Reykjavik Street Art

I was walking down a street in downtown Reykjavik when I caught a glimpse of explosive color on the walls of a courtyard behind a bar. I couldn’t stop myself. I walked in and found myself in a riot of art and color.

Kitty!

Kitty! And…is that a poop emoji, bottom right?

I snapped a photo then turned around; there was a man in the courtyard, having a smoke. We struck up a conversation–where I’m from, what I was doing in Reykjavik–and then he asked how I liked the city. 

“Reykjavik is great fun,” I said, “and has a lot of really cool things to do. But the street art is fantastic.”

This guy, right here.

This guy, right here.

As I said this he beamed. I saw the look on his face and asked, “Wait, are you a street artist, too?” He said he was (but not of the art in this photo). He said there are a handful of street artists that work in Reykjavik, some on commission from building owners, some independently. And they’re generally incredibly creative and resourceful, kind of funny, and respectful of each other’s work.

Looking good, Billy Ray.

Looking good, Billy Ray.

And the street art is everywhere. Note: All my photos were taken in downtown Reykjavik (remember, I was only in the city for three and a half days and we had some packaged trips to take, so downtown was where we wandered in our free time. I hardly claim this is an exhaustive display of Reykjavik street art). And I have ZERO background information on how this all started. I just know the art on the walls was thrilling to see. Vibrant. Fresh. Occasionally challenging.

Note: this photo was taken at like 4:30 in the afternoon. #nighttime #north

Where koalas are king. Note: this photo was taken at like 4:30 in the afternoon. #nighttime #north

I mean, I grew up in New Jersey. New York was my training city, and there was precious little that would compel me to walk down an unfamiliar alley in New York. And yet in Reykjavik…

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The lure of houndstooth was too strong.

And here.

Back behind some bar, somewhere.

Back behind some bar, somewhere.

And here.

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George looms in the distance.

Some art is decidedly helpful.

Not one, not two, but three different ways to tie a tie.

Not one, not two, but three different ways to tie a tie.

Some art seems to be more…political? Maybe?

A statement on US-Icelandic relations? Or a really cool painting of an eagle and a raven?

A statement on US-Icelandic relations? Or a really cool painting of an eagle and a raven?

And with some art, the politics are unquestionable.

Women's rights. Dig it.

Women’s rights. Dig it.

Here’s how the Icelandic and German sections of this statement roughly translate (and I confess, I presume my readership is fluent in English, so for the red part you’re on your own).

Part 1 (in green, in Icelandic): Gender equality has not been achieved. Multiple invisible thresholds still exist in the traditionally male-dominated power system.

Part 2 (in blue, in German): The Convention* entered into force in 1981 and was an important step in the recognition of women’s rights as human rights.

*The Convention refers to The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified by the UN General Assembly in 1979 and brought into force in 1981, when the 20th UN member country ratified it.

Also, I realize this is probably, more technically, graffiti. No pictures, just words. But I like what it has to say, so it’s going up.

Some bits of street art don’t make a lot of sense.

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I don’t know where that cat is going but he is hauling ass to get there.

Is quirky.

Hey li'l fella. What's your name?

Hey li’l fella. Maybe you should lay off the caffeine.

Or kind of nightmare-fuel-y.

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The Master is here for your soul. Side note: I overheard an older American woman complaining about this becloaked figure, saying it was “dreadful”. Indeed. Mission accomplished, artist.

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From what I can tell, the quote below the image translates to, “I was worst to those I loved the most.” So. He seems nice.

Or is full of badassery.

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Ride on, Wolf Lady!

If mine upstairs window offends thee I shall pluck it out.

If mine upstairs window offends thee I shall pluck it out…

...and give it to the valkyrie just around the corner.

…and give it to the valkyrie just around the corner.

Sometimes, street artists do a selfie.

Nice job, Stefan.

Nice job, Stefan.

Offer up practical bits of advice.

Who's a hoopy frood who really knows where her towel is? #geekalert

Who’s a hoopy frood who really knows where her towel is? #geekalert

And most importantly, it can remind us where our dreams can take us.

