Archive for the ‘World travel’ Category

A Brief Sonoma Vacation

July 4, 2017

Saturday, 1 July 2017, Sonoma and Santa Rosa

We haven’t been anywhere for a while, so the long weekend seemed like a good opportunity for a brief getaway. We have been through Santa Rosa, hiked Annadel state park some years ago, but thought it could be a base of operations for a few days.

These pictures from the view area at the north end of the Golden Gate bridge. Millions of people have taken these same pictures, but the views are still pretty classy, and we haven’t even been here for quite a while.


Rather than going directly to Santa Rosa, we spent much of the day in and around Sonoma. Definitely a tourist town, but pretty nice for all that.

Sonoma city hall, embedded in a large shady park on the edge of which we were able to park for a few hours. They were enforcing 3-hour parking restrictions today, so we moved the car later on.

A pretty town. We’re not much interested in the wine tasting routine, not least because the right amount of alcohol when we’re driving is zero. But the historical district is right here in the middle of town, easy for walking.

The mission, which is said to have been intended to be temporary. Once the natives’ souls had been saved, it was to become a parish church. Lt Vallejo was responsible for the secularization, a name we will see again, though later prefaced with the title General.

These wide overhangs are always cool and pleasant, ideal architecture for California summers.

The roof beams and stick lattice are both held in place with leather thongs. Drainpipe tiles above, and as long as it stays dry, it should last pretty much forever.

Inside the mission church. Glad we’re not religious. Imagine spending any noticeable amount of time here?

There was quite a little community here. This building was the servants’ quarters. Six of the servants were employed just making tortillas.

We decided to walk out to General Vallejo’s house, accessible to pedestrians via a rec trail, and quite pleasant.

Although this was also a private single-family dwelling, it was also a mini-community of its own. Not stupid, these people: the cookhouse was a separate building, so that the family would not be inconvenienced by the heat and smoke of food preparation.

A volunteer sold us tickets here, good for several other state park venues today as well.

The Vallejo house itself.

Even today, one could imagine living pretty comfortably here.

Well, the absence of indoor plumbing would detract from the amenities.

Not far from the main house, a guest cottage. Up the hill was another building, very small, where Napoleon Vallejo, the general’s oldest son, lived according to his preferences for isolation.

The pond between the upper and lower houses was chock full of turtles. All we had to do was stand at the edge and several would come swimming up to us, hoping to be fed. But when they got nothing, they wasted no time on us.

And then we went for a short hike in the hills. Hot and dry, but nice to get a little exercise. We came down into the local cemetery, thence back into Sonoma and the car.

Drove to Santa Rosa, where we’re staying at an airBnB. Quick and easy to get checked in, and the room is fine. We wandered out, thought we might stop at the Russian River Brewing Co. But it had a line down the block, not at all our kind of thing. We ended up at Wilibees, a liquor store with a bar. Over our brews, we talked with several very nice people there, then adjourned to El Coqui for a good Puerto Rican dinner.

Spoiled again.

Sunday, 2 July, Sonoma redwoods and coast

Up early enough to walk down and help Adel’s open up at 6. Then we drove to Guerneville and north to Armstrong Redwoods, where we’ve never been. Very nice, and because we were early, not too crowded.

We took what was essentially a flat course to the picnic area, decided to return to the car via the Pool Ridge trail, which started off as a seriously steep climb.

As we grunted up the hill, we met a millipede coming down.

I think this is the largest millipede I’ve ever seen.

With that as a trophy, we returned to Guerneville, where we wandered around for a while, had a look at the Russian River, chock ablock with swimmers and kayakers. We felt as if we weren’t getting enough fruit, so we found a grocery store and bought a bag of cherries. Great!

Then out to the coast, where we turned south on highway 1 and stopped at Shell beach. Our hiking book recommends two hikes here, one of them inland up the hills. So that’s where we started. Cool and breezy, very nice day. Fog intermittent over the ocean, sometimes completely gone, sometimes completely opaque.

We reached a local maximum, decided to call it enough and turned back. Open, dry grass, not a whole lot to see.

