Saturday, 8 December 2012

Travellin' Along.....

After my last post about minimalistic packing, I recalled other times when I 've travelled with the equivalent of a whole wardrobe in an envelope (so to speak.)

When Gorgeous Husband and I went to Dublin, and when we went to Porto, in Portugal, I took all my gear in this briefcase sized bag.  It worked OK too, although through some miracle, I was able to pack in a new pair of boots that I'd bought in Portugal.  One advantage of this type of packing, of course, is that it all goes in the overhead storage in the airplane.  No waiting for your luggage, or it getting lost.

This is my briefcase-sized bag.  Dimensions are 18 inches wide, 12 inches high and 6.5 inches deep. (Metric: 45cm x 30cm x 17cm.)  I packed an empty tote bag flat to use as a handbag once we'd arrived.

Thinking about travelling made me realize that there are other tips to making your voyage pleasant, and not all of them include what to wear.

For instance, one of the best things to take along on any trip is a smile.  Bear in mind that the more friendly and approachable you appear to be, the smoother the whole journey.  Especially where people are serving you in the capacity of their job. 

Should a misunderstanding arise, consider that it could be you who is at fault.  Maybe you misunderstood what was said.  Maybe they misunderstood you. Maybe you unwittingly committed a social faux-pas.  Be willing to be the first to say, "excuse me" (or the equivalent of it.)

Don't expect that everything will be just as it is at home.  Perhaps the transportation will be late or different than you expect.  Perhaps people will talk slower than you are used to, or faster.  Maybe they have a different concept of what is and isn't rude.  Just, to the best of your ability, go with the flow.  The world does not revolve around your plans.

If the weather is ghastly, it is the same weather for everyone.  No one orders the weather around.  It does what it wants, and it is what it is.  If necessary, change your plans-- do something indoors, find some other amusements, shrug under your umbrella like everyone else.  Accept what is. It may lead you to something or someone totally unexpected.

Keep yourself as safe as possible.  Don't put all your valuables in one bag and then casually loop it over the back of your chair.  Don't wear clothes that advertise you have too much money and would like someone to help you get rid of some of it.  Be aware of your surroundings at all times and if your gut tells you that something isn't quite right, LISTEN to it.

As a general rule, knapsacks should have a sign on them, saying, "help yourself.  I can't see what you are doing."

If the fire alarm goes off in your building, hit for the stairs.  Don't say, "oh, it's probably a false alarm.  Those things are always going off."  This could be one of those times when it is not such a good idea to "wait and see."

Keep your passport close to you at all times.  I keep mine in my body pouch, and basically other than bathing, it stays with me.  It wouldn't hurt to memorize your passport number either.

It isn't really a stupid idea to have some portable snacks with you.  Sometimes when you're hungry and just can't find anyplace suitable to eat, it's great to have.  Or if you are relying on someone else serving you food (such as if you are on a coach trip, or flight) the food might not come as fast as what your stomach thinks is reasonable.  Look after yourself to the best of your ability, and be happy if things work out well when others are doing the catering.

Take the smallest possible sizes of all the things you consider essential.  Surprisingly, band-aids, safety pins, and a nail file come in useful, and are not much fun to go looking for in a strange location.

Besides your camera, if you are so inclined, one of the best things to pack for a trip is a small journal for recording your impressions.  Photos are great, but writing down things like a snippet of overheard conversation, peculiar signs, the smell of something delicious or repugnant, the cost of drinks/meals.. are things too small and insignificant for photos.  Whatever captures your attention as something out of your ordinary experience makes for an interesting read.  These journals can bring back memories so vividly that when you read them at a later date, you are transported back to where you were and what you saw.  For instance, when we were in Paris one night, we saw this scene from the window of the restaurant where we had our meal.:

 "The traffic outside the window was quite entertaining, as it was the junction of about 5 different roads, and the traffic all seemed to funnel through and go its various directions at high speeds and without the aid of road markings. Not only was it every car for itself, there were also lots of flying motorcycles, scooters, buses, bicycles, and even some boys on rollerskates.  In the midst of this hub-bub, a little old lady decided she would cross.  Not in the crosswalk, as that was not the most direct route.  She purposefully pulled her coat closer together, buttoned up, and wove her way past the cars, between two buses and ended up on the other side.  It was like watching a pensioner take on gladiators." 

