A Day in London with Charles Dickens: Photo Essay

A day in London exploring Charles Dickens and his haunts.

A visit with Charles Dickens made the top of my list as I traveled by train from Gatwick to London. So far, the trip to Europe had exceeded anything in my crazy imagination. I brought comfy shoes and planned to walk everywhere. After recent terror attacks, I hoped it would be enjoyable and police presence wouldn’t spoil the mood. Quite the opposite happened. I discussed how Londoners fight terrorism. So very simple, isn’t it? (Adopting the English manner of speaking to get you in the mood.) Instead, the city was filled with families enjoying the day. Any sort of trepidation melted away in the London sunshine.

The Grange Wellington Hotel, chosen by the crew from the Bloggers Bash, proved to be a great location for sightseeing. Many tourist attractions were located nearby.

First stop: Buckingham Palace.

The timing couldn’t have been better. As my husband, Danny, and I approached the Palace, the Changing of the Guard began. I didn’t know they had a marching band too. Very cool! I walked by the gate and snapped a photo while security kept me moving.

I wonder what that little boy is thinking. Did toilet paper stick to my shoe?

This photo needs a caption: Continue reading

Back in the Water for #SharkWeek

Kelly and Susie Santa Monica Beach

The crashing of the sea drowned out my beating heart as I stepped into the waves with my surfboard. I would share this massive body of water with all kinds of sea creatures including sharks. The last time I surfed, the rhythmic waves in Costa Rica made standing up on a board as simple as standing on a picnic table. That board’s width and length helped too. This time would be different. The foam board would be gentle on my knee if I smacked it, but its narrow width and my still wimpy left leg would make balance squirrelly. I was stoked for the challenge. 

I have never been at ease when black water swirled around my body. I’ve spent a lot of time in lakes and had been nibbled several times. But a lifeguard stood on the Santa Monica beach while helicopters watched from their perch in the sky. I had no fear of sharks. 

What happened here? Continue reading

What to Wear for Comic Con: Photo Essay

Dressing up in costume is the norm at Comic Con. Last time, I went as Poison Ivy. After a long vacation, costumes were the furthest thing from my mind. I couldn’t motivate.

What would I wear?

Penguin, bat girl, poison ivy

Silly question for a woman who has a room full of costumes, I know! But this is Comic Con. The last time we went, more than half the attendees dressed up. Wearing a costume was a blast.

There’s even a name for it:

Cosplay:

A performance art in which participants called cosplayers wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character – Wikipedia.

What to wear at Comic Con:

  • Super hero costume

  • Or villain

  • Favorite alien

  • Or Monster

  • Cartoon character

  • Comic book character, preferably from the Marvel series

  • Character from a fantasy, sci-fi, or horror movie or series

  • Character from a popular animated movie

  • Go as yourself. You might be in the majority.

Check out these amazing costumes!  Continue reading

Fate Meets London’s Bloggers Bash

Boxes packed and ready to goSometimes fate is created with a hint of timing, a splash of coincidence, and a whole gallon of serendipity.

When our ceiling caved in from our demon washing machine, contractors and workers descended on our home. At first, I thought water damaged three rooms. Then we discovered ALL of the wood floors would have to be refinished. We would have to move out. Danny mentioned going on a vacation, but I couldn’t imagine where. East coast? West coast? The south somewhere?

“Lets go to Europe,” he said.

How could we throw a European vacation together that fast. I was still reeling from my brother’s death.

One week out of the house became two. When we learned we would have to move out for three and a half weeks, starting June 2nd, I had to sit down. That’s a humongous trip to plan and we didn’t have a lot of time.

A hint of timing walked into the room.

While sitting down, I calmed myself by reading a few blogs. I found Sacha Blacks’ post about the Bloggers Bash being held in London. It would be held on June 10th. Whoa!

Danny read the paper next to me.

“There’s a bloggers bash in London on the 10th. Maybe we could start in Scotland and then hit the Bash.”

Danny was all in.

London became our first pin on the map. The plan to travel Europe was born. I paid the $20 for the two of us online and we grew our trip from there, forward and backward. We traveled all around Scotland, stayed for a long weekend in London, hung out in Paris for eight days, then drove to Antwerp, Amsterdam and Bruges.

