Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

England 2014: Sutton Hoo and the British Museum (first Monday)

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
The Sutton Hoo Burial Treasures at the British Museum, London

The Sutton Hoo Burial Treasures at the British Museum, London

In 1978 I spent a semester in school in London.  It was pass-fail, not grades, so I passed.  But my time and interests were elsewhere:  I went to museums and the theatre (inexpensive same-day tickets) every week.  Every weekend, well almost every one, I went somewhere in the country by train, staying at youth hostels.   It was a most amazing few months, and some of the images have stayed with me since I was 19.  Some of those images are from the British Museum‘s exhibit of the phenomenal Sutton Hoo Burial Ship treasures which date to about 724 AD.  A decade or so ago, I learned that one could now VISIT the site where the ship was dug up, and that began my quest to return to England.  Before Eli and I went to East Anglia, however, I wanted him to see what had stayed with me all these decades.  The buckles above are just two of the samples–the intricacy of these small works is simply phenomenal, the imagery enticing.

We reached the museum mid afternoon, having been up well over 30 hours (overnight flight in a too-warm airplane included), so Eli kinda hit the wall and didn’t look much.  And it was crowded.  Beyond belief crowded.  The line into the ladies room took over half an hour–Eli actually sent a text wondering what had become of me!  I wanted Eli to see the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles since he is studying Latin.

This is the horde of humanity around the case with the Rosetta Stone.  UGH.  Too many people!

This is the horde of humanity around the case with the Rosetta Stone. UGH. Too many people!

Eventually, we got close:

THE Rosetta Stone

THE Rosetta Stone

Yep, the one, the original, the stone that helped humanity learn to read Egyptian heiroglyphics.  But what crowds.  We ended up being too tired to find the Elgin Marbles that day.  By the time we returned to London, we decided that we couldn’t cope with the hairy hordes and did not return to the Museum.  I hope some day to return, but I think it will be during a snowstorm in January just to avoid the masses!

But I did get to take many photos up in the Sutton Hoo exhibit, where the display cases and signage are vastly improved over 1978.

Just LOOK at this amazing ring pin; this one is probably almost 4 inches in diameter, and that pin could be lethal!

Just LOOK at this amazing ring pin; this one is probably almost 4 inches in diameter, and that pin could be lethal!

The case with a selection of items, the above pin is on the left.

The case with a selection of items, the above pin is on the left.

The most stunning item from the Sutton Hoo find is this mask.  They believe the ship was for the king of the Anglo-Saxons in East Anglia and dates to circa 724 a.d.  These are the remnants of the helmet.

The most stunning item from the Sutton Hoo find is this mask. They believe the ship was for the king of the Anglo-Saxons in East Anglia and dates to circa 724 a.d. These are the remnants of the helmet.

Based on the fragments and knowledge about contemporary helmets and design, they have made this piece to show what it would have looked like at the time of burial, including the garnets on the eyebrow ridges.  Simply phenomenal artistry and craftsmanship.

Based on the fragments and knowledge about contemporary helmets and design, they have made this piece to show what it would have looked like at the time of burial, including the garnets on the eyebrow ridges. Simply phenomenal artistry and craftsmanship.

More every-day implements and artifacts.

More every-day implements and artifacts.

And I am always intrigued by how people lived in olden times.  This pot would have been hung from a ridgeline/rafter post over a fire.

And I am always intrigued by how people lived in olden times. This pot would have been hung from a ridgeline/rafter post over a fire.

The original gourd had long since rotted away, but the intricate metalwork survived, so they made this wooden vessel to go with the metalwork and show how it was originally made.

The original gourd had long since rotted away, but the intricate metalwork survived, so they made this wooden vessel to go with the metalwork and show how it was originally made.  Just think of the designs–in calligraphy, quilting, you name it!

Another buckle component.  Look at the faces in those round areas!

Another buckle component. Look at the faces in those round areas!  If I recall, this is probably three inches or so tall?   The level of detail and workmanship simple awes me.

