Migrating, Moving and Mid-life Mayhem

Well, I have a updates for you.  Remember back, back, back in time when I warned you a website migration was coming?  This is the week it happens,  so if you log on to see if I’ve done anything productive this past week, you’ll be redirected to my new website.  Since this migration involves technology and a million moving parts, you can guarantee a few bumps in the road….broken links, bizarrely categorized posts and other weirdness.  I’m sorry and I promise it will all be sorted as soon as possible.

Beverly Hillbillies Moving Day

Beverly Hillbillies Moving Day

I’m moving to a new flat in London.  It’s a long story and starts with “You can’t fit seven people in a two bedroom flat the size of a closet even on a temporary basis.”  or  “As much as I love people-watching at the posh club across the street, the 3am drunken anthems under my window and late night cab vs. limo  wars are getting on my last damn nerve.”  More to follow.

It’s my birthday week and I’m looking forward to some Funfetti cake and a few cocktails to kick off a mid-life crisis.

Thanks so much for following me and I’ll see you on the other side.

Best,

Megan

 

 

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Sun Yourself Like Apollo

from shore

Travelers come to Mykonos for the glorious sun, the beautiful beaches and the inexplicable, ever-changing color of the sea.  If you approach Mykonos by ship, you immediately notice the whitewashed houses dotting the cliffs.  At night from a distance, the houses look like pearls sprinkled in the sand.  If you fly in to Mykonos, you see a scattering of endless rocky islands as far as the eye can see.  Who comes to Mykonos? It has a reputation for attracting jet-setters, cruise ship travelers and honeymooners, but truthfully, the island has something for everyone.

mykonos beach day 1

Let’s start with the beaches. After all, Mykonos is a great place to relax and bask in the glorious Greek sunshine

I have to confess I worried about bringing my extended family to an island that has a party reputation, but the London weather report promised a week of cloudy skies with a chance of misery and the Mykonos weather report in promised a week of cloudless, sunny skies and a balmy 85 degrees.  The decision was made.  After a week on the island, we realized Mykonos has a beach for every agenda…partiers, families, couples, jet-setters and those looking to get away from it all.

Paradise Beach photo by PnP

Paradise Beach photo by PnP! on Flickr

In general, beaches on the south side of the island have amenities like lounge chairs, umbrellas and table service. They also tend to be crowded, especially on weekends.  If you are looking for quiet, secluded beaches and you are willing to forgo some amenities, it’s best to head north to the less populated areas.

Paradise Beach is on the souther side of the island and is considered “party central” on Mykonos.  You have endless choices for chair and umbrella rentals, beach-side clubs and easy access to bar and food service.  You could bring children to this beach and people do, but the party atmosphere and younger crowd tends to ramp-up as the day goes on.  Paradise Beach hits full party mode by 5pm.  If you don’t want to explain grinding or the various shapes and sizes of human anatomy to your kids, consider a different beach. It’s easy to get to by taxi or shuttle buses running from the town center (20 minutes from town).

Psarou Beach

Psarou Beach

Psarou Beach is the place to see and be seen.  Reservations are recommended if you would like to secure a sun lounger and a primo spot.  Although Psarou is also on the south side of the island, it is quieter than Paradise and attracts a more sophisticated crowd.  Prices for loungers, food and drink match the high-end clientele.  Best to drive or take a taxi from town. (20 minutes from town)

Agios Sostis Beach

Agios Sostis Beach

Agrios Sostis on the north part of the island has a small, rocky swimming cove and a large, sandy beach.  The small, family-run taverna at the top of the hill (Kiki’s) is excellent.  If you come during peak hours, be prepared to fight the locals for a table. No, you can’t make reservations. Bring your own towels, sunscreens, drinks, etc. to this beach as there are no loungers, umbrellas or services available.  Very family friendly, although it is Greece….nudity is always a possibility. A car is necessary, but a taxi is a possibility if you can talk them into taking you. (30 minutes from town)

Fokos Beach, Mykonos

Fokos Beach, Mykonos

Fokos Beach is also on the north side of the island.  You bounce down a long and winding dirt road through the hills and past a dam before you see two beautiful things…a big sandy beach and the lovely Fokos Taverna.  This is also a BYOBS (bring your own beach stuff) beach.  This beach is rarely crowded.  A car is necessary. (45 minutes from town).

