Train to Perdition

   The first to pass us in our carriage was a potentially fractious pair of toddlers, Beanie and Cecil (not their real names). Even were we to plan future excursions not to overlap with national school breaks, I realized there'd still be no guarantee to avoiding the likes of a pair of screaming two-year-olds who believe trains were made for running up and down the aisles, depositing candy floss to armrests along the way.

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Carol and Reid walk on water

   Marazion is a ten-minute bus ride south of Penzance that would be a nondescript fishing village were it not for the Mont St. Michel lookalike about a half-mile out in the tidal bay fronting the town. St. Michael's Mount is smaller, compared to it's more renowned cousin on the coast of France, but no less impressively salient in its lonely outpost even from as far away as Penzance. These are the kinds of sights I like to see just where they lay, perched on a horizon from a spot on a distant highway devoid of tourists. There would be nothing inside this fortress monastery that would induce me to enter its tourist-clogged arteries, carried along at the shoulders by the suffocating crowds as I was at France's Mont St. Michel several years ago. I caught some breaks this time.

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The wheels on the bus

Carol and I purchased international driver's licenses in the ill-advised expectation that would be the only way to see the British countryside up close and personal. But after careful observation of driving on the wrong side of roads that were essentially bike paths pressed into service as two-way highways, and roundabouts that were clockwise running circles of death, we decided we'd not be seeing the English countryside quite that up close and personal (as in automobile grille to grille up close and personal).

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"But I don't want to be a pirate"

   My only reason for wanting to go from London to Penzance was for the straight five-hour train ride without changing trains. Just kick back in a first-class carriage, maybe a bottle of wine along the way, and hours of pleasant English countryside on into Cornwall. But add two squally kids and an overbearing, helicoptering mum, and it is a true…

   ...nightmare.

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A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an Enigma

   There's something about code breaking that has always fascinated me. I've never solved Rubik's cube or enjoyed puzzles of any kind. But I've always enjoyed reading about espionage and secret codes.

   So it was an easy decision to make a day trip out to the pleasant village of Milton Keynes, a short train trip out of London, and to the museum and exhibits known as Bletchley Park.

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Brexit Amexit

On the very day Boris Trump announced he had scored a Brexit deal with the European Union, Carol scored a pair of tickets to the London production of Hamilton. There was irony, of course, in seeing a play on stage partially about America saying goodbye to Great Britain, while Great Britain, on the newspapers' front pages, was saying (or trying to) goodbye to the EU. I wondered, as Carol and I sat in actor spit shower distance from that stage, whether the largely English audience caught that sense of irony, as the character of King George III sang:

You'll be back

Time will tell

You'll remember that I served you well.

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Nostalgical mystery tour

   As a travel blogger, I try to avoid dealing in advice, tips, things to see and do and especially revealing hidden gems of any kind. Given my low wattage expectations for travel and adventure (is the train high-speed with a first-class car and a full service bistro?), I can't imagine any advice or tips I could offer that you wouldn't have already thought of yourself, such as do I need a ticket for the plane or train and should I pack a suitcase? (To both I would venture to suggest: perhaps.) As far as things to see and do, I try to do as little of both as possible. And for hidden gems, my belief is that they're that way for a reason and should be respected as such.

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Steel Shamrocks

   The organizers of Sacred Heart High School's 50th Class Reunion had cleverly provided, in place of name tags, yearbook photos. As one remarked, it was a 60s version of the aging app. I will not comment on the relative kindness of time delivered upon those yearbook faces I observed that night, but I will say with certainty that the promise, hope, determination and fortitude shown in those class photos had not been dimmed by time. At least not over the course of this evening.

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Three Day Blow

   You can't beat getting yourself acclimated to the potential of the fall rainsweep of England, Scotland and Wales than by settling in to an old fashioned New England nor'easter. Since Carol took charge of the accommodations for this trip, we were confirmed in an upscale Atlantic beach inn outside Boston, complete with gas fireplace and a picture window view of the ocean delivering the three day blow.

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End of Innocence

  Although I have a colonoscopy every, er, ten years as recommended (in case my doctor may be reading this) the sense of dread that decennial event conjures is a most familiar one. It matches exactly, for instance, the same dread I feel about going to a museum. In fact, the prep for a colonoscopy may actually be somewhat less dreadful, in that there is considerably more sitting done than you get to do at a typical museum.

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Over a barrel

   I like wine. I like to drink it; I don't need to understand why I like to drink it, but I've learned in the past few years that a lot of livelihoods depend on me wanting to know why. So when I travel to California's wine country, which has become an annual event to visit friends, I include a winery tour, not so much for the sake of those livelihoods,  but for the same reason people who travel to New York and Paris visit MOMA and the Louvre: to advance their knowledge of art and culture sufficient to become annoying at parties.

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They might be giants

   The giant Sequoia known as General Sherman that stands in California's Sequoia National Park is more than 2000 years old. It is 1000 years younger than the oldest known Sequoia. Interestingly, these forest giants require wildfires in order to germinate their seeds and grow new trees. In other words, these living trees have been around for at least 3000 years, and have survived through the life giving natural occurrence of forest fires. Today, thanks to the human encroachment of creeping suburbia, forest fires are suddenly  now a scourge that have to be dealt with - to read between the lines of the lumber industry  - by clearcutting, of course.

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The adventures of Carol and me: The story so far  

   Yesterday was the first anniversary of the first trip Carol and I took together. We went to France, which had been the scene of my first solo train trip the year before. Without really thinking it through (which is generally my method of thinking things through), this second France trip was a test of how well I stack up as a solo versus a companion traveler. In retrospect, it was probably more of a test of how well Carol stacked up as a companion to a solo traveler.

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Being home

Being home

 

   When we're back home after a trip, Carol and I head off in different directions: she to the laundry room to wash even the clean clothes she's returned with ("bedbugs like to hitch a ride in suitcases.:"), and I to the couch to unpack from the trip a little differently.

   I first try to get the measure of whether I behaved as a tourist or a traveler. Tourists rush about cramming as much activity as they can into their two-week vacation before rushing back home exhausted, complaining they need a vacation from their vacation. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was "off" about this last trip of ours, until I was able to reconstruct it in touristy terms. We went to Europe in the rush of its tourist season. Every place we went had some sort of a self-imposed deadline, as we were due in Heidelberg for a wedding in the middle of it. There was this drive to see as much as we could, yet not stray too far from a day's travel from Heidelberg. Time and place did open up after the wedding, but by then the rhythm and pace of the trip seemed to have been set. We rushed home even sooner than we had planned. Carol noted my blogs of the trip lacked the usual purposelessness, with none of the charmingly pointless observations of our two earlier trips together, as well as my previous solo journeys. Not to put too fine a point on it, the trip carried the same unease for me that perplexed Gregor Samsa when he awoke to find himself turned into an insect.

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Why we need the silly  

After an experience like we had at Auschwitz, I was happy to be able to reflect, as we took the convenient and cheap Prague Airport Express bus the next morning, on our overall experiences behind the former Iron Curtain. Leaving the throngs of foreign tourists clogging the Charles Bridge behind for the more familiar throngs of homicidal maniacs in NYC brought a renewed sense of order to my world, following the previous day's reminder just how close we can bring ourselves as a people to the Gates of Hell.

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