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Sean's Blog

From Haven to Home

In our last episode, I had spent Sept. 1 biking down to New Haven, CT. After getting there, I checked into my lodging, showered, and put on non-bike clothes. I walked a few blocks to get dinner, and the place I stopped was really good: Mamoun’s Falafel. I had a falafel sandwich and a glass of mango juice.

The next morning, I went out to get breakfast, and as I was walking down the street, someone asked me if I was going to be in “the race”. I said “No”, not really sure what race that was, but I soon found that a number of streets were blocked off, and soon I saw some runners come by, so apparently there was a Labor Day road race going on.

After breakfast (which was a mini-quiche and a turnover at a coffeehouse), I put on cycling clothes, packed up my stuff, and started heading back north. I should mention that, earlier this year, I received a pair of large, waterproof pannier bags as a birthday present, and I was using them as my luggage for the trip. This was particularly important for the return trip, as there was a good chance of rain predicted for the afternoon.

Rather than wend my way back to the Yale campus on various one-way streets, I took a more direct route north that converged with the trail. After about a mile I was able to go a very short distance on a side street to get on the trail, and I headed north into Hamden. I stopped to photograph this mural on the side of a building (click to view larger photo):

Mural on the side of a building, depicting nine women of different ages, races, and ethnicities, each holding a burning torch aloft in one hand.
Mural on the side of a building, depicting five women of different ages, races, and ethnicities, each holding a burning torch aloft in one hand.

Heading on, in Hamden I passed under the Wilbur Cross Parkway, and eventually back up to Cheshire (where I stopped briefly by the scummy pond again). And then on to Southington. I passed by these butterfly shaped benches:

Iron benches shaped like butterflies, on a grassy area by paved recreation trail, with bushes and trees to the side.
Frontal view of a bench shaped like a butterfly, in front of some bushes.

And soon after those, there were a whole series of murals, one after another:

Mural on the siding of a building, depicting a blue sky and a hovering watering can, which is watering several flowers that look very different from each other.
Mural depicting eight joined train cars, with different items in each car.  The last one is carrying large letters spelling the name Ben.
Mural on the side of an industrial building, depicting the words "Rails to Trails", with painted trees between the words, and painted vines winding around the letters.
Mural on the side of a building, depicting a stormy sky and tornado, with various graffiti-style names.
Mural on a building depicting an old-style train depot, with a couple of waiting passengers, a dog, and an arriving steam train.
Mural on the side of a building, depicting different types of trail users (3 cyclists, a jogger, and a rollerblader).  There is some landscaping at the base of the wall.
Mural on the side of a building, depicting different types of trail users, including a child walking with a dog and balloon, an adult walking with a dog, a child on a bike with training wheels, and a skateboarder.

After heading through most of Southington, the trail came to an end, I rode on Routes 10 and 177 up through Plainville. I then got back on the trail and wheeled into Farmington just as a slight sprinkle of rain started. It was not enough to be bothersome, and the sprinkle came and went as I followed the Farmington Canal trail through the rest of Farmington and into the town of Avon. I stopped for lunch at a cafe in Avon, and it was good timing, as it rained in earnest while I was inside eating. That rain had stopped by the time I left and got back on the bike.

I continued to have reasonably dry conditions as I headed into, and through most of, Simsbury. However, in the northern part of the town, it started to rain steadily, and so I got out my rain jacket and rain pants, as well as changed my shoes into a pair that can be worn in water. I made the change under a tree that provided good rain cover, and then, sealing up the panniers again, I headed out into the rain. It rained consistently for the rest of the time I was in Connecticut, and was raining pretty hard when I crossed back into Southwick, Massachusetts. The first mile or two in Southwick is a nature preserve, and I saw a number of frogs and toads on the path, some which jumped out of the way as I came by, and others which sat stoically in the rain.

Halfway through that town, the rain let up, and soon after that the sun came out. It had rained for about 90 minutes. I changed my shoes back to ones that were a little better for pedaling, and then continued into Westfield. I kept the rain outfit on so that it could dry out as I rode, but I did unzip the jacket.

After reaching the northern end of the trail, I went through the rest of Westfield and back into Holyoke on Route 202. The total distance for that day was 73 miles – so about 150 for the whole trip.

Next: a short ride exploring more non-roads

Posted by seaking on 09-27-2019 at 11:09 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Biking, Travel with 0 Comments

Conn. Trails

[Note: the donations to the Food Bank reached my goal yesterday! Thanks to everyone who has contributed, and people are still welcome to give.]

On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I set out for a 2-day bike trip to New Haven and back. This is a trip that I’ve been wanting to make for years, primarily because one can ride on paved recreation trails almost all the way. Information on those trails, by the way, can be found here.

