Two Weeks in London

We spent two weeks in London. During our second Monday in London, Ben joined us so that all four of us were together.

Our first Sunday in London, the three of us worshiped at Westminster Abbey, which was obviously an Anglican service. Instead of pews, we sat in chairs on either side of the sanctuary, facing each other. We sat on the left side in the front row with our backs to the pulpit. The sermon about “greed.” So, you might say we felt we had put the matter behind us. Here are pictures taken from my seat. The woman in blue is the usher who kindly stopped me from taking any more. We found the worship to be quite significant.

One day we attended the 5:00 Service of Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Here I am on the steps out front, disappointed that I found no old woman out front, selling crumbs to feed the birds. I even had my toppins ready.

On our second Sunday in London, Carol and I worshiped in different Churches. She worshiped in Chelsae Old Church, where her mother’s first cousin was the pastor. She happened to worship there one before oh so long ago. I worshiped at St. Paul’s Covent Garden, not to be confused with the aforementioned St. Paul’s. I thought I had taken a picture of this St. Paul’s; it seems to have vanished.

We saw several shows in London:
-“Anything Goes” (Cole Porter’s great classic.)
-“And Juliet” (a reconsideration of “Romeo and Juliet”‘s original ending)
-“The Tempest” (at the New Globe Theatre)
-“Matilda” (which was disappointing)
-“Back to the Future” (with its incredible special effects)
-“Come from Away” (as incredible as when we saw it last May in NYC)
Check out the link for a little video of inside the New Globe Theatre, a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:…8/

I did not do much sightseeing; Carol and Chris did more, but we were all pretty tired by the time we got to London, especially after the heat we had experienced in Italy. However, in addition to the places mentioned above, we did see Big Ben, Kensington Gardens, the Meridian, and the Tower of London. Here are a few pictures.

I went to three comedy shows and performed in a fourth, doing five minutes in front of a raucous crowd. I also attended “Writing Gym,” a class at Angel Comedy at the Bill Murray.” I’ll try to post my performance below soon.

Our Second Week in Florence

Our second week in Florence was filled with fun. My Commedia dell’ Arte class continued with various exercises in improvising the masked characters we used. It is fascinating to recognize these Commedia characters appear in popular culture, whether by inspiration of the writer or the actor and usually with a twist that makes it fresh. Here is a picture of our class with our teacher Roberto Andrioli.

This week we discovered a restaurant tucked away in a little alley that we loved for late-night dining. It was called Taverna Divina Commedia. Why did we not think of taking a picture of it? Oh yeah! When we arrived, we were too hungry, and by the time we left, we were too full. Such is the nightlife of Firenze. Midweek we saw Michelangelo’s David. Don’t look, Ethel!

On Friday, I rushed out of my last Commedia class as Carol and Christ picked me up in a taxi to head to the airport. Here is a scene from the air, on our way to London.

Weekend Visit to Venice

In the middle of our two-week stay in Florence, we went by train to Venice for the weekend. It was beautiful as usual. St. Mark’s Square was alive at night with music and light. St. Mark’s Basilica: Are those really the bones of St. Mark himself buried there? I don’t know, but the possibility has inspired a magnificent church building. We’ll see when we hear from 23andMe. We lodged behind St Mark’s, which means we could hear the bells ring. Not long ago, the bell tower itself was saved by Spiderman in a recent film. Thank you, Peter Parker!

Our host at the Locanda Al Leon recommended a great restaurant with homemade pasta. It was so good we went back the second night. I can’t remember the name, but I’ll let you know after I have finished sifting through all the receipts. Your prayers are appreciated.

On Sunday, we worshiped at an Anglican Church in Venice, St Georgio’s. (Did not get a picture.) It was a lovely service. It was also the last Sunday for the temporary supply priest there. Also in the congregation was the new priest was to begin the following Sunday. He and his wife are from the UK. Chatting, they learned that we were from Lake Arrowhead. They said their son, now 30-something, had loved Santa’s Village when they visited California in the 1990s. Actually, they only shared this with Carol. At the time, I happened to be locked in the bathroom. I finally escaped, but I felt a bit insecure that no one came looking for me. It was also the last Sunday for their volunteer organist, who had been visiting from Germany for six months. He just showed up his Sunday in town, and when there was no organist, he offered to play.

Here is picture I took of a canal. In the background is the famous Leaning Tower of Venice.

Here’s a picture of Carol and me, and then one of Carol and Chris.

This picture was taken after telling Carol that, Calvin had inspired me in Geneva, but now in Venice, I was inspired by Casanova.

…but when she really thought about it I got this.



Enjoying Florence

We arrived in Florence on Saturday, July 17. Our flight from Paris to Florence was smooth, with two exceptions. The second was that our flight, after we had boarded, was delayed about 30 minutes, which was no real problem. The first was related to how I pack. I think I tend to “pack light,” taking everything in a carry-on and a backpack.  Well, my packing isn’t light; it is only compact. My carry-on was far too heavy to carry on. So, they made me check it, and I, of course, had to pay for it. I’m now considering what to leave behind for future flights.

