Design to communicate, inspire, and foster positive change

"Every design detracts or enhances our joyful participation in the life of the planet." -Buckminster Fuller
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  • Tea and crumpets at Bourton-on-the-Water.
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  • Reading material for the plane ride. Watch out London, here I come!

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Close Enough to Perfect

Real life is weird. It’s full of responsibility, and freedom, and discontent, and adventure.

I thought that time moves fastest when you travel. When you see new places every day, and sleep in different beds every night, that is when time is supposed to fly. I never expected that once I ‘settled down’ in my own apartment, Monday to Friday job, steady partner – I never expected that months would pass like days.

It has been hard to sit down and write a blog post because sometimes I feel like there is not enough in my day to day to constitute any significant recollection. But, I have lost enough of my extracurriculars to my 8-9:30 job, and besides I have a lot to say.

It goes fast, it’s hard sometimes, but this is close enough to perfect.

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Life Elevated

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Park City Mountain Resort, Utah.

If you are friends with me, or if you are family, or if you read my blog, or if you follow me on Facebook, you will already know all about my nomad tendencies.

After graduating from high school in New Hampshire I decided to go to college in Wisconsin. Sophomore summer I lived in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, then went right back to Stevens Point in the fall. In 2012 I spent 7 months in New Zealand. In 2013 I lived in Bar Harbor, Maine, for the summer then had less than 24 hours to move out of Bar Harbor and board a plane heading to London, England.

After graduation I had that exhilarating and unique experience many of us are familiar with: choosing where to live in post grad life. Now I sit in Park City, Utah. My new home. (More on why on earth I am in Utah later on.)

Photo Timeline

NH, NH, NE State Line, WI, NZ, ME, UK, UK, WI, UT, UT

I know that I am extremely lucky to have these experiences. I truly couldn’t have loved these past few years without the support of my family, and the love of my friends, old and new. In every place I live I find a hundred reasons to stay, handfuls of people I feel I couldn’t live without, and beautiful landscapes I wish I could take with me. All of this makes it hard to leave.

Although moving around so much can be difficult, it is being away from New Hampshire, and my wonderful family in Maine, that often hits the hardest. Last year when I had the flu and missed my second to last orchestra concert, sick as a dog, lying in bed, I wanted to be in Peterborough with mom to take care of me. Jenn and Stephen’s wedding that I couldn’t make because of school in WI. Graduation hanging out with friends and their families instead of my own. And now: first job rejection, first job offer, first real apartment, all done 2,289 miles away from Peterborough.

Even though I am here now, and will be here for years to come, the thing is, I will always be from New Hampshire, and I will always take great pride in the fact that I am a New Englander.

“New England has a harsh climate, a barren soil, a rough and stormy coast, and yet we love it, even with a love passing that of dwellers in more favored regions.”
-Henry Cabot Lodge (not of Cabot cheese fame)

Knowing where you are from is a powerful thing. As I move forward with my life here I will lose my “live free or die” license plates, and my NH drivers license, but I wont lose the intangible things that growing up in New Hampshire has given to me.

So okay, enough nostalgia, the real and pressing question is: if I love the east coast so much, then why am I in Utah? Utah! Of all places! It think it broke my parent’s hearts to have me be so far away…again. But Utah is every day revealing itself to be wonderful.

Well, Ben and I chose Park City, Utah because it fit these criteria:

  • Must be in the West.
  • Must have skiing.
  • Must have interior design job opportunities.
  • Must have a nursing school.
  • Must have ample opportunity for hiking, biking, climbing, and general outdoor fun.
  • Must be a cool place, a true vacationland

So, the cities that we found liked the best became Denver, Boulder, and Salt Lake City. Boulder has an outrageous cost of living. Denver has a lot of Urban Sprawl. Salt Lake City has, well, everything we were looking for. The deal was sealed when Ben got accepted to do Mountain Ski Patrol with the Park City Mountain Resort. He moved before the holidays, then soon after new years I packed up and drove, with the help of my mom, across the country.

The drive was long, really really long, but I had mix tapes dating back until the 1700’s, and the novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns” on CD, so it ended up being alright. An adventure for sure…

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It started here, in Keene NH, with my wonderful family.

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I love my brothers…what great guys.

