Thank you so much for having me on your blog today. Travel is my favorite thing to do so this was a fun post for me.
I can’t pin point precisely when I knew I was different from everyone else−at least from my tight group of hometown friends. Didn’t everyone have movies playing in their heads starring beautiful characters leading adventurous lives in exotic places? NO—they did not. Did that mean they were normal and I was the odd, slightly wacky duck? My answer to that conundrum came when I attended my first writer’s conference in Savannah. Nervous about being on my own at the crowded event, a kindly writer from Texas took me under her wing and introduced me to at least a dozen writers. Surrounded by so many writers who were so like me, I fit right in. I wasn’t an “odd” duck after all; I’d simply been in the wrong pond!
As a result of that conference, my desire and conviction to write blossomed. Still working a full time job at a Louisiana cancer center, I carved out time to write every night and on weekends. My first manuscript went through four incarnations, and a year under the bed, before success came knocking.
Today my family and our two Labs—Lambeau, the Green Bay Packers unofficial mascot and Gracie, who is just plain, sweet Amazing Grace—live in a picturesque little town in Ohio wrapped around a lovely town square with an intricately carved gazebo where weekly band concerts take place all summer long.
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Best Vacation Ever
My favorite vacation was a trip with my husband and another couple to the British Isles. We’d done Alaska the year before and had such a good time together; we decided we were ready to venture farther afield to England and Scotland. For me, planning is half the fun of any trip and our friends seemed to be fine with that. It was to be a castle, genealogy and pub tour. Our friends did have one request. They wanted to see Princess Diana’s childhood home.
My husband was determined to rent a car for the England portion of our trip and was willing to do all of the driving—the rest of us had adamantly refused. The car we had reserved was too small for our luggage so we had to rent their biggest car which took up entirely too much room on the very narrow streets. The minute we pulled out of Gatwick airport, we were fed into a whirling roundabout. I knew we would all be killed before we’d even seen our first castle.
Before going in to London, we spent a few days in the country, visiting Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn, a distant relative. Outside the bedroom that was said to be hers, was a letter encased in glass that Anne had written to her husband Henry while she was held in the Tower of London awaiting her execution. It was both chilling and painfully sad to read.
We moved on to London and visited the Tower, Trafalgar Square and finally Westminster Abbey. It’s steeped in centuries of hanging banners, burial place of kings, queens, princes, poets, authors and hundreds of royals. The tombs of Elizabeth I and her sister, Mary, were my favorites. At the time of our visit, there were elderly men walking about in long, black robes— looking like our judges— who were available to answer questions. I asked one of them where Oliver Cromwell’s burial site was. The man told me that Cromwell had been buried in Westminster in 1658 but in 1661, when Charles II returned to the throne, Cromwell’s body was ordered to be removed. He was then hanged and later his head was put on a pike in front of Westminster Hall. I was weak with relief that I hadn’t told the man, I was a descendent. He might have booted me out.
Before heading north on the train to Scotland, we travelled to Althorp House, the childhood home of Princess Diana. At the time, the house and exhibition were only opened July to the end of August and you had to buy tickets in advance, which I had done. The house was beautiful with original furnishings, and family portraits lining the stair cases. What I found interesting was the condition of the house; it looked like a family lived there—which they did and had for five hundred years. I remember walking through one of the large rooms and, there in the midst of valuable antiques and treasures, stood a portable Sony television. It looked so out of place but it made me smile. A family definitely lived there. It might look like a museum, but it was also a home.
The stables—more luxurious than any you would see in Lexington or Louisville, Kentucky—were home to Diana’s exhibition. There were continuous movies of her as a child growing up. Several of her gowns were on display and also hundreds of condolence books from all over the world. Not far from the house is a lovely lake with an island in the middle. This is where Princess Diana was buried. It was so peaceful; you could just imagine a little girl and her brother playing around the lake. It’s one of the most serene places I’ve ever been.
For the last leg of our trip we took the train north into Scotland and checked into our small hotel in Edinburgh. I’d been there about seventeen years before and had fallen in love with the ancient city and was anxious for my husband and friends to explore it. Sitting on a bench in a large, shady, treed park is perfect for seeing Edinburgh Castle for the first time. Perched atop a craggy mountain, it looks like an impregnable fortress. In the same park is the famous flower clock.
Jenners is the oldest department store in Edinburgh and a short walk from the park. My husband and I decided to explore a little and separated to look on our own and search for a few souvenirs. First let me say that I collect Lladro figurines and most of them are gifts from my husband. When we met outside Jenners an hour later, my hands were empty and he had a large shopping bag and seemed exceptionally proud of his purchase. Together, we walked back down to the park to wait for our friends.
My husband said, “I told the sales lady in the china department that this one purchase I knew I wouldn’t be returning.” He handed me the bag and I pulled out a large rectangular box with a color photograph on the side. It was Lladro, a woman with two bunnies. I must have sighed out loud.
“Don’t you like it?” He frowned.
“I love it.” That restored a smile to his face.
“And I loved it when you gave it to me last year on my birthday.”
Christy, Thanks for sharing about your trip! I absolutely love this story, it's perfect.
Pierce Hastings, son of Gabrielle’s benefactress, grudgingly agrees to take her under his wing and acclimate her to Atlantic-Hastings. Never one to mix business with pleasure, Pierce stuns himself when he ignores his own self imposed rule. Gabrielle’s complete lack of artifice, unvarnished honesty and quirky sense of humor are intoxicating to him―and he’s rapidly becoming addicted. He’s blindsided when Gabrielle confesses that, in spite of her growing feelings for him, she will never fit into his world of power and privilege and has no desire to try.
“The fact is, Mr. Hastings, it is not a reporter’s job to be favorable. They are in the business of finding and reporting the truth.”
"Nobly put, Miss March.” The woman certainly didn’t pull any punches.
“I hope this will put you at ease, Mr. Hastings. I own the newspaper. It’s been several years since I single-handedly set out to ruin anyone.”
Sarcasm, even with a lovely Southern accent, was still sarcasm.
"I see.” Pierce sounded duly impressed. “That’s certainly an accomplishment for such a young …” He froze when her eyes narrowed. What the hell was wrong with him? He careened from one blunder to the next.
"Tell me, is it my age or the fact that I’m a woman that bothers you?” Her face was considerably more colorful than the rest of her and he knew it had nothing to do with the heat.
Pierce was no chauvinist and certainly had no prejudice against successful females. After all, he’d been married to a talented trial attorney. Hadn’t he put his wife through law school? Hadn’t he supported Glenna in every way until she made partner in her firm and then announced that she’d changed her mind about having children and, by the way, she didn’t want to be his wife anymore either.
"I didn't mean that you weren't responsible.” His eyes returned to the very entertaining Miss March who had just snapped up the ball and was ready to run with it.
"What would someone like you know about responsibility anyway? You've probably never put in an honest day’s work in your entire over-privileged life. Flying around the world trying to stay one step ahead of reality. One of these days you’re going to have to come down to earth and see what it’s like in the real world.”
Where did the woman get her information? She’d obviously pegged him as some sort of wealthy derelict. Fired up, she was something. Misinformed maybe, but she had balls of steel. "For a newspaper woman, you’re lacking in your facts, Miss...."