Friday, March 16, 2018

Back to France and Old Friends

Our next step from England was to return to France and stay at a friend's apartment on the ocean. I mean, who doesn't jump at a chance to stay with a view like this.
The apartment looks over the Atlantic Ocean
We knew our housesit ended on the 15th of March, so we planned to arrive in France on the 15th. This apartment near La Rochelle is so close to England, we figured it would be no trouble to get there in a day. What we didn't count on was that train travel would require us to go from London to Paris before returning to the coast, or to Lille, up near Belgium, before taking a train to the coast. All train possibilities looked to take 10 hours or so.
Our friends, Linda and Maurice, (originally blogging friends, now real-life friends) were waiting for us at their apartment and we needed to be there by 5 so they could catch a train home.
Finally, we landed on flying from London to Nantes, visiting French friends there and renting a car to drive to La Rochelle.
We have been friends with Michel and Danuta for more than 30 years. I met them when I came to France as an au pair and they had two little girls with a third child on the way. We try to see them whenever we visit France and they have hosted us and all of our children a number of times.
We talked about meeting for lunch and Danuta suggested a restaurant with a panoramic view of the chateau and the cathedral of Nantes. I knew immediately that she meant her beautiful apartment.

Our flight was at 7:20 a.m., but the taxi got lost on his way to pick us up. When we hurried through customs and to the gate, the flight was already boarding. No problem, though. We made it -- just no time for coffee or breakfast beforehand.
We picked up our rental car at the airport, without a GPS, making wrong turns into the city and ending up on a road where average people are not allowed to drive. Oops! We kept aiming for the cathedral because we know it's near their apartment. Finally, we arrived at the blocked road and Michel came out to push the magic buttons to let us in.
After parking the car, we agreed to walk around Nantes, since there was time before lunch. And a walk with Michel is serious business.
Earl and Michel on the ramparts at Chateau des duc de Bretagne in Nantes
We started with the ramparts around the castle then moved toward the botanical gardens, Les Jardins des Plantes, 
This plant was shaped into a bear or a dog; we weren't sure

The camellias were blooming beautifully. 
before pacing along the stretch that houses a fair twice a year, and perusing the river that ends abruptly in the city because it was filled in, but with a peek at the tunnel built under the road that allows boats access. After nearly an hour and a half, we headed to the apartment where Danuta was busy preparing lunch.
We met new friends, Hugo and Marie-Claire and they indulged us by speaking English and talking about books and blogs and retirement.
We had a glass of muscato in the salon along with olives, tomatoes, and bruschetta before moving to the table for a salad that included seafood, mushrooms and avocados. The main course was a dorade royale, which is a kind of bream. Danuta pointed out the line along the fish's head like a crown, which was why it is called royal. She first served him whole on the plate then retrieved it to the kitchen for filleting. All I could see was his tiny baby teeth, but I still ate some of the flaky white meat with butter and lemon sauce. As Midwesterners, we are bad at adapting to seafood. Michel explained that the knife beside our plate, which resembled a butter knife, was used for gliding across the fillet to help remove bones. The regular knife at the top of the plate, was saved for the cheese course. Plus, Hugo and Marie-Claire explained, using a regular knife to cut into fish would cause it to turn dark and oxidize, but maybe that was only with real silver. Along with the fish, was spinach fresh from the market, roast potatoes, and fennel (which we'd never eaten but sliced and cooked so it looked like onions). I had only a small glass of wine, knowing we were driving two hours afterward, but Earl had no qualms about refilling his glass many times over. We had cheese then cheese cake before moving back to the salon for coffee (for me) and plum wine digestif for Earl, two or three thimbles full, I didn't keep track.
All too soon, we had to leave to get to the beach by the appointed time and Earl promptly fell asleep. I turned on a podcast of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me to keep me company as I made my way out of Nantes and onto the highway headed south toward Bordeaux before veering toward La Rochelle and then south of there to Chatelaillon-Plage. It is gorgeous here, even as the clouds skitter past and drop rain on us before being replaced by sunshine.
A sailboat school on the beach near the apartment

