29 May 2017

London trip, day 2, continued again

We left the London Tower in search of lunch. Walking north (not across the bridge), we found ourselves in a maze of construction and traffic. A temporary wall around the construction advertised restaurants, but we couldn't find a way to get to them. So we continued north. The area did not look promising for restaurants. John talked to a construction worker, and the guy didn't know of any restaurants, but he thought there were some back by the river. So back we went. Along the way, I saw a door in a big building, and thinking that that building might house a bar or restaurant, I went in. I smelled food! Turns out all I smelled was a small vending machine area, but . . . I looked ahead through the next door, and we passed through, and lo and behold, a wharf area with lots of eateries!

"The Slug and the Lettuce" was the first one we came to. I liked the catchy name and we liked the menu. But, we continued on past about ten restaurants and reading more menus. We ended up back at the Slug and Lettuce.

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This eatery is big, airy, and has some areas with comfy couches. The menu was contempory, much as we'd find in Boulder. But one big difference that I rarely see in the US – it offered "sharing boards". We often share meals, to keep the amount of food down. Well, the Slug and Lettuce was all set up for people like us! We decided on a board with a selection of Asian small plates, like egg rolls, shrimp on a stick, and a couple other tasty treats that I forget. But it was delicious. And we had wine. And then we ordered a "board" of mini desserts. So good. Our waitress was quirky and seemed to be on her first work of week there, as the other waitress seemed to be at odds with her now and then.

When we got back to the US, I looked up "Slug and Lettuce" to try to find the menu and exactly what we had to eat. I found out that the Slug and Lettuce is a "chain of bars" throughout the UK. It even has a wikipedia entry. This chain is "contemporary" and aimed at youthful clientele and women as well as men. This is the one we were at, "St. Mary Axe.

We next walked across the Tower Bridge.

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Here is the view from the bridge:

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Across the bridge we find a lot of new buildings all with glass walls and of all sort of shapes. I'll show more in another post, but here is one:

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We walked past a children's play area:

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We walked to Westminster, and gazed on the Parliament building, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben.

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We Tubed back to our room. An oasis after all the noise and walking crowded streets! For a light dinner, we went next door to the Plough and Harrow. (Love the gin and tonics, especially the tonic, but have to keep fighting for more ice.) Ordered a "sharing plate" again, but this one was all fried and we decide not to do that again.

What a fun day.

27 May 2017

London trip, day 2, continued

We left the London Tower in search of lunch. Walking north (not across the bridge), we found ourself in a maze of construction and traffic. A construction wall advertised restaurants, but we couldn't find a way to get to them. So we continued north. The area did not look promising for restaurants. John talked to a construction worker, and the guy didn't know of any restaurants except back by the river. So back we went. I saw a door in a big building, and thinking that building might house a bar or restaurant, I went in. I smelled food! Turned out all I smelled was a small vending machine area, but . . . I looked ahead through the next door, and we passed throught, and lo and behold, a wharf area with lots of eateries!

"The Slug and the Lettuce" was the first one we came to. I liked the catchy name and we liked the menu. But, we continued on past about ten restaurants and reading more menus. We ended up back at the Slug and Lettuce.

photo

talk about the restaurant and the meal

26 May 2017

London trip, day 2

Thursday, May 4

Early risers, these two travellers! By 6:30 am we were at the Holiday Inn breakfast buffet. British sausage (bangers), baked beans, good scrambled eggs, sliced hot ham, yogurt, fruit compote, bread for toast, muffins, fruits like tangerines and apples, US style cereals, Postum, Wheatabix, and last but not least, buttery croissants. And very good coffee.

Time to hit the Tube! Our destination today is the Tower of London. We hit the Tube early, as the Tower opens at 9 am. Mistake! Standing room only on the train, and that's scrunched-like-sardines standing room.

Our first view of the Tower. But how exactly to walk to it? (This is a resounding theme throughout our walks through London.)

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And what is this crazy thing off in the distance?

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Later, we find out that this is "The Shard". A modern London building. I turn my head and focus back to the building I prefer to look at, the ancient walls and stories of the London Tower. A structure that has stood since about 1097 holds so much more interest for me.

This catapult sits near the entrance to the Tower, where the moat used to be.

