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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

cemetery walkIn response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Gone, But Not Forgotten.”

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Sometime last week there was a photo challenge for incorporating glass into your images.  I obviously missed the boat (this is why I will never be successful at Twitter) but went scrolling through some older images looking for things taken through or with glass.  And approximately two years ago today, we went to Scotland, and we spent time at the Kelvingrove gallery.  And I saw some of my favorite pieces of glass art work ever there.  Here are my amateurish photographs of two of my favorite bits.

Glass plate, entitled "The Lovers".

Glass plate, entitled “The Lovers”.

These glasses reminded me of the ones my mother collected, and I took the picture for her. They are gorgeous, and amazing examples of hand-etched glass work.  Also, they were taken of glass, through glass, so I felt it met the challenge.

These glasses reminded me of the ones my mother collected, and I took the picture for her. They are gorgeous, and amazing examples of hand-etched glass work. Also, they were taken of glass, through glass, so I felt it met the challenge.

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This daily prompt spoke to me, because it does rather apply to me.  I suppose you could say I am living the scenario described within.  I have left my home to travel the world for a year (or 2, or 5…).  I did have to decide what to bring with me. In terms of decorative or sentimental things, that means: Not much.  Each personal item was weighed against whether it would be useful on the travels, or easily replaced by similar items upon arrival.

There is one thing that I brought with me that serves no useful purpose.  It does not have much relative value; in fact, probably none to anyone except me.  It has traveled with me wherever I have gone since it was given to me.

You see, there are many levels of associative memory involved in this item.  My great grandmother, who taught me to write poetry and was my best friend until I was 12 years old (I wrote her letters almost every day, and she wrote back to me as frequently) collected music boxes.  I also developed a great love for music boxes as a result.  As a graduation gift from high school, my parents gifted me a custom made music box.

Made of rosewood and with a custom swiss movement.

Made of rosewood and with a custom swiss movement.

 

When most other kids were asking for a car or a trip to Mexico (My brother asked for, and received, a television set for his graduation), I wanted this.  I didn’t ask for it, my parents just knew me well enough to know I wanted it.   Mom chose the music to go inside it – our favorite piece of music.  Variations on a theme by Paganini  – by Rachmaninoff. So, you see, this piece has a bit of my great grandmother, both of my parents, my mother and I and our mutual love of something, and myself in it.

Over the years, this has gone with me everywhere I go.  I have taken it to university, to every home I’ve lived in.  It has seen every heartache and every good time.  It has been the one “thing” that has never been lost, misplaced, or stolen.  It holds my memories in it.  Some of you will recognize…some of these.  Tickets to a Chicago Bulls game and tickets to a family reunion dinner.  Tickets to a comedy show and my pass as cast at a Medieval Fantasy Faire.  A ticket to a play in which one of my best friends starred. A tiny ceramic bear with a signed “I love you”, a gift from my first love.  A celtic knotwork cross. There are more things buried underneath this top layer.  But it is where my treasures lie.  It’s precious and invaluable.

Music Box 2

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DP’s prompt for today was:  If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?

 

The answer to this is so easy for me.  The scenario is truly an expats dream.  The only thing that could make this more appealing is if you included a teleportation device to make the travel between the two places as simple and quick as possible.

Most readers of this blog know that I am an expat living in Liverpool, UK.  I absolutely love the city of Liverpool, as it is just large enough to have a fair representation of the arts and culture that I thrive on.  It is also small enough that I do not feel claustrophobic here, as I have in larger cities like New York or London.  Liverpool is small, but it doesn’t feel small.  It is large (really, it’s not a suburb, which is *just fine* with me!) but not too large.  The climate here is actually pretty mild, though you’ll hear everyone in the UK complain about the weather constantly (I believe it is the national sport).  Liverpool has amazing local bands, great museums, a proud history and the friendliest people I’ve met in the UK yet.  If you asked me what I love most about Liverpool, the answer is immediately going to be the people here.  We also have the best sports team ever.   (Ha ha, made you look! It’s true, though.  Very very true!). I am a train ride away from London, Glasgow, or Edinburgh.  I am a quick easy jet flight from Dublin (though I have yet to make that trip). I’ve had great food here and been to some great pubs.  And really – I’m near the water.  This is what I need.  It might be colder water than I am used to, with a sometimes bitter off shore breeze, but it IS the water, and that soothes my soul.