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And there he goes!

Thank you, Reyjkavik street artists, for some spectacular visual feasting. Keep making art happen! It was a thrill to see your incredible work. 

Sunrise (Sort Of), Reykjavik, December 11, 2015

Our plane landed at 6:30 in the morning, Reykjavik time. We gathered our carry-on items and walked out of the plane and across the tarmac to the terminal, raising our faces to the light as the sun started to crest…

No we didn’t. We dug deeper into our scarves and hustled for the door. It was pitch dark. Just a tick shy of being within the Arctic Circle, Reykjavik doesn’t see the sun until 11AM in mid-December, and then it just rides the horizon line until 3:30 or so. Low-level not-quite-twilight, all day long. Or short. Depending on how you look at it.

Before the sun came up, haggard from the plane and looking at a day in which we needed to stay awake, the first thing we did was get a cup of coffee. Luckily, there was a coffee shop across the street from our hotel. Even more luckily, it was Reykjavik Roasters (their less-discussed second location, it seems), which is apparently one of the best places for a cuppa in town. For the record, it was a pretty stellar cup of coffee. Plus, the cafe was appropriately groovy, with artfully peeling paint and mismatched furniture and its own record collection.

9AM, no sign of the sun, Dave Brubeck on the stereo. Nice.

9AM, no sign of the sun, Dave Brubeck on the stereo. Nice.

From there, we decided to walk to Hallgrimskirkja, the much photographed church made of poured concrete that somehow manages to look like it’s ready to lift off. Bonus! We didn’t need a map, as you can see the spire from pretty much everywhere in the city.

...in 5...4...3...2...

TA-DAAAAA! …in 5…4…3…2…

At Hallgrimskirkja, you can (pay to) climb (climb, schmimb, there’s an elevator that takes you to one floor below the top story) the clock tower and feast one’s eyes on a panoramic view of the city. It only makes sense that that’s the place to go to watch the sun come up.

Going up?

Going up?

The church was incredible…so much so, it deserves its own blog, and I’ll get to it, I swear. But first, up and away, to enjoy the sunrise. Once we got up there…oh, man, was it worth it. All four sides of the tower have windows, so we were able to watch the entire city come to light. I’ll just let the photos tell the story.

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This is about as bright as it gets. Welcome to winter's high noon, Reykjavik style!

This is about as bright as it gets. Welcome to winter’s high noon, Reykjavik style!

Talk about a way to spend a birthday.

Talk about a way to spend a birthday.

Travel Theme: Colourful

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa has declared her travel theme to be “colourful”, in order to beat the doldrums that accompany the shortened days that come with winter. Is the lack of sunlight getting you down? Don’t worry! I’ve got some colorful plays with light, right here.

Starting off close to home, this is taken from inside the tasting room at a local winery, Fero Vineyards. It was a grey and rainy day, and I loved how this Italian horn pendant lamp was a bright spot against the weather.

A bright spot on a rainy day.

A bright spot on a rainy day.

While in Cleveland, City of Light, City of Magic, George and I were drawn in like moths to flame, to the bright lights in the alley that led us to the restaurant Zocalo. The food was…eh, OK. But the tequileria was superb.

What, like you wouldn't go check this out? #oohshiny

What, like you wouldn’t go check this out? #oohshiny

The subtle lavender-pinks and golds of a sunrise on Surfside Beach, SC, have to make a body feel better against the long nights. Check out my brother, looking all stoic and philosophical, one man standing alone to face the relentless forces of nature, yada yada yada.

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Waking up early pays off when you get to see something like this.

Staying in South Carolina…

We went to the Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens, all of which was INSANELY gorgeous. The gardens had lights dripping from anything that could hold a strand, floating on anything watery, wrapped around even the vaguest semblance of a trunk. And then they had this leaping goat-legged fellow.

I like the cut of his jib.

I like the cut of his jib.

Meanwhile, up in Vermont

Even in winter, you can find bright bursts of color. Here are some winter berries, dusted in frost and morning light.

