Friday, November 15, 2013

Did Mr. Wright Get It Wrong?

Don't misunderstand me -- I love Frank Lloyd Wright, the father of American architecture, the creative genius who championed an "organic" style, blending his Prairie School houses into their surroundings, melding the inside and the outside, using clean horizontal lines and beautiful art glass windows, with even the furniture matching the home's design elements.

I've visited Taliesin and Taliesin West, his home and studio in his native Spring Green, Wisconsin and his adopted winter encampment in Arizona.

I first saw the Guggenheim Museum when I was in high school and stood a long time looking up to the ceiling with the circular levels, reminiscent of nature's take on the inner structure of a snail shell.

I've read the best selling Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and marvelled over Wright's larger than life personal saga--- three wives, one 'love of his life' mistress, a horrific fire and murder scene at Taliesin, bankruptcy, rebirth, a life spanning almost 92 years.

His own parties were legendary. He died in debt but left a legacy of a new way of looking at architecture and his often quoted "Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves" neatly summarizes his vision of life. 

But, I had never visited homes he built for other people until this past weekend. Pleasing the customer was not part of the deal and his projects routinely ran over budget - it was only money, after all, and more importantly his client's money. Clients were only too eager to comply, since owning a Frank Llloyd Wright house was the newest status symbol and Wright's magnetic, persuasive personality was a force of nature.

South view of Martin house
During a wonderful weekend with college friends, we visited the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo, a complex of five buildings begun in 1903 for a self made man, Darwin Martin.  Buffalo then was the 8th largest city in the US, situated at the end of the Erie Canal, booming with business and boasting more millionaires than any other city. Martin was a businessman with Larkin Soap Company and also solicited Wright to build the Larkin Administrative Building, Wright's first commercial building.

Darwin Martin became enamored with FLW and they considered themselves friends, even after the preliminary smaller house he built for Martin's sister came in well over budget. The next phase included a much larger house for Isabelle and Darwin Martin on the same one acre property with some truly beautiful features. Wright considered it years later to be his "opus" and the complex "a well-nigh perfect composition."

The charismatic Mr. Wright had convinced the Martin's to sell their Victorian home and move to this open space in the Parkside section of Buffalo. The family moved into the new house in 1905 and the last workmen left in 1907. That must have been a trying two years. With a controlling personality that would put even Steve Jobs to shame, FLW was notorious for requiring that clients sign a detailed (and unenforcible) agreement that they would not change even the placement of his originally designed furniture in the house.

View from the smaller Barton House
Our two hour tour encompassed three houses: the middle class smaller home of Wright's sister (Barton House), the big Martin house and the small gardener's cottage. Our docent was wonderful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. While I marveled at the beauty of the house-- the detailed, patterned windows; the arresting view from the vestibule down a long hall to the Greek statue of Nike in the conservatory; the open floor plan, uniting the library, living room and dining area by means of a framed wood ceiling; the fireplace decorated with delicate glass pattern; the unusual half brick that dominated both inside and out, I kept asking myself one question.

What would it be like to live here?
We don't know if Darwin and Isabelle ever complained about the reality of living in the house. Can you imagine Darwin back from the soap company after a long day and Isabelle yelling down from the bedroom:
D.R. chairs; corners of the table had elaborate light fixtures (not shown)
Is that you , Dar? Crap, my back went out again, so I'm stuck in bed, staring at these freakin' wisteria windows everywhere I look. I blame those straight backed chairs -- they're killing me. I had the ladies for lunch. Gertrude couldn't find the front door and Mamie accidentally knocked the corner table chandelier off not once but twice during lunch. She's a klutz, but, really, you can't even pass the food with those 2 big lights in the way. Believe me we needed them today, though. So cloudy and the house so dark- depression city.

Highly unlikely conversation, but I could see from our tour group's questions that I wasn't the only one imagining living here.

Reception room with those infamous barrel chairs! 
Why is the furniture so small?  asked one young man.
(and uncomfortable looking, he didn't add)
It's not really, said our tour guide. Maybe people were smaller then. We had yet to supersize everything in America from our food to our furniture. Nothing like a cozy barrel chair.

Why are there no closets?
Mr Wright thought they only encouraged clutter. The master bedroom does have a 'dressing room' and he conceded to add a closet in the guest room suite.
(Who knew the minimalist Mr.Wright could have had the first Declutter 101 reality TV show?)