Then back to the hotel to collapse!  Time for a good night's sleep before a long and happy Tuesday. I took this picture of Notting Hill station (remember the movie with Hugh Grant?  Yep, that Notting Hill, which is a district in London not far from our Tube stop).

Then back to the hotel to collapse! Time for a good night’s sleep before a long and happy Tuesday. I took this picture of Notting Hill station (remember the movie with Hugh Grant? Yep, that Notting Hill, which is a district in London not far from our Tube stop).  It is one of the stations that hasn’t been gussied up and still has its old character.

So those are the artifacts that sent me back to England–I wanted to see them again, not just in photos, and go to where they had been found.  That would happen on Thursday, but we had two phenomenal days before that one!  There’s more to come!

England 2014, Here we come!

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Some of you may have already seen some of these photos on Facebook, but many of you haven’t.  So in the interest of re-living a trip of a lifetime, here’s the first of many posts with our trip, inspiration, visual feasting and whatnot!  We left the house about noonish on Sunday, arrived at London Heathrow at 6:30 am (3:30 body clock) and kept going until just past supper time in London.  Going on adrenaline!

Some years ago I wrote a blogpost titled "This is not a minivan."  It is still not a minivan:  this is the view from the inside of the 9 passenger prop plane we take (Cape Air, love them!) to Boston, from which point we can get anywhere in the world.

Some years ago I wrote a blogpost titled “This is not a minivan.” It is still not a minivan: this is the view from the inside of the 9 passenger prop plane we take from Owl’s Head–about a half hour’s drive from home– (Cape Air, love them!) to Boston, from which point we can get anywhere in the world. That’s Eli up in the co-pilot seat.  One does not put feet on footpedals!  Seat assignments are by weight so that the plane is balanced.

Here’s an aerial view of Maine as we left midday:

The Maine coast just south of Owl's Head/Rockland as we headed East "across the pond."

The Maine coast just south of Owl’s Head/Rockland as we headed East “across the pond.”

Methinks Paul was a tad nervous watching us head off on our great adventure.  He didn't want to go to England, so he stayed home and minded the house and critters so that Eli and I could have fun.

Methinks Paul was a tad nervous watching us head off on our great adventure. He didn’t want to go to England, so he stayed home and minded the house and critters so that Eli and I could have fun.

First and foremost:  thank you to Paul and Eli.  Paul for minding the home front, Eli for actually WANTING to go on a trip with his old mom!  Joshua and Ashley, you’re next.  Edinburgh and points beyond, the Smiths are returning to the UK–probably not for a few years (gotta teach and earn enough money to save up and pay for another trip like this!), but we are coming back!

Compare the cabin and view above and below:

Very clearly, this is NOT Cape Air, but in fact the British Airways flight nonstop to London.  The cabin was warm, and tho I dozed an hour or two, Eli didn't on this overnight flight.

Very clearly, this is NOT Cape Air, but in fact the British Airways flight nonstop to London. The cabin was warm, and tho I dozed an hour or two, Eli didn’t on this overnight flight.

I LOVE the in-flight maps.  Here you can see the big picture, from Boston to London.  I was tickled to see Vigo, Spain.  I'd not heard of it before recently, but a classmate in the Sketchbook Skool has shared some of his drawings of Vigo.  Fun to see it on the map!

I LOVE the in-flight maps. Here you can see the big picture, from Boston to London. I was tickled to see Vigo, Spain. I’d not heard of it before recently, but a classmate in the Sketchbook Skool has shared some of his drawings of Vigo. Fun to see it on the map! Can I say again how much I love the internet?  How I have met people and learned so much?

As the plane ducked under the cloud cover we got a spectacular aerial view of London, with the Thames, South Bank on the Left, more of the mass of London on the right, The London Eye (the big ferris wheel), Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower, and so much more in clear view

As the plane ducked under the cloud cover at just past 6 am local time, we got a spectacular aerial view of London, with the Thames, South Bank on the Left, more of the mass of London on the right, The London Eye (the big ferris wheel), Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower, and so much more in clear view.

