Tuesday, March 8, 2011



Paris started out a bit rocky.     In leaving London that morning (Friday, March 4), walking to the tube stop with luggage was a challenge.   People do not look up when they are walking, nor consider that people might be walking the opposite direction (with luggage towards a national rail station)    and NO tube stop is without stairs, even the ones that are “accessible” have stairs to get in or out.   Crazy.   So, that didn’t start out well.  I knew dragging luggage with me to a tube stop to get to St. Pancras would be like that.

I took the Eurostar train from London St. Pancras to Paris –Gare du Nord.  The train ride was fine, and it was a beautiful sunny day!

I got to Paris.  Gare du Nord (station) is huge!  I emerged outside and suddenly realized that I didn’t speak the language. (I knew this, but…)  I have a few French words, but not many.   There were people outside the train station just waiting for tourists who looked lost and who wanted to sell you something, material or just b.ss (and of course THEY speak English).    I was really put off by that, and the creep factor was in high form.  There were tons of creepy looking characters (I was told by someone else later that “the creepy look is in”)

I then got lost finding my hotel, it really wasn’t that hard, but there are two hotels with the same name in the same vicinity.  Someone directed me to the wrong one!

By the time I reached the hotel, I was really frustrated and a bit freaked out.  I don’t freak out easily, I travel in cities by myself well.    I didn’t feel safe (turns out it was fine) Once I got into my hotel room, travel weary from the whole journey, I just wanted to get the next train back to London.  London, I understand AND, they speak English.    I was really quite upset and wondered why I thought it was a good idea to travel BY MYSELF to a city where I don’t speak the language.   I stayed in that night and got a good nights sleep.

Saturday, after many supportive facebook comments and suggestions, (so thankful for friends, and facebook!)  I decided I would figure it out.   I could certainly handle the Metro (I can handle the Underground/Tube, the NY subway, the L, the T, the BART, I must be able to handle the Metro too)  

So, I took the Metro down and even successfully transferred train lines.   I went to the Musee D’Orsay, which everyone has recommended highly above the Louvre.  I understand why.  They have a huge collection of the French Impressionist painters, one of my favorite eras of Art!    I got to see Degas, Renoir, Monet, Manet, Matisse, Cezanne, Gauguin,. etc. (and got to see Whistler’s Mother!)

It was a bit crowded, but I enjoyed it.  I also had lunch there in an amazing room with paintings on the ceiling.    I had purchased a museum pass before I arrived. That was definitely worth it!  I avoided the queues (lines) and got in right away.  That probably saved at least 40 minutes!

I then walked down the Seine on a sunny, but hazy day.  I took lots of pictures.   I walked to the Eiffel Tower and took many pictures there.  The queues were very long (Saturday, of course) so I opted not to go up on a hazy day and hoped to go back sometime later in the weekend.   I had hot chocolate in a local café and had a lovely day.

At dinner, a lovely French couple seated near me tried to have a conversation with me.   They really tried and I just didn’t understand.    They were very sweet!   They even made sure to use the 6 or so English words they knew.  As I left, I made sure to say “bonsoir” and they said “Good night” (they were pleased they knew that word)  So, in my experience, some of the Parisians are friendlier than the Dubliners!

Sunday was great!    I went to the American Cathedral in Paris for church.    It was nice to attend an Episcopal service and have actual music, not just lyrics to the hymns!    I met with their Journey to Adulthood leader and the Rite 13 leaders, and got to meet the 13  year olds.   I love that age (one of few who do) but they were great, and several of them chatted with me for a while.  They loved that I was from Chicago!

I then walked along and had  lunch on the Champs Elysees, then walked the Jardin des Tuleries. It’s a huge public park with two ponds with fountain, statues, outdoor cafés.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  It was fantastic. (there are lots of pictures)  I walked then to the Louvre, took many pictures outside.  I opted not to go in the Louvre, but went to the Musee L’Orangerie instead. (good choice!) (museum pass made all the difference again) They have more French impressionists, with two full rooms of murals of Monet’s Water Lillies.  They are circular rooms and are amazing.  I spent a lot of time in there taking it all in!