STATE ONE: Vermont

STATE ONE: Vermont

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STATE TWO: New York

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STATE THREE: Pennsylvania. We had Lunch with M&M which was lovely as always.

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STATE FOUR: Ohio

STATE FOUR: Ohio

STATE FIVE: Indiana. Gary, Indiana to be exact. Yikes.

STATE FIVE: Indiana. Gary, Indiana to be exact. Yikes.

I left my Swedish ivy in the car overnight and it died. Oops!

left my Swedish ivy in the car overnight and it died. Oops! I have often bragged that this plant is indestructible based on evidence that mom didn’t water a few of them I had in NH for about 6 months and they survived with a little TLC. Welp. Freezing temperatures overnight will do it. Good to know.

STATE SIX: Illinois

STATE SIX: Illinois

This was the beginning of what became known as the “Polar Vortex” we barely made it out! But really, if we had left a couple of days later than we did, then driving would have slowed to a complete stop somewhere in Indiana. Luckily, we were not stuck, and we made it through the snow.

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My car mirror decoration is a piece of the bridge from the upright bass I had in high school that got destroyed in a car accident, the idea here is that it’s good luck, but the more I think about it, the more that doesn’t make sense.

STATE SEVEN: Iowa

STATE SEVEN: Iowa

STATE EIGHT: Nevada

STATE EIGHT: Nebraska

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STATE NINE: Wyoming

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It was ridiculously windy is this section of Wyoming. Murry the Mariner pushed on through even though he is a curmudgeon and an old geezer.

Finally we saw the long anticipated state sign: UTAH

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(Mom, I am so sorry for this picture….)

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STATE TEN: F’ing. Utah.

A day later I was moved into my rented room and mom was on her way back to NH. Now it has been more than three months and Utah is starting to feel a little like home. Here is what my life looks like now:

Ben and I just signed the lease to a real apartment (our first real one!) in Salt Lake City. We have no furniture, but today we spent the afternoon there drinking cheap champagne in celebration while we filled out that form where you have to seek out and record every flaw about your place when all you really want to do is revel in its perfection.

I am now a professional interior designer with a firm called Denton House Design Studio in Salt Lake City. I have a desk, I have my own email, my own extension, and real design responsibility. I enjoy going to work every day, which does make me feel a little guilty because of the salary I receive, but that’s the dream right? Next step: NCIDQ!

I also work part time as a banquet bartender at the Park City Mountain Resort. Not only does this give me a free seasons pass, but it is also a great group of people to work with. Four times a month is not a big commitment! It’s great, actually. Also: tips.

Ben is wrapping up with Ski Patrol in April and after that will be getting a big boy job? Getting a seasonal job? Getting a job in the medical field to prepare for nursing school? Whatever it ends up being will be great.

Now I just need to learn how to balance a full time job, a part time job, regular exercise, cello, art, and, god forbid, a social life. I haven’t come that close to juggling all of this yet, but I will….eventually, for now, this is what my life looks like, and it looks good.

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LNT side note: I did not write this onto a rock, you should not write things onto rocks and then leave them by trails, it’s disrespectful.

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This is my desk!

Denton House Design Studio lobby

Denton House Design Studio lobby

So, please, come and visit me here. It is so wonderful.

Much love,

Carey

Why Should You Study Abroad?

During the 4.5 years I have spent at UWSP I have heard one question more than any other: “If you are from New Hampshire, why are you here?” I have given a bunch of different answers to this question, but one of the most truthful is this; UWSP has a fantastic study abroad program. This program has allowed me to travel to both New Zealand and Britain for a combined time period of 10 months.

Reading material for the plane ride. Watch out London, here I come!

NZ

Today the world is smaller and more accessible than ever before. Even the high cost that is normally associated with living in another country can be cut down through the application of study abroad scholarships. Better yet, you can still graduate on time, or even early, while also studying abroad for a semester! So if it is accessible, cost effective, and beneficial to your career, then what could hold you back?

It could be nerves about living so far away from home, a boyfriend who doesn’t want to do long distance, lack of flexibility in your academic curriculum, or perhaps just lack of motivation. But all these excuses fade in comparison to what living in a foreign country does for you. Study abroad is one of the greatest things to do while in school, it will change your perspective, expand your horizons, and provide you with experiences that will last a lifetime.

