On London

We started our vacation with 4 days on our own in London, England. Because of its activity, offerings, and place in history, I previously described London as “the most grand” of the cities on our trip. This post features some random thoughts about this wonderful city with images that may or may not go along with the statement. Enjoy!

London is a blend of many cultures – especially white, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Black. Although I’m sure issues and bias exist, successful integration is obvious. The thought of over 300 different languages being spoken by its inhabitants is mind boggling.

London Bridge and Tower Bridge are not the same. Since 1209, 3 different London Bridges have existed – but none of them had towers. (In this image, London Bridge is behind Tower Bridge)

The River Thames has always played an important role in London’s economy and history. Once lined with warehouses, today many of the warehouses have turned into luxury condominiums and apartments or have been destroyed and replaced by upscale buildings for residents. I never realized that “wharf” as an acronym – warehouse at riverfront.

Big Ben is the bell – not the tower – not the clock – not the building. For the record, it sounds in the key of E.

Although Westminster is home to many buildings we associate with London, today they are separate burroughs – and the occupant of the throne (who resides in Westminster) must ask London’s Lord Mayor for permission to enter London.

London was the first city in the world to reach a population of 1 million – today’s population is approaching 9 million.

 

When visiting Buckingham Palace, look for the flag being flown to know whether or not the Queen/King is present. With the Union Jack flying above, we knew Queen Elizabeth was not in the palace as we watched the changing of the guard.

London offers much to see, but many come at a cost $20-25 per person (so married couples thing times two).

London is home to 13 professional football teams: of which 5 are in the Premier League.

Greenwich is a London borough a pleasant ferry ride down the River Thames. The Royal Observatory provides a wonderful view of the Maritime Museum and the Old Royal Naval College below with the city looming in the background.

A toast to London till we meet again.

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On a Vacation Primer

For those wanting some background music for the post, here’s some music from the land.

On to the post.

The image shows are 12-days of cruising. Keep in mind that we had 4 days in London before cruising, plus 3 days in Reykjavik, Iceland after the cruise. Both of these stops were independent of the cruise and done on our own.

I was struck by the fact that each of the major cities in the British Isles were quite different from one another.

  • The most grand: London, England
  • The most captivating: Edinburgh, Scotland
  • The most walkable: Dublin, Ireland
  • The most unexpectedly different: Liverpool, England
  • The most gut wrenching: Belfast, Northern Ireland

… and we didn’t just visit cities on the trip:

  • The most scenic countryside: Northern Scotland
  • The most solemn: American military cemetery at Normandy (Omaha Beach)
  • The most quaint: St. Peter Port, Guernsey
  • The most geologic diverse: Iceland

We walked a lot – averaging about 13,500 steps per day with over 25,000 being the most. When walking, my eyes are busy. For those who remember, when in Florence, Italy – I say “Look up!” Whether walking or passing by in a touring bus, these business signs on the trip caught my eye. Other than the obvious, any thoughts on what they sell?

 

On a Return

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Greetings fellow bloggers. I’ve missed your presence both here and on your blogs. Isn’t my personal greeter adorable?

Some have noticed that me snooping around with some visits, and (of course) my posted dedicated to #9 honoring the 9th anniversary of my little corner of the world.

The family is making progress with helping an elderly aunt. The task at hand seems monumental, but that’s not unexpected. We know there are several months of work ahead, so we don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel – but that will come. Hopefully the light won’t be another train.

There’s never a good time when it comes to dealing with elderly relatives. Good news is that we see progress on important milestones, plus our aunt is generally receptive to what we suggest. Unfortunately for us, our tasks were put on hold for a bit because of a long-planned vacation during August.

The Vacation

  1. A 5-hour drive to Chicago to eliminate a flight leg (each way) and for considerable financial savings
  2. Flew Chicago to Reykjavik to London Heathrow
  3. Spent 4 days in London (our first trip to the UK)
  4. Bused to Southampton to make the Caribbean Princess our home for 12 days cruising the British Isles (including a stop in France)
  5. Bused from Southampton to Heathrow for our flight to Reykjavik – instead of transferring to another flight, we stayed for 3 days
  6. Flew to Chicago, then made it to Cincinnati a few hours before the eclipse (about 90% coverage)

Our vacation was a good one, and I look forward to sharing various aspects about the trip with you. My apologies to my UK readers because I came to your wonderful region without stopping by to say hello. Our time in the ports are short, and we try to see as much as possible … and we stayed busy in London (which is easy to do).