Back at the shore, however, there’s the other hike, the Kortum trail toward Goat rock.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether these people were daredevil rock climbers, but when I blow up the photo on the big screen, it’s clear that it wouldn’t be all that much of a challenge to get up there.

Jacky says one of the rocks here is called the Sphinx. My guess is that it would be this one.

But it might also have been this one. Jacky thinks this looks like Queen Elizabeth I, and I agree.

We drove around through Bodega Bay and Bodega town without stopping, but we did stop in Sebastopol for a quick wander about. There was a historical museum, open, and free of charge (our important criteria), so we stopped in. Turns out this area was home to a couple of the summer-of-love hippie communes. I had no idea! Cool!

As best we could tell, no one was being held here involuntarily, and no third parties were being damaged or injured. But the Powers that Be, of course, invoked building codes and bulldozers, and that was the end of that. Too bad people can never just let other people alone.

Back in Santa Rosa, we walked north this time, to Steele and Hops brewpub, where we sat outdoors and enjoyed the late afternoon.

Monday, 3 July, Annadel and Luther Burbank gardens

We had a recommendation for the Omelette Express, which opened only at 6:30. So we drove there and headed out for the day’s adventures after a big breakfast.

Today’s adventures started with Annadel state park. We parked at the foot of Cobblestone trail and hiked up the hill to Ilsanjo lake, some 700 feet of gain. The paper map doesn’t align all that well with the trails on the ground; we agreed that should be described as “based on a true story.” Glad we had GPS as a cross-check.

Cool day to start, but hot enough by the time we got there.

We hiked most of the way around the lake.

Stopped in a shady spot on the dam for munchies.

And a shot of a little bird that would have been happy to get fed (sorry, little guy!).

Down Spring Creek trail, a quite pleasant route mostly through forest, until we got into the county park at the bottom, where there was a busy swimming hole, a lake with boats, canoes, kayaks, and people, people everywhere.

Much of the rock along the trails here is clearly volcanic, but there are patches at the bottom that are bare of soil and vegetation, and unmistakably volcanic.

Back to the BnB, where we left off the car and went out again.

We take various different streets through the neighborhood, looking for interesting things. Interesting things, such as, for example, a cow?

Our primary objective was the Luther Burbank gardens. Very nice, an impressive achievement.

I recall artichokes being only waist high, or thereabouts, the these are taller than we are.

Water spilling from a fountain; what attracted me is the chaotic dynamism of the flow. Pretty impressive.

Among Burbank’s achievements: white blackberries (above) and thornless blackberries (below).

The home is often open, but not today (Montag Ruhetag).

I was delighted with the camouflage of this little fly.

I wonder whether the lotus sundial has always been in the shade, or whether the trees grew up after it was installed.

Diagonally opposite the Luther Burbank garden is a little stream, complete with a river walk rec trail.

Along the water, a black crested night heron.

At the same location, a sprayground. I unloaded all my electronics, everything that might object to getting wet, including my glasses, and challenged the spray. We see here a pretty bedraggled Dave.

Then we adjourned to the Third Street Aleworks where we sat outside in the shade and enjoyed a couple of oatmeal stouts at a very reasonable price. Finally, a visit to Paradise Sushi, where Jacky had tempura and I failed to bankrupt them with the all-you-can-eat option.

Tuesday, 4 July, Napa

We walked to Adel’s for breakfast again, left early before our hostess was up and about. Drove over the hills to Calistoga, and down highway 29, hoping to visit the Bale grist mill. But it was too early in the day, and possibly not going to be open at all today, so we went on.

We had not explicitly planned to see a 4th of July parade, but the street was closed for staging as we came into town. We left the car and wandered the town. Another pleasant tourist trap venue. Plenty of time to stroll before the parade started.

Lots of candy was being given away in one way or another.

Before the parade started, I had suggested that people should climb to the upper levels of the parking structure for better views. I guess a thousand of my best friends heard me!

I first noticed this little girl when her basket was empty. She had such a forlorn expression on her face, but quickly ran up to the car that was her support vehicle for a refill, then got back down to business.

This little guy was out collecting candy and (below) a balloon, with a little help from Dad.

By the time the horses came along, we were about ready to call it good. A seriously long parade; there was quite a bit more to come.

The most important guy in the parade! following along behind the horses.

