Archive for December, 2006

Catching up a bit

While I haven’t been keeping up with my blog lately, I have been posting pictures on flickr quite consistently. So if for some reason, you are interested in the events going on in my life, you can always click over there to the left and see a running log.

That’s one 2006 New Year’s Resolution that I have kept: taking more pictures. I realized that the big events, the one people generally remember to take pictures of, are the ones you’d remember without pictures. It’s the little times with friends when you should really take pictures, documenting the way you were, really, most of the time. Especially now that I have a small digital camera, I nearly always have it with me. And I’ve gotten some great shots!

Basically, since I had gotten back from England, I’d been looking forward to my friend Ana’s visit here from Austin. We went to Long Island together for a wedding. It was the best wedding I’ve ever been to, bar none! Maybe because we got to dress up. But mainly, I think, because Venezuelans know how to have fun, and fun means DANCING! We danced for about 10 hours straight, I swear, at different venues. I learned a lot of from the women about movement, although for most of the time, unless Ana was translating in my ear, I had no idea what anyone was saying! But oh, it was so. much. fun!

We also had a great time exploring Manhattan. Every time I go, I find more neat places…and Manhattan during the holidays is almost magical.

While we were in Long Island, one of the wedding guests told us we should see Jones Beach, so, since it wasn’t really that cold, we found our way there with our friend Robert. It was an unplanned but really great day. I found out later, that I had actually been to Jones Beach with my brothers and when I was a baby!

Then came Christmas, which was quiet but lovely. Christmas Eve was still and reverent, the way it should be. And my Meggie was there with me, like she should be. :O)

And on Christmas Day, as is by now a tradition, in the evening I went over to Meg’s parents house to exchanges gifts and visit with Megan, Dave, and Meg’s parents as well as their “kids,” the Irish Setters, Finnegan and Clancey. (The first two pictures are Finnegan, the second two are Clancey.)

So those are pretty much the highlights. Tonight I leave for North Carolina to spend the long weekend with Tim and Karen and my other favorite dog, Bailey. And in the New Year, I’m going to blog, I swear.


New Year’s Resolutions

1. Reinvigorate this blog and my attitude toward it. (this really isn’t first on the list in my head, though, I must admit)
2. Pray more, worry less.
3. Dance more.
4. Find a way to give back (time).

Travel Journal Day 6

[So this is the last day of my trip that I actually journaled. I suppose I’ll have to delve into my memory for the rest.]

November 16th
Wake in: Bath
Sleep in: Oxford

I’m on the train headed to Oxford, but I have to manage a switch somewhere called Didcot Parkway. I should have a half hour before it leaves to figure it out.

I was just thinking “wow only 3 more days” but then “actually I might be about ready to head home by then.” It’s tiring going from place to place. It was great at the White Hart Inn in Bath because I wasn’t always worrying about where my stuff was, because I could lock everything in my hotel room and only carry the minimum. Maybe the lockers at the Oxford YHA will be bigger. I am so glad that I brought the earplugs and sleeping mask! The earplugs even helped lots at the hotel because the window wasn’t very good at keeping noise–traffic noise mainly–out. I might see if I can bump to a private room at the hostel in Oxford. It’s all on credit card after all. *fear and trembling*

Last night was hard, like I said. Being alone, then surrounded, then alone again. But you know, it’s just one of those things that you put your head down and bulldoze through (kind of like the crowds of schoolchildren at the Roman Baths). So I reached out from where I was: sent N a text to let him know I was coming in, gave P a call to let him know the same and to find out what his plans were.

Today I should be arriving at Oxford at around 12.15 and then meeting up with N. He seems to be a bit reserved, but a nice guy, so we’ll have to see. I’ll be on my best non-Americanly, non-obnoxious behavior. Tomorrow we will meet with P and I have all day in Oxford. The next day I leave in the evening for Manchester, overnight there and then home.



I got off the train and (yay!) there was N to meet me at the station.

Oh how lovely to have someone to help me negotiate finding the hostel. He seems quite nice altogether and has said I can stay in his guest room tomorrow night if I want. And I splurged and got a private room at the hostel for tonight.

I am now safe at N’s and he’s going to make me Toad in the Hole for dinner.

