Following the Essex Serpent

IMG_1802While I was on my own in Winchester I did some book shopping and I found a book I had read about in the New York Times Book Review, Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent. It seemed like the perfect book to read while I was fossicking around the county with UK Sarah. When we caught up with each other, Sarah pulled a book from her bag that a friend had given her, “I can read it and then you can read it!” I laughed and pulled out my copy. So we both began reading the book on our journey from Winchester to Tollesbury.

We planned our activities and saved searching out the landmarks in the book for our last full day in Essex. We’d begin at Colchester and then because her main village was imaginary, we’d visit Wivenhoe (Wiven-HOE!) on the River Colne. Then for a bonus, we drove out to see Mersea Island because I kept it seeing it in the distance and I was curious.

Colchester is a fascinating city. It is fast growing now, but its modern development is built on an old Roman wall and around Colchester Castle.

We really had a lot of fun interacting with the book, the history, and the current people and place. We got caught in a lot of traffic on our way to WivenHOE! because University of Essex was hosting their open campus day for prospective students. Once we were out of town we had the roads much more to ourselves. It is always a bit amazing that so many people can live in England and yet there is still so much seemingly uninhabited countryside. Recommend the book and the day’s adventure!

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Wivenhoe on the River Colne

Here is a sample of the book to entice you to read it:

She arrives home with her arms full of dog-roses in creamy bloom and three new freckles on her cheek. She puts her arms round Martha’s waist, thinking how well they fit ther in the groove above her broad hips, and says, “They’re on their way–everyone who’s ever loved me and everyone I’ve ever loved.” (p. 231)

 

 

SWATCH: Crafts and Wool in Winchester

I was looking for a pub for lunch when I discovered Creative Crafts kitty corner from the Winchester City Museum and the Cathedral grounds. I wasn’t looking for wool since my suitcase was already bulging. My imagination was caught by the crocheted shark toy and the book of crazy sea creatures that featured the pattern. I purchased two pattern books and added them to the box I’d ship home from the post office.

IMG_1446The women who offered assistance in the shop were friendly and interested in what I was working on. I showed them the pineapple baby hat I was knitting for my grandson Calvin.

If you need any type of needle craft supplies while you are traveling or want to purchase a project, stop by Creative Crafts at 11 The Square in Winchester.

Jane Austen Anniversary Today

IMG_1436The author of five sublime novels,  Jane Austen moved to Winchester seeking medical treatment at the end of her life. Her beloved sister Cassandra joined her at No. 8 College Street. Although Winchester was a renowned medical center, her doctor Giles King Lyford did not hold out hope. Indeed, Jane crossed over on July 18, 1817, 200 years ago today.

After reading about the many special anniversary activities planned this Anniversary year, I added Winchester to my itinerary. I lodged at the centrally located Royal Winchester Hotel and took an easy train ride from Southampton.

IMG_1430 Her temporary home makes a good first stop. Further down the road on College Street is the elite boys prep school Winchester College. Across the street from No 8 is a small park with several Jane tributes. Stop in the awesome independent bookstore P&G Wells and buy a new copy of Persuasion, the international Austen book for 2017. Then go round the corner to the Wykeham Arms for a fantastic cup of coffee or better than pub lunch or dinner.

The Winchester Cathedral offers a “Jane Austen Events Programme 2017” and includes a funeral procession reenactment on Monday 24 July at 8:30 a.m. (5 pounds for ticket). This is the same time, 200 years earlier, that her brothers and nephews escorted her body to the Cathedral. “Her sister Cassandra wrote that she watched from the window as her dear sister left her forever as the procession turned the corner to enter the Close.” (Winchester Cathedral programme)

The Winchester Cathedral is the final resting place for Jane Austen. Her grave and a special memorial are in the north nave aisle. The Cathedral published a booklet by Michael Wheeler, “Jane Austen and the Winchester Cathedral,” where he explains how Jane Austen came to be buried inside the Cathedral,

“The fact that Jane Austen died in the paris of St Swithun entitled her to burial in the Cathedral precinct, and there were no compelling reasons for her to be buried in Chawton, Steventon or Bath. But to be buried inside the Cathedral, she and her family must have had strong connection in the Close. If the Revd Henry Austen made the request to the Dean and Chapter, he may well have been supported by Mrs. Elizabeth Heathcote, nee Bigg, his sisters’ lifelong friend and the widow of the Revd William Heathcote, sometime Prebendary of Winchester.”

IMG_1421My last stop on my Jane Austen adventure was to the special exhibits at the Discovery Centre and library. If you are not already familiar with Jane’s life story, then this is the place to start. I also picked up a helpful brochure at the City Museum “Jane Austen’s Winchester” that provided a helpful overview of her time in Winchester 24 May – 18 July 1817.

These exhibits will be open through 24 July (and the last one until 20 August):

  • The Mysterious Miss Austen
  • Jane’s Winchester: Malady and Medicine
  • Jane and her Alton Apothecary

If you have the extra time, Chawton is about 30 minutes by car and 1 hour by bus. Jane’s home and a special study center await you there.

Penguin Love

penguin 1I just read the book The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell in one day. I was enthralled from page one.

I bought the book in Winchester, England and mailed it home with some other books. My cover was blue with a photo. I already love penguins so this book was a joy from beginning to end. It also makes me want to visit Tierra del Fuego, Peninsula Valdes and Punto Tombo even more.

The story of Juan Salvador, a Magellan penguin rescued from a Uruguay beach by the author, is also the story of mankind’s negative impact on the oceans. Penguin species have been decimated by pollution, especially oil pollution, and overfishing. penguin 2

The book makes these points without bludgeoning the reader. It also shares life lessons he learned from the people he met through a mutual admiration of Juan Salvador.

