Donkey Crossing

Welcome to Donkey Crossing! Donkey Crossing is an on-line account of one Limey and one Yank living one Dream. From September 2006 until the end of 2007, we plan to visit friends and family on five continents and immerse ourselves into various cultures, natural phenomena and ways of life. We hope you enjoy our tales and visit often! Cheers, Jason and Rachel Napoli

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"On Ilkla Moor Baht'at"
Upon return from my brief visit to Chicago, Rachel and I decided to take a special excursion after a week apart. We wanted to stay within the beautiful landscape of Yorkshire, and decided to visit the picturesque, Victorian spa town of Ilkley.
Ilkley is located under the dominant eye of the Ilkey Moor and the popular Cow and Calf Rocks. It's most famously known nationwide as the home of the Yorkshire anthem "On Ilkla Moor Baht'at". "On Ilkla Moor Baht'at" translated from Yorkshire English is "On Ilkley Moor Without a Hat".
The song is about a man courting his true love, Mary Jane. Mary Jane pokes fun at the man for venturing out on Ilkley Moor without his hat, and how he is likely to die from exposure due to the cold. It's arguably the most widely known anthem in England and can be heard throughout the rolling hills, wind and rains of Yorkshire.
During our visit we enjoyed hours scrambling the rocks of Ilkley Moor, taking long walks through surrounding villages and sampling local culinary delicacies and ales.

Rachel and Jason pose for a self-timer on Ilkley Moor, overlooking the surrounding villages.

Ilkley Moor on an uncharacteristically sunny December afternoon.

After exploring the moor on our first afternoon, dense fog prohibited us from getting on top the following day. We happily mapped out a lovely walk along the River Wharfe to the surrounding villages of Low Mill, Addingham, Nesfield and Middelton. One of my favorite aspects of Yorkshire Life is that walking paths connect virtually every town and village through stunning farmland, riversides and canals. A snapshot from the front of a farmhouse in the village of Low Mill.
A nice view of local homes as we enter the village of Addingham.Even the isolated village of Nesfield has the iconic red phonebox!

The churchyard at Addingham Church.
The beautiful English countryside on a typical grey and dull day.

A highlight of our stay in Ilkley was the accommodation. We stayed at the Spindleberry Guest House conveniently located a few hundred meters from a footpath accessing the moor and a ten minute walk to the middle of town. Our hosts, David and Annette Graham, looked after us very well and got us ready for each day with a hearty and healthy breakfast. We were met both mornings with abundant options of fruit, cereals, nuts, seeds, "Full English" and the most delicious smoked mackerel in the land. View of Spindleberry Guest House from the Wheatley Road entrance.

Ilkley and it's environs provided a most memorable "mini-break" and will be added to the long list of "Gee, I'd like to live there one day" places on Earth. Two random trees, passed by two random ramblers, on a random slice of gorgeous English countryside.



On Ilkla Moor Baht'at

Where hast tha been sin' I saw thee, I saw thee?

On Ilkley Moor baht 'at

Where hast tha been sin' I saw thee, I saw thee?

Where hast tha been sin' I saw thee?

On Ilkley Moor baht 'at

On Ilkley Moor baht 'at

On Ilkley Moor baht 'at

Tha's been a-courtin' Mary Jane
Tha's boun' to catch thy death o` cowd
Then we shall ha' to bury thee
Then t'worms'll come an` eat thee up
Then ducks'll come an` eat up t'worms
Then we shall go an` eat up t'ducks
Then we shall all ha' eaten thee
That's wheer we get us oahn back

Friday, December 22, 2006


Jason’s recent visit to Chicago meant I'd be alone in London for a week. I knew I'd miss him, although it wasn’t long before I’d committed myself to a string of social engagements. Typically, seeing friends is a regular occurrence that is interspersed with work, family and ‘the rest of your life’. But spending just a few sporadic days or weeks in the same country as those friends, a lot of socializing tends to get crammed into the precious limited time available. Such is the nature of living abroad.
I am fortunate to have some wonderful friends in London who I treasure immensely and miss intensely. I would be devastated if they were to disappear from my life simply because I no longer live in this country, hence my temporary metamorphosis into quite the social butterfly in Jason’s absence. I had an exciting, exhausting and absolutely uplifting week spending time with old friends. Thanks to all of you for fitting me in between Christmas parties, shopping and all the other activities of the season. Here’s to all of you, including some friends who I haven’t managed to catch up with yet.

Jason admires the Henry Moore sculpture on Hampstead Heath before his departure for Chicago.

Firstly, there’s Seemi Davies and her husband Mike. Seemi and I have been close friends since high school, and when we’re together we spend hours making up for lost time over red wine, endless cups of tea and chocolate Hobnob biscuits. Seemi and Mike have generously shared their Highgate home with Jason and I on numerous occasions, offering tremendous hospitality and home cooked delights. This visit was no exception, so here’s a big thank you to our Highgate Hosts.

Here are Mike and Seemi, during a fun evening in their Highgate kitchen.

