Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow Or Possibly Actual Agony

So, as I already knew it would be, yesterday was long. I woke up an hour earlier than necessary and eventually got up and showered and finished packing.

About the packing. Before even getting to Janis and Peter’s place, I knew I’d need to come up with a new luggage plan, because the gifts and souvenirs I’d bought, though small, did take up actual space and I had no more of it to spare in my carryon and backpack. Then when I arrived at Janis’s cozy flat, she had a little tower of gifts waiting for me—things that had belonged to her late mother, whom I knew and loved as Aunt Jen. And Janis had a solution to my packing dilemma also—she and Peter were willing to part with a large suitcase into which I could pack my carryon and the other things. All the other things. Then I could check that large case and have my backpack as my carryon.

So far so good. Everything easily fit into the massive green suitcase. But guess what? I couldn’t actually lift it. Since my surgery I’ve been on a lifting restriction so I am even more of a weakling than I would normally be. Janis had a hanging scale and according to that my suitcase weighed a little over fifty pounds. To me it felt like a hundred! But it did have two wheels and a pull handle, and I thought that all I’d have to do was lug it from one platform to another at Euston Station in London, and then to the luggage check-in at Heathrow.

Oh, if only that had been true! And remember, I have an injured toe that is quite painful inside a shoe of any kind, so walking long distances was something I hoped to avoid. Janis helped me get the suitcase onto the train and the trip to London was without incident. Unless you call this amusing announcement an incident:

“Seats are for bums. Please don’t put your feet on them.”

The scope of my challenges didn’t begin to sink in until I arrived in London and struggled to get my massive burden off the train platform and headed toward the Underground. There were stairs. And then instead of leading to another part of the same station (which is being remodeled), the signs pointing to the Underground led outside, down the sidewalk, and across a couple of roads.

Pulling that suitcase down the bumpy street was the most physically challenging thing I’ve done since giving birth. Puffing and sweating, I’d drag it for a few yards, then stop to catch my breath before switching hands and starting up again. I saw my generous time margin beginning to dwindle.

I reached the Underground station and had to get the case down a long flight of stairs. Each “bang” as it went down a stair felt like a hammer blow on my hand. But I had to keep going. I couldn’t just not go home! Halfway down those stairs, a kind young African man showed up to help me. He easily lifted the case and carried it down to the bottom for me. I was so grateful—but I still had a long, long way to go. And when I had a look at the diagrams on the walls, my heart sank, because this station was not on the line I needed to be on. I didn’t know what to do. I was already exhausted. I also needed desperately to use the “facilities” but there was zero chance I’d have the strength to haul the big case into and out of a railway station bathroom!

I found an Underground employee and asked for advice. He suggested I go to the Baker Street station, switch to another line, and make for Paddington, where I could get on an express train to Heathrow. My plan had been to avoid taking the express train because it is quite expensive, but my options were dwindling and so was the time.

I honestly don’t know how I got the thing to the platform, onto the train, then off the train, then to another platform and another train. Stairs were involved also. I had to remove my cardigan because I was perspiring from the sheer effort I put forth. My arms and legs were trembling. Finally I made it to Paddington and inquired about the express trains after struggling to reach someone who looked official. There was one going in two minutes on a nearby platform. I looked over there and knew there was no possible way I could get there in two minutes.

The guy I’d asked for advice took pity on me and suggested I get into the train at the closest platform, which wouldn’t be leaving for twelve minutes. I made it! By then several people had stopped me and asked me if I was all right. I told them I was, even though it wasn’t true. I was very close to something like despair, because this whole process seemed to be just beyond my physical capabilities. Yet I had to make my flight somehow!

Arriving at Heathrow was not the blessed relief I had expected it to be. There were long, long distances to walk while pulling my wheeled millstone. I had to stop and rest often because I was so, so weary. At last I got to the automated luggage check-in. It took many tries before I hefted that case up onto the conveyor belt—and then the thing stopped working. Once again, I had to seek help. The case’s weight was the issue, but I didn’t get charged excess baggage. The lady just put a tag on it that said “heavy,” which I knew only too well!

