A Quick Glance of London

So, after the craziness of the last few months, i decided i needed a treat and took a long weekend away. I had never been in London except on layover, and it was closer and cheaper than, say, Istanbul or some of the other destinations on my bucket list, so that was where i headed.

First off, let me say that it was not what i expected. Or, rather, the vision in my head, largely painted by J K Rowling and Benny Hill, was not exactly accurate.

First off, there is NOT a tea shop on every corner. In fact, i never was able to have myself a good high tea because there was never a shop around when it was time. In fact, there weren’t many classically British places to eat at all. There were plenty of Indian, Thai, Italian, Spanish, Lebanese, Greek, … With the occasional confetti of fish and chip shops. No glut of pastie purveyors. No banger carts on the street corners. No spotted dicks laid out on paper doilies in glass patisserie windows.

The flipside to the above is that London truly IS an international city. People of all colors, aesthetics, walks of life, and speaking every language known to man. Groups of young adults that resemble a United Nations committee laughing together on the train. Pairs of silver-aged women with more style than any Parisian fashion model, and punk colored hair that would make the Ramones proud, walking in and out of vintage shops. Strikingly regal men with luscious, dark skin and Savile Row suits discussing the engagement of Prince Harry and the potential economic repercussions of Brexit.  The variety of humanity contained there is unparalleled. New York may be a melting pot, but it has nothing on the cottage pie that is London.

Of course, all those delightfully international people shoved into one city means that it is never quiet. I mean, we all know a city never sleeps, but London never even takes a breath!  For those of us who are  a bit hard of hearing, the din becomes like a dull ache. More than once, i found myself pulling up the most boring of meditation tracks on my computer just to gently wean myself off the grinding, metallic discordance. Relief came for real, tho, when i got to visit the white cliffs of Dover. No picture i have ever seen did justice to the expanse and serenity. And brilliance… They really are white. And the total coolness of looking across the bay to France! I do think i could easily have stayed in Dover and done a day trip to the city (Ok, maybe 2 days… there is so much to see!) instead of the other way around. The bliss and beauty that is those cliffs had me easily enamored.

Another thing that i fell in love with on this trip was the history. When home here in Tennessee, i often remark that i miss the oldness, the antique, of my New England heritage. Buildings and monuments that have been there since the beginning of our country. And, indeed, i do still love that. But in London, those buildings and monuments… They tell stories of spirits that were long since dead before my country was even a country. How cool is that? If the walls of Westminster Abbey could talk, imagine the stories they could tell! Imagine the sights and sounds and scents (Pre-Victorian era hygiene must have left some pretty vibrant odors….) All the voices of eras past swirling in the most magnificent pieces of architecture. For people who love history, London is dessert. With fudge sauce and whipped cream.

At the Tower of London, i was more than awed by the Crown Jewels. Mostly because i took it to mean a crown with jewels on it. I had no idea that there were many crowns. And sceptres. And swords. All gilded and encrusted. Heavy velvet robes with ornate detailing. (I admit, i did wonder after seeing all this how uncomfortable it must be to wear something so obviously heavy for hours at a time. Give the queen her crown and a robe and a pair of heels to boot, and i’d imagine she needed a serious massage and a painkiller for the night!) The collection of armor was pretty cool as well. We all know that people come in many different shapes and sizes… But seeing that laid out in metal makes it even more obvious. Big suits, little suits, wide suits, skinny suits… Not to mention the codpieces! (I heard more than one woman discussing the significance of the last bit…)  Sarcophagi of bodies found under the tower stairs. Bits of creepiness everywhere you looked inside. And outside, the vision of London Bridge (Which did not, in fact, appear to be falling down.) I saw many other sights as well: Some just because it was expected, others because they spoke to me.

