`Our next stop after York was Edinburgh. I chose an airbnb place within walking distance of the train station and I had drawn a map, but it was full dark when we got there and right away we were struck by the difference in scale with York.
York had those narrow twisting streets - not everywhere but largely. And it was flat. Ediburgh is not flat. At all.
And the streets are very wide. Turns out they were designed so that a horse drawn wagon could make a U-turn. I guess that takes a lot of space because it felt like the street itself was half a block wide. And the buildings in our neighborhood were 4 stories and rather monolithic. We were in the New City, so called. New in the sense of being only 150 years old or so. I don't actually have any photos here of New City. It just didn't impress me after York.
It was tough pulling our suitcases along these huge streets in the dark, having that fearful suspicion with each turn that we might be going the wrong way. I was kicking myself for not hiring a taxi, as we were really beat by the time we found our building, which at least was down a very long hill. And then there were four stories to climb with out suitcases. Oh. My. God.
Our hostess was waiting with the door open and showed us around. The apartment was gorgeous, with old wooden and slate floors, 12 foot ceilings and huge windows. The bathroom was really posh (a British word I've adopted) with an enormous tub and seperate glass walled shower.
The next day we clambered down the stairs to set off for the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle. For some absurd reason we ignored the bus stop which was right in front of our place and trudged up the very long hill. Bad move. 4 pounds each would buy us an all day bus pass (which we bought the next day), but by the time we made it to the freaking castle our legs were so tired! Funny how they put castles way up on top of hills, right?
Edinburgh Castle was very grand indeed, but neither of us had any desire to explore it. Which is good as it was really expensive! Instead we started off down the Royal Mile taking 2 or 3 hundred photos a minute. About half way down we found a guided walking tour and learned a bit about Edinburgh.
This is Edinburgh University, in case you were wondering.
This is St. Giles church. It wasn't originally. It was meant to be dedicated to the king's wife, who got sainted at some point. But there was this story of Giles the hermit, who loved animals so much, when he saw the king shooting at a doe, he stuck his hand out to block the arrow. The arrow shot Giles through the hand (there's a carving depicting all this above the main door). The king was mighty impressed, got the dude sainted and hey presto! He ends up with the big cathedral in Edinburgh.
This is the view from the entrance to the castle. The photo doesn't really capture the magical feeling we had there. This was taken on our last night.
There some really gorgeous pubs in Edinburgh. Almost made me wish I drank beer.
Here's another one. This was Deacon Brodies Tavern. The sign shows him with two personas: prosperous business man and robber. He led a double life and was, perhaps the inspiration for Doctor Jeckle and Mr. Hyde. Robert Louis Stevenson was a local hero, apparently. Another inspiration might have been Edinburgh itself (according to our guide). Once the New City was set up the old city quickly degenerated into a filthy, disease-riden slum.
Behind India is Arthur's Seat. It's the highest point around and overlooking Edinburgh. It was a massive challenge for India. Both our legs were sore, but hers had been massively cramping up. I didn't think we were going to make it but then somehow she mastered herself and the whole rest of the trip there were no more problems walking.
Almost to the top.
Okay, this is the top. You can castle below.
This was the high point of our trip. Literally. Not subjectively.
One thing that was really shocking in Edinburgh was the littering. Even up here, at Arthur's Seat, which has to be a relatively holy site. I don't know if it's the Scots or the tourists or what. We saw virtually no littering in Chester or the Cotwolds, but we did see some grown men and 20 something young women leaving their rubbish on the trains. It was really weird....like they thought their mommy would come along and pick up after them.
I guess they never had that crying indian public service ad.
We had a good time in Edinburgh and loved our apartment (despite the stairs). But our next stop was Chester and that turned out to be our fave.
I almost cried twice today. The first time was this afternoon at Stonehenge.
Or more acurately, NOT at Stonehenge. We did see it. For about 12 seconds as we zipped by on the freeway. And we saw the visitor center, somewhat. That's where I almost lost it.
Wait. Let me back up.
We had today all planned out. We packed last night and were up at 7am sharp, had breakfast and were out in the car ready to roll right at 8am for our journey to mystical Stonehenge. Google told us it would be about 2 hours, so I gave us 3. I bought advanced tickets for 11am.