I thought I was home free then. I only had my heavy backpack and shoulder bag to carry, and I just had to find my gate. Which was a long, long way away and involved another train ride and more stairs. With the big case no longer distracting me, I realized how much my feet hurt, and especially my injured toe. But I kept going.

I had hoped to grab a quick bite to eat before my flight, because I knew they’d have nothing I could eat on the plane, but there just wasn’t time. I finally made it to my gate about half an hour before my plane started boarding. The whole process had taken about six hours! I felt so victorious. That was by far the most physically demanding goal I’ve achieved in many, many years.

You can imagine how delighted I was to sink into my seat on the plane. During the long ten-hour flight, I was able to take several naps. My shoes came off the instant I sat down and after that my toe felt much better. The plane left late and landed late, but at the end of it all, I had a cart to put that suitcase onto, and a husband waiting to help me get it in the car!

We drove into our own driveway at about 11:30 last night, and my poor husband still had to go do his cleaning job before he could go to bed. And he is also sick with a cold. I am sorry to say I did not wait up for him. Midnight our time is 6:00 in the morning in England! But I am so glad to be home and to have the things I went to so much effort to bring with me! Everything arrived intact.

Parting Shot:

One of the lovely windows in Lichfield Cathedral

A Long-Awaited Treat

Tuesday’s post, which I was unable to post due to lack of internet.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow I’ll be back in Texas! This trip has been so wonderful in every way, yet I’ve missed staying in touch with my family because my phone has not worked as promised by Verizon. I haven’t been able to use it at all unless I am on someone’s wifi, and that has been quite frustrating—which I wouldn’t even mention except to say that I will be glad to see my family again and find out what they have been doing in my absence!

Today started off with another lovely cup of tea, and then after Janis left for work I had time to do some packing and writing and staring off into space. When Janis returned, the three of us got in the car and went to pick up Janis’s sister Allison before continuing on to the Dog & Doublet in the pouring rain. We ran into the pub for a quick cup of tea and while we were there, Janis handed me a locally printed booklet on the history of Sandon (the village and the estate). I hadn’t read much before I knew I had to have a copy of that leaflet because it is inspiration gold for a writer. Hundreds of years of entertaining history. My favorite bit (that I had time to read while drinking tea) involved an aristocrat in the 1400s who tried to kill his enemy and left him for dead with his toes cut off and sticking out of his mouth. I didn’t have time to read further before leaving to keep our appointment at Sandon Hall.

Back in 1977, you see (and for many years thereafter), Janis’s dad worked for the Earl of Sandon as his clerk of works, and the family lived in a house on the estate. So when my family visited them that summer, that’s where we stayed. Janis and I roamed all over the large estate and I remember wishing I could see the inside of the stately mansion. In fact it has been on my bucket list ever since.

So you can imagine my delight when we drove up to Sandon Hall and were treated to a very entertaining tour guided by a man who has worked there for thirty-eight years and remembers Janis’s father well. The earl no longer lives on the estate and the house is mostly used as a wedding venue now, but it was wonderful to finally see the inside and hear some of the stories. I especially was interested in seeing and hearing about the famous war horse, Christ Church. His head and tail are mounted on the wall!

From there we progressed to the church, which dates to the 1200s and which Janis and I had enjoyed visiting back in 1977. Unfortunately it wasn’t open, but we could go all around the outside and through the graveyard. By then the rain had mostly stopped.

We dropped Allison back at her house and continued back to have more tea at Janis and Peter’s flat. I spent some time looking at some videos Janis had recorded that covered some of the history of Sandon Hall, and enjoyed my final supper with my thoughtful hosts. Janis and I finished the evening by watching the Great British Bake Off and going over my travel plans for tomorrow, which is going to be a long, long day.

