Elle’s Grand Adventure – the mature woman’s travel guide

Have you ever felt unsure of yourself? Ever shied away from tackling a project just because you didn’t know how?

Meet Elle! Heroine of Elle’s Grand Adventure.

Cover of Elle's Grand Adventure

Elle is 63, recently widowed and taking a hard look at her life. She sits in front of the Travel Channel and dreams of being a participant instead of a spectator in all those adventures.  But, Elle doesn’t know where to begin. Her best friend, Mary Ann, scolds her for having such outrageous travel ideas: “There are terrorists out there!”

Frustrated, Elle gives up…until Sheila, her biker-chick alter-ego, materializes on the scene. Tattoos blazing, cigarette smoking, beer guzzling Sheila steps in to help Elle satisfy her life long travel dreams.

Elle Meets Sheila

Elle’s begining:

Elle came to life in the early 2000’s when I was flying one of those numbingly long flights to Asia. I began watching people struggle with every aspect of travel from security to luggage to passports. Elle’s story was born. People, mature women specifically, have flight issues. Impossibly heavy luggage. The maze of passport application. Clothing…always an issue.
Because there is nothing that tells a story better than pictures, I opted for a graphic novel format instead of the printed word. I contacted a friend of mine, John Palamidy, cartoonist extraordinaire. He immediately liked Elle and agreed to transform my words into pictures.  Once accomplished, we called upon Linda Stiefler, talented graphic artist, to make Elle the colorful character we all envisioned.

So, if you or someone you know wants to travel, but is a bit confused by all the travel mumbo-jumbo, here’s the perfect gift. When she turns that last page of Elle’s story, you won’t be able to keep her home.

For a mere $10.95, here’s a solution to at least some of your holiday shopping needs.

Click here to purchase your copy from Amazon.com.  Happy traveling!

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Chelsea’s Physic Garden

Why is everyone flocking to Chelsea’s Physic Garden? Might be to get up close and personal with Bella Donna, the poisonous berry that “ladies of the evening” would put a little of the juice in their eyes to dilate their pupils and make them more attractive. Or, maybe to sit al fresco at the Tangerine Dream Cafe to enjoy a delightful range of fresh, homemade food and the best afternoon tea in London.

Whatever the reason, the Physic Garden is the second oldest botanical garden in England. Oxford’s plantings slightly predate Chelsea.

Philanthropist Hans Sloane bought four acres of land near the River Thames from Charles Cheyne. In 1673, he leased this land to the Society of Apothecaries for £5 a year in perpetuity. The garden was established for the study and cultivation of medicinal plants.

Under Philip Miller’s direction, the Chelsea Physic Garden became world famous and, besides preserving plants from around the world, initiated the seed exchange program to other nations and organizations. For example, cottonseed, sent to the colonies, was the beginning of the American cotton industry.

School children enjoy field trips to discover pond life while adults enjoy finding a favorite plant variety.

Open from April – October, Wednesdays-Sundays from 12-6 p.m. Admission is £8 for adults.

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Hampton Court – day tripping from London

Hampton Court, the residence of British royalty since the 16th century.  Watch as David Ingham and Annie Coburn, co-authors of Walk London, walk you through this magnificent palace just 12 miles outside of the center of London.

David explains the architecture, the history and why this is such an important part of English culture.

Hampton Court has two contrasting architectural styles: Perpendicular Gothic and Renaissance style. Giovannie da Maiano’s relief busts of Roman emperors were set in the Tudor brickwork.

After Cardinal Wolsey fell out of favor with Henry VIII, the king began an expansion of Hampton because he had a court that exceeded 1,000 people. He quadrupled the kitchens and demanded day/night construction on the Great Hall which has one of the most impressive carved hammer-beam roofs in existence.

In 1689, when French King Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles, royalty everywhere attempted to meet the standard of this opulent residence. Hampton Court was no exception. William and Mary commenced a huge building project. Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to redesign the palace – out with the Tudor and in with the Baroque.

The two King George’s (I and II) were the last royal sovereigns to reside at Hampton Court. Thanks to Queen Victoria, 1796, Henry VIII’s Great Hall was restored and the palace was opened to the public.