As soon as I started the car our day changed a bit. There was a warning light about tire pressure. I got out and looked and sure enough, the front right tire was flat. Not only flat, there was a chunk out of the sideway (probably from when I hit the curb on one of those lovely Cotswold country roads - in fact India and I both knew exactly when it happened, I swerved a bit when an oncoming van seemed about to collide with us. I guess it was a good decision to swerve, but here we were).
Now this is where I made my big mistake. Seeing that chunk out of the sidewall I felt defeated and went in to call the rental car service. Wrong. What I should have done was try and pump the damn thing up, which is what I did two hours later. We could have been on our merry way and merely had to stop once in a while to pump it back up - the car came with a nice pump (though no spare).
Instead we waited for two and a half hours for the repair guy (who was quite nice) and then another half hour for the repair. So when we were once again ready to hit the road it was exactly 11am.
I think I left out the part about needing to return the car in Bath at 3pm and our train at 3:43. What to do?
Here I made the second big mistake. I said hey, lets see if we can get halfway in one hour. If not, we'll turn west for Bath. But if we can we can still have a few minutes at Stonehenge anyway (I was probably thinking about the 29 pounds I'd spent on the damn tickets - and buying them was another mistake. We could have bought them there for only a slight extra charge).
Well, we made it halfway to Swinton in under an hour and I was much encouraged. We were actually on something of a freeway at that stage going 80 miles an hour! Wow! So we carried on and it took a full hour and an 15 minutes to reach Stonehenge (which included getting lost twice and my having to go into a pub and ask directions). And pounding the steering wheel. Google sent us off on a crazy goose chase.
So there it was on the right as we tore down the highway at 70 miles an hour. It was late but at least we could stop and take a quick look. Frustrating, but oh well. At least we could take a photo or two (or 25).
But it was not to be. Turns out the visitor center is a LONG way away and you have to take a bus from the center out to the site. By the time we parked it was 1:30pm and we really needed to be on the way to Bath. This is where the tears came. Tears of pure frustration. We couldn't even SEE Stonehenge from the goddam visitor center. And our onward route wouldn't take us past it again ont e road. India hadn't even taken any photos as we went past.
But at least we saw it with our own eyes. Not for long, but the image is engraved on my memory.
The trip to Bath went really well. We tore along the highways and there were actually highway signs directing us (for once) so we got there with time to spare. But that's where we hit another wall. Turns out Bath is famous for bad traffic and traffic jams. And the streets are crazy and suddenly our map was worthless and we were lost. By the time I stopped and went into a little store to ask directions, we were far far away from the rental car place.
We got there right at the edge of our 'grace period' but that was half an hour later than I planned and we ended up missing our train (which was prepaid with tickets good for only that time). Our taxi driver, when I told him the 3:43pm time said "Well, that's a challenge, isn't it? - but you never know".
A little later he did know. He turned to me and said "you're screwed". His advice was to just get on the next train and hope they didn't check our tickets. Or if they did, pretend we'd made a mistake and hope they didn't nail us for the 85 quid (each) penalty. Or hide in the bathroom the whole way.
He was a nice taxi driver, but we didn't take his advice. There were three ticket agents at the turnstiles where you insert your ticket. The first of them saw me scanning the digital board of train times and asked if everything was okay. I told him we'd had a puncture and just missed our train - was there anything for it. I expected we'd just have to buy new tickets, at the 'day of' price which could be very expensive.
He consulted the second ticket agent, a younger guy with a big mop of dark hair who looked like a cross between a young Paul McCartney and Harry Potter. He made a lot of very cute faces, trying to see if there was any way to cheat us through and finally called on the third, older, ticket agent - explaining our situation and was there any way he could give us a pass. After a few moments he nodded and pulled out an official looking book and began writing. Paul McCartney gave us a big smile and this is where I almost started to cry again - just from their kindness. Something about officials using their discretion to be decent human beings.
