From Sea to Sea

When we planned the itinerary for our May trip, it seemed logical.  Nothing really amazing, just a practical way to attend two family events in a limited amount of time. Our initial flight took us to Charleston, South Carolina and to a rented house set up on a hill the second row in from the ocean in Folly Beach.  From our porch each morning and night we saw, heard, and smelled the awesome salty breezes of the Atlantic.   It was our first visit to Charleston, a city of refined southern charm and beauty.

We took a harbor cruise to see Fort Sumter where, 150 years ago, the shots were fired that started the Civil War.  The War, as true southerners still call it, was to be over in a few months time.  It lasted four bloody years.  Back in Charleston we rode on a guided tour in a mule drawn carriage through the city’s historic district and passed by stately old homes.  As we rode near Battery Park, we observed a solemn celebration of Confederate Memorial Day celebrated each year on May 10th, the day Stonewall Jackson died.

In an awesome marketplace, we watched artisans weave Sweetgrass Baskets and string stone beads for necklaces.  A pretty young student (thanks, Abby!) guided us through the grounds of the beautiful College of Charleston.  We toured Middleton Place, a rice plantation on the banks of the Ashley River.  Everywhere, we ate fresh seafood – at a rural dive, at a crab shack near the ocean, and at our beach house.

At the Public Library and the old Court House, I scrolled through spools of old microfilm to copy family history.  We shot pictures of the house where my husband’s great-grandfather once lived, and then said a prayer at the church he attended. At Magnolia Cemetery we found his grave, and said another prayer.  Nearby lay the dead of the sunken Hunley, yet another reminder of The War.   Back at Folly Beach the ocean called.  We strolled barefoot over smooth sand letting the warm waters of the Atlantic wash over our feet.  Reluctantly, we said goodbye.

From Charleston we flew across green mid-western farm fields to Chicago’s O’Hare Field then on to the brown desert sands surrounding Las Vegas. A myriad of languages and accents sang out at airports.  The final leg of our journey took us to the wonder of San Francisco, a vibrant diverse city as beautiful as Charleston but different.  So different.

On Saturday we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael to attend a joyful college graduation on the peaceful grounds of Dominican University.  On our trip back to the city, at the top of a winding hilltop we gazed on the magnificent Bay that leads to the Pacific Ocean.  Early Sunday morning we strolled a few blocks to watch the fun of the Bay to Breakers race.   Serious runners, walkers, and costumed party-goers run 12 kilometers from the San Francisco Bay to the waters of the Pacific Ocean. This year is the 100th anniversary.   And everywhere, we enjoyed gloriously fresh food – fruits, veggies, crepes, seafood.

I’m on overload  now.  In ten short days we traveled from sea to sea.  Soon comes the return to the reality of daily life.  The best part of course, has been visiting with loved ones.  Aside from that has come a deeper appreciation for this land. Travel does that.  America is vast and her stories are boundless.  So much still to discover, and record.

Traveling American

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” ~ Henri Matisse

Last week we had a sudden death in our family. I needed to travel from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin so I went online to make airline reservations.  Since I had to fly in two days, the fares were close to $1,000; normally it’s a $300+ flight.  Someone mentioned a “bereavement fare.”  I called the airlines, gave the information they needed and was booked on a flight at a closer to normal fare.

Soon after the funeral bad weather thundered across the Midwest.  Massive storms dumped snow and ice.   Shortly before I was to leave for a 2-hour drive to the airport, American Airlines called with news.  My flight was cancelled and I was re-scheduled on a Tuesday flight.  I stayed in my hometown another night.

On Tuesday, the first leg of my trip was delayed.  That delay jeopardized my connecting flight.  The agent at the counter quickly put me on standby for an earlier flight.  Subsequently I was seated on that and made my connection.

Several years ago my husband traveled a lot for his job.  His words of advice came back to me.   “You just go with the flow.”   So during my Tuesday travels I did that.  I also watched other travelers (a favorite activity of writers, I think).  While many sat back with books or laptops, or simply rested, others whined — about everything.  I heard way too many gripes about airlines overbooking, lost luggage, and delayed flights.

It is because of those complaints that I’m writing this post.  Throughout my journey I saw only kind, professional helpfulness.  My sincere thanks to American Airlines and its hardworking employees.  Thank you…

  • to the ticket agent who walked me through the bereavement fare and booked my original flight
  • to management for the call notifying me of the weather related cancellation and rescheduled flight
  • to the agent who offered a standby change so I could connect to my final flight
  • to those who de-iced the plane, the mechanics and ground crew who kept things safe
  • to the flight attendants who brought me a sense of security
  • to the pilots who kept the flights on course
  • and finally, to the baggage handlers who brought my suitcase home safely.

You all made this emotionally draining trip easier.

Some folks seem to believe that the purchase of a ticket in life buys nothing but smooth sailing.  It usually does but sometimes bad things happen beyond control.  When they do just go with the flow and thank the person who guides you through, whoever that may be.

