Monday, October 21, 2019

Perfect last day. . .a visit to Kew Gardens. If I lived here, I would come every week. Heaven. . .in the rain. I was not the only one undeterred by the rain. I forgot that rain does not keep English people or Europeans indoors. So a day of tree heaven. If it hadn’t been drizzling, I might have taken 500 photos of the trees.
Home tomorrow! Bonsoir, mes amis!~

Last day in the UK. On Saturday, a most wonderful, peaceful and swift train journey down from Scotland to London. For this journey, so much better than flying. Trains are so soothing. Hardly closed my eyes as I drank in the landscape, first part with pouring rain, then clearer as we got deeper into England. I am profoundly impressed at how much open land they have preserved here on this small island with a huge  population. . .woods and fields and farmland and pastures with sheep grazing. So nourishing, so green.
The last time I was in Scotland (1970!) I had a strong feeling to leave ASAP and get to England. On that journey, I went directly to the gorgeous Lake District. Once I visited Holyrood Palace on this trip, I noticed the same feeling return, despite the beauty all around me.
After the train journey, I was able to meet with the wonderful Frances Knight. Funny thing, catching up, when the dominant feeling is that no time at all had passed since we last met—which was in Vlodrop, 30 years ago. Renewing these old connections has been an important and deeply sweet part of my journey, one of the primary factors that inspired it.
Yesterday’s plans diverted by non-user-friendly weather once more. But I did have a nice journey through the National Gallery and saw their special Gauguin exhibit. Meditated in St.Martin’s in the Field church, world-famous for its music. Towards the end, a celestial vocal group came in to rehearse. Such exquisite voices. I blissed out!
Today, back to Kew Gardens, despite the weather. Home on Tuesday.  

Friday, October 18, 2019

I had to change airbnb locations on Thursday, and found myself looking right at Holyrood Park. What a fantastically beautiful and imposing place. It’s the site of an ancient volcano, and the crags and peaks and slopes, carry  a power that is hard to name, but cannot be missed. I hope to climb to the high point, called Arthur’s seat, today, but woke up to cold, heavy rain. Oh well. I did get to roam around the park a bit yesterday—it felt like such a wild place, so far from city life. Lovely to walk on green earth, however drenched! Then I visited Holyrood Palace, now the residence of the queen when she visits Scotland. But once upon a time it was home to Mary Queen of Scots, a forever object of fascination for me. Hard to imagine a more complex and tragic life—used by so many and loved by so few.
Today, a respite from touristing. Just way too cold and wet. The public transport is good, but everything still requires lots of walking. That’s something I will miss when home. Walking and walking for almost everything.
Tomorrow back to London. This time via train. I look forward to moving thru the British landscape. It’s warmer and dryer down south as well. Hoping to see Frances Knight on Saturday, for those of you who know her.
Some photos of Holyrood Park and Palace.

Forgot to include these photos of the magical path to Roslyn Castle. The chapel was like a gingerbread  structure come to life.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wednesday nite. Most of Monday was spent getting to Edinburgh, but I still had a couple of roaming hours. I’m in a great neighborhood, right near Grassmarket and Victoria Street which winds steeply uphill, lined with small shops with lots of character. At the top of the hill, I was greeted by the sound of bagpipes. Big sigh. Seems like someone is playing on that corner most every day and I loved it. Being at a high point in the city, the views all the way down to the water were expansive and inspiring in all directions. The sky over Edinburgh is powerful and forever changing. A dozen shades of grey moving across soft blue. At sunset, the softest rose added to the mix.
Spent a large chunk of Thursday exploring Edinburgh Castle, a vast and complex structure at the city’s peak. Saw the royal crown and scepter, and most fascinating, the Stone of Scone, or Stone of Destiny, a simple sandstone piece full of esoteric carvings. All the monarchs sit on it when coronated. In 1296, King Edward I stole it from Scotland and installed it in the British coronation throne. It was returned only recently to Scotland, but the current Queen Elizabeth had it brought down to London for her coronation. Hmmm. And oh, the complex history. The royal family members seem to have been forever quarreling, and heads rolled and wars followed one on the other. Each round creating changes in the castle itself. . .towers built and destroyed; rooms changing purpose; fortifications increasing, etc.
The views were consistently spectacular, dominated by powerful movements of the clouds, light and dark.

