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I’ve been remiss is keeping up this journal. We spent a very busy week with Caroline, cramming in a lot of Barcelona and Gaudi buildings, and then took an overnight trip to see Salvador Dali’s house, hike in a natural park with volcanoes and stroll through Girona. Now, Liz is here!

I’ll spare everyone a boring travelogue (at least for now). But here’s an observation I’ll share.

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Yesterday we toured the bullfighting ring and went to its museum.

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On Thursday, a cold front from Siberia swept into Spain. It’s not as bad here as in Eastern Europe, not by a longshot (and it's still warmer here than in Vermont), but it’s been colder and the wind is just howling. It was particularly upsetting to see some beggars in bare feet. (I still can’t get the image of one old lady out of my head – she was at a minimum in her late 70s, sitting on a cold sidewalk with her legs and feet bare. There was nothing I could do – I couldn’t communicate with her or the police. There was a young woman talking to her as we walked by, so I hope something was done for her.)

Pictures and more! )

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A few more notes about food, illustrated with photos:

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Thoughts on Spanish and English, and visits to two museums.

Read more…and see pictures! )

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Success! Found oatmeal. The big Carrefours supermarket was no help (but at least it was a big supermarket compared to the dinky one we went to yesterday), but we passed a health food store along the way that had it. I did learn that vegetarians (at least, the vegetarians at this health food store) won’t eat honey.

Today we went to the Reina Sophia Museum. Perfect day for a museum, since it was raining all day. This museum specializes in Spanish 20th century art, so there was a lot of Picasso, Dali and Miro. The highlight was Picasso’s Guernica.

The museum is an old converted hospital. I kept imagining nurses in nun’s habits scurrying through the huge cavernous hallways. The ceilings were sky high and the hallways as wide as the rooms. They certainly don’t build hospitals like that anymore. 

So, does this look like General Grievous or what?

And I think that if an artist includes "Are you confused" in his artwork, he's in trouble.

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Several people have asked me what the "best" part of the trip was. I had so carefully planned this vacation that there were few disappointments. But there were some special highlights.

The hike in Gamla.

Gamla is an isolated spot in the Golan Heights. The Golan is a disputed territory, but not like the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. It is a beautiful, remote, mountainous region in the northeast of Israel, bordering the Galilee.

Gamla means "camel," and the name comes from the hump-shaped mountain that Gamla is on. An ancient Jewish settlement was once perched on this promontory, with steep cliffs on three sides and spectacular views of the Sea of Galilee and a large waterfall. One commentator described it as looking as though it "hung in mid-air."

But in 68 AD, the same Romans who obliterated Masada and the Second Temple in Jerusalam and dispersed all Jews from Israel also destroyed Gamla. There was a siege, a breach in the wall, an attack, and thousands of people died.

To reach the remains, you walk down a very steep and rocky hill, studded with wildflowers, then along a flat path that leads to a more gentle incline. The first thing you see is the breach in the ancient protective wall. The path curves up, then you walk up a few steps, and come to the remains of an ancient synagogue. Next to the synagogue is a mikvah, the ritual, cleansing bath. These remains date back to the early first century, and are believed to be of one of the oldest known synagogues.

When we were there, there were a few other hikers, but we were alone when looking at the synagogue. It was late afternoon, hot and hazy, and there was a quiet hush at the site. I don't go to services very often, and I've never used a mikvah, but it was so powerful to think that more than 2000 years ago, there were Jews at this remote location singing the same songs and saying the same prayers as I do now. I have a blood and spiritual connection to those long-gone people who worshiped there, who sat in this synagogue looking at the wild mountain crevices in the distance. Their souls surrounded me. It is a miracle that they eeked out an existence in this isolated location, and a miracle that our traditions survived their death and the next 2000 years.

This picture shows Gamla, the steep mountain in the center.

The roof in the Old City.

Our first day in Jerusalem, we took a tour of the Old City that ended around 5 pm. We wandered around a little, not sure what to do. Dusk approached. Finally we decided to check out a tip from Caroline, to visit the Austrian Hospice, climb to its roof and then have some apple strudel at its cafeteria.

It was minutes before 6 pm when we climbed to the roof. The sun was setting, but there was some residual light. The roofs of the old city unfolded before us. I told Rich to get a video of it. As he started filming, all the mosques in the city turned on their loudspeakers and began broadcasting the call to prayer.

The wind was howling, the lights were sparkling and these unworldly sounds filled the sky, surrounding us. It was a very eerie, foreign moment. It was a singular moment, because it was unique -- to be in this city, at the intersection of three religions, and understand how religion has created and destroyed and defined the place.

