London and Beyond in Pictures

Traveling is a wonderful way to leave your worries and stress behind.  I find it energizing and relaxing at the same time.

In 2006 my daughter and I headed for London, where one of my sisters lives. This was our second trip together, and my sixth, so we didn't do much that was traditional.


One of the most exciting, take that any way you like, moments was finding ourselves on a bus that took us too far out of London before we realized we'd missed our stop.  The good news is that the bus driver told us how to get a free ride back, since we seemed like dopey US tourists!

While on the bus, we passed this cute back yard garden with its own castle and gnomes... about an hour out of the city.

A Garden outside Brighton '06
A Garden outside Brighton '06

After that detour, we went to the beautiful National Gallery.

National Gallery London
National Gallery London

And at the end of the day, we did what most Londoners would do... and stopped by a Pub not far from my sister's flat for a pint and fish n chips.

London Pub 06
London Pub 06

Notice the Desserts on the blackboard...

  • Apple Pie
  • Spotted Dick
  • Choc Fudge Cake
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding
  • Ice Cream

Which would you have ordered?

Jess in Pub2 London '06
Jess in Pub2 London '06


We spent 3 days in Brighton, a first for both of us.  I had to visit the city that one my favorite British authors, Georgette Heyer , featured in so many of her wonderful novels.

The weather was not very cooperative. We had rain one day, and every afternoon the winds blustered and turned icy cold.  Brighton seemed very eclectic with a huge mix of people.

Jess -
Jess -

Of course the Royal Pavillion was a must see.  We took a day tour and went by later that night, when we captured its exquisite architecture against the dark sky.  It was built for the Prince Regent, later King George IV, in stages between 1787 and 1823.

"It takes its unique character from the man for whom it was built, George IV, and its magnificent interior is a reflection of his personality and Regency reign. It was conceived as a monument to style, finesse, technological excellence and above all pleasure. It remains unequaled in its colossal ambition and glorious sense of joie de vivre.

George was determined that the palace should be the ultimate in comfort and convenience.

Particular attention was paid by his architect and designers to lighting, heating and sanitation, as well as to the provision of the most modern equipment of the day for the Great Kitchen."

Read more here.

Royal Pavilion, Brighton 4_06
Royal Pavilion, Brighton 4_06

After resting for a day in London, we took a bus to Oxford...our mission, visit Christ Church where many scenes were shot in the Harry Potter films.

Chirst Church U of Oxford2 '06
Chirst Church U of Oxford2 '06
Chirst Church Oxford '06
Chirst Church Oxford '06

We got a quick bite to eat, and walked to the Church just as the doors were being closed for the day!  We couldn't believe our luck.  So we took a walk through the magnificent University,  did a little shopping and headed back to London.

Oxford2 4_06
Oxford2 4_06
Oxford 4_06
Oxford 4_06


A bus tour took us to Leeds and Dover.  We both fell in love with Leeds Castle. It was built in 1119 by Robert de Crevecoeur as a Norman stronghold.

The last private owner of the castle was the Hon. Olive, Lady Baillie, a daughter of Almeric Paget, 1st Baron Queenborough, and his first wife, Pauline Payne Whitney, an American heiress. Lady Baillie bought the castle in 1926. She redecorated the interior. During the early part of

World War II

Leeds was used as a hospital where Lady Baillie and her daughters hosted burned Commonwealth airmen as part of their recovery.  The castle was opened to the public in 1976.

Leeds Castle '06
Leeds Castle '06
Leeds Castle2 4_06
Leeds Castle2 4_06
Leeds Castle 4_06
Leeds Castle 4_06

Dover was quaint, a typical fishing / Port town in many ways...except for the Castle!

Cyclelife -

I hope to make a similar trip with my son next summer.  Thank you for reminiscing with me! 


Sitting on the living room floor upstairs White veil folded over the top of her head

She holds in her lap a large round tray

Full of lentils,

Her right hand pushing each wavy row at a time

Up towards the top of the tray

Inspecting them for debris.


She wears a navy dress with white polka dots

And every grandchild knows that dress.

She’s recounting another story,

Always full of every possible detail

Often mimicking the players

In perfect adaptations,

While we sit listening.


Lentils picked through ...the tray

Is taken to the kitchen by the maid,

Downstairs she follows onions beckoning

To be chopped into perfect small dice

Excited to enhance the fledgling soup

Sautéed in green-gold olive oil

They wait to turn a luscious brown.


The telephone rings

Her youngest sister calling to say she’s coming by

One of my round aunts clad in black

White veil clinging to graying hair

Rosy face and twinkling eyes,

Three kisses on two cheeks

And a pinch of the chin.


The thick soup bubbles on the stove

Melding the flavors of crisp onions

And brown lentils with a hint of cumin,

A quick stir with the wooden spoon

Between lines of conversation

The latest family gossip

Floating around the room.


Arabic coffee is brewing next to the lentils

Thick, dark, rich its heady aroma

Vying for space between the airborne words

A quick boil, a resting minute for grounds to settle

Then into tiny flowered porcelain cups

A hint of sugar sprinkled, and quickly stirred

More news, laughter and plans for a visit


To an elderly friend who recently lost a husband...

