Change Of Plans – Suggestions Anyone

For the last six or eight months, John and I have been planning a big trip in September. Having walked the 105 miles of the Tour du Mont Blanc almost two years ago, I have been looking forward to doing it again with him this fall to celebrate a big birthday I have coming up. To make it even more special, we’ve been planning on taking my sister Margaret with us on the long walk through the Swiss, French, and Italian Alps.

Things got a bit complicated when Margaret and I began to plan her travel arrangements so that the timing might work with the schedule for the TMB. Because she was coming from Alaska, most of the flight options had her traveling for a minimum of 19 hours (it was difficult to find these) or up to 38 hours with the exception of one airline which could get her here within about 10 hours with connecting flights, but only flew from Alaska one day a week.

After all three of us had put in too many hours at the computer with no real progress and loads of frustration, I offered up an alternative plan … one that seemed less like an endurance event (which the TMB really is) and something more restful and less time restrictive.

Instead of walking a path that looks like this … or sleeping in places like this, I suggested a totally different sort of trip to Margaret and she decided it sounded good to her as well.

Even with the change, she will still be here for most of the month of September and for the first time since we were twelve and fourteen, we will be able to celebrate each others birthdays in person. She’s a September birthday too and since John’s birthday falls between ours, we’re going to be eating a lot of cake that month. The big question is, where are we going to be when we are blowing out our birthday candles.

A few days after she gets here, we’ll head for London for a week of exploring. My 50th birthday will happen while we are there, so John will come up the day before and stay overnight in order to celebrate the milestone with me too. Now here’s where you come in, I’m looking for suggestions for things you think we should see and do during our week in London and I’d like to have a plan that includes something special for my birthday.

Having been there a few times, I do have some ideas, but I would love to see if you can surprise me with something I haven’t thought of yet. I’m not sure what is on Margaret’s list, (we just decided on the change recently) but I do know that I would like to photograph London from the top of the London Eye on my birthday.

I would also like for us to see a show or two in the West End, but I am not sure what might be enjoyable. I’ve seen several there in the past. I loved Billy Elliot when I saw it in 2005, and Miranda and I saw my all time favorite musical, Les Miserables when we were there in 2003. I’m not opposed to a more serious production either as I was thrilled to see Ralph Fiennes in Brand on the same trip with her when she was fifteen. If you’ve seen or heard about a production that you think is too fabulous to miss, please let me know so we can consider it for our list.

After our week in London, we’ll be a bit closer to home as we do up the southwest part of England for a week or two. Then we’re off by plane to the next place on our list. It’s one of my favorites and if you’ve reading me for long, you may have already seen some of my photographs from there. Can you guess where we will be by the images below?

A Gift for Abelard & Heloise

This is one I snapped on our honeymoon.

I can’t wait to show Margaret where I was standing when I captured this familiar Paris scene. The seventh picture holds a clue.

Margaret and I will be spending seven days in Paris on our own for a sister’s week. We have a lot already in mind to fill our days, but tell me what you’d want to see and do if you were joining us. I’m looking for things I may not have thought of yet.

Lastly, I could use suggestions from my Paris blog friends on short term holiday lets. I’d like to book a place soon and I have scoured the internet looking for a place that is not too pricey, works well for two, and is in a decent location. We don’t mind walking, (I’ll need it to offset my bread intake) and I have used the Metro before so we are fairly flexible. While I would prefer a studio apartment, if you have a hotel recommendation that is reasonable, I’d be open to having a look at that as well.

I’m so looking forward to spending this time with Margaret. We’ve not had a chance to travel together since we were children and I don’t think our memories of fighting over who had more room in the backseat of the car on road trips in the late sixties and early seventies is going to compare at all with the memories we’ll be making in September 2010.

Love In A Box

Margaret & Elizabeth - Christmas 1969

” To me, children’s literature is for escape. Children read to get away from all the bad things in life. “

~Wylly Folk St.John

I found the quote above in an interview clipped from a newspaper and tucked inside a book written by my Aunt Wylly. Finding it this morning was in a way like receiving a last gift box from her. If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you will know that my great aunt, Wylly Folk St. John was a writer who while writing a great many things on a variety of topics, was most well known for her work as a children’s book author. As my grandfather’s only sister, she always remembered us with gifts at Christmas and on birthdays with each one seeming as if she had picked it out especially with us in mind.

No gift box from Aunt Wylly was ever complete without a book and I always looked forward to seeing what kind of mystery was waiting for us. In addition to books, unusually wrapped gifts were stuffed into the scruffy brown boxes that always seemed too small to contain everything that came out of them. It was sort of like Mary Poppin’s handbag with more stuff coming out than could have possibly fit inside.

As I grew older, I learned she bought gifts all year round and kept them in what she liked to refer to as her, ” Christmas closet. ”  Once on a visit to her home in Social Circle, I saw her disappear behind an already closed door she had opened just enough to slip inside. After being gone for a few minutes, she returned carrying something that smelled like the packages that arrived twice a year.

Well into our adult years, Margaret and I would talk about the excitement we had felt as children when a box arrived with Aunt Wylly’s familiar handwriting on the shipping label. Both of us would always do the same thing as the box was opened taking a deep breath and breathing in the familiar scent that we associated with our aunt. There was something dependable and constant about the way her gifts smelled the same every time and even though we couldn’t identify it completely, we later realized it was the scent of her home and daily life.

This year as you may remember, I went back to what was Aunt Wylly’s cabin when she was alive. My cousins inherited it from their mother when she died suddenly last year and have made the tough decision to sell the cabin because it is no longer possible to keep it. While I was spending the day with them, I decided to share the story of the gift boxes, the Christmas closet, and the scent that was so special to me and Margaret.

Not too far into my story, two of my cousins said in unison that the Christmas closet was the whole bedroom (which explained the constantly closed door) and they said that the the long unidentified scent that smelled like Aunt Wylly’s house was … can you guess … it was mothballs.

So this year when I sent my Christmas package to my sister Margaret and her family in Alaska, I tucked a couple of mothballs into the shipping box overnight and then emptied it and left it open to air for a day or two. Then I wrapped up the gifts in the same way Aunt Wylly might have done with the kind of paper and string you see on discount in the value shoppers aisle. Just before I sealed it and shipped it, I took a little sniff and there it was again … Aunt Wylly’s house.

I said nothing to my sister and when it arrived, she opened the box and told me later that the first thing she thought of was Aunt Wylly as the familiar scent of one of our dearest childhood memories drifted up from my box of gifts.

At least twenty-five years after receiving the last gift box from Aunt Wylly, it made me smile to be able to share that again with Margaret and to know that the mystery has been solved.

Speaking of mysteries, Margaret is holding a copy of The Christmas Tree Mystery, a book written by our aunt and one in which the key characters are modeled after the two of us. Like all of her books, it’s filled with clues, but this one has a plot which has Elizabeth trying to right a wrong after jumping to conclusions and Margaret doing all she can to support her so that together they solve the mystery.

That’s supposed to be me on the cover with the light making my hair look blondish. My character has brown hair and eyes just as I do.

I always liked seeing the part about  ” … for the real Elizabeth and Margaret, ”  at the top on the dedication page.

This page always makes me smile too.

I include this page so you can see how little a 141 page hard back children’s book sold for in 1969. It seems as if you would have to sell a lot of books at $3.95 to make a good living doing it.