I had a great time spending a day seeking out some things that were iconic to my weedlings’ childhoods. The obvious first stop was Paddington station. I was slightly disappointed that there was no bear. It would be perfect if there were a statue or something. But, alas, not at the moment. So then i was off to the market. A very specific market. One that had me singing in the legendary David Tomlinson’s voice. “Portobello Road, Portobello Road… Street where the riches of ages are stowed.” I didn’t find any riches, per se, but i did find a shop that sold the most kickass Harris tweed tailed waistcoats and capes. (Unfortunately, it required riches to buy one.) And as dorky as it sounds, i also found a stand that had Cox apples. I can attest to the fact that, as epicures have written, it absolutely is the best apple to eat out of hand. Like, ambrosia good. Straight from heaven. Ooooohhhhhh, that apple!…

Anyway, so i got pictures at Portobello Road, and then headed to another Disney destination. This one important because it was the scene of the Sherman brothers’ magnum opus. (Also, coincidentally, the inimitable Jane Darwell’s final film scene.) If you need another hint, i was looking for a tuppence bag of birdseed. Yup, you guessed it… St Paul’s cathedral. And tho it was a little smaller than it looked in the movie, it nearly brought me to tears. Have you ever been some place that made a special part of your heart feel home? Ya. That feeling. That is St Paul’s. I’m not sure if it’s just memories of Mary Poppins, the exquisite perfection of Feed The Birds, or something inherent in the structure itself; but whatever it is, you can’t ignore it. It penetrates.

One final note: There was one thing that became apparent almost immediately that affected not only my vacation, but the way i try to look at life… It literally started on the train ride from Heathrow. All of us packed tight like sardines. People should be getting to meet and talk with all the people around them. Instead, everyone was plugged into their phones and tablets. The train rattled thru most of the city, iconic landmarks in full view, and no one looked up. I promised myself then and there that i wouldn’t see London thru my phone. I would enjoy the moments, not just take pictures. It was hard to explain to people who wondered why i didn’t have more photos from my trip, but i am still glad that i spent more time actually looking and feeling and absorbing than framing the perfect photo. I may never be a big city girl. I may not have enjoyed everything that London is. But i did experience it as thoroughly as i could. And the reminder of how good that feels made it well worth the trip.


Travelogue – Indy Edition – Part 2

First cat out of the bag this morning, my son tries to tell me that i woke him up four times before midnight by snoring. Interesting, since he fell asleep before nine, and i didn’t finish my book and turn out the light til one a.m.  First rule of lying, son… Know the facts first.

Anyway, breakfast this morning was at Lincoln Square Pancake House.  Banana bread french toast, toasted pecans, caramel sauce drizzled over the top. Breakfast decadence! But it was so rich and sweet, i only finished half of the three slices. My son had crepes with fresh berries, and we both had sides of breakfast meats. Waddling out of the restaurant with our boxed up leftovers, we started discussing diet plans for the coming month.

Next stop was the Indiana War Memorial Museum. I confess that i find most war museums to be rather dry and boring, like a middle school history textbook. This one, tho, kept my son and i both fully engaged for far longer than we expected. For my son, the draw was that they tried to show all the wars from many perspectives, and there were exhibits of foreign military, in addition to our own. For me, what kept my attention was the extensive collection of female military presence. Uniforms, medals, gear, and stories of women all the way back to the very first enlisted women in the state.  The icing on the cake was the building itself – Granite and marble, with an awe-inspiring top floor, roofed in stained glass, that is a shrine to all fallen soldiers everywhere. To my uniformed brothers and sisters, past and present: This place does us proud.

We left there and headed to White River State Park to walk off some food. It was even warmer today than yesterday, so the park was full of people walking, jogging, riding bikes… After a while, we found a bench, and my son took a bash at finishing his breakfast. He came pretty darned close. Then he jumps up and says that we’ve eaten too much. We should do some push-ups. WTH? I’m sure, to onlookers, we looked like a short story prompt… A park bench with the visible remains of crepes and gooey banana bread, mom and son on the walk in front of it grunting and belching as they pay penance. Mind you, i was only able to do half of my usual before my body made it known that it was not going to take any more exercise until it had digested. I had the belly of a plastic Buddha. We sat for a bit before continuing our stroll in the beautiful weather.

