Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Coin of the Realm

August 21st, 2014 No comments

One of the things that happened in clerking out the house for shipping was the number of coins that turned up in interesting locations. All together, I have pictures the amount several times. We had coinage from both before and after the advent of the EU. Then add in all the other countries to which I have paid a visit over the last 20 years or so. So I have shekels, lira, $$ from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, pesos, and coinage from the Middle East, South America and Africa.

In my suitcase this time I brought a small bag of US coinage. Small I. Terms of. OT taking up all of the suitcase, larger in that it added more than 2 kg to the weight.

When I went to the post office today, I decided to use my coinage to pay off the mailing. I had two priority boxed at the $12.xx each size and a coup,e of tevdek mailers, I was able to provide 38.60 in coins: quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies. One of the other counter clerks was also interested in change. He swapped $15 in paper money for 4 dollars in quarters, seven dollars in dimes and the rest in nickels and pennies. I also gifted him two coins -a penny forum Canada and one from her Majesty. This still left me with change in my ziplock.

As it turns out, Wells Fargo Bank has a branch here in Aspen. The nice clerk ran my remaining change through her machine. $4.07. She was also willing to convert a traveler’s check from 2001 into real money as well.

So there you have it: 38.60+15.00+4.07= 57.67 unless I can’t add in my head.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Thoughts on flying

August 20th, 2014 No comments

Thoughts on flying

There are an excess of middle aged and up men on transatlantic business sections on weekday flights. I will just for the sake of argument assume a fair number of the are executives by the way they act and treat the Lufthansa staff. There is a certain amount of arrogance that seems to occur in CROs and general officers|: a kind of center of the universe re attitude where theirs is the I pinion that counts. Their needs come first Now in ones own firm that maybe true, bit on a airplane it is amazing how much rudeness one sees in the huddle of folks waiting to access one of the toilets.

This leads me to the next comment. Exit row in business is a bad idea. Same rules apply as far as no seat in front of you to stuff anything under. Worse, on some of the planes you are afforded an opportunity to observe more of your fellow passengers than you might wish.

Next. Footwear on planes. It is rare to see flip flops in business. Instead everyone seems to walk around in their socks. Now this is far superior to exposed feet on the carpets but still leads me to question if anyone is thinking at all before entering the toilet. Walking into a public toilet in stocking feet – and make no mistake, this is a very public toilet which is gender irrelevant – is not something most would do in any other venue. Why on earth anyone would do so on a plane is beyond me. It is about as smart as sitting down without checking either seat placement or cleanliness. But why should I be surprised about failures to zip or tuck in a group that wears sock ( and most not even the airplane provided ones) into the toilet?

Probably that was more than you wanted to think about with your cornflakes.

Then I would be demise if I did not mention the 25% of the business class passengers who are obviously there due to personal size and not by choice. This plane has been modernised but it is not one of those with acessible loos. For several passengers this was an issue.

I was glad to make Denver, get off the plane, find George and complain the whole drive to Aspen.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Unrecognized Changes

August 18th, 2014 No comments

There I was feeling all smug because I got to London City Airport early. Never mind that I had bought my ticket for the DLR and wandered off with my change, forgetting to pick up the ticket. Some lovely person grabbed the ticket and stopped me before I was a complete idiot.

Consider this foreshadowing for the rest of my journey. I got on the DLR in the correct direction. Two stops and one changes at Canning Town. This, of course, is provided that you can get through all the moms, toddlers and prams in time to exit the car. Failing that you ride one more stop to Star Lane, change directions and go back one stop.  Then there is getting from Platform 1&2 to Platform 3 (departure for Woolrich Arsenal not during rush hour). Elevator to the tunnel, Elevator up followed by escalator and dodging the crowds since the number of people hanging out on the platform is steadily increasing.

So there I am, London City Airport. Looking at the flight board – I don’t see my flight.  Huh? I did the online check in that morning and didn’t see a problem. I go to a kiosk which tells me that I can’t check in there for Heathrow flights…. What the hey?!?!? I didn’t book a flight out of Heathrow. I am not completely crazy; Convention at ExCel in Docklands = London City Airport.  I manage to get logged into the free Wifi. The flight on my reservation doesn’t exist.

I go to the desk and meet an absolutely wonderful woman. We look at my board passing. Sure enough, it says LHR. It is 1530. I could go to Heathrow, but I really don’t want to. There is a flight at LCY ~ 1700.  Miriam (great name, that) attempts to change the flight. No go as I am now booked out of another airport. Undaunted, she finds her supervisor and between them she gets me off the 2000 flight from Heathrow and onto the 1700 flight from LCY.  This is not exactly uncomplicated and takes a significant effort and phone calls to their central office with lots of explanations.

My suitcase gets checked, I sail through security and get to the gate with time to spare. The flight from Germany is late getting in due to rain and we are about 20 minutes late leaving. I don’t care, I am on the plane. I am even in an exit row – go figure. Frankfurt is no hassles, I catch the direct train to Heidelberg and am home just after 2200 (which is about 2 hours earlier than originally planned).

In the hour I have been home I have run a load of wash and packed my suitcase of everything that isn’t in the washer. Just started the dryer and I am now going to crash.

Moral of my whole story – providing an email for schedule changes doesn’t do you any good if you fail to read your email.  The fact that I fly Lufthansa a lot I think also made a difference. I can’t imaging British Airways making that kind of effort for me.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Hugos and scene around

August 17th, 2014 No comments

The Hugos


Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)


“Equoid” by Charles Stross (, 09-2013)


“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal ( /, 09-2013)


“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (, 02-2013)


Ok- and now that is out of the way. I spent a lot of the day restocking bookshelves, attending literary beers – Mary Turzillo; KaffeeKlatsches – Kate Elliott,  Michelle Sagara (West); and otherwise having a relaxing day.




more Quiddich

more Quiddich

Steampunk complete with striped socks

Steampunk complete with striped socks

The Iconic Costumers

The Iconic Costumers

Categories: Cons Tags:


August 16th, 2014 No comments

or costumes or masquerades. That is what a lot of the day seemed to be about. However, you will get those tomorrow since Sunday is Hall Costume Day and it is more fun to batch the insanity in one place.