The Cathedral Tour of Britain

Yesterdays’s entry:

Is there a better way to start the day than having a friend bring you a lovely cup of tea while you are still in bed trying to motivate yourself to get up? I don’t think so. One of the great things about this trip is the consistently good tea I’ve been offered everywhere I go!

Even with the encouragement of tea, I got off to a very slow start this morning, taking a shower and gathering up all my laundry. This is the first time I’ve been somewhere long enough to be able to wash things and wait for them to dry.

I had a nice visit with Janis over more tea until she had to leave for work. I followed her downstairs so that her husband Peter could show me around the flat he is renovating for future sale. This old Georgian house is large and has been split up into five different flats. Since it is a “listed” building there are quite strict requirements regarding what they can or can’t do to it. And the layout is very quirky! But I know it will be charming when it’s done.

I spent the rest of the morning hanging out my wash and catching up on a few things online. And realizing I was going to have to take some ibuprofen. Last night I misjudged where the corner of the bed was and stubbed my toe quite badly—badly enough that the pain woke me up several times in the night. My sandals press on just the wrong spot. So I knew before I left for the day’s adventures I’d need to take something.

At midday Peter and I drove to pick up Janis and then drive to the nearby town of Lichfield, where we had lunch in a restaurant whose building dates back to 1510! And to my delight the room we ate in was decorated with musical instruments—including an autoharp!

Janis and I limped up and down the streets in hopes of finding some things on my list, and mostly succeeded. She has to wear a “boot” on her foot after twisting it badly a few weeks ago. I was limping due to my toe injury.

We met back up with Peter at the Samuel Johnson museum. The great dictionary author was from the town of Lichfield and the museum is in his family’s home. From there we walked through the rain to a little café by the cathedral where we could get a cup of tea. Lichfield is my fifth cathedral on this trip. All of them have been stunning. So much beauty in stone! And one of the stone effigies had a dragon curled around his feet . . .

Back in Janis and Peter’s apartment, we had more tea and prepared for guests. Janis had invited her youngest sister Allison over and a couple of others whom we went to school with in Zambia. Pellë had been in my grade and his wife Ruth in one of the younger grades. So it was a very convivial group sharing reminiscences over the course of the evening. This trip has basically been a traveling school reunion!

Tomorrow, on my last day in the UK, I will be checking one final thing off my bucket list . . .

On the Move Again

Okay I have corrected the typo in yesterday’s entry. My smart aleck little brother pointed it out on Facebook after I had packed my computer so there was nothing I could do! I also corrected the punctuation error.

This morning when I woke up in Dumfries, it was raining. How could I complain? I’ve had the best weather in the world ever since I arrived on this side of the ocean. So I worked (rather slowly) on organizing and packing my stuff. I had to add a new bag.

Meanwhile, poor Maggie apparently had come down with a stomach bug, so while I was sleeping peacefully in her guest room, she was having quite a different kind of night. So neither of us went to church. She wasn’t well and I needed time to pack.

We were on our way to the station when I remembered my cheese. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the fact that the cheese here is so much better than any cheese I’ve bought in the USA. So much. Better. I had bought a little chunk of cheese on Skye and Maggie and I had eaten some of it on our last night there. I had thought I’d slice up the rest of it and take it to eat on the train in case I got peckish. Because my remaining time to eat British cheese is very short.

Well, here we were on the way to the station and I had no cheese. There really wasn’t time to go back for it. But Maggie knew a place to shop where she could dash in and dash out with cheese! So I had cheese to take on the train after all.

Today’s train journey was more stressful than previous trips because I had to change trains twice and because I had an extra bag. Both times I felt very rushed hauling my heavy luggage through the station from one platform to another. But both times I succeeded in getting onto the correct train. And at the end of my southward journey, my friend Janis was waiting for me! I haven’t seen Janis in nineteen years.

