Today Janet was feeling the pressure of work to be done, and she decided we knew enough to be let out on our own for a while.  Soeven though our stock of German comprised little more than "zwei Tageskarten," "bitte," "danke," and of Basel Swiss German merely "greutzi" and the word for thank you, which sounds passably enough like the French "merci"off we went.

Janet's version is here(More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 28, 2007 at 6:02 pm | Edit
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Janet's version is here.

Today we made the most of both our tram passes and our Basel Cards, the latter providing us free admission to most of the museums (Janet used her Swiss Museum Pass) and various other discounts.  We began with the Kunstmuseum, which has a collection of art that is quite impressive, at least for people who have not been to the Louvre in 40 years or so.  In many ways I actually liked this better than the Louvre, because it is limited enough in scope that we felt we could devote as much time as we wanted to particular pictures.  You can take your own tour here.  (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 27, 2007 at 9:30 pm | Edit
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We slept late this morning but otherwise showed more effects from all our walking yesterday than from jet lag.  Janet gave up her bedroom to us and is sleeping on the couch, so she awoke early with her host family, but had no trouble falling back to sleep.  Fortunately she was awake when the call came from the airport:  Porter's suitcase had arrived and would be delivered between ten and eleven this morning if someone would be here to receive it.  Janet handled the entire conversation in German, by the way.

This is what I didn't know about the Swiss yesterday at the airport:  They don't deliver an item "sometime tomorrow between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.," and when they say someone will arrive between ten and eleven, he will.  In this case, right at 10:30. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 27, 2007 at 9:12 am | Edit
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As I mentioned before, we recently returned from a delightful two weeks in Europe, visiting Janet in Switzerland and some friends who live in France.  There were other friends we wanted to visit, but there's only so much you can do in two weeks and remain sane, so we'll just have to make a return trip.

It was nearly as perfect as such a vacation can be.  We had a tense moment or two in Paris, for which I take much of the blame by not having planned the program sufficiently.  It is very hard to leave the agenda open when you're trying to take into account the desires of three people, none of whom enjoys making decisions and each of whom will only be happy if the others are happy first!  But we got over that, and the rest of the trip was idyllic.  Much credit goes to our hosts in Switzerland and in France, and most especially to Janet.  As in Japan, she was an excellent tour guide and rarely showed how worried she was that she hadn't done enough to prepare.  It was enough!  It was perfect!  Now she can start worrying that our next trip can't possibly live up to the high standards set by this one....

As you can tell, I've been posting a lot of random stuff lately—mostly because it's much easier than buckling down to the job of editing pictures and preparing this trip journal.  But here's a start, with more to follow.  Be sure to check out Janet's version (this post and following), if you haven't already.  And remember that the pictures are only previews that do not show the complete scene; click on the preview to get the full picture. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 23, 2007 at 5:38 pm | Edit
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We just returned from a dream vacation in Europe—hmmm, that sounds a bit pretentious, doesn't it?  But it's true.  It had all the earmarks of a great vacation—visiting with family and friends, wonderful weather, awesome food, more to see and do than we could take in—plus a view of other countries and cultures from the inside, and a stay at at fairy tale castle to boot!

Li'l Writer Guy went quite crazy, having so much to say and no time nor opportunity to say it.  I trust he will be able to deciper his hastily-scribbled manuscripts and produce both chronological description and commentary while I'm unpacking and trying to catch up with "normal" life.  In the meantime, here are some random thoughts inspired by our trip.  Bear in mind that we only experienced small parts of France and Switzerland (and a minuscule portion of Germany), though I will occasionally use the terms "Europe" and "European" for convenience. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 18, 2007 at 8:31 am | Edit
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I had an incredible experience recently.  Having been transplanted, through the woders of modern aviation technology, from our unseasonably warm Florida home to some of the coldest Connecticut weather of the season, I was a little chilled.  Our kind hosts provided a fire in the fireplace and a space heater in our bedroom, so we weren't uncomfortable, but going outside was an adventure, despite heavy coats, hats, gloves, and scarves.

That is, until I found it desirable to take some pictures of the low Old Saybrook tide.  Leaning gloveless (I had to operate the camera) against a stiff, steady blow that pushed the wind chill-modified temperature below zero, I was beyond cold.  But when my hand finally thawed, something inside me snapped—or more accurately, some internal fire ignited.  For the rest of the week, I was warm!  Forget the hat, scarf, and gloves; if all I was doing was going from building to car to building again, my coat—and that often enough not even zipped—was sufficient.

Sledding in Granby

On our sledding adventure, I condescended to don hat and gloves (and zip the coat), and the chill never reached me.  What a glorious feeling, to feel the cold without being cold!

Alas—though probably all for the best—my internal fire was quenched by returning to Florida's tropical temperatures.  Our current cold snap (presently 47 degrees outside) has me feeling quite chilly, even though it's above 60 degrees in the house.   I think I'll go fix some hot cocoa while the rest of you laugh at me. Smile
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 6, 2007 at 6:26 am | Edit
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We were in Old Saybrook for what in my personal expert assures me was the lowest tide in his nearly 80-year-old memory.  (We forgot to think about tsunamis.) (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 6, 2007 at 6:16 am | Edit
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In Pittsburgh it can be faster to take the bus to the airport than to drive, because there are special bus-only lanes that sneer at rush hour traffic.  Not so in Orlando, where the trip takes 45 minutes by car and more than twice that by bus.  Today was actually my first venture onto Orlando's public transportation system (such as it is), if you don't count the downtown freebie Lymmo service (which actually counts for quite a lot; it's pretty handy).  Anyway, I ventured from home to the airport and thence to a Thai restaurant where we met some friends for dinner, just for the experience.