Top reasons for studying abroad: To develop skills that you would never find in a classroom. To learn a new language quickly and fluently. To better understand what it means to be a global citizen. To improve a resume and increase employment opportunities. To make friends from around the world. And the list can go on and on.

Jump!

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The quote that pretty much sums up my personal feelings about the importance of travel is this:

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

I love studying abroad, but what I really love is coming home. Participating in study abroad pushes you to become a better person, a sophisticated professional, and loving friend. It tests your convictions as well as your passions. There is a level of chance involved that can only be overcome by bravery and adventurous spirit. But the payback to taking this chance is colossal. I urge every person reading this to take the chance to create a better version of yourself through study abroad.

Trust me.

In short: I lived in London

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“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”
― Roman PayneCities & Countries

“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”
― Italo CalvinoInvisible Cities

London.
London is more than I could ever explain.

For me, it is one of those places that felt this vague way, and, over time, after I left, became more and more distinct until it crystallized into something I can explain.

These are the visual textures of London that I fell in love with: glass and steel, brick and stone, wrought iron, green and yellow and red and yellow and green, grey skies, green trees.

London smells like rain and hot pavement.

London sounds like sirens, car horns, and the subtle hum of pedestrians and automobiles.

London feels like the sway of a tube car, the drizzling rain that starts on the walk home, the burn of city air in my lungs.

But I feel these only in snapshots, mental pictures of London that I loved, like Trafalger Square in the rain, or an old brown cathedral squeezed between two blue modern skyscrapers, or standing on top of Primrose Hill in the evening gulping air, or crossing the road when the walking light is not on because I know that the traffic light will stay red.

I loved English breakfast, I loved walking confidently through the city to work, I loved ordering a pint of IPA, I loved the Grouplove concert, I loved the tube when it was almost empty, I loved the art and the architecture and Regents Park and the constant activity available.

I loved so much about London, but not London itself. It was unforgettable and it was distinct, but I wouldn’t live there again.

I think that is because London is filled with sharp edges. Even in the parks, my only natural oasis, you could always see the teeth of surrounding buildings.

It, like many other cities, could swallow you whole. I would walk for hours and no one would smile at me, no one would make eye contact. Crowds of people hurrying, hurrying, hurrying in all directions, focused on their tasks and on their days. I would stand and watch as crowds of people, all of those lives, as they ebbed around each other, all part of one organism but barely brushing one another individually. Most of the time there was a lack of connection in London that I hated vehemently. I liked to watch and think of all of those best friends, lovers, enemies, and mentors that would never meet, but would push past each other on the street.

I have said for a long time that big cities are not my environment. Although I would like to say that I hated it, and confirm what I thought before I even left home, I cannot manage it truthfully. The thing is, I didn’t love London, but I certainly didn’t hate it. London didn’t welcome me, but it didn’t reject me either. I think that another version of who I am could have thrived there, instead, it was like that lovely dress that doesn’t fit quite right when you try it on. It was beautiful, but not beautiful on me.

There is not much more I can say about London other than, ‘I lived there, and it was lovely’. Everything else gets muddled and tangled with my nostalgia for my own snapshot moments.

So, London. Yes, I lived there, and it was lovely.

London 2 London 1

The London Underground

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Before coming to London I had heard of the London Underground. Everyone has heard of the London Underground. In my mind this famous form of public transportation was a damp cavernous tunnel system only to be attempted with a backpack containing enough food for a few days and a sleeping bag. As a girl from a small New Hampshire town my only exposure to public transit was the Stevens Point bus system. Which is unfortunate because I cannot even count the number of times I got hopelessly lost on those busses and had to call my friends for a ride back from Plover. Needless to say, the idea of an underground train system that covers approximately 300 miles around London and beyond was a little terrifying.

Now I have been living in London for about three months I am incrementally more comfortable with ‘The Tube’. The first time was a bit of a disaster. A group of fellow pointers and I were trying to get to an urban food festival in Shoreditch (a trendy region of London). We spent our time glued to various maps trying to figure out if a line that curves down on the map would be considered eastbound or westbound, and why so many people just got off-maybe we should get off? No one else is on this train, and it’s not moving. When we all emerged back on the street the sun was blinding and I felt like I had just suffered an ordeal. It has become easier since then, but on the London Underground strange people and situations are never terribly out of place.

