more photos of adventures when julie was in town earlier this month:

“There’s a dream I have
It comes back when all the days turn into one
I’m in a coat and hat
And I’m standing on the coast of England”

-Rosie Thomas-

While my dear friend Julie visited (a few weeks ago..I’m slow on the uptick), we ventured to the shore of eastern England, the North Sea to be exact.  Though short in miles, the journey on public transportation proved, per usual on public, to be an adventure in itself.  The destination proved to be everything I imagined.

We took a train from Cambridge to a small town called Kings Lynn.  We rode the bikes (the Oregon Trail and the Key West are their names) to the station hoping to take them with us on our entire journey.  We missed our first train by 45 seconds but underneath the exquisitely blue sky, the delay was almost welcome.  Maybe because Julie treated us to a chocolate croissant as we sat on the platform. She treated herself to a Financial Times, and I treated myself some daydreaming, cloud and people watching. As of that week, I’ve learned to always carry a book with me.  Waiting for public transport is actually a joy now, providing free moments of pause not afforded to me in the hustle of daily life commuted by car in the states.

Once we boarded the train, I was immediately insecure about my bike etiquette (or lack thereof).  We managed and landed at Kings Lynn.  However, we learned the bikes could not accompany us on the bus portion of our journey.  We found our bus stop then locked them around the corner.  Julie saw the bus coming and yelled out, so we took off sprinting around the station corner, determined not to let our transport slip through our fingers again.  We jumped aboard the bus and the friendly, surprised driver asked us, “Well, where did you ladies just come from?!”  We bought our “Coasthopper” ticket and I balanced the next twenty miles standing just behind the red line in the very front of the packed bus.  Choice position for someone prone to carsickness.

Twenty miles later we arrived at Hunstanton, the first coastal town on western portion of the northern shore of the east Anglia region of England (how about them cardinal directions?).  There are several Hunstanton stops, so I asked the man next to me (who was commentating the entire ride turn by turn to his friends with luggage- therefore I assumed he was a local):  “Which stop is closest to the cliffs?”  His response:  “(blank stare) Uh, cliffs?  (shakes head) You sure you’re in the right place now?  The only cliffs I know of are in Dover (clear across the country).  There are no cliffs here.”  I was thinking, thanks Friendly, but you’re WRONG and I’m glad I have my sunglasses on.  I had seen pictures.  There were cliffs.

We hopped off the bus and walked over to the ocean.  The natural aspects were uniquely beautiful to my east coast eye, but the “Joke Shops” and hotdog/hamburger joints were surprising.  Julie pegged it instantly:  “We have found the Myrtle Beach of England”.  Like many things in England though, even the most commercialized areas are still twice as charming.

Oh, and there were cliffs.  Beautiful, striped cliffs.

After the beach jaunt, we hopped the bus to Wells-next-the-Sea for a little fish-n-chips.  There was a little festival in town and the crabbing competition just started.  We settled on a chip shop and the line was long which gave us plenty of time to strategise.  Half or full?  After a woman walked by with a slab-o-fish, we settled on half.  No mushy peas.  Vinegar on the side.  I loved the fish- not so much the chips; too thicky steak fry-ish.  Now some chick-fil-a waffle fries would’a been mighty fine….

We hopped all the way back past Hunstanton to Norfolk, calculating there were two more busses to come.  This would give us time to see the lavender fields.  They were closed, but their little fence didn’t keep us out.  I never knew there were so many different varieties.  We decided we had plenty-o-time (famous last words) so we wandered up the road and off the road to the top of a hill that was FULL of beautiful garden plots.  FULL, FULL I tell you!  It was amazing.  We started to take it all in, there were dozens of tiny little sheds with pipes running off them into…bath tubs!  And compost piles structured by pallets and insulated by…carpet remnants!  Glory upon glory- I was in amazement.  And then the lush vegetables and flowers…wow.  The image most impressed in my mind are the perfect rows of onions.  They were enormous and tidy and green stemmed.

There was a lone little car and two women working on a plot, one of whom approached us and asked if we were looking for someone. We bared the tourist card and she very willingly entertained our questions for at least 20 minutes (remember that bus we need to catch at the bottom of the hill….).  I filed all the knoweldge away for sharing later.  Though, it did make me most interested in learning more about the “allotment” systems here.

The sun was setting, so we said goodbyes and sucurried down the hill to the bus stop.  The next bus should have come in 2 minutes, but they were running late all day so we didn’t worry after 30.  Then we started to become delirious.  We were not in a town but at a stop on the middle of a not-so-major road and it was getting dark.  Everything became quite funny, including my phone calls to the “help” lines on our ticket and the bus stop sign… all with pleasant messages explaining they closed at 5 PM and I could call back in the morning.  Hilarious!