 

Image of Liverpool's skyline at night.  Attribution Unknown

Image of Liverpool’s skyline at night. Attribution Unknown

 

This is a shot of Bold Street, my favorite street in the city.  It's not where the chain stores or the posh stores are.  Most are locally owned artisan stores, and there are a lot of really good restaurants here.  My favorites: Kashbah, Leaf, The Custom Cupcake Company, and Passage to India.  Photo by Catherine Cavendish.

This is a shot of Bold Street, my favorite street in the city. It’s not where the chain stores or the posh stores are. Most are locally owned artisan stores, and there are a lot of really good restaurants here. My favorites: Kashbah, Leaf, The Custom Cupcake Company, and Passage to India. Photo by Catherine Cavendish.

Part of the city's rejuvenation projects nearly 10 years ago, the Albert Dock was restored and museums, cafes, and attractions were opened.  I love this part of the City almost as much as Bold Street.

Part of the city’s rejuvenation projects nearly 10 years ago, the Albert Dock was restored and museums, cafes, and attractions were opened. I love this part of the City almost as much as Bold Street.

 

This is the city, lit up in the night.  The Mersey River divides New Brighton and Liverpool.  So beautiful.

This is the city, lit up in the night. The Mersey River divides New Brighton and Liverpool. So beautiful.

 

The place I would split time with is unlikely to surprise anyone – my home-region (I will not say home town because we moved when I was young and there are several places within the region I could call home) of Southern California.  Specifically, I was born in Huntington Beach.  What can I say about Huntington Beach? Except that it can be paradise.  It can be crowded – the houses are small and close together and the population is high – but the beauty of the region is impossible to deny.

Yes, this.  Picture by me.

Yes, this. Picture by me.

 

One of my sons, enjoying the beach.  Picture also by me.

One of my sons, enjoying the beach. Picture also by me.

 

The food, oh the food! I can’t actually talk about it because I will drool.  I miss it so much.

There’s a lot to do in So Cal.  Every conceivable kind of beach or water sport, is, of course, obvious.  What few people know is how convenient it is to other types of sport.   Where we moved when I was 12 (and where my Dad and brother still live in Lake Elsinore) there are vineyards and lakes nearby, and a short bit of a drive further will take you to the mountains.  Idyllwild and Big Bear have skiing in the winter.  I used to hike there many weekends with my friend Denise from work. I spent one summer at Idyllwild Institute Fiesta, a leadership camp for girls.

One of my favorite places to hike, ever.

One of my favorite places to hike, ever.

 

Or, if you go a bit further south east, you can go to the Mojave desert and Ocotillo (where my great grandmother lived, and I spent some formative parts of my life).  I grew up with the sands of this place between my toes.  I learned what it was to cover my skin with the scalding sand in order to protect it from the sun, much more likely to burn it in the end.  My family grew up here.  My brother and his family still go here to ride their bikes and their sand rails and their buggies.

 

Ocotillo

 

Nearly every possible climate in the world is in Southern California (yeah, maybe not the rainy wet climate of Liverpool or Seattle).  Southern California is roughly the size of the entire UK, I’d say.  Don’t quote me on that, I haven’t done the actual measurements.

So Cal is where my family still live.  I miss them incredibly. The lot of the Expat is that no matter how they love their new home, how much they adore the people they meet, they will always miss those who are left behind.  So Cal still holds everything I was made from.

So yes, please.  Let me split my time between the two.  And get me that teleporter, ASAP.

 

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/daily-prompt-travels-2/

I thought it would be dirty.

Blame it on my youth.  Blame it on my naivete, or on the fact that Russia was a gigantic, scary propagandized place for a blonde, blue-eyed California teenager.  I was only 16.  I was sheltered in the way that only a young person from a warm, affluent, paradisical land can be; Wasn’t every place like California? Didn’t everyone have sunshine and air conditioning and the ocean only minutes away? Even if not affluent, we always had plenty.

And then I was travelling, my first big trip away from California.  And it was a big trip; half a world away, to Moscow, for a foreign exchange program.  It was 1988.  The wall was still up.  Soviet Russia still held its thrall on the US, as a mysterious communist nation (which I didn’t even UNDERSTAND back then, it was just a strange, scary thing that was NOTWHATWEWERE). Russia was the boogeyman built on propaganda.

