Well folks, I am past the halfway mark on The Big Adventure™. There are five months left before my feet hit US soil, and they are roughly divided in thirds.
First, I am about to go to France for two weeks, for the first time since 1967. That’s a long time ago. I was a callow 17 year old know-it-all, vigorously opposed to The War, embarrassed to be an American, sort of. General De Gaulle was in power in France, and we were told that he and all the French hated Yanks. I truly did not understand why (still don’t), but it turned out to not matter. I was young, still in thrall to the “smile, say please and thank you, and always, always, always praise your hosts efforts” form of cultural diplomacy.
Must have worked, because when one of my traveling companions and I got lost on our way back to our hotel from a dinner on the Montmartre, our youth, earnestness, and mangled French got us delivered to our doorstep by a Handsome Young Man! (NB, he was an American draft-dodger who recognized our horrific accents with “Hey! You’re Americans!”)
Anyway, this trip is kind of a train-by visit to Paris, Strasbourg, Amsterdam and Brussels, arranged way back in November or something. It has turned into something of a shopping trip, as I have discovered the shop at the Rijksmuseum (Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!), and have plans to visit the flea markets in Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. Anyone know if there is a flea market in Strasbourg? I am beginning to worry about luggage limits . . .
From the very first, my Official Souvenir of this trip was always a set of European-sized flatware for my table. For several decades now, I have been jealous of friends’ flatware inherited from mothers and grandmothers and great-aunts. But those were sterling silver and came in service for 12 – 18+, stored in mahogany boxes or elaborate drawers in dining room dressers. I have more plebeian needs, and a silver plate service for six or eight is really all I have room for. Eight months into my trip, I have several sets of “fish service” forks and knives, plenty of regular forks and spoons and a pleasing assortment of random bits of flatware. But regular table knives? You know, the ones with the big rounded blades? Nope, not one. WTH? So I am still in search of at least eight table knives with big, rounded blades and plainly or wildly ornamented handles, at a rock-bottom cheap price. So far, the forks and spoons have cost between 50p and £1 per piece. So when I say cheap, I mean cheap!
Anyway, the second phase of the remainder of The Big Adventure™ is wrapping up promised cat sits and things I bought tickets for a while ago. I am SO looking forward to London Hat Week and the classes I have signed up to take. Of course I am always eager to meet kitties, but this part of the journey is less about finding wonderful new places in the UK as it is getting to the ones I already know about and want to see. Kelmscott Manor. The Norfolk Broads. Letchworth Garden City. Some of those will get punted to the “Next Trip” list, and I am fine with that.
The third part of the trip is the final leg, more or less. In mid-June, sort of, I’ll head off to my final cat sits for homeowners and kitties I’ve come to call friends. I’ll spend a couple weeks in Edinburgh, then take the train up to Thurso, at the top of Scotland, to celebrate the Summer Solstice. I don’t know what to expect, so will take whatever presents itself. I’ve never been that far north, so that is all the justification I need. Then it’s back to Edinburgh and over to Copenhagen again for a two week sit.
That will, I expect, be the end of the cat/house sitting adventures for this trip. Maybe not, but I don’t really think the scheduling will work after that.
So I’ll go back to Paris to see Versailles in bloom and visit the farmers markets, then I’ll head to Normandy for a more or less unplanned week to Monet’s Giverny, a cooking or cheese making class or something, and a day or so on the Normandy coast (no D-Day visits for me – my father was a captain in the US Army Air Corps and served in Topeka, Kansas). I hope to get out to Mt Saint Michel. Then to Cherbourg and the ferry to Rosslare, IE. A day or so to mess around there, and up to Dublin, the airport and my homeward flight to Philadelphia > DCA on August 1.
I can mis-quote The Dead here and say what a long, wonderful trip it’s been. Close, but not quite. A year was almost too long. But, perversely, not long enough.
So the next installation of The Great Adventure™ will be about shopping in the flea markets, and, did I find my knives?