Tigers and other Hunts (Lynn Kerstan)

The Book of My Heart

Already, you have realized that I couldn’t find it. I spent the entire day and the next morning rifling through drawers, file cabinets, purses, bookshelves (lots of those!), suitcases, sifting through underwear and socks. I looked EVERYWHERE. By evening, I was exhausted and worried and very unhappy. I informed God that I was traveling to the deity’s home base on planet Earth. Being God, He knew where the passport was. So, would He lead me to where it was? No response.

Lymond wonders what they’ll do when they get to the top. I don’t have a couch, so he has no experiences of couches. But he can scramble to the top of his cat tree the moment I bring out the vacuum cleaner.

 

I did manage to find a Xerox copy of the front page of my passport and figured that would help when went to the Passport office. Then I put it somewhere, and couldn’t find it. So I went looking for it again. Sigh. Figured that I might have slipped it into my very small purse, the one with three small places to put things. So I looked for the purse and zipped open a pouch. No Xerox copy there. I still don’t know what became of it. BUT, right there in my purse was the passport!!! I have no recollection of putting it there. And no reason to have done so until a couple of months from now. I looked for the passport because I needed to send the “number” to the travel company. All that struggle for no good reason.

I’d like to say I learned a lesson from this, but I can’t. Instead, I might decide to go after the Miss Disorganized crown. If I do, I’m sure to win.

I’m not leaving for Tel Aviv until 29 April, and I’ll be in Israel the first two weeks in May. Regular readers here at StoryBroads know to expect lots of pictures and stories when I return. Assuming I don’t misplace my camera. I’ll take a spare. Do I know where my passport is right now? Yes. That in itself may be a Minor Miracle. But I will write down where it is, so that I can go directly to it when need be.

One more thing. A terrific writer of contemporary humorous romance novels and a good friend, Trish Jensen, is seriously ill. If you have a few moments, please send prayers or white light in the direction of Pennsylvania. According to close friend, author Sandra Hill, who visits her every day, Trish loves receiving cards. If you would like to send her a card with best wishes and newsy things about yourself, send me an email (lynn@lynnkerstan.com) and I’ll provide the address. Her latest book, Phi Beta Bimbo, is a lot of fun.

 

Dogs, Dedication, and Scotland (Lynn Kerstan)

Tour Leader James and the Bus Driver (he didn’t toss back any booze) introduced us to Scotch whiskey. I didn’t like the bad stuff or the good stuff. No palate.

Shortly after our tour bus crossed from England into Scotland, the driver pulled over to the side of a narrow road and the Tour Leader began filling thimble-small plastic vessels with Scotch Whiskey. He wished us to understand the difference between excellent Scotch and lousy Scotch. With a palate that can barely tell the difference between peanuts and cashews, I hadn’t a clue which Scotch was which. They tasted exactly the same.

But it seemed right to enter Scotland and enjoy everything it had to offer, which turned out to be a lot.

At first, the landscape in Scotland looked identical to the English landscape. Grass. Sheep. The occasional cow or horse. Then we came to Hadrian’s Wall. Wow! stretching for many miles, portions of the wall were victims of the locals who stole the stones to build homes for themselves.

Most of the stones were taken over the centuries to build homes and castles.

If you read (or watch on HBO) George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, you’ll recognize the high wall of ice that, in his books, was based on the Roman wall that still exists centuries, in bits and pieces, until now.

What’s left of a Roman Fortress, Vindolanda. England is a treasure chest of interesting historical places and stories.

But so much for warriors and their and their achievements and failures.

The whiskey samples we got were much smaller than this picture makes them appear. Honest!

Let’s go back to the Scotch Whiskey. And while we sip, I’ll tell you the story of a faithful dog, still immortalized in Edinburgh: Greyfriar’s Bobby.

Bobby was a Skye Terrier. In the 19th Century he became the model of a dog’s devotion to his owner. When John Gray, his owner died and was buried in the nearby Greyfriars’ graveyard, Bobby sat on the grave for the rest of his own life, which ended in 1872. Some consider this a myth, and others are unsurprised by the pooch’s dedication.

