Monday, November 12, 2018

Where to next?

It's early in the morning. The hustle and bustle of making our train kept us focused.
One must pay close attention. People are moving pretty quickly. You can get lost in the crowd and lose your way without even realizing it. This time, I saved the day. Seriously. Mr Wonderful was convinced we needed to take the circle line. My gut said otherwise. We needed to head for the platforms. I was right. Thank you very much! I saved us hours! Only time the whole trip I helped with navigating. I felt special this one time!

I found the stations to be quite fascinating. There is no waiting for you. You must get on the train ASAP. It's never about you while making a train. The doors close with or without you!

There's a whole world underground!

Where was this train taking us?
Our first glimpse. Any guesses?
We arrived at the location of a certain royal wedding that took place in May. Windsor.
We found Windsor to be very inviting. I walked around in wonder. Everything was old and quaint. Just like England should be.
Bunting was strung near shops, across streets. Everywhere. There were cobblestone lanes and small businesses.
We are here. The village that filled the world with happiness all because two people fell in love. 

More pictures to come.

Thursday, November 8, 2018


Meet Michelle Griep. She's my fellow anglophile writing friend.

I just found out this morning she won the prestigious Christy Award.

This is us a few years ago when I was just beginning to get to know her. She is hilariously funny and WAY into England. Like, WAY more than me. That's a lot!

She has been such an encouragement  to me with my writing. She even embellishes the fact that my writing is "brilliant!"
Not kidding! I have a framed note from her that sits on my desk to remind myself when I want to hit the delete button on a scene I just wrote. Sometimes I bang my head on my desk and ask myself why I'm doing this.
Then, I look up and see her note. "....Why are you listening to that stupid voice in your head telling you your work is crap?...YOU ARE A WRITER! YOU ARE AN AUTHOR!"

I may still not believe that, but having Michelle's 'voice' as a constant cheerleader helps immensely!

I'm so stinkin' proud of her and so grateful to know she is in my corner, cheering me on. That's so important in this "someday I dream of publishing a book" land!

Monday, November 5, 2018


I'm in front of, you guessed it, Buckingham Palace!
Mr Wonderful (hubby!) and I enjoyed a day in the life of being a royal. I could get used to it. Easily.

First stop...the Royal Mews
Pick a coach, any coach.
Hands down, I'd pick the Glass Coach. Why?

Diana, of course. This was her famous ride to St Paul's Cathedral. A Cinderella story if there ever was. But, we all know how the fairy tale ended. SIGH.

 A little too much gold, perhaps? My thoughts exactly! This is the Diamond jubilee coach used in 2012 for the Queen's jubilee. Such detail. Check out the lanterns. They are made of Edinburgh crystal. I stood in awe for many minutes eyeing all the tiny detailed work that went into making this carriage.
Recognize this one?
HINT: The top wasn't up while the occupants rode in this carriage.
The Ascot Landau. All purchased during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Did you guess right?

Next stop...Buckingham Palace.
Mr Wonderful couldn't get the Queen to look his way!
So many people. It was very difficult to get a view of the Changing of the Guard, but they're hard to miss!
No photos allowed inside the palace, so here I am on the steps in the "backyard."
A few notes I took while wandering around inside...

Queen Victoria was the first royal to move in, but you probably already knew that from watching Victoria.

The palace has 450 workers and the Queen entertains 50,000 guests a year.
775 rooms and 78 bathrooms. I would not want to clean all of them, thank you very much!

Lets talk about that flagpole.
If the Queen is present, the Sovereign Standard is raised.
The Union flag is when she is not present.

I got to see the Throne Room. The room where all the photography for royal weddings is taken.

You haven't seen London until you've been to the Palace.
Next stop...Clarence House. The official residence of the Prince of Wales.
Again, no photos.

The Queen Mother once lived here.
She loved Afternoon Tea. We would have gotten along just great! She had her tea in the library where I noticed copies of the works of the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Shakespeare. There was even a first edition copy of Peter Pan.

Did you know tea used to be an aristocratic drink? During the 17th century, tea came from China and was stored under lock and key. Wow...all the tea I have, I would have been said to be rich!

We ended a lovely day spending it with our lovely England friends, Marion and Alan.
We had so much fun catching up and breaking bread together. So very wonderful to see them.
This Pimms was the very best drink I had during our entire holiday. Yep. It was that good.

Monday, October 29, 2018

War Rooms

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born November 30, 1874.
Obviously he was best known as Prime Minister, but did you know he won the Nobel Prize for Literature?
How did I not know this?

After spending the whole day in a fictionalized Downton Abbey, we spent much of the next day learning all about the very real Winston Churchill while touring the Churchill War Rooms. It was fascinating. I could have spent the whole day inside.
If not for the crowds, it would be easy to overlook the famous rooms. The original basement store was chosen because of its location near Parliament and also Number 10 Downing Street.

I tried to imagine what it was like being a part of this underground world while I walked through the rooms. We were told the area was smokey and airless. I can tell you with much certainty, I would not have survived those kinds of conditions. I'm not good at all with any kind of smoke. I think I would have taken my chances and ran for the exits to inhale fresh air!

Along with the smoke, there were rats, insects and noise. The blare of bright lights must have been difficult also.  Doesn't it sound like a great place to hang out? thanks.

Churchill hated noise! Go figure! The typewriters had to be special noiseless ones, and he hated whistling! Oh the enraged anger when he would hear someone whistling! I guess everyone has their irritants!

Churchill had few real weapons in the early days of the war. He attacked with words.
He gave many speeches which are among the most powerful and inspiring ever given in the English language. He was a gifted speaker, indeed.

