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?

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

One Way to Prepare for the UK

Prepare to drive on the wrong side of the road in the UK
I will travel far and wide in Europe this summer and will drive during part of the trip.

No big deal, right? I drive all the time. But I’ve never driven in the UK where they drive on the wrong side of the road. Whoa.

Why am I freaking out?

It always takes me a while to get used to doing something new. Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a spazz. My tennis coach used to take my arm and move it through the motion of every new stroke. When I tried Zumba, I was shamed by the elderly ladies dancing the Samba for the first time.

Don’t get me started about my left hand. I never know what it’s doing. Just last night, I held a key in my hot little left hand and forgot about it.

“Where’s the key?” asked my husband, Danny.

“I don’t know, ” I said. Then I looked at my totally lame left hand. “Ha! Here it is!”

The first time I ever drove, my dad sat in the passenger seat while we crossed the street to the humongous school parking lot. Only one car parked in the lot that Saturday afternoon. I had tons of room in which to take my maiden voyage in our Buick. I took long, slow practice turns around the lot. That one car frightened me. I closed my eyes to mere slits and cringed every time I drove past. At one point, I pointed our station wagon in its direction and drove at ramming speed. 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