Don't eat them. But they sure look purty.

Don’t eat them. But they sure look purty.

Go check out the rest of the participants in Ailsa’s travel theme! Or–hey, why not?–play along yourself. See you around the interwebs!

Here’s Randy Newman, singing about Cleveland, to play you out… 

Travel Theme: Orange

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa misses the sun and longs for some fiery, bright orange to brighten up the days. Mmmmkay. I’m in.

First, check out the gorgeous orange bill and throat pouch of the double-crested cormorant. I saw this beauty when I was somewhere near Point Pleasant, NJ, the weekend after my niece’s wedding. Can I tell you exactly where I saw it? No. Thankfully, cormorants are hardy creatures whose numbers are on the rise. If you really want to see one for yourself, it shouldn’t be that hard.

I don't know why it's double-crested. It just is.

I don’t know why it’s double-crested. It just is.

During a recent trip to Baltimore, we saw an Orioles game. It was great fun indeed. But there was SO. MUCH. ORANGE.

SAAA-WING, batter batter batter, SWING!

SAAA-WING, batter batter batter, SWING!

This past February, I was walking around my yard (or “touring the estate”, as we like to say), I found this lonely leaf, stuck in the branches of a rather confused pussy willow. It was warm, it started to bud early, then it snowed…poor plant. But I don’t mind saying I was glad to get the picture, with the orange of the dried leaf highlighted by the sun, beaming as it made its way full west.

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Hey there, leaf. Thanks for catching the sun like that.

I was ridiculously taken by the bright orange keys on the old-fashioned cash register on display at the Meadowlands Museum. This fascinating little museum is three floors of thoughtfully curated, locally-minded, educational entertainment. I could’ve sat in the fluorescent-paint-illuminated coal hole all day. And they had old, leather football helmets that, when I thought of getting hit while wearing one, made me cringe. Bye bye, brain. But. They also had this cash register, which had (seemingly) random orange number keys and a big orange no-sale key. No sale, our Spanish speakers will attest, also means “Don’t leave”. This makes me kind of wistful and sad. I took about a thousand pictures of this thing.

Wait, but...what? Where you going? :(

Wait, but…what? Where you going? 😦

And finally.

We went to Concord, MA for an afternoon while visiting my beloved Russian professor. We saw the illustrious North Bridge (American history buffs, you know the place of which I speak!) and the North Bridge Visitor’s Center. They were prepping for a wedding that was going to take place…very soon in proximity to our visit. Like, that day. I don’t know when it was scheduled to start, I wasn’t invited. Regardless, the wedding event doer guy (wedding planner? Florist? Groom? Not sure of his role) had that air of a man who was just…waiting. For longer than he wanted to wait. With a big old bouquet of bright orange roses.

The flowers were quite beautiful.

The flowers were quite beautiful.

So that’s my orange. What have you got? 

See you ’round Ailsa’s page!

Scenes from the Rail Trail: August 5, 2014

The weather in Lewisburg has been sublime the last few days. Cool. Not terribly humid. It’s been that beautiful sort of “makes you want to go outside and do something hearty and robust” weather, even if you’ve been working your tail off trying to get ready to teach your first Zumba class while brushing up on Silver Sneakers routines, and you really should take opportunities to sit or drive or relax because you’ve literally been dancing for three or four hours a day.

For the record? It takes a staggering shit-ton of work to get ready to teach a class at a gym, especially early on when all the routines are brand new. Never mind prepping for two different ones. Moving on.

One of these recent glorious mornings–Tuesday, if all y’all must know–I hit the ol’ Buffalo Valley Rail Trail and pedaled my way off to work for the best commute ever. It’s summer, so mostly everything is lush and green.

Everrrrrrything.

Everrrrrrything.

Far as they eye can see. This. Green green green. Fecund is, actually, the word that leaps to mind, and I’m fairly certain that that word has never readily leapt to my mind until now.

