Self-Isolation Play List Recalls Travels

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_16ceI enjoy a weekly podcast of BBC Desert Island Discs. I just finished the Daniel Radcliffe episode. I’ve also noticed that the some people are creating self-isolation playlists and sharing on Instagram. Satellite Sister Lian Dolan created two with the themes of survival. We may as well have fun with it while we are waiting and looking out for one another by staying home.

I haven’t created a playlist since I dropped my youngest child off at UC Santa Cruz. And I don’t listen to as much music as I once did. So when I imagine being interviewed by the BBC presenter on Desert Island Discs, I think of the songs inspired by my travels.

My first big trip outside the United States was to Catrine in Ayrshire with Teen Missions when I was 16 years old. I came home at the end of the summer and discovered that My Sharona by the band The Knack had completely taken over the airwaves. My high school pep squad and student body adapted it to our school name, “La-Si-er-ra” and yet I had not heard it once! While I was in Scotland we sang a lot of Christian songs but weren’t allowed to listen to the radio; however, I did develop a real soft spot for bagpipe music and all things Scottish. Later I fell hard for the twins from Edinburgh, The Proclaimers. I have every album recorded by Charlie and Craig Reid and the disc I want in my COVID shelter in place is The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues.

My next travel adventure was to study summer school in Cambridge, England. First my then husband and I drove around England, Wales and Scotland. I loved Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat That’s My Home, and was bummed to find out that it didn’t reach the same popularity in America.


I didn’t travel much while I raised my children–annual trips to Yosemite were more the norm. So when I was newly divorced I gave solo travel a go. Except air travel to meet up with a friend or group, I had not had complete control of an itinerary before and the rebel in me loved it. I chose London and Dublin for my first solo foray and I fell hard for Ireland.  That trip I was mad for Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping.  (And for the record, I apologize for linking to some truly bad videos.)

Within a few years I was semi-regularly volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, Northern Ireland in Belfast. I even marched in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Downpatrick. There were many songs that I enjoyed singing as we enjoyed the culture in NorIreland. On one of my last trips a young builder who was apprenticing at the site shared with me his favorite song at the time: Voodoo Child by the Rogue Traders.

I discovered New Zealand through Habitat for Humanity as well. I met a group of Kiwis on a Jimmy Carter Build in Cambodia and the next year led a team to Wellington, New Zealand. Music was a big part of the build and I discovered Brooke Fraser. One of my favorite songs is Something in the Water.

I have returned many times to New Zealand and I like many other Kiwi artists besides the obvious–the phenomenal Lorde. I was briefly obsessed with Gin Wigmore’s Black Sheep. I have memories connected with the New Zealand National Anthem and the Rugby Union theme song for the Rugby World Cup, World in Union. Sometimes I would discover a song on Kiwi road trips that was a hit in New Zealand but not yet in the United States, such as Glad You Came by The Wanted.

The biggest connection with a song on any of my adventures was summer of 2014 when I followed the Tour de France from Yorkshire to Paris. For part of the tour I joined a Thomson spectator tour in the Alps. Our bus driver had a great playlist including Enrique Inglesias’ Bailando. If I only could take one song to my desert island it would be this one.

Working at home all day and then spending all evening at home is not quite as isolating as being stranded on a desert island. I have Facetime with my grandson and daughter and phone calls and texts with colleagues and friends. Still, there is a growing sense of the end of the world as we know it.  Just as 9/11 ushered in a different set of priorities, so too will this pandemic.




Fall Into Harvard Square

Oh how lovely to be out of the smoke choking the Sacramento Valley. Oh to be enjoying some rain.

I am visiting my son in Boston and it has been over 15 years since I’ve visited Cambridge, so while he worked at his office, Mid morning I rode the Red Line to Harvard Square. It was such a pleasure to walk 5 minutes from his South Boston apartment to the T-station. Then it was a 7 stops and about 30 minutes and a fraction of the cost of a Lyft ride.

I did a quick walk to stretch my legs to the old cemetery and Cambridge Commons. The brisk autumn air and orange and red leaves clinging to the tree branches were enjoyable in the light rain. As I walked back towards the Harvard yard a family of 5 asked where they might find something to eat. From the Commons they couldn’t see all of the restaurants or the Square a short walk away. I pointed them in the right direction and then we laughed when we realized we are all visiting from California.

I walked through the Harvard Yard and looked at the heart of the campus. It was chock full of tour groups. I was busy remembering my visit with my daughter Sarah when she was in middle school, and then the Gilmore Girls episode where they are visiting Harvard University (although I’m pretty sure it was filmed at Pomona College). I didn’t have much information so I mostly just gawked. I would have benefited from a more organized tour. I don’t want to take the spot of a potential student with one of the free campus tours offered by the University; however, there is also a self-guided tour you can utilize to learn more about the campus.

I made a beeline to Harvard Book Store, a robust independent bookstore. I also checked out the student center on Harvard Square while looking for a fountain soda. Students at Harvard only have healthy options. I ended up getting a slice of pizza at OTTO and then finding a fountain soda and a place to sit and rest for a minute.

