A month later, it's not such a hot news item. Think not of the daily paper, or even the weekly review, but rather a thoughtful resume, cold-pressed just like a health food product. I'll start with the last day before I left on my whirlwind tour of three countries.
Oct 11, 2017
Last day in Toronto; I fly tonight to Rome. It would be nice to share it, but ah well, this is my life. I'll walk alone, as the song says, see people, talk, learn, and sing too, hopefully. I'll have a great time, damn it! Get new ideas, wash the mind, refresh myself. Yes. I will.
Oct. 12 Rome in early morning, digging out the sheet with directions to my lodgings: train, not the express to Termini Station, but to Trastevere; go outside, (ah, but which way? my Roman friend), ask a few strangers, walk across an area to a tram stop. Find the right one, strip off all my Toronto sweaters because it's hot, hot, hot. Normally, that's great, but I've got a lot to juggle, so i tie my lovely wool sweater jacket to my luggage. Buy a ticket, get to my stop, find the street, cross over the cobblestones to hear a woman call to me that my 'giacetta' is dragging on the ground. Grazie, signora, I say, and then discover my lovely sweater, ravaged and ripped as if by a crazed lion, and I am very sad, there on the street in Trastevere.
But I carry on, find my little apartment room, and Stefano directs me to a tailor shop just down the street for my poor garment. Then I walk, and begin what will be my modus operandi for the next eight days. I stroll and look and eat and rest and marvel at buildings and monuments, and drink wine and rest, and then I do it all over again. People and eateries on the streets everywhere, Rome is filled with the enjoyment of life, and I am happy to take part. I see the usual: the Spanish steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, (it's colossal!), the Pantheon, the piazzas, the pyramid, plus the grounds at St. Peter's and the Vatican; but I also see the ancient ruins of St. Clements Church, and take a train ride to sit in the hot sun on the beach at Lido, and to visit the Villa Este, out in Torino. I'm always by myself, but I talk to people everywhere, and become more Italian as I go. The weather is like summer. When I leave, my sweater has been invisibly mended, and likewise, my soul, steeped in the healing consciousness of artistic mastery and style, has been seamlessly repaired. Some Roman holiday shots:
|A big fountain in a big piazza, and big, beautiful weather|
|by the Tiber River (wasn't Caesar here too?)|
|another bridge, and I have to sing...|
|Sunday morning sunshine stroll in Trastevere, Rome|
|Like I said: colossal!|
|Pretty in pink; no lie|
|St Peter's Square at night|
|trip to very hot Lido Beach outside Rome; but very cool hat, si?|
|At the very grand Villa Este, countryside of Rome|
|People enjoying life at a cafe in Rome, sketched by the camera|
Oct. 20 El cheapo flight to Budapest, and I am met by a man with a sign and my name on it. I had decided to spare myself the discomfort and aggravation of dragging my bags everywhere in a place and language totally unknown to me, and signed up for that luxury. The man turned out to be the husband of the woman who ran my next 'home'. Very nice, old-world room in a grand, old-world building that had once belonged to the prime minister of Hungary. I began my first night there by bravely walking in the dark and cold down a big deserted hill to the main street, eventually finding a restaurant that served traditional food, along with traditional musicians. Good soup, and I'm restored again, ready for the next five days of once again exploring and walking and eating.
Budapest is grand and elegant, filled with history and impressive monuments and buildings. Like Rome, a beautiful river dissects the city, the immortal Danube of Strauss fame. It's romantic and efficient at the same time; one subway ultra-modern and glistening, all brass rails, clean-lined high ceilings, and gigantic escalators, and another that is the oldest one in Europe, with decorated tiles and attendants' booths that are carved and polished wood. Church spires, statues, and castles dominate the hills.
My first day was cool and fall-like, a disappointing contrast to the warmth of Rome, but I did my sightseeing duty - Andrassy Street, the Opera House, Heroes' Square, the Museum of Art, the Matthias Church and I had the fun later of singing spontaneously alongside a musician playing nearby. The second day I saw more, including the Kiraly Baths, built in the 15th century by the Turks. It rained in the evening, when I went to a chamber orchestra concert of classical music at the enormous (holds 8,000) and splendid St. Stephen's Basilica, drenching me and my boots, so that by Monday, when it rained the whole day, I gave up and stayed in, finally getting to the writing of my book-in-progress, and the chapter that had inspired the visit to Hungary in the first place. The rain stopped late in the afternoon, but my boots were still soaked, so I had to create my own footwear out of plastic bags and Chinese slippers, holding them together by elastic hair ties. (I later saw an episode of Orange is the New Black for the first time, and saw that the heroine had done a similar fashioning in the jail showers). Fittingly, perhaps, I went to see the "Shoes on the Danube", a moving memorial to the people shot by Arrow Cross militia in 1944/45, with lights up and down the river as darkness, and more rain, fell. When the weather finally cleared the next day, I went to the apartment where Franz Liszt lived and taught music, and read that he had spent a lot of time at the Villa Este that I had just visited outside Rome. Me and Franz, two pianists in a pod. All this, plus devouring poppy seed cake and riding on the transit, including charming trams, for free! Here are some of the highlights in photos:
|Gotta sing; this was spontaneous fun; invited myself up; Janos, violinist, very gracious|
|outside St. Stephen's Basilica|
|Show of Contemporary Art about, you guessed it - shoes!|
|Ceiling at Gellert Spa|
|View of Danube from Castle walls|
|Not everybody laughed at me, but almost|
|The "Shoes on the Danube" Memorial|
|Franz Liszt's drawing room and piano|
|eating poppy seed pie on Andrassy Street|
|subway booth on the oldest system in Europe|
|this bridge was hell to walk on, & the Iron Man up there didn't have much to say|
|this ceiling is from the Opera House|
Oct. 25 Back out to the airport (for free now that I know), and the flight to Cork, in Ireland. But before I get there, a stop for a connecting flight in London, and the most amazing, wonderful happenstance, which follows.....
