Hawkes Bay NZ Water trail

Sunday, December 8, 2013

All I want for Xmas is a recycled bike bag

Some years ago I wrecked a new-ish wind proof bike jacket by letting it fall into my wheel spokes during a fast descent. Luckily I didn't crash when the jacket unwrapped itself from my waist, but the bike ripped on the back in greasy shreds.
I never wanted to throw such an expensive thing away. So finally I made it into a nifty backpack. It even has the original zippered pocket intact, and, with some creative piecing, I turned the tags into 2 rectangles big enough to sew.
So, here it is, big enough to hold a pump, tools, a rain jacket, lunch and my phone. Its wind proof, water resistant, and safety yellow for riding with dark clothes at night. Cost about $2 for the twisted piping. Everything else was lying around the house.
In this season of crazy overcomsumption, I feel like I've beaten the system. Even the remaining grease marks add a little something.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Day 1 Cycle Oregon In John Day

I'm in Eastern Oregon for a weeklong ride in cowboy country. I just did a 75 mile loop and got back to camp, at the High School, by 5pm. This is good as I've not done enough preparation for this ride. Now, off for a shower, a meal and an early night.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On Orcas Island

I am camping for 5 nights on Lopez Island, and riding in the biking paradise that is Washington's San Juan Islands. I'd reserved this trip in May, before I left for Germany.

Here's a serve yourself farm stand on Orcas. They are only selling cabbages and collard greens today, and I am traveling with a mini day backpack, so I didn't buy just looked.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Message to all bike thieves from LHR airport


RIP Wm the Conqueror 2010 to 2013

I'm at Heathrow Terminal 3 sitting next to a guy playing a ukulele and ignoring the screaming kids. Air Canada leaves for Vancouver in an hour, and I'll be leaving it.
During my days in London I deliberately chose not to look at all the Bromptons in use, didn't shop for a new one, and managed to remain philosophical about my loss.
I prefer to remember the sorts of places I've been with William in our 3 years together. To New Zealand, to Utah, as well as to the Ballard Public Library and on my friends' sailboat for a day on Lopez Island.
Here's my great little bike at Lake Annecy.
We've had a great run and I miss my baby bike, badly on some days.
But it's "keep calm and carry on"
Maybe I'll replace Wm with a Wm the Second. Or maybe I won't.
It's really not about the bike.
I don't know who will buy my stolen bike. But honestly, whoever you are, all you're getting is a black bike of dubious provenance. What you'll never, ever get, is what that little bike let me do and see. Lowlife, What goes around, comes around. And I hope my Wm bucks your sorry ass off and lands you in the gutter a few times before he's sent to the scrap heap.
William the Conqueror, you rocked!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Before the main event

There's a no photography policy during the show, so this shot shows just how close to the stage you can get. These musicians are on stage for about 5 minutes playing all sorts of bleating and wheezing Renaissance instruments, while leering into the crowd.
Oberon and Titania were half feral, Bottom a delightful clodhopper, and the 2 pairs of mixed up lovers becoming crazier and more dirt covered as they chase each other through the woods. Puck was also a barely controlled creature.
Even the Pirymus and Thisbee performed by the clodhoppers at the ending wedding feast was actually enjoyable.
This is the 3rd play I've seen at the new Globe, and they've all been wonderful.
And we got a little cloud cover by the end of Act 1, so no one in the audience fainted.

Spending my last day in London with Will the Quill

As it was the only type available when I booked online back in May, I bought a £5 groundling ticket. As the weather's reached 31 here for past several days, I thought that standing for the performance of A Midsummer's Night Dream might be an ordeal.
Turns out it was great fun, terrific front row "no seats" view of the cast.
I think I'll always go groundling the next time I'm here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Someone's girlfriend by Thomas Gainsborough in the Tate

Celebrity girlfriends are nothing new.

Something from 1985 in the Tate

A piece by an artist called Mark Wallinger expressing his feelings on the commercialize of art.

Jacob Epstein at the Tate

I don't known anything about this artist apart from the gravestone he did for Oscar Wilde in Paris.
Someone who made this in 1914 is worth learning more about.

Tate Britain on another hot day

It's so warm even the portraits are stripping down.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

London Weather summarized

A pub on Portobello Road with a lyrical name.