Rather, I am going to detour to talk about pants. For men, the styles haven’t changed much in decades or centuries. It is solely a matter of fabrics and textures, textiles. It is not a matter of length, blousing or tightness. Face it – doublets have been long gone. Instead the only challenge seems to be that of the younger make generation actually managing to keep their pants high enough to cover both essentials and underwear. Most adults don’t want to see sagging, boxer shorts or have a visual of naked buttocks skin burned into their mind. The thought of having a visual as persistent as that jingle which converts to an ear worm is enough to produce shudders.


And then there is women’s fashion. Pants that go to various lengths, change color, move zippers from front to side to back to more than one of the above. Men at least have the sense to place trouser zippers/buttons in a logical and useful place. Recently, apparently to better show off belly piercing, tattoos and make oversized guts more comfortable, there has been a change in the height of waistlines. Technically referred to as “low rise” many of these items feature 10-15 cm (4-6″ for those stuck on the English system) of height above the crotch of the garment. For comparison, hips are normally measured 9″ (~22cm) below the waist. Unless you are wearing clothing that is a size or more too small, there is a significant risk of clothing going south.  So here we have it – another clothing item designed to create equality  between men and women. And slide off the ass of both.

Can you tell I am not thrilled? What is worse? I found I had inadvertently purchased one of these evil pairs of trousers. Even more fun is that while I purchased my normal size, apparently these either run large or I have shrunk. The second is extremely unlikely so I will continue to grumble about the latter. It couldn’t possibly be my fault for purchasing clothing without trying it on. Not after having been able to do this from Jack Wolfskin for years.  Not accepting any responsibility here, not me. Must be the clothing.   Now, all you need to add to completely understand my joy is airline security. Belts aren’t worth wearing through airports and packing one would mean that you knew you needed a belt.

So there I am, in the middle of a Science Fiction convention surrounded by literally dozens and dozens of young men in jeans popping in and out of the gaming tent. They are wearing various appropriate to the Con T-Shirts. None of them are cool – their pants fit.  And there I am, having to wear my shirt untucked so as to not spend the entire day yanking at my trousers.


Categories: Books & Tapes, Cons, Knitting Tags:

Various Entertainments – WorldCon- LonCon3 – Day 2

August 15th, 2014 1 comment

Just assume that I spend time every day working Registration and I won’t bother to mention it again.

But I am also making time to attend a few panels, a KoffeeKlatsch or two and what are now referred to as Literary Beers. The first case involves daytime sit around a table with a limited number of people and an author. The second is the same, only usually in the afternoon and involves meeting in the fan hall (noisier) and with beer.

In the morning, I attended a fun discussion with CE Murphy and Suzanne MacLeod which focused on Urban Fantasy, how to avoid sparkling vampires and the challenges for authors with imprints, pseudonyms and branding. I was astonished that neither was booked out (we joined the tables) but perhaps it was the early hour.

There were exhibits -

Exhibit Costume

Exhibit Costume

Wizard of Pigeons - Megan Lindholm

Wizard of Pigeons – Megan Lindholm. One of the earliest real Urban Fantasy

Robin Hobbs - Wild Rain, Mad Ship & Dragon series

Robin Hobbs – Wild Rain, Mad Ship & Dragon series

John Clute's Study

John Clute’s Study

you can't call it Tardis - that name is copyrighted (and trademarked)

you can’t call it Tardis – that name is copyrighted (and trademarked)

Ok - this is what you were expecting to see

Ok – this is what you were expecting to see

and knitting in the afternoon

completely taking over the Fan Activities tent for a couple of hours

completely taking over the Fan Activities tent for a couple of hours

Knitters and Crafters

Knitters and Crafters


I also managed to snag a seat at Jon Courtney Grimwood’s Literary Beer table.  He is an interesting man, crossing the line between really intellectually written and mind-twisting science fiction and literature. As you might not be away – the official main stream newspaper reviewers detest genre and love “literary novels.” As a result, how your books are named and labeled affects sales, ordering and essentially your success.

I skipped the concert in favor of getting sleep.

Categories: Cons Tags:

Retro Hugos

August 14th, 2014 No comments

For those of you who are not familiar with Science Fiction & Fandom, please bear with me (bare? oh yes there are always a few of those.) The first significant gathering of SciFi fans, friends, authors and other serious devotees of the genre occurred in 1939, New York City. Apparently they had so much fun, they decided to do it again. With the exception of a few war years, this convention – now named WorldCon – meets every year. This year is the 72nd WorldCon aka LonCon 3 meeting in London. In 1953 the Hugo Awards were instituted to recognize greatness in the field. From novels and short forms, authors and editors, the list of categories has grown over the years to include semi-pro and fans (fanzines) and now the extensive lists includes fiction, non-fiction (reference materials), publications, podcasting, long and short form action (TV & movies), art, editors…

Tonight the production team presented the Hugos for 1939 along with several of the expected “presented at the Con” awards.

Presented as a live radio program

Presented as a live radio program

I made it till almost 2200 and headed back to the hotel completely wiped having worked registration for a good chunk of the day. I ran into dozens of convention friends and managed to finish the first 1/4 of my knitted top and headed around to the back making progress there as well.

Categories: Cons Tags:

Lost souls

August 13th, 2014 1 comment

It is challenging to find an interesting or exciting post name that isn’t a repeat when dealing with Frankfurt Airport and the various lounges. Since I am headed to the UK, it is Terminal B rather than the usual A or Z. Never the less, the lounge features all the same goodies – coffees, food, power drops, and booze (for those who indulge). So far I have had a couple of wraps, two different kinds of salad and a couple of lattes. There are also puddings, gelbe grutze and cookies. Could I be over caffeinated already?