[In the afternoon we walked around Oxford a bit and I took some pictures. We had lunch at a pub called The Turf. To get to N’s I had to take the bus all by myself because N had cycled into town, but he beat the bus to the stop and was there waiting for me again.]

Travel Journal Day 5

November 16, 2006

Wake in: Bath
Sleep in: Bath

Yesterday was a lot of fun. It was lovely to wake up in my own room and not have to worry about getting a shower before everyone descended to the bathroom or having to ask a stranger for help to figure out where I was going. hatter is intelligent and easy to talk to and it was nice to hang out with him for another day. Jo didn’t arrive until 11.30. She’s great, too! The three of us met up and went to a sweet shop/cafe called, of all things “BOSTON TEA PARTY,” to eat cake for my birthday.

Then we went on a tour of the Roman Baths. It was a really good day. The only bad thing was we each had our own audio devices so it was kind of an individual experience.

But we seemed to manage enough chat and laughter. And, oh, it was lovely to be with people and share what I was thinking! (Although this journal entry will probably suffer.)

The baths were amazing. To think that you were standing on stones that had been walked on by people 2000 years ago! It’s why I love Britain. That sort of history isn’t present (or wasn’t saved) in America. I love the sense that some things: people’s feelings about each other mainly, haven’t really changed though circumstances have.

After the baths we went to the posh Pump Room (where we tasted the waters–not as a bad as I feared, although a bit sulfury) and had “high tea.” With four glasses of champagne to share between us, of which I drank about 3 1/2. It was quintessentially English. The sandwiches and cakes were even on those tiered trays. It was lovely!

We got done with that and wandered over to the Museum of Costume, which was included with the ticket to the baths. But by the time we got there (champagne makes me dizzy!) it had just closed.

So we wandered into a pub. We sat in soft comfy couches next to a fireplace. (Oh how I love the British pub!)

It was really hard to say goodbye to them and see them off.

I am really surprised at how the thought of being completely on my own again affected me. I cried. . .but not in front of either of them (yay me!). It was hard to lose everyone again and face traveling today by myself and all. I guess what I’ve learned is that I can do it, and I can enjoy it with some effort, but I’m not really a person who should plan long stretches of travel on my own. It’s been very good for me to have to do it: find places, buy tickets, take trains, pick places to see, go to them. But I’m not sure if travel is really meant to be solitary. It’s all right if you’re cute little girl-Kelly who meets people through people who offer her under the table jobs and stuff, but that’s not who I am.

Travel Journal Day 3, 4

[sadly, or maybe thankfully, I journaled less when I was meeting people. I might try to fill in some of the blanks, though.]

November 14, 2006
My 30th Birthday

Wake in: Cardiff
Sleep in: Bath

Last night was probably the best night at the hostel. I don’t know if there was anything different about the people or if I’d finally gotten comfortable. I ended up watching Anchorman on DVD with a bunch of people. Two Canadians (both named Kelly, although one was a guy), a young English couple, an Australian tomboy called Naomi, and a guy from Israel whose name I never found out.

They let me pick the movie because today is my birthday. We laughed a lot. I still went to bed at 10 though. The girl Kelly was really nice. She is on a 10 month (!!) journey, kind of just going whenever, wherever. How cool is that? This morning she and I walked to Starbucks (again, I know) and talked about this and that over coffee.

Then I walked back to the hostel to check out and catch the train to Bath. I even remembered to stop at the station yesterday to buy my ticket. So my pack is heavy and I was thinking that it was a good think I didn’t know the train time because I couldn’t walk any faster even if I had to rush. But when I got to the station (resembling a turtle) I went to the information desk to find out which train I was meant to be taking. The guy told me I wanted the Portsmouth Harbor train and there was one there now if I could catch it. But when I got to the platform. . .no train. I thought I would have to wait an hour, but it turned out that the train was a bit late, so here I sit. I’m sitting at an actual little table with 4 train seats around it, which is prime real estate and quite handy for journaling.

hatter sent me a text saying that he missed his train and won’t be there until 2. I’m kind of glad because I’m sweaty from carrying the pack and it would be nice to have a chance to wash my face, etc. I should get to Bath at 12.30 I think.