Time Flies

I'm approaching the end of my trip. Two more days to explore London, then estimate travel time to get from Epsom to Heathrow using National Rail and the Tube.
The weekend has been a scorcher for the region and I've had little desire to do anything "touristy". Instead, I spent most of the day lying on my friend's sofa, reading Baghdad Sketches by Freya Stark, a female English travel writer writing in the 1930s.
At the time she was active the "streamline style" of this 2013 poster in the underground was all the rage.
Everything old is new again.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Portobello Road

The vendors are still selling some antiques and a lot of souvenirs here still. I came over to the Notting Hill tube station after having lunch in a pub in Blackfriars. I visited Books for Cooks, learned that the travel bookstore in the same street has folded, replaced by a smaller general bookshop. Books for Cooks isn't doing classes until September, so I just browsed the books for sale, enjoying memories of a lunch I had there 3 years ago.
It's another hot day in London.

A London Walks Tour in the City of London

I showed up at Monument tube for the 9 pound 11am tour of "hidden London." Guide Andrew was wonderful. He explained the meaning of this altarpiece in St Magnus Martyr church, one of the many churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
It was a worthwhile tour to do. I'd happily do another with this company if they're as good as this one.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The reason to visit the National Gallery

Kinetic artist Michael Landry seemed the oddest choice for artist in residence so I had to see the show.
It's a terrific show of work inspired by some of the most ridiculously gory martyrs of the church who figure so predominantly in the National Gallery and who are, year by year, becoming more obscure to all us non-religious types. I had to see the wonderful installation about St Catherine of Alexandria, with its almost roulette wheel interpretation. After all the gory and puzzling medieval art in German churches, this laugh out loud exhibition really hit the spot.

St Martins in the Fields Church

The crypt has been converted to a very pleasant cafe. Upstairs in the church a. Quartet is practicing Baroque music for a concert tonight at 7:30pm. They're very accomplished.
St Martins is on one side of Trafalgar Square, near the National Gallery.
In the nursery song, it's the one that says:
"I owe you a farthing, say the bells of St Martins."

Inside the National Gallery

Some of the extravagant interior decoration and a lovely floral arrangement. There is a "no photos" rule here, but saying it applied to me photographing live flowers is a stupid extension of the rule.
Unfortunately you can't buy postcards of the majority of works here, so it's sort of a self defeating policy, as its usually about image rights.

Icons of London

The exit of Charing Cross tube and Nelson on his column.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


We are revolting children
Living in revolting times
Singing revolting songs
Using revoltingly rhymes.

It's a great show.

A matinee of Mathilda in the West End

I've read all of Dahl's kid's books, plus his autobiography, so I'm going for a ticket returned today at the box office.
Not cheap, but I brought lunch at Marks & Spencer's before getting on the train, so that helps.
Last time I was here I saw War Horse and it was wonderful.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Red Myrtle by Petra Borner

Something comtemporary using cut paper designed by a graduate of Central Saint Martins and inspired no doubt by many visits to the V&A.

V&A art library

Queen Victoria would recognize the library in her museum still.
The whole place is a place that's so inspirational. I came out at 5pm closing time knowing that Beatrice Potter meticulously recreated several outfits in the V&A in The Tailor of Gloucester.
I also saw a wonderfully touching multimedia exhibit on the Camden music halls that longer exist.
I also appreciate just how knowledgable the docents are. One of the special shows at the moment is a 1980s fashion review called Club to Catwalk. Today was members day, so not open until tomorrow for the general public. The V&A's costume collection is substantial and the galleries were mobbed with mostly young women dreaming of a career in fashion. I can relate to them. I was all over the textile books and lovely things made from Wm Morris designs in the store. It's something about London that I've always loved. There's a real love of fine fabrics and skilled craftsmanship that distinguishes this city.

From the temporary display at the V&A

I like musems that give a behind the scenes look at historical research, analysis of provenance for non specialists. The Getty in Los Angeles does this.
I have a real soft spot for these so pretty romantic C18th French portraits that meticulously portray the fashion of the day.

Jewelry at the V&A

The presentation of the collection is "wow!"

The V&A's theatrical costumes collection

From 1976, a Sydney Opera House hat worn to Ascot by female impersonator Barrie Humphries as Dame Edna Everidge, an icon of my childhood.
So cool!

C15th Tapestry at the wonderful V&A

This was the treasure I liked the most on today's free docent tour of the medieval and renaissance galleries.
I think it's called the Devonshire tapestry and came to the V&A as a tax payment in 1957.
I went back after the one hour tour to listen to the audio guide, which explained courtly love, the bear and boar hunting of the time, the music of the era and how it relates to the story of Sir Gawain.
I missed the V&A on my short visit here last year, but today I just indulged the day in its extraordinary collections.

