Let's Go to Stonehenge! Part IV

This is part of a new series of blog posts about travelling....starting with a place I have actually visited before: STONEHENGE!

A quick note before we begin:

Please remember to come back and click through the advertising banners and links you see in my blog posts when you choose to make a purchase. That's how I get credit or money to help support my blog. You will also find banner links of my affiliate advertising partners at the right side bar for your convenience. (scroll down) The shops and services I select to partner with generally have good to excellent online reviews. Although I haven't made personal purchases with all of my partners yet, when I do I'll share my honest opinions with you.

If you have an experience you'd like to share or a suggestion to make, post a comment below, and come back to my website often. I'll be posting more material soon!

Now...back to STONEHENGE

The first blog post in this series is about cruise ships and whether you can take pets with you on a cruise. In case you missed it, Part I is Here. The second blog post is about booking a cruise ship, and my personal recommendation about how to prepare in advance for your day at Stonehenge. Part II is Here. The third blog post is about travelling to the port for boarding the ship. Part III is Here.


As you know if you read my previous articles, my dream vacation is to take my dogs for a walk at Stonehenge. Because I live in California, this scenario has taken quite a bit of strategy on my part to find a way to get to the destination. The strategies were covered in my previous blog posts, ending up with being on an ocean liner. So now it's time to really think about what it would be like arriving on an ocean liner, at a port in England with my dogs.

The last time I visited England it was summertime and I was in my teens. My dad had landed a job in Europe, and touring Europe and Britain was one of the last memories I have of family vacations from my youth. It was more than mere coincidence that we visited England in the summertime. It was strategic planning. One of my parents is from England, and my family was very much aware that harsh regional winter weather exists abundantly throughout the UK.

What I didn't expect, as a teenager who had grown accustomed to packing clothes in layers, was just how cold England can be at any time of the year. In June, while wearing a classic light tan blazer, I felt a little chilly and uncomfortable, even in broad daylight.

It's hard for me to imagine just how cold England is in winter. For this vacation, I'll probably just leave winter to some dark corner of my imagination. Instead, I'll travel during the summer months. Maybe I should pack a couple of sweaters, some boots and a pair of thick socks, just in case it's a little chilly the day I'm there. Yes, you read that correctly. I have one day. It's because, to the best of my knowledge, the ship usually only has a one day layover in Southampton.

Even though I'd prefer to be in England during the warmest months of the year, I might avoid visiting Stonehenge during the summer solstice. This solstice happens sometime in the second half of June, and what with the celebrations that happen at Stonehenge for this event, I expect that there would probably be a lot of tourist traffic at that time. Tourist traffic could slow me down. Definitely, I'll need to be super efficient with my day so my dogs and I will be back on board the ship in time for departure.

I also want to avoid taking a lot of time disembarking with my dogs at Southampton. Both the ship and the UK have very stringent regulations about pet paperwork, vaccinations, health and even pet visas. See my previous posts for more about pet regulations.

Something I'd like to have more clarification on, is exactly what happens when taking ship-approved USA-boarded pets off the ship in England. Are the pets given instant approval, based on paperwork done in advance, or are there more hurdles to clear at the port? Hopefully, the cruise line can answer this question in advance.

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I'd like to imagine that that taking the dogs off the ship is relatively simple and easy. In this scenario, I would arrange to have a rental car at the port, and then drive from Southampton port to Stonehenge and back. Travelling may take a little over an hour each way. Or it may be as long as 1-1/2 hours each way. I'll estimate three hours total for driving.

I would like to have about an hour or so to walk my dogs around the area. I don't plan to actually take them inside the monument, because I'm pretty sure dogs aren't allowed on the tours. See my previous posts for more about dogs and Stonehenge. My dogs are pretty small, and we usually don't really cover a lot of ground quickly. Walking around outside, on the public grounds, without actually approaching the monument tour area is fine with us. We may discretely absorb the ambiance from a distance.

If everything goes smoothly, the entire visit can be accomplished in four hours, giving us plenty of time to get back on board the ship. My dogs will be super happy to return to their familiar kennels, after having an exciting adventure walking around the mysterious, ancient monument with me. And as for me, I'll be basking in the glow of a successful adventure.

That was the "perfect day" scene. Now I need a backup plan in case it's not that easy to take my dogs off the ship at Southampton port. What if there is more paperwork for the dogs, long lines, additional required clearances for the dogs and that sort of thing after we actually get to the port in England? What if, in fact, it's not that easy to get my dogs in a rental car and drive to Stonehenge for a walk? What if some regulation requires me to be separated from my dogs? I don't want them out of my sight in a foreign country, not even for a few moments.

Although it's not an ideal vacation, it might be better, by the time I get to England, to let my dogs hang out at the ship's kennels while I go sight seeing without them. It might be fun to be with a group of people on a tour of Stonehenge.
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Without the dogs in tow, I may let a professional tour guide do the driving, someone who's experienced at getting tourists back to their ships on time. Relaxing my personal responsibilities, my friends, would be a great vacation for me.

After a week at sea, the dogs would already be used to staying in the kennels on board. No worries about separation anxiety. The kennel attendants would be already be friends with my dogs. They would have a regular day together, with all their regular meals and play time as usual. Who knows? They might not even miss me. They might not enjoy all the hassle of going to a new place, a place they may only visit once in their little lives. At least they would be safe, and well cared for. I wouldn't have to worry about them. It would probably be okay.

Of course, after coming back from that Stonehenge tour, I would probably want to check up on my dogs first thing. I would like to have a chance to do this before changing clothes, and before socializing on the return journey to USA. When my little friends smell all those wonderful, mysterious Stonehenge scents on my boots, I'm pretty sure they would both be just as excited and happy as if we'd gone on the whole Stonehenge adventure together.

