Category "Travel"

June 18, 2006

Day 2: Rouen, Jumièges, and Honfleur

On the second day in France, we continued following the Seine downstream, stopping in Rouen for lunch, seeing the Abbey ruins in Jumièges, and entering Honfleur in time for a nice stroll before dinner.


Pedestrian walk in Rouen
Along Rouen's Rue du Gros-Horloge. This is a lovely pedestrian street through the old part of this capital of Upper Normandy. Alas, the gros horloge (large clock) was being repaired and we didn't see it.

Rouen's cathedral
Inside the Cathédrale Notre-Dame.

Cathedral's lantern tower
The Cathédrale's central lantern tower is 495 ft. tall and is the tallest spire in France. This iron spire replaced one of wood and gilded with lead in 1876.

Dedication to Joan of Arc
Rouen is the place where Joan of Arc was executed in 1431. This cross has been erected to mark the spot where she was burned at the stake.

Carvings of medieval plague cemetery
One of the most unique places we visited was a medieval plague cemetery in a courtyard, Âitre St-Maclou, where you can still see the original symbols of death carved in the timbers of the buildings surrounding the courtyard.

Skull close up
One of the carvings close up.

Abbaye de Jumièges

Jumieges abbey
Porch and towers of the Jumièges abbey cathedral ruins. An abbey, of one sort or another, has been on this land by the Seine since at least the 7th century. The structures here now are the ruins of a Benedictine abbey built in the 10th century and consecrated in 1067 in the presence of William the Conqueror.

Jumieges abbey transept
Remains of the cathedral's trancept.

St-Pierre Church
The St-Pierre church sits next to the cathedral on the Abbey grounds.


Honfleur quay
You can tell that Honfleur is a boating town. It's right on the Atlantic coast across the mouth of the Seine from La Havre. At the back of the Vieux Bassin you can see the 16th century house where the king's lieutenant, the governor of Honfleur, once lived.

St-Catherine's of Honfleur
This is the Église St-Catherine, built by local shipwrights in Honfleur to celebrate the end of the Hundred Years War. All the stone masons had not returned yet from their war service, so this is one of the rare churches that was built of wood. It has a very unique Scandinavian feel to it.

Sunset on Vieux Bassin, Honfleur
As we sat beside the water and enjoyed a leisurely dinner, we remarked on the beautiful evening in Honfleur with the sun setting behind us, illuminating the buildings at the edge of Vieux Bassin. Another grand day in France drew to a close...

Posted by rigd0003 at 6:04 PM | Travel

Category "Travel"

June 10, 2006

Day 1: Paris to Les Andelys

Now that my computer is fixed and I'm back in action, I want to show some pictures from our trip to France last month. It was an amazing, beautiful, and rejuvenating ten-day trip. But since I'm still in the midst of thesis writing, I'm going to narrate it in small bits rather than tackle it all at once.

Trip map

This map shows an overview of our trip. The scientific conference I was attending was in St. Malo on the Atlantic coast in the Brittany region of Northwest France. We were flying in a week early to travel before heading to the conference. But what to see during that week? I'd never been to France before and our choices seemed limitless. We finally decided that since we were headed to Brittany and didn't know if we'd ever get a chance to see the region again, we wouldn't spend any time in Paris but instead head straight out and explore Normandy and the eastern part of Brittany.

We landed in Paris around noon on May 3, rented a car, and set out for Les Andelys, a small town along the Seine near Normady's eastern border. On a bluff overlooking the Seine and the town are the ruins of a fortress, Château-Gaillard, built by King Richard the Lionheart in 1196 to protect his Norman lands.

Chateau-Gaillard along the Seine

The château is in the foreground with the Seine behind and Les Andelys off to the right. Since the fortress was not on the highest point (the hill where we took the picture is higher), there were massive moats and walls built around it to protect it from attack from above. In the far background you can see white cliffs along the river banks -- the same type of rock formation as in the south of England.

Chateau-Gaillard donjon

Not much is left of the massive center donjon (keep).

