Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Packing differently

July 3rd, 2015 No comments

Heading on a land tour  in Africa is a lot different than heading for a comfortable cruise on a ship.

In the second instance, you only have to deal with your luggage a few times: house to airport, airport to ship check-in, ship baggage hall to airport; airport to home. Wheels are good – in fact they are essential since there may just be the issue of rolling the bag from one location to another usually involving public transportation. But once you are settled in your cabin, you are done till departure.

Not so with the average land tour. Often it involves moving locations every night to two nights. Laundry can be hit or miss while opportunities to become filthy abound. Add in a requirement for duffle bags for ease of logistical movement and a stringent weight requirement and things start to get challenging.  Having said that – it took me 15 minutes this morning to throw everything into the OAT duffle and drop it near the front door. Then I went back and read the requirements list.

Not one to waste airfare, I scheduled a 4 day hike in the Kilimanjaro Foothills immediately prior to the OAT Safari around the Serengeti.  It hardly seemed smart to come so far and not get close enough to the mountain to take some decent pictures. The only pre-tour offered was 4 days at another game reserve in Kenya. Personally, I don’t want to be in Kenya right about now, even as a tourist and even so close to the Tanzanian border. Besides, hiking the foothills? The only thing that would be cooler would be to actually climb to the summit. Looking at it, I decided I just didn’t have enough time to do it gradually enough to avoid altitude illness. That and climbing in a group means that one always tries to keep up with a group regardless if it is wise or not.

It was around 1700 this afternoon when I read the packing list again and noticed the fine print. For the first four nights I need a sleeping bag. No sweat, we have several. However it just so happens that the light weight ones are in Berkeley and the one here is a heavy weight ex-Army bag. Not hauling that puppy with me. So off we went to the hike/climb store to cash in a store credit. End result is that I am now the owner of a light weight but warm bag that weighs only about a kilo, packs tiny (fitting into the duffle).

I checked bag weights – duffle is limited to 33# for the internal African connections. Mine weights 25 even with the sleeping bag and towel. My extra bag is full of children’s books to donate to a couple of schools….. and all the extra pens and pencils that I can find.

I should have internet tomorrow both in Frankfurt and Istanbul (plane change) and the guest house in Moshi has wifi in the public areas. Figure I am good till morning of the 6th. So I will post the route on Sunday, just to keep you coming back for the next round of insanity.

While I was stuffing the sleeping bag into the duffel I thought about the Bugblatter Beast. And added in a towel. I have enough RCI ones floating around that I can easily leave it behind.  And it just doesn’t pay to leave home without one’s very own towel.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Serenading again

July 2nd, 2015 No comments

(try two  since I didn’t have enough brains in the head to save my first draft which promptly got eaten when I had to re-log in).

It is still almost two months till I get back on a ship. 30 Aug as a matter of fact when I get to board Serenade of the Seas and sail across to Cape Liberty (my least favorite US port of all times) from Copenhagen. It is the northern route with a total of two stops and almost three full days in Iceland.

I don’t have to run a website or roll call this time. Doing both the Legend and Serenade last fall just about wiped me out. I am tracking just the Roll Calls for the Splendor in November and that is just about enough for me. But I decided to go ahead and do the transatlantic souvenir pin.  For just about everyone I have seen, the design is usually the ship on water inside a circle or oval with the ports around the outside. I convinced Maus to volunteer and she designed something different around the route we take.

Serenade on the Northern Route

Serenade on the Northern Route

and the brilliant kid ordered the ports in both the order of visit and physical location.

not bad!


Categories: Cruising, Travel Tags:

six words

June 28th, 2015 No comments

landed. luggage. lounge. ride home. bed

Categories: home, Travel Tags:

Hot Nuts and Cold Cola

June 27th, 2015 No comments

Getting from Laguardia to JFK is not all that complicated: a common enough transfer that can be solved with time, money or both. I solved it with the 20 minute ride from the Airport Transporter.

Check-in with Lufthansa is slightly higher class than United: a printed, real boarding pass is an actual possibility. Even more impressive is the fact that you don’t have to print your own luggage tag. Applying it to your suitcase only to have the baggage handler half rip it off in order to affix a priority tag. United’s Lounges have actually gone from a 3/10 to a 4/10 with the presence of yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit and scones in the morning. Lunch, OTOH was wieners and beans accompanied by potato salad.

My second flight yesterday offered hot nuts in a cup.

Today, as I mentioned – getting to JFK was fine, check in was great. The lounge was quiet and peaceful until 1400 when the inevitable parents with two active small boys arrived.

