06 July 2017

London trip, day 4

Today (Saturday) is the day we have a tour of the Parliament scheduled for early afternoon. We set out in the morning to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We got there early to get a good spot to watch.

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It starts to get crowded, so we people-watch.

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We climb up and find a higher spot to view the changing of the guard.

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The view in the direction opposite to the Palace. We will soon walk down that way.

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The statue in front of where we are sitting:

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We wait for about 45 minutes. More people come, and we see some horses.

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We got tired of waiting. So we walked away, down through St. James Park. John has read that a smaller ceremony will be held in a little while at a place a few blocks away. The park is lovely, but those chairs are for rent, by day or by season.

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We walked through an area of very fancy shops, mostly for men's clothing and shoes. We also walked around a lot, looking for the next ceremony. A few people were gathering around the building below. But we never saw a ceremony!

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Next we walked to Westminster and picked up our tickets for the House of Parliament tour. It was an hour or so away, so we walked (and walked and walked) looking for a place to eat. Nothing! Then I spotted an outdoor stand that sold sandwiches and sweets. Perfect! We split a panini and a cookie and rested in peaceful Victoria park, right next to the Thames and the Parliament building.

The House of Parliament tour was fascinating and the tour guide a bit quirky. Photos were not allowed inside, so I have none to share.

We took the tube to Earl's Court to look for a restaurant for dinner. We found a great place! Turns out it was a chain. We had ravioli and spaghetti, nice portions. We dressed our salads using the bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil at the table, then ground salt and squeezed a fresh lemon on top, and used a special grinder to add Parmesan cheese. Dessert of raspberry and chocolate was delicious. Merlot was the wine.

A perfect day!

04 July 2017

London trip, day 3, lunch and Freemason building

By about 12:30, we were looking for lunch. The area around the British Museum is very touristy, very crowded, has lots of traffic. But in general, we like this part of old London, as it has less construction and lots of shops and places to eat. After looking at many restaurants, we end up at the Manitoba Tigella on New Oxford Street. Like the Slug and Lettuce, this Italian restaurant offers "sharing boards". We chose the Tagliere Misto:

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Parma ham (proscuitto), Felino salame (an Italian salame), and mortadella are Italian cured meats. Gnocco fritto and tigelle fritto are fried yeast doughs. The unpitted Italian olives were fresh, green, not really brined, and delicious – we had these throughout the trip and even John liked them. Sun-dried tomatoes and Parmigiano cheese we have in the US, but the versions in this restaurant were outstanding. Stracchino cheese is an Italian cows-milk cheese, eaten while the cheese is young; it is often used as a melting cheese, like on pizza.

Of course we had wine so we strolled happily out of the restaurant and admittedly got a little lost looking for the War Museum and Covenant Garden. We came to this large and beautiful building, named "Freemasons Hall". I was ready to pass it by, but John is fascinated by architectural masterpieces, so we went inside. He went to the reception desk and asked what the building was all about, and the lady said "you are lucky, a tour is just starting!" What? Oh well, let's go.

What is a Freemason? Briefly, it is a member of a fraternal (men only) organization that began in the fourteenth century as a group that negotiated dealings of stone cutters (masons) with clients and authorities. The first Freemason Grand Lodge was created in 1717 in London. See Wikipedia for more; we had trouble getting what the lodge was all about from our tour guide. This CBS news article has a lot more information on the secrecies of the Freemasons. When I view the Freemasons symbol online, it seems to bring back memories of literature and discussions surrounding my maternal grandfather.

Here is the ceiling of the sanctuary:

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The altar:

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The top of the ceiling:

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The throne:

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Tiled floor:
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It was a magnificent building. But the secrets of the Freemasons were not revealed in the tour, and had to be found later online.

After the Freemasons we used the tube and found our way "home". Later, we went out for a light dinner, looking for guacamole and chips and margaritas at a restaurant down the street. That turned out to be a busy fast food place, so we walked back towards our hotel. (It's a Friday night.) We ended up at Tapa's near our hotel. Although it was busy, it was great!! Stuffed into a table near the street, we ordered a couple tapas and Sangrias. We had Iberian pork, a delicacy from Spain that was grilled to rare and absolutely astounding. We got some kebabs that were served with harissa sause (I learned this sauce in one of my cooking classes). We ordered more tapas and I think more sangrias and had a great time. Delicious food.

Off to walk the few steps to our hotel! We love London.

