum roll: the Roman Baths. A tad green, eh? But folks have gone to take the waters and regain health in Bath for nigh on to 1700 years. And The US of A is scarcely 300 years including most of our time as colonies…

Never one to miss a sewing opportunity or idea, however, I snapped this young woman's backpack with button pocket while at the baths.

Never one to miss a sewing opportunity or idea, I snapped this young woman’s backpack with button pocket while at the baths.

As always, I am fascinated with "how did they do that back then?"  This is a hollowed out brick used in creating an arch, with deep scored patterns to help the mortar stick.  My thought:  what a great rubbing that would make!

As always, I am fascinated with “how did they do that back then?” This is a hollowed out brick used in creating an arch, with deep scored patterns to help the mortar stick. My thought: what a great rubbing that would make!

And carvings.  Now can anyone tell me that whoever created E.T. (remember the movie, "phone home" and the trail of Reese's pieces?) had NOT seen this carving?

And carvings. Now can anyone tell me that whoever created E.T. (remember the movie, “phone home” and the trail of Reese’s pieces?) had NOT seen this carving?  It is TOTALLY E.T.!

A thousand years ago when I was in England in college I visited the baths, but I had not realized or remembered that the waters are WARM.  This interior waterfall that directs the mineral-laden water to the bathing pools clearly shows *how* warm!

A thousand years ago when I was in England in college I visited the baths, but I had not realized or remembered that the waters are WARM. This interior waterfall that directs the steaming mineral-laden water to the bathing pools clearly shows *how* warm!

And when I entered the room with this Green Man it simply took my breath away.  I KNOW they displays and museum weren't this good in 1978!

And when I entered the room with this Green Man it simply took my breath away. I KNOW the displays and museum weren’t this good in 1978!

Back outside of the baths is the Cathedral in Bath.  I hadn't realized that in England a city is a place that has a cathedral.  The rest are towns.  Makes it pretty straightforward, eh?  And as always, incredible artistry in the carvings.

Back outside of the baths is the Cathedral in Bath. I hadn’t realized that in England a city is a place that has a cathedral. The rest are towns. Makes it pretty straightforward, eh? And as always, incredible artistry in the carvings.

The next ones are for my dear friend Marie Z, who has a thing for angels:

On one of the towers of the Cathedral.  Note most of the angels are going up, but one is falling.

On one of the towers of the Cathedral. Note most of the angels are going up, but this shot of a portion of the tower shows how one is falling, too.

We were to meet the bus near to the Cathedral, where there was a park down by the river, with this beautiful angel.

We were to meet the bus near to the Cathedral, where there was a park down by the river, with this beautiful angel.

I loved the wings so much that I had to take this close-up.  And I must say, traveling with a digital camera and being able to take a gazillion shots, delete the flubs and not worry about how long one's supply of ten rolls of 36 negatives each would last, is really nice!  And being to see that you FLUBBED all the shots before you leave so you can take them again!

I loved the wings so much that I had to take this close-up. And I must say, traveling with a digital camera and being able to take a gazillion shots, delete the flubs and not worry about how long one’s supply of ten rolls of 36 negatives each would last, is really nice! And being to see that you FLUBBED all the shots before you leave so you can take them again!

Professor Slughorn's home

Professor Slughorn’s home.  Our next stop was a tiny town, Lacock.  Wikipedia entry here; the town dates from the 1200s and is now largely a National Trust property, but folks live in the old homes.  This is a more modern house on the outskirts of town and was in the Harry Potter movie with Prof. Slughorn (we wanted to do favorite books on this trip).

An intersection in Lacock; these homes are still lived in, with wiring and plumbing added 500+ years after they were built!

An intersection in Lacock; these homes are still lived in, with wiring and plumbing added 500+ years after they were built!

I took a number of photos of "chimney pots,"  often with birds. Love the feathers ruffled by the wind on this gray day.

I took a number of photos of “chimney pots,” often with birds. Love the feathers ruffled by the wind on this gray day.

In the Harry Potter films, this was Harry's parent's house when he was born.  Cool, eh?

In the Harry Potter films, this was Harry’s parent’s house when he was born. Cool, eh? (And look at those clouds!)

And one more typical street in Lacock.

And one more typical street in Lacock.