Do I sound jaded? Like, “oh, lorrrrrrrrrd, everything was all verdant and…yawn…greeeeeeen…“. If that’s the case, I apologize, because it’s pretty fantastic to ride through. I felt like I was in The Shire, or something. (LOTR nerds: represent!). While a prolonged tunnel of greenness doesn’t necessarily make for the most dramatic pictures, I did manage to click one or two… 🙂

Like this one, of a morning glory, complete with some kind of bug having its way with the flower.

Hey bug, what'cha doing in there?

Hey bug, what’cha doing in there?

Or this, with the tops of the corn against the bright blue sky. Power lines stretching overhead gave a bit of an interesting perspective.

Sometimes, you just need to look...up.

Sometimes, you just need to look…up.

And, city folks, have you ever really looked at the roots of a corn stalk? No wonder they’re so easy to make horror movies about.

These are digging straight in to the bones of the Earth, it seems.

They’re like fingers, man, digging straight in.

I came upon this fuzzy thingie sticking out into the trail and really liked how it caught the light.

Remember making fake moustaches with these things?

Remember making fake moustaches with these things? You must pay the rent!

A tangle of pokeberry bushes… Wait, what? ***A*** tangle? These things are everywhere. The berries are inedible, and more than inedible, they’re poisony. The mature berries make great ink. Legend (i.e., Wikipedia) has it that the Declaration of Independence was written in pokeberry ink; the National Archives puts the kibosh on that tall tale (it was iron gall ink, which was apparently the ink of choice for centuries). But the bushes sure are pretty.

Poke. Poke poke poke.

Poke. Poke poke poke.

The pokeberry bushes intertwined with the delicately-flowered orange touch-me-not. I’ll have to go back and look to see if there’s a mature fruit capsule hanging there, because they apparently burst on contact, hence the name.

Kaboom.

Kaboom.

Then I found the leaf where bugs were making with the love. Avert the children’s eyes.

Bow chicka wow wow.

Bow chicka wow wow.

And remember, fecund? 

This is what that word means.

This is what that word means.

And finally…

A little bit of everything. Some sun, some sky, some green, a barn, a cow, and some early-turning leaves already sporting their fall color. Despite it being the height of summer, autumn is just around the corner.

Welcome to central PA.

Welcome to central PA, a little Nirvana on the Susquehanna.

See you on the Rail Trail!

Travel Theme: Winter

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa’s travel theme is the seasonally appropriate “winter”.  Cool.  Pun intended.  It’s my favorite season.  Actually, they all are except for summer, of which regular readers have come to realize I am no fan.  Mostly, and especially this week, winter (for me) is nearly synonymous with Christmas, so there’s a reasonable amount of Christmas in this mix.  It’s not always about ladies in red velvety dresses with crisp white fur trim…

…except when it is.  I was recently visiting family in Myrtle Beach, who thought it would be great to go see the Carolina Opry‘s Christmas Spectacular, matinee, for my birthday (which just passed, two days after I totaled my car).  I might have been the youngest person there.  It was a delicious cheesefest.  I knew we were in for a real treat when, not ten minutes into it, Rita Gumm–the First Lady of the Carolina Opry–glided onto the stage, in a horse-drawn sleigh.

BEHOLD! Rita Gumm, the First Lady of the Carolina Opry!

BEHOLD! Winter in South Carolina.

That is some dress, my friends, red and vibrant as a Carolina sunset.  It was a Christmas miracle.

Winter for me means decorations and sparkly things, and the decorations can be elegant and beautiful or whimsical and sweet.  I love this penguin.  It was given to me by a friend and former co-worker who I adore, and we all know penguins = snow and ice and snow and ice = winter.

Yay, decorations and sparkly things to brighten up dreary winter nights!

Yay, decorations and sparkly things to brighten up dreary winter nights!

While driving down to South Carolina, we stopped in a grim little restaurant with uninspired food and faded, 1930s-era cabbage rose wallpaper in the main dining room.  I’d say what restaurant it was but I’m hoping to extort them for hush money (*cough cough* Shamrock).  Anyway.  So the food was uninteresting (I think I’m still getting over my sodium headache) and bizarrely expensive, and left me feeling as though I’d been tricked somehow.  But you know?  The surroundings, at the foot of the Catoctin Mountain Ridge?  When they were heavy with fresh snow?  Were fantastic.