A few facts about the tube: there are 270 different stations, at rush hour 57,000 people have been counted moving through a single station, (it’s Waterloo, by the way, avoid it at rush hour), each tube train travels 114,500 miles a year, and each year 1,229 million passengers are carried.

 

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A few facts I have learned personally about the tube:

No one talks. If you are talking, laughing, looking around, or really doing anything other than reading the newspaper or a book you are automatically hated a little bit. Passengers on the tube do nothing except avoid eye contact with each other. If you disregard this literally unspoken rule and talk loudly or get caught up in hysterical laughing fits like I have many times in the past months everyone will turn and stare at you uncomfortably until you exit the train.

It is inappropriate to laugh at the tube station name “Cockfosters”.

The left side of the escalator is for those sprinting up, presumably really fit or really late. If you stand on the left side you will get pushed out of the way. I know this from personal experience.

 

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Adventures on the Tube:

One fateful evening around rush hour a pigeon found itself five stories below central London. Birds are not the smartest, and this one must have been particularly dense because it flew directly into the waiting train just as the doors closed. I sat and watched complete chaos break out. People were screaming, the pigeon was frantically swooping around, I heard curse words in six different languages, and whenever the bird landed someone would inevitably aim a kick and it would take flight again-proving that perhaps the bird was not the stupidest creature on the train. At the next stop it was a mass exodus off the carriage, bird included.

There is a recorded message that plays when the doors opens, it says “Mind the gap!” to remind commuters that sometimes there is a space between the platform and the train. It is very useful. One afternoon while I was sitting on the tube I think that the message got stuck. “Mind the gap!” … “Mind the gap!” … “Mind the gap!” “Mind the gap!” About ten messages later the doors still hadn’t closed and the recorded voice became more and more insistent “MIND THE GAP! MIND IT!” finally ending with “THERES A GAP, DON’T FREAKING STEP IN IT!” Well, okay, maybe it just stuck with the original, but it sure sounded frustrated.

Recently the train was stopped at the platform a friend and I were trying to get on. She sprinted towards the train and jumped on seconds before the doors shut behind her, leaving me standing at the platforms edge!

I also have a handful of stories about falling over on the train because I wasn’t holding on. Sometimes it was just a bit of a stumble, but once or twice I did fall fully on the ground. Most awkward person on the train.

I’ve also seen small acts of kindness. I witnessed someone carry a women’s suitcase down some stairs that she was struggling with. The occasional person who offers their seat to expectant mothers or the elderly proves that perhaps chivalry is not dead. Every now and then someone will even smile down there, but that is few and far between.

90% of the time I manage to get where I am going, and/or successfully explain to someone else where to go. The other 10% I get on the train going east when I want to go west, I fall over, I miss the last train, and I get stuck in the turnstiles. I am not an expert by any means, but at least I do mind the gap.

Wales: Coast to Mountains

“Here, are the stiffening hills, here, the rich cargo
Congealed in the dark arteries,
Old veins
That hold Glamorgan’s blood.
The midnight miner in the secret seams,
Limb, life, and bread.”

Mervyn PeakeCollected Poems

“Do you miss Wales?” Tessa inquired.
Will shrugged lightly. “What’s to miss? Sheep and singing,” he said. “And the ridiculous language. Fe hoffwn i fod mor feddw, fyddai ddim yn cofio fy enw.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means ‘I wish to get so drunk I no longer remember my own name,’ Quite useful.”

Cassandra ClareClockwork Prince

Map of Wales

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I live at the International Students House. This is an extremely diverse community full of people from different countries, majors, interests, habits, and tastes. One of the most amazing things about living here is the opportunity we have to meet new people. The bar and communal dining area are the best places for this. Of course, food and alcohol, the foundation of random introduction. Through ISH there are also free events taking place almost every week. Last week we had a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed dinner, a free classical music concert, and Oktoberfest.

But one of the most amazing parts of living at ISH is access to groups like the ISH Travel Club. Although the trips that they run have a cost, that price tag is far cheaper than any other available channel we have for travel.

With this in mind I joined the travel club and immediately signed up for the Wales trip. I have always heard wonderful things about the Welsh landscape and couldn’t wait to take advantage of its proximity during my time in England.