We had a pub supper here, then went on to Stonehenge, which will be my next England post.   It was an experience of a lifetime…AND I actually have a 2 minute video for you all when we walked near the stones.  It is so wonderful to re-live this trip–now I need to find time to SKETCH!  We were so busy doing so much on the trip that I scarcely lifted a pen or pencil.

 

England 2014: the first Tuesday, London

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Back in 1989-91, Paul and I lived in Libreville, Gabon, where he was the deputy US Ambassador and, since I wasn’t allowed to work under him according the State Department rules, I was on leave without pay (which was fine by me).  Our nearest neighbors and dear friends were the British Ambassador and his wife, Mark and Lynn Goodfellow.  Mark passed away years ago, but we keep in touch with Lynn.  We were to meet her on Tuesday afternoon, so in the morning Eli and I did the hop-on, hop-off tour of London (which took HOURS), then met Lynn for the afternoon and evening.  It was if 23 years evaporated–such fun!

With Lynn and Eli at Lynn's home in Putney Heath, near WImbledon, after a lovely day

With Lynn and Eli at Lynn’s home in Putney Heath, near WImbledon, after a lovely day

And I apologize in advance for so many photos, but gosh, this is maybe five percent (or less) of the photos that I took–things to remember and design inspiration EVERYWHERE!

Some of the things I noticed:  how CLEAN the air is compared to 30 years ago.  Gone are the diesel-spewing lorries and busses.  The vehicles have much stricter emissions, many are hybrids, and the air is actually CLEAN!  No more coughing on choking exhaust.  And the building–there were huge construction cranes and building and upgrading going on EVERYwhere.   Alas, I had told Eli to expect people to queue up nicely, no pushing, to wait for lights and so on.  At least in London that is no longer the case–it’s more like a big city anywhere.  And the dress:  in 1978, Americans looked American, Brits looked British, the Germans German and so on.  Now, MAYBE some of the French flair will pop out at you, but otherwise  from Japanese to American to British to generic European we all dress alike.  Except for the Muslim women in veils, but even there is a wide range!

Imagine, design inspiration even on the double decker buses.  Loved this take on steampunk!

Imagine, design inspiration even on the double decker buses, here on Regent Street in the heart of London. Loved this take on steampunk!

This beautiful building reinforced the dictum to "Look Up."

This beautiful building reinforced the dictum to “Look Up.”

Look at that cool critter up on top and the ornamentation in the base.

Look at that cool critter up on top and the ornamentation in the base.

I wish I had thought to switch the camera over to video, here on Regent Street at Oxford Circus.  A "Circus" is a roundabout or traffic circle.  This was about 10 am on a Tuesday  morning.  Talk about a swarm of humanity...it made me laugh, and really glad I was on the bus and not IN the swarm!

I wish I had thought to switch the camera over to video, here on Regent Street at Oxford Circus. A “Circus” is a roundabout or traffic circle. This was about 10 am on a Tuesday morning. Talk about a swarm of humanity…it made me laugh, and really glad I was on the bus and not IN the swarm!

SWOON--that half-timbered building is Liberty, as in Liberty of London, as in all that glorious fabric and more.   We did get back there but only for half an hour.  Just as well, if I had stayed longer I would be even more broke and have needed a suitcase!

SWOON–that half-timbered building is Liberty, as in Liberty of London, as in all that glorious fabric and more. We did get back there but only for half an hour. Just as well, if I had stayed longer I would be even more broke and have needed a suitcase!

Coming up on Picadilly Circus, traveling on Regent Street.  Notice the done on the building on the corner.

Coming up on Picadilly Circus, traveling on Regent Street. Notice the done on the building on the corner.

Look at that utterly amazing sculpture up near the dome, a woman diving...way cool!

Look at that utterly amazing sculpture up near the dome, a woman diving…way cool!

So much of the old architecture is laden with inspiring ornament, but even new buildings proved interesting.  Think how dull this modern building would be without that design up the front.  Hmmm...that could get translated into a really cool thermofax screen now that I think of it....

So much of the old architecture is laden with inspiring ornament, but even new buildings proved interesting. Think how dull this modern building would be without that design up the front. Hmmm…that could get translated into a really cool thermofax screen now that I think of it….

