In early June, Roger and I headed for Europe, and as these things happen, Roger's 98-year-old father died while we were abroad. Eight days into our expected 12-day trip, we flew home from Prague rather than returning to England as we had planned. The trip--and hence this blog entry--are marked by absences, including the planned excursion to Bath and Chawton we didn't take, the hoped-for day at Monks House, Virginia Woolf's country home, that never materialized--and my father-in-law's death, representing perhaps the biggest absence of all. Because life doesn't rhyme, we were simultaneously saddened by the death and yet enjoyed our vacation.
|Me at one of the many outdoor spaces with views of Manhattan at the new Whitney. I already posted this photo to Facebook, but it was available, so I used it again. The Hudson is in the background.|
|A Street in Bury St. Edmunds near where we ate at Really Rather Good. The man with the book and the white hair blowing in the breeze is Clyde.|
We also saw the rebuilt St. Edmunds abbey church.
And learned about St. Edmund, who the heathen Danes shot full of arrows and killed for refusing to renounce Christianity.
|Whimsical modern painting of the death of St. Edmund.|
The next day, Jane and Clyde took us to the little byways near their home, including quintessentially English churches off tiny country roads and a manor house where Jane almost rented an apartment for her family.
|I can see the temptation to want to rent an apartment here.|
|Jane and Clyde by a disused church near Great Barton.|
We attended the historic Quaker meeting in Bury, where congregants offered many messages about death. Clyde also shared a recent near death experience, one actually very comforting as in it he met with his father before "returning" to life. All of this foreshadowed what was coming.
In London, we stayed at the George B&B (HT: Diana Birchall) in Cartwright Crescent in Bloomsbury. We often ate locally at the many little restaurants near the B&B: Indian, Italian, a British fish house.
In London, reports from home became more dire. While we cancelled plans, we still managed to see some sights.
|Roger, looking harried, on the phone with his brother in the States as we ate a late lunch overlooking the Thames near St. Paul's.|
|Me by the delphiniums in St. James Garden near Buckingham Palace.|
|I was much taken by a whimsical metal sofa at the British library, formed as an open book.|
|Roger on the book sofa. He loved being in the new British library.|
|Rare books imprisoned at the British Library. I know books need to be kept safe, but it seems a sad metaphor about our times: too often safety conflates with sharp restrictions.|
What most impressed me after a long hiatus from visiting the city (our most recent vacations to that part of the world have taken us to northern England and Ireland) was how it is prospering. I have never seen it so bursting with vitality and people. When we got to Prague, it seemed like a sleepy small town in comparison, so I looked up population stats. Prague has more than a million people, but London has 8.6 million, finally matching its 1939 high water mark. This seems significant to me, as if the city has finally bounced back from World War II and has again truly become an international center.
Although we received word of Roger's father's death while in London, we flew to Prague as scheduled, awaiting word on the funeral. When we heard the service was Saturday, we spent our first afternoon in Prague rearranging all our travel plans.
|Candle we lit in St. Paul's in memory of Roger's father.|
|Our Prague B&B: Ikea furniture|
Prague was a lovely city, though, as is usually the case, not entirely what I expected, more folkish than sleek. Roger and I spent an evening and a full, full day, dawn to almost midnight, sightseeing and cramming in what gift buying we were able to do.
|View of Prague from the old section|
Prague had a bustling tourist scene at St. Wencelas Square and much graffiti everywhere.
We returned home via Stockholm, which I discovered is due north of Prague. We reached our motel in York, Pa. by 3 a.m. and made it to the funeral on time, where we simultaneously mourned a death and remembered a long life well lived.