Wednesday, October 11, 2017

London Calling

Well hello there. This is London calling... kinda. Actually we're in Bath at the moment, but never mind. This is Elizabeth and me at Trafalgar Square, below, on our first morning in London.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We landed unscathed at Heathrow a week ago. Thanks to the ministrations of Catherine my lovely physio, and some very clever heat patches applied to my lower back and across my shoulders (one secured with the assistance of a helpful fellow traveller in the washroom at the Ottawa airport), my back was good when we arrived. And it's been pretty good ever since. The decision to bring a knapsack instead of a "weekender" as my carry on was a good one. Or will be once I remember that it's there and stop turning around precipitously, knocking unsuspecting fellow travellers in the head. Oops. 

So London. We walked. And walked. And walked. Our hotel was in Covent Garden and could not have been more central. 

The Fielding Hotel was located on a pedestrian court, just past this row of red phone boxes. They're adorable aren't they? We were a two minute walk to Covent Garden Market where we had breakfast one morning, and where I bought a gorgeous leather cuff from a local jewellery maker. Most evenings we ate dinner close to our hotel, which was no hardship since we were spoiled for choice of restaurants. So we had pub food one night, mushroom and steak pie and a pint. Italian another. And, on the third night, a Greek feast, similar to tapas only with small plates called "mezes." We chose a set menu, which was delicious. I never knew hummus could taste so good. 

Besides eating and walking. We toured the Churchill War Rooms. Looked briefly at Buckingham Palace. Hiked over the river to see the Globe Theatre. And saw Agatha Christie's long running play "The Mousetrap."

We dedicated one afternoon to shopping. After lunch we made our way down Oxford Street and over to Marlebone High  Street. Eventually. Actually we walked and walked and then with the help of a friendly waitress in an outdoor cafe realized that we had overshot the street we wanted by many blocks. So by the time we found a perfectly lovely area, I didn't really have much energy to try on clothes. Ah well, it was a lovely area, as I said.

Our last day in London we took high tea at the Hotel Cafe Royal. Bit pricey, but worth it just to say we'd been there. The surroundings were fantastic. So opulent. The food was wonderful. But, talk about sugar overload. And no need for dinner that night. We took a little bag of nicely packaged treats back to the young desk clerk at our hotel. Hope he enjoyed his coffee break that evening. 

Then, on Monday, we packed up and headed for Eastbourne, where Elizabeth planned to meet an elderly uncle and his granddaughter. Me... well... as it happened, I opted out of their plans. It seems life and fatigue had caught up with me.  On our last day in London I was really tired. And pretty teary when we finally arrived in Eastbourne. I had a bit of a meltdown and then begged off. I simply felt that I couldn't manage an evening of cheery conversation with strangers. So, instead, I took a long walk along the seafront, picked up take-out at Tesco's, and spent a quiet evening in our B&B room with my book. Sigh. Just what the doctor ordered. And Elizabeth and her uncle and her cousin had a great evening, so we were all happy. These are two of the shots I took on my late afternoon stroll in Eastbourne.  Moody skies and sea mists were just what I needed. 

Travel is, as we've discussed here recently, such a privilege. And I'm very lucky to be able to pick up and go where I choose. When I choose. But besides being fascinating, entertaining, and enriching, it can also be exhausting, stressful, bewildering at times, and utterly draining. And this trip is bit of all of that for me. Poor Elizabeth is not getting me at my best, which is hard for her because she'd been looking forward to this trip too. 

So now we're in Bath. I do think we've weathered the storm.  And Bath is exactly as I would have wished. Truly. So, so beautiful. 

But I guess I'll leave our adventures here for another time. 

I apologize if this post turns out a bit wonky with respect to format. Our hotel wifi connections have been so unpredictable that I'm writing this on my phone. I know that makes the pictures way smaller than I'd normally use. And I'm hoping that auto-correct doesn't put words into my mouth. So to speak.

Joining up with #SaturdayShareLinkup and

Two Traveling Texans

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Keep Calm and Keep on Packing

I really wish I could take credit for that post title, but I have to admit it comes from a comment D.A. Wolfe left on my last post. D.A. writes the blog Daily Plate of Crazy. I've been reading her work ever since I saw a guest post she wrote a few years ago on Tish Jett's blog A Femme d'un Certain Age. And we've kind of been bloggy friends ever since she asked me to be part of the Midlife Makeover series on her blog. That was fun. And so kind of her to include me. 

Anyhoo, if you remember last time we talked, I whined about not feeling the love for planning and packing, and you listened. Or read, as the case may be. After my initial "meh" moment, and then my ensuing post, I did manage to get some planning done. I pulled everything that I might want to pack to take to England out of my closet and drawers, piled it all on the bed in my spare room, wrote all the items down in my journal. And gave up. 

notes for planning what to pack on a trip
My initial foray into packing planning
I usually make two lists when I plan my outfits for travel. One list includes the individual items, and one puts the individual items together into outfits for different activities. This year I organized my first list into four columns: tops, bottoms, jackets or toppers, and shoes. When I finally got my second planning wind, a day or so after my last post, I had at least made a start on the first list. I had written down all the items that were "possibles." Then came the part that defeated me earlier in the week. The trying on, mixing and matching, selecting and eliminating, and adding new pieces that would be necessary  to make the others work together. 

