Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sledding at Lee Street Park

This weekend we had the perfect snowstorm in Alexandria.  It snowed Saturday, so as not to mess up school or work.  It snowed about six inches - enough for sledding, but not enough to take more than 24hrs to clear the roads and sidewalks.  And it was nice light fluffy dry snow, so it was pretty and easy to clear away.  Will did have a concert he was supposed to sing in canceled on Saturday, and we had to send regrets on a party but overall it was a very manageable storm.

Sunday morning dawned clear, and warmer than we expected.  I took Will and Lyra to Lee Street park and they had a great time.  Will seems to be teaching Lyra to be an 11 year old boy, and she is going along with it.  He rammed his sled into her sled and she loved being knocked over.  He threw snow balls at her head, and she threw snow balls back at him.  It was funny and cute to watch, and I think will contribute to making Lyra a very tough little girl.  

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sitges Spain - January 2010

Sitges is a small city (or big town) south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast in Spain.  The best comparison is probably Laguna Beach in California.  Sitges is only about 40 minutes from Barcelona and well to do people in Barcelona like it for weekend homes, and with recently improved roads even as a permanent residence.  It's most notable feature is the Iglesia Sant Bartolomeu i Santa Tecla on the water in the heart of the town. 

Sitges has a small old section with narrow streets full of interesting shops and restaurants.  There is also a long beach, reputedly one of the ten best in Spain.  I was told Sitges had the only gay friendly (as in legal)  street under Franco's fascist rule, and that is probably also a factor in the number of galleries and restaurants (and bars).  In my brief time exploring I saw some fun street performers, a very skittish alley cat and lots of shops I wish I had had more time to investigate.  I did have time for the local version of a pain au chocolate which was generously sized and tasty.

It seemed like a good place to live.  There was an active fleet of small sail boats (Hobies, etc) and even in 0C temperatures lots of people out sailing in wet suits.  I saw a lot of well loved dogs, many with beds in their owners' shops.  I had three dinners in Sitges, from somewhat rustic to pretty fancy, and all of them were excellent.  In terms of communication, my Spanish is not that good, and I learned it in Mexico which is sort of like learning English in Scotland as far as the Spaniards are concerned.  Of course the real challenge was that the natives in Sitges don't speak Spanish, they speak Catalan.  

I way in Sitges for an Accenture meeting and stayed at Dolce Sitges overlooking the town, but it was only about ten minutes and a 9 Euro cab ride to the town.  The Dolce was nice as business conference hotels go, but Sitges was preferable for dinner, and fun for exploring.  

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Dawn to Dusk Travel - Madrid to 30K Over France

I have been in Spain all week. mostly Sitges (south of Barcelona) and an evening in Madrid.  Yesterday was a long travel day back to Washington from Madrid via Barcelona and Paris.  

The trip started with an 8:35am Iberia flight from Madrid to Barcelona.  It was clear and very cool in Madrid, and I watched a bright orange sunrise from the Madrid airport.  Madrid Barajas International Airport is beautifully designed, with striking yellow supports and a wavy wood covered ceiling.  Airport design went downhill over the course of the trip.  Madrid and Barcelona are both beautiful.  Paris (CDG) has some ugly terminals, but the Air France area was decent and security was very competent and efficient.  Of course Dulles my final destination is neither attractive nor functional, but immigration and customs were very efficient.  

Flying west out of Paris we had a very long sunset.  I find that sunsets above the clouds can be especially pretty.

I do need to figure out who regulates the Washington Flyer taxi monopoly at Dulles.  I got into the cab and told the driver I wanted to go to Alexandria.  He said 'it is only my third day on the job you will have to direct me'.  In London the cabbies study for two years to learn the roads before they can pass a test to obtain their taxi license.  Obviously for Washington Flyer there is no requirement for even the most high level and rudimentary understanding of the local roads.  

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dinner at El Raco de la Carreta - Sitges

I had a great dinner last night with the members of my LDP team who had made it to Sitges.  In the photo are (l2r) Mike, Michael, Eliza and me.  To round off the Mikes, Eliza's husband Mike also joined us, and took this photo.  We ate at El Raco de la Carreta. Carreta means cart in Spanish and is also the street the restaurant was on.  Google translate says El Raco de la Carreta in English is The Raco of the Cart.  Not helpful.  

