Britain TRAVEL JOURNAL--part 4 (England tour extension)
Monday, July 2, 2001, Kensington, London
Good thing I don't gamble. I didn't find any tombs or stones. Please! They must have thousands of graves around there, at York Minster. Where were they moved? Are they covered by a plaza?
Well, let's do it chronologically. As a group, we hiked through the medieval streets to the Yorvik Viking Museum. It was probably close to two miles, some of it uphill. I fell behind, and stopped for a public restroom, so I was separated from the group, very early on. The museum was a multi-media presentation, a ride through a real archaeology dig, populated by animatronic humans and animals. It was dated ca 975 AD. The fossils and finds were interesting.
I'd heard (well, overheard) about a York Castle museum in the gift shop, so I inquired. It was three blocks more, which I walked, of course. "It's only a five-minute walk," was the response everywhere I went. When the castle (Clifford's Tower) came in sight, I totally blew off the museum idea! I climbed steep concrete stairs up the motte, the keep's bank, paid a £2 admission, and was in the bailey of my ancestors' castle. Eventually, I climbed the steep and uneven spiral steps up a tower, to get to the top battlements. I had a stranger take my picture up there on the battlements, with the Minster in the background. He didn't seem to know English, but he could press the proper button on the camera! The man was tall and Nordic looking. The castle was built by Henry III and named Clifford's Tower (I have Cliffords, Marcher lords, back there, too). By the time I got down all those steps, there was no way I could walk the 1.5+ miles back to York Minster, where everyone else was, so I called a taxi from a nearby hotel desk.
I got into a group tour after photographing the carved stone statues of my ancestors from William I to Edward III. I visited the crypt in hopes of finding tombs, but it was actually Roman remains and the Norman foundations of the existing gothic cathedral. I walked the half mile back to the hotel and waiting bus.
We drove for five hours to Central London, with me in the jumpseat taking pictures, again, and here I am!
A tour guide met us and rode along for 90 minutes while pointing out sites I've read about for years. The guide reminded me, in a subtle way, of a person I loved very much, for a long time.
Tuesday, July 3, 2001, Kensington
It's 90 degrees in this hotel room, with no fan. The window opens eight inches at the bottom. No breeze. This sucks. Actually, it was hot all day. This was the day our tour group split. Some went walking and shopping; others took a city sightseeing tour. All who were flying back today met at 1 p.m. to shuttle to Heathrow. But I wouldn't know about that.
I was on the sightseeing double-decker bus. Included was a 50-minute cruise on the Thames. That was a cool and breezy oasis in the warm day. I had a fish-n-salad (substituted for chips) at an outdoor restaurant in a small park on the Embankment, and listened to a live jazz band and watched pigeons. The pigeons know when diners are finishing up, and start flying in closer, like short, fat vultures.
I shopped for an hour in the very hot Picadilly Circus area, and at Victoria Station. I got back to the tour bus and saw another loop or two of London. I was making my way back to Kensington, where my bags were stowed at the Hilton, but the traffic out to the West End was gridlocked. Took two hours to crawl from Baker Street station out to Holland Park. I was the last person on the bus, and I told them I'd walk the last two blocks, which thrilled them. Would have been another 30 minutes in the bus! Then I waited a further 90 minutes, 'til 8:30 p.m., to call a taxi, so I wouldn't have to pay to sit in traffic on the transfer to my hotel reservation in South Kensington. I was hot and gritty from the bus rides, my feet are sore and swollen. Finally I got here, to the Kensington Edwardian, and had to schlep my own bags to the top floor, via the lift. It's now 11 p.m. and still 90 degrees in here. I've had a cold shower, and begged for a fan, but it's unavailable. I've got a wet hand towel over my shoulders.
Wednesday, July 4, 2001, Kensington
Right. My patriotic American-versus-British revolutionary act, this Independence Day, was to get my hotel room changed. Told the manageress, very politely and quietly, that a 90 degree room and bad mattress left me in agony, that my attempt at makeup had melted off, that I needed better accommodation and a fan, and that their two lifts were not working, and I wasn't willing to climb up five floors in an airless stairwell to boot. They moved me to a first floor (actually mezzanine) corner room with cross ventilation, and brought a fan. It's still not exactly cool, but 15 degrees off, plus moving air helps a lot. I was finally on my way at 10:30.
