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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

five more photos

Added an additional five shots to the photoset so far. Still one per day, but not caught up to the present yet; I’ve fallen behind in dealing with my photos (surprise!), so there are three days I haven’t even gone through yet in search of good shots.

These are, for the record, totally unedited. I’ve tried to pick ones that look good already, but just think how much better they’ll look once they’ve gone through Lightroom!

In other news, I have discovered how many days is too many to be continually on my feet sightseeing. If I ever plan a trip this long again, I need to build in more downtime — or rather, find some way to silence the little voice that insists I should be out seeing stuff, being as how I went to all the effort of getting here.

This entry was also posted at Comment here or there.

where I’ve been; where I’ll be

I was offline for a bit (sort of) because my laptop had to go in for repair, leaving me mostly functioning off a tablet for the duration of its absence. Not conducive to blogging, nor to anything much resembling productivity. 😛

But! There are interesting things afoot, and I would like help from you all, dear readers, in prepping for them.

To whit, the [profile] kniedzw and I are going to England. (Mostly to London, though we’ll be attending a friend’s wedding in Oxfordshire, and I’ll be winding up in Brighton at the end for World Fantasy. Also, we’re probably going to pop over to Paris for a bit to see his old roommate.) We’ll be there from October 11th through the end of the month . . .

. . . and I have no idea where we should stay.

“But [personal profile] swan_tower,” you say, “haven’t you stayed in London, like, a bazillion times?” Why yes, yes I have — for values of “a bazillion” that equal half a dozen or so, that is. But the first of those, I stayed with a friend’s sister, and the last four, I stayed in the cheapest hostel possible, neither of which are really what we’re looking for in this case. (The remaining time — or possibly two — I have no memory at all of where I stayed.) I honestly don’t even know what neighborhood we should aim for. We’re there for sightseeing, not research, so I don’t need to be smack dab in the middle of the City. In fact, I’d prefer not to be, since you can’t get food there after 6 p.m. 😛

Where should we look at? Our price range is flexible; we’re not looking for luxury, but we want better than a backpacker hostel. Convenience to a Tube station is key, though probably not hard to get. Moderately central location preferable, i.e. maybe we could save a bundle by staying somewhere out in Richmond but it isn’t worth trekking back and forth.

Recommendations? And feel free to propose nifty things to see in London that I haven’t already done.

This entry was also posted at Comment here or there.

two in one month?

I’m on my way home from North Carolina, but the timing of my ride to the airport meant I had five hours to kill here.

I was almost very lazy. There’s free wifi here, and I was tempted to just watch Doctor Who on my tablet. But the wifi is slow — slow enough that Netflix would play about five seconds of video, then stop to re-buffer. And so I thought, okay, it’s a message from the gods, and they’re saying: stop being so lazy!

Two hours later, I have a finished draft of the Penelope story, which I think was inspired by a passing comment in Diana Wynne Jones’ Reflections. It doesn’t have a title yet, but I wrote the entirety of it during this trip. Combine that with the 5K or so I wrote on “The Rose” during my first two weeks here, plus bits and pieces on some other things, and I’m reasonably pleased with myself: that’s two short stories in one month! I haven’t done that in ages. And during a month where I had very little spare energy or brain, to boot.

Now I think it’s time to find some food. I only have an hour or so layover in Chicago, so assuming I’ll have time to get dinner there strikes me as a very foolish move.

This entry was also posted at Comment here or there.

Poland, Day 1 (Krakow)

Breakfast was in the hotel crypt again (because it was included with the room, and also very tasty — though wow, Polish breakfast includes a lot more in the way of savory foods than I’m used to seeing at that time of day), and then it was time to defy jet lag and set forth.

I made a miscalculation in planning this trip, though. I didn’t realize that Polish museums, like theatres, are frequently closed on Mondays. As it turned out, this made very little dent in our plans (since there was enough to fill an entire day with regardless), but it was annoying.

