Saturday, December 26, 2015


A revolving theater wagon

A charming small Drive Car
Kindergarteners going to the park

Berlin slow sign

Outside the icecream store

Around the Museum Island river cruise

Relaxing Sunday in the Park

WOW!  Berlin is sensational.  My last visit to this lovely city was in 1998.  During this current visit, I stayed with friends, Toby, Lizzy and their little daughter, who live in what was part of the former East Berlin.  The location is perfect; about four blocks from the WALL MUSEUM, and in the opposite direction, about four blocks from MUSEUM ISLAND.  
The East Germany Wall Museum

A part of the Berlin Wall

The red line shows where East Germany built the
Berlin Wall

A DDR watch tower

And yes, theNefertiti bust at the NEUES MUSEUM is just as beautiful as all the photos I had seen.  What a beautiful bust. What a beautiful woman.  The whole of the Egyptian section of this museum is a wonderful experience.  It is quite different, yet complimentary to what one sees in London’s BRITISH MUSEUM.  If one is an Egyptologist, it behooves you to see both these splendid collections. 

Egyptian High Priest

Egyptian Governor

Egyptian floor tile

‘The unique GOLDEN HAT’ is also of great interest. From the Bronze Age, only three hats have been found, two in southern Germany and one in France.  It is reputed to be from about 419 AD. Part of a SUN CULT, the tall conical hat made of 490 g of gold was believed to be used by priests in ‘astrological/calendarical functions’ (Wikipedia phrase).   

All in all the museums on the island and the outside sculptures are a delight. 
 Below are examples of the outside statures along the main road that cuts through the edge of the island, and the sale of copies of East Germany hats.
DDR hats for sale

Another remarkably interesting Berlin Venue is the Berlin Synagogue, the largest in Germany.  Originally finished in 1867, it seated 3200 people, the men down stairs and the women up.  During the 1942, Battle for Berlin, the Synagogue was heavily damaged, and now although it is a museum, the sanctuary no longer exists.   
Sanagugue Dome seen at a distance

Sanagogue entry doors

 London continues to be my favorite city because of the culture and because it is so walk able. However, I have discovered Berlin has less traffic and is much more laid back than London, which makes Berlin an equally enjoyable venue. Every part, including shopping, is highly accessible without having to deal the traffic or the pollution one finds in London. Berlin is also a great ‘eating town.’  In my opinion, Berlin is a city that should be on every European traveler’s itinerary.  You won’t be disappointed. 
Beautiful Lizzy

Lizzy and Toby with their 'small',

Real Pomme Frites

Delicious French Duck dinner


Sunday at the Berlin Galeries Lafayettes
One of the many play areas in the Galeries Layayette
childrens department

Sunday at the 'Galeries' eating orsters with friends 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sarah and Mark's London Bank Holiday weekend

Sarah and Mark join me in London
London's beautiful Tower Bridge

One of the new media equipment recharging stations
now found through out London,which have
replaced most of the red telephone boxes.

To my delight, Sarah and Mark spent the August Bank Holiday weekend with me in London. On the first day, we met with Sarah’s daughter, Katrina who is a fabulous materials designer, 
and the four of us attended the V&A’s (Victoria and Albert Museum’s Shoe exhibit). I never knew shoes were so interesting.
Mark, Katrina and High Tea desserts

After our visit to the V& A, we had a three pm., High Tea at Albert Hall’s Restaurant. 

Some of the High Tea sandwiches

 We finished the day by enjoying our yearly visit to the Royal National Geographic Society International Travel Photography show.
I don't recall the location of this photograph.
 Three Photograghs I found particularly interesting.
A Bea keeper collecting honey in Nepal.

Although it was not a winner, this is one of my  favorite photographs from the 2014 exhibition. Taken in Mongolia,
note the pet cat and pet bird.   

The second day, we went to the children’s pre-parade of the biggest West Indian parade outside of Trinidad, which happens every year in Notting Hill, the last two days in August.

Some unique observers

Waving flags from Caribbean Island nations
Some parade shots

Dancing along the parade route

One of a number of trucks transporting a Steel Band

During our third and last day together, rather than standing in pouring rain watching the major parade, we opted to go to Kew Gardens, one of my favorite places in the London area.  Yes, we were also in the rain, but at least we had breaks from the inclement weather while wandering in and out of the great green houses around the grounds. During our outdoor walks, we were also sheltered by the canopy of giant trees throughout Kew Gardens. 
Enjoying one of Kew's many lakes
 Note:  Kew is also a great place to take children during a London trip. Besides being able to see in the gardens and the unique plants from around the world, there are also activity areas set aside just for kids.
One of the many greenhouses located in the gardens

NOTE:  Besides being a wonderful world-class garden, Kew’s is a world-renowned research facility for studying and preserving flora throughout the world. But because of budget cuts, it currently has a great need of funds to continue their important work.  So if you are thinking about giving, please consider a donation to Kew.  They really could use it as Kew’s research work benefits us all.  Just a thought!

 Some of the unusual plants collected from around the world, and now protected from extinction by the Kew staff.

Now I’m off to Berlin, a city I hadn’t visited in many years.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

ENGLAND: August 2015

England in August is becoming a habit.  One I enjoy immensely: seeing a friend in Essex, friends in the Peak district, and visiting London.

My friend Carol, after deciding that her beautiful house in a lonely area of Cumbria was too desolate for her lifestyle, bough a semi-detached in West Cliff by the Sea, and I was invited to inspect.   It was still under renovation when I visited but house layout and location is just lovely.  It will have museum quality charm when Carol is done.   
Work in progress

Second reception: also work in progress

Besides being a great piece of property, the house is located just an hour by train from London, so it is convenient to all the wonderful cultural activities that Carol enjoys.   
Me on the local seaside carousel and amusement park

Carol is an 'easy rider' too.