The fields and hedgerows of England on the approach to London.  A bit more countryside!

The fields and hedgerows of England on the approach to London. A bit more countryside! Let there be quilting!

Rather a difference, eh?  One of the things Eli most wanted to do was run at Olympic Park, in the stadium if possible.  Alas, it was under major re-construction, but he got to take a refreshing trot.  That’s him coming around the corner next to the pink sign post. The velodrome is in the background.  The skies would look like this pretty much every day:  blue with clouds, some of which would sprinkle on us momentarily but–with the exception of one day–no real soaking rains.

We got exceptionally lucky and were able to check in early.  So we ditched our bags and set out to see the sights.

We got exceptionally lucky and were able to check in early. So we ditched our bags and set out to see the sights, starting with Olympic Park.

This ended up being the only real running Eli got to do.  I don’t think he counted on Mom’s ability to go-go-go when on the road with things to do, people to meet and sights to see!

Eli under the Olympic rings after his run.

Eli under the Olympic rings after his run.

Then we took our Oyster cards, re-loadable fare cards for the London Underground (Tube / subway) and light rail system.  WAY easier than the old day of buying paper tickets!  After a bit of lunch, we headed off to King’s Cross.

King's Cross Station, site of the somewhat-imaginary Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter/Hogwarts fame.

King’s Cross Station, site of the somewhat-imaginary Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter/Hogwarts fame.

The above is the old part of the station, but with the old funky platform signs swapped out for the modern ones that report what train is coming in at which platform and when.  Easier for travel, but not as much character.  The photo below is the VERY new part of the station.  Beautiful, but…sigh…. I miss some of the old stuff.

The new part of King's Cross station.  Both the Tube and rail lines come in here.  King's Cross is the departure points for points north, like York, Leeds, Edinburgh and the fictional Hogwarts.  Thank you to J.K. Rowling for giving such a wonderful world to all of us!

The new part of King’s Cross station. Both the Tube and rail lines come in here. King’s Cross is the departure points for points north, like York, Leeds, Edinburgh and the fictional Hogwarts. Thank you to J.K. Rowling for giving such a wonderful world to all of us!

I had read in my guide book that you could visit Platform 9 3/4 at the station, which is why we went.  WHAT a disappointment!  It was on a wall between two shops, not the actual platform.  Of course, given the queue, I can see why they couldn’t put it between platforms 9 and 10, but…. it was the back half of a luggage cart with old suitcase.

Platform 9 3/4 is under that white tube thingy, on the other side the crowd waiting to take pics.

Platform 9 3/4 is under that white tube thingy, on the other side the crowd waiting to take pics.

If you wanted to stand in line–on this day about an hour–you could wear a Gryffindor scarf and take your picture there.  Since Eli and I had been going for about 36 hours, that was SO not going to happen, but we snagged this photo instead.

Me, with some of the crowd behind me and the Platform sign barely visible.  Happy to be there anyway!

Me, with some of the crowd behind me and the Platform sign barely visible. Happy to be there anyway!

Our next stop that day, just about as we hit the wall from tiredness and collapsed, was the British Museum.   As we would discover about all of London in August, it was PACKED with tourists.  But I’ll save that for the next post because the reason was one of my major reasons for taking this trip.  And yes, it involves art and quilts!

 

 

NYC! The Bowery Savings Bank, and the way home….

Sunday, June 15th, 2014
Across from (or near?) Grand Central is the Bowery Savings Bank, and the stonework and carving was another source of incredible inspiration.

Across from (or near?) Grand Central is the Bowery Savings Bank, and the stonework and carving was another source of incredible inspiration.

Here is a close-up of one of the stone pillars just to the left of the doorway  pictured above:

How lucky we are that the titans of industry 150 years ago poured money into buildings that are art!

How lucky we are that the titans of industry 150 years ago poured money into buildings that are art!

