Traveling Fatigue

Every day in Britain, I walked more than 5 miles.  And on one day I walked more than 7 and a half miles.  No wonder I am tired.  I got home Friday night.  There was a parking space – actually an empty loading spot – across from my building.  I asked the Uber driver to carry my bags up and he did.  I gave him 5 euro which was probably too much and I don’t think he expected it.  But it was worth every penny to me.  Remember? I did shop in London so the bag was much heavier!

Sleeping in your own bed (especially on the new mattress that she bought in June) is heaven after traveling.  On Saturday I was successful.  I set a goal for the day and I totally accomplished it!

The goal: to do nothing.

Well, I did walk over to the grocery for needed supplies.  But other than that, I loafed on the coach between taped episodes of La Reine de Shopping and Chasseurs d’Appart and reading.  Heaven.

I picked up a tiny cough in London and I don’t want it to blossom into a huge cold so I am continuing my goal for this week end.  And I have to rest up for my visitors Monday week.  A friend and her 7 year old daughter.  It will be a full 12 days of fun!

I also had a minor goal of talking to a friend BEFORE she read my blogs so I could actually have a conversation and not have her say, oh yeah, I read about that…  The trials and tribulations of a blogger.


France is White, Britain Red (and a note about Burkas)

Or brown.  The buildings in London and much of the rest of Britain are built with red or brown brick.  OK, I will give you that the John Nash houses are white.  And yes, there is Buckingham Palace and Whitehall.  But there is also St James Palace and Harrods and most buildings on Kensington High Street.  And the mewses.  All brick.

And as our train whipped through the south of Britain to Dover and the Chunnel, again I saw that brown reddish brick used extensively.

I missed Paris.

And when we emerged from the Chunnel, oh the French countryside and the white farmhouses.  And the buildings in Paris.  Lovely.

Just down the street from me, a building has emerged from the scaffolding that has been there since I returned in May.  The routine required cleansing.  I have heard every 7 years, every 10 years and even every 20.  I am not sure what, but the buildings stay pretty fresh.  I have photos take in 1960 of Notre Dame where it appears to be black.  Since my regular visits starting in 2007, it’s been white!  Or pretty white.  Hmm.  That’s 10 years and I haven’t seen scaffolding on it… so it must be more than 10 years for the cleaning.

Oh.  A note on burkas. I say this because I saw more in London than I see in Paris.

People get this confused all the time.  This is a great site with pictures.



The hijab is the scarf that covers the hair and neck.

The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.

The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.

I mention it because I saw many Niqabs in London.  I was surprised.  And several women wearing Hijabs had a surgical masks on.  I wasn’t sure if it was for pollution or to have the impact of a niqab but be more acceptable to the public.  (I see Chinese tourists in Paris with those surgical masks… )

In France I do see the hijab.  But the burka is illegal in France.  I guess the niqab is not.  Several other Europeans countries have joined the French.  Apparently not the UK.  Although I guess a school can make it illegal.   I won’t start on my personal opinions re feminism and these outfits.  But I will say in this day of terrorism, I am ill at ease with the burka, jiqab and chador in public settings.

My Mini Vacation

So the French exodus bug got me.  I went to England for 5 days.   Several objectives.  To see a friend in Brighton, to see a play, and to shop.

(The language was a problem.  Seriously.  My ear was not ready for their accents.  I think I asked them to repeat what they said more than I do in France!)

Two years ago I visited one of my favorite memories from my childhood – the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.  I recall seeing it in its splendor when I was 10 – all Chinese-y and exotic.  It was also the setting for many a Regency novel by Georgette Heyer.  I do NOT say Regency Romance as that has the flavor and connotation of the bodice-ripper novels.  (Did you know that sales of such novels apparently skyrocketed when e-readers were created?  The readers no longer had to hide a cover! Or so the thought goes…)  Georgette Heyer was a respectable mystery writer also.  And a quasi-historian.  Her books are set very accurately in the Regency period.  OK. Enough of my defense of my reading selections.

While on our self-guided tour of the pavilion, we asked a question of a … and I still don’t know the right title – more than docent but not guide…  Pavilion Specialist, let’s say.  The one question opened the flood gates of her knowledge.  She was so excited about her subject and knew so much, we were entranced.  This was in the dining room and when we finished with the kitchen and came up on the other side of the dining room, she met us and pulled the rope away to usher us to the center of the table so we could see what it looked like if you were seated at the head of the table.  At that point, I invited her to join us for dinner but she declined, having children to go feed.  But she gave me her Facebook contact.  We have been friends since.  And terribly exciting, she received a medal in the Queen’s Honors List – Medal of the British Empire, I believe.  For her work in adult learning.  Oh my.