Why is this vestibule have such a low ceiling? I'm claustrophobic.
You're supposed to be! Mr Wright was 6'3" himself and used the height of a room to encourage people to move out of the entrance hall and into the more inviting living area.

The hidden bookcases
If Mr. Martin loved to read, where are the bookshelves?
Our guide pulled open a door to what looked like a solid wooden support. Voila! A book shelf! Push it open and there was another behind it--along with the radiators for the house.

As the chilly Buffalo wind whipped around us, I heard: Does anyone else wonder why an open covered pergola walkway would be an ideal choice for this weather?
I guess we've never experienced a hot Buffalo summer.

Where was the front door?
Mr. Wright believed your house was your private space, so not just anyone should casually come knocking at your door. They'd have to look a bit or know where they were going.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and a deep appreciation for Frank Lloyd Wright's vision and artistry, but I have to admit I reexamined my own house critically when I got back to NJ.

Uh, oh, a generic center hall colonial with those double hung windows that Wright described as looking like 'guillotines.' Big kitchen and bathrooms which Wright dismissed as unnecessary. (Oh to have a serving staff to deal with the banalities!)  My kitchen does have a Chicago window (picture window, flanked by matching casement windows) and looks out on a wooded backyard, which FLW would have approved. But the house seems proud of its comfortable clutter and I can't imagine it any other way. I slumped into my favorite la-z-boy, popped up the foot rest and sank deep into my own definition of luxury. Ah, the plebeian lifestyle has some merits!

PS: Thanks to my good friend Anne, whose own hilarious insights on living the FLW style, gave me the idea for this post.

More pictures of the Darwin Martin House Complex:
The conservatory looking back toward the main house
Nike, the Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Conservatory

Dining room in Barton House-FLW loved those chairs!
Note wisteria windows in Reception room of main house

Charming Gardeners Cottage

Overview of the complex

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Crazy Dreams

I had crazy dreams last night. Could it be the jalapeno poppers I ate at Hermano Carlos's party? Or was it because I slept with the window open? Or am I just decompressing after a very long month of Pinktober?

In any event Gary and I were moving out West and met people with a big black, furry Pyrennes dog whom we fell in love with. (a subconscious wish?) They gave us the dog and the house they were living in, which did turn out to be a nightmare--water pumping out of the floor in the kitchen and living room which we furiously mopped up, like the Mickey Mouse character in Fantasia, only to have the water continue rising. A man with ulcerous, bleeding arms appeared at the door to help. We suddenly had some unspecified children who caused a fire by using a vacuum cleaner in the bedroom. These were, of course, not our real children, who wouldn't have been familiar with such a machine, at least while they lived at home.

No, I hadn't been watching Halloween horror movies and the 10 trick or treaters who appeared at my door were dressed like princesses, hobos and super heroes, not zombies.  But I did watch some of the Sandy one year anniversary news coverage. We are having the basement recarpeted, after the last minor seepage a few years ago precipitated a major overreaction on our part of ripping up carpet and exposing a decidedly ugly and stark cement floor, gray with splotches of red paint.

I am trying to "move on" in a sense, creating more balance between working for Metastatic Breast Cancer Network and living every day to the fullest. I started with a reappearance at the Y, where my ID was so old it didn't work anymore. One yoga class under my belt so far. I wonder why that didn't appear in my dream?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The new hotspot

Forget LA, good-bye New York. The Midwest is rising in popularity, according to my recent experiences (admittedly narrow).  No longer a fly-over region, the MW is the new hot destination. I submit as evidence the following:

  • INDIANA: Number one on the list because my son Eric is spending his first semester as a graduate student at Indiana University. His initial assessment: did we know that Bloomington is the nexus of the Midwest universe? Draw a circle around B-town on the map to encompass 4 hour road trips from IU and you'll be pleased to see Cincinnati, St. Louis, Louisville and Chicago. Not that you're anxious to leave IU - a beautiful campus with buildings of light gray Indiana limestone, a bustling college town area and woods, lakes and old quarries surrounding the town. No snarling or bored waiters, hotel staff or store clerks here- forget about it. Why are these people so happy?
  • WISCONSIN: Gary and I had a 4 day long weekend in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Yes, Wisconsin--it's more than cheese! It was the perfect storm of our interests: history, golf and Shakespeare. Home of Frank Lloyd Wright and his famous home/studio-Taliesin, Spring Green in the Wisconsin River Valley is a charming place, inhabited by many aging hippies. I never saw so many middle aged women with gray hair--do they not sell Nice N' Easy in Wisconsin?  We had tracked down James DeVita and his Shakespeare Company after seeing him in a one man show in NYC last year. For golf, we traveled to Lake Michigan coast, where you would swear you were in Scotland--deep grassy rough, hundreds of bunkers, terrific lake views and sheep roaming the course.
  • INDIANA (again!): My eldest brother returned to South Bend and the University of Notre Dame for a visit for the first time since graduating almost 50 years ago.  From touchdown Jesus to The Grotto to sneaking into Father Hesburgh's office, the trip was a big success. Maybe the next cruise vacation will be replaced by an MW staple: Road Trip?
  • MICHIGAN: A friend just reported that her newly married daughter and son-in-law will be abandoning Brooklyn in favor of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Nice to be young and in love. They are optimistic enough to be starting their adventure in the wintry month of December, so let's hope global warming kicks in this year for a gentle transition to a Michigan winter.
Check out the pictures below and think about the big MW for your next adventure. It's not called the Heartland for nothing.
IU Art Museum