Soon we came to Trafalgar Square, with the National Gallery, St. Martin in the Fields church, Lord Nelson's column, and this blue rooster.   This plinth (base) has been the home for some rotating art.   I'll let you google to find out more about it... but a big blue....ummm...let's go with rooster.....someone has a sense of humor!

Soon we came to Trafalgar Square, with the National Gallery, St. Martin in the Fields church, Lord Nelson’s column, and this blue rooster. This plinth (base) has been the home for some rotating art. I’ll let you google to find out more about it… but a big blue….ummm…let’s go with rooster…..someone has a sense of humor!

National Gallery on the left....

National Gallery on the left….

And take a look at the design work on that dome.  What a great quilting pattern or background design!

And take a look at the design work on that dome. What a great quilting pattern or background design!

Next we went into the City of London, the original small city.  This clock is at the Inns of Court, the justice departments.

Next we went into the City of London, the original small city. This clock is at the Inns of Court, the justice departments.

Here's the fairy-tale-like building to which the clock is attached:.

Here’s the fairy-tale-like building to which the clock is attached:.

Next we drove along Fleet Street, home to the London press.  LOVED the dragon!

Next we drove along Fleet Street, home to the London press. LOVED the dragon!

And for my friend Jacquie who loves owls, this clock on a building on Fleet Street.

And for my friend Jacquie who loves owls, this clock on a building on Fleet Street.

One of the old narrow b uildings next to the raised light rail lines--if you look up a bit, you'll see the trains.  I used to take the train in from Lewisham when I was in school in the 70s.

One of the old narrow b uildings next to the raised light rail lines–if you look up a bit, you’ll see the trains. I used to take the train in from Lewisham when I was in school in the 70s.

The old and the new:  the Tower of London (another place we regretfully decided to skip because it was wall-to-wall people), with the modern building called the Gherkin behind it.

The old and the new: the Tower of London (another place we regretfully decided to skip because it was wall-to-wall people), with the modern building called the Gherkin behind it.

Going across Tower Bridge.  The Bridge is a stunning architectural beauty!

Going across Tower Bridge. The Bridge is a stunning architectural beauty!

A neighborhood (Belgravia or Chelsea I think) in London

A neighborhood (Belgravia or Chelsea I think) in London

A most stunning artwork-in-progress at The Tower to commemorate those slain in World War 1, as this is the centennary anniversary of the start of that war.   Learn more about this Fields of Blood installation here.

A most stunning artwork-in-progress at The Tower to commemorate those slain in World War 1, as this is the centennary anniversary of the start of that war. Learn more about this Sea of Red  installation here and here.  Red poppies, which grew in Flanders Fields, are traditional in the UK to commemorate those lost in war.  These are ceramic poppies; the last will be installed on November 11th, 2014, armistice day (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, our Veterans’ Day).  The Smithsonian article (the second link) said “All told, 888,246 poppies will flood the Tower’s moat, equaling the number of British and Colonial soldiers who perished in the war.  The project, titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, comes from the creative minds of ceramic artist Paul Cummins and state designer Tom Piper.”

At 1 pm, we met Lynn at Westminster Pier.  She said she'd have on a hat.  Well, as we walked up I saw a woman in a hat with her back to me in a stance that looked SO familiar, so I called out and indeed it was Lynn!  We went on a cruise ship up the Thames from Westminster (home to Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey) to The Tower and back.  It was tons of fun!

At 1 pm, we met Lynn at Westminster Pier. She said she’d have on a hat. Well, as we walked up I saw a woman in a hat with her back to me in a stance that looked SO familiar, so I called out and indeed it was Lynn! We went on a cruise ship up the Thames from Westminster (home to Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey) to The Tower and back. It was tons of fun!  Lynn on the left, Eli wishing I would stop taking pictures with him in them.

I also  had a lot of f un taking pictures of chimney pots everywhere.

I also had a lot of f un taking pictures of chimney pots everywhere.

The Golden Hind, a replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship.  Depending on which side of the sword you were on, he was either a hero of Britain or a miserable marauding pirate.  He explored the San Francisco bay area and the main artery near where I grew up is called Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and the public high school is Drake High School.

The Golden Hind, a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship. Depending on which side of the sword you were on, he was either a hero of Britain or a miserable marauding pirate. He explored the San Francisco bay area and the main artery near where I grew up is called Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and the public high school is Drake High School.