Sitting in the sunshine for a coffee after shopping in the market Friday morning.
Linda and Maurice were waiting and they showed us all the secrets to staying at their beautiful beach house. We'll meet them in Paris for a drink and to return the keys.
And we'll see Danuta and Michel again in Paris too where we'll create another dinner at their daughter's apartment in Paris. It's nice to be close enough to see friends repeatedly without worrying that it might be years before we get together again.
Friends is one of the things I have missed most while we've traveled for two and a half months now. I can't replace my friends at home with ones here, just like when I was home, I couldn't replace these French friends, but it's nice to have so many in my life.
That includes my friend Najah who flies to Paris, for the first time this weekend, arriving Monday. We'll be there to greet her at the airport and show her a bit of Paris before retreating to Aix en Provence for five weeks.
Friends and France -- that makes me very happy. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Some Things British (or Maybe English)

Walking in the park on Saturday, Earl and I couldn't help noticing the plethora of children dressed in striped shirts with knee-high socks -- soccer tournament.
 Parents stand on the sidelines for a soccer game. No snacks at the end of games, we noticed. 
We discussed whether we missed the time when our Saturday mornings were filled with soccer games, finding the shin pads, the cleats, the right soccer shirt before sitting in a foldable chair in the rain, snow and wind (rarely the sun).
Because of the crowds, people had parked wherever they could find a few feet of space.
As we walked around the lake, a family of four cut across the field and joined the path. The father carried a cup of "takeaway" coffee as he walked with his wife and two daughters. They chatted as they walked and finally, the father stopped and said, "We need to move more quickly."
Immediately, the eldest daughter, maybe 11 or 12, crossed her arms across her chest and addressed her father.
"You did not need to raise your voice at us," she began as they walked ahead and the conversation drifted off.
I wanted to laugh. That must be the British version of raising your voice because, in my house, it would not have even been heard. I hoped that Earl (who came from an Italian family) had witnessed this conversation because we had often had a similar discussion in our house, but the voices were much louder and he was accused of yelling.

Some curious things about England, the plugs have switches on them.
The first night, we plugged in Earl's phone and the next morning, it hadn't charged at all. I tried turning on light switches at the door to see if the outlet was connected to the overhead light, but it made no difference. That's when we discovered that each plug had it's own on and off switch.

"Does the electricity leak out if you leave it turned on?" I asked, but couldn't get a satisfactory answer.
Earl did a bit of sleuthing and discovered that England does have a stronger electrical current so it could be quite dangerous. Still, annoying and I can't tell you how many times we've waited for something electrical only to discover that the plug is not turned on.

For a similar reason, the light switch for the bathroom is outside the door. If you walk into the bathroom, you will not find a light switch. You'll need to turn around, walk outside the door and switch on the light. Then walk into the bathroom and close the door.
"Did these people not grow up with siblings?" I ask over and over.
I'm sure my siblings would have been thrilled to turn off the light while I was in the bathroom over and over again. This is a sibling joke that would never have grown old. I can almost hear the "Mom" that would have followed every time.
There are also no outlets in the bathroom. From outside the door, I plug in the hair dryer and stand near the doorway blowing my hair dry. Same thing for the hair straightener.

The British/English thing is something that I'm still struggling with. People born in England, obviously. English people are British, but not all British people are English. Some are from Northern Ireland or Wales, or other places that I'm not sure enough to include here.
A guy walking his dogs once stopped and asked Earl if he was Canadian. After talking for a few minutes, Earl asked him if he was British, and the guy replied, "No, I'm English." He later conceded they were all the same, but there's no way to know if a person is English or British, unless they have a very obvious Welsh accent or something.
My friend Anne met us in London. I know that she lives in Oxford, so I said something about her being English. 
Me and Anne -- she's British. 
She immediately let me know that she was born in Northern Ireland, so she was not English, but she was British.
It just makes my head spin to try to figure it out, but maybe it isn't important after all.
For instance, we've always called ourselves American, but I've heard that can be offensive to other people who come from the continent of North or South America. The website Go Abroad lists it as number 2 on the 7 terms not to use. So I've been trying to say that we're from the States or the United States. Mostly, people know where we come from if we say American. So I'll hope that British or English people won't be offended if I call them by the wrong name.

