Monday, May 16, 2011

The Vortex

12 May
It's only about 18 months ago that we spent a week in Edinburgh, so this was just a nostalgic visit. We wandered the streets and picked up on a couple of things we missed last trip. Mary King's Close was the most interesting - a real step back into the past to the now-buried streets of 17th century Edinburgh. Even though it's a bit of a touristy attraction, it is largely authentic and worth a visit.
On our way up Princes Street, we did a few shops. Just because we could! In Marks and Spencer, now re-branded as M&S. We saw woven baskets just like the one we had bought in Swaziland. Here is a perfect example of the sort of exploitation that the West has indulged in for centuries. We bought our bag from a woman in a market in the Swazi city of Manzini for 25 Rand ($3 cents US). In M&S …. 12 Pound. At today's rate, approximately $18 US. We didn't even hassle with the poor girl in the Swaziland market, but you can bet that M&S paid a lot less per bag than we did. From 3 cents to $18 is more than a normal margin.

Well done M&S!!
15 May
Chertsey, London
Into the Vortex.
Making our way back to London has taken a couple of fairly hard days' driving, broken by quick visits to historic Jedburgh Abbey, the imposing Durham Cathedral and a much longer, conducted tour of the fabulous Fountains Abbey. We had only planned a quick visit here as well, but we were captured by a charming older volunteer guide who took us on a two and a half hour wander around the whole Abbey estate. It wasn't what we had signed up for , but by the end of the hike, we knew a lot more about the ancient Abbey and its surrounds than we could possibly have hoped for. Fantastic day!

Heading down the M1 towards London gave us that “Vortex” feeling. The closer the city gets, the more frenetic the pace becomes and we are drawn into the Vortex.
This we have experienced screaming up the Jersey Turnpike, as four lanes become six, then eight, then 10, all crowded with traffic and pouring into New York at speeds well above the 70 miles per hour limit. About 10 years ago, however, a hair-raising drive down the motorway into Istanbul - where the 5 marked lanes carry anything up to 10 lanes of honking, crazy Turks, on a headlong suicidal dash towards the Bosphorus, gave us the most intense Vortex experience of our lives.
Today being Sunday, the “Vortex” was still present, but far less intense than our other experiences. Must be a British thing.
Tonight is our last one in our van. Tomorrow we swap it for a zippy little hire car for our last week in a cottage in the Midlands.

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