I then decided to stay out and watch the sun set over the Eiffel Tower.  I didn’t go right to the tower, but got a good view from a bridge on the Seine.    It was great. (got amazing pictures!)   (it was very cold outside, so I about froze my fingers off doing it, but worth it)  I got to see the lighting of the tower at dusk too.    It was very cool.      I was exhausted by the end of that very full day. (and had stood for an hour or more watching the sun shrink lower and lower and waiting for the lighting of the monuments!  My feet hurt, but it was worth it!

Monday, we won’t get into.   I should have gone to the Eiffel tower first thing and waited.   Instead, I went to Sainte Chapelle, which everyone recommended.  I waited in line over an hour, only to be told as I got to the entrance, that they were closing for a couple of hours, go away and come back later.  (I had to catch a train back, could not come back later)  I was furious.  I ended up wasting my last morning in Paris.   (so much more to do!)

The train ride back to London was uneventful.  There was a group of young people in their late teens (students) with a chaperone.  I enjoyed being seated near them, and even learned a new game.    Only I would enjoy being seated near an energetic group of young people!

Thoughts on people.
I had also read the guidebooks about Paris (I’ve got to learn to take the comments about the people with a grain of salt)  I was expecting Parisians to automatically hate me as an American and I was expecting rudeness.   That was not the case.    People tried really hard to help me and to use English words when they could.   I used as much French as I could (but I only have words, not many sentences)   

As to the guidebooks, I had my expectations too high in Dublin and too low in Paris.  I have to just remember that people are people wherever you are.  If you are polite, you can expect the same, if you are rude, you may also expect that.   If you are nice and try, it makes a difference!

And back in London…
Today (3-8-11), doing laundry at the Soltis, for which I am grateful!

Ireland and Cambridge 3-8-11

Blog – Ireland and Cambridge 3-8-11

Well, I haven’t been posting as much as I had planned.  Between just being out doing things, returning exhausted, and having to track things at home, like finding a new location for camp, there just hasn’t been as much time.


Ireland – Cork & surrounding areas
Ireland was beautiful.   Arriving in late February, everything was already green, greener that I usually see at any time at home.    I enjoyed a 3 hour train ride from Dublin to Cork on a sunny afternoon, saw Irish sheep and cattle.  

I enjoyed Cork.   It’s a cool town/city.    I stayed at a fabulous B & B (Fernroyd House if you all are ever there, I highly recommend it!)  The owners, Tony and Avril, love what they are doing and were great to talk to, especially as I was traveling alone.

I got to visit the Blarney Castle, which I loved.   It was a bit rainy that day, but I went anyway (its Ireland, right?)   The steps up to the top (where the Blarney Stone is located) were a bit wet and slippery, but I was up for the adventure.   I met a group of Australians who were on tour, and they were lovely to talk to.

I then went on to further explore the grounds.  The Rock close was amazing!   Cool moss covered rocks, along a little creek, complete with water falls!   There was a set of stairs called “the Wishing steps”   That was pretty cool.  

As I was almost leaving, I met a group of Americans from New York (young 20 somethings)  who befriended me.   One of them had the same Nikon camera I had, so we talked a bit.    I recommended seeing the Rock Close.       I left, had lunch in Blarney and went to the Woollen Mills (was very tempted to buy something, good things)    When I was waiting for the bus back to Cork, I bumped into the same New York women again and we had a great conversation on the way back.     Two days later in Dublin, I bumped into one of the women again.  She saw me first.   I love it when you actually see the same people in several places.

Though I often find Americans to be the obnoxious tourists we are known for, when in Ireland and Paris, I really enjoyed talking with Americans – because they would talk to me.

I was able to go to Kinsale, Ireland on a beautiful day and walk around this coastal town.  It was beautiful (see pictures)

I had hoped to go to Cobh (pronounced Cove), the last port of call for the Titanic, but ended up without enough time (I should have stayed one more day in Cork)


Dublin was not as friendly as all of the guidebooks promised it to be!    I should have known it would be like any other city (Chicago, London, New York)  people just aren’t as friendly in a city.   I’m used to it, but I wish that I had not had my expectations up that people would start conversations with me in restaurants or pubs.  So, that part was disappointing.

