Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lamassu, Goose and NY downpour

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:01 PM 2 comments Links to this post
After admiring some statues in the Greek and Roman Art gallery, I wondered where the lamassu were located. Checking the map, I went upstairs to the Ancient Near East gallery and when I turned around the corner, the pair stood there facing me with back flood lights. I froze on the spot. After seeing the 2 pairs of the 5 legged winged bulls at the British Museum, I had wanted to see more of them and didnt even know the Met had a pair. They were gifts from Rockefeller (where did he get them from?). The stone reliefs adorned the entire room. I couldnt believe the museum completely recreated the audience hall in the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, with the colossal figures standing as guardians. The museum guard just thought I was nuts photographing each panel. I spent a good half hour sitting in front of the lamassu. I first learned of them in the archaeology class I took at Stanford right before my sabbatical and had made myself a promise to see them at the BM. And now I saw them at the Met and I wondered if they were the exact ones I saw before.

The decision to do the Met in NY came to me one afternoon while surfing the net. It had proven to be a wise one because we arrived back in NYC in fog and cloudy skies. The rest of the group got soaked through taking the ferry to Staton island to see the Lady. About mid day it started to rain. The downpour didnt stop until late in the afternoon. My camera batteries were dead, so I ventured out to 86th st to try to get new ones. Just then it started to rain. Luckily I spotted a grocery store and went in to get some food and batteries. I ate my cold chicken sheltered under the canopy of an apartment building. I havent seen summer rain (or was it early autumn rain?) in a long time. It was refreshing and came down in straight sheets. I miss this kind of rain very very much and so was quite happy standing underneath it. Back at the Met I went in to the Egyptian gallery and thought it was even bigger than the one in BM, and certainly have more displays than the Cairo museum. This is very very sad as I believe ancient artifacts should belong where they were found, but I guess it is very very good for us because not many can journey afar to see these things.

I can upon the temple of Dendur in a comparatively quiet atrium. So I decided to phone the Goose and arrange to meet. Then still unwilling to leave the museum, I walked through the arms and armor gallery, the american decorative art, and the European sculpture and decorative art, and ventured back upstairs to see the paintings. Oh, my favorite Bruegel's Harvesters , Poussin's the rape of the Sabine women, lots of early Goya, and many others I know nothing about.

Visiting the Met was heaven for me. But what toped it even more was the figure dressed in black, hurrying towards the Met entrance. This time the Hippo was no longer scared. She had met the Goose once before so she knew what to expect. My feet were screaming to take a break (I've been on my feet since 5AM!) so I had wanted to find a place to sit and drink something and chat. We walked a few blocks until we found a Starbucks but there was no empty tables. So we decided to do the park. While coming upon the Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis reservoir, Goose reached inside his bag and pulled out a camera. I knew he spotted a fantastic view for a picture, as I also did.
We ended up sitting on a bench in Central Park with romantic views of the uptown buildings. I never knew Central Park could be so gorgeous in a rainy day and the buildings could offer such a dramatic backdrop.

Goose wasnt too talkative, perhaps just shy, or perhaps still not entirely comfortable with the Hippo, and I knew I was boring him, but I was just happy to see him again, afterall he did make a pilgrimage to the Hippo's bathplace! It was simply soothing to watch him talk, moving his marvelous hands in symphony with his low polite voice. This guy is intelligent beyond imagination and I felt minute in his presence.

Subway again back down, this time just to Times Square as I thought the rest of the group was. But they were waiting in line to get to the top of the Empire State building, so I had to walk the 10 blocks to get there, checking out the shops on 8th Ave, along the way. We dined at a Japanese bbq yourself place in Greenwich and then back to our hotel with marvelous views of the Hudson and Jersey city!

The next morning we briefly checked out the Irish famine memorial across the street and then went inside to check the remodeled World Finance Center, completely redone with marble floor and staircase. A huge window offered a direct view of what used to be ground zero. Years before we had to get a ticket and wait in line to see it. Now, I not only walked by and around it, we drove by as if it's just another construction site. On our way to the airport, we crossed the Brooklyn bridge, my first time.

