Saturday, September 20, 2014

Day 9: Where Vikings First Came Knocking at the Door


RANDOMOSITIES

Skip the cow, chicken or even sheep. It's a seal I really want. So cute!

British people take their dogs everywhere. Not that I mind, because I'm missing mine.

Crappy coffee is the norm.

On our ferry voyage, we saw puffins, seals and even a porpoise. Real ones, in the wild, sans zoo cage bars.

Trains don't fool around here. The train blurred by the crossing we were stopped at. If anyone had been on or near the tracks, they'd have been toast.

In most places, parking is quite a challenge. Or impossible. Mostly impossible.

Do you know what a bap is? Yeah. I didn't either. It's a bun.

TIMELINE

9:45 a.m. Board the ferry, the very same boat my heroine in UNDERCURRENT, Cassie, falls overboard from and ends up back in the 1st century. Don't worry. I will avoid any gift shops on Holy Island, where she bought the broach that she accidentally dropped over the edge of the boat, hence her tumble.

10:00 a.m. The ferry leaves for Holy Island. Lindesfarne Monastery is the first place Vikings raided in England in 793 BC.

11-1:00 Roam around the priory ruins. Honestly, could've spent at least 3 hours on this island.

2:00 p.m. Eat lunch at a little seaside cafe in Seahouses. The food isn't that great, but the scenery is.

3:00 p.m. Leave for York.

7:00 p.m. Eat at a Nepalese restaurant. Why all the ethnic food? Because I will barf if I eat any more fish & chips.

THOUGHTS

This is probably the biggest event of my entire trip. I have looked forward to this moment ever since I wrote UNDERCURRENT. This is where the story begins, and is it as magical as I expected? Well, the English weather seems to think so. The day began with a traditional mist. And yes, it was worth every penny and as terrific as I'd hoped.

The priory ruins are larger than I had in mind when I penned my story. I am fantastically disappointed, though, that the museum didn't even talk about the Viking raid. What the heck? Those monks were killed here, so it seems to me there ought to be some kind of memorial. Nope. Nada.

I didn't realize how big the island would be. Some people even live on it. There's also a huge castle, which we didn't have time for, that was built around 1200.

This was my first sea voyage. Okay, so the shore remained in sight the whole time, still . . . just sayin. I wondered if I'd get seasick, but nope, not nearly as much as when my crazed husband takes the wheel of the BMW (I've finally figured out half my road anxiety is because of his need for speed). I loved going up and over the swells in the ferry. I now understand the strong pull of the sea vs. land. 

In York, our Air BnB is a block from Micklegate. That's right . . . the Micklegate. As in the one where traitors heads were hung to keep people in line. Walked right under it on our way to dinner. Is that callous or what?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Day 8: Wordsworth Country


RANDOMOSITIES

Though the yards around here are teensy-weensy or nonexistent, that doesn't stop the Brits from gardening. Pots of flowers and plants are everywhere.

I now understand why Dorothy and William Wordsworth were such great walkers. The countryside around Grasmere is eye-popping.

Farmer's rock walls make a patchwork quilt out of the countryside.

I want a cow. Or possibly a sheep.

I expected to see more lakes in the Lake District. I mean, come on, it's the Lake District, right?

Hadrian's Wall is still standing. I checked.

I keep telling myself, "You're in England, Michelle." Though I've been here a week, it's still hard to believe this is real.

Man! One stupid wrong turn and you end up in Scotland . . . which was NOT on my itinerary.

TIMELINE

9:30 After breakfast in Kendal, depart for Grasmere, to Dove Cottage, which was William Wordsworth's home for 8 1/2 years.

Noon Leave Wordsworth's house for....wait for it...the Wordsworth House. Yep. Another one. His childhood home.

1-3:00 Hang out in Cockermouth, where we see the larger Wordsworth House and eat yet more fish and chips.

4:00 Look for Hadrian's Wall near Carlisle. Dang. Those Romans did a sweet job.

5:00 Leave for Cornhill-on-Tweed, where we'll stay the night.

Drive around lost until 7:30 p.m.

THOUGHTS

The people we've had interactions with are super friendly and helpful. Oh, occasionally I get a deer-in-the-headlights look, but more often than not, I get the kindly she's-a-ridiculous-American smile. We stopped at an antique store (note: antique as in old, like hundreds of years, not merely fifty) and the shopkeeper was delightful. She recommended us where to eat at our next stop.

