Sunday, September 30, 2007

A little logy, maybe

I just returned from Switzerland yesterday afternoon, and I slept a long time last night. It was a 31-hour day for me! I hope to start arranging and writing up accounts, from my notes, maybe tonight. I'd like to start posting a more organized version of the trip tomorrow. We'll see. In the meantime, a few photos.

This is from a little park (?) right next to our hotel in Zürich.

On the first day of the bus touring itself, we went to a little place called Appenzell, on to Liechtenstein, and then on to St. Moritz. This is an old Citroen, parked in the Appenzell town center.

And this is one of many tombstones there which featured stained glass. I obscured part of the name, just for privacy reasons.

The castle of the prince of Liechtenstein, overlooking the town of Vaduz. You can see, by the crane, that work must be going on:

A sculpture by Henry Moore on display in Vaduz:

And this is the "old" school building in St. Moritz. If you can zoom in on this (if the file is large enough), you can see the writing which goes across the front of the building. It's in Romansch, which is spoken by about 1% of the Swiss:

More to follow!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Greetings from St. Moritz, Switzerland

Hello, everyone.This will be a short post because I am on the world's slowest Internet connection! No photos this time around because I am working on a public computer. I will add photos after returning to the States.

We left DFW airport a little after 4:30 on Friday, more than 90 minutes behind schedule. The jet's fuel gauge was not working, so we could not leave until that was taken care of--we had fuel, but no way of reading it. We arrived in Zurich just before 9:30 a.m., local time: or 2:30 Dallas time. We were exhausted, of course. We reached the hotel before 11 and got checked into our rooms. We visited a nearby grocery and got items for lunch: for me, an apple, some chips, some 'ham-cheese' I ended up being a bit afraid to eat. The girls (Janis and Debbie) got 'nice' things like quiche!

Later Debbie and I took a walk toward the downtown area while Janis rested. We encountered some kind of march or demonstration, apparently people in the buildings trades wanting better wages. Otherwise we mostly saw shops--many closed on a Saturday afternoon--along with cafes and restaurants and residential highrises. Zurich is on the Limmat River which comes right through town. It's Switzerland's largest city, with about 350,000 people. The country has about 7.5 million people overall. Our guide told us that 'low-wage' earners here, including house-keepers, entry-level factory workers and so forth, make about 3000 dollars a month. A bank director, he said, would make about 9000 dollars a month. So the Swiss are clearly way ahead of us in salary equity! Of course it's a much more expensive place to live.

Well, I must shut down now and file this post or I will get cut off before it has time to register. Perhaps I will have a chance to make another post before next week or maybe not. Check back!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rain in Texas

My aunt and I made the drive from Amarillo to Dallas, via Lubbock and Abilene, yesterday through lots of rain and wet pavement. Fortunately the drive was mostly uneventful, except for a traffic pileup on the east side of Ft Worth where a car seems to have flipped over in a one-car accident. I haven't heard if the driver was all right or not. Scary to see.

On September 21 I leave for Switzerland and will be gone a bit over a week. I don't plan to take the laptop, so any detailed postings and photographs from that trip will have to wait till I return. Check back in early October. Until then, enjoy yourselves.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A busy morning in Denver

This morning my aunt and I loaded up the Element to begin to long drive back to Dallas. Meanwhile my niece and nephew-in-law got the kids ready for their first games of the season. Here's my great-niece, 5, in her soccer uniform:

And here's my great-nephew, 9, in his football uniform:

Though her team lost the game, my great-niece made a goal. My great-nephew's team won their game.

My aunt and I spent the day on the road, south from Lone Tree to Raton, NM, then sort of southwest to Amarillo, via Clayton, NM, and Dumas, TX. Ah, the bliss of the southwestern edges of the Great Plains.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Georgetown, Colorado

Today my aunt, my niece and I had "grown-ups' day," as both kids were in school. We went west of Denver up into the mountains to a small place called Georgetown, about 8900 feet above sea level. There is one main street, part of the old town center, I suppose, which has boutique-style shops and restaurants. Lots of jewelry, Colorado-related clothes and memorabilia, and even a sort of gourmet grocery with imported foods as well as locally produced honeys, jellies and so forth. One of the stores specialized in sweets-making: toffee, fudge, shortbread (made, they claimed, by a real Scot!), and even taffy. The city museum is housed in what used to be the "Hotel de Paris".

My aunt splurged on ear rings. I think she bought 4 pairs. She also found a nice pocket-knife for her grandson. My niece bought a cowboy-ish hat. I considered a copper bracelet, wondering if it might help my arthritis, but I ended up buying nothing that wasn't edible or drinkable.

That photo above is, I believe, the town hall and police station. I wasn't really paying all that much attention when I snapped the photo.

We had lunch at a place called The Happy Cooker. It's in an old house and has an extensive menu. My niece had quiche and a salad; my aunt had grilled cheese-and-bacon sandwich with home fries; and I had a typical sack lunch of tuna, applesauce, V8 and chips.

This shot catches my niece and aunt in an unguarded moment. You can get an idea of what the main street looks like and how steep the mountains are in which Georgetown situated. You might, if you look really closely, be able to spot where I-70 cuts across the mountainside.

This is the side of the "trading post", featuring a lot of well-weathered wood. There's no particular reason to have taken its photo, except that the wood is kind of interesting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

That's the hand of a large orangutan (snapped through plate glass) up above there. Today my niece, my great-niece, my aunt and I headed down to Colorado Springs to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. It's a small zoo, but nicely laid out with several opportunities to get quite close to the animals.