Then coincidence arrived:

After an adventurous week in Scotland including living in a castle and touring several others, we met a blogger on an island who showed us standing rocks. Then I was contacted by another blogger.

To say I was excited to meet Vanessa-Jane Chapman would be an understatement. Vanessa read my blog post about preparing for the UK, so she contacted me through Facebook. After giving her the deets, we couldn’t believe our good luck! She only makes an appearance once a month in London blocks away from our hotel. We could meet for dinner!

Hanging out with Vanessa-Jane in London

Just like so many other blogger meetups, Vanessa-Jane was just as lovely in person. Bubbly and full of energy, especially for someone who had worked all day and then taken the train into London, we recognized each other immediately!

We shared writing stories while Danny patiently nursed a beer happy to relax after a hectic day of travel. We discovered we knew each other through bloggers like Darla of She’s a Maineiac, Peg from Pegoleg’s Ramblings, Jules from Go Jules Go, and Paul from The Good Greatsby. We recalled the good old days when our first circle of friends posted a few times a week.

We caught up over happy hour and nibbles at one noisy bar then found a quieter spot across the way.

Vanessa is multi-talented, wild riders. She not only writes cookbooks and is working on her memoir, she has performed standup, is a mum to two fine children, and also sings with a band! Unfortunately, she didn’t have a gig that weekend. Dang! Danny and I would have been in the front row as super fans.

Like I say to all of my blogging friends, “Look us up if you ever come to Colorado!”

Saturated by Serendipity at the Bloggers Bash:

The next morning my heart beat wildly in my chest. Nope, it wasn’t a heart attack. It was excitement and maybe just a wee bit of anxiety over the original reason why we came to Europe. The London Bloggers Bash! Continue reading

Scotland’s Culloden House, Loch Ness and Barb Taub’s Arran Island: Photo Essay

We drove from Perth, Scotland to the Culloden House right outside Inverness.

This is where Bonnie Prince Charlie Edward Stuart hatched his plans for the last Jacobite battle against the English. Inside the stately manor, filled with antiques, I could imagine heads of state colluding over tea in the day room while others took their Scottish breakfast across the way.

Culloden House Entrance

The Outlander Connection:

My husband, Danny, brought Outlander to read during our monthlong vacation. We watched two seasons of the show on Starz and can’t wait for the third this fall. The castles, lush and verdant landscapes, and history presented in the show were a big part of why we traveled to Scotland. We learned through meeting Fergus and Sarah Jane, Diana Gabaldon, writer of the popular series, had stayed at Cullodun House two weeks earlier. Dang! Just missed her. I plan to meet her at a writers conference in the fall.Fergus from Culloden House and the LindausIf you ever get a chance to visit, make sure to stroll through Culloden’s walled gardens. Simply breathtaking.

Culloden Gardens

Loch Ness was only minutes away from Inverness by car.

A long finger of a waterway, the waves rippled in greeting. I half expected a dragon-like head to appear on its choppy surface. Continue reading

Crossing Paths with Mary, Queen of Scots in Scotland – Photo Essay

A view from the top of Linlithgow Palace

We left Dalhousie in the rain and drove to Melville Castle. Finished in 1791, it’s one of the “newer” castles in the area. We inquired in hopes of finding some bit of history about my relative, Mary Melville, but discovered some about another Mary, Queen of Scotts, and her lover, Rizzio. Continue reading

Scotland – So far, So Very Good – Photo Essay

So far, our vacation has been spectacular. We started in Glasgow and drove to Edinburgh. I only drove the wrong way once, but immediately rode over the median, much to the amusement of Scottish onlookers. Oopsy!

Since we are already up in Inverness and Nessie is waiting for us to take a peek, I will take you on a photo journey of only a few of the places we have visited in the last few days.

Dalhousie Castle

We stayed in Dalhousie Castle for two nights.  With spectacular history and equally fine appointments, I was ready to move in.

Ready to move into Dalhousie Castle

We took a tour of the Rosslyn Church of Da Vinci Code fame. Legend has it, when the Roman Catholic Church tried to disband the Knights Templar, they hid their treasure somewhere in the church. The tour guide told us of a paver which holds much of the building’s energy. The man is stepping on it in the photo. Not expecting much, I stepped on the stone. A chill traveled up my legs as I broke out in a sweat much to the excitement of the elderly docent. Continue reading