Wiltshire County + Oxford With A Side of Sacramento …

Adendum March 5, 2018: As I sit here finally ready to post more about my Birthday Trip in December, I find out that Russ Solomon passed away Yesterday watching The Oscars, probably rooting for another Brilliant Sacramentan, Greta Gerwig ( more on her later ). He was the Founding Father of Tower Records, a Sacramento based Company that went Global. I have always loved telling people that Tower started in my Hometown and that my first Milkshake was in the Original Tower Drugstore with my Dad. Tower ‘Block’ , for those that are from Sacto, was on Watt Avenue and included Tower Books, Records, and Video:

5807497220_8a52bc1eff_b.jpg… and after I got my Driver’s License, everyday after School, most Friday Nights, and even Saturday Afternoons, were spent trolling the Magazine Racks, sitting on the floor reading Books, flipping through Vinyl Records and Tape Cassettes, and renting Foreign Films. Tower was single handedly responsible for my Creative Aesthetic that I still have today. It was my window to this great big World, and as Greta says,  ‘ … it gave me Roots and Wings’ ! Tower holds such a Special place in my Heart, that I even tried my hand at Archiving some of his treasured Tower Bits! Watch Colin Hank’s (Another Sacramentan) Brilliant Homage to Russ,  All Things Must Pass. Thank You Colin for Rightly honoring him …


Thank YOU Russ for giving us all things Tower and for giving a fellow Sacramentan a comforting and expansive place where I discovered my Soul.

Rest gently dear Giant xxx

Back to my Post:



First, Thank YOU Dear Visitors from all over the World! I would love to hear from you, how you found Me, what you like @ my wee Blog! Drop me an e-mail: geniebalantac@gmail.com or leave me a comment!

Second, Finally saw Lady Bird ( Read this Brilliant Review from a British Newspaper!) , Greta Gerwig’s Valentine to our Hometown of Sacramento , with my BFF:


As stated earlier, last Night was the Oscars and Our Hometown was sending her SO much Love:


Tower Theater


Greta’s Alma Mater, St. Francis High School

The Film couldn’t have come at a more Auspicious time in my life. It’s inspired me to start a couple of ongoing Projects this year, a bit of my own Personal Resurrection of sorts. Just in time for Spring:


Cherry Tree outside my Office Window

And Lent:


Some Lenten Reading from The Catholic Store

Lady Bird Inspired Project #1: My Sacramento Adventures :

( Click link above for Flickr Set )


Lady Bird Inspired Project #2: Honoring My Magic Cottage:

( Click Link above for Flickr Set )


Check back periodically for Featured Posts!

Back to my 50th Birthday Trip:

After the Milestone and the Rush of London, I was Thank – Full for the Second Leg of the Trip. Booked a Tour with Rabbies. Planning a trip to the UK? Book with them, You will n o t be disappointed: Intimate, Personal and wide range of Locations!

Leaving London, it wasn’t Raining or Snowing, it was S u n n y for our trip to Wiltshire County:



Always ready for a bit of London History on the way to Avebury:



 We wanted to go to Stonehedge, but after talking to some Mates, Avebury seemed like a more up close + personal experience.

I feel asleep for part of the ride, woke up at a Rest Stop: WISH I had taken a pic of the Magazine Stand, oh my: the Brits love their Rags! The rest of the ride to Avebury I was wide awake for the beauty that is the English Countryside.  It was the first time to roll through it at a semi leisurely pace, and with every Meter that passed by, I fell more and more in Love.

Our Tour Guide’s Musings on Avebury:


There are no words that truly express the feeling of stepping in between the Ancient Stones, touching them, and being in their Silence.

It was Soul Soothing.




Scanned B + W Ilford Print




Scanned B + W Ilford Film




Scanned B + W Instax




Scanned B + W Ilford Film




Swept around the Village a bit:




Scanned B + W Ilford Film




Found these two Mates with matching boots …




Sat Patiently waiting for no cars to get this shot whilst happily chatting with another Photographer doing the same. Who needs to buy things at the Shop? This moment was priceless.


Scanned B + W Instax of The Red Lion

On the way to Lacock Village :


iPhone 7 Plus Panoramic

Spot the White Horse + the first of many Orbs on the trip …

The Love continued as we ventured into Lacock Village.  Lacock is composed of the Village, the Abbey (which we didn’t get to visit) , and the  Fox Talbot Museum:  We found out from our Tour guide that Lacock is the ‘Birthplace of Photography’ ( I let out a little yelp, when I heard that! ). I did N O T know that, if I did, we would have stayed the night in Lacock , most likely at the Sign of The Angel , so I could have properly done the Museum.  Had a wonder-full chat with the caretaker however, Bless her in all her lovely-ness. The Museum is on my Bucket List now.

A wonderful Gentleman did oblige me by taking an Instax in front of the Museum, which seems appropriate:


Scanned B + W Instax

Lacock Village was serene, peaceful, blissfully charming and I can see why Film Crews and people want to be there, it’s a bit of Heaven here on Earth:



SO happy,  I had to talk about it …




Tithe Barn at Manor Farm was breathtaking.