Next stop was Fountain Square. Reminded me a bit of a smaller Little Five Points (Atlanta.) Lots of vintage shops, comic book shops, a hall for swing dancing, some nice cafes. The highlight for me, unsurprisingly, was The Mass Ave Knit Shop. When i say that i have never been in a yarn shop as full and wonderous, i am not exaggerating. I promise you, if i lived here, i’d be at every event they had (And they have more than any place i’ve ever been!) This place was a hooker’s paradise, even if it was geared more towards knitters. I’ve never seen such selection of beautiful yarns, and the prices were reasonable. Of course, i got my trip trinket there (Two skeins of orgasmic alpaca), which prompted my son to remark that Stuart would approve of my choice. I was so relieved. I mean, it would have made me feel terrible if the bison felt slighted.

We were both feeling a bit overfed and sluggish, so we went back downtown to tackle the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. 330 steps to the top (Not including the marble steps outside.)  I made it all the way up with only a few 10 second breaks when i got to the hellishly hot top third. We considered taking the elevator back to the bottom, but i was proud of myself and on a roll, so we took the stairs down as well. By the time we were back on the street, my legs were made of jello and i was shaking like a drunk at a Baptist revival. Walking the six blocks to where we parked, i faked my best stride.

When i got into my car, i was praying i had enough strength in my leg to clutch.

By now it is late afternoon, so you know what that means… More food!

Since this was our last night here, we decided we had to get that signature Indiana dish, Hoosier Tenderloin. We had asked no less than half the locals we have met over the weekend who had the best, and by their advice, ended up at The Aristocrat. My slab of chicken-fried pork was literally bigger than the plate. Yes, literally. It was hanging off all edges. Melt-in-your-mouth, breaded and deep-fried, salty, oinking goodness. I managed a little more than half before hitting the wall and giving up. My son ate all of his crab cake burger (He is committed to having one in every city we visit) and a quarter of my Hoosier before giving in himself. It was an excellent meal with top-notch service. I recommend the place highly if you are ever in Indianapolis… But i do suggest you wear elastic waist pants.

A quick stop at a market for fruit and drinks for the road before heading back to the motel. If i were to take a selfie right now, i’ve a feeling it would look like one of those cartoon roasted pigs… pink and chubby with an apple under its snout. Stick a fork in me, i’m done. I’ve already informed my son that we’re both doing only grains and veggies for the next few weeks. Well, once we get home, that is. We’ve still one last meal before we head out of town….


And this is what we learned today:

  1. In Chattanooga, we have inexpensive bike rental kiosks around the city to encourage people to go green. Here in Indy, they have similar kiosks for bikes, but also have a kiosk system for electric Smartcar rentals all over the city. How cool is that?!
  2. Hoosiers drive like Massholes. Oh, wait… I learned that yesterday.
  3.  A well-rounded museum can bring people together. Walking around the War museum, in addition to the expected Eurobrand of Americans, i saw people of various heritages. And they weren’t just walking thru. People were talking to each other, discussing things,  really learning and sharing. I watched with true happiness as an Indian (Burmese, maybe?) woman stood next to me at the case display of the first female Marine from Indiana and told her daughter why women like that were so strong and brave and important. I watched 5 young Chinese men smiling with obvious pride in front of an exhibit listing the Chinese contributions to the Allied Force in WWII. And i stood with my son in front of the Desert Storm exhibits and told him a little bit of my time there. I think the creators of the museum would be pleased.
  4. 330 steps up and down a hot spire is too much for my sorry arse.
  5. With each trip, i become more and more convinced that these are the right kinds of gifts for my weedlings. We get to share experience, laugh, chill, and really get to know each other better. As the day draws near when they will all be on their own, i am so glad that we’ll all have these memories to remind us of their weedling-hood.

Travelogue ~ Indy Edition – Part 1

So, my son’s gift was a weekend exploring a city of his choice. It had to be less than a 10 hour drive. And it had to be someplace he had never been before. I don’t know what i expected him to pick, but it wasn’t Indianapolis.

Thankfully, i have a couple of friends who have lived there, so i had their advice, plus the usual searches on Trip Adviser, etc. My oldest even helped us out by looking up stuff that might not be on most people’s radar. I took him out of school after lunch so we could get to the city around dinnertime. We sorted ourselves out in the motel and got stoked up for a full day today….


