There is little exotic in my ancestry. My maternal grandmother was adopted so there may be some trace of Italian or French or Spanish descent, but we are mostly from the United Kingdom - a bit of Irish, some Scottish and mostly English. I have dark hair and eyes paired with very fair skin prone to burns and blushes. I've heard stories of green fields and farms and ships to America.
I know not whether there is some primitive pull toward the lands of those before me or whether I simply like the UK for random reasons. I suppose it doesn't particularly matter, for I feel very comfortable here - speaking the language, having washcloths, not having bidets (of whose use I remain ignorant), having pens rather than pencils in hotel rooms. Alarm clocks so that I can take the battery out of my travel clock that speaks annoyingly (in French) whenever my belongings shift and depress a button on the blasted device.
There's television and soda and food that is more filling than delicious. And it's lovely.
I have taken up residence on the 3rd floor of a house on Cathedral (Street? Boulevard? Way?) and am finding it utterly charming.
Speaking the language does help. I know this is obvious and freely admit that I did accomplish goals in both France and Italy, but the rapid exchange of information today could not have happened if we didn't share a language. In addition, we skipped over background and went straight to results and future plans - it was efficient and stimulating and delightful.
I rarely spend 6 straight hours learning and thinking and letting my brain organize information into pieces I can use, things I should remember and items to discard. And in moments like that, I remember why I adore my job. Meeting brilliant people and taking in ideas and deciding what makes sense to use.
Having been abandoned by my host, I finished up the meetings and walked back to my hotel through the chilly afternoon. I stopped off at the castle on the way. There may be people who could have walked by without going in and grabbing an audio guide and climbing the steps to the keep. I am not one of those people.
But even as I climbed the steps and took the pictures and sighed over the moat (I've now crossed a moat!), I rested more often as a slightly twisted ankle at the palace in Versailles ends up with an achy leg and spasm-y muscle in a castle in Wales.
I grow weary. I'm blessed and thrilled and lucky and have had such a wonderful trip. I never mean to dismiss the 'right place right time' goodness of having this job and seeing parts of the world I otherwise wouldn't.
But I miss my dog. I'd like to cook rather than eat out. Arrange my piles of pillows as I like. Cuddle the girls and talk to my mom and dad rather than sending quick email with photos attached.
But for now, I'm packed and ready for an English breakfast and train ride in the morning.
And I'm taking a tiny plush dragon home with me, having pinned a daffodil to his glittery chest to make him a bit more friendly. So it's a good day here in the Welsh capital.
A bit more tomorrow from London.