"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Monday, October 7, 2019

I'm back! Highlights from European vacation, part 1.

Photo taken in Regent's Park, London on the morning before we left U.K. for the continent
Don and I got home yesterday after a glorious European vacation where we visited four countries and had quite an adventure. Here are a few of the highlights with even a few literary references thrown in for good measure.

London, U.K. (Sept. 18-22)
During our short time in London, we completed two walking tours suggested by the travel guru, Rick Steves. Our first was of Old London where we found ourselves walking down little alleys to discover little known places and past grand old churches finishing up at the grandest of them all, Saint Paul's cathedral. Of the many churches we visited one was particularly memorable. It was the RAF church of St. Clement Danes. As we entered the church we discovered several people in full air force regalia preparing for a service to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Great Escape (memorialized by the Steve McQueen movie.) The last airman who was part of that escape from a Nazi camp, Dick Churchill, had died earlier in 2019 at age 101. He was being memorialized during the same service. Everywhere we went on this trip we encountered WWII memories and stories.

RAF chapel of St. Clement Danes
Later in the walk we wandered down a small alley and found the house where Samuel Johnson, the author of the first English dictionary, lived with his family and Hodge, the cat whom Johnson spoiled with oysters. A sculpture of Hodge is in the little square outside the house, which was made into a museum. I was charmed.
Our second walking tour began with a tour of the Tower of London followed by a short boat ride down the Thames, a walk past parliament, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street and many well-know sites on our way to Trafalgar Square. We were so tired from so much walking and our jet-lag but we still wandered into the National Gallery since it was open late on Friday night and it was free. The art museum is huge but only attempted to see all the pieces of art suggested by Rick Steves on our short time inside. My favorite piece was Hay Wain by John Constable. I sat in front of it and marveled and marveled. The funniest piece that Steves' guide directed us to look for Crivelli's Annunciation with Saint Emidius, it had all the typical religious stuff one would expect from a 15th century piece of art with the addition of a big pickle in the front of the illustration, which one does not expect. Steves made some snarky comment about it and we thought it was funny.

Don at Tower of London with Tower Bridge in the background
The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius by Crivelli, note the pickle in the foreground
On our third day in London we took a train out of the city to Kew Botanical Garden. The day was absolutely beautiful and Kew was hosting a Chihuly glass exhibition. Dale Chihuly is a glass artist from Tacoma, Washington, near where we live. We are very familiar with his artwork and loved seeing it in a garden setting. We took so many photos.

Selfie in the Kew Temperate House with yellow Chilhuly glass spears behind us

Chilhuly masterpiece on the lake at Kew.

Garden conservatory at Kew
Later that night we cleaned up from our day in the sun and took a tube ride to London's West End to see Hamilton the Musical on stage. We've been trying to get tickets since it came out a few years ago and finally got to see this play about American history while in the U.K. The Brits especially seemed to love the parts with King George. We did, too. It was fabulous and both of us cried. What an enchanted evening.

Anne is excited and waiting for the start of Hamilton the Musical in The Victoria Palace Theatre
The Bed and Breakfast where we stayed in London was a treasure. Each morning we dined with other guests and had so much fun talking to other travelers. One morning we were laughing so much during our conversation with a guest from Ireland the owner asked if we knew each other. The B & B was very near Baker Street which of course was made famous by Sherlock Holmes and the Beatles and was very near Regent's Park. We walked around the park on our last morning in London before heading to airport for our flight to Prague. We were shocked by the sighting of parakeets flying among the trees but found them listed on a sign about what animals and birds one might encounter in the park.
Seagulls lined up on the pilings in the Regent's Park Lake

Reading during the trip:
On past vacations abroad I found I was able and wanted to read in the evening or while aboard trains between sights. This time I barely made any time to read unless it was related to sightseeing. Every night I fell into bed exhausted and so only read a few pages before falling asleep.
  • New and Selected Poems, Volume One by Mary Oliver---I had this collection on my e-reader and found I could manage a few poems each day. This is the only book I finished on the trip.
  •  Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks---I wanted to like this collection because I adore the author (as an actor) but wasn't thrilled with Hanks' writing so when the e-book automatically returned to the library on its due date I wasn't sad and won't finish it later. I read about 25%.
  • Wineburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson---Another short story collection. This one I purchased in paperback. I've long wanted to read this short story collection which is considered a classic. I like the writing but only managed to read about seven of the 21 stories. I will finish it.
  • Rick Steves London 2019. Don and I used this guide for our two self-guided walking tours around town, a self-guided tour around the National Gallery, and for information about Regency park.
  • Rick Steves Prague. We used this book to look up facts and recommendations.
  • Rick Steves Germany. We used the sections on Bavaria to help our choices of what to visit and where to eat and stay. We used part of the walking tour in Munich, and read part of what Steves had to say about Dachau.
  • Where the Bluebirds Sing to the Lemonade Springs by Wallace Stegner---I carried this paperback book around with me but only managed to read half of an essay. I will finish it sometime but probably not soon.
Stay tuned for other parts of our European vacation:
Prague, Czech Republic; Bavaria, Germany; and Switzerland.


  1. I loved your photos and stories. That's what I enjoy so much about traveling: the adventures, the exploring, the fascinating differences. You made so many great memories. I like most of Constable's work, and didn't read much on my trip to Scotland either. (mostly in the plane) I hope this comment goes through because I'm not sure my other one did.

  2. Your time in London sounds fantastic with lots of wonderful activities. I can't wait to hear the rest of your holiday stories.

  3. Wonderful photos & write-up. Looks like you had good weather too. I will stay tuned for the rest of your trip. Isn't it funny to see Chihuly's art overseas ... when it's from right there in the Great NW.


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