There is not a trail running through Holyoke, so I began by heading over into Westfield, making my way down through downtown until I got to the actual trail beginning at Route 20/Main St. From there, I headed straight south, passing all the way through Southwick and then into Connecticut.

I had traveled the Farmington Canal trail partway through CT a few times before, and so it was familiar to me up to a point. I rode through the towns of Suffield, East Granby, Granby, and part of Simsbury just as I had in the past, in this case stopping for lunch in Simsbury. After lunch, I deviated from that trail to follow the Farmington River Trail, which runs in a long arc to the west, and then comes back to the Canal trail much further south. This was uncharted territory.

The Farmington River trail is also unpaved territory, at least for the first several miles. I rode the dirt trail for a little ways and came to a park, which had this covered bridge (click on photos to enlarge):

Red, wooden, covered bridge over a small stream, with trees and picnic areas on the other side.

Here’s the view from the bridge into a little pond made by the stream:

Pond with picnic tables and people on either side.  There are trees around the far end.

I continued from here and the trail alternated between some dirt sections and some sections that were quiet roads. When I’d gone pretty far west, the trail dumped onto some slightly busier roads for a while, as it headed south and a bit more west. Finally, actual trail started up again, paved this time. Soon after that I reached the Farmington River itself.

View of river with some people in boats or on paddleboards, with a grassy area in the foreground and trees in the background.

The river is pretty wide there, and a number of people were out on it.

View looking upriver, with people on boats in the distance, trees on the banks to each side, and some tree branches in the top foreground.

As were some ducks.

Duck in the water, swimming toward the left.

The trail follows the river south from there, and then southeast. Toward the end of the River Trail, it passes through a tunnel under a road, and the tunnel is decorated with murals:

Mural of a flowering bush as well as painted stones on the concrete wall of a bike tunnel entrance.
Mural of a deer and small cityscape, as well as painted stones on the concrete wall of a bike tunnel entrance.

Within a mile or two after this tunnel, the Farmington River trail ended and deposited me back on the Farmington Canal trail in the town of Farmington. I continued south, and passed through an office park in the south part of that town. There I saw this business:

Business sign reading "Trumpf" with bushes and other landscaping around it.

I wondered if this company might have anything to do with that person in the White House. Their web site does not give any clues, but maybe the firm was founded by a distant relative?

Just after the office park, the trail entered the town of Plainville, and then ended. I knew about this in advance from looking at maps, but there is a gap in the trail at this point. I had to go on roads for a little while. I rode on Route 177 down to the Southington town line, and then had to get on Route 10, which is pretty busy (including passing an interchange with I-84).

Along 10, I saw this place:

Beige building with signs near the top saying "SmashBurger" and "203-Urgent Care".  Multiple cars in the parking lot.

I worry a bit about the need for urgent care at a burger place…

Shortly I was able to head off on a side street and get on the trail again. I rode it through the rest of Southington, then into the town of Cheshire. In a wooded part of Cheshire, there is a little observation deck off the side of the trail, where one can view a very scum-covered pond:

Pond covered with green algae, with trees in background.
Another view of pond covered with green algae, with trees in background.

There were a bunch of ducks there, who seemed to like the water fine – they swam through the scum with nary a care.

After Cheshire, the trail passed through Hamden, and then finally into New Haven. It ends in the middle of the Yale University campus, so I left it and rode on a few city streets to the place I was staying the night. My total riding for the day was 78 miles.

Next: part 2 of the journey

Posted by seaking on 09-27-2019 at 07:09 am
Posted in Biking, Travel with 0 Comments

Traversing Massachusetts, Bicycling Gaily

I not only went on a bike trip for my birthday this year, I also went on another, longer one over Labor Day weekend.  I had already been thinking about doing a ride that weekend when it was announced that They Might Be Giants were going to be playing at a festival in the town of Newburyport, MA.  It seemed like going to see that concert would be a great plan, so that’s what I set out to do.

The trip was 4 days long.  Newburyport is in the northeastern corner of the state, about 125 miles from Holyoke, so it was too far for me to bike in one day.  The festival was scheduled to run all afternoon on that Saturday, with TMBG going on stage at 5:00pm.  I needed to cover most of the distance on the Friday, and then could just cover the last quarter of it on Saturday, getting to town in the early afternoon.

I headed out on that Friday morning around 9:30, traveling along US 202 to Belchertown.  I was technically riding on 202 North, but that section of it travels much more east than north.  Once in Belchertown center, I picked up route 9 and rode east into Ware.

On the way to ware, I stopped off at the Quabbin Reservoir, as I often have before.  Here’s what the water looked like that day:

(click on pictures to see larger versions)

In the area of mowed grass to the left of that photo, I saw what appeared to be a dog or coyote:

It was not moving at all.  It seemed to be a statue or a taxidermied animal.  I suspect that it’s there to try and scare off geese from that area.