For a change, the trip to the airport was quite entertaining. I boarded the S1 at Suedstadt-Westadt with a planned change to an ICE in Mannheim. At the Heidelberg HBF two couples complete with large suitcases got on the train, sat down (we were in the open bike/stroller/excess whatever section) and started to fuss about whether or not there was enough time for their train change in Mannheim. Was 16 minutes going to be enough? One doesn’t have to be a detective to guess that they were changing to the same train as I in Mannheim and heading to the airport.

The older couple appeared to be about my age and the younger were obviously daughter and son-in-law. Feeling like a nice person, I offered to help them find their train. Bailing off in Mannheim, we headed to the under-track passage and the elevator to Track 3. This is a change of one platform. The station is extremely well signed. Our connecting ICE was on time. We were lucky to have a car stop with a door directly in front of us. Shall we just say that the train was packed to over flowing? We managed to get all the suitcases on and ourselves jammed in at the head of the line, then played the reverse push and shove at the airport.

At this point, I figured the better part of valor would be the Lufthansa Rail-Fly desk in the train terminal. 10 minutes, boarding cards issued, all the luggage checked, and we were on our way to security. I said good-bye to Kim, Scott, Kathy, and Sal at the Z escalator as they are Sacramento bound via LAX. I am sure they will appreciate the Lufthansa Lounge for a much needed rest after the train. They enjoyed their 17 days in Europe: and were unaware that California has a reciprocity agreement with Germany – speeding points here will transfer home…

Since my flight goes to London City (got to love Docklands Rail since I only have to go two stops at the London end to get to my hotel), going through Passport Control is a requirement. 20 minutes in the passport line is unusual but – Hint – if you are from Asia and on a visa, don’t try to leave a day after your visa expires. Especially if you are going to a country that also requires a visa (which you don’t have). It also might help if someone in the group spoke either German or English. Not surprising, the Border Police can find translators…

No additional book drop offs this morning – I completely forgot since I normally bring a bag of books to the USO. But then I was in a hurry after making an emergency run once more to REWE…

The charcoal backpack, complete with embroidered Edelweiss

The charcoal backpack, complete with embroidered Edelweiss

the manly shoulder bag with insulated liner

the manly shoulder bag with insulated liner


You see, I had sent a picture of the Pauliner display to the kids last night, inquiring if anyone was interested. Resounding yes from 3/4 with the request to include the beer. Well, I am not hauling beer to the US, it just makes for too heavy a load. But at 9.99€ each (including six bottles of brew) it seemed like a bargain. As it turned out, there were two choices, not one, in the display. Both are made out of sturdy felted material. The one is a cute backpack, the other an over the shoulder bag. I think I can fit them in my extra bag (sans beer) along with this year’s crop of hats and scarves when I head to Denver next week.

Update book guess list – (X-322)

Alison 4444 (cost of an object)
Carmen 4567
Cat – TNTC (but less than her, so I guess she is taking all the really high numbers)
April – 6289
Isobel – 4882
Mary – 5777
Steven – 5280 (feet in a mile)
Christian – 4997
Kim – 7012

Oh! The reason for London? World Con – LonCon 3 is at the Excel Center in the Docklands.

Categories: family, Travel Tags:

Taking a break

August 2nd, 2014 2 comments

Well, sort of. Maybe. Mostly managing three websites, sorting email, downloading files and spending the late afternoon at red*.  There were 8 of us, mostly regulars with a brand new person added. It was the usual conversation: Wollmiese vs Madelyn Tosh and what do you do with 60 kg of sugar.

No, I am not kidding about the sugar. One of our members words at Sudzucker. Apparently there is “distribute free sugar & recipes to employees” on a regular basis and she brought a few kilos to share with the rest of us. A couple members of the group are in the middle of putting up preserves and were more than happy to take bags and boxes of sugar. Me? I just like to add it to my coffee and would rather have brown crystals than white regular sugar.
So mostly I started on a new project and just listened to the conversations.
five fiddly points around the center point

five fiddly points around the center point


the yarn is crazy zauberball and the dps are 2.25

Categories: computers, Friends, Knitting Tags:

Less than 48 hours

July 30th, 2014 2 comments

Till the packers come and I am much more interested in playing the occasional computer game, reading a book or making sure that I have a high quality copy of my audible purchases on a backup drive.

There are those times when the brain just gets a bit overwhelmed and I don’t want to even look at any of my dozens of free floating lists or the anxiety will just scale up sooner. Of course there are always those other errands to run which get in the way of doing what I want.

What do I want anyway? Oh yes, for it to be the 11th of August and have this whole mess behind me. Meanwhile, I walked another loop of the house making sure that the appropriate cupboards are all emptied, that a few more containers are packed and stacked, that another few bags of “stuff”are leaving for the charity shop.

I even restrained myself. No holler, yelling or screaming today. Just mostly begging. That seems to work. Flattery – that works even better…..

Categories: packing out, Travel Tags:

Excavating the Studio

July 24th, 2014 No comments

I made the first pass at the studio about a week ago and thought that it was just about under control. Messy, but all the contents will all be shipped (not including the furniture).

Then I realistically figured out that there was little room to move about in the room which means essentially there was no way movers could pack out. You see, it wasn’t just that I had a lot of bins and bags of yarn, it was that we cleared out the attic. Add in all those containers and suddenly it was literally over the top

realistically? there is too much in the room

realistically? there is too much in the room

My plan was to take out the table, but there was the challenge of not being able to get it out.