Who knows what kind of dreams they might have that evening, and from what time in history? Dogs have such great sensory perceptions. They sense more than we do, and they seem to do it with far less sensory input than we people need.

At this point, after an exciting day at Stonehenge, my dream vacation comes to an end. I've visited Stonehenge and returned to the ship on time. Either I've taken my dogs with me, or I've reconnected with them later in the day at their kennel doggie cabins.

Either way, the dogs and I would be safely aboard the friendly ocean liner and ready for another enjoyable week at sea as we return to the USA. All too soon we will arrive, once again, at the port in New York City. From there we will rent another car and finally, after driving back thousands of miles across the country from this grand journey, we'll arrive back home. And from home, it will be back to regular life in California. The dream adventure of a lifetime is complete.

Or is it? What would happen if I decided to stay in England for awhile with my dogs? Maybe I could have a longer vacation, or maybe there's a overseas job in my future. If my dogs are welcome, my Visa is good, and it's affordable for me, it might be fun to stay on for a few more months. I wonder, though, where would we stay? How many friends would we make? What sort of nice, interesting, exciting and magical adventures might be in store for us?

To be continued...



Resources

Drive to Stonehenge and Southampton Review of Golden Tours, London, England - Trip Advisor
https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g186338-d663796-r241295287-Golden_Tours-London_England.html#REVIEWS

Michelin route planner and maps, traffic news, weather forecast, restaurants and hotel booking
https://www.viamichelin.co.uk

Let's Go to Stonehenge! Part III

This is part of a new series of blog posts about travelling....starting with a place I have actually visited before: STONEHENGE!

A quick note before we begin:

Please remember to come back and click through the advertising banners and links you see in my blog posts when you choose to make a purchase. That's how I get credit or money to help support my blog. You will also find banner links of my affiliate advertising partners at the right side bar for your convenience. (scroll down) The shops and services I select to partner with generally have good to excellent online reviews. Although I haven't made personal purchases with all of my partners yet, when I do I'll share my honest opinions with you.

If you have an experience you'd like to share or a suggestion to make, post a comment below, and come back to my website often. I'll be posting more material soon!

Now...back to STONEHENGE

The first blog post in this series is about cruise ships and whether you can take pets with you on a cruise. In case you missed it, Part I is HereThe second blog post is about booking a cruise ship, and my personal recommendation about how to prepare in advance for your day at Stonehenge. Part II is Here.


As you know if you read my previous articles, there is only one ship that I can take for my trip to England if I'm bringing a pet; the Queen Mary II by Cunard. What I may not have mentioned is that there is only one USA port where I can board, and it's in New York city. I live in California, which is not only on the opposite coast, it's also on a different ocean. I can't just hop onto a boat and travel across the Atlantic, because my coast is Pacific. So how do I get to the Atlantic ocean and NYC?

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The Queen Mary 2 Cruise Ship by Cunard
at Cruise Compete

Since this is a dream vacation, my dream might be to sail around South America and, from there, up the east coast to New York. In this scenario, I would be travelling the oceans from California in a counter-clockwise direction (or anti-clockwise as they say in the UK). This would probably work great in a dream...my reality, though, is I'm not experienced in sailing a boat and there don't seem to be any cruises that work this route with pets on board.

I could fly, perhaps, and that would be quickest. But, as I mentioned in my first post, I don't like the idea of flying with pets. I'm not sure it's good for them, and airports are not my favorite places when I'm with pets. If I were to ask my dogs, I'm pretty sure both of them would give airport travel a less than enthusiastic response. But a road trip? Now we're talking. Most dogs love riding in cars, and mine are definitely no exception.
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I've traveled across country, with a pet dog as copilot, in a past life adventure I'll always remember. This was from a time, way back in history, in the olden days before cell phones.

We traveled the ubiquitous I-10 that traverses the southern part of our beautiful country using a customized map and tour guides from the local auto club. Those were the days my friends.

Nowadays, finding and booking a pet-friendly hotel is pretty simple. In my experience with cross country travel, it can be easier and more cost effective to look for inexpensive lodging through a recognized pet-friendly chain like La Quinta, Red Roof Inn, or even Motel 6.

My historic cross country trip took about a week of full-time driving in a fairly straight line. A drive from Southern California to New York City, on a diagonal line, might take a little more time. Lets say, a week and a half, or three weeks for a round trip as an estimate.

I don't want to worry about where to park when I get on the ship, so I'm going to opt for a rental car. Besides, it's nice not to put the extra mileage on my own car.

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Although most rental cars are traditionally gas fueled, if I can find a good electric car I might give it a try. Charging stations are popping up everywhere. For this little adventure, maybe I'd like to try something new, save on costs and help keep the air cleaner at the same time.

Okay, so let's take a look at how much time I'm going to need for this one-day walk with my dogs at Stonehenge. It's going to be about week and a half (each way) to drive between my location in California and New York City, so that part is three weeks, right? Seven days (each way) from NYC to Southampton, England is two more weeks. So the minimum amount of time I need to do this vacation is five weeks. Just over a month. That is one long vacation, by any measure.

Being as this is a dream vacation, I'm not going to go into the costs. A more realistic mindset would be needed for that, and why wake up from dreamland? It's becoming clear, though, I will want more than a vague dream before I finalize my plans for this vacation. I might also want a little bit of British magic.
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Sage GoddessAccording to gemology expert, Dr. Athena Perrakis of Sage Goddess, rare bluestones from Preseli, Wales were chosen by the ancients when they planned the monumental structure of Stonehenge.

As luck would have it, sample sizes of Preseli bluestones are sometimes available in small quantities at Sage Goddess.

I haven't ordered from Sage Goddess website yet, and having personally experienced spiritual online rituals given by Athena, I feel comfortable with her level of energy and attention. I also like her add-on options, like a custom anointing blend and wire wrapping for crystals to be worn as a pendant.

