Onward to York

One stage of your journey is over, another begins,” Gandalf.


This morning, I bid farewell to Bath (I said goodbye to Becky last night) and made my way by rail to York via a quick transfer in Bristol. During the four hours from Bristol to York, I was able to do my yearly State of My Life aka State of the Union journal recap. I can be lax with journaling, but when I take my yearly trip, I like to honestly look at the different areas of my life. It’s not always pretty, but it is at least honest. One of my goals for when I get back is to get back into journaling. Just writing things down and out works wonders.


I did a little drifting off to sleep. I was so determined to go to bed early last night, but alas, it wasn’t until 1:00. Tonight, I plan to go to bed early and set my alarm to make breakfast hours. The choices look great. Full English. Pancakes/bacon. Lighter choices. I also want to make the first York city walk tour to help me further orientate.


I enjoyed watching the countryside roll by. One of the guides from Bath said that a huge portion of the land is purposely not developed or built on.


I got to the train station and headed to where I am staying. I went out a different exit than my directions, so I got a little turned around. I was set straight by a local taking a cigarette break from her job. I got to my room and settled in. I am staying at a pub. I wanted to catch some daylight to get orientated, so I could hit the ground running tomorrow. Now that I know where I am, the walking directions from Mapquest could have been much simpler.


I will say I am in a good area. A 15-minute walk to the city center. I have a straight shot into it, which is good. Since I know where York Minister is now, I can use that as a beacon if I ever get turned around. I went to a prayer service there tonight. It was nice. I sat next to a local who chatted with me. And the people who sat in front of me are from Bend, Oregon. I was like I just met a lady from Bend when I was in Bath.


Anyway, today was a travel day and getting orientated. Nothing much to report. Tomorrow, I should be up and at them with lots to see. I may try to do a day trip to the Lake District at some point. Otherwise there are some museums I want to check out.


I have been watching the show the Vikings, and even though some of the timing of the characters is off, the people did exist.


During the times of the Romans, York was known as Eboracum and was the northern most city of the empire. During my trip to Wales some years back, I went to the western most city in the empire. One point of interest to me is what is left of Hadrian’s Wall, but I think I would have a better connection there next time I am in Edinburgh. The Romans feared the Scots, so the wall was built. At some point in time, Constantine was proclaimed emperor. York then became Eoforwic and the capital of Northumbria, which was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom. The Vikings took the city and named it Jorvik. There is a Viking museum I want to go to here. Then enter the Normans and the rest is history as they say. But I like the stories behind the development of what is now England. The priest tonight actually mentioned King Alfred, and it made me smile because I believe he will have a big role in Vikings when it starts  Nov. 28.


York certainly has a quicker pace than Bath, but I think I will enjoy it. It has a very good vibe. I normally get dinner from a grocery store (I had a yummy Cornish pastry from one last night), but tonight I ate at one of Rick Steves’ recommended cheap eats. It was on the way home.


Edits when I get home.

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The Cotswolds

Today I joined a day tour to the Cotswolds run by a company called Mad Max Tours. The company was recommended by Rick Steves as well as Trip Advisor. There were people from Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, and the U.S. I think there were 13 of us. The people from the U.S. were from South Carolina, Michigan, Oregon (Bend) and two from Seattle (Woodinville). It made me chuckle. I thought the tour was well run, and I enjoyed our tour guide/driver, Colin. He had a great sense of humor, knew his history, and enjoyed his job.


When I was originally planning this trip, I thought it would be nice to spend a few nights in either the Cotswolds and/or Lake District. However, the bus/train connections there are poor (it would have taken way too much effort for my current mental state), and so I would really need a car. I don’t like driving in the U.S. let alone driving in a foreign country on the wrong side of the car and road (for me), and I don’t drive a stick.


The countryside was breathtaking, and it was nice to past the various hamlets and villages. It’s like time stopped but progress continued. I am always at awe with the narrow roads and modern cars, trucks, and buses.


In the 12th century, the area prospered because of wool and was quite well off. Enter cotton and the industrial revolution, and the wool industry collapsed. We went to several towns including Castle Combe, Bibury, Bourton on the Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Tetbury.


In Castle Combe, I saw the Manor House Hotel, which was beautiful and had gorgeous landscape. It is a popular place for weddings. The city was the film location for the musical Doctor Doolittle. It was also the film location for the movie Stardust.