Yesterday College Guy hauled most of my bins down to the garage. My simple plan, since everything is protected from both damp and vermin, was to pre-stage. I can’t see how the movers can object since it takes them off the hook for both the packing and the hauling. Today, I actually had a bit of room to move around so I was actually able to start organizing. And sorting, and tossing and figuring out what I could give away or perhaps bribe someone else to take! Along with another dozen containers moved to the garage. Got to love Rubbermaid..

all the bins moved out

all the bins moved out

I still have all the knitting needles to sort, the scrapbooking materials to box and more bags of donations to put together but I am thinking that this room is going to be under control by tomorrow.

And pigs fly with the fairies.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Loose Change

July 9th, 2014 1 comment

One of the interesting things that happens when you live outside the US is accumulating multiple countries worth of spare change. Admittedly it is not as bad now as it was 20-30 years ago. Prior to the EU, every last country had its own currency which obviously included coinage. Now it is just the UK (and Scotland, we can’t forget Scotland which insists on printing its own Pound Notes) of the major countries which don’t play.

There are several other EU countries which have their own but frankly the merchants are more than willing to take Euros. Scandinavia is uses various Kroner (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) but Finland has been on the Euro since the start.

The reason I started down this line? Cleaning which involves picking up loose change.

Now it would be sensible to expect that we would have some US coinage given how often one of us travels to the US. Euros – well we live in the EU. Swiss Francs because George is there three days a week on those weeks where he can’t find a reason to be else where.

Then you have to remember that I have traveled to the UK and Norway more than once in the last year. And Australia last fall along with New Zealand and various stops in Canada. I pretty much avoided changing money in South America.

All told, I think I have a couple of kilos of mixed coins. I’m going to try and sort it out into spendable and not-spendable. The first category are those coins where I can physically use them (Euros for candy bars), US swapped for real money at the credit union, Swiss back in George’s pocket or back pack. I’ll use whatever pence and pounds I can find when I fly to London for WorldCon in Aug. I can probably even find Canadians and Aussies on my next cruise and send their coinage back with them (or see option below).

But there are coins for which there is no hope. I am even hesitant to drop them in one of the airplane donation envelopes. After all – DM have been out of circulation for over a decade; ditto with the French Franc.  Then there are the dinar, shekels, hwan.  I need to ask Terry what they do with weird coins. Especially since it might make up a good third of what we have on hand….

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

Star Alliance Lounge

June 28th, 2014 No comments

And, in spite of the best effort of traffic, weather and obnoxious passengers I have made it to Heathrow T1, check-in and the lounge.

The weather was lovely this morning in Southampton – at least when I got off the ship and strolled over to the NationalExpress Station. As it turns out, there were several ships in port today – one of the Princess Line, one of the Queens, the Indy and perhaps an entry from Carnival/P&O/other. In any case, the terminal was packed and all the seats sold out on coaches early than the one I booked. Eliminating completely my chance to get out a few hours earlier than planned.

As I waited till my 1130 departure, the temperature started to drop. The clouds rolling in hinted of winds, wetness and an unpleasant cruise out of port of those who are boarding today. Finally, the bus rolled in and taught one of those fun life lessons in two movements – a) if you get on the bus early you get to pick a seat. With full bus when traveling alone you don’t get to pick your seatmate. b) first on means luggage gets unloaded last.

Enough said. I figured since the trip took almost 3 hours worth of extremely frustrating travel made dangerous by wind, rain and stupid drivers. Did I mention road construction? Mental note to self – carry luggage off ship as it is worth it in order to make an earlier bus. I really don’t like arriving at an airport with less than two hours till flight time. Not with check-in and the excitement of security still to go.

Since I am obviously on line you may correctly assume that I safely managed all gates and arrived at a safe and secure location that has both electric outlets and free Wifi.

Flight in a short while, then sleep on the plane and just a train left to catch on the far end. You may be then astonished to learn that I am off the seas for over 60 days….

Categories: Travel Tags:


June 22nd, 2014 No comments

If you want to visit Toulon from a cruise ship, you find that docking is actually  at La Seyne sur Mer.  A bit out of town, there isn’t a whole lot in the area except for ships, beaches and a bike rental. Since this isn’t a port I have visited before, I elected to take the Ferry at 0830. There weren’t all that many of us headed out that early. I think most people assumed that since it is Sunday, there was going to be absolutely nothing open before lunch.

A new port for me. It is lovely to find I had a couple of hours to explore the city without being overrun by either locals or tourists managing to walk into my frame just as I click the shutter.



the town shield imbedded in the sidewalk

the town shield imbedded in the sidewalk

I don't know that Athena's owl really appreciates the pidgeons

I don’t know that Athena’s owl really appreciates the pidgeons

overlooking the market square

overlooking the market square

Toulon has the history of long being a major French Naval Base.Which means the usual ancillary services.

The Port Hotel

The Port Hotel

where I think the ladies

where I think the ladies

spent time with the naval "gentlemen"

spent time with the naval “gentlemen”

today's services are a bit more obvious

today’s services are a bit more obvious



It is still home to ships, training and the Maritime Museum (which opens at 1000).

Model of the Charles de Gaul

Model of the Charles de Gaul

Amazing detail

Amazing detail

and wooden sculptures of major French Naval Figures

and wooden sculptures of major French Naval Figures




Oh, and the cherries were terrific!

A kilo from the Sunday Market

A kilo from the Sunday Market

Categories: Travel Tags:

Street Markets

June 21st, 2014 No comments

Most of the time, when I think of Livorno it is either as the gateway to Pisa & Florence or as the unofficial R&R military location in Italy. For years the Army clinic at Livorno was a one doc affair tasked with primarily an occupational health mission and incidentally supporting the few military and families that were stationed there. For administrative purposes, it fell to Vicenza for command and control.

Today, I wasn’t thinking of any of that as I wound my way through various streets. The port authorities, not being any fools, charge for the shuttle bus service to town. It isn’t that town is not walkable, but as a working port there are safety considerations. Most ports provide this service to at least the front gate without charge (although I think the cost is buried into the docking fees charged the cruise ships). But here in Livorno? Why not get 5 E from each passenger? It isn’t a lot – not enough to really upset anyone or make them question why but should pay for the salaries of the drivers and cost of fuel for the thousand or so using the service.