At the time of the writing of this blog post, Sage Goddess was unfortunately out of stock of the Preseli bluestones. Just in case they are out of stock for awhile, I found a couple of other shops I might want to choose from for my crystal of English magic.

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I haven't shopped at Exquisite Crystals yet, a website which has a little bit more of a size selection for their tumbled Preseli bluestones, with a choice of small, medium or large stones, ranging from 1/4" to 1".

Exquisite Crystals has good online reviews, and specializes in crystals.

Although I don't see an option for having crystals anointed or wire-wrapped, Exquisite Crystals sells incense and smudging materials separately. I may choose to pass my own crystals through scented smoke after receiving them.

And of course there's good old ebay, one of my personal favorite shopping sites to browse. I can find just about anything at ebay, including crystals, crystal jewelry, anointing blends, incense and so much more.

A small selection of Preseli bluestones is very likely to be found listed at ebay. There's always some risk involved with shopping at ebay, of course, because there are so many amateur vendors. I feel it's a good idea to always check the vendor's reputation from their customers' reviews and star ratings before I order anything.

I also like to take a look at the other things the vendor is selling, to see if they specialize in crystals, metaphysical, and the quality of most of the items, or if they have an offsite website where I can check them out easier.
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Even though it may be safer to choose a more obviously commercial vender, many amateur sellers are also very pleasant to shop with, although less predictable. Some have an interestingly eclectic variety of listings, and occasionally surprise with a personal note on a nice card or an unadvertised gift or gift bag.

Sometimes, when a great investment is planned with care, I may choose to risk a much lesser amount in the acquisition of something small that adds to the mystery and mystique of this adventure within a dream, and the dream within this adventure of a lifetime.

To be continued...



Resources

4 Tips for Traveling in ... Your Electric Car | Department of Energy
energy . gov/eere/articles/4-tips-traveling-your-electric-car

How Long Does it Take to Charge an Electric Car? | Pod Point
pod-point . com/landing-pages/how-long-does-it-take-to-charge-an-electric-car

26 Budget Hotel Chains that are Dog-Friendly
barkpost . com/26-hotel-chains-that-are-dog-friendly

Have dog, will travel: Top pet-friendly hotel chains
www . usatoday . com/story/travel/hotels/2014/09/03/pet-dog-friendly-hotel/14972079

Let's Go to Stonehenge! Part II

This is the second in a new series of blog posts about travelling....starting with a place I have actually visited before: STONEHENGE!

A quick note before we begin:

Please remember to come back and click through the advertising banners and links you see in my blog posts when you choose to make a purchase. That's how I get credit or money to help support my blog. You will also find banner links of my affiliate advertising partners at the right side bar for your convenience. (scroll down) The shops and services I select to partner with generally have good to excellent online reviews. Although I haven't made personal purchases with all of my partners yet, when I do I'll share my honest opinions with you.

If you have an experience you'd like to share or a suggestion to make, post a comment below, and come back to my website often. I'll be posting more material soon!

Now...back to STONEHENGE

The first blog post in this series is about cruise ships and whether you can take pets with you on a cruise. In case you missed it, Here is the link for Let's Go to Stonehenge! Part I.


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The Queen Mary 2 Cruise Ship by Cunard
at Cruise Compete

My dream vacation is to take my dogs on a walk at Stonehenge, and I want to travel to England on The Queen Mary 2 Cruise Ship by Cunard. I have two small dogs and, much as I'd love to train them to go on kitty litter that I could change in my cabin, ships rules prohibit fraternizing with pets in most areas on board. Pets have their own space, their own "poop deck",  and their own kennel and attendants. Apparently, ship pets have a life of their own. Maybe there's something to learn from that.

According to online resources, kennel space is in high demand. Some people suggest booking kennel space as far in advance of the trip as 8 months to 2 years. That's a long time, even for one kennel space, and I might need two spaces. It's not that my dogs don't get along. They do. In fact, sometimes they behave like a loving married couple...until meal time. That's when the competitive streak comes through.

Can my two little dogs stay together in the same kennel space, and have the attendant feed them separately? I'd have to contact the cruise line and ask.

Cunard suggests contacting the cruise line directly, through their main telephone number at Cunard.com, to make kennel arrangements for pets when booking a cruise. According to the Cunard website, the cruise line has experience sending all the required paperwork to potential clients including details of the international rules of pet travel, as every dog and cat on board must have all of the paperwork for the Pet Passport Travel Scheme.

So how to get the best price on tickets, if I have to contact this exclusive cruise line to book the cruise? According to Bob Levinstein, CEO of CruiseCompete/Compete Ventures, LLC:

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Anytime you book a cruise directly with the cruise line, you have the opportunity to transfer that booking to an agent for a certain period of time. When that window is depends on the cruise line, but it's often 60 days. In this scenario, the customer could book with Cunard, then put a request into CruiseCompete for competitive quotes, and then transfer the booking to the agent with the best offer.

The transfer process is very easy. The agent does all of the work and you can keep the same cabin and booking number.


If I can expect a bunch of regulations and paperwork to be coming in for my dogs, it might be a good idea to take a look at what I'm going to need for my own passport and visa too...and in the meantime, the idea of taking my dogs for a walk at Stonehenge is getting a little daunting. After all, I live in California. Miles from Stonehenge. And the idea of filling out a lot of boring paperwork doesn't sound very fun. Fortunately, there is a perfect solution for energizing my dream vacation planning. Perfect, that is, if I can find a MOOC about Stonehenge.

What is a MOOC?


For my readers who haven't experienced a MOOC, it's an acronym for massive open online course. MOOCs have been around for about a decade as of the date of writing this post. I discovered MOOCs a few years ago, when one of my peers mentioned a free course about Roman Architecture on social networking.

