From Traveling to Nesting

One view from my balcony

One view from my balcony

As a complete contrast to being home-free for the past nine months (six as traveler and three as “snowbird” wintering in Florida), I am especially content to be enjoying not just resting but actually nesting in Tampa.

As a result of my daughter Debbie’s request to spend more time in Tampa now that I am retired, I have decided to divide my time between Tampa and Philadelphia. I really don’t know yet how that will be defined.

Since a place became available first in Tampa, in spite of the heat of summer, I am loving getting my “nest” organized here and being near family. Just doing lunch and a movie this afternoon with Debbie and Sarah felt like a treat.

So, life after my travels is different from what I had anticipated. Why not?!

I even have a mailing address now, as follows:

777 N. Ashley Drive
#1910
Tampa,FL 33602

My mobile phone (610.331.8081) will be my only phone for awhile.

Another view

Another view

I look forward to staying in touch with each of you who let me share my adventures with you. I loved knowing you were with me then and feel even closer to you now that I am home.

Many blessings to each of you.

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Farewell, London: Your Ordinary is Not So

In this fond farewell to London, which also serves as the farewell to my Grand Tour, I want to capture a few of the “ordinary” moments in the city where nothing is really ever ordinary.

While visiting the Tate Modern to enjoy the unique show of Matisse’s Cut-Outs, two girls were nonchalantly practicing the art literally in one of the rooms of the exhibit.

Budding Artists

Budding Artists

At the final component of the Changing of the Guards at Clarence House, an officer reviews the instructions for the coming watch to two members of the new guard. This practice has the immediate value of serving as a reminder of the role as well as an update on what to expect in the next 24 hours.

Instructions to New Guard

Instructions to New Guard

The most unique and unexpected wake-up call occurred on an unpredictable basis @ 7:15am several mornings.

Unusual wake-up call

Unusual wake-up call

This photo was taken from the window of my apartment/hotel in the Mayfair. Mounted police are taking horses out for an early morning stroll. I almost wished there had been a snooze feature to the experience so that I could re-play the gentle clip-clop sound at will.

At the Victoria and Albert Museum on a gorgeous spring day, I loved the frolicking behavior exhibited in the pool of the courtyard as a distinct contrast to the very serious artwork inside.

Frolicking at the V &A

Frolicking at the V &A

Lastly, the ordinary celebration of a birthday, becomes almost magical when it’s child’s. Here is a photo of Brenda’s youngest grandchild making a wish as he is about to blow out the candles on his cake. It was such fun to be a part of this special moment.

Sam is seven.  It's official!

Sam is seven. It’s official!

So, this completes my 60th post. A few hours from now, I will be flying back to the states and relegating all my travel adventure experiences to precious memory. There may be one last post ahead with overall reflections, but, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that I am grateful for the memories and their messages.

I am also grateful to you, dear follower. You often provided more purpose to my travel than I would have experienced on my own. As a result, in whatever corner of the world I was over these past nine months, I always felt connected to “home”. Thank you!

Homeward bound!

The Play’s the Thing

Enjoying plays in London balanced several other delightful pursuits that included visiting with friends, going to museum exhibits, feeling at home in Mayfair and savoring the very British custom of tea with scones, appropriately “dressed” with clotted cream and strawberry preserves.

Each of the four plays I experienced presented its own uniqueness. They were, in my order of preference, the following:

“Blythe Spirit” with Angela Lansbury.

A completely delightful Noel Coward romp, it was clearly a vehicle for 88 year old Lansbury to revel in a role she suggested is the best she has ever had. She seems to really have fun on stage which, of course, means a similar experience is guaranteed for the audience.

“Handbagged”

Focusing on the weekly meetings of Margaret Thatcher with the Queen, this was a particularly clever take on what might have been their conversations and perspectives. Fortunately, I was joined by dear friends, Brenda and Bill, who served as able sources of information to explain a few of the characters and situations.

“Wolf Hall”

A large and skilled cast portray the dramatic and traumatic impact on individuals who were close to Henry VIII as he was determined to have a son as an heir. You know the “story”, but experiencing it first-hand by “meeting” the pompous Henry who surrounded himself with sycophants, the self-serving and naive Cardinal Woolsley, the self-righteous and pitiful Katharine, the cunning Thomas Cromwell, the teasing Anne Boleyn who lost the only game her short life allowed her to play, etc. I kept hoping that some form of brilliant negotiation could honor all parties involved instead of the all-or-nothing/black-and-white thinking that dominated. A compelling experience.

