Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015


London - Los Angeles

Today, I go home.  It's been a whirlwind vacation and I've enjoyed every minute of it ... especially yesterday!  But it's time to get back.

I had a nice breakfast with Jeff this morning.  He was dragging a bit as he was out until 5:00 a.m with his SAS friends.  Thank goodness I arranged for a late check out for him today at 4:00.  He can get some more sleep before he leaves the comfort of The Claridges.  He'll be off on his own after that.  

Right now, I'm on my flight from London to Los Angeles.   Delta recently reconfigured their planes making for perhaps the most uncomfortable seats in the air.  I have a couple of upcoming flights on Delta.  As soon as I get home, I'm canceling them.  Whine, whine, whine.  I truly am becoming a grumpy, spoiled old woman.  Time for some wine, wine, wine instead!!

I am scheduled to arrive in LA at 4:30 this afternoon.  It will be nice to sleep in my own bed tonight.  I learn a little bit with each adventure.  

  1. Next time I go on a bike trip, I'm taking my own bike seat!
  2. When preparing for a trip, pack, let it settle and then remove half of what I've packed.  I bring too much EVERY time.
  3. Study the travel information so I'll be better prepared and know more about where I'm traveling.
  5. Continue to travel with people I love.

I so enjoyed spending time with Stevie and getting to know Ellen, Susie, Karen and Susie better.  I look forward to our summer together in Aspen.

So for now, with humble gratitude for this blessed life, I sign off until my next adventure.  


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Southhampton UK

TODAY IS THE DAY!!  Jeff's ship is scheduled to arrive this morning. 

Diane and I set off early to catch the first glimpse of the ship as it makes it's way into the harbor.  It's a rainy, cold and blustery morning here in Southhampton.  We drove into the Mayflower Park to await the arrival of the ship.  We were fortunate to have the warmth of the car from which to anxiously await Explorer's arrival. Finally, at 7:45, we saw her.

Jeff's home away from home for the past four months, MV Explorer arrives in Southhampton.
 The rain was pounding, so there were no kids on the decks to wave to all of the cold parents standing in the rain holding American Flags and poster board greeting signs.  But we all were bursting with excitement to see our children.  I think this is about the time tears of joy started running down my cheeks.  Tears or raindrops ... not really certain here.

After the ship passed us, we drove on down to the terminal at gate 10 to wait for the passengers to clear immigration and unload all the luggage.  While we were waiting, the kids came out on the ship's decks.  
Waiting to clear immigration, the children and parents catch their first glimpse of each other.
We were watching them from inside the terminal.  They were watching us from the deck.  It felt surreal.  So close, yet so far away.  They seemed to be as excited about seeing us as we were to see them.  Squeals of joy would erupt followed by happy frantic waving when a parent saw their child out on that deck.  Yup!  I was one of them.  That's when the water works started again.  I was so happy to see Jeff standing on deck, with his hat on backwards and his plaid shirt blowing in the wind. 

After four hours of waiting, the kids began disembarking the ship.  Families gathered at the exit waiting for their child to come through the door.  
Heather and Diane reunion.
Cheers of joy and happy greetings rang through the terminal as a parents and family members would run to hug their child.  My tears continued with each warm reunion, while waiting and waiting to see my son come through that door.  It's hard to describe the emotional melt down I felt when I finally saw my handsome son walking towards me.  

As a typical mom, for months, I've worried about all the scary things that could happen to Jeff along the way.  But with one embrace, all was right with the world.  He left 4 months ago, traveled completely around the world, and now he was safely in my arms.  Thank you God!  

I got to meet many of the new friends Jeff has traveled with.  I'm sure he'll stay connected with many of these kids for the rest of his life.  
New friends!!
Several of us celebrated the moment with champagne brought by one of the parents.

The reunion was bittersweet with an underlying sadness.  These kids have spent months together, developing friendships and sharing adventures of a lifetime and now their trip has come to an end.  
Jeff's roommate on the ship.
There were tearful goodbyes as we loaded the car for our drive back to London.  Jeff, Heather and Maggie kept us amused with tales from the trip.  From skiing in Japan to bungie jumping in Africa to riding camels in Morocco, the experiences sounded wonderful!

When we arrived back to London, we had a nice lunch at Claridges before setting off on a shopping expedition at Selfridges for Jeff.

Lunch at Claridges where we had "proper" fish'n chips.
The journey continues!  Several kids from Semester at Sea have purchased Eurail passes (train passes) that will allow them to travel anywhere in Europe.  They are leaving London in a few days for Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin and no doubt several other unscheduled stops along the way ending up in Barcelona.  

Geared up and ready for the next portion of his adventure!
Jeff needed a few essentials for the rest of his journey.  He can't haul the huge duffle with 4 months worth of gear, so we found a great back pack for him, a new hard drive for photos, shoes to replace the ones he lost somewhere in Hong Kong, a new charger for his GoPro and memory stick for his camera.  He's good to go.  

We had dinner with a few of the parents and some of the kids from SAS.  After dinner, Jeff went out with his SAS friends.  I returned to the hotel to consolidate Jeff's clothes and gear into fewer bags so I can take them back to California with me tomorrow.  

Dinner with Semester at Sea friends.
I'll get to spend some time with Jeff in the morning before I leave for Heathrow to catch my flight back to Los Angeles.  No sooner do I get my son back, he leaves again.  But I'm so excited for the next leg of his wonderful experience.  Now I go back to my worry phase again, praying daily for his safety. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

London to Southhampton

I am so excited!  Today, I travel to Southhampton, UK to await Jeff's arrival.  

