Archive for June, 2015

Monterey

June 28, 2015

Sunday, 28 June 2015

We arrived in Monterey mid-morning, stopped at the Estero park, across from which there is a bury patch. Wandered around for a while, but not a lot of interest in these stones.

Across the street is a playground with an old Lok that the kids love to play on.

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Much to our disgust, it’s closed off until the city figures out how to comply with the California mandatory minimum standards for playground safety. We wandered around the rest of the playground, and were even more disgusted. Not just the nanny state protecting kids from the real world, but parents, too. Chastising a kid because he was climbing up the slide! Fortunately, fortunately, kids have imagination and courage, and will probably find a way to experience the real world despite the best intentions of the suffocator state.

Ask me what I really think about all this!

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We parked near downtown, in a slot that isn’t subject to Sunday restrictions, and walked down to the marina, and eventually to Cannery Row and back.

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Sea otters, above, and harbor seals, below. The seals like to lie out on rocks that are only just submerged, or maybe not quite, and it gives the appearance that they can lie on the water’s surface. Cool!

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At the whale-watching ticket office, a couple of gull chicks up on the roof. Didn’t see mother, but they certainly aren’t equipped to fly yet.

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And a bird rock, complete with pelicans.

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A little further down, a beach where the divers go. Divers in training, that is. There were far more here than we would ever see if they were serious divers. Weekend trainees, all of them. Maybe one in a hundred, or one in a thousand, will get interested enough to take it up as a hobby.

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Jacky’s leg is still giving her trouble, so we stopped to sit here and there. Hungry; I went back to the car and fetched the apples and carrots we had brought from home. Later on, we stopped at a Nob Hill grocery store and  bought calories to tide us over. The best were the no-salt  beet and sweet potato chips. Now we won’t feel guilty about having a real meal tonight.

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The historic old town was having an arts and crafts weekend. Lots of people around. Live entertainment, and the best of it was that the amplifiers were reasonably quiet; we could hear ourselves think.

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Stopped at Britannia Arms pub for a little refreshment, then went on to the Stevenson house motel for check-in. A mile from Cannery Row, 30% less expensive.

There are two Thai restaurants within about two blocks. A good part of town! We ate at the Siamese Bay, and it was fine. Then a stroll to see if we could be irresistibly tempted by something decadent — even tried Trader Joe’s, whose prices are an order of magnitude better than a dessert shop — and manfully resisted.

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Big Basin

June 27, 2015

Saturday, 27 June 2015

We wandered over to Linda’s Seabreeze cafe for breakfast. We thought we might stay another night here, but the motel is full, except for a $300 suite. That is to say, the motel is full.

Hmmm… what if we spent the day at Big Basin and the night at a really, really, really classy joint: home! The price is certainly right, the accommodations are predictably excellent, and we can go on to Monterey or Pacific Grove tomorrow. Talked ourselves into it.

Jacky’s leg is still causing trouble, so she entertained herself at park headquarters (liberally surrounded with redwoods, so she didn’t suffer from lack of scenery), while I went for a little hike. Maybe about 15 miles.

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I continue to hope that someday, someone will explain why trees grow in spirals. Especially madrones.

I would also like to hear someone explain why madrone has only two syllables in Californiano pronunciation! This is Mexamerica, after all!

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The usual trail to the Berry creek falls was busy, as expected for one of the most popular destinations in the park. I suppose it’s on the order of 9 miles round trip, default routes. Naturally, I wanted more distance and fewer people, so I took the Hihn-Hammond fire road, and Howard King trail, to the 1740′ high point Mt McAbee lookout, from where we can see the surf at Waddell beach! Nice.

It is a long way up this trail and a long way back down. Steep and difficult, as I explained to a group of up-bound lightweight hikers near the bottom of the grade. If they carried on, and I sincerely hope they did, they earned their beer this evening.

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As for me, I crossed Waddell creek and went up the trail along Berry creek. As expected, lots of traffic, including several scout troops, some of them camping and doing Skyline to the Sea in three days.

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Silver fall (above) is the first, and the prettiest. The trail ascends steeply to some indeterminate number of additional falls, which I believe are jointly known as golden falls.

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Along part of the golden  falls, the trail is a series of steps, sometimes with cable railings.

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This is the upper part of golden fall, probably the centerpiece of the attraction.

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The creek above the fall. You can see how it gets the name golden.

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I went on up, turned toward the trail camp, and on uphill on Anderson Landing fire road. This looks a lot like the Sierra Nevada. Eventually topped out at the junction with Gazos Creek road, which runs from the coast over the ridge and down to park headquarters.