Now the lounge is not all that big. At one end are tables and chairs next to the food. At the other are a number of comfortable lounge chairs and a bank with tables up against the wall. Why the mom felt like the quiet end was where the boys needed to is beyond me.

So I am wondering where on the plane they will be sitting and if Lufthansa will be offering hot nuts rather than just those of us hot under the collar….


oh – in case you hadn’t guessed – I am headed home to Germany

Categories: Travel Tags:


June 26th, 2015 No comments

Is not a double play but rather today’s airline route from California to New York. Tomorrow afternoon is my Lufthansa return from that FRA-JFK flight in May. It is also a challenge to my ability to smile, most of which stem from my own foolish behavior.

Both Shana and Noah were up to see me off this morning: College Guy to haul my suitcase down all those stairs and the Eldest to drive me to the BART. An 0830 flight means a rather early start from the house (allowing for 45-60 minutes on BART). Transferring at MacArthur Blvd turned out to be a walk across the platform and boarding the connection a minute later.

We will leave aside my challenges in getting out of the BART Station. Seems like the add fare machines only take cash. The change machine deals with $20. Nothing takes cards. I can only be glad for the bank stop yesterday or I would have been totally screwed or begging on the platform.

(Roll drums for foreboding)

See the route in the title? Do you see Newark anywhere? By the time it sunk in that I actually was involved in a triple play of airports, it was too late to fix the reservation. The Hotel Reservations says – can’t do anything we are within 24 hours. The loyalty people said ??? don’t understand why you were transferred here and sent me to customer service who was going to try the local hotel for an exception.

Then I was disconnected.

At least having points to burn in this chain means that I won’t be out of pocket tonight……

Categories: Travel Tags:

Cool Dude

June 25th, 2015 No comments
the space man dude

the space man dude

Remember that I talked about Zoku the other day? Or maybe I didn’t. But in any case, the Eldest made a bunch of pops and I scored the spaceman. See – he even has feet. In chocolate, he was rather tasty. There were also a number of rocket ships in this particular set of six.

Also in the freezer are a couple of other flavors and maybe some interesting critters. Reusable pops seem to the be the way to go. It turns out all the recipes add sugar which I have decided is ludicrous.  Turns out frozen juice, even fresh squeezed lemon is just fine. Tart is good…

Why is my mouth puckered up like a prune?

Categories: Travel Tags:

leaving Chicago

June 8th, 2015 1 comment

on the Amtrak #5

Chicago - Emeryville

Chicago – Emeryville

It will take about two full days to travel across the county. According to Amtrak our sights will include

  • Rocky Mountains
  • Sierra Nevadas
  • Moffat Tunnel
  • Colorado’s Gore, Byers and Glenwood Canyons
  • Winter Park
  • Truckee River
  • Donner Lake
  • San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait

What is more, some of it will actually happen during the day. Please note, there is absolutely no discussion about the fascinating views of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska or Kansas.

Just saying.

I haven’t done this route before. Dani (Daughter #2) is not enthused, she doesn’t like spending time in transit. Alex (SIL) more so – the train journey was his choice rather than flying as it is a much better way introduction to “West of the Mississippi.”

Unlike the Eastern Seaboard runs, the best that I am going to be able to get is occasional phone coverage and wifi in a couple of stations with major stops (Denver?).  This is by way of explaining why you won’t hear much from me till Wed evening.

Categories: family, Travel Tags:

Whistle Blowing

June 7th, 2015 No comments

I suppose I really should have looked up the geographic relationship between Union Station and the kids condo in the south loop before this. As it turns out, the distance as the crow flies is only about a mile and ~ that and a half by vehicle. On the other side of the Chicago River of course; South Branch to be specific.

Of course it makes sense that the river flowing through Chicago is the Chicago River with it’s Canal Branch, North Branch and South Branch. It is just that I never gave it a thought. Strolling along the Riverwalk is a pleasure; seeing the city from a slightly different perspective. I looked out at the river multiple times when I was here a few years ago for WorldCon and never gave it a thought. In fact, somehow I thought it was just one river meandering along before it gave itself over to Lake Michigan.

But then the last few nights of hearing train whistles had made me curious as to distance and time.  Not sure why, as the “L” goes past the condo on a multiple time an hour schedule so that it is not that I need noise. Rather the sound of the whistle makes me think of the rail journeys I have taken. The differences between the electric trains in Europe and those in the US. The dependence of Europe on the rail system for passengers and not just on freight and the reverse in the US.

