Archive for the ‘travel’ Category


The internet is my hive mind

   Posted by: Livia

Seriously – memory is outdated. So I was talking with my ex about fondue (she’s trying to convince me to visit Chicago, and the most recent motivation was the recent proliferation of fondue restaurants), and I came up with the first time I ever had fondue was on my trip to Switzerland in 1987… and it was in some town with a lovely painted wooden bridge, with buskers, that had since burned down. Fondue wasn’t the only thing on the menu, but it was exciting (this was the hot oil kind of fondue where you skewer a raw chunk of meat and boil it in oil before dipping it in a variety of tasty sauces) and there were occasional breaks for dancing and possibly yodeling.

That’s really not the kinds of details I thought I’d need to pinpoint a city through google. So, instead, I asked my mother. And she said, “Ah, that was Locano.”

So I googled it – found I was spelling it incorrectly – and then hopped over to the wikipedia page, found a picture of a bridge – only one bridge – and while I had seen that on the trip, it wasn’t the right bridge. Just in case it hadn’t made it onto the webpage, I popped over to the official city webpage, but that was in Italian, and I had gotten the vague impression (maybe from the yodeling) that the fondue had been in a city from the German-er bits of Switzerland.

Luckily, however, one of the sites on Locarno had been a tourist site for all of Switzerland with a list of the major cities. So I scrolled along looking for ones that both sounded familiar and not so familiar that I could exclude them.

I came to Lucerne and that webpage wasn’t much use, but I had a hunch – so I popped back over to google… and wasn’t convinced. For one thing, it said there were only two major bridges and the main one pictured was a lot longer than the one I remembered. I was thinking 20 feet or so… But it had been burned down in 1993, which would have been around the right time…

So I went back to the tourist page and a few other menu pages for restaurants in Lucerne and concluded that the one we went to is still there – Stadtkeller. And that I probably would never have chosen to go there as an adult with my current touristing sensibilities (I tend to suspect that places with entertainment are putting more effort into that then the food) – but nevertheless, I remember it first as a restaurant with tasty food and only secondly as one with quirky entertainment that was rather charming.


food excerpts from my trip to Seattle/Vancouver

   Posted by: Livia Tags: ,

There were also some hardcore attempts at pimping me the glories of Starbucks, but they don’t have much there I like – though the hot chocolate was tasty. The tea, however, was much better back at home base.

The three hour drive to Vancouver wasn’t bad, even with the border checkpoint and the sudden turns with very little advanced signage.

After rallying in [redacted]’s room, a troop of us went down to start enjoying the organizational fiasco that was this convention. We went down about half an hour after registration was due to open only to find that the huge line hadn’t started being processed and that they were having everyone who wanted to get into the convention line up together, whether they had already registered the night before, had pre-registered online, or were registering that day – all in one line. YAY!

So we made our first foray into the food court in the mall attached to the hotel – and thus began my attempt to eat *everything* in Vancouver because the food was cheap and tasty! MMmmmm!

I went to a singapore joint and had sour long beans and spicy tofu. By the time we had finished eating, the line which had been deep into the food court had vanished – sadly, we soon found that they had just found a different path around the hotel to wind the line instead of having processed everyone who had been waiting.

…and then taking [redacted]’s son off on a quest for food (esp. red bean buns) which ended up at a noodle place that was only mostly acceptable.

…Ummmm… and that was pretty much it for the night (until the dessert thing at 10:30), so I took the opportunity to explore the city and make sure I’d be able to find the theatre the next morning. I boarded by the SkyTrain two blocks from the hotel (metrotown station) and went toward the city to the end of the line (Waterfront station) only to discover that my fare would include a trip to North Vancouver on the SeaBus. Now it had been rainy for the first two days we were there, (record-breaking amounts of rain), but that evening the sky cleared and there was a beautiful sunset – and then I got to cross the water at night with all the city lights reflecting in the water. If you’ve ever traveled with me, you probably know that something like this is my favorite way to first see a city: at night and near water. (I think things like the London Eye are just about the best thing ever to do fresh from the plane with an edge of jet lag and nothing but peaceful beautiful city for the entire ride.)