I have to walk about half a mile plus a block, to get to the Tube at Gloucester Road Station. So I'm hot and footsore before I'm started. I got off the airless train at Westminster Station, and came up right at the Thames River, with Boudicca's monument above me. Big Ben was ringing Westminster Chimes (natch) at 11, as I walked to the Abbey church.
Tons of people had the same idea as I did, and Westminster Abbey was very crowded. I rented the audio guide and made my way through all the side chapels. Thousands of monuments, graves, wall plaques, floor stones, etc., honoring the dead. I was touched by one eighteenth century monument to a young woman. It extolled her Christian virtues in beautiful prose, and actually made me wish to have known her. Now that's good writing! Eventually, I got around to the back sides of the ancestors' graves around the chancel, and close to the Edward the Confessor shrine. I caught glimpses of the sides of the effigies, but the place tourists could stand was much lower than even the bottom of the sarcophagi. Also a strict policy on photos (as in, NONE), but no books or postcard photos have pix of what I want: overhead shots of the burial effigies of my forebears. The chancel was roped off, so no access to the sarcophagi that way unless I was an on-staff Anglican priest.
I stopped several times to rest my excruciatingly painful feet. At 12:30, I took Anglican Communion in the far west part of the nave. The prayers and parts of the Protestant "mass" were really beautiful. I visited the undercroft and museum (cool: I'd read about the undercroft treasury/exchequer in Sharon Kay Penman books), the bookshop, and the evensong service. Only no song! Just prayers. They only sing every other Wednesday, and I was there a week too early or a week too late.
I stopped at a restaurant for tomato basil soup, and bought grapes and a bottle of milk in the Gloucester Rd Tube station, and walked by the McDonalds and Texas Lone Star Grill, Burger King and Starbucks.
Hotel room is much cooler than starving-artist garret of last night. Wrote postcards this evening.
I keep wondering, Could I be more tired? And then I answer myself, Yes, I'm more tired and in more pain than the last time I asked myself that question.
Thursday, July 5, 2001, Kensington
Oh, my burning and aching ankle stubs. Have worn off original, God-given feet issued at birth. It's so hot and humid, too! OK, enough groaning.
Walked through hot, damp haze to Tube station, rode Picadilly line to Great Russell Square. Then it was at least three-quarters of a mile to the British Museum. (Another "five-minute walk.") Must say, however, that anyone I ask for directions, including Tube personnel, are very helpful and friendly, despite that Five-Minute Walk they keep telling me.
Anyway, at the British Museum, I walked up the front, outside stairs. Then after buying my special exhibit ticket, up two more flights to the Cleopatra show. This is six stories so far, if you're keeping track, not even counting the many flights in the Tube stations. After seeing Cleo-baby, Julius Caesar, Octavian Augustus, Marc Antony, and lots of naked Egyptians, I had to leave the blessedly air-conditioned exhibit. Probably the only a/c in the British Isles.
I had to go down four stories to get to the other halls, and then up four stories plus a long gallery walk, to the Celtic and Roman Britain displays. I was following directions in the Visitor Guide. It was hot and airless in the display rooms, and no benches or chairs to sit on, either. A security guard let me have his chair and fan for about 20 minutes until my soaking wet hair dried off, and my body temperature came back to normal. Have I mentioned that nothing in Britain is air conditioned? (Oh, I have. Sorry.) My makeup had of course melted before I got halfway to the Tube, and my hair was dripping with perspiration.
But for all my aches and pains and fever, it was worth the effort. I saw so many artifacts I'd seen in history or art books. In fact, every time I saw something amazing and beautiful in a picture, the photo credit always said, "The British Museum." So here I was, seeing Lindow (peat bog) Man, Sutton Hoo mask, Rosetta Stone, Easter Island Head guy, Elgin marbles, Cleopatra, Ramses II, the Ram in the Thicket, mummified people and cats, Assyrian winged beasts, etc. So impressive.
I had lunch in the nice restaurant: cran-blueberry sparkling mineral water on ice, and strawberries with clotted cream. Took Tylenol several times to little effect. After begging a warden, I was shown the well-hidden and discreet lifts! They'd been holding out on me.