Out back behind The Restaurant That Shall Remain Nameless (Shamrock).

Out back behind The Restaurant That Shall Remain Nameless (Shamrock).

Closer to home, my little ‘burg has an annual tree lighting and high-school-chorus-singing ceremony, that takes place in the town square with the frilly street lamps and the absolutely frigging enormous tree that has to be strung with fancy lights thanks to the use of a cherry picker.  Or maybe the town keeps a de-toothed bumble in the maintenance shed.  Off camera there’s a gazebo.  It’s insanely picturesque, and I live here.

Did I mention the art deco movie theater and the overall cool architecture?

Did I mention the art deco movie theater and the overall cool architecture?

And finally…

No winter in recent memory has been complete without a trip to see my former Russian professor.  She lives just outside of Boston and YES, I go north in the winter.  Judge me for it, I don’t care.  It’s the most snug and welcoming house in the world, filled with great conversation and lovely people and delicious food.  While we were there this past February it snowed big fat flakes, giving me an eye-feast from Elena’s cheerful kitchen window.

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This is one of my favorite places no matter what season, but for me? It’s extra-special in the winter.

This is a relationship in which I consider myself incredibly lucky.

Have fun checking out the rest of the participants at Ailsa’s place this week!

Travel Theme: Still

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is: still.  Still what?  Still nothing, just still.  Har har.  I make funnies.

Sorry, this is what happens when blogging while sleep deprived.  Anyway.  On to the theme!

This was taken at Keuka Lake during a day of rain and fog.  The rain stopped but the fog remained, and the lake was completely silent.  Even the birds were kind of hiding out.

Nothing to do but sit back and enjoy a glass of local wine.  :)

Nothing to do on a day like this but sit back and enjoy a glass of local wine. 🙂

While in South Carolina to visit family, we went to lunch at Caledonia, a golfing-and-fishing club.  I neither golf nor fish, but I do like to eat lunch.  Calendonia has that Southern tradition “thing” by the heaping bucketsful, and everyone there is charming and nice.  But I had no idea there were still places that garnished a grilled cheese sandwich with olives speared on the ends of toothpicks.

Oh for a gentler time, when olives on toothpicks were the height of sophistication.

Oh for a gentler time, when olives on toothpicks were the height of sophistication.

At home, this squirrel sat very still on the steps of the post office and let me take his picture.  I think he wanted a moment in the spotlight.

The squirrel is ready for his closeup, Mr. DeMille.

The squirrel is ready for his closeup, Mr. DeMille.

Ahh, Boston.  Beloved Boston, and the beautiful Public Garden therein.  For some reason (which to this day has never been adequately justified to me), Boston has no shortage of human statue street performers.  I.  Don’t.  Get.  It.  But I always see at least one, standing around somewhere.  Like in the middle of the Public Garden.

But seriously. Why?

But seriously. Why?

And speaking of gardens, we go back to South Carolina.  Near Myrtle Beach there’s a gorgeous formal garden facility called Brookgreen Gardens.  At this time of year they do their Nights of a Thousand Candles exhibit, and the gardens are strung from end to end in glittering lights and floating candles and lanterns and luminaria.  It was amaaaaaaaaaaaazing.  And despite the riot of lights and the crowds, there were parts of it that were incredibly serene.

Put this on your must-see list.

Put this on your must-see list.

So there you have it.  Hope you enjoyed the pics.  Go check out the rest of the still-blogs at Ailsa’s place!

Travel Theme: Sky

Ailsa’s got her travel theme on at Where’s My Backpack?, and thankfully, it doesn’t have anything to do with stuffing oneself silly with turkey and mashed potatoes.