As we walked through St. James Park on Sunday, we saw all kinds of birds in the park. Many of them were presents from various countries around the world, like pelicans from Saudi Arabia. Herons stood patiently while people took pictures of them, 
A handsome heron and some daffodils
but the real star of the park were the few gray squirrels. People were fascinated by the squirrels. And they were cute, with little patches of white on their chest and their cheeks full of peanuts, but I can't imagine being that entranced by squirrels. At our house in Ohio, hundreds of squirrels scampered up and across branches, chasing each other, stealing chunks of pumpkin from our jack o'lanterns, digging up bulbs that would have brought forth spring flowers.
It's a squirrel, people. Move along. The squirrel isn't in the picture. He's on a tree. 
But crowds lined a fence watching a single squirrel eat. The people stretched farther. I couldn't get them all in one photo.

The sun came out as we crossed the Thames before finding our train at Victoria Station. 

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Case for Walking

We had planned to rent a car while staying in England.
A 30-minute train ride from London, on the edge of National Trust land, we didn't want to be stranded in the country.
The view from a hill. 
But, as I explained in an earlier post, the $323 cost to rent the car for 18 days more than doubled to 500 pounds when we arrived, which equals nearly $750. I couldn't justify it.
"We'll walk," I declared. And 500 pounds would pay for 50 taxi rides that cost 10 pounds. I bet we wouldn't have that many.
I had no idea how close their house was to town, so the morning before the homeowners left, we went to the grocery store and threw in a number of things to tide us over -- pasta and sauce and lunch meat and bread, apples and bananas and yogurt and cookies. I knew they had eggs and potatoes so I could make due with omelets or roasted potatoes if we needed to.
The next morning on an exploratory run, I discovered that downtown was only a mile away. Since then, we've been making trips every few days so we can carry home what we need.
We've only taken one taxi ride, coming home from the train station at 11:30 at night in the snow. Other than that, we have walked.
And I might be a convert to the idea of walking on vacation rather than renting a car. In addition to saving money on the cost of the car, we haven't need to fill it up, argue about parking or who will drive or getting lost (although we have gotten lost while walking). We haven't need to worry about dings from cars parked next to us. No car has equaled extra peace of mind.
It may be true that we haven't done some things we might have with a car. Apparently Box Hill, located in the hills to our west, was the picnic scene in Jane Austen's Emma where Emma criticized Miss Bates. Perhaps we would have taken the dogs to walk on the heath, wherever the heath is. We probably would have driven to town and spatted about parking spaces.
But walking has let us explore parts of town we might never have seen.
Like this building from 1626
Can you see the numbers on the center peak of the house? 
Or this one with the interestingly shaped windows.
Mind you, I wouldn't want to pay for new windows. They'd definitely be special order.
We have walked the dogs to town twice (keeping them on a leash) and meandered around the lake at Priory Park. Who knows, we might have been rushing to a tourist destination rather than taking the time to explore the city.
Swans and ducks abound in this lake in Priory Park

Which is why Minnow dived into the lake to try to catch a bird
We've window shopped (noticing that pink is the color this spring) and we've tested coffee in most every non-Starbucks in town.
We've learned about local customs, like when to say Good Morning or Cheers or nothing.
Exercise is another benefit to not renting a car. Some days, like today, my Fitbit reads 24,000 steps or more.
And we've taken interesting photos, like this one. 
The berry clumps are gorgeous. 
And if we hadn't been walking, would we have noticed this sign? Perhaps not just a sign, but "a sign."

