Hello again – been a while! I’ve been gallivanting about the world … ok, maybe not the entire world, but I did take my first trip away from Georgia since arriving here. I don’t know that everyone is all that interested in a travelogue of my vacation, so this post will be kind of short, both on words and pictures, but it was an experience that certainly deserves a little recognition.
I left (and arrived back, for that matter) in the dead of the night. The trip there was easy and without incident; the trip back was a nightmare, but more on that later. I arrived in London feeling pretty great, had a happy reunion with my old friend Malcolm in the middle of St. Pancras Station, and off to the first of many dinners involving old friends from Japan and Asian food. In this case, Indonesian – later to come, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian. The best thing – and this is saying a lot – were the aromatic duck pancakes we had in Chinatown. What a welcome diversion from Georgian food which, while delicious, has become pretty routine.
New Year’s was spent in the village of West Meon. It’s in Hampshire, and according to Wikipedia, has 794 people. One of them is our friend Helena, who lives in a lovingly restored circa 1800 barn located behind a charming cottage where she used to live before renovating her home. Not only is it incredibly comfortable and beautifully decorated, but it has the best shower EVER. I’ll live off that memory for a while. 🙂 We took long strolls, ate way too much food (a theme throughout the entire vacation), and spent time in pubs. Here’s a few photos:
After recovering from New Year’s and the (very) long walk we took the next day, onward to Edinburgh, somewhere I actually had not been before. I took the train … ah, the train station, filled with restaurants and electric signs that told you where to go and what time trains were arriving, what a quaint idea. And the trains – so clean! So comfortable! No one fighting! But I digress … it was a beautiful ride; once in Scotland, we were riding alongside the coast. Reminded me a bit of Monterey … I made my way to the very old home (with VERY steep stairs!) I found through Airbnb; very nice hostess, very comfortable house, couldn’t have been happier with it.
Edinburgh also reminded me of somewhere, namely, San Francisco. Many buildings (mostly brick) had the bay windows San Francisco is so well-known for, and brightly painted doors. A trip to the Edinburgh Castle was really interesting, finally, all those movies and books about Queen Elizabeth the First and her fights with Mary Queen of Scots paid off. On a more serious note, a beautiful war memorial to all the Scots dead in every war since WWI is very moving. Inside (no photography allowed) there are books with the names of each man (and some women) who have died in the service of their country. It was sobering, and moving, to read through them. The view was fabulous, and the cannons were kinda sexy. On to museums and shopping, and the next day, back to London. A short trip, but made me want more:
On my return to London, we went to museums (the Taft – both the Britain, to see “Late Turner,” and the Modern, where I saw an exhibit called “Conflict, Time, Photography” – photos of war and conflict arranged not chronologically, but by proximity to event – within minutes, hours, days, weeks and on to decades. Fascinating, and, naturally, quite sad and disturbing), movies (“Birdman,” loved it, especially the end, and “Hunger Games-Mockingjay Part 1,” which I liked the least of the 3 I’ve seen, hope the 4th and final installment is better), more dinners and food, and more good times with friends. This is the thing: the best part of this vacation, even taking into account all of the beautiful scenery, delicious food and fantastic exhibits/historic sites, was spending time with these friends. Some are old friends (very old!), some are new, and this time around I also reconnected with some folks I hadn’t seen in over 30 years, not since we all lived in Japan. They are a close-knit group of very sophisticated, educated and unbelievably well-traveled people, and they welcomed me with open arms. It meant a lot to me.
So, a good time had by all. My return to Georgia was just as fraught as all that had come before was not. My plane to Istanbul was delayed by 5 hours, due to snow in Istanbul, causing me to miss my connection and forcing me to stay in Istanbul for an additional 24 hours. Which would really not have been the end of the world, except that my airline – Pegausus – behaved as if a flight causing a lot of missed connections had never before happened in the history of aviation. They were utterly unprepared. They had no plan, could not tell us where to go or what to do, and/or told us so many contradictory things that people were actually having melt-downs right there in public. Shouting, hitting and sobbing. I personally took the “I’m an old lady, please, please help me” pleading approach, which worked somewhat and will no doubt surprise many of you who know my temper, but you have to be strategic in these situations! At one point, just to give you an idea how crazy it was, some staff (male – every single person who actually helped me was female, sorry, that’s just the fact) took about 10 of us (several English women, some women from the Mid East, not sure where, and me, the sole American) through security, upstairs, and pointed to the airport lounge. After listening to our vociferous refusal to go to the lounge, they said they were calling their supervisor, and then … disappeared. They abandoned us, literally. Only when I went back downstairs and started pleading did we finally start getting somewhere, though it took 3 more Kafkaesque hours before we finally ended up in a hotel. Here’s the view out my window:
No denying those weather conditions! Thank god, we did get out of town the next night, though I almost missed the flight because they changed the gate and did not announce it. That made two days in a row I was up literally the entire night. My body’s defenses must have been down, because though I did feel ok once I got home, grueling as it was, I went out for a meal with some friends that evening and got a little welcome home gift from Georgia – severe food poisoning. Down for the count, for 6 days. Had to take Cipro to get better, and the side effects were nasty.
However, all’s well that ends well. I am fully recovered, back at work, pumping out some major grant applications together with my long-suffering counterpart, Marta, going to meet the graphic designer for CHCA’s Annual Report next week, and (finally) feeling reinvigorated and ready to go! Go where, I’m not sure … wherever this path leads me. I’ll let you know.