Where was I? Oh, yes – it is Saturday and Market Day. Not only are there fish, fruit and butcher stands but there are breads and cheese and flowers. Then walk on to find the clothing, linens, shoes and kitchen wares sections. There are also stands for buttons, yarn, notions and fabrics. Walking around for a few hours was relaxing and interesting.


What I didn’t find since I didn’t walk far enough were major stores other than H&M and Zara. I didn’t find any decent size sports stores; I didn’t find any additions to my fussball jersey collection, especially not home or away World Cup Italy. So I sent my postcards off since the tobacco stand on the corner near the bus stop had both cards and stamps. No pick up on the weekends, but I can live with that.

A quiet time was had late afternoon back on the ship!

Categories: Travel Tags:

Ships in the harbor

June 20th, 2014 No comments


Ships in a the Harbor

Most of the time, toursts are only familiar with Civitavecchia as the port associated with Rome. Never mind that it is about as much Rome as Southampton is London or Le Harve is Paris. Thought that counts and nearest ocean port is the hook for cruise ships. All of the great cities were port towns once in their history when ships were small and locating at the interchange of river and sea was both smart and good for commerce Today, those of us hooked on cruising only think of the inconvenience to us and not the current reality of commercial logistics and shipping. In real world terms, most goods move between continents by ship. Major harbors are a necessity.

Having both cruises out of “Rome” before and arriving in Civitavecchia the night before a cruise or three, I at least somewhat familiar with the town. I know how to get from the train station to my favorite hotel. From the train station to the port. The location of the post office and the Saturday morning market. How to find both shops and wifi. That might have been why I ignored all the offered tours & travels today in favor of ship watchings.

This harbor is primarily one that supports container ships. The cruise ships that dock are served by customs officials in tents, baggage handlers and port buses to prevent idiots walking somewhere dangerous. What I hadn’t realized was that it is also a major embarkation point for travelers and goods for Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Barcelona. I don’t know why it surprised me – traveling by ferry would make sense both for trucks and vacationers. Being able to move a fair amount of goods along with one’s self and personal transport is often a smart thing.

the sign of a ferry

the sign of a ferry

So I watched the Queen Elizabeth, the newest of Cunard’s three ships board her passengers for a seven day cruise to Venice. (Ok, so I looked it up. I couldn’t find a cruise starting on the 20th, but there is one listed for the ship starting on the 27th in Venice….)

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

There was the Barcelona bound ferry with rear doors large enough for the biggest 18 wheeler.

Fast Ferry

Fast Ferry


and the MSC Lirica which I don’t remember as being quite as old or small as she appeared. But then, I haven’t been on her for three years and the perspective from deck 3 there is much different than a 9th deck balcony on the Independence.

MSC Lirica

MSC Lirica

There are also the container ships and tugs all of which I enjoyed from my bird’s eye view.

the tug

the tug

Categories: Travel Tags:

Another Kilo of Cherries

June 19th, 2014 No comments

We sailed into the Ajaccio, Corsica harbor this morning to sunshine and blue skies.

The rest of the harbor

The rest of the harbor



I seem to remember the weather was just as nice three years ago when, along with 3/4 offspring, our ship stopped here on a 7-day Mediterranean cruise. We were on the MSC Lirica for the simple reason that we could embark in Majorca. Both the dates and location were important since I had timed the cruise to coordinate with George’s office’s annual Ausflug which just happened to be in Majorca that year. It started the day after the cruise ended, and thus the reason for dates, location and ship. I had only looked at Costa and MSC having been on both lines several times without problems. The only cruise I had taken to this point on Royal was the disaster the previous year on the Brilliance and NCL didn’t have a ship that offered Majorca as embarkation point (hello? Someone else is paying the airfare, why wouldn’t I want that advantage?) (the 25 June 2011 post is here 

dwarfing the sailing vessels

dwarfing the sailing vessels


Anyway, Corsica. I spent the day hiking around the city. There were a lot more tourist type shops than I remember from the last time. Of course, the plethora of English Speakers off this ship didn’t really help. Taking care of the postcards early on, I decided just to walk up a few hills to see what I could see.


for the pizza oven

for the pizza oven

the same park as last time

the same park as last time

and cheeriness

and cheeriness

Besides several lovely gardens, mopeds and motorcycles where ever their riders felt like leaving them,

si, si

si, si

The Front Side of the Government Complex

The Front Side of the Government Complex


I found (on the way out through the pedestrian security gate) that I had managed to walk through the regional government headquarters complex.

Once again I didn’t manage to get to the Palace Fesh- not just because in typical French fashion the opening days and hours are fixed (never mind having a few thousand tourists who just might add money to your coffers) but the last major exhibit closed on the 12th…

when open, includes Napoleon Exhibits

when open, includes Napoleon Exhibits

The occasional shop (postcards up front), local markets and the outside of several museums were all fair game.  After enjoying the scents from the spice vendor



I bought a kilo of cherries to eat on the way back to the ship. Since I paid only a Euro more than three years ago I figured it was actually a good deal, completely refusing to calculate the inflation (in double digits).


The England vs Uruguay match just ended. Not a lot of happy campers here.

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Hazy Straits

June 17th, 2014 No comments
that red arrow? Africa

that red arrow? Africa

It wasn’t exactly clear and shining when we pulled in this morning. Admittedly part of the blur could have been my eyes from getting to sleep rather late and waking even later.