Platform 9 and 3/4s

In King's Cross Station, you can borrow a house scarf (Slitheryn, Gryffindore,...) and relive a Harry Potter moment, no charge! You even get your scarf airborne for the camera.

Monday, July 8, 2013

At St Pancras International

Here I am, as woman not on her bike, using a 17,00 hand cart as my current "set of wheels."
It seems so strange to be speaking English again, with others for whim it's their L1, as we TESOL's call it.
St Pancras is across the street from the British Library, where I will find a cafe and check prices for their special exhibition on Propaganda.
I just bought a 55 pound week's pass for regions 1-6, which covers the trip to my friend's house, as well as bus and tube til next Sunday. I'll burn through this transport card very quickly.

A Londres! En y va!

Flat countryside of fields of wheat, potatoes and cabbages whipping by, a polyglot babble in the 2nd class carriage dining car, then, suddenly, blackout. I love fast trains.
In less than an hour or so, I'll be in "Blighty" where 33 years ago yesterday, my daughter was born in London, and a city that is very special in so many ways.
I'm visiting an old friend from the days when our daughters were toddlers. My friend's retiring from a long teaching career at the end of this week, and lucky woman, she'll be a grandmother early next year.
So many bittersweet memories ahead.I actually bought William from Brompton dealer near London Bridge, 3 years ago, almost to the day. I was celebrating my newfound freedom from a job that had lost its zing, and reveling in my first big solo trip as a woman on her bike. Sad I'm not bringing him back for a ride in London. I had my severance money back then and I used a big chunk of it to buy the folding bike.
Still, I'm back.
"Failure is the tuition you pay for success."
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
And my dad's favorite:
"Don't let the b*****ds get you down."

8am on a Monday at Gare du Nord

Dealt with utter chaos at the "Halle Londres" but still managed to find one ticket kiosk to print my official Eurostar ticket, and left Paris on the 9:15am now 55 minutes late.
It felt strange not to be fighting my way through this mob without my folding bike, but that's the way it has to be.
I left the hostel at 6:30am this morning, walking one last time through a rough neighborhood, streets littered with stale baguettes and a large suitcase, perhaps stolen from the very station I was leaving from. Paris is always such a contrast to the lovely villages that for the rest of the country.
I don't hate Paris, though, despite my misfortune and being suddenly, woman not on her bike.
I will surely be back.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The new Paris Youth Hostel

This is the Pajol Auberge de la Jeunesse where I've stayed for my 3 nights in Paris.
It's a green building, the solar panels on the roof are powering the building. There are a few things that need to be fixed inside, like room lighting, wall hooks and an incorrectly installed shower head in my room: 204, and it's still unfinished, but it's an ambitious attempt to turn the tide on the squalor of this poor immigrant area of Paris.
Fortunately the long hours of summer daylight here makes the neighborhood seem relatively safe. Apparently the hostel has been underwritten by the local council as they badly want to change the perception around here.
I hope it works. The location is very good, which is the reason I chose ton stay here.
Tomorrow I go to Gare Du Nord for the 9:13am Eurostar to London. I bought a small hand trolley today for 17,00 Euros so I can transport my baggage as effectively as possible without my bike.
I am planning to stay with a good friend, and I'm sure that too will help cheer my mood.
And I like London a lot.

Something else cute and black lost in Paris

I hope Fofa has been found.

Another type of immortality

Mr Gramme invented the industrial dynamo, apparently. Here he is, holding his invention for all time.

One that wasn't in Pere Lachaise in 1979

There are many new memorials to those murdered during WW2.

Another show stopper

Much nicer than scary skeletons and other images of death.

When will Hollywood animators discover this one

Someone who appreciated the Romanticism of the late C19th.

Sex and Death

It's a combination embedded in artistic traditions since the beginning of time. This is a Belle Epoch version.

Whoa! Bustin' out!

Someone who would have approved of the cemeteries in Salzburg, and their appreciation of the idea of a judgement day.

A Family Tomb

Not sure if there are any more members of this family expecting to join their ancestors in this extraordinary crypt in Pere Lachaise.

Julia and her mother

Julia died at age 24 and it seems her mother Elizabeth wanted to reunite with her daughter when she too passed.
A beautiful piece like the ancient Greek and Roman funerary monuments in places like the Louvre.