So the next train was only half an hour later - and only 15 minutes from when we were handed our passes, and now we're roaring along toward London. Glad to be alive and glad that someone else is doing the driving.
love and hugs,
PS. Stonehenge looked beautiful. There was a big wide mown grass path in a great circle around it and people were walking it. The grassy path was set into the greater grassy plain. It was lovely and clearly much better that folks can't go in among the stones. I imagine it would be much easier to take nice photos. They've done a good job there.
Well, we're deep into our trip and I've been a terrible correspondent. I guess that's a good sign....no dental recovery period, no dysentary. Just a lot of movement and decision making taking up the extra moments.
Our first stop after the Matrix conference was York and we loved it. The town is dominated by York Minster, which really gives Winchester Abbey a run for the money.
We took about a thousand photos as it kept changing in the different light.
York was a really important Roman (and Viking) city, so it's history goes back 2000 years. One of the ceasars died here and another one elected (not sure if that's the proper word). I had no idea!
Long after the Romans fell, the Vikings took it over and this was their capital for the British Isles.
In the oldest part of town a lot of the streets are very close and wander about. This one is called The Shambles. Forget Diagon Alley from Harry Potter, this is the real deal. Of course all of the shops are for the tourists, but it has so much character!
I especially love the Tudors, with their black exposed wood. The really old ones are kind of slumpy with age. We rode on one of those red double decker tour buses. They have guides who do a running narrative of the town and we learned a LOT about York. Turns out they have these in all the towns we visited. We rode one in Edinburgh, but not in Chester or Cardiff.
We were going to visit a ruined abbey way out in the countryside near the little town of Helmsley. We made it to Helmsley, but were too tired out for the 7 mile walk! Lucky for us there are ruined abbeys all over the place. This one is actually in York itself.
As much as I love ruins, I was sad to learn that it was King Henry VIII who had them all destroyed in his battle with the Catholic Church. Our guides said the motive was financial. These were all very wealthy enterprises and he basically plundered them - even melting down the lead from the stained glass windows.
This is about as far as we got on our walk in Helmsley. We decided to hell with the abbey and the pretty English countryside (we've got pretty countryside back home) - let's go tour that ruined castle! So that's what we did.
But on the way back we had to pass though an entire herd of horses! It was a little spooky. Once though the style, we fed a couple with nice long grass they couldn't reach.
We learned a lot about the English civil war, where Oliver Cromwell led the Parlimentarians and kicked the shit out of the Royalist strongholds. A lot of sad dammage from all that mess, including Helmsley Castle which was blown up after it was taken.
Still kind of cool to be in an actual castle.
The town of Helmsley itself was quite charming and here we encountered our first church graveyard - but not the last! I actually soaked my boots yesterday crossing a sheep field to get to a really old one in Chipping Campden, but that's getting ahead of the story....
This is another view of Helmsley. Everything is so freaking OLD here, and made of lovely stone.
And they are still at it. At the York Minster our guide pointed out the new replacement carvings for the book of Genesis around the main entrance. Here's Adam and Eve....
The old carvings were damaged not by King Henry or Cromwell, but by soot from the Victorian powerhouses upwind from York. A lot of the buildings were pretty sooty. I guess powerwashing them causes too much damage to the stone.
Speaking of Victorians....
Our guides called buildings like this "Victorian vandalism" in that they stand out from the much older buildings with their red bricks and ornamentation. I LOVE them!
Here's a side by side - one of the old river custom houses next to a beautiful building now housing a pizza restaurant.
Well, it's stopped raining here in the Cotswolds and time for us to get out and see pretty little villages. Next post will be Edinburgh, Scotland.
The past two days have been a whirlwind. I'm sitting on a crowded train with India across the aisle heading up to Birmingham for my big conference. It's about a two hour trip (I think) and so I'm just setteling in to write all this down.
We got to London about 48 hours ago after a relatively fast flight with a lovely and quite talkative London gal Rachel - about 30 and a self-described massive geek. She and India hit it off and had deep talks regarding Doctor Who and Tolkein. That made the trip fly by, so to speak.
We figured out the London Underground without much trouble - the Picadilly line came close to our airbnb and we alighted (as they say here) at Earl's Court Station. It wasn't much fun hauling our bags up the flights of stairs and wheeling them through crazy streets to our place, but we managed and once we'd landed got right back out there by 4pm.
