Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Vacation Continues: Berlin, Part 1

After an insanely busy couple of months, which included an 'update' by Photobucket that makes organizing my albums significantly more difficult, we return to our previously scheduled travelogue already in progress. 

After a moderate wait at Orly Airport (which we are nominating for 'worst airport wifi ever'), we took a short flight to Berlin, where our weather luck deserted us.  We were met by my husband's uncle in a light drizzle and took the subway to their lovely apartment.  After a nice brunch, the rain tapered off and set out for our first stop, the Deutsches Technikmuseum, (German Museum of Technology).

They have a magnificent Jacquard loom, the largest I've ever seen.  

The Jacquard loom is famous not just for the fabric that bears its name, but for its groundbreaking technology- it could be set to make many different patterns using punch cards.  This was a revolutionary idea which was very important in early computers.

We couldn't possibly miss the steam locomotives (this one was a freight locomotive):

By the time we left the museum, the day was clearing up beautifully.   We walked past the ruins of Anhalter Bahnhof- it was the largest train station in Berlin before its destruction in WWII.

From there we took the train into the center of Berlin, to Potsdamer Platz, where there are a few sections of the Berlin wall still standing.  With tasteful explanatory plaques in various languages.

A fascinating sight, since I recall seeing the news when the Berlin Wall came down.  It was quite astonishing how thoroughly Germany has re-integrated.   Standing in Potsdamer Platz you can turn 360 degrees and scarcely see any buildings more than 20 years old.  I'm not a fan of modern architechture, but I quite liked the canopied central plaza.

My husband's aunt took us for flammkuchen at the restaurant overlooking the plaza.  Thus fortified, we set out walking.

We walked up to the Holocaust Memorial.  There wasn't time to see it the first day, but we returned later.   Having seen the Holocaust museum in Washington DC, I had wondered if this would be different and it was.  Aside from the heavy freighting of significance given simply by the location, this museum was built as a memorial to the victims- all the lives destroyed.  It was well done- and unlike many museums, the visitors were largely silent and solemn.  No one was unmoved.

We passed through the Brandenburg Gate and walked under the Lindens.

We ambled through a bunch of interlinked courtyards filled with arty little stores and cafes, called Hackesche Höfe.

I found some roses for Valerie:

I was charmed to see that the center of one court had been filled with a giant sandbox, for the entertainment of the kinder.

We regarded this as sort of a preliminary exploration- we were staying for five days, so we had much more planned.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Vacation Begins: Paris

Yes, it is once again that time when I fill the blog with my vacation photos and yarns (mostly of the story type, but not entirely).    This year, we determined that the time had finally come to see something of the Continent.  We were lured to this plan in part because we had been invited by my husband's aunt and uncle to come and see them in Berlin, where they were spending the summer and fall this year.   Not unusually, our ambitions led us to try cram as much as possible into the allotted time.   So on September 3, we embarked on a nearly three week odyssey through northern Europe, starting with a couple of days in Paris.

As is our habit, we tend to do a lot of walking our first day, so as to stay awake and adjust to the new time zone as quickly as possible.  We were staying in the Quartier Latin, just a few blocks from the Jardin de Luxembourg, so it's hardly surprising that we strolled first in that direction.

The Parisian garden, we observed, tends to involve large paved areas with a few manicured sections of grass (on which one is not permitted to walk) and carefully groomed trees and flowerbeds.  In fact the compulsion to order has driven them to quite some extremes- like square trees.  Really.  Look at the trees on the left below.

From there, we naturally proceeded along to the river.

We observed with interest the reconstruction of the old market at Les Halles.  It will be quite interesting to see when it's done.

We strolled up to Monmartre, noting a plethora of restaurants for future reference.  The view from Monmartre is of course spectacular.

By the time we'd wound down, had dinner, and discovered that Paris is the City of Love even for cars-
-we were ready to call it a day.

In the morning we set out walking again, this time to take in the Promenade Plantée,
It's an elevated park built on an old rail viaduct and was part of the inspiration for New York City's High Line park, of which we are very fond.    We found it to be a lovely walk, and quite busy with other walkers and joggers.

From the park we strolled to the Bois de Vincennes, a wooded park on the edge of the city, where we found a whimsical monster in the forest.

Our direction was not a matter of chance, as I was interested in seeing the Chateau de Vincennes. I visited it on my first trip to Paris, over 30 years ago, but did not see the inside, as it was closed the day I was there.   This time, fortune favored us (note the drawbridge is down).

Vincennes was used by several French kings from the 14th to the 17th century, but much of the audio guide commentary talked of Charles V (called 'the Wise').  We toured the central tower, which was interesting.

One of the coolest parts was seeing Charles' study, a tiny room.   Though the present room is bare stone, the appearance of the room is known from historical descriptions.  So they have created  a virtual reconstruction of the paneling, the furniture, what it would have looked like.   The attendant handed us an iPad, and as we pointed it at different areas of the room, it showed us the decorated and furnished version, as if we were looking through a window.  Someday I expect that we'll be able to see entire buildings that way, using virtual reality glasses.  

As with any castle, it had its own church, the Sainte Chapelle, resembling a miniature of one of the large cathedrals.  

