Tag Archives: travel

Belated year end summary for 2017

According to LibraryThing, I read 22 books.  I probably started another 20 but I don’t count them if I don’t get past 100 pages.  The two highest rated books were non-fiction, Eight Flavors and The Woman Who Smashed Codes.  The highest rated fiction were The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles and Penric’s Fox by Bujold (novella).  The biggest disappointments (other than DNFs) were Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs (I think I’m done with her books entirely) and Prisoner of Limnos by Bujold (part of the Penric series).

Theater and film:

  • King Charles III
  • The Select: The Sun Also Rises
  • Macbeth
  • School for Lies
  • Hidden Figures
  • Wonder Woman
  • Atomic Blonde
  • Marshall
  • A Bad Moms Christmas
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Travel

  • Houston
  • Pittsburgh
  • Beach
  • Portugal – Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto
  • Las Vegas

NWHL

  • February 4 – Beauts at Rivs, W
  • February 12 – NWHL All Star Game (Steadman vs Kessel, Steadman won)
  • March 12 – Pride at Rivs, W
  • March 17 – Beauts at Rivs – Isobel Cup Playoffs (Beauts won)
  • December 3 – Whale at Rivs, W
  • December 10 – Beauts at Rivs, W

NHL

  • January 3 – Leafs at Capitals, 6-5 Caps in OT
  • January 11 – Penguins at Capitals, L2-5, saw Oveckin’s 1000th point 😦
  • February 14 – Canucks at Penguins, W4-0
  • March 6 – Stars @ Caps, Stars 4-2
  • March 16 – Predators at Capitals, Preds 2-1 OT
  • March 24 – NYI at Penguins, L3-4 in SO
  • March 26 –  Flyers at Penguins, L6-2
  • April 14 – ECQF, G2, CBJ at Penguins, W4-1
  • April 27 – ECSF, G1, Penguins at Capitals, W3-2
  • May 1 – ECSF, G3, Capitals at Penguins, L3-2 in OT (ugly hit by Niskanen, amazing comeback down 0-2 in the last 3 minutes)
  • May 13 – ECF, G1, Senators at Penguins, L2-1 in OT
  • May 31 – Stanley Cup Finals, G2, Predators at Penguins, W4-1
  • October 11 – Penguins at Capitals, W3-2
  • October 17 – Leafs at Capitals, 2-0 Leafs
  • December 4 – Sharks at Capitals, L4-1
  • December 12 – Carolina at VGK, Carolina won in SO – Flower’s first game back!
  • December 14 – Penguins at VGK, L1-2, all about the goalies
  • December 23 – Ducks at Penguins, L4-0 (this was a hot mess of a game; Letang got booed because he was the biggest part of the mess)

For baseball, I know I went to at least two Orioles games, one vs NYY and one vs DET, but I cannot find the ticket stubs.

Museums and cultural events…the Walters, the Heinz, National Museum of the American Indian, and a bunch in Portugal.  Which I need to write about.  Two Frank Turner shows.

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Note to self

Next time, permit more time for wine tasting. Two port caves per day is really my limit, but there are so many, and I won’t have time to try them all. 😍

Also: this fascinated me. Up close, it’s a bunch of mangled car parts stuck on the corner of a building for no apparent reason. A few yards away, it is clearly an Art Installation…maybe one with a message I don’t really get. But still, it’s ingenious.


And then there is this installation across from a hipster-y coffee place. Those are car tires sticking out of or affixed to the building.


(Where I had a pastry and a latte. Yum.)