The pub named for Greyfriar’s Bobby, a testament to love and fidelity. Both owner and dog are buried in a nearby cemetery.

By this time in my September England/Scotland adventure, I could honestly claim that I had already been to nearly every place on the itinerary, often more than once.

What of it? I was never bored. I love to travel. The flights are a bummer, to be sure, but  the destinations give me sooo much pleasure. And at my back, I hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying  near, Clearly, I need to indulge myself before I’m too old to explore new places and new things.

Next on my agenda? Maybe  Israel. After that? Greek Islands and Turkish coastline. I can hardly wait!

 

 

Lonzo Does England

Tour Director James welcomes Lonzo, if only because a stuffed animal never complains.

I’m having trouble with WordPress. Sorry. What I post vanishes when I try to send it to readers. I’ll focus on posting pictures and hope they show up.At best, you’ll see portions of the trip to England, which was wonderful (if you don’t count the flights). This is a brief report about the Grand Circle Trip I enjoyed in September. When I go to England, I usually rent a car and get lost. This one time, I wanted to enjoy looking out the bus windows and leaving the work to the driver. It was a good choice, although I didn’t get to choose how much time I got to spend in any of the tour’s destinations. Stratford-on-Avon had changed so much I barely recognized the Shakespearean town in which I’d spent six weeks on an Oxford scholarship many years ago. I can’t seem to get any pictures to show up. It’s really maddening. I’ve spent the whole day copy-editing “Lady in Blue,” a book I wrote in 1994, soon to be re-issued by Bell Bridge Books. I gotta say, after reading it again, that it is a really good book, and that made me extremely happy. I had tears in my eyes while reading some parts of that story.

Lonzo Does England and Wales and Scotland (Lynn Kerstan)

James, our Tour Director and a Scotsman, became fond of Lonzo, if only because stuffed animals never complain.

At a Welcome Dinner at our London Hotel, James (the Tour Director) and our fellow travelers became acquainted with Lorenzo the Leopard, who immediately became a member of our happy, laid-back group.

The Regency Era in England (Lynn Kerstan

Me poised just outside The Assembly Rooms in Bath, England, where Fashionable Balls took place during the English Regency era, early1800s. I was not dressed for a Fashionable Ball, but that very night, one was scheduled.

All my books–traditional Regencies or historicals–are set in the early 1800s, so when I travel in England, I’m always looking for places to set a scene. Happily, my friend Simon Hedges, also a devoted fan of the books of  my favorite author, Dorothy Dunnett, took a day off from work and chauffeured me to Bath.

But first, he took me to a cemetery near his home. I should have asked him why.  It was interesting, certainly, and he is good company at any time.

The famous “Crescent” in Bath.

Because of the ball, we saw quite a few people on sidewalks wearing Regency dress. I entered a book shop and found a lady who encouraged me to join the festivities and promised her husband would dance with me. Years ago, I semi-learned a few Regency-era dances, but at this point, I’d stagger around and ruin everything.

 

Me, Lonzo the Leopard, and assorted baggage.

Inside the Assembly rooms were a few costumes we were permitted to try on. I settled for a hat. When I travel, I always wear an over-the-shoulder purse and another attached to a belt. I look like a plumber with a belt full of tools.

Locals and tourists alike enjoyed the costume show.

When thumbing through one of my many books about Jane Austen and Regency England , I discovered that Jane very much loved to visit an area noted for steep cliffs. Simon kindly took me there, and I discovered there were now bridges for easy transport and touring.                                                                                                     While Simon went to fetch the car, I enjoyed the simple, lovely park across the street. In England, gardens are well tended by the owners or those paid to tend them. Small bits of beauty are as welcome as glorious palaces.

I’m having trouble, as usual, uploading pictures. Sorry (as usual), but I’ll end this blog with a picture of  Regency-era soldiers. It reminds me that Bonaparte was intent on invading and conquering England, but my favorite guy, the Duke of Wellington, beat him and his army at Waterloo.

Farewell, Cats of Italy (Lymond de Sevigny)

Between naps, I shall try to play my part in this “abandonment” plot while the C-O explores a place she has explored many times before.