I travel alone well, most of the time.  I am used to traveling alone.  This was a long stretch though, without connecting with friends.  When in London, almost that entire experience was with friends for at least part of each day.   I am an extravert and being around people is what feeds me most. 

I have to say that I am grateful for facebook, email, skype, and a UK phone that actually works while I am away.  It has been good to stay connected that way!

I did enjoy the city, and walked a lot.   I went to see the Book of Kells, which was cool!   I walked all the way to Guinness, a must see while in Dublin.   

I also booked a half day trip to see Malahide, Malahide Castle and the North coast of Dublin.  That was nice, and the weather was spectacular that day!

I wish I had planned my time better to have been able to take a day trip to Glendalough and Wicklowe.  It is supposed to be beautiful.  If I ever go back, I definitely want to plan that.

Church of Ireland – Anglican

Probably one of the most productive parts of my trip to Ireland was the meeting I had with Greg Fromholz, the Director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Dublin.    The program they run is called 3 Rock.    We connected well, shared lots of ideas and resources, we are doing similar things.   They are way ahead of us in some areas, and we are way ahead of them in some areas, so we are going to share as much as we can in terms of resources and ideas.    Greg has a great energy and you can see he loves his job, and when you get me talking, you can easily see that I too, love my job!    It was a very energizing meeting!

We also met with the other program staff for Youth Ministry – Susie Keane.   She’s very cool as well.

First we met with Rob Jones, the Vicar of a new, unnamed church start.    This is one starting organically, not necessarily intentionally planted by the Diocese of Dublin/Glendalough, but one the diocese is fully supports.   

They want to keep the best of the tradition (without throwing it all out) and look to the Fresh Expressions/Emergent folks for ideas as well.  There is something good about our traditional liturgy.   They are putting this all together, and involving those who join them.   They said “there are no passengers”  only people who are willing to make this work – together!  I won’t go into more detail, but if you want to know more, ask me!   

I really enjoyed meeting with everyone in Dublin.  I came away with lots of new ideas, and really energized from meeting all three of them!   (Bishop Jeff Lee – they want to meet you!)

I have the feeling we will find a way to continue to do some work together!  It was really exciting!


I had two days in Cambridge with theologian, musician, Emergent Church leader, Cambridge chaplain to Robinson College, Maggi Dawn.    It was a great experience and I learned a lot about Emergent Church and Fresh Expressions.  I also got to meet her 13 year old son, who is very cool!

I got the grand tour of Cambridge and got to see many of the colleges (Cambridge is divided up into 31 “colleges”  that house and teach students:  Kings College, Queens College, Jesus College, Trinity, Christ, Darwin,  Magdelene, Robinson…

I also got to attend Evensong at King’s College, Cambridge and hear the men's choir sing.  That was pretty cool, what an amazing space.   That chapel is larger than most of our cathedrals, and has quite a history!   Maggi was the chaplain there at one time.

I got a lot of information on the long term history of Emergent Church, where that Emergent group is currently (in the “what next” stage),  Information on training “pioneer leaders” IN the Anglican tradition and how to work with them.   It was good!   Thanks Maggi!

Stay tuned for the Paris blog...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Another multi-day post, London - music, Stanford le Hope and on to Ireland

Blog 2-21-11

More adventures from several days…

Thursday, February 17

I attended a Eucharist at St. Mary le Strand, where Jim Rosenthal was presiding.    Then we got to go to lunch and catch up.   Jim is a Chicagoan who went to work for the Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury some years ago.  He knows everyone.    It was fun to catch up.


I found out Thursday morning that Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, who I have mentioned was staying with at Chez Solti as well, was performing with the Philharmonia Orchestra that evening (concert pianist).    They did not have comped tickets, but he invited me to come.    I purchased a ticket that morning.

