Monday, September 21, 2015

Verona and Dubrovnik

We did a cruise with with Fun for Less last year and had so much fun. On sea days we had a chance to talk with fellow cruisers about the disappearing emphasis on the family and what can be done about it with our ideas from our book called The Turning which was released last year. It was also a chance to share ideas about family gatherings, family finances as we grow older  and how to live Life in Full (our newest released last month) as we age. Since most of the cruisers were between ages 50 and 80, it was a perfect demographic. This year they had asked us to do two additional cruises….to Croatia, Italy and Greece in the Aegean Sea this week and to Australia and New Zealand in January. We were happy to comply! 

It was a delight to have Charity and Ian join us, since the starting place was the Venice Airport, only an hour and half flight from London. We left heir flat at 3 a.m. on Friday and drove to Gatwick airport to catch our flight. Ian and Charity worked for the day and caught up with us late that night in Padova.

Our first stop the next morning was Verona, the setting for the world famous Shakespearean story of a tragic love affair. The city was charming, the guides were fun. Our art historian guide pointed out every interesting fact about art history along the way which was just fine with me! What a city!

We started at The Arena, built 40 years before the coliseum in Rome. This place was about to host a concert for 15,000 teenagers and their parents where a teen age idol whose name we didn’t recognize was to perform. Thousands of screaming girls showed their adoration for their “idol” as they caught sight of her when they were lining up to go in, just as we were walking back to the buses. It sounded a lot like a cross between hundreds of high-pitched fans screaming at a football match and a revolution.


The city is incredible (as most ancient cities in Europe are!



Just look at the gorgeous original frescos on the walls of these apartments! Our guide told us that the flat on the right with a balcony had just sold for 5 million euros!



Whilst walking through the streets, Charity found a macaron shop and she thought she had died and gone to heaven!



These ancient striped buildings are built with layers of different materials to create “give” in the buildings in case of an earthquake (which apparently are quite common here).


Here is Juliet’s balcony which, according to our guide, was originally a sarcophagus. Some days it takes an hour just to enter the courtyard because of the crowds. Such an interesting commentary on the power of a made-up story by a genius!


Juliet just happened to be there! (Actually you have to pay quite a lot to walk out on that balcony).


The Skala Family were more or less royalty in Verona and their tombs reflected it.



Dante was born here although according to our guide he was much shorter than this statue depicts and he had a very long nose!


So much history! So little time to digest it all! So fun to be there and soak it in!


Who would have thought fifteen years ago when we were hearing so much about the Bosnian/Croatian War, that Croatia would become  one of the most popular destinations for cruise ships and tourists in general?  Apparently it is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe although we saw only one tiny corner of it when we visited the astonishing ancient city of Dubrovnik.

It is a walled city with the longest continuous walk in the world, next to the Great Wall. The main street shown with beautiful marble, polished by a million feet that walk there every year.


A beautiful harbor brings ships in from the sea as well as many fishing boats and yachts.


The narrow side streets were full of fun little shops as well as residences..



Our guide pointed out the extreme modesty that the early inhabitants. This creative little panel was constructed along the stairway to be sure that no men saw the women’s ankles as they walked to church.


We couldn’t resist the 1.2 mile walk around the circumference of the city. Even though it was 93 degrees and 60% humidity and had about as many stairs as there are on the Great Wall (JK, not even close, but it seemed like a LOT)., it was a spectacular view!







It is a gorgeous spot as well as a target during the ward because of all the beautiful antiquities that are housed there. Ware is so stupid!

It was Ian and Charity’s favorite spot. My favorite spot is coming next….Ephesus!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Great Times with Ian and Charity

Since the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square and St. Martin in the Fields are just around the corner from Charity and Ian’s flat we can cover a lot of gallery and site-seeing ground in one day! In addition to spending some quality time in the next-door museums, Charity and I took a bus to the Tate Britain Gallery and then a boat down the Thames to the Tate Modern. SO much fun!

The Tate Britain is one of my favorite galleries in the world. They always have a new exhibit and this is the one for this year: (Thanks again to Charity for these pics. We only have one working phone and Rick/Dad had it).


This dazzling gallery includes one of our family’s all time favorite paintings
, since this piece been hanging in our living room for many years. We saw an artist painting a replica of The Lade of Shallot on one of our trips to that gallery and Richard immediately recognized the talent and bought the replica on the spot. A trip to the Tate just isn’t complete without seeing that girl!




Our favorite at the Tate Modern was this Bread Bed. It is encased in glass and is made entirely with slices of white bread at different stages of demise and then glazed with wax. Who could think of that? The mind of an artist is so amazing!


We also loved the color and design of this painting:


These paintings and creations always make us think, “I could do that,” but actually ….no!


What could be more festive for Covent Garden (also around the corner from Charity) than this new installation indicating that Covent Garden is the heart of London. At night the lights make this mass of balloons look like a beating heart!