Sunday, we worshiped at an English-speaking Anglican Church in Florence, with a nice fellowship time to follow. We met several interesting people from a variety of places, including Italy, the US, Nigeria, and the UK. It has been fun and fascinating to meet people from all over thee world. Sometimes, it is in a line as we wait. At other times, it has been while participating in some activity. Here’s a picture from the worship service.

On Monday, we visited the baptistry outside of the Duomo. We also climbed the tower. It took a lot of stopping and resting along the way under the guise of stopping to enjoy the view from each level. Here is a view of the tops of the baptistery, tower, and the Duomo with Brunelleschi’s “famous” dome.

The story with the dome is that when they started to build the cathedral (duomo), they had no idea how they would pull off the construction of this massive dome. For many years, Brunelleschi came up with the idea of building a smaller dome underneath to support the larger dome on the exterior. This is thought to be a stroke of engineering genius, but I don’t know. All the effort of building TWO domes to get just one. “Come on, Brunelleschi; work smarter not harder.” The first is a view from the veranda where we have breakfast each morning.

On Monday, I also began the class I am taking in “Comedia dell’ Arte.” There are only four in our class, which was a surprise but has also made for a better learning experience. I’m the old guy in the group, something I’m not used to. Two of my classmates are 20 and the other is just a bit older having just graduated from college. Two of them have been in college together but neither knew the other had enrolled. Three of us are from the United States and one of us is from Russia. “Comedia dell’ Arte” sounds as if it has to do with the art of comedy, and, in many ways it does, but that is not the reason for the name. The name indicates a shift during the Renaissance in which theater became a profession. Today it means a kind of theater with stock (archetypal) characters, usually wearing masks, with humorous antics and an occasional breaking of the fourth wall. We are learning about these characters and how to represent their physicality and personalities. Our teacher is Roberto Andrioli. He is also teaching a mask-making workshop this week. below is a view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo where the Commedia and Mask-making classes met for a traditional welcome drink. Then there are pictures of the masks we are using.

It was Chis’s birthday on Wednesda! So we celebrated by taking a class in pizza and gelato making class. Have you ever seen more delicious-looking pizzas? Probably NOT!

Thursday during class, Roberto did a reading at “Roof Machiavelli Palace” from a book by David Foster Wallace. Dring class that morning, he asked if I would like to do a standup bit that evening to open things.  So I did, this means that I have now performed internationally. A photo is forthcoming below.


About to Leave Paris for Florence

We have had a great time in Paris! Since my last blog we moved to a different part of the city, not far from the Eiffel Tower. On Sunday we worshipped at the American Church of Paris where our guest preacher and friend Tina Blair used to serve as a pastor as well as former church attendee and friend Gene Preston. We made some new friends and ministry connections at the church, which has been fun.  Here’s a picture of the sanctuary in thee American Church of Paris.

We have visited several museums this week. Here is Chris in meditation before Monet’s Water Lillies at l’Orangerie.


My favorite was the Rodin Museum today.  Here I am pondering what it might bee like to pose for Rodin. Carol is monitoring the situation to keep it less authentic by ensuring that I remain dressed.

On Wednesday, we went to a comedy show in English called how to Become a Parisian in 1 Hour. It was very funny, and how fun to attend an English language comedy show in Pars.  Thursday night, we celebrated Bastille Day with a fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower.

Friday evening, we took a ride on the Seine River. One site from our boat was the Cathedral Notre Dame. We never visited because the restoration from the fire prohibited this. Hmm! Just can’t imagine clergy who allow a fire in the church they serve.


Tomorrow we fly to to Florence where I will take a two week Commedia dell’ Arte class.

After Five Days in Paris

We have been in Paris for five days now. The most significant aspect of this time was the mime class I took for six hours a day Monday-Friday. The class ended today, and the photo below is a picture we took as we wrapped things up. The teacher Ivan is back row left. His assistant teacher, Natalie, is back row third from left. They were fabulous instructors, and all of my classmates were hardworking and a lot of fun. We learned about balance and movement in mime and much more, including many classic moves people think of: walking in place, pulling a rope, drinking from a glass, and working a wall. There was one other American, a theater teacher from the University of Alabama who grew up in Los Angeles. Don’t worry! I won’t present a mimed sermon until it is just right.

Monday night we went to dinner with friends whom we met at the storytelling workshop we took on Ocracoke Island just a few weeks earlier. We have also taken in a little sightseeing. Carol, Chris, and I went up the Eiffel Tower on Tuesday night. We also explored Luxembourg Park, where Chris played basketball with some locals. Last night Thursday) we went to the theater La Comedia Francaise to see a production of Moliere’s play “The Bourgeois Gentleman.” It was in French. This made it a bit difficult to follow even though we had read a synopsis, but the physicality and costumes made for a lot of laughter. Chris and Carol have seen some other sights, but this isn’t their blog. 😀 I will do more sightseeing next week. Here are some pictures.

