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Two Weeks In Scotland And England With My Adult Son: Part 2, England


Actually let’s finish up Scotland. Because when you and I last spoke, my son and I hadn’t yet departed. Guess what happened when we tried to check in at the Edinburgh airport? Cancelled plane. Minxish conveyances!

We had had tickets to Gatwick, final destination Brighton. Due to “an incident on the Gatwick runway,” and resultant shutdown of afternoon flights, British Airways had rebooked us to Heathrow. It’s only an hour from Gatwick to Brighton but Heathrow meant an hour+ ride into London and then another hour+ down to Brighton. Sigh.

My son did an excellent job of talking me down. As did the Xanax I take to cope with fear of flying. We got where we were going.

Hint: Travel with calming people and substances.


Why Brighton, you might ask? Why not Bath, for more Georgian townhouses? Or Stonehenge, for the ultimate standing stones? I’ve got online buddies in Brighton and was dying to meet their children and understand where they lived.

So, Tuesday morning we woke up here, at an airbnb in Brighton’s “Lanes” neighborhood. Alleys, cobblestones, and walled gardens. With palms.

The house was wonderful, and the host a real gem (who even subsequently mailed me the clothes I left there, no fuss no muss). Loud nocturnal seagulls were our only complaint, but, earplugs were provided in a basket next to the bed. Very considerate.

We spent midday with Laura of baby, picture this (I’ve written about her and her photography before), and her beyond cute daughter, picnicking in the Brighton Palace Gardens.

Then my son and I walked down to the sea. I had visited Brighton once as an 11-year old, only to accuse my parents of lying to me by calling the seaside slope of rocks a “beach.” Brighton then was populated by English pensioners, now it reminds me of some Californian coastal towns. The pensioners remain, but they’ve joined forces with London commuters, artists, and flocks of European high-schoolers on summer courses.

Resulting in, for example, a guy dressed in a zebra costume playing the keyboard to throngs of unbothered passers-by.

Hint: Visit your online friends where they live and let them show you the sights.

Time to go back to the flat. We walked through the North Laines district. So good.

Fortuitously, the district is full of small jewelry stores. We bought my son an earring. The one he wore had been giving him trouble, and what with my own metal allergies I was determined to find him something in high-carat gold or platinum. We wandered in and out of small stores until we met a jeweler with loose stones he would set to order. My son chose an oval garnet  to set in white gold, the slight discord of a brown-red stone against the setting perfect for him. One of those moments where you believe that the universe knows and cares.

Hint: Shop in Brighton instead of London, you may find more original goods.

And then we met Laura, and my other friend Cate, and their families, for dinner. While we have a long time online friendship absolutely real in its own way,  there’s no denying that real life meetings deepen connection..

Photo by my accommodating son.

All those cute children. Sigh.


Wednesday morning my son and I took a train up to London, botching our our first attempt because in our plane-cancelled fog we’d bought incorrect return tickets. Minxes.

We walked the streets the day we arrived because, London. Some places familiar,

and some new, at least to me. I can’t believe I’d never been to London’s Chinatown before.

But in the end, the real joy of this visit to London was our Museum Thursday.

I confess, I don’t really like museums. I know. I find all that walking and stopping uncomfortable –my sister coined the term “Museum back” – and I’m prone to visual overload. But my son is a huge fan. So I spent Wednesday evening in our hotel reviewing exhibitions and researching places mentioned on social media.

Thursday morning we ate a no-fuss breakfast at the hotel’s club lounge, and set off. On foot. First stop, the Tate Britain.

Tate Britain, Queer British Art 1861-1967

I found it moving, almost painful, to be reminded of how dangerous LBGT life used to be, and not so long ago. My son, I think, experienced the exhibition more immediately, enjoying the journals and sketchbooks, the intimate look at people across a century. Either way, it was a beautiful show and much recommended.