As we promised every time we left NYC, we would come back soon just to do shopping. Last time I left here I was continuing on the Iceland. This time, I miss Manhattan like I've never had before.

lamassu
 Lamassu at the Met



G & H
 Goose and Hippo
 at Central Park



brooklyn Bridge
 On the Brooklyn Bridge

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Relaxing at sea

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Every time I did the grapevine and started stepping to my right, the girl next to me ran into me because she was moving the wrong direction. We did the entire number without her learning which side was her right side! Today I had my first line dance class onboard. With all day at sea and nothing else to do, I thought I should try some dancing. I couldnt believe I actually like it but it sure tortured my poor feet. I like dancing. Only wish I was less shy and with more opportunity to practice it. I woke up in a warm but foggy day. Outside the ship windows was nothing but a grey white sheet. Our luck finally ran out. We spent the afternoon playing mahjon out on deck, wrapped in blankets, eating Chinese clear noodles and drinking our last complimentary bottle of Dos Equis. We also had cookies and milk, delivered by a poor soul whose job was to walk around deck wearing a drum of milk! I had wanted to disco after dinner, but I had to pack so I mostly remained on our private balcony to savor the last minutes of night sailing on our last day on the cruise. I sure will miss the suite luxury, the outdoors giant movie, arriving at a different port each morning, sleeping on the comfortable bed with the warm duvet and all that free food (well, not really free, just, let say pre-paid). I didnt want to think about the new school quarter which will promptly commence when I get back, nor the survey that might or might not have launched by the time I return to work (as it turned out, it wasnt launched). Last vacation of the year, and it has been a good cruise. Tomorrow, hopefully the Met and a glimpse of the Goose and listen to his melodic voice and a peek at his handsome hands!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nova Scotia

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post
When I first set foot on Nova Scotia, the band at the port quit the Celt music and a massive confusion of tourists crowded the area looking for their buses. We were the last ones to board the bus but lucky for me, I was put on the front seat next to the guide on kilts. I've always found men wearing kilts rather idiotic looking. The day was once again gorgeously pleasant. The drive to Peggy's Cove was lined with beautiful trees, many with red leaves. Gradually as we approach the coast,
deciduous gave way to coniferous until there's nothing but a few bushes and then simply white granite. Peggy is a very tiny town which tourists outnumbered the local population. The place was filled with tour buses and herds of people. The famous lighthouse is the famous post office. I had to snail mail something from there and so I bought and mailed Tomaso a postie. The sea was calm, not a single wave, and hopping around on the granite was the only way to get away from the crowd. On our way back, the guide on kilts told us the heroic stories of rescues and recovers and the generosity of the Haligonians. Because of the geographic location, this area was bound for air and naval mishaps and the local fishermen and towns people are used to giving a helping hand, which included the poor American flights passengers on 9-11. We passed by the memorial of Swiss Air 11. And there's the Titanic museum in town. The stories made my eyes watered. It was hard to think about these events on a sunny glorious day like today.

Back in town, we walked up to the Citadel but to my great disappointment, there's really nothing up there except a little museum of army paraphernalia. M had reserved afternoon tea here but was cancelled. Coming down the steep hill we were looking for a outdoor place for lunch but ended up having steak and kidney pie and local beer at an Irish pub (that was really great, lunching at an Irish pub in Nova Scotia!).

I missed the evening formal dinner because I felt really sick. Or perhaps my body was telling me to skip it altogether since it couldnt stand anything 'formal'. With an entire week of all you can eat food, my body was sick of food and protested. I simply slept. About 11PM, the captain's voice came on to ask for blood donors. A passenger needed blood critically. A few minutes later the stateroom phone rang. Mom asked if I were OK. I told her the critically ill passenger wasnt me! Later at 3AM, the ship stopped and anchored. I fell back to sleep. The next morning we've learned that the Canadian coast guard came, collected the sick passenger and safely delivered him back to a hospital in Halifax. He got his blood and was doing fine.

