I Miss My Friend

I had three best friends when I was a teenager. Leslie was one of them and the one with whom I kept the best contact. It helped that she moved down to Florida several years ago, which gave us the opportunity to get together.

Our perpetual plan was to meet at The Back Porch Restaurant in Lake Alfred and enjoy lunch and shopping. It was the perfect place to meet—nearly halfway between our homes. We loved it. It’s an idyllic spot for ladies to pull away from the cares of life and enjoy each other’s company. Sadly, we were not very good at keeping those appointments. Things happened, for instance, travel, work, kids, grandkids, and COVID. I am thankful for each time we had there.

We missed celebrating both of our birthdays on The Back Porch last year. I was traveling on mine. She was not feeling well on hers. The loose plan was to meet in December, but of course the holiday activities got in our way. We always thought we’d have the next time.

Bob and I were on our way to our son, Joe’s, for Christmas when I got the call from Tad. Leslie suffered a massive stroke, and she was gone. The words hung in the air as I tried to grapple with what I had just heard through Tad’s trembling voice. No more trips to Lake Alfred. No more crazy phone calls. No more reminiscing about our youth. No more long text streams. Just sadness mixed with the reality that I couldn’t quite grasp—Leslie was in Heaven. I knew that for sure. We both had accepted Jesus as our savior when we were 15. It was another one of our bonds.

Because I don’t clean out my texts often, I sat down and read all our conversations from October 2019 through November 2022. They are filled with laughter and sadness, joy and pain, prayer requests, hurricane check-ups, sarcasm and love. I will miss her crazy laughter and wonderful sense of humor, but the love of a good friend—I’ll miss that most.

The last time I talked with her was in September right before Bob and I headed to Hawaii. Hurricane Ian was coming to Florida, and we wanted to make sure she knew she could evacuate to our Orlando home even though we’d be away. She assured me she’d keep it in mind and teased me for evacuating all the way to Hawaii like some kind of crazy over-reacting paranoid Floridian. I love her.

As teenagers, we spent a lot of time at each other’s houses. They were a mile apart, but we walked it. Kids walked everywhere back then. Leslie had a pool in her backyard – something that was unheard of in suburban Maryland at the time. Therefore, we spent more summer days at her house. One day when we were walking back to her house from mine, she spotted her neighbor coming towards us. My fourteen-year-old self had a huge crush on him at the time, so she wanted to warn me, especially since I had just polished off a couple of Hostess HoHos and my teeth held evidence of that yummy chocolate cake and cream filling.

It was a good thing that I was packing that day. I whipped out my squirt gun and promptly cleaned my teeth. Leslie gave me the all-clear teeth sign, and we both laughed so hard that we couldn’t do more than wave hello when we passed by him. That is a great example of the passage from childhood to adulthood. Having a crush on a boy and carrying a squirt gun while eating junk food. No wonder our parents didn’t know what to do with us.

It was a hot summer day and we joined a few others wading through the Reflecting Pool on the mall grounds in D.C. We were so scared we’d get in trouble.

Once Leslie accompanied our family from Maryland to Florida to visit my grandparents. By that time, my two older siblings weren’t making the trip, so she joined my sister and me in the backseat of our Oldsmobile Delta 88, complete with plastic on the seats.

My grandparents lived in a “magical” world called MoHo Park, which was right off the fairly new Interstate 4, several miles from the up-and-coming, Disney World, and smack next to a prison farm, which later became the 33rd street jail in Orlando. It was a mobile home park for senior citizens. The entire park loved it when families would visit. They freely shared their pool and provided us with bikes to ride. My grandparents were two of the most loving people in the world, so they fit right in there.

During the daytime the three of us girls needed more to do than ride bikes and swim in the pool, so we toured the model homes. I should add that our tours were self-guided. It was great fun and felt dangerous. It wasn’t truly breaking and entering, as all we did was enter. I guess in those days you could leave doors open more freely, even if you did live next to a prison farm.

One fine summer day as we were going through a model home, we heard the front door open and voices wafted back to where we were. Uh oh. Leslie was not one to handle stress well and this time proved no different. Linda and I, I am sure, were not exactly models of discreet silence, but we held it together as we pushed Leslie into a closet. Of course, we joined her. Someone had to hold their hand over her mouth.

To this day I don’t remember if we were discovered or not, but I do remember Leslie laughing and ultimately crying so uncontrollably that I now wonder if those who entered the model home were hearing impaired. It could be! We were in a senior citizen community.