I wandered around London Quay. I walked uphill (upmountain?) through a residential area for a while before giving up on getting far from the water and shifting east a few blocks to walk down a more commercial street. I stopped by a friendly liquor store that had very little in the way of scotch and passed a couple nice restaurants that were out of the league of the cheap, tasty food I knew I could find. I passed by one of the restaurants that I am pretty sure I read about on Joseph Mallozzi’s blog, but I can’t find it after a quick look. I’ll (maybe) post the name later because the menu I grabbed is still packed (it was just a paper one for take out, so quit thinking I’m a thief).

Asked around the bus drivers for the location of the theatre – found out it was on the central Vancouver side of the water and that I could find the right street by the Tim Hortons. But it was getting late, I hadn’t had dinner, and there was a dessert party to go to, so I just took the SkyTrain home instead of exploring for the right street.

No worries – I was up early enough the next day that I left well ahead of everyone else, so I took the opportunity to weave about the streets a bit and do some touristing on the way to the theatre.

I found that I do not like Tim Hortons, and I am wondering whether that is a moral failing on my part. I tried the old fashioned glazed (a cake donut) and the honey dipped (a yeast donut), and both were too sweet. The honey dipped was almost like a Krispy Kreme but over the line as far as sweetness goes. Even the tea tasted a bit stale and uninteresting. Just as well, because ditching the tea meant that I was free to try Blenz‘s Royal Tea Latte, which was Assam and rose petals steeped dark and then flavored with a couple squirts of vanilla syrup before being topped off with foamed milk just like a latte. MMMMmmmmm! I considered buying a canister, but then I realised that it wouldn’t be anything like the stuff they were making from ingredients at the store (and one small canister was 13 CAD).

…Ummmm… *ducks head* I skipped one of the panels to have lunch. MMmmm – buns and water dumpings from this place with handmade noodles – so good! The bubble yea place had fresh papaya, so they make me a tea with papaya and coconut milk and no tapioca. If I had known you could get bubble tea without tapioca bubbles, I’d have been drinking it long before now.

…Right, so, end of convention. And now it was time to hunt for my misplaced knitting. I started off by going back to the theater with the screening and leaving a description and my contact information there – no luck. And then the only other places I had to look were at the hotel (or in the rental car of the people I don’t know), so I set off west on Davie Street toward the area that the guidebook one of my roommates had brought said was the gay area of town. And, oh man, was it! *delighted* There was a jeans and underwear store called Priape, and many other delightful things. I stopped by an indian restaurant (not Indian Bistro, but a few blocks west) because the manager, Jerry, saw me pondering the menu and was very eager to invite me in. He seated me by the window so that I could better watch the “parade” of people going by. This lovely, candle-lit restaurant would be a perfect date restaurant (as confirmed by the sexy couple at the next table) except for the manager stopping by to tell hilarious stories that were both charming and terrifying: about how he was queen bee of the restaurant and had to fire one of the older waiters who did not respect that when he first came to manage the restaurant, how they were short staffed tonight because the other waitress had a hot date and was “itching to twitch” that night, and how back when he had first come to Vancouver in 1974 and had been smoking a joint with a lovely young fellow (both hiding under a windbreaker) he had been jumped by the cops and arrested – and wasn’t he lucky they chose one of the rare times he wasn’t there giving head – and that his case went to the supreme court (of Canada?) because he had just been smoking when he’d been harassed for his homosexuality. And the food was tasty – I had lamb vindaloo (actually spicy) and lots of fresh hot bread (with free refills on naan). And then I slid out just in time to catch the bus to go back to the SkyTrain – no waiting. :)


Boston Trip (cont.)

   Posted by: Livia

Sunday was mostly sitting around on my ass while my sister cleaned the house. I finished Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey. It was a decent mystery story, but I would have liked it much more if I were a young girl going through her horse phase. The writing style would appeal to a less critical reader, and the story is charming and compelling without requiring too much thought. I left it behind at my sister’s.