Then a straight shot down the east shore and home. Good to be gone for a few days, very good to be home again.

The Mother Lode

July 13, 2016

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

We’re off! Also, we got started on a vacation trip to Nebraska. Go figure! (Maybe that proves that we’re off.) I just signed up with AirBnB, and our first experience will be tonight in Murphys. The software is a bit flaky, but we hope the room isn’t.


First sight to see was the wizard of Oakdale. And we know nothing more than what you see right here, so don’t ask.


The water tower from Petticoat Junction. In fact, we are at Railtown, the museum at Jamestown. We’ve been here before, but not for quite a number of years, so it’s nearly new. We aren’t much interested in train rides, especially behind today’s Diesel offering, but of course signed up for the guided tour of the roundhouse.



Of course, Shays are the most interesting Loks of all, because you can see all the gubbins doing their gubbing. Also because they are the real workhorses of rough country, grades, agility, anything you want, except speed. Max is about 15 mph, with a brave engineer. Our guide says they shed parts; whenever they take this one out for a run, they have a patrol to sweep the route afterward to collect the bits and pieces that get left behind. Great toys!




One of the guys on the tour was a volunteer at another rail museum, and was kind enough to explain the speed and reversing mechanism in terms that pretty much most of us could understand. I even mostly understood it myself.


This was another interesting artifact. It’s called a blind driver, a drive wheel without a flange. It rides between fore and aft flanged wheels, and cannot have a flange itself because it has to mediate between its neighbors on curves. I don’t think I knew about these before.


The wheels themselves are cast iron, too soft and brittle to stand up to the load, so they have tires. Above, a tire ring, a loop of gas jets that heats the tire red hot, which causes it to expand enough that it can be slipped over a cast iron base wheel. The tire can be machined down a few times as it wears, and is eventually replaced with another. Replacing a tire was a good job to complete just at quitting time, so things would be cool enough to work with come next morning.


To ferry VIPs to the Hetch Hetchy dam construction site, this White truck was turned into a rail vehicle. A couple of interesting things: behind the cowcatcher and between the leaf springs is the crank start. That must have been tricky.

The steering wheel remains in place, because the throttle and such were mounted on the steering column. So they adapted the wheel to apply the front brakes.

But most interesting of all is the square frame visible midships below the vehicle. It could be put down onto the rails. The vehicle was jacked up so that the wheels cleared the rails, and spun around to go back the other direction. A built-in turntable!


As well as bits and pieces for the Loks, they made tools here. A complete machine shop, and with overhead shaft power. Unfortunately, the buildings have shifted to be out of true, so the shafts cannot safely be run today.


Some of the pulleys are wooden laminates.


The roundhouse was round, of course, because it at least partially surrounded a turntable.


The turntable is (now) driven by compressed air.

It wasn’t so hard to turn the table, but stopping a swinging Lok required finesse as well as brute force.


I liked the little locking slider here.


These artifacts have a long and colourful history in the movies. Several of the Loks and cars are half length, which was convenient on tight mountain turns, but also in wide-angle views of trains in western movies, where pretty much no one ever notices.


Smokestack cosmetics, to make the Loks look like whatever they wanted. By the way, westerns typically show the tenders piled high with firewood, but wood hasn’t been used for two hundred years. All of these Loks burn oil, even during their stints in the movies.


The freight room; I especially like the good-sized crate containing an Underwood typewriter.

Enough! We went on to Columbia, a state historic park. Real gold rush history here, a place where the placer washes undermined the houses of the town; not a problem, houses can be rebuilt.


Popular and picturesque place.


We saw serious industrial blacksmithing this morning. Here’s the other side of the coin, the smith busy at work making ornamental horseshoes and other tourist merchandise.



Time for lunch, enough that we really weren’t hungry this evening.


A real Wells-Fargo office. Their scale was accurate enough to weigh the signature in pencil on a piece of paper.


And real horses. Not sure how much of the rest is real, but it’s a good time for all.


And panning for gold is probably a good lesson in how dirty, thankless and unprofitable most miners discovered their lives to be.

