Wednesday, October 28, 2009

York, England

A Guest Blog from Geezer-Chick

My husband and I spent a week in York UK. My husband went as a chemist (not a pharmacist). I spent the days as a tourist with my camera. This report is tempered by my prejudices. I don't like British cooking, so I ate at Indian, Chinese, Asian, Portuguese and Pizza places. I have a preference for older architecture, so most of my photos are of buildings I found fascinating.

Here is York from my American, academic, and somewhat silly point of view.

York is a city of ghosts, chocolate shops, big public clocks and stores with funny names.

There are three ghost tours. And in October they run every night. I tried to take the one described as “Historically funny” but only 4 people showed up for that one, so the guide dropped us off on a much more gruesome tour on which most of the ghosts were children who died by accident, plague, or cruelty. Compared to Philadelphia, where I live, York doesn't seem to have very many ghosts. They just love them more. One of the bakeries even makes chocolate ghosts.

I toured a haunted house which has been inhabited for over 700 years. The tour is like a radio drama in which you walk from room to room as guided by the radio voice, and learn about the ghosts who feel more and more real as you progress and the house, which is dimly lit, feels gloomier and gloomier.

You'd never find the Haunted House, if you didn't know where to look for it.

This is the fireplace in the haunted house.

In addition to haunted places, some shops choose have ghosts on their signs. A dress shop is called Ghost. And another shop has only a picture of ghosts for its business sign.

I don't know what kind of business takes place behind this sign.

No Nonsense Guide to Ghost Hunting

In addition, several buildings have gargoyles. Some old, some modern.

This building also has one of the many huge clocks of York.

York is also famous for its snickelways. That's the name for passageways that are too narrow for vehicles but are often the only way to get from one place to another inside the city. Some are covered and some are open to the air.

Here are pictures of some more big clocks. Many buildings also have coats of arms. And some manage to look silly because their old architecture houses a modern franchise. And, the access holes to underground sewers are square or rectangular. I did find one round one, but it was not a perfect circle – it had petals like a flower.

Here is a Subway Sandwich shop.

Here's a square access hole cover.

And here's the only round one I found in the whole city:

York is a growing city. The inner area is walled, and during business hours, cars are excluded.

Here's a picture of a stairway up to the wall.

And here's part of the wall.

In addition to ghost tours, you can tour the York Minster, which is a cross-shaped church with a circular room off to one side.

While I was there, a local man came up to me and started telling me his life story (his version of it.) He was a plumber. He's writing a book called Humanity, that's going to be a best seller. He's getting divorced, but he doesn't know why. He's never told a lie in his life.

I much preferred the 4 and a half-year-old I met at the Jorvik DIG center. She wanted to know if I'm older than 95. I told her that even my mother isn't 95 yet. But we do expect to get that old. Then we started talking about how she's never met anybody 1000 years old. But some of the things we were looking at were that old and older.

Jorvik (pronounced Yorvik) Center is a recreated Viking village. The Jorvik folks have an archeology site and have also created an archeology center where you can have the experience of digging up treasure from 4 different eras, including Roman and Viking, without getting dirty. This center, called DIG, is in an old church. It is usually full of school children until about 3 PM.

And finally the silly shop names. Slug and Lettuce, Anti-Gravity, Give A Dog a Bone, Zikzak, Next, and hundreds of others. But the best is the completely incomprehensible sign on a wall, that reads Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate. Gate means street. According to Wikipedia this is the name of the shortest street in York (35 meters long) and means Neither One thing Nor The Other.

Chocolate University

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Click here for Seven Reasons to Visit India.

This week I'm going to show you some elephant pictures from my trip to India and Nepal that didn't fit into the journal entries I've just finished posting. Doesn't everyone love elephants? Click on any photo to see an enlarged version.

One means of transportation to the fort in Jaipur, India.

Elephants on temple frieze, Khajuraho.

Here we are heading out into the foggy dawn on our safari in the Chitwan National Forest in Nepal.

The secret of getting tourists onto elephants!

Elephants are rewarded with bananas.

Here's the elephant breeding area at Chitwan National Forest.

And the elephant statue in the middle of the village.

Next week I have a special treat for you: a guest blog from Geezer-Chick, who has just returned from York, England. She writes about ghosts, clocks, and strange names, and illustrates with lots of photos.


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nepal - Kathmandu, Part Two - January 10, 2009

Click here for Seven Reasons to Visit India.