Jeff left in January for a trip around the world with an organization called "Semester at Sea" on "MV Explorer," a floating university.  He has visited 12 countries around the world and his voyage ends in Southhampton UK, about a two hour drive west of London.

A friend of mine from Tampa, Diane, who's daughter, Heather, is on the ship with Jeff, picked me up this morning at Claridges and we drove to Southhampton.  The drive was quite adventurous, as the British drive on the left and their steering wheels are on the right.  I handled the navigation using Google Maps and Heather drove.  Quite confusing and totally backwards to driving in the US, the ride was hair-raising!  But we made it through the London city traffic and the round-abouts and even survived highway driving.  No matter that folks were honking at us and whipping around in front of us signaling for us to get the heck out of the "fast lane."  We made it.

Lunch at the mall in Southhampton.
After a quick lunch, Diane and I went to the "Semester at Sea" parent's reception at the Harbor Grande Hotel in Southhampton where they filled us in on the ship's scheduled arrival and how to expect our children to disembark.  It was fun meeting other parents who's children had been on this trip.  Three mothers came up to me and said things like, "My daughter wanted me to meet Jeff's mom.  Jeff is the love of her life."  or "Jeff is the greatest guy ever!"  Of course, I've known that Jeff is a super special kid for almost 22 years.  Glad to know others appreciate him.  

After the drive and the late lunch, I was so tired, I went to the hotel and jumped straight into bed.  Tomorrow is a big day!  I can't wait to see my son.  By the way, I'm quite spoiled by Five Star Excellence of The Claridges in London.  The Novotel here in Southhampton probably does not even register on any type of service excellence scale.  It's a "do it yourself" kind of place.  But it's clean and close to the terminal where I meet Jeff tomorrow.  

Monday, April 27, 2015


Chris getting measured for his shotgun.
Today, Stevie, Chris and I are going to Purdey Guns to order a new shotgun for Chris.  I'm along for the ride.  Purdey has made guns for two centuries.  I guess they've figured it out, because they sure get a "purdy" penny for them!!

We were greeted at the Purdey Store at 8:45 and Chris's salesman, John whisked us away via taxi to the West London Shooting School, where Chris 

Shotgun shell mountain.
was measured and fitted for his shotgun.  The visit to the WLSS was quite entertaining.  Chris got to shoot guns as Stevie and I watched the clay pigeons shatter!!  The most interesting sight was the towering pile of shot gun shell casings.  The casings are piled in a walled area.  All shapes, colors and sizes!!  The mountain of shotgun shells looked like an art project.

Chris selects the perfect wood for the stock of his gun.
After shooting and finding the perfect fit for Chris's gun, we went back to the Purdey Store to select the gun stock and engravings and several other necessary shotgun specifications.
Stevie finds a new hunting hat.

Stevie and I shopped for accessories.  I bought Chris's Christmas gift, which, for obvious reasons, I 

cannot mention in this blog.  

All of that shopping was exhausting and it was close to 
lunch time, so we were in search of refreshments.  We spied little spot called "George," just across the street, but the sales clerk explained that George was an exclusive private club.  
However, after what Chris was getting ready to spend, the manager felt certain he could get us in.  So John escorted us over to George, found us a nice comfy table and the ordering began.  

Purdey Store Shotgun Shopping.

While Purdey was tallying up Chris's bill, Stevie, Chris and I were being well cared for at George.  The club was not very busy this time of afternoon, but still quite entertaining with very a proper "British" crowd.  

Chris seals the deal for his gun.
About two glasses of wine and a Cesar Salad later, John came in with Chris's bill.  It was all quite civilized.  Chris went back to the Purdey Showroom and settled his bill.  

They got it ALL!  
He came back a bit wrung out, but smiling and sooooo happy.  Another two years from now, he'll have that gun.  I hope I'm with Chris and Stevie to see that!!

Ellen and Susie arrived in London today and met us for one final dinner.  This evening, Stevie made reservations at The Guinea Grill.  

The Guinea Grill.
The last time I visited London in the 1980's, I had dinner here with Ramsay, Stevie, Jeff and Rosemarie.  Rosemarie met up with us in London after a trip around the world.  She'd been to many exotic places, but hadn't had a potato in weeks.  An Irish Girl needs her potatoes!  I remember entering the restaurant and being greeted by a friendly waiter standing alongside a refrigerated butcher's display case filled with various types of steaks, enormous potatoes, mushrooms and asparagus as big around as hot dogs.  We were asked to select our cut of meat and side dishes and then we were seated.  Jeff liked to tell the story that Rosemarie ate two of the huge spuds.  Not true, of course because the potatoes were about the size of a football.  But it sure made for a good story.  And she DID enjoy that potato!  The Guinea is quite different now.  The case is still there with various cuts of meat on display, but they no longer serve HUGE baked potatoes, nor do they serve Asparagus. 
It was nice to revisit the Guinea Grill and the memories.

Farewell dinner at Guinea and hello to new memories.
After dinner, we bid farewell to Ellen and Susie, as I am scheduled to leave tomorrow morning to go to Southhampton to meet Jeff's ship, and Stevie and Chris depart for Houston.

We were too tired for after dinner drinks, but we stopped at the lobby bar anyway.  With droopy eyes, we almost completed one drink and then turned in for the night.   But not before riding the elevator, equipped with an attendant and a comfy couch, upstairs where Stevie found "oxygen tanks."  Damn country bumpkin!  (That's a little inside joke that only Stevie will get.  Sorry.)

Elevator at Claridges with attendant to "drive" and a comfortable couch to "rest."

Oxygen Tanks???