She and her husband Peter brought me to their lovely flat on the top floor of a house that is more than 200 years old. We had a delicious dinner and then Janis and I visited in the living room and started getting caught up on the last couple of decades. There are plans for tomorrow and I am looking forward to them!

Castles, Lochs, and Socializing

Please forgive the tardiness of this post—I was just too tired to stay up any later last night! Yesterday morning we woke up much earlier in our lovely little pod as we were on the east side of the island and hoped to see the sunrise. At the beginning I could just lie in my comfy bed and watch the sky begin to color through the glass door, but eventually I pulled on a cardigan and joined Maggie on the deck to take some photos.

After the drama of the sunrise was over, I went to work making our breakfast from the leftover food we had. The bacon kept setting off the fire alarm so I cooked while Maggie fanned the steam away from the smoke detector!

We ate our delicious breakfast on the deck overlooking the sea, listening to cocks crowing and cows mooing. We watched the cute little goats emerge from their shed and start loudly begging for their breakfast. Then it was time to pack up and get back on the road, because we had an appointment to keep.

We weren’t so hurried, however, that we couldn’t make a quick stop at Eilean Donan Castle after we crossed the bridge back to the mainland.


Eventually we made it to a little marina on a loch, where Maggie’s dad was patiently waiting for us. He had gone to a lot of trouble to see us as he was on a cruise, and he had to arrange to be dropped off at this marina while the boat took the other passengers out kayaking.

So anyway, we picked him up and took him to a little restaurant overlooking Stalker Castle for lunch. I was very anxious to meet him by then because Maggie’s told me so much about him over the last few days and I am in awe of all his accomplishments. Oh, and did I mention that he’s 90? He was very disgruntled over the fact that his legs seem to be giving out on him after only walking one or two miles!

We had a lovely visit over lunch and then sat outdoors for a while on a bench overlooking the loch and the castle.

Then we had to drop him off at the marina again to await pickup while we raced on to our next appointment—a brief visit with two elderly ladies who also once lived and worked in Zambia. We were entertained with tea and goodies and a very enthusiastic Cairn terrier.

Finally, we headed back toward Dumfries, but we stopped to tour the stunning St. Conan’s Kirk and despite Maggie’s skilled driving, we didn’t make it to the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond until after sunset. So I saw Loch Lomond in the gloaming.

We were hungry by the time we reached Glasgow, but had a hard time finding a restaurant with any open tables. We ended up eating at a very large and crowded Indian place, but the food was fabulous. Thanks to that little detour, it was 11:30 before we reached Maggie’s lovely home in Dumfries. And I still needed to take a bath!

Oh the Posh Posh Traveling Life

I have to say—I came to the UK prepared for the worst sort of weather but have been incredibly blessed with the best sort of weather. Today was yet another fabulous sunny day and I didn’t even need to wear a cardigan or jacket for most of it. Maggie and I slept in till almost 9:00 in our cozy little pod since we didn’t have any pressing plans. We packed up and loaded the car and then drove down the road to the Skye Museum of Island Life. This is just a little group of several traditional stone buildings with thatched roofs, depicting a now-departed lifestyle. There was the three-room house (which once housed a family with ten children), the byre, the smithy, and a couple other buildings. And lots of stuff about Bonnie Prince Charlie! It was all very interesting.

Then we drove on through the breathtaking landscape to an observation area where we could see the Quiraing, a distinctive rock formation that is a landmark here in Skye. The little parking lot was very crowded and the coffee booth was doing a brisk business.

Then it was on to the main town of Portree, where we stopped at a lovely café for lunch. Afterward we browsed the shops on the main street and I picked up a couple of souvenirs, including my one skein of souvenir yarn. I could hardly come to Scotland and not buy yarn, right?

We got back on the road and I know that sounds boring but you have to understand that everywhere you look here in Skye you will see stunning natural beauty and there is nothing boring about it at all. We drove to the town of Talisker as Maggie had booked us a tour of the Talisker Whisky Distillery. The tour was interesting and informative and at the end we were all offered a wee sip of their whisky. After learning about the process of making it, I could understand why it is so expensive!