Eric and me at IU

Eric and Dad just inside Sample Gate at IU
IU Stadium--also the view from Eric's apt.

Jets fans in Indy
Me at Taliesin- Frank Lloyd Wright's home
Shakespeare in the Park - Wisconsin
Whistling Straits Golf Course

Sheboygan, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan
Salmon in the river - Wisconsin

Sunday, September 1, 2013

No Menus!

Last weekend a friend and I went to The Bronx Botanical Gardens and then had a late lunch in Little Italy in the Bronx. I hadn't been there in about 30 years and was surprised to see Amato Pharmacy still open for business on the corner of 187th Street. Gary and I had last dined on Arthur Ave with two couples from our Yonkers (Bronxville P.O.) apartment days, one of whom was from the Amato family.

Last Saturday was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and traffic was busy on the avenue, so we parked in the Belmont municipal lot. My friend wondered why I was snapping pictures of the sign and the apartment building overlooking the lot.  Another memory: about 20 years ago, my brother and sister in law were held up at gun point in the very same lot. The mugger had a foolproof scheme going. He'd watch from his window in the apartment and race downstairs when he saw an unsuspecting couple get out of their car. He disappeared just as quickly and it took the police a while to figure out he lived in the building with the Jesus mural, which is still there:

No such worries today, as we threaded our way through the sidewalk crowd of tourists, little old neighbor ladies with canes, and swarthy looking residents. We passed the Kosovo Deli and the Albanian Social Club, along with some Italian restaurants, a bakery, hardware store and other shops. Our destination was Dominick's and an authentic Arthur Avenue experience. We entered the wood paneled restaurant lined with long, oil cloth covered tablecloths and were directed by one of the portly, white shirted waiters to a seat all the way against the wall. No frills, but a good vantage point for viewing the regulars and the large tables of tourists and families.

Our waiter ambled over and asked what we felt like eating.
'To start, I've got clams, calamari, nice big salad, etc." The recitation went on for a while.
We exchanged glances. "No menus?" 
He knew what we were thinking and then proceeded to rattle off the lunch entrees in the same fashion. "I've got veal any way you want, chicken rollatini, eggplant and hot peppers, linguini, tortellini, fresh ravioli, some nice pork ..."

My companion asked if she could have spaghetti with the clams, instead of linguini.
"No, no spaghetti!" We had found our own Italian version of the soup nazi.
Not sure if that was heresy to consider pairing clam sauce with a thinner pasta, but it was clearly out of the question.

Our red wine arrived in two little juice glasses and we badgered the busboy to bring us some bread, although no olive oil or butter was offered. Service was not attentive. The food was good, but not the best Italian I'd ever had. The sauce on my rollatini was delicious but the mushrooms seemed canned rather than fresh. The pasta arrived in a medium-sized bowl with shredded clams, rather than the traditional clam shells.

At the end of our long table there was a seat that seemed to be reserved for a regular. While we were there, one 300 lb guy replaced another with nods and handshakes all around to the waiters who clustered near the bar.

Funny thing about "No Menus."  No menus, no prices. Our waiter came over and had a paper with numbers written down, presumably indicating the different tables he was waiting on. "$80," he says to us, followed quickly by: "Have you ladies been drinking alot?"

When we assured him we had not, he disappeared to re-check the bill. Finally came back after a while with a revised total of $48-not itemized and still sounded high for the luncheon portions we had ordered.

As we left our waiter suddenly got chummy. 'Next time you come back for some espresso, a little sambuca...." Uh, oh, the litany was starting again.