I can still see the scene in my mind.  How it was wet and cold and dark, the car headlights streaming in the rain.  It was 2001.  Journals really are great.  In mine, I put in whatever strikes my fancy, from the colour of wallpaper in the hotel room, to jokes we've shared with strangers to outrageous prices of things.

This are just some of the things I picked up on my travels that have made it more pleasant for the two of us. How do other people travel?  Do you have any tips that you'd like to pass on?

Friday, 30 November 2012

Minimalist Packing

I've been inspired by other blogger's descriptions of what they packed when they went on holiday, and I decided to "showcase" what I took for our 4 day holiday to Lille, France.  It all fit into a tiny case, and I didn't get tired of the combinations.  Also, to be fair, it's only 4 days, so even if I wore the same thing 4 days, no one but Gorgeous Husband and I would know.

This is what I took:

2 roll neck sweaters (turtle necks, as they are known in North America)
2 skirts
2 pair of boots
1 tunic
1 coat
1 hat
1 umbrella
1 scarf/gloves set
some jewellery
1 long sleeve tee shirt (worn as nightwear, or daywear if it was too warm for the roll necks)
pjama bottoms

The outfits: (needless to say, no ironing needed!)

These are the second pair of boots.  I haven't included them in photos, because I threw them out in France.  They were worn out, and would have cost about £20 to repair.  Besides I had already bought 3 pair of new boots and needed the space in the suitcase for the new ones! Photo in the British Library, next to a bronze seat that looks like an open book.

My philosophy when I travel is to take old clothes that I don't particularly care about.  If I find something new and exciting, I ditch the old clothes in a bin somewhere and just come home with the new ones.  If I don't find anything, no worries, the old clothes just come home again.

I did wear everything, even the hat.  It's a great squashy one that packs flat and is good for drizzle.  Those times when you don't really need an umbrella.  Or it is too windy for one.

The small striped purse I wore under my coat.  It contained my wallet and money.  My passport was in my security pouch which I wear under my clothes.  If I were to have my bag snatched, they would grab the large bag, which contained my umbrella, camera, lunch, guidebook, makeup and anything else that I thought I might have need of.

The over-the-head small purse meant I was never worried about setting my purse down somewhere and forgetting it.  It left both hands free and I could wear it while we had coffee or lunch.  The big bag would be on the floor near my feet (or sometimes between my feet).  Maybe I'm a bit paranoid, but when we went to Paris, my knapsack was always being opened.  I didn't lose anything valuable that time, but it does make me aware that while travelling, being safe rather than sorry is a good motto to follow.

Does anyone else have any tips for travelling? 

Monday, 19 November 2012

A Trip Down Memory Lane

The last time I was at this magnificent Tudor mansion in Cheshire was 17 years ago.  How can I be so sure?  I first set eyes on Little Morton Hall the day after Gorgeous Husband and I had had our English wedding.  I don't remember if we knew what we were going to see, or if we found it by chance, but I do remember that by the time we arrived, after an hour or so of twisting roads, I felt sick as a dog.  I sometimes get carsick, and so it was the day we arrived at here.

Before even having a look around, I went to the cafe to have a coffee and see if I could feel a bit more human.  I decided to have a " cherry flapjack" as they had that on the menu.  I was accustomed to seeing a flapjack as a small pancake in Canada, and I thought it sounded rather good.  However, what arrived was something that looked like a granola bar.  In England, a flapjack isn't a pancake at all! 

Some of the beautiful leaded glass windows.  Original Tudor mansion from the 1600s.

This building is one of those fabulous old Tudor buildings, unique in the way its architecture resembles a line of washing, all sagging inward, and full of peculiar angles and nooks and crannies. Some architects aren't sure why the building is still able to stand, considering its "unusual" sloping condition.

                      An "artistic" photo.  Gorgeous Husband framed me in the leaded pane.

 This is the Long Gallery, which is upstairs.  Apparently, the ladies of the day used to use this long open space to exercise by walking up and down, back and forth.  Not the most interesting of past times, I wouldn't say.
This fireplace, with what looks like a plaster work crest, is in one of the upstairs rooms. That's one of the things I love about England: it has so many mind-bogglingly ancient things.

                          A lovely outfit of the Tudor times.  (The latest in their fashion!)

They even had Tudor outfits that you could try on.  I've got to say, I'm glad I don't have to wear that baby bonnet thing on my head all the time, as it is massively unflattering.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

It was an Art-full Holiday

Here I am, in front of the wonderful, and wonderfully named, Palais des Beaux Arts (the Palace of Beautiful Art) in Lille.  The building itself is a work of art, and typical of what I would call the "wedding cake" school of architecture so prevelent in France.  In other words, elaborate and richly detailed.  None of that "clean lines" nonsense!

