Monday, January 27, 2014

Beautiful Details

Some of my favorite things are books and some of the places I just wanted a few more minutes (okay, hours) were libraries and book stores. In Scotland one of the things that most surprised me was that I saw several men wearing kilts. Not as any kind of costume but with coats and ties, briefcases in hand.

The French know how to do lunch. These were the drinks included with our meal in Normandy along with coffee at the end which came with a little square of dark chocolate to melt into it. 

 One thing I always like is a silly photo op. In Invergordon, Scotland I couldn't resist this one since I was wearing yellow and all...

My love of post boxes is legendary. I'm sure people often wonder what in the world I'm doing.

Sometimes "things" just catch my eye.

 I got an entire blog post out of this beautiful picture of rocks on the coast of South Queensferry, Scotland. I even got a blog post out of this picture: Lessons from a Rocky Shoreline.

I discovered something amazingly delicious. A strawberry-lime cider brewed in Sweden. It's the kind of thing the offer you in pubs when you aren't fond of beer.

 I love this quote by C.S. Lewis in a bookstore on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. You could see the castle from where we sipped our coffee.

Am I the only one who thinks this is actually the really practical thing for men to be wearing...(ahem) comfort wise?

I happened into this library in Belfast with famous authors in stained glass above all the windows. Charming. 

Another picture from Trinity College Library. (sigh)

Several areas had up these cheerful banners and they just made me happy, which I'm sure is the point.

Another post box. (swoon)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Beatles, Braveheart, and the Greatest Generation

Leaving Dublin, we sailed across to Liverpool,  the the next stop on our magical mystery tour. I'd booked a Beatles tour and we were met at the ship's terminal by our taxi driver, Rob. A knowledgeable and affable fellow.  Our 3 hour tour included stops at the childhood homes, Penny Lane, Strawberry Field (actually a girls' orphanage where John use to climb a tree to watch them undress), the church with Eleanor Rigby's grave out back, the church where John and Paul first met, and endless trivia and stories shared by our cabbie. Naturally between locations he played the song that best connected to our next stop.

 I was fascinated by the fact that Paul claims he made up the name Eleanor Rigby, that he'd never seen the gravestone or heard the name at all. That her name on that marker is a coincidence. Yet, given what we know about how much information the brain takes in that we are unaware of it seems very likely he saw it at some point and registered it in some unconscious way.

Then it was on to Glasgow, Belfast,  Edinburgh, and Invergordon:

There is one stop left on the places list, Normandy. As if to match your post about your visit to Arlington National Cemetary, I have the transatlantic companion. There aren't really any words to describe the feeling of the place. But my experience was profound in ways I didn't expect.  Beaches famous for fierce fighting and massive loss of life are now strewn with running children spending the day by the sea with sunbathing parents. Photos of beautiful landscapes marred by barbed wire. A carousel at the site of more heroic deeds and loss of life. 
 Arromanches-les-Bains (Gold Beach on D-Day) 

At Normandy American Cemetery

 Omaha Beach. The tour buses are lined up and tourists, mostly of a certain age visit the site and read the memorials. Pictures are taken, with no one exactly sure whether or not it is appropriate to smile in them. It seems like a sacred place.

Then just beyond where you see that stone monument there are steps going down to the beach. It took me by surprise to see these happy French families enjoying a holiday, children running and playing, parents laughing, sunning. I stood on the steps and looked up at older tourists, mostly American, pointing and discussing the historical significance of the place. I looked down and saw what could easily have been any beach in the world. I wondered what those men who died here would think of that. I could imagine that they might tell us that was exactly what they'd fought here for. After all what better memorial could there be than those free French children. I couldn't help but think that if they are aware of it, it would surely make them smile.

 The following pictures are taken in and around the machine gun nest at Pointe du Hoc:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

This week we move on from people to places. A story best told with the use of pictures:

Our first stop was the Isle of Guernsey, where we visted The Little Chapel and the German Underground Hospital. Both were made famous in the book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Then it was on to Cork and Blarney castle. I didn't kiss the stone (who would really want me to have more of the gift of gab?) but was intrigued by the Poison Garden. They were growing marijuana and opium in it along with things like hemlock and wolfsbane. After a train ride back to Cobh (pronounced Cove) we happened upon a regatta and festival complete with an Irish rock band and crusty old fishermen bringing in their catches of the day. Ours was the last big ship of the season and so lots of townspeople and festival goers came down to the dock to wave as we sailed away. There were even ladies in turn of the century dresses and a band that played Anchors Away. Here's what I saw as we headed out to sea:

We awoke the next day to the industrial side of Dublin. I had 3 things on my list for this day. The Trinity College Library, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the Old Jameson Distillery. But my main mission: that Library. After waiting an hour and a half we paid and the first part of the building is dedicated to the Book of Kells.  It was interesting but the library was tugging hard at my heart. When I finally got inside I was completely overjoyed. The space reminded me of a cathedral of wisdom. A church of the written word. I was reminded of the verse from Proverbs 4, Sell everything and buy wisdom! Part of me wanted to sit down in a corner someplace and cry for all the things I will never know.

What are you going to do after such an experience? Well, it's Ireland so head to a pub of course. And then to a church because...well, again, it's Ireland. :)

St. Patrick's was another overwhelming experience. Jonathon Swift and his wife are buried in the floor. One of the most interesting things to me was the Door of Reconciliation.   Next it was on to the Jameson Distillery, then a bit more walking before catching a cab back to the ship. 

Up next: Liverpool, Glasgow, Belfast, Edinburgh, and Invergordon.
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