One of my highlights, as a devoted gramma, was the Curious George children’s toy store. Upstairs they still have the sign for “Dewey, Cheatem and Howe” law firm made famous by NPR’s Car Talk guys.

It is only a few days before Thanksgiving so I wasn’t sure how many students to expect. Cambridge was buzzing with all sorts of people–groups of tourists, prospective students, grad students, groups of academics, and more. I weaved my way back across the yard to get a closer look at the Memorial Hall. The lobby was open but the theater and the freshman dining hall were closed. This is an awe-inspiring cathedral to higher learning with high timber ceilings and stained glass windows. The dining hall looked like the Hogwarts dining hall and I later learned that the filmmakers did use it as a model.

I started to make my way back to the train station. The train was much more crowded on the way to the Back Bay. I had to switch to the Green Line and was confused as to what stop I needed. When you are underground and there are no bars, you cannot ask Google. So I did it the old fashioned way: I asked for help from a kind young woman. She showed me how I could choose any of three lines to get to Hynes Center stop. I followed her ACROSS THE TRACKS. It felt so awkward but it was safe.

Boston is a charming city and a manageable size. I look forward to more adventures tomorrow.


Cambridge Welcoming Le Tour

Stage 3 of the 2014 Tour de France starts in Cambridge, England on Monday, July 7. I will be traveling with Trek Tours and going directly from Leeds to London to watch the finish. I wanted to see Cambridge again. It has been 31 years since I studied at the Cambridge International Summer School and lived in Selwyn College. So I landed earlier today at Heathrow, took the underground to Kings Cross, and hopped on a train to Cambridge.

When I looked for lodging on the dorm room at Christ’s College caught my eye. It is basic, centrally located, and a unique experience for $91 US. Plus I get to eat breakfast in the Great Hall, ie my own Hogwarts moment.

I dropped my bags in my room at 4:00 p.m. and stretched out on my bed for a few minutes. A poor unhappy baby cried almost the entire flight from Los Angeles and so I listened to a lot of Yo Yo Ma and did not get much sleep. I kept falling asleep on the tube and the train, and the temptation was to nap. I also wanted to see Cambridge so I dragged myself into some fresh clothes and walked across the way to Station Cycles (with locations at the Grand Arcade and train station). I rented a crappy bike that did not fit very well and only cost about $10 to rent. 

My first order of business was to visit Selwyn College on the other side of the River Cam. I took a wrong turn and soon found myself caught up in gnarly rush hour traffic. Cambridge is chock a block with historic buildings so there is really few options for improving infrastructure. When buses and trucks are on the road there is scarcely any room for bicycles. Eventually I found the quieter streets and bike paths–after I bailed at Regent and Lensfield Streets and walked my bike with other pedestrians through the intersection. 

The good news is there are far more bicycles than ever in Cambridge. I have seen so many Bromptons I stopped counting or taking pictures.  After about 20 minutes of trial and error navigation and helpful directions called out from a local, I found Selwyn College. It is looking good. They are prosperous enough to refurbish Cripps Hall where I stayed so many years ago. The main college is just as lovely as I remembered it. It “only” dates back to the 1700s so it is made of brick as opposed to the stone of Christ’s or King’s College. A flood of happy memories came back–especially the hours spent talking about life in Maire Henderson’s first floor room in the old buildings.

The Porter at Selwyn was very welcoming. She and I discussed the merits of closing off the main downtown to automobiles. I shared that I only learned to appreciate Selwyn College’s founder when I lived in New Zealand. From there it was easier to find my way back into town. My memory helped me find my favorite paths to King’s College and the ice cream cart that is still parked outside the gates. I rode across the river and stopped to admire the boaters punting down the river. 

I remembered Dean Joan (USC Dean of Women) admonishing me for not having a romantic rendezvous on a punt while I was in Cambridge. Lots of different groups punt down the river and one day I will return and have that experience. There are some things better not done solo. My bike naturally found Auntie’s Tea Room where Maire and I spent very little money but a lot of time. We drank so much tea that we would be amped up on caffeine the rest of the day.

I returned the bike before closing and wandered around some more on foot. Stopped in at The Eagle pub for fish and chips and then returned to my room. Once again the siren song of sleep tempted me to rest my eyes for just a moment. Like some enchanted heroine, I napped until voices next door woke me up. I am trying to adjust to this time zone so I roused myself and write this blog to keep myself alert a little longer.

I hope to meet an amazing person each day. Today it was the man who sat across from me on the train. We did not exchange names so I will call him by his stop, Royston. He coordinates transportation logistics for television and movie productions. He was just coming home from a 6 day Downton Abbey shoot. Royston is an avid motorcycle rider who has ridden round the globe (literally) and from Cairo to Cape Town.  He originally hailed from Perth, Australia.  He worked on the movie Paddington Bear (!) and his hot tip is to buy Paddington Bear toys now because the movie will make them the HOT toy item this Christmas. You heard it here first.