Years later, about a year after Bob and I married and moved to Florida, Leslie called me to tell me she was engaged. Would I be her matron of honor? Of course I wanted to, but there was the problem of money. We were newlyweds with Bob finishing college and me working for Social Security. There was no way I could afford the trip. Her dad sent me a plane ticket. He was a sweetheart, even though he always said he’d give Bob and me a year since I was clearly marrying my best friend and very young at that. Now you know why Bob and I have stayed married for going on 48 years. It was to spite Mr. Smith! I think it eventually made him happy to know we were going to make it!

Leslie and her kids, Kevin and Katie, visited us in Florida when she came down to a roller-skating competition. She competed and was quite good. She worked at roller rinks while raising her kids. We picked up where we left off, but this time we were not the kids. Yet every time we’d meet up, the kid in us leaked out the way it does when you’ve known each other forever.

Last week, Bob and I went to Venice Beach, Florida, for Leslie’s celebration of life. She lived in Florida for a few years prior to moving there, but I had not yet visited since the move. The last time I saw Leslie was the spring of 2020 when she and Tad met my mom and me for lunch. COVID and other things had interfered with our seeing each other, but I’m thankful for that brief time together.

Leslie didn’t know that Bob and I planned to come see her and see her new life and have Bob meet Tad. We knew it would be after the holidays, but sadly we were too late. Our trip to see her was to say a final goodbye to her and give our love, comfort, and support to Leslie’s son and Tad. To grieve with those who grieve and to share memories of Leslie with each other.

I’m sad and I am grieving, but I grieve as one with hope. Leslie knew Jesus as her savior. I have no doubt about it. We will see each other again.

Leslie with her sushi stealing cutie-pie grandson. She loved her grands. She sent me this picture two years ago.

Heads Will Roll

I did not handle it well when I saw Joe Theisman’s head roll on the ground and settle under my car. I was reminded of the Redskin’s game back in 1985 where Joe had his career-ending injury. As Bob has always been a Redskin fan, I was subjected to watching them play whenever they were televised. (I’m not sure if he worked that into our vows, but I was okay with it.) I wish I had gone out for a walk that day. I vividly remember seeing the bone break in Joe’s leg. It was horrific. Lawrence Taylor, who tackled him, was the first on his feet to vehemently jester for help. I’ve never seen a player as distraught as LT.

But this isn’t about the human Joe Theisman; it’s about my Hallmark ornament Joe Theisman.

It all began on a rare Monday full of motivation to get a few things done around the house – specifically, window washing. The end of Hurricane season was nearing but all eyes remained on the tropics as Hurricane Nicole was eying Florida. The skies were cloudy, so Bob and I adjusted our plans from working in the yard (probably a waste of time with a storm approaching) to the windows. I was inside and he was outside. Side note: I love him being retired!

We started out together but his job takes longer, moving the hose around and such. When I finished I kept on going to my mom’s bedroom and deep-cleaned it. Shoving furniture around and wiping baseboards, vacuuming as far underneath things as I could reach, and finishing up with damp mopping the floor. As I wandered through the house fetching the things I needed, I could hear the water running outside as Bob was finishing up. I went into the laundry room and noticed the floor was wet. “Oh, Bob,” I muttered to myself, figuring he had blasted the door with the hose in an effort to clean it. I threw a towel down and went into the garage, which was also wet. At that point I found Bob and told him we had a problem. He was in the middle of something and would be with me in a minute.

I went back down the hall to the laundry room, which by then had a small current of water flowing in it. I ran and told Bob he needed to shut off the water NOW, all the while not remembering that I know how to shut off the water. That’s how used to Bob taking care of things that I am. Anyway, I walked through the puddle of the guest bathroom into the adjoining bedroom, which was very wet, and into the walk-in closet which had become a lake. Of course, lakes in Florida are not like lakes up north. A big puddle might be referred to as a lake down here. Whatever we chose to call it, there was a lot of water to deal with.

The clean-up effort began just as I was ready to stop doing chores and put my feet up. I will forever be leery of motivation to clean! As it turned out, we had a leak under our slab so we spent a lot of time with our plumber that week.

All that being said, it was the clean-up process that led to the trickle-down effect of putting up our Christmas tree two weeks before Thanksgiving. The tree was in a box standing in our garage in an area that was now a small pond. I moved it away and laid it on its side to dry out. It hadn’t been in water long, but when it was time to put things back in their rightful place, we had the decision to stand it back up and wonder if it was completely dry or put it up in our living room, thus giving the box adequate time to really dry out. So, there you go – I began decorating the tree as Hurricane Nicole made landfall on our poor East Coast. Weirdest hurricane watch ever!