So, I was heading out that evening ,towards the tube stop, and let everyone know where I was going.   Lady Solti suggested I wait and go with the Bavouzets who were about to leave by taxi (as Jean-Efflam was performing in the 2nd half)  

So, I rode in the taxi with Jean-Efflam and his wife Andrea.   They were going to try to arrange to get me a ticket with Andrea and Lady Solti (I bought one that was somewhere else)   So, I got to enter through the performer’s entrance at Royal Festival Hall and go backstage.   

I ended up seated with Andrea and Lady Solti for the performance.    The seats were a great view of the piano.

Carl Maria Von Weber: Overture, Oberon
Robert Schumann: Symphony No.3 in E flat (Rhenish), Op.97
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.5 (Emperor)
Christoph von Dohnányi conductor (who, by the way is 82 years old)
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet piano
Jean-Efflam was astounding.   It was a great performance.

He is playing in Chicago, April 13, 2011 with the Orchestre National de France at Symphony Center.
I highly recommend seeing him!

I also was invited to go out with them afterwards.     That was great, I got to meet all kinds of people, including a record exec from Decca (Georg Solti and Chicago Symphony all have recorded under that label, though CSO now has their own – CSO Resound), I met a guy from Chandos records – the label Jean-Efflam records under.   There were a variety of others – local pianists from London, other Bavouzet entourage.  

The restaurant had a piano not far from where we were sitting. At the end of the evening, one of the pianists got up and started to play, joined by Jean-Efflam, then a 3rd, and then a 4th.  It was fantastic and the whole restaurant applauded at the end. (just total jam session with 4 pianists on one piano!)

Jean-Efflam is one of the most gracious people I have met.   He was so nice to fans who stopped him on the way out.   A class act all the way around.  I got to hear more about his favorite conductors to work with, just his thoughts on the performance etc.     It was cool.  He was so kind and gracious to me, and I’m certainly no big wig in the music world.  

I am so familiar with the world of classical music having grown up surrounded by it with my father’s music.   It was great to be surrounded for a brief time again!   (I surround myself as much as I can with CSO etc)  and this was the 4th Thursday in a row that I heard an Orchestra Concert (3 in a row in Chicago) and then London!


I had a wonderful weekend with the Hirst clan in Stanford le Hope (in Essex)!  I took the train from London.

Danny Hirst worked for our camp in 1998 (our very first year at Camp Algonquin).  We have kept up a friendship ever since.     Many of us have been to visit him and his mum, Maureen, a lovely woman, who considers many of us her other children (especially Jamian Knuth, who is son #3)

We just spent most of our time catching up (and eating!)  I got to see Danny’s brother Matthew, meet his wife Vicki , their 5 year old Caitlin (who is quite the dancer, she entertained us!) and their 15 year old teenage foster daughter, Courtney – who is just lovely.  Yes, of course I hit it off with the teenager, it’s what’ I do!

A weekend wasn’t quite enough time, but I hope to catch up with them on my 2nd trip through London this sabbatical!

Danny was fully informed of all of the camp news, and waited with me while I was awaiting word from Camp after the Friday meeting with the Conservation District.  He was also with me when I got the news.   It was good to be with a camp person when the news that arrived was not very pleasant!

Of course, some of my weekend was absorbed with dealing with the Camp Algonquin news, and getting a statement sent out before people heard any other way.  I felt (as did everyone else) that it was important that the news come from me directly, so that they knew it was getting immediate attention and that I support the efforts of the people working on solutions at home.

See our news release.

Our appeal to the McHenry County Conservation District did not work.    They are not willing to continue to run Camp Algonquin.

Lynda Fauser is still hopeful, but we are looking for a place to hold camp.   We WILL have camp in 2011, we just don’t know where.      I just don’t feel like we’re done with Camp Algonquin, or that I’m done with Camp Algonquin.  It holds a very special place in my heart!  

I was showing Danny and Maureen pictures of Camp that I have taken recently (in the fall, of the river, in the spring etc)  and it is an amazing place in so many ways!