Even though my plate remains full, I will return to posting on an irregular schedule. After all, I do have posts in the queue ready to go.

Hope all is well with everyone! … and here’s a fitting song for you.

On an Oh-My Meal

For a family gathering near the end of our trip to Italy this past October, my aunt wanted to take the entire family out to dinner. Well, actually a Sunday afternoon meal. Little did we know what to expect.

We drove about 45 minutes. Once we arrived I told my oldest cousin (in gist) that we passed 342 restaurants along the way, but they were closed – so this was the first one we could find that was open.

With the final part of the road being many twist and turns up a mountain, I knew that those who travel this road on this day must be going to the restaurant. In the image of the map, those familiar with Lucca (region of Tuscany) will see it toward the bottom. The restaurant is marked by the location icon.

The town is Fiano di Pescaglia, a small village with a population of less than 1,000 but a history that goes back to 847. On this day, the action centered on Ristorante da Valentino.

Note: I didn’t take any pictures of the meal, so you will have to rely on my descriptions. However, I want you to think about two important questions: How much did the meal cost (per person)? How long were we there?

RistoranteValentino

When entering the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was the number of people throughout the numerous sections of this casual place. We entered one of the small rooms that had 3 other groups already seated. There was our table – actually several tables arranged end-to-end with 9 settings and a large bottle of red wine located at each end.

Each of us first received a small plate of appetizers: a slice of lunchmeat (Mortadella), fried polenta, 5-6 olives, and cheese.

Later, the server came by with a large bowl of mushroom risotto, and served a comfortable portion to each of us … returning after a reasonable time with a question: Would you like more? It was good, so both my wife and I accepted the offer.

Next, the server returned with a large bowl of tagliatelli in a wild boar sauce. Oh my, that was outstanding … and I can’t believe my wife ate it as she’s typically not accepting of dietary oddities. Surprisingly, I said no to the “Would you like more” question.

Later, the server returned with rolled lasagna that contained a filling of cheese and spinach with a different red sauce – yes, followed with “Would you like more” on which I passed.

Up next from the server with the big bowl was ravioli with a meat filling and a different red sauce that went into the same bowl that I’ve been using since the risotto. Of course, “Would you like more?” would follow later … I couldn’t pass on a second helping of this delight.

Attendants removed the well-used bowl, so the plate was now ready for the arrival of the next course: a platter of meat for each end of the table – small pieces of chicken, ribs, beef, lamb, and rabbit. The meats were especially tasty.

Before finishing the meat, the server made space at each end of the table for a platter of french fries and a platter with fried mushrooms and fried cauliflower.

Once it was obvious we were finished with this course, a small plate of salad appeared – an odd place as we Americans are used to eating salads early to prepare the way for the meal. But in this case, the salad was readying us for dessert!

The server delivered a platter of of variety of desserts for each end of the table. Pies, tarts, and cakes provided a delightful end to the meal.

Before describing the meal, I asked two questions: How long were we there? How much did it cost?

Sometime during this culinary extravaganza, I walked around the restaurant wondering about the number of people being served – and it was 165-190! Regarding the meal, my wife and I both agree that we were not stuffed until the desserts (we must have suddenly ran out of inner digestive space).

Finishing the 22 Euro ($24) meal 4 hours after starting, then we walked further uphill to the church … and the beautiful view of the valley.

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If you ever in this area of northwestern Tuscany near Lucca on a Sunday, I suggest you make a reservation at Ristorante da Valentino, then find your way to Fiano di Pescaglia.

On a Beach Walk: No. 1

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Never a run – very seldom a stroll – but a walk – a good exercise – and as we age, walking keep us moving. My wife and I walk at home. We walk on vacation. We walk on the ship’s deck when cruising. We like to walk.

As we walk, conversations can be short or long – the topics deep or shallow – important or trivial. In times of silence, my mind keeps going – to think – to ponder the world. Thinking is also good exercise. Like the body, the mind must keep moving as we get older.

