darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
The only real downside of non-car-ownership (for me) is that one's orbit contracts significantly: every now and then an urge to get out of the city strikes, and it's not easy to satisfy.

So when my good pal [personal profile] roseambr invited me to go with her to Montana at the end of September, I said yes, yes, and yes-indeedy. She's taking a four-day art glass course in the small and apparently picturesque town of Hamilton, and I'm going to go along and treat it as a writing retreat.

Since our lodging is seven miles outside of the town itself, and since I've actually let my driver's license lapse (whoops) and so can't use [personal profile] roseambr's car during the day, I'm going to rent a Brompton to take along. Hamilton being a ski-resort-y kind of place with at least one bike shop of its own, I'm hoping that a gray haired lady on a folding bike won't raise too many eyebrows.

Hamilton is a nine-hour drive from Portland, and from what I hear, late September is an excellent time to visit: pre-snow, post-summer-heat. I'm more of a Left Coaster than an American West-er, so the farthest I've ever been into the interior is western Idaho; Montana is a vast, Big Sky mystery to me.

Should be fun.
darkemeralds: (catastrophe)
One of the brightest highlights of all my travels over the years was visiting Glasgow three years ago as the guest of [personal profile] kis and Mr Kis. And the highlight of that highlight was the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building on Renfrew Street that houses the Glasgow School of Art.

Facade of the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Building, Renfrew Street Glasgow, UK

Kis and I walked there from a little lower down in the town. Glasgow celebrates its status as a cradle of Art Nouveau and the home of Mackintosh in all kinds of ways, but that building, which Mackintosh and his wife designed and built specifically to be an art school, and which has been an art school since it opened its doors in 1909, is the crown jewel. Climbing to it is entirely appropriate.

From basement to rooftop, the Mackintoshes designed everything in the building. Clocks, locks, beams, benches, the very room numbers on the doors...everything. The elegant curves and straight lines, the just-so ornamentation, the restrained exuberance of Art Nouveau are everywhere.

I don't know why it struck me so--maybe because it's urban, and technical, and seems to have arisen out of the industrial heart of a wonderful, harsh, challenging northern city--but it did. It grabbed me and took hold of my imagination, and I immediately started a novel set in Glasgow in the period. Its opening scene was set in the School of Art.

Today the building caught fire. The damage is described as extensive.

I feel heartbroken.


Oct. 5th, 2011 01:47 pm
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (true colors)
The center of my recent trip to the United Kingdom turned out to be the four days I spent at Ashwhin Retreat on Shapinsay.

I had no particular agenda for such a retreat; I just felt drawn to it in a profligate, "what the hell" kind of way made possible only by a windfall (in this case, the sale of my car).

Ashwhin on Shapinsay )
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
Technology--the high kind, anyway--never works quite as one hopes, and this becomes really evident during travel. The power adapter turns out to be incompatible with the charger for the bluetooth earphone that you were hoping would communicate walking directions in London discreetly to your ear from Google Maps, which in any case fails after half a day of tramping around because the battery in the mobile device is sucked dry by the GPS connection.

Strangely enough, it's still worth doing, this travel thing. There is, I can now say from experience, a huge difference between choosing an address for a fictional character by staring long and hard at Google Maps, and actually walking up to the door of that address and hearing the heavy traffic in the next street.

Knowing that it's a mile and a half from that address to the one occupied by another character is nothing like walking that mile and a half and feeling the shift from respectable to resplendent, and the pleasant relief of turning from a busy thoroughfare into the quiet side street. "Your destination is on the right," says the navigation voice. "And two hundred years in the past," I think.

The past, of course, shows through--shines through--everywhere in London.

Three key places in Restraint. )


Aug. 23rd, 2011 12:23 am
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I have sooooo many things to say about the pleasures and delights of my UK visit so far, and soooo little leisure in which to say them. [personal profile] ravurian is more fabulous than I'd even dared to hope, [personal profile] ruric is the soul of generosity, and [personal profile] altariel today handed me Cambridge: The Insider's Tour complete with some of the best conversation I have ever enjoyed.

Each day so far has been packed with goodness: miles of walking, theatre, sights, museums, pubs and boats and churches and caf├ęs and parks and birds and languages and people from all over the world. And books and whisky and ice cream and trains, and oh, I just love it here so much!

So since I've walked my feet off, and it's late and the jet lag isn't quite gone yet, and I have another full day tomorrow (and the next day...and the one after that), I wish to leave you with this selected shot of the beauties of Cambridge, taken from a punt on the Cam this afternoon.

You're welcome. )
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I practice-packed my suitcase last night and carried it up the street to my sister's house to find out how heavy it really is.

Pretty heavy.

A three week trip divided between London, Glasgow, the English countryside, and a windswept island not all that far south of the Arctic Circle--and involving trains, ferries, and planes both large and puddle-jumper--presents some packing challenges, and I just can't figure out how to do it with an overnight bag.

So, much though I wanted to prove my one-bag travel mettle and be all breeze-in and breeze-out, it seems I'll have to check a suitcase, and wait for it at baggage claim--several times.