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September things

According to LibraryThing, September was my best reading month this year — five books! It feels like an accomplishment, when in my reading heyday I read five books or more a week.  Still, it’s an improvement.

~~~

I spent the last two weeks in Toronto, visiting museums, walking all over, and watching All the Hockey.  Literally, I attended sixteen World Cup of Hockey games in 13 days.  Twelve of those games were crammed into six days.  Some of them are a blur, but for some really specific plays, like Nathan MacKinnon’s OT goal; Crosby’s highway robbery of Kucherov and backhand goal; a shift by Malkin behind the net in which he seemed to have the puck on a string; McDavid to Eichel to Matthews; etc.

Non-hockey highlights:

  • the Chihuly exhibit at ROM – I could have happily plopped myself down on one of the beanbag things and stared at ‘Persians’ for hours
  • steamed pork buns at Mashion Bakery, which I found by chance, lured in by the amazing smell despite the sort of sketchy block and very plain exterior
  • people-watching at the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday morning (I chatted with a lovely lady visiting from New Jersey with her church group)
  • Stonemill Bakery’s double almond croissant
  • the Seville orange marzipan pinch at Soma Chocolate
  • my charming seat mates, the family from Woodstock and the dudes in from Banff, and the usher whose predictions were seldom accurate but always entertaining
  • everything about the Bata Shoe Museum and the Gardiner Museum (ceramics)
  • the display of antique snuff bottles at AGO

 

Other observations:  The building going on downtown is striking — there’s so much of it and it’s so beautiful.  I stayed in the St. Lawrence/Distillery neighborhood and walked pretty much everywhere, as far as Spadina and Little Italy.  Lots of green spaces, friendly people.  I noticed a lot of smokers everywhere, almost as much as in Paris, which surprised me.  And the odor of pot was especially prevalent around ACC.

And my streak continues.  Once again in a foreign country (or in any city I’m visiting, even in the US), I was asked for directions.  On multiple occasions.  I do not understand it.  I mean, I was able to answer because they were asking for a specific landmark or street that I knew, but what about my face or posture says, “Hey, she knows where you need to go?”  Because, seriously, I have a horrendous sense of direction.

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Observations from Indian Wells Tennis Garden

 

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The view from the parking lot at IWTG.  Literally.

It has been a few years (3 maybe?) since I’ve gone to the tournament at Indian Wells.  Skipped because moving, then for Paris, and then because I had hockey tickets for a back to back that weekend.  So I missed all of the development that has gone on.  And there has been a lot, thank you, Larry Ellison.

First, Stadium 2 with its restaurants – Nobu, a steak/chops place, and an Italian/brick oven pizza place.  Each morning over the weekend, there would be a line of people to get in, because the seats are all good and the line up was excellent.  [Rafa Nadal and Fernando Verdasco played the Bryan brothers Saturday evening, and you can be sure that people staked out seats WAY earlier that the “no earlier than” start time.  Monfils, Mugaruza, a bunch of other good matches played there.]

Second, the Brita water filter stations at the base of both stadiums – best thing ever, far better than the limited water fountains I’ve seen elsewhere.

Third, the sheer volume of vendors is crazy.  Last time I was there, there was a big awning with a Corona sponsored bar.  Gone is Corona; now Moet et Chandon is in that spot.  Of course, there’s a different beer tent, and a RumChata tent, etc.  And the food vendors are better than average.  Ice cream, iced lattes, deli, seafood, CaliMex, salads, it seemed like you could find anything you wanted.  [Except maybe a ladies t-shirt in a size larger than XS or S.]

Actually, IWTG is the only sporting venue I’ve ever been to where the lines out the men’s bathroom are longer than the lines out the ladies’ bathroom door.  Uniformly.  More often than not, there was no line for the ladies at all.  I don’t know if it’s because the tournament designed the buildings with more stalls for the ladies or what, but I was totally impressed.