As I love to write, I found it very fascinating when I read just how much Churchill loved it too.  After losing the election in 1945, Churchill wrote. He was about 70 years old. So inspiring. You lose, but you must keep dreaming and doing the next thing.

This is a picture inside one of the war rooms. Just think, this is not fiction. Real life stuff happened in this very room. Things that changed the course of the world.
I wonder what it was like?!
Like him or not, Winston Churchill lived a pretty magnificent life. Prime Minister, husband, father, painter, writer. Did you know he was a prisoner of war for a time in South Africa? Yep. Amazing, intelligent human being.
I'm learning more and more about him as I research the London Blitz.

History. I love it.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Playing the odds

Did you know swimming with sharks is safer than petting a dog, driving a car, or sleeping in your own bed?
Who knew?
Lottery frenzy was crazy this week here in the states. Almost a billion dollars was at stake. I think everyone gave in to the madness and coughed up the $2 to play the odds. I mean, someone's gotta win, right?

And someone did win. It just wasn't me! Or likely, you.
The fact is, your odds of falling out of your own bed and dying are better than winning the lottery. I know. Depressing, huh? Getting mauled by a dog, or dying of a bee sting are also on the list.

So, why do we do it? Why do we think we're the ones that will win big? 
The short answer is ...Why not? What do we have to lose? I can think of a lot worse things to spend $2 on.
The problem is when we trick ourselves into thinking we will win the next time and the next and the next, and pretty soon we've got a gambling issue. But, for the sake of this post, lets just say we only spent $2, shall we? 

Why did I play?
It's  kind of fun to think of all the possibilities, don't you think? What would I do with all that money?

Well, for starters, I would give a significant amount to my siblings and then tell them to never ask me for money again!! 
I have plenty of charities I would give the money to, and of course, I would help my children. 

But after thinking about all the things money can buy, I really started digging deep. 
What can't money buy? Turns out, lots of things.

Friendships. The deep ones. The real ones.
A rich marriage
Finishing a manuscript
Quality relationships with family

The list goes on and on.
I'll keep my life, thank you very much.

Will I buy a $2 ticket if the lottery gets to a billion again? If I'm honest, probably.

The reminder of what's really important is worth it.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Finally arrived

Cue the music!

Pinch me. I'm here.
Everything about Downton Abbey came alive when I stepped out of our van and on to the property. In many ways, I felt like I was stepping on to a set. It just was all so surreal.
Julianne Fellowes is an amazing writer. Downton Abbey is character driven and he did that so well when he created Bates and Anna, the Crawley family and all the others. Each character came alive for all of us. Remember the craze of the show? People dropped their plans to watch what would happen next.
Now that, my friends,  is creative writing at its best. Julianne hooked us from the get go.

Such a bummer that we couldn't take photos inside. I get it. But still. SIGH.
Looks exactly like the opening scene doesn't it?! I tried to get this photo just right!

 We walked much of the estate. Wherever you ambled, you could always see the castle.
Why, of course, there are gardens. Secret ones. Lovely place to collect your thoughts.
It was rather warm while we were in England and things were pretty brown, but as you can see, there were spots of beautiful color.
In the series, Downton was used as a hospital for those soldiers in the war.
In real life, Highclere was used in the same way. I'm sure the history of this castle played a part in the episodes where the hurt were brought to heal.
Almina Wombwell was a real person who was instrumental in carrying out this cause.
She was adored by the patients. She was revered for her help in little touches, giving whisky before supper, and helping to contact the patients' next of kin.

One such patient praised her:

"... Highclere hospital-it is quite the best I have seen and its little Lady is a marvel, another Florence Nightingale..."

I love history. It's such a treat to be able to visit such esteemed estates in England. If you get the chance, GO! What a lovely way to spend your day.


Monday, October 15, 2018

One more stop

One more stop before Highclere, but first...

***********BREAKING NEWS!*********************

Have you heard? Meghan and Harry are having a baby! Oh how I wish Princess Diana could be here.

And did you watch the wedding of Princess Eugenie? Didn't you love her dress? I especially thought it was so wonderful that she proudly showed off her scar from having had surgery to treat scoliosis.

I remember having to be checked for scoliosis in school. A vivid memory of having to bend over as the nurse checked to see if my back was in alignment. Interesting what triggers our memory. Such a lovely nod to those charities and hospitals that help treat the medical condition.

As the guests held their hats due to windy conditions outside St George's Chapel, I found myself surveying the grounds, hoping the camera would scan the crowds and the buildings surrounding the castle. It's always so fun to see the exact spots where I walked just a few months ago.
The steps of St George's Chapel.
It's smaller than it appears on TV.
The Chapel.
See that small entry over to the left? That's where Meghan entered and the world got their first glimpse of her dress as she exited the vehicle and walked up the steps to the chapel. 

Princess Eugenie paraded up the same steps to meet her prince.
(More on the Chapel in a later post!)

Off to Bampton.
You'll recognize some of these sites if you are a fan at all of Downton!
Remember Debbie, our tour guide?  Here she is familiarizing us with the village.
Recognize this?
If you guessed  Isobel Crawley's house, you'd be correct!
Remember the scenes with her and the Dowager? They made the best characters. I loved their zingers! 
The church hosted many scenes throughout the series.
Weddings, funerals, and even a jilting at the altar!
I never tired of ambling through the churchyards in England. If markers could talk...

I can see why Bampton was picked for the village scenes. It's a lovely place of which I could easily be found in my mature years of life!