Since there was no breakfast at the motel, we found a local chain place and had a filling, homestyle meal that kept us full til late afternoon. When we were near done with the meal, i asked the first-grade-ish girl at the table beside us if, in her opinion, the zoo was worth a visit. I told her that my guess was she was an expert on the zoo (Her grandparents confirmed my suspicion), and that i would take any advice she was willing to give since we were planning on going there tomorrow. She not only gave us her full-on opinion of the best parts of the zoo, but also told us of a couple other things in the same area that she felt were worth visiting. Yes, this exchange embarrassed my son a little, but later, i reminded him that this is how he learned to form opinions… By being asked to express them.  And far too few adults do that with weedlings. As a result, they grow up to be the types of babblers we saw far too many of in the last year… The ones who shout much, but say little.

After breakfast, we took a bit of a detour from the traditional exploring-101 guide and did something we could have done anywhere… We went to a movie. But my son really  wanted to see this movie, and we didn’t really have a timetable. So we took a couple of hours to see Lego Batman  Truly, i ended up laughing at least as much as he did. The cultural references… Oh my!… Every G and PG bad guy from my lifetime was in there somewhere. Many completely unexpected, irreverent, delightfully gratuitous. We both really enjoyed it. Find a weedling and go see it. Or go without a weedling. I won’t judge you.

The next stop was the Indiana Medical History Museum. This place is well worth a visit if you are in the Indianapolis area. It is the oldest pathology building in the country, a true gem for historians. And it is located on the grounds of an old mental asylum, a true gem for medical people and creepy lovers. Now, some of you know of my fascination with abandoned mental hospitals, and i admit, that was the initial draw for me… But this place really is a historic monument. From the original amphitheater where autopsies and lectures were held, to the pathology room with preserved diseased organs (mostly brains), to the histology, chemistry, and bacteriology labs; there are collections of original equipment, specimens, and documents dating back to the mid-1800s, back when most of mental healthcare was beyond barbaric (Tho this hospital practiced “moral medicine”, meaning that they didn’t succumb to lobotomy fever like so many asylums of the day did.) (Afterthought: Maybe that is why the place doesn’t feel haunted.) The tour guides are very knowledgable. And while the museum seems rather small from the outsides, it is packed to the gills with all manner of interesting tidbits. Do go. Especially if you are medical.

Next was downtown. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art . My son’s tummy was getting rumbly, and their cafe is award-winning (deservedly so), so we enjoyed a late lunch before embarking on a tour of the museum. Bellies full of sandwiches and amazing salads, we began our tour in a room dedicated to western cowboy art. The detail in some of these paintings was remarkable. Horses so painstakingly wrought in oils that you could see individual hairs in their manes. Between the main floor and the upstairs native American exhibits, there was a totem pole – a recreation by a grandson of his grandfather’s finest work. The totem tells the story of a sea monster. In the center of the totem is a figure that instigated this conversation…

My son, regarding the totem carefully, “Ma, that animal in the middle looks like she had too many piña coladas.” He turns facing me, his hands framing his chest. “Do these pineapple rings make my boobs look big???”

To play devil’s advocate, tho it was a stereotypically “boy” statement, the figure really DID look like it was holding pineapple rings…

And as a strange addendum, that section of the totem was called Mother-In-Law. No kidding.

Anyway, the Native American exhibits mostly focused on the local tribes, but i have to say, the outlay of artifacts and art was absorbing. My son, who immediately sought out the sections showcasing the native Canadians was equally enthralled. There is a lot of variety in the arts and crafts on exhibit, and the narratives that go along with the displays are very well done.

On the way out, we stopped at the museum gift shop, where my son fell in love with an overpriced bison replica that he is convinced is made of real fur and needs to be in his Canadian-themed room. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, he would pull it from the bag, smile at it, and make it “kiss” me. He named it Stuart, and it is currently staring at me from the nightstand. I love that, even as a teen, he still has a little bit of that little boy in him. That little bit of sweetness. I hope he keeps it.