I have to say now that it was one of the most fantastic weekends so far.

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The weekend began the morning of the 5th of October. Two other students from Wisconsin signed up for the trip as well. One was my roommate Caitlin and the other was Lee. So Caitlin and I walked over to ISH, grabbed breakfast, and joined the random group of people standing in the lobby. There were 16 of us in total, mostly Americans, and mostly cool and exciting. Our guide, Oz, is from northern England and was nice and interesting from the get go.

After getting on a bus at 8:30 and driving for hours we arrived at the Medieval city of Chester, right on the border of Wales and England.

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The Chester clock is one of the most photographed clocks in England, with good reason!

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Chester was absolutely beautiful, and the hour that we spent there walking around the remaining ancient city walls was a perfect break from the bus road trip. Wall construction was started by the Romans between 60 and 70 AD. Of course there were more modern sections but every now and then I would run my hand over a rock and imagine it sitting there in prehistory. Memorable moments: A sausage roll from the PoundBakery, for a pound, of course. Our new friend Alex buying some freshly made doughnut holes, hot and covered with cinnamon sugar. Having wholesome conversation with new friends. Walking paths, canals, and dogs…dogs everywhere.

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Chester Abbey. Built around a Benedictine Abbey first established in 1093, parts of the old abbey still exist on site.

After Chester we drove over the border to the fishing village of Conwy, well known for it’s castle and city walls.

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Castle, ocean, mountains, and sunlight.

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Here is Oz hamming it up in a turret.

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Pshh…danger? I laugh in the face of danger!

As we passed into the country of Wales the language on the signposts changed from only English only to both English and Welsh. The Welsh language is beautiful, fascinating, and perfectly fit to the skyline of the country. The letters J, K, V, X, and Z are not actually used in the Welsh alphabet. Our guide proposed that if someone could correctly guess all five, then he would buy them a drink later that night. I was one letter away.

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This is the view from the front lawn of The Warwick House, in the town of Llandudno, where we stayed for the night. The hill behind is called The Great Orme. Caitlin, Lee, Alex and I stayed in the guesthouse for long enough to drop our things, then went for a walk up the hill.

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Trying to find our way up the hill we stumbled onto THIS. Apparently it is called dryslope skiing?

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Sheep at sunset on the Great Orme. I will admit that I spent some time chasing them around. I guess that New Zealand never really left my bones.

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Caitlin loves flowers, so this picture at sunset would only sum her up better if she was sticking one in her hair.

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We ran along the top of the Orme in the hunt for the perfect view of the sunset. Running at such a height with sunset and stars and good friends was absolute perfection.

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While on the hill we all decided that it would be a fantastic idea to come back up for the sunrise. So it was an early bedtime in a comfortable bed and an early wake up made more difficult because of the comfortable bed.

When we first stepped outside it was dark. Stars were out. There was a hint of possible sun rise along a corner of the sky. At 7:24, after we had been out there for about 40 minutes, at sun rose and it turned into this:

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On the way down we had two animal encounters. One was a donkey, and he kissed me. The other was this goat who came out of nowhere then ran off into the brush.

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Coming back down to the guesthouse our windswept and freezing souls were healed by a traditional Welsh breakfast that looks a whole lot like a traditional English breakfast.

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The great Orme in the bright mid-morning sun is an entirely different hill. We all piled back into the minibus and went, once again, up the Great Orme. The views were outstanding and the wind (not seen) was so strong I felt like I could float out over the water like a bird.

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The next town we visited has the longest place name in the Europe. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, phonetically it is “Clan vira pulth gwinn gith gor gerrick win drob uth clan tay see lee oh go go gokh.” Five pounds if you can say it three times fast.

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Caernarfon Castle. A grand example of English Edward’s castles.

There were dogs everywhere and border collies held the vast majority. As I move closer and closer to the dog owning stage of my life I find myself critically examining every dog that I see. The one with Caitlin below we found tied to a bench at the fittingly named Porthmadog train station. I wanted to take him home, but his owner showed up before I could.