Roman Architecture was an amazing course and one of the most amazing things about it was it was offered, for free, by Yale University...not by someone who uploaded their own video while wearing a Yale t-shirt. The course was offered to anyone, anywhere who had an internet connection. After years of weeding through questionable online content, I found MOOCs to be both refreshing and interesting.

There are numerous MOOC provider websites, and open courses on practically every topic imaginable. I've participated in MOOCs about architecture and metaphysics, as well as horses, traditional healing methods, computer programming, business and more. (Here is the link for an embarrassingly long list of MOOCs I've experienced.)

For a nominal fee (usually less than $100 USD for most courses) a course participant may receive a certificate as proof of taking the course online, but usually will not receive college credit. Certificates may be helpful for proving continuing education and other career-focused coursework. The fees may help defray some expenses for the MOOC provider website and/or the sponsoring Universities.

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One of my favorite online course providers is FutureLearn, a website based in England that offers courses on a variety of topics including health, business, languages, and history.

At the time of the writing of this blog post, FutureLearn offers the first two weeks of a course for free, and unlimited access for upgraded courses. With unlimited access, a participant can go at any pace, taking as long or as little time as desired.

The cost of upgrading varies slightly with each course, and is paid by credit card. When upgrading a course, as of the date of writing this post, FutureLearn requests the upload of a traditional, government issued photo ID and respects an honor system of client integrity.

Unlike some other MOOC provider websites, FutureLearn does not experiment with personally invasive identification technology. For example, FutureLearn makes no attempt to identify clients based on their typing style, nor to require tests to be taken under gaze of a live streaming camera.

When an upgraded course is substantially complete, FutureLearn will send an email confirmation. This is followed up by an impressive certificate on quality paper, sent by regular mail from the United Kingdom. I believe that receiving a certificate postmarked from overseas is one of the most exciting parts of the FutureLearn experience.

A Certificate I received from FutureLearn
for a MOOC sponsored in 2016 by
Royal Holloway, University of London
One of the nicer aspects of taking a MOOC at FutureLearn is that the focus is on friendship, and not on competition between learners. None of the courses I've taken on this platform have calculated out a final grade for course participants.

Instead, FutureLearn emphasizes the learning process by honor system, counting the percentage of steps a learner checks off in completing in a course. The steps may include short articles and videos, downloadable handouts, and quizzes that give the answers if a learner hasn't figured them out after a few tries.

Like most MOOC websites, FutureLearn includes a student forum, but with a twist. FutureLearn integrates conversation into each page of the course, with prompts that encourage participants to talk with each other about the topics presented, after watching a short video or reading an article.

The easy-going environment at FutureLearn encourages lots of honest communication, sincere questions, answers and opinions between participants as well as from the course mentors.

I enjoy sharing opinions about a topic as I learn it...without having to search on another page for a topic thread. I have found FutureLearn forums to be both friendly and blissfully free of the trolls and flamers that online forums sometimes attract. I don't know if it's because the casually integrated forum design invites a pleasant chat or there is some superb moderation going on behind the scenes.

FutureLearn makes it easy to like, bookmark and reply to comments, follow mentors and instructors in the course discussions, and follow those who write comments I appreciate. I enjoy chatting on a friendly basis, and having an opportunity to meet like-minded people who share my interests on an international level. FutureLearn attracts engaging participants from all over the world and, not surprisingly, many of them live in England. I might even make friends with people who live near Stonehenge and already know the area.

To find out if there are any courses about Stonehenge, I might use the search bar at the FutureLearn website.

I'm in luck...for now anyway. As of the date of writing of this post, University of Reading is advertising an offering at FutureLearn of Archaeology: from Dig to Lab and Beyond, described as an introduction to studying archaeology, exploring exciting discoveries in the Vale of Pewsey, near to Stonehenge and Avebury. Perfect! FutureLearn has provided the inspiration I need to continue designing my dream vacation.

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To be continued...



Resources

Inspired, by Cunard. It's a dog's life on the North Atlantic.
 www . cunard . com/cunard-experience/articles/its-a-dogs-life-queen-mary-2/

How to Travel with Pets Aboard Queen Mary 2 Kennels
cruisemaven . com/travel-with-your-pets-aboard-the-queen-mary-2-kennels-to-england/

Taking a Dog On the Queen Mary 2 - Pepper in Paris
betterwords . typepad . com/pepperinparis/taking-a-dog-on-the-queen-mary-2.html

Queen Mary 2 dogs
www . beyondships2 . com/queen-mary-2-dogs.html

Take an Inside Look at the New Queen Mary 2 Kennel - Cruise Maven
cruisemaven . com/new-queen-mary-2-kennel/


Let's Go to Stonehenge! Part I

All the news about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle touring around the UK has inspired me to do a new series of blog posts about travelling...and I'm starting with a place I have actually visited before: STONEHENGE!

A quick note before we begin:

Please remember to come back and click through the advertising banners and links you see in my blog posts when you choose to make a purchase. That's how I get credit or money to help support my blog. You will also find banner links of my affiliate advertising partners at the right side bar for your convenience. (scroll down) The shops and services I select to partner with generally have good to excellent online reviews. Although I haven't made personal purchases with all of my partners yet, when I do I'll share my honest opinions with you.

If you have an experience you'd like to share or a suggestion to make, post a comment below, and come back to my website often. I'll be posting more material soon!

Now...back to STONEHENGE


Like the former life of the Duchess-to-be at Windsor Castle, I also live in Southern California and I have two small dogs. They love basking in the warm California sun, and going for walks in the park.
My dogs basking in the sun
My dogs basking in the sun
My dream vacation is to take my dogs on a walk at Stonehenge. This might be easier if I actually lived in England. It might even be impossible for a California girl. But what is life without a dream?

According to the internet, there are people who walk their dogs near Stonehenge, although dogs aren't allowed inside the monument or inside the visitor center. These dog-owners are probably UK residents.