Chateau-Gaillard window

The main purpose of the fortress was to control passage along the Seine and bar the King of France's way to the city of Rouen further downstream. Here's a nice look down to the river from the fortress.

Fields above Les Andelys

A view from the other side of the fortress looks across to the rolling fields above the town. One of the things that struck me as we clambered around the château is how freely you can clamber around historic sites in France. If this were in the States, everything would be roped off and you'd have to stay on a narrow, restricted path -- no climbing, no touching. All the better to preserve things for the next generation, I suppose. But I must admit I really enjoyed the freedom to explore.

We worked up a real appetite and headed back into town for our first dinner in France -- a lovely and leisurely dinner. As we were strolling along, we happened to spy this pet grooming store:

Scooby-Doo dog grooming

Yes, that's Scooby-Doo. I love how the name is spelled in phonetic French: Scoubidou!

Posted by rigd0003 at 11:23 PM | Travel

Category "Travel"

March 14, 2006

A Weekend Away (or There and Back Again...)

Robert Indiana's "Love" logo in Philadelphia

Took a little trip out East over the weekend to visit a friend. She had called me up early last month with the news that the Pogues were doing a short concert tour, including a stop in Atlantic City, not far from her home in Wilmington, Delaware. And it was the complete band that was touring, including the lead singer, Shane McGowan, whom I and many others believed had left this earthly coil.

The concert was on Saturday at the Borgata casino. The venue was nice, the casino was a casino, and the concert was great. It was a bit bizarre to see Shane amble out on stage, his posture a bit stooped. His enunciation, not good to begin with, was shot to hell by teeth that had been worn away by hard livin', leaving him with a pronounced lisp. But he can still sing -- and still howl -- and the band as a whole was fantastic and great fun to see up on stage. They gave us two hours of a great show.

On Sunday we took the train into Philadelphia to visit the Body Worlds exhibit at the Franklin Institute. I'd never been to Philadelphia before and I really enjoyed the short time I spent there. We emerged from the train station into the middle of the St. Patrick's Day parade. We walked down Benjamin Franklin Parkway following the parade and into the museum district (you can see a bit of the parade in the background behind the Love logo). It had been raining, so the crowds were a bit thin, but it was fun to see folks out having a good time. The exhibit itself was amazing and quite extensive -- a fascinating look at the human body.

We rounded up the long weekend by taking a nice walk along the near-by park trails yesterday. It was a beautiful day -- sunshine and 75 degrees -- and we took full advantage of the weather with a nice, leisurely lunch outside.

What greeted me at the Philadelphia airport later that afternoon was like a splash of cold water to the face: flights into Chicago (my transfer hub) were delayed. I actually was only delayed by half an hour at Philly since many of us were squeezed on to another flight that was leaving sooner. Chicago O'Hare was a zoo, of course, but actually not as bad as other times when Mother Nature had flexed her muscle and put the sqeeze on weary O'Hare passengers. I treated myself to a Chicago-style hot dog with the works as I waited for my delayed connecting flight. And I came home to a winter wonderland. Sunny and 75 to nine inches of snow in just a few hours. I'm excited about the snow, actually. For one, I didn't have to shovel it or drive in it. And there's the possibility it will stick around long enough for a snowshoe outing this weekend...

Posted by rigd0003 at 5:16 PM | Travel

Category "Travel"

March 1, 2006

Restorative power of Spring

ground breaking in reverse
Originally uploaded by mockturtle.

I flew in to Atlanta last night. As the plane began to descend ,and the web of city lights came into view, I could feel a dramatic change in the atmosphere. This is no metaphor I'm speaking of, but an actual change in the air: it felt humid. And it was not the oppressive humidity that blankets the South in the summer. This was the pleasant sort of humidity, the type that you often experience near the sea.

I had almost forgotten what that feels like. Minnesota is still a dry, very winterous land. So dry that my skin itches, so dry that cracks open up on the back of my hands, and my lips so chapped they aren't pink and smooth but white and rough and scaly.