Bibury was pretty. There is a trout farm, which I did not go into, but I did see some in the stream (at least I assumed the fish were trout). There were a lot of trout dishes on the menu at the restaurant by the trout farm. There are protected wetlands and some cottages of former weavers.


Bourton on the Water is known as the “Venice of the Cotswolds.” I have been to Venice several times, and it is a huge stretch. It was pretty though. I love series of bridges. Out of all the towns on the tour, it was the busiest.


Stow-on-the-Wold is the highest point in the Cotswolds. I was especially excited to come here because of the church there. According to legend, Tolkien hiked in the Cotswolds and had a passion for sketching trees. It is believed that the doors on the back side of the church, which are flanked by two old yew trees, inspired the Doors of Durin leading into Moria in the Lord of the Rings. While in Stow, I had a picnic lunch and sat by the “Stocks on the Market Square.” This is a place where people were publicly punished and ridiculed for their crimes. People came by and took pictures (I had one taken) here. Anyway, an older couple (probably in their 80’s) came by to look at them. The wife remarked, “Maybe we should bring this back.” She was serious when she said it, and the husband seriously agreed. I couldn’t help it. I busted out laughing. I am not sure if it would deter crime. And, with social media, people are publicly shamed and ridiculed all of the time. I also wanted to see Stow Lodge because it was formerly the rectory. It was quite grander than I thought a rector’s residence would be. The rest of the time was spent wandering around.


Prince Charles has an estate near Tetbury. I attempted to go to the church there, but it was closed. I just wandered around the streets.


While walking with one of my tour mates, I discovered she is a fellow blogger, so we were able to exchange business cards. Jeanie, if you are reading this, it was nice to meet you. I will take the time to view your blog.


One thing I forgot to mention is that I am having gorgeous fall weather thus far. I felt hot today with my many layers. When I checked the forecast before I left, there was no rain in the forecast though it should drop into the high 50’s next week.


As always, I will edit when I get back.



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Greetings from England

Greetings from England. I am currently in Bath.


I flew out Sunday and arrived Monday. I headed to Bath from London Heathrow. In retrospect, it would have been better to fly into Bristol because it is closer to Bath. I am not sure what the price differential in the price of the ticket would have been. I did call, but I couldn’t get past the change fee to get that far.


I am staying at an AirBnB. The woman I am staying with is very friendly and helpful. The location is great. I walk down to the city center, but I take the bus back up the hill. I arrived in Bath around 8:45 p.m., and it was dark. I was able to find the bus to get me here, and I knew the stop with the help of fellow passengers. Then there was an aha moment where I knew where to go. It got me thinking about the pros/cons of traveling on your own vs. joining a tour.


Although I had been to the Central Bus Station at the airport, it did take me a minute to remember where it was.


The pros of the tour: most tour companies will pick you up from the airport, so if you are in a new place, you don’t have to figure it out. There is also of course not having to find where you stay. Most will also have advance tickets to tourist locations so there is no waiting in line.


Then there are cons. I hate itineraries that are one night here, two nights there, one night there, etc. That s exhausting, especially when you are getting up early in the morning to head out early. You never have time to settle in. Then there is the single supplement. Some tour companies will match you with a fellow single. Others will automatically charge you a supplement. There were actually two tours that interested me, but the single supplement put them way outside my comfort zone. Especially when I planned this trip to one of the most expensive countries because of the exchange rate for way less. But I digress.


During the Roman times, Bath was called Aquae Sulis. So the first place I went was the Roman Baths. It is always interesting to me how many layers of previous inhabitants are under our feet. A few things stuck out to me on about the Romans Bath. One is the idea of memory. I have mentioned before that modern man has many ways for the world to know we exist be it social media, pictures, etc. Back in the day, people created monuments to say who they were, and what they did to leave their mark. The other part were the “curse” tablets offered to the gods. Some where quite funny. One woman who had gloves stolen wished that the person who stole them would lose their mind. Another wished the person who stole something would be “utterly accursed” and listed a name of possible suspects.


I also went into the Pump Room. I literally finished a book last week that was set in Bath. There is a scene where the polished villain went there, so I wanted to check it out. It is exactly how I pictured it.


I also went to the Bath Abbey. The church is well lit because 80 percent of the building is windows. I was there during the hourly prayer by Father Robin, who I had a chance to talk to and pray with later, that was very timely. He prayed for world leaders that they would have integrity in motive, think of the well being of all, and be salt and light. Amen.