At the junction of Gazos Creek and Johansen roads, the sign said 6.5 miles to park headquarters. It was 1:45, and I was supposed to meet Jacky at 3. Oop! 4 is more likely. No cell phone coverage, but she has years of experience in the matter of Dave being late to return.

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While here, of course, I’m not going to waste opportunities to photograph interesting things, such as tree houses in private inholdings.

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As I mentioned, the main trail to the falls was packed solid. On the route I chose, except for the Berry creek trail itself, and the area at park headquarters, I saw, let’s see: one equestrienne, one hiker, three cyclists.

I stopped one of the cyclists, asked him to let Jacky know that I would be closer 4 than 3 getting back down. And he did.

A great day, indeed!

Vacation begins

June 26, 2015

Friday, 26 June 2015

After a couple of confcalls this morning, we loaded the car full of far more than we would have taken along, had we been traveling by air, and headed out for a week of vacation of some sort. Temperatures predicted to be at or near triple digits inland, so we’ll stay along the coast. The day was mostly overcast, and we often needed sweaters or jackets. Just right!

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First stop, Fitzgerald Marine preserve, Montara, north of Half Moon bay.

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The tide was receding, but still high, so there wasn’t much to see in the way of tide pools.

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I had forgotten about the nasturtiums that grow all along here. Delicious as a light snack!

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From up on the cliff, we had a good view of the sea lions, mostly on the beach but also playing in the water. Life is easy.

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The monterey cypress forest, tinged with red algae.

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Drove to Half Moon Bay, the town, wandered around, went to the Mex place across from the art deco middle school where we always like to eat.

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This is said to be the world’s largest marble run. It wasn’t in operation when we went past, probably worth seeing when opportunity presents.

Over the little hill to the Purisima Creek Redwoods open space preserve, where we wandered along the creek for a few minutes. Jacky has a sore leg, so we’re walking neither far nor fast. It will be a strange vacation if we can’t spend it on our feet.

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Next stop, Bean Hollow state beach, a pebble beach with letterbox tafoni sandstone liberally surrounding the area. A little better tide pooling, but the water is still fairly high.

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And then to Santa Cruz, where we wandered the main drag, found a brew.

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The sign above is dedicated to Loren.

We had a bag of cherries from home, so we ate those, then wandered down to the beach boardwalk and found clam chowder. Out on the wharf, where we saw three sea otters nearby. Unfortunately, the light and distance were inadequate for photography.

Last killer hike of spring

June 20, 2015

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Two weeks since I had any serious exercise (the Aachener Wald last Sunday was a nice walk of maybe 15 miles, but not very vertical). Can I handle a killer hike today? Parked at Los Trancos entrance well down Page Mill road, and hiked 21.75 miles, 3600 vertical feet, on a sticky, muggy day. Not as much fun as it might have been, and I ran out of water, but that’s what happens. For the locals: down Canyon trail, up Table Mountain, to Saratoga gap, back on the west side of Skyline.

Someone at Saratoga gap had let his front wheels come forward off the pavement down three or four inches onto the dirt, and didn’t have enough traction (front wheel drive car) to get back up onto the pavement. Three mountain bikies and I teamed up to lift and push the car onto the pavement. Our good deed for the day.

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Since last I was here, the green of spring has faded completely. The open areas are California golden, chest high dry grass. The pretty areas are in the woods and along the streams. Above: Peters Creek. There are a few ponds here and there, with newts lazing on the bottom, sometimes swimming desultorily around. Notice the one below exposing his butt to the coolth of the air.

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Also a day to find insects, busy drinking syrup from the flowers.

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Hard work today, but I get a beer as a reward. Well, I would have had a beer anyway, but today I earned it!

Photon accumulation

June 19, 2015

Thursday, 18 June 2015

I try to minimize jetlag by collecting all the photons available. So of course, I did a trail patrol at Windy Hill today, spent an hour or so removing thistle, and came upon this beautiful alligator lizard.

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Alligator lizards are especially good photographic subjects because they freeze instead of running. I was only a couple of cm away from it when I shot that last photo. Just to make sure it was healthy, I then nudged it with my toe, and it took off into the bush.

Good to be home.

Aachener Wald

June 14, 2015

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Why will it surprise none of my friends to hear that I wanted to get out into the countryside for a hike today? According to Google maps, the biggest green area is south of the city, between here and the Belgian border. Sunday breakfast only available at 7, and I was on my way by 8.

I had done a bit of research last evening; one of the recommended longer hikes began at Adenauerallee and Eselsweg (donkeys way, for those who don’t know), so that’s where I headed. A bit after 9 by the time I got out of the urban area, a bit delayed by the choice to take Robert-Schumann-Strasse instead of Karl-Marx-Allee, obviously a good tradeoff.