Maggie had booked us into another glamping pod for tonight, on the south side of the island this time, so we’ll be strategically poised to drive back to the mainland tomorrow. We stopped at a real butcher shop to pick up some lamb & venison sausages, a chicken breast, and some thick slices of bacon. We got to the pod which is actually a little more posh than the one we had last night. Bedding is provided and we have an outdoor fireplace! And even a little TV (which we haven’t turned on).

While Maggie grilled the meat on a little disposable grill, I chopped vegetables and stir-fried them to accompany our dinner. So I feel I should pause for a moment to sing the praises of my little Opinel folding knife, which is at least 30 years old. Once I knew I’d have to check my carryon suitcase, I went ahead and packed a knife because you just never know when you’ll need one. Both last night and tonight the pods have not had a knife that was sharp enough for peeling and chopping vegetables. So it’s a good thing that I brought one.

We had a delicious supper sitting out on our deck in front of our fire, looking out over the breathtaking view of the island and the sea. And later, after the sun set and we were enjoying hot tea and cheese, we found ourselves sitting under a spectacular star-spangled sky as we chatted. And now, we finally have internet so I can tell you all about it!

Parting Shot:

Part of the view from tonight’s pod. I could get used to this glamping life.

Over the Sea to Skye

This is yesterday’s post that I was unable to post due to lack of internet:

Perhaps it’s fitting that I should take a voyage on Talk Like a Pirate Day. My incredible adventure continues!

This morning we were up early and on the road from Edinburgh by 7:30. Once we left the city behind, the views were absolutely stunning, especially when we reached Glencoe. We also stopped briefly at Stirling Castle (without going in) so I could say hello to Robert the Bruce.

There were many brief stops for photos! And I managed to capture an ephemeral rainbow from the window as we drove past:

Thanks to all the stopping, we were barely in time by the time we reached the railway station at Fort William. Maggie dropped me off there and continued on by road to Mallaig.

Meanwhile, I boarded the legendary train to ride from Fort William to Mallaig (not the famous Jacobite steam train, but the same track). This was when Maggie’s OCD came in very handy. She had actually booked me two tickets for this ride—one on each side of the car, both of which were window seats. According to her research, the left side of the coach was the one with the best views.

So I sat down in the seat she said was on the left side—and it was. But here’s the rub: it was on the left side facing forward as the train came in to the station. But that particular line ends in Fort William, so when the train pulled out, it went in the opposite direction. Suddenly I was on the right side of the coach—and facing backwards!

I looked across the aisle to where my other seat was. A young man was sitting there chugging down half a gallon of orange juice. I am not at all assertive, but as the train got underway I soon realized that all the good views would be on the left side—and this is almost certainly my one and only trip to this part of Scotland. So I produced my second ticket and politely explained to the young man that I had a ticket for that seat.

He obligingly moved away, and in fact he commandeered the seat I had just vacated. I slid into my window seat and feasted my eyes on the jaw-dropping views. I hope some of my photos of the Glenfinnan viaduct turned out! What an amazing ride.

When the train pulled into Mallaig, Maggie was there and waiting and within minutes we were in the car driving onto the ferry for Skye. It was short ferry ride, but I enjoyed climbing up to the top deck and getting some photos of the sunlight on the sea and the approaching coastline of Skye as I quietly hummed the Skye Boat Song to myself.

Getting off the ferry proved to be quick and easy, and we soon found ourselves driving north on Skye. We stopped at a rather isolated tea room for a cup of tea and some spectacular views before continuing past the main town of Portree and on up. We took a bit of a detour to see the “fairy glen” which was very pretty but also muddy!

