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London 2018: Stonehenge

Day 10, Tuesday, July 3, 2018

After we left Bath, we went to an early dinner at the Stonehenge Inn.  It was an all-you-can-eat carvery dinner (all-you-can-eat is generally wasted on me since I can’t eat that much but I tried!) with four kinds of meat; ham, pork, beef and turkey, along with veggies and Yorkshire pudding, and ice cream for dessert.  I love the big Thanksgiving style meals in England, but I was also craving a salad!

 

 

After dinner, it was finally time to see Stonehenge!

 

Stonehenge was built beginning in 3,100 BC; it was initially a raised circular embankment.  It is theorized that the earthen embankment was originally a burial ground, as bones have been found during the excavation.  About 300 years later the blue stones were added.  Blue stones is a generic term; some of them are igneous dolerite stones.  They are believed by most to have been transported by the builders from Preseli Hills, about 150 miles away in Wales.  Approximately 600 years after that the sarsen stones were placed.  These are the 30 large standing stones, with another 30 stones capping the ring.

More blue stones were added later on, and stones were moved around over the years, although it is unknown why.  They stopped using Stonehenge during the Iron Age.  I guess it depends on where in the world it is, but the Iron Age in Britain seems to be approximately 550 BC to 800 AD.  That’s quite a bit of squish in the knowledge about Stonehenge.  Researchers can only speculate on Stonehenge’s purpose; they do believe that it was a place of spiritual significance because the monument lines up with the sun at the winter and summer solstice.  Excavations have revealed animal bones that lead researchers to believe that people gathered there in winter.

When we got there, we walked up to the site as a group before getting our pre-viewing briefing, which basically consisted of “Don’t be the jerk who touches the stones.”  “If you touch the stones, you will get kicked out and have to go wait on the bus.”  “If you touch the stones, everybody else will jeer at you and mock you and throw tomatoes.”  “Got it?”  It wasn’t quite like that, but that was basically the gist.  We were split into two groups and let loose among the stones for 30 minutes for each group.  The only drawback of the sunset tour is that when you arrive, the Visitor’s Center is already closed for the day.  I would have liked to see that.

 

 

While the other group was in the inner circle, we got to wander around the outside.

 

 

Standing inside Stonehenge and seeing it up close was incredible.  It was a very spiritual experience to see this monument built thousands of years ago, and to wonder what the makers intended it for.  The lowering light of the sun was amazing to see on the stones and between them.  While it would be cool to see Stonehenge on the solstice, it was nice to be here with so few people (there were about 40 of us on the tour).  It was really a bucket list experience, and I’m afraid words can’t really do it justice.  The photos will have to do.

 

Tube Stations:  None.  We disembarked from the bus on Gloucester Road, which was less than a mile from our hotel, so we walked home from there (you also have the choice to disembark back at the bus station where we left from in the morning).
Costs: Golden Tours day trip to Bath and Stonehenge, with an inner circle sunset viewing – $175 (note: this price is in U.S. dollars), carvery dinner – $15 pounds
Fitbit Steps: 14,022

 

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Circus Trip 2018: Down Time

I’m in California; almost at the end of my long road trip.  I have driven over 13,000 miles, and have traveled within 28 states.  10 have been states that are new to me in my adult life, although I didn’t explore a few of them at all; rather just driving through.

Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hamphire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and finally California.  It has been a long, enjoyable drive, and I have seen and done so much along the way.  I still have one more state to pass through before reaching Washington once more.

I’ve been having  some down time, in California, and as often happens with me, once I stop to rest, that is when I get sick.  I have been pretty lucky to have not been sick while on this road trip, but now I’ve gotten a cold, complete with sniffles, sneezes, coughing, and exhaustion.  I’m taking some time to recover, resting and sleeping a lot, with lots and lots of cold medicine.  The cold medicine is accompanied by strange, crazy dreams, but I guess that’s a small price to pay for being able to breathe.

Relaxing with a book on the patio

Fortunately I can take some time to get better.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what my future holds; new opportunities that weren’t clear at the beginning of this trip.  Onward…

Circus Roadtrip 2018: New Beginnings

I am sitting at Beal’s Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, Maine, looking out over the water and the lowering sun over the pier. I just devoured a 1.69 pound whole Maine lobster. It is the first whole lobster I have ever eaten and it was SOOO delicious. Market price is $13.99 a pound, less than half the price of market price for Maine lobster on the west coast. It pays to go to the source.