On our last night, our newlyweds (until next month when they will celebrate their one year anniversary) skillfully led us to the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral where we saw spectacular views of that magnificent monument to God from a roof-top.









After having dinner there, we were excited to find out what “the surprise” was that Charity and Ian had been saying they had in store for us for the past two days. We walked across the Millennial Bridge and as we neared the London Eye, we saw a crazy swing that went up a poll which was taller than the London Eyre…at breakneck speed. As we approached, we have to admit that we thought “I hope that’s not the surprise,’' which you should never say because….indeed it was! Yikes!



Ian, Rick and I were terrified as they strapped us into those contraptions and Charity was giddy with glee!



We survived. It was a ride we won’t ever forget!

London! What a dazzling place for Ian and Charity to start their first jobs and lives together. They are saying that they will be there between 2 and 10 years. It was a delight to be with them in their new ward on Sunday and experience their new environment!

All their belongings from the States have not yet arrived and it looks as though it won’t be there for several more weeks. It’s amazing how beautifully they are surviving as they continue to live out of suitcases for all these weeks! They have two air mattresses (one for them and one for us), four bowls, a set of four plastic knives, forks and spoons and 4 glasses. They have an almost perfect two room flat. I say almost because there are no electrical plugs in the bathroom so Charity sits on the floor in the hall near a plug with no mirror to dry and/or curl her hair. They are amazing troopers!  Ian loves his very demanding job and Charity is grateful that she has a flexible job working with a group of charter schools.

We are so grateful that they can both take time off to go on a cruise down the Adriatic Sea which is coming next!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

In Search of a Grandmother in Batheaston

One of my great joys is discovering the adventure and adversity faced by my extended grandmothers on both sides of my family. Since neither I nor our family would be here without them we owe them a deep debt of gratitude.

In my lifetime, I have only looked into the eyes of one of my grandmothers. How I wish I had been smart enough to ask her about a thousand questions. But I was only nine when she died and in a childhood fog when it came to learning about my ancestors.

Ellen Sarah Harding Aland who has just been added to my list of Grandmother heroes! She is  my great great grandmother who was born in 1811, married John Sparrow Aland and moved to Batheaston, Wilshire England. There she bore 13 children (that is not a typo). seven of whom died while she lived in Batheaston. She lost Ann at 18, William at 5 months, Thomas at 8, Sarah Ellen at 6 months, Hugh at 9 months, Kate at three days and her last child, Harvey on the day he was born. We have no record of the circumstances of their deaths but we do know that each one was a tragedy! Just imagine the sorrow of going through those pregnancies and then losing those precious children one by one.

Whether all that adversity prompted her to join the Mormon church whose gospel teaches that she will be with those children again in heaven we’ll never know, but it seems logical. Apparently her husband did not join the church, nor did he share her dream to join the vast number of LDS converts who were immigrating from England to join fellow Mormons in America. In 1854 she left her husband, took her five living children and began her arduous journey to America. They arrived by boat and got as far as St. Louis when her oldest daughter, 20-year-old Elizabeth died.

Eventually they arrived in Bloomington, Idaho where she lost two more children at ages 25 and 21 before she died but lived a faithful and valiant life until her death. One of her sons James Orchard Aland settled near her in Bloomington. His wife (my great grandmother Sarah Ann Holmes) gave birth to my Grandmother Elizabeth, Ellen Aland, better known as Nellie was my dad’s Mother, who bore 10 children (losing only one when he was 18) and became one of the stalwarts in the community.

So on Thursday morning Dad/Rick, Charity and I took a train to Epsom where we had left the car (no parking lots in London) and drove 2 1/2 hours to Batheaston. We had no idea what we would find. We were hoping for a small quaint village and not a large sprawling city and we got out wish. We drove into the little village of Batheaston on a truly breathtaking path for about ten minutes, barely wide enough for one car with steep ivy-covered banks rising up about almost straight up on both sides. Had we run into a car coming the other way, one of us would have had to back up a long way!

Thanks to Charity’s phone for most of these pictures!





A charming village emerged at the end of the path and we were thrilled to be looking at rock houses that were surely there when the Alands were there 185 years ago. The countryside surrounding the village couldn’t have been more picturesque.




We ate at at what was once an old monastery established in the 13th century so we were sure our family would have known this place. It is now a restaurant and we enjoyed a fabulous meal there!





A canal built in Victorian times with locks still works and people live in houseboats all along the canal.




A charming church was across the street which may have been the church where the children Aland children were christened.



For some reason we have missed her grave at the Bloomington Cemetery when I’ve been taking the kids there for Grammie Camp. I can hardly wait to find it the next time we visit Bear Lake.

It was an exhilarating day that none of us will ever forget. Thanks Ellen Sarah Harding Aland for all the sacrifices you made to pave the way for us all these generations later.