Things to Know:

With a car and a few days to explore, you can discover dozens of hidden beaches along the island coast. Car (ATV and scooter) rentals are available in town.  While ATVs/scooters are popular, renting a car is a better bet for reaching the more remote beaches.  Based on the number of emergency clinics, orthopedic clinics and the multitudes of walking wounded we saw in town, a car will also increase your chance of survival on the unpaved roads.  Just saying.

Cash is king at many of the tavernas and cash machines are few and far between outside he city.  Stock up on Euros before you head out for the day.  I still owe the nice man at Kiki’s 5 euros.  Embarrassing.

mykonos-airport

The Plane Truth

A friend forwarded an article to me this week about one of my favorite travel destinations. My heart sank.  It seems trivial at first read, but for the first time in my life I realized we experienced a place that will no longer be part of the travel world for the foreseeable future.  It was a painfully short read.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23447511

The plane trees along Canal Du Midi

The plane trees along Canal Du Midi

The Canal Du Midi in Southern France is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a favorite with boaters around the world.  The engineering genius of connecting the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, the spectacular beauty of tree-lined canals, locks, tow-paths and villages will be markedly changed when all 42,000 trees that line the bank are destroyed.

Biking through the vineyards along the Canal

Biking through the vineyards along the Canal

I went back into my photo archives to find pictures that capture the incredibly beauty of the place, but it’s difficult. We have a few photos and memories of piloting our hire boat through the canal, the chaos of “all hands on deck” to man the locks, the emotional moment of watching endless shooting stars stream overhead and the magic of dining topside beneath the plane trees at Carcassonne.   Will people still ride bikes along the tow-paths and through the neighboring vineyards?  Will they still stop at the tiny village bakeries to shop and pick up the morning croissants? Will local wineries fare well without boaters tying up along the canals and wandering up for an afternoon tasting and a few bottles of the local vintage?

Enjoying a local vintage...topside on Canal Du Midi

Enjoying a local vintage…topside on Canal Du Midi

Lock keepers managed to find hidden stashes of apple tarts and home made wines to share

Lock keepers managed to find hidden stashes of apple tarts and home made wines to share

So many bridges and locks...

So many bridges and locks…

Moored at Carcassonne

Moored at Carcassonne

Boating under the canopy.

Boating under the canopy.

In 50 years or so, it may return to its former glory, but the knowledge that I’ll probably never see it again nor will my children…is heartbreaking.

Friends and family for a topside dinner

Friends and family enjoying a topside dinner

The Land of Heart’s Desire: The Yeats Trail

Despite the heroic efforts of  my 11th grade English teacher, I am a literary simpleton.  I  like poetry that rhymes and I routinely confuse Yeats with Keats.  Tragic, really.  My father, far more cultured and literate than I, mentioned an interest in a Yeats tour of Ireland as part of our mini “Gathering 2013.”

With a little Irish luck and a lot of Google maps,  I discovered Coole Park, home of Yeats’ literary patron Lady Gregory  and Yeats’ summer home are next to our ancestral family land in Gort, Ireland. A logical and convenient place to start our tour.   I like to imagine my great-grandfather and Yeats crossing paths in the woods, accompanied by other literary geniuses (George Bernard Shaw, JM Synge and Sean O’Casey) that spent time at Lady Gregory’s home.

Thor Ballylee, Yeats' summer home

Thoor Ballylee, Yeats’ summer home
The tower at Thor Ballylee

The tower at Thoor Ballylee

Yeats’ bought his home in Gort, renovated it and called it Thoor Ballylee, a nod to his passion and interest in local lore and culture.  The bucolic, riverside setting  provided Yeats with an inspirational retreat from the world.  Yeats once said: “To leave here is to leave beauty behind.”   He penned The Tower  and The Winding Stairs and Other Poems while living at Thoor Ballylee.

Coole Park House, home of Lady Gregory

Coole Park House, home of Lady Gregory

Coole Park, a short distance away from Thoor Ballylee, was a hub for the Irish Literary Revival. Yeats often wandered the grounds with Lady Gregory and fellow writers, seeking peace, solitude and inspiration.  It was the setting for many of his poems including The Wild Swans at Coole” and “In the Seven Woods.”   In the garden, an ancient tree bears the signatures of notable visitors to Coole Park.  It’s easy to imagine the writers gathered under its branches, casually adding their mark for posterity.

