I returned safely on August 31 from fifteen days in the United Kingdom–managed to get there and back Covid-free. And I now feel freer than I have since the virus invaded the Earth. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the joys on international travel–and maybe inspire to pack your bags and find your own liberating adventure.
Arrival in London for three days.
I settle into my suite at the Waldorf Hildton in London’s Theater District.
I have a refreshing cup of tea in the hotel bar before heading off on a walk.
A two-block stroll takes me to the Victoria Embankment along the Thames.
Monuments and statues line the embankment walk.
Across from the Embankment are numerous gardens to soothe the eye.
At this point, I stopped to scatter a few of Roger’s ashes. We never saw the Thames together in all our years, but we did sail down the Nile in 2010. This seemed like a good place to remember my beloved husband.
The Embankment ends at Parliament, with a lovely view of Big Ben.
By the time I returned to the hotel, it was nigh on dinner time. I found this charming restaurant a block away–and it became my London go-to place for evening dining.
Starting things off with a martini!
The wait staff were as delightful as the food.
And a glass of wine, of course.
Mmm, a cornmeal and cheese souffle with a delicious green salad.
London Day 2 Began with an iced latte and journal-writing.
Keeping an eye out for my comings and goings was the hotel’s Scottish doorman, Douglas, who adopted me as “his queen.”
Later in the day, I met with Julianne Ingles, publisher at Guts Publishing. Tea and wine and a couple hours of great conversation about the publishing industry and our lives as writers and editors! Check out Guts Publishing’s great memoirs at:
Soon it was back to Delauneys for another tasty dinner.
One very happy diner.
A half block from the restaurant was my evening’s entertainment–a great seat (front row, balcony) to take in my first theatrical performance since Covid. Tina!
It was a fantastic show! By the encore everyone in the theater was on their feet rocking to “Proud Mary.”
Back to the hotel–a whole half block!
The next day, my last in London, took me to Westminster Abbey–my #1 “tourist” destination in London. The Poets Corner awaited.
I stopped and lit a candle in Roger’s honor beneath this icon of St. Joseph.
All manner of famous Britons are buried at the Abbey.
The crowds were very well managed (if mostly maskless).
Ahhhhh, at long last, the Poets Corner.
Not all the poets who are represented at Westminster are actually buried there.
Browning, truly at my feet.
I had to remind myself to look up sometimes!
Once upon a time I read all of Trollope’s novels aloud to Roger and we crisscrossed the United States and Canada on our many summer adventures.
Yes, Chaucer is within that tomb.
Before departing Westminster, I stopped to view the coronation chair that is used when a new royal takes up his or her reign.
Farewell, Westminster; see you next time.
My only other tourist stop in London was this bookstore–the oldest in the United Kingdom.
I chatted up the clerk who’s in charge of special collections. He showed me this handsome first edition. Only 1750 pounds Sterling! I passed.
One last swim in the hotel pool before departing.
Soon I was whisked out of London to Hertford (pronounced Hartford) by QM2 friends Helen and Simon whose lovely backyard was quite the contrast to bustling London.
Helen whisked up a lovely Greek-themed dinner that we ate al fresco in their lovely garden.
We had time too for a stroll around Hertford to the market square.
And a stroll around Folly Island,, where Helen and Simon’s home is tucked between Hertford’s rivers.
The next day, Helen took me into nearby Cambridge. Though dons and students in academic robes weren’t around during the summer, the city’s bicycle culture was in full sway.
The imposing entrance to King’s College.
The King’s College chapel is the largest chapel in the world.
If you ever watch the boys’ choir on Christmas eve that’s broadcast worldwide, you’d recognize this area of the chapel.
This Rubens’ painting graces the King’s College chapel’s altar.
After lunch, Helen and I took a punt ride on the River Cam through Cambridge, which afforded us this view of King’s College from the river.
Cambridge too has a Bridge of Sighs.
Helen and Karla on the Cam.
Our punter was Tristan from Germany, a third year Cambridge student studying chemistry.
By evening we were back in Hertford and out to a pub for a tapas meal. What fun!
Simon certainly enjoyed it!
Later that evening, we hit another pub for live music and dancing. What fun!
Helen and Simon then drove me up to Norwich in Norfolk for a visit with my other QM2 girlfriend, Julie.
Helen, Julie and Karla — the three QM2 amigas!
All four of us headed to the local pub in Julie’s village (Heathersett) for a traditional pub carvery meal–roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and sides galore. The yummiest!