I saw some random matches, just because.  This time around, I went out of my way to see Inigo Cervantes, a Spanish player who was completely schooled by Raonic, just because I loved his name.  And Bjorn Fratangelo, who took a set from Djokovic.  Plus Venus and Serena and Andy and Rafa.  So glad to see Juan Martin del Potro back, even if he looked a little rusty against Berdych.

Also, because I’m a dork, I was thrilled that I got to use a line from one of my favorite TV shows ever:  “It’s raining in Indian Wells.”  It did! Followed by a dust storm.

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Huddled on the upper deck of Stadium 1, waiting for the rain and wind to stop so the Venus Williams – Kurumi Nara match could resume.

Actually, the dust was more noticeable than in the past because the wind was so high the whole time.  In fact, it was so cold and windy on Sunday after the first night match that pretty much everyone left…so the scattered fans up in the Loge were invited down courtside to watch Halep’s match, which I appreciated.  Driving back that night, I was confused by the haze in the distance that I could see off other drivers’ headlights; it wasn’t until I hit the highway and saw the dust/sand drifting that I realized what it was.

ETA: Anecdotally, the sentiment among fans there regarding Maria Sharapova’s drug ban/violation seemed *much* less forgiving or lenient than what I’ve seen on social media from fans, sponsors, etc. In short, most people seemed really skeptical about extended use of meldonium for a variety of reasons and not particularly sympathetic.  Sorry she’ll be out of the game for some period of time, but not like she deserved a pass for failing the drug test.

ETA #2:  on the tennis kits.  Rafa’s kit looks less turquoise in person than on TV, almost like a baby blue with a hint of grey.  The outfit Bouchard had was weird – the colors were fine but it looked like a babydoll nightie…or a maternity shirt. Serena looked amazing. When did Berdych leave H&M for Adidas? (Whenever it was, it was not soon enough.)  That fluorescent Adidas shirt the men are wearing was tolerable when paired with brown/khaki shorts but awful when worn with red shorts.  The ladies’ version with darker colors that Halep is wearing is not terrible.  

Some less tennis-oriented observations:

  • The price of gas at stations along I-10 covered a span from $2.23 to $2.89, with the highest being more than $1 more than it is where I live and the lowest still being $0.50 more. Is that all state tax?  Ouch, especially given how poor public transportation seems to be locally.
  • I meant to stop at In n Out since some people I know have raved about their burgers. But the only ones I saw were off the highway, at hours when either they weren’t open or I wasn’t hungry.  Next time.
  • The bright green and clearly foreign species of grass cultivated for golf courses and high dollar neighborhoods looks really alien. And confusing, given the long term drought; how is watering lawns a priority?  I passed a billboard that read “Dejalo ir. El marron es el nuevo negro.” [Let it go. Brown is the new black.] Accompanied by a graphic of grass fading from green to brown.  Nice 🙂
  • The longer I live downtown in a city where good and sketchy neighborhoods commingle, the more confusing I find negotiating suburbia to be when I visit.  The number of gated communities was perplexing.
  • Pecan pie from Exquisite Desserts for Pi Day. Yum!
  • Oh, I forgot that See’s stores are a thing in the west.  I did not need to remember. See’s is dangerous for me.

 

 

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Apparently I’m all about the food

The Biochemist and The Chemist came to visit over the holidays, which was lovely.  I always appreciate the opportunity to cling and be ridiculous.  While we were plotting out what we wanted to do on different days, we wound up arranging things entirely by which restaurants we wanted to try to revisit (important info: Petit Louis is *always* on the itinerary).  Which, uh, we don’t really do that, do we?

Except I was planning a weekend roadtrip for March and realized that I was doing exactly the same thing.  This event is at this hour in this location, which restaurants are nearby that my colleague from that town recommended.

So apparently *I* do that.  And I’m all about the food when traveling.

