April 11, 2020 – Mind Travelling – Journaling through the COVID-19 Pandemic


Remembering Europe

Several days ago, I was thinking about how dire the situation is in Italy, and my thoughts travelled to my very first long-distant adventure, to Europe. So I dug out my photo book, and scrap book of postcards, and took a stroll down Memory Lane.

I was just twenty-two years old and working in a temporary job back in my hometown when I suddenly decided I wanted to go on an adventure after my job was to finish at the end of the summer. I had money saved up. I went to see a local travel agent and came away with information about a twenty-one day tour of Europe through Fourways Travel. I called my friend, Carol, and convinced her to take time off work and go with me.

On October 4th, 1972 I left home by train to meet Carol in Toronto, where she lived.

On October 5th we embarked on our adventure! We somehow got to the airport, probably by taxi, to catch our flight to London. I had a little journal to record our trip, but somewhere during a series of moves that I made after my return, it got lost, so all that I have to tell this story is my now vague memory, my postcards with a few notes beside them, and some photos.

In retrospect, it’s obvious I knew nothing about photography at the time, and I realize that I didn’t pay too much attention to the history and geography lessons that I could have learned. I took a several (poor quality) pictures, but I’m stumped to know what many of them are. If any of my European travellers recognize anything, I’d love to hear from you!

According to my Boarding Pass, we left at 7:00 pm that night. My ticket receipt says that I paid for a round trip ticket between Toronto and London for $210 Canadian! I also have a Menu that indicates a dinner was provided and a Continental Breakfast was to be served at 6:45, so presumably we arrived in London sometime on the morning of October 6th. We were booked into the Regent Palace Hotel Piccadilly. We were on our own to explore London for the rest of that day and most of the next.

London

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Later in the day of October 7th we met up with our Tour Group and took a train to Harwich, where we boarded an overnight steamer “Queen Juliana” to The Hook of Holland. Upon our arrival, our Fourways motor coach, with our driver and guide were waiting for us and our tour began.

London postcard

October 8th – We spent this day travelling toward Brussels, Belgium, through Amsterdam, Breda and Antwerp, with a side trip to the colourful tourist town of Volendam, where I picked up a few postcards. In Amsterdam, I took pictures. Some I recognize; most I don’t.

Holland

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From there the bus continued on to Brussels, Belgium, where we did a walking tour through the old cobblestone streets and enjoyed dinner and camaraderie with our fellow passengers before settling down in our rooms at the Hotel Bedford. It’s funny how some things stick in our memories. The Manneken-pis Fountain was one of them.

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Brussels (2)

October 9th – Germany

On driving out the Belgian capital, toward Heidelberg, my Itinerary tells me that we saw many other principal sights of Brussels, including the Royal Palace, before continuing the route through forests and several towns, including Luxembourg, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

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In Heidelberg, we toured Heidelberg Castle. The Heidelberg Tun is an extremely large wine vat contained within a separate building of the castle.

We ate dinner at The Red Ox Pub, and we stayed the night at a (not-noted) hotel.

So… five countries in five days!

October 10th and 11th – Lucerne, Switzerland

After breakfast, presumably in the hotel, we drove on through Freiburg, situated in the southern part of the Black Forest, and onto Basle, Switzerland, through Olten and Sursee until we reached Lucerne, where we spent two nights in the luxurious Grand Hotel Europe and had the chance to enjoy more history, culture and cuisine. We saw the Alps up-close from a cable car from Mt. Pilate (7000 ft)

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Beautiful Hotel
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Enjoying dinner out with our fellow travellers

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On our first morning there, I was surprised by this delivery of red roses, from my love back home! Unfortunately, when we left, I had to leave them behind.

October 12th – Austria

This morning we drove on through Kussnacht and Nafels, and made a brief stop in the Principality of Liechenstein where I recall the Prince greeted us before we took a tour of a Perfume Factory, before entering Austria. We climbed the Arlberg Pass (5,910 ft.) and soon reached Innsbruck, a beautiful city. We spent the night at the Clima Hotel. Unfortunately, even the Itinerary tells me nothing about the city so I’m thinking we arrived late and left early the next morning. (Sigh) I do have a postcard.

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October 13th – Italy

This day was spent on the motor coach, travelling from Innsbruck to Venice. We had to go through Customs formalities at the small village of Brenner before crossing the border between Austria and Italy. Because we would have no time to do any touring ourselves, I suppose, the Itinerary includes some history of all the seven cities we passed through. Brenner, for instance is on the watershed between the Black Sea and the Adriatic. In this village several conferences were held between Hitler and Mussolini.