We arrived at our cosy little hut in the late afternoon. Maggie had arranged for us to “glamp” tonight in a little “pod” on almost the very northern tip of Skye. It is so cute! We have a picnic table outside, and a little porch. Inside we have a table and four chairs, a double bed, and a seating bench that doubles as a bed. And a bathroom with shower, and a little kitchen with a sink, double hot plate, microwave and fridge. It’s perfect. We made omelets for supper and ate them at our picnic table while watching the sunset over the sea. Because, yeah, the view is to die for. We would have stayed out there longer if it wasn’t so chilly. Even with my “warm” cardigan on I was cold!

A little later we were invited to go visit some friends of Maggie’s family’s who live near here. It was a bit of an adventure getting there in the dark (sheep in the road!), but we managed at last and found ourselves sitting in front of a roaring fire with a lovely feast spread out before us. Our hosts are a charming couple who also once lived and worked in Zambia.

So today was basically a spectacular road trip, with very little walking involved. I don’t feel guilty as I have walked so many miles since leaving Texas!

Parting shot:

Our home for the night.

Peter Pan and Edinburgh

I slept well my first night in Scotland, despite staying up way too late last night trying to post yesterday’s entry! This morning after getting up and showering (and having tea, of course), Maggie and I picked up her sister Christine and the three of us toured a new attraction in Dumfries—Moat Brae. It’s the house that inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan, based on his adventures with his friend who lived in the house when he was a boy. The lady at the desk told us to just sneak around the house as if we were trespassing! It is a beautiful home and we enjoyed going from room to room and seeing the Peter Pan themed features.

With the McKenzie sisters!

Then we went out to the garden where they have set up all sorts of fun places for kids to play. My kids would have LOVED it when they were young! We probably would have stayed longer if Christine hadn’t needed to get home to finish packing for her trip to Spain. So we took her home and I said goodbye, and then we went back to Maggie’s house to finish our own packing for our road trip.

We were on the road shortly after 1:00 and arrived in Edinburgh in the middle of the afternoon. Our objective was to tour the castle. We started off doing the half-hour tour and that was very helpful. We saw the Scottish Crown Jewels and I also got a photo of Maggie in front of St. Margaret’s Chapel (the oldest building in Edinburgh) standing beside the cannon named “Mons Meg.” I enjoyed all of it!

From there we walked down onto the Royal Mile and I did a rather frantic circuit of St. Giles Cathedral before they kicked us out. I believe this was cathedral #4 for this trip. I have loved them all!

We returned to the car park via the Princess Street Gardens which are so lush and green. We tried to get a good look at Holyrood House, but apparently they are filming a movie there so we didn’t see much! The next challenge was finding a parking spot near Maggie’s friend Liz’s house. She lives in downtown Edinburgh, so we had to park a block away. But we made it! And Liz made us a fabulous supper and has been a most gracious hostess.

Tomorrow we leave early to hit the road again . . .

Parting shot:


A final glimpse of Edinburgh Castle in the light of the setting sun.

Postscript—In case you wondered, I AM taking lots of photos, about 400 per day. I just haven’t had time to do much with them at all.

A Castle, A Cathedral, & A Wall

If you haven’t read the essay I posted earlier, you should read that first. Maybe after reading it, you’ll understand why I wanted to come to Carlisle, the location of one of the most serious crises our family has faced. It was also where I first began to think that telling stories was something that I wanted to take seriously.

When I was planning this trip, and knowing I would finally be going to Scotland (the events mentioned in the essay kept us from reaching it back then) I knew I had to stop in Carlisle. The burning question on my mind, though was this: did the hotel we stayed at still exist? Could I stay there? I can’t explain it, but for decades now I have dreamed of going back to Greysteads Hotel. It was a haven of peace during a time when our family was going through so much stress and turmoil.

I found its address and phone number, but no website. I had to enlist my friend Adrienne’s help as I did not have an international calling plan. She called and was able to book me a room for last night, and the price was very reasonable.