Next I was off again to one of my favorite haunts, the Peak District and my good friends Mark and Sarah.  They have a charming little semi-attached home in Beeston a suburb of Nottingham.  
Country village church

Lunch in a village pub

Entry to guess where?

Forest directions sign

Wee house in the forest.

Every time I visit, they take me on delightful adventures (see past blog entries) and this year it was again an enjoyable afternoon with lunch at a country pub then a charming walk through Sherwood Forest.  On my last night there, Matthew, Sarah’s son, Sarah, Mark and I walked over to this amazing local, The Victoria Hotel Pub that has a wonderful drinks cellar and serves outstanding dinners in a traditionally beautiful English Pub setting. 
Statue of Robin Hood proposing to Maid Marian

The three of us under Robin's Old Oak

Mark's mother and me during my annual visit

After three brilliant days I was off to London, my favorite city.  Hotels have become prohibitively expensive.  The alternatives are hostels.  I’m a little too old to bunk in with six or 12 others in a room. However I have found the perfect alternative: university  Vacant university dorm rooms are great housing for the international visitor.  You retort, ‘Ugh!  I remember the old days.  Shabby accommodations with baths down the hall.’  Not so today.  There are all kinds of prices through out the city university system of rooms, ranging from around $65 US a night (a really cheap sleep in London – though some still do have the shared bath) to as high as two or three hundred for a two bedroom suit just off Kensington Gardens (a prime location).
View from my room

My room

I opt for Princes Gate, part of the Imperial College on Exhibition Road.  This year for  $99 US a night, I got a private room and bath, WIFI for my whole stay for 5 pounds, free full breakfast every morning, and daily use of their gym, health center and pool.  Princes Gate rooms are clean and modern with a very helpful staff, daily room service, and a great location.  Just down from Albert Hall, two blocks to Kensington Gardens, a few feet from the V&A, and across the street from the Museum of Natural History, the Science Museum, lots of little restaurants in the area, and the South Kensington Tube Street (other than the fact that there is no lift - thinking of luggage - at the SKTS station), the location is perfect. 
New Tesala car
This year the summer was about ‘shoes’.  There were shoes exhibits at the Design Museum, the Materials Museum and the definitive Shoe Exhibit was at the V&A.  Wow!
I learned more about shoes than I ever knew I wanted to know and it was all fascinating. 
Every year there are interesting cars in the museum display
BMW front

BMW back

The Design Museum is a must see for me every year.  The last few summers my timing has been superb, in that I have seen their display of the year’s new inventions including the ones that received that year's awards.  Besides the inventions, the Camper Shoe Company, which I had never heard of, located in Majorca and mainland Spain, had an interesting presentation of the history of their company and their shoes. 
Camper shoes

Protocell Footwear

As for the Materials Museum, I was highly disappointed, and I probably won’t waste my time again. 

I also hit the jackpot with London theatre tickets this year.  Have you ever heard of the a British musical group of the 6os, The KINKS?  There is now a West End musical play about their rise in the music world.  I had never heard of them but I bought a matinee ticket and had a great afternoon.  The show was mediocre, but the enthusiastic crowd made up the fun.  It was an almost all-British audience and they got right down into the music.  They clapped to the tunes, stood dancing at their seats and cheered when an extremely famous song from their youth was preformed.  All in all it was lots of fun.  Of course I was not surprised by the enthusiasm among the West End theatre crowd, which is often standard behavior among British audiences and I love it. 

But I really hit the Jackpot when I went to the box office of the Theatre where ‘The Book of Mormons; was playing and found a reasonably priced seat available in the stalls on my last night in London.  I swept it up and to my joy when I arrived found it was a great seat.  Audiences either love or hate this musical, after all, it was written by the ‘South Park Boys’, so it is rude.  But it is also fun, and if one has a liberal sense of humor, you will absolutely love the play.  I enjoyed it so much I will see it again if I can get a ticket during my next visit to London.
NOTE:  Instead of purchasing theatre tickets at the half-price sale booths in Leicester Square, go directly to the theatre where the play is showing.  If they have any last minute tickets available, you will have a better selection and they will cost less. Just saying!
This is the first time Buckingham Palace was opened during one of my London visits, so I went on line and got a ticket.  I was guided through various rooms observing the Queen’s massive art collection, the room where she greets guests, the throne room, and the most interesting, the dinning room, where the table was set for a state dinner.  Of course, the Queen spends the month of August at Balmorall Castle in Scotland. Therefore, the table setting was just a mock-up for the tourists.  No picture-taking is allowed in the palace, so the interior pictures I have are from post cards. Non-the-less it does give readers some idea of the palace interior. 
Changing of the Guard at the entry to Buckingham

Looking through the trees to the lake in the Queen's backyard

A palace staircase

A room used to greet guests

Thinking there was a show about the history of Liberty fabrics, I went to the Liberty Fabric store, which is located in a beautiful Tudor Building.  Unfortunately, I was a week early. Also, I discovered that the company must have sold out, and now has very few fabrics.  Rather, the store is full of lots of cosmetics as well as high priced knick-knacks and stationary products.  It does have a great hand made carpet department on the top floor, but these rugs are also outrageously expensive.
Liberty store's beautiful tudor facade
I also made my annual stop at Harrods toy department, which has shrunk a bit it but still has great bears.  I bought a Kitty for my grandson, which was a hit during my visit for his birthday. (Sorry I didn't take a photo of the stuffed Kitty.)

NEXT: Sarah and Mark join me for a London Bank weekend.