Last time blogged I was getting ready for my Big European Adventure. Three weeks in Germany/UK/Gibraltar/Spain/UK. Then I actually went on the trip. And since October 14, have been recovering from the trip. I brought home a cold and ear infection. Lesson: if you have to fly with a cold, wear spongy ear plugs when the plane is ascending and descending!

The highlight was meeting the most perfect baby ever born, my granddaughter Cleo Ayla. She was two weeks old when I left Germany. I’m not allowed to post her pictures online, or believe me, there would be dozens of them. I am grateful, though, that though we are 6000 miles apart, her beautiful parents keep in touch via video and FaceTime. While in Frankfurt, I got to attend a military ball with my younger son, Benjamin. He’s a rock star in one part of his life, and my prince for the evening.

Isle of Wight

From Germany, I flew to England, my original home, and met a DNA-found cousin for a trip to the Isle of Wight. My mother’s great-grandparents lived there and I’d never been. We met a bunch of other cousins and I discovered that I’m part of a wonderful family who still live on the island.

King Charles I’s room

One of the fun things some of us did was visit Carisbrooke Castle–who knew there was a castle on IoW. There were hundreds of steps to climb. I lost 5 lbs whilst away! The picture below with the fireplace was the room where King Charles I stayed before he was beheaded on January 30, 1649.

Carisbrooke Castle

 

Gibraltar and Spain

Next stop, Gibraltar, this time with cousins from maternal grandmother’s side. My g-g-gmother was born in La Linea and I’ve always wanted go. Having our flight upgraded to business class made it even better. Champagne, good food, more room!

Gibraltar is tiny–2.5 square miles–but seemed much larger while driving around. We took a cable car to the top of the Rock, where monkeys roam free, stealing what they can from tourists. There are also vast caves full of immense stalactites and stalagmites. The tunnels Napoleon’s men used were, sadly, closed that day (not that I knew there were tunnels before the tour guide told us).

Clouds over the Rock

Upon crossing the border to Malaga, Spain, the first thing we saw was a Burger King. Seriously! We rented a car and drove up the mountains to Casares, where Diego Garcia, another ancestor, lived in the 1700s. Casares had extremely narrow, cobblestone streets. Loads more walking, more steps to climb, and fabulous views. I had a Coke in a little cafe–some things are everywhere.

Back to England

Tower of London

Victoria clock

The last two days of my trip I spent in London. This time, the cousins were on my dad’s side and we’ve known each other forever. A visit the Tower of London got the kibosh. Amazingly, despite living his whole life in the area, my cousin had never been there. I have, twice (though I haven’t been to Disneyland in the past 30 years). But it was late in the day and the 30 pound entry fee was a bit much. Seeing it from the outside this time was good enough. For being nearly 1000 years old, they’ve kept it pretty clean, lol

Last day in UK

Three weeks away from home is a lot for an introvert, regardless of how wonderful the trip. But my last day in England was fun. One of the new cousins came down from Kent on the train. When I asked where we should meet he said “Victoria Station, under the clock, like in the movies.” So that’s what we did.

The Underground

We then went into the London Underground, something I vow never to do again. Ever. OMG!!! There were at least a million people on the Tube platform. And that was Saturday at noon. Once we had pushed our way onto the train, others pushed in behind us. Somehow, the doors managed to shut with riders crammed against it. Eventually, we left the train for long staircases and a lift (elevator) that held about 50 people. I’m getting claustrophobia just remembering.

We got off at Battersea Park, where there is a famous cat and dog rescue. But that’s not where we were headed. We each had an appointment at the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain. I had a terrific reading with a medium named Pauline Mason. My grandmother came through as my caregiver early in life and a wonderful pianist. There was also my daughter, my dad, and my late boyfriend. I love being reminded that there is life after earth.

Getting to the end…

After our readings we went to Covent Garden, where we had planned to eat at the Cheese Bar. Sounded like fun when I read about it in the LA Times. Unfortunately, the wait for a spot at the bar was nearly 2 hours and that’s too long to wait for food when you can get it elsewhere.

We left the market and I ducked into the Astrology Shop, which was way cool, but…it was as crowded as the Tube. Apparently, Londoners are as interested in New Agey stuff as I am.

So, after a lovely Italian lunch I left my cousin for a very expensive cab ride to my airport hotel. There’s a bit more to that story, but probably not so interesting to anyone else. If you’ve got this far with me, I’ll say thank you and leave it there.

I finished the last day having fish and chips with a friend/colleague at my airport hotel. We covered handwriting and life after death–how’s that for a mix?!

BTW, compliments to LHR Hilton Garden Inn, whose bed was the most comfortable ever. It helped me prepare for the 10.5 hour flight the next day, which felt twice that long (can you sleep on a plane? I cannot. Ever).

Heathrow is the size of a city, and not such a small one. If I ever go back, Gatwick will be my choice of airport. The flight was good (considering my dislike of flying), and all went smoothly when I arrived at LAX Customs. Trump didn’t stop me coming back into the country. My very good friend Raul Melendez arrived at the curb to drive me home. Even Lexie the Evil Cat welcomed me back.

If I wrote all about the trip I’d fill a book. Speaking of which, I’m already working on the outline for Claudia Rose’s next outing, DEAD LETTERS. Of course you know my next book is going to feature some of this scenery, right? Oh! And my next audiobook, DEAD WRITE, will be out any day now.

Thanks if you read all this. I loved every minute of my Big European Adventure, but am thrilled to be back in my own chair at my keyboard.

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