I’m not sure how well this works, as I then rode across the Winsor Dam, and in another grassy area below the dam, I saw a flock of geese at rest, with another coyote statue a few dozen feet away from them.  They did not appear to be intimidated.

 

Once I passed through downtown Ware, I rode north through Gilbertville on route 32, then turned onto a side road to pick up the East Quabbin Land Trust’s section of the Mass Central Rail Trail.  I was a bit surprised by the nature of the trail at its southwest end, as it was basically an overgrown dirt trail through the woods.

After close to a mile, I reached a bridge over a creek, and the trail was a smoother, weed-free surface beyond that.  Here’s the bridge and the view from it:

   

There were 2 more similar bridges by the time I got to the end of the trail section (which altogether is about 3 miles long).  I got back on route 32 and headed up into the town of Barre, where I picked up route 122 and started east.  Shortly after that, I came to the western end of the Wachusett Greenway.  I’d been at that end of the trail once before, in 2013, and the westernmost piece of that trail had still been under development.  Back then the surface was a lot of gravel and loose rock, but this time it had the same smooth stone dust surface as the rest of the greenway.

Here is the bridge that begins the greenway in Barre, the Ware river, which it crosses, and the incline heading up from the bridge.

       

I was on this trail section for about 7 miles, then got off it near Rutland Center, to stop and have lunch.  I had a sandwich at a deli/store and spent about an hour off the bike.

From there, I rode east on 122A into Holden, then off on side streets to the West Boylston section of the Mass Central trail.  Beyond that I headed north into Sterling, and rode the section of trail there for the first time.  It’s not super long, but passes through some pretty areas, like this:

     

From Sterling, I went east into Clinton, where I picked up route 110.  I then followed 110 for most of the rest of the day of riding.

Shortly after leaving Clinton, I saw 2 different signs in 2 different towns (Lancaster and Bolton) that communicated the same warning:

   

The turtle in the first one looks kind of sad, but I’m not sure that’s intentional.

A ways later, I went through the little town of Harvard (nowhere near the university).  There’s a church there that looks like many New England churches:

but what I found interesting were these signs in front of the place:

After Harvard came the towns of Acton and Littleton.  Near the center of Littleton I saw a house being guarded by a huge chicken (plus a small sheep):

At this point it was starting to get dark.  I put my lights on, and rode through the towns of Westford and Chelmsford, into the city of Lowell, where I stayed the night at an AirBnB rental.  I got there at 8:30pm, and the total distance for the day was 95 miles.

 

On Saturday, I rode through downtown Lowell and across the Merrimack River, and then was able to ride a ways on a bike path that runs along the north bank.  Here is the trail, with a view of the river:

   

Once the trail ended, I was back on 110 to ride through Dracut and Methuen, and then I followed the river (no longer on 110) into Lawrence.  I crossed back to the south side of the river, and saw this interesting building:

I then headed east out of the city through North Andover, then passed through Boxford, and into Georgetown.  The route I picked was partly just what google maps had suggested, and it was interesting to pass through towns (such as the 2 just listed) that I had not heard of before.

From Georgetown, I headed northeast through Newbury and into Newburyport.  It was just before 1:30pm when I arrived there.  I headed downtown and found where the festival was taking place, by the river.  I got some lunch at one of the food tents, and ate while looking out at the river.

There were a lot of boats.

I was not especially interested in the bands playing in the middle of the afternoon, so I took a ride a few miles to the east to Plum Island.  On the way there, one passes a bunch of salt marshland by the river/estuary:

and there are a few houses along the road, including this one with a freestanding door in front of it:

The island itself (which one crosses a drawbridge to get to) is long in the north-south direction, but very narrow west-east, so I crossed in a few blocks to the far side, where there is a beach right on the Atlantic.

   

On the way to the island, I saw a number of other cyclists, and clearly some folks were visiting the beach by bike:

I was just at the beach for a few minutes, then biked back into town.  I was going to be staying in Newburyport that night, at another AirBnB place, and the check-in time was 3:00.  It was just 3 as I headed back, and so I went to the house to check-in, dump off my stuff, and get cleaned up.

Once everything was settled there, I walked the few blocks back to the festival, and started looking for a good spot to view the stage.  Unfortunately, the big grassy area in front of the stage was full of people who had put down lawn chairs and blankets and had been there all day.  I thought at first I would need to stand off to the side on one of the park sidewalks.  After a bit of looking, I found a spot among the blankets where there was a little space in front of a tree, so I could stand there without blocking people’s view.