And finally, I can think of traveling again tomorrow which should at least partially cheer me up from the fact that it has been raining today.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Chicago Literacy Festival

June 6th, 2015 No comments

Once a year the part of Harrison Street that starts at the Dearborn Station as well as a block of Polk shut down on Saturday and Sunday for The Chicago Lit Fest.  I had decided to make another attempt at locating Loopy Yarn (I needed a tape measure that had both inches and cm) since the weather was lovely. Or, that was my excuse for a walk as I was setting out. Loopy Yarn is located at the Old Dearborn Station.

Obviously, I found it and the long line of tents just loaded with lovely people and thousands of books. It wasn’t just local booksellers. There were also lecture sessions, autograph tables and cooking demonstrations. Local organizations were running food and drink booths and dozens of local presses were peddling their books.

I had a lovely couple of hours wandering and not buying books. Other than reference or cookbooks, I have completely given up on DT (dead tree) books. They weigh too much, are too bulky to carry and cost more to publish than eBooks. Most of the time authors get higher royalties off the eBooks. Win-Win for everyone. Except of course, those who make their living on the press side of publishing.

I think there is something fundamental for an author about holding a book in the hand and seeing one’s name on the cover.That solid weight of accomplishment made physical. It makes it real in a way that seeing the same thing on a scree does not.

Which leaves aside the complete issue of horrible book covers. As a rule, reference books do the best in relating whatever there is for cover art to the subject and small press romance/horror/mystery/sci-fi do the worst. But that is probably a rant for another day; the sameness and boring stereotyping of book covers.  I will just wandering off to drool over the two cookbooks I purchased for me.

Categories: Books & Tapes, Travel Tags:

International Society of Surgeons

June 5th, 2015 No comments

Every once in a while I will still wander to a museum. At least if it is one in which I might have half an interest. In this case, it was the above named societies’ Museum of  Surgical Science. Located at 1524 N Lake Shore Drive, I really didn’t have a clear idea of the length of my hike when I started out.


It was a bit further than I expected.

The Museum itself is well organized with sections on modern surgical and forensic science, and historical exhibits on dentistry


and pharmacy, even if they were carefully and safely ensconced behind glass.
but the most fun exhibit of all was the following:
If you are under 55, I don’t expect you to recognize it. But for the rest of us? Think shoe store….

Categories: Medicine, Travel Tags:

Not so brilliant

June 3rd, 2015 No comments

On every previous trip to Chicago I have hiked up Wabash and enjoyed the 1500-1900 Sushi feast at Thai Spoon. Without bothering to call ahead of time, I planned the trip with Dani & Alex only to find when we arrived that there was no sushi. None, nada, zippo.

I didn’t even ask; it seemed pointless.

We stayed for supper and test drove both appetizers and mains. My papaya salad was good, my entree not so much. The kid’s food  was all right and plentiful enough that they had enough for dinner later in the week.

Lesson Identified…..

Categories: Travel Tags:

Early morning light

June 2nd, 2015 No comments

The sunrise this morning was incredible with streaks of orange red and gold extending from the horizon to the wisps of clouds. Looking out from my compartment (traveling in style) it was one of those times when the speed of the train prohibited the taking of any decent photos – so settling for something that is not all that great.

The train was heading west, but obviously a bit north at the same time for me to be able to see the sunrise in the east (is it still starboard?)


A47O0773  A47O0780 A47O0786

When a plane arrives fifteen minutes late in the US we all howl with anger and anxiety. When the Bahn is even ten minutes late in Germany it is hardly tolerable. When the attendant in your sleeping car on Amtrak informs you that the train is running about an hour late, well you shrug and continue drinking your coffee just pleased that arrival will be the same date as originally planned and probably early enough that the women in the compartment across from you who have a 1400 connection will make it. 

Without WiFi on the train as is on the Eastern Seaboard there is little I can do to track the route other than follow the marginal map and attempt to read the water towers as I pass.

I was awake for Toledo this morning as well as Waterloo, Elkhart and South Bend. I missed Cleveland and Sandusky in the middle of the night. at miles 439 & 499. We have traveled through back industrial areas and seen extensive fields and silos. All the crossings have been complete with lights, dropping arms and cars manned by impatient drivers annoyed that the train is delaying them. Which wouldn’t be happening if the train was on time…

We pulled into Chicago Union Station only an hour late. Not two hours – I had forgotten about the time zone change which totally and completely explains why no one else was up this morning when I first went on a coffee seeking mission.   Deciding that hiking while carrying a back pack and dragging a suitcase was not in my best interest, I actually took a cab.

So now relaxing, doing laundry and listening to the L thunder past.