Flying from Budapest to Ireland yesterday, had a stopover in London, & a 4-hour wait for a connecting flight. Emailed my son who had been on a film shoot there, saying too bad we cccouldn't meet. Email wouldn't go until I asked an info-man, who explained you had to do this, this, this, this, & many more taps later, I was connected in the secret Heathrow way. Email sent, thanks Taj, & I went to Netflix. An hour later my son called me skype-type & by some miracle we were both in the same terminal!!! He was upstairs, so Taj to the rescue again, he walked Chris to where we were. Then it was like a movie - sighting across the crowds, smiles that couldn't stop, giant hugs, loads o' love. Carl Jung called it synchronicity; my friends say it's Zoe's world. Here we are, our new family of 3. Taj's last name means "one who does good". Didn't he just!
And then I got on the plane, all a-twitter from the miracle of being so far from our home to have tea with my boy. I couldn't stop myself from telling the woman sharing our row of seats, luckily no one in between the aisle and window. We talked all the way, and she very kindly drove me to the hostel I had booked. After she left, I again went in search of food down the dark, not deserted, but not too appealing street. I decided I hated the city - I often hate everything when I'm tired and hungry - but shoveled in some good fish and chips, and the next morning, voila! ready to go again on my travels.
Cork turned out to be a very big, busy and attractive city, and the home of Mother Jones, a political heroine of mine from way back. And I learned about the dairy industry, and the approved 'cattle raiding' in history, at the Butter Museum, housed in a very old and interesting part of the city, Shandon. Bustling St. Patrick and Oliver Plunkett streets had much to offer, including the English Market, my first stop for some soda bread, which I craved and hoarded for the rest of my stay. The weekend was taken up by the jazz festival, which I had come specifically for - lots of great music and craic, as they say, and crowds, crowds, crowds. I got to sing twice, with a jazz band, and with a boogie piano player's band - both fantastic experiences, and a treat to be part of the scene. I left on Monday evening with Mairead, the woman from the airplane ride, who had very generously offered me an overnight at her beautiful house in the country. So instead of the madding crowd, I woke up the next morning to the mooing cows. Mairead left me to sleep in, then came back at lunch to drive me to the bus station. Unbelievable kindness, plus, she was a lot of fun. Pics:
|Mairead the very generous, and myself|
|a quiet moment of thought|
|very unquiet moment singing at Reardon's in Cork with the Ben Waters band, Cork Jazz Fest|
|Meself, Richard, bass player, and Ben Waters, piano magician|
|with the Harry Connolly band, Cork Jazz fest|
|and another tune, with flute by Brian Hyland|
|George Hasson, trumpeter extraordinaire, and he sings like nobody's business|
|The Butter Museum in Shandon, Cork|
|Story of the cattle raiding that was common|
|an arts centre in Shandon|
|Never knew Mother Jones came from Cork. She was a great human rights worker.|
|Got tired of being alone at Elizabeth Fort in Cork, but this guy was hard as nails|
|Likewise this one; no fun at all|
Oct. 31 Straight to Tra Li, on the west coast, where I met Josie, the house-minder of my Toronto friend Marian's home, where, again very kindly, I had permission to stay, even though Marian herself was back in Canada. Josie drove me out to the wind-blown far edge of Ireland, and the house overlooking the wild Atlantic, and I settled in for a week's visit to Kerry. Josie herself didn't stay on the weekends, but we had a few evenings of chat and chowder before I went into town with her on the Friday, to take a day trip to An Daingan, - the main town on the Dingle peninsula. It was in waiting for the bus and on the trip out there that I got to know a young man from New York state, studying in Dublin, and himself taking a little tour of the country. He was delightful, and interesting and we became quick friends. We split up and went our own ways while in Dingle, - I explored again, took a walk out to a lighthouse through fields of cows, and along the breakwater; I found the little cafe that I had been to thirty years prior - amazingly, it was still there. I bought a book about wild Irish women, and a calendar of Irish writers, and drank more Guinness, which is my drink of choice even in Toronto. My new friend Jerry and I once again shared the bus trip back, and decided we would meet for lunch the next week when I would be in Dublin.