The presence of odd-looking furniture known as suitcases has  caught my attention. Such furniture generally indicates yet another abandonment of the resident cat. Not a complete abandonment, to be sure. Thea, a trusty feeder, scooper, petter, and a welcome Pet ‘n’ Purr comrade will take excellent of me while the Can-Opener gallivants to England. for something called Research.

 

A peaceful and well-fed cat on the lookout for a ray of sunlight.

To remind her of the truly important things in life, I am posting pictures of the cats she saw (and neglected) in Italy. It’s their only chance to become famous, and I must say, fame has its pleasures and rewards. I am told that people in England love cats, so I hope the C-O learns to use the camera. She’s been having trouble with it. I don’t know what kind, and I cannot repeat the words she was using to explain the problems to me. Or perhaps she was explaining something else. Meantime, back to Italy’s cats.

Italian males always flirt with the females.

 

This alley cat is sitting on the C-O’s lap!

As you see, they come in different kinds and colors, and there seems to be no bigotry connected to color. Good fur is good fur.

 

 

 

My C-O’s liking of cats puts her at risk of fleas when dealing with street-cats, but the pleasures of being in company with a cat is worth the possible consequences.

A cat wonders if a cat can climb a ladder to success, meaning food.

 

 

 

Not all Italian cats roam alleyways, however well the local shopkeepers and families provide space and food and water. yes. The cats in these pictures were fed daily by the keeper of the shop a in the picture above. I stopped by to ask who took care of them, and it was her. She spoke a little English from experience of dealing with tourists. Her shop is filled with souvenirs.

Not every cat I saw was living on the streets, however well cared for. About a dozen of us had lunch in the home of a friendly Italian family, and they were proud to show off their pet.

These home-hosted meals are a regular feature of Grand Circle Travel Tours. It’s a chance to see how the local residents live, meet their families and pets, and enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal. With wine, of course.

 

 

I wont be blogging here at StoryBroads until I return from England, but the slot will be taken by some of my writer friends.  Please make them feel welcome.  I hope to Tweet some pictures and remarks, but I’m not very good at dealing with tech, Just in case I become abnormally efficient, you can Follow me @LynnKerstan. And yes, I will cover the world of England’s cats. Lymond made me promise.

 

What Happens When You Can’t Turn Around? (Lynn Kerstan)

The Amalfi Coast, heading south.

My stories about what I saw and learned in Italy last March are drawing to an end. Just a couple  more to go. This episode is about driving along the Amalfi Coast down to the toes of Italy’s boot. As you’ll see in the pictures, the road is narrow, winding between high cliffs on the left side and plunging cliffs on the right. Lots of hairpin curves for a large bus to make, the vehicle equivalent of threading a needle with your eyes closed.

Some area were all stone and trees and undergrowth, but now and again civilization clung to the side of the cliffs.

We were riding in a large bus, and I’d stupidly got myself on the side of a precipitous  fall. I swear the tires were an inch from thin air. All my life, I’ve had a primal fear of edges. Not heights, but edges, because edges are what you fall off of. I prepared myself to die. Or make an Olympics-winner of a dive.

The narrow road has two lanes, one to go south (as we were) and the other north. But no one is allowed to go back the way they came. It’s already overcrowded with cars, busses, trucks, and bicycles. In fact, there was a bicycle race that day, and we had to stick around in a town not worth half that time. But for all my complaints, this part of the world is wonderfully beautiful. Behind schedule because of the bikes, we stopped for a long lunch and a little shopping.

You can tell what caught my attention. Not your usual restaurant come-on.

Fueled with typical food, we finally got permission from the police to get back on the road to Amalfi.We would have to go all the way to the sole of Italy’s boot and come up on the shin side until we got to a road that led to Naples. It would have been faster to go back the way we came, and I was getting tired of Naples. (That changed when we toured Herculaneum and Pompeii. Yikes.) Will share that with you next week.

A village reproduced in a small, bare place along the road.

Meantime, I settled back to enjoy the ride along Italy’s coast, which has had to defend itself from invaders for many centuries. Remnants of watchtowers and small fallen-in fortresses can still be seen. But there are peaceful and beautiful shrines of every sort along the way.