On the plus side, it will be kind of nice not to have the contents of my suitcase scrutinized in a crowded security line, banging against my shins as I shuffle up and down the packed aisles of airliners, and weighing me down through the miles of airport that invariably separate where you land from where you get ground transportation.

Anyway, it's only three days till I leave on the first real trip I've taken in five years, and mostly all I care about is that my passport and debit card are in working order. Which (*checks*) they are.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (clothes)
Busy in the shallow end.


Not-all-that-bloggable things which have been occupying my mind and time lately include
  • Doing my nails1
  • Trying on clothes2
  • Playing with my tablet3
  • Working out at the gym4
  • Trying new skincare products5
  • Fiddling around with Google+6
  • 750 Words7
  • Trip planning8

So while I turn into a member of some Band of Really Girly Sisters (an unanticipated morph that I lay entirely at the door of my oldest friend G, who has always been a beauty queen and my good grooming guru), I'm afraid that all substance has vacated my mind, my life, and my journal.

I might be back later. With a really nice manicure.

1With the CND Shellac system. "Zero dry time, lasts two weeks, easy off", so they say. When your nails get as old as the rest of you, a little help is in order.
2I just need a few things for my trip...
3The G-Slate from T-Mobile.
4Rebecca, my trainer, is a hardass. I think I'm doing great and she makes me do more.
5Including a sort of torture device that pokes microscopic holes in the epidermis so that the magic elixirs can penetrate to a deeper layer. It's What Technology Wants. Really.
6I agree with this assessment.
7Highly recommended writing goad tool
8 Only six weeks away! Eee!
darkemeralds: A falcon taking flight from a falconer's arm (Flight)
Eee! My trip to the UK is drawing nearer and I'm starting to be seriously excited, I think because today is the first quiet, restful day I've had in weeks to think about it.

I'll be in London from August 19th to about the 24th. I've got a hotel room reserved in Bayswater (trying hard to disregard the sticker shock--I'm sure it will be very comfortable!), and from that home base, I'm going to meet wonderful people--[personal profile] ravurian, and [personal profile] ruric (we might get to see War Horse!); [personal profile] altariel, and [personal profile] lamentables--and I hope [livejournal.com profile] happytune and [livejournal.com profile] communicator--and possibly even [personal profile] tehomet, who might be in England from Ireland at that time.

Then I'm going here! For a five-day retreat! I think "windswept Scottish island" pretty well covers it. I plan to bring knitting and writing. There will be reiki. And meditation. And walks.

And after that? Naturally, I'm going to visit [personal profile] kis, who is one of my best friends in the world, and we're going to explore Glasgow, a city I've never visited. I might take a train back to London, because I love trains and we don't have good ones here.

There are quite a few details still un-fleshed-out, and one or two reservations not yet made, but it's on. It's on! Whee!
darkemeralds: (DarkEm Sterling)

takes pleasure in announcing that she will be in
from the Twentieth to the Twenty-Fifth of August, Two Thousand Eleven

I'm not sure where I'll be staying yet, but it will be as central as I can manage. I would love to plan meet-ups with any of my UK friends who would be up for a meal, a cocktail, a pot of tea, a walk, a ride on the London Eye (okay, maybe not that in August), a museum, a play, a jaunt in a park, or a day trip to points north, east or west. (I expect to head south--to the Hastings area--for a couple of days beginning on the 26th).

I'll be in Glasgow from approximately the 29th of August to the 6th of September, visiting the [personal profile] kis family. Whether I fly there or take the train is still up for grabs.

There are some loose days lying around in my schedule, and I'm open to ideas, suggestions, and--particularly--meeting friends. Let me know if you're available!


Mar. 29th, 2011 12:49 pm
darkemeralds: Manga-style avatar of DarkEm with caption Hee (cartoony me)
I just got my vacation request approved. Whoo hoo! UK in August, here I come.

Specific planning commences as soon as I see my tax refund. Confession: I've already started practice packing. Shut up. I'm not a total retent. I'm just...detail-oriented.

I'm aiming to fly on August 18, sleep on the 19th, and do London the 20th-25th or so.

There, I shall spend time with [personal profile] ravurian, [personal profile] ruric, and several other lovely folks who have expressed interest in a London meetup. Part of the plan is to take a day trip to Cambridge to a) see Cambridge a little and b) meet [livejournal.com profile] altariel.

Then south to friends in Sussex (who haven't heard this news yet--I should probably inform them, huh?), and finally to Scotland and chez [personal profile] kis, where there will be walking and dining and coastlines and a cottage and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

darkemeralds: Dame Judi Dench looking appalled (Judi Dench)
*biting nails*

I just requested vacation time* for my proposed trip to the UK. Waiting nervously now for my boss to do his usual waffling, "gee, I don't know if we can really commit to letting you be gone for three weeks" song and dance. I always suspect that he's waiting to see if a more legitimate person** in the office has a more legitimate need*** for vacation at the time I'm requesting.

Everyone think good thoughts, 'kay?

