Wednesday, April 13, 2011

European Holiday

Okay, it seems that there are still a few of you out there so I'll spill the beans. If you couldn't tell from my less than subtle, last post, I've been away. I spent 11 glorious days in Wales, London and Paris and had the time of my life! Several months ago, I decided to attend the inaugural UK Men's Knitting Retreat in Wales. It was 4 amazing days out in the country. As you know, I've attended both the Spring East Coast and Fall West Coast Men's Knitting Retreats in the U.S. and I loved both of them but there's something about the Welsh countryside that makes everything better. Alastair, our host, threw one hell of a gala - great food, amazing venue and a lovely, eclectic group of men to share a weekend. We blended as a cohesive group almost immediately. Thanks again Al, best to Andy!

I arrived in Wales to be greeted by Jack who hosted a quick tour of Cardiff. I loved it. It was rich in history that we just don't have in the U.S. This sculpture sits on Cardiff Bay and is symbolic of all the sailors/boats that have been lost at sea. Both sides here for you. It's so cool!

In the end though, it's always food that's key to travel. I loved Welsh cakes and I had my first, right here. Yummy little delicacies that I couldn't get enough of!

As you may already know from previous posts, I grew up in the city but I've always been fascinated by farm life & farm animals and our B&B/retreat locale was just that. This is "31", he liked me immediately. It's like I'm Dr. Doolittle with these amazing creatures. He ate grass out of my hand, I almost cried!

As the retreat continued, we visited Colinette Yarns and got to tour their dye studio. It was great and I got this cool yarn made with black Welsh wool that is destined for something warm and wonderful. It was fascinating to see their yarn process even though I was never really fond of their "fun fur" approach. The whole tour was more than I expected. Hey, hey, what happens at the retreat, stays at the retreat so you bitches can keep your mouths shut! LOL.

On the last day, we visited an alpaca farm. A little more Dr. Doolittle action and we were in the car and heading to London. Thanks Kerry for the lift. It was great having time with you, Martin and Bengt! By the way, Martin is hysterical, more fun than I ever imagined (thanks for the recommendation on NBS, it was great) and Bengt is the CSM genius I expected! Just for you guys...."enter roundabout, two hundred yards! I'm still having nightmares with that chick's voice in my head!"

Once I arrived in London, the first order of business was the British Library. I hopped on the #10 coach (that's British for bus) and made the pilgrimage trip to see Jane Austen's writing desk. It's in a really dark room where they do not permit flash photography and to make matters worse, it's behind glass. I sat in the dark room and read bits of Pride & Prejudice in an attempt to conjure Jane's spirit inside me.

I was so quieted by the experience that I headed out for traditional high tea -- scones, clotted cream, finger sandwiches and chocolatey, tasty treats. The little 3-tiered, silver tray in the most stately room I could find was the perfect match for my mood. I was stuffed, a precursor for the entire trip.

I walked to Buckingham Palace but missed the changing of the guards, Too busy enjoying the scenery and pasty people. oops.

I did get to see the guards perform their little, walkabout that happens on the hour or so but I felt bad for this guy. He marched with aplomb and right in sync with the other guy but somehow he didn't exactly hit his mark.

In a flash, I was on the EuroStar heading for Paris. Sorry but it's Amtrak with an accent. For the price, I was expecting the Orient Express! Anyway, the first day was quiet. I did a lot of journal writing and even wrote a short story along the Seine. I'm sure it's terrible (have not reread it yet) but with views like this, I'm Jean Paul freakin' Sartre!

I love the Louvre and am amazed how this building keeps up with the times allowing modern, rush hour traffic through its ancient arches! This is a commute I could handle.

For an hour, I watched this woman painting the painting on the wall. It was fascinating and I swear, I didn't see the sign that said, "No photos please".

Yes, I tried to sit on the floor to get this photo of the ceiling in the Italian painting gallery and was asked to get up. I just bent down, then I fell on my butt. I did not plan on sitting on the floor in the Louvre, well, maybe I did. Gauche American, fully achieved! It's the caffeine, I think? Really, have you had a cup of coffee in Paris?

At one point, I was totally lost and pretty sure I wasn't supposed to be here but since I had already photographed the artist with the "no photos please" sign and laid on the floor, I figured, what the heck. I thought I'd hear voices from the past but all I heard were the usual ones in my head.

I loved the coffee at this little cafe and the view up the street was a classic, Paris neighborhood. Everyone was so friendly to me. "He drove me on his motorbike through the crisp evening air and kissed me under the lights of the Eiffel Tower." WAIT, I already told you about the short story, right?

Paris was a eat-fest. I visited shops like this regularly,
constantly, don't quibble. I wanted to ring the bell and ask how much it would cost to live above the shop for a month. Look at those windows!

In the end, there's nothing that says Paris more than the Eiffel Tower other than a chocolate croissant, cup of espresso, chocolates at Maison du Chocolat, creme brulee, profiterols, anything with real French butter or a Croque Madame sandwich. Did I mention it was an eat-fest?

Cheers mates and a tout à l'heure!


garret said...

What a great trip!!

grandfatherknits said...

Don't ever stop blogging!! I felt like I was there with you. I think I even gained a pound from all you ate in France.

Caprifool said...

Well written! Long time ago I had so much fun in the back of a car! Oooops! I didn't mean......oh, heck :-)

Paul said...

What an awesome trip! And reading your blog reminds me of the fall knitting retreat when we all sat and talked and laughed til we cried! I'm so glad you had a wonderful trip. It's too bad you weren't impressed by the food across the pond... LOL!

Krystal said...

WOW. Those pictures are beautiful! Now I'm so jealous......:%

Lisa said...

Simply wonderful post! I totally agree with grandfatherknits, about everything including the weight gain.

I have a wonderful friends from Cardiff and now I feel that I really must make a trip there myself.

le sigh....