One of the few ancient places on this coast that hasn’t been turned into a hotel. Wealthy Italians like to vacation on the Amalfi coast.

Here’s a tiny fortress peninsula with a watchtower.

 

In the next two weeks,  I’ll take you to Pompeii and Herculaneum–what remains of them—after Mount Vesuvius demonstrated the power of a volcanic eruption.

After that, I’m heading out for a few weeks in England, my favorite place of all. I’ll be tweeting when I have wI-fi access, so follow me @LynnKerstan

Enormous cave on the Amalfi Coast. Note hotel in front of it.

 

 

The Isle of Capri (Lynn Kerstan)

Aboard the ferry, Lonzo gives me the Evil Eye. He sometimes gets seasick, but the voyage was smooth.

Getting to Capri, where every dedicated tourist wants to go, requires an enormous ferry with hoards of tourists lined up to board it. Not a seat went unclaimed. Even Lonzo, usually patient, disliked the ferry, which finally disgorged the pack of tourists at a small dock on the Isle of Capri. It was a beautiful, pleasantly warm day, only feathery clouds against a clear blue sky.

 

I don’t know its purpose, but the date caught my attention. 1681. Profumo is perfume, so I guess it’s honoring a perfume that has been on the market for a very long time.

One of the first things I encountered on the tour escorted by a native of Capri was an interesting plaque on the ground as we entered a garden.

Capri is clearly a Mecca for well-to-do people. The beautiful shops are very upscale, glorious gardens are everywhere to be seen, particularly where tourists are likely to wander, and everywhere you look is lovely.

Delicate clouds reach across the landscape like fans.

 

The highest part of Capri can be reached on something like a ski lift, but with one-person seats. The voyage takes about 15 minutes, and views are amazing. I usually don’t venture onto things I might fall down from, but there was wine with lunch and I got brave. I also got to see lots of wonderful things, and the ride was so smooth I lost all my apprehension. As some of our tour group went up, scores of Japanese tourists were chair-lifting down, nearly all of them ignoring the sights and busy texting on their phones.

One of the gorgeous views I’d have missed if I didn’t ride the lift to the top of Capri.

Clearly, I shall need to post another blog about Capri, so watch for more pictures next week. But while I am high on a viewing platform with a breath-stealing view, I’ll close with one of my favorite “high up” pictures. Where I live (Coronado CA), a semi-island in the middle of San Diego, is very flat. I wouldn’t change a thing about it. But for me, it’s special to enjoy beauty that can only be seen by looking down from a high place.

 

Children and Pizza (Lynn Kerstan)

Recorders! I haven’t seen or heard them since the ’60s.

The tour company with which I travel (Grand Circle Travel, three trips so far) contributes money to local schools, museums, and other good causes related to the tours they sponsor. On our first full day in Sorrento, we walked a short distance to a school (run by the Catholic Church, I believe), and spent a couple hours with some adorable kids. GCT has been providing them with updated computers, replacing their ancient ones. In return, some of the kidlets had prepared for us a concert. We settled at the classroom desks, and they took their positions at the front of the room.

That’s our tour leader for the whole trip, the one with long hair. She was fabulous. And at this moment, I can’t remember her name. Bad Lynn!

These kids were very confident and at ease. I fell in love with all of them. OTOH, a little recorder music goes a long way. At some point, they put them aside and sang the national anthem of Italy. After which, one bright-eyed little boy asked if we would sing the American national anthem for them. Yikes! I mean, we could all sing it, after a fashion, but the range of the music is so extended that parts of it would have to be squeaked and squawked. I looked around at our group, which appeared to be frozen in place, and suggested America the Beautiful. The whole room practically sighed with relief. And we sounded pretty good, maybe. At the least, we all chimed in.

With the stone oven blazing behind him, the cheese-maker wrings out the milky liquid from the freshest-ever cheese I ever tasted.

Our next Sorrento adventure took us into the hill country–we’re talking steep hills–and to a local farm created by digging out the hill sides and transforming them into terraces. There, they planted lemon trees and olive groves. And raised chickens, made fresh mozzarella cheese, produced olive oil, and brewed Limoncello, a tasty liqueur.