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The afternoon in Snowdonia was what I looked forward to the most about this trip. I absolutely was not disappointed. This place looks the most like New Zealand as anywhere I have been since. A walk in the woods and a train ride later and I wanted to buy a thick sweater and never leave. Of course, it was like New Zealand, but at the same time was subtly different. It was enough to make my heart break a little. We took a steam train through the national park. Hills and valleys, wayward sheep, steam smelling wonderfully of gun power pouring through the windows every time we went into a tunnel, piles of slate rubbish, twirly trees, overcast skies, moss, and winding footpaths winding their ancient way through wales.

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The seven hour bus ride back to London was a brutal affair, but as you can see from the pictures above it was worthwhile. After arriving home I took time to relax at the International Student House bar while I wrote down snippets of the adventure weekend over a bottle of IPA. Two days to experience an entire country is simply not enough time. Especially when the country is as dark and mysterious and gorgeous as Wales. Still, for one weekend I escaped the city, ran across hills, saw stars, chased sheep, and met new wonderful people so I must express that it was a weekend well spent.

Love from London,

Carey

Tale of Two Biddies

Tale of Two Biddies

“And a beautiful world we live in, when it is possible, and when many other such things are possible, and not only possible, but done– done, see you!– under that sky there, every day.”

Charles Dickens

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It happened like this. Grammie “Wombat” Walker (my mom’s mom) decided that she wanted to go back to England. On hearing that my aunt would not be able to come along, as she did seven years ago on the first England trip, my grandmother and mom sat in kitchen of the camp on Kennebunk pond. Grammie Wombat picks up the phone and dials her best friend, Aunt Mary Maxwell, and asks if she would like to go…after a heartbeat she agrees, hanging up grammie looks at my mother and says, “Is it alright if Mary comes?” At that point what else is there do to but say yes?

That is how two 84 year old Mainers came to Paris and England for a trip no one involved is likely to ever forget.

My mom, dad, grandmother, and adoptive grandmother, boarded a plane on the 17th of September bound for Paris. The 12 day itinerary went like this: Paris for the a few days, Cotswold region of England for the weekend, London for a few days, and then back to the USA.

Of course, I was not there for the time in Paris. For me, the adventure didn’t begin until the 20th of September when the gang made it to England. But when we did meet up the stories I heard will certainly be told and retold on the deck this summer.

Here are some snapshots of my favorite ones:

After waiting in line my dad comes back and hands one train ticket to mom, grammie holds out her hand for hers and dad looks at his mother in law and says, “Well, I didn’t get one for you! You have to go and get your own, it’s part of the experience.” Of course when I was told this story Wombat interjects and tells me that she has had enough damn experience standing in lines and that father of mine is a piece of work and she doesn’t know how to speak French. So, for the experience, the two biddies stand in line and successfully ask for tickets, in French. After that any time that something was unpleasant during the trip it was labeled as ‘part of the experience’. Which made it okay.

Part of this experience was walking. Walking everywhere. I am certain that whenever grammie talks about London she will mention how “That Keith Matthews made me walk all over Paris, then all over London!” How that became my dad’s fault I am not sure.

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Breaking news: Two eighty four year old best friends visit Paris together and are extremely photogenic in front of the Eiffel tower.

I walked out of ARA Design at one o clock, the afternoon of the 20th and practically ran into my dad about to walk past my office, in search of my office. Laughing we hug and I ask, “So, where are the ladies?” Looking down the street, down the street, there they are, moving along fresh off of the train from Paris.

It is very strange to see my family here in London. Sometimes I forget that this place is not an entirely separate world.

After afternoon tea I went back to work and my family hopped into a rental car (scary thought) and took off to Chipping Camden, a charming English town in the picturesque Cotswold region.

This is where my adventure starts. I had been told that I can take a train from Paddington Station to a town called Moreton-in-Marsh, where my parents will then come to pick me up and bring me to Chipping Camden. So, fine, Hammersmith & City line from Kings Cross to Paddingon. Paddington is way bigger than I thought it was! But I found my way to an electronic ticket booth only to find out that Moreton-in-Marsh is not actually a destination option. So I find a ticket counter, wind my way through the long queue of travelers. Get my ticket and a lady who I am fairly certain is Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter, or is at least her long lost sister, looks at me and drawls “Your train leaves at 4:50.”

The time was 4:45. I look at her, look at my watch, look at her again and ask, “Will I be able to make that?”

Her response, “Not if you stand here much longer.”

So I take off.