I am not sure if any of you follow Humans of New York on Facebook and/or Instagram. If you don’t, I would recommend it. Right not Brandon is in Rwanda and is sharing stories from people who survived the genocide. I think back to slavery, the holocaust, Rwanda (and too many more to name) and think about what is happening today in South Africa and Myanmar and wonder why we make people subhuman. In American slavery, slaves were 3/5 of a person. So not human. In Rwanda, the Tutsis were called cockroaches.


As I mentioned, I spoke with Father Robin. He offered to talk and pray for anyone who wanted it. As most of you know, my mom passed away in August. It has had a weird impact on my current state of mind.  So I was able to speak out what I have been feeling with someone with no vested interest or history to the situation. Purpose. Mission. Passion. Calling.

I struggled with coming on this trip, so everything from buying my ticket to finding places to stay were very last minute. In the end, I thought unplugging from the Matrix would be good but did worry I would end up feeling more alone and confused. I am hopeful that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this exact moment in time even if I feel like I am so far off course.

I did a free two-hour walking tour of Bath. It is worth the time. If you are visiting Bath, look up The Mayor’s Corps of Honorary Guides. The guides are all volunteers. Groups meet outside the Pump Room. There were a lot of people, and we broke into three groups. My guide, Andy, was very knowledgeable and clearly had a love of the city and history. One of the women who joined the tour was a fellow American. She had been here six months ago on a photo trip. She had done a program called “A Year with My Camera.” I am going to look it up when I get home. The next session starts in January. As part of the tour, we went to but not in The Circus and Royal Crescent. We also went to the Fashion Museum and into the Assembly, Tea, and Card rooms. Having read too many period pieces, I can totally picture scenes in each room.


I also went to Pulteney Bridge, which is basically a bunch of shops built over a bridge.


If I had one piece of advice, I would say buy your train/bus tickets as soon as you firm up plans. The prices I originally saw for certain times increased as time went by. I could have saved around $80 had I committed to times earlier. But of course wait until you know for sure!


As always, I will edit when I get back!



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That one weekend in Oakland

Back in September, I visited Los Angeles for the first time in a long time. I have been going to Long Beach almost every year for a work conference, but I never made my way up to the City of (Lost) Angels. Along the same vein, this past weekend I was in the Bay Area for the first time forever. I was trying to figure out when I was last there, and I am at a loss. Had it been ten years? More? Now that I think about it, if you add in Mississippi, I seem to be in a period of rediscovery. One of the days, I would also like to revisit NYC again. It’s been a long time since I have been there as well.


This trip was weird, for a lack of a better word, in coming together. Originally, I was going to meet my friend Samarah there, but life got in the way. I went back and forth as to whether to go anyway. In the end, down I went in a last-minute scramble with no plans, and I am glad.


My friend Pam opened her house to me, and it was such a blessing. If you read about my Ireland trip, you know about our Ireland adventure with Candy. Pam’s husband, Willie, is extra nice! Pam has an amazing patio and garden in the back of her house. It was awesome to see hummingbirds and foxes running around back there.


We had some awesome conversations about this strange thing called life. I am in a season where I am not quire sure how the many parts are going to come together, but I must remind myself that it always comes together. I feel like I am a scene in a movie where everything is suspended or frozen. Hopefully whatever the release will satisfy whatever this strange longing is.


It was splendid catching up with folks I haven’t seen in a minute. My college buddy DJ was nice enough to bring Pam and I lunch for our catch up. I went to a bar and bowling with Sam and Mark and their friend Kenny. I have not bowled in such a long time, which was evident in my bowling score, but it was extra fun. I unexpectedly ran into LC and his family at Jack London Square. The last time I saw LC was when I unexpectedly ran into he and Mark in Negril, Jamaica. The sunset there was quite amazing along the waterfront, and you know I love a working waterfront. It was good to see the Port of Oakland in action. It was especially nice to catch up with family and attend services at Center of Grace.


On Saturday, I went to the Art and Soul festival in Oakland with Pam, her daughter, and grand kids. We walked around and looked at vendors. There was also food, drink, and music. The weather was awesome. How much more can you ask for? The weather in Seattle was hotter, so it was nice getting relief from the heat! On Monday, we hit up the marina in San Leandro. I have not spent much time in Oakland, and I was able to see the China Town there, for the first time I think.


We went to this place called Lena’s one night for dinner. The food was good and the proportions gluttonous. Two people could literally split a regular plate, so I would hate to see their large plate. Sunday evening, Willie barbecued, and Pam made yummy potato salad.