Castles and dragons and caves, oh my!

Poland, Day 0.5 (Krakow)

Having done one of the labors of Hercules in culling my Poland photos from roughly 1300 down to 59, I should get around to that whole trip report thing. But it’s likely to take multiple posts, so this is only the first installment.

We flew to Poland via Frankfurt, which I think may challenge Heathrow for length of odyssey from one gate to the next. Seriously, it is the most inexplicably complicated mess of hallways, stairways, escalators, elevators, slidewalks, and tunnels I’ve ever seen. Plus a five-minute bus ride to the plane itself — no really, I timed it. Two minutes in, I asked Kyle if we were driving to Poland. Four minutes in, I said they were taking us to a ditch at the edge of the airport, where they would shoot us for holding up the departure. (Our flight from San Francisco took off an hour late.)

We started with only half a day, but made good use of it.

Books read, October 2012

Way late, but that’s because I came home with a cold and then, just as I was recovering from it, contracted a different one! Yay! Wait, not yay. Anti-yay.

Saba: Under the Hyena’s Foot, Jane Kurtz. This was a startlingly political book. It’s part of the Girls of Many Lands series, which is the “rest of the world” companion to the American Girl thing, i.e. the dolls you may have seen. It takes place in Ethiopia in 1846, and features kidnappings, assassinations, and palace coups — in other words, a lot more in the way of political intrigue than I would have expected out of an “intermediate fiction” doll tie-in book. They’re all written by different authors, so the quality is undoubtedly all over the place, but I note that Laurance Yep wrote a Chinese book for the series (Spring Pearl: The Last Flower) and Chitra Banerjee Divarakuni wrote an Indian one (Neela: Victory Song), so I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they’re worth checking out.

Unspoken, Sarah Rees Brennan. YA update of the old “gothic” genre. I was mildly distracted by the part-Japanese protagonist being named “Kami” (though there’s an explanation for it in the story), and early on I felt like the peppiness of the narrator’s voice was at odds with the gothic mood. But the peppiness settled down as the story went on, and the explanation for the name came along, and I ended up quite enjoying this one. The premise — and this comes out early enough that I don’t think it’s a spoiler — is that Kami has always had an “imaginary friend” in her head, a guy named Jared that she talks to all the time. And then Jared shows up. Because he’s a real person. And one of the things I liked best about the book was how this was not a Wonderful Thing, but a shocking development neither of them can quite cope with, because they’re not what each other expected and yet they know each other really well and it’s really traumatic to lose something that was both a deep source of comfort and a constant risk of being thought genuinely delusional by those around you.

Fair warning, though: the book, while it does resolve the central mystery, leaves a whole mess of things dangling for future plot development. So if you are looking for a nice tidy satisfying package of a book, this is not it.

Wieliczka: Historic Salt Mine, Janusz Podlecki. Very short book, mostly consisting of photographs. A souvenir of this place, which I will be reporting on soon if I ever get around to blogging about the Poland trip.

The Jews in the Time of Jesus: An Introduction, Stephen M. Wylen. A discussion of what first-century Judaism was like, and its relationship both to modern Judaism and modern Christianity. I’ve studied the early Church before, and that entailed a bit of talking about Judaism, but this was kind of the other side of that picture. It’s not wholly focused on the first century and its aftermath, though: in order to make that part make sense, it starts with a very concise little potted history of Judaism in general, which I also needed and was grateful for. (Things like “the Babylonian Exile” are more than just phrases to me now.)

Writing-wise, I kind of wanted to smack the author. He has a tendency to write in short, declarative sentences. The sentences I’m using here are examples. This gets tedious after a while. Also, there’s a very didactic tone in places, like where he patiently takes you by the hand and explains that the “pious Jewish” interpretation of X and the “pious Christian” interpretation of X are not the same as the “secular historical” interpretation of X, and I’m like, no shit, Sherlock. Occasionally I feels he fails as a historian, too, like when he says “The Pharisees were much more important when [the Mishnah and the New Testament] were being written than they were in the time of Jesus and the Temple” (okay) and then later says “The attention [the Pharisees] receive in [the New Testament] tells us that they really were important in the time of Jesus.” Um. I think your editor missed something there, sir.

