This is post #2 of our 2017 Geneva, Switzerland-France trip, September 2017.

The town of Annecy was a short drive from our hotel in Talloires, so after lunch on Sunday, we drove over there. These mountain are known as the “teeth” mountains–the Dents de Lanfon–we see them just as we drive out of the little village of Talloires. We are aiming for the old section of Annecy, and keep driving in and in…until we can’t go any further.  Someone honks behind us and we pull to the side to let them pass, which they do: right into a parking garage.  We join them, noticing that there aren’t too many places.  Dave’s so-called “Parking Karma” emerges again. In the center of town is this church with a golden statue of Mary over the front door, and is the Notre Dame de Liesse, or Our Lady of Joy. It had a most unusual, patchwork-type rose window over the altar, and in each of the transcepts. One of the more unusual things about Annecy is its series of canals through the town.   Of course, I always look for the decorative arts and fabric — or tissus– shops wherever I go. Feeling the jetlag, we grab a sandwich from a Paul shop to take back with us, and start to head back to the car in the carpark. We figured out how to pay, how to leave (again, Google Off-line maps was really helpful) and headed back to our idyllic Talloires, where we spent the rest of the day on the deck overlooking the lake, enjoying the scenery.


This is post #1 of our 2017 Geneva, Switzerland-France trip, September 2017.

We  arrived Sunday morning in Geneva, Switzerland, and immediately picked up our rental car and drove southeast towards Talloires. After driving on the A-1, we left that highway and started going through some mountain towns, lush with greenery and swaths of mist floating over trees and through the bushes.  It was a lovely scene.  Along one of those roads, we spotted this: Was this a mailbox?  A road marker?  We’ll never know, but it was cool to see. Maybe I can remodel our mailbox at home.Using Google Offline maps (a life-saver) we made our way down out of the mountains, dropping down into this scene. We made our way to our hotel: Beau Site Talloires.  The main building is below, where we checked in. Our room is on the ground floor, in the back right of this building, which faces the main hotel. View from our window. The hotel has a path behind it that heads down to Lake Annecy, so we wandered down there after our morning naps (trying to stave off the jetlag). This was the view across the lake from where the hotel’s property fronted the shoreline: a small chateau in Duingt, apparently also painted by Cezanne in 1896:

Depending on the light, the color of this lake can tilt towards a deep grey-blue.  When the sun is out, however, it looks turquoise. On our way back up to our room, we heard all this cheering; it was a two-person race, with one running (carrying a baton) and the other on a bicycle.  They trade off, apparently, as this happened right in front of us at one point. Loved the costumes. We’d written to say we wanted to have them reserve a table for us for their Sunday lunch buffet.  We arrived about a half-hour after it started, but apparently we were late.  But there was still enough food to choose from: Our reserved table overlooked the turquoise Lake Annecy.  It was an idyllic view.  The place was filled with people, and we could distinguish that there were three of four groups of friends? family? that occupied larger tables. We explored the main hotel building after our lunch buffet, and found the entry-way tiles reminded of of Gaudi’s tiles in Barcelona.  Later, when talking to the owner, she confirmed they were made by an Italian tile company and were in fact, modeled after that design.  We decided to head to Annecy, but when we returned, we came here. On the opposite side of the ground floor was this large room, with lots of seating.  We sat out in those two chairs you can see through the window for a long time that afternoon, retreating only to the inside when it got too chilly.

We sat here (or inside) until dusk, then ate the light dinner we’d picked up in Annecy.  Talloires was recommended to Dave by a friend, as it was not a place either of us had considered before, but a place we’d love to return to.

Little Mermaid and Walking Around Christianshavn

This is post #8 of our 2016 Copenhagen-Stockholm trip: Tuesday, August 16, 2016.7Scandiskip_11Uber

After an afternoon rest, we decided to use Uber to get to the Little Mermaid, as it was not near any Metro, nor bus lines that we could decipher (I hadn’t yet found that Metro map).  When we talked with Shergo, our driver, we found out he was a student (immigrant) and was being paid to go to school, plus $1000 dollars per month.  I wonder if the Swedish government knows he’s driving Uber in his spare time instead of studying. 7Scandiskip_12 Little MermaidSweet and sublime, perched on a rock by herself…

7Scandiskip_12a…and a multitude of her closest friends.  I understand that this scene is repeated often, and when the tide is out the tourists get in a long line to pose right beside her rock, which means you could never get a photo of her unless you were in line, waiting to pose with her too.  Ah, tourists.  We are a funny lot.7Scandiskip_12bThe statuette industry was out in full force, too.7Scandiskip_12cWe walked on, away from that site.