We vetted the option of hitch hiking to the station.  We determined our odds of getting picked up were good (female, travel worn but wearing nice scarves) and our ideal hero would be a middle aged couple with kids – safest.  Then across the road, a nice mom and her son walked by on an evening stroll.  We asked her if there was another bus coming.  She seemed doubtful, then after she thought about it, hopeful.  She was friendly as can be though and reassured us she did believe another bus would come.  Just then, one came up over the hill- she pointed and we clapped!  As it drew nearer, we could see it was our bus, but the scroll across the top read: “Out of Service”.  We waved our arms and he flew by us poining his finger up to his “Out of Service” message.

I chased down the road after him.

He did not look back.

The woman with son, though a few hundred yards away now, was puzzled too.  I was cracking up- what in the world?  Did he really just strand two females on the side of the road when he was headed to the train station?!

Just then, only a few minutes later, a second bus, “In Service” popped over the hill.  Julie and I cheered, the mom and her son cheered.  We waved our arms.  He stopped.  Glorious.

Our bikes were the only ones parked at the station when we left and I more than half expected them to be gone.  They weren’t!  The train station was deserted and we had plenty of time to kill before our depart.  So, we goofed off in the station and on the quiet streets.

Getting there and back was more than half the fun.  The things that weren’t on the agenda:  breaking into the lavender fields, the allotment, the doggie on the bus that loved on me, chasing after multiple busses…those are my favorite memories.  In Juile, I’m thankful to have a friend who is happy to mis-step and wander and explore and eat really good food right alongside me.  The only question is…where will we be off to next???



Norwich: Pictures

08/27/2009

Pictures from my accidental day in Norwich (click or scroll down to a few days ago to read the story):

old church turned art center i stopped at for iced coffee (which i taught the barrista how to make):

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(now playing:  gillian welch, “i’m not afraid to die”)

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from a high point in the city:

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old english town, old pretty church with pretty garden:  check.

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i love me some quotes.  this photography exhibit was based on the idea of “identity”.  more on the exhibit soon, but it was stirring.  the quotes were quite good, most centering on the fact humans have inherent dignity and worth.  yet, the UK is about to finally overtake the US in abortion rates.  the outworking of the culture here just does not make sense to me.

another day, another gorgeous cathedral:

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on the train home, i stopped off to take a look around the town of Thetford.  a sleepy little place, all closed down for the day at 7pm, but i stumbled upon these:

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another day, some more 12 century priory (monastery).  they were closed for the day, but i could have (and was sooo tempted to) hop the rock wall to explore.  there is so much CCTV here (closed circuit) i was afraid someone would swoop through the field and deport me.  turns out, this property was on ‘ghosthunters’ (the tv show) because it’s haunted.   so, maybe i’m glad i didn’t hop on over lest any “unexplained phenomena” might have befallen me…

cue sunset ride home….the second most beautiful train ride in all my life.  the second time i refused to take a picture because it seemed irreverent and impossible to capture.

Clouds

08/24/2009

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

-Joni Mitchell-

My walk yesterday took me through the meadows to Grantchester Orchard then between the wheat/rye fields of Grantchester Road.  The sky was the most magnificent blue.  Here, more days than not, the sky is this color.  At home, we call it “Carolina Blue” sky, here I’m calling it “British Blue”.  It is different.  I don’t know how, but it is bluer and cleaner.  The clouds are fluffier and more cheerful.  These pictures are completely untouched (save for cropping).

Entering the meadows:

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Approaching, and amongst, the cows:

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I wondered why this one was away from his friends, insisting on eating in the prickly thistle instead of the lush grass.  Puzzling.  I hoped he was just unique, needing some space, something like that.  Apparently the heads of the thistle are tasty to some cows and you can train cows to eat weeds.

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And removing the color….the countryside takes on another side of simple, contrasting beauty.

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Leaving the meadow, towards the village of Grantchester, here is Manor Farm’s shaggy pony:

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There is a very old, very beautiful church I like to steal away into.  The cemetery is beautiful.  Ironically, I always feel very alive there- the quiet, the green, the old stones and stories of the old souls revive me.

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Sitting on a bench in the back of the cemetery- large brick wall behind, small hedge leading to an open field in front.  A safe, sheltered place to pause.  Something about being around the old graves that help keep thoughts meaningful and pleasant and true.  Great accountability.

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Walking home a different way, up the little two lane Grantchester Road.