A woman who died during the liberation of Paris

There are lots of tragedies here in Pere Lachaise, and sometimes the tombs are so touching these people do achieve some level of immortality.
Who knows how Lucienne Calmettes died, but perhaps her widowed husband Robert Calvet eventually had a happy life, after erecting this tomb for his dead wife.

Cafe de l'industrie near Bastille

As part of my deliberate efforts to be extra nice to myself today, first I stopped for a coffee at this authentic Art Deco era bistro in the Maraisn near today's market, then stayed for an excellent salade nicoise and iced tea for lunch. I'm feeding my grief about losing William by trying to immerse myself in the France i adore. I hope it's helping. At times, I am in danger of transferring my anger about the theft to a generalization about Paris being just one big nest of thieves, streets full of rubbish, and entire families of beggars using busted phone booths as bedrooms, and I never want to come here again, etc.
That's not true, though, because you have to accept that a big sophisticated city like Paris has an underclass of "have nots" who are shut out, and this do what they need to do in order to live. I'm just a very fortunate woman who had parents to raise me, and who valued education so much, they sent me to college, where I learned about Oscar Wilde and Collette, and all the famous people buried in Pere Lachaise, so I got the ticket into the middle class. I'm now a teacher myself, and I've worked with adults who never had the advantages I did.
So, I just enjoyed the atmosphere of this classic early C20th restaurant with dark wood panels on the walls, engraved glass at the bar, and a pressed tin ceiling, along with the guy sitting next to me who was dealing with his ciggie craving by keeping an unlit one between his lips as he worked on his laptop. Such stereotypical French behavior, straight out of a J-P Belmondo movie from the 1960s.
Food was bistro good, wait staff professional and I could look out the window at 4-storey buildings with oeil-de-boeuf windows in their attics.
It distracts me from being depressed and that's good.

The Sunday market on Richard Lenoir Blvd

It was a long and warm walk to the Bastille and the market I knew was held there, but I told myself this morning that I would just walk across Paris, enjoying the beautiful hotels and cafes and then take the metro back to my hostel when I got footsore. This had been my plan anyway, although I'd planned to bike it not walk. But that's not going to happen.
Here's a great stall selling wild mushrooms and green beans.
I picked up some cherries and apricots and a slice of apple tart to eat later. I also did a little clothes shopping (this is Paris after all, and I now have an extra 33 lbs of space in my return luggage as I no longer have a bike to pack home.
I didn't buy anything too spectacular, just a pretty striped sailor top, the classic Matelot style from Brittany. Plus, for 5,00 Euros I bought a cute polka dot cotton scarf that will go nicely with my sailor shirt. Unfortunately, as it's Sunday, all the interfering little boutiques in the Marais, site of this market, will be shut, so I've contented myself with looking at Parisian women and how they dress smartly even when it's pretty hot. If I lost some weight I'd have a lot more choices I know, but there are plenty of women here who aren't thin yet look pretty good. They'll be my inspiration when I get back to the US.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Today is my last day in Paris, another day in the low 80s, and I decided to pay a return visit to this cemetery. I was last here 34 years ago, and James Douglas Morrison had been buried here only for 8 years, so it was early days, before his grave became a pilgrimage site, and well before he'd been mythologized. Today the grave, tucked behind a bunch of tombs of long forgotten C19th Parisians, is cordoned off by an ugly metal fence, and it's well trampled, littered with wilting flowers, bad poems on sun faded paper, a couple bottles of opened wine and other trash left by visitors. It's sad, but I think apt. People come here on a tour but many don't know why they're there. I talked to a family with early teen aged kids and the kids asked me who Jim Morrison was.
At Oscar Wilde's tomb, topped with this sculpture by Jacob Epstein, I heard people puzzling over who he was, why he was in a French cemetery, what the tomb meant, etc. I guess the single red rose still gets placed anonymously on his grave. If they'd thought to look, there was one there, on the verso of the statue, which has been sandblasted and is now protected by a Perspex wall. Apparently there's been a lot of vandalism of the tomb, and the angel's private parts have been smashed off. You can still read the traces of obscenities scratched on the stone.
Wilde, likewise, is just another C19th writer they might vaguely remember from high school English lit class.
Pere Lachaise is full of family tombs that have been vandalized or that are falling down, stained glass smashed, water bottles thrown in the crypts.
It's sad to see all the effort these long dead people put into being remembered. There are tombs here for men killed in the Great War, which will be 100 years ago in 2014.
There are new monuments there too, most to the memory of French people who died in concentration camps, or died as resistance fighters in World War 2.
The cemetery police come by and kicked out a group of people I passed who were picnicking on the grass near a shaded bench. Well, at least the read French well enough not to picnick in the garden of Rembrance, which I think may contain cremated remains.
It's a curious place. I looked all over for Sarah Bernhart's grave, but couldnt find it where indicated on the cemetery map and didn't bother trying to find Edith Piaf or Collette or any of the Impressionist painters buried there.
I developed an appreciation for French artistic and literary culture when I attended university, but I have to assume that for most foreign visitors to Pere Lachaise, it's just a creepy old graveyard. It certainly reminded me that time waits for no one and that I shouldn't spend too much time trying to fix the past and staying pissed off about yesterday losing my bike to a Parisian thief.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Picking Up the Pieces