Info:    Open from March 28 – October 30

Time:  10:00 – 6:00 Monday – Sunday

Tickets:  About 15 GBP

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How to Use the London Oyster Card to ride the Tube

The London Underground, affectionately known as The Tube, is one of the longest (250 miles of track), oldest (started in mid-1850’s) and busiest (more than 1 billion passenger journeys in 2007) in the world.  Since 2000, Transport for London (TFL)  is responsible for London’s transport system.

With just a few simple instructions, you’ll be able to negotiate The Tube and quickly arrive at your favorite destinations.

Let’s get started.

How to Purchase an Oyster Card:

The Oyster Card is TFL’s smart-card. You can use it on buses, light rail as well as the Tube.

As a visitor, you can buy a card before you leave your home country from various overseas travel agents. Just check the TFL website at  http://www.tfl.gov.uk/ Since the money you put on the card never expires, you can use it on your next visit.

If you don’t buy your Oyster Card prior to your arrival, it’s not a problem. You can purchase an Oyster Card from any of the ticket booths, kiosks or any of the 4,000 authorized agents around London.  Remember, there’s a £ 3 refundable charge for the card.  A 7 day travel card gives you unlimited travel while in London.

How to Interpret the Map:

Now that you’ve purchased your Oyster Card, let’s go somewhere. Small maps are free at any of the Tube stations. Be sure to pick up several and stash them in pockets, wallets and purses.  They come in handy.

Each line has a different color. For example, the Jubilee line is a gray color. The Circle Line is yellow.  The direction (east or west, north or south) is indicated by the name of the final stop.

There are large maps within the stations to help you locate the stop you want, the platform and the direction so you can get on the correct train.

How to Touch in and out:

Now that you have your Oyster Card and a map, the next thing we want to do is enter and leave the station. This is known as touching in and out. This is a snap.

Just place the Oyster card on the yellow pad or dot that is on the turnstile. Your card will be read electronically. The doors will open and allow you to pass through.

Note:  As long as you don’t exit a station, you can transfer from line to line without any additional charge.

If you have any problems with your Oyster Card just call the 24 hour Hotline at 0845-330-9876. Someone will be happy to assist you.

Enjoy your time in London and riding on the London Tube.

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London’s Borough Market on Tour…Urban Kitchen Tour

London’s Borough Market is one of the most vibrant markets in the world. Acres of cheese, olive oil, wines, sauces, fruits and vegetables beckon you to taste and buy for your gastronomic delight.

Toral Shah, owner of Urban Kitchen, conducts monthly tours of the market. She educates, demonstrates and advises her tour participants on procuring the perfect ingredients.

After an extensive tour of the market, Toral returns the group to a beautiful flat over looking the River Thames to prepare a scrumptious brunch. You watch, learn, take notes as she prepares food fit for royalty. At the conclusion of the brunch, you return home with delicious purchases, recipes and a full tummy.

Make your next trip to London an unforgettable experience with an Urban Kitchen tour. Sign up at http://www.theurbankitchen.co.uk The cost is 57.50 GBP  ($89.76) per person.  Tours are offered once a month.  Enjoy!

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Boris Bikes – London’s Hop-on, Hop-off bike rental

Just a few short weeks ago, Boris Johnson (London’s Mayor) launched London’s Barclay Bike Hire. Even though there have been some “teething” problems, such as undocking problems, bike shortages, over-charged accounts. But, these glitches have not stopped the overwhelming response from Londoners. In just a matter of two weeks, over 100,000 journeys have been logged. Let’s call this 140 Million GBP project a huge success.

The quality of the bikes is top-notch. Built in Canada, the Boris Bikes have a sturdy frame, flashing front and rear lights for safety, a basket on the front for your belongings, and all the mechanics enclosed behind a cover to protect your clothing from the chain. Boris Johnson called them “the Rolls-Royce of bicycles.” I’ve ridden one of the bikes, although it is heavy, it gives one a secure feeling.

The later part of September, you and I will be able to hire a bike without a subscription or electronic key. We will merely swipe our credit cards, receive a code, enter that code, unhitch the bike and off we go. This is a great way to move around London quickly. The bikes are an easy ride even for the most inexperienced. London traffic is terrible! If you’re in a taxi, you could be immersed in traffic. Bike cycles move you along quickly rather than being stalled in traffic light cycles.