Vernon Lee 1881 John Singer Sargent 1856-1925 Bequeathed by Miss Vernon Lee through Miss Cooper Willis 1935

Mr. Sargent participated.

via The Upcoming

Somerset House, Perfume

My son is a scent hobbyist, not so much in the wearing or the making, but in enjoyment. Fortuitously, again, thank you universe, Somerset House had put on a really well-done interactive exhibition of various scents through history. From a display of classic perfume bottles,

to smell and ponder stations. That little white triangle is full of a perfume – unnamed. You sniff, and look,

then fill out a card like this. Ten stations in all. Fascinating.

via Wallpaper

Sir John Soane’s House/Museum

I remembered that Reggie and Boy Darling had visited Sir John’s place in 2016, and wanted to take a look.

via The Londonist

Sir John actually lived here. Whoa nelly. Curiosities ‘R Us. Perfect in contrast to what came next.

National Gallery

Finally, almost as a matter of course, we headed to the National Gallery. On arrival, we found this tapestry. Designed by Chris Ofili, who happens to be one of my son’s favorite artists, and woven in Edinburgh by a studio my friend Cara knows.

via Time Out

If you’ve got a minute, watch this short video on the process of creation.

But really, the piece needs to be seen in person. It’s enormous; for context, here you see it hanging on a double height wall.

via BBC

Made me want to sing.

Hint: Feel no shame if you decide to dash in and out of the world’s great museums, seeing only what you choose.

And that was that. Back to New York the next morning, this time our Delta flight a Virgin Airlines Upper Class. I will only say that we declined the option to have “my driver” drop us off at a private entrance, taking Uber to the standard entrance instead. The Upper Class lounge is fantastic – again, look for those companion-fly-free-or-half-price business fares, they come with a lot of perks.

The New And The Familiar

I’ve been thinking since we returned.

While we experienced the best of New Place Travel in Scotland – an eyes-wide reaction to the never seen before – our trip to London reminded me there’s joy in the familiar. In new places, we travel broadly, watching new patterns assemble themselves out of raw experience. In the familiar, we travel deeply, instinctually, trenching the details of patterns we knew but not so well.

Lodging and Mealing

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27 Responses

  1. I’m so glad that I’ve been distracted from blog reading this summer – I got to read about your whole trip in “real time.”

    Damn, Scotland looks cold! But OMG breathtaking!

    How lovely that you could do this trip. A lifetime of “remember whens” in two weeks time.

    And your son is totes gorge, as the cool kids say. And I love, love, love that picture he took of you, leaning against the wall in your trainers ;)

    1. @Patsy, Glad you’ve had a fun and distracted summer! It was exactly a lifetime of remember whens. I am now thinking I’d like to go with both the kids:). Scotland was only cold in Uist, at 9:30pm. Other than that, in the Highlands it was brisk;).

  2. Omg, Brighton was home for 10 years.
    My boys were born there.
    You evoked so many feels…

  3. Huzzah for Brighton! I was brought up not far from that raffish town and I still enjoy a visit when down south to visit friends and family. Always something to look at and sea as well. As a teenager I got badly sunburned on the stony beach, when a child I used to rush in and out of the cold water without a care, usually to disappear quickly as the beach shelved away just a few feet from the shore. It’s a grubby old lady of a town but a good one.

    1. @Annie Green, Raffish is the absolutely perfect word, a grubby old lady with a feather in her hat and large rings on her fingers, who knows how to swim a long, long way.

  4. It sounds like a wonderful trip all around, even with the travel snafu’s. I’m so glad you had this chance to travel with and spend time with your son.

    Your first post reminded me of how much we loved Scotland. Would love to go back someday…

    1. @Susan B, It was wonderful. The travel snafus eventually became, to me, a sign that the voyage was a story in and of itself. With themes:).

  5. Ah. Delightful reading; inspiring and informative. Both parts of this were a pleasant interlude. The picture of you meeting your Brighton friends made me smile. Love the story of the new earring for your son. As a person who must wear earrings or earring wires of platinum, or my ears hurt, I can sympathize with earring problems. As a Capricorn, I also approve of the oval garnet and platinum in combination. Garnets are often overlooked as a stone choice, and I feel protective of them since they are my birthstone. I have a ring made of a garnet set in platinum. I love the contrast. It was fascinating to read you’re not usually a museum fan since that and cafes and restaurants are my main destinations when I go to a new city, that and beautiful architectural structures and parks. Museums are exhausting, and I have to be careful not to overwhelm myself with too much sensory input, but I do love them. As you noted regarding travel, the pleasure of revisiting the familiar in contrast to experiencing the new, I love to go to a museum I know well and visit permanent collection pieces I know and adore. I can look at them for hours and see new things within them. I allow time for a coffee or lunch break and am careful not to overdo. Thank you for so generously sharing your trip with us.