“Relative Values”

Another Noel Coward comedy, this one delights but does not scintillate given its predictable plot and banter. It is fun, however, to peek into the drawing room of the snobbish “upper crust” who take the crusts off their cucumber sandwiches. Would that Americans would not be so predictably manipulative boors in the process.

A part of the tapestry of my experience of London, for me, “the play’s the thing” to enjoy.

Sorry, no photos or links to enliven the words of this post.

The Second Coming of the Georges

Imagine that you are a monarchy without a king or queen! At least, you don’t have a king of queen who fits the preferred profile.

That is exactly what happened in 1714 when Queen Anne died leaving no heirs (even though she has had 17 pregnancies).

Of course, there was James 11 who was especially eager to assume the throne, but, he did not meet the criteria. He was Catholic and believed in being a supreme ruler which contrasted with the intent of the Parliament to establish a constitutional monarchy.

There were up to 50 (yes, 50!) others who would have been considered “legitimate” heirs, but none of them met this new definition.

Enter George Ludwig, Elector of Hanover in Germany.

He and his successors have re-entered the scene during this 300th anniversary in the form of museum exhibits and many related activities.

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As described in the brochure of “The First Georgians” in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, “the exhibition tells the story of Britain’s emergence as the world’s most liberal, commercial and cosmopolitan society through works of art collected by the royal family during the reigns of George I and his son, George II”.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/william-kent-designing-georgian-britain/

At the Victoria and Albert Museum an exhibit entitled “William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain” provided information on the
the life and work of William Kent, the most prominent architect and designer of early Georgian Britain. He became the “go to” choice to provide versatility and artistic inventiveness at a time when Britain defined itself as a new nation and developed a design aesthetic for the period, notably at Kensington Palace.

Ahhh, Kensington Palace. I spent an entire afternoon enjoying three different exhibitions, including one called “The Glorious Georgians” that focused on the life in the courts of George I and George II.

Since Queen Victoria grew up at Kensington Palace and later actually saved it from destruction when she was queen, there is also a delightful exhibit called “Victoria Revealed” that explores her long and fascinating life.

Princess Victoria was born on 24 May 1819 at Kensington Palace where she grew up alone with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and spent what she would later recall as a lonely and unhappy childhood.

She became queen at just eighteen and held her first Privy Council meeting in Kensington Palace’s Red Saloon.

I was especially touched by the devoted relationship she had with Albert. Remember that since she was the monarch, protocol required that she would propose to him. I love that! After 24 years on the throne at age 42, she was completely devastated by Albert’s death. As you may remember, she lived for another 42 years. She died in 1901 at age 82.

– See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/WhatsOn/VictoriaRevealed#sthash.wm6IL8sm.dpuf

By the way, on September 11 of next year, Queen Elizabeth will surpass the long reign of Queen Victoria. At age 88 now, she certainly seems to be on her way to achieving that exciting milestone. Remember, her mother died at age 102!

Four other interesting museum exhibits deserve mention:

1. “Italian Fashion” at the Victoria and Albert Museum

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2. “Fashion Rules” at Kensington Palace included dresses from The Queen, her sister Princess Margaret and also Diana, Princess of Wales or affectionately considered “The People’s Princess”.

Remember that Diana lived at Kensington Palace and it was there that people flocked after her death to place flowers and other tributes.

Currently, among many other members of the Royal family, William and Kate and baby George live there. Another George!

3. The Royal Mews, a permanent “exhibit” that includes the ceremonial coaches used for royal processions. See the most famous golden one:

The Golden Coach

The Golden Coach

4. “Henri Matisse, The Cut-outs” at the Tate Modern was a completely delightful presentation of his intense curiosity and unmatched artistry.

I have also been enjoying the vibrant theatrical scene here in London. More about the three plays I have experienced thus far in my next post.

When Matt Talked, We Walked!

I never knew how many moving parts there are in the 45 minute ceremony of the Changing of the Guard in London. In all my visits here over the years, I had never had the experience. So, it was a priority for me on this trip.

I intended to just go to the Victoria Monument in the front of Buckingham Palace one hour before the scheduled 11:30am event and hope for a good view. Then, I learned from Brenda, my resourceful friend here, about a special tour that would highlight all the different components.

Meet Matt Gedge, Entrepreneur, Owner of Fun London Tours and Expert Tour Guide:

Matt, Expert Guide

Matt, Expert Guide

The tour begins in Piccadilly where Matt assembled our small group of eight. After a concentrated history lesson as we strolled to The Mall, Matt assured us that we would have prime positions to see the whole ceremony. He also noted that he would be inviting us to follow him before we might want to leave a specific location, but we needed to trust him. In other words, when he talked, we needed to walk.