Into the Seven Woods

Into the Seven Woods

Although the house was demolished in 1941, you can still wander the sheltered wooded paths and along the lake to count the “nine and fifty swans.”

Connemara cottage

Connemara cottage

Along the R345 road

Along the R345 road

Our trail led us from Gort further west to  Connemara.  Yeats visited here often and spent his honeymoon in Renvyle.  A few wrong turns off the highway through Connemara, I’m overwhelmed by the scenery and stop to take a picture. I immediately regret only booking 2 days in this beautiful place.  It is a land of peat smoke, unspoiled majesty and melancholy beauty. It is the “Ireland of Ireland.”  We continue the road less traveled to the sea and spend our time imagining a summer spent in a Connemara cottage.

Lough Gill

Lough Gill

Although Yeats was born in Dublin and spent time in London, it was the mountains, lakes and lore of Sligo that inspired him to write some of his most memorable verse, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

“…arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,  And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:  Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,  And live alone in the bee-loud glade…”

We drove a circular route around Lough Gill to Dooney Rock of  fiddler fame to the boat launch that ferries visitors out to the Isle in summer.  From a distance, it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to “arise and go” live on the tiny island, but Yeats often wrote about the familiar landscapes of home when he was far away and homesick.

Heading west, the majestic and magical Knocknarea, with it’s stunning cairn over the burial tomb of Maeve, Queen of Connaught, inspired Yeats to write “The Land of Heart’s Desire” and “The Hosting of the Sidhe.”  Add a rock to her 40 foot high cairn for good luck, take one away at your peril.

Ben Bulben

Ben Bulben

Sadly, the lovely Lissadell House was closed, due to an ongoing legal dispute, so we ended our Yeats trail where the man himself rests, Drumcliff.  Yeats died in France and told his long-suffering and exquisitly tolerant wife, Georgie Hyde-Lees “If I die bury me up there [at Roquebrune] and then in a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo.”  Although it took far longer than one year, Yeats was eventually buried according to his wishes under the shadow of Ben Bulben in the busy Drumcliff cemetery.

Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!

Things to Know

Thoor Ballylee was severely damaged by floods in 2009 and has yet to reopen.  Visitors can walk the grounds and peek through the windows.  It’s worth stopping by, if only to absorb the atmosphere of the place.

Coole Park was an unexpected surprise.  Despite the fact no house remains, the grounds and gardens are lovely.  The tea room and small museum are worth your time. Check dates and times before you go.

Happy Birthday, Prince of Cambridge

After the new little Prince of Cambridge was born, photographers were ready to pack up their tents and cameras and head home. Even they are tired of standing around talking about nothing  20 hours a day.  The crowds have thinned a bit at St. Mary’s Hospital, but not at the Palace.  I walked through Green Park this morning and saw thousands of people crowding the gates, hoping to glimpse the Royal Birth Announcement (PS, it’s quite small a la the Mona Lisa effect).

London Eye/ Jordon Lee/Twitter

London Eye/ Jordon Lee/Twitter

It’s been a fabulous few days. Patriotic colors spun around the edge of the London Eye in celebration and the BT Tower proclaimed “It’s A Boy!”   It was a celebration all round the world.

Tip:  to avoid this, always stay North of the rope in Green Park

Tip: to avoid this, always stay North of the rope in Green Park 🙂

Today, crowds piled into Green Park and the Tower of London to witness two Royal Gun Salutes.  The  Green Park salute was a 41 gun salute, twenty more than the traditional celebratory 21 gun because it takes place in a Royal Park.  There are rules, you know.  The Tower was 62 guns…the standard 21, plus 20 for a Royal fortress and an additional 21 as a tribute from the City of London.  Got it? It is a spectacular thing to watch.  The band marched entertained the waiting crowd with a weird playlist that included the theme from Indiana Jones and a few Star Wars numbers, rounded out with Rule, Britannia.  Not sure what that all means, but it kept everyone quiet.  A few minutes before 2:00pm, The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery came barreling down  Green Park on horseback, caissons in tow , disengaged the guns and kept riding on.  If you’re wondering why I posted the YouTube video instead of my own, it’s because I had my camera on the wrong setting for the 45 seconds it took them to ride by.  Yes, I was sad/mad. Still am, but enjoy the concept.

Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery

Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery

Happy Birthday, Little Prince.