As per usual, Bob climbed the ladder and handed down the boxes full of decorations which are stored on a high shelf in our garage. I guess he thought he had a good grip on one as he dangled it from the ladder for me to retrieve. The only problem was I wasn’t there and his grip was waning. The box came crashing down and popped open spilling some of the contents onto the floor, including Joe Theisman, who was at one beheaded.

I’d like to tell you that I was gracious to Bob, but that would be a lie. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that Joe wasn’t the only one who was in trouble that day. The irony of my anger while decorating for the celebration of the birth of The Prince of Peace did not escape me. The pettiness of it was humbling. I’m thankful for forgiveness.

I was able to pop Joe’s head back on and once again he has a special place on our Christmas tree. Plus, Bob and I moved past the beheading and happily went about our day a little more aware of how fragile life can be – in more ways than one.

Be on the lookout for those things that can rob you of your joy during this time where Joy to the World is practically the theme song! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas! I’ll be back in 2023.

Haleakala National Park

Have you ever thought about the things you have intentionally or even inadvertently done that influence people in your life, especially your children? I attribute my fascination with Hawaii and my love of national parks to my dad. When I was about nine years old, our family of six camped across the country in our modified VW microbus. We stopped at some of the biggies – Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Sequoia, and Rocky Mountain National Park. I loved being in the parks and still consider them high up on my list of happy places.

Bob and I have made this trip with our four children, so we now understand what an undertaking it was and how we probably had more fun than our parents did, though they appreciated it more.

My dad and little sister Linda posing in front of one of the iconic signs. My nine-year-old self took this with my brand new camera.

I think my love and fascination of Hawaii came about a bit more subliminally. Dad made several business trips there and took lots of pictures, which were viewed as slides. That was the choice medium of the day – I don’t know why! Believe it or not, sometimes we kids would ask our parents if we could watch home movies and slides. If you can remember a time before the internet and cable TV, that makes more sense.

The problem was, every time we’d ask him to set up the projectors so we could see how cute we all were when we were younger, the first thing he would show us was Hawaii. He loved Hawaii and communicated that well and often, but when you’re a kid you can only sit through so many landscapes and beach scenes before you mentally check out. Something must have stuck in my brain though, because as an adult, Hawaii was on the top of my list of places to visit.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Bob and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with a trip to Hawaii. My dad was very excited to help with the planning. He had saved every brochure from his trips there in the 1960s. He presented them to us, I’m sure, with joyful memories hula-dancing through his head. We stared at them in only slight disbelief that he saved these black and white relics from over three decades ago. “Thanks, Dad!”

Fast forward another 22 years and Hawaii was calling us again. We had two major things in Maui that were unfinished from the year 2000 trip – both involved the spectacular Haleakala National Park, which we visited then. It’s a big park, and it is famous for its sunrises. People make reservations to be transported to the summit for coveted glimpses of the sun rising and then a bike ride down the mountain. On our 25th anniversary trip, we opted out of this because we would have had to leave our resort at 3:00 in the morning to get to the top on time. Sunrises are not dependable, as clouds and rain can quite literally put a damper on them, so you go with that in mind as well. In that season of our lives, we had four kids at home, and there wasn’t much to entice me out of bed at that time of day – not even Haleakala. We have regretted this decision, so when we booked this trip back in January, we determined to embrace that adventure.

That was before I broke my shoulder in February. Would we embrace the biking adventure? Could I embrace the biking adventure? Could I even keep a good hold on the handlebars? Can we wake up at 2:30 in the morning? We decided to hold it loosely – kind of like I would have to hold handlebars on a bike.

My shoulder was doing pretty well, definitely well enough to ride a bike, but my stamina was another thing. Plus, we would be riding along the side of the mountain road for a few hours and my entire body, much less my shoulder, was untested in this arena. Add to that I was beginning to suspect that Hawaii was trying to kill me as everything was just so hard compared to 22 years earlier. I was beginning to lose my drive.

Could 22 years make that much difference? YES! Throw in the broken shoulder and lack of movement for so much of this calendar year, mix it with altitude and elevation changes, and that could be a recipe for a last meal. Even Bob, who continues to mock me by playing pickleball three times a week, was hesitant on this one. We talked about it for a few days and then opted out. It was the mix of getting up early and riding down the mountain all the while remembering that our main goal of this trip was not to injure ourselves. And, we were tired. We were managing to keep up the pace of this trip only by fueling with coffee and diet coke. So, unlike our anniversary trip, we have no regrets.