Meanwhile, I had met another woman that I really liked, who ran a B and B, but one in a grand and beautiful Georgian house on an Atlantic bay, which I discovered on a short walk from where I was staying. She was great fun, an interesting, bright woman, and she invited me along to a dinner outing with her and a couple she was friends with. One wild night in my travels, would be great, I decided; up to that time it had been pretty tame, albeit interesting. Fancy place, good wine, lots of conversation and laughs, then we went to a pub next door to continue the night out. Of course, I had to get up and sing when invited by the duo performing there, and we all got more crazy.
I had three more days in the solitude and gorgeous views of the ocean's edge in Marian's house, broken on my last day by a visit with Daragh at her B and B, and then a car tour with history lesson and lunch in a pub, offered to me by a good friend of Marian's, who did that solely out of the goodness of his heart. Am I lucky? Pictures are not in order but you can See Tralee:
|Trip to An Daingean - just off the bus, with Jerry|
|Loved this little river under the house|
|Walking on the wharf|
|Sunset at Dingle before the bus back to Tralee|
|Dinner in Tralee's Croi Restaurant: Damien, Aine, Daragh and Zoe|
|Singing in the pub after dinner, with Mickey|
|Barrow House view of bay|
|Information at well that cures eyesight|
|View of Atlantic from Marian's house|
|Sunset from Marian's house|
|Walk to the lighthouse in Dingle|
|All the wind and rain-swept coast turned me Swedish|
Nov. 8 I arrive at Heuston Station, in Dublin, tired and overwhelmed by the confusing melee of traffic and busses, and no clear maps or attendants to help. It took an hour before I got to the area of my hotel, and then I had to walk too far to maintain my normally cheerful outlook. Again, I cursed everything until I got rested and fed. But I recovered, and the next day went out to Howth, a fishing and cliff village on the outskirts of Dublin on the Irish sea, the other side of the country altogether. Saw a seal in the harbour, walked along the quay and by the many restaurants and seafood shops, ate delicious smoked salmon on soda bread, then threw myself into the cliff walk, where you pass the house that Yeats lived in for a while, and climb and climb the rock.
My last day was the arranged lunch at O'Neill's with the sweet young man, and then he was off on a weekend outing and I wandered the capital's streets and museums, ending up lounging against the rock in Merrion Square which had the stone sculpture of Oscar Wilde in his slightly insolent pose. I read the famous quotes attributed to him, one of which put into perspective my earlier question of "Am I lucky?" - He said "Who, being loved, is poor?" It's maybe not luck, but richness I enjoy, and an abundance of love from people I meet.
About Oscar Wilde, whose tomb I had visited in Paris ten years prior: I had read, in my wild Irish women book, that Oscar's mother Jane was a well-known and successful author in her life, 1821-1896, (Will real history, which includes so many talented and brilliant women, ever be widely taught and known?) She was also very provocative in conversation, and Oscar's pithy epigrams resembled her style, according to the author. Just saying. Here it is for your vicarious voyaging:
|Me and James Joyce on O'Connell Street|
|The seal at Howth quay, outside east shore outside Dublin|
|The windy pier before the cliff walk|
|House where Yeats lived overlooking the Irish Sea|
|The house I stayed in - now a hotel in Dublin|
|My friend Jerry, whom I met going to Dingle, in front of the National Gallery, Dublin|
|Crowds on Grafton Street|
|In the National Museum; prehistoric power to the people; St. Lachtin's arm|
|And mucho gold, from 800 BC, found in Ireland|
|Sculpture of Oscar Wilde and moi, Merrion Square, Dublin|
Nov. 11 Remembrance Day, and at 11:11 am, I'm on the plane destined for Toronto, remembering the thousands who fought and died or were injured, and being thankful for their love.
I arrive at the Toronto airport on a cold Saturday afternoon, met by my son, and I say, "We must stop meeting at airports this way." Then he takes me to my grandson and granddaughter, who have come along, and it's just so great to see and be with them again.
Tra la la la. Home is where the heart is.
And when I got home, there was a postcard from a friend travelling in the U.S., sent while I was away, who wrote "Wish you were her." Ha ha. Either a typo or an unconscious wish for someone else. I could be nasty and say "Wish you were him", but even though the same friend had not traveled with me because of lack of money, but somehow managed his trip, (and an earlier one too), what would be gained by quibbling? Guess funds were available after all. All's fair, etc. & I had fun on my own.
Now I'm happy to be tired-but-happy at home, and out having fun again in the Toronto beaches with my friend Jerelyn, then hearing wonderful singers at the Women's Blues Revue.
|I think I'm happy....do I look happy?|
|Queen Street Beaches, with Jerelyn|
|Selling stuff for the Toronto Blues Society at the Women's Blues Revue, Massey Hall|
AND THAT IS THE END!!!