Like Seattle, Oakland is being gentrified. While it is nice to see some renaissance in the area with new restaurants and establishments, it is hard to swallow communities who have lived there for generations being pushed out because they can no longer afford the area. In Seattle, people want to be close to the city. In Oakland people want to be close to the City without paying the crazy rents in San Francisco. In my neighborhood, there were these two clubs on Madison whose names escape me. I want to say Deno’s and Oscar’s? Anyway, it added a little grit to the neighborhood, but as the neighborhood changed, it was obvious that they would go by wayside. Truthfully, I was glad when they closed. I always felt weird walking past there and had been offered drugs. But then there is the side that says it was okay for them to exist in their fashion when the neighborhood was black. But when the neighborhood changed, all of a sudden, the police made more of effort to be sure that they didn’t.


I have always felt a kindredness with the Bay Area. I felt a certain melancholy as I left. Tears could start at any second. LOL! If doors opened, I would certainly make a move there. I left my heart in San Francisco. That’s a song, right? Or is it the story of my life?


The good news is that I started writing a story on my way down there. As some of you know, I wrote a story called Harlem’s Song in my early twenties. I have picked it up off and on throughout the years. Of course, the voice of the lead character, Janiah, has changed over time as my own voice changed. I would like to brush the story off in its many forms. It will probably end up being a series of short stories since I don’t have the attention span to write a novel. LOL! The short story I wrote in South Africa, Following Jane’s Advice, is part of that series. Will Janiah finally get over Damien and free her heart to find happiness with someone else? Or will her love for him remain ill fated? Will she cross paths with Stefano again? Stay tuned. Even I don’t know. Lawd Have Mercy. LOL.


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Mississippi nights (and days)

I have been trying to remember when the last time I came to Mississippi was. Certainly, over ten years ago. If I had to guess, I would say somewhere between thirteen and fifteen years ago.


It has been great seeing everyone. From my mom, sisters, aunties, cousins, and friends. I have been told more than once to not let that much time pass by again. My family is just a little zany, so I got it honestly. But we have fun. For example, my aunt was in the hospital, and we were up there reminiscing and laughing and the room a few doors down complained.


A few things stand out to me:

  • It feels so slow. Not in a bad way, but time certainly seems to move like molasses.
  • The stars. The stars are so visible here.
  • People sitting on their porches. If I were to buy a house, I would want it to have a big porch where I can have a rocking chair and watch people ride by.
  • When people are passing by or you are passing by, you wave and/or honk.
  • It’s hot during the day, but so pleasant in the morning and evening.
  • Watching lightning bugs dance across the yard is magical.
  • There are two, old “plantation style” homes that I have loved since I was little that are side to side. It was great to see them and take pictures.
  • There are more of the homes a little further down. I found out that some of my ‘blood kin” bought one of them. I was able to go inside. It was so beautiful and there is a big pond in the back and plenty of land. The home was built by a black man who looked white. When the neighbors found out he was black, he was run off, so it’s fitting that a black family lives there now. It was built in 1920, but it was still equipped with a secret room to hide people who were running away.
  • My great-grandparents had property that was 11.5 acres. My cousins bought acreage adjoining, and it is quite amazing to imagine how it looked when my great-grandparents owned it, and it had animals and a farm. It is overgrown in the back, but there is a creek back there.
  • I loved seeing the homes of two of my grandmothers (I have three…it’s complicated) and home of my great-great aunt. My great-great aunt’s house has an old portion and a portion that was added on. I have never been able to sleep in the old part. There are way too many shadows, but I can sleep in the new part fine.
  • As good of a dominoes player I think I am, older players have a way of schooling me.
  • I am confused by who some of my relatives are. All this time the woman I pictured as my Aunt Fanny is my cousin Sylvia…shush…don’t tell anyone. LOL!
  • I still have tons of relatives I have never met.


Since I have been here, I have been reminiscing about the summer my sisters and I spent here visiting my mom when I was 14.

  • That summer, I spent a lot of time with my girl cousins around my age. We each had a “boyfriend.” One night, we went for a walk (probably to look for the boys), and we ended up walking by (maybe in) the cemetery by my great-great aunt’s house. The boys scared the life out us by jumping out of a tree, and we all went hollering down the street. At some point we started laughing, and we laughed even harder when we discovered one of my cousins (who will remain unnamed – lol) peed on herself.
  • I remembered the time I almost received my first “real kiss.” What had happened was we were sitting on the bench at my grandmother’s house. I was sitting with my friend, and he starting to lean in to kiss me. I jumped up so fast, and I ran into my grandmother’s house and jumped into bed with my mom. It was a mess.
  • I can point at the spot of where the first “real kiss” happened the night after.
  • I can remember my grandmother’s neighbor peaking out at us every night to see what we were up to. She would have her hair bonnet on, and I thought it was the funniest thing ever. She was very nice…just nosy. She would also be out sweeping her porch all day keeping an eye on us during the light hours.