My dinner at Beal’s Lobster Pier

The restaurant is playing all the music I grew up to. Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Alan Jackson, Harry Chapin, The Beatles, John Lennon…

I spent the day at Acadia National Park, wandering and hiking, sitting watching the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

Relaxing with a Vinho Verde

Tomorrow is my birthday. I will spend another day at Acadia and who knows, maybe I will eat another lobster!!

My last two birthdays went unmentioned on this blog. I spent both by myself (by choice) because I really just wanted to forget them. Two years ago I sobbed into the carpeting of my stairs, mourning the loss of my marriage and my soon to be ex’s cruelty.  Last year I just wanted to forget.

It seems fitting that I will be on the Atlantic Ocean on my birthday. The eastern-most point of my trip. I can’t explain it but it feels like a milestone.

This morning I felt joyful. Giddy to be seeing a new national park in a new state and the ocean. I have been wanting to see Acadia for years and it did not disappoint.

The lowering sun

I feel hope about my future. I feel like I get the chance at a new life. Not that the old one didn’t have its good parts, and I have been truly blessed, but I have been needing something new. And I think I have found it.  I can feel it.

My last day of 42

Tomorrow is a brand new beginning.

 

4 Chicks and a Little Bitch: Oregon Coast

Day 1: Monday, March 26, 2018

The first day of our trip had arrived – pickup time was at 7:00.  I was ready to go with my bag packed, and camping gear in a pile.  Tent – check, sleeping bag – check, sleeping pad – check, flashlight – check, hot hands hand warmers – check!!!  So many warm clothes are necessary for a trip camping on the coast and San Francisco in March – or so we thought!!!

I got picked up shortly after 7, and a valiant effort was made to Tetris all of our stuff in the car and the rooftop box.  Believe you me, EVERY nook and cranny was filled, from the cracks alongside the puppy crate to the footwells of our seats.  We were smooshed in… 

Laura took the first driving shift and off we went, stopping for coffee to give us a boost, and then gas in Lakewood with a puppy stretch break, and then driving until we finally hit Vancouver.  We stopped at the park right near the bridge that takes I-5 into Oregon, and went for a short walk with Shaka to give her a break from the crate. 

We settled on the Feral Public House for lunch – because well, seriously, why wouldn’t you!!!?  They had a special with a personal pizza and a beer for cheap!  So that’s what we all ended up having.  We all selected our beers, and they were all different – this was pretty much a theme for the trip – which was cool because then we could all sample what the others got.  The beer was so good, and so was the pizza. 

After we left as Feral women, we went over to Loowit to sample some more beer.  I ended up getting one of their ciders – which was amazing.  I really liked that cider!  The atmosphere was cool too, and it was pretty quiet for midday on a Monday. 

Loowit Brewery

Even though we all could have been happy just drinking beer all afternoon, we did have places to be, and couldn’t spend too many hours hanging out without even getting to Oregon, so we got back on the road and headed out for the next stretch of driving. 

It was at this point that the first murder podcast started…  My Favorite Murder – two women who research and present fascinating murders from throughout history and around the globe.  They even have a feature where listeners can write in with their own murder stories.  By “their own,” I mean murders they have heard about – not murders they have committed – I just want to make that crystal clear.  I’m not really sure what these ladies would do if someone actually wrote in confessing to a murder!

My Favorite Murder did put everybody except Brenna (who was driving) off into snooze-land – what can I say, those ladies have very melodic voices, but eventually we woke up and all enjoyed the road over to the coast, with its giant, moss-covered conifers.  It is so pretty!

We camped that first night at Beachside State Recreation area, about midway down the Oregon Coast.  The campground was awesome – flush toilets and showers (even though we didn’t use the showers), and it was only steps away from the beach.  We got our tents set up, dug out a bottle of wine and made our way to the beach to roam and watch a gorgeous sunset.  We also had to try to keep Shaka from eating some pungent seafood (we kind of failed at that…). 

Mellow Yellow all set up.

 

After the sun went down, we had hot dogs roasted over the fire on sticks, and potato chips and chocolate for dinner.  Plus more wine and the girls had vodka cocktails.  It was a fantastic evening!  Once we went to bed, I was cold, but tucking one hand warmer into my glove and the other into my fleece pants heated me right up!  I was warm all night!  I hope whoever invented those never worked another day in his/her life – those things are genius!

It was a fabulous first day, and I drifted off to the sound of the waves on the beach. 