Categories: Photos, Travel Tags:

The Capitol Limited

June 1st, 2015 No comments


aka Amtrak #29 connects Washington DC and Chicago. The journey is supposed to take about 16 hours – give or take. This obviously is not all that high speed (take it from some one who has done this by car) for a distance of about 700 miles. Not being completely stupid, I have a roomette booked. It might be a lot cheaper to travel by straight coach but the smell and noise level can be overwhelming. There always seem to be both those who haven’t had the opportunity for hygiene mixed in with those who think everyone on the train is dying to hear other people’s cell phone conversations. At 0300 in the morning. Not.

I spent this morning touring the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. It’s worth a visit for those who happen to be in the vicinity of 1811 R Street NW. Not open on Sunday just to give you the heads up. Overall, it is well done but seems to have a few significant holes in the collection since I happen to know for a fact that there have been women as well as men serving in the military all the way back to the Civil War…..

The Loop (Yarn Store) 1732 Connecticut NW isn’t open on Monday. Inhabited by staff but not open…

Categories: Jewish Life, military, Travel Tags:

Being High

May 27th, 2015 2 comments

Trekking isn’t just about altitude it is also about Attitude.

Of all the seminars today – the one on altitude medicine was the most interesting. When you think about it – a lot of the real fascinating places in the world are not exactly at sea level.

There are the low mountains – NE US, the Alps, Northern Scandinavia, Southern Argentina and Chile. Then there are those higher places which are jumping off points – Nepal for the Himalayas , Cuzco (Peru), Quito (Ecuador), La Paz (Bolivia). Places that large numbers of people live and work which leaves tourists (not just Western but Korean, Chinese and Japanese) with the idea that altitude really isn’t a big deal.


For example – in a mountain climbing population in Nepal the incidence of AMS (acute mountain sickness) was 42%. And these were those who hiked up the mountain, not those who were delivered there by air. On the Lukla to Pheriche the incidence increased to 60%. If there are no rest days and as the rate of ascent increases – the incidence goes up…. Including extra time at 3450 meters, and 14000 feet – decrease to 35-43%. Mt Everest is the highest point, 8380 meters that people walk to. It can be done without oxygen.


AMS – acute mountain sickness – just your basic headache nausea, tired and weakness
HACE – High Altitude Cerebral Edema (think the worst hangover – ever)
HAPE – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema

Dealing with these extremely likely and potentially fatal diseases is like pre-medicating for seasickness. It is not the same as malaria. Taking medication is mostly for comfort, to stave off symptoms and not have one’s trip wrecked. The critical information includes – an honest evaluation (been at altitude before, and what happened, what is the itinerary & what are the options for descending rapidly). The second two above are fatal diseases and death without descent.

Factiods: 15/100000 died trekking in the 1980s. 1/40 who have attempted the Everest Climg died (2900/100,000). In contrast – the Sherpas die not from climbing but from accidents. Westerners die from altitude and injury. 40% of trekkers are organized groups but 80% of deaths occur are in organized groups.

Itinerary Truths – published schedules are averages, and will not prevent all AMS. its ok to get altitude illness – its just not ok to die from it!

    #1 – learn to recognize the early sx and be willing to admit that you have them
    #2 – never ascend to sleep with any sx of altitude
    #3 – descend if symptons are worse while resting at the same altitude.

and now you know as much as the rest of us…

Categories: Medicine, Travel Tags:

Out the Window –

May 26th, 2015 No comments

So that you can see what I see.

toward the river

toward the river

and toward the city

and toward the city

My ten minute stroll over this morning was lovely and the sessions today covered a wide range of subjects. I most appreciated the discussion of the viral mosquito born illness that have spread from Africa, especially in the last decade and the symposium on the long term traveler (think ex-pat, NGO, IVO, multi-year employment).

Then there is the following thought….

and the fourth sculpture is on the wall ready to launch again...

and the fourth sculpture is on the wall ready to launch again…

Categories: Medicine, Travel Tags:

The 4 Its

May 25th, 2015 No comments

Just returned to the hotel after the first full day of the conference. If I hadn’t mentioned it before – Quebec City on the St Lawrence where it narrows (Algonquin = Kebec = narrows. Wiki is always fun) and is one of the oldest cities in North America. Both the hotel in which I am staying and the conference center are in the city which means that there may be half a million or more people in the area but this area is older, quirky, has parks and isn’t crowded.

It is an easy walk from the hotel, the Plenary Sessions as well as the Symposia are good. There is also the slight fact that there is enough food at the noon time conferences and coffee breaks to last the entire day….