…mmmm…mashed potatoes…

Anyway. The theme this week at Ailsa’s joint is sky.  Big sky, open sky, cloudy sky, blue sky.  As you’ll see, I tend to like sky with water.  Whatever works.  And so.  With no further ado, I give you…sky.

This first picture was taken as the sun was starting to set and finally dipping below the clouds, from a hotel room looking over Seneca Lake toward the city of Geneva, NY.  I always thought the colors in this photo were vaguely ethereal, and I don’t know why but I’m totally amused by the wind turbines in the background.

Hello, pastel sunset.

Hello, pastel sunset.

The next picture was taken much closer to (my) home.  Like, in my home town.  Like, I rode my bike here to take this picture.  If you’re going to find a place full of bucolic splendor and fat, chuggy clouds, so you can catch your breath, this is the place.

Behold the mighty Susquehanna.

Behold the mighty Susquehanna River.

Gary, Indiana, presents travelers driving along Route 90 with kind of a depressing, totally industrial landscape.  The black cloud in the sky to the left of the photo just lingered…and lingered…and never dispersed.  It kind of freaked me out.

There's almost no room for sky here.

There’s almost no room for sky here.

The next photo was taken during a crazy-windy day at Grand Marais along the North Shore of Lake Superior.  I like that the clouds here look like waves, almost.  As it is on the ground, so it goes in the sky, too.

Water, water everywhere.

Water, water everywhere.

And finally, this picture was taken in Burlington, VT, while the weather on Lake Champlain was experiencing a totally split personality.  You’ll see.

Even the Lake Champlain monster stayed under cover.

Even the Lake Champlain monster stayed under cover.

What sky shots do you have?

Enjoy the travel theme!  See you ’round Ailsa’s place.

A Frosty Morning in Vermont

George and I recently celebrated our 9th anniversary.  I just looked it up; the 9th anniversary traditionally is the “pottery” anniversary, updated in modern times to the “leather” anniversary, kinky tarts that we’ve become.  Rather than leather it out, we decided to take a fabulous long weekend at The Essex, a spa/culinary resort about 20 minutes outside of Burlington, VT.  Yes, this was our ultimate destination when we decided to detour over to Syracuse for our night of fun-filled musical tomfoolery.

There will be more about all of this later.

What’s important here is, I’ve apparently developed an internal timer that won’t let me sleep when we’re away, if I need to catch a sunrise on my camera.  On the one hand, that’s cool.  On the other hand…

We were up while the moon was still out.

We were up while the moon was still out.

…it’s not like I hate to sleep.  It just seems that way, most of the time.

Anyway.  It was cold that morning!  Colder than I have yet to experience at home, since winter’s just getting her chill on in central PA.  I stepped outside and I realized…ohhhhh…the world is shimmering and crunchy.

Bluebells in the morning frost.

Bluebells in the morning frost.

It’s not a bad way to wake up, if you can’t help but find yourself wide awake at 6:30AM on your last morning of vacation.  Anyway, let’s get right into this.

The grounds at the Essex have a lot going on.  They’ve got manicured lawns and secluded tennis courts, raised produce beds for their kitchens and things like hammocks and gazebos for hanging out in on days warmer than the one in which I was running around outside. Surrounding that are some pretty thick woods and a steep ravine or two.  We made a right turn, started our way around the building and…

Pretty, right?

Pretty, right?

I have no idea what kind of plant this is.  Suggest away!

I played with the black and white on this a little, since this picture didn’t have a lot of color to worry about to begin with.  It was still pre-dawn and the branches of this whatsitsface plant were thick with frost.

The noble..errr...frosty chickenfoot plant.

The noble..errr…frosty chickenfoot plant.

Fine.  If I’m going to be out in the world menacing nature with my camera, I suppose the least I can do is learn the names of various flora and fauna (though I’m pretty good with the fauna, I must protest).  I will, some day.  But it is not this day.

We walked back towards where the sun was starting to peek through: see gnarly woods and steep ravines.  I was in no mood for climbing, not before coffee, mmm mmmm, no way.  So.

This was about as close to a clearing as I could get.

This was about as close to a clearing as I could get.

