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November 2009

Above It All

On our last full day in London, the weather was clear and sunny.  We decided to "take flight" on the London Eye. 

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The Eye is a relatively new attraction in London -- it was opened in 2000 as part of the city's Millennium celebration.  Some promotional materials note that it is "London's #1 attraction."  Now, I wouldn't go that far (it's hard to beat the Tower of London. . .), but it is pretty cool -- in the same way that the Sears Tower in Chicago is pretty cool.   We waited in line for our turn to "board" the Eye.

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From a distance, the Eye appears stationary.  It is, though, moving constantly -- just really, really slowly.  Without stopping, each car has time on the platform to unload a full car (about 20-25 people), do a security sweep, and then re-load the car with the next batch of passengers. 

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We were the first in line for our car!  Here we go!

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I liked taking the Eye at the end of our trip.  We had already seen most of the sights, so we could identify buildings and landmarks that we'd visited earlier -- and see them from a whole new perspective.

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There's Big Ben, for example, with Westminster Abbey in the background.

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And check out all the red buses on that far bridge!

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There's St. Paul's Cathedral (of "Feed the Birds" fame).  It's fun to see the city from another perspective.  In fact, that was the best part.  Seeing things from a different point of view.  Take this, for example.  Here's a photo of some windows I saw from the ground, earlier in the day.  I took this photo from the bridge, as we were crossing over to the Eye. 

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(You can also see these windows in the very first photo in this post.  They're at the very, very far right of the photograph.)

Later, I realized I could see those same windows from the Eye. They're the set of green windows directly facing the river; to the right in the photo below.   

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I started to zero in on these windows.  Here they are, from above!

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And again, as we descended. . .

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And again, almost at eye leve. . .

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It was fun to watch the windows come into view -- and "change" as our vantage point changed.  It's good to have a reminder, once in a while, of how different things can look. . . from a slightly altered point of view!


Doors and Windows

Our senses are indeed our doors and windows on this world, in a very real sense the key to the unlocking of meaning and the wellspring of creativity.  -- Jean Houston

I've always had a little thing for doors and windows.  I like them.  I'm charmed by them.  I especially like to photograph them.  It's time to move back to Mind Candy Friday here on the blog, so today I'll be sharing some doors and windows of London.  I'm sure there's a metaphor (or two) in here somewhere!

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I feel very adventurous.  There are so many doors to be opened, and I'm not afraid to look behind them.  -- Elizabeth Taylor

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Begin challenging your own assumptions.  Your assumptions are your windows on the world.  Scrub them off once in a while, or the light won't come in.  -- Alan Alda

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We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.  -- Walt Disney

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People are like stained glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.  -- Elisabeth Kubler Ross

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All the windows of my heart I open to the day.  -- John Greenleaf Whittier

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Big doors swing on little hinges.  -- W. Clement Stone

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Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.  -- Joseph Campbell

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Memorial. . .

Grandma 95th

Many of you may remember our family celebration for my Grandmother's 100th birthday last summer.  Well, my Grandmother passed away last Sunday, as my sister and I were flying back from London.  Her funeral is today.  My Grandmother lived a long, full life, and she was healthy and active right up until the end.  (Apparently she even told her nurses that. . . "You aren't the boss of me!!!")  My Grandmother was not a warm-and-cuddly kind of Grandmother; she was a hard woman to love.  But she lived her life on her own terms, and was a little fireball right through to the end.  Goodbye, Grandma.  Rest in peace!










Pilgrim's Progress

When we planned our trip to London, my sister and I made lists of things we wanted to see.  Most of the things on our list wouldn't surprise anyone:  Big Ben, the Tower of London, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, you know - the usual things.  But there was one thing on each of our lists that we Just Couldn't Miss; yes, each of us had a "pilgrimage" to make.

For Di, it was Liverpool.  She has always been a Beatles fan.  HUGE Beatles fan!  (Like -- if she'd been just a tad older, she would've been one of those screaming, hysterical girls. . .)  So, no trip to London would be complete without a pilgrimage to Liverpool . . . where it all began!

We took a train from London to Liverpool, where we Walked the Streets That They Walked.  We visited the Cavern Club.  We visited the Beatles Story -- a very well-done museum on Albert Dock featuring  exhibits from the lads' Humble Beginnings . . . to their individual solo careers . . . and a quite moving memorial to John Lennon.

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And then we Climbed on Board. . . for the Magical Mystery Tour!  (It was Waiting to Take Us Away. . .)

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As you might imagine, the tour was a bit schmaltzy. . . but it was fun and informative.  Di was in Beatle Fan Heaven!  We got to drive on Penny Lane. . .

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. . . including the famed Roundabout!   You know what?  There really IS a barber shop. . . and a fire department. . . and a bank!

We also saw Strawberry Fields. . .

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and the humble boyhood homes of John, Paul, George, and Ringo!  Here is Di in front of George's house.

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It was really a fun day.  I like the Beatles too, but I'm nowhere near the fan that Di is.  While she reveled in her pilgrimage, I was thrilled by her excitement and the fun of making-it-real for her!  Pilgrimages need to be shared!

As for my own pilgrimage?  Why, where would you think a life-long sewer, stitcher, and knitter might need to go?  Why. . .

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of course!

Just seeing the building. . . and walking in the door was a thrill for me!