                    I know, I'm just a tiny figure, but the "star" of the photo is the building.

 The Palais des Beaux Arts had an enormous ceramic collection, and I especially liked these casks that had taps coming out of them.  No idea what they might have been used for.

We also enjoyed looking at the exhibition of the artwork of Hieronymus Bosch, who is a particularly favourite of Gorgeous Husband's.  Bosch loved to paint grotesque, over-the-top figures in heaven and hell situations.  For a fellow born around 1450, he had quite a warped imagination.  Also, we were amazed how close we could get to the actual work, as they were not roped off.  Bosch was a master of painting detail, so much so, that a fox no bigger than a grain of rice, still had a recognisable expression.

 We also discovered this upside-town house, which was an example of modern art.  Everything in the house was upside down, in that the plumbing and furniture was all on the ceiling.  You could go in and walk around, which we thought would be neat.  As it turns out, I could only stay in the house for a few minutes before I began to feel woozy.  Something about the slant of the floor, and seeing everything topsy turvey had an adverse affect on me and I had to get out of there right away.  It just brought home to me how much I rely on my sight to make sense of the world.

This jolly "cat on a bicycle" fellow was in another modern art gallery, that I forgot to check the name of.  They had a lot of papier mache figures and expensive handcrafts and paintings.  A feast for the eyes, if not the wallet.

This collection of psychedelic flowers is a sculpture close to the Eurostar train station.  Notice I am actually wearing a hat!  The weather was somewhat drizzly, not a proper rain, just a bit of a whimper with not enough energy to collect itself into actual rain drops.

We walked down this street one morning, and it seemed that there were lots of artists and craftspeople out with their wares, in addition to the cute little boutiques that were open.  This particular shop had a white cat outside that the owner had taught a trick.  If you walked up to the cat, held out your palm, and said "merci!" the cat would put its paw in your hand.  Ever so cute. You will appreciate this if you've ever tried to teach a cat anything.  They are not particularly good pupils!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Oooh, I'm in Love!

Yes, it's official.  I'm in love with Lille, France.  You didn't really think I'd chucked in Gorgeous Husband, did you?  We had such a fabulous time in this French city, that is so near to England, yet so distinctly French.  I look a little pale in this shot, as it is night time, and we had to use the flash.  My real colouring was actually quite normal.

 Who couldn't love a city that has such fabulous fashion shopping?  A hat shop!  The Style Crone would absolutely love it.

 Here is a knitted dress in the window of a chic little boutique not far from our hotel.  Or "chick" shop as Gorgeous Husband liked to pronounce it.

 When I die, you can just scatter my ashes here in this incredible shoe shop.  Everything was so yummy, I thought I would pass out.  Not that I bought anything here, but I did succumb to buying 3 pair of boots elsewhere.

On our last day, we went to the Sunday market, which not only had all the fabulous food you would expect of a French market, but someone also playing the accordian.  Plus I found some wonderful colourful leather bags.  I didn't buy one for the following reasons:  I was greedy and already had 3 pair of boots, Gorgeous Husband would have gone pale at the thought of more purchases, no room in the suitcase, and to be honest, the colours weren't exactly what I wanted/needed.  There was a lucky escape!

Do you feel guilty if you think you have bought too much at one time?  (Like 2 identical pair of boots in black and brown?)  I blame it on Gorgeous Husband.  I said, "would I be a greedy pig to buy another pair of these wonderfully comfortable boots in brown?"  And he said, "do what you like."  I rest my case.  Who could resist that?!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Art of Life, the art of Death

It seems like it has been a long time since I've posted on my blog, so I will have to do better in future!  In my defence, I must say I have been on holiday in France, and that had taken me away from the computer.  (Not being savvy enough to have a laptop/travelling technology with me.)

In order to give ourselves some time in London before catching  the Eurostar go over to Lille, in France, Gorgeous Husband and I decided to stay overnight in the Big City and tootle around a bit.  Although we have been in London lots of times, this time we decided to amuse ourselves almost exclusively by going to the British Museum.  What a treasure house that place is!  A real visual feast --a complete banquet for the eyes.  Thank goodness I couldn't buy any of the pieces or I'd be broke!