After I finished that book, I moved on to the $3 scifi paperback I picked up at the used book store, The Atom Conspiracy – it is dated, sexist, and people get shot. I am enjoying it very much.

I slept in a bit on Monday, and then walked down to the Boston Museum of Science because they are having a Star Wars special exhibit in the same space where they had the Lord of the Rings exhibit. I was very glad that I was there on a weekday because I actually got to have some time to play with the legos and computer games instead of being mobbed by excited children… though there were still plenty around. They had the real speeder from the first movie and the old Darth Vader costume. There was Leia’s white dress and the C-3PO costume. Those actors were all incredibly skinny. They had a cute video section on some of the ships – I especially recommend seeing the Imperial Cruiser construction.

If you go, there’s not really much need for the audio tour. I ended up not listening to mine most of the time because almost every station had some for of audio available already – and I had a limited amount of time to get through it all before my IMAX ticket because they weren’t allowing re-entry even on a slow weekday.

So, yeah… there was a Fighter Pilot IMAX movie. And I figured that this would surely take advantage of the IMAX medium better than many of the nature documentaries… because there’d be more swooshing through the air. And my interested had absolutely nothing to do with my new fandom with lots of military flyboys… nope, not at all. The human interest component of the narrative grated on my nerves a bit, but it was a fun movie with lots of fast flying and things blowing up.

Immediately afterward, I had a ticket for another component of the Star Wars exhibit: the Millennium Falcon simulation. I am not sure it was worth the money.

That night, the three of us went out to eat at Elephant Walk, a French/Cambodian restaurant. Everything was amazing and tasty, but I think the winner for the evening was my sister’s grilled trout that had been marinated in garlic, lime, and jalapeno peppers. They have a special celiac menu printed up as well, though most of their food would accommodate it very well.

I had randomly run into a mawrtyr earlier in the week, and we arranged to meet for lunch in Harvard Square.

So that morning, my brother-in-law was kind enough to drop me in Central Square again that morning. This time, I headed a bit away from Harvard Square for breakfast, and I ended up at La Luna Cafe for a bagel and hot tea. Then I went about looking for the sex toy shop that my sister had recommended in Central Square, but it was raining and I couldn’t make breakfast last much past 10am, so I didn’t see it and it might still have been closed at that hour.

So I hopped on the T to go one stop and went to Harvard to explore the Harvard museums.

There were some pretty paintings in the Sert Gallery, but they mostly seemed to lack personality. The most interesting ones were a pair of paintings of telephone wires and scenery that were full of urban decay, desolation, and beauty.

The Fogg Museum was much better then their website would indicate. Mainly because the architecture of the building was wonderful all by itself – stone arches surrounding an interior courtyard and all the exhibition space on the periphery facing in. On the first floor there were some Dutch Masters and religious pieces… the most interesting of which were exhibited in such a way as to show the construction techniques of medieval painters.

Upstairs had a wonderfully diverse collection including Rodin, Gaugin, Picasso (some really nice Picasso pieces showing his range, but not so much the stuff that shows up in art books)… eh, well – here is a link to the catalog of the permanent collections. Good stuff.

Then I met up with the Mawrtyr for lunch. We went to Darwi’s Cafe. Oddly, I think this was the first only place I’d seen with a pride flag on the door. Did I miss the queer-friendly businesses? Or does it just go without saying that everyone is queer-friendly? Anyway, tasty sandwich,good soup, and hot apple cider. Then we went to the Busch-Reisinger galleries behind the Fogg museum – because there used to be an exhibition of Bryn Mawr College dorm furniture (and when I was googling for the image, I found this auction – look at item number 390!).

My friend then got me into the Harvard Natural History museum for free. It’s an old fashioned museum that has densely packed collections instead of sparse galleries that are full of interactive bells and whistles. And they have some amazing things in their mineral collections and assembled fossil skeletons. And they also had a tremendous number of taxidermied birds.

The museum I didn’t have time to see was the Sackler and their big Degas exhibition… no matter – I’m not really all that fond of Degas.

Then it was making my way back home, changing into dry clothing… and sleep.