Unfortunately for me, here in Southern California, some territories are kind of strict about bringing in pets from other countries, including pets from USA. It's not that they don't love dogs. People all over the world love dogs. Pet quarantine laws are usually about proving that pets coming in are healthy, and will continue to be healthy over period of time.

I found out about pet quarantine laws when I was a kid, because my family traveled extensively. Faced with the specter of months of quarantine in a foreign country, Mom and Dad chose to re-home our family dog stateside before a departure to New Zealand years ago. Apparently both our dog and his new owner, an old lady who needed companionship, were delighted with the arrangement at the time.

Of those countries that have pet quarantine laws, England is definitely included. Although some options are available for people who want to bring a pet directly into the UK, the regulations that allow this are complicated and involve working with approved veterinarians, vaccinations, waiting periods, paperwork, and even a pet visa. The UK Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the USA Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service websites have lots of details.

Obviously, if "Plan A" is taking my dogs to Stonehenge, I'll need a "Plan B" if I miss any of the vital steps for approval. I definitely won't enjoy my vacation very much if I'm worried about my dogs being in quarantine where I can't be with them, and I definitely don't want my pets stuck in customs.

Obviously, travel by airplane is out. Which is fine with me. I'm not the hugest fan of travel by airplane, and I'm really not sure it's very good for my dogs either.

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As any dog owner knows, the adventure of travel is at least as important as the final destination. Cruise ships are a slower, more enjoyable, more relaxed way to get from one place to another. For this dream vacation, we'll definitely choose to go on board a ship.  That way, if for any reason my dogs can't come ashore, they can stay safely on board while I do my sightseeing.

If you haven't experienced a cruise vacation, I understand. It's been a long time since I've been on a cruise. The pace of life, work deadlines and vacation allowances, and even the anticipated costs associated with a lifestyle of luxury may have seemed like great excuses at the time. Honestly, though, that's all they are: excuses. And not really very good ones.

Cruise ship vacations can be a surprisingly affordable way to combine travel with lodging, and falling in love on (or with) a cruise ship is probably one of the most romantic experiences of all time.

I fell in love with travel over water, and with those big, white ships, many years ago in my early teenage years. I was aboard P&O's iconic SS Canberra ocean liner, travelling my family, and was granted full run of all the publicly accessible parts of the ship until bedtime. It was a big ship with lots of levels open to explore, accessible by the ship's elevator wherein a polite, handsome uniformed operator would push buttons too high for littler children to reach.

Me and Mom at a Hawaii party aboard the SS Canberra
Me and Mom at a Hawaii party aboard the SS Canberra
(vintage photo)
It was that liminal phase in life where I was still young enough to imagine sea monsters hurtling out of the depths of the ocean, as I peered innocently out from the ship's decks at eerily luminescent waves under the moonlight.

Mysterious, swarthy workmen lived in the lower levels, lurking around mysteriously as I explored the inner sanctum of the ship's bowels before returning like Persephone from the depths of the underworld.

Upper levels were places of daylight and activity filled with shops, bars, a swimming pool deck, a children's recreation area for the younger kids, and more.

I soon found a restaurant with a grand piano, where I independently negotiated permission to perform my practice at playing Mozart and attempting to sing like Barbra Streisand at odd hours during the day, much to the apparent amusement of any elderly patrons who happened to be seated at the tables at the time.

Life, for a few weeks, was exciting.

There were parties to attend, ballroom dance lessons to take, and a night life so full of energy that my glamorous mother's only concern was choosing which events she and Dad would get the most out of, and how many they could attend before they both pooped out.

The Canberra, herself, was an exciting ship. Born in the 1950s, she was not only a cruise ship for vacations, she also helped during a war and was featured in a James Bond movie. Sadly, after many decades of entertainment, adventure and fame, she was finally put to rest just before the turn of the 21st century. By all reports, she went out fighting the ship breakers for months on end.

Travel by water on an enormous ship can be an exciting love affair for anyone, but despite my fondness for the Canberra in days of yore, I won't be booking a cruise with P&O just yet. It's not because the new fleet is lacking in itinerary. P&O still commands a strong presence in many international ports.

It's not because of sustainability either, although cruise ships have a history of not being very friendly to the oceans. Contemporary cruise vacations are a much greener experience now than they were in the past, and contemporary, eco-friendly cruise lines have both new and upgraded cruise ships. Even staunchly traditional P&O has chosen to enter greener waters with a design for a new, environmentally friendly ship to add their fleet, with an expected launch date in 2020.

But, unless P&O designs dogs kennels into its new ship blueprint, my Stonehenge dream vacation will be taken with a different cruise line. Internet search turns up only one cruise ship, and only one passage that allows pets aboard to England: the Atlantic crossing from New York to Southampton, England by Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2.


To be continued...



Resources

ssCanberra.com
www . sscanberra . com

P&O Cruises new ship - Coming 2020
www . pocruises . com/cruise-ships/new-ship

Cruises that Allow Pets - USA Today
traveltips . usatoday . com/cruises-allow-pets-100496.html

Green Cruising - Cruise Critic
www . cruisecritic . com/articles.cfm?ID=528#cunard

USDA APHIS | Pet travel from the U.S. to the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)
www . aphis.usda . gov/aphis/pet-travel/by-country/eu/eu-echinococcus/pet-travel-echinococcus-treatments-uk

EU and non-EU listed countries | Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
www . daera-ni . gov . uk/articles/eu-and-non-eu-listed-countries

United Kingdom Pet Passport - Current Dog and Cat Import Requirements for Transport
www . pettravel . com/immigration/UnitedKingdom.cfm









Kabbalah 101

Ben-Gurion University, as part of IsraelX for edX, is offering an Introduction to Kabbalah. The course, described as Learn about the major ideas and practices of the Kabbalah in their historical and cultural setting. The About is ...major ideas and practices of the Kabbalah in their historical and cultural settings because information available online...is non-academic...misleading and confusing.