7Scandiskip_12d7Scandiskip_13And now we are strolling tourists, walking through sections of the city we’ve not seen before.  The light has a beautiful quality–that golden light right before the sun starts to set, which makes all the colors richer.7Scandiskip_13a

Monument to those who fought bravely: this is an explosive mine, used in the harbor.  This park was the site of the Danish Resistance to the Third Reich and the Nazis, and is named Churchillen Park, after Mr. Churchill.  We walked on, heading for Christianshavn.7Scandiskip_13b 7Scandiskip_13a 7Scandiskip_13b 7Scandiskip_13e

Decorative building wall.7Scandiskip_14

The fountain drew us in, and we enjoyed the view of the Copenhagen Opera House:7Scandiskip_14a

After spending a few mintues here, we noticed what was across the street:7Scandiskip_15

That dome in the back is the Marble Church, behind the plaza for Amalienborg Palace.  We heard the clicking of steps and the calls of a marching group of soldiers and went to watch the changing of the guard.7Scandiskip_15a 7Scandiskip_15b 7Scandiskip_15c

Yeah, apparently I was standing inside their marching lane and had to quickly get out of the way.7Scandiskip_15d

They did this interesting face to face thing, and we supposed that they were reporting in on any weirdo tourists lurking about, or other matters of state.7Scandiskip_15eOn the side of each guard box/tube is a small cut-out heart.  This place is so charming.

7Scandiskip_15f7Scandiskip_15g7Scandiskip_15h7Scandiskip_15jNyhavnWe found Nyhavn again, but turned left up and over the pedestrian bridge, apparently pretty new and…

7Scandiskip_16 Christianhavn…into Christanshavn, not really knowing where we were going, but trying to check another thing off the tourist list.7Scandiskip_16a 7Scandiskip_16bYes, that really is a rhinosaurus head strapped to the car.  It appeared to be some sort of art project, though. Not real.

7Scandiskip_16b1The pub across the street with a figure near the door that looked like a cross between Angelina Jolie/David Bowie with impossibly high cheekbones.  We never could figure out what gender the figure was, but s/he looked like a visitor from across the River Styx. 7Scandiskip_16cWhen we were walking around we loved seeing this steeple of Vor Frelsers Kirke, but we were there too late to enter the church or climb that spiral tower.

7Scandiskip_16d One of the oldest streets in Copenhagen, we enjoyed seeing the half-timbered front of the houses.

7Scandiskip_16eYes, it’s does say 1765 over that doorway.

7Scandiskip_16f 7Scandiskip_17Since Dave wasn’t feeling well we decided to jump on the Metro and take it back to our neck of the woods.  This wasn’t grafitti, but decor painted on the walls.  We liked how the sunlight seemed to be steam coming out of the iron (on the upper right of the photo).7Scandiskip_18Here’s another rendition of that hollyhock by the doorway, signs that we were almost back to our hotel.  Dave went right up to our room, but I said I was going to go and get something to eat.  I tried the pizza place from the first night and it was jammed.  I guess Tuesdays are popular nights to hang out.  So I found another pizza place that baked some pizza-dough-like bread and put in a couple of thin slices of ham, sliced tomatoes and a wad of lettuce.  I took it back to the room, removed the wilted lettuce and enjoyed the rest.  We spent a quiet evening, getting some rest, letting Dave practice his presentation for the next day.

My Attempt to Find Chocolate and Brave the Transit System

This is post #7 of our 2016 Copenhagen-Stockholm 2016 trip.

7Scandiskip_1chocolate3Tuesday morning I had my passport, my receipts from the Marimekko store (for my VAT refund) and the idea that I would find chocolate at the Magasin store, and so I descended into the Metro station, determined to figure this out.  I was in the elevator with a nice young woman and her buggy-with-a-baby, and she explained it all to me as we descended.  Which went really well, until she said, “to get on, you just swipe your pass here,” and indicated the place, only I had no pass.  She smiled and I waved good-bye as I went up one flight of stairs to the convenience shop, which I’d been told would sell me a ticket.

Nope, so I went up one more level to find the ticket machine, where I had my escapade mentioned in the last post.  But finally getting my ticket, I went back downstairs three levels and got on the nice shiny new Metro car and went one stop to the Magasin Department Store, which is kind like our Nieman Marcus, or equivalent, I guess.  When I got out, it was raining –or– misting very heavily, and of course, the forecast said no rain, so my umbrella was at the hotel.

