Saturday, 25 September 2010

Update on my growing Pepper Plant finally really growing Pepper

Four months ago I did a post on a tiny Pepper Plant I found in the plug hole of where the dishes are drying. I extracted it and put that brave little thing in some earth. Now it is an adult pepper plant blossoming and finally growing a pepper! YAY! I will give myself a bronze order for my green thumb. Or I could declare my green thumb now to be a bronze thumb. Wonder how this pepper will taste?!

Monday, 20 September 2010

London Impressions no. 5

This is how it works. I'd like to write a travel journal about my vacation in London but as it is already over and I had no permanent Internet access there I'm going to write them like a memoir. Every day (since Thursday) I'll post on my impressions of the day exactly one week ago. All in all I will have six posts on my travels. I hope you'll like it although it is mainly of personal value as I'd like to preserve my experiences.

One week ago...

I wanted to visit the Tower of London. And that is exactly what I did then. Entrance queues on a Monday morning were small contrary to all I have heard of those queues. A Monday morning is as well a good pick as the Tower opens at 10 am instead of 9 am which gives you one more hour to beat the queues which weren't there. Oh well, I see in the summer with loads of tourist like myself pouring in the city those could become really long. Enough about queues. After we payed the voluntary donation which is included in the entrance fee and passed the security check of our bags we saw a group led by a yeoman warder starting off. As we wanted to participate in a tour ourselves we went with them. We got to know many things of which most were not as cruel as one always thinks when thinking about the Tower of London.

Yeoman Warder Tour

I'm going to share a little of what I learned that day. In the Tower only seven people have been executed, to whom belonged Anne Boleyn for example as executuins in the Tower were a privilege as it did not took place in public like all the other executions outside the Tower on Tower Hill. Torture is also not a practice which was prominent in England. Quintessence is that the Tower is not as bloody as always believed. But never the less it is a very historical place and made me want to find out more about that time.

View at Tower Bridge from inside the Tower

After the Tower experience we actually wanted to see St. Paul's cathedral to climb it and enjoy the view over London, but as soon as we left the Tower there was rain keeping us company. So we decided to take the bus line no. 15 and ride until it's end and back to St. Paul's. Route 15 is one of only two routes where still the old double decker buses are operating. As we got out at St. Paul's station it still was raining and so we decided to not go inside as it would have cost us £ 12.50 each.

We decided for the Museum of London instead (admission free) and got there at 3.30 pm. We were lucky as the museum announced a tour through the Medieval Galleries at 4 pm. We joined in and got to know about the early London, when everybody lived in wooden houses, later black death and the construction of St. Paul's, later the big fire in 1666 and the reformation under King Henry VIII. The dark ages were not as dark for me anymore. Unfortunately we had only one more hour when the tour ended to have a look at the rest of this fantastic museum. It was my favorite one on the whole vacation and I need to go back and spend a little more time there.

In the evening we went to have dinner in the gbk, the gourmet burger kitchen on Westbourne Grove. As it is New Zealand cuisine, they also served Kiwi burger, which of course did not contain Kiwi birds but was the special burger there. Very delicious! Be sure to take some fries with it and have a L&P soda. Cheers!

The Foam of the Daze by Boris Vian

The book tells the story of Colin and Chloé. Colin is a Parisian bohemian in the 40s, he falls in love with Chloé, a girl with the name of one of Duke Ellington's songs. They get married and could lead a happy life if not Chloé would have gotten a cold during their honeymoon. But soon it becomes obvious that Chloé has something worse than a cold, it's a water lily growing in her lungs.

Boris Vian has a very individual writing style. Things like water lilies in lungs or eels out of water taps indicate a surrealistic plot, which it truly is. Vian likes wordplays and made up words just like Lewis Carroll. His writing is very descriptive and although reality fails one can picture the described things very well. Take for an example the pianocktail, a piano which played in a certain mood like blues produces a cocktail just looking and tasting like the thing. I think this to be very inventive and creative. Two of my favorite sentences are as follows:

"I want to hide in a quince. Because it smells so nice. And because then I would have some peace and quiet..."

"The blue greenish heaven droops nearly to the pavement,and big white stains mark the spots where clouds have been shattered."

Boris Vian has been a multi talented guy. He was writer, poet, musician, singer, translator, critic, actor, inventor and engineer. This all influenced his novel noticeable.

If you'd like some surrealism to intervene your reading go read this one. I read the book with puckered eye brows but ended up enjoying it.