Here is some of the crowd in the park:

      

In my tree location, I was still a bit of the way from the stage, but when TMBG actually came out at 5, John Flansburgh started urging the crowd to stand up and come forward toward the stage, and for people to pack up their chairs.  So, I was able to get a good deal closer to the stage.

The concert was fun, as TMBG usually are.  In addition to the usual 5 members of the group, they had trumpet player Curt Ramm there providing a small horn section on a handful of the songs.

Here’s Flans on stage, as well as a shot of John Linnell and drummer Marty Beller:

   

At one point, the band gathered at one corner of the stage, and Flans urged each person in the audience to take a selfie with the band.  Here’s how they stood:

and here’s my selfie:

Here are the songs they played, for the curious:

  • Damn Good Times
  • Birdhouse in Your Soul
  • The Guitar
  • When Will You Die
  • Can’t Keep Johnny Down
  • Everything Right Is Wrong Again
  • Ana Ng
  • Music Jail
  • James K. Polk
  • Older
  • Meet the Elements
  • Particle Man
  • Answer
  • Number Three
  • Letterbox
  • Let Me Tell You about My Operation
  • Fingertips
  • Dead
  • Dr. Worm
  • No One Knows My Plan
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Their set ended at 6:30, and I then walked around the downtown a bit to check things out and look for a place to eat.

Here are boats in the river as the sun went down:

   

I saw a large number of seagulls on a roof:

The place I ended up getting dinner was called Starboard Galley, and had this figure in their entryway:

The food was good – I had swordfish skewers (the fish was grilled with lemon pepper).

After dinner I headed back to my rented room and spent a while online and reading before bed.  Including the trip to Plum Island, I’d ridden 37 miles that day.

On Sunday morning, I was obsessively checking the weather, because rain was predicted for various parts of the state.  It looked like the rain might hold off until mid-afternoon, so I set out in cloudy, but dry, conditions a little after 9am feeling like most of the day would be without rain.

That turned out to be wrong.  It started to rain 90 minutes after I got going, when I was passing back through N. Andover.  I put my rain cover on the bike luggage, and put on a rain jacket, and got moving in the wet conditions.  The rain sometimes got lighter, and sometimes got heavy, but it remained rainy throughout the day.

My route took me back the way I had come on Saturday, until I got to Lowell.  I stopped for lunch there, which was a nice chance to be in a dry place, and then I headed southwest out of Lowell on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.  That trail runs mostly north-south, and will eventually connect a bunch of communities.  The section I was on is only complete through 3 municipalities, but it did carry me almost 7 miles.  While on the trail, I saw some deer ahead of me at one point.  I slowed down as I approached – one of them got off the trail but the other stood motionless on the trail edge until I was within 20 feet of it, and then it sprinted off into the woods.  Unfortunately, because of rain I don’t have any pictures from that day.

After the trail ended, I made my way through parts of Acton, Stow, and Bolton, heading toward Clinton.  It was a little ways after I got off route 117 in Bolton that I was unsure of where I needed to turn to go to downtown Clinton, and ended up taking a wrong turn (I was reticent to check the route on my phone because it was still raining).  I did end up in Clinton where I wanted to be, but only after going a few miles out of my way.

From there, I went south through West Boylston, and headed down into Worcester.  I was later than expected, but I got to my destination, a friend’s house, shortly before dark. Distance for Sunday was 72 wet miles.

As it turned out, even though the rain cover kept a lot of the falling water off of my baggage, water splashing up from the wheels had gotten into portions of the bags (the rain cover is from a past set of bags, so does not quite fit these snugly).  Most of my clothing ended up wet.  In this case, it was really good that I was staying with a friend, as I was able to put the clothes in his dryer.  After I got a shower, we had a nice relaxing evening.

The next day, Labor Day, was nice and sunny.  I got on the road at 10am, and headed west through the town of Holden, then into Paxton, which I had not been in before.

In Paxton is this pond called Browning Pond:

   

 

From there I went through Oakham and New Braintree, back into Gilbertville.  The road I took down into Gilbertville has this nice river view:

I headed back south on route 32 into Ware, and stopped for lunch (a lobster roll and sweet potato fries).  This sign greets one at Ware’s western town line:

Back to the valley where I live.  From Ware, my ride was exactly the reverse of Friday morning.  I got home just after 4:30pm.  Monday’s distance was 55 miles, so my total riding for the weekend was about 260 miles.  Easily the longest bike trip I’ve done.

Posted by seaking on 09-23-2017 at 08:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Travel with 0 Comments

On Top of Monadnock

I turned 45 in June, and, as I had done when I turned 40, I celebrated with a long weekend bike trip.  In this case, I headed north (and a bit east) into New Hampshire, where I intended to hike Mt. Monadnock, which I’d been meaning to do for several years.

