Friday, November 8, 2013

Mom and Daughter Take London by Storm - plus Le Sacre Coeur in Paris - Oct 28 thru Nov 7, 2013 - Poem: Climbing the Stairway of Le Sacre Coeur

 At the Philadelphia International Airport, where we met the nicest people! Sarah and I apparently give off a vibe that people enjoy. I think it's cuz we're both writers and are interested in people. We listen!

Below is our British Airways plane readying for the journey across the Pond. Don't you hate when people say, "Across the Pond?"

I took the photo b/c it reminded me when I used to send my kids off to see their dad in Texas.

 Ebi, from Nigeria, is a police officer. He came to the USA to attend a cop conference.
Once aboard, we briefly met our seat mate, who hails from Scotland. His parents are Beafeaters who guard the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.  

Below: the inside of a shuttle bus from Heathrow Airport.

Did I hear you say Heathrow? Yes, Little Ruthie has been in Heathrow Airport. Unlike in Philadelphia, public transportation is clean and well-kept.

Is it b/c Britishers have more respect for their trains?

Just a little bit more, Sarah, and then we'll be at the train station.
We take the train to get to the flat of a friend of Sarah's, where we'll stay for our five days in the Uk. Note the yellow-faced train in the background. That's certainly not Tootle.
Beautiful ornate ironware.
Hey, I'm lost. Don't worry. Sarah will guide us in the right direction. I felt like an old woman with Alzheimer's in the care of her home health care aide.

This, I believe, is Buckingham Palace, taken from our cab.
Danny was our personality-plus cab driver.
He wanted me to be photographed inside his cab.
It's made by LTI, a cab-manufacturer.
Here's my bedroom at the second house of Mark Padmore/Vicki Mortimer. I could've stayed here the rest of my life. But I knew Scott was missing me.

Here's Scott, earlier today, in a sweater I bought for him at a men's shop.
In the flat, this delicious food awaited Sarah and me. There was a brand of oatcakes that was simply outstanding. You'd never find em in the States. They don't have enough sugar or salt for Americans.
And cheese! The fridge was stocked with all sorts.
Hello Elsie and Maisie! What darlings! I brought them Stutz Chocolate and Sarah brought them jerseys from her boxing gym.
These sweets, as candy is called, were brought over later that afternoon. A diabetic's dream.
Here's Mark Padmore. 

From Wiki: Mark Padmore is a British tenor appearing in concerts, recitals, and opera. Born in London 8 March 1961, and raised in Canterbury, Kent in England. Wikipedia

Sarah and Vicki in the kitchen.
Vicki Mortimer is a noted costume designer and stage designer. And what a great mum and great hostess!
Relaxing in the living room. It's filled with art from the girls.
Hey, we're gonna hop in the car and drive to their real home, their country home.
A British garbage truck.
Riding a double-decker bus, as we did, is like getting a London tour.
Do not enter.
Here's their home on the Right. This area of London was severely bombed in World War II. These houses finally replaced the rubble-strewn area.
See the tiny benches at the bus stop? The adults are plotting the course, while Little Ruthie looks on bewildered.
Where are you all headed?
Sarah and I head for a great Indian meal.
This is sorta like our pizza, called naan.
The owner of "Hot Stuff" took a fancy to the charming mother and daughter team, seated in the crowded dimly-lit restaurant.
Come into my kitchen. The naan is plopped down the above HOT pot.
The heat cooks it quick.
Meet the team!
Owner Raj Dawood (like "David" he said, but the Muslim version) has worked here 25 yrs, taking over for his dad.

Fashionable Ruthie is wearing a warm sweater from, ahem, Walmart, and a pair of lovely earrings from Grounds for Sculpture, from one of Ada's Outings.

Sadly, altho she tried to be very careful, her earrings disappeared. Probly at the Padmores. I told them, if you find em, keep them.
You can almost smell the food! My friend Judy Diaz would love this food. She and her husband lived in Pakistan for several years.

Naan. Sequitar.
From the top of the bus. I met a lovely man from Uganda - Deo - who was a child when Idi Amin terrorized the country. He was glad to get out and start a family here. He works at a restaurant - the night shift - and was going home to go to sleep.
A couple of views from the bus.

Classrooms from the University of Notre Dame.

In London, we walked along a broad avenue, next to the Thames River.

The what river?

The Thames.

Oh, take my picture by the Thames, will you please?
Temperature was in the lo to mid-50s, tho, of course, that's Fahrenheit time. I dressed in layers cuz I hate being cold. My PJ bottoms were Layer one.
Lovers walk along the Thames. Children and others write in the sand.