These Wellies I saw peeking out from under a car, LOVE them.




British Moss is Beautiful …




A Child’s Room amongst old Stonework.



Lovely Couple taking a Morning Walk …

( Via a long shot on my iPhone way down the road )

That will be me one day.

Then a quick trip to  Bath to mostly see The Roman Baths.





Then it was back to London to pick up our left luggage at Victoria Train Station and to hook up with our Driver to take us to Oxford. Really, it was a feat in and of itself, but we did it! Don’t feel like taking a Train? Book with Blackberry Cars for door to door service!

But first, my Beloved Sign was finally leaving London and Traveling …


Scanned Panoramic Film

As long as I can remember, I’ve been told that I need to go to Oxford.  That I would fall in Love with the ‘ City of Dreaming Spires ‘ …




As Endeavour, a show set in Oxford, ends it’s Fifth Season on Sunday,  I recall when I first discovered it the Fall of 2011 on Netflix. I didn’t know anything about Inspector Morse , I didn’t know how beloved the (Endeavour) Morse Character was on Telly,  and in the Inspector Morse Novels as well. Thank YOU Colin Dexter for opening me up to a whole new World and facilitating my Love for Oxford …


A Red + Yellow Umbrella walking under the Bridge of Sighs …

… I fell asleep on the M40, apparently a good thing, as my Cousin said it was i c y. But when I woke up, we were magically in Oxford, on our way to Wadham College where we had a room for a couple of nights. Yes, that’s right we stayed at Uni! I wholeheartedly recommend University Rooms when in Oxford:




My Treasured Wadham College Scarf bought at the Official University Shop  ! It’s not cold enough here in Northern California to wear it this Winter, but it will come with me wherever I Travel in the UK!



Fancy a Cuppa?




Best Closet of the Trip, even a place for my Hats!



The Best Toiletries ever, that I will never use!

After we arrived, I walked around the Quad + a bit of the Campus on my own.

I was Smitten:



Cheeky Snow People


Snowy Corner

Then in the Morning we had Breakkie in the Hall.

Panoramic Views of:



The Quad + The ‘ Staircases ‘ on the way to the Hall …




The Hall, which is the largest in Oxford University …




My inner Hermione was satisfied.




SO kind Hall Staff …




Scanned Color Panoramic Film



Hall Happy in my PJ’s and no Makeup …

After Breakkie, I wanted to visit Wadham Chapel in the daytime and I’m glad we did: It was the second (bone chilling) Spiritual Experience of my Trip.

I  L O V E that there is something this Beautiful on Campus. If I was a Student, I would be here everyday:



27931841689_659e693ce5_o (1)

I was so moved I started singing Amazing Grace , and I don’t usually burst out in song, but it felt right.

I had a bit of time on my own to Explore and Document this Venerated Space:







Scanned Panoramic Fim

Looking at this again, I do see some Ghosty Type Light, and truth be told, I did not feel completely ‘ alone ‘ in my exploration …




 I lit a Candle, said a Prayer, and I left some Pounds.




Took one of these to remember this Special Place.

The visit filled me up deep and set me up for the rest of our Glorious day in Oxford.

We did a short Bus Tour:



 If Video Bit doesn’t work click this link …

Totally felt like Linda McCartney again, snapping away in the backseat:


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Got off the bus and walked around a bit:




At a Shop, for those American Oxford Students …




Wish I had spent more time at The Covered Market but we were on our way to meet our Friend Tom.  But the little time I did spend there, I felt a part of something rather Special.



One of the main reasons I wanted to go to the Covered Market was because of Brown’s Cafe and it’s feature in an Endeavour Film this Season. Next visit to Oxford, I will be eating there:





And then I couldn’t resist getting a World Famous Cookie and was it sublime Noshing it in the Rain.




Toyed with buying one of these …



And Visited the Christmas Market  …

But it was the 3 1/2 Hour Walkabout in the Rainy Cold with our Friend Tom, that solidified my Newfound Love of Oxford. Tom, I will be forever Grateful.


Straight from the off,  the City’s indiscriminate beauty of Colors, Energy, and Unprecedented History, won me over and shook me at my Core. It was surprisingly tangible, inexplicable, and comforting all at the same time.

With every step, description, and moment, I fell deep for this City of Enlightenment.

It was a brilliant ramble of an Afternoon, meandering through it’s Alleys and Narrow Roads. Walking amongst the Spires, Bricks, and Stones. Shuffling through hallowed halls, being in awe of everything we saw and heard, and discovering Endeavor’s Oxford.

I have tried to the best of my abilities to aptly place the images that follow … wish I had been like Endeavor and had a notebook + pen!  If any of you, dear Readers, can help me with my memory, please give me a shout!
















I did however recognize the following places! Thank You Tom for helping me check these off my (Endeavour) Bucket List:



One. Merton College which stands in for Endeavor’s Fictional College, Lonsdale.