The Taggart fort

I must have been 12 or 14 when I read Exodus, Leon Uris' book about the founding of Israel. I learned a lot about the Holocaust, the Warsaw ghetto, Zionism, the kibbutz movement, the 1948 war and Israel's statehood from that book -- which I read numerous times. Much of the book takes place in the Galilee region of Israel, especially the Upper Galilee, where he describes views from mountaintops, turning swampland into fertile fields, the destitution of Arab villages. Many of his locations were fictional, but a few were real. We went to Mount Tabor, which two of the major characters had climbed -- and that was crowded with Christian pilgrims. We drove around the Sea of Galilee, visited the Ein Gev kibbutz. One of the main fictional locations was called "Dafna," and there happens to be a Dafna in Israel -- we went there, but it was nothing like the fictional namesake.

Another location mentioned in the book is a British fortress overlooking the Hula Valley, named after Abu Yesha, a nearby Arab village. And one of the main characters talks about the view of the Hula Valley from the mountains on the Israel-Lebanese border, near this fortress. This fort is a real place, and we found it. It's called the Yesha fortress. Behind it was a scenic overlook, and from there I saw that view of the Hula Valley, and could place myself in a location that was important in the novel. And that was cool. I've been imagining this location for almost 40 years. Now I've been there, seen it.

There were other amazing experiences -- touching the Western Wall, walking around the Temple Mount, touring Yad Vashem, climbing Masada, floating in the Dead Sea and snorkeling in the Red Sea, seeing countless remains of synagogues and homes and mikvahs and ancient streets and arches -- but those three were the most special.

Behind the cut is the fort, and the view.

pics )
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I’m home again, although that was easier said than done. Our quick direct flight home on Sunday didn’t happen: first, it was delayed for an hour. Then 2 hours. Then 3 hours. Then 4 hours. Then canceled. We switched to a US Air flight which left from National, which meant taking a taxi there from Dulles. So instead of getting home at 2 pm, we finally arrived home at 9 pm.

Lots of pictures and description are behind the cut.

slyvermont: (typewriter girl)
I don’t know how people who travel a lot keep sane. I’ve been away three weekends in a row, four out of five, and I feel like the threads of my life are unraveling.

I was supposed to be home this weekend, but ended up being away for a lot of it. Rich was involved in a project in Burlington, which led to a free hotel room on Saturday night. So Saturday afternoon I drove to Burlington, we saw a movie and had dinner. Sunday, after Rich went off to his meeting, I met my friend Abby for shopping and lunch. By the time I got home and took a walk, the day had disappeared.

The movie we saw was “Across the Universe,” which didn’t get great reviews (according to Rotten Tomatoes) but I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I guess I’m a sucker for the Beatles and love stories. I can’t wait to see it again, and then buy the DVD so I can watch it again and again and again. I highly recommend it, even if a lot of reviewers don't.

No travel expected this month. Maybe I can finish the book and move onto the month’s worth of New York Times’ piled up in my dining room.

Finally, for the MHS graduates: The girls soccer team won the state championship!
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In mid-July, I joined Rich on a business trip to NYC, staying in a posh hotel (where his conference was) in the middle of the theater district. It was a bizarre place (Marriott Marquis): the lobby was on the eighth floor, and the elevators were quite challenging. When you stepped into an elevator, the first thing you notice is there are no buttons to press to indicate the floor you are going to. Instead, you are supposed to go to a kiosk outside the elevators, type in the floor you are going to, and then the kiosk tells you which elevator (named A-P) you need to take.

We saw a matinee of “A Chorus Line” (I had seen it 30 years ago, from the very last row in the balcony – cheapest seats possible). We ate dinner at a French restaurant in Soho where I think we were the only people who spoke English (we were surrounded by tourists from other countries), and then wandered to the Village to see the midnight showing of Buffy the Musical – singalong.

That was a blast. There were trivia questions to start and some additional clips. Everyone got a goody bag and we were supposed to do specific things at certain moments (blow bubbles, play the kazoo). There were people dressed as the characters acting out the action on the screen. Basically, a toned-down Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s on tour (Atlanta, San Francisco, San Diego): for information go here (it’s coming to DC in November …. Hmmm.)

Sunday, while Rich worked, I went to a street fair and walked a lot. At night I got half-price seats to see “The 25th Annual Putnam Valley Spelling Bee” – which I enjoyed immensely.

Monday I met [profile] yav_14 and managed to find things in NYC she hasn’t seen yet. We walked to Belvedere Castle and the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park, which are two of my favorite places, and the Guggenheim, my favorite museum (which unfortunately is totally hidden under scaffolding). We walked down Madison Ave., and noted all the stores [personal profile] hollywdliz would want to shop in. In her honor, we went into a Prada store and touched shoes. After some more wanderings and dinner in a Spanish restaurant whose menu had an inordinate number of Italian entrees we parted ways at the bus terminal. The next day I flew back to Vermont.