American theatre impresario Sam Wannamaker is a hero in England for his successful efforts to reconstruct Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, complete with thatched mossy roof, on the banks of the Thames.  We didn't get to any plays...maybe next trip?

American theatre impresario Sam Wannamaker is a hero in England for his successful efforts to reconstruct Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, complete with thatched mossy roof, on the banks of the Thames. We didn’t get to any plays…maybe next trip?

London Bridge is not falling down, and is still in place.  It is also NOT the beautiful Tower Bridge, but this rather bland thing.   At least I can now say I've been under, over and ON the Thames.

London Bridge is not falling down, and is still in place. It is also NOT the beautiful Tower Bridge, but this rather bland thing. At least I can now say I’ve been under, over and ON the Thames.

Eli recognized this building immediately as having been the location for MI6, the spy agency, in the last Bond movie, Skyfall.  Luckily, it did not really blow up, as it is the new Charing Cross Station (rail and tube).  The boat guide told us there was a design competition with the goal to design a building that has train-like...I can see the hint of the old engines in this--can you?

Eli recognized this building immediately as having been the location for MI6, the spy agency, in the last Bond movie, Skyfall. Luckily, it did not really blow up, as it is the new Charing Cross Station (rail and tube). The boat guide told us there was a design competition with the goal to design a building that has train-like…I can see the hint of the old engines in this–can you?

And our next day, the first Wednesday, was a day to remember for a lifetime….stay tuned!  I’ll blog about it in two parts…..

England 2014: Sutton Hoo and the British Museum (first Monday)

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
The Sutton Hoo Burial Treasures at the British Museum, London

The Sutton Hoo Burial Treasures at the British Museum, London

In 1978 I spent a semester in school in London.  It was pass-fail, not grades, so I passed.  But my time and interests were elsewhere:  I went to museums and the theatre (inexpensive same-day tickets) every week.  Every weekend, well almost every one, I went somewhere in the country by train, staying at youth hostels.   It was a most amazing few months, and some of the images have stayed with me since I was 19.  Some of those images are from the British Museum‘s exhibit of the phenomenal Sutton Hoo Burial Ship treasures which date to about 724 AD.  A decade or so ago, I learned that one could now VISIT the site where the ship was dug up, and that began my quest to return to England.  Before Eli and I went to East Anglia, however, I wanted him to see what had stayed with me all these decades.  The buckles above are just two of the samples–the intricacy of these small works is simply phenomenal, the imagery enticing.

We reached the museum mid afternoon, having been up well over 30 hours (overnight flight in a too-warm airplane included), so Eli kinda hit the wall and didn’t look much.  And it was crowded.  Beyond belief crowded.  The line into the ladies room took over half an hour–Eli actually sent a text wondering what had become of me!  I wanted Eli to see the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles since he is studying Latin.

This is the horde of humanity around the case with the Rosetta Stone.  UGH.  Too many people!

This is the horde of humanity around the case with the Rosetta Stone. UGH. Too many people!

Eventually, we got close:

THE Rosetta Stone

THE Rosetta Stone

Yep, the one, the original, the stone that helped humanity learn to read Egyptian heiroglyphics.  But what crowds.  We ended up being too tired to find the Elgin Marbles that day.  By the time we returned to London, we decided that we couldn’t cope with the hairy hordes and did not return to the Museum.  I hope some day to return, but I think it will be during a snowstorm in January just to avoid the masses!

But I did get to take many photos up in the Sutton Hoo exhibit, where the display cases and signage are vastly improved over 1978.

Just LOOK at this amazing ring pin; this one is probably almost 4 inches in diameter, and that pin could be lethal!

Just LOOK at this amazing ring pin; this one is probably almost 4 inches in diameter, and that pin could be lethal!

The case with a selection of items, the above pin is on the left.

The case with a selection of items, the above pin is on the left.

The most stunning item from the Sutton Hoo find is this mask.  They believe the ship was for the king of the Anglo-Saxons in East Anglia and dates to circa 724 a.d.  These are the remnants of the helmet.

The most stunning item from the Sutton Hoo find is this mask. They believe the ship was for the king of the Anglo-Saxons in East Anglia and dates to circa 724 a.d. These are the remnants of the helmet.