I wanted to remember to write some observations about the way the girls here always seemed “dressed.” I’d never make it here long term because they never seem to dress bummy. You know…run to the grocery store in sweatpants, a t-shirt, and sneakers.

November 15, 2006
Wake in: Bath
Sleep in: Bath

So I found the hotel pretty uneventfully, after staring at the map in the train station for a while. I was very glad to put my pack down, I don’t know how, but it seemed heavier. I set my stuff down in my own little yellow room and freshened up. I took some pictures of my room and the view from the window.

Then I went back to the train station to meet hatter. We had a wander around, had a pub dinner, wandered some more, had coffee.

In our wanderings we stopped at the Jane Austen Centre. There’s a painted statue of Jane and I took a picture of myself next to her, but the way it came out she’s looking at me like “Why the hell are you touching me?”

Today we will be celebrating my birthday with Jo, who is driving over from Southampton just to meet me!

Travel Journal Day 2

November 13, 2006

Wake in: Cardiff
Sleep in: Cardiff

My last day in my twenties. I’m back in Starbucks listening to a buzz of British accents. Well, actually I think they are mainly Welsh.

I woke up this morning after a tossy turny kind of night. The thing is, though, that the “mattresses” are covered with plastic and the bunk beds are metal, so it makes lots of noise when you roll over. I try to do it quietly and each time I think “OK that’ll be the last position switch,” but I never realized before just how often I wake up and switch sides. Anyway, I woke up with this thought: “I can’t believe I’m here by myself doing this.”

But I am, and it hasn’t been awful. I’ve talked to people, shopped, toured castles, and taken photographs. I think I am really quite proud of myself. And today is probably the last full day I’ll be on my own until my flight home. [So you don’t think I’m whining too much, remember that I had a day and a half worth of straight travel by myself, too, which involved getting to and from airports, late flights, O’Hare International, and overnight flight, a train to find at the Manchester airport, another change of train, a change from a train to a bus, and back to a train again, and then a walk to find a hostel with a 40 pound pack on my back.] The Starbucks here have breakfast sandwiches. Today I’m having egg and Lincolnshire sausage. I wonder what makes it Lincolnshire.

A girl from New Zealand leant me her phone charger. Yay! I was getting worried about that! I just hope no one steals my phone while it’s charging. After I’m done here, I’m going to St. Fagans.
Right, back at the “hoppin'” hostel bar. Meaning it’s nearly always empty. They say that’s because it’s winter. So the good Samaritan who leant me her phone charger did so in vain. Who knew that you have to switch on the outlets like a light switch? Oh well. Maybe h will be able to help me out with something tomorrow. It’ll be good to a) see a friendly face and b) have a room of my own with a (it has to be) bigger shower.

Still, I made it through my first hostel experience. Ok, today…Well Starbucks in the morning, as I wrote this morning. Then I went to what I thought was the bus ticket office, but was really a bus ticket office, and not the one I needed. Still, they knew what I was talking about, and told me where I needed to go.

Then it was back to the hostel to pick up my phone (see charger incident) and change my shoes because I remembered from last time that St. Fagans could be muddy. Probably one of the smartest things I’ve done the whole trip. It rained during the night last night, and was sprinkling this morning, but the sun shone for quite a bit of the day today. I’d say I had the perfect day for wandering around St. Fagans.

But wait, I’m still at the hostel. So I set off for the bus station, which is right next to the train station. Everything in Cardiff is quite easy to figure out or navigate. It seems like a lot of thought went into the layout of the city and its services.

On the way to the station, someone asked me where St. Mary’s Street was, and I knew! She was just walking in the wrong direction, but still…I was quite pleased.

I was, of course, early for the bus. I think someone came up to me and asked me for money, but she talked so fast I had no idea what she really said, so I sort of just gaped at her and put one hand up and she walked away. Maybe they thought I didn’t speak English.