Naturally, it was the guys who shouldered themselves to the front of the line and shoveled onto their own pizzas nearly all the available meats, veggies, and spices.

The plan was for each of us to make our own pizzas, using the chef’s fresh cheese and the dough he made earlier, along with tasty things to be sprinkled on top. We were all given chef’s hats to wear and took our turns at the counter to make our pizzas true works of art. At the least, a truly decent lunch.

Everyone loves pizza. Even leopards.

Happily, Lonzo the Leopard pranced in to guard whatever remained for the use of the women for their own pizzas. That’s the stone oven blazing behind him.

The thing I most love about our tour company is that it doesn’t drag us from one cathedral to the next, to a museum and the next, to all the wondrous sites to be visited, and the next. Yes, we get plenty of those, but we also have opportunities to sit down for a meal with the locals, visit their homes, meet their families, and experience a few hours of how it is to live in Spain or Italy or Croatia.

The terraced farm included dogs and a couple of cats, including this sweet girl basking in the sun. She graciously permitted me to pet her, unlike the black cat on the same terrace wall, facing her.

As you probably know from Pat’s blogs of late, she is recovering well from the knee replacement. I can’t wait to see her. That will happen when I fly to Memphis and drive with her to Myrtle Beach in one of the Carolinas (I dunno which one) for the Novelists Inc. Conference in late October. At that time, if not before, we’ll agree on our next exotic trip, make plans, and start the delicious period of anticipation. I will always wish she had been able to join me on the Italy adventure. But wherever we go, we’ll have a ton of fun!

 

Heading South at Last (Lynn Kerstan)

Sorrento straight ahead

With Lonzo at the wheel of the bus, we left Tuscany (sigh) and set our sights on Sorrento. There was little of great interest to see out the windows. We were on a four-lane divided highway with lots of trucks, and boring  fields growing something or other on each side. Only once did I see something that caught my attention. Atop a high cliff, looking over a wide flat valley with several small towns at the bottom, was what seemed to be a remarkably beautiful building. I asked the tour leader about it, and she said we’d be stopping there on the way to Rome for our return flights. Wouldn’t tell me what it was.

A view of Sorrento, Population about 17,000

Late that afternoon, we arrived in Sorrento, dropped our luggage at the hotel where we’d stay for a week, and on request, the bus took some of us us to the nearest super market for wine, soft drinks, fruit, and snacks. Mostly for wine. I hadn’t yet become addicted to limoncello. Sorrento dates from before the Roman era. It overlooks the Bay of Naples and is protected in several places by deep gorges. We were based there because of easy access to Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast.

One of many gorges in the town.

But first, we did a walking tour of Sorrento. There are lots of hotels, because this is a tourist destination for most of the year, and lots of tacky souvenirs to be had in small, open-air shops. There is also a lovely store that sells only limoncello in many charming glass containers. Alas, my suitcase would not accommodate or survive an effort to bring some home with me.

Another gorge, a few blocks from our hotel. The building is what remains of a paper factory after a century or two.

For all our walking around, I managed to get lost in Sorrento several times. For the tourists, the town posts maps on tube-shaped metal pillars for loons like me. What it fails to do is tell you where you are. There’s a logo that says You Are Here, but it’s on the smooth top of the tubed map. Well, yes, I was there at the tube and the map, but I never found out where on the map the tube and I actually were. Traveling without Pat is tough. She’s the one with the sense of direction.

The remnants of a Roman aqueduct in the middle of town. I love that it’s still there and cared for.

 

 

 

Sorrento is also noted for woodwork, especially inlaid furniture. Many members of our group broke away to check out the street where those shops could be found. I went looking for aspects of normal life in Sorrento, and found exactly what Pat would have been happy to see: someone petting a dog.

All in all, I liked the town. In every shop, the merchants were friendly and helpful. No rain. Comfortable hotel rooms and good breakfasts. Italians mostly eat fruit, cereals, rolls, and pastries. For us Americans, they provided scrambled eggs and bacon. Undercooked bacon left to lie in the grease, and overcooked scrambled eggs left to get cold. But they tried. And the croissants were delicious and feathery.

Buon giorno, puppy dog. May I shake your paw?