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Category Archives: United Kingdom and Ireland travel

Jack Kerouac and Jack Mormons at the Beatnik Café

It was an unassuming storefront with a killer name: the Albion Beatnik Café.  And, on an unassuming drizzly morning, that café watched this drowned American rat step through the door to the premises. The Beatnik Cafe was the kind of place to peruse, pursue, and, hopefully, purchase for just the pleasure of language. My eyes […]

Izzy’s Song

Written around 1977 after hearing stories from Isabel Bridget Montague, mother of Eileen Montague Brown, my mother’s best friend. Izzy left for Canada with her sister Anne in 1911. She later returned to Ireland to visit, but her father had been lost at sea. She never saw him again. Well, someone should go and tell […]

Hotel is in a great location, but I wouldn’t exactly say we got lucky

I think we’re the only guests in the Redcar Hotel in Bath. We do hear other people from time to time, but they only seem to stay one night at a time. And, for some reason unknown to us, these guests are housed right next door. Why the staff can’t put at least one room between […]

Hostels, then and a later then

On my first trip to England in 1971, I stayed at a hostel in central London where all the guests were college students, college dropouts, recent college graduates, or draft dodgers like my boyfriend. They were from several different countries, and we called each other by our places of origin. I was “California.” Some of […]

Heart attacks at Sutton Hoo

On a moist and breezy morning in 2012, Rachel and I rattled along the motorway in her Toyota. We were leaving the Cambridge fens for the river heathlands of East Anglia and Sutton Hoo. The 625 CE ship burial was excavated in 1939, its chamber packed with treasures: Byzantine silverware, gold jewelry, a feasting set, […]

An Gorta Mór

The British occupation, the potato famine, and Dillon family migration to the United States were factors throughout our trip to Ireland in 2006. These factors weren’t discussed outright, but their shadows, both horrific and hopeful, followed us throughout our three weeks in County Clare. Potatoes were the diet staple of the poorest Irish, and County […]

Going to Guernsey

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book set on this island, was read by perhaps every book club in the United States, including mine in Salt Lake City. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ book, published in the US in 2007, is set during the occupation of Guernsey by Nazi soldiers starting in 1940. […]


I had thought it would be on display on a wall in the great room Along with the tanks, medals, cannons, uniformed manikins patriotic photos, letters, weapons, maps But no. The painting was hung in a smaller room up the stairs all to itself in the Imperial War Museum  in a corner of this former […]

Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Beatrix

She was a woman I’ve admired my whole life. Her first name was Helen, like mine, and her mother’s name was Helen, just like mine. She was called by her middle name, like I am. And boy could she draw. She collected fossils and enjoyed categorizing them. She also drew several hundred paintings of mushrooms, […]

Feeling very American at John Muir’s birthplace

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. – John Muir The Muirs must have been a pretty sorry sight when they first arrived in New York in 1849. The father Daniel, two young girls, […]