Here's part of the theft report I filed with the Paris police. Of course I know it's a formality. I have idea if my travel insurance will pay anything. I took the insurance for the emergency medical evacuation coverage, given my spectacular solo hiking accident in Mew Zealand in 2011. My lovely baby bike, William the Conqueror, is gone, stolen by some lowlife bastard who will file off the registration and sell it on.

Well my little bike is gone, and I can't do a damned thing about that.
Of course, I'm crying as I write this post. I feel very lost without my mate and as I'm traveling alone, it's a very private sort of grief.
I will grieve for a while, and then get back on my bike, somewhere else, I just don't quite know where right now.
A bientot, Mon petit copain.

The End of William

At about 1:30pm at the entrance to the St-Georges Metro station in Place Sainted Georges, an SOB stole my brompton. Took everything, helmet, cable lock and bike. They missed the bag because it's sitting on the chair opposite me at the restaurant where I stopped for lunch.
It's sort of unbelievable how quick they were. I never saw them. Now I guess I need to find the local gendarme and file a report. Likely pointless, but I will try to recover some of my loss from my travel insurance.
I'm in shock. I made it all this way, a day away from leaving for London and the bastards got me.
It was chained to the lamppost to the right of where the two men are standing.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bagging William for the Night

It's 9:40pm on a Friday night in Paris. There's music blaring from an apartment across the street, people shouting, and a guy doing wheelies on a VeloLib bike I suspect he isn't paying for.
This is the "bike parking" the checkin woman at the hostel said I could use.
The moveable chain link fence is a particularly fanciful touch.
I've only used it once, at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, the nifty bike cover that makes William "disappear", and then I realised the Germans didn't care.
So tonight I used the cover again, (those Brompton people thought of everything), and Wm is now spending the evening as an unusually shaped piece of luggage next to the sink in my room.
There is no way in hell I plan to leave my bike overnight on a street in Paris, and expect to find anything, except a cable lock snipped in two, the next morning.

Planning 2 Full Days in Paris

It's an utter pleasure to sit in this shiny new hostel, listen to covers of Jum Morrison being played in the bar, and plan my weekend in Paris.
I have been to this city before. Most recently I was here in September 2012 at the end of a cruise in the Greek Islands. Most memorably was in 1978, when I worked in Paris as a nanny. That gig pretty much set my course for life, making me a beer budget sort of person with a taste for champagne. It's certainly the reason I feel at home in France.
So, because I don't need to do the "incontournables" (the unmissables), as the Office of Tourisme's Paris est A Vous! guide I got for free in the hostel, I can go exploring based on my geographical location.
The pen in this photo points to Rue Pajol, which places me within easy biking distance of Montmartre and Batignolles, as well as the big flea market at St-Ouen.
So my rough plan is to spend Saturday north of the Seine, and Sunday south, in St-Germain-Des-Pres and Montparnasse.
Of course, as I'm traveling on Wm the Conqueror, I'll find a way to ride past the biggies, like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
I know how bikeable Paris is. It's the home of VeloLib, and I've already been sharing the marked bike paths with people on these rentals.
Last time I was in Paris with a bike was in July 2010, and I rode fully loaded from La Villette, in the 19th Arrondissement, basically the NW part of Paris to Versailles, via the Bois de Boulogne, which is in the SE part of Paris.
It was an amazing thing to be able to do.

In the Marais

As I walked across a large part of Paris to the hostel and passed through the Bastille neighborhood I got to see a lot of interesting shops and cafes in an area not on the tourist A list. I also saw a lot of squalor, beggars in small tent cities and one family actually living in a derelict phone box.
It's also a perfect Summer's day today, and the city looks magic, despite the urban grittiness.