As Mayor Johnson exclaimed to me when I asked him to give a message to Americans planning to visit London:  “Get off your butts and come ride our bikes.”  We can do that!!

Update on Boris Bikes: Good article by Tim Adams in Sunday’s NYT’s Mag (3-20-11), Breaking Away: Why velophilia is the closest thing London has to a political philosophy. I’ve used both the Paris Velib and London Barclay Bikes. The Boris Bikes are hell for stout. They are heavy, clunky and devoid of sex appeal. However, I believe they will prove to have staying power over the sleeker Paris version.

To add one more piece of info for those of you heading to the London 2012 or just off for a visit to London…tourists can now rent a Boris Bike without having to have a “key” (see the video above). Boris Johnson promised this short-term access and he has now delivered! Thanks Boris.

 

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London 2012 Olympics – Sustainability in spite of Austerity

The United Kingdom will host the 2012 Olympic Games in precisely two years.  In this time of austerity, the Olympic budget is a hearty £9.3 B  ($14.4 billion USD), at least for the foreseeable future.

What will this national investment mean to the people of the UK?  What do they get for the pound spent?

When David Cameron ‘s government came to power a few months ago, a program of budget cuts were immediately ushered in.   After considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth subsided, MP’s thoughts turned to how this would impact Olympic preparations and whether there was any extra money floating around?

Tim Hallissey, Sports Editor for The Times, gave a positive nod to the LOCOG (London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games):

“Domestically speaking, the £9.3 billion budget remains a hot topic for debate, but it is a testament to the quiet achievements of the organizers that their next biggest crises have been a slightly wonky logo and a couple of oddball mascots…”

Economics will play center stage to the question of the London 2012 Olympic’s legacy…what’s in it for the world?

A few weeks ago, a petite article appeared in the Evening Standard jabbing David Higgins, Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), about his budget. It seems Higgins’ “…construction budget was £500 million underspent.”  The rumor is that Hugh Robertson, Shadow Minister for Sports, might pull unspent funds. If construction funds are redistributed, next year, Higgins will have to requisition money which may or may not be available.  Instead, Higgins wants to circumvent this process and re-direct funds to legacy projects.

Legacy is an easy word to banter about, but identifying concrete examples, the golden nuggets, is where the real legacy resides.

The over-riding Olympic goal is to “change the way we build, live, work, do business and travel to help us live happy and healthy lives, within our planet’s resources.”    This month, I had the pleasure to interview Terry Waite and Hugh Evans, while attending the Eisteddfod Festival in Llangollen, Wales.

Mr. Waite addresses the importance culture plays in our lives, “not to be forgotten” being a well-rounded individual as a key element for a happy life and refers back to the Olympics’ goal: “change the way we live…to help us live happy and healthy lives…”

Open Weekend, an event that took place July 23-25 throughout the UK,  is an example of how the Olympics are promoting communities to get involved, bringing people together to play, sing, contribute beyond the economies of the moment.

Hugh Evans adds that the Olympics provide an opportunity and inspiration for people to develop themselves, a way to change the sports landscape.

Legacy means creating a better more earth friendly way of doing things through advanced technology…change the way we build…within our planet’s resources.

In June, the Suzy Guides’ team was walking along the Mall, when we spotted this unusual structure on the steps leading up to the Duke of York’s statue.  Being curious, we approached Andre Ford to explain the structure. Matthew Lloyd Architects have designed a water and solar powered lift to assist handicapped people to be transported to their stadium seats.  We were treated to a demonstration of how Going Green is a reality for the 2012.  This is a concrete example of how the Olympics’ mandate to be environmentally friendly is actually happening.

For UK citizens, their London 2012 Olympic legacy will be a renewal of the human being as a whole person both individually and through community and a plethora of inventive products that no longer pillage the earth.  This is the gold medal they will hand the world at the end of the games.

You might not see Beijing glitz at the opening ceremonies, but you will reap the lasting benefits of the 2012 for decades to come.

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