Transforming Hostels

Clink78, one of London’s many youth hostels, is a converted courthouse, once stately and severe, now sporting a hip, neon vibe. The lobby’s arched ceiling bears quotations about travel: “A tourist doesn’t know where they’ve been,” reads one condescendingly, “A traveler doesn’t know where they’re going.” Another is an attempt at quoting Dickens, and ought…

Transforming Daytripping

One of the reasons we chose Lille as our sabbatical home is its position as carrefour – a crossroads, or jumping-off point to northern Europe. Lille is in the northernmost part of France, and thanks to Europe’s excellent high-speed train network, it’s within 2 hours’ travel of Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Cologne and Frankfurt, and…

Transforming Birthdays, Part 2

The first scene in my yet-to-be-written novel is based on an actual rendezvous between Mary Godwin and her future husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary, 16 years old and altogether smitten with the larger-than-life poet, had been forbidden from having any contact with Percy by her father, so they were obliged to meet in secret to…

Transforming Birthdays, Part 1

Douglas Adams would be pleased at the amount of absurdist bureaucracy and sheer Britishness that characterized my 42nd birthday. We were staying in an airbnb near Old Street Station in London; usually X woke us up promptly at 7am, but this morning S let me sleep in while she and X got breakfast at a…