The Slow Lane in London

As we were recounting  wild tales of almost three years living home free to some willing new listeners in California over dinner this week, it occurred to me that we appear to live an exciting, fast-paced life when we’re on the move.   Friends are amazed that people our age can dash around Europe, dining in Berlin’s exotic, exclusive China Club, taking in ballet in Buenos Aires, seeing palaces in Paris, or devouring Moroccan stews in Marrakech, but the fact is that we don’t run very fast.  You need to know that there’s a lot of down time between those highlights!  I started looking at our pictures and observed that most show us being very busy!

Tim Comp
Nice, but not too exciting!  Computer banging even in a beautiful setting, isn’t all that thrilling to see.

Have you ever noticed that almost all the photos in your family albums feature people laughing, having fun, posed in lovely spots, or celebrating an occasion? There’s a reason – and it’s the same one that compels me to usually show you only the exciting moments of our travels, not the every day humdrum part.  Ordinary stuff can seem really dull.  I mean, who wants to see someone reading or watching TV or banging away at a computer?  But when I look at photos of our life in other places, I realize that some of the best days weren’t special at all…just fun and easy, almost routine, like being at home without having one of our own!

IMG_2438
Not much going on here, either.  Just a little afternoon stroll.

As I looked at our September pictures, I realized that we didn’t do much at all.  Nine months, five countries, one transatlantic voyage, one completed book and thorough edit, many magazine articles, and a lot of sightseeing squeezed in between sight seeing and making new friends had left our tanks on empty.  I realize now that we never really spoke about it, but when we walked into our English apartment in East Molesey, Surrey, near London, put our travel-worn clothes in the tiny wardrobe, stocked up the comfortable kitchen with necessities, rearranged the furniture to our liking, inspected our much-loved view of the River Thames, and plopped down on a familiar couch for the cocktail hour, we knew we were beat and ready to stay put for a while!  It was especially appealing since we had rented the same place the year before, so we knew exactly where everything, including the toaster and the hair dryer, was located.

This spot claimed a lot of our time and attention!
This spot in our apartment claimed a lot of our time and attention every day.

During most of September we relaxed, drank and dined with new and old friends, and enjoyed a low-impact month of re-charging in a country whose language we speak, more or less. We had spent most of eight months in places where we might as well have been interplanetary beings, not equipped to read many signs or labels, and certainly unable to eavesdrop or follow conversations more sophisticated than the weather or which bus to take.

  • At our house with our pal Rick Riccobono.
  • A relaxing local dinner with Tim's friend Derrick Allen.
  • Playing in the rain with Suzanne Flenard and Jeremy Schuster.
  • Lunch with new California friends Elliot and Sandy Gordon.
  • Liz and Tom Kaiser, locals who entertained us so nicely.
  • With Margo Riccobono at a street fair.

On the one hand, the isolation certainly enhanced Tim’s and my personal relationship because most of the time it was impossible to communicate with anyone but each other; on the other hand, knowing almost nothing  about what’s going on in one’s immediate vicinity was odd and strangely tiring. Local TV news does not exist for us when we are in France, Portugal or Germany unless  events makes it to CNN. When there were strikes or protests in Paris, which are almost daily events, most of them benign, we had to rely on a Yahoo search to find out the cause, and even then the reasons for the upset were sometimes so obscure that we didn’t understand it anyway!

So in England we reveled in some down time, making our way into the big city, which we do adore, only a few times, and  even on those occasions we went to see friends and gobble up their delicious home made barbecue or dine out in their neighborhood. We did see  Helen Mirren do her fabulous Queen Elizabeth interpretation live in the lovely play, “The Audience,” indulge in some really great Mexican food (imagine), and spend a damp but hilarious day with our friends from Paris who came for Design Week.  But after each trip we would  scuttle back to our quiet little East Molesey where we could meander by the river, watch fabulous British TV, cook in our kitchen with real human-sized equipment, and generally kick back in the gorgeous autumn weather.  It was a thoroughly enchanting September for us and we were happy to be low-key for a while.

  • Our stop.
  • Our little station.
  • It's a different story at Waterloo in London!
  • Leaving our little putt-putt car at the station..
  • Our private car 🙂 to London.
  • We'd scuttle back home to our local pub on the river!
  • My leader putting us on the right track in London.
  • A foodie's dream exhibition at Somerset House.
  • This tube car is NOT crowded!
  • China town always makes us happy.
  • Fantastic Mexico City cuisine at Lupita in Covent Garden.