The Summary for the day:

Don’t get bit

Don’t get lit

Don’t do it

And don’t eat shit….

Categories: Travel Tags:

Quebec City

May 24th, 2015 No comments

It is only 1300 and I feel like I have been traveling all day.

Well, I probably have since my flight from DCA was 0600 in the morning which meant a wake-up before 0400 coupled with a no coffee ride to the airport. To add insult to injury – there is no lounge in Terminal A. Makes sense considering it is primarily SW Air, Frontier Air and Air Canada. The lovely woman at the check-in counter informed me that there was a Star Alliance Lounge over in Terminal B, but that I might not have enough time to safely wander over and get back. So there I was, early to the gate area at 0450 (did I mention that the counter was not exactly manned early but security was an absolute breeze) without coffee but in possession of free Wifi.

My connection was through Toronto where I may have encountered the one pleasant immigration agent in the whole Canadian system. She smiled, agreed that I could have put either “personal” or “business” down as the reason for the visit; either was fine. Especially since I had a return airline ticket to the US.

Toronto to Quebec City was Air Canada Express. And yes, a slightly bigger than the average puddle jumper. I had the mis/good fortune to be in the first row of this classless aircraft. My seat mate turned out to be headed to the same meeting. A pharmacist from South Africa, we had a nice conversation about traveling in sub-Saharan Africa. This is her first time attending an ISTM meeting and we have agreed to meet later for lunch/supper/whatever.

It was a taxi to the city: the public bus doesn’t run on weekends. At least it is a fixed rate to the CBD (Central Business District). From the hotel it was just a short walk to the Convention Center where I received a nice bag, various assorted seminar invitations and the Wifi access code. I am contemplating walking back to the hotel about 1600 in order to charge up the electronics and divest myself of the heavy backpack before returning for the 1700 opening…..

Or I could wander the streets with my camera…..

Categories: Medicine, Travel Tags:

Richmond -> DC

May 23rd, 2015 No comments

It’s sunny and quiet sitting on the Richmond’s Station patio. Or at least it was before loud and rude people made their appearance scaring off the birds and irritating the rest of us. I was here in time to watch #79 – the southbound Carolinian arrive only 15 minutes late.

You could hear the train several crossings before it pulled into the station. It rolled up on the far track and the passengers headed toward the station at the same time the waiting group lined up at the gate. The baggage guy had it down pat. He rolled out with the new luggage, handed it up to the baggage car, then gathered the waiting bags from the platform and headed back. A second cart came buzzing back with bags of trash. Less than three minutes and the train was on its way after a turnover of at least 50.

Imagine clearing an airplane that fast! So now I wait with 14 others hanging around, blasted out of my relaxation by the dude on the very loud speaker.

My train was actually on time and surprisingly still within 10 minutes of scheduled arrival to Union Station. Finding the luggage delivery was more difficult (no – no signs saying Baggage – only one saying “Red Cap Service”). The Metro turned out to be on a holiday schedule with the Red Line running @ 20 minute intervals and Blue/Yellow at 24. Given all of that, including the walk from Crystal City Metro I still made my hotel in less than an hour.

Both my hotel and the one next door were hosting large numbers of motorcycle veterans in town for Memorial Day. Mostly New York next door and the south in my hotel. No grunge here; beautiful bikes and kempt clean bikers.

Off to hunt the elusive dinner feast.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Colonial Williamsburg

May 22nd, 2015 1 comment

Mostly what we went to see were gardens since Cheré is an active volunteer in the Master Gardener’s Program.

But there are also the Leicester Sheep – in horrible need of shearing (had to have been missed last year)

itches, scratches and still can't see

itches, scratches and still can’t see

plus bird

plus bird

Categories: Travel Tags:


May 21st, 2015 No comments

Given Status of Forces in Germany (lots of limits on where you can go and which facilities one is entitled to use upon retirement) I have not had a lot to do with most military facilities since I bid a not completely fond adieu to the Army more than four years ago.

Specifically – no PX, Commissary, Post Office, Petrol Station or Class 6 stores are on the allowable list in Germany without a Germany tax number so that you can pay the owed VAT at the end of the year. Since we are already paying taxes in Switzerland and the US – it really seemed stupid to give the German government another channel in which to decide to collect more tax from us.

Anyway – that means that I hadn’t been inside either a Px or Commissary in a long time.

