From Newfoundland to Ireland with Marconi

Winter, 1907. You live in Clifden in western Ireland, and your favorite way to spend the rare clear-skied evening (after a hard day of farming or herding or shopkeeping) is to walk up the hill to the monument.

The sunsets are gorgeous over the Atlantic ocean, and as dusk falls you can look south to see a man-made lightning show. Sparks dance over eight huge wooden masts marking a rectangle 1,000 feet long by 200 wide. The masts support 52 wires running lengthwise across the top, which fan down at one end into a single wire connected to a mysterious building. The entire apparatus is over 200 feet tall, and when the wind is right you might hear the electricity crackling.

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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.

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“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.

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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”

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”