At 5 p.m., I changed into my gold metallic top and black jacket I'd been carrying in my bag, and walked a few painful blocks to a bus stop. Caught one to the Strand, and then tanked up on bottled water and skim milk from a market, then a mocha frappucino at Starbucks. Man, I was dehydrated after all the heat, perspiration, walking, stair climbing, etc. Finally, though, I was feeling better (probably the caffeine and sugar). I walked around the corner to the Lyceum Theatre and picked up my ticket to the show, Lion King. (Up stairs, down stairs, up stairs once more.) I shared a box in the baroque theater with a Kentucky university student. When the show started, an actor in full costume came into our box, and I involuntarily whispered, "All right!" So he bent down and kissed me on the lips! A spotlight was shown on him, and he started singing across the theater to his counterpart in the opposite box. It was over in a minute, and the show started on the stage. The choreography of the dancers, dancer/puppeteers, and people who played scenery (trees and grass) was very creative and so beautiful. Genius, really, to conceive of it.
After the three-hour show, I was told to walk for "five minutes" to Charing Cross Station for the Tube. Wrong station, but I did snap a photo of Eleanor of Castile's Eleanor Cross, recreated after Civil War dismantling. (Yes, Eleanor's another ancestor.) After another Five Minute Walk (sure, sure), I got to the Embankment or Strand Station, whatever. There had been a rain shower during the show, but now it was cleared off, cooler, and there were puddles. Took the Tube back toward the hotel, and walked here again. I can't write this without dozing off again and again.
Friday, July 6, 2001, Kensington
I'm actually writing Friday's entry on Saturday morning, but DEAL WITH IT. I'll write as if it's still Friday:
By 8:45 a.m., I set out for the Tube station, took the subway as far as it went, at Ealing Broadway, then bought a £3.40 round-trip train ticket via Slough to Windsor/Eton station. Walked up the slight hill to the castle ticket office, and was there at 10:40. Then I hiked up a steeper hill, around the castle keep, then down the hill to the castle's lower ward to watch the changing of the guard at 11. No short cuts in England. The fife and drum band was good, but there sure was a lot of fuss and ceremonial slapping of guns and stomping! Took half an hour, too. Guy stuff. If they were women, they'd do it faster, more efficiently, and there'd be more music and no stomping.
Scoped out the St. George's Chapel, where some of the English royalty were buried. None of mine, however. One of the exterior gargoyles or grotesques was a cow. Go figure.
Much of Windsor Castle was built by successive generations of my ancestors, so I was eager to see it. We weren't allowed in the oldest part, the round tower, and the private apartments, of course. Still, it was gratifying to see the Norman Gate, the stonework of the walls, the hilltop view of Berkshire, and — kind of bizarre — 747s taking off from Heathrow, over the Norman round tower. What would Henry I or any of them have thought of UFOs in their view of the sky? Demons? Angels?
Then I climbed back up the hill to the entrance to the State Apartments. I climbed lots of shallow steps. The first couple of large chambers were very crowded with tourists. The rooms were lined with lit glass cases of 200-300 year-old china. One that I liked very much was a set of wild flowers, a different flower on each piece. My 20 year-old flower pattern mixture back home seems like such good taste now!
The next rooms, up another flight, were martial in nature. Lots of spears and armor and swords. Couple of spare crowns, too, from Thailand (King Mongkut of Anna and the King presented gold crown looking like Thai temple to Queen Victoria), and one from Ethiopia. There were notations that certain items were "taken" at the Battle of Wherever. (In the name of the British Empire, I demand that you hand over your ancestral lands, keys to the treasure, your government, etc., at once.) There were jeweled swords and daggers, covered in emeralds, rubies, maybe diamonds.
Then we continued through dining and reception rooms, bed chambers and "closets," etc. I expected to see great art, and I really did. The three faces of Charles I (so a sculptor in Italy had an almost 3D model), the Holbein paintings of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, Rembrandt self-portrait, fresco ceilings, huge tapestries, sculptured busts, silver furniture, gold-leaf woodwork, etc. The carpets we walked on were tourist ones, and the lanes were roped. The carpets the Queen and guests walk on are huge room-size Persian ones. (I think Bernard Brandstater's carpet, maybe one-eighth the size, but still really large, took seven years to weave and knot.)
Finally, one of the last state rooms was the Knights of the Garter guard room. I was limping and hurting badly despite the Tylenol at 11:30 a.m., so I asked a guard if there was a bench or chair to sit on for a few minutes, "obviously not the throne," I laughed. He brought a red side chair for me and I massaged my foot through the sandal.
When I did make it to the throne, in blue velvet over polished dark carved wood, the appliqued embroidery said "E III R 1350." Hello, grandfather! Edward III, whose 6'8" steel sword I'd seen in St. George's Chapel earlier in the day, founded the Knights of the Garter. No pictures were allowed, but I had my camera around my neck. I put it on wide angle, and from tummy-level, I aimed in the general direction and snapped a couple available-light photos when the guards were far away.