The atrim of the British Museum

                               This is a ram in a thicket, an Egyptian piece from 2500 B.C.

                          These fish amulets were found on Queen Puabi of Egypt's right arm.

Some more of her fabulous jewellery.

I forgot to note where this is from, Mesopotamia, I think.  Love it!

This fabulous brass horse was used on a horse harness, and comes from Bologna, 750-700 BC.

Gorgeous Husband and I were all agog at the incredible craftsmanship and also the great age of the pieces.  We loved the Egyptian gallery, looking at the items put in the graves, the jars for the internal organs, the mummies, and the elaborate decorations that were painted within the wooden sarcophagus itself.  All beautifully detailed and as colourful as if they were just finished, yet had been sealed up for thousands of years.  Slightly spooky!  I can hardly imagine the excitement the first Europeans would have felt when they unearthed the coffins.

After we had worn our feet out at the British Museum, we decided to take in an art exhibit that we had chanced upon, which was in the crypt of St. Pancras Church.  It seemed a bit appropriate after looking at all the grave finery in the museum.

This exhibiton was called "Dare to Wear" which was a wildy exuberant, colourful display of "outsider art" (for want of a better term.)  It was curated by Sue Kreitzman and incorporated the works of 26 individual artists who embraced colour and energy and verve and pizzazz as if they were no tomorrow.  Indeed, the sign outside did warn: "Don't wear beige, it might kill you!"

For myself, it was like unexpectedly meeting a rock star.  I had seen the works of Sue Kreitzman on the internet, and to meet her in person, was like, well, wow!  (This also stands for Wild Old Women, so a pretty appropriate all round description of my experience!)

This is the link to Sue's website:  (Once again, I hope I had managed to add the link correctly.)

Here I am with Sue Kreitzman, which was a real thrill for me.  I loved the fabulous coats, both the one on the mannequin and the one Sue is wearing.

This is a close-up of Sue's necklac.  Doesn't it look great with the coat?

This is what Sue Kreitzman wrote in the catalogue about the exhibit, DARE TO WEAR:

Don't leave art to lanquish on the walls.
Wrap yourself, festoon, engulf and adorn yourself.
Glory in texture, colour and spectacle.
Erupt into the world: brash, glittering, bejewelled, and multicoloured.
Dare to be a graffito, a collage, an assemblage.
Burst into art, and you will change your world forever.

Wow!  What a concept!!  Talk about kicking the idea of the timid older woman wearing pastels into next week.

Here are some more images from the exhibition, which runs at St. Pancras Church, Euston Road, London, NW1 2BA until November 4, 2012 (closed Mondays).  If you want to have your eyes electrified with colour, by all means go.  No, really, I mean it: GO!   If you're brave enough, there is a special evening event on November 1 (Dia de los Muertos-- the Mexican Day of the Dead) from 6:30 til 9:00.  It should be a riot!

Sue Kreitzman finished off the introduction to the exhibition's catalogue with these words, "Because we are exhibiting in a crypt, we continue to mull over the most fascinating wardrobe conundrum of all: what will we wear in the Afterlife?" 

It certainly boggled my mind, and with the grave imagery from the museum still whizzing around in my head along with the art exhibit, I found it difficult to get to sleep! Too much excitement for one day!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Would You Do This?

Every once in a while, I do something which, strictly speaking, does not make any sense.  Although it does if you follow my logic.

For instance, would you pay £14 to have the toes and heels of your favourite cowboy boots repaired, given that the boots only cost £9 to start with?  These are the type of things that make economists shake their heads and go, "tut tut" over.  Where is the sense in it?

Well, they are comfortable, go with everything, and if I didn't repair them, soon they wouldn't be good for anything.  Now I can get many more cowboy miles out of them.

I took them to my favourite cobbler (well, one of only 3 in town) who I have been going to for the past 16 years.  My nickname for him is "Mr. Smiley" because he never does.  Or at least he didn't use to smile, hardly ever.  He was the Basil Fawlty of customer services.  But after years of dealing with him, we have a laugh now.

I took in the boots and said, "Can you do toes and heels on these, please?"

He looked at them duviously and said, "Where's the metal toe studs?  You've lost the metal bit."

"They didn't have any when I bought them."

"I don't know how I can fix them."

"But you can, can't you?"

"Well, maybe."

"Don't you like a challenge?"

"Me?  No, I hate 'em."

"So can I pick them up tomorrow?"