Based on the fragments and knowledge about contemporary helmets and design, they have made this piece to show what it would have looked like at the time of burial, including the garnets on the eyebrow ridges.  Simply phenomenal artistry and craftsmanship.

Based on the fragments and knowledge about contemporary helmets and design, they have made this piece to show what it would have looked like at the time of burial, including the garnets on the eyebrow ridges. Simply phenomenal artistry and craftsmanship.

More every-day implements and artifacts.

More every-day implements and artifacts.

And I am always intrigued by how people lived in olden times.  This pot would have been hung from a ridgeline/rafter post over a fire.

And I am always intrigued by how people lived in olden times. This pot would have been hung from a ridgeline/rafter post over a fire.

The original gourd had long since rotted away, but the intricate metalwork survived, so they made this wooden vessel to go with the metalwork and show how it was originally made.

The original gourd had long since rotted away, but the intricate metalwork survived, so they made this wooden vessel to go with the metalwork and show how it was originally made.  Just think of the designs–in calligraphy, quilting, you name it!

Another buckle component.  Look at the faces in those round areas!

Another buckle component. Look at the faces in those round areas!  If I recall, this is probably three inches or so tall?   The level of detail and workmanship simple awes me.

Then back to the hotel to collapse!  Time for a good night's sleep before a long and happy Tuesday. I took this picture of Notting Hill station (remember the movie with Hugh Grant?  Yep, that Notting Hill, which is a district in London not far from our Tube stop).

Then back to the hotel to collapse! Time for a good night’s sleep before a long and happy Tuesday. I took this picture of Notting Hill station (remember the movie with Hugh Grant? Yep, that Notting Hill, which is a district in London not far from our Tube stop).  It is one of the stations that hasn’t been gussied up and still has its old character.

So those are the artifacts that sent me back to England–I wanted to see them again, not just in photos, and go to where they had been found.  That would happen on Thursday, but we had two phenomenal days before that one!  There’s more to come!

England 2014, Here we come!

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Some of you may have already seen some of these photos on Facebook, but many of you haven’t.  So in the interest of re-living a trip of a lifetime, here’s the first of many posts with our trip, inspiration, visual feasting and whatnot!  We left the house about noonish on Sunday, arrived at London Heathrow at 6:30 am (3:30 body clock) and kept going until just past supper time in London.  Going on adrenaline!

Some years ago I wrote a blogpost titled "This is not a minivan."  It is still not a minivan:  this is the view from the inside of the 9 passenger prop plane we take (Cape Air, love them!) to Boston, from which point we can get anywhere in the world.

Some years ago I wrote a blogpost titled “This is not a minivan.” It is still not a minivan: this is the view from the inside of the 9 passenger prop plane we take from Owl’s Head–about a half hour’s drive from home– (Cape Air, love them!) to Boston, from which point we can get anywhere in the world. That’s Eli up in the co-pilot seat.  One does not put feet on footpedals!  Seat assignments are by weight so that the plane is balanced.

Here’s an aerial view of Maine as we left midday:

The Maine coast just south of Owl's Head/Rockland as we headed East "across the pond."

The Maine coast just south of Owl’s Head/Rockland as we headed East “across the pond.”

Methinks Paul was a tad nervous watching us head off on our great adventure.  He didn't want to go to England, so he stayed home and minded the house and critters so that Eli and I could have fun.

Methinks Paul was a tad nervous watching us head off on our great adventure. He didn’t want to go to England, so he stayed home and minded the house and critters so that Eli and I could have fun.

First and foremost:  thank you to Paul and Eli.  Paul for minding the home front, Eli for actually WANTING to go on a trip with his old mom!  Joshua and Ashley, you’re next.  Edinburgh and points beyond, the Smiths are returning to the UK–probably not for a few years (gotta teach and earn enough money to save up and pay for another trip like this!), but we are coming back!

Compare the cabin and view above and below:

Very clearly, this is NOT Cape Air, but in fact the British Airways flight nonstop to London.  The cabin was warm, and tho I dozed an hour or two, Eli didn't on this overnight flight.

Very clearly, this is NOT Cape Air, but in fact the British Airways flight nonstop to London. The cabin was warm, and tho I dozed an hour or two, Eli didn’t on this overnight flight.