I am taking this course, and posting some info on Tikkun Olam that I found inspiring. The professor states According to Talmudic tradition, there are 613 commandments that corresponds to the 248 limbs and 365 tendons in the human body. Online resources verify that these commandments are known as Mitzvot.


According to Kabbalistic theory, a specific pathway (as a detailed, Jewish directive for practice) may spiritually treat a specific illness of the world on a spiritual level (aka the "spiritual body") and, in the same way (as below so above and as above so below), treat a corresponding physical ailment on a material/physical level.

In my opinion, and on a first glance at introductory level, I noticed too many commandments to absorb at once. I also noticed that many of the traditional 613 commandments (for example, those referring to sacrifice practices from ancient times) seem irrelevant/weird/dangerous/illegal/unethical to contemporary spiritual/religious practice, which would lead a person to interpret, what is the intention? How is the intention relevant to contemporary practice?

For example, a commandment To offer only animals which are at least eight days old would not be appropriate for most faiths. Of course, we do not sacrifice animals anymore. But, if we did (which of course we do not) then the intention may have been to offer something that had reached an acceptable level of maturity. So, as an example of a contemporary interpretation of this same commandment: offer a rose in bloom, or a bud that has already started to bloom, because a tightly closed, green rose bud is unlikely to bloom if cut too soon from the bush.

Other commandments are easier to work into a spiritual practice, although a knowledge of correspondences (for holidays, etc) and Judaic practice seems important for a user-friendly interpretation.

To go through each of the 613 commandments and interpret in such a way, would be extremely time consuming. However; it might be a very interesting practice for a group. I wonder what might transpire, if a (large) group of Pagan/Wiccan people were to investigate these commandments as a team, along with the corresponding Tikkun Olam (the repairwork that is done via adhering to a specific commandment in response to a specific situation or ailment) ... and re-interpret them on a Pagan/Wiccan level? World peace, perhaps?

I don't believe this type of project, on this topic and at this level of complexity, has been done before, and it's too big a project for one person. Similarly, I believe following 613 commandments (as reinterpreted to be acceptable in contemporary Paganism/Wicca) might be better as a group effort, since it might probably be too hard for any one person to interpret all the commandments, or even to remember and follow them all.

It's also not clear exactly what texts might be most helpful to resource to link a commandment with a specific intended result...I'm finding some extremely generic info on Tikkun Olam, and not at all the specific remedies referenced in the coursework. Nothing about correspondences between specific limbs/tendons and the commandments, except some references to Hebrew texts that haven't yet been translated. (Pri Yitzchak, a Chassidic text published in 1834, and Sefer Chareidim by R' Elazar Azikri, for example)

Some sources suggest that the 248 positive commandments (what to do) correspond to the 248 limbs, bones and significant organs of the body, while the 365 negative commandments (what not to do) correspond to 365 sinews and ligaments, and the 365 days of the year.

I'm thinking of this as a possible development of spiritual/magical practice, for whomever is interested in the idea. Is anyone familiar with the 613 Commandments and Tikkun Olam in traditional, non-magical, Judaic Kabbalah?

Here's my interpretation, so far, for the 613, ordered according to the list in Wikipedia (accessed 12/10/2017). If you have any suggestions, or interpretations, please post a comment.

1. Know that there is a divine presence.
2. Do not be confused by different names and attributes given to the divine presence.
3. Know that the divine presence is a unifying presence.
4. Love the divine presence.
5. Beware of dangerous aspects that may exist within the divine presence.
6. Hallow or sanctify the name or names you recognize as divine.
7. Do not profane the name or names you recognize as divine.
8. Do not destroy books or other objects associated with the name or names you recognize as divine.
9. Listen to wise and enlightened people who speak the name or names you recognize as divine.
10. Do not constantly test the divine presence.

Alternatively...

Toward the end of the course we are introduced to Hasidic Kabbalah, and the teachings of the magid of Mezrich, Rabbi Dov Ber. As I understand it, within the belief system he offered his students, Dov Ber taught that there was yet another way to heal ourselves and our world. We are provided this short passage, written by the magid of Mezrich:

Sometimes we see a person, who wishes to purify himself, wishing to pray with great intention before the Holy One, Blessed be He. And he makes great preparation for this, but as he is standing to pray, an alien thought occurs to him. Such thoughts are not accidental. They were sent in order that they should be elevated back to their source.

For instance, if an alien thought concerning improper love, or improper fear, etc. occurs to him, he should reject this thought and attach himself to the supernal love, or the supernal fear. Then, he concludes his prayer with great enthusiasm, and thus pulls out the sparks from the kelipot.

Dov Ber felt that extraneous thoughts that come to us during spiritual practice (for example, during meditation) have a reason for existence, and that there is a way to elevate our practice by actively engaging in these thoughts in a specific way. This is in contrast with the idea, practiced in contemporary meditation, to empty ourselves of thoughts so that we can meditate. It is similar, though opposite in direction, to advice to "ground ourselves" and release excess energies to the earth.

Dov Ber's idea is that these apparently random thoughts should be noticed, and that we should recognize them as coming down to human level from the divine upper levels of the Kabbalah's tree of life. In doing so, we link the thought at human level to an energy which exists at a divine level, which is the level that the thought is sent from.

We do not examine the thought, keep it, wonder about it, or meditate upon it. Rather, we raise the thought to a divine level where we release it up to the divine with joy (rather than releasing it to the earth) and allow this thought to return to its divine source.

The joyous energy that is created within, at a human level in order to raise the vibration of the thought to a divine level, becomes a private and personal celebration and an enjoyable part of the spiritual practice rather than a mere distraction. It was never our personal thought, which came barging into our meditation, prayer or spiritual practice; it is a divine thought which we should return to the divine from whence it came.