On the Italian side of the border, we entered Vipiteno in the Italian Tyrol, which was formerly Austrian territory until 1918.

It was afternoon by the time we reached Venice. The coach was left at the terminus of the motor bridge, a mammoth, multi-storied garage, and we were transferred to our hotel. I remember it looked onto the canals and the gondolas. I remember feeding the birds and looking at the monuments of Piazza San Marco. I remember that I wasn’t feeling very well, a cold was coming on. I was offered an evening ride by a canal gondola operator and it was tempting, but now I know that it was a good thing I was sick. I was rather naïve back then.

October 14th I was really sick and that was one of our busiest touring days. Most of it is a blur. I remember sitting on a bench in the Palazzo Ducale Great Council Room looking at the amazing art work on the ceiling through watery eyes, my whole body feeling weak, and finally asking our Guide and Interpreter to take me to the pharmacy for some cold remedies. I don’t remember if I did the rest of the Tour. If anyone took the recommended “lift to the top of the Campanile for the magnificent panorama of the Lagoon and the 117 islands that comprise Venice,” after the Tour, I know I couldn’t have been among them.

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Palazzo Ducale

After lunch we left for Florence. I’m sure that I slept all the way. We spent the night at the Hotel Ambasciatori in Florence.

The next morning, October 15th, we were taken on a sightseeing tour with a local guide and saw The Medici Chapel “the most important of Florence’s architectural and artistic treasures, with its façade of white, green and red marble,” the Gothic Cathedral and the Chapel of the Princes. Again, I now wish that I’d been more in the present and captured more of the memory. I have a cut glass ring that is very similar to the engagement ring of Princess Diana, which I’m quite sure I purchased at a glass factory in Florence.

After lunch we drove through Tuscany, Umbria and Campania before reaching Naples. We were on our own to explore until we were ready to crash in our rooms at the Parker’s Hotel.

October 16th  After breakfast in our hotel, we boarded a steamer for the short trip across the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the romantic island of Capri. A local tour guide was supposedly in charge, but he spent the whole trip over flirting with Carol and me, and he disappeared into a bar after lunch. We never saw him again. We had a beautiful time without him.

We took the steamer back to Naples, through Bay of Naples, and once more boarded the coach to drive through the Campania region toward Rome. That evening we checked into the Caesar Augustus Hotel.

October 17th and 18th we were again on our own to tour Rome, with all of its Cathedrals, Museums and Ancient Ruins. As the Itinerary says “To see everything in detail would certainly take many weeks.” For that reason, I wish we’d had some guidance as to how to best plan our day.

The last evening we all got together for dinner at Risorante Tempio Di Giove for Pizza and Champagne.

October 19th found us once more on the Autostrade heading toward Rapallo, with a side trip into Pisa to see the leaning tower.

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We passed through Viareggio, La Spezia and Sestri. That evening we checked into the Grand Hotel & Europa in Rapallo, which is a beautiful seaside resort at the head of the Tigullio Gulf.

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It’s too bad we didn’t have more time there, but then most of us wouldn’t want to leave! But then, our next stop was Monte Carlo.

October 20th was spent travelling through several other towns and cities along the eastern Riviera, such as Nervi, Genoa, Finale Ligure Marina, San Remo and Mentone until we reached Monte Carlo, where we would spend two nights, giving us one full day to enjoy the beauty and excitement of this famous resort, and capital of the Principality of Monaco. We stayed at Hotel Balmoral and visited the Casino. Beside a souvenir stub in my scrap book is the note: “Cost six francs to get in and lost two francs playing machines. That’s hilarious! It was the first time we’d ever been in a casino or tried slot machines. I remember being very nervous, not understanding how it all worked, so I didn’t play very long for fear of losing more than I could afford.

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October 22nd we continued our drive along the French Riviera coastline. I’m sure we stopped in Nice, France, although I have no mention of it in my Scrap Book. We went through Cannes, Aix En Provence, Avignon, Montelimar, and Valence and Vienne, which are situated on the banks of River Rhone. We stopped for the night at Hotel Bristol in Lyon France.

We arrived in Paris late in the afternoon of October 23rd. The next day a guided tour was provided. We visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the Place de Bastille, From the coach we saw The Palace of the Louvre and Tuileries, which comprise the former royal residence, the Champs Elysees and the Arc de  Triomphe, and of course the Eiffel Tower.

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That evening the tour culminated with an excursion to the Moulin Rouge to see a fantastic show.

October 25th we travelled to Calais where we caught a steamer to Dover and the train back to London, where it had all begun.