The stars are so visible in my small country town in Mississippi. I was sitting with my sister looking up at the stars. We began reminiscing about summers in Moses Lake watching the stars with some of the neighborhood kids. Then we started remembering other things:


  • Going far from home with our pillow cases to go trick or treating.
  • Going to pick plums from this tree near a doctor’s clinic.
  • Throwing tomato worms off a bridge onto cars going down I-90 with the neighborhood kids. One time a car came off the freeway to come looking for us, and we ran to the Green’s house to hide out.
  • We would be gone all day playing during the summer time. There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood to play with.
  • We talked about all the neighborhood kids from the Guerrero’s to the Vasquez’s to the Green’s to the Gleed’s.


Overall, I remember that it is good to reminisce sometimes.

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There and Back Again…a LTB Tale

On Thursday, I slept in. After waking up, I got up and got my suitcase organized for the flight on Friday.


I went back to Kings Park and found a nice bench to read. I think I may have mentioned that I downloaded a bunch of books on my Kindle. I had only cracked it open once. After reading for a while, I walked around the garden before heading back to the CBD. I went back to London Court before doing some shopping on Hay Street. Gaby and I went out for a meal for my last night there.

I really enjoyed Perth and part of the reason of course was visiting Gaby.

Friday, I started the long journey home. The flight to Auckland was around 5.5 hours and the flight to San Francisco was 11.5 hours. The line to clear Customs was long, but I made it to my gate about 20 minutes before boarding was supposed to start to discover the flight had been delayed 30 minutes. I am not sure how long it ended up being late, but we were number 30 in line for the runway. Yes. Number 30. It took forever. By the time we reached Seattle, I think we were very late. Then in Seattle, we had to wait for a gate. It had been snowing in Seattle that day.


I went from high 70’s/low 80’s to 30 something degrees. Sigh.


On the way home, I stopped by Safeway to get some food. Then I got home and began unpacking. I did laundry. It was about 11:00 before I went to bed. I woke up around 12:30. I meant to get up earlier, but what had happened was…


I got up and am beginning to settle myself back into the routine at home. I am glad we get to “fall back” tomorrow.


I posted my pictures. Unlike previous trips, I did note delete duplicates as I went. So there are a lot. Password is “italia”.




Rottnest Island

Today I got up bright and early to take the 8:30 ferry over to Rottnest Island. It was a place that was recommended by locals as well as travel guides. I was lucky enough to be given a coupon from an Entertainment book that gave me 25% off the fare. I will note that in looking at some of the local brochures, some of them had coupons ranging from 10% to 20% of various excursion, so they could be worth checking out.


I caught the ferry in Perth and there was also a stop in Fremantle. I was excited because I was able to get some shots of the port from the water. There was another CMA CGM vessel (I assume it is different than the one I saw on Sunday, otherwise they have very slow productivity) and there was also a China Shipping vessel at berth.


On the way there, we saw a humpback whale. I was so excited. There was a period when I dreamed about seeing whales all the time. This is my second time seeing a whale outside of dream land. The first time was a few years back.


It was a nice boat ride over. The weather was very nice. On the way there, I sat on the top level in the back. On the way back, I sat on the top level toward the front. The people in the first row on the left, got soaked . Especially the person in the first seat.


In terms of wildlife, I saw a two lizards and tons of quokkas, which were not too interested in humans. I read that Rottnest is one of the few places quokkas can be found in the wild. They reminded me of huge rats, and they have a funny gait.


I walked to one of the lighthouses and to Oliver Hill. If I had planned better, I would have worn other shoes. Otherwise, I could have walked in the trails and seen more. I would recommend bringing a backpack filled with snacks, plenty of water and sunscreen. I didn’t pack sunscreen this trip, and my skin is paying for it. The sun in this hemisphere is different than at home.


I met Gaby at the quay, and we went out for a belated birthday dinner for her. The weather was nice, so we were able to sit outside. We went Isle of Voyage. The food was okay and the service was bad. Luckily the company was good.


Excuse any typos. I will edit when I get home.

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