Well, there was a lot more walking and hiking. I went to an Internet café for half an hour, hoping for a cold drink, but the cooler had just been stocked with room-temperature pop. Forget it! Checked my e-mail, though. Got directions for the inevitable Five Minute Walk down to the Thames River for a £4, 35-minute cruise. That was nice: although we didn't see anything important, it was good to sit and enjoy the cool river breeze, and watch swans and blue dragonflies. A piece of fried fish (no chips) and a 15-minute walk of pain brought me back up the hill to the train station. Two trains and two subways later, I was back here at the hotel. That half-mile walk hurts more every time!
Saturday, July 7, 2001, over Arctic Circle, maybe
I'm miserable. Not as miserable as the screaming toddler only 8 feet away. Not as comfortable as the idiot teenager who sits in front of me, reclining his seat into my space. I'm so sick of being pressed on every side and bumped on the aisle. My knees hurt, my head hurts. Had an argument with the bloody teen's mother, who said if I didn't like it I could call the flight attendant. So I did. She asked him to move up and he did, microscopically. We boarded the plane before 4 p.m., for 4:35 takeoff, but didn't take off 'til nearly 6:45. When my seatmate, a Danish-born Egyptian, came back from his walk, I got up to let him in and OOPS— jolted the teen's seat back.
You'd never know it by my mood now, but I actually had a pleasant morning. Woke around 6, and finished organizing my bags. Then walked to the Tube and took two different subways plus walked about 2 blocks, to get to St. Paul's Cathedral, in the City of London. Got there at 8:07; unfortunately, Communion mass started at 8:00. A deacon showed me to a seat in a chapel to the rear left of the nave. There were only about six of us there, but the priest and a robed helper read the prayers from the missal, leading up to Communion. We took the bread (papery wafers) and a sip of wine from the chalice, kneeling at the rail. Ow. Then I stayed and prayed silently in the large nave, under the famous and massive dome, for about 30 minutes.
About 9 a.m., they let the tourists in, and I tailed along on a guided tour. Aside from the gold ceiling mosaics, the fact that Charles and Diana married there 20 years ago this month, the beautiful architecture, etc., I guess the thing that was important to remember was: During the WWII London Blitz, men risked their lives to save God's house. I'd rationalize, myself, that God lives in my temple, me, not one made by human hands. But these men saw beyond themselves, to the greater community and the symbol of hope that St. Paul's was to them. They'd go up the roof during bombing raids, and if something fell and didn't explode, they'd pick it up and heave it away. I think just the east chancel was destroyed, and of course was rebuilt after the war. That was my Saturday morning in London. It was both inspiring and instructive.
After a couple photos on the plaza outside St. Paul's, I walked and Tubed and walked again back to my hotel. Checked out. Waited for the Heathrow transfer van. When the driver got there, he pulled down a seat for me, and its metal bar fell on my right toes. "OW!" I yelled involuntarily at the other 14 passengers, then apologized for my outburst. But my face must have shown the pain, because a British lady said, "You're putting a brave face on it, dear." If by brave, you mean strained and white.
I walked a lot in the airport terminal, was not impressed by duty-free prices, and then got on this excruciatingly crowded Air New Zealand jumbo jet. Doesn't feel at all jumbo. In fact, they should take out a row of seats at the back of every section, and install treadmills and exercise bikes, and sign people up for 5 or 10 minutes each. It is unconscionable that they cram 450 people in here elbow to elbow, with nowhere to walk except to the tiny toilets and back. We'll be on this plane for 13 hours. They did call for a physician over the speakers, but I don't know what for. Probably for the nervous breakdown of a passenger crammed between a sleeping seatmate and a beverage cart. Oh! That was me! Sorry.
I've read countless pages of the sequel to Bridget Jones's Diary (very funny), and am worried that I'll run out of book before I run out of plane. I mean, it's been seven hours already, and we're only over the Labrador Sea. Not even Canada yet.
Somewhere over Wyoming, 3 a.m. London time, 7 p.m. LA time.
Managed to doze between screaming baby bouts and sore knee. Foot swollen, not recognizable as human appendage. If this flight was on time, we'd be flying over the Colorado River right now. My seatmate was leaning on my shoulder to sleep, and I was hanging into the aisle with a back ache. The crew are serving hot sandwiches that smell of ham and spinach quiche. I guess they don't know if it's dinner or breakfast, either. Combined with slight turbulence, makes me queasy. Finished the book two hours ago. Now what do I do? It's the same in-flight movie they showed three weeks ago on my way to London.