Marie Z. J., I had to take this photo just for you:

An angel for Marie

An angel for Marie

Looking up the facade of the buidling

Looking up the facade of the buidling

and a closer view of the carvings

What a fabulous quilting design or applique this could become

What a fabulous quilting design or applique this could become

The lanterns/lights are just as fabulous.

The lanterns/lights are just as fabulous.

There simply isn’t enough time to make all the art that is inside of me!

And perfect lettering...sigh....

And perfect lettering…sigh….And it looks like this place is now an ultra chi-chi restaurant.   Hmmm.

On the way home, I stopped off in Fall River, Mass.  My father was born there and I recently discovered (in a well DUH SARAH, of course they are) my grandparents are buried here, as is my Aunt Mary M., whom I remember, along with two brothers who died young.  So I sought out the Catholic cemetary and after a lot of wandering around trying to decipher the mystery of how the plots are numbered (I had called written a couple months ago to find out the plot numbers, etc), I found the family monument:

 

Apparently plots were sold with 6 spots--there are many such "family" monuments with names on the back in this cemetery.  Frankie died as a baby and was apparently buried in a different part of the cemetery where there is no marker to show him...so sad, but at least they added him to this stone.  It appears from family records that when Johnnie died in 1924 they purchased this spot (which was paid up in full in 1926).  The stone was erected in 1961--not sure if Aunt Mary did that, or perhaps my Dad.  He did stuff like that for his family, but there are no records now and anyone who knew is long since gone.

Apparently plots were sold with 6 spots–there are many such “family” monuments with names on the back in this cemetery. Frankie died as a baby and was apparently buried in a different part of the cemetery where there is no marker to show him…so sad, but at least they added him to this stone. It appears from family records that when Johnnie died in 1924 they purchased this spot (which was paid up in full in 1926). The stone was erected in 1961–not sure if Aunt Mary did that, or perhaps my Dad. He did stuff like that for his family, but there are no records now and anyone who knew is long since gone.

The back is weird:  it shows ONLY the death dates!  I asked but it isn't possible to change and add the birth dates, or I'd take teaching income from a gig or two and add the birth dates.  My grandparents, born in the 1880s, are at the top, followed by Aunt Mary, Aunt Nan, Frankie and Johnnie.  All but Mary were gone before I was born.

The back is weird: it shows ONLY the death dates! I asked but it isn’t possible to change and add the birth dates, or I’d take teaching income from a gig or two and add the birth dates. My grandparents, born in the 1880s, are at the top, followed by siblings in the order of birth: Aunt Mary, Aunt Nan, Frankie and Johnnie. All but Mary were gone before I was born.

On the way home, the GPS always wants me to go 95 and 93 through downtown Boston.  Which has some of the worst drivers in America.  And a couple interchanges near the Big Dig tunnel and the bridge that are white knuckle experiences for me.  Usually I take I-495 around Boston which nominally takes a half hour longer.  This time I decided to try 95/route 128, the inner ring road around Boston.   Now I know why I will never do that again.  I started to go around Boston at 2 pm.  It was 4:30 before I cleared it…bumper to bumper.  UGH.  It would have been at least an hour faster to take the “long” way on 495–and it wasn’t even rush hour!  And no accidents.  One roadside info sign said next major highway interchange was 12 miles ahead.  Time to get there (mid afternoon!!!!) was FIFTY , 50, MINUTES!!!! SHRIEK.  Was really glad to get home to rural, not-busy-roads Maine!

On route 128, the ring road around Boston.  Horrid.

On route 128, the ring road around Boston. Horrid.

So that’s the trip!  Fun, except for the driving in Massachusetts!

 

NYC! Building Inspiration

Monday, June 9th, 2014
Down at the end of this avenue is the Chrysler Building--now I've seen it for real (even if from a distance)

Down at the end of this avenue is the Chrysler Building–now I’ve seen it for real (even if from a distance)

There were so many inspirations in buildings and architecture it is hard to know where to begin….

Looking up is always a good thing.  Love the rhythm of the fire escape and windows.

Looking up is always a good thing. Love the rhythm of the fire escape and windows.