*August 18 through September 6
**Which is to say male and/or married
***Involving children
darkemeralds: Heart-shaped raindrop on the lens, captioned with "Raining in my heart" (Rain)
The prospect around here:

The silver lining: it looks as if I'll be visiting the UK in late summer!

I did my taxes yesterday, was pleasantly surprised by the result, and an am now plotting to spend several days in London and points south, and then a lovely visit to [personal profile] kis in Scotland.

I hope I can figure out how to meet with several of my online UK friends whom I've not met in person. If you're among that number and might conceivably be in or able to get to London during (probably) the last week of August or thereabouts, let me know.

Whee! Screw this rain. I have travel plans!


Jan. 7th, 2010 02:52 pm
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I risk talking out of class but I can't stand the excitement. So I'm disclosing here that one of my bestest fandom friends in the whole wide world, who lives a very long ways away, is COMING TO VISIT ME IN SEPTEMBER.

She and her husband are making a trans-oceanic trip to see some American stuff, including my fair city, some of its environs (and moi), and we are going to have a blast!

*runs off planning madly*
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Behold, the souvenir shoes of conversation initiation. )

I'm home. The rain started as soon as the train hit the Willamette Valley near Eugene. I was out of sorts by the time we got in, because, when all's said and done, 29 hours is a long time to ride a train.

I'd go again, though. As a mode of transportation, I think this train idea has a real future.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
One of my vivid mental images of Santa Barbara from when I lived here is of the tiles. The place is covered in Moorish-style tiles. And bougainvillea.

Pictures. )

Santa Barbara has the Queen of the Missions. Bigger than other Spanish missions along the Camino Real, it's also in better condition. The fact that it's situated on some of the best real estate in the world probably doesn't hurt either.

I never visited the mission when I lived here. My brother, who's lived here for thirty years, confessed (ha-ha-ha) to having never been inside it either. Tourist attractions, huh? You gotta be a tourist to see them.

There's an odd feeling to the place, peaceful with an underlayer of violence.

Contrasting sensations. )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Think of the Hallelujah Chorus, but instead of singing "Hallelujah!" sing "Santa Barbara!" Or you could sing, "The rain may never fall till after sundown..." and that would cover it too.

We arrived to a perfect 75-degree afternoon. Gentle breeze, palms swaying therein, smell of ocean, little dolphin fountain at our hotel. Beds! Real ones, many inches across. We're so tired we're crosseyed.

My brother, who lives here, came and took us for Thai food (Food! Real food, made in a kitchen from scratch) and drove us around the old neighborhood, which I haven't seen since I escaped from here in 1974. So, kind of a long time.

I was expecting to feel something upon seeing the house we lived in, but to my surprise, what tweaked the memory-flood was the parking lot attendant at the train station. I remembered, all at once, that I worked in one of those municipal parking lots here when I was 18 or 19. All of a sudden, I was back there. I could see my coworkers, see the sparkles that a crystal bracelet I used to wear cast on the inside of the booth on a sunny day. I could hear the music that played ("This Masquerade" by George Benson was the song that summer).

Not really a lot of memories here, and it's been long enough that I can appreciate the town's attractions without any of my high-school resentments.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
High in the Siskiyous as night falls, evergreen forest rising high up steep hills that block the fading sky on either side, thick, wild, untouched. My ears pop when I yawn.

[livejournal.com profile] roseambr, in a red sweater, is reading by a bright little lamp set into the seat back behind her. My computer is plugged in behind me. Our little compartment--just room enough for us to put our feet up on the edge of each other's seat--is like two facing armchairs in a glass-sided box, rolling and swaying quietly up into the mountains.

We shared a dinner table with a brother and sister heading home to San Bernardino County. They had steaks, I had salmon, [livejournal.com profile] roseambr had lasagna. Nobody had the game hen.

Dinner was pretty much cooked freight. Good company, though. Striking up dinner conversation with strangers on a train is pretty easy--you can spend an hour just agreeing that train travel is better than air travel, and we did.

We just came through a tunnel into a high vista at the top of the pass. Pitch-black trees against a dark-gray sky, and not a light out there anywhere. Not a highway, not a power line, not a billboard, not a road sign, not a headlight.

It was incredibly peaceful, and then Andrew our Sleeper Car Attendant came over the PA system:

"I have some not very good news. Low vacuum due to our high altitude has made it so that the toilets in car 1130 won't flush. Passengers in car 1130 will have to use the toilets in one of the other cars until we get down out of the mountains, around 1:00 in the morning."

Did I mention that [livejournal.com profile] roseambr and I are in car 1130?

*caps water bottle*
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
On the Coast Starlight, about 25 miles south of Portland, rolling along, sample train dialog:

Sleeping Car Attendant [note: he is actually awake...]: Would you like to make dinner reservations?

Me: Sure! What's for dinner?

SCA: Well, tonight we have steak, salmon, or vegetable lasagna. Oh, and gay men.

Me: ...

[livejournal.com profile] roseambr: Could we have six o'clock?

SCA: I have two slots left at that time. *makes a note and leaves.*

[livejournal.com profile] roseambr: Game hen. That sounds good.

Me: Ha ha ha ha! Game hen.

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