St. George, Utah, 8:39 p.m. LA time — Almost there. So exhausted. Been awake now, 24 hours. The sun's finally gone down. This day was almost 31 hours.
LAX airport international terminal, arrivals, 11 p.m. — My "friend" Mr. P was supposed to be here about 9:00 to pick me up. We did get in 90 minutes late, but I'd built that into the pickup time. I was out at the curb, and no Mr. P. I started trying to call by 10:25, but no luck, as I don't have the correct number for him and the phone is in his girlfriend's name, and I'm pretty much brain dead so can't remember her surname. Finally called collect to Richard Tinker in Yucaipa, and he's coming to rescue me. Probably be here after midnight.
Sunday, July 8, 2001, Redlands, CA
10:15 a.m. So good to be home. Richard and Colleen dropped me and luggage at about 1:40 this morning. I greeted the cats and was in bed by 2:20. (Had been awake more than 28 hours.) Cats plastered themselves to me. Major purring.
Back and front yards have huge weeds. The peaches are nearly ripe, and have more tomatoes and squash. Today I do laundry (first time in 3 weeks), get groceries, and check mail. Mundane ending for great trip, but I can live with it.
Saturday, July 14, 2001, Redlands
Worked every day this week, and when I'd get home in evening, all I could manage was to feed cats, have a bowl of soup, and a little bit of pasting photos into album, but had to sleep by 9 p.m.. That is so not me. Afraid I spaced the pastor's sermon as I could barely stay awake. At Cross Culture service, we had many technical problems owing to absence of several key team members. While they worked on solutions, I took a mic and told of my Lindisfarne experience, when God spoke to me. They "amen-ed" heartily. This afternoon I slept three hours. I think this is the end of the jet lag, though. My body is back on Pacific Time.
Been gluing pix into scrapbook. At it for a week, but have barely made a dent.
Random observationsSheep and cattle and horses in Britain are happy, content critters. Ours must be stressed to stand in muck in feedlots. Here, they graze and wander and ruminate, and nap actually stretched out in the sun.
Music: most shops have music playing. Really annoying techno-pop, mostly. In Starbucks on the Strand in London, I heard (the first and only time) British superstar Sting. Found a couple CDs of his in Picadilly Circus that aren't available in US. Heard jazz in the park on the day I went on the London City Tour and Thames cruise.
Clothes: would pay any money for a laundromat. Nothing. Michelle and I went through half a bottle of Febreze fabric deodorant spray! People here dress the same as in the US. No special trend that I can see. Love to see men in Shetland sweaters!
Tans: the Brits are known for their pasty white complexions. Yet I've got a tan since I came here. Every park you pass, there are many people sitting on beach towels or blankets, just sitting and doing nothing. No urge to be productive during lunch or break. Just go outside and SIT.
Food smells: Dublin and Edinburgh smelled divine. Until you realize that the smell is malting barley, destined for whiskey! Oh, man, everywhere I went, the barley smell was there. I craved a good barley stew, but never found one. I think I also enjoyed the smells of bar food in Dublin. If you could get past the vile cigarette smoke, the fast-food or bar pickup stuff smelled wonderful. But oh, the barley — it's enough to drive one to drink!
The telly: Hey, no problem with saying the F-word or showing uncut R-rated movies on regular broadcast TV. The prime-time has soaps, game shows, etc. They have BBC 1 and 2 morning news, and also a Good Morning news/chat thing. One station was sports-only. And it was Wimbledon time. I watched a two-part detective show that I suppose will turn up on PBS Mystery, soon. Looked in vain for a "British comedy," but maybe they're not on in the season or time of evening that I watched. Hardly any commercials, and never during a show, but they were pretty funny. The hotels only have five or six channels. It was funny to see 500 year-old stone buildings with 18-inch satellite dishes mounted on the sides.
Exercise: I deserve a huge medal (ala those wrestling belt buckles) for all my walking and stair climbing. When I ask for directions, the people say, "Oh, that's just a Five Minute Walk." Maybe for them! But I was fooled every time. What a sucker I am. I trudged miles, every day. Stairs everywhere, always. No escalators, either.