Got on the bus and to the museum uneventfully. It was as cool as I remembered and this time, I even went into the castle (which is more like a mansion) and its gardens. I spoke at some length with one of the guides, and he told me about how there is a long history of strong women in Wales. He mentioned a story about a woman, Satcha, maybe?, who ran academies to teach men how to fight. And a woman started the “Rebecca Riots” to protest excess toll booths on the roads of Wales. He said they had put so many up and that and the people were so poor that by the time they had paid all the tolls to get into town, they barely had enough money to pay for the necessities for which they went there. He didn’t seem adverse to talking, he even ignored some other people who came into the cottage and kept talking to me. He was kind of cute. I saw him again later and he said “hello again.” Thrill, I know.

I took loads and loads of pictures and paid 2 pounds to have a guidebook. I keep thinking that I want to be able to really tell people and show people what I did [I haven’t really done this.]. I’m journaling so much because I don’t have anyone to share my day with, or anyone who shared it. Still, I think I’m going to be glad I did and it certainly gives me something to do after dark. [In Cardiff, when I was on my own, I didn’t go out after dark.]

So by the end of walking the better part of 180 acres of the museum, my feet felt like they were about to fall off, and the little sandwich I had was long gone. So I stopped in their little snack bar and had a basil, Caerphilly cheese, and tomato sandwich. I was so hungry and the cheese was melty so I didn’t even pick the tomatoes off. [I hate tomatoes.]

So tomorrow is my birthday. The fact that I’m 30 is crazy. I’ll bet I’m the oldest person in the hostel [I wasn’t–by far]. I always come into my own with things too late.

Anyway, it seems like a lot of people here take advantage of the whole “free use of the kitchen” thing. Yesterday a couple made spaghetti with sauce and cheese. The person sitting near me now is having a whole sit down dinner: chicken, potatoes, vegetable. That’s just nuts! You have to buy it and then, worst of all, you have to clean up the kitchen. No thanks, I’m on vacation, I’ll eat out.

Travel Journal

I thought I’d do best (and be the most accurate) by just copying what I wrote in my journal for each day. I will be censoring somewhat, I imagine, because I did use the time to work some stuff out that had been muddling around in my brain. You know, those things that pop into your head and you push them back because maybe you are in an inappropriate location to deal with the feelings or for some other reason. Or maybe I’ll post some of it, who knows

Anyway, don’t blame me if you think it’s all boring rubbish. In fact, don’t even tell me if you think it’s all boring rubbish. Just guide your mouse up to that “next blog” button and move on.

Sunday, November 12, 2006
Wake in: Cardiff
Sleep in: Cardiff

Today is my first non-traveling day on my own. So here I sit in the lounge of the hostel. I ate a free croissant and I’m drinking some free water. I’m thinking that I’m the only person without at least one traveling partner. That surprised me, and it’s kind of a bummer.

As soon as the I think the shops open (maybe 10?) I’m going to walk to Queen Street or High Street and look for a coat. Then I think I’ll go to the National Museum of Welsh Life in St. Fagan’s. And I’m going to try hard not to wish I weren’t by myself! Especially since I have all day tomorrow on my own too.

First full day alone in Cardiff. 10.05 am in Starbucks. Yay! Food and coffee! So this trip was supposed to contain reflection on where and who I am at 30 (well, in 2 days). I think Cardiff is a good place for these reflections, not just because I am by myself, but also because this city holds a lot of bittersweet memories for me. This city was very special to B at a time when he was very special to me. And I think he is somewhere here, in Cardiff, with his wife and that is just…weird. And poignant. And a bit like debriding a wound. B is a large part of my history and, therefore, a large part of who I am now. And this, to me at least, will always be his place.

So maybe I should start with him. What things, good and bad, did B teach me about life and about myself? B taught me that all of life could be an adventure, and that you don’t have to settle for the mundane. On the flip side of that, he did not seem to have the capability to be content with home ever. And from all that I learned that I like to have adventures and look at things with interest and imagination, but that I am, quite often, content with home, hearth, and family. Travel and new experiences are necessary and wonderful, so I don’t become insular and ignorant. But I need to know I have a home to go back to.

B was gentle and kind. On the flip side of that, his inability to hurt me short-term mad for what ended up being a long-term betrayal, and that hurt worse. From all of that I learned that I deserve gentleness and kindness, but even my vulnerability deserves honesty. Also I learned that I do have the ability to read people. I saw what was coming long before it came, but I just wouldn’t let go. I need to learn to trust those instincts and not to hold on to things that are really gone, just because they are comfortable.