Through the first turnstile: 4:47. None of the trains have labels and there are nine platforms spread out, with nine trains ready to depart. Frantic I ask a security guard on platform 2 where the train to Moreton-in-Marsh is: 4:48 he looks at his watch says “It’s number nine, you better hurry, I’ll open the safety gates for you.” 4:49: he waves me through as I start to run. I get to platform nine, open an already closed door of a full train on an empty platform and shut it behind me in time for the wheels to start to move. At 4:57 I start to breathe, then I stop again realizing that I am not actually sure this is the right train. But wheels are in motion, so there really is nothing I can do.

Because I was so late getting to the train there were no actual seats left, so I sat on the floor under the luggage rack and played chess on my tablet. Soon enough a seat opened up, and soon after that I arrived at Moreton-in-Marsh. It was getting late, and dark, and I waited at the platform. It looked like this:

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Moreton-in-Marsh station: perfect spot for a murder….After waiting in the dark for twenty minutes and many missed calls I finally got in touch with mom, who was still 30+ minutes away. The solution? Ask the cab driver where the closet pub is and then start walking.

The pub was called the Bell Inn. I walked in and everyone went silent and stared at me for a couple of seconds while I walked up to the bar. That moment marks the most uncomfortable I have been so far this entire semester. But a pint of IPA and engaging conversation with two local gents made me feel at home in no time.

Good quotes of the evening:

“I like a girl who orders a pint, we can be friends.”

“If you are stayin’ in Moreton-in-Marsh for a coupla days I have some advice. Tomorra morning’, go to the chemist. Pick up some Prozac.” To which his friend responded, “Richard! What the foock kind of advice is that?”

My mom walked through the door just as I was considering a second pint and swept me away with my family into the countryside.

Roads here are different. It seems that two lanes are highly optional, and road signs are not greatly valued. Roads here at night in a car with two old ladies, my mother, and my dad behind the wheel is terrifying. When we finally made it to the Bed and Breakfast in Chipping Camden I snapped this picture:

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I title it: a thorn between two roses.

Quote of the night (after driving down almost every road in Chipping Camden looking for the guesthouse): “Well, we’ve tried ever other road, maybe we should just go down the ONLY ONE left! It has to be right!” And you know what. It was right.

DAY ONE

The Malt house, in Chipping Camden, is a lovely guesthouse complete with full English breakfast and a small herd of sheep in the back pasture. What a delightful change of pace from life in London. Also, the cot I had on the floor of my parent’s room was more comfortable than my bed at the International Students House. Go figure.

Hanging out in the church yard, Chipping Camden

Hanging out in the church yard, Chipping Camden

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After breakfast I went out and said hello to the sheep. I like these creatures.

Chipping Camden is a beautiful town in a beautiful setting, but the real purpose of our visit here is this house:

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My great, great, great, great grandfather ________ lived in Chipping Camden and worked as a tin smith out of this house. The large tin kettle above the door is one that he made as a shop sign when he was alive. I stood there, and looked up at the kettle. It is strange to think that a relative of mine made his life here. Someone endured hardships, celebrated triumphs, and walked these streets in a time that is so different from the one I live in. The most amazing thing to me was the kettle itself. Being able to see a town so connected to my heritage was cool, but being able to see something that a relative shaped with his own hands was absolutely remarkable.

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Broadway Tower sits on top of a hill overlooking the countryside. A lonely rook on top of the world.

At Broaway Tower we had a surprise tour of an old nuclear observation bunker. Here we are going down. The inside was extremely small, stuffy, and really not terribly protected from the environment. The purpose of the bunker was, in the event of a nuclear attack, to track the fallout and take observations, reading, pictures, etc. 48 hour shifts in an insulated hole 20 feet deep in the earth is not something I would sign up for.

After the tour of the bunker Mom, Dad, Mary and I went up the tower.

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View from the tower

View from the tower

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Mom crawls into the nuclear bunker.

Mom crawls into the nuclear bunker.

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As per suggestion from the tour guide at Broadway tower we found this 12th century church sitting quietly by the side of the road in that unassuming way that old churches have. Bell roped hanging from the ceiling, worn steps, stolen chest, and sunlight through stained glass.

