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Saint-Omer

December 15, 2006

I have wandered over to Saint-Omer.  Thanks to its locations on disputed borders, the French, Flemish, English and Spaniards have repeatedly subjected it to sieges and military actions.  Must be something in the River Aa’s water, because even the two local monasteries indulged in a bitter rivalry!

As a traveling froglet, I am interested in one of the men who had lived here: Alexandre Ribot (1842-1923), who was Prime Minister four times.  Ribot!  Ribot!  Must have some frog ancestor somewhere…. 😉

I don’t speak French, but I found this site had some lovely representative photos of the Basilica, Abbey Ruins and other local sites. Also interesting was this bit about the fortifications.

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Boulogne-sur-Mer

December 13, 2006

Niftiest discovery from my online travels: old postcards of Boulogne!

Other things I learned that I did not know before virtually visiting:

  • Boulogne is France’s biggest fishing port
  • The Boulogne Cathedral of Notre Dame has the second biggest dome in Europe (after Rome’s St Peter’s)
  • In about 633, when St. Omer was a bishop, legend has it that a mysterious boat carrying a luminous statue of the Virgin Mary appeared in the estuary of the river Liane at Boulogne – without oars, sails, or sailors! Townsfolk carried the statue to their church on the hill, and soon miracles were attributed to it.  Later embellishments of the story had the boat pulled by a swan – which became the emblem of the town.
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The Crossing

December 5, 2006

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” –Henry David Thoreau

I’m crossing the Straight of Dover today.  Or the Straight of Calais.  Depends on one’s perspective, right?  I’m wondering why, of all companions I could have had, I chose Annika.  After all, there aren’t hummingbirds in Europe.  Who knows–maybe she just wanted to come along for the ride.

We’re on a ferry for the trip.  That’s rich–a faery on a ferry!  Maybe she is going to “faery/ferry” me around.  Good one, Annika.

I would be outside for the short trip over (about 33km/20mi), but it is COLD out there!  The spray from the water makes it feel even colder.  So I’m huddled inside, trying to learn a thing or two.

Americans (or USAians) are unfortunately well-known for their shortcomings in the geography and history departments.  I’ve worked hard on this myself, reading National Geographic every month and NOT just looking at pictures, but I’m still hard-put to keep cities, facts, even countries, in some sort of logical relationship in my cluttered brain.

So for my own edification, here are a few facts I learned today (thank you Wikipedia).

  • Dover and Calias bookend the shortest crossing between England and France
  • The Straight is one of the busiest seaways in the world (over 400 commercial vessels daily)
  • the HM Coastguard has a great symbol, with the C and the G font made of sea rope
  •  The straight is believed to have been created through erosion
  • The predominant geology is chalk!  (excellent tunnelling medium for the Chunnel)
  • Aside from boats, crossings of the straight have also been attempted by pedalo (pedal boats!), bathtub (what?) and of course, swimming
  • A naval battle was fought here during WWI on 21 April 1917

I’ll be landing in Calais shortly and am planning to make my way to  Chateau Tilques for the night.  This will be my home base while I explore the surrounding area, including Saint-Omer and the walled town of Boulogne.

We’re docking now….more tomorrow!

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GT Day Four

December 4, 2006

SETTING

Office, with J at his computer behind me and an empty cup of water beside me.

WEATHER

Cold and dark.

FEELINGS

Sleepy, disgruntled, wistful.

EVENTS

  • phone call with agent about repair requests, loans, inspections, etc
  • multiple phone calls with loan agent
  • phone call with Mom re: her knee surgery in the morning and Dad’s poor health
  • phone call with Scottish friend re: his personal development
  • phone call to potential movers for quotes
  • quick walk outside before loan agent arrives withi paperwork to sign
  • over an hour of scanning and reducing account paperwork to email to loan agent
  • phone calls with J re: house stuff
  • no chance to call best friend Dee on opposite coast because time got away with me
  • TOO MUCH TIME ON THE PHONE. 😡

MOOD

Um.  I think that much is clear by now….