We walked a lot in January – yes – on the beach as this was our first attempt at being snowbirds from the north who went south for the winter. Walking on the beach as snowbirds facing the difficult daily questions of wondering about the temperatures at home – wondering what’s for dinner – wondering about the day of the week or the date because we aren’t sure. Be

As I walk the beach my contemplations are mental dictations on imaginary paper. Oh the blog post I have created my walking. Yes – the perfect words of never-to-be published gems that never make it outside my mind. Sometimes poetic in the rhythms of Frost, Keats, or Poe – well, at least in my mind.

My thoughts can be simple or complex. Some about wonder – some leading to awe. Others start with awe and lead to wonder. Some are personal, others professional, and others in wide-ranging topic – but fiction is a rare occurrence. All this as water refreshes my feet.

Sometimes after walking I attempt to recreate those insightful words. Usually in a notebook – but it’s never the same as the perfect string of words while walking the beach – yet future posts they will probably be – simple reflections from my mind as I walk on the packed sand along the water’s edge where water retreats to the sea.

There will be more walks in the weeks ahead because we were in the south for 27 days. More walks because I like walking the beach. It is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing my feet.

Do you like walking the beach? Long distances or short? Do you contemplate or just try to chill?

earlymornwalker

 

On a Few Bits Upon Return

Greetings readers!

My wife and I returned a week ago from vacation, so I thought it was time to say hello to fellow bloggers. Below are a few tidbits that are on my mind.

I know … some of you are eager to know where we went, so here’s the scoop. We spent 2 ½ weeks in Tuscany on a trip that combined vacation time for the two of us and time with my family (an aunt and 4 first cousins). More on that trip over time.

Life in the rolling hills of Tuscany with the olives and grapes is a difficult task, but we were willing to accept the challenge.

tuscany

On this trip I almost made a connection with Debra, the Australian blogger who vacations in Bagni di Lucca. (One of my favorite places) Maybe next time! … but at least we talked on the phone.

We definitely don’t enjoy journeys involving three flights, but given our destination, we had no choice … Cincinnati to Toronto to Munich to Pisa … .and the reverse on return.

I’m looking forward to returning to my volunteer efforts with English Second Language students (adults). Before leaving I only had one class with them, so I’m anxious to help and get to know more good people from around the world.

I’m still at the golf course, but hours are less (and that’s OK). Because of work, I haven’t been volunteering at ballroom dancing with Down Syndrome adults. Hopefully, that trend won’t continue.

Thanks to DVR, we used last week to get up-to-date with Dancing With the Stars.

The handbell choir played last Sunday. Because my wife and I haven’t practiced in three weeks, we had a chance to listen. Nice piece … hopefully I can find a video in time.

This may have been the case three years ago when I visited, but I didn’t notice – but Italians now have a recycling program. Whew … is it ever different than what we do. At least they are trying something.

Being away from the election madness was more than wonderful. No news – no talking heads – no political gibberish – pure silence. In one location we only had Italian television, so we didn’t watch anything. Two of my cousins had satellite television that offered English stations (and I assuming CNN International) – but we resisted the urge. The day after the debate I looked at the headlines in Politico, but didn’t read any article because the headlines told me everything I wanted to know.

The first Republican debate was many months ago. I didn’t watch any of them … I didn’t watch any of the Democratic debates … and I have continued my pattern during the general election by not viewing any of the 3 to date.

Italians were very interested in our thoughts. I frequently answered this way: Non mi fido di lei, ma lui è un matto pigliacchioI don’t trust her but he is a mad clown. They also seem very confused about how Donald Trump can even have a chance.

Meanwhile, cheers to the Dutch team that came up with this one.

On An Unexpected Cap

This Explore has nothing to do with a hat or cap because Cappadocia is a region in central Turkey. I first heard about this region around 2010 while watching a 60 Minutes segment about Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome – the head of the Orthodox Church throughout the world.

The segment captivated me in multiple ways because I don’t know much about the Orthodox Christianity or Turkey – but the part about Cappadocia and its role in early Christianity mesmerized me – especially the landscape and its history.

Today, hot air balloon rides are popular in this beautiful land of historical intrigue – the land whose rock sites are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Below the video are links to additional information about Cappadocia, including the 60-Minutes segment. Enjoy the journey and views courtesy of a drone.

More Informational Videos
Rick Steves segment with information and a balloon ride (3 minutes)
A travel promotion video (3 minutes)
60-Minutes segment that sparked my intrigue (14.5 minutes)