Today Roslyn Chapel at last. Started out with heavy rain and cold temps (I may never get used to it) but ended with delicious sunshine. The area surrounding the chapel is exquisite, valley and ridges, all heavily forested. All those beloved trees. All those shades of green. Heaven. The chapel itself is quite small, but has a sense of magic about it and profound sweetness. Virtually every inch is covered with carvings, many emphasizing the joy and fecundity of the natural world, stories, endless religious symbolism. Lots of green men. All very intentional, as anything carved from stone must be.
The builder of the original chapel and many of his descendants were leaders in the Masonic movement, and probably Templars as well. Wish I could have taken pictures to share, but not allowed. The tour guides say that their annual visitors have increased from 36,000 per year to 190,000 per year since the the movie the Da Vinci Code came out. However, they deny the existence of the fabled 6-pointed star and the mysterious door in the crypt floor.
Meditated 3 separate times in the chapel and wandered the outside as well, before feeling the journey was complete. Got the “download” for next year’s mentoring program I think, and felt like my energy had wildly increased by the time I was done. Then I took a short and wondrously green walk to the castle where the St. Claires still live. What a spot! It overlooks a deeply wooded valley and is surrounded by hills and woods in all directions. Paradise.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday night and I’m off to Scotland tomorrow morning. This trip has gone like the wind. I guess I know it would. I’m glad I’ll be back for 2 more days at the end. Spent yesterday with the lovely Maria Hartrich. We took the train to Hampton Court, a most beautiful palace, with endless gardens that Henry VIII rebuilt for Anne Boleyn (whom he beheaded after not too long). And of course he more or less swiped it from Cardinal Wolsey, whom he later also had beheaded because he failed to get the Pope’s approval to annul his marriage to wife number one. Quite a guy. Well, at least he left us all something most gorgeous to explore. I did most definitely approve of the interior decorating, even in its pared down form. I notice that here and in many other royal abodes the ceilings are not to be missed. They also had excellent signage, so I learned wild things such as—they consumed 4500 to
5000 calories a day in Henry’s time. Whoa! Maria and I visited the “downstairs” as well as the royal rooms. The kitchens were fabulous and included an herb and spice room, meat prep rooms, huge fireplaces, veggie prep rooms, and even several rooms for making yes, chocolate. Unfortunately, it was pouring, so we didn’t have much garden time, but still I got a sense of something fabulous. And a walk along the Thames in the rain. So blissful.
Today a required pilgrimage to the Tate to see Turner paintings and found other wonderful treasures as well. . .Rosetti and other pre-Raphaelites, Millais, Constable. My favorite museum so far. Now home and packing.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Two more most lovely days. Yesterday, I started with St.Paul’s Church, next to Westminster Abbey, the most famous in London. Much simpler and quieter than Westminster, in part because it has been rebuilt relatively recently. At both Westminster and St.Paul’s, a quiet thought came drifting through, just as I entered, and it was something like this: During my remaining years, I would have the opportunity to love many many people. How sweet is that!! I couldn’t ask for better.
Then I went to Covent Garden, a sort of  shopping area with character. In the main building, while drinking coffee, this fabulous opera singer serenaded us with one Italian aria after another. So beautiful, I was almost in tears.
Then off to the National Portrait Gallery. I so love English history, and here I found a most wonderfully illustrated version of it. Paintings of all my favorite characters and many more. Last act of the day, I met old friend Maria Hartrich and we went to a brilliant concert (Baroque classics) at St. Martin in the Fields—a church that has become a famous venue for music. I am so grateful for the tremendous liveliness of the arts here. And for the people in general. Consistently upbeat and funny and generous of spirit.
Today, off to Richmond, a suburb on the west end of London. There I met one of my dearest friends, Vesey Crichton, for a 40 year catch up. I was so so happy to see him, and as with all such friendships,  it was as if no time had passed. We chatted away and walked along the Thames, and it was so richly green and peaceful everywhere. I just kept stopping, to soak it all in (clouds, not rain!). Turner painted there. Even in