My favorite story was about Diego, a shy student who was having trouble fitting in at the prep college where the author worked as a teacher. He loved Juan Salvador and was one of the small group of students who helped care for him. When the pinguino finally had a chance to swim in the pool, they were all stunned by his aquabatics. But the real surprise was Diego’s reaction.

Read to find out more.

 

 

Father Denmark Defines Danishness

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One of the early stops on Bike Mike’s tour of Copenhagen was at the statue of NFS Grundtvig, often called Father Denmark. Mike took the opportunity to share with us a little history and how Denmark developed the socialist democracy and earned their title of world’s happiest people.

Grundtvig wrote histories reintroducing the Norse gods to the Danes. He also studied English society and appreciated the contrasting freedom of thought and pragmatism. He was also a Lutheran pastor who spoke out for separation of church and state. All of this combined to the philosophy Grundtvigianism. He also participated in writing the new constitution and articulated the sense of community that is now a hallmark of the Danish life.

Mike said, “We don’t mind paying high taxes because we get free education, elder care, health care and day care.” He laughed and pointed out that since women ruled Denmark there have been no wars, they work less and earn more, and they enjoy the smallest gap between the poorest and the wealthiest citizens.

Denmark is not perfect, but one of the things I love about travel is learning about other cultures and seeing how things can be.

If you want to read more about Grundtvig you can in Knud JV Jespersen A History of Denmark. (in English)

 

 

Preparing for Denmark Adventure

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I am visiting Denmark this summer. I found my hotel on Trip Advisor. Thanks to Rick Steves’ I am taking a bike tour in Copenhagen with Mike. My chum Susie from University is going to show me her Malmo, Sweden on June 6–the national holiday to celebrate being Swedish. I have printed the instructions to find hidden Giant sculptures around Copenhagen on a bike scavenger hunt.

I am excited that I am going to be able to see two more Scandinavian countries (after Norway in 2013). Originally I thought I’d get into the countryside and see more of Denmark. Then I realized that second half of my trip involves a lot of travel through England, so enjoying one city more thoroughly and staying in the same hotel is appealing.

I discovered Helen Russell’s humorous memoir Year of Living Danishly at Vroman’s bookstore in Pasadena. I read it to prepare for my trip. The culture in Denmark is similar to Norway in many respects. The author refers to Jante’s Law, which I experienced growing up with a Norwegian grandfather.

Aksel Sandemose outlines 10 rules for living Danishly in his novel, A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks, known as Jante’s Law.

  1. You’re not to think you are anything special
  2. You’re not to think you are as good as we are
  3. You’re not to think you are smarter than us
  4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us
  5. You’re not to think you know more than us
  6. You’re not to think you are more important than us
  7. You’re not to think you are good at anything
  8. You’re not to laugh at us
  9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you
  10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything

cod bookSome people think it is synonymous with humility and essential to maintaining the egalitarian Scandinavian society. Some people think it is about enforcing conformity. In another memoir, In Cod We Trust, by Eric Dregni, about his family’s year in Norway, he observes, “These ten commandments may have begun as a morality tale of how not to act, but over time these rules were adopted to teach kids not to be self-important narcissists.”

I am curious to soak up as much of the culture as I can for the relatively short time I am there, and to find out more about Jante’s Law.

24 Hours in Pasadena

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View of Pasadena from above the Rose Bowl

Pasadena has transformed into the sexy trophy wife for the stodgy stockbroker. There are a lot of expensive bistros and fine dining and entertainment venues and hip loft apartments along the Metro Gold line. This is a stark contrast to the Pasadena I lived in from 1980-84 while commuting to USC. The Pasadena of the eighties had a dying old town and plenty of grubby areas where students and people of color lived. Then the downtown area still catered to the old money in Pasadena and San Marino with several large department stores. We house-sat a home above the Rose Bowl one year and got to know an older long married couple who invited us to their club with their wealthy Republican friends. Her hair was “set” each week and his coat and tie wasn’t new but screamed quality. That was the eighties.

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Sriracha is all the rage at restaurants in SoCal including this McDonalds on Lake Avenue where I found a large Diet Coke.

Their Pasadena still looked and socialized like the city of Julia Child’s youth. She grew up in Pasadena before World War II when the wealthy families built the large churches along Colorado Boulevard and the large homes above the Rose Bowl. Pasadena’s history makes it a more interesting place to visit, even as they tear down and build new or facelift the old.

Pasadena deserves to be a distinct place to visit, apart from Los Angeles. Besides the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, there is the Norton Simon Museum, Huntington Library and Gardens, Gamble House, Pasadena Playhouse and more. My 24 hours in Pasadena is also filled with meeting up with friends. The first night I met friends in Old Town at La Grande Orange Cafe and we dined outside in springtime. Ah Pasadena! The next day I met friends at Green Street Restaurant for breakfast, then Pete’s on Lake Avenue to grab coffee and walk a friend with her dogs, then lunch at a friend’s home above the Rose Bowl. I spent the late afternoon and evening faffing around downtown shopping at Vroman’s bookstore and dining on fancy pizza.

When I was a student resident I had to drive or walk everywhere. Now you can catch the Gold line to downtown. Pasadena’s one shortcoming is the lack of bike lanes. It is relatively flat and could be a great place to cycle. I like to stay at the Hilton Pasadena because of its central location and value. It makes a good home base for visiting Santa Anita Park or the Jet Propulsion Laboratory or Universal Studios.

 

I’d love to live in Pasadena today but it is just as out of reach as when I was a student. It is a great place to visit and I look forward to going back.