Where there are sunrises on a mountain top, there must also be sunsets. We’d simply have to look the opposite way. Yep, we’re sunset people, so we headed to the park late morning to do some hiking and would arrive at the summit in time to get a good spot to relax and watch the show.

Our first stop in the park was Hosmer Grove, which was advised for birdwatching.

There is something special about feeling small in the forest.

After hiking through the forest we came to a clearing looking down on a tree covered valley. The birding here is mainly small song birds so I didn’t get any good pictures, but this place was a real treat. We did see several beautiful, red I’iwi and a few yellow ‘Amakihi flitting from tree to tree. This was a most relaxing hike. Bird watching takes my mind off of what my feet are doing.

Photos are from Hawaii.gov online guide to Hawaii’s birds. These beauties were too fast and small to capture with my iPhone.

Thankfully, driving up Haleakala is relatively easy. It’s a slow drive but the landscape is fantastic. We got out periodically and did little off the road hikes and were afforded breathtaking views along the way to its 10,023 foot summit.

This cliff at Kalahaku Overlook had interesting vegetation popping up from the rugged terrain. I loved how the blue sky gave way to the clouds. Literally one minute later we saw this:

Fogbow – I had never heard of them. Fascinating!

Not only are there lots of paths up mountains, Hawaii likes to throw in stairs, too. I guess they like to mix it up.

We made it to the summit and took in the views while walking slowly as the air was a little thin. Also, this was our moment of truth. Would we stay for the sunset? We arrived here at 4:30, over five hours since this journey began, and people were setting up chairs and blankets. We got one of the last parking places.

Japanese Quail

I think this looks like something out of a science fiction movie. It’s the Haleakala Observatories on the summit.

This picture was taken from the top of Haleakala at 4:50 PM. Doesn’t it look like we’re in an airplane? There was still more than an hour until official sunset time not including the beauty that would follow until dark. But, as had become the norm for us in Hawaii, by this time of day we were very tired. Our resort restaurant was having prime rib night. Hummmmm

The trip down the mountain would be over three hours if we waited until the sunset was over. We would be driving in the dark on roads without guardrails in traffic. We would miss prime rib and probably grab fast food. What should we do?

Prime rib? Beautiful sunset? Prime rib? Sunset?

Well, the prime rib was delicious.

The drive down the mountain was lovely. There was no traffic as everyone was heading up. We stopped and took in some great views. And, like I said the prime rib was delicious.

We drove down to this area and were blessed with more beauty and fog bows.

I was enjoying some final views near the top of the mountain when Bob started heading back to our rental jeep. It’s not exactly walking into the sunset, but it’ll do!

Will She Get the T-shirt?

We’re back, Hawaii! It’s been 12 years and we have some unfinished business. This is my fourth trip (Bob’s third), and we figured it’s about time we hiked Diamond Head. How hard can it be?

The day prior to our hike I was encouraged by a t-shirt I saw that stated, “I hiked Diamond Head.” It was generic enough that one couldn’t know if the hike was completed or not, but I gave the man the benefit of the doubt.

My brother, who understands my fitness level, at least I thought he did, also had encouraged me that he thought I could do it. He said it was easy to moderate. He was wrong. Very wrong. As Senor Wences always said, “Easy for you, deefeecult for me.” If you recognize that name, you probably are around my age and have seen the Ed Sullivan Show. But I digress.

It is only 0.8 miles to the summit. That brings you to 560 feet above the crater floor. The trail is very uneven and steep, and there are stairways and semidark tunnels to add to the fun. we were told that it would take 1.5-2 hours to do the round-trip. I usually add another 25% to get to my time.

At the foot of Diamondhead it is quite lovely and serene. It is grassy and there are trees to sit under while you are being refreshed by island breezes. There are a lot of birds, too. Former trips to Hawaii introduced me to the Redcrested Cardinal, one of my very favorite birds. I probably took about 50 pictures of them.

I also got to know the small zebra dove, which is only about 8 inches in length. The dove and the common myna are everywhere in Hawaii. Also in abundance is the common waxbill. It is small, only 5 inches, and camera shy. The waxbills travel in large sporadically moving flocks.

As I am sitting here working on this post, the waxbill came right up on the balcony briefly. I told you he was camera shy!

Another new bird for me is the golden plover. They migrate to Hawaii from Alaska every year. It is a nonstop migration. Think about that!