Last night's sun set

Last night’s sunset

Heading off the ship this morning I was greeted by the lovely display of antique vehicles from the old days when England didn’t compromise. Back when it didn’t matter than the rest of the continent was driving on the right with left hand drive cars.

the Auto Club's exhibit

the Auto Club’s exhibit

from back when they had right had drive here

from back when they had right had drive here

But now this territory, due to the realities of the amount of traffic between it and Spain drives the same was as the rest of Europe. True, there are still the occasional imported right hand drive car, but the vast majority of cars, buses and trucks can easily drive across Spain.

the city

the city

I hiked into town past all of the statues which seem to occupy street locations, roundabouts and centre squares.

as new as 2004

as new as 2004

What was surprising to me is that among all the stores, there were really none that had decent sports equipment or running shoes or soccer jerseys. Except for the two Gibraltar Teams…. Perhaps sport isn’t important here, but you would think that perhaps England World Cup Jersey’s might sell? And it was not that they were sold out, it was rather that they had never been ordered. Promptly at 1600 we pulled back from the pier and set sail for the next stop on our adventure. As we swung around, it was possible to see the entire Strait. From my starboard side balcony, the European Promontory was easily visible. Less so the African Side of the Straits. Given the amount of haze, you need both a good imagination and clicking on the pix for a larger version to have a chance of actually seeing more that imagining.

the Straits

the Straits

Africa Side

Africa Side

Shawl Update

all but the top border

all but the top border

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D 4 ; P 0

June 16th, 2014 No comments
I only have the away jersey

I only have the away jersey

I didn’t feel lonely at all, sitting in the On Air pub to watch Germany vs Portugal. At first there were only about five of us sitting there watching the first half of the game. Then the ice show let out with the usual intelligent folks who get partway across a lounge then stop to watch the big screen completely oblivious to the fact that their rather large size bodies are blocking the view of, oh say, about seven people behind them.

I had my knitting, my no-beer (the bar tender got it this morning just in case I came back for the next games) and a front row seat. Now, normally I don’t like sitting right up front with my back to the room. But I made an exception. Sitting up front gave me more light for knitting and placed me about as close to the viewing screens as was polite without getting my glasses smudged. You are aware that I don’t exactly have 20/20 vision even with my trifocals?

The game was fun, watching the crowd was a blast and even started feeling sorry for Portugal…

Meanwhile, Maus & Angel are watching in NYC

they have the real jerseys

they have the real jerseys

And Dani headed to the park for the later US-Ghana game

But I am not really sure how well you can see the screen ...

But I am not really sure how well you can see the screen …

(thanks to the two girls for sending me pix)

The Eldest was in Germany where I am sure it got a bit insane ad George was in the New York location where there was no live coverage.

Oh and College Guy? He was hanging out at SFO waiting to see if he was going to get bumped from a flight. He did volunteer (later flight to Munich, connector to Frankfurt and $800 for his pocket – why not volunteer….)

By the time it was close to midnight, I was just too tired to head down to a pub for the game…


one wing complete and 16 rows short of the second wing

one wing complete and 16 rows short of the second wing

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Watching the World Cup

June 15th, 2014 No comments
location is everything

location is everything

It seems, unlike last fall in Australia, that RCI doesn’t have a difficulty recognizing that passengers just might be interested in The World Cup. I mention last fall because the Melbourne Cup wasn’t even on the Radiance’s horizon. Admittedly racing and fuss ball are completely different sport but still. When you are sailing out of Australia it might behove the Cruise Director’s Staff to take note of local/regional main sporting events, celebrations and holidays.

Back to Fussball (aka soccer for the North Americans). However, let us not be completely naive, there is an opportunity for Royal to make money. The previous day’s games are broadcast on Chanel 41 so that anyone who missed them can catch up.

the perfect set up for watching reruns

the perfect set up for watching reruns

Today’s games? Available to you on multiple screens only in specific locations around the ship. Locations where you might just be interested in purchasing some refreshments to improve your viewing pleasure.

My personal favorite

My personal favorite

for when I am hanging out in the CL or DL and have access to the coffee machine. The choices for the World Cup are more limited: the outdoor screen by the Pool Deck for a couple of the games – otherwise a couple of the bars when it is dim, loud and beer is on tap. The choices do not include the DL (Diamond Lounge) on Deck 14 where I could hit happy hour between 1700-2030.

The problem with the pubs is the lighting… can’t easily knit where I don’t have enough light. I did discover while watching Switzerland squeak by Ecuador that the Indy’s new policy of allowing 3 drinks per evening during normal club hours meant getting my Sprite Zero without charge while sitting at the bar in On Air.

Starting another shawl

The shawl is a Cheryl Oberle pattern which starts with a central section, then adds a couple of wings. Written for sport weight yarn… but I don’t have much of that so the blue is an Opal yarn I found in the back of a closet, the multi-color is from my Crazy Zauberball stash. Both are sock weight.

the latest project

the latest project

Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:

All the way to Italy

June 14th, 2014 No comments

The long way around. Yes, I am back on the Indie where I am going to visit a few of my favorite locations and otherwise knit and finish up the last of the courses I have underway.






Sat Jun 14 London (Southampton), England 4:30pm
Sun Jun 15 At Sea
Mon Jun 16 At Sea
Tue Jun 17 Gibraltar, UK Territory 10:00am 4:00pm
Wed Jun 18 At Sea
Thu Jun 19 Ajaccio, Corsica, France 9:00am 6:00pm
Fri Jun 20 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 7:00am 7:00pm
Sat Jun 21 Florence / Pisa (Livorno), Italy 7:00am 7:00pm
Sun Jun 22 Toulon, France 8:30am 5:00pm
Mon Jun 23 At Sea
Tue Jun 24 Cadiz, Spain 9:00am 5:00pm
Wed Jun 25 Lisbon, Portugal 8:00am 4:30pm
Thu Jun 26 Vigo, Spain 9:30am 3:00pm
Fri Jun 27 At Sea
Sat Jun 28 London (Southampton), England 5:30am

And I am not saying I did it on purpose, but I will miss the office trip again this year. Since it is back in Mallorca, there are much worse things to skip.

