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I went to Barcelona, because I have worked out that if I have a long weekend somewhere with longer days in February it us a good thing all round, and it was brill. Looked at the Med, and went on a tiny boat trip that got all of about a quarter mile outside the harbour; also looked at cathedrals, alleys, ironwork, gardens, hills, markets, Roman walls, etc. Ate lots of tapas and seafood (yum, cuttlefish) and cream catalana (creme brûlée with cinnamon and/or lemon zest in). Was pleased by the many places selling small paper cones of Iberico ham to eat as you stroll.
It tipped it down one day but otherwise there was lots of lovely DAYLIGHT.
And I found out about Eusabi Guell, who was a 19th C multibillionaire (in today's money) who was a bit of a religious nut and also quite into Catalan nationalism. So what he did was fund literary magazines and be a patron for lots of musicians and artists and sculptors and this weird architect who wanted to meld Art Nouveau with traditional Catalonian materials and craftsmanship, and what I'm saying is that if CERTAIN PEOPLE spent a shitload of money on the arts then maybe CERTAIN COUNTRIES would be a lot better off than other forms of nationalism will leave them, because over a hundred years later Catalonia is still doing very nicely thank you from Gaudi tourism. So well done el Sr. Guell.
(Guell's townhouse was Gaudi's first commission, and it is a mixture of rich-people-odd, like the ground floor being designed to drive your carriage right in (the stables are in the basement) or there being five salon rooms of various degrees of intimacy but only three rooms for the ten children and their nurses, arts-patron-odd like the whole house being designed round a 50-foot-high room with perfect acoustics and a gallery for choir and orchestra, and Gaudi-odd like the random wiggly closets in the corners of the master suite. It is very lavish and strange. The family only lived there for a few years as apparently Guell's wife never liked it.)
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When reading Twitter go loopy over the Official Weirdest Opening Ceremony Ever, I recommend an elderflower liqueur, muddled watermelon and tonic and a dozen oysters. (#limpics #SaveOurNHS #lostinamerica)
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"stiflingly hot",  "I'll show you photos of the dead dolphin in a bit", "I was only neck-deep for a few yards", and feet sliced open.
Glad [personal profile] sigmonster has had a nice walk.
(I, meanwhile, bought some jam.)
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Things have just been cooled down by another thunderstorm- it was brilliant, we could watch it come over, with a wall of hanging clouds with tendrils reaching fown from the bottom, and then rain jumping down, so that we couldn't see the island that reaches out into the bay and torrents arced from the downspouts, and lightning struck the water, and then it slowly pulled away down the cape. There's a little aftershock of rain now so I should go and re-shut all the windows...
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Here are some random things I have done in the last two days:
Eaten the following ice lollies: watermelon and lemon, roasted banana and cinnamon, watermelon and cucumber, raspberry and basil.
Approved of the lolly-maker.
Seen a cardinal (bird, not primate).
Bought something in the Apple shop that I don't actually know what it does.
Wrapped seven Christmas presents (and three birthday ones).
Had a steak, tomato and avocado sandwich on 7-grain sourdough.
Voluntarily got up at 6.30.
REMAINED INDOORS (Do not think about The Event) because it's in the NINETIES out there, I would FRY. I'm hoping for the weather to change by the end of the week so I can dash across to a museum maybe.
Snuck out for a quick swim in the evening.
Wondered how I'm ever going to pack my suitcase again.

Can anybody recommend a good book for a bright 12-year-old girl, written by an American? Classic or modern, no dead dogs/best friends/hope please. There are too many choices!
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I went to Durham for the weekend and was charmed; it's so wee, and there's a hundred-foot wooded gorge down to the river between the old and new bits of the city centre. I particularly liked Crook Hall, which had a pleasingly amateurish feel compared with eg National Trust properties (handwritten signs, the owner's paintings for sale and a cat eying you sceptically as you came out of the loo) and is also a really interesting building and truly lovely gardens. Must go back in spring sometime. Other highlights: choir practice in the cathedral, two different events going on in town that led to a mixture of air cadets and punks walking around the place, tiny Egyptian frog amulets and an interesting talk on Japanese woodprints in one of the museums. Also my knees hurt from all the steps.
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July books
Read more... )

July stats
Read more... )

I have managed to get sunburnt in a ten-minute walk before breakfast. I think I may cower indoors for the rest of the day...
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Excitement in the last week included a car hitting my next-door neighbour's house (nobody hurt, including the small dog who ran out of another neighbour's when he came out to see what was going on, and nearly got run over).
I am abroad; we will not be flying Delta again (they domonstrably can't organise a queue in an airport) but we got here, and have ticked off another state- Rhode Island. (Going to Providence for a half day to go to an art gallery totally does count, we crossed the state line! And it was rather a nice art gallery. Also I got a very good lemon coconut cake and BLT with guacamole. I believe RI also has history, culture and industry.[1])

[ profile] sigmonster has weeded our aunt's vegetable plot, which had been ignored all year until the hawk chicks from the nearby nest fledged and thus the adults stopped attacking anyone who came out of the house (I Am Not Making This Up, although there are no photos because it is hard to take a photo of a hawk which is diving at your head with extended talons.) I have not been as useful as he has, but I am monitoring the dryer as I type...