I couldnt say if I liked Halifax or not. We havent really seen much of the town, but both M and A really enjoyed Peggy's Cove and had secretly selected a house there.

halifax
 Peggy's Cove


halifax
 Peggy's Cove Lighthouse

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oldest city in Canada

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:09 PM 0 comments Links to this post
It is over 10 years since I've last been in Canada. Never been on the eastern Canadian coast. Since Boston I've noticed we kept docking on the Starboard side! Hm, I guess nowadays we no longer conform with traditional practices. Arriving at St John, New Brunswick, we got local music playing, roses for the women and pins for the gentlemen. We boarded our local bus and had a tour of the city guided by a lady in historical New England outfit (she even carries a basket!) So much history here and so British! Considered the Canadian oldest city, this bilingual city is well planned with a walkway from the museum by the water to up the hill to the city market, so one doesnt have to brave the cold in the harsh winters. We stopped at the Reversed Falls but it was low tide and we didnt witness the river running upstream! The bay of Fundy was quite dramatic, so narrow at one end where it collides with the St John river. I had wanted to see it but as always the timing wasnt right. Our local bus drove by the residential area where the houses are more beautiful and very New Englandish than I've ever seen anywhere else, a 5 star B&B where the stars of the Lesser God stayed while filming the movie, a house whose young couple went to England for their honeymoon and ordered carpets to be delivered to their new home, and while they made it back safely, the carpets never did because they sailed with the Titanic. The final stop was the Martello Tower, petit, rond et ne pas haut but the view from there was magnificent. The day was clear, warm and skyblue. The street signs are in both French and English. We had cheap fish n chips at a fast food inside the mall, and walked around the city proper to take picture of the church steeples. I've tried to imagine what the city looked like in the old days with the early settlers and what made them stay so loyal to the Crown. I like St John very much indeed.

We made it back the ship just in time for afternoon tea. The tea was simply Lipton but the pastries and little sandwiches were delicious. Just wish they had better tea! So far we only had mediocre food. Neither the restaurants nor the buffets had any grand food. We havent tried the other 'pay' restaurants because honestly, I had wanted to boycott them - why should we pay to eat at special restaurants on a cruise?

In the evening, believe it or not, we played mahjon in our cab ... I mean, our stateroom. Tomorrow to Nova Scotia!

St John
 Reversed Falls


St John
 St John river
 running into the Bay of Fundy


St John
 St John, New Brunswick

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Acadia & Bar Harbor

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:21 PM 0 comments Links to this post
When I was working at Vicinity, I did a Business Search for Ford that included all the national parks east of the Mississipi and Acadia was one of them. Now finally the Hippo got a chance to visit it. The leaves on the trees began to change colors and the park looked very autumny. So different from the parks on the west. Atop Cadillac Mtn we could see our ship and the tiny town of Bar Harbor and its islands. The rugged coast of northern Maine was spectacular and the Atlantic blue as the Pacific never was. The ocean here is warm. Before going back to the ship, we had seafood bisque and lobster roll for lunch. M and I had a 4 o'clock massage at the Lotus Spa onboard. I had a badly needed foot and scalp massage. I nearly fell asleep when my masseuse gently rang the bell signaling the end of my session. The scalp massage did wonders to my head as my never ending headache was suddenly gone. But my hair got pushed back so forcibly that I ended up with an afro!

Once again we were on deck observing the ship turning and sailing out of the harbor. I could never get enough of this view. This was Hippo's premiere experience of Maine. Tonight movie was Underworld Evolution, while M went to line dancing. Tomorrow maritime provinces!

bar harbor
 Bar Harbor and our ship
  from top of Cadillac Mtn



bar harbor
 Moon over an island
  near Bar Harbor

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cold cloudy Boston

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:04 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Boston was freezing with cloudy skies. All of us had been here before but M insisted we do the Commons so we walked in the wind and cold, traversing downtown. Crossing the public gardens, we reached the trendy Newberry st and I got a little excited at the sights of the shops. We found a Thai place for lunch. M and A had wanted to eat the Thai place at Harvard that they enjoyed so much the previous time they were here, but since we've all been here before, we didnt bother crossing the river. From all places, we bought lots of stuff at HM because there's no sales tax. We spent the rest of the time at Quincy Market. Both M and A really like Boston but I've never developed a special love for the city. In 2000 I was in Lebanon, NH, sent by Vicinity to train new developers. The closest airport was Logan and so I spent a day here. Did all the touristy stuff including walking the Freedom Trail. Dunno. Just never quite fell in love with the city.