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Sudely Castle, known for its beautiful grounds, gardens, and for the tomb of Katherine Parr, Queen of England, Henry the 8th sixth and final wife. The castle was beautiful. Half restored, half left ruins, gardens, ponds, and paths between hedges. There was a wedding reception taking place that made Wombat very uncomfortable, but there was no way my mother was going to miss seeing the tomb of Katherine Parr so she hopped through a hedge and dad and I could do nothing but follow.

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I had a moment here sitting on a stone bench looking at the wonderfully warm light soften the surrounding hills. Afternoon fading into evening, golden wind through ancient trees.

Quotes from 9/20/2013

Wombat: “It was all over his face bales of hay.” (Grammie doesn’t take breaks between thoughts sometimes. This creates very bizarre sentences.)

Amy Matthews (aka YODA): “Private residence the gatehouse is.”

Amy Matthews: “Here’s where we die!…no, wait HERE’S where we die!” (Mom comments on dad’s driving.)

Dad (Sarcastically): “Sorry, I didn’t see that sign. I was focused on the one that said ‘single lane road with PULLOUTS.”

This is a two lane road.

This is a two lane road.

DAY TWO

I love my family so much, even though they are all batty.

We started day two at Blenheim Palace. Home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Blenheim palace is a World Heritage Site AND is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. We split up here. Mom, dad and I walked towards the bridge. I split off to go and sketch in the water gardens. After about an hour this is what I had:

(unpainted pictures)

Two of the four figures in the right hand courtyard are my father as I watched him wander around looking for me.  I was late for the meet up time. This worked out pretty well for me because dad and I got to wander, slowly, around the Winston Churchill exhibit.

Blenheim Palace:

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Tea and crumpets at Bourton-on-the-Water.

Tea and crumpets at Bourton-on-the-Water.

After afternoon tea was the Dragonfly Maze! This is a delightful hedge maze/rebus. I will not ruin the surprise ending, but it was really lovely.
http://www.thedragonflymaze.com/

Driving out of Bourton-on-the-Water we went past the elderly people sign. After complaining so much about being on these roads dad whips the car around and pulls up on the sidewalk on the side of a roundabout. I hopped out with the octogenarians and made them pose…

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DAY THREE

Trafalgar square at night

Trafalgar square at night

We went to see Billy Elliot, a musical adaptation of the 2000 film, at the Victoria Palace Theatre. It was a wonderful musical, made me cry, laugh, and all other good things.

We went to see Billy Elliot, a musical adaptation of the 2000 film, at the Victoria Palace Theatre. It was a wonderful musical, made me cry, laugh, and all other good things.

THINGS I MISSED WHILE AT CLASS AND/OR INTERNSHIP

Wombat and Mary, masters of the underground

Wombat and Mary, masters of the underground

Wombat and Mary, future horse guards

Wombat and Mary, future horse guards

Wombat and Mary, in the London Eye

Wombat and Mary, in the London Eye

Here we are out to dinner at a nice Indian place on Tottenham Court Road. Now, one thing about my grandmother: she does not like things that have flavor. Salt, pepper, and ketchup are the three spices that she uses. So going to an Indian restaurant was a real adventure for her. Thank goodness for Aunt Mary. The appetizer arrived, full of delicious traditional Indian flavors. Mary tries a piece of chicken tikka that Wombat was turning her nose up at, then plunks a piece down on her plate and says: “Ruth, eat it, you’ll like it.” Of course, the honey chicken turned out to be too spicy (it wasn’t spicy at all) but the peshwari naan was acceptable. Chocolate, and shot of amaretto was served with the check.

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The next day they went to Leeds Castle outside of London. I will have to go there someday soon, it looks beautiful!

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Dad and I got out picture taken at 221B Baker St.
“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.”
― Arthur Conan DoyleThe Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

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A day and a half later the group dropped me at the Elephant and Castle tube station on their way to the Heathrow airport. I rode the tube back home. At 7:00 on a Saturday the Bakerloo line is calm.

Having the matriarchs in London was: exciting, exhausting, joyful, adventurous, and above all, inspiring. Inspiring because when I am 84 I can only hope to be walking around foreign cities with my family. So, really, the tale of two biddies is a story of success over ‘experiences’, pain in the ass son-in-laws, foreign food, and crazy French drivers. It is also the tale of family. Family across generations, and now, across the globe.

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Grammie, Aunt Mary, Mom, and Dad. I love you all very much.

That is all.

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