Nothing has changed. Except to note that many items are actually more expensive than they would be at comparable facilities. It was interesting to wander around, mostly to see what they don’t carry (CF Cards for an example) and to confirm that I really haven’t missed all that much

Categories: Travel Tags:

Mobile Munch

May 20th, 2015 No comments

it seems that there are a number of four footed creatures in this neighborhood. The area is the Virginia tidal basin. The predators have moved on leaving the deer and rabbits in over abundance much to the detriment of gardeners everywhere. Even (or especially those who comply with all the Home Owner’s Associations rules about what you can and can’t grow).

The deer and bunnies seem to think it is free lunch; a veritable smorgasbord of nutrition (we will not talk about idiots who feed the deer… they deserve the destruction of their lawns, gardens and shrubbery).

Chere found a fawn tucked into a corner this morning. Too young to be on its own, she reported a mad scramble as it dove for safety and high tailed it out of there. Unfortunately, it left behind a calling card in the form of a tick.


Now, I don’t know about you – but I am not interested in providing tick snack. Nor will I feel deprived if denied the opportunity to be exposed to Lyme’s Disease. I think the deer are useful – as coyote food, wolf food, source of venison and deerskins. Apparently the local ticks also view them as both a mobile feast and transportation.

Chere has it figured out: a local bow & arrow hunter helps clear out the deer during season. Now, just to figure out a method to avoid the hitch-hikers without extensive use of chemicals.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Amtrak #79

May 18th, 2015 No comments

The Carolinian rolls from Penn Station in NY to Charlotte, North Carolina. I didn’t notice the first couple of stops but looked up when we paused in Trenton. I started to think about New Jersey and the bad rep it gets in print, TV and movies. It isn’t all Jersey Shore, Stephanie Plum, the Mafia and cows.

Mostly it was countryside and bridges between Trenton and Philadelphia where the car started to fill up a bit more. Apparently this is the first passenger train running this section since the accident last week. Amtrak had offered full refunds through tomorrow for anyone who is ticketed and changes their mind about traveling on the train.

The Wifi is working and actually much more responsive than anything I have recently experienced on ship. Amtrak actually provides a tracking window featuring the train’s current location just in case you don’t have a clue as to the local geography.

I managed to stay awake for the trip and arrived only about an hour late which for Amtrak really is pretty close to being on time. I would like to say the Bahn is doing better. The rails maybe properly maintained at home, but promptness is no longer a virtue.

In any case, I contemplating a nap….

Categories: Travel Tags:

St Whomever’s

May 17th, 2015 No comments

We wandered a bit from the Cornell Club (6 E 44th in Manhattan) and wound up having lunch a fairly short distance away.

Back a number of years ago – the edifice was an Episcopal Church – St Bart’s. George said it was 60s-70s when the church converted a significant portion of its property into affordable housing and relocated the church operations. Now, since you can’t exactly move a huge sanctuary – a repurpose was in order. Instead of food for the soul – to food.

To a restaurant? Ok, this is New York. The end result is that you can eat outside and watch the traffic on ?Park? Ave or inside and stare upward. We sat outside in the moderately fresh air and had a nice lunch. I am still appalled at the prices.

Categories: Travel Tags:


May 14th, 2015 No comments

today it was ICE 202 from Basel to Dortmund which we boarded in Mannheim. Alternative call sign is LH3437/3608.   The S3 from Heidelberg was packed with Fußball fans easy to spot with team jerseys and beer bottles in hand. Mind you that this is 0920 on a Thursday morning. It also happens to be a holiday of the Christian variety. No clue what a holy body has to do with beer.

On the travel front – it is home to Frankfurt Airport to JFK to Supershuttle to Manhattan. The Youngest (called by various names over the years from Ms Copper, Ms Pink, Maus ..) graduates from Pratt tomorrow afternoon. The Commencement Exercise is being held at Madison Square Garden.

At the end of the weekend I will become a moving target with no more than a few days in any one location until mid-June.  I can view it as making it challenging to hit a moving target or maximal infliction on friends and relatives. I will leave it up to you to decide.

I’ve been spending my time in the Lufthansa lounge after bidding farewell to George (booked late, on the Lufthansa flight to Newark) sorting computer files and contemplating starting the first pair of socks.  72 stitches rather than 56-60. I can do the math, but would rather not in terms of how many more stitches are involved per sock…. Oh, well, at least I don’t have size US 14 feet so this is only a short term challenge.

ordinary guy color

ordinary guy color

Dark green, bit of brown and maybe a speck of grey but not sure. Since I have literally more than a dozen small balls of yarn the stripe pattern should be quite interesting. I am thinking 7/1 rib or maybe slip stitch so that I don’t go completely numb. I don’t really think I have knit a pair of socks since 2007 and the 52 pr challenge. As should be obvious, I still have a lot of hand knit socks…

I’ll update when I have arrived in NYC.