I started the trip on Friday, biking through South Hadley, Hadley, Amherst, and Leverett, and then stopped for lunch in Montague (at the cafe at the Book Mill).  From Montague Center I rode up to Turner’s Falls and then into the town of Gill, and just as I passed into Northfield, Mass, it began to rain lightly.  Fortunately, I’d brought a rain cover for my bike luggage, so I was able to keep the stuff dry while I rode through Northfield.  When it started to rain a little harder, I took shelter briefly at a bank drive-through lane.  I only had to wait 10 minutes, and then it lightened up.  Soon, as I was about to cross the state line into NH, the rain stopped completely.

What was interesting was that, in NH, the ground was much wetter than in MA.  It had clearly rained more there, but by the time I got up there the sun was out and the moisture had started steaming off of the road surface.  I rode on (along route 10) through the town of Winchester, and eventually the ground dried up.

At one point I stopped to rest by this pond/wide piece of river (click on pictures to enlarge):

    

I continued north through West Swanzey, and on into Keene.  I had intended to pick up a bike trail in W. Swanzey, but did not find it (turned out later that I had incorrectly remembered which direction it lay from the main road).  I eventually found the trail just after getting in to Keene, and followed it to downtown, where I had dinner.

After dinner, I headed southeast, toward the town of Rindge, where I would be staying the night.  It took a bit longer than I’d expected, and I was feeling fairly tired.  I did cross a few nice looking streams/rivers, or perhaps the same one multiple times, as I rode down route 12.  They all looked similar to this:

It was after dark by the time I reached Rindge, but I’d brought lights, and so was prepared.  I had booked to stay 2 nights at an AirBnB place, which had the advantage of having a couple of cats.  The long-haired one was more friendly and approachable, while the other one only showed up after I’d been there a while, and he crept very cautiously into my room:

   

When I went to bed, I left the door cracked open in case a cat would want to visit during the night.  As far as I’m aware, that did not happen.

The next day, I biked down to a nearby diner for breakfast.  The house where I was staying was right on a trail through the woods, so I did not have to ride on the road.

The trail was a bit rough in spots – it’s an old railroad line, and there as a section that still had ties in place (I walked the bike over those).

After breakfast, I biked up to Monadnock State Park and met up with my friend David.  We started up the mountain, as he told me that it’s a very popular hike, despite being pretty strenuous.  I had not realized how strenuous, but it does go upward more than it goes laterally (i.e. the slope is greater than 1).

The mountain is very forested, so it was quite a while before we had any kind of view.  Once we did, it was pretty cool.

   

We were about 2/3 of the way to the summit at that point, I believe.  The summit itself is mostly devoid of vegetation.  Here’s a view from the top:

And then standing a little lower, looking up at the summit:

As mentioned, it’s a popular spot.  We hung out up there for about half an hour, then went down by a slightly different trail.  I had not brought quite enough water for the hike, as it turned out, so I was rationing myself as we went back down.  Once we got back to the bottom I drank a whole bunch from a faucet by the bathrooms.

After recovering a bit, we parted ways, and I biked back into Rindge.  I took a shower and then got some dinner, and ended up going to sleep somewhat early (funny how doing a 5+ hour mountain hike the day after 85 miles of cycling will wear you out).

The next day I had breakfast at the same diner, then packed up and started heading for home.  I went by a different route, traveling west from Rindge into Fitzwilliam, then south into Royalston, MA.  Unfortunately, what was not included in the route I’d mapped was a bridge under construction soon after getting into MA, which necessitated taking a 4 or 5 mile detour which had a bunch of up and down riding.  At least it was still morning, and so not too hot yet (though that day ended up getting into the mid-nineties).

From Royalston I kept going south until I reached Athol, then I rode on Mass Routes 2A and 2 west through several towns (Orange, Erving, Northfield, Gill), until I got to Turner’s Falls, and I then mostly retraced my path from Friday (though passing through Sunderland instead of Leverett).

On the way through Montague Center, I stopped to check e-mail, and while stopped, I noticed something familiar looking at the front of a residential property:

I went closer to see if this was actually what I thought it was.  It was, indeed, a facsimile of a certain British Police Call box.

It lacks a bunch of details, but maybe it’s trying to look unassuming…

 

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, but much of the day I’d had to stop for shade breaks because it was so hot.  So the riding took longer than I’d expected, even though I was only traveling about 65 miles.  I met up with others in Hadley for ice cream (at Flayvors of Cook Farm), as part of a joint birthday celebration for 2 of us, and because of the late hour and the heat, my bike and I got a car ride home.

Posted by seaking on 09-19-2017 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Cats, Hiking, Travel with 0 Comments

Lots of Lux

As I mentioned briefly in my first post this month, I went to Las Vegas for a convention for work (the same conference I went to in 2011).  The trip out there was uneventful, and I made it to the hotel fine.