You're getting warmer...

You’re getting warmer…

I mean seriously. It's practically like time-lapse photography.

I mean seriously. It’s practically like time-lapse photography.

We wandered back behind the tennis courts like a couple of bad kids in high school.  Only I didn’t care quite as much about the sumac trees back then.

Awww, he didn't have to go with me. <3

Awww, he didn’t have to go with me. ❤

And on our way back across the lawn, encountered a frosty rose:

"Nice Martian seed", said a friend of mine. Pah!

“Nice Martian seed”, said a friend of mine. Pah!

A cluster of grapes that had come on hard times:

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Is it too late to turn this into ice wine?

And the remnants of a misspent evening.

I hope you're drinking white.

I hope you’re drinking white.

Ground cherries!

I couldn't help myself. I tried one.  Even frozen, it was delicious.

I couldn’t help myself. I tried one. Even frozen, it was delicious.

I kind of obsessed over this spigot.

I spent way too much time hanging around this spigot. But it's so cute!

I spent way too much time hanging around this spigot. But it’s so cute!

Photographed what may become Christmas cards from me and George.

Quelle rustic!

Quelle rustic!

And called it a day when we made our way back around to the front of the hotel and smelled bacon coming from the kitchens.

Soup's on! Figuratively speaking, that is.

YES! Soup’s on! Figuratively speaking, that is.

Stay warm, everyone.  And go to Vermont.  It’s extraordinary.  Just, you know.  Pack gloves and extra socks.

One Night in Syracuse

While planning a recent long weekend jaunt, George asked me if I minded that we add an extra day to our trek northwards to Vermont and side-jog over to Syracuse.  His friend’s band is playing in a bar, he said.  I just want to surprise him, he said, and we’ll get a room in a nice B&B, spend the night and move on.

Now, this isn’t going to be one of those wacky-misadventures, 48 hours later we finally got in touch with the American Consulate who could help us get back into the US after finding ourselves naked and penniless, on a train bound for Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.  No, no.  We had no need for authorities to assist us, we had fun, didn’t get arrested, and I got to meet some really nice people.

But we had some interesting moments, for sure.

I grew up in New Jersey and spent a lot of my time in Manhattan, so I often forget that New York State and New York City are…well…one of these things? Is not like the other.  NYC is a concrete behemoth.  NY State, for the most part, is largely rural, so the bonus is I am always pleasantly surprised by NY State once I’m in the middle of it.  And Syracuse is certainly in the middle of it.  I mean, Syracuse is practically in Canada, if it weren’t for a pesky Great Lake getting in the way.

It's pretty far upstate. And there's still another third of the state to go. Crazy northern tier.

It’s pretty far upstate. And there’s still another third of the state to go. Crazy northern tier.

It’s a college town, so there are hundreds of restaurants with varying ethnic origins, though I don’t know why I expect that from college towns because I live in a college town and…we have like ten restaurants.  Maybe twelve, I don’t know.  I haven’t counted.

OK, Trip Advisor says my town has 54 restaurants but I call shenanigans. I know people eat things purchased there but can one really count the local ice cream parlors as restaurants?  The restaurant that has a pub side and a restaurant side gets counted twice?  The place that closed six months ago is on there?  Really?  Pfft.

Whatever.

Anyway.

Of those 54 supposed restaurants, only one sells falafel, and that place isn’t open past 3 in the afternoon.  And I love falafel.  I generally make a pretty good home version (that’s a blog for another day), but it’s kind of time-consuming and I don’t like to deep-fry.  Not that I don’t enjoy fried food.  It’s just messy to make.  As I am a total tart for a good felafel we decided to look for a Lebanese restaurant.  Instead of doing some general searches for restaurants–what we usually do–we relied on Yelp! to point us in the right direction.  And by “we” I mean me, because George told me to pick the place.

I’m usually not a Yelp!er. Now I know why.

We went to a place called Byblos.  I was seduced by the reviews, the abundance of 4/5 star ratings. I didn’t look much further, and…OK, OK, the food was, for the most part, good.  BUT.

