For a year or more I’ve been planning an extended journey around Europe and beyond. Last Wednesday that journey began with a flight to France. I’m writing from the city of Metz in the Alsace-Lorraine region in eastern France. For the next week or so I’ll be making brief visits to four important cities in this historic region: Metz, Nancy, Strasbourg and Colmar. Today these cities may be best known for their Christmas markets. I’ve already begun enjoying one of those but I’ve also discovered much more to this region than Christmas. I’ll write more about that over the coming days but for now I want to tell you a bit about how I planned this trip.
At the end of this month I’m going to Morocco to work in a “Women’s Empowerment” program, helping young mothers learn job and language skills. The four weeks I’ll be there were the starting point for my new journey. In November 2016 I began exploring the options for volunteering in less developed parts of the world. I discovered that many so-called “voluntourism” companies exploit the good intentions of people who want to volunteer. I also quickly discovered an agency from New Zealand called Love Volunteers. Having now worked with them to make my plans for more than two years, I have come to trust this company and to discover that their volunteer placements are truly about working with local agencies in third world countries in meaningful ways to improve the lives of children, women and even animals.
So it was decided that I’ll spend most of January 2019 in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. My plan is to bring you along with me via this blog. I expect to learn much, to have many unique (for me) experiences and to make friendships with people you might like to know about. When my four weeks with the agency are done I plan to explore other parts of Morocco, including Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca and other places.
My intention is to travel for about seven or eight months, and longer if possible. Many of my friends who read my blog had the same misfortune I had in September when our small city, New Bern, North Carolina, was hit by Hurricane Florence. My travel plans have been severely impacted by expenses related to repairing my property. It was hard to decide to go ahead with my plans but many of my travel expenses (including the month in Morocco) were prepaid and nonrefundable. (There’s a lesson there for people smarter than me!) With the help of a friend who is a realtor I have been able to rent my home to a young couple whose home was made uninhabitable by the hurricane. So here I am — beginning one more exciting journey around Europe.
My plans include eastern France, Venice for Christmas, Morocco in January, England in February (for mostly genealogical reasons), southern Italy and Sicily in March, Athens and two Greek islands in April, my favorite place in Ireland for May and much of June, and a month in a city on the Black Sea in Bulgaria for July. I’ll travel slowly and cheaply, and I’ll tell you about it here if you choose to keep reading as I travel. I hope you will.
Today began with a walk down High Street in Oxford, where many of the most famous and oldest colleges are located. The photo above shows the ca. 1200 a.d. church of St. Mary which is now the chapel of University College.
Having worn myself out today I’m going to post photos of some of the places I saw instead of writing about them.
This is an entrance to Magdalen College. Note the detailed carving which is centuries old.
This picture taken at the entrance to the Botanic Garden in Oxford shows the tower of on of the college churches in the background.
A gentleman eating his lunch in the quiet beauty of the Bontanic Garden. I like to think he’s an “Oxford don” (a professor).
On my way out of the Botanic Garden I found this beautiful lily pond.
Later in the day I wandered around the Bodeleian Library, tge Sheldonian Theatre, the Radcliffe Camera and the Bridge of Sighs, show here. It’s modeled after and takes its name from the real Bridge of Sighs in Venice.
All the colleges I found today were closed to tourists. I had read that they were often open for quick tours in the afternoon but there are a great many tourist and tour groups in Oxford at this time. I’m sure that had something to do with the closing. I was sorry not to get even a peek. This photo represents the many closed entries I passed.
At this college entrance I told the guard to “smile!” He did, as you can see, and I got a quick view inside the walls but I didn’t get in!
Very near all those famous places I listed I found a row of houses painted in pretty pastel colors. There are more than this picture shows — the row bends away.
I was delighted when I read this plaque on the blue house in the center of this row. I honors one of my heroes.
This sculpture on a doorway is centuries old. Evidently Oxonians looking down their noses at the world is an old custom too.
Seattle may just be America’s best big city. There’s so much to do there, to taste there, to see there! It’s a beautiful, welcoming city. We stayed near the airport and used the tram to the city center. It was quick, clean and affordable. Our first stop was the enormous Pike Place Market. One of America’s first farmer’s markets, vendors there sell foods of all kinds, the most gorgeous flowers, plus arts and crafts and products from all over the world. The place is filled with scrumptious restaurants. The seafood is (as you might expect) fantastic!
The Pike Place Market on the Seattle waterfront has been a favorite of residents and tourists for decades. Don’t miss it!
On another day we went to the scene of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Of course we got there by the famous elevated monorail which was built for that fair. It takes visitors directly to Seattle Center, where the Space Needle still gives them thrilling views of the city. Seattle Center is an excellent example of modern urban planning. The site of the 1962 world’s fair has become a place where children and adults play and learn. It’s a great venue for people watching. Given Seattle’s reputation for rainy weather, we were lucky. The three days we were there in late May were gloriously sunny and perfectly warm.
Seattle’s famous Space Needle was constructed for the 1962 world’s fair. The site of that fair now comprise Seattle Center.
On another day we took a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Essentially a perfect suburb, the island is 35-minute ferry ride from the Seattle waterfront. We enjoyed just being there. We found and enjoyed an authentic Seattle coffee house. We walked around in perfect weather, exploring the small shops near the ferry terminal and stopping for a delicious lunch in the sunshine. We enjoyed watching children enter the port in a tiny-boat parade. If you have time to do it on your visit to Seattle, don’t miss either the scenic ferry ride to Bainbridge Island or the opportunity to relax in a very comfortable setting.
One view of Seattle from the Bainbridge Island ferry.
Some lucky kids!
A pair of true Seattle baristas in a Peak’s Island coffee house.
Seattle is such a friendly town! People on the street (many of them young adults) offered to help us find our way around, sometimes leading us to the places we sought. Being in Seattle for a few days was a fine experience, one I hope to repeat soon.
I am in a beautiful old Breton city on the edge of the English Channel tonight. It is called Roscoff. If you ever have a chance to come here, I promise you’ll love it. I’m here because tomorrow morning I’ll take a ferry from here to Plymouth England.
Many of you wrote to me today asking if I am safe. I am far from harm. I appreciate your thoughts and concern. I turned on the TV about 9:00 this morning (4:00 a.m. for those of you in the East) and have been following the terrible news out of Brussels all day. Is there an answer to terrorism when young people are willing to strap a bomb on themselves and die?
I have many beautiful pictures taken today to share with you, but this isn’t the day for that. Peace!