The driver was friendly and helpful, the cost only $1.50 ($3.50 buys a pass good for unlimited trips in one day), and the bus itself was fine.  But the total time—walking from our house to the bus stop (35 minutes), waiting for the bus (20 minutes), and stopping at nearly every one of the multitude of stops on the way to the airport (100 minutes)—made for a long afternoon. Still, I proved it's possible to get to the airport without benefit of car, at least if one doesn't have too much in the way of baggage.

And the Thai food was good, too.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 9, 2007 at 9:17 pm | Edit
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Terrorism? War? Disease? Crime? Not being able to communicate? For the places I'm likely to go, the biggest danger is none of these, but in being an Ugly American. An Ugly, Ignorant American.

Consider, for example, the experience of a friend, who recently returned from East Africa. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 15, 2006 at 7:30 am | Edit
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Okay, the latest airport security problem is not in the least bit funny. But sometimes you have to see the humorous side to stay sane, especially when you have loved ones planning to fly in the next few days.

All liquids and gels are presently banned from carry-on luggage at U. S. Airports. Exceptions are being made for certain medications and for pre-mixed baby formula, which will be allowed after inspection. After getting the word, parents at the Orlando International Airport (and no doubt elsewere) were frantically preparing bottles of formula and hoping they wouldn't spoil on the trip, since they couldn't bring bottled water on board.

How nice to have your baby's food with you at all times, handy, pre-mixed, with no fear of spoilage, and in a form that can't be consigned to checked baggage.

It was nice of the Transportation Security Administration to reassure us on that last point, however (emphasis mine).

Exception: Baby formula, breast milk, or juice if a baby or small child is traveling; prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket; and insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines
I'm guessing they're referring to expressed breast milk in a bottle...but makes one think....
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 10, 2006 at 12:08 pm | Edit
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I can't recommend the movie Lost in Translation to anyone I know. It's an R-rated film with an uninspiring story and scenes you'd rather not have in your mind. However, we watched it the other day and I enjoyed it very much, because it is set in Japan. It was fun to hear the crosswalk music (not Comin' Through the Rye, which you can hear in Swing Girls, but the tune for the other direction. I would never have noticed it in the movie if we hadn't been to Japan. It was also wonderful to be able to recognize some of the spoken Japanese words, though I was embarrassed by how much katakana I have forgotten.

Because the film is set mostly in Tokyo, it shows many of the parts of Japan I didn't care for, from the garish lights and colors to the pachinko parlors. But even those were reminders of our trip, and thus enjoyable.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 at 8:56 pm | Edit
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I rode my bicycle to church! One of our two churches is still out of reach, 20 miles away and much of it not well suited to cycling, but the other is only 10 miles distant and almost all of the ride is along a lovely bike trail, so this weekend I decided it was within my reach. On Saturday I made a dry run, in order to know what time to leave home Sunday morning. Turns out it's almost exactly an hour's ride, give or take a minute or two where the trail crosses major highways. I was psyched; If Janet can ride an hour each way to church, so can I!

The first time I biked that distance the last half of the trip was so miserable anyone who saw me had a right to doubt my ability to make it home. This time I felt so good I made a two-mile detour in order to pick up something at Home Depot. I eagerly awaited repeating the trip Sunday morning. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 22, 2006 at 3:04 pm | Edit
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Well, it turned out to be not so much of an adventure after all, which was a good thing. But you would have thought it was something major, the way I prepared for it. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 4, 2006 at 12:42 pm | Edit
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The Longest Day. Our last day in Japan, the first day of our return home, the 37-hour day in which we landed at Newark before we took off from Narita. (It would have been a 38-hour day had not the switch from Standard to Daylight time occurred in our absence.)

Fuji-san came out to say sayonara, gracing us with one of the most beautiful views of our stay. Naito sensei and Yuko picked us up at 8 a.m., drove us to the bus station, and insisted on staying till the bus left at 8:40 so we would not have to say goodbye to Janet any sooner than absolutely necessary. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 17, 2006 at 9:52 am | Edit
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We relaxed a bit this morning, spending our time packing, reading, and practicing kanji, depending on who we were. :) Our lunch was a fitting ending to our visit: Naito sensei, Shimizu sensei, and Yuko had prepared a feast at Naito sensei's house. This also gave us a chance to meet Naito sensei's husband, daughter, and dog. (We have not seen many pets in Japan.) Janet enjoyed helping Naito sensei make sushi. Not to take away anything from the effort that went into the preparation, which is an art, but the Japanese have one great advantage over us when it comes to making sushi: one can buy beautiful pieces of fish, cut to appropriate sizes, at the grocery store! In addition to the fabulous sushi, we had delicious rolled-up sandwiches—one variety of which was strawberries and whipped cream!—salad, tea, and possibly some other delight I forgot to write down. For dessert we had lovely, individual confections that came from a bakery we had passed yesterday on our walk to the Takeda Shrine. We had looked in the bakery window briefly, but if we'd known what was awaiting us inside, we would have lingered. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 10:58 am | Edit
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