The restaurant was the size of a thimble and should have been earmarked as takeout only.  I’m not a terrible stickler for atmosphere but this was like eating inside a shoe box with eight other people you didn’t know and were sure you wouldn’t like.  There was some sort of desperate short-handedness happening in the kitchen so the food took F-O-R-E-V-E-R, one of the guys they had waiting tables had no idea what was offered on a vegetarian sampler platter, and we ended up not getting two of the things we were supposed to get.  We had to tell them to tell us they didn’t have vegetarian grape leaves.

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I was snarkily amused by the completely empty napkin holder, prominent on the counter. Then I noticed the note about grape leaves, just behind it. First world problem, maybe, but still a disappointment.

And they almost forgot to give us dessert.

Not what I was expecting.

We moved on from there to Shifty’s, a lovable dive. Shifty’s ruled. Did you ever walk into a small place and think, if I was a local, I’d hang here.  It’s a special bar that can generate that sort of cosmic good will (fans of The Waiting Room, you know from whence I speak).  Friendly people, band posters, not a fern in sight and a wide beer selection? Go, Shifty’s!

Regarding the beer, they had one that will dominate the geek cred, perhaps for a long time to come.

That's right. It's Game of Thrones beer. And it was goooood.

That’s right. It’s Game of Thrones beer. And it was goooood.

As for the band we went there to see, they’re called Two Hour Delay.  Good old rock & roll, some originals, and covers that ranged from Steve Earle’s Galway Girl to the theme song from the TV show Secret Agent Man Here’s 2HD (see what I did there?) rocking out an original.

You can check out some more pictures of the band here.  Knowing my penchant for picture taking, theoretically I should have more pics of them, but I was busy dancing and enjoying the aforementioned beer and meeting new friends to embrace my usual camera-berserker mentality.

The band was great, the food was if nothing else amusing but, for me, the cultural cherry on this Syracuse sundae was our B&B. We stayed at the Barrington Manor, and let me preface all of this by saying we thought it was lovely, the food was delicious, and we would certainly stay there again.  Though, if your intentions are romantic ones, do everything possible to not to stay in the first floor room.  It’s right off the living room, and the walls are not that thick.  Fact: if you can hear everyone, everyone can hear you, so unless you’re looking to broadcast that you’re having sexytime with your traveling partner, keep your business under wraps until you get to your next destination.

Barrington Manor is run by two former southerners who have the accents to prove it, and they were gracious and generous and a little bit wacky (within the first two minutes–possibly three–of being there, Mr. Barrington had launched into a discussion of the best places to eat in Manhattan as determined by their margaritas).  And God help me, they reminded me of Minnie and Roman Castevet from Rosemary’s Baby.

Hey there, Roman and Minnie!

Hey there, Roman and Minnie!*

Not in a bad way, mind you.  But still.  The Barringtons (on the left, for the Rosemary’s Baby uninitiated) were pretty squirrelly and wouldn’t stand still long enough for me to get a clear photo of them, so this is the best I’ve got.  Just insert Ruth Gordon‘s and Sidney Blackmer‘s faces into the background.  Look!  The men are even wearing the same colored shirt! I love it when I win at internetting. Or did I just blow your mind?  I’m not saying they would coerce me into giving birth to Hellspawn; they were far too nice for that.  I’m just saying I’d be reluctant to do laundry in the basement or accept filigreed necklaces from them.

Let me reiterate: HELL YEAH I’d stay there again.  But, you know.  I’d be wary of special herbal drinks bearing tannis root.

And–I am not making this us–the next night, in our hotel in Vermont, whilst channel surfing we came across a broadcast of Rosemary’s Baby.  Dubbed in French. DUBBED.  Picture this, only in reverse.

Couldn’t find a French dub.  Sorry.  Though if anyone has one, I’m perfectly happy to repost… 🙂

So thanks, Syracuse, for a fun evening!  We’ll be back!

*movie still of Roman and Minnie taken from www.eldiario.es

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