Two.  Formerly the University of Oxford Philosophy Centre on Merton Street :



… Filming Location of the Wessex Bank for the Endeavour Film ‘ Coda ‘ !

Can you tell I’m Chuffed? My fave Portrait of the trip!


Three. This sorry excuse for a Selfie ( I stayed away from them on the trip ) was taken at the Sheldonian Theater . It’s where Morse stumbled upon these steps after being stabbed in the stacks in ‘Fugue’ !

PS I lost this Brolly somewhere in Oxford, and I want it back!

Four.  Walking by Queen’s Lane I did a short intake of Breath:


The wall on the left is where Endeavour reflected over a Cuppa in ‘ Fugue ‘ …

I wish I had taken this shot with my DSLR or 35mm Film Camera, it’s just SO Beautiful. It’s one of my most Fave of the trip.



Five.  This infamous Staircase from the Brilliant Endeavour Pilot that lead up to The Oxford Mail. I had to touch it twice to just bring it home to me that yes, it’s real! Near the Infamous The Turf Tavern where I had a pint + chips at later in the Eve.




Six. Bodleian Library which was featured in the Endeavour Film Fugue. We walked in a bit, but all I could think of was how can I borrow books here? I know, become a Student!




Grabbed this as a Momento …







Click here if Video Bit doesn’t Load …

Seven. The Radcliffe Camera which is everywhere in Endeavour and is truly breathtaking in person. The first time I saw it, I did a sharp intake of breath, S t u n n i n g.

Then there was a bit of the Harry Potter:



…the Divinity School where the kids learned how to Ballroom Dance!




… and apparently this was the inspiration for the Star Filled Ceiling of the Dining Hall, but I don’t have the foggiest idea where this is? Help!

The weather cleared up, and Oxford at Twilight doesn’t need any Filtering:




Trinity College




Pitt Rivers Museum

We didn’t get to visit, but definitely will be on my Oxford Bucket List in 2019!




Had an end of a Walkabout Respite here …



And after a Pint at a Pub ( Tom, what was the name of it ?), talking about Orbs, My UK Art Dreams, and rightly guessing the Regional Accents of our new Mates at the next table, we said Good Bye to Tom. Thank You again for a Brilliant Afternoon.

If interested, here is my Review of Tom’s Tour …

Them we met up with Sarah for a Pub Tour and a Walkabout at Night:


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Sharon is Enigmatic, Thoughtful, and a wonderfully Spirited Tour Guide. We met her at the Christmas Market for some local Gin Tasting which fortified us for the increasingly chilly, yet sublime Adventure of Oxford at night.

Our first stop was at The Eagle and Child which was quite busy, and where we ran into our new Mates from the other Pub earlier.  But what was most exciting for me was that this is where the Pilot for Endeavour was filmed and where I was introduced to the Sublimeness of The Inklings . I was so inspired by seeing the wee corner where they used to ruminate, that I have begun to read their works, starting with C.S. Lewis!

After a quick stop at The Lamb and Flag, we made our way to the third pub of our Tour. It was then, I started to become aware of the allure of the British Pub Culture. I also quickly realized, it’s a practical way to warm up! We arrived at The Bear :

IMG_1673 (1)

… which was more busy and smaller I may add, than the other Pubs, but we were determined to have another Pint! London Pride was my Lager of Choice and only a Half Pint at that. I wanted to remember things! What I remember from this pub is the TIES and the SO Lovely and Accommodating group of Mates that let us share their Table.  We talked about the cost of living in Oxford, why I need to m o v e to Oxford, and the Brilliance that is Wadham College. We left as I hugged them Good Bye, and I said this was one of the Highlights of my Birthday Trip!

We walked to our next pub, The Turf Tavern ( A favorite of the Harry Potter Tribe) but first we saw the Inspiration for Hogsmeade:



Walked under The Bridge of Sighs, again … siiiigh:



And I touched The Staircase again:



By the time we got to our last Pub, The White Horse, many an Inspector Morse Films were shot here, it was almost Arctic Cold ! My glasses + iPhone lens fogged up the minute we walked into the Wee Cozy and Quaint Boozer:



This is the only pic that came through!

Thank YOU Sarah for showing us Oxford at night and braving the Cold with us! Can’t wait to come back and have some proper Pintswith you!

If interested, here is the Review I wrote for Sarah’s Tour!

Both of our Oxford Tours were through:


I highly recommend any Tours they have to offer. Intimate, Thoughtful, and Engaging … you will not be disappointed! Say Hi to Alasdair, Tom, and Sarah for me!

The next day we prepared to check out of Wadham:



Found the Garden ….



Had an Epiphany …

Then we had our first Train Experience at the Oxford Station:



Scanned Ilford B + W Film




Scanned Ilford B + W Film




Scanned Color Panoramic Film



Our next stop? Edinburgh, Scotland!



One thought on “Wiltshire County + Oxford With A Side of Sacramento …

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