Helen and Simon were soon on the road back to Hertford, and Julie and I plotted our adventures through the Norfolk countryside from her lovely garden.
Our first day’s Norfolk outing took us through Marham, an important AFB during WWII.
We had a visit to Sandringham, the Queen’s private estate in central west Norfolk.
We stopped while at Sandringham to visit St. Margaret’s Church where the royal family celebrates Christmas.
We then made our way to Hunstanton on The Wash, a bay off the North Sea.
Quite the festive seaside resort!
Fresh fried donuts! Egad, what a delish treat–still warm from the fryer.
We made it home for yet another one of Julie’s fabulous meals!
Our next day’s outing took us first to nearby Eaton, to St. Andrew’s Church, which Julie attends and where she was previously a warden. This is the formal entryway.
I find them incredibly beautiful stones. And such history! Early man landed in Norfolk and found a treasure trove of flint to use for fire-starters, arrow points, and scrapers among many other uses.
Note the stones in the church construction. They’re all flint stones, which Norfolk is known for and which are used in just about every building in the country (although you’ll see brick and Tudor timber and stucco as well).
St. Andrews has a new sanctuary attached to the main church with lovely architectural details in an otherwise spartan, airy space.
From Eaton we traveled a short distance to the market town of Wymondham, which is known for its Elizabethan architecture. This is the town’s historic market square.
We took a coffee break in the garden at this pub–which dates to 1371! Now that was a treat!
We then made a stop at the imposing Wymondham Abbey, which, alas, was closed the days we stopped by. Post-Covid reduced hours? We think so.
We made our way back to Julie’s and before you know it, we were off on an evening excursion on “The Broads,” which are man-made canals intersected by natural tidal streams. The Broads formed with the excavation of peat from the ground (used for heating and cooking) over many centuries. Reminded me a little of some areas in the Everglades. Along for the jazz cruise outing with Julie and me were her dearest friends Peter and Gilly, and Stuart and Sharon. All aboard!
Julie on the far left. On the right from front to back: Sharon, Stuart, Gilly and Peter.
ALL Julie’s friends for the trip!
Out on the Broads.
My dear pal and me.
And after all that fresh air and gentle scenery (plus a couple glasses of wine), we finished up the evening at, ahem, McDonalds just outside Heathersett. Peter had a serious Big Mac attack. I sipped a small chocolate milkshake.
The next day, we were joined by David Swanston, another QM2 alum. David drove over (a considerable distance) from his home in Glossop, England, and s spent the day with us prowling the scene in Norwich, the county capitol so to speak, and which is home to the magnificent Norwich Cathedral.
Talk about soaring heights!
Of course, I paused to honor Roger again, this time with a candle as well for my friend Laury A. Egan’s wife Ruth who died seven months before Roger.
The baptismal font at Norwich Cathedral is comprised of two copper chocolate vats. Until the Nazis bombed Norwich in WWII, Norwich was home to Caley’s, a chcolatee factory of some import. Julie’s dad remembered from his boyhood the day the factory was bombed–and chocolate ran through the streets of the old city.
After a spot of tea at Revelation. the shop and cafe where Julie works part-time, we eventually wended our way back to Julie’s for dinner on the patio with dear David.Thank you, David, for making the schlepp! Dance til tomorrow!!!!! Let’s do it again!
On Thursday, Julie and I were off toward the eastern shoreline of Norfolk to visit with her Autnie Megs, a spry and lively woman of 87 whom I felt I’ve always known. Along we way we paused to take in another view of the Broads. Serenity, thy name is Norfolk.
After a visit with Megs in her conservatory overlooking the garden at her sweet home, Julie whisked us girls to another spot on the Broads for a country lunch.
From there we made our way gently into Great Yarmouth, which is rather like Coney Island or Atlantic City (without the gambling), passing along the North Sea coast.
As it was August, Old Yarmouth was lively with holiday makers.
And, when in doubt, find a nice spot for a cuppa!
Or, a glass of wine!
We returned Auntie Megs to her home at a decent hour and headed back to Julie’s (about 25 minutes) for a light bite and then girl time, playing music for each other with Julie’s fat collection of CDs.
We listened to quite a few tunes by British singer/songwriter Ralph McTell, whom Julie has followed since the ’70s, much like I’ve followed Jackson Browne. Very, very good performer, guitarist and storyteller. Look for a tune or two of McTell’s in my next playlist.