"Day after."

So, when I went back to collect them, he had done his usual fine job.  "That's great!" I said.  "Yeah,  well, now you can get back to your horse," he said.  I think he even smiled.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Church with a Difference

This Sunday morning, we had a church service with the Christain Motorcycle Association, along with the regular parishoners.  It was great to see the church so full.  The organ music was replaced with guitar, and the hymns were more modern, rock 'n roll versions: Jesus is Lord! Majesty and In Christ Alone. 

About 60 or so motorcyclists arrived on their bikes, wearing leather, tatoos and several with white crosses on the back of their black leather jackets.  In his opening statement, the leader of the group said that sometimes people have trouble accepting him, because of his "rough appearance" (tatoos, leather, beard, long grey hair).  He looks like he may have been in many a tough spot in his past life.  Then he said, "if people give me a hard time, I say, Jesus accepts me as I am.  Why can't you?"

Gathering outside church before the service.  They had travelled from across the Midlands, Berkshire, Wales, Cheshire and Merseyside to be here.

Many had slogans stitched onto their jackets: "Jesus is Lord", "Be an Organ Donor; Give your Heart to Jesus", "These ARE my church clothes" and "WWJD" which stands for "What would Jesus Do?"

 Here I am with two bikers.  Never thought I'd be saying that.  Rubbing shoulders with guys who had been the "bad boys" of their generation. The fellow on my right had spent time in prison, and he was the one giving the sermon, who fully credits God with turning his life around.  "God is good," he kept saying.

 One of the bikers who had travelled from Northwich (about 40-50 miles).  Lots of tatoos.  In the past, lots of attitude as well I would imagine.

 It was very touching to hear the testimonials of these bikers, who had once been the original "hard cases" but were now disciples in the modern sense.  They go to motorcycle events, passing out coffee and teas, talking to people and sharing the Gospel to any who are willing to listen.  Sometimes they just do the listening and let God do the rest.

They hand out Biker's Bibles for free to anyone who wants one.  It is the New Testiment and true life testimonials of people who have been about as low as they could be before discovering Christ.  One young man admitteed he took the Bible just to use the pages as cigarette paper for making his own handrolled cigs.  Then he read one of the prayers and decided he would "come along" and check out this Christain group, so unlike anything he had ever thought of as "church".  Is he a convert?  Not yet, but he is certainly welcome.  Time will tell what path he choses.

Close-ups of my outfit:

 Bangles I wore with the green dress.

My animal print scarf.  I think  it looks a bit like python.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

World of Polka Dots

Honestly, I don't know where the last couple of weeks have gone.  I seemed to have slipped into a hole called "I'll-do-it-sometime-soon".  Except of course, the soon is a pretty elastic term!

 I discovered that I had some nice navy polka dot items in my wardrobe that I had forgotten about, so I decided to fix the skirt and wear it to church one Sunday.  I adore these polka dot shoes, but they are quite tight, so I only wear them for limited periods at a time.  It doesn't show up too well, but one of the bangles is polka dot too.

 I'm waiting for my capuccino on one of the outside patio tables at a lovely farm shop not far from home, where we often go after church.  There was a swarm of wasps all making camp in a bowl of sugar cubes on the table, making quite a nuisance of themselves.  I moved the bowl, only to find that the wasps then buzzed around even more threateningly, as they were looking for their sugar treat!  When they discover where it had gone (only the next table over) they lost interest in me.

This lovely cafe used to sell a huge slice of brownie with whipped cream, dusting of icing sugar and a sliced strawberry, all for £1.29. Unfortunately, they've wised up that that was way too cheap, and I don't even remember seeing it on the menu anymore.  What do they say?  Good while it lasted!

This is almost the same outfit, adding a polka dot jacket and dress and a black sheer hat to the same shoes when we were at a wedding earlier in the summer. They did a lovely job of decorating the lych gate with flowers.  (How I love weddings!)

 I also got these lovely strappy sandals for only £6 at New Look.  I didn't plan on buying them, as I don't really have anything in the coral shade.  It would have been better if they had just done the shoe in beige patent, but hey...they ARE comfortable and cute, and when you see such a bargain, you have to buy them.  It's the law.

Does anyone else discover they have hidden treasures lurking in their wardrobes?  Things you haven't been wearing because it needed fixing, or in the case of my polka dot shoes, they were just in an old suitcase.  Isn't it nice when an archelogical dig of the wardrobe yields something?