15 June 2017

London trip, day 3, British Museum special show

When you walk into the British Museum, you are in a large structure done in white with a dome on top.

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Look carefully at the last photo above. See the little dots on the glass of the dome? I zoomed in:

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Those were window or "dome" washers, a couple guys on ropes washing the windows!

11 June 2017

London trip, day 3

May 5.

Great night sleep! This morning we are off to the British Museum. Although it opens at 9 a.m., we are not in a big hurry to leave, remembering the crowded Tube from the day before.

The British Museum is an amazing repository of British historical items, from Britain itself and all of its colonies. (In fact, there was a special "American Dream Exhibition" while we were there - we skipped that.) Here is the entry way:

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I also like the view across the street:

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We first walk into a long, long library filled with books on the walls. In the center are displays, like this of vases from the 1500s. One shows river gods in a landscape, one is signed for a famous ceramic workshop in Itally whose wares were hunted down by collectors.

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John liked this microsculpture.

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Sign for the above micro sculpture: "Around 1500, sculptors in the Northern Netherlands invented a new art form: microscopic sculptures carved in wood, which tell the Christian story and encourage the viewer to identify with its message. Made for private devotion and enjoyment, they are virtuoso masterpieces, which have always been treasured as objects of wonder and curiosity. The remarkable group in the Woddesdon Bequest are made of boxwood, a densely grained wood which can be carved in great detail. The altar shown here is one of the most splendid examples to survive. Dated 1511, the altar is carved with scenes from the life and Passion of Christ. Doors open to reveal the Crucifixion, with detailed figures set within a vaulted interior. The inside of the doors show Christ Carrying the Cross on the left, and the Resurrection on the right. Beneath is the Last Supper. The disciples sit with Jesus behind a table, with Judas, who will betray Jesus, isolated at the front. Beneath is a small label dated 1511. Flanking the scene are playful cherubs and lions holding shields, which would originally have identified the patron for whom this sculpture was made."

"The Knucklebone Player", below, is a marble Roman sculpture from the 1st-2nd century AD. "A young girl plays a game of knucklebones using animal ankle bones as four-sided dice."

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"Hercules", below, is a Roman copy of an original by the Greek sculptor Lysippos of about 325-300 BC. Restored and set into a modern bust by the English sculptor Joseph Nolllekens, it is said to have been found at the foot of Mount Vesuvius.

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The Rosetta Stone! This is the artifact that I wanted to see the most at the British Museum. The text on the Rosetta Stone is the same "decree" in three scripts, two Egyptian and one Ancient Greek, and thus is the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was made in 196 BC and found in 1799 AD. (See Wikipedia.)

Unfortunately, everyone else in the museum apparently wanted to see the Rosetta Stone too. I tried to get my camera focused on it, but there was so much people-movement and reflections off the glass that this is the best image I got:

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I did get a better view with my own eyes, luckily. The Rosetta Stone fascinates me.

We next went to the Egyptian area, with statues as old as 1800 BC. A head:

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A big fist and a lot of museum visitors:

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Note the "Please do not touch" on this next one (!), the Statue of Rehuankh, about 1800 BC:

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More:

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King Amenhotep III as a lion. "The statue and its pair guarded a temple at Soleb, Upper Nubia." (About 1390 BC.)

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Our JHF Poly High class name (1967) was "Assyrians":

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Mummies! This is one of my favorite rooms in the British Museum.

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The above is: "Cleopatra: the mummy of a young woman. The mummy and coffin of Cleopatra, daughter of Candace, from the Soter family burial." She was 17 years old.

Hypocephali:

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This one shows an X-ray of the above mummy:

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"The mummy of this young woman illustrates the mathod of wrapping employed in the 25th Dynasty. The outer shroud was originally dyed a salmon-pink colour. It is held in place by transverse bands and vertical strips (originally light brown and dark purple respectively). Over this is laid a network of tubular faience beads and a winged scarab beetle of mosaic beadwork. (Mummy of Takhebkhenem, about 700-680 BC, from Thebes.)

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The mummy of Katebet, about 1300 BC, Thebes:

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The photo below is one of me and was designed and shot by John. He was looking at a gold neck adornment, and noted that an image of it was projected onto a passerby. So he set me up, took the photo, and here I am "wearing" this golden adornment:

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Enough! We are getting tired and hungry and head out of the museum.

29 May 2017

London trip, day 2, continued

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.

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.

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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.