After walking all over the chateau, we got a quick lunch and then headed back into the city center for an afternoon at the Louvre.   We've long since given up trying to see large museums in marathon sessions- we reach saturation after a few hours.  That's a strategy that applies trebly to the Louvre, which is vast.  And as gorgeous as much of the art is, I find that the building itself is just as worthy of admiration. 

We wandered about, looking at some furniture, some art, some ridiculously elaborate armor.  

It was staggering, as always.   On our exit to the courtyard, we discovered the source of a phenomenon we'd observed around the city- tourists holding their cellphones on a long stick to take selfies.  Outside the Louvre, we found a number of enterprising vendors, selling the selfie-sticks.  Apparently no one has told them that selfies kill more people than shark attacks do. (Do I need to tell you that we did not purchase one of these abominations?  I hope not.)

We walked around some more- 

-eventually finding our way back to the restaurant district near Monmartre, where we found our last dinner in Paris.  On our way back to the hotel we found an electronics store to sell us a European power adapter for our multifarious electronics, and headed back to the hotel to get an early night, as we would need to be up at 4 AM to catch our flight to Berlin.  Fortunately our execrable French (and the hotel staff's rather better English) were up to arranging for an early wake-up call and a taxi in the airport in the morning.  Because while we'd carefully arranged a hotel near the train line most convenient to Orly,  we had only belatedly checked the train times and found that the first train of the morning was marginal in terms of getting us to the airport in time for our flight.  

To be continued...

Oh, yeah, and there was a slideshow with all the other photos...(Best way to see the captions- expand the image using the slanted arrow key on the lower left and then jiggle the mouse or touch the touchscreen to keep the captions visible.  For some silly reason they dim them out if there's no screen input.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Stop and Go

It's been an unusually hot summer for new England, and although I haven't been especially bothered by the heat, I don't think I realized how much I'd slowed down through it until it finally cooled off some this weekend.   And suddenly I really wanted yarn in my hands.  And things started to happen. For example, I found the ambition to take some photos.

And a pair of socks got finished.

These were my 'social socks'- some good plain knitting for parties and the occasional video I see.

The lace socks aren't anti-social exactly, but they need good light and more attention than plain stockinette.   Also the yarn is incredibly hard to photograph.    This is a pretty good photo of how the pattern (Oriel by Charlene Schurch) is looking.

But the color is all wrong.  The above photo looks blue, and the yarn is more greeny purply with flashes of blue.   This photo shows the green and purple, but the color balance still isn't right.  I'll have to keep trying.

And then the hat that stalled out months ago, I finally bit the bullet and charted the pattern.   It's written out line by line, and is perfectly clear, but every time I picked it up it took me several minutes to remember where I was in the pattern.  I find charts much quicker- and because I can see where the pattern is going, often I don't even have to consult it for rounds at a time.  So the hat is once again moving.

Hopefully this is an omen for all my projects! I need to go persuade a certain fluffy cat not to eat the plastic bag he's chewing on.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

July Highlights

I did notice that I hadn't gotten to post anything, but somehow, every time I turned around I wanted to take a photo and it was dark out, or I was driving somewhere, or we had company.   Some of the high points- we spent a day wandering around in Portsmouth, NH before meeting my parents for dinner.  It was a gorgeous day, and we walked around looking at houses and gardens and enjoying the sun.  Here are a couple of shots from Prescott Park in Portsmouth, a childhood haunt.

We had friends over to play board games.  Biscuit likes board games.  He's gotten very brave, at least with our usual crowd of cat-loving friends.  Here, he's checking out a new game, Elysium, that we picked up in Portsmouth.

He sat in on a game of Ticket to Ride.

Here, he's dominating the galaxy.  Or at least sitting on the Eclipse box. 

We had a nice afternoon strolling around Boston.  Here's Commonwealth Ave.

And the Boston Common.  (I've got a park theme going here.)

I took my new shelf into work and put it to good use.  Here's my work space in a completely unnatural state of tidiness.  While the tidiness didn't last, it is very nice not to have all the reference books falling over.

The last weekend of the month I went down to the Lowell Folk Festival.  Always a good festival, this was the first year ever that it was a comfortable 72ish degrees, dry and with  pleasant breeze. The turnout was excellent.

Every year they have handcraft exhibits and this year the theme was textiles.  The quilters were out in force and handing out inspirational fabric squares.

And there was a splendid demonstration of rug hooking (because heaven knows I need to get back to a craft that's even slower than knitting).   I was especially taken with this rug by Katherine Blake-Parker, of the Cranberry Rug Hooker's Guild.  I love how she's used the orientation of the loops to convey texture.   And the colors are gorgeous.   (photo posted with permission).

At the end of the month, my husband's cousin stopped by and we jammed for a bit.  Well, we played music and Cookie took advantage of the mandolin case.  It was a cozy fit.

There's been a lot of hot cat sprawling to entertain us as well.

Not to mention other feline antics.

The weather may have been warm for cats and people, but the local orchards are in full swing.  I think of this shot as 'summer in a bowl'.

On the crafting front, I'm still knitting the socks.  Yeah.  That kind of month.   Thinking back, however, summer is often like this.  Busy, busy.   This week we've got my sister-in-law, her husband and three boys visiting (though they are taking refuge from the clouds of cat hair by staying in a hotel).

No doubt when the weather starts to cool off, the yard work eases off, and the stream of guests slows down, I will get back to crafting more.   That's the way it seems to work with summer.