CREATIVE

Home Hosts.doc (for Lemurian Tour)

 INSIGHTS

I get grumpy when I wait until the end of my day to play with my tour entries.  I had all kinds of ideas for illustrations I wanted to make for Home Hosts (making the seed symbol, making the leaf quilt image) but I simply don’t have time right now.  I know I can do it later, but I would have preferred to do it now, while the story is here and fresh.  I have trouble being an adult sometimes.  Today is one of those days.

IMPACT

Mind – overtaxed

Soul – rebelling

Spirit – leached

DREAM

I had a dream this morning and I even discussed it with J but now I can remember not one thing, not even how I felt about it.  Note to self: make notes about dreams.

ACTIVITES

I spent a bit of time with my undead warrior in WoW building up some PvP faction as the patch tomorrow is changing all the rules and I don’t wish to be ranked a Grunt from here to eternity.  And if this makes sense to you, you are a geek.  🙂

IN SUMMARY

My Grand Tour is getting the short shrift today.  Plus, was there any “homework?”  Or are we now at the point where we simply share our misadventures?

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Day Three – Itinerary

December 3, 2006

I’m having trouble deciding if I want to have my Grand Tour be my day-to-day life, exploring my surroundings, or whether I want it to be a Virtual Tour of places I’ve not yet visited in the world.  This makes creating an itinerary tough.  I could decide to do both, but I’m already doing the Lemurian Tour and the Grand Tour, so I don’t think I want to split myself even further by doing the SoCal Grand Tour and the World Tour Online.

Decision made:  I’m going to do a World Tour Online.  Now, do I want to visit Europe?  I think so!  In the spirit of the Grand Tour, I’m going to allow myself to be led along old paths in order to learn new lessons.  Excellent!  Annika approves.  In fact, I believe she has already flown over the Atlantic, while I still sit here congratulating myself on making a decision.

A bit of irony.  I love to TiVo “Rick Steves Europe” and travel via television and friendly guide to places I may or may not ever visit myself.  Today I watched a segment on southern England, including, you guessed it…Dover!  The traditional jumping off place for a Grand Tour!

I found a script from the show on his website, a portion of which I include here:

“Like many travelers, our first look at England is Dover. Even with the opening of the English Channel tunnel, the port of Dover seems busy as ever.

The crossing between Dover and France is a shipping thoroughfare. Ferries, hydrofoils and hovercraft shuttle constantly back and forth. France is just 23 miles away. There it is, within sight on a sunny day.

Southern England sits upon a foundation of chalk. Miles of cliffs tower boldly above the beaches. The most famous are the White Cliffs of Dover.

And Dover — with its bold cliffs and formidable castle — symbolizes the defense of Britain. For centuries, the constable — or chief sheriff — of Dover town has been a symbolically important position.

With the Duke of Wellington, Winston Churchill, and even the Queen Mother all being honorary holders of this office, the message was clear… no unwelcome guests will be allowed on these shores.

Dover Castle. For nearly 900 years, English troops were garrisoned inside its medieval walls — on guard and protecting the coast from any European menace.

But there have been invasions. This Roman lighthouse is a reminder that Julius Caesar landed nearby as the Romans established their colony of Britannia.

The Roman fleet was based in Dover harbor. To guide the boats they burned wet wood by day — for maximum smoke, and dry wood by night — for maximum light.

Long considered the “the key to England” by potential invaders, Dover Castle provides a quick review of England’s military history. An earthen mound, part of an Iron Age fortress, was here when the Romans came. After the Romans, the Saxons invaded and left this church. England’s next uninvited guests were the Normans.

In the 12th century, King Henry II had this keep built making Dover castle the most secure fortress in all England.

Much later — around 1800, with the threat of Napoleon — the fortifications were beefed up again. Tunnels were dug into the chalk to house 2,000 soldiers.

And in WWII, more bombproof tunnels were dug. Visitors touring the maze of tunnels get to see and hear about the vital role they played during the war. There’s an elaborate communications center, an underground hospital and a command center. Attacking Nazi aircraft were charted on screens and Battle of Britain defenses were plotted. From these tunnels, allied commanders looked out over a battle zone nicknamed Hellfire Corner.”  (from Rick Steves Europe Episode 103)

I have an open-ended cyber ticket, so I will not assign dates to my itinerary, but I plan to visit the following cities in order, with possible unforeseen side trips thrown in:

Dover, Calais, Paris, Geneva, Florence, Venice, Rome, Naples, Innsbruck, Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, Potsdam, Munich, Holland and Flanders.

