Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's on your bucket list?

When I was a young girl living with my grandparents in a steel town in Illinois, just east of St. Louis, MO, never would I have dreamed that someday, I would work as an illustrator in New York City, attend a university (no less be working on a second Master's degree), begin a second career as an art educator at 50, spend summers visiting family in the UK, or ride across England on the Orient Express to the Roman ruins in Bath, Somerset.  Now that I am older (cough-cough), I no longer have a wish list, but a bucket list of possibilities for the future. Wednesday's journey checked two of those possibilities off my list.

Victoria Station - London
Admittedly, I have been a fan of Agatha Christie and have had the desire to ride the Orient Express ever since I saw the movie in 1974. Although the idea of traveling anywhere with a load of tourists following a little man or woman holding an umbrella or red flag is dismal, sometimes you just have take a deep breath and jump into the international stream of humanity flooding into certain iconic locations.  Fifteen members of my husband's family undertook this adventure as a celebration of his oldest brother-in-law's 80th birthday. We filled all but four seats on the Iona, one of the train cars on the OE. Sitting at dining tables in groups of two, three, or four, the journey (each way) included a multi-course meal with various bubbly beverages to keep everyone in good spirits.

Our family on the Iona
I must admit that the entire experience felt much like performing in a dramatic novel as there are no shrinking violets in the family. And all, if not most of us, are characters!  As an example, for a few years now, I have been photographing toilets in the UK in an attempt to capture the wide variety of flushing options before Health & Safety makes everyone replace their vintage loos with the standard bog design. Some people in the UK are VERY serious about lavatories and offer the LOO of the Year award. When I first saw the lavatory on the Orient Express, I ran back to my table, almost tripping our waiter, to get my camera. Below demonstrates a room where one could possibly spend a lot of time.

The button above the seat at chest height does the trick.

Mosaic tile floor of a lovely lady and her zebra in the loo
By the time we arrived on the platform, we all needed a brisk walk ... or a nap.  Instead, we climbed aboard a tour bus (something Peter and I never, ever do) and listened to a very knowledgeable lady describe the Medieval and the "newer" 16th - 17th century buildings in the city before we debarked and walked through the ancient Roman town center.

Since we only had little less than three hours to see everything before we were to meet on the train platform, we did our best to absorb as much as possible with the idea of reading more about it later.

All too soon, we were back on the train headed for London. More lovely food and drinks for all. What an exciting experience, and an opportunity for which I am very grateful. 

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