So this short trip to Atlanta to attend a conference with no presentation obligations is turning out to be a great boost. A quick spring pick-me-up that reminds me of the promise that lies dormant back home. To all my fellow Americans who live North of the 40th parallel, you should come South for just a day or two around this time of the year. You should feel the big yellow sun on your skin, see the daffodils on the hillside, smell the greening of the earth. Then you can return to your northern home, restored and rejuvenated, still eager for Spring but now content to give it the patience you were running out of just days before, the patience to see that wonderful promise be fulfilled once again: the annual promise that Winter is followed beautifully -- mercifully -- by Spring.

Posted by rigd0003 at 10:11 PM | Travel

Category "Me"

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Category "Travel"

January 17, 2006

Winter break pix

A few quick pix from Winter Break. We had a really nice Christmas spent visiting family and friends on the East Coast. Amidst our traveling, Ben and I made a quick trip into New York City. We did some tourist-y sight-seeing, like visiting the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Neither of us had been to an opera before and we thought seeing a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House would be a great New York experience. As fate would have it, our first taste of opera would be a light operetta -- something to get our feet wet, so to speak. The Metropolitan Opera was performing Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus. A comedic story of drink, dance, frolic, and pranks.

Lincoln Center was beautiful. They had their own Christmas tree -- this one decorated with the shapes of various musical instruments.

Lincoln Center

The inside of the Opera House was very beautiful as well. There's a grant atrium decorated with crystal chandeliers and plush red fabrics. Here's the view from our seats. You can see there is a railing in front of each row of seats. Embedded in the railings are small display screens that show English subtitles for the performances (you are given the option of disabling the subtitles). Die Fledermaus was performed with the traditional German songs, but with English dialogue. I was at first surprised when the subtitles displayed during the dialogue as well as the songs, but that turned out to be useful since some of the singers/actors had thick accents.

Metropolitan Opera House

Saving the best for last, we were delighted to be able to visit my sister and her husband and their new baby, Henry.

Posted by rigd0003 at 2:41 PM | Me | Pix | Travel

Category "Cycling"

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June 17, 2005

Hennepin Canal Trail, Central Illinois

Hennepin Canal Bike Path

My husband and I have had great success in finding ways to do some exploring on our bicycle as we travel to visit family and friends. This past weekend we were in Davenport, Iowa, for a lovely family visit and also happened to discover a great piece of history.

The Hennepin Canal was designed to link barge traffic between the Illinois River and the Rock River which flows into the Mississippi at Rock Island, Illinois. But by the time construction was completed in 1907, seventeen years after building began and thirty-six years after Congress authorized survey funding, the Canal had "missed the boat" in terms of commerce innovation since by then the rail system was well established and a cheaper way to ship goods. By the 1930s, the Canal was mainly used by recreational boats.

Luckily for us, one person's expensive commercial disappointment is another person's fabulously beautiful and serene biking, hiking, and horseback-riding trail. The entire 155 miles from Bureau Junction/Hennepin in the East to Colona in the West is now the Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park.

We biked from the western end at Colona to Geneseo and back, about 24 miles round trip. For much of the way you are riding on the old towpath right next to the canal. It reminded us both of an old European tree-lined boulevard. I'd only seen canals in BBC television mysteries like Inspector Morse, never in person, so it was a totally new experience for me. We saw lots of birds and sunbathing turtles, plus a few people fishing and some scouts out for a hike. But for the most part we were quite alone. Many of the original locks are still there and some have been refurbished. Here's an old lift bridge the trail crosses over near one of the locks.

Hennepin Canal Bridge

The biking was good and quite easy since it's very level. One thing we found odd was the recommendation to use mountain bikes instead of road bikes on the trail because of the surface. But the surface was quite good for our part -- a tar base layer with small rocks a crushed rocks on top. The was a short dirt section of 100 yards or so through a wildlife preservation area, but the dirt was very firm so no problem there. There were nice toilet facilities at major access points along the way and information for finding food and other services in the larger towns we passed.

Check out this best website for the trail to see more pictures, maps, elevation charts, and more.