Enough! Time to go to Murphys. Parrot’s Ferry road is a good route. I had this road in mind some years ago when I took Wards Ferry road into Sonora from the south. The worst drive I ever had in my life. Steep grades, vertical on both sides, less than one lane wide in many places. Well, today was much better.




Murphys’ unique claim to fame is its E Clampus Vitus wall of comparative ovations. Sometimes humorous, but always on point.


Sir Francis Drake, above, not eligible to be a Clamper because of a tendency to piracy (an understatement), being presented with a fish by Hi-Ho the Indian.



The Lok driver, alleged to be the only teetotal Clamper, a scurrilous rumour that was found to be untrue.


And down the street is the Pourhouse (great name!), with a plaque for Michelson (think Michelson-Morley experiment) at curbside.

We went out to check in at the BnB (no breakfast; does that just make it a B?), have a nap, and mellow out. Walked back into town, enjoyed a couple of dark brews at the Pourhouse.


If we lived here, this might go far to becoming our Local.

Busy day. Good day. Good night.

Aachen und Darmstadt

January 16, 2016

Saturday 16 January 2016

I flew to Frankfurt Wednesday, arrived Thursday. It was late afternoon by the time the train arrived in Aachen. I don’t sleep well on airplanes, I have a cold, and I had no enthusiasm for going out in the cold and dark. Friday, I went in to the offices here. Come evening, I was still dead tired, and the weather was still unattractive, but I really ought to get out and get a little fresh air. So I did. Not very far, but at least out.


When I see a sign that says Pasta, I expect a restaurant. Especially if it’s near the tourist central area. No such thing, not here.


Enough to make us believe we’re really in Germany.


I overslept this morning, had to check out quickly — and the hotel’s DSL modem was down, so I had to wait while they re-synchronized it — and then scurry to the train station. The ICE train goes to Frankfurt airport, where I caught the Darmstadt airliner bus. It drops me right in front of the hotel, where I checked in about 10:15. Looked over the room info, discovered that hotel breakfast was available until 10:30, and I had not eaten anything. Easy choice!

Then I unpacked, sorted myself out a bit, walked into town. When I squoze the micro-tube of toothpaste the dentist had given me, most of what I got was an air bubble. So my excuse for going into town was to buy a tube of toothpaste to get me through the week. Whatever excuse works …


As you might imagine, there was another dog off the picture to the left. The other dog was bored and completely uninterested in being friends.


I have no idea what this was all about, but there were half a dozen (maybe more) different uniforms, each represented by a dozen or more members. I saw something like this long ago, various shooting clubs out showing off. Don’t know whether this was the same or something else entirely.

Weather deteriorated somewhat, so I headed back to the hotel. On the way, the streetcar I had noticed when I was here before.


I hardly claim to speak any Deutsch at all, but I guess I’m somewhere above absolute zero when I understand idiomatic German puns. (Schwarzfahren is to ride without paying.)

Puerto Vallarta

November 15, 2015

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Hot and sticky when I arrived in Puerto Vallarta a few minutes after 3. After checking into the hotel (seaside resort), the first thing I did was change into shorts. Then out for a stroll. Being thoroughly a tourist area, I’m not expecting a whole lot, but it wasn’t too bad. (And no, the photo below is not the hotel. It’s far fancier than that!)


There’s a marina, lined with restaurants of various types. Not likely to starve this week.


I was not expecting that sign!


Looking for crocs, but the only one I saw was bronze.


However, along the water’s edge in the marina, lots of crabs. We see some around our area, but not this many, and I think our cold-water crabs are not this colourful.


The hotel is on the beach, so I wandered down there later, and found the really, really, really best crabs.


I never would have seen these little guys at all if they hadn’t moved. Amazingly fast, they look like little puffs of lint blowing along the sand. Of course, we know they can’t possibly be little puffs of lint…


Indeed! Wow!



Tourist area. People happy to take your money for whatever you might fancy. I guess the local industry is turning sunlight into cash.


Wandered the hotel to see if there were any old friends I wanted to dine with. Didn’t see any, so I went to Mikado, a Japanese restaurant in the hotel.


Started with hot/sour shrimp soup, then a sashimi plate, then a teriyaki appetizer. (I hadn’t eaten on the plane and was pretty hungry.) About that time, my friend Marta came in, so I ordered a set of rainbow sushi to keep her company while she ordered and ate. Good conversation.