In doing so, we heal any damage from the divine, caused to the divine by the divine loss of an idea; healed by returning the thought at and to a higher, divine level.

By accepting, recognizing, joyously raising the energy of the external thought to reach and return to divine levels in a skyward direction, rather than ignoring the thought or returning it to earth, we reach peace and repair the damage to our consciousness (or the human condition) as well, in the same way as previous teachers had suggested would only be accomplished by following hundreds of commandments.

In my humble opinion, considering a different way to meditate, pray or perform personal practice may be much easier than attempting to follow hundreds of commandments.



Resources

https://www.edx.org/course/introduction-kabbalah-israelx-kab1010x
https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/10406/is-there-a-list-of-mitzvot-and-their-corresponding-body-parts
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/613_commandments
http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm
https://ohr.edu/explore_judaism/ask_the_rabbi/ask_the_rabbi/3588
http://www.mazorguide.com/Spiritual/Mitzvot/mitzvothome.htm

Oh, Those Americans!

As I look on, incredulously, at what is happening with the royals in the UK, I am wondering why the prince made the choice he has done, and why the UK public is so excited about it. The woman is, of course, a wonderful example of how far a woman can rise from her USA-born roots and for that I feel she "done good". But what of her family? It's hard to imagine this woman's extended family hobnobbing with the royals and getting together for tea. They aren't wealthy people, although they clearly love their daughter with all their hearts.

From here, in the USA, the feeling I get is that the royals are trying to show they are just like everyone else. Regular family people. But they aren't. The prince is not a self-made man. He's not had to fight and claw his way to the top, leaving behind friends and family that haven't come up with him. His family is already at the top. His position, whatever it turns out to be, is secure. His only concerns, as far as he has expressed them, are that his wife can do the "work" of being in the public eye constantly. For an attention-seeker, this is hardly "work".

Maybe it's because I wasn't well over the thanksgiving holidays. I have been hedging between vegetarianism and veganism, and I wanted this my first all-Vegan thanksgiving. Since I wasn't with family this year, it was easy to prepare a nice, quick salad with corn grits instead of corn bread. The tofurky thing is for people who like to play with soy, in my opinion, although I suppose it's a good option for serving Vegan to a group.

Since I had some extra time on my hands over the holidays, I also decided to start working on a Reiki course I'm taking. I had done all the book studying and now was a perfect time to start practicing. Or so I thought. The course mentioned a possibility of flu-like symptoms or lightheadedness as part of the detox process. No problem. I can deal with a little sniffle, right?

What I wasn't expecting was full-on stomach flu symptoms, and dramatic stomach-emptying moments that rivaled a level of illness I hadn't experienced since I was a child. When I heard the news of the prince's engagement, instead of feeling exuberant, all I could think was...please don't make me start vomiting again. And this has colored my feelings about their relationship. Sadly, when I see their pictures together, it chokes me up. And not in the way it should.

It's not that I'm jealous. My family traveled quite a bit when I was a kid, and I lived in several foreign countries and numerous USA states before going away to University. I've experienced England in the summer. Even in June, I had to put on a jacket to keep warm. I can't imagine the bitter coldness of England in December. Were it me, I would be wrapped up like a mummy. So, no, it's definitely not jealousy. I wouldn't be in her shoes for all the coffee or tea on the planet.

I started my high school days in New Zealand; on both islands, actually, because my parents wanted the entire experience for our family. The school system, at that time, was very traditionally British in that it had three tracks based on language studies. You could study Spanish, French, or Latin, with Latin being the highest honors students. USA schools didn't teach Latin, so I was put in French track, being as I was an honors student already. My dad, who is from the UK, studied Latin in school, so there's no doubt where I should have placed.

Archie Bunker, that lovable working class bigot, was the example that New Zealand television chose to bring onto their "telly" from the USA. New Zealanders, at that time, probably envisioned all Americans as being from that sort of class structure and lineage. I got used to being called "Yank" and teased for my American accent, although eventually my Mom (Mum?) found a wonderful elocution (speech) tutor who helped me blend in a little easier. (I recall enunciating a beautiful poem she had me memorize; "The Listeners" by Walter de la Mare.)

I remember a social studies class in which, when the topic of "Americans" came up, the example chosen to illustrate our culture was "Song of the Juvenile Delinquents" (song title as provided by the teacher) from the Broadway musical West Side Story (the actual song title is "Gee Officer Krupke"). Along with Archie Bunker and his bigotism after school, Americans also got to be seen as common criminals during class time. It wasn't a joke. And there wasn't anything I could do about it, being as I was in a foreign country, which I soon found out.

I remember, one day, a teacher taking offense at something I said. She sent me, an honors student I remind you, straight to the headmistress. There I was, in her office, opposite a lovely portrait of the queen in her crown jewels (I believe she was wearing emeralds in the photo). I hardly remember what was discussed. She apparently didn't tell my parents, because I never heard anything of it. So, perhaps, the meeting was serindipitous. A virtual meeting with the Queen of England, based on exercising my American brashness and freedom of speech.

Perhaps, with the way we mockingly portray ourselves in our own media; our sitcoms, talent shows and so forth, it's no surprise that an individual who rose to a moderate level of fame while leaving her family and friends behind would represent the USA to a foreign nation. It's sad, though, and it does disappoint me. I feel, oddly, less enchanted with the prince than I might have been if she were just a bit more enchanting herself.

Perhaps if she were someone from a more impressive American family, like the women UK-born rocker Paul McCartney has wooed and engaged...if she were someone who more represented American leadership, like the well-spoken daughter of an American president...if she were, at least, an actress a little higher up on the chain; one who had already become a household name...she might have been a creditable mirror to Grace Kelly of yesteryear.





Does being attractive and born in Southern California trump royal lineage?