 

San Francisco 2018: 4 Chicks and a Little Bitch

March 26 – April 1, 2018

So, I went out to dinner with my girlfriend Lelani and her daughter Laura sometime in February, and the topic of a spring break road trip came up (Laura was in college).  Lelani, Laura and Laura’s friend Brenna were already committed, so they had room for one more adventurous soul-searcher.  It seemed intriguing, but I had so much going on in March, and I had just booked my trip to London for late June, so doing another week long vacation seemed like a bit much.  Plus, one of my employees was going to be out of the office that same week, so it seemed like a lot of burden for my other two employees.

But the idea kept coming up, and I wouldn’t even have to plan anything – I could just show up and go along for the ride!  So, a few weeks later I talked to my two employees and they assured me that they would be happy to have me skedaddle for spring break so they could have a quiet week.  A road trip was born!

Lelani and Laura had planned a route that included heading down I-5 to Eugene, then cutting over to the Oregon Coast and taking the coastal route through Santa Rosa into San Francisco.  We would spend 3 nights in San Francisco, and then take the same coastal route back up through Oregon and Washington.  The trip would commence on Monday (Lelani couldn’t leave until then), and return home on Sunday.  Accommodations would be camping on the Oregon coast the first night, 3 nights in an AirBnB in San Francisco, another night camping on the Oregon Coast, and one night spent in Portland, Oregon before heading home.

Camping on the coast in late March seemed risky, but hey, if worse came to worst we could always find lodging with a solid roof over our heads to shelter from the rain – surely everything wouldn’t be booked on the coast in March.  And if things were really bad, there were four of us, and we could always drive in shifts until we got to somewhere we thought we wanted to be – right!  This is sounding ominous, and I assure you, it never turned out like that – we never even stumbled upon the Bates Motel, or the Hotel California…

My next posts will be telling you about the 4 Chicks and a Little Bitch Road Trip 2018 – yes, we named our road trip – and in case you were wondering, the little bitch was Lelani’s 5 month old puppy Shaka, who came along for the ride.  What an adventure this would turn out to be!

 

 

2018 Whidbey Island Weekend

March of this year was really busy!  I had my 15K the first weekend, a weekend trip to Whidbey Island with friends, and then at the end of the month a girl’s road trip coming up!  I had to turn down a girl’s trip to Boise since I had so much going on!

My friend Brandon was having a birthday, so we decided to celebrate by renting out another friend’s AirBnB house at the south end of Whidbey Island, in the town of Clinton.

We headed down Friday after work, and since March is still winter, it was long dark by the time we got to the house.  We chose bedrooms, and lit up the gas fireplace on the deck for some chat and relaxation.  I had a glass of wine and just chilled.  It was such a nice evening!

The next day, we were up for some exploration, so decided to choose a winery to try.  The first place we had planned to check out wasn’t open yet for the day, so we stumbled upon Comforts of Whidbey winery a little way down the road in Langley, WA.  What a gem of a place!

Brandon and I did a tasting (Brandon was a sport, even though he isn’t much into wine) and I was very pleased with the wines I tried.  They had some amazing sparkling wines!  I also loved their Madeline Angevine, Siegerrebe, and Syrah wines – delicious!

After Comforts of Whidbey, we went over to the Whidbey Island Distillery.  They gave us a little tour of the distillery – it is a very small batch operation, basically all being operated out of one small room, but the owner really gets into the science of distillation and created a complex, amazing still! I won’t even try to explain it, since I wouldn’t get it right; just suffice it to say that he has made some technological advances in the distillation process.

The distillery is best known for its Rye Whiskey, which contains 51% Rye and 49% Barley.  I am not a Whiskey drinker (I have tried and just continue to fail to like it), so I had a little sample and declared it, “not my thing.”  However, they also make liqueurs…  Blackberry, raspberry, loganberry and boysenberry.  These were absolutely my thing! They also had little recipe cards to make cocktails with their liqueurs – I got the raspberry to bring home.

Liqueurs at Whidbey Distillery

Along the way, a few other friends met us, so our little party was growing!  We headed into Langley and got lunch at SpyHop, a brewery just a few blocks of the main drag.  It was outside of normal lunch hours, so it was really quiet and the food was fantastic!  I had fish and chips – yummy!

Fish and Chips with Iced Tea – Spyhop

We poked around the shops for a bit, splitting off from others as we saw something we wanted to check out.  There was ice cream had by a few, and beer by a few.