So when I finally stepped out of the taxi and into the parking lot next to the very familiar-looking building, I wondered what I would find when I stepped inside. Would it be all modern? What was the owner like?

Michael, the owner, heard the sound of my suitcase wheels on the sidewalk and rushed out to take my luggage and welcome me. We walked inside and it was like stepping back in time. I’m sure some changes have been made, but the overall effect was that in fact everything was the same. As in a dream, I followed him up to my room. It was perfectly old fashioned, from the velvet patchwork bedspread, to the sink in the corner, to the wardrobe and dressing table. A tea tray waited next to an electric kettle.

Michael was curious to know how I had heard of his place, since he doesn’t advertise. I told him I had been a guest in 1970. Turns out he is the son of the couple who ran it back then. In fact, that summer he was eight years old and surely we must have met. He confirmed my memories of the gorgeous Afghan hound and the pony. Apparently the pony was a biter! And Michael was very relieved when I told him my brother had survived and grown up to be a Marine.

Michael insisted on making me some supper and bringing it up to my room. I had the whole floor to myself as I was the only guest. I sat drinking my tea and just soaking in the atmosphere. I took a long luxurious bath. I had been afraid that all kinds of traumatic memories would surface, but they didn’t. Just the memories of feeling safe and calm. I wanted to just enjoy those precious few hours and not write about them until afterward.

This morning, I was treated to a full English breakfast sitting alone in the dining room. (Michael’s primary income comes from hosting and catering “funeral teas.”) Then, since Christine wasn’t due to come get me until 1:30, I set off for Carlisle Castle on foot, armed only with Michael’s verbal directions.

Google had told me it was a distance of 1.1 miles—easy, right? Well . . . I had to ask for directions three times. And by the time the castle finally hove into view I know I had walked at least two miles. So I was behind schedule. I didn’t get to see everything in the castle because I also wanted to see the cathedral. I did walk the ramparts and see as much as I could.

Then it was on to the cathedral which I had already passed and which was in clear sight from the castle. My taxi driver last night had been quite adamant that I had to see the cathedral and especially the ceiling. He wasn’t wrong:

So I raced through the cathedral and then faced the problem of getting back to the hotel. It was 12:30 or a little later. I asked a guide at the cathedral how to go about getting a taxi back to the hotel. The answer was, “Go to the train station.” I figured if I had to walk all the way to the train station, I might as well hoof it back to Greysteads. The only problem was how to find my way? I walked and walked and walked, periodically consulting a simplified map which Michael had given me. I refused to panic when I didn’t see any of the street names on the map.

Finally, I reached a street that WAS on the map! Then it was just a matter of making my tired legs keep going. I was so worried that Christine would reach Greysteads before me and wonder where I was. I puffed up to the door at 1:20 and she hadn’t arrived yet. Whew! Michael rushed to bring me a glass of water and a table to set it on—even in the middle of frantically preparing for a large Mormon funeral tea!

Christine arrived and we took some photos. By the time we left, Michael was out there mowing the lawn so it would look nice for the Mormons! What a lovely little interlude that was.

Meanwhile, Christine and I were on our way to Hadrian’s Wall. She wanted to go to a section she hadn’t seen before, so we actually drove quite a distance. We parked and went to get our tickets. Turns out it was quite a hike up to where the ruins of the old Roman fort sprawled over the hillside. Remember, I had already walked a good four miles that morning! I made it to the top, but I was slow. We walked past a lot of sheep, and around a lot of sheep droppings.

We perused the museum first before going out to explore the fort. It was a fabulous, spectacular sunny day. We both wanted to get the chance to walk along the actual wall, but there didn’t seem to be a way to get there from the walled fort without walking a really long way round. So we saw a place where there was a fence and we climbed over the fence. I never thought I would or could climb over a fence at my age, but Christine (a mere babe in arms compared to me) helped me.