About that time, we noticed mounted guard coming from Buckingham Palace. Along with traffic and a police escort, this was the “new guard” making their way (I did not understand where) to replace the “old guard”.

As many of you already know, essentially the purpose of the ceremony is for the “new guard” to replace the “old guard” who has been on duty for the last 24 hours.

Mounted New Guard

Mounted New Guard

Advancing into great places to watch the activity at St. James Palace, we soon observed the “old guard” taking their positions in the Friary Court. They were soon followed by a regimental band. Once all were in place and this detachment of the guard were inspected (after all, they are about to go to Buckingham Palace and must be perfectly groomed), Matt led us back to The Mall so we could see the band approach, playing all the while. We actually walked alongside the band for a while down The Mall.

Band from St. James

Band from St. James

Moving quickly, we then took our positions to watch the “new guard” assembling in the “yard” at Wellington Barracks on Bird Cage Walk (there must be an interesting story connected to the name of this street.). Another inspection takes place before this regimental band begins to escort this “new guard” to Buckingham Palace.

From Wellington Barracks

From Wellington Barracks

Once all assembled at Buckingham Palace, there are several official activities while the bands take turns playing. However, before those activities are concluded, Matt signals us to follow him to Clarence House (where Prince Charles lives) for an upfront and personal view of the Channing of the Guard there.

As we depart Clarence house, we notice the “old mounted guard” coming down The Mall as they return from their distant location.

One very important and interesting fact is that all these men (there are women in the bands but not in the “guardsmen”) are active soldiers who have or will serve in such places as Afghanistan. So, in addition to this specifically choreographed ceremony that has been conducted since Victoria began to live in Buckingham Palace in 1837, this impressive ceremony is only one of their functions.

I am sorry that I don’t remember all the details about how to recognize the five different groups via the colors of the feathers in the hats, the specific arrangement of the buttons on their uniforms, etc.

It was a spectacular ceremony to observe. It also served to increase my curiosity about the pomp and circumstance that distinguish the British.

An update on several interesting museum exhibits I have experienced in my next post…

Arrivederci a “Allelulia City”

I was sad to leave “Roma” which became “Allelulia City” to me. How is it possible to have so much vibrancy in one time and place? That possibility becomes a reality in Rome!

“Prolific” was the word I used to describe Rome during my first visit in 1971. Now, 43 years later, in addition to that initial assessment, I sensed an exuberance that values its history as it squeezes the juice out of every current moment.

For example, see the color and activity from the top of the Spanish steps in the photo below:

View from Spanish steps

View from Spanish steps

The apartment where I stayed was nearby and whenever I walked out into the street, Rome was “in your face” immediately. When tied, it was great to slip away into my quiet, comfortable place.

By the way, the French call these the “French steps” given some interesting and complicated historical drama.

A bride and groom stopped by as they were apparently taking photos at the major spots in Rome. I loved capturing the tenderness of the bride when she kneeled down to hug a little girl who was smitten. See below:

Bride and girl

Bride and girl

I almost forgot to include photo taken inside the opera house where I attended a ballet entitled “Verdi Danse”. How can ballerinas make their arms look like ribbons?!

At "Verdi Danse"

At “Verdi Danse”

So, goodbye Rome. Coins or no coins in the fountain, I know you welcome all back.

Arrivederci!

Arrivederci!

Viva il Papa!

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Being a part of a General Audience with Pope Francis yesterday was very special.

First, a “ticket” is required. It’s free and it was easy enough to request it on line and then to access the day before at the American College, a seminary in Rome. See it below:

Gen. Audience ticket

Gen. Audience ticket

The suggestion was to arrive early, specifically @ 6:30 am. As you can see on the ticket, the scheduled time for the event is 10:30am. “When in Rome, do as the Romans”, so I arrived early as advised. The brightness of St. Peter’s ahead was promising.

St. Peter's

St. Peter’s

After a 45 minute wait, as encouraged by others who “know the drill”, I got to a seat along a barrier to wait. Fortunately, I also got to visit with these two very delightful people from Savannah, GA.

Couple from Sanannah

Couple from Sanannah

Three hours actually passed rather quickly on this gorgeous spring morning. The organization of the Italian police and the Swiss Guards suggested that they had lots of practice!