People eat late in Spain.  When we arrived at the restaurant around 10:00pm we were only the second or third party.  When we left at 1:00am there were still people eating.  9:00pm seems to be the early edge of cocktail hour and certainly too early to eat.  I had a great garlic soup that could (and should) have been my entire meal - strong garlic broth with lots of rustic bread in the soup, so it was thick and filling.  I did manage to eat delicious steak and desert though after the soup.  Our waiter, who was also the owner was wonderful.  His English was only slightly better than our Spanish, but we got by.  He seemed to take a liking to us and after we finished desert he brought us a bottle of Cava to finish off the meal.  

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ice Boats at Dyke Marsh

Yesterday I flew back to DC from Dallas.  The approach to DCA was up the Potomac from the south over the Wilson Bridge and past Old Town.  It has been very cold, and the river is frozen along the shore and in the little inlets and other sheltered areas.  From the air, the ice was spectacular.  Because the water in the river is moving and the ice is thin, it had broken and been reformed and refrozen many times.  The patterns in the ice told the story of the ice breaking, clumping, drifting along and then refreezing.  I could not take any photos of the ice from the air, but I was inspired to find a place to get at least some ground level photos of the frozen river.

This morning I went to my favorite local photo spot, Dyke Marsh.  The cove where the boats are moored was frozen, and I did get some good photos.  Things did not start off well.  I set down my primary camera while setting up the tripod.  When I picked it up, the strap was tangled and I bobbled the camera.  I thought it was OK, but on the first photo I tried to take, the camera informed me it could not talk to the lens.  After getting over the anger and frustration of realizing my 24-70 needs to go off to the lens hospital, I pulled the little G10 out of the glove box and put it on the tripod.  Using the smaller camera was difficult with half frozen fingers, but I think the pictures came out well.  

The morning was crisp but not as cold as I had feared (though I saw no one else and I felt a bit crazy tramping along the shore managing to find at least one unfrozen mud puddle with my boot).  I was also amused to see a fox taking advantage of the ice and using it as a short cut across the marsh.  

These photos have a lot of detail, click on them to view larger versions.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Model Magic Dinosaur Fossils

Will has just started reading Stephen Jay Gould and that inspired him to create some dinosaur fossils out of clay.  I found these to be remarkably similar to the pictures of the actual fossils, especially the Archaeopteryx.  These are not to scale, in real life they vary widely from the .5 meter long Archaeopteryx to the 9 meter long Stegosaurus.  The clay fossils are each about 2" by 3".  Will loves the BBC Walking with Dinosaurs series and I can see him having a future as a model builder or an animator for movies or in a museum (or both).  In the photo, the fossils are (clockwise from upper right), a Dimetrodon, a Brontoscorpio, an Archaeopteryx and a Stegosaurus.  

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Lyra's Fourth Birthday Party w/Friends

Lyra officially turned four on Friday, but celebrated in a joint party with her friend Kihm yesterday.  The party was dinosaur themed, and one of the games the girls played was "pin the tooth on the t'rex".  The t-rex poster in the first photo is courtesy of Eva's older brother and sister.  The party seemed like a great success, at least judged by the laughter and shrieking of five four year old girls.  Lyra and Kihm both wore "Princess' tiaras during the entire party, and never let the tiaras leave their heads.  Lyra also insisted on a tutu.  Not exactly what an archeologist would wear, but she certainly looked cute.  

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Lyra Turns Four

More pictures tomorrow!

Sent from my iPhone

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Happy New Year from Alexandria

Happy New Year to all my friends and family (and any future friends who see this who I don't know yet).  After Cath and the kids went to bed, I celebrated New Years taking pictures of the First Night Alexandria fireworks.  

The finale of the Alexandria First Night Celebration is a fireworks display launched from Shuters Hill, a landmark on one of the Wright Brothers' early flights, now much better known as the site of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.  The fireworks began promptly at midnight.  Leading up to the fireworks, there was a great a capella singing group The Stairwells, then a few words from Mayor Euille.    The fireworks were great and a wonderful kickoff to the New Year.

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