~~~

Unrelated, I had begun to tentatively plan a trip to Istanbul for this year.  A friend went last year and came back with wonderful tales and then handed me his guidebook.  Well, twist my arm.  It was on my bucket list, after all.  I’d read a bunch of security/travel blogs and checked out the State Dept warnings site but was feeling generally okay about visiting.  Today’s news of a suicide bomber in one of Istanbul’s tourist areas is making me hesitate.  It feels wimpy to say that but…I’m not sure what to do right now.  Maybe sleep on it and do more research.

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Post-Turkey Day SBD

It’s been a while.  Maybe the longest I’ve gone between posting since I first started blogging way back in 2005.  (I had to go look that up. Now I feel positively decrepit in internet years.)  There was some crappy stuff going on in the romance field that piled onto my general ennui with respect to fiction; it seemed easier to just not post at all.  I wouldn’t say that I’ve got my reading or blogging mojo back, but I actually felt the urge to write about books today so…

October reading?  There may have been some but I can’t recall.  November was mostly ~meh~ too until the holiday weekend when I finished two books.

First, I read As You Wish, Cary Elwes’s memoir of the filming of The Princess Bride.  I love that movie and will watch it whenever I see it on cable.  I used to have a VHS copy but it is long gone.  Over the holiday weekend, we (The Biochemist, The Chemist, and I) settled down in the den/TV room to watch it but found that we couldn’t – VHS copy only but no player, and it wasn’t streaming for free.  Anyway, As You Wish isn’t particularly brilliant in terms of narrative, but it gave a peak into the filming process and also Goldman’s feelings about the book and the option/screenplay’s troubled history before Rob Reiner talked Goldman into giving him the rights.

Second, Ben Aaronovitch’s Foxglove Summer — book five of the Rivers of London/Peter Grant series.  I have immediate gratification issues, so I ordered a copy from Amazon UK.  I really like Peter’s voice and Aaronovitch’s style, but dear godlings was the copy editing bad in this book.  Dropped or missed punctuation all over the place, relationships changing back and forth (grandfather then father then grandfather again), etc.  I probably need to do a little poking around the author’s website to see if there is a defined arc or series length; it might help me reconcile where this book fits.  It felt pretty disjointed relative to earlier installments.

On the plus side, readers learn a bit about The Nightingale and Ettersberg, and to see magic outside of London.  (I actually like the London-based stuff better, in terms of the history, but I’m assuming this is another perspective on the whole “magic really wasn’t dying” thing that has been mentioned in earlier books.)

A couple of my favorite passages:

‘So ghosts and magic are real?’ he said.

I’d had that question enough times to have an answer ready. ‘There are things that fall outside the parameters of normal policing,’ I said. I find you get two types of police, those that don’t want to know and those that do. Unfortunately, dealing with things you don’t want to know about is practically a definition of policing.

‘So “yes”,’ said Dominic.

‘There’s weird shit,’ I said. ‘And we deal with the weird shit, but normally it turns out that there’s a perfectly rational explanation.’  Which is often that a wizard did it.  (page 35)

 

‘Why does everyone call him the Nightingale?’ I asked.

‘Because he was so singular, so extraordinary – or so the seniors said.  Of course most of us didn’t believe a word of it, but we used it as a nickname – irony, or so we thought.’

He was looking in my direction, but his gaze was somewhere back in time to his young self.  My dad does the same thing when he talks about seeing Freddie Hubbard with Tubby Hayes at the Bull’s Head in 1965 or being at Ronnie Scott’s and hearing Sonny Rollins solo live for the first time.

There were so many questions I wanted answered, but I began to fear that he was drifting off — or worse.

‘You should have seen him at Ettersberg,’ he said softly. ‘It was like standing before the walls of Troy.  Aias d’amphi Menoitiadei sakos euru kalupsas hestekei hos tis te leon peri hoisi tekessin, but Ajax covered the son of Menoitios with his broad shield and stood fast, like a lion over its children.’  (page136; diacritical marks missing due to my inability to add them.)

There’s a third quote that I like best but it is a serious spoiler for book four so I’ve left it out.

Unrelated:  Chicago was lovely for the holiday, if a little chilly on Thursday.  The Chemist made a turdork (duck stuffed with turkey breast and chorizo) that was delicious.  He also made a salted caramel chocolate cake (crushed animal cracker base with inches of ganache, basically) for dessert.  (And breakfast the next day – cake for breakfast is a valid life choice, okay.)  It was lick-the-plate good, and I’ve asked for the recipe.   Lunch at Revolution Brewery one day, AHL hockey on Saturday followed by amazing pumpkin gnocchi at Letizia Fiore, and lots of couch potato-ing for the NCAA, NHL, and NFL.  The only bad part was the trip home — delayed 2 hours for lack of flight crew and then with a dog on the flight that barked for a solid hour.

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Travel afterthoughts

I don’t think these are really original points or tips but here are things that I found to be very helpful or useful to have or know while traveling:

1.  Even in spring or early summer, a raincoat is a Must Have; a liner that you can zip in or out is even better.  An umbrella that folds down into the size of a fist is also a Must Have.