Another good high school friend is Heidi Bancroft, who now owns a fantastic pub in St. Albans with her partner Gerry. Seemi, Mike and I paid a visit on ‘live Irish music’ night, and had a great time with the landlord and landlady of ‘The Farmer’s Boy’. I highly recommend dropping in for a pint if you’re in the area. If you mention ‘Donkey Crossing’ at the bar you might even get one on the house!

Heidi and Gerry at home behind the bar of 'The Farmer's Boy'.

Heidi even offered me a part-time bar job after I impressed her with my pint-pulling skills!

It was a pleasure to see friends from the London School of Economics, namely Anna Mann, Caroline Clarke and Julian Szego. Our chosen venues ranged from the LSE Academic Dining Room to Kettners champagne bar in Soho, and I enjoyed every minute with these inspirational people from my university days.

Anna and I catching up at Kettners.

Helen Reece has been a good friend since 1996 when I worked for her in the law department at University College London. Helen has since had two gorgeous children, Hannah and Ben, with partner John Gillott, and it was great to spend a couple of hours with the family at their home in Russell Square.

Hannah and Ben take a break from playtime for a photo.

One particularly special London treat is experiencing my brother playing music. We spent a few hours recording Cole Porter songs together, and I watched him play bass at an acoustic show with his guitarist/singer friend Moody McArdle. Aside from the excellent performance the duo put on, the double treat was watching the show with my sister-in-law Eva, and Andrew’s long time friends Matt Crutchlow and Rob Sykes.

Rob, Andrew, Matt & Eva after the gig.

And then there is the wonderful Kate Jacques. Kate is my godmother, and we spent a lovely evening together dining at Konstam at the Prince Albert in Kings Cross (try it – the food and atmosphere are excellent). Donkey Crossing readers will be seeing more of Kate on the blog as we will be spending time with her and her husband Roger at their home in France in April. Thank you for a fantastic evening out in London, Kate. Looking forward to raising a glass to you in France!

Kate at our table at Konstam.

Between all the hours I spent in pubs, cafes, restaurants and homes, I did find time to walk around London and reacquaint myself with the city, falling in love with it once again. Whoever said "He who is tired of London is tired of life" was right, I reckon. With that said, I was looking forward to heading up to Yorkshire, seeing my parents and being reunited with Jason. Check back soon for tales from the North!


Sunday, December 17, 2006

(and crossed back.....and back again!)
Greetings fellow donkey lovers, and welcome to another edition of Donkey Crossing! When we last wrote we were still basking in the glorious sun on Barefoot Beach, Florida and closing in on our final days in the USA. Since the last posting a lot has happened. First of all, we've travelled to another continent (and back again, but we'll get to that later): the third principal land mass on our magical journey...Europe...more specifically, Jolly Old England!
View of London's famous Tower Bridge from Waterloo Bridge. Notice the dark skies. That's 3pm on a winter day in London for you.
First stop was London. We love this city for many reasons, the most important being friends and family. We are very lucky to have scores of friends in London, as well as Rachel's brother Andrew and his lovely wife Eva. Typically our visits to London involve spending more time in pubs and friends' kitchens cooking, eating, laughing and drinking, than seeing the traditional tourist attractions. This trip was no exception. No photos of Buckingham Palace, the Queen or the Houses of Parliament, I'm afraid!Above: Andrew, Jason and Eva give cheers in the Tooting Bec flat before tucking into a beautiful dinner prepared by Eva. Andrew and Eva have lived in Tooting Bec, South London for over five years. Their flat is one part home, one part recording studio and one part pilates studio, and is much appreciated as temporary accommodation for their nomadic family members!
About fifteen minutes up the road from Tooting Bec is East Dulwich, one of London's hip enclaves. It's full of beautiful homes, trendy bars/restaurants, thousands of baby carriages and our mate Pete and his family (wife, Sarah and daughter, Eden). It's been a tradition to spend an afternoon with Pete and Eden in East Dulwich for the past couple years.
Above: Pete, Rachel and Jason do their best impression of a VW commercial as they cruise the streets of Dulwich. Eden was at nursery, while Sarah was hard at work. All five of us had a nice Asian "Wagamama" lunch together a couple days later.
After a week in London, I left Rachel there to pay a quick and successful visit to my family in Naperville, USA. The reason for my visit was Dad's (Marty) long-awaited heart valve replacement surgery. It was something I never could've missed, and I was very glad I made the trip back. The support my family received during, before and after the surgery has been overwhelming and we're all very grateful to the hundreds who have shown their love. Everything went well, the doctors are very pleased with his recovery and he's looking good. Take a look at the man below, just a few days after surgery, as he was up and about walking the halls of the Cardiac Care Unit at Edward Hospital.

Nice job Dad! We're very proud of your Strength and Optimism throughout everything...nice job to Mom (Teena) too for putting up with him!

Finally, a special thank you to my cousin, Jack Jr., for taking me to O'Hare Airport the other day as I joined Rachel back in England...he gifted me the cool Kangol hat too!


Cheers everyone and Happy Holidays! Visit back soon for a report and pictures from Rachel's solo week in London and our first few days in the beautiful rolling hills of Yorkshire.