Thursday, February 26, 2009

England’s Hidden Places

The concept for Extraordinary Places...Close to London came to me after almost 20 years of my American friends, associates and colleagues asking the question, “I’ve done all the usual tourism places in England and I’m ready to be more adventurous and seek out those unsual places off the beaten path...” The question was asked so many times, I began a file and handed it a potential visitor. It’s that very information that led to the publication of Extraordinary Places...Close to London.

Included within the pages of Extraordinary Places...Close to London there is the history of Lawrence Washington great-great grandfather of our first President who was treated so poorly by the Parliamentarians that his son (John) left England for the New World. Other stories include kings and queens, Vikings, witches and ghosts. The Guinness Book of Records has Pluckley (Kent) listed as “the most haunted village in the country” boasting between 12-16 ghosts depending on who provides the information.

Although I have listed 30 villages or towns, I have also included another 17 locations I feel are worthy of a visit. Other information includes where to eat, where to stay and travel info from London. Some places can be reached by train but others, because of the location, need to be approached by car.
ISBN: 0-8038-2031-3

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Origins - Valentine's Day and Others

February derives its name from the Latin februa, which signifies the festivals of purification so popular during Roman times.

St. Valentines Day – When lovers traditionally state their affection for each other. Chaucer mentions this special day so we know the expression was used in the 14th century and it is thought to be the day the birds chose their mates for the coming season. The origin is shrouded in mystery with at least three men with the given name of St. Valentine. Some say he was a priest in Rome who died because he helped Christian martyrs. Another theory is that Claudius II decreed that unwed soldiers made for a better army of men than those with a wife and family. Believing this is to be a bad decision, St. Valentine secretly wed some soldiers to their beloved ladies. Yet another theory is that a certain St. Valentine while in prison fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and just before he was put to death, he sent a letter to the young girl and signed it “from your Valentine.” In the end, none of this matters because St. Valentine won the day because his name has been forever immortalized.

Warms the Cockles of the Heart – To make one feel warm and emotionally happy.
As a person of English heritage, I find this phrase particularly interesting because the cockle is a small shellfish that is widely available throughout England and doesn’t appear to have anything to do with warming or hearts. The real origin is the Latin term cochleae cordis meaning “ventricles of the heart” and obviously warming the ventricles means reaching the depths of ones heart or emotions.

To Wear One’s Heart on his Sleeve – To show one’s affection openly. Some believe the origin of this phrase lies in ancient times when knights wore the scarves or kerchiefs of preferred maidens on their sleeves thus displaying their emotions openly. We do know for sure that in 16th century England, Valentines were exchanged and that if a man was truly smitten by a woman, he wore the heart-shaped Valentine of his beloved on his sleeve.

Love me; Love my Dog. John Heywood first used this term in his collection of proverbs that was published twenty years before Shakespeare’s birth. The expression is almost a 1000 years old and was used by St. Bernard (no relation to the breed of dog) who used it in a sermon “Qui me amat, amet et canem meum” (“Who loves me will also love my dog.”)

Love Apples – A mistake in etymology and a legend is born. At one time, tomatoes were known as “love apples” and thought to be an aphrodisiac. Originally, tomatoes grew in South America and were imported to Spain soon after Columbus discovered the New World. The apples migrated to Morocco and finally Italy, where they were known as pomo dei Moro (apple of the Moors). Evidently, a romantic Frenchman translated this incorrectly to read pomme de’amour (love apple) and legend was born.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Peddle Power in San Diego

Mikael (Michael) makes his living ferrying visitors back and forth along the promenade in San Diego. For a modest fee (depends on the journey) the "human taxi" provides not only a relief on a hot summer's day and a running commentary on the history of the area, but he also gives advice on the best ferry rides and recommends a place to eat.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bob Hope and the Military

It is hard not to shed a tear when visiting Tuna Harbor Park in San Diego, California. The exquisite sculptures of the men and women who served our country and gave their lives is something not to miss.

Here Bob Hope is captured in time as he entertains the troops in his Army fatigues. He holds a microphone from the 40s as he addresses 16 men and women all beautifully sculptured. Everyone is laughing, some clapping and obviously cheering as they enjoy the show. Some are fully dressed as others look as though they've rushed from their duties because they are still wearing their standard-issue drawstring pants and boots before grabbing a box to sit and enjoy the fun, their dog tags hanging at their backs.
The sculpture of the young sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square us titled "Unconditional Surrender" and is on temporary loan from the Sculpture Foundation, Inc.