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Just past the entrance. Off to the left is the Coins & Kings section, "The story of the Royal Mint at the Tower." Onward and to the right are the tower structures.

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We will go up those stairs for a long walk around the outer wall, but first, we turn left to see the mint. Here is the area in front of the mint:

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A zoom in of the archer on top of the tower. Note also the crosses in the walls.

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The Mint's many displays illustrated how the kings developed coins over the centuries. Many of the displays were interactive. Some displayed the British dry sense of humor: you'd walk into an alcove and a man's voice started talking about how he was locked up for counterfeiting, pleeing "please help me!".

Leaving the Mint, we walked up the stairs I described earlier. Here is a great view of the Tower Bridge:

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This is a view of The White Tower, built by William the Conqueror more than 900 years ago.

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Ravens perch and fly throughout the towers (it's part of the towers tradition). These two were quite tame, posing for me and a group of school kids:

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These mesh baboons reside on the walls of the courtyard. We later learn that the royalty kept many exotic animals in the tower. A sign: "Lions were the most important royal beasts at the Tower and were kept here for 600 years. The enclosure where all the animals lived was called the Lion Tower. Kings and queens always wanted to have lions at the Tower. They were epecially proud of any cubs that were born here. British lions have become an important symbol representing pride and power – from the sculptures in Trafalgar Square, to the shirts worn by the England footbal team."

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A close-up of one of the towers:

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A tour group in the courtyard:

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The Crown Jewels is a popular attaction at the London Tower.

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Two guards walk the area beside the entrance:

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This museum within the Towers hosts the many treasures of the British Royalty. Gaudy gold plates, ceramic dinner ware, serving containers that are simply huge and gaudy, silverware, much more. We were not allowed to take photos. At the end of the tour are the crown jewels, including those of the current queen, Queen Elizabeth II. We had to step on a moving walkway to get past the Crown Jewels, so that no one could linger and stop the flow of people.

Next we walked through the White Tower (see photo above). William the Conqueror began building this "great keep" in the 1070s. From the London Tower, we looked down on the scene below. The wall was bombed during World War II. Wow, this brings history home. I think the cages have something to do with the ravens.

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About this time, I (ahem) began thinking of the "call of nature". I asked John, where did they poop and pee? Lo and behold, a couple giggling women were posing for phone-photos in this little room, and when they left I looked in anc found:

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We sat for awhile in this chapel.

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Next we cam to the Arsenal. Suits of armor, armored men on wooden horses - amazing how heavy and clumsy but ornate the suits were, and how strong the horses must have been. And then we come to this:

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What the heck? We read the signs: "A tradition of displaying British military strength by creating trophies from masses of weapons has long existed at the Tower." "Building on the tradition of trophies, this new dragon has been constructed using objects and materials that represent nine institutions which were housed in the Tower - and in some cases still are."

It's mid-day and were are tired (in a good way). It's time to find a place for rest and refreshment. But finding those seemingly simple pleasures in downtown London, amidst just oodles of construction, proved to be a chore. More walking. And on to my next post.



15 May 2017

London trip, day 1

We set off to London May 2, 2017. Loved the direct flight from DIA to Heathrow! British Airways, aah. "Would you like some wine? Here's a bottle for now, and would you like another to go with your meal?"

At Heathrow, we bought our "travel card", a 7 day pass for the Tube. The pass comes on an "Oyster card". Worked like a dream for the entire trip. We set off to find our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express on King Street out in Hammersmith, a couple miles west of main London. It is set back from the main road and very quiet. And . . . it is within easy walking distance to two Tube stations.

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Looking east towards the Hammersmith station:

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Looking west towards the Ravenscort station:

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The first thing to do? Hit the streets and get physically tired so we could crash and get rid of jet lag. The area around Hammersmith is a grand mix of races and nationalities. We heard English only some of the time. Crowded sidewalks, crazy traffic. Big busses, small cars, vans, bikes, loud motorcycles. Small shops, small eateries, big stores (like H&M), chain restaurants (Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway), pharmacies, computer shops, banks, shops with fresh fruits and vegetables, pubs, a scenic old church. A group of uniformed students bustled out of a parochial school. Found an English pub and had a nice ESB beer. (ESB means extra special bitter; it was dark and creamy and unlike our local Colorado craft beers.)