This pre-hike area and the short time spent there taking in nature was my favorite part of the hike. As soon as we started up, I realized this was not about the journey but about the destination. At least it was for this flat-loving Florida girl.

My main goal of this trip to Hawaii was not to injure myself. That means I use a walking stick and watch my feet while hiking. Therefore, my main views of Diamondhead were of the ground. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all about looking down. There were lots of times when I was so out of breath I had to stop and enjoy the view during recovery.

This was one of those times. The man dropped his sunglasses over the edge and tried to get them with his shoe. Then he dropped his shoe. He had another friend with him and she did not video any of this. I was shocked! He did recover his shoe and his sunglasses and another pair of sunglasses as a bonus.

More recovery times to enjoy the view and the breezes:

Evidently, it would take more than three trips to the gym and a couple of times riding around the block on my bike to prepare me for a hike of any kind. Talk about disappointing! I think the main thing, though, is that I am not used to elevation or inclines of any kind. At least that’s what I tell myself to make me feel better.

And then this happened:

I took the video after an hour of hiking and then ten minutes of trying to breathe normally. It was a little concerning for Bob and me.

I ultimately decided I would keep going and reevaluate incrementally. I also decided that I had earned a T-shirt one way or the other. I was sure that Bob was not going to fight me on that!

These are the steps that did me in. you can see the tunnel at the top.

They really like stairs!

Here are pictures from the top. And they were from my phone, not Bob’s! I made it! Now I had to make it down.

I know that my readers are smart people, so you undoubtedly have figure it out by the fact that you’re reading this that I made it! My legs felt like Jell-O at the end, but it was worth it.

So if you are ever on Oahu and decide to hike Diamondhead and someone tells you it’s an easy hike, take note of who is telling you that and remember this story. I would hate to have suffered for nothing! Also, we started the hike before nine in the morning and it is hot in Hawaii. If you decide to do this hike, the earlier in the day the better. Happy hiking and aloha.

I got the t-shirt!

The Tower of London and the British Museum (England Part 7)

The Tower of London fits several categories – palace, prison, site of the royal mint, and the royal menagerie. It is the home of the royal wardrobe and the crown jewels. History tells us that on June 2, 1953, a 62-gun salute was fired from the Tower Wharf when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in nearby Westminster Abbey. That salute is repeated every year on that date. Of course, it was repeated at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

View of The Tower of London, which is a fortress, prison, palace, etc.

It was not uncommon for gifts of exotic animals to be given to royalty. The Tower of London was home to apes, elephants, lions, and even a polar bear.

Being a birder and a Baltimore native (Edgar Allan Poe spent much of his life there and yes, that’s where the football team’s name came from), I was fascinated by the ravens at the Tower of London. I also like a good, weird story. And it seems pretty strange to me that Charles II would have insisted that the security of the crown would lie in ravens living at the Tower. But I suppose silly to one person is just superstition to another.

I didn’t want to leave without seeing the famous ravens. Glad we saw them, because if they were not there, it could have been catastrophic.

A guide explained that Charles II insisted that they be protected, and that the kingdom would fall if less than six ravens resided at the Tower. “If the ravens leave the tower, the kingdom will fall.”

If you’ve seen The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock, you know birds can cause quite a lot of trouble. This was the case for the king’s unfortunate astronomer John Flamsteed. The flock (called an unkindness) was always in the way of his work, so eventually they kept six with a few spares and everyone lived happily ever after. The guide also explained that they keep the spares, just in case, for national security. I love their names – Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Erin, Poppy, Georgie, Branwen, and Edgar.

The big draw to the Tower for me was seeing the crown jewels. When we got inside and I could almost see the jewels, I asked a rather stupid question to a docent and got more information than I could have imagined. I asked about the sceptre. Was it only a symbol of the kingdom or could it be used as a weapon? (It’s fun to push up against that saying that there are no stupid questions.)

The docent informed me that it is solely a symbol of the kingdom – the crown. There are several and whenever Parliament is in session, a sceptre representing the crown is there. “So,” she informed me, “whenever Boris Johnson is lying to Parliament, he is essentially lying right to the Queen’s face.” That was the first of several clues as to the sentiment of the Brits to their former Prime Minister. It was rather shocking to me to have that said within the walls of the Tower of London. Bad form. But interesting.

Handsome grandsons waiting with us to see the crown jewels.