The big guy at the end of the table said, "Great food- huh?'  "Yes," we answered tentatively, "but a little expensive." "Oh, yeah," he smiled, "for you," nodding understandably. We got the turista summer special rates! Maybe we paid for his huge salad and clams casino?

We walked around the neighborhood and stumbled upon Pasquale's-- another place recommended by the Botanical Gardens tram ride employee. "Tell them Eddie sent you--Marianne's nephew," he had urged. The place wasn't crowded like Dominick's, but maybe we should have stopped there instead. It would have been worth it to see how they responded to our being such good buds with Eddie. We did take another of Eddie's suggestions and bought wonderful olive bread in the bakery across the street--crusty bread loaded with rich, black olives.

Our next visit, we decided, would be next spring, to catch the full flowering of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden.  As for Arthur Ave--menus please!

Friday, August 23, 2013

The nightbird

Do you remember this from the early 70's ?
“The flutter of wings, the shadow across the moon, the sounds of the night, as the Nightbird spreads her wings and soars, above the earth, into another level of comprehension, where we exist only to feel. Come, fly with me, Alison Steele, the Nightbird, at WNEW-FM, until dawn.”

I thought of the Nightbird last week as I wandered through my house at 2 am, warming myself some milk and trying to decide what soothing activity would send me back to dreamland. Ah, the soft, sultry voice of Alison Steele would do it, reciting poetry over Andean flute music and playing Riders on the Storm by The Doors, if it were raining. She was the popular voice of progressive rock starting in the late 60's and played whatever she wanted on her show.

Now I am my own Nightbird, creeping around in the wee hours. Peace prevails in the house and it feels like it's completely my world--my kingdom of the night.The clutter recedes in the background. The low lighting blurs the colors and shapes.  The full moon through the window is high and partly obscured by clouds, swiftly passing over it, so that it really does look blue.  I swear I've heard the fairies tapping very gently at my window or was that suggestion lifted directly from a play I saw last Saturday?

Every so often I get these weeks where I'm turned around--day for night, night for day. It starts with being on the computer too late in the evening and going to bed with the neurons still firing. I toss and turn and then silently open the bedroom door, hug the banister and disappear downstairs.  One night I started watching a Turkish movie with subtitles, which I thought would be sleep inducing, only to get caught up in the story until it ended at 4am!

I can't decide if sleeping with the window open helps or not. I love the loud, steady, one note thrum of the crickets and insects at high decibels, punctuating the August night with exotic chirping calls and buzzing answers. Who is out there? Tropical birds...giant frogs...cicadas who missed their cue to return underground?  It's a soothing symphony; yet, I'm also awakened by the sprinklers coming on at 3 am and the newspaper delivery at 5. The seemingly permanent construction crews in my neighborhood start at 8. So maybe windows shut is a better option.

My insomnia usually stops as quickly as it starts and I return after a week or so to a normal routine with no explanation. Perhaps I need to pick up Goodnight, Moon or is it time for Lunesta?

Friday, August 16, 2013


Did you know I'm a trendsetter? As you may know, son Eric and I are supporters of Cory Booker and went Running with Cory in a Morristown campaign event. Finally got our bumper stickers and were glad to see on Tuesday that the Mayor of Newark easily captured the Democratic nomination for US Senator from NJ with 60% of the vote. But, no, that's not what makes me a trendsetter.

A friend and I were planning an outing on Wednesday and she suggested the Newark Museum. Was this taking Cory Booker's trumpeting of the "new" Newark a bit far? My friend insisted the museum is truly a  "hidden gem", which she had discovered years ago. And she was right! The building surprises you with vaulted skylights and interesting vistas. Look down this corridor and you see the marble mosaic of Hercules at Gibraltar, otherwise known to us as the Prudential Rock. Look up and a Calder mobile is suspended above you. Pass through this hallway and note a charming collection of teapots through the ages.

The museum permanent collection is a pared down Art History 101, with one or two works of many well known artists, each room representing a different time period and philosophy of art. Here a Warhol, there a Winslow Homer or John Singer Sargent.  Even Thomas Edison's early videos are included.

The museum links to the beautiful Victorian style Ballantine House, home of the famous beer family who had a brewery in Newark.  One of our favorite display cases showed a collection of utensils and objects and asked you to identify their use. I felt like the new, confused footman in Downton Abbey, discerning the fish server from a spoon warmer and the salt dishes from the butter plates. Luckily the answers were provided and the stern visage of Carson was nowhere in sight.