It was worth it! We had a lovely walk along the top of the wall and back again. Walking all the way back down to the parking lot on that steep path was torture though! I was very glad to get a cup of tea at the bottom. Then it was a drive through the dreamy green landscape into Scotland. We stopped in the town of Lockerbie to visit the memorial garden there in memory of the victims of the Lockerbie disaster.

Finally we arrived in Dumfries. Christine cooked dinner while I gazed at her husband’s seawater aquarium with its lovely fishes and corals. Maggie (Christine’s sister) joined us and brought her son to say hello before he headed back to college in Glasgow. Tonight I am staying with Maggie and tomorrow we head out on our road trip. Maybe I should get some sleep. Also—my legs are very tired.

Parting Shot:

Much Have I Traveled in the Realms of Gold

I was up at 5:45 this morning, repacking all my stuff. I have to really, really work at getting it all to fit into the luggage I brought with me—and I had no other choice as I’d be traveling by train today.

But first, Richard took Adrienne and me into London, where we caught the tube to King’s Cross and I found a place to leave my two heaviest bags. Then we headed off on foot for the British Library. You see, both the Wren Library and the Pepys Library in Cambridge were closed during my visit. So Adrienne had the BRILLIANT idea of taking me to see the British Library, which I gather is the equivalent of our Library of Congress.

The stacks are not open, so the only way to look at a book is to sign up for a reading card, which you can use to request the books you want to see, and they are then sent to the reading room of your choice (there are several). So Adrienne and I went through the rather lengthy process of getting our cards.

Best souvenir ever! And for the next year I can go to the British Library whenever I want and request a book! (LOL) So anyway, Adrienne requested a book but the wait time on delivery was 70 minutes, so we went down to take a look at the “Treasures of the British Library” exhibition.

Little did we know what wonders lay in store. It might just as accurately be called “Treasures of World Civilization.” I think the very first thing I saw was a sketchbook of Michelangelo’s. And one by Durer. And music handwritten by Bach, Handel, and Mozart. A Shakespeare First Folio. One of the Lindisfarne manuscripts. The original handwritten lyrics for the Beatles’ song, “Yesterday.” A notebook full of the miniscule manuscript of Charlotte Brontë. Lyrics and librettos handwritten by Gilbert and Sullivan. Handwritten letters from Gandhi, Oliver Cromwell, and Queen Victoria.

First Folio

I confess, I choked up. “Treasures” seems like an understatement for what they have in that room. By the time we had seen it all, our time was up but we didn’t even care that we never got to go to a reading room. It was more than worth it to spend our time with the treasures. To be honest, that was one of the more intense experiences of my life. I still can’t believe I saw all those original works!

After tearing ourselves away from the library, we had to walk back to get my luggage and then retrace our steps and go another couple of blocks to get to Euston Station, which is where I’d be leaving from. We got some water and a place to sit and catch our breath while we waited for the board to show what platform I’d be leaving from.

Again, we packed a lot into my visit but it still seemed too short. Adrienne was able to walk me to my train and even help me haul my luggage up into the car. It was so hard to say goodbye. In just a couple of days I’ve become very attached to her and her family.

Once on the train, my very polite seatmate was kind enough to hoist my very heavy suitcase onto the overhead shelf for me. Over the next four hours he drank a large amount of wine but remained quiet and polite. I napped for the first couple of hours but then was able to enjoy the beautiful countryside rolling past the window.

I arrived at my (undisclosed) location and after walking a long way for nothing, finally got a taxi which was driven by a very gregarious and talkative man who does not hold with modern inventions such as “computers” and “the internet” and “credit cards.” He gave me some tips on things to see and used the words “nowt” and “bonny” quite liberally.

I am in a perfectly peaceful place tonight—the one night on this trip I won’t be staying with a friend. I have deeply personal reasons for being here, which I may or may not have time to write about tomorrow. I am looking forward to getting a great night’s sleep.

Parting Shot:

Two ladies who have just been thunderstruck by the treasures of the British Library.