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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Death of the Immortal

In the moment, I watched, transfixed, gut-punched, as flames colored the smoky nimbus with an infernal glow. The incandescent spire bent, toppled over, and fell, a spear of fire hurled into the breaking heart of Paris. My mind burned with the revelation:

This is how immortals die.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris had always been there, a fixture of wonderment, awesome, a masterpiece of stone and lead, wood and glass. She was eternal, a legend shrouded in the mists of a different age, a goddess standing tall in the world of men. It had never occurred to me that she could be harmed, that she could die.

But the sight before me said otherwise. As timbers collapsed, as The Forest of attic timbers, each as old as memory, burned hot and bright, as the conflagration spread down transept and nave, I could only think:

She is gone.

In the aftermath, we learned that not all was lost, that the stone vaults beneath the timbered roof had only failed where the spire had pierced them. The limestone of walls, columns, buttresses, and arches, though crumbling at the edges, had stood firm. Even most of the window glass had survived the heat.

I was a reluctant Roman Catholic as a child, converted to Judaism in my youth, spent decades in agnostic dilemma, and now live a religiously unfettered life as a staunch atheist, and yet . . .

And yet, the cathedral means something to me. She is more than just an icon, a symbol of Catholicism, a relic of a darker age. She is a thing of unutterable beauty. She is the embodiment of the human capacity for aspiration and genius, discipline and devotion, a reflection of the divine within us all. Though it will be decades before she is restored, we will some day be able to once more walk the cruciform aisles beneath her soaring stone.

She is immortal still.

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Last week, the news of the day just got to me.

Scandals, graft, partisanship, falsehoods.
Wildfires, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes.
Cruelty, abuse.
Tariffs, taxes.
Chaos.

It was just too much. The siege breached my defenses and I fell into a major depression. Dark. Caged. Compressed. Inescapable.

Wait . . . did I say “inescapable?” Scratch that, for I did, indeed, find an escape.

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Gird thy Loins

Clock TowerNext week, our very dear friends are leaving on an extended, 3+week tour of Europe. And by “our very dear friends,” I mean their whole family; Grandma, the kids, and the grandkids are all packing up and will travel, together, for nearly a month.

First, I set aside my bogglement at (and envy of) a family for whom being in each others’ company, 24×7, for a double-fortnight will be great fun, and then I noted that for some of them this is their first overseas trip. To help them on their way, I was going to email them some salient advice (aside, that is, from my First Rule of Traveling: bring earplugs).

Then I thought, what the heck, let’s share it with everyone.

And so, for them and for y’all, my Three Top Tips for Travelers…

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The final installment from my April 2011 travelogue.

In which we have a major “oops,” meet some pleasant security agents, and our luggage takes an extended holiday.

19:  Home Again Home Again Jiggity-Jig

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Another installment from my April 2011 travelogue.

In which take our last day trip and walk through a sheep pasture to see an old relative’s house. And I sweat a lot…

View from Old Sarum

18:  Baking on Salisbury Plain

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Two installments today from my April 2011 travelogue, and a wrap up, tomorrow. In which visit the omphalos of Austen drama, sit by the river Avon, and learn the meaning of the word “reserved.” Salisbury Cathedral Baptismal Font

17:  A Nice Hot Bath

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Another installment from my April 2011 travelogue.

In which we move from Plan A to Plan B to Plan C.

Kensal Green Monument

16:  The Day We Met the Rest of Europe

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