I always check for earrings, or some other costume jewelry to purchase, but all they had was real gold and real silver, so I asked where the VAT refund was and they said top floor.  I found the place, but there was a line.  I’d read somewhere that you have to take a ticket whenever you stand in line, so I grabbed one from the ticket dispenser and waited my turn.

It was all for naught, as apparently there are two VAT refund companies at work in Scandinavia and the one Marimekko used was not the one that could refund money at this place.  But I could show it at the airport, she said, which sounds great until you’ve done it once, and I had, so I realized that I’d just donated to their tax-dollars-at-work system.  But I could investigate the chocolate!

7Scandiskip_1chocolate2 7Scandiskip_1chocolate1The chocolate, according to the woman I met at Nyhavn, was in the basement, which was under construction, but I found the rows of shelves, and immediately started to try to calculate the prices.  The bars at the top run about $14 and the one at the bottom is $17.  I found a young woman to help me, and she steered me to Guld Barre, the ones at the top of the post.  They were around $1.50–much more affordable.

I was going to walk on further, but because of the rain and the anxiety about finding my way around the Metro and their convoluted ticketing system for tourists, I decided to head on back to the hotel.  I could buy a 24-hour pass, but the price was around $20 and I didn’t think it would be cost-effective, given that the bulk of the area I was going to move in was away from the two Metro lines.

Copenhagen Transit MapIt wasn’t until I found this map (full-size here, in case some else can use it) that I began to survive the Copenhagen Metro system. I downloaded it onto my phone and continually pinched it larger to navigate around town.  But for now, I just wanted to head home.

7Scandiskip_17My ticket was good for one full hour anywhere on the system, so I descended three levels below and waited in their nifty little place for you to wait: tucked inside that line where it says “Vent”  (which means “Wait).  And of course, the doors line up perfectly with the dots.  I was supposed to meet Dave back at the hotel, but when I came out, I saw this:

Stoff 2000 Fabrics_1I knew what Stof meant: fabric! Since the sun was now shining, I took that to be a sign, so I went in and explored.  It was on two levels, small, with similar fabrics on the second floor as on the first, with variations.Stoff 2000 Fabrics_2I purchased a half-meter off two of these rolls of cotton.  “Small suitcase,” I explained to the woman, when she asked “only a half-meter?” and who was most helpful.  Stoff 2000 Fabrics_3 Stoff 2000 Fabrics_4I also purchased some buttons, shown here in their tubes (right).

7Scandiskip_7When we met up again, Dave showed me this great snapshot of a man carrying chair on his bicycle, snapped while Dave was walking back to the hotel.7Scandiskip_9cWe went over the Food Hall and gazed at the sandwiches.7Scandiskip_9d 7Scandiskip_9b We ended up with three: the potato/onion/crispy onions (above), the roast pork with watercress, bacon and berries (below), and…7Scandiskip_9a 7Scandiskip_9…roast beef with shredded horseradish, crispy onions and mustard pickles as well as dill pickle slices.  7Scandiskip_10 We sauntered over to the chocolate that I’d seen before: filled chocolate frogs.7Scandiskip_10aWhen I asked the saleswoman “why frogs?” she just shrugged her shoulders and said, “We see them a lot in Spring.”  I translated this to mean “I have no idea–they are just what they are.”7Scandiskip_10bAcross the way was this small shop: Summerbird, with its chocolate-enrobed almonds. 7Scandiskip_10dThey let us try a few, and we liked the mint the best.  It’s coated in rhubarb powder to make it pink. 7Scandiskip_10cThe lemon and the chocolate frogs came home with us.  Time for a break, so Tuesday afternoon found us trying to ignore all the sounds outside our open windows, while catching a few minutes of sleep, a tourist’s prerogative.

Street Level Sights

This is post #6 of our 2016 Copenhagen-Stockholm trip.