    1. @Katherine C. James, I love the intersection of my son’s earring and your jewelry. These moments expand my feeling of connection in the world. I am going to try revisiting museums from now on.

  6. Despite your travel hiccups you seemed to have a fabulous time away…
    one can have too much museum time..I appreciate art but adore nature, gardens, the local architecture and people watching!
    Those seagulls must be related to the gull family that we have nesting on the roof two house down from us…5 am every morning…caw caw caw… :-((

    1. @Bungalow Hostess, It was fabulous! And I like you like to mix up my travel. Also, window shopping:). You have raucous seagulls too? So funny, I never knew that was thing until this trip!

  7. Hello Lisa, Sounds like a perfect trip–just the mix of museums and historic sites that I like. Also, it is a good idea for you to hold on to your current relatives, especially since the one I found for you turned out to be pretty shaky.

    1. @Parnassus, Yes, the historic sites were really spectacular. And not to worry – there are so MANY Blisses and Morrises! Carnochans, at least in the US, not so much:).

  8. Beautiful stories and memories! Even as I’m not a calming person-all those unfortunate events eventually change to endearing moments (much later),don’t you think?
    “In the familiar,we travel deeply”-how true and well said
    I love London very much,have “my”café and a lot of “my places” (NPG,Somerset house and some places to drink tea around, are among them)and always want to hear London stories
    I’ve never been to Brighton but always wanted to visit
    My friend’s daughter lives there and a couple of years ago, the airlines have completely changed their slots and fly only to Heathrow. They decided that it is better to drive from Zagreb (always changing routes and making the travel more interesting and rewarding,taking a couple of days) than fly
    I like especially :” visit your online friends where they live and let them show the sights” ;-)

  9. Not sure why I didn’t see your Part I appear in my feed but so glad I’ve found Part II of your adventures. Love Brighton and often recommend it to friends who visit London as it is just a train ride away.

  10. Dear Lisa
    Welcome back. Thanks for documenting your trip. I don’t know how you keep a track of what you saw and did. I’m too busy being overwhelmed to ever document much. I love Dottoressa’s comment about the uncomfortable things becoming endearing memories. So true. I find for years after a trip it will be the small things I remember – a sandwich eaten hurriedly on a high street that satiated the griping of a hungry stomach, the feel of the weather and different angle of the sun. Anyway, I enjoyed reading this, and it brought back memories of my own visit. And museum guilt assuaged as you said, drop in, take what you want. I went to the National Gallery and only did one room, and I did kind of feel guilty about not spending more time there until I read your thoughts. The room I visited was a featured exhibit on treasures from Louis XXIV’s palace and that was really enough magnificence to eyeball in one sitting. You could spend a year at the History Museum and another year at the Gallery. Snippets. Lovely trip. Lovely writing as always. XXXX

    1. @Tracey, I didn’t document anything when I was there! It was just such a vivid trip. Does that make sense? And I think treasures from Louis would have more than enough for one sitting.:)

  11. Your trip looks like a wonderful multilayered experience. I have greatly enjoyed both blog posts. Travels aside, I would love to spend 2 weeks solo with my adult son while sharing interests in common. Having a good relationship with an adult child is priceless. For your son, having his mother remain as top cheerleader is beyond priceless. Bravo! (Plus he has beautiful taste in scarves :))

    1. @Susan L, Thank you. It was multi-layered, exactly. And I can’t recommend enough taking a trip with an adult son. You relive all the years together, without per se talking about any of them except the now.

      He’s got great style;).

  12. So happy I’ve finally gotten to part 2. How lovely your trip sounds, even the thought of museum back and picture overload. I think this is part of why I only tolerate short museum jaunts, although I adore art. My back can’t take the standing and slow walking, and my brain is so easily overwhelmed.

    And the jewelry jaunt made me smile, as I’ve just been working with a jeweler to replace wires and posts in some earrings my late husband gave me in his final years so that I can wear them. I only tolerate high-carat gold or platinum posts or wires, which means that although I love a funky necklace, I can’t just pick up funky earrings.

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