And tomorrow, we work.


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.


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!


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.



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!



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.


And a bird rock, complete with pelicans.


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.



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.


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.


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.

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.


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!


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.


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.




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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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!


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



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


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


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.


The monterey cypress forest, tinged with red algae.



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.


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.


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.




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


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.

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.


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…



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.


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 ?!


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.


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


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.



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.


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.)


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


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.


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.


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


… 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.


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.


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.


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


The view from the Rathaus.


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


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




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.



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


More wandering. Nice town; I like this.



Not yet performing, just getting ready.


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


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.


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 !


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.


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





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


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




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 !


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.


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.





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.


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.


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.






There were pollarded London planes, very nice.


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


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


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


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


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.


November 17, 2014

Monday, 17 November 2014

As always, getting from home to Stockholm was a superb approximation of sheer physical torture, but as always I made it. Very little sleep for well over 24 hours. Colleague Joel was on the same flight from Newark. It landed at 7:30, and we had a meeting at 9:30, so we took a taxi direct from the airport to Kista. Gray, cloudy day. We passed a thermometer somewhere that said +5 (degrees C, that would be), which is within 2 or 3 degrees of the day’s high and the overnight low, predicted for all week. ‘Tis okay.

Several meetings, worth while, even though I can hardly see straight. Lunch at the Kista Galleria food court with Stefan, Nick and Joel. But by 2, it was time to go off to the nearby Pressbyran, buy a week of transit pass, take the T-Bana subway to Gamla Stan (old town) and seek out my hotel. Along the Riddarsholmen waterfront, not that far.


My room. Yes, the hotel is a ship, a yacht that was once owned by Barbara Hutton. I came across it while searching for hotel reservations, and thought it would be a bit different from the usual.


The portholes look out over the water, but they are high enough that I have to stand on tiptoe to see anything but sky.


This is the last cabin in the stern, the shape of the ship clearly tapering off.


After a nap, I’m up for a walk around somewhere. I may just end up at the hotel bar… we’ll see.

Later …


I didn’t bring my real camera along this time. The iPhone camera is not up to the same standards, but it is surprisingly good, better than one would have a right to expect, given the minuscule lens and depth.


I wandered Gamla Stan looking for maybe an interesting place to eat. Lots of kebab places, but that’s what I had for lunch, and it was a big lunch. I stood looking at one menu, and decided I was not hungry. Thai restaurant for later this week, but I really am not hungry now. I have been eating too much, that’s what! But a brew would not be amiss.


Ended up at Liffey pub, where they steadfastly ignored me until I went to the bar, where I ordered a Paulaner Hefe. There was a space on the charge slip for a tip, but why?


Tried for a night picture of the Riddarsholmen Kirk on the way back. That miniscopic cell phone camera really is pretty, pretty good.


Even its flash isn’t bad.


The rest of Dublin

September 26, 2014

Friday, 19 September 2014

The serious conference meetings finished yesterday. They always reserve spillover time on Friday in case it’s needed, but even if it is, I rarely have the stamina to attend. So Jacky and I went out and walked all day. Yes, really. We do that.


We started by watching a crew install a street clock on Grafton street.


Then past Temple bar, which is a neighborhood as well as this particular pub.


Even for Ireland, that’s a lot of beer for one night for one pub! Well, maybe he’ll stop at more than one pub. You never know.


We continued upstream along the river Liffey, with the idea of eventually reaching the large park off to the west of town. Meanwhile, there were things to see, things to enjoy.


I would say what church this is, but I don’t recall. It doesn’t matter. Well, I suppose it does matter, to someone.



This seems to be Dublin’s motto: an obedient citizenry makes for a happy city. Preposterous!



From the days when instruments of death were also works of art.



A spare roller wheel? Yep! Do you suppose they go flat? It would be more than a lot of work to change one out in the field, but I suppose it would be better than walking all the way back to Dublin.




We finally reached the park, only to find that most of it is really off limits, resorts and sporting clubs and the like. The zoo is here, but about 3x as expensive as we were prepared to consider. Nice day for a walk.


