Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Well, all you Downton Abbey fans, here are the photos......

HIghclere Castle isn't really a's a Georgian manor.  Remodeled in the 1800's by Sir Charles Barry, who was the architect for the British Parliament buildings in London (and you can see the similarities!), it looked very different before the remodel.  

In person, the house seems smaller than it does in the series-----they must be shooting with a reeeaaalllllly wide lens for sure.  It's big, but not massive-----but quite lovely.  You get to tour part of the interior, and all of the exterior-----highlights are Sybil's room (not needed any longer, I guess!), Edith's room, and the room occupied by Mr. Pamuk before his unfortunate demise.  

Mary's room, and Cora and Robert's rooms don't exist at Highclere---they are all offsite in the studio. That said, the salon on the first floor, the staircase, and the library are spectacular.  It makes me want to go back and watch the entire 3 seasons, just to look at the rooms and the grounds.

It's fun to go around the back of the building----Sir Charles didn't reface the entire building, so you can still see the original Georgian brick facade----it looks unfinished from the back.

No Maggie Smith sightings.  

Enjoy the photos:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Paris, Mes Amis!

So........what a wonder to live in the 21st century, where you can hop on a train in London, and in less than 2.5 hours arrive in Paris, having traveled UNDER the English Channel!  Who knew?

I only found out a few years ago that, after spending a lifetime thinking that I was of French descent---I'm not.  My grandfather, it turns out, was an immigrant to France from what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Croatia). So, just like that, all my French heritage was gone.  Turns out that I'm Croation, German, Austrian, Gypsy and Bohemian.  No one is surprised to hear this.--especially the Gypsy and Bohemian part.

That said, it was a fun day in Paris (and miserably hot!)--we went to the Musée D'Orsay----oh my.  To stand in front of "Starry Night' by Vincent Van Gogh........the real thing.  

Go here so that I don't bore you with explanations:

Then we walked down to Sainte Chappelle.......I have this thing for European churches--and most especially, for Catholic stained glass.  Sainte Chappelle is nothing short of breathtaking.  I could not breathe---and not because it was so beastly hot (Paris is having the same heat wave that the rest of Europe is experiencing)-----the space in Sainte Chappelle is THAT incredible.  If you have seen Fr. Robert Barron's "Catholicism" series, you will recognize Sainte Chappelle.  Standing in this space is a transformative experience, and I didn't want to leave.  The only reason I walked out the door was that I couldn't stand the heat, and we really didn't want to miss our train.

Last stop was Notre Dame de Paris----we wandered into the famous cathedral just in time to attend Vespers----prayed that evening for the victims of the train crash in Santiago de Campostela, and presided over by one of the auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Paris.  The Cathedral is massive and amazing, and has a spirit in it that is transcendent.  The windows are breathtaking--especially the famous rose windows.  

Back to Gare du Nord for the quick Eurostar trip back to London.

I miss being French.  I really do.


1.  The Louvre--well, part of it.  It's huge.
2.  The clock in the Musée D'Orsay--Paris in the backgrounc
3, 4, 5.   Sainte Chappelle
6.  Notre Dame de Paris facade
7.  Notre Dame de Paris Rose Window--north 
8.  Notre Dame de Paris Rose Windwo--south
9.  Notre Dame de Paris nave--Vespers

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Visiting with the ghost of Amy Winehouse

Camden Town is, according to my sister, a lot like Greenwich Village-----it's edgy, funky, and a bit sketchy around the edges.  Camden has had a number of famous residents, most recently Amy Winehouse.  Amy was a great jazz-pop vocalist, whose troubled, turbulent and sometimes violent life ended 2 years ago due to alcohol poisoning.  Amy lived in Camden----and after wandering around there a bit, I can understand why.  It's an interesting mix of a lot of things-----vegan cafes, punk attire, reeeeaaaalllly interesting storefronts, some great music opportunities, and a party atmosphere.  