Note the Michelangelo-designed traditional uniforms of the Swiss Guards! (I wonder if the wonderful beret-like hat is on sale in the Vatican Gift Shop?!)

Swiss Guards at work

Swiss Guards at work

Then, cheering began and, on the giant monitors, we could see Pope Francis in his popemobile making his way along the very organized pathways through the animated crowd.

Finally, there he was.

Pope Francis!

Pope Francis!

After the excitement of his kissing babies, etc., the prayerful part of this General Audience began. The New Testament reading of the day was done in several different languages, but, the specific message from Pope Francis was the most touching. In part, it was the following precious reminder:

“This week let us think deeply about the suffering of Jesus and let us say to ourselves: this is for my sake. Even if I had been the only person in the world, he would have done it. He did it for me.”

He delivered it in Italian and I accessed this translation from the Pope App.

As I noted at the beginning, this was a very special experience.

On a much lighter note, my selfie does not do the experience justice, but I am glad to have made the attempt.

Selfie with the pope

Selfie with the pope

Viva il Papa!

At the Quirinale today…

Sometimes, pictures really do substitute for words. See a few below taken today at the Presidential Palace here in Rome:

Changing Sentinel

Changing Sentinel

What a uniform!

What a uniform!

More uniforms

More uniforms

Dapper (in tails)!

Dapper (in tails)!

Tomorrow brings the specialness if a Papal Audience (with thousands if others). I can’t sleep in anticipation!!!

Buon Giorno, Roma!

After only one full day in Rome, “full” seems to be an appropriate word for all my senses.

From very satisfied “taste” buds to the sweet “smell” of the orange trees as I walked along Via Barbarini to the postcard-come-to-life “sights” (a few below) to the glorious “sounds” of the Santa Susanna Choir yesterday (all voice students!) to the thrill of finally “touching” an exercise bike this morning for the first time since I left the states (since I did not have access to a fitness facility in either Spain or France)…, this is already an experience of richness. And I have not yet had any gelato!!!

My ears were so well treated in Mass yesterday that tears became the evidence. Beginning with a triumphant processional called “The Holy City” (by Weatherly and Adams), I have never heard it in church before and was completely invited into the power and preciousness of what we were about to celebrate.

See the program below in case you want to pluck it out on the piano or look it up on YouTube. Prepare to be moved!

Powerful Processional

Powerful Processional

Additionally, “Were You There”, the poignant African-American spiritual was the Communion Meditation that my tears prevented me from singing.

As you know, fountains abound. I loved the Triton one below.

Triton Fountain

Triton Fountain

I was fascinated by the waterless Moses Fountain below.

Moses Fountain

Moses Fountain

Today is yet a page to write on…

Fond Farewell to Aix

Although I am now in Rome, I any to share a few images of Aix in this fond farewell.

Of course, one eats very, very well in France. Choices range from the wonderful open market that I referenced earlier to the classic boulangerie, to both sweet and savory macaroons. I was also fascinated by pizza delivery on motorcycles. See typical photos below.

My favorite boulangerie

My favorite boulangerie

Macaroons, a specialty

Macaroons, a specialty

Imagine a patè macaroon. Fantastic!

Pizza delivery

Pizza delivery

Traffic control practice

Traffic control practice

A unique way to restrict traffic uses barriers in the middle of the street that are programmed to recede into the ground when a driver pays a fee. I don’t know if the photo does the practice justice, but, I was fascinated by this clever approach.

On my last evening, a delightful concert provided the opportunity to hear splendid music. See the program below.

Concert program

Concert program

By the way, a “hautbois” is French for “oboe”.

Some of you reading this may remember the Sunday Salon Series that I used to host in my home (in the burbs). Curtis Institute students treated us to programs they were preparing for recitals or competitions. .One of our favorites was a woodwind group. Alex, the oboist in the group once remarked that an oboe in church is special. I thought of her and her completely accurate observation as I enjoyed this concert.

During the concert where the organist and soloists performed from the choir loft in this special church (St. Jean de Malte) that became my spiritual home in Aix, I had the opportunity to ponder the power of vulnerability and acceptance in this painting.

Vulnerability & acceptance

Vulnerability & acceptance

As a touching close to my stay in Aix, I loved having lunch in the garden of these two dear people (both educators and parishioners at St. Jean) and their very interesting friend who teaches Hebrew. They even drove me to the airport afterward. I hope to return generosity and friendship in the states during a future visit.

Lunch in the garden

Lunch in the garden

So, “au revoir, Aix”. You live in my heart.