The hotel I and my co-workers were staying in this time was the Luxor.  Yes, it’s the big, black pyramid:

luxorext1

At night it has that huge beacon shining up toward space from the apex.  In a city that’s well known for its light pollution, this place may be the worst offender.

Some statuary out front (click any picture to enlarge):

luxorext2

luxorext3

luxorext4

 

Similar features are found on the interior:

luxorint1

luxorint2

luxorint3

luxorint4

luxorint5

luxorint6

Looking up at the apex from the ground level:

luxorint7

I ended up with a room on the 26th floor (there are about 30 floors total).  Getting up there was kind of neat, as the elevators in the place travel diagonally in the 4 edges of the building (you can’t see outside the elevator while you’re in it, but you can feel that the movement is partly horizontal).  On each floor, there are walkways which are open to look down, with the rooms all on the exterior of the structure.  Here’s the view across the interior from outside my room door:

luxorint8

And looking down:

luxorint9

Here’s the room itself:

luxorroom1

There were heiroglyphs on the bureau (not sure whether they’re real ancient Egyptian letters):

luxorroom3

The hand soap in the bathroom was also part of the theme:
luxorsoap

You can see by the angle of the window that the room is on the side of a pyramid:

luxorroom2

Here’s the view, looking northward at the Excalibur:

luxorview1

Looking slightly to either side are the Luxor’s adjacent towers, which hold more guest rooms:

luxorview2

luxorview3

Here is the view at night:

luxviewnight

 

It was a comfy room, and the Internet connection worked well, though I was a bit surprised that the rooms only offer wired Internet.  Wireless is only available in the public areas on the lower floors.  At least they provided an ethernet cable on the desk, given that I had not brought one.

Posted by seaking on 11-29-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Surreal, Travel with 0 Comments

Long Night and Day

After flying from Heathrow to Keflavik, Iceland, I prepared for an overnight stay in the terminal, as my next flight was at 10:30am.  I sat down near a power outlet with my laptop, but though I could get my laptop on the airport wi-fi, I could not connect to the Internet.  For some reason, it would not pop up the little “login, accept our terms” page, and without completing that I think it would not let me through.  So I had to content myself with connecting on my phone (fine for e-mail, not so much for web browsing).

After a little while, an airport worker came by and informed me, and the couple of other people sitting nearby, that we could not be in that section of the terminal overnight.  We would have to go up to the main level for the night.  This involved going through passport control, which seemed odd to do given that I would not be leaving the airport.  Doing so was complicated, though, by the fact that passport control was already shut down for the night when we got up there, so we could not go through.  Another trip or two back downstairs was made before we were finally told that someone was on their way to open up a booth and scan our passports to let us through.  In total we waited around for more than 30 minutes.

Finally in the main portion of the terminal, I made a another attempt at the wi-fi with the laptop, then gave up and lay down on gate area seating to try and get some sleep.  Though not very comfortable, I did manage to sleep – about 4 hours or so.  By that time some of the food places were opening, so I went to get some breakfast.

I got some bland eggs, toast, and potatoes around 6:30am, and then shortly after 7:00, passport control and the downstairs section opened again.  I was able to go down and find my departure gate, where I sat and read for a while (still couldn’t get my computer online).  The flight was my longest of the whole trip, 5.5 hours, and I spent a bunch of time watching The Sound of Music, which I had never gotten around to seeing before.  (It seems kind of like 2 different films trying to be one story)

We got into Boston shortly after noon, and getting through customs was not too bad (it was no hassle, but did involve somewhat of a wait).  Some bus and car rides later I was home, in time for dinner, and with one more day off from work to recover from any jet lag.

Posted by seaking on 11-21-2014 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Travel with 0 Comments

Leaving London

On my last day in London I got to spend half the day in the city.  I left the apartment I’d been staying in and took the bus up to King’s Cross station again, and stored my luggage there.  I then walked to the British Museum again to go through more of its galleries (stopping on the way for one more full English breakfast – the first one I got that included toast).

I went through a few Asian galleries, the remaining Greek ones, and Assyrian ones.  I also went through a large library that had display cases summarizing the history of the types of collecting done for the museum and what was learned from various categories of collected objects.

I left the museum, having been through pretty much every gallery, around 4pm, and took a quick subway ride back to King’s Cross.  I picked up my bags and got on the Underground’s Picadilly line, which goes all the way to Heathrow.

Once at the airport, I had a bit of a walk to get to the check-in counter, but I got through there and security fairly quickly, and then had some food while waiting for my flight.  Heathrow has an unusual way of handling departure gates – they have all the passengers wait in one central area, and only announce which gate your flight will leave from about 40 minutes before departure.