(Flight was fine – I was upstairs on the 747 where it was extremely quiet without a child in the place. Almost 1/2 the seats were empty which means I could move over – watch out the window and not worry about dumping coffee on my neighbor or losing a knitting needle more than a few times on the floor. Note to self – black carbon needles -even those DPs with silver points are hard to see on the floor…

Took the SuperShuttle into town to find Miriam hanging out with her dad at the hotel).

Categories: Knitting, socks, Travel Tags:

Leaving tomorrow

May 13th, 2015 No comments

and it is already time to start packing again. This time it will be for about 5 weeks. I will need decent clothes (nothing fancy) for NYC, whatever I want for visiting Tuano, VA, jeans for the ISTM meeting in Quebec City, decent clothes in DC where I am playing tolerant wife at someone’s Georgetown Reunion. After that – well AMTRAK doesn’t care what I wear from DC to Chicago. Unless they are going to surprise me, the two dog enthusiasts in Chicago aren’t expecting fancy (but they just might be expecting the presents I am hauling in the extra bag).

From there – the three of us are boarding AMTRAK to the west coast. About 10 days in the SF Bay area, then back to Europe.

So – I have decided (not that I really have any control at all over the weather) that winter season is over and I don’t need cold weather gear. It might rain, so I have both the backpack cover and a rain jacket. It is not going to be desert hot; forget the beach gear or skimpy clothing. That leaves me with my constant companions and standbys: jeans, long sleeve shirts, one sweatshirt, one sweater, sandals, running shoes&gear, jacket, smalls and a regular date with the washing machine. Oh yes – packed something acceptable for reunions and graduations.

More importantly, I had to properly asses the knitting: I promised socks to a couple of really nice guys so I am stocked with dps and a bag of zauberball over runs in guy colors. Plus the chart – nothing like size 47 (EU) feet for knowing these are going to be a long time in the knitting…..

Categories: Knitting, Travel Tags:

made it

May 9th, 2015 No comments

You knew that there was a train strike in Germany, right? Ending at midnight tonight.

Notice that we docked today in Copenhagen and had train tickets to get to Heidelberg with only three (or was that four?) transfers. No sweat. Or at least it wouldn’t have been except for

1) seems that both Cheré and I had accumulated enough extra items that we needed more packing space than we had on hand with our suitcases.

2) somehow I hadn’t properly calculated how much time is always involved in loading a tour bus. What is supposed to be a three hour tour can end up making you feel like a participant with Gillian [Island] and run a risk of not making your train.

3) lastly, it is simply not cool to give up on the tour, take a cab to the main train station where you find that your train has been canceled. In fact, there are no trains at all going to Hamburg. Not this morning, not at 1222 when we were scheduled. No way, not today. But there was a bus…..

And it cost since it wasn’t the Danish Railroad’s problem that the German one was being struck.

So bus to ferry, bus on ferry, bus on road to Hamburg where we hung out on the platform for about 30 minutes. There were only two more trains of all normally scheduled that had a possibility actually showing up.

ICE 1171 actually appeared on time, with plenty of seats available. The conductor, rather than point out we were on the wrong train, wrong compartment and wrong seats just stamped our ticket.

George bailed us, suitcases, extra bags and all out of Mannheim.

Home, fresh spargel and strawberries….

Categories: Travel Tags:

Göterburg. Sweden

May 8th, 2015 No comments

the port of which doesn’t seem to be much to look at from high on the ship.

view of the complex

view of the complex

Town is almost 10 km down the road. Which would leave us only with an industrial port except the Volvo Factory is here.. and more importantly – the Volvo Museum. Aside from the usual “we are smart, great and responsible” lines in the movie it was interesting to realize exactly how many lines are actually under the Volvo name. The cars have been around for a long time. And the trucks – not just the little ones but the over the road haulers (Volvo, Mack, and Renault are theirs), plus the heavy duty construction vehicles (graders, plows, articulated haulers, and a dozen more), buses (bought out UK Leland a while back – so double deckers), Maritime engines (Penta) and jet engines (see Swedish fighter below).

so just pictures:
First – the official museum sign

then the cars

1936 Gas Station

1936 Gas Station

older than me

older than me

truck, family hauler, sleeps 2 and roof rack - what more could you want?

truck, family hauler, sleeps 2 and roof rack – what more could you want?

electric concept car @1976

electric concept car @1976

new vehicles on their way to the port

new vehicles on their way to the port

followed by trucks



construction vehicles

construction vehicles

old style bus

old style bus

then the really cool engines

sleek lines –

fighter jet

fighter jet

toys are not just for kids (more than 200,000 blocks on a real chassis and frame)

the car

the car

amazing detail

amazing detail

and finally: cheesecake?

nah, the other is better

nah, the other is better

yes, I did mean the desert

with strawberries and chocolate

Categories: Travel Tags:

The Final Competition

May 7th, 2015 No comments

The Required Ingrediants

Rack of Lamb
Port Wine
Crimini Mushrooms

The challenge – create a meal in 20 minutes from raw ingredients.