★ ★ ★ and a half!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

London Impressions no. 4

This is how it works. I'd like to write a travel journal about my vacation in London but as it is already over and I had no permanent Internet access there I'm going to write them like a memoir. Every day (since Thursday) I'll post on my impressions of the day exactly one week ago. All in all I will have six posts on my travels. I hope you'll like it although it is mainly of personal value as I'd like to preserve my experiences.

One week ago...

I woke up on a sunny Sunday and it was finally time visit Greenwich. After breakfast we left for Embankment where Thames Clipper's River Boat Service has one of it's stations. We paid £ 7.10 each to go to and back Greenwich. This is a price which we achieved due to our travel-cards from Transport for London. It is really useful for tourists as we got a seven day travel card for zones 1 and 2, which cover central London (our hotel was located inside those zones) for £ 25.80. When in possession of a travel card one gets 30% off for all Thames Clipper services. Boats to Greenwich leave I think every half hour and the ride takes you about forty minutes. I enjoyed it very much as one can see very many famous sights from the water like London Eye.

London Eye

Spend a morning of maritime history!

When we arrived in Greenwich one of the first sights to see is the tea clipper Cutty Sark but unfortunately there was no chance to see it for us as it is currently reconstructed due to a fire. Next stop is the Old Royal Naval College, designed by Christopher Wren who nearly built all famous and old London building. ;) A must see is the Painted Hall, one of the prettiest dining halls in the world.

After that we headed for the National Maritime Museum, where you can see Nelson's uniform. This he wore at the battle of Trafalgar, when a fatal musket ball hit his left shoulder, where the uniform still shows the hole. We got a good impression on maritime history and shipping and left hungry. The museum includes a nice café where we grabbed some delicious coffee and pain au chocolat, which we ate together with our lunch in the park behind the museum in front of the hill where the Royal Observatory is located. A beautiful landscape where many families spent they day having a pick-nick and other outdoor activities.

View from the hill in Greenwich Park, behind me the Royal Observatory and in front the National Maritime museum and the park where we had lunch.

We spent our afternoon exploring time and space in the Royal Observatory, where the biggest highlight is for sure the prime meridian. There you can stand with one foot each in the east and west hemispheres! Really impressive I also found the astronomy route. It offered many hands on science spots to learn about space, e.g gravity, black holes and supernovas.

We left the Observatory for the town of Greenwich itself, which is small and pleasant. We discovered Greenwich market before it closed (every day at 5.30 pm). How fantastic: loads of stalls and artisan people selling their handmade stuff. We saw paintings, paper crafts, hats, t-shirts and so on. I couldn't resist and bought a quilted bag, which is just lovely.

My new bag!

We traveled home by boat and river again, where I recognized the impact of the tides on Thames river for the first time. Amazing! In the morning there has been nearly no water compared to the situation in the afternoon.

In the evening I had some great plans. I wanted to see the grand finale of the Mayor's Thames Festival, one of I think two fireworks which are displayed on the Thames each year. We had some nice Lebanese food on Queensway and headed for Embankment again to stand on the bridge and have good view. The firework started about 9.45 pm and lasted at least 15 minutes. What a great show. Even Londoners next to me were thrilled and let out Ooohhss!, Ahhs! and Wows!

When I think about it today it was probably the best day I had in London!

The Girl who played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Everybody knows the content but in case you do not: This book is the second in the Millennium trilogy. Lisbeth Salander returns from her vacation after things cooled down a bit in Stockholm. She gets herself a new flat, a new car, possibly a new life. But Dag Svensson, a young journalist is going to uncover one of Sweden's biggest rings of white slavery and he works with Mikael Blomquvist, a journalist for whom Lisbeth did some research for a case Mikael worked on in the first part of the series. As Lisbeth gets to know this she pays a visit to Dag and Mia, his girl friend who writes her Ph thesis about the girl slavery. The very same evening they are found dead by Mikael Blomquvist. He now tries to find the murderer of his friends but also cannot believe that Salander is guilty.

For me it is the same as with the first part of the series. I found it to be incredibly exciting. Lisbeth Salander is one of the most peculiar characters I have ever read about. Her social life is nearly non-existent and she reacts with violence when somebody hurts her feelings. But she is clever and I like that she knows how to defend herself.

Actually I'm no big reader of books that come in a series. I too fast grow tired of the same characters and the familiar setting. The only way out seems to be reading the books with a little distance of time. I did not experience this with the Millennium trilogy. I'm going to pick up the third book after I have finished the two library books I still have.