For now I will ponder the significance of leaving the most secure fortress on the British Isles for the open waters and uncertain future on the Continent.

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GT Journal – Day Three***

December 3, 2006

***am considering making journal entries private rather than published, but am torn between sharing the journey (journey-journal) and keeping the daily data separate from the Grand Tour information and discoveries by “hiding it.”  feedback welcome***

SETTING

I’m not sure when this item will change.  I don’t own a laptop, so I’m likely to always be at my desk.  How has the landscape of my desk changed?  I’ve moved all the real estate paperwork downstairs to the dining room table, so it isn’t always present to cause me stress.  The room is a little chilly.  I have a halogen lamp on.  The office window is covered with a burlap drop-cloth that I used to use under my easel before moving here.  I’m wearing black capri pants, socks with kitten heads on them, and two purple shirts.

WEATHER

Another lovely day with highs in the 70s.  Windows open during the day.  Saw the almost-full moon appear above the mountains in the clear blue sky on my evening walk.  It’s currently dark, 45 degrees and nearing midnight.  I can often see the moon through the bathroom skylight.

FEELINGS

I have mixed feelings today.  I got a lot done, but not everything that needed to be done.  I’ve always had anxiety around pending tasks, which is why I got As in school–I couldn’t leave homework undone.  It would hound me.  Intellectually I know that there is always more to be done than can be done, but a part of me wishes to be “finished so I can play.”  Ha!  That’s a trap.  There is no finished….only times when I decide to work and times when I decide to play.  So I feel both accomplished and dissatisfied at the same time.

EVENTS

  • J and I sat down and signed all the escrow papers and disclosures today.  We also went through the loan paperwork.
  • We played Guitar Hero 2 together until our hands cramped
  • We went for a walk and talked about our future.  We also discussed the miracles we take for granted–garbage pickup, running water, sewage system
  • Decorated house for the holidays (no tree, but lots of lights and ornaments)
  • Tour entries
  • Mixed fresh nectar for the hummingbird feeder using boiling hot water.  Put nectar in freezer to cool, but forgot it there and it FROZE SOLID.  Took hours to thaw on the counter.  I’m lucky the measuring cup didn’t break.

MOOD

I feel a bit grumpy that I had to wait until the end of the day to work on my tour fun.  I’m also amused at my grumpiness because I was stewing on my assignments all day!  I didn’t even *know* what I was going to do until I started doing the tasks.  I’m disappointed that I still get so impatient with my process when the process works fine. 

CREATIVE

http://www.flickr.com/photos/20868483@N00/313728846/

INSIGHTS

Tick-tock the crocodile is NOT at my heels.

IMPACT

Mind — anxiety prevents me both from learning and from wanting to learn more

Soul — has been too hungry lately and may be bingeing now–keep an eye out

Spirit — have been neglecting sitting meditation.  why?

DREAMS

I’m in the garage doing laundry.  My parents are there.  I’m about to leave on a trip.  I’ve finished folding the clothes and they are in incredibly neat stacks all around the garage.  A young man is sitting on the couch and my mom asks him if he is divorced.  He admits that he is, and says that I also knew immediately that he was divorced.  My mother tells him that we are observant.  I try to apologize for knowing more than I’m told, but my father tells me that I know better, that people enjoy being seen.  I go outside to the curb with my parents.  We are looking at four bags of garbage waiting for pickup.  My dad opens the second bag.  Inside is a nativity scene I’ve thrown away.  I’m embarrassed because I have been trying to simplify my life and get rid of possessions, become more organized.  I hadn’t wanted my parents to see that I’d thrown out something they had given me.  They are both quiet, but then my mom says it is okay.  I know they are hurt but that they are also supportive of me even when they don’t understand why I have made the choices that I have.  I offer to retrieve the nativity set.  My mom mentions that they got it when my uncle got cancer.  I find myself wanting the set back.

DREAM THOUGHT

I have let the pressures of life prevent me from celebrating the holidays and connecting with family.  While it is important to be organized and live my life, I need to be careful not to throw out aspects of my life that may have much to offer.  As a result of this dream, I decided to decorate the house for the holidays today even though we are likely going to move shortly after Christmas.