The flight was full, but comfy, and I watched one more Icelandic film – this one a documentary called Ash, about the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 and the consequences that 3 farm families suffered from all the ash that fell.

I got into Keflavik around 11:30pm, and had an overnight layover ahead of me before my flight to the US.  Was it a pleasant night?  Stay tuned tomorrow…

 

Posted by seaking on 11-20-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Travel with 0 Comments

Day of Back and Forth

On Friday, 9/12, I headed for Picadilly in the morning, to go by a small art gallery.  The gallery had a showing of photographs of Kate Bush by 2 different photographers (showing that month because of the concerts).  Before stopping in to the gallery, I found a somewhat fancy restaurant in which to have breakfast, and ended up ordering kedgeree.  The version I was served is mostly as described in the wiki, except that it had a single poached egg on top instead of boiled eggs, and it contained salmon as well as haddock.  It was pretty good.

I looked over the gallery show pretty quickly, as there weren’t a huge number of photos.  Some of them were interesting, but not enough for me to want to buy the KB art books by either artist.

After that I headed to the Institute of Contemporary Arts.  I was interested in looking at exhibits they had, as well as seeing a movie in their theater in the afternoon.  I bought the film ticket, and proceeded to start going through exhibits – which there weren’t many of.  It did not take me long to go through the place, so I had a couple of hours free before the movie was to start.

I ended up walking over to Trafalgar Square.  Here is the famous column topped by Admiral Horatio Nelson:

nelsoncolumn

and one of the lions around the base of the column:

nelsonlion

The National Gallery, on the far side of the square:

natgallery

One of the fountains in the square had a worker wading through and cleaning it:

fountworker

And here is the Fourth Plinth, which apparently has often-changing art installations:

fourthplinth1

Blue chicken currently on show.

fourthplinth2

After taking these pics, I went into the National Gallery and looked at all sorts of paintings for an hour or so.  I then headed back to the ICA for the film.  I was seeing an Iranian film – Manuscripts Don’t Burn.  It was a well done movie, though quite bleak.

After the movie I went in search of dinner, and chose an Indian restaurant near the West End theater district.  I had vegetarian thali (always a good thing to order if you want to try a number of dishes).  Afterward, I walked around some of the West End, before heading to the National Gallery a second time and going through just about the rest of it before they closed at 9pm.

From there I walked to the Thames, crossed over the Jubilee Bridge, and headed along the south bank toward Westminster bridge.  I caught the bus near the bridge and headed back to sleep my final night in London.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-19-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Travel with 0 Comments

The Old to the New to the Old

On Thursday of my visit to London, I headed up to the Tower of London.  Before entering the place, I went looking for some food, and got a mediocre partial English breakfast at a pub.  The person who served me did not seem to be experienced at serving breakfast, as she had to consult with someone to figure out what was in the different breakfast offerings on the menu.  She also gave me tea in a cup that didn’t match its saucer (it barely balanced on the saucer).

While heading to the Tower entrance, I saw a big field of poppies around it:

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Here’s a close-up (click to make bigger):

londpoppies3

They’re made of porcelain, and attached to wires.  They’re a commemoration of World War I – more info can be found here.

I went in and waited for a Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) tour to start.  While waiting, I noticed interesting looking buildings across the river:

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Soon, this Warder, named Moira, showed up to start the tour:

wardermoira

Here is the entrance through the outer wall:

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Some shots inside:

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londtowerwalk

Moira talked about a number of executions and other bloody stuff that happened in centuries past in the Tower (which is actually a big fortress with multiple towers in it).  The tour did not actually go inside any of the buildings – we were left to do that on our own after the tour.  At the tour’s conclusion, she took questions, and there were some interesting ones.  For one, the Scottish independence vote was still a week in the future at that point, so she was asked her opinion (as she is Scottish).  She demurred.  She was also asked about the first female Yeoman Warder, to which she answered, “Yes.”  The questioner then said, “When was that?” and she replied, “I started in 2007.”  I later learned that not only is she the first woman to serve in the position, she is still the only one to have done so.