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Terminal B – Lufthansa Lounge

June 13th, 2014 No comments

As you might not be surprised – I am sitting at my computer in the Lufthansa Lounge at Frankfurt. It just happens to be in Terminal B this time rather than Z. But then I am headed to Heathrow and the UK flights seem to cluster around just a few gates. Since it is also not in Schengen, I had to go through Passkontrole this morning as well.  I received the usual strange look as the agent slides my passport, looks at the screen and then pages & pages & pages till he finds a place to stamp. Unlike the US, Germans like to stamp passports. I could write a whole essay on what countries do and don’t bother to stamp passports….

Where was I? Oh yes, drinking a latte or three after taking the early train to the airport. Since the Air-Rail terminal was open, I just dropped off my suitcase and had a nice stroll from there directly to security which could have been much worse considering everything.  The lounge is lovely and not terribly crowded. Unlike United, they offer a fairly wide range of edibles and drinkables without hidden charges.

Since I have my shiny new Miles & More card, I decided to check on my mileage.  Why was I not surprised to find that I still have not received credit for either my flight home in Feb from Calgary or my flight to Buenos Aires? Looks like I am going to have to spend hours going through papers, boxes and hard drives till I find copies of everything. I need those miles….  It is not like I haven’t supplied the etix, the booking number … the emails… but I haven’t given them baggage tags or boarding passes yet. Being a packrat might just be paying off.

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June 10th, 2014 No comments

Once upon a time children didn’t fly in business class and the Bundesbahn was always on time.

Ok, now that I am done living in fairy land I will deal with the realities of today. The young lady in the row ahead of me was an angel for all but 15 minutes of the entire flight. The train, on the other hand – there is little on can do about that. A detour into the Lufthansa Arrival Lounge in Terminal B let me email George about what train I was going to be on since he had volunteered to pick me up in Mannheim. There was also plenty of time to get to the platform as our luggage did not exactly arrive promptly. I do understand; any plane with 500+ passengers is going to have a lot of luggage..

The train – ah yes. I arrived with 10 minutes to spare on Track 5 only to find that my train was running 55 minutes late. I was so not in the mood. As I stood there reading the sign slowly and carefully to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, I hear an announcement. Arriving on my platform is a different train, bound for Karlsruhe and Basel but stopping in Mannheim. It is running 30 minutes late. Do I care that I had made a seat reservation? Not at all.

The upshot is that I arrived in Mannheim 1 minute before my original scheduled arrival time. I had barely made the meeting point before George pulled up. Luckily he had not bothered to check for train delays….

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Going home

June 9th, 2014 No comments

The United Club in the International Terminal of SFO is sad when compared to any of its partnership airlines. They offer coffee, tea, sodas, cheese&crackers, cookies and carrots. Consider me not impressed, but then it should be obvious that cost cutting does have occasional and obvious effects on customer services.

I am headed home on a Lufthansa flight this afternoon to arrive midday tomorrow. I am traveling once again with just my backpack and suitcase. Anything extra stayed in the US and nothing I picked up was heavy or large enough to make a difference. Plus, the dear husband tarted me to business class so I might even be able to get a bit of sleep on this flight.

So, have iPad fully charged, books to read and knitting. What could be better? Why a 14 day cruise home….

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San Francisco

June 7th, 2014 No comments

So anyway, I wound up with a whole day free and a courtesy shuttle to Union square. It seemed the thing todo – walk over to the Embarcadero, hike up to Pier 39 and just enjoy the weather. Since I brought only a small camera instead of the heavy ones, I wasn’t even on a photo hunt.

There were crowds, street musicians and beggars. The Farmer’s Market was in full swing along with dozens of artisans under tents with bright coloured wares just inviting a look. Restraining myself, I window shopped only the earrings. Prints and pottery are just too hard to haul home especially with having to plan for shipping household good in the next couple of months.

It was late afternoon when I caught the bus back, electing not to wait for what was going to be the extremely overcrowded last shuttle.

I started another version on the December Scarf and finished listening to Charming by Elliot James. It is a lovely quirky urban fantasy that doesn’t have sparkly vampires.

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June 6th, 2014 2 comments

There were a number of construction zones on my drive. There was also a serious accident on northbound I-5 less than 10 miles from the 580 junction that cost over 90 minutes of time. Of course, that is nothing compared to the cost of the flattened RV, smashed car and possessions strewn over the highway enough to cause the entire highway to be forced down to one lane which had to drive single file on a slant in the median to get by. I couldn’t find the accident listed late tonight so perhaps there were only survivors. There is a good reason why there is a speed limit for cars towing trailers, especially in posted high wind areas.

I try to obey the driving rules and avoid too much speeding especially at the current price of fuel. I had a number of idiots pass me at significant speeds at various points. None was more irritating than a black sedan moving so fast I couldn’t even catch its license plate even he almost ran the car ahead of me off the road when they didn’t clear the left lane fast enough.

I was contemplating the usual – where is the highway patrol when you need them as I was exiting the construction zone. My answer was right there in a crisp uniform at the side of the road. With the idiot driver who had recklessly passed me. Thank you CHP!

From there it was a matter of passing the accident mentioned above, signing in and unloading College Guy’s stuff (along with some cookbooks for the Eldest) into the storage unit. I made the hotel without problems, went to Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco, and returned the rental car.

Successful day, that.

Categories: Travel Tags:

It looks the same

June 5th, 2014 7 comments

I hit the road this morning after swapping out rental cars, checking out, and having Noah load the van with all of his stuff.

The first part of the trip went smoothly, if not so stupefyingly boring that I had to play with the radio to keep focused. Then there was the accident on I10W which was in the final stages of being cleaned up. I must assume that most of the looky-loos hadn’t ever seen anyone with a broom before. Otherwise how can one explain a three mile stau?