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GT Journal – Day Two

December 2, 2006

REFLECTIONS

  • maelstrom of tour-induced creativity
  • open windows welcoming warmth
  • walk in the hills with J

JOURNAL

Setting

I’m in my computer room.  The sun has thoroughly set and a waxing moon glows, even though it is not yet 5:25 pm.  I’m wearing a long-sleeved black Wing Commander shirt and TuKong martial arts pants.  I have not showered.  The room is small, but J and I both occupy it, at our own terminals.  My desk is covered with house seeking and house purchasing paperwork that I’m trying not to think about today.  Other papers reflect today’s tour work plus some leftover items from September’s Ireland trip.  “Transformation at the Base” by Thich Nhat Hanh is waiting for me to read and type the next chapter–something I’ve done all year.  One verse per week.  Only fifty verses and I’m on verse forty-nine.  On top of Transformation is a handmade journal I purchased and started but have not worked on recently.  I find starting journals easier than maintaining them.  The walls are covered with posters from games J has worked on and shipped.

 Weather

Today was warmer than the last few weeks – highs in the 70s.  It is currently 68 and dropping.  Skies clear, air autumnal.  Bright red leaves against brighter blue sky.  Just enough wind to set the sycamores whispering.  Their leave are as large as my face and velvety on the back.  Black-chinned hummingbirds use the hairs from the backs of these leaves to make their nests.

 Feelings

Am unusually excited by the creative stimulation of the tours.  Also regretful that I must find a money-paying job to help afford the house we are buying.  Real estate prices are astronomical here, so the last five years of artist living will soon be a dream.  Grateful, nostalgic, wistful combined with excited, nervous, fearful.  Beat the blahs!

Events

In the painful midst of house-purchasing.  I am surrounded by the chaos of house inspections, termite inspections, loan applications, escrow paperwork, disclosures and other kinds of muddle.  Fat envelopes filled with legalese arrive in my mailbox and I feel duty bound to read them before I sign them.

I have interviewed for a job–an administrative position, as that is where my money-earning experience is.  I’m waiting for acceptance or rejection.  Either response will both deflate and elate me.

And of course – the Grand Tour and the Lemurian Tour. 

Saw “Casino Royale” last night with J, S&G.  Inspired to see the renovation to the classic Bond genre.  Our first time out with S&G since S’s mother died.

Mom, J and I are giving Dad a computer for his Birthday/Christmas.  He and J were on the phone today ironing out what Dad wants.

We have alienated J’s aunt and uncle by using a real estate agent that is not their daughter.  They have told J’s mom we have betrayed the family.  What happened to not mixing business with family?

I’m reading “Blindsight” by Peter Watts.

Insights

My tendency is to want to learn what to do *before* I do it, but it often works better if I jump in and learn *while* I do.  Taking action teaches in a way that thinking about taking action does not.

Mood

Optimistic.  I’m proud of myself for not letting perfectionism slow down my participation in these online team blogging experiences.  When I was working on my “portal,” I was tempted to give up because my familiarity with Photoshop is limited.  Instead, I decided to just create as much as I could in real life and scan the result, then tweak with what I *did* know about Photoshop.  It worked just fine.  Same with posting — I still don’t know how to use these blogging tools well (especially embedding and sizing photos), but I am not letting that stop me.  I use bandaids until I can go through tutorials.  So far, so good.

Creative

  • mydocuments/mypictures/lemuria/Lemurian Mule.jpg
  • mydocuments/mypictures/lemuria/Lemurian-Portal.jpg
  • mydocuments/mypictures/grand tour/grand-tour-guide-annika.jpg
  • mydocuments/mypictures/grand tour/grand-tour-luggage-tags.jpg
  • mydocuments/writing/lemuria/Lemurian Mule.doc

Impact

Mind: I feel neurons connecting.  This is good.

Soul: Being fed.  Also good.

Spirit: Still needing more freedom to manifest.  Opening to the possibilities.

Dream

Couldn’t remember.  (so no dream thought)

Activities

  • WoW
  • Soul Food Cafe
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Writing
  • Painting