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The hike begins at the upper left and wends randomly to the southwest and west, heading back into the city from somewhere off the map to the right. Black line at the bottom is Belgian border.

Shortly after getting into the wood, a woman noticed my camera and recommended a side trail to see a special root. What could be special about a root? See below…

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Needless to say, that conversation was in Englisch. It was far enough outside my expectations that I would probably never have understood her, even had she used only words I knew.

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Most of the country is forested, but ranging fairly widely in density and undergrowth. Some gravelled tracks big enough for maintenance vehicles, some single-track, everything in between. Cyclists, hikers, a lot of trail runners, people with strollers, equestrians, and a little kid walking along behind a mini-horse. Say what ?!

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What’s this about a mini-horse? Mom and dad on the trail, leading one. 4-year old Junior walking along behind. He was considering it, but wasn’t at all sure he wanted to get up on that thing. His parents were encouraging him, but not pushing. That’s good.

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Not far beyond, the stable that rented out the mini-horses, obviously going to do a good business today.

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I’m also keeping an eye out for small animals. Above: these have to be some kind of world record antennae, in comparison with body size. Below: a robber fly enjoying Sunday brunch. One got tangled up in my leg hair later on; I gently brushed it away, without annoying it.

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Eventually, back into the city from the far southwest side, very close to the Belgian border here. Luetticherstrasse becomes Jakobstrasse, and evidence of a Jewish neighborhood.

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The black plaque above is a 1952 memorial to 1700 Jews whose homes were here prior to the Holocaust. I found it interesting that racism is now abhorrrent, but Karl Marx still gets an Allee here, and not far away, Bismarck is also honored. (Commercial: Friedrich Hayek explains the connections Marx-Bismarck-Hitler in considerable detail. Of course, it didn’t have to unfold against the Jews, but there does have to be a readily identifiable common enemy.)

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Well, after that we need some humour, and what better way to honor Labor than this!

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Back to the Marktplatz and around to the hotel. Tired and sore, but a good day.

Later: walking through the overgrown paths, I wondered whether European meadows were infested with ticks. Answer: yes. Only found one (so far), but that’s enough.

Aachen

June 13, 2015

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Checked out of the hotel after breakfast, walked to the Darmstadt Hauptbahnhof through a cool, gray morning. Claimed my reserved tickets from the automat after fiddling around a while. You get the tickets by entering an identifier number; okay, that’s fine. I had a confirmation number — nope. Well, there was an order number — no. And then there were distinct numbers for the two legs of my journey. Those worked. I’m glad; I was just about to run off the end of the integers I knew about.

Short hop from Darmstadt to Frankfurt Hbf, where I had time to wander a little before boarding the ICE train to Aachen.

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How often do you suppose a train overruns the end of the track?

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… at speeds of less than 15 kph? I’d like to see their test bed.

By the time we reached Aachen, the sun had come out, and it was a cool, pleasant day. Pulled up GPS and the local map on my iPhone and found the hotel. Deviated slightly from the shortest route to get there, but it’s okay. Dropped my things and went out to explore the town.

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First thing (well, the first thing I photographed) was a vocal rehearsal in a church. Nice. I especially liked the passage where one of the men in the back row (off the picture to the right) whistled the background accompaniment.

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Cherries for sale, and enthusiastic customers. Busy town, people out enjoying, shopping. Setting up stands for craft or flea markets later on, planning some live music.

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Marktplatz, though it isn’t full of Markt today. The Rathaus fronts one side of it.

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The view from the Rathaus.

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Dom in the background, a whimsical fountain in the foreground.

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I didn’t see any indication that there is a story to be told. Just whimsy, I guess.

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Continuing the wander, I came to the Elisenbrunnen, a sulphur spring and spa. Been here forever, I understand; several signs about the world’s rich and famous who deigned to spend time here.

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The space in front of the Brunnen, and a little girl who knows exactly what it’s all good for.

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More wandering. Nice town; I like this.

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Not yet performing, just getting ready.

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Beautiful things for your dog. This Foto dedicated to Eve.

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Further along, a Doctors without Frontiers stand, and next to it, Engineers without Frontiers. Unfortunately, their schtick seemed to be growing beans to save water, in comparison to raising beef and pork and things of higher value. A bit disappointing: engineers ought to be able to compare values. But they also had flyers about helping with earthquake remedies or prevention in places like Nepal.

Back to the hotel for a short crash, then out for … dare I admit it? After wandering out to the Pont Tor, near the Technische Hochschule, I returned to the Marktplatz and had fajitas at Sausalito’s. I like all cuisines, and it has been a while since I had Mex. Especially since they had Dunkelweizen, which is not at all Mex.