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The clouds dressed up this field of dirt enough to take my breath away for a second.  Maybe it’s just the expanse of things here?  In the city there are no vast spaces.  I think I’m just coming to realise how much urbanity suffocates me…

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Harvested wheat/rye field.

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Remember that Charlotte blackberry bush that brought me so much joy?  There are thousands here.  Almost 3/4 of a mile of my walk home was solid, 6ft high blackberry bushes.  Amazing.  There is a sermon (and a cobbler) here somewhere.  I had a snack or twenty.

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I met a sweet grandmotherly woman at church Sunday.  I asked how long she had been in Cambridge.  She glanced at her husband and said, “He brought us here 24 years ago (from Italy) for a short time of study, and we just never left.  There is something magical about this place.  We love it.”

I smiled and nodded.  She replied, “You’ve noticed it then, haven’t you?”

Yes, I have.

When I got a fancy bank job my first major purchase was a fancy Saab convertible.  My goal was to own a convertible once in my life,  to drive across the country in it and then sell it.

The novelty of the shiny ride faded and actually began to loathe having a “nice” car.  A few years ago I grew tired of worrying about the dog claw marks in the leather, the nicks in the paint, the fraying, sure-to-leak-someday top.

I sold the Snob and “downgraded” to Ruby the Subaru Wagon.  It’s the perfect car for me really, much more of a lifestyle fit.  I love not worrying about keeping a car “nice”.

However…. I saw this beauty on the streets of Norwich and fell in love!  I would love to find me one of these if I ever moved here someday.  I think Tillman would go with it quite well, too.

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More (possibly new) music for you:

Though acclaimed in the Euro/UK folk scene, the name Graham Lindsey remains less than embraced in the states. Not to mention, it’s an unfortunate malapropism of a South Carolina senator. Americana/Folk lovers around the globe must face both of these lamentable injustices.

Released in 2008, We Are All Alone In This Together and The Mine EP were recorded by producer Steve Deutsch and released on Spacebar Recordings. Lindsey penned and recorded them during a sojourn from his native Wisconsin to Montana. The albums afford you all the gracious paradoxes the wilderness likely extended to its troubadour during his tenure there. Listening to them, like walking through Big Horn or Glacier, feels lonely but befriended, vast but filled, instinctive yet uncommon. The guitar, banjo, pedal steel, mandolin and harmonica are raw, empty from commercialism and teeming with honest and natural allure.

Lindsey is from the school of “punk-rock-teen-turned-Americana-man.” Fans of brothers Felice and Avett will settle effortlessly to his sounds. Try as you might to fight the cliché, his vocal envelope is undeniably colored like (good) Bob Dylan, particularly on “If I Ever Make it Home” and “Tomorrow Is Another Night”. He’s equally adept doing authentic antiquarian bluegrass on tracks like “Nobodys Gonna Miss Me”.

A tour through the states would do him well. If you can’t pack it up to the Rocky Mountain wilderness with these albums in hand, a listen on your front porch would do you quite well.

Listen to Graham Lindsey here: http://www.myspace.com/grahamlindsey

(Originally appeared at:  http://consequenceofsound.net/2009/07/08/listen-graham-lindsey/)

Yesterday, while the Krugers took the kids to learn forms of Medieval torture (seriously:  http://krugersincambridge.blogspot.com/2009/08/mountfitchet-castle.html)  I set off on a different mission:  Take the train north, bike in hand, from Cambridge to Norwich then northeast from Norwich to Hoveton, where the broads begin to lead you to the coast.  The area is filled with fantastic cycling through small towns, marshes, salt water creeks all the way to the sea.  The forecast was 82 and sunny, so I packed a lunch and hit the road.

Yet again, I almost missed my train.  Train travel may just break me of my procrastination.  I pedaled to the station as fast as I could, bought my ticket and ran down the platform, making eye contact with the conductor who smiled back as the doors were closing.  I knew I was safe.  Brits are friendly like that, he wouldn’t pull off after seeing me.  I tapped the door button and it opened to let me on.

The train was packed.  82 degrees and sunny and last two weeks of summer holiday:  everyone was headed to the shore.  I was forced to face standing with my bike for the hour and a half ride, as we would only pick up more passengers as we neared the coast.  Thinking soon on, I realised I bought the wrong train ticket- forgetting my portion to Hoveton.  I calculated the mistake was going to cost me about 5 pounds (or $8).  Dang it.

