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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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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I am the quiet suburban soccer mom.  I am the responsible one who picks up her children (mostly) on time, who has a strict schedule every day, who does her best to manage the grind of the routine.  I feed everyone, mostly things that I know they will eat rather than what I think is healthy, granted.  But my impulse – what would my impulse be if I gave in to it? 

I would go.  Just one bag, one backpack, and go.  I would hike and travel and take trains and buses and boats and the occasional airplane. To India, to Africa. I would look into the faces of children and see their similarities to my own. I would study the psyche of every person I came across, and bash my suppositions against the truth. I would just be.  I would explore this gray humanity that I seldom feel a part of.  I would look for the color in the world again. I would throw out all schedules and responsibilities and let the world scribe itself onto my memory.  

Seriously, though.  As if I would ever.

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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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One of the advantages of living in the UK is an easier access to many places that would be inaccessible to me, for reasons of time, money, convenience, etc. in the US.  When we moved to Liverpool, we decided we wanted to see as much of those places as we could possibly manage.  Affordability is still an issue because we are, after all, a family of five, which opens up logistical issues.  Most “package” vacations are marketed to families of four, or more commonly to couples.  We have to pay for an extra room, because most hotels will only sleep a maximum of four to a room.  Package excursions are also usually marketed to numbers divisible by two.  Smart of us to go with the odd number, isn’t it?

Anyway, the first such excursion we’ve managed, besides a long weekend trip to Scotland, was a week long stay in Corfu, Greece.  The seaside village of Sidari is where our resort was located, and our hotel, the Panorama Sidari Village Hotel, was fairly accommodating to our odd-numbered selves.

But, oh, back to the beginning –

We flew out on May 24th, late in the evening.  We’d booked the entire vacation through Thomas Cook, which had its good points and its bad.  The first of the bad was that they were horribly mismanaged on that first Friday of a week long holiday.  I don’t know if they didn’t look at their own flight manifests, but they only had four agents checking in hundreds of people.  The line just to check in (there was no online check in option on our tickets, for some strange reason) took us over an hour.  They had to pull people from the line to take them up to the front as their flights were getting too close to takeoff and if they’d remained in that line they would never have made it. The agents who normally checked in the special customers (I suppose the ones who paid extra for fast check in?) were busy with the near-departures.  Our boys were infinitely patient, and I’m thankful for them.  We then had to wait in line for security for only a slightly shorter amount of time.  It’s a good thing I get to the airport early, always.

Anyhow, after all that we were in through the gate and on our way without further incident.  Our flight arrived in Corfu at 4am local time.  This is the good thing about booking through Thomas Cook: I didn’t have to think about anything.  I got off the plane, we got our bags, we were bussed to the resort, quickly checked in and in bed for a nap without incident.

Our first day at the resort, we sort of overslept for breakfast (that whole getting in a 4 am thing meant we didn’t get to sleep until around 7am).  It was only 2 hours til lunch time though, so we decided to check out our balcony.  We saw this:

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Well, that was one side of the balcony.  The other side was this:

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For all the serious, our hotel was amazing.  The views were amazing, and could be found at every turn, because we were up on a hill above the beach.  The walk up to the rooms was pretty intense, but they do have a shuttle bus that runs you from the bottom of the hill to the rooms (ostensibly) every 10 minutes.  The pool was lovely, with a bar open during pool hours that served drinks, ice cream, and snacks (the sausage rolls were a hit with the boys).  Here is the pool:

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We could always find a sunbed/sunchair.The resort wasn’t terribly crowded, though I think it was more crowded than usual  because of British half-term holidays, which indicates that it would be safe to say it won’t get intensely overcrowded like some resorts.

The food was actually surprisingly good! I had read some reviews that said it wasn’t the best.  I think part of that is that they were balancing a line between those British people who are creatures of habit and averse to trying new foods (there are a lot of them, trust me!) and the people who wanted to try the local menu.  For my part, there was a gorgeous salad bar every day that beat the pants off any salads I’ve had since being in the UK.  I hadn’t realized how much I missed a proper salad!  But they did their best to include standard fare (beans on toast) for the first group, and then delicious local things for the rest of us (moussaka, gyros, and Soutzoukakia were some of the best samplings I had).  The staff were always pleasant and accomodating in the dining room, though the evening staff at the front desk was more pleasant than the morning staff.

The rooms were all well-sized, and they were not luxurious but they were more thanadequate.  The beds were HARD, like, if there was one thing they should do better at this hotel, it would be GET BETTER BEDS.  I ended up taking one of the pool float-beds and using it for a mattress on my twin bed.  Yes, because of our 5 person party, we had two twin rooms with an extra twin pullout in one of them.  Not for a romantic trip, this one.