We ask your prayers:
That we find a place to hold camp in 2011 and beyond
For all of the other groups displaced by this news
For the Camp Algonquin staff who have been so good to us and have worked to keep the place going.
For the off chance that there might still be a miracle and Camp Algonquin might still continue to operate!

February 21, 2011

I flew from London to Dublin today (of course the flight was delayed for an hour for really no reason, they just told us to sit, air traffic back up)    I got to Dublin almost an hour late.   I caught a bus from the airport to the train station (easy)   and took the train from Dublin to Cork (about an hour 42 minutes)

It was a lovely ride.   The Irish countryside is beautiful!   It’s very green here.   I saw hills that looked like small mountains, lots of sheep (Irish sheep), cows and horses.    The sun was out, the rolling hills were green.  It was beautiful.  I wish I could have stopped to take pictures.   It was beautiful!

I arrived in Cork just before 6 pm.    I got to the B & B (Fernroyd House – where Clare Nolan and Ted Long stayed when they visited Charlotte last semester when she was studying here)   It is lovely.   The room is beautiful (en suite)  They have been very helpful as to where to go to eat, things to do, suggestions, and just making sure I was settled and had what I needed!   I feel very at home.

I am planning to go to Blarney tomorrow morning (to the Castle) and probably will be in Cork in the afternoon (rain is predicted)   Later in the week I’m planning on Kinsall     Cobh (thanks Katie Graham).

I hope to get some good pictures here!

More soon!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

London - the first few days

I was planning to post all of these stories on different days, but that did not happen.  The later ones are actually more interesting.  Read on if you like…

I arrived in London on February 12, after an overnight flight from Chicago.   Apparently, Saturday is the day to fly into Heathrow.   It was empty.  There was no line/queue at Immigration or anywhere else for that matter.   It was an easy ride on the Heathrow Express and took me no time at all to get to Gabrielle & Frederic’s.

Entertaining Sue and the children at the same time…
So, the weekend started out as spending time with my friends Gabrielle, Frederic and their children George (aged 4) and Amelie (almost 2).

On Saturday afternoon, we went to the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum.  George LOVES planes and all to do with aviation.   He was very entertained and had a great time!   Amelie was also entertained for quite a while as well, which was a good thing. (pictures on facebook!) 

On Sunday morning, I attended church (St. John’s Wood Church) (Church of England/Anglican) with Gabrielle and the kids, which was nice.   It was the family service, but it is still hard for the children to sit still!   We had a lot of conversation about children and church.  Children’s formation programs, how to engage small children in the liturgy.  (Shawn Schreiner be prepared to share!)  There are programs for the children, but she is looking for something more hands on for the kids (probably something along the lines of Godly play or Catechesis)  As a general practice, children don’t receive communion here until about age 7.

I also got to meet some of Gabrielle and Frederic’s friends on Sunday, which was fun!

Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral
I went down to Canterbury on Monday, February 14 (there is now a high speed train between London and Canterbury), just missing a direct train by seconds, I watched it pull out of the St Pancras station) (I was delayed on a very slow Hammersmith & City tube line)  So, the next train required a change of trains, but still arrived earlier than the next direct train.   I had to ask staff about 3 times where I was to change trains, as it wasn’t clear to me and I was afraid I would end up in the wrong place.

When I asked a staff on board the train, he gave me the name again, but a University(College) student was sitting in the seat across from me.  She said she was also going to Canterbury, where she is a student, and to just follow her.   She also just missed the 9:37 train because the Hammersmith and city train was very slow.  

The student and I ended up talking.  She asked if I was going to the Cathedral, which, in fact I was.  She talked a lot about Canterbury Cathedral, specifically from an artistic point of view (and was thrilled I was going there to take pictures) Somehow got on to cell groups, and small churches, Cathedrals and then Emergent churches.   She has experience of them in London, and told me about that.   We also talked about programs for children in churches.

After having just attended church with Gabrielle and her 2 and 4 year old, all of this was fresh in my mind.    I am also going to visit some “Fresh Expressions”/”Emergent” churches both in England and Ireland, so for this random person on the train to start a conversation with me about them was remarkable!