I'm proud that I've done so much, though. I kept going even when the young and fit 20-somethings were dragging. When the group was climbing up to Durham Cathedral, although I was tired, I wasn't out of breath. When I asked to stop for a moment to rest, everyone else stopped, too — not out of pity for me, but because they were also beat! With all the exercise, one needs hydration. I haven't seen one drinking fountain or water dispenser anywhere, but plenty of people haul sports bottles around. They seem to prefer mineral water to "still" spring water. However, it finally occurred to me that spring water and mineral water were synonymous. The drink coolers are set at about 55 degrees, I think, because stuff is just barely cool, never cold. Never ice!
Restaurants: Do these people ever eat at home, or cook? Every block has many restaurants and pubs and deli-type shops. The supermarkets aren't really very super. Everyone must shop a little each day and carry it on the Tube. No station wagons or mini-vans backed up to a Costco loading dock! Even the lower-priced restaurants use tablecloths and cloth napkins, and serve the meal in leisurely courses. Wish I could have my tea/coffee with my meal instead of after. When I ask, they seem surprised! The servers don't come around very often, and that's a plus. Aside from "the frozen kind" of fried fish, which was perfect, the other fish-minus-chips I've bought had skin on, which was gross! So I ate the top layer, but threw away the skin and attached batter. I also bought sandwiches or a pasty, and soups, and once just ordered strawberries with clotted cream. I'm always on the run (almost literally) so I don't want anything to slow me down. What kind of foods on the menu? (Not saying I ate these, just that they were available.) Pork (sausage, bacon, ham), seafood (salmon, shrimp, tuna), beef and lamb practically non-existent because of hoof-and-mouth disease outbreak, eggs (fried, poached, scrambled), various cheeses, beverages (hot tea and coffee after meal, wines, hardly ever water and never glasses of milk or iced tea, cola and other sodas), breads (baking-powder biscuits, croissants, scones, sliced white and brown and rye bread, pita), breakfast cereals (Special K, Cornflakes, muesli that looked like lawnmower outflow, oatmeal), vegetables (potatoes, carrots, zucchini, etc.), fruits (melon, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, same as at home), dessert (almond or Bakewell tart, strawberry/ rhubarb pie, strawberries and unsweetened cream, ice cream, trifle, etc.). The vegetarian offerings weren't very good. No meat analogs. Either eat strange vegetable medleys in pasta or buried under crumbs, or go for the cheese/egg thing.
Flowers: The foxglove and lobelia and iris flags and many other flowers are blooming wild, everywhere. In the cities, I see buckets and buckets of cello-wrapped arrangements. They'd be $15-20 arrangements in the US. Lots of people buy flowers, men and women, and carry them with the shopping. Home, presumably.
Ancestral ties: Early on, I sensed that my tour mates wouldn't share my fascination with the ancient and medieval history of Great Britain, nor in such a personal way. How many times could I crow, "My ancestor, King So and So, built this castle or commissioned this cathedral." (But he did!) Well, it slipped out a few times, but I decided to keep most of it to myself. There were many, many times when I COULD have said something about the ancestors! The docents at Windsor/St. George's Chapel, Durham Cathedral, etc., though, were pretty excited to talk about (really, really) old times with me. They were interested that a descendant of the Angevins and Plantagenets would be living in California. I suppose I have lots of distant cousins all over the US, and probably many of the Commonwealth countries, but one doesn't really think of it. You think of the current Royal Family as being the only real descendants that count! Dorothy and Robert knew of ancestral ties in Ireland, and John and Carl are of Welsh descent, so I wasn't the only one feeling the sense of deep roots.
Alone in a crowd: Even though I was part of a 22-person group, somehow I managed to be alone in most places — alone to meditate, pray in the holy places, appreciate the quiet or the memory of someone's loved one encapsulated on a tombstone. Maybe this was anti-social, but while others were figuring out where to go and what to do and how to do it together, I just took off and got started! While others were getting ready to explore Bath, I was on the tour bus, then exploring the abbey church during organ rehearsal, and then dipping fingers in the hot pool. At Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon, I did my own exploring, and at Iona, while the group walked to the abbey, I was hiring a bike. At York I was entirely alone. How slippery of me. But it's hard to pray, or soak in beauty when you're surrounded by others. I suppose it could be considered selfish, but I doubt anyone paid their bucks to be entertained by me, anyway!
If you enjoy life sketches, anecdotes, and historical details like these, you can find them in the book Effigy Hunter, by Christy K Robinson. It's available in print from CreateSpace, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.