Sunday, September 2, 2018

England on the Horizon

Rochester Castle from across the Medway River, engraving, GF Sargent. c. 1836 (wikimedia)

"Travel means dreaming about what comes next" reads an ad for a high end hotel in Travel and Leisure magazine. That slogan captures perfectly what travel means to me. 
What comes next is a trip to England. I'm going with friend Linda in early September to visit friends James and Edward who live in Rochester, Kent, UK, an hour southeast of London, and to explore the beautiful countryside around it.  

Restoration House,  Dicken's home for
Mrs. Haversham, Rochester, Kent.
Besides being the name of the city in western upstate New York where I grew up,  Rochester, UK, is Charles Dickens country. It's  where Dickens' life started and ended. It is the natural and built environment for many of his novels, including Great Expectations.  Mrs. Haversham's house, Restoration House, is right down the road, James tells me.  James has also enticed me with  photos of his visits to a grand castle and an ancient Cathedral (built in 604 AD), as well as many more wonderful historic structures.  He says Rochester also has a lovely Main Street full of shops and cafes. So much to look forward to. Rochester, UK, is calling.

One of James' stunning
 hybrid lillies. Amazing, isn't it?
I met James online through a network of  close friends and artists in Washington, DC, where I lived for over 15 years. James was born in Maryland, just outside of DC, lived in DC for many years before moving to South Carolina and then the UK, and he is friends with DC artist and cultural activist Peter Stebbins, who lovingly cared for my friend Lily Pilgrim in her dying days. Peter and Lily were both partners of fantastic African-American artists and they joined together, kindred spirits, to preserve their legacies. The art is spectacular.

James has been living in Rochester, Kent, for almost 10 years.  He is a master gardener. His photos of his hybrid lillies, as well as his peonies, roses and stunning gardens, have enticed me across the pond to see them for myself.  Edward is a great photographer as well. There's nothing quite like strolling the gardens of the world, taking in the sights, scents and varieties, and then transplanting them in our own gardens at home, along with the sweet memories.  James and Edward are masters.

London tube map. I love these maps.
Luckily, my friend Linda Furney, former teacher, local and state government representative, and retired Ohio State Senator, likes to travel too. I hadn't seen Linda since I left Toledo in 1985, but we reconnected recently and learned we both love to travel. "Let's plan a trip," we said almost simultaneously over lunch with another dear friend, retired attorney Doris Wohl.  These reunions with old friends since returning to the Toledo area in 2011 have been wonderful. And of course one thing leads to another.

We'll explore the Rochester area, then spend several days in London. I want to see a Frida Kahlo costume collection at the Albert and Victoria Museum, and Linda wants to see "Hamilton," the play, at a London theatre to celebrate her birthday.  We're doing both, and more.  She loves afternoon "tea," so we'll have tea on her birthday at a place she chooses.  England here we come.

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