I made my own pilgrimage to Canterbury, of sorts.   I really journeyed there be in that space and take pictures.   (hours of entertainment for me).  It combines my love of sacred spaces and my love for photography, that provides for a great experience!  I just love the space and the history of these Cathedrals and churches.  We just don’t have anything like that in the US.   We have such a short history. We don’t have Archbishops buried there from the 1300’s!

Solti experiences…

I am visiting with my friend Gabrielle Solti and her husband Frederic Dupas.  Their house is quite full with the children, so I am actually staying at the house next door, Gabrielle’s mum’s house, where there are lots of guest rooms.

I never know what to expect when I stay there.   Valerie (Lady Solti) is a fascinating person (wife of the late Maestro – Sir Georg Solti)  She knows lots of interesting people, entertains a lot, and I am almost certain to run into an interesting musician who is there at some point during my visit, learn something, or have an engaging conversation.

Monday back at Chez Solti…
So, then back at Chez Solti, Valerie arrived home. The evenings guests, also guests for the week,  included a French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and his wife Andrea, also a pianist.  They are fascinating people and I have learned a lot, and had many conversation with them and Lady Solti about music, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and all kinds of things.  

Jean-Efllam will be in Chicago April 13 touring with the Orchestre National de France, playing at Symphony Center.  I hope to be able to attend that concert that night.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valerie Solti suggested that I go down to Westminster Abbey to try to get early seating for the Dame Joan Sutherland Memorial service.  The music was bound to be spectacular, and the musicians rumored to be in attendance, no less than impressive!  I wasn’t sure that I would get a seat, Lady Solti had a reserved ticket for seating, and it sounded like it was reserve seating only. 

I was heading for the tube to go to central London – National Gallery and other attractions, when Valerie was heading out.  I realized that I was probably leaving too late to get a seat if it was even possible at Westminster.  She had someone to drive here to Westminster for the Joan Sutherland Memorial.  She told me to hop in the car, perhaps there was public seating.   Any sort of trip (or time) with Lady Solti is always an adventure.  She knows the most fascinating people and trips are bound to be interesting.

We got to drive through central London, down Baker Street, and past Buckingham Palace.  That was timed (coincidentally) at the time of the changing of the guards, so I got to see that from the car window.  (I have been there to see that in the past), and by happenstance, a Royal carriage was leaving Buckingham at that very moment, a horse drawn carriage, followed by the Queen’s car.  No Royals or official people seemed to be in the carriage or the car, perhaps it was a practice for the Royal Wedding??

We got to Westminster and I checked, there was no public seating at all.  Oh well.  I snapped a few photos of Westminster, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and the Thames and headed to Trafalgar Square.

More to follow…

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sabbatical - Day 1

Well, things could have got off to a better start.    We have new computers at the office, which would be a good thing, and will be eventually, but yesterday was a nightmare just finding things and getting used to it.  I couldn't find anything or figure out how to do anything (ok, quickly where is the office clipboard - found it) I still have so much more to work on.  

Well, my laptop computer also needs to talk to the server (calendar and contacts are an essential thing while travelling - all of my contacts and appointments are in there).   I thought it would be easier than it was (I knew it would be complicated, it always is)   They ended up having to wipe all of my documents, files and PICTURES from the laptop (never fear, they are all backed up, I trust no electronic device)  I have spent the day reloading files and saving only pictures that are necessary to have in the computer back to the computer.  I just need a computer with enough memory for pictures.  Not the way I wanted to start sabbatical - day 1 (more errands to run, more things to declutter at home...)

I did run some errands, including a trip to Ritz Camera (finally got a small case for the DSLR camera, rather than wrapping it in a t-shirt and putting it in my backpack), I can put the case in the backpack. I could, however, see the office from that store, which was weird, really weird.

It is hard to disconnect from things, I am working on it, but will remember that the relationships are still intact, even if I won't be in attendance at events for the next 3 months.  It's just weird. Thanks to Alec for chatting with me today!

I am also aware that I am nothing without you all - the people in my life.  So thanks, and communicate with me!