And what about this modern looking pair:

Wouldn't this make a stunning Modern quilt?  Just add color (or not).

Wouldn’t this make a stunning Modern quilt? Just add color (or not).

The building on the far corner caught my eye for the astounding stonework visible just above the busses

The building on the far corner caught my eye for the astounding stonework visible just above the busses

Poor Deirdre…she kept turning around and I was taking MORE pictures….

But LOOKIT this design?  Isn't that breathtakingly, gobsmackingly wonderful?  Think applique and crazy threadwork.....

But LOOKIT this design? Isn’t that breathtakingly, gobsmackingly wonderful? Think applique and crazy threadwork…..Sigh…. Inhale, breathe, GASP!

And these shards jutting up from between the larger buildings...

And these shards jutting up from between the larger buildings…

So one more NYC post after this one…the Bowery Savings Bank Building.   How lucky we are to inherit these buildings and the crafstmanship and artistry that went into them!

NYC! with friends and fun

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

For the first time in more than 30 years, I got to visit New York City, thanks to the Northern Star Quilt Guild and my friend Deirdre Abbotts!  On Tuesday of last week I gave my Journal Quilts and Journaling for Quilters lecture to the Northern Star Quilt guild in Somers, NY.  Thanks so much to one and all for inviting me down–I hope I get to return to teach!  When the engagement was booked, Deirdre suggested I plan on staying with her and she’d take a day off work and we’d go to the City and play–So we DID!  FUN!

Cheers!  With Luana Rubin and Deirdre Abbotts

Cheers! With Luana Rubin and Deirdre Abbotts–see below for more info

The week before heading down, I found and fell in love with Gudrun Sjoden’s clothing, website here, and discovered they have just ONE store in the US:  in New York!  So we went, and I indulged.  No pics of the clothing, and I forgot to take pics of the inside of the store other than this one, but I can tell you I could have dropped four figures on clothing in there with no difficulty.  Fortunately, I restrained myself (a bit).  And I figured out what sizes I take in her clothes, so now I can order online.  <Beam>

Behind the cash register at Gudrun Sjogen's NYC store

Behind the cash register at Gudrun Sjoden’s NYC store–I <3 this line!

Deirdre lives about an hour’s commuter train ride from NYC, so after a brief stop we headed in to the city armed with our fare cards for use on the train and subway.  Because we got there in the late morning, we shopped a bit, went to Purl Soho, walked around Soho a bit (which seems a lot more skyscraper-ish and less Bohemian than I remember from 30 years ago) and went clothes shopping (where Deirdre got the deal of the week on the sale rack).  We then had a late lunch at Le Pain Quotidien at the recommendation of the shop clerk.  SCORE!  Seriously, some of the best tasting food I’ve had in years.  A simple open-faced sandwich, but every component was succulent and savory:

Two "tartines" at Le Pain Quotidien in Soho.   The drizzled sauces were incredible...I've written in hopes they'll share some of the ingredients since the place has a website with some recipes given.  YUM!

Two “tartines” at Le Pain Quotidien in Soho. The drizzled sauces were incredible…I’ve written in hopes they’ll share some of the ingredients since the place has a website with some recipes given. YUM!

Deirdre had noticed that Luana was in town, so we texted back and forth hoping to meet up for a drink or something after Luana’s business meetings and play (Denzel Washington in A Raisin in the Sun).  Luana thought they’d be out at 3:30, so Deirdre and I decided to subway up to the theatre (near Times Square–what a zoo), but turns out that was intermission time.  So we just HAD to go to City Quilter while Luana watched the second half before meeting her for wine and appetizers at her hotel, near Grand Central.  I brought home a couple of their custom prints…fun!

Cheers!  Raising a glass to friendship!

Cheers! Raising a glass to friendship!

I’ve got a couple more posts with buildings and inspiration!   Stay tuned–here’s a sneak peek:

How lucky we are that the titans of industry 150 years ago poured money into buildings that are art!

How lucky we are that the titans of industry 150 years ago poured money into buildings that are art!