notes on what to pack for a trip
Final annotated packing lists
Sue over at Une Femme d'Un Certain Âge says that she always starts her outfit planning with shoes. This is really good advice, especially if you have a large shoe closet with many options from which to choose, or if you're tempted to pack uncomfortable footwear. But for me the choice of shoes is not a difficult one. I don't have a lot of shoes, so I'm not spoiled for choice. Twenty-four pairs in total, including winter boots, summer sandals, and several pairs of pumps and flats that I haven't worn in years but can't bring myself to give away. I know because I counted them when I was writing a post on shoes last year. And I tend to travel with the same three or four pairs every trip. For this trip I'll be taking pretty much the same footwear that I packed for France in 2015 (adding ankle boots, and eliminating sandals), and for South America earlier this year (eliminating sandals, and exchanging my Stuart Weitzman ankle boots for my hiking boots.) So with my shoe choices pretty much made for me, I started my planning by choosing jackets or toppers. Then I looked at possible bottoms. Then finally I picked tops that will go with the rest of the outfit, dictated by the activity or the weather. 

tee shirts, jackets and jeans lying on a bed
I'm still thinking. I may add a light turtleneck to these.
Then I commenced trying on. I would need outfits for travel (by plane and by train.) Outfits for daywear in cities and towns (shopping, sightseeing, and sipping tea in Fortnum and Mason.) And, I decided, three outfits for evening (dinner or the theatre) when I might want to look a bit smarter. I planned for cool weather, rain, and possibly a few days of warmer temperatures. As you can see from my notes, I eliminated three possible tops from my initial list, one sweater, and two pairs of jeans. I added in my black, light wool leggings to wear on the plane, one long-sleeved tee for wearing on the plane and for "lounging" around our hotel rooms, and two scarves. If an outfit met with my approval once I'd tried it on, I noted it on my outfit list. 

tee shirts, jeans and leather pants on a bed
Black and blue and white is my colour scheme, it appears.
So. Here's what I'm packing.

8 tops. Including 2 short-sleeved tees, 2 long-sleeved tees, 1 white shirt, 2 sweat shirts (1 is very lightweight), and 1 light turtleneck.

4 bottoms. Including two pairs of jeans, my Veronica Beard cropped pants which are part of my suit, and my leather trousers.

2 jackets/coats. Including my navy Veronica Beard suit jacket, and my Michael Kors raincoat.

2 pairs of shoes. Including my Stan Smith Adidas sneakers, and my Stuart Weitzman loafers. Ha. Seems like I never travel anywhere without Stuart and Stan. 

I've also packed 2 scarves, a couple of white camis, my ski underwear (for lounging in the hotel or under jeans, if the weather is cold and rainy), nightwear, and underwear. And a light pair of running gloves. Just in case. As I said to Elizabeth the other day, Hubby and I have been in some pretty cold and miserable, rainy days even when it's 22° C. Those gloves and ski underwear may come in handy. 

On the plane I plan to wear my black Vince leggings, a loose, long-sleeved white tee shirt, my new Lafayette zippered sweater with the quilted front (bought at the Nordstrom Anniversary sale for just this purpose), and my Stuart Weitzman ankle boots. My Gortex rain jacket will be in my knapsack. I debated whether to bring my Michael Kors rain coat, or my Gortex jacket. Or both. And decided on both. One is waterproof and strictly for foul weather days. The other is not quite so waterproof, but looks nicer, is longer over a suit jacket, and packs up tightly in its own little carrying case. 

So that's it. Sounds like a lot for two and a half weeks, doesn't it? Or does it? Will I be able to fit it all in my little carry-on sized spinner suitcase and a knapsack? 

Well, let's see. I just checked my planning lists for our six-week South America trip. I packed: 3 pairs of footwear, 12 tops, 6 bottoms, 3 jackets + cosmetics + swimming gear + a ginormous first-aid kit + miscellaneous extras... into my small spinner bag, and the matching tote. I should be okay. 

I've been travelling with the small spinner bag, and the matching tote that sits on top, every trip for the past few years. South America, France, numerous trips down east. And it's been fine. But I won't be taking them this trip. I learned my lesson when Elizabeth and I went to Toronto in June. Since it was a lovely, sunny day, we decided to walk the ten blocks or so from the train station to our accommodation. As we navigated the streets of Toronto, I realized that the tote bag on top of the suitcase makes the whole package top heavy. It kept tipping over, and twisting in my hand. And by the time I wheeled that sucker up and down curbs, across cobblestones, and over tram tracks... I was thoroughly fed up. Oh, it's fine for zipping along smooth-floored airports, and then loading into a cab or a rental car... but not fine for navigating city streets. Elizabeth and I will be taking trains everywhere in England, and presumably pulling our bags a few blocks to hotels or subways. So, I'll bring my small spinner suitcase, but I've abandoned the tote bag for a well-designed knapsack of Hubby's. Besides the knapsack is much easier to carry, better for the old back. 

And the old back is my priority today. I tweaked something (again) yesterday morning. Cold temperatures, stiff muscles, too much sitting, reaching down into the deep-freeze to retrieve a casserole for dinner... you know, the usual. So I'm taking it easy, stretching, taking anti-inflammatories, going for one more physio tomorrow, and holding my breath. Hoping it won't interfere with my trip. Sigh. Guess I should say I'm plagued by... first world back problems. Ha.  

The next time you hear from me I'll be on the other side of the Atlantic. Seems like such a long time ago that Elizabeth and I finalized all our plans. So much water under the bridge that it's hard to believe the day is almost here. 

And since I've finished my packing, I guess I'll just focus on keeping calm. Better put the kettle on in that case, eh?

What about you my friends? And trip planning advice to share? How do you spend the time between being all ready to go and the actual going?