So for three days she guided me about.  We went to Preston Manor where a ghost reputes to inhabit.  We saw nothing.  But I must say, there is one spot on the first floor (second to the US readers) where it is incredibly cold.  For no reason.  This place as medieval roots and is more Georgian and Edwardian, but they did not have air conditioning or duct work or vents.  The rest of the floor – the other 4 rooms – did NOT feel this cold.  It was eerie.

Then she took me to the cemetery to tell me the dreadful story of Celia.  I am not going to repeat it – google Celia Holloway and Brighton if you are interested.

Next to a better vibe place: Chichester and the Weald and Downland Living Museum.  ( ) Let’s say you have an old building that is standing in the way of progress.  They come out, inspect, take it apart and eventually put it back up here.  Reassemble every timber.  I guess the plaster is new.   Shrug.  They also figure out the best display – maybe it was built in 1505 but had undergone extensive changes.  They can put it back to the 1505 version or maybe they decide the 1589 version is better.  Pretty amazing.

And after, a quick drive past Arundel Castle and dinner at the Black Rabbit pub overlooking the river and castle.

The last day was a private tour of the Pavilion.  Dang, the tunnels were closed due to emergency electrical work.  I was looking forward to that- tunnels that the Regent had made so he could go visit his horses at the stables without walking outside through the public.  (Victoria moved out because she felt too much in a fishbowl in that palace.)  (BTW I did really say “dang” and my friend was amazed and repeated it several times…)

But we still had a great walkabout with so many interesting stories and details and peeks into little closets and servants’ hallways.  Then a walk through medieval Brighton – of which pretty much nothing is left – big fire in the 1500s.  Still we stopped at the Old Ship Hotel where she inveigled the staff to give us a tour of their rooms and cellars.  Reminding me of Bath, there were two assembly rooms, pretty much as they would have been in the 1800s.  And the cellars have a beam that is from one of the ships Elizabeth sent out against the Spanish Armada.  Except two days later she posts on FB “allegedly came from…”  I was utterly disappointed but apparently this is a word of mouth fact, not with evidence.   Fine.

Back up to London where I shopped for shoes and clothes and saw a musical.  Audra McDonald is a famous Broadway star who got her start in Fresno of all places in the Good Company Players junior group.  So it felt right to see her in London since I am not going to be in NY soon.  It was Lady Day – about Billie Holiday and it was marvelous.

Historically speaking, I did get to the Victoria and Albert Museum.  This museum is my absolute favorite in London.  This time there was a Balenciaga exhibition.  Actually, the first clothing exhibit I attended was on him at the DeYoung in San Francisco.  It was a history of my mom, actually.  She sewed most of her clothes, but used Vogue patterns and bought expensive material.  I saw so many dresses at that exhibit that reminded me of her.  There is a Balenciaga expo in Paris right now, but all the dresses are black.  Even Dior said Balenciaga was the one they all looked up to.

And there was a Pink Floyd exhibition.  Last year I went to the V&A Revolution expo that was about how rock changed the world in the late 60’s and 70’s.  Now, that was my life.  Even to the photos of Altamont – I was there!  But Pink Floyd?  I was never a big fan.  What everyone said would take almost two hours I did in 25 minutes.  Shrug.

And before I hopped on the Eurostar, a quick visit to the British Library.  I discovered this gem several years ago.  No, not the British Museum.  They have special exhibits but there is an ongoing exhibit of their gems.  Documents.  Magna Carta.  Notes from John Lennon.  Oscar Wilde.  I recommend.

Who IS here in August?

Chantiers!  That’s workmen/people to you.  I walked over to buy some wine and passed many of those closed signs.  The butcher is also closed, but it’s full of activity.  They are totally remodeling.  There was a nice sign saying they were closed for remodeling and be open mid August (I bet September) and have a nice vacation everyone.

The printers, however, are closed.  Every day at the Metro you can pick up either Avec Nous or Direct Matin –  daily (M-F) rags for art and activities or news and ads.  But not from the last week of July.  Well, I guess I can figure that out…  and the trains that used to run every 1 to 2 minutes are now more like 3 or 4.  Everything slows down.

For a reader… it is City of Light not Lights.  Hmph.   And more for the Enlightenment than street lighting, btw.

And did I sound surprised by the exodus in July and August?  Not at all.  I just continue to be fascinated by it.  A tradition that might be going away slowly – large department stores are now open on weekends and SUNDAYs.  But it’s just so French.