After the museum, we walked to Monument Circle. We visited Rocket Fizz, a store dedicated mostly to sodas,  that had everything from nasty “barf” flavored soda to the beloved white birch beer of my youth. We also spent some time admiring the long stretch of motorcycles that had come to hang out. And we had ice cream at The Chocolate Cafe.   We walked for ages, saw some cool shops, talked to some cool people, and generally had a cool time. Well, a warm time, since it was unseasonably spring-like weather today. But still…

Now we are back in our room. My son is already asleep. He was exhausted – whether from the day or my allergy-induced snoring last night, i’m not sure. I’ve a cup of tea balanced precariously on my bloated belly (The black walnut and coffee ice creams in that giant waffle cone were worth it!) And i’m mulling over some things that i learned today:

  1. Mental Healthcare has changed both a lot and not at all in the last 150 years. It makes me sad that few treat it like “real medicine”, and as a result, it doesn’t get the research or funding that it should.
  2. Tho i knew it already, today i was reminded of the differences in Native cultures in the Americas. Many of us, myself included, tend to forget that assuming homogeneity between the Choctaw and the Hopi is like expecting the Turks and the Dutch to be the same. The cultures are very different, and each beautiful in their own right.
  3. Regardless of any differences there might be between my native New England and Indiana, Hoosiers drive exactly like Massholes.(Yes, it’s a word. See? Told ya.)
  4.  If i ever make a totem pole, i must remember to check it for boy humor first.

Travelogue~ Wisconsin Edition

The new job means some traveling for work. And tho the travel isn’t to anyplace exotic, i love the chance to explore anyplace new. Each trip brings new insights and knowledge. I relish getting to suck it all in. I had never been to Wisconsin before this, so seeing a little bit around the Madison area, or just eating my way around the Madison area, has been fun.

What i found in Wisconsin:

~ The sunrise. Like a juicy blood orange rising like a phoenix over the snow covered fields. Powerful. Bursting with fire and life. It exudes energy like nothing i’ve ever seen before.

~ Hospitality. The people are truly friendly. Like Frances McDormand in Fargo but with only a hint of the accent. Every out-of-towner is treated like a cousin you haven’t seen in ages. They make you feel like you’re coming home, even if you’ve never been here before.

~ Space. The “city” areas are rather tightly knitted together. Town squares and business areas, mostly old-timey and adorable, are compacted into as few city blocks as possible. And once you escape them…. Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh. The vastness of the fields and prairies, well, i started to type that they take your breath away, but in reality, they do the opposite. They give you breath. They fill your lungs fully with the scents of hay and cow and the crisp minerality of lake water. I don’t think my body has ever been so pleasantly full of Oxygen.

~ And speaking of breathing, i have had absolutely NO allergies since i’ve been here. Anyone from Chattanooga will tell you that waking without a snot-filled schnoz is unheard of. I honestly don’t remember the last time i could breathe immediately upon waking. It’s a nice feeling.

~ Cheese curds and beer. I can’t say that i am at risk of becoming addicted, but it is part of the Wisconsin mythos (Or kitsch, depending on who you ask), so i gave it a shot. I wouldn’t feel like i had truly been here if i hadn’t done so.


Why i am glad to be heading home to Chattanooga

~ I miss my weedlings. Of course. They are my “home”.

~ I miss my Siridog. I have gotten used to sleeping with her at the small of my back. She gives me a reason and motivation to get off my duff and walk. And she is the best anti-depressant i have ever tried.

~ I miss the culture. Chattanooga has a green, foodie, happy vibe that is a near perfect blend of city and country. It is easy to get caught up in it, which is a good thing. Its unique energy keeps me moving.

~ I miss my zip. For me, travel always includes decadent eating. While i enjoy the food experiences, after more than a couple days of it, i feel bloated and sluggish. My vanity bristles at the way my clothes start to stain at the seams. And my vigor  goes down the drain.

~ I miss my own space. As always note in my travelogues, the one good thing about the end of a trip is the reunion with your own bed, shower, relaxing spots, and rituals of home. Being away helps me appreciate them more.


Soon i will be back home and soaking in its comfort. If i am lucky, by the time my appreciation wears thin, it will be time for another trip. That is the goal: To keep a balance between hither and yon. Too much home, and i get complacent. Too much Wisconsin, and you might as well tape a bushel of cheese curds to my backside. So here’s hoping that i can walk the line between, and enjoy the stroll