I hate to admit this, but our first meal in London was at a Whole Foods! That wasn't really the plan, but we chose Kensington HIgh Street to walk down and couldnt really find suitable places to eat. At least the WF was in a grand old building. I had really yummy asian food and India stuffed herself with pizza.
Then on to the High Street Kensington Station where the Circle line to us to Winchester Station. Climbing the steps there was Big Ben! And whoa, it's really big! The Parlilment building is truly impressive and we joined droves of tourists from around the world on a bridge over the Thames taking way too many photos and selfies.
We were there for sunset and walked over to check out the London Eye and had a walk along the Thames. It was beautiful but after a bit we got really cold and we're SO tired, we retraced our route and collapsed into bed.
The next day was our tour of the Harry Potter studio and we had to get there at a specific time for our booked tour. Guess what? Even though we'd given ourselves at least 75 extra minutes, I managed to get us onto several wrong trains and we got there with 2 minutes to spare. I hate to admit how stressed out I was (and yes, I was tapping) - the 2nd wrong train was the one to Watford Station, way out in the country side. We were supposed to get on an express, but got onto a commuter. Instead of 20 minutes it took 45! We had 18 stops! Aarrrggghhh.
It wasn't until the smiling girl took my reservation printout and gave us our tickets that we finally began to relax. I was afraid they would send us away!
But they didn't and the tour was really awesome. I'm a little out of date with all things Harry Potter, but it's just as fascinating learning about the actual making of the films themselves, and we were not only seeing the real movie sets and props and all that, there was tons on just about every aspect of the process. I loved it!
At one point there was an opportunity to mount a broom in front of a green screen, with different backgrounds projected behind you - so it looked like you were flying through london and over the Thames and around Hogwarts Castle. It was pretty cheesy and India wasn't iterested, which is lucky as it was an extra 25 pounds for the video on a jump drive. I was ready to fork out the bucks, but it did'nt actually look very real so I was glad she passed. Instead I bought her a butterbeer at the Backlot Cafe which was just below the lethal dose of sugar. It had an artificial beer-esque foam on it which was essentially marshmallow fluff. India loved it.
The tour (including butter beer and our bagels from home) took us 4.5 hours! We got back to London about 5:30 and dragged ourselves to go see Harrod's - the ultra-swanky department store. It had a central ancient Egyptian style escalator that was so beautiful and groovy I didn't want to leave at all.
But by then our blood sugar levels were tanking and we found a little sandwhich shop across the bigzstreet that wasn't too dear. I tried a grape elderberry soda that was really quite nasty.
We took a long bus trip home. It wasn't supposed to be long. I thought it was just a few stops, but long it was and a bit wild. In bed by midnight and India woke me up at 9:30am! I guess I needed my beauty sleep.
Today we had just a few hours in the morning and I chose Westminster Abbey for our final London tour. I was a bit shocked that it cost 20 pounds though! 20 pounds each! It was worth every pence though. It must be the world's most beautiful indoor cemetary! The only thing was NO PHOTOS. I'm very ashamed to admit that I snuck a few. I guess I'm an outlaw by nature. I was being ultra discreet but got busted anyway - in a very polite and discreet British way by a smiling man in a vestment. He suggested that putting a lens cap on my camera might remove any temptation.
Okay, I admit that my English history is a bit rusty these days but getting to see the tombs of Queen Elizabeth 1 and Mary Queen of Scotts and Sir Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, Michael Farraday, Lewis Carroll, Chaucer, etc. etc. etc. was pretty freaking cool. And of course there's a beautiful memorial to Shakespeare, though they let his remains stay at Stratford on Avon.
India had to drag me out of there, especially the outer courtyards where it was pefectly legal to take as many photos as one might desire.
So it was actually a bit of a stressful rush to get back to our airbnb and then all the way to Euston Station to find our train. No time for lunch, but we had had a proper (vegetarian) English breakfast at a tiny place on our street, and as we wheeled our bags past the sweet Polish girl who had served us called out "Good bye! Have a good trip!"