While the ship pulled away from the Boston harbor, the sun set vividly behind downtown and we were on deck admiring the glorious view. In the evening we stayed in our lovely suite and watched Syriana. It was rather confusing at first but at the end I finally understood the movie and liked it.

boston gardens
 Butterflies in the Boston Gardens


sunset over boston
 Sunset over downtown Boston

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New England summer cottages

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:13 PM 0 comments Links to this post
When the ship dropped anchor, it woke me up. The view of the Newport fort welcomed the Hippo to Newport, Rhode Island. It was only 7am but sailing boats already crowded the harbor. The tender to shore was 15 minutes long. The sky was clear and blue, little wind and temperature very pleasant. The tour to the Vanderbilts summer cottage was delayed for apparently no reason but when we finally got on our way the pretty town took my annoyance away. Over here is St Mary's where Jacqueline and JFK's wedding took place, over there is the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, and when our bus turned on to the Bellevue Avenue, the world of grandeur appeared. What we call mansions are simply considered summer houses to these rich people. When we finally stopped at the Breakers, the 'cottage' was grand indeed but it lack character and uniqueness. The building itself from the outside did not appeal to the Hippo. No photography was allowed indoors so I grumpily put my camera away. Everything here is 22 carat gold, each bedroom with its own dressing room and bath. The grand hall had a gorgeous chandelier but lacked a grand staircase. The music room which built entirely on its own and transported to the house when finished was not really 'musical' enough to my taste. But the dinning and billiard rooms are fantastic. From all the rooms we've visited, I like Gladys' room the best, on the east corner. It contains a photograph of Gladys and Count Laszlo Szechenyi of Hungary (quite a handsome dude), and some of Gladys' sculptures. The front porch offered an immense view of the blue sea. I cant begin to describe the place. It was grander than Hearst castle and it's only considered a summer cottage, imagine the Vanderbilt's residence! The tour was badly organized so we were offered a free book of the Breakers which can only mean stealing pictures. Because we were late (el capitan had trouble dropping the anchor!) the visit to the Marble house was canceled. I was mad because that's the one I really wanted to see.

Back at the harbor the line back to the ship was so long we decided to paint town. M bought a handbag in one of the cute little shops by the water. In the afternoon, we sat on our private balcony to admire the site of Newport. In the evening after the first formal dinner (I hated the formal anything!), we watched Spidey III on the sundeck, 'movies under the stars' but there were no stars tonight. We sat on lounge chairs with blankets and we had complimentary beer, pizza and popcorn. We were f*cking freezing on the open deck watching the movie on the giant screen. A summer cruise would had been ideal but what a grand idea to have a giant movie outdoors.

Boston tomorrow and we have a date with the Thai restaurant at Harvard Square.

newport
 Newport harbor

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Red Eye

Posted by Hippo Bean at 1:58 PM 1 comments Links to this post
Usually the 4.5 hrs flight to JFK was a breeze but this time the RedEye flight left me tired the entire day as I couldnt sleep nor be comfortable on the plane (hate American airlines, domestic, no food!). After a bit of confusion, we finally learned to take the airtrain to terminal 4 where we could sit down at the food court for McDonald's hot cakes and sausages. Taxi'in from JFK to the Brooklyn P took about 45 minutes. The old neighborhoods with brick block buildings of Brooklyn reminisce the gang movies on TV. This was the ride I most enjoyed, every time flying in to JFK. When the Manhattan skyscrapers started displaying themselves in the clear day, once again I couldnt help but to compare the affluent, cultured and upscale living of NYC to the poor neighborhoods of Brooklyn. They seem to be a world apart. The taxi made a turn to the left and I missed Flushing Meadows where only 2 weeks ago Justine was once again crowned champion.