Gee, I wonder if Christopher Robin did things like this.

Of course, he did, Ruthie. I used to read AA Milne's poetry to my kids and liked it much better than Winnie the Pooh, which I only read recently as an adult. May we say 'young adult' tho I'll be 68 in December.
Food for the hungry.
Hey, that's Christopher Robin now!
And birches. Robert Frost was here, I see.
Could this be the Tate Modern? Museums are free in the UK except for special exhibits, like the Paul Klee, which we didn't see due to time constraints.

Yes, I know, I know. We wanted to remain unhurried. And we pretty much took our time. Except, of course, when we had reservations at a fine restaurant and, of course, the thea-tah!
Thankfully, I wrote in my Diary about various bldgs and peoples, so I know that this extraordinarily large building is The Somerset House, the last of the Tudor palaces.
This is our restaurant, the name of which, you mustn't know, until I tell you later on.
Ascending the stairs to our restaurant.
Sarah is wearing a loverly shirt she bought in France. She returned to that shop when we arrived in Paris, but with disastrous results. Her pocketbook was stolen at the shop. We believe it was done by the shopgirls.
Here's the menu at....
Here's my fab Cream of Cauliflower Soup.
Sarah ate a fish pie - oh, look at those tender pieces of Salmon - while I had a Lentil and Tomato Pie - oh, silly Ruthie, that's not what your Dear Diary sez. It sez you're eating an Aubergine and Tomato Pie.
Here we are in one of the last rows at the huge National Theatre that has many theatres inside. The set design was glorious of The Light Princess, quite the perfect venue for catching up on my sleep.

Here's my baffroom at the Padmore flat. Don't lose them contact lenses girl!

I'm looking for a photo for the back cover the Compass. I think this is lovely but.... I know, I know.
Artists such as the Padmore/Mortimers always have rocks and shells in their homes. How bout these splendid huge rocks in the tub.

Did you say "Big Ben?" Yes, indeed. And here she is.

This is not the famous Trafalgar Square, but we can pretend it is.
View from the top of the bus.

A simple door and look what they do with it!
You will never guess where this is. Keep watching....
Yes, this is what it looks like. The famous.....

This is the British Museum.

Guess who saw The Rosetta Stone?

Big deal cat. From Ancient Egypt.
What a body! Weight Watchers lasagna?

Huge Assyrian sculpture.

Bonjour Buddha.
Writing instruments.

Huge basket from way BC.
The African room of the British Museum.
African cloth.

I give up.

Longest-running play in the world. Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. Ada and Rich saw it on their honeymoon.

Gathering at the theatre district.
Take your seats ladies and gentlemen and turn off your phones.
Liked the looks of this car.
Cyclists and motorcycle riders find the best parking in both London and Paris.

Oh, thank goodness. I was dying for a cup of tea. See the electric tea kettle in the background?
On the go again.

The Padmores live near here. This is their favorite pub. You'll see why.
The Hatch Inn has small doorways and low ceilings. Mark brought their dog Santa, who will keep company with the pub's dog, the beautiful black lab Pandora.

Michelle was our waitress. Don't you hate the word 'server?'
Pork sausages and mashed taters for Ruthie.
Cheese and fruit plate for Sarah.
These adorable gentlemen come here every day for a spot of tea and the good grub offered at the pub.

"Brilliant," said Chris, when I told him Sarah donated her kidney to me.

Hold on a sec. Lemme check to make sure it's still in there.
His buddies, including Roger-Ebert-lookalike.
Santa loves this meadow, which is going golden, due to autumn.
Sarah holds Mark's fag while he runs with Santa.
One of the wonderful country stores we visited.

This fellow minds the organic store, where cows are celebrated after they 'calve.'

Choosing our fish for dinner.
Chris goes out on the boat for his catch.
A poster advertising Mark's performance of Benjamin Brittain's War Requiem.
Cool old car.

Let's buy some great wine for dinner.

Oh, here's one of the hamsters.
They're quite smart, said Mark.

Ouch! They must sense the house has a couple of Americans loose.
Food prep.
Vicki pours on her special topping onto the salad.
Fish with special breadcrumb topping, a medley of parsnips, carrots and onions, and kale.

Pears and cheese for dessert.
Our driver was the chatty Robert Hussey.

Cute guy, n'est-ce pas?
So long London.

