Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Driving With Eyes Wide Shut

One of the things I worried about in planning this trip was driving on the "wrong" side of the road.  At home I'm usually the driver, given my need for control and Gene's disinclination to be nagged at when behind the wheel.  All well and good, we're both happy.

When we travel by car however I am the navigator and so, by default, Gene is the driver.  This is fixed in stone; he does not navigate. Usually this works, but I had qualms about driving in England.   "No problem" he said.  "Don't worry, " he said. Guess how this plan turned out.

What seemed to be a relatively easy and relatively direct route from Bath to the Cotswolds was in fact a long hair-raising test of the strength of our marriage.  Would I really be willing to die rather than shriek at him "get over to the left!" once more? No, gentle reader, I would not.  The inadvertent turn from a narrow two-lane road onto the M4 motorway heading in the wrong direction didn't help the mood at all.  You can't get off the frigging M4 for many, many miles.

We did meet several Brits to whom I will be forever grateful though.  The village cafe owner who let us use the loo, gave us a coffee and sat with us to make sure I wrote down the right directions was a sweetie.  And the farmer who climbed off his tractor as I was snooping around the rudimentary farm shop in the middle of nowhere who let me use his loo in the next emergency.  Yes, there's a theme here: I'm never taking that pill again if I'm more than 10 feet from the facilities!

So we've visited 2 villages so far, neither of which we would come back to see again.  We're saving the "best" villages for tomorrow in the hope we'll be in a better mood if we only need to drive 10 miles to see them, after a good breakfast.  And after that, maybe Blenheim Castle.  Or alternatively, straight to Oxford and get rid of the damned car.  We'll see.

Remember, pictures are at

Monday, April 28, 2014

Getting Our Feet Wet in Bath

Gray stone, gray sky.  Suddenly it turns sunny and we wander off downhill to the center of Bath.  It's cute, although neither of us would call it charming. Why do we live in an era where Baby Gap is everywhere? Jane Austen would have had something politely wry to say about that, I'm sure.

With no real plan we find ourselves outside the famous Pump Room, now a restaurant/tea room, previously where visitors of the 18th and 19th centuries would meet, drink the health-giving water and look at what everyone else was wearing, viz. Jane Austen.  It's quite an attractive high-ceilinged room with windows looking out over the Roman Bath, full of tourists at their expensive teas. We skip tea and head for the Bath.

This is pretty cool, particularly when you realize that we are standing looking down at a large swimming pool about 15 feet below current ground level and that this pool, steaming in the rain, was once ground level itself. But this isn't all.  There are caldariums, tepidariums, Sacred Springs, bits of marble that were once parts of elaborate friezes or columns.  There are skeletons, bits of jewelry, gravestones and lots of explanatory audio and written notes.  My legs and feet are so tired from all the walking of the last two days that I would pay several denarii to the Roman bath master to let me soak in the steaming water, no matter that it's a strange reddish color at one point and a sickly green at another.

On our way out I learn from a nice lady at the gift shop (when was the last time you were allowed to walk out of a place except via the gift shop?) that there are baths just up the street that you can in fact bathe in, same water and everything.  Maybe tomorrow.

Remember, pictures are at

Sunday, April 27, 2014

London, through a jet lagged haze.

Well, this may not work. Apparently taking one step forward technologically makes me slide a couple of steps back.  I can't seem to upload photos from my iPad to this blog platform and the iPad and iPhone are all I've got.

What I can do, for the moment at least, is to point you to my Instagram feed (oh my god, can you hear what I'm saying?  At least I don't tweet!).  Just download the app or go to and search for username shellioreck. Is it worth the trouble? I don't know, although I hope so. Taking pictures with a smartphone rather than a camera is a different animal.

So back to the real world.  A flight from SFO to London brought us to our hotel too early for the room to be ready but they were super nice and let us use another room to rest and shower.  How cool is that?  We staggered through the day, slept through the afternoon, met some friends for a drink in the evening and slept off and on through the night. It felt like a bit of a marathon with that awful sort of nauseous exhaustion that jet lag brings, at least to me.

Poor Gene is the poster boy for the worst jet lag ever, each time.  For him it lasts the full eight or nine days, one for each time zone he's passed through.  He's very familiar with the sounds of the night in many major cities as 3:00 a.m. is when he's most awake.  And this morning he was awake to greet the dawn of his birthday.  (Insert a whispered version of Happy Birthday).

The birthday boy staggered down to breakfast at about 11 but managed to stay awake and active through a walk down Whitehall and along the river to the Tate Britain, a museum we've never before visited. A large and very impressive collection of British art was just right for us today.

Tomorrow, on to Bath.  The town, folks, the town!! We've been showering.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hellooooo? Anyone out there?

Sorry, sorry, sorry...

I dropped the ball, abandoned ship, turned my back, etc.  And I'm sorry about it.  I hope you've missed me; I've missed you (but not enough to blog, you may justifiably reply).  Mea maxima culpa.

We left Paris in November of 2012 for the sunnier shores of California and here we've been since then. We've enjoyed it but I haven't felt the need to write about it.  Suffice it to say all is well.

But now...we're leaving in a couple of days for two months in Europe, sort of a teaser to see if we really want to resume our bi-continental existence.  First stop: a week in England.  Next: two and a half weeks in Italy spent in Venice, Bologna and Florence.  And finally a return to Paris for just over a month.

Toes back in the water.  Join us.