Here is something I find puzzling, regarding the recent engagement announcement from the UK: Royalty is, traditionally, all about lineage. How does this work in the UK? Only the "white" lineage is important?

The prince's lineage checks, of course, as royalty. That's why he's a prince.

His fiancee's "white" lineage also checks, according to Wikipedia, as being at least partly descended from royalty. His brother's wife is, similarly, also partly descended from "white" royalty.

Has the royal fiancee's "black" lineage has been checked for royal descent? Again according to Wikipedia, African nations had kings, queens, chieftains and tribal leaders.

In these days of DNA testing, why not have a look?

(Unless being attractive and born in Southern California trumps royalty.)

read more...

...Wikipedia lists "Zulu Kings" as its own article. African nations had regional, royal lineage. Not a joke.

Kings and sons of kings are listed in the article, and it appears that the term "ka" is given to the sons recognized within the Zulu royal lineage. This is a term we, in the present day, sometimes associate with spiritual beliefs from Egyptian antiquity.



References:

Meghan Markle, part 4 Ancestry at Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meghan_Markle#Ancestry

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, part 6 Ancestry at Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine,_Duchess_of_Cambridge#Ancestry

List of Zulu kings at Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Zulu_kings

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Nosce Ipsum: Know Thyself

I would like to provide a complimentary "Nosce Ipsum Research Report" for three people. I need your help, to determine the marketability of providing this as a service, and to give me an idea about pricing it.

What is a "Nosce Ipsum Research Report"?


"Nosce Ipsum" is a traditional term which means "know thyself"; easily found in an online search. One way in which we know ourselves is by our birth dates. Most of us know our own astrological sun signs, based on our birth dates, and it can be entertaining to look up our horoscopes online and in newspapers.

The Kabbalah, a mystical interpretation of the bible, lists 72 Guardian Angels based on our birth dates, as well as 72 Daemons. Whether or not we agree with what has been attributed to our birth dates, wouldn't it be nice to know? The "Nosce Ipsum Research Report" is for entertainment purposes.

Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910) - "Demon and angel with Tamara's soul". Illustration to Lermontov's poem "Demon" Wikimedia Commons Images public domain
Demon and Angel with Tamara's Soul
Illustration by Mikhail Vrubel
United States public domain image
courtesy of Wikimedia

The Angels


Some years ago I was sent charts where I could look up Guardian Angels based on a birth date and birth time. Not being an Angelologist (although I am sometimes known as an Architect) I learned that three different types of guardian angels were assigned; on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. General information about Guardian Angels is easy to find online, each having an assigned number and name that appears consistently.

Guardian Angels, according to numerous resources, work under the direction of Archangels; in much the same way as a business, in which middle management works under corporate management. Guardian Angels also have attributes, somewhat like astrological sun signs do. Each is associated with a planet, calendar dates, an element (earth, air, fire, or water), and so forth. Guardian angels also have "powers"; things the guardian angel is particularly talented in or helpful with.

For a number of years I've looked up the names of the three types of Guardian Angels for dozens of people, with very positive reviews. Because the attributes, "powers", planets, elements, etc. of Guardian Angels are very consistent in online research, I did not feel it was either necessary or helpful for me to provide anything more than the name of the Angel. Looking up positive attributes, and applying them, can be a very personal experience; one that I feel is more fun for someone to find for themselves.

The Daemons


On a different topic, a working with daemons came my direction last year. Not knowing anything about daemons, I was hesitant to look into it before researching a bit about daemons and what they are.

Daemons, despite being numbered consistently, come from a variety of sources. Some are former Guardian Angels, some are deities from Egyptian antiquity, and some don't have a clear source. Daemons are a mixed lot, and with "powers" that range from beneficial to dangerous. Their descriptions are also quite confusing; often nonsensical and appearing in archaic language,

Like it or not, in the same way as Guardian Angels are assigned, so are daemons assigned to birth dates (and, ostensibly, birth times). Their names and numbers are surprisingly consistent, match the numbers of their assigned angels, and may easily be found online.

According to my research, daemons exist within the Angelic hierarchy; on a worker level...below the middle management level of the guardian angel level...and each guardian angel manages a "worker" daemon. Apparently, the daemons come with legions of their own as well; however, information regarding the individual legion members seems to be scarce.

Fearing the worst, I took a look at the "powers" of my own physical daemon, in the spirit of "Nosce Ipsum", the title of this blog post. I was surprised to see "powers" that appeared to be quite helpful, as far as career, which has been a concern of mine for quite some time now.

Although I'm not clear on how to use this information, I do feel it's good to know what has been assigned through the ages, on an Angelic or daemonic level, to a particular birth date. It might also be nice to know whether the "powers" seem to be more on the helpful side, or shifting toward a more dangerous side.

"Nosce Ipsum Research Report"


I plan to do a "Nosce Ipsum Research Report" for my own Angelic and daemoic hierarchy, based on my own birth date and birth time. In the research, I plan to include:

  1. The Archangels in "corporate management" above each of the three birth-date-assigned Guardian Angels, and any other pertinent information such as the choir s/he manages, and day of the week
  2. The names and numbers of the three Guardian Angels in "middle management" (Physical, Emotional and Spiritual), and any other pertinent information such as "powers", planetary, astrological, and important dates
  3. The names and numbers of the three birth-date-assigned daemon "workers", under the direction of the three Guardian Angels in "middle management" (Physical, Emotional and Spiritual), and any other pertinent information such as "powers", and their origin (if known)

In exchange for your story about how or whether this knowledge was helpful, I would like to do a similar "Nosce Ipsum Research Report" for the first three people who contact me with their
  1. Month, day and time of birth (I don't need to know the year of birth)
  2. Agreement to rate (up to five stars) and write a review of their "Nosce Ipsum Research Report"
  3. Permission to share their rating and written review in this blog.