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Inside, I was dazzled by the fabrics. . .

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(So dazzled, in fact, that camnesia set in.  That's the only explanation for why I would take a photo of the Wall of Amy Butler Prints -- which I can get here at home -- but did not take a photo of the Wall(s) of Liberty Prints -- which I cannot.)

And the Wall(s) of Rowan. . .

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And the Buttons!  Oh, the Buttons!

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And, to top it all off, Liberty has beautiful flowers available at the entrance!  It was perfect.

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Pilgrim's progress?  Great success!




Basking in the Glow

I had a totally unexpected -- but absolutely delightful -- amateur photographer epiphany in London.  I discovered that Latitude Matters!

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Do you see the looooong shadows in this photo?  (Taken on Albert Dock in Liverpool, where we spent one day during our trip.)  Now, here in Michigan, I wait until very late in the afternoon -- usually within an hour of sunset during the cold months -- for those long shadows to appear.  I know that when the sun is at the angle to make those long shadows, the light will be wonderful.  With low-angle light, everything basks in a warm glow, and it is my absolute favorite time to take photographs.

Well.  The photo above was taken at 12:30 in the afternoon.  Mid-day!  Hours before sunset.  What I discovered is . . . London is far enough north that the sun is at a low angle ALL THE TIME!!!  I was in Photographic Light Heaven. . . or, at least I was when the sun was shining.

Whenever the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, I was a maniac with my camera!  See what I mean?  Here are two more shots taken at mid-day in Liverpool.

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The light was perfect.

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At Kensington Palace, the sun broke through just as we arrived, and I was able to capture the sudden, warm glow on the brick facade.

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Sometimes, I would be walking down a street, and the light would just stop me in my tracks.  Like on this little side street near Westminster Abbey, where the light coming through the open window there on the third floor took my breath away!

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On the one truly All-Sun-All-the-Time day we had on the trip, we took "flight" on the London Eye at 1:00 in the afternoon.  The light was amazing.  The entire city was bathed in incredible light!

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And here, at Trafalgar Square, the light made the entire scene look like an Old World painting.  I just loved it.  I was absolutely giddy.

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What a wonderful discovery.

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I was basking in the glow!






Delight in the Little Things

As a first-time visitor to London, I totally expected to be WOWed by the sights and the history and the splendor of the city.  And I was.  Completely.  But it was the little things that brought me true delight!

The charm of ordinary homes -- that looked like something out of a storybook.

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The phone booths. . . usually red, but sometimes black.

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The street signs. . . not so easy to navigate by, but totally charming to see.

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The gates. . .which always reminded me of Rogers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" (The prince is having a ball!  The prince is having a ball!).

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The fou-fa-rau on the buildings. . . so intricate and so beautiful.

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Turning a corner and finding yourself looking at an "icon" of London. . . stunning surprises.  We may have giggled in delight!

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The pavement. . . In London, it's even charming underfoot!

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The statues. . .

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and the fountains. . . they're both everywhere, and always fun to see.

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"Minding the Gap" on the London Underground. . . we found the Tube to be an easy way to navigate the city.

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Pedestrian "assistance". . . these very obvious directions at each street crossing in London were a huge help to us.  (It's amazing how deeply embedded your "traffic instincts" really are!)

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And the tea!  Oh, I took great delight in the tea!

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It's all in the little things . . . true delight!


A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to London!

Although my sister and I talk by phone and/or email pretty much daily, we don't get to see each other all that often.  We were really looking forward to meeting up in the Newark airport where we could catch up and have a glass of wine and relax a little bit. . . before catching our flight - together - to London.  Our flight plans were carefully constructed to include plenty of time -- hours and hours, in fact -- so we could meet up and relax together before making our connection to London.

It is somewhat ironic, then, that the first view I had of my sister in the Newark airport did not include pleasant conversation over a glass of wine.  No.  My first view. . . was of my sister gesticulating wildly and screaming in the face of a Continental airlines gate agent.  As he refused to let us on the plane.  Our plane to London!  Because my flight from Detroit had been delayed.  And delayed.  And delayed.  

No.  It was not a good start to our trip.  We were frustrated.  And grumpy.  We had entered Airport Hell.  We spent the first night of our glorious trip. . . in an airport hotel in Newark!  Why is it. . . that by the time the airline gives you food vouchers. . . that none of the food establishments that honor the vouchers. . . are OPEN?  This was all we could scrounge up for dinner that night in Newark:

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There were no other flights available to London from Newark for days.  And days.  It appeared that our best option was to fly to Houston (yes. . . Houston. . .) the next day, and hop a flight to London from there.  Unfortunately, when we showed up at the airport the next morning, we discovered that we would be flying STANDBY on the flight to London.  (Don't get me started on all the lies we were told by the Continental gate agents.  I have calmed down now.  But Continental?  I don't think so!)

Things had now gone Far Enough.  We got Very Demanding.  We used Firm Voices.  We Refused to Budge from the check-in line.  Eventually, they got us to London.  Via ROME.  (Which is much better than Houston.)

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Things got better after that.  We arrived in London (and our luggage did, too!) 24 hours late. . . but we tacked the time back on at the other end of the trip.  And. . . we had a bonus stop in Rome!

London was fabulous!  So much to see. . .so much to do. . .

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It was a perfect trip.  Absolutely perfect.