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

How Londoners Fight Terrorism

While Danny and I prepared for our trip to Europe, we heard about the terrorist attack in Manchester, England. Our whole vacation started with London at its heart. I would attend the Bloggers Bash on June 10th.

We didn’t change our plans.

Instead, we drove from Glasgow to Edinburgh, Scotland when I noticed London trending on Twitter. To be honest, a second terrorist attack so soon after Manchester gave me pause. Was it an outbreak?

We didn’t change our plans.

After a fabulous week in Scotland, we flew to Gatwick airport and took the train to London. I wondered if police presence would be everywhere. Would any of the tourist attractions be open? Would we have to stick around the neighborhood of the Wellington Hotel?

The fabulous Bloggers Bash was the next day. We planned to take London by storm on Sunday. I brought my most comfortable walking shoes. I wanted to see Buckingham Palace, check out my buddy, Chuck, I mean Charles Dickens’ haunts, and go to Covent Gardens.

As soon as we walked out of Victoria’s station, I was struck by the number of cute little children, dressed to impress.

How Londoners Fight Terrorism (1)

And just like that, I was over any doubt or fear.

Of course, we didn’t change our plans.

When I asked people in London how they felt about safety, they all said, “We have to live their lives.” One man said, “Americans are scaredy cats.” True that. I was, but not anymore.

My suggestion to Americans?

Travel to London or Paris or wherever you want. It’s the only way we win. Terrorists want to destroy our way of life. When we change our plans because we’re afraid, they win.

Have you changed your vacation plans because of recent events? Would you?

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

Threats and Warnings – What Would You Do?

So destiny has packed our bags and my husband, Danny, and I will travel to five European countries during the month of June. One of them is England. I had thought it perfect timing that Blogger’s Bash 2017 would be held in London while we traveled from Scotland to France. We made our reservations near Victoria Station and are ready to go. I can’t wait to meet my blogging friends from the UK.

Then the unthinkable happened in Manchester. Prime Minister Theresa May raised the terrorist threat flag from severe to critical adding “an attack is imminent.” She called for police presence on the streets and help from the military. Not exactly the relaxing trip I’d planned.

We stopped in NYC on our way to Europe a few weeks before 9/11. My son, Kelly, wanted to see the World Trade Center, so we taxied down to the financial district. You never know. (I’m behind the camera.)

world trade center 2001

Why so much hatred in the world? Of all concerts, why Ariana Grande? She is queen of the tweens. So many little girls attended. Why would killing little girls be a terrorist’s goal? I imagine a horrific, hellish afterlife where they suffer for eternity. That line of thought ends with me hating them. That’s not the answer. Hate begets hate. Somehow or other, things have got to settle down. We all need to peace the hell out.

World leaders tweeted strong defensive strategies like stopping ISIS before their routine attacks undermine and dismantle the government. That didn’t sit well with me. I’m not a defense kind of gal. I loved the Pope’s message: “Dialogue allows us to plan for a future in common. Through dialogue we build peace, taking care of everyone.” That’s playing offense.

Every day security ramps up. Some British tourist attractions are closed. Worries have extended to France, Belgium and Germany. Great.

It’s no big deal to hunker down in Scotland. I am an Outlander super fan and could find tons of activities to keep me busy. But I visualize terrorists hidden in gloomy alleys who watch my cowardly reaction. Continue reading

Timing and Coincidence or Fate?

Do you believe in fate or is life filled with choices where coincidences happen?

Last summer, my daughter, Courtney, studied in Barcelona, Spain. My husband, Danny, and I planned to pick her up in July and travel around France and England on our way back to the States. This trip depended on how quickly I healed after my double boobectomy. Our three week vacation would start five weeks after the first surgery.

I had some priorities. Since the book I wrote takes place in the Côte d’Azur, I wanted to re-explore the area. In my paranormal thriller, the protagonist has to solve the dark mystery surrounding her brother-in-law, Nico, and his estate. I’ve never known anyone named Nico, but the name seemed to fit.

Mystery photo 1

The view from the cacti gardens in Eze.

From the South of France, we planned to drive to Paris. It was ten hours away from Antibes. If we stopped halfway, we could explore another city. We studied a map and found Lyon. It was our Omaha, Nebraska when road tripping from Boulder to Wisconsin. Okay. It’s not, but it is a halfway point. We would stay there July 17th and 18th. Continue reading