The British Museum

The collections that are on display at the British Museum reflect the enormity of the British Empire. This was the most diverse museum of our trip. Several display descriptions included the word “hoard,” which suggested to my mind bands of marauders bringing the goods back to the King. I had to tame my active imagination by reminding myself that a hoard is simply a collection. Many things were gifted, but I did not delve into where the artifacts came from. I simply enjoyed viewing them.

The Lewis Chessmen – part of a hoard found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in the year 1831.

I took this picture specifically for my granddaughter, Ella, who is a huge Marvel fan.

There was an extensive Egyptian display.

The Rosetta Stone, discovered in July 1799

Bob Anderson with The Gayer-Anderson Cat – bronze with silver plaque and gold jewelry, around 600 BC, possibly from Saqqara – just because we’re Andersons

Marble statue of a boy, the so-called ‘spinario’ (thorn-puller) – Hellenistic, about 200 – 100 BC

This statue is a fitting end to my England posts. You have to take care of your feet! Thank you for coming along with me. Cheerio!

Fun Times in England and Signs of The Platinum Jubilee (England Part 6)

Everywhere we looked, there she was! Queen Elizabeth’s face graced signs, banners, shirts, cups, mugs, totebags, bobbleheads, candy and cookie tins. Oh my! It was so much fun. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the celebration.

Chinatown London

Fancy a read about the Queen? There is an unlimited supply of choices.

Handmade tribute to Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee atop a trash receptacle

School children entered a contest to pay tribute to the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee. Some of the winners were displayed in the shops near Windsor Castle.

These signs were peppered throughout London. I love how polite they are. “Apologies”

While we’re talking about signs, I’m thankful they are generous with their signage. I may be alive today because of signs like this:

I didn’t realize how ingrained in my little brain our American traffic flow is. There are a ton of tourists from the USA and other “right-driving” countries, and the Brits want to keep us alive and well. Jolly good!

You know those annoying humps in the road that are designed to slow traffic? That’s what I thought this sign might be referring to, but it’s not. Plus, when I think of an animal with a hump, I think of a camel.

This sign indicates a pedestrian crossing area. There is a slight hump to the crossing, but the broad white stripes seem to be the zebra connection.

Roads were closed for a bicycle parade one morning of our trip. I was pretty excited as I finally found Waldo!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a mother of three boys (and I can’t leave out my daughter Dena in this question) or if this is just who I am, but I can appreciate some bathroom humor – especially of this kind. I’m going with the mom thing.

I’ll hold it right there, for now. I have one more post to share before we leave England, but first here’s my own little tribute to Queen Elizabeth assembled with my own souvenirs.

The Theatre, Museums, and Harrods, Oh My! (England Part 5)

On our last night in England, our young folk took an evening bike tour. While that sounded good, it was a little too energetic for us. Plus, I had made it almost to the end without injuring myself, so why take a chance.

From our window at the St. Martins Lane Hotel London we could see the advertisement for Amy Adams in the Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I have been a fan since she was in Julie and Julia, plus we literally had only to walk across the street, so the choice was simple.

This play by Tennessee Williams is said to be brilliant. I found it interesting, but I’ll leave the critiquing to actual critics. My favorite part of the evening was being in the theatre.

The most unusual part of the evening was when the “ice-cream man” popped in at the end of the rows to sell ice cream during intermission. I had already determined that the British really like their ice cream. There were shops devoted to it everywhere. But I did not expect it to be pedaled at the theatre. I have learned since from my British friend, Mavis, that it has been that way since she was a child.

Not just vanilla – it’s luxury vanilla

While I’m mentioning St. Martins Lane, a few photos need to be shared. Not the typical spot for Bob and me, but Jesse, our son, stretched us out of our usual choices more than once. Thanks, Jesse. It sure was interesting. It’s fun to be shaken out of the norm now and then.

This wall appears to be a boutique tea counter, but the golden hand which my grandson is gripping opens an otherwise invisible door to a cocktail area.

Are these golden “teeth” for sitting upon or are they individual tables on which to put a drink?

This is the focal point of the restaurant. Makes you want to curl up with a drink and a book. We used the room for late night games of Azul, our favorite board game.

While we aren’t huge museum people, we do enjoy a visit. Because of my admiration of Queen Victoria and her husband Albert, not to mention Jenna Coleman’s portrayal of the Queen on Masterpiece’s Victoria, the V & A was a must. The museum itself was spectacular.

Finding a Chihuly was a pleasant surprise

The V&A is huge – the world’s largest museum of applied arts with over two million objects. It was founded in London in 1852. Had I done even a small amount of research, I would have discovered that the museum has very little to do with Victoria and Albert and is more about their legacy. I guess I was expecting another episode of Masterpiece – silly me!