Today I learned that Robert de Quincy used to write fan letters to William Wordsworth and even came twice to visit him but then chickened out at the last minute. Finally, Wordsworth invited him and he came . . . and stayed, even buying Wordsworth's Dove Cottage when the Wordsworth family grew too big to live in it anymore. Why the interest in de Quincy? Because he wrote Confessions of an Opium Eater, a book I used as part of my research for my own opium addicted hero, Ethan Goodwin, in A HEART DECEIVED.

A word about credit cards: Americans are apparently behind the times. We freak out pretty much every clerk with our silly little swipe and sign prehistoric plastic. The trend here is chip and pin. Is the U.S. turning into a third-world country?

The sense of history around here still blows me away. Imagine living across the street from a 12th century monastery. What the what? "Oh yeah, just turn left at the monastery where monks once roamed a thousand years ago and you'll see my house on the right." Sheesh.

It's hard to imagine Romans tromping this far north, red capes billowing in the wind. There's honestly not much here besides rolling hills. No wonder they were big into gambling and drinking.

We probably should've gone back the way we came after leaving Hadrian's Wall. We figured we'd just trust the onboard GPS. That was stupid. 60 miles of hair-raising backroads across country. And I do mean across country. We ended up in Scotland for most of the time. Quite the day to be there because it was their voting day to leave or not leave the United Kingdom. Each little village's polling place was open. The result? They voted to stay.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Day 7: Crime & Punishment


RANDOMOSITIES

Toast is a big deal around here. Even my banana bread was toasted this morning, a whole new taste sensation.

In every city we've been in, there are posters/advertisements up for people to book their Christmas dinner. Does no one cook their own roast goose or plum pudding at home anymore?

Wimpy burgers are just that.

Note to self: find out what the blue circles with red x's on them mean. I see them frequently on the road ways. Hopefully it doesn't mean we're going the wrong way.

The grass is spring green here, way more brilliant than it "should" be in September.

18th century graffiti is beautiful.

The streetlights say they're not on from midnight till 5 a.m. Umm...hello? Isn't that when they should be on because it's dark outside?

Sheep are everywhere you look, dotting the fields as far as your eyes can see, and even up close and personal next to the side of the road.

TIMELINE

8:30 Take off for downtown Nottingham.

All Morning - toured the Galleries of Justice . . . well worth the money and lots more interesting than the cave tour of yesterday.

1-4:00 Drive north to Sedbergh.
4-6 Shop around in Sedbergh. Try to remember that towns actually do roll up the sidewalks at 5:00, so don't accomplish much shopping. Instead, get some fish & chips and eat outside.
7:00 Discover the town of Kendal, which is way bigger than I expected.

THOUGHTS

The tour of the Gallery of Justice was brilliant! See how I did that? Worked in some English collloquialism because, yes, I am just that awesom. Anyway, we were there over 2 hours but could've stayed longer. Things I learned:

Back in the Georgian/Regency period, wardens were not paid. They made money off the prisoners, charging them for absolutely everything. If you didn't have anything to trade with them, you were thrown into the pit. And yes, it was a pit.

Convicted women often brought their children with them.

You could be sent to prison for something as simple as "stealing" a piece of wood that didn't belong to you. Wood, as in a big stick lying on the ground. If you didn't own the ground, you weren't allowed to take the stick.

Sanitation? What sanitation? Eew.

Leg irons are heavy. It wouldn't take long before you had some nasty sores on your ankles.

We left behind the big city of Nottingham for Sedbergh, billed as one of England's "Book Towns." And so it is, though not as many bookstores as I imagined. Still, it's a picturesque little place and well worth the effort. As we drove by the school, I noticed the established sign said 1525. Yeah, as in almost 500 years old. Mind. Blown.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Day 6: A Change of Plans


RANDOMOSITIES

I think we're in hobbit country because I'm pretty sure we hiked through the shire this morning. Technically, they're called jitties around here.

Senior citizens are a wealth of information.

I didn't expect to find Aldi grocery stores over here. Or Hooters.

First thing I see when driving into Nottingham: high school students practicing archery. Robin Hood lives!

Everyone around here drives toy cars. There are lots of mini's . . . but not one of them a mini-van.

Checking on how things are at home is always a bad idea. Very bad.

TIMELINE

8:30-9:30 Enjoy a great cup of java and conversation with our Air BnB host, Kev.

9:30-Noon Kev walked us down to the River Severn to see the world's first iron bridge.

Noon-2:00 On the road to Nottingham, not quite as hair raising a ride since a lot of it was on the inter, umm, I suppose it's not really an interstate here, is it?