Back near the hotel, we walked into a small joint that sold kabobs and fish and chips. We ordered the fish and chips! We sat down for a long wait, since our waiter/cook had to batter and fry the fresh cod. As we were the only customers, we struck up a conversation with this young Persian. He had a 9 month old son, and explained that he, as an immigrant, could not get health insurance, but luckily his son could. We discussed our views on Trump and health insurance and he talked about his situation and his adopted country's politics. Same problems worldwide. Since it took so long for the fish and chips, he gave us a salad "on the house". That fish was the best we've ever had!

Since the little eatery did not sell beer or wine, we stopped at the bar/restaurant in front of our hotel. After we sat down and perused the menu, we realized that we had to go to the bar to order. This turned out to be the "way it is" in most of the pubs and some of the eateries in London. We re-discovered gin and tonics. The tonic was lovely, like nothing we get here in the states. Just like we found in Ghana or Togo. Ice was the issue, though, had to keep asking for more!

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Ah, London. Up to our quiet room for an early, great night's sleep.

09 April 2017

How to turn an obsession into a quilt.

I admit it. I have trouble throwing things away. I am sort of a hoarder, and officially OCD.

I have always loved to sew. That means I've made hundreds of shirts, dresses, shorts, kids' clothes, and costumes. And I've saved the leftover fabric from each project. About 30 years ago, I decided to cut the leftover fabric into 4x4-inch squares, so that I could make a quilt "someday". When I retired, I spent several months going through more of my old material and cutting it into squares.

But dang! I ended up with a big bin of these squares! Now I am making quilts, and used the Hawaiian prints to make one. Still, I have tons of squares left, but now I prefer to buy new fabric to make quilts.

What to do?

Well, I bought a serger a couple weeks ago. An online video showed me how to make a quilt from scraps. The technique produces a quilt that is already reversible and does not need to be "quiltes". I decided it was a good way to practice using the serger and using more of those 4x4-inch squares. Here is the project in progress:

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Crazy, huh? Oh well. That's me.

28 June 2016

Little boy with cow.

Dzo in raft

My toddler grandson, asleep in the raft in the pool.

12 April 2016

film shot

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This was shot 1n 1994 on a film camera. I found it while organizing the negatives that I scanned in years ago.

I like it. But I am a sucker for sunrises and sunsets – I have a rotating set of such photos on my cooking blog header. I thought about adding this one in there, but I would have had to crop off all the good stuff, like the rays coming up out of the clouds. I didn't touch the color settings. Maybe film caught and reproduced light differently from my digital DSLR. Maybe there is more to explore in that old medium: film.

28 November 2015

Paris Trip 9

This is my last blog entry for our Paris trip. We left the next day, October 1, for our home in Colorado. This is our last full day in Paris!

We began with a visit to the Museum of Air and Space. It's a ways out, towards Charles De Gaulle Airport. We took the RER B and then a bus to get there. The Air and Space Museum has relics of early flight all the way up to jets and space travel.

This hot air balloon went up and down – if you look closely, you can see a gap between the bottom of the balloon and the platform. We watched as it went up about 15 feet.

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Here is a dummy in an early attempt at flying.

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Feather-type wings.

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More examples.

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In WWI, balloons carried men in baskets high enough to see where the enemy was. The contraption was towed behind a military vehicle.

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A WWI plane.

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Next we moved to a room of rockets and early spacecraft.

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We walked outside to see jets in the open air and other aircraft in hangars.

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WWII aircraft: "Buzz Buggy" and a Japanese Zero.

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Look how the wings fold up on this plane:

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On the tarmac, rockets behind retired planes.

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I was amazed at the many different types of helicopters in this room at the museum.

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Star of the museum: the Concorde. Gazing at this sleek plane, I would love to have flown in it.

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But alas, tomorrow we look forward to a slow flight back to Denver. We still have a few hours in Paris though. We visit a wine museum – it was disappointing, but watching a Fuji guy con the sommelier was amusing. We end our tour with a quiet one hour cruise on the Seine.

Bye Paris. We had a great time!

22 November 2015

Paris Trip 8

This is our last full day in Paris. Before we leave for today's adventures, I take my camera downstairs to shoot some photos of the Hotel Du Lion and our neighborhood.