I have to say the Koh Samui airport, though small, is one of the best I've been to. Just the men's room was pretty spectacular - with frosted sliding glass doors opening onto a huge bubbling aqarium. The stalls were big, with a shelf for my satchel and very private with full size locking doors. And air conditioned! And best of all, no mosquitoes biting my back and bum. What a revelation.
And Bangkok Airways has it's own gates, with excellent wifi and a snack area! They have platters of mini-pastries and buns and weird Thai desserts. Two of the pastries had chicken, so they were actually pretty substantial (I didn't try them). They had a popcorn thing like you'd see at a carnival with little bags to put the popcorn in. They had ice coffee on tap, and hot coffee and tea and lots of icky orange type drinks. And water dispensers so I could fill my bottle up - with cold water!
And comfortable couches and rattan chairs. All in big open air lounges. Really something amazing. When it's time to board, you walk out to little trams that wisk you away to the runway. I was sitting on a very comfy couch when a polite Bangkok Airways attendent leaned down and said "Sir? - your flight is boarding now". Oops.
I had two early morning swims at sunrise. It was hard to say goodbye to that lovely bay. Some of the wait staff at the restaurant were very warm in saying goodbye. They must see hundreds and hundreds of us come and go, but I think they are really sincere in their warmth and friendliness. They work really hard - someone told me 12 hour days!
I left a very good tip in the tip box and I know most of my students did as well. The woman who had given me so many great massages happened to be out on the beach as my ferry was pulling away, so I got to wave goodbye to her. That was sweet. I left Eli, my 18 year old student on the island - the last one left. He gets to stay for one more day. Marco and Nika took the ferry with me. Nika was my first EFT practitioner way way back (I was client) and Marco took my workshop. That was a sweet and unexpected blessing, having them with me.
Okay, now I'm in Bangkok, at the Buddy Hotel on Khao San Road. My whole family was here ten years ago (not at this hotel) and we LOVED it. The atmosphere at night struck Krista and I as a magical carnival and we were swept away by it. Unfortunately, a lot seems to have changed in ten years.
The street isn't super long - it might be the equivalent of ten blocks or more. It's blocked off from cars and has tons of vendors selling t-shirts, cheap clothing, fake IDs (seriously), scorpions on a stick, pad thai for 30 baht, drinks, hammocks, you name it. There are countless streetside cafes and shops. It could be quite charming except for the godawful noise. I can't even call it music. Pretty much every street bar is blaring electronic music and top volume - places right next to eachother, or across the street from one another. It's so fucking loud that it hurts. Communication involves shouting or screaming if it can happen at all.
I mean, seriously, what a nightmare. I saw a few people "dancing" here and there - getting into the spirit of the thing I guess, but most folks just look distressed to me. I walked the length of the street and back, eating some pad thai, but after a short while I couldn't eat anymore - too disruptive to my body. The vast majority of the tourists here are young white kids from Europe or the states. So maybe they like it? I felt asaulted and had to ask myself - what the fuck am I doing here?!
The guy at the front desk says the 'music' is over at 2pm. I hope I can get to sleep earlier than that! My taxi leaves for the airport at 7:30am.
Yesterday was the last day of the workshop. It was supposed to be a practice day, but I still had some sections to cover and we ended up doing some very interesting tag team tapping - one client then we'd rotate in and take over where the last one left off. Pretty cool.
It's been really intense being together for 8 days - not just for the workshop but also breakfasts and lunches all together and most of us sitting together for dinner too! Today we all tried to sleep in a bit, but I think only one of us managed it. I was down on the beach by 6:30am trying to beat the sun (without much success).
I did 3 sessions today for students! I wasn't expecting that at all, but there was some unfinished business for some of them and they wanted my help. One of the students had a big place with a living room and aircon and she graciously let us use her place. By the third one though I was flagging and we kind of gave up.
It's dusk right now, the sun is just going down over the mountain and all the color leaching out of the scenery - it's a bad time for mosquitoes! And it's still hot as hell. Must be about 90 degrees with super high humidity. Ugh. My clothes are kind of stuck to me and my legs have several intense bites.
I could be out swimming but I'm super hungry! I spurged and ordered a whole pizza with roasted aubergines for myself. Takes a bit longer but really really good! I'm going to stuff myself, sink into a coma and go swimming in the dark.