This portcullis is in the bottom of the “Bloody Tower”:

portcullis1

and here is the top of it, inside:

portcullis2

In another building, graffiti carved by people held prisoner there:

towergraffiti1

A guard outside the residence used by the royal family, if they are ever staying at the Tower:

royalguard1

and this guard is outside the building which houses the Crown Jewels:

royalguard2

The White Tower, at the center of the complex:

whitetower2

A narrow window:

narrowwindow

There are ravens kept at the tower:

raven1

You can tell they’re used to people, as you can get quite close to them:

raven2

This is the Traitor’s Gate, where prisoners were brought in directly from the Thames (safer than bringing them in by land):

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A cannon decorated with dragons:

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Some grotesques:

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I exited the Tower on the river side, and was able to see the sort of moat there:

moat

as well as the other side of the Traitor’s Gate:

traitgate3

And here is the Tower Bridge:

towerbridge

From there, I took a bus west, and got off by St. Paul’s Cathedral:

stpaulcath

I then walked south, to head over the river on the Millennium Bridge:

millenbridge1

The view from the bridge:

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Looking back toward St. Paul’s:

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The bridge as seen from the south bank:

millenbridge4

I was headed for the Tate Modern museum, which is pictured here from the bridge:

tatemodern

I spent a few hours there, especially interested in their surrealist exhibit (they had at least one Dali).  It’s also generally fun to see cubism and other 20th century stuff.

After the Tate, I went to a pub just downriver, and got takeaway fish and chips (with mushy peas).  It was quite good, and included a big slab of fish.

After dinner, I headed into Shakespeare’s Globe, a recreation of the original 16th century theater, to see The Comedy of Errors.

I had bought a ticket to stand in the yard, as it was cheap, and why not be right up by the stage?  My feet were a bit sore from days of walking, but I got in early enough that I was able to get a spot right at the stage and could lean on it.

Here’s the interior of the place:

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globetheatre3

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and the exterior when I left later:

globetheatre4

The play was quite funny.  I had never seen it before, but this is the Shakespeare play that involves a huge misunderstanding, and mistaken identity…   😉

The Millennium Bridge was lit up after dark:

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I walked upriver to Blackfriar’s Bridge, and just south of there I was able to catch a bus back to my lodging.

Posted by seaking on 11-18-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Arts/Media, Food, Travel with 0 Comments

Government, Religion, and Science

Second day in London: I took the bus to Westminster, getting off right near the houses of Parliament.  I first walked around looking for breakfast, and ended up getting pastries (including a pecan roll) in a sandwich shop.  Then I took pictures of some oft-photographed stuff.

Like this place:

parliament1

I took pictures of it from the other side, as well, standing on Westminster Bridge:

parliament2

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Here’s the view upriver, alongside Parliament:

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And here is the London Eye, on the downriver side of the bridge:

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There are various statues in this area.  Of course, in England you would expect to find a statue of Abraham Lincoln:

lincolnstat

There seem to be a few leaders from other countries there, actually, such as Mandela:

mandelastat

And there is the obligatory statue of Mr. Churchill:

churchillstat

This memorial has an interesting way of depicting its subject (click to enlarge):

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I also wandered by Westminster Abbey, and thought about going in, but it would have cost £20, so I contented myself with taking pictures of the exterior:

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This column was near the abbey:

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After walking around there, I took the underground a few stops west, and then walked to the Museum of Science.

On the way there, I spotted this sign:

amphotel

which I thought was an odd name for a hotel.

I spent most of the afternoon at the Science Museum, as there was plenty to see.  It included several early steam engines.  This is an early locomotive:

locomotive

This began a long hall that followed the development of technology over the past 2 centuries.  Also in the beginning of that hall was a piece of Charles Babbage’s difference engine:

diffengine1

(more Babbage stuff later)

A lighthouse lens:

lighthouselens

Planes and cars:

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planeandcars

There were a few computer exhibits near the end, including an Apple I:

apple1comp

The NeXT machine that was used as the first world wide web server:

nextwebserv

and a Cray supercomputer:

craysection

On an upper floor was a hall of math and computing, and it included a larger difference engine model:

diffengine2

diffengine3

diffengine4

As well as a model of the analytic engine:

analyticengine

with punch cards for programming it:

enginecards

In another display case was a portrait of Babbage, some of his notes…and his brain:

babbagebrain

When I had finished at the museum, I got dinner at a nearby Mediterranean place (lamb with couscous, and an orange-almond cake for dessert), and then rode the subway back to Westminster.  I walked north to look around St. James Park, since it was still light out.  This park has a small lake in it, and has many, many waterfowl, some of which were imported to it by the royal family.

Here are a number of the denizens:

stjamesbirds

There were black swans:

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and gray swans:

grayswans

And coots, which have neat feet:

coot1

I don’t know what these red birds are (and did not get a good picture of them):

redbirds

I thought this bicyclist was topiary at first:

bikeplant

but it’s actually some kind of vine on a frame.

As it got dark, I saw a fox bound across the path I was walking on, so I followed it for a bit, but could not get a good photo.

I made my way back to the Thames, and took a night picture of the London Eye:

londeyenight

As well as this walking bridge (the Golden Jubilee bridge):

jubileebridge

I’d had enough walking for the day at that point, so I hopped on a bus and headed to the airbnb apartment and bed.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-18-2014 at 12:11 am
Posted in Science, Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

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