This past weekend on Sunday we drove to Boston and saw the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. I had no idea that he had vacationed in Truro for years (where we go every summer) – it was neat to see all those paintings of Truro. We then went to Ikea and did some dorm shopping for Caroline.

And thus ends a really boring entry. Except for the Buffy stuff.
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Mary threw a great party! The programming was awesome, there was plenty to do, and I think I heard only one fan complaining the whole time. Special thanks to Cyndi and Nancy, who kept me in the loop and got me free stuff!

slyvermont: (Leia)
Celebration IV was a blast. Many of the issues with CIII were fixed and there were only a handful of new problems. I hope fans had as good a time as I did. (Anyone get a read on fan reaction?)

Since I returned on Tuesday night, I had to work a 12-hour day on Wednesday and a 9-hour day Thursday. I still managed to unpack and get my pictures onto my computer hard drive and some online – next step is figuring out this Flickr CJ thing (how is it that I can take 190 photos and still feel that I didn’t take enough?). There’s also laundry to do and a stack of newspapers waist high that need to be read.

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This is the 11th year we've vacationed in Truro on Cape Cod. The beaches are beautiful, even if the water is wicked cold.


Jun. 22nd, 2006 04:14 pm
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I'm back from Jackson Hole, the house is still in one piece (good job [profile] kataline), the cat is alive, the car seems OK.

We left very early (4:30 a.m.) on Saturday, and took 3 planes and 9 hours to get there. But we arrived early enough that after we got our rental car we headed directly to Grand Teton National Park.

The Jackson Hole airport has one of the most beautiful natural settings of any airport I've seen. The Tetons loom in the background – the approach takes you right alongside them – just gorgeous.

In three days I did three rigorous, long hikes. I love my hiking boots, because after all that intensive hiking, I had no blisters and my feet didn’t hurt that much. There was still plenty of snow on the mountain tops, and the white snow, vivid blue sky and green trees made a wonderful color palette. On one day, I hiked by myself, for the first time ever. Encountered some wildlife, including a moose and a deer.

The town of Jackson is – as to be expected – touristy. In a dramatic setting, though. Our hotel was incredibly tacky (log cabins). Foodwise – I ate elk one night, a mistake I will hopefully remember never to repeat again. I did a fair amount of shopping – I tried on about 15 dozen cowboy hats. That is the main tourist merchandise item in town – they come in many shapes and sizes and colors and materials. At first I thought it would be fun to buy one, but I decided that a straw cowboy hat is tacky and the felt/leather ones are too expensive – especially considering that I would probably never wear it again. I enjoyed trying them on, though.

My find of the trip was a pair of red cowboy boots. I fell in love. They are gorgeous. And incredibly comfortable.

On Tuesday afternoon, as part of the conference offerings, I joined Rich and other utility regulators for a scenic raft ride on the Snake River. We saw two bald eagles, including a nest. (For my wanton friends – our raft guide was simply gorgeous. And one of the funnier moments was when all the women decided we needed to overturn the raft, call for emergency personnel and hope that Harrison Ford came to rescue us.)

Unfortunately, the closest I got to seeing Harrison was on the plane ride home, when he was in the movie on the airplane (Firewall).

Perhaps I’ll post photos later.
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We got back late last night from another college visit trip – Brown, Barnard, Fordham and Sarah Lawrence.

Caroline was on her own at the first two, so Rich and I wandered around both Providence and NYC. We did sit in on an information session at Brown, and we were astonished and overwhelmed – there were at least 400 people crammed into the second floor of Manning Chapel, which should really seat 230 or so. It was a fire hazard – the aisles were packed with people. It was really zoo-like.

On Tuesday, Rich and I spent the day walking the length of Manhattan – starting at West 71st St, we walked across the park to the Met (and decided it was too nice a day to spend in a museum), down Fifth Ave., then over to Sixth Ave., then all the way down to City Hall. We made many stops along the way, and bought a few odds and ends. We ate dinner at a Chinese place, and then saw a movie called Friends with Money – it was OK.

Wednesday was Fordham and Sarah Lawrence, where we joined Caroline in taking the tours. I had never been to either campus, even though I’ve been aware of both schools since I was growing up, so I enjoyed seeing both of them. They are practically polar opposites, which was also interesting.

On the way home we stopped at a mall and raided H&M. As Caroline said, it might be a good thing that there is no H&M in Vermont.
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Yes, I am alive. Here’s a rundown of a fun and fabulous weekend. And Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Details here )


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March 2012

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