Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Coffee Time

Blogging -- because I can.

Sunrise from flight AA1579

Sunrise is slowly catching us as we try to outrun it, flying westward.

I shot the photo with my iPhone, then cropped it and adjusted the
exposure using the PS Mobile app (Photoshop).

I've been checking all my favorite sites and blogs from my iPhone. The
cost for a single flight connection is $8. Very worth it since this is
the most fun I've had on a flight. Except maybe that time Robin and I
took a small Napalese airplane to within one mile of the Mt. Everest
summit. Or the helicopter flight we took over Niagra Falls.

blogging from AA flight between Boston and DFW

I'm on an American Airlines flight and they just announced that we'll
have a WiFi connectio until we're within 15 minutes of landing in
Dallas. Zowie! I didn't think the day would ever get here.

In a few minutes I'll pull out the laptop and use it.

So hi from the sky!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A visit with Jay from Turkey

Yesterday Jay, the Turkish exchange student who lived with us for most of 2000, and his wife Ela, drove to York from their home in Manchester (a little over an hour away). We strolled York with them, then stopped at The Old White Swan (again - love it there) for a late lunch, then back to the hotel and a cup of tea before  they headed back to Manchester.

Robin and Jay tour The Shambles.

The Old White Swan wasn’t nearly as crowded or noisy as it was last time we were there. Delicious food and a cozy place to visit (after taking the York Dungeon Tour, a walk-thru, humorous presentation about the dark, violent side of York history).

I’m going to miss The Old White Swan. BBQ chicken and Bacon (ham, not Francis) on wilted spinach and crushed small potatoes. The treacle and custard for dessert. And a pint of cider.

Now we’re back in Uxbridge in Robin’s room at Brunel University.

Go Arsenal!

No, not an upscale shopping mall, just a London train station (St. Pancras).

A church steeple from the train window.

Iconic England design, being admired by a designer from the USA

On the tube ride from London to Uxbridge, we chatted most of the way with this friendly gentleman. Robin thought his scarf was a holiday design, but he unwrapped it to show it’s a scarf for his football (soccer) team The Arsenal. He’s returning from a game at Emirates Stadium where the Arsenal played a team from Birmingham. The Arsenal won 3-0 (three nil). He’s had a season ticket and has been going to Arsenal games for 62 years. I asked if that’s when the team was started. No, they’ve been playing for about 120 years. One of the other season ticket holders that sits next to him has been going to Arsenal games for 86 years. Go Arsenal!!

As we left York this morning...

Robin snapped this photo in one of the York train station waiting rooms. Hey look, some old-timer is using a MacBook. Other old-timers are looking up at a digital message board for updated train delay information.

Listening to official announcements about train delays and cancellations was impossible at first. Every announcement was a female voice echoing throughout the train station that sounded like “Wah wah waaaaah rah wah wah rah waaaah.” I soon discovered that if you stand within several feet of a speaker, and make sure the speaker is aimed directly at you, you can actually understand what’s being said.

From a crosswalk that crosses the over the tracks, I snapped this photo of the madding crowd. Five points if you find Robin.

Farewell to York

I can’t get enough of The Shambles!

One minute you’re in Medieval England, a couple of steps later you’re in Paris.

Pigeons and patches. Repairs to this tower on the Ouse River, made long ago, used red bricks to replace missing stones.

Quintessential Shambles.

York Minster and Cliffords Tower

Not many of my interior photos of York Minster were good, due to the subdued lighting, cold hands, and no tripod, but it’s a beautiful and spectacular place.

York Minster.

The pulpit in York Minster.

Of the many sculptures in York Minster, my favorite was one of several Arch Bishops, laying in eternal marble repose. The sheet must have slipped off the model’s shoe before the sculpture could stop chiseling. It’s hard to redo these things, I suppose. All kidding aside, I love this little touch of accidental carelessness frozen in marble. Genius.

Robin studies The Semaphore Saints, a series of headless saints holding signal paddles.

The Semaphore Saints

The Goose clan prepares to cross the street again to Cliffords Tower. I wondered why the geese were hanging out at Cliffords Tower. Then we realized they’re feasting on the green ground cover. And then we realized the stairs to the tower and the platform at the top is covered with goose poop.

The hillside is a tasty treat for the geese.

This plaque is at the base of hill of Cliffords Tower. The tower is what remains of the Royal Castle referred to on the plaque.

This plaque is on a wall in York Minster. If you’re ever given the job of writing something honorific for someone and don’t know what to say, just use the last 14 lines of this.

This is another plaque in York Minster.
Rule Number One:
Text set in all caps (capital letters) is more difficult to read than caps and lower case.
Rule Number Two:
An Old English font (sometimes called Blackletter) set in all caps is almost impossible to read. If anyone actually takes the time to read this, let me know what it says.

Back in London

At St. Pancras Station. Not that you care. I just get a thrill out of
being able to email a blog from my iPhone. Having soup at a nice train
station restaurant. Yummy.

On the train from York to London

Our 10:28 a.m. train finally arrived at 12:32 and we're on our way to London, the laptop's plugged in and charging, and the WiFi signal is good. The train is nearly empty. When we went to our assigned seats (with a table) a couple was sitting there. When we noted that they were in our seats, they said all reservations had been cancelled and that seating was open to whoever. There was one other table seating available here in Car E so we claimed it.

Our seating and table are exactly like the one across the aisle from us. Looks relaxing, eh?

When we checked out of the hotel this morning, Robin looked over the bill and questioned a charge of 11 pounds for tray service. It seems that the room service menu includes a fee for delivering the food to the room. And it's clearly stated on the room service menu, in 2 point type at the bottom of the menu, buried right after a sentence or two about food allergy warnings. The desk person removed the charge when she realized we were looking incredulously at the menu's tiny type. So after she removed that charge and another 100 pounds worth of charges that were unjustified, we moved merrily along to the train station next door.