Today I went shopping to find a coat. I had forgotten how cool High Street shopping can be, although I’m sure the people here take it for granted. In Cardiff (and most other cities that I remember) the High Street is a broad street closed to traffic (in fact there is no road) with shops of all sorts on either side.

What was a bit frustrating…it’s always quite hard to find my size in normal shops, but at least at home I know the shops that do carry my size. Here I don’t know what’s what. But still, it forced me to explore a bit, and I did find something. I t seemed like every single coat had real or fake dead animal fur gratuitously slapped on it somewhere. But at least the coat that I bought had removable fake dead animal. I threw it in the hostel waste basket, where it looked disconcertingly like a ferret, curled up asleep.

After I found my coat I was going to go to the Museum of Welsh Life at St. Fagan’s but I thought maybe tomorrow, being a weekday, would be better time to do that. So today I went on a tour of Cardiff Castle. It sits in the middle of everything and parts of it were built during Roman, then Norman, then the late 19th Century. [there seems to be some key word missing there maybe “times”, or “occupation”] While I was getting my tickets, I met a family who sounded American. Turned out they were not only from Pennsylvania, but from just up the road a piece in Nazareth. The girl, probably in her early 20s, was studying in Cheltenham, and I wished for the millionth time that I had gotten my act together and done that!

The tour guide was Australian, and very knowledgeable, with a comfortable voice. I saw one other person there alone: a guy. I’m quite sure he was British or at least European (some look is usually distinguishable, yet I couldn’t tell you what it is) but he was carrying a few cameras. I caught him looking at me a few times, especially after I talked to ask a question, but I didn’t say anything either, because something about his demeanor didn’t welcome it.
[It was weird nothaving anyone to converse with, and I missed it.]

Aside:[I can’t remember what prompted this] Everyone here seems to smoke. It seems like the tightening restrictions at home have either a) gotten everyone to quit or b) it just seems that way because there is no where left to smoke. I am especially surprised to see how many women still smoke here.

Anyway, the castle tour was well worth the money, although we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. The family that owned the castle, the 3rd Marquis of Bute, hired an American painter to do some of the walls and the tiles in the children’s nursery. You can have weddings in the huge ornate dining room for 250 pounds an hour, 3 hours minimum. It’s the oldest part of the castle, dating from medieval times, although it’s been redone by the Marquis and architect William Burgess.

After that I walked back toward the hostel and used my map from my guidebook to find a pub up the road a ways that was also listed in the guidebook. I ordered a roast chicken dinner, which I took a picture of (surreptitiously with my camera phone, though). It was good but I didn’t finish all of the chicken, broccoli, or cabbage(?), even though I’ve been walking all day with only that muffin and coffee for sustenance. Now I”m listening to everyone watching “the footie”– apparently Arsenal are playing–and enjoying a pint of Stella.

I’ll admit that I’ve left my guidebook out on the table face up, hoping someone would ask me about it, but no one has. Although now I must look intent on writing. I know if I asked for help or a question everyone would be very friendly, but they tend to keep to themselves otherwise, at least here in Cardiff.

Last night I must have slept from what? 8.30 or 9.00pm until 7.45am. It was a good sleep, with earplugs and sleep mask, and I don’t feel out of whack at all yet. Hopefully I have escaped the jet lag, at least in this direction. I have to remember tonight to leave my watch on. I don’t want to leave my phone on all night [I forgot my charger] but it drove me crazy to wake up in the morning and not know what time it was. I saw daylight and figured I should get up, is all…

I only spoke to one girl in my room (which has 8 beds, 4 bunk beds) and she was only there for one night because she was auditioning for something or other today.

Oh I lied, one girl said goodbye to me as I was coming into the room after going to the bath room in the morning. I think she was headed out. It’s only 4.30 now and I’ve run out of amusements. Apparently all the shops close at 4pm on Sundays.

[a long refection on my work and career and future in that regard come next, which I am not going to post, plus this has gotten really long and I’m sure you all stopped reading long ago. More tomorrow.]


A blog about my life and other stuff.

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.

Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)