On the other side of the river lies the war memorial park, a little hidden from casual discovery, but well worth seeking out. Then it was time for the walk back into the center city.



We passed the giant Guinness brewery, but didn’t stop for the guided tour. What? A whole week in Ireland and not a single pint of Guinness? Yes. Beer, yes, just not Guinness.



The museum and galleries allow photography, albeit without flash, except for a few works that are on loan from other venues and are copyrighted or otherwise restricted. Nice. I especially liked the way some of these artists captured the light. The one below is, of course, by Vermeer.


Got rained on a little, really the first rain of the week. Hardly a problem. It has been a cool, mostly cloudy week, a very welcome change from the hot, dry California weather we left behind at home.


And finally, the well hidden statue of Oscar Wilde, in a shady corner of the park, behind a wrought-iron fence. You could walk past here a hundred times and not see it, except that there is also a picture of it attached to the fence.

Near the canal, we found the Waterloo pub, where we got a table well away from the distractions and enjoyed yet another fine meal.

We enjoyed Dublin, but a week is enough. More than ready for the homeward journey tomorrow.

Out and about in Dublin

September 26, 2014

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

I had conferences to confer in, but I broke loose over the lunchtime break one day, to walk along the nearby canal toward the sea. As pretty and peaceful as anything you could imagine.







Walking out in the evening… I don’t think I bothered to check who this bronze was. Doesn’t really matter. We enjoyed the nearby pub whose entertainment was the Leeson quintet (in fine print: formerly the Leeson quartet). Nice!

Wednesday, 17 September

Jacky and I went out for dinner after the conference adjourned for the day.


Interesting to see a number of homes with boot-scrapers outside the door. Presumably the contemporary streets were paved, but full of horses. Yes, a boot scraper might have been a really good idea.


We stumbled upon Boxty, which advertised truly authentic Irish food. I ordered corned beef and cabbage, about as Irish as you could get. What I got was a crepe, stuffed with corned beef and cabbage. Turns out that’s what a Boxty is; the crepe is a potato pancake, really, and it’s even more Irish than I was expecting. Burp! Pretty good.



One way to advertise your space for rent.


September 14, 2014

Monday, 15 September 2014

We left home on Saturday and spent the usual miserable endless hours on airplanes and in airports. Arrived mid-morning in Dublin, a cool cloudy day that turned pleasant and a bit sunny later on. Taxi driver from the airport told us all about everything on the way in.

We dropped our luggage at the hotel; it was too early to get a room; and went out walking.


The beautiful park St Stephen’s green, where we’re told that some level of honoured citizenship entitles the citizen to graze his sheep. We didn’t see any grazing sheep here, but it’s certainly popular with the humans.



Then down along Grafton street, a pedestrian way, and very pleasant.



I had forgotten my camera in the left-behind luggage, had to make do with the cell phone.


When we came back an hour later, he was putting the finishing touches on the hind-quarters.


We stopped to wander through Trinity college, where is kept the book of Kells. Popular place, groups of guided tourists in all directions. We didn’t bother with the guide, just strolled for a few minutes.




Temple Bar used to be the loading area along the river, warehouses and such, but it has been rejuvenated into a largely pedestrian area of shops and restaurants.


This would be sweet Molly Malone, or as she is known irreverently here: the tart with the cart.

Back to the hotel, where we got a room and slept for a few hours — no sleep on the plane. Then out to find something to eat; we ended up at a place called Against the Grain, where they had a large number of craft beers and pub food. The barkeep recommended a port and a stout, so we had a pint of each. As to food, I tried coddle, which turns out to be overcooked mushy stew, mine with sausage and (they said) bacon. Beer and food; what more could we ask? Welcome to Ireland!

Ready for vacation

June 27, 2014

Friday, 27 June 2014

From a couple days ago… At the top of 16th is a bridge over the railroad tracks. There is a sign:


As to who might try to ride a bike on the stairs:


By Friday, I had had more than enough of conferring, I bailed out about noon. About 75% of my colleagues had already bailed, so this was nothing special.