From Christmas Day:
I've mentioned before that most of the walks on the city walls have been closed due to slippery snow and ice (and no handrails). Here's a shot of me Robin was able to grab as we walked one of the sections that wasn't closed. Fortunately she had the presence of mind to take a blog photo before giving me first aid.
Just kidding! I didn't fall. At least not in this photo. I did completely slip down once, and almost fell several other times during our York visit.
I forgot to bring the cable with me to York that I use for downloading photos and video from my video camera, so I shot the video screen with my other camera.

York Minster: Angel in Black

Friday, December 25, 2009

More Christmas Day photos

Robin on Shambles, Christmas morning.

Shambles is all about closeness.

Yes, it’s a cold Christmas morning. But I’m oblivious to it, thanks to the toasty warm hat present from Robin, and the new weatherproof shoes.

Robin rambles ‘round Shambles.

Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate. “Gate” means “street.” In 1505 this street was known as Whitnourwhatnourgate, meaning “what a street!” A plaque claims it’s the shortest street in York, but Little Shambles looked much shorter to me. Maybe Little Shambles doesn’t qualify as a real street.

Christmas morning light on York Minster, from Shambles.

One of the few places we found open on Christmas Day, a pub near Micklegate Bar.

Christmas Day in York

This morning we walked several blocks to the Micklegate Bar, the main old entrance to the City of York from London. This is where, in 1460, the head of Richard Duke of York was put on display on a pike and wearing a paper crown. On top of this very tower. “So York may overlook the town of York” according to the records. this view is from outside the city wall, looking in.

Micklegate Bar from inside the city wall, looking south. The traffic from London entered through here.

Robin reads an information sign on the wall. She’s really studying the sign from a typographic and design perspective. Always on the job. The gate to the stairs is locked, due to dangerous snow and ice. In good weather you can walk the wall almost all the way around the city.  A two-hour walk.

From Micklegate we walked across the river bridge to town, then to Shambles street to take photos. Today and tomorrow (Boxing Day) are two rare opportunities to photograph Shambles without lots of people. Shambles is one of the best preserved Medieval streets in the world. The word “shambles” refers to the large window sills at the bottom of windows where butchers displayed their meats.

A Shambles window.

The Lost Christmas Eve Photos

I found a few photos from Christmas Eve 2009 (yesterday) that got left out and were considered by many scholars to be lost forever.

A great sounding quartet sings Christmas Carols on one of York’s cobblestone streets.

Three beautiful girls in spiffy red Christmas coats, mesmerized by the Christmas Carolers. As were many who passed by. Lots of people put money in the group’s tip bucket, including me so I could video an entire song without feeling guilty.

The Shambles on Christmas Eve.

Good news (for me)

I'm now able to use the train station WiFi connection from inside the
hotel door. I get a strong signal from inside the vestibule (below).
It's much warmer in there. Now I've moved thru one more door into a
hotel hallway where it's even heated. The signal is weak here but it
should work. There's no visual evidence that anyone else is using the
connection. In fact, I haven't seen another laptop or iPhone. Cheers!!

Big Christmas Dinner

We just finished a big, delicious dinner at our hotel. Robin signed up
for 24 hour Internet connection in the room. While she uses it and my
laptop, I'm here at my favorite train station WiFi location (photo

When Robin finishes her Christmas emails, I'll upload today's photos.

Merry Christmas!

While Santa is still making deliveries in the USA, I walked next door
to the train station that's closed, looking for the WiFi connection
outside the building. I gave up and walked back to the hotel. When I
got 20 yards from the hotel door (on the right in the photo) I
suddenly had a full strength signal (the left side of the photo).

So Merry Christmas to everyone!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve in York

Today’s walk was wet and slushy. I learned just how not waterproof my street shoes are. My feet were soaked after 30 minutes, so we started looking for a place to buy some good waterproof shoes. At the first store we tried, the young hip sales boy tried to convince me that the cool looking, thin leather high-top shoes were water proof. I said “these are good for slush and ice?” He nodded yes. I turned them over and the soles were slick, no tread at all. I said “And the bottom is slick so it’s easier to fall on the ice?” He went looking for another salesperson. The next young sales lady passed us on to a third sales lady who suggested an Army and Navy Store around the corner. That worked out great and Robin bought me an unexpected Christmas present of comfortable, warm, dry, waterproof shoes that also look great on slushy streets, in Minsters and Cathedrals, and also in pubs and on university campuses. Brilliant!

York Minster looms over York’s old city streets.
Photo tip: shooting photos in less than ideal light conditions sometimes makes for more interesting photos

York street scene. York Minster towers watch ghost-like over the city.

Cathedral towers and stove pipes. (Hmmm. I sense a painting coming soon)

The Old White Swan pub. One of the most famous and oldest pubs in town (the 1500s). Also haunted by ghosts. It was voted York’s best pub. Twice. We had an excellent Christmas Eve dinner here. And Treacle tart with custard for dessert, for those of you who know Treacle.

A pint of cider for the lady. I had a Winter Pimm’s (similar to spiced or mulled cider). Then a half pint of cider.

Another bridge over the Ouse River.

A foggy morning on the Ouse River.

Cliffords Tower is right on the edge of town, next to the York Castle Museum and the ice skating rink. It’s all that remains of York Castle, built in the 1200s. The tower was built on top of a mound where William the Conqueror built a fortress in 1069. How long does it take to build a mound anyway? Did they use MoundPro 10.6?

A family of geese cross the street, going to Cliffords Tower.

Ice skating across the road from Cliffords Tower.

Holiday fun.

The Lion in Winter.