I LOVE the in-flight maps.  Here you can see the big picture, from Boston to London.  I was tickled to see Vigo, Spain.  I'd not heard of it before recently, but a classmate in the Sketchbook Skool has shared some of his drawings of Vigo.  Fun to see it on the map!

I LOVE the in-flight maps. Here you can see the big picture, from Boston to London. I was tickled to see Vigo, Spain. I’d not heard of it before recently, but a classmate in the Sketchbook Skool has shared some of his drawings of Vigo. Fun to see it on the map! Can I say again how much I love the internet?  How I have met people and learned so much?

As the plane ducked under the cloud cover we got a spectacular aerial view of London, with the Thames, South Bank on the Left, more of the mass of London on the right, The London Eye (the big ferris wheel), Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower, and so much more in clear view

As the plane ducked under the cloud cover at just past 6 am local time, we got a spectacular aerial view of London, with the Thames, South Bank on the Left, more of the mass of London on the right, The London Eye (the big ferris wheel), Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower, and so much more in clear view.

The fields and hedgerows of England on the approach to London.  A bit more countryside!

The fields and hedgerows of England on the approach to London. A bit more countryside! Let there be quilting!

Rather a difference, eh?  One of the things Eli most wanted to do was run at Olympic Park, in the stadium if possible.  Alas, it was under major re-construction, but he got to take a refreshing trot.  That’s him coming around the corner next to the pink sign post. The velodrome is in the background.  The skies would look like this pretty much every day:  blue with clouds, some of which would sprinkle on us momentarily but–with the exception of one day–no real soaking rains.

We got exceptionally lucky and were able to check in early.  So we ditched our bags and set out to see the sights.

We got exceptionally lucky and were able to check in early. So we ditched our bags and set out to see the sights, starting with Olympic Park.

This ended up being the only real running Eli got to do.  I don’t think he counted on Mom’s ability to go-go-go when on the road with things to do, people to meet and sights to see!

Eli under the Olympic rings after his run.

Eli under the Olympic rings after his run.

Then we took our Oyster cards, re-loadable fare cards for the London Underground (Tube / subway) and light rail system.  WAY easier than the old day of buying paper tickets!  After a bit of lunch, we headed off to King’s Cross.

King's Cross Station, site of the somewhat-imaginary Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter/Hogwarts fame.

King’s Cross Station, site of the somewhat-imaginary Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter/Hogwarts fame.

The above is the old part of the station, but with the old funky platform signs swapped out for the modern ones that report what train is coming in at which platform and when.  Easier for travel, but not as much character.  The photo below is the VERY new part of the station.  Beautiful, but…sigh…. I miss some of the old stuff.

The new part of King's Cross station.  Both the Tube and rail lines come in here.  King's Cross is the departure points for points north, like York, Leeds, Edinburgh and the fictional Hogwarts.  Thank you to J.K. Rowling for giving such a wonderful world to all of us!

The new part of King’s Cross station. Both the Tube and rail lines come in here. King’s Cross is the departure points for points north, like York, Leeds, Edinburgh and the fictional Hogwarts. Thank you to J.K. Rowling for giving such a wonderful world to all of us!

I had read in my guide book that you could visit Platform 9 3/4 at the station, which is why we went.  WHAT a disappointment!  It was on a wall between two shops, not the actual platform.  Of course, given the queue, I can see why they couldn’t put it between platforms 9 and 10, but…. it was the back half of a luggage cart with old suitcase.

Platform 9 3/4 is under that white tube thingy, on the other side the crowd waiting to take pics.

Platform 9 3/4 is under that white tube thingy, on the other side the crowd waiting to take pics.

If you wanted to stand in line–on this day about an hour–you could wear a Gryffindor scarf and take your picture there.  Since Eli and I had been going for about 36 hours, that was SO not going to happen, but we snagged this photo instead.

Me, with some of the crowd behind me and the Platform sign barely visible.  Happy to be there anyway!

Me, with some of the crowd behind me and the Platform sign barely visible. Happy to be there anyway!

Our next stop that day, just about as we hit the wall from tiredness and collapsed, was the British Museum.   As we would discover about all of London in August, it was PACKED with tourists.  But I’ll save that for the next post because the reason was one of my major reasons for taking this trip.  And yes, it involves art and quilts!