2.  Hat and scarf.  It seems like basic common sense, but I can’t tell you how many people I saw with sunburnt faces, wearing newly purchased hats, in Monaco and in Nice.  Although I should add that my internal thermostat may be out of whack: even as people sunbathed on the beach in Nice, I was bundled up in a jacket, scarf, and hat.  When the wind picked up and blew my hat off, I wrapped the scarf around my head. 

3.  Guidebooks — I’ve mentioned before that there are features in different series that I like.  In particular, I like Eyewitness Travel’s laminated, detachable street map.  I didn’t carry the guidebook around, but I did carry the map.  And since it was pretty wet for much of my wandering around Paris, I was glad it never got soggy.  And it came in handy when other tourists asked me for directions.  (I must look really approachable, because I get asked for directions all the time. It happens on every vacation and when I’m at home.  Poor lost people have no idea that I’m a terrible navigator with absolutely no sense of direction, and have to follow maps extremely closely.)

4.   Moleskin travel notebook.  They do small notebooks for certain cities — I’ve used them for London, Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris now, and I’ve seen them for Rome, Milan, and Prague also.  A street map and index is included in the front, just for downtown, which is helpful, and its got conversion tables and space for notes and addresses and planning, along with a little pocket in the back for receipts and the like.  Even though smartphones all have note-taking apps, I like to take notes in the notebook instead.  It’s pretty handy for keeping track of expenses and itineraries and checklists, I found. 

5.  Adapter plugs,USB cords, and internet access.  I used to carry a converter, too, but seldom used it.  Pretty much all the electronics you might carry on vacation – phone, table, laptop – don’t need a converter anyway, just the adaptor.  You can buy a set of adaptors relatively cheaply online, with four or five adapters based on region;  I bought mine years ago at an LLBean outlet.  USB cords…well, in the past, I had to have one cord for my  tablet and one for my iPhone, but converting to an Android phone reduced the number of cords need to one for this trip.  Don’t forget to turn off roaming on your phone; otherwise you can receive a nasty shock in your next wireless bill.  AT&T (my carrier, for better or worse) has a reasonable international roaming plan for internet, texting, and phone.  The texting and phone were worth it, since I used them both.  The internet?  Well, I signed up for it in case I needed it in an emergency, but since wireless access was provided with my lodgings and is available at most cafes and restaurants, it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

6.  Checking in at Charles de Gaulle.  The airline recommended arriving three hours before the flight’s departure time, which I kind of rolled my eyes at.  But between the line to check luggage at the front of the terminal and the trek to the gate and then the security check outside the gate, it took more than 2 1/2 hours; boarding had already begun by the time I got there.   Also, if you are catching a connecting flight at CDG, I’d recommend double-checking terminal assignments and transportation between terminals; getting from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2F took more than an hour between luggage pick up, walking, tram ride, and walking more; that’s before checking in again at the terminal and going through security again. 

7.  Foreign currency.  I don’t carry travelers checks but usually purchase some currency through my bank, and then use my bankcard once I’m traveling; check to see if the bank or your credit card company has a better fee scheme for international charges or usage in advance.  (One had a much lower per usage charge for me, so I used that one rather than the other.)  If you order currency in advance, specify that your order include a portion of small bills and coins.  At train stations (and elsewhere but it was most noticeably a problem for tourists at train stations), the self-service kiosks will take either small bills, coins, or chip and pin cards; most American cards do not work at them, so if you don’t have smaller change, you’ll have to wait in what could be a long line to buy or retrieve your train tickets.  Some train stations may have money changers but most did not seem to when I looked around for them.

8.  Bus and train.  I think many Americans are unaccustomed to bus and train travel.  Mostly we drive or fly, in part because our train network is not great once you are away from the coasts.  Or even just away from the northeast corridor.  But both bus and train travel in Europe generally are much better and more common, I think, with more options that make driving less necessary.  There are still places where renting a car is a more useful alternative, but I think Paris is not one of them.  And a lot of Provence can be seen via train or bus, as well.

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