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Late sun on the Rathaus as I left the restaurant. Just after shooting this, I bumped into a colleague, with his wife. They were going around enjoying the choral festival that’s happening in half a dozen churches this evening. Small world, ties into the rehearsal I heard earlier today. Nice.

Burg Frankenstein

June 12, 2015

Friday, 12 June 2015

Busy week, good week. After we all wrapped up for the day, Hans-Joerg invited a few of us to a nearby mountain that featured a Schloss, Biergarten and restaurant. Great idea, danke !

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The place is called Burg Frankenstein. As expected, it exploits its special name at suitable times of year, for example Halloween, which is not particularly a Festtag in Germany — except here.

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Andy in the foreground. We will see more of him.

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Must be a real building; it’s covered in scaffolding.

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From the top, you can see the skyscrapers of Frankfurt. Not in the reduced resolution of the Foto, of course.

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Being up a hill in the forest, this is of course a mountain bike destination. Great to see this sign, especially since most signs everywhere identify things that are verboten !

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Tried the local brew, a Schwarzbier, then switched to Dunkel-weizen for the second round. Hans-Joerg to the left, Fabian in the red tee-shirt. Fabian’s wife off the frame to the right; Hans-Joerg’s wife and kids arrived later. The menu offered a dozen more or less equivalent choices;  my eye was caught by the one that came with sour cream — horseradish sauce. Right choice!

Good Bier, good food.

We watched the weather move in as we ate on the terrace. Lightning off in the distance, and it started to rain just as we were ready to leave. Terrific outing, thanks Hans-Joerg, and it’s time to head for Aachen tomorrow.

Darmstadt day 1

June 7, 2015

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Had time to go for a run and help Jacky set up a yard sale before I had to go the airport. Plenty of time; we were an hour late getting on our way. United claims to have upgraded the quantity and quality of in-flight cuisine. Well, yes, maybe. The bar was pretty low. But I can agree that the sweet potato puree was a welcome addition to the meal, as was the mango sorbet.

Sunday, 7 June

I never sleep well on planes, and this was worse than usual. An hour of dozing, perhaps, but that’s about it. I had some idea how to find an airport bus when we arrived in Frankfurt, but didn’t know the scale of things, so although I was actually going mostly in the right direction, I thought I was mostly lost. Bus was nice enough, and the trip wasn’t long, but I failed to demand a stop where I wanted to get off, and no one else did either, so I had an extra long block to walk from the next stop. Well, I need the exercise. It was just noon on a sunny day, pleasant in the shade, but tending toward muggy overall.

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The whole area is Telekom, along with a few other high-tech companies. Deserted on Sunday, of course. Hotel is close by, and it isn’t all that far into town. Dumped my things, asked for an Ortsplan. Receptionist thought I was asking about internet access, so we switched to English. Once I got a map of the area, I went out walking. Glad everyone speaks English; whatever Deutsch I might have had has pretty much deserted me, especially on zero sleep.

No photos of Bismarck. After seeing Hayek’s history of the rise of collectivism, socialism and naziism, I consider a statue of Bismarch in taste as poor as the statues of Marx and Engels that remain standing in Berlin. At least the Russians pulled down the statue of Stalin!

Time was, Germany was completely dead on Sunday. Today, for example. But I did eventually come upon a flea market in the market square, with background that should convince anyone that I really did go to Germany.

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This is the Schloss. Wandered around the outdoors, but when I peered in the door of the Schloss museum, the first thing I saw was the Kasse. Not kostenlos, so I went on.

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All real buildings have scaffolds, so I guess the Schloss qualifies.

From there through some parklands, which were surprisingly dry and yellow. There’s not supposed to be a drought here, is there? Maybe there is, I wouldn’t know.

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Eventually came to a little complex, a gold dome church, a jugendstil wedding tower, and a few statues so grumpy, I can’t help wondering whether they married the wrong persons. Of course, Beethoven here may just object to being visually jammed up against that kiosk in a way that looks like styrofoam cup litter on his shoulder.

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There were pollarded London planes, very nice.

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And a Biergarten, even nicer. Didn’t stop; if I have a brew now, I’ll collapse in a snoring heap.

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On from there, I passed several high-tech academic locations, including at least one Fraunhofer Institute presence.

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Imagine the screams of outrage from the overprotective parents we have in the US?

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“I assure you that I am not as bad as my reputation.”

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Graffiti in the underpass, very well done.

Staggered back to the hotel for an obligatory nap. Met Malcolm as he was heading out to meet Stephen. Not sure I’m up to joining them later; I suspect mine will be a short evening, very close by.