I have to agree
Maybe renting a car won't be such a priority in the future. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Nearly an American Statistic in Britain

I nearly died on a run this morning -- not because my heart rate gets up to 175 during my exercise or not because I looked the wrong way when crossing the street. It's because I didn't understand one little thing about traffic rules in the UK.
Since we arrived here a week ago, I've only gone on a couple of runs. One reason my runs have been curtailed is because of a giant hug by my husband. Picture me singing with my arms stretched wide above my head. My husband decided that was a perfect time to wrap his arms around me and pick me up. I yelped from the tight grip on my ribs, but didn't think about it again until later in the day when I started to feel pain. I thought it was my muscles and racked my brain for some exercise that might have stretched the muscles around my ribs. It took a few hours and an increasing pain before I remember that bear hug that made me yelp.
Cracked ribs or bruised ribs just need time to heal, I read online, so I curtailed my runs and tried not to breathe so much -- or cough or sneeze or sleep on my side.
Maud the dog has no problem sleeping -- see her butt sticking out from under the blanket. 
My ribs have healed enough that I was able to put on a running bra this morning and, after some discomfort breathing the first few minutes, I was able to run about four miles.
I've been warned about Americans who look the wrong way at intersections and get hit by cars as they step off the curb.  In London, at major intersections, words are printed on the road "Look right" or "Look left" reminding foreigners which way to look for traffic before they cross.
I kept that in mind as I ran, rarely crossing streets and sticking to the sidewalks, which are asphalt so not as hard on the knees as our concrete sidewalks at home.
As I loped down the main street in Reigate, I came to an intersection. I was running straight and assumed that I had the right of way when crossing the street, as pedestrians do in the U.S. and in France.
I stepped into the road and a car turning left squealed to a stop.
This isn't the intersection where I nearly died. Just an example that even
 if you're going straight as a pedestrian, the cars turning have the right of way. 
I veered back to the sidewalk and ran a few steps along the side street. A high school-aged boy on his way to school answered my questions.
The cars have the right of way unless it's a zebra-stripe crosswalk -- you know the ones with white stripes across the road.
"Ok," I thanked the boy. "I'll try to stay alive this morning," I called as I continued my run, heading to a nearby park where I wouldn't have to worry so much about cars and which side of the road they're driving and who has right of way at intersections.
A church with a cemetery, where I won't be buried since I didn't die on my run. 

Monday, March 05, 2018

Dogs and Badger Holes

Every dog we walk from now on will be on a leash.
I can't take the pressure of watching the wagging tail disappear and imagining losing a dog, a beloved pet, a family member.
When we walked with the homeowners on the day they left, they identified the badger holes in the ground. The working spaniel always stuck her nose in them, as if pointing them out to her siblings, a 13-year-old short-haired dachshund and a six-month old wire-haired dachshund. The older dachshund showed much interest, while the younger preferred running after his sister and pulling on her leash.
This morning, as Maud the older dog, stuck her head in the hole, I blew on the whistle, which calls the dogs to come to me for a treat. Maud backed out of the hole and stood for a treat. As soon as she gobbled it up, she headed back to the hole.
"Maud," I called as her head and long torso started to disappear.
"Grab her tail," Earl yelled.
I didn't really think she would keep going and I didn't want to hurt her.
"I can't grab her tail; you do it." I reached for the leash of the spaniel that Earl held but by the time he got to the hole, Maud and her tail had vanished.

A badger hole along the walking path -
note there is no dog tail wagging from the end.
I frantically blew on the whistle. Spud stood hopefully beneath me, ready for his treat since he responded to the whistle, but Maud did not emerge from the hole.
"Maud," I called. "Treats, Maud. Biscuits, Maud." I wasn't sure what the British call dog treats, but I hoped food would cause her to come back. I returned to the whistle, blowing over and over.
The homeowners had warned us that they had lost one of their dogs down a badger hole for a few hours on a walk along the hills. I couldn't imagine anxiously standing outside this hole, wondering where or when Maud might come out. She could follow the underground tunnels and end up anywhere.
I put Spud on the leash. We had been keeping the other dog, Minnow, on a leash because she is deaf and the owners worried she might not recognize us and come to us. The dachshunds had been allowed off leash once we walked past the horse fields because they responded to the whistle. Well, no more.
After a few anxious moments for us as we debated our next step, Maud resurfaced, blinking her one eye in the sunlight, he face dotted with chalky mud. 
Maud spotted with chalky mud after coming out of the badger hole. 
We clipped the leash on her right away. As I leaned over to take a picture of the hole in the ground, she attempted to stick her head in again.