The Olympic Mountains through the telescope

As the town was winding down after 5, we headed back to the house to relax and talk and enjoy some beverages.  We walked down to the beach to watch the sunset.  It was a nice day!

Sunday morning I made breakfast for the gang – eggs and bacon, and sliced avocado.  So yummy!  Then I headed down to the beach to wander – I found a huge, intact oyster shell and it posed for some photos for me.  I took it home with me to decorate the garden, but sadly, the racoons at my house found it as intriguing as I did and absconded with it a day or two later!

Before we headed home the next day we headed to Greenbank Farm for a late lunch and pie!  If you have a chance to have the pie at Greenbank Farm, do.  You won’t be disappointed!  We also poked around in the various artisan shops for a bit before saying our goodbyes and heading home.  It was a nice, relaxing weekend spent with friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Circus Trip: Revealed

I have said before that this blog has been my happy place for the last several years.  I love travel, history, and wine, and I love sharing my adventures with all of you.  Yet they say change is the one constant, and that holds true in my own life too.

As a result of recent life changes, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection, and a lot of way-finding.  As this directional adjustment is going to include travel, and likely quite a bit of wine, it only makes sense to me that I include you on my journey here.  It is guaranteed to be a lot bumpier and more raw than some of my other journeys, but the rest is basically unknown territory.

As is to be expected, I have felt a bit lost after my divorce.  I know a lot of people do.  My divorce wasn’t easy or amicable and I found that the man I thought I had married wasn’t at all the man I had thought he was.  I don’t want to dwell on this or relive it, but it certainly contributed to my feelings of loss recently, as have some other events.  They have damaged my ability to trust, and I am still healing.  It’s pretty amazing how a few people and their actions can make you question your self-worth so thoroughly, even when you are a confident, intelligent, capable person.

As one of my employees is fond of saying, “What fresh fuckery is this?”  I feel like I have experienced more than my fair share of fuckery lately, and I need to let it go.  There are a whole lot of circus animals out there that just aren’t mine to care about anymore…  And therein lies the title of this post…

Often though, in the face of adversity, there is opportunity.  I have decided to do something huge, just for me; I am quitting my job to travel the U.S. for a few months.  Just me and my car, whom I have named Viaje.   I need to find myself again.

I never thought that I would be a person who would just hit the road without much of an itinerary or a timeline; that world is for hippier, more free-spirited people than me.  But I think something more extreme is what I need to get out of the rut I find myself stuck in.  I need to figure out again that I am strong and capable, and that I am enough.  I need to relearn that there is purpose in this life.  I need to know that there are kind people in this world, even if I know I will run into some unkind ones too.  Hopefully the kind ones will outnumber the jerks.  I need to figure out how to make it alone.  I need to see and feel peace again.  I need to heal.

I am on a budget, unless one of you wants to be my anonymous benefactor, so I’ll be doing it with a combination of car camping and couch-surfing, with perhaps the occasional hotel night thrown in if I am really itching for a good, hot shower and some TV (I can’t let that happen too often though – darned budget).  If any friends and family, both well-known and little known, are interested in sharing some time, or inviting me for a brief stay to connect or reconnect and find some laughter and human connection, I would welcome that!

I won’t be going everywhere, but if you would like to get together, and/or are willing to put up with me for a night or two (or more, but that would be completely up to you and my itinerary), let me know here and we’ll see if I will be in your area.

The next few months of blog posts are likely to deal more with my emotional experience than I have revealed here in the past, but I decided that my process of healing needs to include that level of openness.  Maybe someone else can benefit from my trials.  Other antics may include freezing my butt off, sweating to death, not being able to get the camp stove working, singeing my hair in a campfire, spraying bug spray in my eye, turning into one giant, itchy mosquito welt (they love me) and being bitten by (hopefully not) ticks.  The trip is also bound to include some gorgeous sunsets, great hikes, fantastic historical sites, and wine consumed from either a mug or a melamine cup…  There might even be smores!

They say what doesn’t kill you…??? To that end, I will still be posting here, and as I still have a ton of previous trip stuff to catch up on (including a trip to London that I arrived home from early this morning!!!), this blog will be a combination of past and present posts.  I will likely be posting less frequently though, as I will have to find a place for the night each night…  Priorities…  You will be more likely to find current updates on Instagram or Twitter (my username on both platforms is @wineandhistory), so I hope you will follow along there as well.

I hope you will follow along on this crazy adventure of mine!