2:30 Take the City of Caves tour, a self-guided walk beneath the streets of Nottingham. Get this . . . the entrance is in a shopping mall.

4:00 Walk around the Castle ruins (which happen to be in the middle of downtown). After working up an appetite, dine at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem.

6:00 Head out of Nottingham to Farndon to find our Air BnB. Farndon is pretty much in the middle of nowheresville, like cows and farm fields. Unless we took a wrong turn and are really in Iowa.

THOUGHTS

Originally I'd planned for us to tour an 18th century working farm in the area, but after chatting with Kev, our host for last evening, he suggested we at least just take a quick looksie at the world's first iron bridge. That "quick" look turned into 2 1/2 hours of awe and inspiration for my next book. Whoda thunk? Plus, forget Bath, Bristol or Blaise Hamlet. Ironbridge is where I want to move. Breathtakingly beautiful.

The misty fog this morning was completely magical and oh-so-English in every respect. It wasn't cold, but it did seep in every seam on my clothing, leaving me a bit damp around the edges. But then the sun came out and burned it off. Why am I giving you a weather report? Because even a grey morning in England is freaking amazing.

One of the most interesting tidbits I learned about the caves and tunnels beneath the streets of Nottingham is that when rogues met to plot evil down below, they'd station a boy up at ground level, near a hole that'd been previously drilled. If it looked like trouble was headed their way, the boy would drop a pebble into the hole, alerting the men to scatter. Other ways the caves were used:
- as a tannery
- as a stable
- as cellars to store things, especially things like casks of ale for the pub
- bomb shelter
- a butchery
- sewage pits

Tonight we ate dinner at Ye Olde Jerusalem. I know. Right? Stupid name. But the place is absolutely steeped in history, dating back to the early 1100's. Rumor has it that a bunch of knights ate here before they left the castle on their way to crusade in Jerusalem. True or not, the food is great.

Want to Meet a Spunky Red Head?

I may be toodling around in England, but I do not want you to miss out on the chance to discover a debut author. Meet my critique partner, Ane of Mean Gables, I mean Ane Mulligan . . .
Debut Author Ane Mulligan
I’ve heard you are the one who spearheaded the reviving of Chapel Springs. Is that true?
Are you from the mayor’s office? If you are, it wasn’t my fault. Whatever it was. Felix Riley takes credit for everything that works and blames me is anything goes wrong.

Really? Did anything go wrong?
Of course not. Unless you count the incident at Georgia Tech with the monkey.

Moving right along, I’ve heard of your Great Aunt Lola’s theatrical career. What was it like growing up with her?
 I adored her. Patsy and I both did. The old gal would give us her cast-off gowns to play dress-up with. But she retired from the screen when she was seventy-five I think. She wanted to leave her fans wanting more. She was quite the flamboyant character. She tried to teach Patsy and me to flirt, but it didn’t take when we were eight years old. She died a couple of years later.

She had a bit if a racy past didn’t she?
You bet your booty patooty. Aunt Lola never took second place to anyone or anything. She lived the high life, all right. Presidents and princes wined and dined her, while all I got was a TV tray in front of a ball game. I miss her and her stories and her advice.

Great Aunt Lola knew men, that’s for sure. What with having seven husbands, she might have been able to tell me how to get my Joel to pay me more attention. Right like that would happen. I’d have to turn into a high definition television set or a fishing reel to get some attentions paid to me.

I’ve heard that you...well aren’t the best cook in Chapel Springs. Any truth to that rumor?
Okay, I admit I failed home economics—twice. My culinary expertise maxed out at Jell-O jigglers. And coffee. I make a mean pot of coffee. Unfortunately, that lack got me into trouble with my firstborn’s future mother-in-law. But the woman coerced me.

How so? You’re no shy violet from what I’ve heard?
Who’ve you been talking to?

Let’s see, first there was Faye, oh and Gloria, then Bev and—
Uh-uh, that dog won’t hunt. Besides, if you’d heard my son’s future mother-in-law talk, why she’s wound tighter than an eight-day clock. The woman never takes a breath. She could talk the hind legs off a donkey. It wasn’t until she’d hung up that I heard the end of that particular conversation.

So, what did you do?
Oh, no you don’t. You’ll have to read the book like everyone else to find out.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Now Available at AMAZON
and other fine bookstores.
Chapel Springs Revival

With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is their marriages.

With their personal lives in as much disarray as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Day 5: Onward Toward the Midlands



RANDOMOSITIES

Holly and ivy really do grow together in the wild. Huh.