Happy trails!

Posted by rigd0003 at 11:51 AM | Cycling | Me | Travel

Category "Hiking n' Camping"

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May 15, 2005

California central coast trip

Our vacation along California's Route 1 highway was a beautiful tour of sea, sand, coastal wildlife, and very twisty roads. By camping our way up the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco, we had access to some of California's best beaches and parks on the cheap. This is definitely a "must see" experience!

Camp site at Monta�a de Oro

This was the view from our solo camp site at Monta�a de Oro State Park, near San Luis Obispo. By far the best view we've experienced in our long years of camping.

Sunset at Monta�a de Oro

Dining with a view... We've got this sunset all to ourselves. Interested? You can reserve it online (it's the Deer Flats site)

Sea star in tide pools

MdO also had amazing tide pools, easily accessible from their coastal trail.

Route 1 near Big Sur

Our drive up the coast was gorgeous... and hair-raising. Hwy 1 up to Big Sur gives new meaning to those yellow "caution: winding roads" road signs.

Coastal redwoods

Paying $9 per night to camp at Andrew Molera gave us access to its beautiful beaches, plus all the state parks nearby. Here's a great shot of coastal redwoods in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Risso's dolphins in Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay is a spectacular and special place. We saw lots of marine life on our whale watch tour, including a huge pack of Risso's dolphins.

hungry snail

Lots of wildlife, big and small. This voracious snail was part of a large group that emerged after a long rain to snack on the lovely garden in the Mission San Luis Obispo de Toloso.

Posted by rigd0003 at 4:23 PM | Hiking n' Camping | Me | Pix | Travel

Category "Cycling"

Category "Travel"

April 15, 2005

River rides and mini-vacations

I'm coming around to the idea that mini-vacations can be just as fun and restorative as long stays away from home. We enjoyed a wonderful anniversary celebration last week by staying two nights in a bed & breakfast just 40 minutes from home.

The Quill & Quilt Inn is a lovely 3-story house in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, built in 1897 and run by a very sweet young couple. Our hostess saw to our every need, including safe storage of our tandem, recommending local restaurants and acquiring passes to the local bike trail. One great feature of this B & B is the day spa on the third floor. What a great idea for small business owners to pool their talents like that! The spa was booked up for our stay, but I'd love to return for a hot stone massage.

Thursday night we were the only guests -- quite a treat. After discussing our dining options, we set out for Chapati, an Indian restaurant in Northfield, a 15-minute drive through the countryside. We found the restaurant, and the whole of Northfield, to be quite a delight! Northfield really showcases what a river town can be, with the downtown area nestled along both sides of the Cannon River. We took an evening stroll along the brick river walk and over the bridges. Many restaurants and pubs have terraces and plazas right on the river. There is quite an eclectic array of shops, dance studios, and artists galleries, plus a nice energy that comes from the local college campuses (Carleton College and St. Olaf College). And I was delighted to recognize that their local public library is a Carnegie library (although it has undergone quite a bit of expansion).

Friday morning, after a nice hot breakfast in the dining room, we hit the Cannon Valley trail. This is a converted Chicago Great Western rail bed that runs along the Cannon River from Cannon Falls to Red Wing, where the Cannon meets the Mighty Mississippi. With a trail access point literally a stone's throw away from our B & B, we on our way immediately. The above-normal temperature that day made for a very nice ride. We saw lots of birds, including a bald eagle, and spied some turtles sunning themselves. But it was a little weird for it to be so warm and have the surroundings still in their brown winter stasis. Most of the trail is lined with trees, but without their leaves we were in the sun the whole day. We didn't give much thought to it until we came back and took a relaxing soak in our Jacuzzi tub (oh, so nice!). We were quite surprised to see how red we had gotten from the sun. We had ridden the length of the trail and back - 40 miles. As is typical of these rails-to-trails, the ride was quite flat and nicely paved but I was still pretty tired by the time we got back. Although I could definitely feel the benefit of all of our indoor bike training over the winter.