Although this series is no high literature I very much appreciate it to be so entertaining. One single book has about 700 pages but when I started reading I could not put it down anymore. That is why I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series and I am a bit sad that it will be the last one.

I'm going with the masses.In my eyes the book deserves ★ ★ ★ ★ ★!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

London Impressions no. 3

This is how it works. I'd like to write a travel journal about my vacation in London but as it is already over and I had no permanent Internet access there I'm going to write them like a memoir. Every day from Thursday I'm going to post on my impressions of the day exactly one week ago. All in all I will have six posts on my travels. I hope you'll like it although it is mainly of personal value as I'd like to preserve my experiences.

One week ago ...

I woke up in a London hotel room and again was rewarded with sunshine. Our plan for today included a visit to the British Museum. Admission to most London museums is free but they kindly ask for a donation of three to five £ if you liked the exhibition.

Meal deal for £ 2.

But first we went to get lunch at a Tesco express which we planned to eat after the expanded tour through the museum. Tesco offers a meal deal, which includes either sandwiches, wraps or pasta salad with a little bag of fresh fruit and something to drink like a small bottle of water or orange juice for all in all only £ 2.

Lionhunt in the Assyrian Galleries

As the British museum is too big to get all of it we decided for Egyptian sculpture (room no. 4), the Middle East including Assyrian works (rooms no. 6 to 10) and the Greece Panthenon (room no. 18) on the ground floor. On the upper floor we visited Ancient Egypt (room no. 61 to 66) with exhibits like mummies and grave goods. I saw a little boy who told his mommy that he doesn't want to go on as he found it scary. Little sweetheart! All in all a very satisfying tour.

Next we went to Covent Garden. I love this place! On a Saturday afternoon it is crowded with people and street artists like magicians, acrobats and jugglers to name a few. Most of the artists try to make a living with their shows there and ask for a little money. They are really kind and funny and like to interact with their audience. If you don't like that be sure to stand a little in the back. :)

The guy on the photo juggled with some balls and an apple while driving this huge unicycle. The grand finale was him eating the apple while juggling with it and two knives, really fascinating.

We spent some time strolling around Covent Garden and at some point also came across London's China Town. It only covers about four streets but there is some Chinese architecture and restaurant and shops all over the place. Something I have never experienced before is that one ethnic group takes possession of an area like this. Great! On the photo below you can see one of the gate entrances to the China Town streets and somewhere on it my company. :)

We had dinner in a British restaurant called Stockpot which is located at 18 Old Compton Street. I started with leek and potato soup and then had grilled salmon steak with salad and roast potatoes. I promise I did not pay more than £ 10 for the food and a coke. When we came out a nightly hustle and bustle was going on in this neighborhood. We spent some time watching it and then went back to the hotel.

Friday, 17 September 2010

London Impression no.2

This is how it works. I'd like to write a travel journal about my vacation in London but as it is already over and I had no permanent Internet access there I'm going to write them like a memoir. Every day from Thursday I'm going to post on my impressions of the day exactly one week ago. All in all I will have six posts on my travels. I hope you'll like it although it is mainly of personal value as I'd like to preserve my experiences.

One week ago ...

Me in my hotel room

I woke up in my hotel room. I stayed one week in the Umi Hotel in the lovely Notting Hill/Bayswater area. It is a 3 star budget hotel and tries to offer best available rates combined with best available service. Before I booked there of course I read a lot of reviews of which some were lovely and some were cruel. My company left the decision on the hotel all on me but also all the responsibility. I desperately hoped I made the right decision. And I did. Okay the double bed room was small but it had all I needed: a bed, a closet, a desk and a small (maybe tiny) bath. The bed was extra comfortable and I slept heavenly unlike at home, where the mattress is actually to hard for my taste.

After breakfast we left for Portobello Road market which is located of course on Portobello Road, only a ten to fifteen minutes walk from the hotel. Every day stall holders sell different things like fresh fruit, antiques, furniture, jewelery and fashion there. But also many shops established there to provide good service for example the Hummingbird Bakery which sells adorable little cup cakes for not as adorable prices but oh well it's London it's not supposed to be cheap. And they taste as delicious as they smell. The Tea and Coffee Plant serves some great coffee which goes fine with the cupcakes. Alice's is also worth to mention, it's like an antique curiosity shop which harbors real treasures.