Oh, no, Maud. We're wise to you now. 
So we continued our walk with all three dogs on their leashes. It's a much more tedious walk, constantly unwinding them from trees they've run around on the wrong side, or freeing the leash from prickly thorns and branches.
The dogs, especially Maud, walk much more slowly when on the leash.
We persevered and were rewarded with this view from the top of the hill. 
We always manage to take a wrong turn. When it doesn't look familiar, we figure that we're committed and we should push through to wherever the path comes out. Today we carried on before deciding to turn around and retrace our steps.
Poor Maud was paying for that badger adventure by walking extra.
Finally we made it back to familiar land.
Earl extra happy that all three dogs made it home with us. 
But we've learned our lesson about allowing the dogs off leash. Sorry if it ruins all of your training techniques; we just can't take that chance any more. I'm sure most pet owners would prefer to come home to all of their pets intact and retrain them than to return to missing pets lost down badger holes. 

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Jolly Cold England

Luckily, our housesitting hosts are gracious and hilarious people who we feel like we've known for years because we've run into cock-up after cock-up (which would have a totally different meaning in the U.S.!).
We arrived at Gatwick Airport and Andy took a taxi to meet us so he could drive our rental car back. We didn't want to try driving for the first time on the opposite side of the road at an airport in the dark, so he agreed to come. But, the rental car agency wasn't at the airport. We had to wait about half an hour for a bus to the rental car place in the Crowne Plaza hotel. Easirent was anything but. I had booked the car on line, 18 days for $324, about 250 pounds. But when we arrived, they wanted to charge an extra 10 pounds per day if we added a driver, Earl instead of me, and since we were from the U.S., we would need to pay double the cost for insurance. Not to mention the 1200 pound deposit on our credit card. I didn't mind the deposit, because I didn't plan to wreck the car, but doubling the price with insurance seemed outrageous. $750 for a two-week car rental.
In spite of the fact that I felt guilty, I canceled the car rental and said we would walk or get taxis where we needed to go during the housesit. I worried that Andy would judge me, but $750 is a lot of money, so I jutted out my chin and stuck to my guns. That meant Andy needed to call his wife Jane who drove to pick us up at the Crowne Plaza.
What an inauspicious start.
The house was beautiful, the dogs enthusiastic, and a chicken and leek pie baked in the oven when we arrived.

We settled into the orangery and ate dinner, drank wine and got to know each other. We told them about our first housesit in the disgustingly dirty place and they urged us to contact Trusted Housesitters, which is just up the road from here. And, of course, they worried that their house might be dirty, as people generally do when I tell the story about the filth, but then I showed Jane the picture of the flystrip with hundreds of flies and she felt better.
The dogs get up at 7, so I was ready to follow Jane down to get instructions on the morning routine. Oops, one of the dog went to the bathroom in her pen. Now Jane was embarrassed and hoped nothing else would go wrong.
I went upstairs and found that one of the dogs had gone through my suitcase, scattering my emergency playing cards and dirty clothes all over the floor. Luckily, I didn't have any food or medicine in my suitcase.

We ran errands, doing some grocery shopping since we wouldn't have a car after they left, and then returned home for a vigorous walk through the lovely countryside.
As we traipsed back into the mud room entrance, we noticed spots of blood dripping onto the floor. Minnow the spaniel had somehow injured her ear. It took all four of us to bath the dogs, wash the floor, hold pressure on Minnow's ear to get it to stop bleeding and finally bandage it up.