On Friday, we made our way almost due north of Norwich to the North Sea where lies Cromer, another lively seaside area and one know for its famous Cromer crabs.
The best of summer at the wee farmers market in the car park in Cromer!
Walking the mostly cobbled streets of Cromer, stopping for a cup of Americano coffee to watch the crowds go by, we ran across a guitar shop and I had to poke my nose in. I was surprised to see how reasonably priced the instruments were. I think it inspired Julie. She has an Italian acoustic guitar that needs a little work on the bridge. She’s not played it in eons. So it’s now out in her living room (in Britspeak, the lounge) and for her winter project she’s going to pick it up and start playing again!
And, yes, whilst in Cromer, we picked up some crab for what would be the centerpiece of a picnic on the beach.
Julie preps lunch where we’ve commanded a piece of what’s called a “shingle beach.” Those myriad pretty stones are all bits of flint the sea has licked again, again smooth.
Facing the North Sea, I munched and chewed and relished every Cromer crab bite!
Alas, soon after our picnic we had to wend our slow way home. I found the wee house in the middle charming. I believe this was in the town of Burnham Market. Note the flint stones!
We slowed down enough for me to get a glimpse of the ancestral home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII,
On Saturday morning, Julie’s cousin Paul, a most delightful man, took us out for a full English breakfast. My arteries were screaming about the cholesterol, but it sure tasted great, especially the fry bread! Afterwards, we had a cuppa with Paul in his conservatory overlooking a verdant garden (despite the long drought and torrid temperatures this summer). I was quite impressed by his modest row of sweet corn with many ears ready to be picked. I regret not getting a picture of Paul and Julie! Next time!
Sure glad it was a gentler day with no tourist stops and touring because we had an afternoon and evening dog sitting little Ruby, Peter and Gilly’s pup, a schnauzer and poodle mix. What a delightful creature–and well-behaved!
Ruby and I get acquainted. We really grooved!
On Sunday, we returned to Norwich fora a prowl on the quieter streets, given it was Sunday and one in a bank holiday weekend, too. The cobbled stones of “The Lanes” led us down narrow, winding streets past many shops.
I sure would have liked to browse this little bookstore. Again: Next time!
The Teddy Bear shop was open for business, but we demurred. (See below.)
Posing with Sherlock Holmes dino! He is one of many scattered around the city. School children make field trips to the streets of Norwich on a treasure hunt to find all the gussied-up T Rexes, all painted by local artists.
We paused to enjoy the shade and scene on the Wensum River to chat with the locals and for me to scatter a few of Roger’s ashes, which will make their way to the North Sea and beyond.
We continued our meander to Elm Hill. Sigh. Not unlike what happened to America’s elm trees. A sobering moment.
Julie enters my 7th and last church/cathedral/abbey of my journey–not bad for an atheist!
Our outing concluded with a visit to St. Julian’s Church, a modest structure that was home to the Medieval English mystic and anchoress (1343-1416) who lived almost her entire life within its walls, dispensing wisdom and advice to supplicants with whom she would converse through a window in her cell.
Yes, I lit one last candle for Roger.
Inside Julian’s cell.
The cell was a most serene space to contemplate and reflect on life’s mysteries.
On my last day with Julie, we went over to Gilly + Peter’s for a bbq dinner–and ended up staying10 hours just enjoying each other’s company with the meal (beautiful grilled lamb on the menu) and board games!
Peter listens intently to the conversation flowing around their garden table.
Ruby joined us along with James, Peter and Gilly’s grandson who was quite the sociable young man. So well spoken and curious.
James listens intently to the gamesmanship banter. Can’t recall the name of the game but we sure had a blast.
At long last my Great British Adventure came to an end, but not without a few souvenirs. Although Julie did not make Biscuit Cake for me during my visit (there were at least twenty recipes she prepared for my visit), she wanted me to have it–an very old, traditional family recipe handed down to her to me.
But I did not make my journey homeward alone. Brit Bear came with me, a gift from Julie. He saw me through on the five-hour bus (“coach” in British parlance) from Norwich to Heathrow, stayed with me overnight at the Heathrow Hilton, and flew “across the pond” with me to Boston and on to Rochester. He now resides in my bedroom at Hollybrook House…and will travel in the passenger seat with me on my drive to Florida next month. Hail, Brit Bear! Hail, Dame Julie!
At last, long last (22 hours of travel from hotel to airport to flight to Boston to Rochester, I am coming in for a landing at HOME! What time zone did you say this is?!