There were a fair number of day camp groups and others at the museum and many of the exhibits are family friendly. African art and Tibetan/Indian art are well represented. In addition, the traveling exhibits are novel and worthwhile, including Papyraceous, which sounds like a made up word, as creative as the paper sculptures and works it included. 

You can imagine my surprise when I opened the NYTimes today to read Holland Cotter's review of The Art of the Newark Museum. Cotter concludes his article this way:
So it comes down to this: to see the world, really see it, you have to travel. The Newark Museum is about a half-hour from Midtown by the PATH train, then a short cab ride or walk. Just go. 

(Thanks, Holland. I guess you saw my tweet. Cory Booker's not the only one with followers!)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Middle Child Day

I read in the Bergen Record that today is officially Middle Child Day. How appropriate, I thought, as my own middle child, Eric, began yet another long car trip with his younger brother Scott. This time Eric is heading to Indiana University to begin a doctoral program in parks, recreation and tourism. Scott generously volunteered to help with the move. No room in the car for Mom this time, but I am reminiscing about our original cross country trip in 2010, the Summer of Eric, which became the impetus for this blog.

I've been calling this summer the Summer of Eric Part 2, also known as SOE2, since Eric arrived mid-June. Not every mother gets the quality (and quantity) time with an adult child, so I appreciate the gift this summer was to me. We did a lot of things, like fishing, going to the beach, visiting NYC and the Great Falls of Paterson, running with Cory Booker.
On the Norma-K
Hanging with Cory
Running with Cory
No keepers on the Norma K. Next year we're taking the Cock Robin day cruise.

The 12 fish in 30 minutes day!

But, just as memorable were the small things, our daily routine. We started breakfast on the deck or the porch at Brick with a selection of fruit--this from a picky eater who only ate a strawberry for the first time last year.

We each buried are noses in the newspaper--mine usually the old school actual paper version; his on the Kindle. Yes, I was told I eat too loudly-slurping my cereal and knocking the spoon against the bowl. Is someone a bit grumpy in the morning? We often had our respective work to do -my MBCN emails, webpage updates and September conference tasks; his review of potential IU courses and revision of his presentation for a November conference.

Lunch might involve catching up on a tv show-Dexter or reruns of Breaking Bad with no commentary allowed during the show. Theories on future episodes were discouraged-- "You're ruining it for me."

We even managed to get some things done off my to-do list---impossible tasks like throwing out old basement furniture and mysterious black bags. My hero! I still maintain, however, that I never threw out a paper grocery bag with plastic cups from various ball parks around the country. Even I would realize that this was a priceless collection. Maybe it will turn up by Thanksgiving?

Best of all, we had wonderful gatherings with family and friends--- 4th of July fireworks cruise, barbeques and a Yankee baseball game (although I didn't get to boo A-Rod.)
Good Luck Eric cake from Molloys
fireworks cruise on Norma-K
Father and son
The Fans

With the first born
At Jenk's Gate 5 Beach

I was up at 6 AM today to bid the boys farewell, so it's almost nap time here.

Thank you, Eric, for SOE2. Good luck in your foray into those flyover states. Promise you won't change from Green to Tea Party and......
  Happy Middle Child Day!

PS. Your Cory Booker bumper sticker is in the mail.:)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

96 degree golf

Crazy, I know, but I played golf on Thursday in my regular 9 hole golf league. Given that most of the women complain about just about everything (It's too hot, too cold, too buggy, too slow, too windy),  I was surprised to see that seven of the sixteen members had shown up.

Most of the week I had spent cocooned in my air conditioned house with occasional forays to the garage to get into my air conditioned car. I might as well be living in Arizona.  When I walked down the driveway Thursday afternoon to pick up the mail, it didn't seem that bad--there was a breeze blowing the hot, humid air around and I was determined to get outside and enjoy the summer. The Paramus course had to look better than the British Open's burned out fairways with tall, yellow fescue, waving invitingly from the deep rough.

Even with benefit of a golf cart, layers of sunscreen and several bottles of water, I had to admit I was waivering by hole 5. I tried to stay in the shade, but the sun was intense, beating down on us, as we chased our putts down. I felt a shortness of breath, climbing back into the cart. Not even the fact that I parred the hole seemed to help and I thought about tossing in the (wet) golf towel and retreating to the clubhouse, which was an easy ride from the 6th hole.