Getting on board a cruise ship nowadays mean walking through metal detectors and standing in endless lines. The port was a zoo! Massive confusion as everyone crowded in front of the never arriving elevators, trying to get to their staterooms (which once upon a time, used to be called cabins). But we got upgraded to a suite and what more, we're at the very aft of the ship with a double balcony with endless views, an enormous marble bathroom and great complimentary amenities which included free internet, DVD's and priority everything... well just about. The complimentary champagne only made my headache worst, so it was early bed for me. Cant wait to explore the ship which is enormous and looks interesting enough. Tomorrow Hippo's initiation to Rhode Island. The suite is fantastic! The bed very comfy with a light warm down duvet. No neighbors and I love the views from the end of the ship. Quiet! I am ready for New England and the Canadian Maritime provinces!

Crown Princess
 Our ship the Crown Princess

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Commitment

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:39 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Though a bit feverish and with a nagging headache, I stuck to my 'mission' and drove the 144 miles to the San Antonio de Padua Mission, located inside the Hunter Liggett military Reservation near Jolon. Twice we missed this mission (once was sabotaged!) and so this time, come fever or headache, I was committed. The weather was cool up on the San Carlos hills and cooler still in Aptos when we picked up Tomaso. On the way, we stopped at Soledad since he hasnt seen it. By the time we arrived at main gate of the military base and showed our papers, the sun was glazing. The mission was faithfully preserved and I particularly liked the stunning brick facade. The fact that the mission itself is now inside a military compound added to its mystery. Our original plan was to double back to visit San Juan Bautista and then back down the coast to do Carmel. But since all of us had been to Bautista already, we've decided to take the coastal route to Carmel. But the first order of business was to feed ourselves since we could find few places to eat on Hi 1. There were 1 or 2 places open to the public in Hunter Liggett. We chose the snack bar. On the way we stopped by the Hacienda guest lodge, once owned by William Randolph Hearst, designed by "Castle" architect Julia Morgan, as his hunting lodge. The hotel was still open to the public (we checked out a few rooms since the maids were cleaning them and the doors were open) but the restaurant had been closed for a while (one wonders where the guests get food then!). The base was mostly quiet (it has very nice buildings!) but we ran into some rowdy military kids in the cafeteria. After a lousy meal (we had pizza that was simply OK), we decided to take the freeway to Carmel since it was already getting late and we want to reach the mission before it closes. So the drive back was not scenic. But we have many more chances to do scenic routes later. We got to Carmel a few minutes before 5, and the Sunday afternoon mass was just getting started. The museum was already closed but the mission and cathedral were still open. We browsed the area, discovering a very unique painting on a wall inside the church depicting a cross with a spear and a lance holding Christ's vinegar sponge, with the words 'Alabemos Santo Dios, loque estan y seran loque somos'. Nowhere had we seen a cross depicted with these 2 things. Later in the cemetery we witnessed a cross exactly like that. The Carmel mission had a most serene courtyard, uncluttered, and with a fountain in the middle. One of the buildings had a nice whitewash that Tomaso had wanted for his house. The orange adobe color was simply stunning in the near dusk sun. Back at Aptos we had dinner by the beach and watched a huge bonfire. Thus ended a long and exhausted day for me, but got 2 more missions under my belt. Four more to go to complete the collection, and then I can rest.

padua
San Antonio de Padua Mission


carmel
San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

Offsite

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Perhaps it was a good thing I didnt make it to the offsite last year. My skirt didnt really fit well. This year we went to Nestldown, a retreat nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains, hidden on Hi 17, with tall redwoods, fruit trees, lush gardens, ponds, an unique rustic elegance that started as a private retreat for disabled and disadvantaged children. We had a gorgeous lunch outdoors with fresh homemade pies, and spent the afternoon meeting inside the rustic barn. I liked the place and we had fun, a day out of the office. And each one of us got a pair of lounge chairs for this year's gift. One of the perks for working in a small company. The company's visions and plans had changed and I hope I can hang on long enough before being forced into oblivion. The time to move on is nearing but I hate to leave Alpha Detail. I'm not really learning anything but the fun is always there.

nestldown
 Inside the children's cottage


nestldown
 The children's cottage


nestldown
 The barn ceiling


nestldown
 The loft


nestldown
 Loft
 

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