For some reason, my cartoon bubble of a thatched roof was a bunch of straw stacked helter-skelter on top of a house. Not so. It's lined up quite nicely and packed tight.

And I thought Minneapolis houses were crammed together? The homes around here are like sardines in a can.

Steam engines smell like a hot iron.

We haven't been rained on yet.

Trebuchets can throw things a crazy amount of distance.

Geese are really loud and sheep are fat.

TIMELINE

9-10 Ate a leisurely breakfast at a local coffee shop . . . malted waffles with bacon on top, oh yeah!

11:00 Explored Blaise Hamlet, a thatched roof TINY village of 7 or 8 houses.

12:30 Walked the village of Bewdley and hung out in the museum.

1:30-5:30 Rode the Severn Valley steam train to Bridgnorth, where we walked the city and took pictures of a castle that's tipping over.

6:00 Ate Chinese food on the Severn River.

7:30 Arrived in Ironbridge after a harrowing ride.

THOUGHTS

Seriously, by now I should not still be praying every second I'm in the car. Will I ever get used to riding in the passenger side on the wrong side of the rode. Yeah, no quotation marks around wrong this time because it is JUST WRONG! We got lost on a "road" tonight that was little more than a path. It will be a miracle if we don't kill ourselves over here, but I suppose I've got to die somewhere, and where better than England, eh?

This afternoon we toured the English countryside via a steam engine. Sheep dotted the hillsides. I drank PG Tips as the train chugged along. Ahh. Does it get any better than that?

One thing that surprises me is how much of the landscape around here is like Minnesota. Well, I suppose not in January, but right now when I look around, it's a lot like home . . . sans all the English ivy and holly, of course. Is that why I feel so attached here?

Staying in Air BnB's is really the way to go. In case you're not familiar with the system, you book a room in someone's house. I know, sounds kind of creepy, like what if you're staying with axe murderers? I suppose that's a risk, but we've met some great hosts and have had some fantastic discussions about life, politics and coffee.

You may be noticing we're not out till all hours of the night. Seems like we ought to make the most of every second of every day, right? The thing is, though, that after dark (which is around 7:30) the things-that-are-called-roads are even crazier to drive on, so we both feel safer if we park the dang thing and wait for sunlight.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Day 4: Townhomes, Shipping and Slavery



RANDOMOSITIES

A Regency breakfast consisted of a LOT of carbohydrates.

If God doesn't see fit to move me to Bath, Bristol is a nice second.

Can I just say that besides the wonderful coffee in Iceland, I've pretty much drank church coffee the entire time?

Curry is in the air everywhere. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. In fact, we had chicken tikka masala for din din tonight.

Bristol's city engineers might want to think about the traffic issues in the city. Just sayin'.

The white slave trade was a bustling industry as well, though less well known than the African trade.

TIMELINE

9:00 - Leave behind Radstock for our last visit to Bath.

10:00-Noon Enjoy a Regency Breakfast, learning about dishes and foods of the Austen era.

1:30 p.m. Arrive in Bristol.

2-3:30 Absorb every little detail in the Georgian House Museum.

4:00 Eat delicious falafels at a cart near the channel, or whatever it is they call the body of water around here.

4:30-6:00 Hang out at the MShed. I know. Sounds cool, right? It is. It's a history museum of Bristol.

6-7 Eat Indian and find our Air BnB for the evening.

THOUGHTS

Though it's been four days already of driving on the "wrong" side of the road, I still flinch a lot. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I just might be a twitchy mess the entire time we're here. And what's up with these roads? There's like a bazillion words in the English language. Do we really need to have 3 of the exact same names for 3 different roads in the same town? Sheesh.

Bristol is a lot bigger than I expected it to be. I also thought it was attached to the sea, as in I'd see the sea. It's a port town, right? Big ol' ships used to flock here. But no. The sea is quite a ways off, surprise!

Visiting the Georgian House was today's highlight for me. Thankfully we no longer use film or I'd have gone through 53 rolls. And the price was right . . . free. Got a few story ideas, or I should say "snippets" of story ideas. A stairway window that looked into the window of the house next door - the creepy house with the dead ivy and peeling paint. What might someone see when looking into that window on a moonlight evening?

Or when we were at the MShed, I read of a stash of old coins from the 1600's that weren't found until the 1920's when an old warehouse was being torn down. Who put that stash there? Why was it never retrieved? Where did it come from?

The weather has been absolutely perfect thus far. No rain. Cloudy and hazy in the morning, burning off to sunshine and upper 60's. I wouldn't mind if it stayed this way for the rest of our trip.