The stone house on the corner

Above Abu Salim’s grocery store

A basket dangles from the balcony

Waiting to descend into his hands

And be filled and hoisted up again.


A sheik in black with a blue striped vest

Manicured mustache curled

A white cotton cap on his head,

He walks along-side his doe-eyed donkey

She, carrying baskets of honeyed figs

From the orchards at the top of the hill

Weaving down the winding streets to market.


‘Ahlan Yousef’ a greeting meets him

The source sits on a wooden chair

In front of the inviting barber shop

Sipping coffee from a gold-rimmed demitasse

A backgammon table laid out

Waiting for participants

On this sunny mountain day.


A hand touching his forehead in response

Donkey and master are closer to market

A taxi honks to get by the pedestrians

Tangling in the streets

Each shop with its own bouquet of people

Talking, kissing, catching up on the events

Since 10pm the night before.


Long straight hair at the skilled hands of hairdressers

Flow down slender shoulders

Framing lovely dark eyes,

As young women walk arm in arm in pretty skirts

Snacking on toasted melon seeds from crumpled paper bags

Avoiding the glances of young men

In tight shirts and store windows.


Each mother tows more than a child

Pretty frilly socks and matching ribbon in curls

Adorning chubby faces

Or shining black shoes and knitted sweaters

On a future man of the village

Who now holds a cone dripping with

Mango, peach and pistachio ice cream.


Stray dogs make their way to the back of butcher shops

Patiently waiting for today’s scraps

While the owner haggles with the woman

Veiled and gesturing at a piece of meat

Which he holds in his hand

20 lira is not what she pays for that very same

At Abu Amin’s shop across town.


A policeman’s whistle at a gray car double parking

The man in a blue shirt, his wife and children

In the back seat leaning out of windows

“Bas takki” he shouts at the officer

‘Just one moment’ and he’ll be gone

Just long enough for Sameera to run into the pharmacy

For father’s medication.


The incomparable Fairuz sings over the noise in the square

Her rich voice idealizing her country,

Comes from a radio on the balcony

Above the fabric store

Where Im Ali sews dresses for customers

While her children are in school,

Colors streaming from hangers.


‘Hey, ya Kamaaaaal’, call a group of young men

Leaning against a Mercedes

Turning the head of another making his way

Across the street to Ziad’s bookstore

Whistles and hand clapping when he hears

Laughter at his distraction as he finally sees

The goateed chins that beckon him.


Hugs go around the now circle of friends

Plans for an evening stroll after dinner

And hints at who they might run into

To spice the night’s ritual

A clasp of hands before Kamal returns to his path

A mental note to complete homework

Before the stroke of 9.


Dotted along the streets grey taxis

Usually a 6-year-old Mercedes

Carries six passengers tightly squeezed

Back from a day of work in the sun.

Skin darkened, sporting darker mustaches

Looking forward to joining family for dinner

Displayed in six or seven flowered dishes


Meals are an invitation to share good fortune

To catch up on the day’s news

To show generosity towards friends and family..

Mothers and grandmothers in their long dark skirts

Many wearing the white flowing thin veil over their hair

Spend the afternoon together preparing the evening meal

Always Turkish coffee at the ready.


Children play on the large verandas

Or on the street corners

Looked after by older siblings, cousins,

Or cheerful shopkeepers who too are friends..

No neighbor in this village is a stranger

No one keeps to themselves for this is a Community

Of family overflowing with love and concern.


Their hearts like their houses are close,

Like the winding alley ways

Their lives wind around one another

No one hesitates to ask for aid.

Nabeel skips morning chores to take Aunt Im Jamal to the doctor

Lena walks to town for a spool of brown wool

To mend upstairs’ Abu Fady’s jacket.


Between these snug two and three-story stone buildings

Serving as houses and shops…

Stray slender pine trees and fragrant flowery bushes

Winding narrow stairways and alleys

Sprinkled with cats and people

Busy with the day’s work

Acknowledging each other.


Where the spaces between structures grow larger

Stand houses capped with red tile roofs

Sit upon hill crescents offering dizzying views

Of tree green valleys and mountains

Gentle sloping land down to the shimmering

Blue waters of the warm Mediterranean

Its shores outlining modern cities.

There the men and women have a brisker pace

There the shops are shinier

The cars polished carrying fashionable passengers

The buildings taller, the streets wider

The pace faster, but still allowing friends to linger

Over coffees and sweets and late lunches

In the outdoor Cafés dotting every corner.

The cheeks here are red with premeditated color,

The shoes and handbags from twin material,

The conversations in three alternating languages

At each dining table, in each bunch of students

At Chez Michelle’s Salon and George’s Boutique

The dresses shorter, the makeup brighter

The flirting noticeable.


Her white head-cover now exchanged for a black one,

She makes her way to the city in the white Mercedes,

Kameel, the driver, in white starched shirt and long pinky nail

Making polite conversation...

Visits to Daoud the tailor, Kabé the jeweler,

And Abu Talal... the wholesale grocer,

Before returning home to the mountains.


A little something for me and my sister

Dad’s favorite fruits, dried beans and rice

To last a few weeks..

A bunch of fresh dates from Arabia

And ripe, orange, fleshy mangos from Egypt.

All congregate in the large kitchen

To help with parts of the bountiful evening meal.

~ Hoda A.© 2009