The Competitors

Given the complexity – each chef picked a sou chef from the previously eliminated contestants.

Here are the teams – Hotel Director with the Staff Captain as sou chef

F&B Manager as sou chef and the Head of Guest Services


the dishes



Obviously it was a real hardship to taste and judge.

Awaiting the final word

Awaiting the final word

and then – it was time for cake!


Oh, yes – Karine won.

Categories: Travel Tags:

Bicycle, Bicycle

May 6th, 2015 No comments

and no, not the song by Queen but the city of Amsterdam.

There are little bikes, big bikes, fancy bikes and those that are falling apart.

and even in the Eye Glasses Museum

and even in the Eye Glasses Museum

Some riders wear helmets, a lot do not. Fleets of children hit the road at the end of the school day. Parents tote, haul or squire their offspring

for one to short to reach the peddles

for one to short to reach the peddles

while shoppers take home groceries. There are delivery bikes.

the fruit delivery bike

the fruit delivery bike

I am sure there are police bicycles, I just didn’t see any today.

Oh yes, and the bike in front of Penelope’s Craft:

for the rest? I don’t think there is a gate, lamp post or railing in the city which does not have a bike attached.

railings &

railings &

lamp post adornment

lamp post adornment

just in case someone has an acute bike shortage.

for rent

for rent

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Raining in Zeebrugge 

May 5th, 2015 No comments

It’s raining, the wind is up and there are white caps on the bay. We are in Zeebrugge and I am happily ensconced in the concierge lounge with my Mac Air, latte, knitting and camera.

Instead of paying to get out of the commercial port and to a local town rather than being dropped off outside the gate in the small commercial zone where there are chandleries, coffee shops and wifi, I am staying warm and dry. Last year the shuttle was local and free. This year they want 12€. I am not amused (grin).

Cheré has also elected to stay.

It will soon be time to contemplate lunch, perhaps a nap. More useful would be a sort, toss and pack drill. Or perhaps catch up on some editing or course work. In either case my most difficult decision will be latte vs mocha.

Categories: Travel Tags:

We are not sinking

May 4th, 2015 No comments

The time is UTC + 1 and the city is Cherbourg.  Last year I went to the beaches and U.S. Cemetery.  This year even though it is Monday I am hoping a few things may be open. It wasn’t so when I was here in 2012. But then it was also 30th April sandwiched between a Sunday and May Day

Even from the ship you can see how little of the inner harbor predates WWII.  Before opening hours it is a good time to walk, camera in hand looking for interesting doors and architectural details.
As it turns out, my memory of the city is accurate. Little to nothing is open on Monday morning and the idea of hanging out till 1430 just to walk into stores does not compute in the least.


simple arch

simple arch

obligatory statue

obligatory statue

WWII to the Martyrs

WWII to the Martyrs

symbol of the marine industry

symbol of the marine industry

narrow door (trust me)

narrow door (trust me)

narrow alley

narrow alley

narrow building (I have a longer wing span that it is wide)

narrow building (I have a longer wing span that it is wide)

door- about as wide as my shoulders...

door- about as wide as my shoulders…

Part of the city center is severely depressed. Blind eyes windows gaze from emptiness across to more blank expressions.  Only those location dealing with food and drink seem to be hanging on without even the leavening of a uni-sex hair salon.   A few streets further on feature ugly reconstruction prefab with first floor glass show rooms and tightly shuttered living space on 1-4 floors above. As an aside, I suspect that none of the buildings as tall enough to require an elevator (lift).
After wandering through the village centre on both pedestrian and regular paths I was ready for a new direction. I had already confirmed that neither the knit shop or the embroidery boutique were opening today. I don’t need pastries (fudge a plenty) and my Euros are still on board.
Walking over to Cité de la Mer I explored the outer area  once again not noticing any changes from 2012. The goods in the gift shop have been updated to the current year but it is not like I needed anything. I’m skipping both postcards and magnets this trip for which I am sure family is grateful.
Now – would it be creepy to add a jigsaw of the Titanic to the Serenade’s  puzzle collection?
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