For now I’m saying thank you to American Airlines.

Bon Soir, Paris!

Roses from my husband

My body is confused by the time change. In Paris it is 4:20 am, Thursday, and I’ve been awake for three hours.  Outside even the motor bikes and occasional police sirens are silent.  In front of me sits the bouquet of pink roses my husband bought from a local vendor, a surprise when I returned from the nearby market. The flowers belong.   After the bustle of traveling yesterday, I feel a sense of peace, despite the time adjustment.  I feel at home.

This apartment on Rue Saint Honore is lovely, historic yet modern.  It is on the 6th floor and has a small roof top terrace.  In the distance we can see La Tour Eiffel and rooftops over Paris.

Rooftop terrace of our Paris flat

After our flight across the Atlantic, we took a Roissy bus from Charles DeGaulle Airport into central Paris and the apartment.  Later, we walked the neighborhood, ate at a creperie, and visited a few area shops.

Today we will visit Musée d’Orsay, the Rodin Museum, Napoleon’s Tomb and the Eiffel Tower…La Tour Eiffel.   For the next several days our schedule is filled.  But just now in these pre-dawn hours I’m savoring the comfort of this peaceful apartment, a cup of hot French tea, and my roses.

October in Paris

This fall we’re going to Paris. He’s traveled there before.  I haven’t.  I almost went once, to join him for a side journey after an early spring business trip.  Almost.  Instead, I slipped on a patch of black ice in our driveway and broke two bones in my ankle.  No walking for 8 weeks, per doctor’s orders.  So, while he was touring Musée du Louvre and gazing at La Tour Eiffel, I sat at home being well-cared for by our teenage sons.  It felt like a medically mandated house arrest.

Years passed.  We talked about Paris but never made the trip.  The time was never quite right in his schedule, or mine.

For health reasons, this year didn’t start out well for me.  But good things can come from bad.  Sometimes it takes a few bad spots to jump start us into doing things we really want to do,  like traveling to Paris.

Last month we made plane reservations for a week-long trip.  Later, we reserved an apartment.  We’ve searched hundreds of websites on what to see, what to wear, and where to eat.  Shopped for a new camera, some basic wardrobe pieces, a good pair of walking shoes.   And, I’ve signed up for a French course to refresh my memory of High School French.  I start class this coming week.  All fun stuff.

There’s a mystique about Paris.  A romance.  A wonder. I see it reflected on faces of those who have been there.  In late October, after our trip, look for it in mine. 

RWA National Travel Tips

Traveling to RWA National in DC? If you are a newbie, or if you just haven’t traveled recently, here are a few last minute reminders to help ease your journey.Flying

Are you flying in? Many of you reading this are savvy travelers but, for those who haven’t flown for a while…

  1. Suitcases – Weight limit is 50 pounds for checked bags.   When I flew to Atlanta in 2006, I brought my 26-inch suitcase.  The weight was ok flying there, barely, but was over by about 25 pounds on my return trip.  I managed to squeeze some of those overweight free books into my tote.   Some I just gave to the guy at the counter for his girlfriend.   I’ve now switched to traveling with a 21-inch suitcase.  Weigh it at home before you leave.   Mine, even when packed full, rarely exceeds 35 pounds.
  2. Extra fee – Whether overweight or not, airlines now charge extra for a checked bag – $15 or $25 on most airlines.  That’s a one-way charge.
  3. Carry-ons – You are only allowed 2 carry-ons, one personal (a purse or computer) and another small bag.  Downsize to a smaller purse, then pack it inside your tote-bag for added flexibility.
  4. Wear slip-on shoes.  You will have to remove them at security so they can be scanned.  Shoes with ties or buckles hold up the lines.
  5. Filled water bottles are not permitted through security.  Empty ones generally are.  For the frugal-minded, bring an empty bottle in your tote.  Once you are beyond security, you can fill it at a water fountain, or you can buy bottled water at a kiosk.   Water bought near the gates is allowed on-board.
  6. Keep your photo ID and Boarding Pass handy until you are through security.  After that, you will only need your Boarding Pass to get onto the plane.
  7. For added tips, read the TSA Guidelines for How to Get Through the Security Line Faster (click).

Or are you driving?

  1. Click this link for the current Washington DC gas prices.
  2. A reminder that parking at the Marriott is an extra $32 (or so) a day.

A few other reminders:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes for the conference and sight-seeing.  Not the time to break in a new pair.
  2. Washington DC summers are sweltering but bring a sweater or wrap for the air-conditioned workshop rooms.  A pashmina is light-weight, packable, and easy to carry in your conference tote.
  3. Don’t forget your business cards. Make them or have them made.  Keep them simple, elegant, professional.
  4. There’s a CVS Pharmacy within walking distance of the Marriott.
  5. Visit RWA National website Conference FAQ’s for added info.

→ Please share your travel tips for RWA National.  Hope to see you there!