In Rome now – an after the holidays update

Hi everyone, I’m sorry its been so long since my last post. I’ve been in touch with some of you on Facebook where I’ve continued to post pictures (they are public albums so I think everyone should be able to see them – www.facebook.com/leonard.higgins.50/photos_albums). In this update, I’m responding to requests that I talk more about the people and experiences during my travels (and less pictures and maps). I’m settling into a routine of choosing a home base in each new place and staying there for 30 days with an Airbnb host (www.airbnb.com). That way, I’m getting some feeling of what it would be like to live there.

In the U.K. in October, I stayed first for a week in a room in a couple’s house in northeast London, through Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) Raimonda & Povilas, who are originally from Lithuania. I had a chance to get to know them some especially visiting while drinking some of Povilas’ Lithuanian beer 🙂

The rest of the time in U.K., I stayed in several places – a couple of weeks in the Earl’s Court Hostel in central London, a week at the Eden Project Hostel near the southwest England coast, and a week on a farm near Banbury (north of Oxford, England) with a friend of my sister, James and his parents. I had already been in touch with James by email and got to know him and his parents during the visit. I worked on the farm with them, gathering eggs, cleaning the chicken coops, feeding the cows, herding sheep between fields, and separating the ewes who were going to lamb this spring from the others. They grow crops of hay, wheat, oats, alfalfa, potatoes, turnips (for sheep food) using old fashion crop rotation and soil fertilizing by animal grazing methods used by 4 generations of family farmers. I’m also still in touch through Facebook with a young American man I met at the Earl’s Court hostel who is going to college in the U.K. and training to be an olympic runner. I admire his abandon and enthusiastic embrace of what life is bringing his way. I got to know 3 of the people working at the Eden Project Hostel a little bit but haven’t stayed in touch with them.

I stayed in another Airbnb home in Amsterdam. In the month I stayed there, I got to know the host, Ilyas (his parents moved to Amsterdam from Turkey), and two Airbnb roommates, Nathan (from England) and George (from Bulgaria). We went on a tour of the Holland city of Utrecht together and to an Amsterdam jazz club 🙂 With Ilyas’ help, I bought a bike on an online listing like Craigslist and he lent me his bike lock to use while I was there. I loved biking in Amsterdam. It was a great visit. My favorite thing in Amsterdam was getting on the tram (trolley) near Ilyas’ place in the morning and then watching out the windows until a place sparked my interest and then beginning a day of wandering from there. I visited the main Amsterdam library often. There’s a wonderful view of the city from the top floor restaurant and lots of organic buffet style foods to choose from along with a bottle of beer or glass of wine. I loved the museums, the tour of the Dutch parliament, and the downtown bike tour, as well as the canal boat tours.

n Paris, I stayed in a room with another airbnb host, Sabrina and her two-year old son, Ethan. Sabrina is the same age as my oldest daughter and lived in California some time ago – she speaks English pretty well. She’s an architect and showed me, on a couple of weekend outings with her and her son, several buildings in Paris by her favorite architects. She lives in a famous Paris district, Monmartre. Her place is 6 blocks from the Moulin Rouge Carbaret and a 15 minute walk from the historic Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Basilica. It’s on the highest point of the city and has a 270 foot tower with a 360 degree view of the city. I walked up the many spiral steps to the top of the tower my first afternoon there – it was an awe inspiring introduction to Paris! Monmartre is a well known home for artists in history and the present. Among the many other places I’ve visited, I really enjoyed a nearby art gallery with modern paintings that resonate with my upset against destructive corporate and capitalistic powers. I went to the Louvre several days. On Wednesdays and Fridays, they are open to 9:30pm so some of the days I was there for 10-11 hours.

Sabrina and Ethan were gone several days during Christmas so I had a Paris apartment to myself 🙂 With Sabrina’s help, I got know which places in the surrounding blocks have the best vegetables, bread and groceries. I went food shopping after she left and am really enjoying cooking there using some of her broad collection of spices. It was a relaxing and restoring few days. I ended up walking 5-10 miles each day while in Paris and that along with less frequent meals has me back to the same weight that I was in my 20s. The walk from Sabrina’s place to the Seine River and along the river to Notre Dame was a favorite part of many days there.

The Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris happened the day before I left. That evening and the next day there were many soldiers, police and other security forces in the streets and transit stations armed with automatic weapons. I’m sad about the tragedy and the way the fearful private and public reactions, similar to 9-11 in the U.S., damages community, democracy and trust between ethnic groups.

I took an overnight train to Rome on January 8th and am staying here with a new airbnb host, Lorenzo, until February 8th. Lorenzo is a journalist and writes the news-copy each day for an independent morning TV news talk show.

On March 8th, I travel to Scotland and am staying for 30 days with an Airbnb host named Torsten near Forres and Findhorn. I hope to connect with a Joanna Macy colleague that lives nearby and plan to attend workshops at Findhorn while I’m there.

I’m glad to comment further on any of these places so let me know if something sparked your interest 🙂