I wish she could have cleaned up her act, realized her own greatness, left the negative lifestyle behind and become an artist who could have endured for more than a generation.  It wasn't to be.  Her demise is something that should be a teaching moment--people often get into the romantic notions around being gifted and dying young, when they should really pay attention to the terrible loss of life and talent due to a lifestyle focused on drugs, alcohol, violence---a recipe for death.  Her ghost seems to hover over Camden. 

We went back to Camden Town today---we were there last week to see and hear Chris Coleman on the last night of his tour.  Chris is a great musician, and a lovely guy, and you should check his music out:


1. Camden market shoe seller
2-5. Camden storefronts
6. Camden lock
7. Christopher Coleman

It's a boy!

So, London is a bit crazy with the news that Kate and Wills have welcomed Prince Yet-To-Be-Named into the world.  I loved it that he arrived on the feast of St. Mary Magdalene (July 22).  At any rate, they posted the birth announcement in front of the palace and the crowds waiting to see it, along with those waiting to see the changing of the guard ceremony were huge.  We couldn't get near the board where the announcement was posted.....I only got a distant peek at it.  But, we were in luck, because we were walking in Green Park just as the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery guys (in old school uniforms) arrived with their cannons for the 41 gun salute.  Yes, indeed.  41 huge cannon blasts.  Ouch.  They arrived, set up rapidly, fired away and were gone, gone, gone....just like that.

I thought it would be only tourists who were over at Buckingham----but there were lots of Brits there.  Lots and lots of media doing live coverage----we saw several news anchors we had seen on the morning news across from the palace doing continuous live coverage.  I'm sure that we looked like all those clueless people you see in a live shot behind the media line.....we resisted the impulse to wave...

So, London!


1.  Victoria memorial and Buckingham palace from mid-way down the Mall
2.  Marching
3.  Still marching...
4.  41 gun salute in Green Park
5.  The Royal Birth Announcement (it's in the center of the photo, just inside the gate.  Look for the gold stand to the left of the music stands....that was as close as I could get!
6.  Sky News anchors
7.  Buckingham Palace
8.  Big Ben (from the Millennium Bridge)


I already wrote about Canterbury when I was here 3 years
ago--nothing new to say, really, so if you're interested, you 
can read that post here:

That said, the entire Cathedral was open this time---which 
meant that we got to see everything, including the Becket 
martyrdom site.  Quite dramatic.

I've knelt and prayed at the site of Oscar Romer's martyrdom,
and now the site of Thomas Becket's.  Different bishops, 
different experiences, different reasons-----but they both 
ended the same way.....cut down by those who disagreed.  
And each, in his own way, became bigger in death than in life.  
And both are saints.  When will we ever understand that 
killing people that we disagree with makes no sense?


1.  View back into the Cathedral from the Trinity chapel area
(the candle on the floor is the Becket memorial--burns
24/7 at the site where Becket's remains were kept until 
removed and destroyed by Henry VIII)
2.  HIgh altar and Archbishop's enthronement chair
3.  Becket window
4.  Becket martyrdom site
5.  Becket martyrdom site
6.  Becket martyrdom site from above
7.  Cloisters

Sunday, July 21, 2013


This is my 5th day in England, but the first day that I've actually had time to post anything.  Jet lag is a drag, and it takes a while until you feel like you are here as opposed to there, so I finally feel like I'm here.

The first day is always the 'wander around, breathe the air, stay in the light so you can get yourself onto the timezone' day.  But it ended up being the first time I've ever taken a leisurely walk along the river......what took me so long?  

Saturday was sis took us to Chawton, which is a small village near Alton.  Chawton was where Jane Austen lived, so we got to visit her house (beautifully preserved) as well as Chawton House, which was the estate home of her brother.  The history is interesting, but what is more interesting is to stand in the places where history happened.  There is a spirit in those places.

Photos below!

1. Big Ben

2. Parliament buildings at night (notice how the architect who did Highclere Castle is the one who did these buildings?)

3. Chawton House

4. Chawton House

5. Jane Austen's house

6. Jane Austen's house

7. Directional signs in Chawton