I've been getting up at sunrise every morning and heading down to the beach. It's my favorite time to swim, as the water is mostly warm and the air mostly cool. Once the sun is up it can be very hot! Though yesterday it was overcast most of the morning.
Today was glorious as there's waves coming in. Mostly the sea has been pretty calm - just some little rollers. These were just big enough to do some mild body surfing....so fun!
There's a platform out in the bay, with a platform and hammock. It's just far enough to feel a bit scary or challenging for me (not being the strongest swimmer). The amazing thing is laying in the hammock and being rocked by the swells. Divine.
Last night I had dinner at a table on the beach with my old friend Nika and her husband Marco (he's taken the first 4 days of EFT training). I hadn't seen Nika for 5 or 6 years and we both arrived here on Koh Phangan on the same day!
She had lived here for a whole year - she rented a beatiful bungalow up on the cliffs overlooking the bay. We had a lovely visit with the waves breaking and candles flickering. She wouldn't let me take her picture though!
The workshop has been really intense for some of the students. Not sure why - maybe the heat? I've had to do three emergency sessions - EFT triage - to help them be okay. For two of them the issue was eachother! They had a big conflict in the first few hours of the first day and it's been rather strained ever since.
I did a remimprinting with one of them before breakfast yesterday and it seemed to help a lot. This stuff always leads back to childhood trauma. The other gal just wrote to say she's leaving and won't be continuing. She's been so prickly and difficult with everyone, and taken up so much of my time and energy that I think perhaps it's for the best. I hope she finds what she needs.
So I've had my hands full! But I've met some really interesting folks from England and Europe, I've had many lovely swims - the full moon night was magical. I was out in the warm sea with the moon rising before me - it's light shining across the calm waters right to my heart. And Venus and Jupiter rising right behind me over the mountainside.
The food here has been consistently great. I arranged for the class to take our breakfasts and lunches together and it's been very yummy and very healthy both. Twice they've served us yogurt that is SO alive it's actually bubbling. I've never had the like before. You can just tell it's so good for you. Really intense. And served with incredibly fresh tropical fruit - the mango is my favorite.
There's not much to complain about - just the incredibly oppressive heat and humidity, the mosquitoes, the 'sea lice' that sometimes sting while we're swimming, stupid Europeans who smoke cigarettes near the restaurant, and straining my voice to be heard over the chorus of cicaidas outside our Zen Hall. Not bad at all!
I've travelled enough now to realize that this "OMG What the FUCK have I got myself into" feeling is most likely just a phase that will pass. And it mostly has.
It's really hot and very muggy. With lots of bugs. The mosquitoes are mostly just morning and dusk, but bad enough to require caution. Ants in the bed don't bother me too much since they aren't fire ants. I love the jungle sounds of the bugs screaming from the trees. They almost helped drown out the all night Friday rave that went from 11pm to 11am this morning. Here's a photo I took around 9am. There were about 40 people dancing or hanging around. It was VERY loud!
My workshop space is very nice - though a bit of a trek up the hillside to get to it. Bad news if it was raining! I've met all but 2 of my workshop folks and all but two are very excited and happy to be here. The woman from Inida is especially positive. I don't think she thinks it's hot here!
Here's a photo of Zen Hall. It's screened on 3 sides.
The other two are struggling a bit - the kid from Canada is just having trouble with the heat mainly. The other gal has a basket of 'sensitivites' that have made her quite miserable, and then last night she encountered two cockroaches in her bathroom - she has a full on cockroach phobia! Or had, until I spent an hour or so tapping with her.
I know that she'll be a lot happier after going through the 7 day workshop. But she was all set to leave last night until I made it clear there would be no refund.
The food is very good here. And it's very pretty. And exoctic. I'm hearing wild bird calls I don't recognize at all and last night I finally swam in the bay. It was gorgeous and serene. If I can get a massage in today I might just be through the OMG phase entirely. Oh, and there are just swarms of butterflies - I even saw a few on ferry ride over - way out over the water!
Here's a picture from our breakfast table. At 10am the sun was already too fierce for me to swim. I look forward to actually teaching - I know everything will just get better and better once we're underway!