Minnow did not seem bothered by it, but certainly did not like the make-shift bandage on her ear. 
That afternoon, our hosts left and we settled down to normalcy with the dogs. 
I went for a run the next morning, learning that the closest pub was only half a mile away and downtown Reigate was only a mile by a bumpy unpaved road that led to the main road. I knew we could survive, in spite of the cold they predicted. 
Snow covered the path the next morning as we walked the dogs. We only took Minnow and Spud, who is a 6-month-old wire-haired dachshund with bundles of energy. Our hosts asked us to keep Minnow on her  leash because she is deaf and they were afraid she might not know to come to us, but Spud was free to run about, coming when we whistled for him and gave him a treat. 
We climbed a nearby hill NorthDowns for a spectacular view

 and ran into a couple walking. We must have chatted for a good 15-20 minutes and by the time we finished, we were cold. We decided to head down the closest path, which is how we got lost. 
We ended up in another part of the trail and Spud, off leash, made a dash under the fence to sniff around a tree. He lifted his head victoriously to show a dead, frozen squirrel, stiff in his mouth like a stuffed animal. 

He raced down the path past us. Then turned around and ran back the other way past us, his jaws tightly gripped on the squirrel. We whistled. We gave treats to Minnow trying to entice Spud to come to us. Finally, Earl made a wild lunge as he dashed past us and grabbed his collar. He pried the squirrel from Spud's mouth and flung it over the hill. Spud went on the leash after that.
But that didn't solve our lost problems. We come out a road with a similar name and walked down a long hill. I stopped and asked two men working on the road if they knew where our Lane was, but I couldn't understand their answer and they kept working. We were in England, right? Speaking English?
We caught up with a woman walking her dogs and she told us to climb the hill we had just walked down, to go through the woods where Spud had found the squirrel, and to turn left at the field. After about 90 minutes, we found our way back. We were so glad that we hadn't taken the older dachshund who would have been worn out.
Snuggling in front of a fire helps relieve stress over dog foibles and getting lost. A comfortable bed at night and a giant bathtub in front of a picture window. We had no complaints.
 The weather has been an issue, but since we're walking, it hasn't stopped us. We tromp through the snow and huddle by the fire.
Today is Saturday. We planned to take the dogs for a walk then to walk uptown for a coffee, maybe take our laptops along and write in the company of a crowd, but our housesit had something else in  mind.
I fed the dogs then slid on boots to open the outside gate, that's when I saw water spurting from an outside pipe in a beautiful arc of spray.
Calling upstairs to Earl, I quickly filled some pots with water, knowing he would turn off the water main. And he did. Now, we're sitting here, trying to get an appointment with the company that insures their pipes. We called and waited in the queue for about half an hour, before I scheduled an appointment online. I put in our phone number, thinking they'd call about the appointment, but apparently they send an email -- I put in the homeowner's email and I can't rouse them on the other side of the world. I've messaged and called. I've called their son in London, thinking he probably knows his mother's password so he could hack into it and let us know if the plumbers are coming.
I'm on hold again with the company, hoping to speak with a real person to learn if we'll have water today or not.
So, our life here is an adventure every moment. Some of them thrilling (see my Hamilton post) and some of them a challenge (see that picture of Spud with the squirrel in his mouth).
Either way, it's entertaining.

Friday, March 02, 2018


We've been in England since Sunday, and I owe you a post about the fun and foibles we've encountered, but right now, I have to write about Hamilton.
Before we even arrived in England, I had searched for tickets to Hamilton in London, thinking maybe it wouldn't be quite as popular as it was at home in New York and Chicago. Wrong.
Grace found tickets for us for nearly $400. That was too much. We planned to enter the daily lottery to see if we could get some cheap seats, but otherwise resigned ourselves to not seeing Hamilton.
But we did have tickets to see Wicked on Thursday evening.
After a nice hike with the dogs in the snow and piercing wind, we walked the mile to the train station and prepared for our 30-minute ride to London. Some trains had been cancelled that day and people kept talking about the bad weather. I understand that it's bad for England, but the temperature was in the 20s (Fahrenheit) and not even an inch of snow had fallen, so for Ohio, this wouldn't be bad.
It got me thinking. I didn't know if Hamilton had a matinee, but I suggested that when we got off at Victoria Station, we head over to Hamilton to see if the show had a matinee that day and if any tickets were available because of cancelled trains or people who didn't want to brave the weather.