About an hour into the trip, the train was completely, completely full.  My bike and I were crammed against the doors of one of the entryways of the train when suddenly I felt a little queasy.  I was facing backwards, so I turned around.  Going through my mind:  “What could possibly be worse than throwing up on a completely packed train?”.  The question was answered quickly when all sounds muted in the way it feels when you go under water…then the spots came and the train started spinning…

Thoughts in my head:  “Passing out on a completely packed train is worse than throwing up.  Dang it, I must have locked my knees.  I need to put my head between my legs but I can’t even begin to sit down.  Why couldn’t I have learned this lesson when Julie was riding the train with me?  UGH, of course I’m alone, I wonder what the NHS will do with me?  What if I pass out and they pull the emergency alarm I’ve been staring at for the past hour and they stop this completely packed train- how embarrassing.    Dear Lord, please, please, please, no…”

I bent my knees slightly and put my head down on my bike seat, hoping it was below my heart.  I prayed and prayed and then slowly sound returned as well as a cold sweat.  I just had to make it to my stop- about ten minutes away.  I wondered if my travel neighbor could tell I was close to collapse.  I kept my head down until the train stopped and exited my clammy self quickly.  I sat down in the tea shop and reconsidered my plan.  I wanted to see Norwich anyway and cycling in remote marsh areas after almost passing out didn’t seem like the best idea, so I saved my five pounds and settled for an urban adventure.

I am so content wandering around new cities- it’s an even more exhilarating and comforting feeling than putting on my favourite scarf or hiking boots.  I rode my bike for a while then parked and headed into the pedestrian zone towards the city center.  The market failed to impress except, of course, for the used book stall.  I am a sucker for a used book stall.  This biography got to come home with me:  Christine:  SOE Agent and Churchill’s Favourite Spy.

I stepped into a quirky gift shop/art gallery and saw a print ad for Norwich Contemporary Art Festival.  Turns out it was running through this week at venues all around town and several of the exhibitions were free.  This gave a skeleton to my day to my day of wandering the medieval city.

I went from venue to venue and discovered some amazing artists.  Norwich is the gritty/artsy city to Cambridge’s pristine intellectualism.  Lots of used music shops, tattoo parlors, old churches that are now art centers.  The grass is not as green or manicured as Cambridge, but you can see Neko Case in a 200 seat, 1000 year old stone church….oh la la.  I had an amazing lunch: brie, avocado and red pepper chutney on a 9 seed baguette. I taught a barista-man (and a few other customers at the counter)  how to make an iced coffee.

The art was quite good and gets its own post next.

I rode the train home with the setting sun, past fields of cows, sheep, hogs and wheat.  Thankful for room on the bike rack for my bike which meant a seated ride for me.

Watch out Norfolk broads, I’m coming back for you very soon….

(…and for the record, we thought the Medieval torture trip was a child-centered castle/village recreation.  If I knew it was going to be so edgy and educational, I might just have gone on the journey!)

No matter where I am, traveling or at home, one thing is the same: my favourite time of day.  I absolutely love pre-dusk and dusk.  Riding the train home yesterday, the sunset was striking against the English countryside.  No pictures yet, hoping for sun tomorrow so I can head out to my favourite wheat field and capture it.  Hopefully they haven’t harvested yet!

The time of day just after the sun bears hardest, the whole region exhales….

Kids, free from school, take to the yard or street with their baseballs (or cricket equipment!),

Adults, free from work, take to the porch or for a walk,

Pets reunite with their families,

Cows and sheep come out of the shelter of trees to graze one last time before nightfall,

Long shadows allow trees opposite each other in the furthest fields to unite in shadow,

All relent and give up the fervor of the day becoming more beautiful, glowing in the golden sun as they prepare to rest.

Noah and The Whale

08/17/2009

Allow me to introduce you to the band I’m currently enthralled with:  Noah and The Whale.

They’re a little bit Nick Drake and tad DeVotchKa (of Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack fame).  You can download the title track, “The First Day of Spring”, from their new album for free six minutes of  melancholy, crescendo-ing bliss:

http://www.noahandthewhale.com/FDOS.html

Their new album releases very soon with a film.  The appear to be musicians who pour their heart and soul into their music and  have creativity to left to spill over into visual medium.  Their still images related to their album caught my eye, and their pausing, vibrant cinematography held my attention captive.

Check out the trailer to their film:

They are coming to Cambridge in a few weeks.  Goody, goody gumdrops!

My seven favorite pictures of ‘things’ from these London trips…
Flowers at Market

Flowers at Market

Edible William Shakespeare

Edible William Shakespeare

keep calm and carry on

keep calm and carry on

Bike, Brick and Blue, Southwark

Bike, Brick and Blue, Southwark

Tomatoes, Borough Market, London

Tomatoes, Borough Market, London

Cathedral Remains, Thames Riverwalk, London

Cathedral Remains, Thames Riverwalk, London

Statue and Cranes, London

Statue and Cranes, London