Then we saw it. The 6th hole. A desert traveler's seductive mirage.  Four sprinklers gently undulated, creating double rainbows all the way down the fairway. It was beautiful, as though we had finally arrived in the colorized land of Oz, leaving behind dusty, dry, black and white Kansas.

"We're saved!" I yelled to my similarly fading teammates. After the tee shot, I drove straight towards the sprinklers, careening the cart in figure eights around the cool jets of water. I got out and walked slowly through the arching sprays, feeling like a kid again. My cautious and reluctant fellow players laughed at me "You're all wet."  "Come on," I urged them, "we'll be dry by the next hole."

From that moment on, the round changed. We were exuberant at cooling off and recapturing, if only for an instant, the simple thrill and careless abandon of youth, running through a sprinkler on a sultry afternoon with no worries or decisions beyond what ice cream we'd get from the Good Humor man, the summer stretching out before us with long, lazy days and endless possibility.

Ahh...isn't that what summer's all about?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A loov-ley holiday

No driving in London!

We had a "loov-ley" holiday in England. The only downside now is having to listen to Gary pepper his speech with "cheers" and "brilliant" and talk of his "mates."

Most exciting was driving the roads of England and Wales, particularly the narrow lanes of the countryside, lined with gray stone walls. How we returned the car without a huge gash on the passenger side is a miracle.

The BIG car and me in Dover
While Gary was quite happy to be upgraded to a midsize Volvo station wagon with all the latest whistles and bells, I kept thinking a nice mini Fiat might have been a better choice. But  automatic transmission, offered only in the midsize class, was a non-negotiable requirement. Bad enough that I had to scream our new mantra "left, left, left"  while Gary negotiated the numerous roundabouts than to even imagine him downshifting midcircle. The Volvo did have many features--so many that we didn't realize we had GPS until the second day. (Yes, next trip we may indeed be ready for a guided tour)

On the first very long day of driving we became well acquainted with three features of the Volvo: BLIS, DAC and  LDW. The BLIS button (which we both misread as BUS) caused a red light to appear on the side view mirror. Did it know when we passed a bus? Kind of spooky. And why would we care? No, it simply lit up every time there was any kind of vehicle in the Blind Spot. Our Blind Spot Information System was actually quite handy.

Yup--a 2 lane road!
But DAC and LDW with their blinking waning lights and musical DIT A DIT A DIT, sounding like an early game of Frogger, became our friends. DAC was the Driver Alert Control and LDW the Lane Departure Warning. No straying over white lines allowed.  At first it was as though Gary were playing his own video game, while I kept leaning to the right, willing the car away from curbs, bushes, stone fences, bollards, and parked cars who flaunted their side view mirrors. I started to keep score. Day one: curbs 4 , mirror whacks 3, bollards 1.

And what is a bollard you may well ask? Steel and concrete poles or barriers to block off a street. In Liverpool when Gary went to park the car, while I registered at the hotel, he took a long time finally showing up at the registration desk. Understandable, I thought, with all the narrow cobblestoned streets in this gentrified hipster warehouse district. Our loovley GPS lady had faltered for the first time, misguiding us to turn into a one way street, so I had hopped out to find the hotel. Gary had continued straight and progressed halfway down the plaza past the bollards, when it became obvious it was a pedestrian mall.

Gary did get better. Slowing down helped. "The right lane is the passing lane" I kept yelling.

HIM: "I hate to have a line of cars behind me."
ME: "Let them wait--Keep Calm and Mind the Speed Limits"
No one else did and Gary developed  a particular dislike for Audis, who always seemed to be the ones tailgating and aching to pass.

Those stone walls
We thought Kent had the narrowest roads until we drove through beautiful Snowdonia Park in Wales with roads carved out of the mountain sides, two lanes of traffic often unexpectedly funneling into one.

3 Million sheep go wherever they want
We googled the traffic fatalities for Wales and only 93 people were killed in 2012. Is that a lot for a country of 3 million people (and 3 million sheep)? There were 5,971 accidents with 8,565 casualties, and that's good news because the numbers have been declining. It seems hard to believe when you watch cars hurtling around blind curves and accelerating up wet, slick roads. Glad we weren't driving them in the 90's when the stats were much worse!
Be careful exiting the hotel's front door

We saw no troopers or highway patrols in England or Wales, but signs warned of surveillance cameras in use. By the second day we were running with the pack and I've been checking the mailbox for our list of tickets. Wonder how many pounds that will come to?
Who cares?  Relaxing at pub with mussels and a pint.