The most interesting museum for me was the Churchill War Rooms, located near 10 Downing Street in downtown London. I am fascinated with World War II history, and this museum does not disappoint.

Notice all the different colored telephones – like modern-day phone cases so you can tell them apart

In this hallway the outside weather was posted. If it said windy that meant a heavy raid was going on.

British leaders worked underground while the Germans were bombing above. The fate of the war was decided in these rooms. They were closed and locked after the Japanese forces surrendered on August 16, 1945 and were left undisturbed until 1948 when they became an historic site. As I gazed through the protective glass, I could see telephones, maps, partially smoked cigars – it was like the people could return any minute. It’s one of those places where you can “feel” the history – was that PM Churchill’s cigar that I was smelling?

Would a trip to London be complete without a stop at Harrods? Yes, but why not! Harrods is a department store and considered the best there is in that, well, department. It is actually a store full of department stores and each offers service that is unmatched by just about any standard. Some of the services they offer are toy concierge, a cobbler, private shopping in the penthouse, luxury piercing, and fashion rental service. Restaurants include Gordon Ramsay Burger and The Harrods Tea Rooms, among others.

Prada, Gucci, Boodles, Tiffany & Co, and countless others that I have never heard of are found within its walls. It’s fancy. I think it could be better described as fancy-schmancy. It’s that upscale.

I guess stockings are more of a thing in England than they are in hot Florida.

This is an example of the saying – “There really is something for everyone.”

Stores beckoned shoppers inside via sight, sound, and smell. Even in the stores that did not carry perfume, the strong scent of it (or was that what money smells like?) was more than my sensitive, dry eyes could handle. Still, it was worth a walkthrough revealing how the other half (or some much smaller percentage) lives. All in all, I’ll take Costco.

Palaces and Castles (England Part 4)

What makes one massive, beautiful building a castle and another a palace? I had never thought about that, but those thoughts came with being in England. A little research revealed that the castle has fortification. Castles were built for defense and palaces were more for showing off wealth. If you cross a moat to get in, you’re going to a castle. If you see cannons aiming at you, yep, that’s a castle. If you need sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sheen and sparkle of all that gilded stuff, you’re probably in a palace.

Castles, like palaces, are often among the residences of royalty, but they were built more for defense and protection. When you go to Buckingham Palace, for example, you are more likely to be shown a good time at a state dinner while you are marveling at the artwork and grand surroundings. You have your massive thrones, enormous banquet halls, and gilded everything. Very palatial!

Queen Elizabeth had six official residences. She passed at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This was her end-of-summer home and is thought to have been her favorite. I like the thought that she passed in a place she loved so much.

I visited two of her other residences during our time in the London area. Alright, it would be an exaggeration to say that I visited Buckingham Palace, but I saw it – briefly. It happened to be my birthday, and the whole of London was preparing for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I had to give it a go. You don’t go all the way to London and not see the Palace. We got close, but that was all we could do. The Mall, which is a tree-lined road that goes from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, was blocked off from any kind of traffic, but they left a heavily policed area to cross. I was thankful for that, so as I was shuffled quickly across The Mall, I aimed my camera down the road and there it was!

This gives a lovely view of the barricades with the Palace in the background.

St. James’ Park and Duck Island Cottage, which is a great bird-watching area, are right along the way to the Palace.

I was rather shocked that the Oxford comma was not used on this sign.

While the guys were out golfing, my daughter-in-law, Dacia, and I toured Windsor Castle. I know they love to play golf, but I think we had the better day.

Windsor Castle seemed to me more like a walled city than a castle, but that makes sense as castles are built for defense. I suppose that also speaks to my limited knowledge of castles as much as anything. I was so impressed by the sheer size of it. Touring was splendid, but we were not allowed to photograph most areas.

The mail is delivered in royal fashion. I watched to see if perhaps Her Majesty would come to the curb to see if there was anything worth keeping that day, but alas, she did not. I imagined she was resting up for the Jubilee. I also wondered if The Queen gets junk mail, but again, she probably has people for that; plus, who would dare! What a perk.

Statue of Queen Victoria outside of Windsor Castle

Also at Windsor, this is as close as I got to a changing of the guard. It’ll do.

We also toured Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, which is the birthplace of Winston Churchill (1874). This palace confused me all the more in my distinguishing between palaces and castles. Inside most of it felt more like a government office or museum. The outside looked like a palace for sure. Parts of the interior were very palatial, but it lacked the overall pizazz that I want in a palace.