the greyness, the landscape was so soft and rich and enriching. I so love this land!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Tuesday was a most wonderful day! First to Kew Gardens, definitely a piece of heaven, especially for  a tree lover like me. This was not so much a place of flowers—too late in the season—but of many shades and layers of green, and trees from many ecosystems, from young to old. Long grassy passageways lined with huge, chestnuts, and even a small redwood glade. Beautiful bodies of water scattered in just the right places, reflecting an ever-changing flow of clouds. Extra bonus: David Chihuly glass sculptures scattered about, a life form of their own.
In the evening a classical music celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, replete with fireworks at the end. Several remarkable soloists, including a 23-yr-old pianist whose hands flowed like a river, playing Chopin. And a contemporary composer I will follow up on, Gareth Malone. Music simple and full of love. Best part, met some old friends there from my earlier incarnation as a TM teacher in England. I so loved seeing them.
Yesterday, in a quest for certain streets associated with my literary wanderings—I found the streets—but the traffic noise was pretty intense. Found my way to Green Park and to Buckingham Palace (I didn’t go inside) which I had ignored in previous visits. Always a boost to hang out in another park at the end of the day.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Promised myself I would write every other day at least, so here I am. Today, finally made it to Westminster Abbey. Absolutely exquisite and I would have taken a zillion photos if allowed. It’s a strange mix of energy, powerfully spiritual but also containing 330 graves. I meditated for quite awhile close to the place where all the kings and queens get anointed, married, etc. It really holds the consciousness of all of Britain and all her history and global role. Just being one with all of it in Light. Then off to Churchill’s War Rooms, the underground bunker from which he and all his staff conducted the war. You know how much I loved that. They lived quite minimally down there and of course with the simplest technologies. No radar, just lots of maps. First really cold, rainy day. I loved it!
Yesterday, 2 museums, at least a little. I’m not so much into them on this trip. Then bliss time in Green Park. Monuments, especially WWI and WWII everywhere. And other wars. Their history carries so much influence. It permeates everything. I keep finding wonderful people to chat with. A young woman staying in this Airbnb is French-Peruvian, has studied with Peruvian teachers and in India. How cool is that!  Some photos of Churchill’s underground world.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Saturday night, and here goes the promised blog.
I got to my Airbnb on Friday afternoon (after getting lost for a bit—I’m really good at that.) It’s just a block from the Thames, so I got right down there (despite my time lagging brain) to greet the river, which, like the Seine in Paris, feels like it holds the whole spirit of  the place. Despite the grey skies and damp cool temps, so many people were wandering along the river path. I love that. And of course it is such a green green world. How I love the water and the trees and even the grey skies. Yes! Then I wandered the High Street looking for a grocery store and discovering the neighborhood. Lots of Asian restaurants of all kinds, but low on grocery stores! Being American (or from any country) leads to some wonderful conversations. Waitress in a local pub (which looks like it’s been there since Shakespeare) is from Lithuania. She talked about the extraordinary beauty of the place. I was intrigued because I think my grandfather emigrated from there. I felt so much 1love for everybody I passed.
By early evening, I was on the verge of hallucinating from lack of sleep, so sleep I did, at least for a little while.
Today, I was all excited to go to Westminster Abbey, but it was closed, alas. Then I thought I would try a couple of other places on my list, but they didn’t work out either. So, nothing to do but walk and  wander, which I love to do. Getting lost is actually a great way to learn a place.

Walked everywhere in the Westminster neighborhood. The Houses of Parliament are gorgeous and right on the river. You can feel how the weight of tradition and history is  inescapable and must effect everyone who works there and all the decision-making processes. Again, the total joy of walking along the Thames.
Then headed back West, mainly looking for food. Got off the tube and ended up walking all the way to Hyde Park, with a brief visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum—I wasn’t in the mood. But Hyde Park was pure bliss. How I love the grass and gardens, the lake, those big big trees that have been there for hundreds of years. I will definitely be back for more. Gardens are always my favorite places.   And again, despite the coolness and grey skies, so many people out walking among the trees. It’s wonderful.