September passed quickly, and it finally occurred to us that we are now so familiar with London, particularly with our little hidey-hole in Surrey, that it could become a habit.  So we’re now making plans to take our home free act on the road to new places. Africa, Australia, South America.  Viet Nam, Korea, and the South Pacific are real contenders, too. Notions of those places titillate us and remind us why we hatched this magical plan in the first place.  So once again, rested and restored,  with the book on its way at last, we are in our favorite mode;  crouched over computers, pawing the book stores’ travel sections, scouring the internet, and asking friends and fellow travelers to share their experiences as our adventures for 2014 and 15 take shape. I have a hunch that we’ll find new hidey-holes in places we have yet to see!

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  1. Laurel Barton

    Hi Lynn. You are so right about doing normal things! It’s OK to stay in and do laundry, do nothing more than go for a long walk or go to the gym. Our friends and family see the top-of-the-list experiences most of the time in our blog, but we do have to go grocery shopping and still revel in watching a movie together as we might in the U.S. I blow hot-and-cold on understanding everything going on in the local culture and local news. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but I also like to know what the Italians we are living among are thinking, experiencing, seeing, doing. I don’t feel in touch with popular culture in either the U.S. or Italy even though my Italian is now pretty good. We miss our friends and family, would like to have more visitors, but I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to live abroad.

  2. Amy Keane

    Love reading your blog and look forward to the book. If Cuenca, Ecuador is on your possibles list , let me know, as we are Europe bound next fall and will be renting our pequeño penthouse in this popular colonial town. Cheers!

  3. Holly Francis

    Still following your adventures abroad – and I agree that quiet days are just as wonderful as busy ones. My neighbors are nearing retirement so I just forwarded your Webpage info to them so they can start planning their travel adventures. I lived in Paris for 2 months in Fall 2012 and plan to live there again for 4 months in Fall 2014. I usually arrive around Sept 1 but may try to arrive in mid- to late-August this year, hoping to meet you for lunch before you take off again for parts unknown. Keep on posting!

  4. Mary

    Love your thoughts on relaxing a bit. You both have had an amazing year of experiences. Fred and I are off to the UAE, Oman and Qatar next week – then April will find us along the West Coast of Africa. We have been so fortunate to see so much- now we are getting off the “tourist trail” and savoring some very different cultures. We hung a world map and inserted pins in the countries that we have NOT visited. Now we feel like we haven’t been anywhere! There are definite clusters, so we have our mission! Happy New Year to both of you and happy travels.

  5. Linda

    It is a little different to be working in a cafe in Paris overlooking the Bastille versus in my home office… at the time I complained.. but then I realized… I was sitting in a cafe in Paris working!

    We also enjoyed watching a French version of “Property Brothers”… it was great as we tried to imagine the elimination process!

    Love reading your adventures!

  6. Matthew

    You mentioned the amount of writing you do while on the road. You have at least this blog and you contribute to others, the new book, and magazines. Of what you know now about travel writing, what advice about gathering material and ideas for writing would you give yourself when you were starting out?

  7. Annita

    Hi! I just had a chance to read this. You are right – everything from how tiring it is to not know the language (for me when Dave wasn’t around), to rushing around wanting to see EVERYTHING and try EVERYTHING and…being tempted to visit other places just because they are relatively close by. That was our temptation when we were in France this summer. Some days you just need to rest. When the rains came in early September, we were “forced” inside, and rediscovered how cozy and restful it can be to just relax. We watched movies on the Ipad and even had fun watching those DIY home improvement shows in French on French TV. Although we (well, I) couldn’t understand, I love those shows so had a ball watching. The apartment did become home, though, and we were always happy to get back from our little jaunts and do nothing. From now on, I don’t think we’ll stay in hotels ever again! See ya in Vietnam, maybe! On our bucket list!

  8. Lynne

    Hi,

    Oh, thanks so much! We wish we could share a glass of eggnog and some yummy Christmas with you darling people.

    We’ll take you up on your links and your offer, too!

    Warmest wishes to both of you!!

  9. Rick Ackerman

    Hi,

    If Australia makes the cut, checkout our website for the three months we spent there in each of 2006 and 2009. There are links to restaurants, etc. unfortunately no photos from 2009. I’m currently working to update the site.

    Happy Holidays. Your suite awaits here in SC.

    Rick