Swatch: Liberty of London

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Originally built in 1885 and opening to Regent Street, the store front was redeveloped using retired British naval ship timbers in the 1920s.

I have long drooled over the Liberty of London fabrics and clothing. It is harder to find the fabrics in the USA. J Crew carries some of the clothing. I have been to the fabric corner of Harrods numerous times to stroke and oogle the Liberty fabrics, the whole time not realizing that they have an entire department store near Oxford Circus!

I had just started the #5 Jane Austen walking tour (more on this in future blog), when I looked down Argyll Street and spied Liberty stores at the end of the street. I had to detour.

Starting with the stunning florist at the entrance, the entire place is a palace of beauty. My heart beat faster as I tried to take it all in. I quickly recalculated the day I planned. I was not going to rush through this store. I wanted to soak in every display, every lovely English item.

Liberty does not just carry their own brand. You can find Stella McCartney baby outfits in the children’s section and designer clothes throughout. I started in the stationary shop and looking at bags and scarves. Some of the prices were quite reasonable and some made me hyperventilate. I bought some notecards and decided I may as well sign up for the loyalty points program because I was headed to the third level where the fabric and yarn is displayed.

I thought I might be going to a yarn shop in Islington at the end of the day, so luckily I had tucked in a couple of patterns that I plan to knit for my expected grandson. I shed all my bags and jackets and prepared for a good long browse.

Trudy asked if I needed assistance. We had a wonderful time trying to sort it all out with different weights and US and UK measurements. She is a very experienced knitter and we shared back and forth. The wifi in the store is excellent so I was able to show her Little Cotton Rabbits (I could hardly believe she had not seen this UK treasure!). She showed me her knitting project. In the end I spent more than I expected and I could not be more pleased.

I looked through many more departments and I stopped in the cafe for tea and an English cheese tray. The lovely customer service department refunded my VAT. Yet, the highlight for me was shopping with the assistance of Trudy Healy-Potter. She is a textile designer and offers classes at Liberty.

She showed me how she spliced three patterns from the Rowan loves… pattern book to create the colorful sweater she has almost finished. Not only am I excited about the projects I will be knitting this summer in anticipation of Grandson #1, I am reenergized about the craft overall. Liberty is so clever to have Trudy on their team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogs of Venice

I came to Italy to view the Giro d’Italia bike race. I could not help but notice the many dogs. Italians love their pooches very much. They have more mutts than in France. I especially enjoyed the dogs of Venice. I saw all of these dogs in one long walk.

Venice is becoming a kind of National Trust like amusement park. Fewer people actually live here full time. I saw one sign that expressed one Venetian’s anger at tourists who stay at AirBnB because people are buying up homes to let out. There are still a lot of dogs!

The most popular dog in Italy appears to be the Jack Russell terrier. There were also a surprising number of Boston terriers throughout Tuscany.

Seeing all of these dogs makes me miss Lulu! I will be home soon.

 

 

 

 

Only 5 Hours in Florence, Oh My!

It always a little discombobulating when you arrive somewhere for the first time ever in your life and everywhere you look it feels like déjà vu. Such is my experience in Florence or Firenze. Blame it on Epcot. Everywhere looks so quintessentially Italian I feel like I have already been here.

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Florence or Firenze and the River Arno

Do not misunderstand. It is wonderful. In fact, I am thankful it rained so I could remember that this is not a movie set. There really are gelato shops and piazzas everywhere. The church bells do ring on the hour. Pigeons do amass where tourists are dining al fresco.

I did not have time to gawp. I had just a little over 5 hours in Florence to try to see as much as I could. Since I was time limited I prioritized the must-dos.

IMG_95111. See Michaelangelo’s David sculpture in the Accademia. Our group split up, each to our own agenda, in Piazza della Repubblica. I walked straight to the Accademia and got in line for tickets. I was originally going to buy the Firenze pass (Rick Steves highly recommends if you are going to see most of the major museums and churches.) Once I realized that in 5 hours I was only going to see a few places, I decided to buy single tickets. The regular (non-reserved line) was down the block and around the corner and hardly moving. I stepped into the end as it began to pour rain. A entrepreneurial young woman offered a reserved ticket for E22. This was only 9,50 more than a regular priced ticket and it would cut my wait time dramatically. I exchanged money for time and proceeded to the reserved line and was inside within about 15 minutes.