We rounded out our day with a walk to the local cemetery to see the Colonel William Colvill monument. Colonel Colvill was a leader of the First Minnesota Volunteers during the Civil War. (This visit was a nice tie-in to the trip to Gettysburg we'd taken two years ago.) Then we had a hearty spaghetti dinner at the local pub and walked back to the Inn. All in all, an excellent celebration and restorative mini-vacation!

Posted by rigd0003 at 3:16 PM | Cycling | Travel

Category "Travel"

March 20, 2005

Wonderful, Wonderful Kbenhavn

Okay, this post isn't exactly timely, but I wanted to show pictures from my trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. I was in Copenhagen for a week in mid-January to visit some researchers at the Danish Institute for Food and Veterinary Research. I know what you're thinking, "Denmark in January?!" But this was a paid business trip and my first trip overseas. I was very excited and it turned out to be just like the Danny Kaye song, it was wonderful.

One thing I had trouble adjusting to was the light. It is far enough North to have significantly shorter days in the winter. The sun didn't rise until 8 o'clock and it set about 4:30. But the really disorienting thing about it was that the sun never got that high in the sky. That's why all of my pictures look like they were taken just before sunset. Some of them were, but others were taken in the middle of the day. In fact, because of the short winter days, Denmark has a law governing how much natural light must be accessible to a worker. This means that most office buildings have skylights and individual offices have windows. I didn't see any cubicles while I was there. But here's a bit of what I did see:

Frederiksberg Kirke

Frederiksberg Runddel (Circus) and Frederiksberg Kirke. In the winter, there is skating at the entrance of the summer palace gardens. The Kirke in the background is an octagonal church built by Dutch immigrants in 1734, who were brought in to tend the elaborate royal gardens in the adjacent Frederiksberg Have.

Frederiksberg Kirke

Frederiksberg Slot, the pale yellow Summer Palace that overlooks the Have. Built by Frederik IV in the early 18th century. It sits high atop Valby Bakke hill and in its time offered an uninterrupted view (on the opposite side) of the city ramparts and the Swedish coastline. This side of the palace looks out over the gardens.

Frederiksberg Slot

Christiansborg Slot, Slotsholmen. Historical heart of Copenhagen and seat of Danish government.

Frederiksholms Kanal

Slotsholmen is actually an island separated from the rest of the city by this canal, the Frederiksholms Kanal. You may be getting the idea that Copenhagen is a city of spires.


The Kastellet, or Citadel, has been occupied since 1660 and is the oldest still-functioning military base in Europe. It is a star-shaped base surrounded by grass-covered bastions and moats. This is one of only two gates into the base.


The Rdhus, or city hall, is an impressive feature of Indre By, the city center. The gold figure in the center is Bishop Absalon, the founder of Copenhagen.

Gefion Fountain

This is Gefion Fountain. As the myth goes, the goddess Gefion was promised as much land as she could plow in a single night. She turned her four sons into oxen and ploughed out a chunk of Sweden and tossed it into the sea, creating the Danish island of Zealand, on which Copenhagen resides.

There are lots more wonderful things about Copenhagen: omnipresent bicycles - even in winter (although there wasn't snow on the ground when I was there), numerous squares, and the ubiquitous English (everyone speaks English, making it a good place for beginning travelers). I would love to go back and tour more of the country some day.

Posted by rigd0003 at 2:01 PM | Travel

Category "Travel"

March 19, 2005

A Night at the Opry

Grand Ole Opry

My husband and I were in Nashville last weekend visiting family at the tail end of one of my conferences. We had a great time, including an unexpected treat - experiencing the Grand Ole Opry from the stage! Ben's uncle and aunt arranged for the four of us to watch the show from pew benches behind the musicians right in front of the big red barn doors. While we're not really big country music fans, we do love good music and we got to hear a lot of it that night! I have a special fondness for bluegrass and was delighted to see the Del McCoury Band and the Osborne Brothers, among others.
Some interesting things we learned about the Opry:

Posted by rigd0003 at 3:59 PM | Travel