Friday, March 31, 2006

More about the sun

A couple of days ago, there was a total eclipse of the sun. People all over the world were awash with the excitement.

But it was less exciting in London. Here, the sun is eclipsed almost every day:

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

And... we lost

Our heads still spinning from the victory of a few weeks ago, we went back for more pub quizzing on Monday. And this time... we lost. To be fair, we never came in last. But we didn’t do well. Here’s the defeated team:

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Shepherd’s Bush

Shepherd’s Bush is an area in west London in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. It was possibly named for the shepherds who used to use the area for their sheep, or possibly just for a guy who lived there. It was the site of the Olympics in both 1908 and 1948, and has one of London’s best concert venues for big shows. You can go to any number of restaurants or interesting shops there, or take a tour or watch a taping of a tv show at the BBC Television Centre, which dominates much of the neighborhood.

Or, if you’re me, you can go there late on a Sunday night and play pool.

John is in the shadows of this picture, attempting a particularly difficult shot:

He did hit the ball he was aiming for, although it didn’t go in. He still won 5 out of 6 games.

(Oh, and a special thank-you to Davis for keeping me up-to-date on the New York art scene).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Time and the sun

Yesterday in England, and assorted other places around the world, the clocks jumped forward one hour for daylight-savings time. But in the U.S. (in most of the states), the clocks won’t be set forward until next weekend. Which means that for this week, I’m six hours ahead of the eastern U.S., rather than five. *sigh* It makes it seem just a little more distant.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Postcard-style picture

There has been nothing—and I mean nothing—going on lately worth reporting. So today I’ll go with atmosphere. Here’s an iconic London picture:

Perhaps you’ll have an urge to rush out to buy a travel book.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Life will always have irritations. Here’s one of mine at the moment:
My sad external window

At least it’s sunny today.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sunny Sunday

After a lot of cold weather lately, London was treated to a warm and beautiful Sunday this weekend. I went to Chiswick, where John and I took advantage of the sun and walked along an attractive part of the Thames. There were people there doing far more athletic and uncomfortable things than walking,

but that’s their choice.

Rather than rowing, John and I went to this pub for lunch. So yes, this is another pub picture—but this is a sunny pub picture.

And what Sunday is complete without watching someone hang curtains?

I helped some.

Monday, March 20, 2006

You think London, you think Tex-Mex

Last week I went out with Jaynna and her friend Vincent, who was visiting London for his spring break. Vincent was visiting from Austin, Jaynna just moved here from Austin, and I used to live in Austin—it’s only natural that we’d want to try the Cafe El Paso. In fact, after a small issue with the pitcher of margaritas (which they eventually took back), it wasn’t bad at all. Each of us got the fajitas.

Friday, March 17, 2006

“a very fine cat indeed”

And this is the last post about my parents’ visit, which is probably just as well, considering they left nearly a week ago.

Once we got back from the western wilds, we had a few days to hang around London. They’ve been here before, and had done some exploring in the few days before we left, so we saw some of the big sights, but also a good many second-tier—but still very interesting—bits of history that London has to offer.

For example, we went to Samuel Johnson’s house and learned all about dictionaries. Here are Mom and Dad reading the laminated pages that make up the do-it-yourself tour through the house. (I paid an extra 50 pence admission to be allowed to take pictures inside—well worth it, don’t you think?):

Samuel Johnson’s cat, Hodge, is memorialized outside. The statue’s inscribed with the title to this post:

We went to Greenwich and learned about astronomy and navigation (the clocks there are very very cool, by the way). We also got to stand on the prime meridian. In the Eastern and Western hemispheres at the same time—crazy!

Although I got no pictures, we also went to Sir John Soane’s Museum, which is a really interesting museum in the house of the architect, and is notable for both the design of the house and the staggering amount of things he collected that are on display.

We saw some Tier 1 sights, too, including Westminster Abbey, which, shockingly, I had yet to visit (although I’d made more than one attempt since moving here, but was always thwarted by poor planning). We also ran down to Buckingham Palace one morning to see the changing of the guard:

The Queen was not in that day, so we didn’t get to say hi.

And the trip wrapped up with a trip to a pub:

Back to day-to-day life next week.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Back to London

This is a quick post, just to finish off the road trip. After leaving Tintagel, we needed to drive fairly far east so we could return the car by 12:30 on Wednesday. We decided to stop at Weston-super-Mare, which is in Somerset county (here’s a map of the counties of England if you, like me, have no idea of their layout).

We stayed in the Linden Lodge, another very nice B&B. It’s close to the beach, but no one went for a swim.

Wendy and Phil are the proprieters, and were very pleasant and friendly:

The next day we started the drive to London. We got the car—a sporty Ford Mondeo—back with 20 minutes to spare.

We put 815 miles on the car during the trip. Pretty good, I think.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Stones in the mist

The next place we stayed was Penzance. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a single singing—or dancing—pirate. In any event, we stayed at this place.

Tuesday was our first day without sun, and it turned out to be a typical Cornish winter day. The thick fog sat right on top of the stark landscape (landscape described in some of the literature we had as “wind-swept heath,” which is a fair description) all day long.

