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July 20, 2014

Visiting England

Here are some final musings about visiting England:

I have always wanted to go to England, but found my travels to be directed elsewhere. And, as wonderful as those have been, my dream has always been to find a little cottage somewhere in England, stay for at least a month, and roam at will. I wanted to get acquainted with the country of my mother's birth and to discover my grandparents home, and reacquaint myself with my mother's British cousins who now live in Wales. Somehow this has never come to be -- but when Don's niece Connie wrote on Facebook that she would be spending her leave from the Peace Corp in London and invited anyone to join her, I simply responded, "Yes." Several things led to this decision -- I was tired of trying to fashion the perfect England visit in my head, and I had lots of air miles on my Chase card that allowed me to buy a very inexpensive ticket. My thought was, "Why not go and get acquainted with the place?" And, that was my goal.

Goal accomplished! The chance to be in London for four days, travel to another very colorful city of Bath, and to visit with a good friend in West Sussex and see a real castle in a charming, boutique town was the dessert after a lovely meal. This was a whirlwind trip -- if not the travel of my dreams. When I was in Singapore and Hong Kong with Dani and Charles, I lived in their residence and went sightseeing at leisure. In a small way, compared to my kids, I was able to soak up the culture while living in a foreign neighborhood and having a feel for how people lived. Both those countries were unique and memorable -- and I would go back to either in a heartbeat although Singapore was definitely my favorite.

I would still like to go back to England for an extended stay and have the leisure to relax more and to see so many other places and sights. However, I am thrilled to get a taste of the country after so many years of dreaming about it. I loved London -- and Dani was right when she said that staying in Bloomsbury near Russell Square was a great central location. My bucket list was mostly filled -- from seeing Westminster Abbey, several museums, some gardens, eating at famous places, learning the fantastic tube and train system, seeing such famous places as Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, Notting Hill, Charing Cross Road, going to Harrods, going to real British pubs, traveling through Victoria and Paddington Stations -- I got acquainted with so many of the things that I've read about, thought about, dreamed about. Then, going to Bath and Arundel -- both quaint in their own ways -- seeing Roman ruins and a real castle was icing on the cake.

There are certainly many things I did not see or do. But, that was ok. I was pleased with the places we stayed. All of them were fairly modest, but friendly and certainly adequate for all our needs. Our place in Bath was the nicest and the Shakespeare in London for our final day was the least comfortable -- but all served full breakfasts and all were friendly and very helpful to tourists. We also met several interesting people while dining -- especially the woman from USC who was now an art dealer in London and talked art with us after our visit to the Courtauld Gallery. Her husband was Swiss and a financier. Then there was the hostess of a restaurant who was from South Africa and had returned the night before from a safari. Those kinds of experiences enhance a trip because they are unforgettable.

So, in retrospect, I am very glad I finally dipped my toe into the Thames (so to speak). It just whetted my appetite for more. I have some relatives to discover. I chose tea with Cindy and her girls and visiting Hope over traveling to Wales to find cousins -- and that is fine. I enjoyed having my niece assist my travels since she has been all over the world. She probably made some different choices with a more elderly companion, and I thank her for that. I enjoyed hearing all about her adventure in Moldova. She will be there one more year.

All in all -- it was a winning experience. I am grateful beyond words.

Posted by Marilyn at July 20, 2014 10:38 AM


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