I was really impressed with all of the Michaelangelo carvings including the ones that appear unfinished. The David is a wonder. I am so glad I saw it in person. I quickly cruised through the rest of the Accademia and then continued my Firenze blitz.

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I walked all around the Duomo but did not have time to wait in line to enter.

  1. I walked all around the outside of the Duomo. The stripes surprised me.
  2. I continued on to the Uffuzi art museum. I spent more time looking at the amateur artists painting in the courtyard and perusing in the gift shop than I did looking at the collection.
  3. I found a little café run by a local family and enjoyed a delicious and simple pasta lunch—just a plate of tortellini al ragu with bread and sparkling water.
  4. My friend Faith told me about the School of Leather and I was intrigued. It is located in the back part of the Basilica San Croce. It was off beat and interesting and it is heartening to know people are continuing to learn this trade.

I can understand why people need 2.5 to 3 days to see Florence. I barely scratched the surface. Must return one day.

How to Keep Your Sense of Humor Whilst Traveling

After 24 hours on the road it can start to become a challenge to see the lighter side of situations. I like to laugh instead of getting angry, but sometimes your nerves get frayed from crying babies keeping you awake and one too many hurdles to overcome. This is when a great travel book comes in handy. Sometimes it is enough to know that someone had it worse than you. Even sweeter, if the travel book is also full of humor.

DribblingIt was serendipitous that on the afternoon that my travel plans dissolved like sugar in hot tea, I discovered Bill Bryson has a new travel book. If you have never read Notes from a Small Island or Walk in the Woods (or any of his dozen books), then you have many great days of reading ahead. Just one warning: do not read in public because you will laugh out loud so hard you will snort embarrassingly. I had no idea that it has already been 20 years since his memoir of tramping around the UK was published. He did some more long walks to celebrate and captured his misadventures in The Road to Little Dribbling.

I was in the Gatwick airport bookstore and it was already past the 24-hour mark since I departed from Sacramento when I discovered Bill Bryson wrote a new book. My flight had already disappeared from the marquee, and I knew it had been rerouted to Pisa and was delayed 2 hours. I was going to miss dinner with my cycling fan friends but still had hopes of getting to the Villa I Barronci before midnight.

As soon as I boarded the sauna like Vueling flight and wedged myself in the middle seat, I cracked open the Bryson cure. If anything could inoculate me from grumpiness, reading Dribbling would. Sure enough before they could circulate the air in the cabin I was smiling. I did not worry about my fellow passengers noticing my mirth as they were so absorbed in their electronic gadgets that they did not even acknowledge me.

I am so glad I had taken the cure because as we stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac it began to rain in Pisa. I made friends with Janet from Cambridge, England and we helped one another figure out where to catch the bus to Florence. As she predicted, there was much faffing around before everyone collected their bags, and the airline provided us buses, and we loaded on, and they counted people and we finally began the journey to Florence.

I was punchy by the time I collapsed into a taxi at midnight and gave him the Villa’s address. I thought if my mom was with me we would have been side-sore from giggling as the GPS sent my driver on U turn after U turn. I called Jacinta my tour guide when we turned on the road to Rome. Once she put us in touch with Leonard from reception to speak to my driver in Italian, we course corrected and arrived about 30 minutes after we should have. The driver took 20 Euros off the bill, which was very decent of him.

Leonard was handsome and welcoming and made more attractive by bringing me a plate of Italian ham and cheese with bread. My room is so comfortable and this morning I discovered the views just shout “Tuscany!”

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View from the gate of the Villa I Barronci.

We cannot control very much when we travel. We do get to choose our attitude. I am so glad Mr. Bryson gave me a much needed assist so I could see the brighter side of the situation.