The first stop, after passing through the gift shop, is the giraffe pit, where visitors can feed crunchy little crackers to the giraffes. It's sort of amusing to see those long skinny heads so near, and to watch their tongues come slipping out to take the crackers from you. My great-niece loves feeding the giraffes, but isn't nuts about their tongues touching her hand.

The giraffes also like to like the wooden posts that support the roofing over their pit. I don't know if it's salted (or otherwise treated), or if it's just a substitute for licking bark in the wild.

There's also a great collection of big cats in the zoo, as well as some not so big. The Amur tiger, which we are told is the world's largest breed, paces up and down one fence-line, allowing you to get a pretty close look at him. The snow leopards are also placed very near to the viewer--although of course the wires of the cage get in the way. This beauty was just a few feet away from me.

I believe I snapped this shot through glass, but I can't remember for sure.

The primate collection is also impressive, including two babies--a gorilla and an orangutan. My photos didn't turn out as well as I had hoped, so I won't post them. Needless to say, however, the baby gorilla riding on its mother's back or giddily walking through the tall grass was quite a crowd-pleaser.

A sadder story is that of the baby orangutan, whose mother either rejected it or didn't know what to do with it. One of the zookeepers lies with it in its pen, letting it--I presume--bond with another mammal. Today the woman was leaning partially up against the wall, with the baby sleeping on top of her.

This enormous dude--at least I'm guessing he's a dude--is the one whose hand heads today's entry. He had, I think, a water bottle or something similar caught up inside this blanket, which he seemed to enjoy chewing on. He was right on the other side of the glass from us, which you get a suggestion of in the hand photo.

I don't remember which primate this was, but he offered such a clear shot of both of his feet that I couldn't resist. Imagine if your feet could do what his can.

The zoo also has elephants, hippos, penguins, lots of birds, mountain lions, fishing cats, reptiles, and most of the usual suspects. One always feels a little sad about the zoo lifestyle, but I reckon it beats being eradicated in the wild. And of course the learning experience for kids is colossal.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Red Rocks

I began the day today (well, after breakfast, a walk and getting cleaned up, I mean) at the bookstore, first purchasing (for the second time) W.G. Sebald's Vertigo. (I also bought the new "miniature" edition of James Wright's The Branch Will Not Break for a whopping $5.95.) Then I settled into the coffee shop with a cup of tea and a bagel, and began to read.

After lunch at the house, the family and I went over and up to Red Rocks, the concert venue in the foothills of the Rockies, west of Denver. We weren't able to go into the amphitheatre itself to take a look because it was being prepared for a concert. This shot shows a bit of the rocks and a statue of a miner at the head of the sidewalk leading into the topside of the theater.

From the parking lot I was able to get this shot of Denver in the distance.

At another spot along the road, there is an overhang with a lot of tiny "caves" which people are allowed to climb into if they want, though most of the rocks around the theater itself are off limits. Here is my great-niece crouched in one of the nooks.

From that stop-off I also looked up to take this photo of an evergreen silhouetted against the blue sky.

At the base of the Red Rocks road is a little town called Morrison, with a couple of blocks of mostly touristy shops and restaurants. One shop features unusual clothing as well as African and Asian imports, but the others are pretty much the sorts of antique shops and "boutiques" one expects. We had an early supper at the Morrison Inn (I brought my food along, to be sure) where no one but my nephew-in-law was able to finish his meal. The portions were big.

Now we're back at the house again, we've had some rain, lightning and thunder, and we're about to start a game of Sequence. Have a good evening.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Downtown Denver

Today we took the RTD (light rail) to downtown Denver. The Lincoln station, nearest my niece's house, is the "end of the line," from which we headed into Union Station on what is, I think, the western edge of downtown. As we rode the shuttle bus from the station toward the eastern side of downtown, we saw banners for "Tattered Cover Book Store" out the bus window. So either it hasn't entirely vanished downtown, or it has been revived following its demise. It is not as large as the TC I remember from the '90s, but does have some titles which don't usually show up in the chains. Even so, it's sad that it's had to downsize.

One of our stops was the Denver Art Museum, which sits just a few blocks from the capitol building and quite close to the downtown library. We visited only the main building, which features strangely canted walls and roofs, so much so that people have apparently become disoriented inside and had to leave. There's a strong modern and contemporary art collection, including a couple of small Picassos and Matisses, a couple of Braques, and a really lovely landscape by Max Ernst, dominated by dark green and blue-green tones. One truly large canvas looks, from a distance, almost like a topographical map. Closer, one sees that the 'lines' are actually words. There is no painting, per se, in the painting: the artist (whose name was unfamiliar to me and which I cannot remember) has written all over the canvas, shaping the flow of the words to create an image that sort of resembles Italy turned on its side, with the Mediterranean Sea above and below it.

Outside, underneath one of the jutting walls,

is an enormous, whimsical whisk broom and dust pan:

Don't ask me who the dork drinking water is! In this second shot, you can find my niece, nephew-in-law, great-niece and aunt.

The museum also features Oceanic and African art, a sculpture deck with some of Donald Judd's milled aluminum cubes, and a Western American collection (and who knows what else in the second building, which we didn't visit).

The Denver capitol building has actual gold plates on the roof of the dome, which you can see glinting in the sunlight here:

This weekend is also the weekend of "A Taste of Colorado," a carnival, street fair and food-tasting celebration occupying several blocks of downtown. My great-niece (5 years old) won this enormous stuffed unicorn, substantially larger than she is, at one of the booths: she is a good shot with a ball!