Trip to Boston – was wonderful
point a: I had managed to secure a fairly cheap ticket
point b: I got a call asking me to move my 2:30 shuttle to 3:30 because I was the only person on the 2:30 one. My flight wasn’t until 5:30, so I said yes a paid half price.

So then, when I was offered a chance to upgrade for $35, I felt perfectly justified whooping with joy and calling it a bargain.

YAY! The highest class was business class, but I was in seat 2A. Yep, I had a random upgrade and *still* ended up in a window seat.

We flew over populated areas low enough (or on a cloudless enough day) that I could watch all the pretty lights the whole way.

We got to chose assorted pretzels and chips from a little basket, and drink orders were taken while we were still taxiing on the runway.

AND there was a little wall between my seat and the person next to me, so there was no physical contact… with the added bonus of having the seat belt fit without me having to ask for an extender.

I was dropped off at Central Square because it was on my brother-in-law’s way to work, and then I walked to Harvard Square.

On the way, I had breakfast at Dado Tea. The tea was excellent, and they had lovely benches where I could sit by a fountain and be warmed by the sunlight filtering through the window glass. The scone, however, was spongy and tasteless and not particularly scone-like at all.

Stopping into a lovely used book store that smelled like fresh wood, I ended up with not only the couple maps I had wanted, but also a random old science fiction paperback as well.

I walked by 2-4 gaming stores. I tell ya, Boston has more gaming stores and comic book stores than any other city I have ever been in (that I have noticed).

I wandered around and looked in fancy stores with stuff I didn’t need and just treated it all as entertainment. There was a Tibetan store that had some lovely jewelry that was affordable, but I couldn’t quite justify buying any of it as I haven’t worn any jewelry at all in several years.

At the Harvard Book Store, I found an even better map (which I have already torn and might need to go back to get another) and a remaindered copy of a Josephine Tey book I hadn’t read yet.

Randomly walking around the square, I ran into someone I had known from college. So we’ll make plans to meet up for lunch/tea sometime next week.

By the time I decided to sit down a bit and stop walking for a while, I went looking for another good teashop. The first place that looked promising was a Peet’s Coffee, but while I will admit that it seemed a haven for coffee lovers, it was too busy, too crowded, and way too coffee-ish for me to stay. Then I ended up at Burdick’s – they had a nice tea selection, but looking around a bit let me know that what I clearly wanted way hot chocolate, instead. OH, man – incredible hot chocolate. It was a bit more bitter than I could take, but each table had a sugar bowl – and when I sprinkled sugar on top, the hot chocolate was so thick and luscious that the sugar didn’t even fall through to the bottom – just floated and liquidised on top… and then sipping it would coat my tongue in bitter liquid, and my upper lip would have sugar crystals – amazing.

Walked around a bit more, listened to buskers, and went home. Buses are oddly confusing because some stops have route maps, some just have route numbers, and others just have a signpost with a T telling you that some bus might stop there some time, but specifics are for wimps. :) All in all, I think I walked 4-5 miles. And, for all you hear about Boston drivers, everyone was surprisingly friendly to the pedestrians. I had drivers stop and wave me to cross even if I were still completely on the sidewalk and just looking vaguely interested in crossing that street. Huh.

I met RubyNye! Sexy, lovely woman! We spent a lot of time talking about her insane commitments to writing some 8 stories in a few months. And I’m not telling you anything about them because most of them were for secret exchanges – but I can say that they all sound fairly brilliant.

We started out at the Someday Cafe, which is everything I think a coffee/tea shop should be (lots of choices in loose leaf tea, eclectic comfy furniture, friendly banter behind the counter, and music just a touch louder than a restaurant). Then dinner at some diner-type place in Harvard Square with green in the name. And then back to Davis Square for more tea at the Diesel Cafe, which was larger and trendier – with sharp edges, an industrial feel, and lots of game (board games and pool tables)… the scenery might have been better at Diesel, but I hold to the first cafe as the epitome of a comfy teahouse.

And we made plans to get together again on Wednesday… possibly for a Harry Potter viewing.

So my family – haven’t seen too much of them, but we are getting on well. The plan is to spend all day today bonding.