The town of Sidari itself is sweet – very small and easy to walk the entirety of it.  The walk to the beach from the hotel is only 5 minutes, and it takes about 10 to walk through the whole town if you don’t stop in any of the shops.  MOST of the people you see/talk with are from the UK or are expats.  The entertainment crew at the resorts are brought in by the travel agencies to organize activities. The bartenders/servers/shop workers are the only actual locals you will meet, and they speak English with you.  In other words, this is the holiday for the tourist, not a holiday to immerse yourself in local culture. The village is nice and has a few places to eat and drink that we found very pleasant.  B.E.D. (Beverage, Entertainment, Dinig) on the main street was fabulous for a morning breakfast or an afternoon to sit, use the WiFi, and have a drink while sitting on the back patio overlooking the beach.  They had sunchairs out back and a swingset for the kids.  We went there several times, but not in the evenings, so we can’t speak to the entertainment portion of it. Another place we enjoyed was Pleasures, a small cafe that served crepes and some sinful desserts.  I had the Gyro Crepe which was just fantastic.

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Sidari village at night.

Day Trips were available through Thomas Cook at the resort, but we saved about 100 Euro going through the little travel shop in town.  Exact same trip, exact same boats, just much less expensive through Vlasseros travel, and the guides/drivers/agents were all very pleasant and polite.  We did two trips through them – one to Paleokastritstra and Bella Vista, and the other a boat cruise along the coast to Kassiopi.  I’d have liked to have spent more time in Kassiopi, as it was LOVELY but we were a bit limited in time by the bus schedule.

This post is getting a bit long and rambly.  I am sure I have more to say on this but I’ve also got three boys who have chicken pox (INORITE?!?) and must go put them to bed.

I will leave you with one more gorgeous picture.  G’night!

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I’ve learned a little bit about communication in the last few days.  Sometimes, miscommunication is even worse than non-communication.  Although I specified with DH that I wanted to know this was 100% sure before I told anyone about it, and he assured me it was 100% happening – it wasn’t.  At least not in his mind.  When he found out I posted about the move he really flipped.  We had an intense conversation about why – it turns out that it’s mostly about what he was comfortable with being communicated.  He is much closer to his sleeve with information than I am.  Any miniscule possibility that this may not happen is enough for him to say it isn’t happening, whereas for me it is a process.  It is happening, or it’s not, but the process of it is important to me and I need to note it, process it and remember it.

FYI: It’s really happening.  He realized he over-reacted and we talked through the why of it.  Being a psychology major sometimes comes in handy.

The latest information we have is that DH will fly out on the 24th to spend approximately 10 days at the client site.  While there he will scout locations for where we might live, and meet with relocation agents hired by the company to help us transition.  Meanwhile, I will be packing/organizing/cleaning the house (how much can you accumulate in 12 years?!).  I will still be working and going to school full time, and caring for the boys as always.  We are actually wondering if my doubling up on classes will be a good idea, as the sooner I can finish this program (right now, scheduled for 11/1 of this year), I might be able to practice therapy over there and perhaps take classes for my graduate program as well.  In the meantime, our schedule for the next month is mind-numbingly crazy.

  • This Monday: DH flies to Austin for project.  He flies out to Austin two weeks in a row.
  • The 24th he flies to the UK.  He is there until the 6th.
  • April 2nd, I hope to take the kids to visit family during Spring Break.  They will not see some of these family members for at least a year, maybe two.
  • April 9th, I leave for Chicago for the RT Bookreviews convention.  Jay is supposed to be home to care for the kids during this time.
  • I suspect he will be flying back to the UK sometime the next week, April 16th or 17th.  He might not return after that.
  • I am supposed to take a trip over there sometime in May to help him find a house, set up schools for the boys, etc.  This is also assuming we can find childcare for the boys – not an easy thing at all.
  • The last day of school is May 31.  The boys and I will somehow make our way to the West Coast to visit my family for a week-ish.  We will probably fly from LAX to Manchester.

 

Somewhere in there, DH and I are both going to need to schedule minor surgical procedures that will take 3-5 days of recovery time.  DH wants me to skip Chicago.  I am not willing to do that, as it’s been planned for a year and I will not be able to attend another RT Convention for years.  Add in that I’m not sure how the logistics of even continuing to review while in Liverpool will work – I suppose only books available on NetGalley will be do-able.

My head is obviously spinning.  I am nervous and excited in equal measure.  So much of what I love here will be sorely missed: Dear friends, family, my job(s).  At the same time, what I’m moving towards thrills me:  Travel.  Adventure. New friends. Friends that I’ve sorely missed.   The loves that I am leaving are breaking my heart, and the loves that I’ll be gaining will make me sing out.   I am taking my greatest loves with me, and am so excited to share the world with them.

We’ll just have to see.

 

 

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