I'll get to those photos in a second. First, a note on another track. France’s military showed its presence throughout our stay in Paris. Often we saw camouflage-uniformed men in groups of twos and threes carrying guns, on the streets and in the metro. Clearly the security in Paris was stepped-up compare to what I see in the US. As I write this blog entry in November 2015, it is just a week since the terrorist attacks on Paris on November 13. We watched the coverage on TV and felt sorrow for the people of Paris. So senseless.

Okay. Our room at the Hotel du Lion was on the second floor, the lobby on the first. These are the steep stairs down to the street from the lobby:

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Looking back up:

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The door to Hotel du Lion does not have a huge front and lobby. Just a door, then the stairs to climb:

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Looking one way down our avenue. Yes, that's a McDonalds right next door. Down a ways are a couple ATMs. It was easy to find cash in Paris.

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A metro station is right by the hotel door (no photo). I crossed the street to the Rue Daguerre with its many roadside stalls – cheese, meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, wine – and market and restaurants. It's morning and vendors are setting up.

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Halfway down the Rue Daguerre I turned and took a photo back towards the hotel.

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A bus goes by.

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Then the people cross. I follow them, then climb up to our room to get ready for our last day in Paris.

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21 November 2015

Paris Trip 7

Our second day of our 2-day museum pass. We choose our museums and head to the main tourist area of Paris.

Musee des Arts et Metiers is our first stop. I don't know why I didn't take any photos here, since it was very interesting for both of us! We saw historic scientific instruments and measurement devices: astrolabes, gyroscopes, balances, thermometers, satellites, and chemistry glassware. There were models showing construction methods. The history of communication area had old telegraphs, telephones, typewriters, and computers. And then there was a collection of vehicles, land and air, all the way up to rockets and spacecraft. It was fascinating and we spent close to two hours there.

Next, the Picasso Museum. What a treat to stand right in front of Picasso's amazing paintings. We strolled through rooms of sculptures and drawings as well. Picasso's scrawled notes were displayed in covered cases. This painting is framed by wavy-glass window views of the outside.

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Femme au fauteuil rouge:

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Grande baigneuse au livre, or Great Bather Reading, is the title of the next painting. I liked this one a lot, because it looks to me like a woman looking down, head on her propped up arms, and very sad.

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The Conciergerie is our next museum. And what is the Conciergerie? During the French revolution, it was the prison where people to be guillotined were held. It was the last stop for 2,780 victims. One of these victims was Marie-Antoinette. Gruesomely interesting.

We enter the Conciergerie into this room in the Gothic style with thick winding staircases:

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Commoners were held in cells like this:

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On a wall was a list of those who were guillotined at the Conciergerie. It lists each persons name and occupation.

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Below are photos of Marie-Antoinette's cell. The guard stood behind a screen to allow her some privacy. In this room she spent she spent her last days. On October 16, 1793 led at 4 am to the guillotine .

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We walked around for over an hour and I'm sure we went into a cafe for refreshment. I shot this photo of a narrow Paris avenue from my iPhone:

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Our final museum on the pass will be the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe is at the top of the Champs-Elysees, we started our walk on our first full day in Paris there (see the first day Paris blog for photos). Now we are back to use our Museum Pass to enter the building and walk to the top.

Construction of the Arc de Triomphe began in 1809, it honors Napoleon’s soldiers victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. Statues and busts adorn the ornate inside of the building. We start up a long, long winding spiral staircase: 165 feet high, 284 steps.

From the top, we had a grand view of all of Paris. The population of Paris is about 11 million, and has the highest density of any city in Europe. The architecture is fairly consistent with only a few anomolies. I think it is beautiful.

View down the Champs-Elysees.

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Eiffel Tower in this view.

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The Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse Tower (built in the 1970s before city planners strengthened building height restrictions).

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In this photo is the huge, white, rectangular Grande Arche de la Defense standing amid skyscrapers.

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Looking straight down, the mix of traffic is crazy.

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Six straight avenues cross at the round-a-bout where the Arc de Triomphe stands. Thus twelve spokes of traffic radiate out from where we are standing. Three spokes can be seen in this photo:

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Montmartre in the distance, topped by the dome of Sacre-Coeur.

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We returned to our hotel. I wrote in my notebook: "Big dinner across the street - too much food!"