I took this picture after the show, which is why it's getting dark. 
As we walked toward the marquee a little after 1 p.m., we saw some official theater people. One very jolly man stopped to explain to us how to get in line (queue) for the "returns." Returns are tickets that other people bring back to the theater and then the theater helps them sell the tickets for face value.
He sent us into the wind to wait by the security guard. There were 4 people waiting when we arrived. Apparently, the line is usually much longer.

The poor security guard, his eyes and nose were dripping as he stood in the cold. 
So Earl and I joined the line; I went to fetch us coffee. When I came back, two people had already gotten in to the show, and only two people remained in front of us, maybe a mother and daughter from Sweden. Behind us was an American woman who snagged a single ticket a few minutes later. As the clock ticked to 1:45, the ticket rep came out with a young man who had two tickets that were 79.50 pounds each. "Really, very good seats," the ticket rep said.
The Swedes in front of us decided that was too pricey and Earl snatched them up for us. That was a lot of money, but much less than the prices Grace had originally found. So we paid our cash and walked into the warm theater.
What did I know about Hamilton, other than the fact that everyone wanted to see it?
Well, I'd listened to the music with Grace. I knew some of the history, of course. And I knew that the roles were played by people of color, only King George III being played by a white man.
We had a glass of wine standing in the lobby before finding our seats in the "Dress Circle" section. Perfect.
I had chills the minute the show started, and tears pooled at the edge of my eyes, splashing over.
Why? Why did this show move me so much.
The music and the actors were inspiring. I loved seeing this struggle to create our country.
Here's a line from one of the songs that made me tear up:

"Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now. History is happening..."
And here's a two-minute clip of the London show with the very same actors we saw performing.
So what made this show so emotional for me was seeing the actors, from all different cultures, portray our founding fathers and revolutionary fighters. I couldn't help but think how much stronger our own country would be if we had treated all people equally from the beginning.
The man who played George Washington really inspired me. We could have had a black George Washington  200 years ago if not for slavery and deciding that some people had more worth than others based on their skin color.
In the musical, again and again, they called Hamilton an immigrant. I imagine most people were immigrants in the late 1700s, but I got the point. Immigrants made our country stronger.
As Hamilton met the Marquis de Lafayette, along with the lesser-known revolutionaries John Laurens and Hercules Mulligan, the four of them bonded and sang a song about "The Story of Tonight," with the lyrics especially moving, "Raise your glass to the four of  us, tomorrow there'll be more of us..." And then, I pictured the students from Parkland High School, fighting like revolutionaries to be heard, fighting to stop the massacre of students in school. They started out with just a few and their cause is growing. You can find the song and lyrics on Youtube here.
Of course, the song "My Shot" inspired similar feelings as I watched the revolutionaries deciding to fight and at the end they implore, "Rise up! When you're living on your knees, you rise up. Tell you brother that he's gotta rise up. Tell you sister that she's gotta rise up"
All of it feels like it could be applied to today.
I wanted to rush back home to the States and jump into the risings that are going on now.

I wanted Hamilton to transport everyone of those Florida students to their audience to sing for them and inspire them. I wanted my children to watch the show and be galvanized to make a difference in the world.
If you have a chance, go to your favorite music app, or youtube and listen to some of the songs. It won't be the same as seeing the show, and no one can explain how basic and deep the feelings are that this show stirs up, but it's a start.
Drained from all the emotions of Hamilton, we stumbled out of the theater into the cold of London again. We didn't go far, just to a nearby brasserie called The Shakespeare across from Victoria Station to eat before we attended Wicked.
Poor Wicked.
It's a wonderful, inspiring musical, but it didn't stand a chance after Hamilton. I actually drifted off a few times during the song Gravity, which is the highlight at the end of the first act.
I found myself dismissively thinking about white people dancing and singing. But then I made myself listen.
Me and Earl in the cold in front of the theater. 
At the end of the musical the words pierced me, "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
My day on Thursday, definitely changed me for good, and for the better, too. 

Back to France and Old Friends

Our next step from England was to return to France and stay at a friend's apartment on the ocean. I mean, who doesn't jump at a chan...