The quotes on this page sum up a great deal of why I travel. Some years I go overseas, other years I’m exploring a new U.S. state.
I’m a planner. I’ll search for the best flight, best hotel deal, research the sights, read the reviews of tours, and generally go on a quest of the intended travel site at least four months in advance of the trip.
Detailing an itinerary is not on the menu. Instead of “we need to see this in this day,” I list top sights to see on the trip. We usually get to most of the sights and find new ones when we get lost. And we always get lost, not scary lost, just wrong turn lost.
“When overseas you learn more about your own country than you do the place you’re visiting.” – Clint Borgen
The Churchill Arms pub is full of atmosphere inside and out, but I’d stick to having a beer or beverage and skip the food, which isn’t pub food but Thai (mediocre).
I overheard a seventyish English gentleman having a conversation with an American couple, in their forties with Southern accents, about President Trump. They were Trump supporters. The Englishman said, “He’s a stupid arse,” to which the conversation ceased and the couple left the pub.
Several times we were approached and asked if we were Americans; a couple of times we were invited to drinks. I wasn’t viewed as an ethnic minority from the USA, I was identified as an American. This made me think about how we are seen by the citizens of another country. Refreshing change. There was an interest in what we thought about issues but a strange fascination with Southern California.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
Although I’ve been to London twice before, I’d not seen several areas beyond the city. Planning this was a little trickier since I needed train reservations from London to Manchester, Manchester to Bath, and Bath to Heathrow.
I used National Rail to find routes and fares. Buy your tickets at least two weeks in advance; a month is better. Buy the day before or day of almost doubles the price. I had no problem using the self-service machines to collect my pre-paid tickets and the staff at the machines was always helpful. Take a train and explore the region.
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
Every day we made our ‘activity’ goal, you know the one on the iPhone app that tracks your steps. Each day we walked more than five miles, once it was twelve miles. Those Tube and train stairs made me so glad we only brought one piece of carry-on luggage each.
We had friends in Manchester, an industrial city, where we visited the Rylands Library, a library to rival libraries. It’s a late Victorian, Neo-Gothic building, with a tremendous amount of books and archives, including medieval illuminated manuscripts and a Gutenberg Bible. Interestingly, this was built as a memorial to John Rylands by his wife, Enriqueta, his Cuban born widow.
“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” – Chief Seattle
Bath was a hub for us. You can walk or take a bus or a river barge and see the sites in one twenty-four hour period or a leisurely two days. Walking is better.
The city was in a Jane Austen Festival frenzy with the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death. Several women dressed in Jane Austen attire strolled the streets or ducked into a pub for a Jane Austen Earl Gray Red Ale, a beer brewed special for this occasion. The main garden area had this lovely floral structure, an ode to Jane, although my photo doesn’t do it justice. They’re taking volunteers for the 2018 festival next September.
The highlight of our trip was the mini-van tour, Mad Max Tours, from Bath to Stonehenge, the Avebury Stone Circles, Cherhill White Horse (the Uffington White Horse is 3,000 yrs. old), and two Cotswold villages. Gorgeous scenery and such interesting commentary. We went early before the crowds and had a chance to take photos without too many people swarming Stonehenge.
Enroute to our destination we stopped to view the Avery and Cherhill White Horses on the hillsides. These are from 1750 and 1805 and part of seven white horses etched into the hills. They signified protection in ancient times.
Lalock and Castle Comb villages were a step into another time. Castle Comb is the quintessential English village. Both places are home to several movie scenes from Dr. Doolittle, Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, and we just missed Johnny Depp at the pub by two days, when filming for Fantastic Beast 2 wrapped up.
This 1361 pub in Lalock used to roast meat on a spit turned by specially bred dogs called Turnspits (of course) which was a long-bodied, short-legged dog, now extinct.
Part of our memories in our travels was the food. My favorites: Steak pies, chicken and mushroom pies, Cornish pastries (pas-tays), fish and chips, elderflower beverages, the beer, minted peas, mushy peas, and Sunday roast. I need a meat pie and minted peas recipe and find Elderflower beverages.
There was a diversity of dishes, from Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Turkish you name it, they had it, even Mexican burritos (which we didn’t have because, well, we’re from California).
I could go on and on about the wonderful sites, the food, the people, but I have included some photos on my Instagram (newly opened) page. I’m at m. alvaradofrazier in case, you’d like to view my other photos.
Next year I may go back and see the more of the Cotswolds and travel to the rest of the UK. I’m thinking I can fly solo, something I’ve never done before, but why not.
What a month September has been. Amid family crises, personal issues, another birthday and travel to Chicago, I feel like I’ve been on a whirlwind of emotions, back to back.
Now that my mom’s surgery is over and was successful, I can breathe. She was schooling me on her funeral plans and debating her DNR (do not resuscitate) paperwork, all which took a subconscious toll on my mental health.
My son’s car was hit by a police SUV, accidentally, and after realizing he wasn’t significantly hurt, I gave thanks. Sharing my car with him for three weeks, hassling with insurance, and medical visits was troublesome but we made it through.
Getting another year older, seeing more gray hair and another wrinkle, or two, has its own issues, but hey, it’s better than the alternative.
Every week in September I received a rejection notice from some lit agent. File that in pfft.
Last week I got to travel to Chicago. That was a highlight of the month.
Chicago hot dogs (at Portillo’s) and deep dish pizza are every bit as good as the Chicagoans brag about.
Now I know why Chicagoans call pizza, a pizza pie and why Giordano’s is in the business of shipping frozen pies to your hometown. Two slices and you’re done for the evening, but the next day you want more.
We enjoyed an architectural and history tour of Chicago via boat-outstanding views of the skyline. The art museum is a gem as is Millennium Park, but what’s up with the crowds at Cloud Gate (The Bean)? This stainless steel sculpture got hordes of attention.
I have too many photos to post here, but if you’re interested and ‘do’ Instagram, I’ve just begun posting photos of my travels, art I find interesting, and insightful quotes.
In the meantime, I’m going to stretch and exhale for the next few days. I need to ‘re-center’ myself. Which may be the reason why this photo resonated with me. (By the way, the BMX rider isn’t falling, he’s popping a wheelie).
For more astonishing sports photos, see the Red Bull Illume 2016 Winners.