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...