Mercury in the Bath

August, 2017: the sun is shining on the edge of North America, but the foghorn still cries its warning to the clouded sea. Two paired blasts per 60 seconds; a signature to identify location by sound. In the dark, you need to know which horn you’ve heard.

This is Cape Race lighthouse, which holds one of the last remaining hyper-radial Fresnel lenses ever made. Perched on the southern coast of Newfoundland, it offers the first sighting of land for ships crossing the Atlantic. Oh, and it’s got nearly 800 pounds of liquid mercury at the top.

Continue reading “Mercury in the Bath”

“Do Not Become Casual with Stressing Procedure”

February, 2021: Crouched between bushes at the top of a steep hill, listening and watching for activity.

First sighting from inside the perimeter: a huge hare, bounding between stacks of scattered concrete beams, beams left like a child’s building blocks to gradually erode and gather moss and become part of the Irish landscape.

Alone, then. Hares aren’t known for liking human activity. We scramble down, and in.

Continue reading ““Do Not Become Casual with Stressing Procedure””

Sherbet and Socialism: Architecture in Kyiv

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September, 2018: Kyiv! This was one of my favorite cities, in large part due to the architecture.

I described it upon arrival as “rainbow sherbet with floofy bits” and I stand by that assessment, at least for many of the buildings. Continue reading “Sherbet and Socialism: Architecture in Kyiv”

The Life of Wonderful People: Place Names and Food in Ukraine

2018-09-15 21.57.08September, 2018: I love the names of things in post-Soviet places, and Kyiv is an absolute treasure trove. I’m sure it’s partly translations, but it can’t be just that…. Not when I went out for cheesecake and cocktails at Life of Wonderful People (pictured here: the Eruca Smash, with gin, lime, sugar syrup, arugula leaves, and rhubarb bitters), breakfast at Favorite Uncle, and 2am white-tablecloth dinners at Under Wonder. Continue reading “The Life of Wonderful People: Place Names and Food in Ukraine”

Milan: Skulls, Bones, and Masks

2018-07-30 10.21.0031 July, 2018: We spent the last few days of our Italian adventure in Milan, enjoying the architecture, art, and cocktails. We had a lovely apartment, in easy walking distance to everything, and although we were sad to leave the mountains, it was fun to be back in a city with lots and lots to do and explore.  Continue reading “Milan: Skulls, Bones, and Masks”

Rainbow Lakes and Sparkling Springs

2018-07-28 13.35.3928 July, 2018: We left the dairy cottage and drove through the mountains past some lovely examples of Bavarian architecture, on our way to return the rental car and spend the last few days of the trip in Milan. We made two stops along the way — one at San Pellegrino (which, spoiler alert, turned out to be the wrong one), and one at a “rainbow lake” that was nowhere near as rainbowed as the amazing Lago di Sorapis from our last hike. Continue reading “Rainbow Lakes and Sparkling Springs”

Hiking in the Dolomites, part 5: Lago di Sorapis

2018-07-27 16.29.58-227 July, 2018: Before we left the Dolomites, we had one more chance to do a proper hike, and we didn’t want to miss it. We chose Lago di Sorapis; a lake rumored to be quite pretty at the top of a ~5.5k trail. I knew no more than that, and hadn’t looked at any pictures (and I’m glad I didn’t, as the unfolding views and the lake at the end were much better as a surprise… and I’m not sure I would have gone if I had seen pictures of the trail I’d have to cross to get there).  Continue reading “Hiking in the Dolomites, part 5: Lago di Sorapis”

And then there was that time we lived in an 18th century dairy cottage

2018-07-25 19.52.3027 July, 2018: After the wine tasting, we drove through the mountains from Brixen to our next destination on the outskirts of a very remote farming village called Trichiana. Not only were we staying outside the already-remote village, but we also went back in time — Alex somehow managed to find a stone dairy cottage for rent, dating back to the 1700’s. It was on a working organic farm with the friendliest owner, who offered us fresh vegetables from his garden, and it was positively idyllic. Continue reading “And then there was that time we lived in an 18th century dairy cottage”

Three Festivals in the Südtirol

2018-07-21 18.24.0125 July, 2018: We attended three surprise festivals in two days in Brixen, and wrapped up our stay there with a wine tasting. First I found a flyer in the Brixen tourist office advertising a wine festival with live music in the nearby village of St. Magdalena on July 20, so we decided to check it out. It was probably related to the feast day of their patron saint, Mary Magdalene, though that’s normally on July 22; it also seemed to be a celebration of the first tapping of the wine casks, or something like that. In any case, this festival in the tiny village (~370 inhabitants) featured live music (in the general polka vein), wine from their famous local cellar, steins of beer, and lots and lots of German-style fair food. It was amazing. Continue reading “Three Festivals in the Südtirol”

Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 4: Seceda Summit (Val Gardena)

2018-07-24 12.39.0024 July, 2018: time for the hike that started it all! I have an established habit of seeking out Windows 10 lock screen images as travel destinations (see also: Plitvička Jezera in Croatia) and it was a lock screen image that made me first decide to visit the Dolomites, too.

The Seceda Summit has a large cable car and a ski area, so it’s quite accessible and therefore quite touristic. The geology makes up for it, though — the Fermeda Peaks are incredible.  Continue reading “Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 4: Seceda Summit (Val Gardena)”