[1} Disclosure of exaggeration for comic effect; we did also look at a bunch of historic houses and read about the state's founder, Roger Williams, who felt that the Indians owned the land and settlers should respect them, and that there should be religious freedom for everybody, not just Christians. And then it was too hot so we came home.
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I have been away, and then ill, and then had a parental visit. So here is a list instead of a post.
Edinburgh in spring: magnolias, daffodils, dueling coaltits on Calton Hill, hot chocolate with melted chocolate at the bottom of the cup and not gritty bits of cocoa, views from Dean Bridge, improv in a cellar on the Royal Mile, only buying two books in Transreal, black pudding for breakfast and oysters for supper, a proper rock garden that you have to climb around in, and still plenty of things left to do next time... Not so happy about getting some virus and not being able to do anything on the last morning, then feeling sick and dizzy all the way back in the train and continuing to do so for some days. V. dull.
That being so, the parent and I haven't been all that busy; got the garden started off well (flowering: aubretia, blue violets, white violets, cuckooflower, violas, wallflowers, primroses, forget-me-nots, oh, and dandelions) and had a nice walk and shopping trip round Skipton yesterday. (I got an adjustable spanner.)
I have a niggling feeling I've forgotten something for this month's booklist during the enforced off-LJ time. Ah well, doesn't much matter.
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Fun things to do in Amsterdam in January:
Go to the zoo- expensive, but there's an aquarium, planetarium and butterfly house in it as well. The herons hanging out in the penguin pool were fairly cool to see, also little lizards that looked like they were made of filigree, and some teeny teeny starfish, and baby llamas. (They could do with cutting down the number of species- there's an impressive amount of space for a city zoo, but one of the elephants was rocking.)
Go to the botanical gardens; the palm house was good, but the three-climate greenhouse with informal trails was worth the admission cost, and they had some butterflies I've never heard of with wings as transparent as dragonflies' except for white markings at the ends which made semicircles in the air as they flew.
Exhibition of Islamic arts at the Niewe Kerk. There was one set of door-knockers that for all the world looked Viking.
Rembrandt's house; catch the demos of printmaking and paint-grinding.
The Rijksmuseum; the rebuilding means the bit that's open is more doable in one go! Dollshouses with teeny delftware, as well as the Rembrandts, Vermers, etc.
Look at the canals.
Not buy anything at the flower market.
Eat winter pea soup, pancakes with slices of apple cooked into them and served with chopped candied ginger, raisin doughnuts, appelbeignets, bread with chocolate sprinkles, bami goreng, etc.

Less fun things to do:
Drive out to the beach in freezing rain- but the hot chocolate was worth it.
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After a rather irritating train trip, I've been back to my native city for a wedding; it was nice to see the old place still there (and now with added trams.) Meant to do a bit of tourist stuff but ended up just shopping!
The wedding was nice- homegrown flowers, barbeque, talking to school friends of the bride about the semiotics of sluttiness and how you tell Gordon from Percy (one of them has yellow stripes, but now I've sobered up I can't remember which). Have since been to a Local Food Society AGM, which included rather a lot of local food, all very yummy.
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Juvenile heron! V. calm and composed about random person wading past its lurking spot. It was probably there to eat the large metamorphosing tadpoles. New England's kettle ponds: I approve.
Lobsters eaten, painting acquired, hammock lounged in. Now listening to cat purring behind sofa, very peaceful noise.

Must go- family, dinner, etc.
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Blue jay; grebe; three turtles.
Hearing faroff train whistles in the night- then seeing the things looming along a downtown street. Two-storey passenger trains, what a good idea, we'd only have to knock down every bridge in the country...
Yellow cake ice-cream (does not contain uranium).
Jack London's little log cabin, transplanted to a waterfront square with hundred-thousand-dollar boats tied up.
Scent of California air in the garden early in the morning.
Anchor steam beer. Consumed at a jazz club. (Roberta Gamberini, amazing voice,)
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Botanical gardens and Japanese tea garden.
Floating sushi.
Bought three pairs of trousers, didn't buy any tops despite being with the two most ferocious shoppers I've ever been near- must have tried on about 20.
BLT with avocado on rosemary foccaccia.
Museum of Asian Art.
Cat stopped ignoring me in order to try and sneak into my room and give me sniffles.
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Walked myself off my feet; seen a flock of green parakeets squabbling themselves to sleep; eaten a fish tostada with black beans, grilled sweet potato and three kinds of salsa; bought a dozen American-size dessert spoons, three secondhand books [1] and a small terracotta horse; walked up a very steep hill and caught a trolleybus (full of little old Chinese ladies) down it; failed to get into Chez Panisse (sadface); sampled my way around a farmers market, ending up buying one white-fleshed nectarine; laughed at sealions (two of them, ORK ORK ORKing at each other- one shoves the other off the raft and into the sea; he swims round, hauls himself out, and shoves the first one off. Meanwhile, the half-grown youngsters on the raft ignore both of them); been bemused by a choice of thirty kinds of granola (Pumpkin Spice is quite tasty); heard many interesting anecdotes about UC Berkeley; had coffee sorbet, Valrhona chocolate ice-cream, coriander and candied orange ice-cream, and darjeeling and cinnamon ice-cream; been soundly ignored by a couple of cats.
When my cousin gets home, we'll start being a bit active...

[1]You've badgered it out of me with your questions, questions- James White, Mercedes Lackey, George Orwell.


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