We went out looking for piles of rocks in fields.

The first site we came to was Lanyon Quoit, thought to be a neolithic burial site. The top stone weighs approximately 20 tons:

We drove as close as we could get to the next site, called Men-An-Tol, which was believed to have healing powers (or, according to some sources, was a site for ritual sacrifice). The site itself is over a half-mile from the road through a cow field (which was, at least on that day, pretty muddy):

Before this next series of pictures, I want to say that these sites are really amazing and quite powerful to see. I’m afraid these next photos are a little cartoonish:

People have crawled through this stone for thousands of years for its healing powers. Dad decided that he would do the same. So he took off his coat, suspended himself over the mud, and did it.

We then went to Zennor (population 20, although there are 200 in the parish) and found a little pub called the Tinner’s Arms (there are a number of tin mines in the area). There, we talked with Graham, the proprieter—who lived in London for years—and Ben:

The pub itself was built in the 13th century, in order to house the workers who were building the church next door.

We talked about our trip, and said we’d just come from Men-An-Tol. Graham asked if we’d crawled through the stone, and dad proudly said that he had. “It’s for infertility,” Graham said. “You’ll find yourself pregnant.”

I suppose time will tell.

Finally, we went to Tintagel, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. The proprieter of the B&B in Penzance told us before we left that it really wasn’t where King Arthur was born at all:

He can believe what he wants, and I’ll believe what I want.

Admittedly more verifiable is that the Romans were here, that this was the site of a Celtic monastery around the 6th century, and that Earl Richard of Cornwall, younger brother of Henry III, built his castle here in the 13th century.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The vacation continues (in the past, at least)

Mom and Dad left yesterday morning. I’ll keep posting some pictures from the trip, but these posts are obviously several days behind.

After spending the first night in Torquay, we heading off to Exeter Sunday morning where we took one of the free guided tours, which are held, surprisingly, on Sundays and in the winter. Exeter, as our guide told us, is a cathedral town. And indeed, here is the cathedral itself:

The whole town is charming, and has many sights and lots of history, not all of which will be documented here. But one interesting structure is the castle built by William the Conqueror. He got to Exeter in the 1070s, after initial resistance by the town, and built this castle. The rounded arches are in the Norman style; however, the castle was probably finished by Saxon masons, as evidenced by the smaller pointed windows up top:

And here’s a picture of our guide, who’s doing this in her retirement. She was both enthusiastic and well-informed:

My parents and I returned to Torquay filled with added knowledge of English history. On Monday morning we said good-bye to Simon, one of the proprietors of the Ravenswood Hotel (I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of his wife):

We kept going west, where we saw this ancient stone circle, the Merry Maidens, which is one of the best-preserved stone circles in Cornwall (it’s just off the B3315 road near Penzance, if you want to find it yourself):

We made our way to Land’s End, the westernmost point of mainland Britain. In addition to providing the inspiration for a clothing line, it combines both dramatic and beautiful scenery

with touristy kitsch.

And this:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Road trip

There haven’t been any posts here in a while. That’s because my parents and I have been on a road trip along the southern coast of England. We left last Saturday. With dad at the wheel, we headed west, taking in the views and sights along the way.

Note which side of the car he’s on. I’d like to point out that even though dad started off driving on the trip, I drove most of the time. And it never stopped feeling like a video game.

Where the banshees live (and they do live well):

We arrived in Torquay, a harbor town in Devon, where we checked into the lovely Ravenswood Hotel:

You can see how lucky we were with the weather:

To cap off the evening, we went to the Hole in the Wall pub, which has been a pub that has welcomed sailors—and vacationing Americans—since around 1540:

Friday, March 03, 2006

Special visitors

My parents are here. I’ve been working for the first three days they’ve been here, but they’ve fended for themselves perfectly well, and I’ve managed to meet up with them after work. Last night we went to a pub (for a change) not too far from where I work. Here they are, looking happy to be in an English pub:

The pub itself was really charming:

Mom and I took pictures of each other, so for the first time ever, here’s a picture of me on the blog:

Hee, hee, hee, hee.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Here are a few non-ball-related shots from my trip to Vienna, just to round things out.

On Saturday, Astrid and I began the tour by meeting up with her brother and his girlfriend at a very typical Viennese coffee shop:

We saw both old and new art. We went into the gothic Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. Although you can see evidence of the ongoing renovation, it has parts dating back to the 13th century:

We then went to the Secession Building, which was the home of the Viennese artistic avant garde, and was built around 1900. It was destroyed in World War II, but rebuilt in accordance with (I believe) its original design. In the basement is the 98-foot-long Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt, which is a visual interpretation of the 9th Symphony, and was displayed at the XIVth Exhibition of the Association of Fine Artists of Austria Secession in 1902:

On Sunday Astrid and I went to the Schönbrunn Palace, which was the summer residence for the Habsburgs. We took an audio tour and learned that Franz Josef got up every morning at 4:30, and believed that one must work every day until he collapses. Astrid and I agreed that Franz Josef was not taking full advantage of being emperor. His summer digs weren’t bad, though:

Not bad for a day and a half’s work, eh?