A Week in Montreux

We had a great week in Montreux, Switzerland. I enjoyed a little time writing and reading. Most of our activity consisted of sitting beside the shore of Lake Geneva. It’s a gorgeous lake. Here are two of many sculptures along the lake. One is entitled “Human/Fish/Flying.” The second is a statue of Freddie Mercury, who had a home and recording studio in Montreux.

Our hotel was run by those we call “the three brothers.”  In fact, only two are brothers with a friend, but we like the idea of three brothers.  The hotel had a great breakfast each morning. Our last two days by the lake were the beginning of the Montreux Jazz Festival. We left town before performances by Dianna Ross, John Legend, and Herbie Hancock.

On Sunday, July 3, we left Montreux by train for Paris. On the way, we stopped in Lusanne and worshiped in one of the two Presbyterian (Church of Scottland) Churches in all of Switzerland.  It was an English-speaking congregation with folks from all over the world.

Riding our second train on the way to Paris, we had a lovely conversation with a couple from Kuwait on vacation, going to Paris and then to London. That evening, we checked into our Airbnb called “The Claude Monet Suite.”

Our Time in Europe Begins in Switzerland

Our flights from Ontario on our way to Geneva were all delayed. This meant that with each one, we worried about missing the next. Hower, the next flight was always late which meant we made all of our connections.

Monday night, we landed in Geneva and arrived at our hotel at approximately 11:20. We had not had dinner. Of course, our internal clocks, for both eating and sleeping, were nine hours out of sync. We walked around the corner to the only place open that late at night. McDonald’s. Yes, we had anticipated so much great food in Europe, and we started with McDonald’s. It wasn’t so bad. Their menus around the world give attention to the local palette. So, I recommend the…McFondu. McDonald’s in Switzerland, as well as in other countries, tends to surpass its quality in the US. Why is McDonald’s worst in its own country? Step up your game on the home court Mickey D’s! By the way, you can travel to Switzerland for the fondu but not for the McFondu. I made that up. Here is a picture of the McDonald’s Café.

Tuesday was our day to see Reformation sites in Geneva. First, we went to Saint Peter’s Cathedral where John Calvin preached and led the second generation of the Protestant Reformation. These pictures show you the pulpit, where he preached, and the chair, where sat when he was not preaching.

This is where the choir sat during worship. Those seats look so very comfy. 

Here we are from the top of Saint Peter’s Cathedral.

Below is a picture of the Reformation Wall, constructed in 1909 for the occasion of John Calvin’s 400th birthday. I did not get close because the park that hosts this monument was closed that day due to a graduation held there that day. Bummer! Four large, looming figures populate the center of the wall. William Farel was a leader of the first generation of the Protestant Reformation at the same time as Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. It was Farrell who persuaded Calvin to lead the Church in Geneva. Second on the wall is John Calvin, the most significant of second-generation reformers, who systematized his brand of Protestant theology. His thoughts spread far and wide through his work The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Next in line is Theodore Beza, a colleague of Calvin and his first biographer. The fourth figure on is John Knox, a student of Calvin who took the ideas he learned back to Scotland, starting the Presbyterian Church. Below is the picture that I could only take from a distance. You can google “Reformation Wall” for a better photograph. Also on the wall are several people who took John Calvin’s reformation ideas to other parts of the world.  

We are now in Montreux a town on the northern side of Lake Geneva’s eastern tip. Later, this weekend the Montreux Jazz Festival begins. For now, we are relaxing and acclimating to the new time zone. Below is a picture of my view as I got up early this morning and went out to write in my journal and do a little reading before breakfast. 

Flying to Europe Tonight

After a couple of weeks of visiting with my mother and other family in So. Cal with a jaunt up to San Luis Obispo, we are about to depart for Europe. Our flight connections will be in Phoenix and London.  Currently, we are waiting for a late flight, which means that plans might change a bit.  We’ll see!

We will do a day of Reformation history in Geneva before heading to Montreux, Switzerland for six days on Lake Geneva. I look forward to relaxing in that lovely setting. The Monteux Jazz Festival takes place while we are there. So, we will definitely check it out!

It’s Been a Fabulous Week on Ocracoke

Today is the last day of our Storytelling Workshop on Ocracoke Island, one of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Almost 20 of us have spent the week remembering our lives and sharing stories while led by master storyteller Donald Davis.  Check out his TED Talk on YouTube:


In addition to sharing stories and learning about storytelling, we have made many new friends with whom we look forward to keeping up in the future. We have also shared great meals and learned about some of the area’s history. On Thursday morning, I had the opportunity to tell a  personal story at the local museum. I told this story about meeting Carol’s parents:

On Monday, we will soon leave North Carolina for an undisclosed location. 😀