 

 

NYC! The Bowery Savings Bank, and the way home….

Sunday, June 15th, 2014
Across from (or near?) Grand Central is the Bowery Savings Bank, and the stonework and carving was another source of incredible inspiration.

Across from (or near?) Grand Central is the Bowery Savings Bank, and the stonework and carving was another source of incredible inspiration.

Here is a close-up of one of the stone pillars just to the left of the doorway  pictured above:

How lucky we are that the titans of industry 150 years ago poured money into buildings that are art!

How lucky we are that the titans of industry 150 years ago poured money into buildings that are art!

Marie Z. J., I had to take this photo just for you:

An angel for Marie

An angel for Marie

Looking up the facade of the buidling

Looking up the facade of the buidling

and a closer view of the carvings

What a fabulous quilting design or applique this could become

What a fabulous quilting design or applique this could become

The lanterns/lights are just as fabulous.

The lanterns/lights are just as fabulous.

There simply isn’t enough time to make all the art that is inside of me!

And perfect lettering...sigh....

And perfect lettering…sigh….And it looks like this place is now an ultra chi-chi restaurant.   Hmmm.

On the way home, I stopped off in Fall River, Mass.  My father was born there and I recently discovered (in a well DUH SARAH, of course they are) my grandparents are buried here, as is my Aunt Mary M., whom I remember, along with two brothers who died young.  So I sought out the Catholic cemetary and after a lot of wandering around trying to decipher the mystery of how the plots are numbered (I had called written a couple months ago to find out the plot numbers, etc), I found the family monument:

 

Apparently plots were sold with 6 spots--there are many such "family" monuments with names on the back in this cemetery.  Frankie died as a baby and was apparently buried in a different part of the cemetery where there is no marker to show him...so sad, but at least they added him to this stone.  It appears from family records that when Johnnie died in 1924 they purchased this spot (which was paid up in full in 1926).  The stone was erected in 1961--not sure if Aunt Mary did that, or perhaps my Dad.  He did stuff like that for his family, but there are no records now and anyone who knew is long since gone.

Apparently plots were sold with 6 spots–there are many such “family” monuments with names on the back in this cemetery. Frankie died as a baby and was apparently buried in a different part of the cemetery where there is no marker to show him…so sad, but at least they added him to this stone. It appears from family records that when Johnnie died in 1924 they purchased this spot (which was paid up in full in 1926). The stone was erected in 1961–not sure if Aunt Mary did that, or perhaps my Dad. He did stuff like that for his family, but there are no records now and anyone who knew is long since gone.

The back is weird:  it shows ONLY the death dates!  I asked but it isn't possible to change and add the birth dates, or I'd take teaching income from a gig or two and add the birth dates.  My grandparents, born in the 1880s, are at the top, followed by Aunt Mary, Aunt Nan, Frankie and Johnnie.  All but Mary were gone before I was born.

The back is weird: it shows ONLY the death dates! I asked but it isn’t possible to change and add the birth dates, or I’d take teaching income from a gig or two and add the birth dates. My grandparents, born in the 1880s, are at the top, followed by siblings in the order of birth: Aunt Mary, Aunt Nan, Frankie and Johnnie. All but Mary were gone before I was born.

On the way home, the GPS always wants me to go 95 and 93 through downtown Boston.  Which has some of the worst drivers in America.  And a couple interchanges near the Big Dig tunnel and the bridge that are white knuckle experiences for me.  Usually I take I-495 around Boston which nominally takes a half hour longer.  This time I decided to try 95/route 128, the inner ring road around Boston.   Now I know why I will never do that again.  I started to go around Boston at 2 pm.  It was 4:30 before I cleared it…bumper to bumper.  UGH.  It would have been at least an hour faster to take the “long” way on 495–and it wasn’t even rush hour!  And no accidents.  One roadside info sign said next major highway interchange was 12 miles ahead.  Time to get there (mid afternoon!!!!) was FIFTY , 50, MINUTES!!!! SHRIEK.  Was really glad to get home to rural, not-busy-roads Maine!

On route 128, the ring road around Boston.  Horrid.

On route 128, the ring road around Boston. Horrid.

So that’s the trip!  Fun, except for the driving in Massachusetts!