Paris here we come.
Seatmate Nicole was taking a break from work in Birmingham, ALA, to visit Paris. Her friend Rachel was in the seat in front. Unbeknownst to Rachel, her BF would meet them there and propose marriage.
We met Cassius in the waiting room at Heathrow. He won our hearts.

PARIS. That's Paris, France, not Paris, Texas.
Sarah gives off powerful rays.
What on earth? Oh, I think it's meat. We forgot we were vegetarians on our trip.
Outdoor trash cans... see-through.
The pocketbook that will go for a ride.
It's possible that this is the Garden of the Luxembourg.

A famous graffiti artist shows his work.
How many stairs does it take to get to the top of Le Sacre de Coeur?

Too many.

I mailed my back doctor, Guy Lee, a postcard telling him that w/o my operation for sciatica, I could never have climbed up the hundred or so stairs to the top.

The church was built on the highest point in Paris.
Artists gather at the top of the stairs. Hemingway and all the ex-pats viewed the church.
To me, the steps seemed endless. Was this a dream?
See how women clutch their pocketbooks? Paris is known for its pickpockets.
View of the city.
Do I detect the influence of the Moors in the domed chapel?
We met this lovely man, a Muslim, near the top. He guessed we were Jewish by our names.
Hard to see, but we lit candles in the church. Sarah made sure we chose the proper saint to receive our prayers. Was it Saint Barbara? Or was this the Madonna?
Night falls on Le Sacre Coeur. While there, I didn't see a single star in the sky or the moon. Cloud cover.
Very hard to make out, but this is a puppet show. We watched the first five minutes.
Are you girls eating again?

When the waiter plopped it down in front of me, I said, But I didn't order steak. I ordered duck.

It IS duck, he said.

It was very tough.
Sarah, what were we eating?

I am stumped.

Where are we eating?

What are we eating?

And, who are we?

Please send email if you know.


Like the cross on Golgotha
it beckons
will I get there in time?
it’s a short life, you know,
and I'm not so young anymore
if the sky has eyes
it would watch me
mount the stairs
my breath coming in gasps
my beating heart –
it pondered blindly in my mother’s womb -
is fearless
and forever
I hold the cold cold rail
and walk over
candy wrappers
smashed water bottles
and the scourge of the French:
their smoked-out cigarettes

My black boots grimed with
what’s fallen on the Paris sidewalks
and the stairway of the Hotel Joyce
patter upwards
a pawn to no one
not even Hemingway
Gertrude Stein and the
Americans seeking
new ways of seeing
in this ancient city
which chose to let
Nazis roam free
rather than devastate
their Mona Lisa

A Jew, like Jesus,
I climb higher staring
at the sanctuary where
I will shortly gain entrance
I pause to rest
my daughter beside me
we lean over the railing
at the highest point in the city
a handsome cleanshaved
Muslim asks if we are

As we nod, he cries "Obama"
and high-fives our hands
olive skin touching beige
we bid him goodbye and
return to the stairs
the endless stairs of
Le Sacre Coeur,
a decade older than my ninety-one year old mother,
who arrived here in her thirties,
not finished having children,
not knowing that her firstborn
would climb the stairs
on her behalf
the stairs of
Le Sacre Coeur in
Paris France.


  1. I can see that the hamster is extremely intelligent. I already knew it. I read his book. "Hamster Among Cats." It didn't make much sense. Enjoy London, don't eat too much. Where do you find the time to keep a diary on top of so extensive a blog? I used to keep a diary. It died when I started blogging. Too bad. I put stuff in my diary I don't want to put in my blog.

  2. yes, the diary is for our eyes alone. btw, bill, i know you're having trouble w your blog. the founder of twitter said he's working on starting a new blog. maybe you and i can both switch! just a thought.

  3. Have commented on the poem already but like it! I also liked London a lot. I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly people were and had many good experiences there. I have not forgotten being offered a "woolly jumper" for the chilly ferry ride and not knowing that was a sweater. I know I would enjoy traveling with you. I, too, love listening to people, asking questions and learning new things. I am, pretty sure my hubby is embarrassed by that. Interesting post, interesting trip.

  4. Have commented on the poem already but like it! I also liked London a lot. I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly people were and had many good experiences there. I have not forgotten being offered a "woolly jumper" for the chilly ferry ride and not knowing that was a sweater. I know I would enjoy traveling with you. I, too, love listening to people, asking questions and learning new things. I am, pretty sure my hubby is embarrassed by that. Interesting post, interesting trip.

  5. iris, most guys - including my scott - are not into talking to people. you and i consider it a great gift, which it is!

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