Jacky and I wandered over to a nearby Mediterranean place for lunch, then went back to the hotel to be conscientious and do a few more work-related things. After some time, we went out strolling, through the university and eventually over to the Elitch amusement park. Just as we arrived in the vicinity, it began to rain, so we ducked under an overhang at Centennial park for a few minutes, then went on. Should have brought along jackets, but we didn’t expect more than sprinkles at most.

We thought we might find a brew along Platte street, but the only one that appealed was not yet open — that’s why it seemed quiet! Eventually we ended up at McLoughlin’s, where we found a table looking away from the TVs and watched it rain pretty hard for a while.


When the rain let off, we went on down 16th. It began to rain again just as we got to the Tattered Cover bookstore. An excuse, as if we needed one. They mix new and used books, which is nice. What I especially liked is their machine that allows self-publication!


Having once again outlasted the rain, we continued along the mall.


What’s a puddle good for, if not splashing around?

We noticed a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant off on the side street, the kind of place where you load up a bowl with some of everything and they cook it up on a grill. Jacky had chicken from the menu, and we neither of us starved. All this hard work, and now we begin vacation!


June 22, 2014

Sunday, 22 June 2014

On the 7:30 flight to Denver, arrived about 11. My boss was on the same plane; we shared the ride into the city, checked in at the Embassy Suites. Pretty nice room, expensive, but all of the hotels here are expensive.

I would like to get one of these baseball caps with a burnoose shroud that protects cheeks and neck, so I asked my smartphone if there was a nearby REI. Yes, it was a mile or so north-ish on 15th street. An excuse (if I needed one) to go out for a walk.


Not a bad city. Fair number of people out, restaurants, pubs, some worthwhile architecture.



REI is just north of the S Platte river at Confluence park, where Denver started out, some number of years ago.


Pretty classy park, lots of people (and dogs) enjoying the day, enjoying the water.


Shortly there will be some new art overlooking the scene.


REI occupies this old warehouse, three stories, mostly open space. In comparison to the REI stores I have visited before, it’s enormous. Pleasant young woman steered me toward the triathlon department, where such caps would be, if they had any in stock. She thought they might be out of stock, and they were indeed.


The REI building shares part of its space with a Starbucks, busy with all kinds of folks, but especially cyclists. There is a riverside bikeway that goes on much further than I cared to explore. There is a big amusement park here, enormous swing, waterslide, at least three rollers coaster and who knows what else. The riverfront used to be industrial dump, broken pavement, discarded railroad ties, abandoned vehicles, and such, with warehouses on the streets. Now it’s mostly parkland, and the warehouses have  become upscale loft apartments.


Back in the city, I walked along 16th street, a mall whose vehicle traffic is restricted to bicycles and shuttle buses.


Bicycles of all kinds.


One block had several chessboards set up, a couple of which were in use.


Pedicab entrepeneurs.


Each of four or five blocks had a piano, most of which were in use. The talent ranged from minimal to not bad.


But I eventually drifted to the end of 16th and around to what its posters proclaim to be a Pride festival. I had been noticing various forms of weird costume and make-up, and here’s where it all centered. I have no idea how to estimate the size of crowds, but I would be greatly surprised if there were fewer than 10 000 people here. Loud, crowded, but mellow. The smell of smoke was definitely not that of tobacco.


Back to the hotel just as a few sprinks started. Got on the web and ordered a couple of burnoose sun hats for store pick-up at the end of the week.

Bad day on CalTrain !

March 13, 2014

I took CalTrain to San Francisco today. From San Bruno, near the airport, the train was supposed to go direct to SF. We started off, as expected, but the train stopped at the next station, Bayshore.

Curious. After a while, a lot of people came walking through the aisle. After a further while, the crew came onto the PA system and explained that there was a stuck brake (that’s what was causing the smell: but not in the car I was in). They eventually cut loose the whole car – explaining why the people were relocating – and moved on. Slowly, per standard operating procedure.

Sounded ok, it wouldn’t be that much of a delay. We went through a tunnel, and stopped again. The driver came on the PA: “Some idiot is walking through the tunnel. We have trains stopped at each end, waiting for him to get through, and we hope the San Francisco police will be here to pick him up.”

Foof! What a hassle! Eventually, we did start rolling again. Didn’t see any police, but maybe the idiot du jour was walking the other direction. What else could possibly go wrong?