Despite those nitpicks, however, overall I found the book quite useful.

This was the month of Not Finishing Books, either because I quit on them or because I only needed to read pieces or because I hadn’t finished them yet. (November has already featured the completion of two books I started in October.)

And now I convince myself not to go fall asleep again.

five things make a jet-lagged post

1) I am so very, very glad that I flew from Krakow to Frankfurt to SFO yesterday, rather than connecting anywhere in the U.S. (Not even just the East Coast: the problems there have screwed up routing and plane supply all over the place.) We did have to divert half an hour further north to avoid the winds, but that’s minor compared to what could have happened with a different route.

2) My ideal would be to not leave the house today. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I have enough food on hand to make that work.

3) This rendition of the X-Men, as characters in Edo-period Japan, is pretty awesome. And if I didn’t link to it before, so is the artist’s previous take on the Avengers in the Sengoku period.

4) rachelmanija has posted notes/transcript from her panel on gender roles in The Hunger Games, so if you want to see what I sound like after a full weekend of conning and my brain is leaking out my ears, go read. On the whole, I think it was a really great panel, despite exhaustion on my part. (Warning: spoilers for the whole series, including Mockingjay.)

5) Due to a rollout of AO3 code, Yuletide signups have been extended to 9 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow. Get in while the getting’s good!

leaving Poland

There will (I hope) be more extensive trip-blogging after it’s over and done with, but in brief: I leave Krakow at an obscenely early hour tomorrow, after seven and a half days. We got a dusting of snow this morning, that half melted off in the afternoon, but lasted long enough to make the Basilica of St. Mary and the Cloth Hall and St. Florian’s Tower and so on look charmingly picturesque in a way I hadn’t already photographed. So kniedzw and I ran around repeating a bunch of shots, then hid from the cold in some museums, and then — when we couldn’t usefully sightsee anymore — went and watched Skyfall, subtitled in Polish. So ha-ha, I saw it before most of you. 🙂 (Short form: quite good. And surprisingly focused on the personal side, with the Big Threat being more the vehicle that delivered the personal story, rather than the major point of the film.)

I have spent the last two days with a cold I really could have done without, but even with that sapping my energy, it’s been an excellent trip. There will be many photos, and assuming I can muster the will, some chatty posts as well.

First, though, I have to endure a transatlantic flight with a cold. Oh joy.

brief report from Krakow

1) Learn from my error, chilluns. If you’re going to a foreign country, turn off 2-step verification on your Google accounts for the duration, unless you can actually get text messages on your phone while overseas. Otherwise, if your laptop refuses to talk to the hotel wireless, you’ll have to go to great lengths to get internet access long enough to turn verification off so you can check your Gmail on other computers as needed.

2) Things Krakow does very well: street musicians, fall color, street performers of the non-musical kind, hot chocolate, music not on the streets, sausage (so saith the kniedzw), and RIDICULOUSLY monumental altars/shrines in its churches. Also, veneration of Pope John Paul II (shocker, I know).

3) Things I do not do well: sleep on planes, these days. I don’t know where my ability to do so went, but it is gone.

4) I wish I could have come here two years ago, when I could pretend to the IRS that this was research for A Natural History of Dragons. Thanks to folklore (which I will report on in more detail later), there are dragons ALL OVER the place. Including one whose picture I will try to post later, because he’s awesome.

5) Off to Auschwitz tomorrow. Not exactly happy fun vacation time, but it’s one of those things you kind of have to do.

P.S. My folkloric and musical heart is kind of in love with the Heynał mariacki.