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The next afternoon October 27th, we were on a plane taking us to Toronto.

Wow, that was a whirlwind trip! No wonder I can’t remember many details.

While going through Customs, I was questioned about the leather coat that I was wearing. I’d bought it in Toronto. They made me take it off, so they could check the label I guess. They searched all through my luggage and then shoved it aside and told me I could repack it and carry on. What a warm welcome home! Carol was ahead of me and wondered what was taking me so long.

I always thought that I’d go back to my favourite places someday and take the time to really see them, but it never happened. Life took another turn.

Thanks for the Memories.

Piecing Together Memories and a Quilt


If all goes according to plan, we will be leaving for Arizona one week from tomorrow. I haven’t had anything new to write about for the past month because, other than visiting family, we’ve been staying close to home. And because, I have to admit, I just didn’t feel much like writing, anything.

What I have been doing, besides playing pickle ball and ukulele,  is trying to piece together some quilt blocks using some of the many pieces of fabric and a few completed blocks that my mother had left from her years of making her whole family at least one, if not two, beautiful old-style quilts. I remember some of the fabric as being left-over from some of the clothes that she, or I, had made for me or my children.

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I’ve done a lot of sewing myself since I first learned in high school, but my only attempt at quilting was a small patchwork wall hanging that I made for my daughter, featuring a picture of some of her pottery, when she graduated from Kootenay School of Arts more than ten years ago.

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So last winter I took what I had down to Arizona and a friend, who is a master of making quilts, helped me decide what I could do with what I had. I would need some more fabric to balance out the pieces that Mom had, and she took me shopping for that. Next, I bought myself an inexpensive sewing machine (I hadn’t taken mine with me) and the necessary cutting and measuring tools. But then, we both got busy with our own lives and I spent only a few hours sorting the pieces.

A couple of months ago Jim finished off an area for me to use as a sewing room in our basement storage area, and I finally got to work. But it’s been a challenge. The blocks that Mom had made were a combination of squares and triangles. My friend measured the squares and figured out what size square I’d have to make to create more triangles to go with them, allowing for the joining seam,

I thought I had it all figured out. Starting with pieces that Mom had already cut, I put together my first block. Sadly, it was smaller than the blocks that Mom had. I looked more closely at Mom’s and discovered that she’d used a much smaller seam allowance! I took it all apart and redid it, using the same smaller seam. That made only a little difference! Frustrated I left it for a week or so, thinking about it.

I finally went back and took one of Mom’s blocks apart to see what the difference was. I learned that her triangles weren’t true triangles, and they were actually smaller than what I’d expected. But some of her squares were bigger. I wondered how she’d managed to put together those decent looking blocks, and why nothing was exact.

Eventually it occurred to me that, from the evidence of the pen outlines on the pieces of squares and triangles, Mom had drawn out each piece before cutting it. She must have made herself a pattern. I have no idea how she figured out what size triangles she needed, but she must have adjusted the edges to match the edge of the square that she had to sew them to.

I trimmed the squares that needed to be; I could do nothing about the triangles and I couldn’t replace them because I had none of the whole pieces of fabric, so I made a pattern to match Mom’s so any new ones would be the same, and I adjusted the best that I could. I put Mom’s block back together, and put together a new one, using the same seam allowance for both. I was thrilled to find that they both came out pretty close to the same size and alignment, needing only a little trimming. However, they were smaller than the originals. I’ve had to adjust the other three completed blocks to match, and I’ve started putting new ones together.

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More adjustments need to be made along the way. It will be a slow process to complete this quilt, but I feel that I need to do it. It is teaching me much more than just how to create quilt blocks.

It has given me a new understanding and admiration for my mother. When I think about it, I know why she didn’t get the triangles and squares all conformed; I know why her triangles were not right-angle triangles. When my mother was in school, back in the early 1900’s, complicated math didn’t exist in elementary school. In fact, it didn’t exist in elementary school when I attended either. Arithmetic, which consisted of learning to add, subtract, multiply and divide, was what we learned. Like so many girls, and many men of Mom’s era, she never got to go to high school. She never learned geometry. She never knew anything about triangles or equal sided squares.

So how did she learn to piece together quilts? She must have learned from her grandmother (who raised her after her mother died), who learned from her mother. I’ll bet they all had cardboard or newspaper patterns that might have been passed down through the generations, and possibly grew smaller or misshapen over the years.

Mom, you would be blown away if you could see the amazing quilts being made today!

 

But, you may or may not be impressed to know that they are mostly done with the help of machines, not hand-stitched at quilting bees as yours were.