Last morning in Kathmandu. We walked down to Durbar Square and took photos of the temples and the palace, as well as the hippy-dippy Freak Street. *Sigh* Forty years ago our generation never imagined ourselves as one day being old folks feeling nostalgic for the 1970's!

We were out before the hordes of tourists, so I got a couple of good photos in the market. Most of the fabric shops, though, were closed, so I was unable to find the neat fabric we were rushed past yesterday.

Unable to get our boarding passes online, we went on out to the airport, paid in dollars for our departure fee, which was a hassle, but then had a nice lunch before taking our plane. We'll make a connection in Delhi, then another in Paris for home.

That's the end of my India/Nepal journal, but not the end of my photos and videos. For the next few weeks I will post here the best of the ones that didn't fit into the journal entries.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kathmandu - January 9, 2009

Click here for Seven Reasons to Visit India.

A beautiful day today. We flew from Pokhara to Kathmandu, through the Himalayas, in a little prop plane. Security at the Pokhara airport was strictly by hand and very lax--they didn't even ask to see an I.D.!

On the other hand, they would not let Lois or me take our walking sticks on board, and they stuck nasty vinyl stickers on them with something like crazy glue. They ruined the finish on both our canes, and because mine is collapsible they stuck the stickers over the hinges, trying to prevent me from ever opening it again. I was able to cut the tape and open the cane, but it was not possible to get it completely off and preserve the finish. Fortunately mine is a cheap one from Wal-Mart, replaceable for fifteen bucks, but Lois's is an expensive therapeutic model. Apparently this is an indication that Nepalese culture shares with Indian culture a rule that women are not allowed to use walking sticks.

Kathmandu is another incredibly crowded city, the first we have seen in Nepal that reminds us of India. At the moment it is dirty, because the garbage men are on strike. Strikes, strikes everywhere! But unlike India, where the filth was accepted and ignored by the local populace, here we received apologies and explanations everywhere we went.

More power outages, too. Flying over the mountains we had just seen the absence of snow for runoff to fuel the hydroelectric plants. Power was cut off to the city at 1pm, and restored at 8pm. The hours of power per day are being reduced from 12 to 8.

Our hotel has a generator, so the only effect of the outages is that bright lights can only be used when the power is on. Everyone with a generator or battery setup has dim energy-saving lighting the rest of the time, and many small shops simply rely on daylight.

Oh, yes--while we've been in Nepal, India had an oil strike! When I found an Indian English-language station on the TV here in Kathmandu, India was in crisis with 70% of gas stations out of petrol and all of them expected to be empty by midnight. It was an illegal strike (the strikes here in Nepal are apparently legal), but talks had broken down. Jet fuel was starting to be affected and flights delayed.

Just what we needed to hear when we're leaving for home via New Delhi tomorrow night! Well, there was nothing we could do, so we went out for lunch, grabbed half an hour for email before the power went off, and came back to meet the rest of the tour for a 3pm orientation walk.

By that time the strike in India was over! One less thing to worry about.

We walked through the old part of the city, wall to wall people, cars, bicycles, motorcycles, and dogs, dogs, dogs! Then we went to the monkey temple, where I found a game for Clay. There are indeed monkeys all over the temple, but again, just as many dogs. I couldn't resist taking a picture of this puppy mandala:

We saw prayer wheels, which Lois had to try:

This evening the whole group went out went out to a Japanese restaurant--and that's it. People will be departing all day tomorrow, as we will be in the afternoon.

It's been a very hard journey for me, and I'm not sure how I feel about ending it.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nepal - January 8, 2009 - Pokhara

Click here for Seven Reasons to Visit India.

We took an easy morning. Eric slept in, while Lois and I went in search of an ATM, and ended up doing some shopping along the way. I bought two neat embroidered T-shirts, but Lois found a gorgeous pair of brass elephant door handles.

Then we went to see Devi's Fall, not much of a torrent at this time of year, but you can see the gorge that it has carved. Then we crossed the street to the cave that the river has created, and explored what is supposed to be the largest cave in Nepal. Compared to caves in the U.S. it is tiny, but it has some very interesting lacy stalagtites.

After lunch we caught up on email, and before going out to dinner learned that our plane to Kathmandu tomorrow has been moved from 9:30 to 8:30am! But things are pretty informal here--we're told half an hour before flight time is plenty of time to be at the airport!

It was hard to find a restaurant open this evening because the workers are on strike! However, we found a good Chinese restaurant open, that served us huge portions.

And so back to the hotel to pack and get ready for tomorrow's visit to Kathmandu.

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