Funny you should ask. Three minutes later, we stop again. The driver comes on the PA: “We just hit a car.”

From my second deck seat in the third car back, I had a ringside view of any number of fire engines arriving, police redirecting all the traffic, an EMT crew unloading a stretcher, then later re-loading it empty, a CalTrain truck arriving to inspect for damage, a tow truck arriving. Similar collection of vehicles on the other side, only a little of which could I see.

Eventually, the sheriff released the train to back up off the car, CalTrain inspected the track, and … dare we hope?

We actually made it to SF, about an hour and a quarter later than expected. Getting off the train, I turned to look at the cab car, which of course showed no sign of damage whatever.

It’s always an adventure, isn’t it! Official story

Stockholm, Thursday

November 7, 2013

 Thursday, 7 November 2013

Today I went to Kista, where I presented basically the same material twice to two different audiences. There is a true raft of people here from San Jose; probably one of the reasons I’m unlikely to get an upgrade on tomorrow’s flight home.

Olle invited me for a walk around the area at noon. Swedish law allows overnight camping on private property, but caravans from eastern Europe have taken to extended stays, leaving trash (and worse!) on the property, both public and private. So there is a sudden boom in the market for concrete barricades and gates with low overhangs. Too bad the slobs ruin it for everyone else!

Finished my work around mid-afternoon. Took the train back into town, got off at Rådhuset. I can never remember which is the Rådhuset and which is the Stadshuset, where the Nobel dinners are held. It’s the Stadshuset, but they are so close that it would be the same subway stop anyway.




View from behind the Stadshuset across the water to the old Munich brewery conference centre, where we were yesterday.

Wandered around enjoying yet another little corner of Stockholm that I have not seen for a while, then back to the hotel. Not yet 4, and the sun is down. Time for a nap.


Because I skipped lunch, I was hungry. Greek, maybe? Lebanese? I don’t recall having seen such things, but if I wander, maybe I’ll find something. And I did. Kebabs, order at the counter, shawarma and such. Well, maybe. As I stood there looking in the window, the chef began picking his teeth. Without a toothpick. Well, maybe not.

Eventually ended up wandering out Birger Jarlsgatan. Just before Citizen Jarl gives up on city and turns a bit suburban, I found a Korean barbeque place. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I bet I’ll go away happy. And I did. Falcon dark Bavarian beer: darker than the usual Swedish, but I don’t think a Bayer would claim it. My stir-fry duck was marked spicy on the menu, and it was, after I added Jam from the little pot at the table. Hmmmm!

Tomorrow, home. It’s been fun.

Stockholm, Tuesday

November 5, 2013

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

It was raining when I woke up (late: 7:30) this morning, so I spent some time in the hotel, until it stopped and became a rather pleasant mostly cloudy day. Went out for a walk, in the general direction of Skansen.


Very nice, the coolth and colour of autumn.


As elegant as any city in the world, Probably about as pricey, too, for the people who live in places like this.


This is the nordic museum, where they wanted SEK100, which is more than I wanted to pay. (I also checked out the Wasa museum, a terrific place, but not for SEK130!).


More really classy places around, most of them now parks or museums.


The view back toward the city.


Stopped back at the hotel, where I sat in the lobby (free internet access: in the room, they charge SEK100 per hour, which is truly horrifying, especially since every crummy roadside motel in the world offers free internet access). Had a Paulaner Hefeweizen, but when I had to leave, there was no bartender. Well, maybe I can pay later.

Took the T-Bana (subway) to Kista, where there was a reception. I figure that’s dinner tonight. As the host said, there is no free lunch: the assignment was to network with the assembled luminaries, and make at least five new acquaintances. For the world’s most introverted person, that’s a pretty extreme challenge.

I interpreted this as a mandate not to leave as soon as I had eaten, to stay the course. And I actually did meet a few new people, had some good conversations. Mostly due to my colleagues, admittedly, but it’s the results that count.

Back by subway, accompanied by one of the colleagues that I already knew. Into the hotel bar, for another Hefeweizen and the opportunity to pay for both of them.

Tomorrow, real work. Well…. yes. Real work.