I’d been raised on Cold Wars, on Gorbachev and Reagan and the rhetoric of world leaders who used each other as the threat to subdue their own populations.  I expected poverty.  I expected grime and dirt, and people lined up in the streets for a loaf of bread.  I expected chain gangs of people, working hard labor for their meager salaries. This is what I’d been programmed to expect.

What I found was the same thing I’ve found in every city I’ve visited since.  I found people, and beauty, and laughter.  I found artwork, and science, and literature, and history. I found national pride, and curiosity.

Today, a friend of mine posted a brief video about the method the Olympic committee in Moscow is using to get people excited for the upcoming games.  For one brief moment in that video, I saw some of the stunning interior shots of the Moscow Metro system – and was instantly transported back in time to July 1988, when I stepped into those underground tunnels for the first time and felt…awe.  I was not in a subway, a metropolitan train line, like we have in New York or Chicago or Boston.  I was in an art gallery, a museum, a gorgeous Baroque era mansion – this was not the dirty I was expecting. This piece of mundane, everyday city life in Moscow was BEAUTIFUL. It showed pride and exceptionalism and a population that cared about their city, their country, and themselves.  I found this throughout the city – in its parks, in its shopping areas, in its streets and in its gutters.  Clean, maintained – even in the poorer parts of the city.  These were not the boogeymen I’d been taught to fear.  They were a population of people, with different values than the ones I’d been taught, yes – but mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and daughters and sons.  Happy.  Smiling.  Hard working.  As afraid of us as we were of them.

I haven’t been back to Moscow since – I’d like to see how the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of Capitalism has changed things – but I do now know that I’ll see that same magnificent Metro when I do make it back there.  My travels since have taught me that I will see the same people – the people I’ve met the world over in my travels.  The people just like me.

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I have been in the UK for a bit over a year now.  While I do love it here, I still miss home sometimes.  The recent losses in my life have made living here even more difficult.  Some days I struggle to find the positive.  

On that note, it’s also not generally in my nature to be depressed, or angry, or pessimistic (ok, so maybe a little pessimistic).  I try to keep things light. I don’t want to be a sourpuss, with bitchy resting face.  So I sat down and decided to think of some really positive things that I am enjoying in my life RIGHT THIS SECOND.  And, at each subsequent second during the typing of this blog post. 

1. England is GORGEOUS.  I’m serious.  It is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been.  And every part of it that I’ve been to is beautiful – even the closer quarters of the city of London.  But I’ve been many places in the north of England, I’ve been to Scotland, and I’ve been to Wales.  I’ve been blown away by the scenery.  I’ve been on the school run and actually gasped at the way the clouds seem close enough to touch, or the sun shines on the bottom of them and makes the sky light up in oranges, reds, and yellows.  Everything is green.  Everything is gorgeous.

 

In Aber Falls, North Wales

In Aber Falls, North Wales

 

Aber Falls, North Wales

Aber Falls, North Wales

2.  I am in a constant state of amusement and/or befuddlement at the way modern life is lived here.  This really is fun – trying to figure out why people still iron everything (because the washers and dryers are so tiny that they leave major creases and wrinkles in the clothing).  Or, why there are two buttons to flush a toilet.  It doesn’t matter which you choose, one of them won’t work, and the best option is to always push both buttons down at the same time.  The good thing is that there are almost never flush handles, so all of you sick, disgusting people who flush the toilet with your shoes would be out of luck (you know who you are!). 

3.  Everything is a Monty Python sketch.  Ok, not everything, but enough to make me widen my eyes in wonder and then laugh.  I thought the whole “It’s only a Flesh Wound” sketch from Holy Grail was a gross exaggeration. Then I watched a stoic British man break his leg, brush off all offers of assistance, sit on the side of the gymnasium watching us finish our workout, then walk to the parking lot with us, and insisted on carrying his own bag! It was only after he got home that he realized he might need to get to the A&E. So, there you have it.  Monty Python is true. TRUE!

4.  Roller Derby.  Yes, Roller Derby.  My lovely friend Rachael inspired me to try out with her, and we did it together, and then a bunch of other things happened.  But I am still skating 8 months later, and hope to actually bout soon.  I’ve learned a lot about myself on this journey.  I will blog more about derby later.  It’s enough that it needs its own post. 

Those are a few of my favorite things, or at least things that I find amusing and enigmatic about the United Kingdom.  There will be more, I promise.  I’m off to skate now!

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Corfu trip, May 24th through June 1, 2013.

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