I can’t resist it any longer.  Here are all the manhole covers we saw in Copenhage and Stockholm.  Just to give this a lofty air, manhole covers date back to ancient Rome and were made of stone.  There’s even been several books written about them; one title is “Drainspotting.”  Clever.

manhole cover scandinavia_1 manhole cover scandinavia_2

Look carefully at this one. . . and then the next one.manhole cover scandinavia_3

It’s one of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories “The Brave Tin Soldier.”  In the lower manhole cover, he is in the water (remember he only had one leg) about to be eaten by the great fish.  I don’t know what happened to the top manhole cover, but the tin soldier is missing.  Obviously these are from Copenhagen, Denmark.manhole cover scandinavia_4

Another grand symbol of Denmark was the Elefantordenen, or “Order of the Elephant,” a royal order to which a limited number of people can belong.  (I guess one has to die before another can be added.)  And upon the death of that Knight of the Order of the Elephant, they have to return their insignia; however, there are two exceptions: one is in Paris in a museum, and the other is on display at Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential library.  I’m guessing that’s why there are elephants all over this cover, found near Rosenberg Slot (castle).manhole cover scandinavia_5 manhole cover scandinavia_6I’d been reading about an artist that is one of Copenhagen’s native sons, Poul Gernes, and he seemed to grab circles out of the air and put them into his art.  When I saw this, and a few hundred other dotty motifs in Copenhagen, I could see where his art was coming from.  Here’s one example, a poster from his exhibit at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (another one of those things I wish I could have gone to):

Poul Gernes_1I was sitting beside sleeping Dave, trying to shake off his illness, browsing Things to Do in Copenhagen, and found news of this exhibit.  I then did multiple searches on him, finding his quiltish motifs irresistible, like visual catnip.

Poul Gernes_2Here’s some of his works installed at the Louisiana, a complicated train ride away.

How do I know that it’s complicated?  That morning, when I’d tried to buy a Metro ticket to the Magasin Department Store, a couple from Italy showed me their paper with the directions (train connections) out to the Louisiana, written in English.  So I tried to help them.  They had a credit card, and it appeared that this machine would accept it (that was our problem in the airport–the machine “didn’t like the card” according the to man helping us, so we had to try a different machine).  So that morning, the Italians (the woman spoke very limited English) and I selected what we thought was the ticket, only it didn’t like that, and cancelled the selection, without any information about why.  We tried again, but now it showed they were buying four tickets, not two, and we couldn’t find a way to have it be just two tickets.  Of course, there is not an agent in sight, only a line-up of tourists behind us.

So I tried buying my ticket, which went through, and now which creates another problem.  Once you buy a ticket, you have one hour to use it or lose it, so now the clock is ticking for me.  I turn to the couple behind me, who were from Britain, explained the situation and they took over, as I scampered down three flights of stairs to catch my train.  So when another day presented itself to head out to the Louisiana, I’m afraid I chickened out.  I found out only LATER, that at my station, upstairs, before you even go to the train-ticket-buying level (which is NOT the same level as the train-taking-level) there is a person there who can help.  I guess I just didn’t want to be that far away from Dave.

Now back to the manhole covers.

manhole cover scandinavia_7 manhole cover scandinavia_8 manhole cover scandinavia_9 manhole cover scandinavia_10 manhole cover scandinavia_11 manhole cover scandinavia_12

This one is from Tivoli Gardens, as the motifs on the upper left and lower right are the main entry gate, shown below:


manhole cover scandinavia_13I think UPONOR does sewer, drainage sort of things, but I did love the way the cobblestones are set in a circle around this one.

And to further enrich this post, here is a section from Wikipedia that bears re-reading:

The question of why manhole covers are typically round (in some countries) was made famous by Microsoft when they began asking it as a job-interview question.  Originally meant as a psychological assessment of how one approaches a question with more than one correct answer, the problem has produced a number of alternative explanations, from the tautological (“Manhole covers are round because manholes are round.”) to the philosophical.

Reasons for the shape include:

  • A round manhole cover cannot fall through its circular opening, whereas a square manhole cover may fall in if it were inserted diagonally in the hole. The existence of a “lip” holding up the lid means that the underlying hole is smaller than the cover, so that other shapes might suffice. (A Reuleaux triangle or other curve of constant width would also serve this purpose, but round covers are much easier to manufacture.)
  • Round tubes are the strongest and most material-efficient shape against the compression of the earth around them, and so it is natural that the cover of a round tube assume a circular shape.
  • A round manhole cover has a smaller surface than a square one, thus less material is needed to cast the manhole cover, meaning lower cost.
    The bearing surfaces of manhole frames and covers are machined to assure flatness and prevent them from becoming dislodged by traffic.
  • Round castings are much easier to machine using a lathe.
  • Circular covers do not need to be rotated to align with the manhole.
  • A round manhole cover can be more easily moved by being rolled.
  • A round manhole cover can be easily locked in place with a quarter turn (as is done in countries like France), which makes them hard to open without a special tool. Lockable covers do not have to be made as heavy, because traffic passing over them cannot lift them up by suction.

Honestly, I’ve never thought about why they are generally round (some are not), but I just enjoy them when I see them!