After hitting road construction and another hour lost to laboriously slow traffic where my only entertainment was watching the couple in the car ahead of me. He was driving while she was all over him, less subtle than a cat in heat. After 30 minutes, I changed lanes and took myself out of range.

The landscape ranged from desert to high desert punctuated by the occasional rest stop (closed). Liking the google directions better than my GPS, I bailed off the interstate to take CA62 toward 29 Palms with the plan of then picking up 347 to Barstow where I could pick up I15 followed by CA 58. Actually you don’t care about the roads and directions – except probably for Brad & Cheré who were stationed at FT Irwin a couple of decades ago.

But while I was going on with all of my two lane cross country driving one of those blinding flashes of the obvious hit me. This is desert, high desert to be sure, but desert none the less. 29 Palms is in the desert. No wonder all the Marines & supporting Navy staff rotating from there through the various camps in Kuwait didn’t think anything of the environment. After all, it was just like home only a bit hotter.

Admittedly, the roads here are better and the chances of IEDs are less, bit there is no lack of trashed, abandoned vehicles along some of the roads. Add in a few camels….. Anyway, my drive across a couple hundred miles of roads had me thinking back a decade or more to temperatures that would make today’s 42*C (~108F) seem like a balmy spring day. It is nice to be driving a civilian vehicle. To not be wearing battle rattle and absent people shooting at me is a definite plus.

Spending 15 months in the deserts of Kuwait was one thing. Living in this type of area as a choice? A bit too barren for my tastes.

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Hot and Dry

June 3rd, 2014 No comments

Did I mention that AZ is not exactly my favorite place in the world?

I briefly toyed with the idea of the Desert Botanical Gardens. In fact, I got as far as the parking lot and started looking around

most of it looked like this

most of it looked like this


and when you got closer, it didn't look any friendlier

and when you got closer, it didn’t look any friendlier

I reconsidered and got back in the car. I remember hanging out in Kuwait and hiking when it was well over 40*C because I had to get from one end of the camp to the other for a meeting.

I want to voluntarily go out and look at cactus and scrub because?????

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Three Degrees

May 31st, 2014 No comments

Breakfast with College Guy and errands took up a significant chunk of the day. Which goes absolutely nowhere in explains why I took a detour to Jessica Knits.

While standing at the counter I overheard the two lovely women speaking about a friend on an educational ship in the Baltic. I looked up and asked if that would be the U of VA’s “semester at sea” ship? Startled, they said yes as a matter of fact. I then hazarded a guess that their friend had boarded the ship in Hamburg. yes again. I then told them they should ask their friend if she had met Mac (from the Independence TA) and if so say hi for me.

I met Mac, who teaches/taught Spanish in real life because he was brave/foolish enough to join Roy, Dave, myself and whomever else wanted an insane conversation early mornings in the Diamond Lounge. Good guy and able to hold his own which was actually pretty impressive considering. He was leaving the ship in Southampton to fly Hamburg. Six weeks on another ship, huh.

Anyway. No good dead should go unpunished. For that matter, this is only two degrees of separation after all. If I had gotten Mac’s email, I would include him on this post. Ah, well.

And I replaced the knitting needle I lost along the journey so all is goo.

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On Star

May 30th, 2014 No comments

As you probably have figured out, I have not exactly been doing a lot of driving in the last year what with all the cruising and all. Didn’t stop me from taking the hotel shuttle back to the airport, the transfer bus to the Car Rentals and picking up a rent-a-beast.

The first try was this cute little Fiat that reminded me of the Eldest’s car. This one however instead of having a trunk had one of those back spaces with a cover. Said cover did not wish to cooperate which is what led me to the red Chevy Sonic.

I don’t know what led me to drop the keys in the trunk. Tiredness? Carelessness? Or just not thinking about the fact that the car doors were closed. Hello? We have a station wagon. Anyway, as I turned and closed the trunk a little voice in my head was screaming OH Sh!!!!

Keys, backpack and wallet were safely in the trunk.

What seemed like a lifetime later after talking to Emergency Road Services I noticed this little red light flashing up on the front on the dashboard. You mean a blue button? Asks the patient guy at the other end. Nope little red blinking light. He goes away for a while. Your car may have On Star.

I am back on hold.

He comes back. Wait a minute he says. Click! In front of my eyes the door locks pop up. Instead of paying hugely to have someone come out and open the car, there is a small service fee.

While I am grateful for the speed and service, I have this remaining residual of discomfort. I think I would have been much happier had I not know than the rental car company can track me. That by remote my car can be locked or unlocked. It is why I will never, ever own a car that can be remotely piloted.

I am willing to be responsible for the consequences of my actions, even when they leave me in the uncomfortable position of having to recover from a bit of incredibly stupid behaviour. But Big Brother (or Little Brother either – go read Cory Doctorov), is not my idea of a good world.

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Second verse, same as the first

May 29th, 2014 No comments

Only it wasn’t.

There were no issues with the taxi on the way to the train station. The train went exactly where it was supposed to and dropped me at the Frankfurt airport without delays or detours. Checking was a breeze and security wasn’t even much of a hassle even allowing for the woman in front of me who spoke perfectly clear German but still couldn’t manage to follow directions. I mean really! Who would have thought that security actually expected her to take out all her cosmetics and put them in a bag where just anyone could see them?

I had plenty of time and didn’t even care that the line had come to a standstill. Me with electronics, leather zippered jacket and sandals was probably a welcome relief. All they warned to see was my knitting needles.

Flight was fine made even better by the fact that I had no one sitting next to me. Immigration at SFO was the worst that I have seen there. Took a couple of hours by the time I had collected my luggage. Checking in with Southwest Airlines, I spent the rest of my waiting time in the USO.

By the time I got to Phoenix is was so wiped that falling into the hotel bed was a welcome relief. No free wifi or breakfast. Blah.

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