Hanging on the back lawn of Blenheim Palace.

Front view of Blenheim Palace – very palatial

The British know how to make magnificent gardens.

The Marlborough Mice were tucked here and there throughout Blenheim Palace. It was like a scavenger hunt. Here they are on prominent display at this banquet table.

The Mice close-up

The main reason we visited Blenheim Palace was because Winston Churchill was born there. Our son is a huge fan and named one of his sons Winston. Our Winston had lots of pictures taken throughout the palace and, actually, our entire trip. It was like a Winston BOGO.

Winston in the room Winston was born.

Winston by Winston in the Churchill War Room

Winston and Winston.

I’ll leave you here with this pack of Winstons.

The Cotswolds – Don’t You Love that Name (England Part 3)

Nothing to see here – at least nothing man-made like billboards or kiosks or switchbacks of people waiting to go on attractions. This region called The Cotswolds is the attraction. When you break down the word, “cots” means sheep enclosures and “wolds” are gentle hills. As we traversed the area, that made perfect sense to us.

This was how I pictured the English countryside. When we pulled up to the lovely Slaughters Country Inn in Cheltenham, I felt like I had truly arrived in jolly old England. All I needed was a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The Slaughters Country Inn

We passed along roads with names like Sheep Street, and Talbot Ture and the Monarch’s Way (which is an alley/footpath).

Some signs were not quite as fancy as others.

Each place we looked seemed a bit more quaint than the one before.

Here we got to take a stroll in the rain. Rain doesn’t stop things here like it does at home. Also, fences don’t stop people here like they do at home. Here in the Cotswolds they give you a right of passage through farmland filled with grazing sheep. Not only is it fine to walk through, gates are provided to allow you in and keep the sheep from wandering as well. This was one of the biggest contrasts to home. I loved it.

I loved the stone fences. Simply charming.

On our walk we passed Horse Chestnut trees. They reminded me of a fuller, taller version of our Crepe Myrtles. That is until we got up close. Magnificent!

Green is my favorite color. Our walk interspersed with lush, rolling hills and canopies of trees was truly a study in green.

Sunset after the most relaxing part of our journey.

The slower pace was helpful, because we were about to take it up a notch as far as activity went. Next we would tour a palace and be off to London.

Loving it in Liverpool, and Lytham St. Annes, too (England Part 2)

While the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Course may have been the driving force (pun intended) for our stay in Lytham, there was much to see in the non-golfing world here. Visiting a pub during a soccer match was quite the experience. The pub was split into two sides with one side viewing and cheering for Liverpool in one game while the other half did the same for Manchester in a different game. Not having an allegiance either way, we went to wherever there was seating for the six of us and quickly became Liverpool fans – or was it Manchester? By the sounds of the room, it was an exciting game. Both sides of the pub rooted for winners that day, which meant that Manchester won the championship – an event that I still couldn’t explain to you. I’d have been totally lost if I hadn’t recently watched Ted Lasso.

Pub food is great and another must while in England.

Woops, I didn’t photo the food.

After the game, we walked the town. I was particularly moved by the flag of The Ukraine flying across from our hotel.

Golfing continued at Royal Liverpool the next day, so Dacia and I went on a Magical Mystery Tour. Honestly, it wasn’t that much of a mystery nor was it very magical, but it featured the Beatles, so it seemed like the thing to do. Plus, there was Beatles music – so just another “Day in the Life.” Oh, boy!

The blue suburban skies were showing off big time as we bussed around the home of the Beatles.

Penny Lane was a hit. It was in our ears and in our eyes, and I’m humming it right now as I write. There was a shelter in the middle of a roundabout, which you likely have heard of. Roundabouts are ubiquitous to England. They drive me crazy, so it’s a good thing I don’t live there.

I am a huge fan of Sir Paul McCartney. I’ve seen him in concert twice (even though he looked about the size of an action figure from our seats high above the stage floor). He brings you into the concert and makes it seem like you’re part of an enormous family reunion. So, I was especially happy to visit the modest home in which he grew up.

George Harrison’s Birthplace

Then there was Strawberry Fields, which began as a children’s home in 1936. It was originally a private home in the Victorian Era before it was bought by the Salvation Army. As of the early 2000s, the Salvation Army no longer maintains it as a home for children but continues to use it for other purposes.

This place has been here forever.

Hanging with John

Liverpool Skyline

To quote The Beatles – “There are places I remember.” Especially if I write about them.