Alice's on Portobello Road

Finally we made our way to Notting Hill Gate station and came across a used book store! YAY! A place I would have liked to never leave again. It had many books I always wanted to read but couldn't get in my library, as my library doesn't offer a good variety of English books. I was in heaven and would have loved the book shelfs in this shop to materialize in my flat at home. I bought only two books as I considered I would have to carry them all day long. I got Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (not even in German available in my library) and In the Woods by Tana French (also not available in my library).

We headed for the Science Museum (admission free) as my company is a science crack and needed a little input. I was happy I could offer him that. I thought the Historical Medicine gallery to be extremely exciting. I did like to feel a little anxious at sight of antique surgery tools or disgusted by drawings of infectious diseases. I also liked the Launchpad although this is more or less for children where you can have your hands down on science yourself like producing waves or see yourself in a heat camera. The place has been a little overcrowded though.

When the museum closed we decided to visit Harrods which is really close to the museums (Science, Natural History and Victoria & Albert). We went inside and were stunned by all the luxury although we had expected it. It is like visiting the KaDeWe in Berlin, which can be compared to Harrods as it is the biggest department store on the European continent. We visited the Pet Halls and had a look at sweet little puppies and kittens for about 1000 pound per animal. Wow! We got our dinner in the Harrods Food Halls and went back to the hotel as our feet needed a rest.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

I have been awarded!

Thanks to LibrarysCat I have been awarded the Cherry on Top Award!

I found out that this award goes to "beautiful blogs with that little bit extra". My dear LibrarysCat I really appreciate you awarded me this! That is amazing!

Rules that come with it are:

1. Answer this question: If you had the chance to go back and change one thing in your life, would you, and what would it be?

For me being as young as twenty-something years old there is not much yet that I regret and would like to change. Maybe just one thing, that is following: I should have done a year in a foreign country after school. Actually I wanted to be an Au-pair and did Babysitter courses as well as my driver's license for it I did not get to the point where I applied at an agency which is a must do when one wants to go to the US. But on the other hand this is why I'm one of the youngest students in my year at university and I will get a diploma being younger than others which I hope will give me an advantage.

2. The second thing you have to do is, pick 6 people and give them this award. You then have to inform the person that they have gotten this award.

In no particular order:

Leeswamme's Blog
And the plot thickens
A Little Bookish
Thyme for Tea

3. The third and final thing is: thank the person who gave you the award.

Oh wow! I have done that already but there is no reason to not do this again and again. Thank you so much LibrarysCat!

London Impressions no.1

This is how it works. I'd like to write a travel journal about my vacation in London but as it is already over and I had no permanent Internet access there I'm going to write them like a memoir. Every day from today I'm going to post on my impressions of the day exactly one week ago. I hope you'll like it although it is mainly of personal value as I'd like to preserve my experiences.

One week ago ...

I woke up in my hotel room and almost feared to open the curtains. The reason for that for sure lies in the uncertainty of English weather. Two days ago the weather forecast predicted rain for my whole stay. But as I was an obedient child all year long I deserved a little sun and that is what I got.

I didn't expect much for breakfast but as the hotel runs it's own coffee shop especially my fair trade coffee was very good. Could I have asked for more?

Buckingham Palace

My company and me decided on one of the most famous and important sights to see first, we decided for Buckingham Palace. Somewhere I read about it lovingly referred to as Buck Home. Maybe the Queen likes to call it that? I would have loved to see the Changing of the Guard but this ceremony is only carried out at 11 am every second day and unfortunately Thursday was no such day. Actually it was possible to go inside Buckingham Palace as the State Rooms are open to public for August and most of September when the Queen is in her summer residence. I decided against it to use the nice weather outside and of course to save a small fortune. Me and my company strolled through St. James Park where I planned to feed the ducks but forgot to take bread or biscuits with me. Luckily not all tourists were as careless as I was.

We continued our walk to Trafalgar Square crowded with people and traffic past Downing Street which is actually a dead-end street and heavily guarded by security and a huge gate. When one fine car accompanied by another loaded with security left this street I felt invited to imagine that this may have been the Prime Minister. Who knows?

View at Parliament from park behind it

We walked by the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and Westminster Abbey where all important royal ceremonies are held, such as weddings and things. We had a picnic right behind the Parliament as there is a little park next to the Thames. Suddenly the clouds broke loose and Londoners all over the place changed their sun glasses for their umbrellas. Luckily I was prepared too. We took the tube from Westminster to Mansion House (because Blackfriars is closed until late 2011) to walk over Jubilee Bridge which is a bridge only for pedestrians. On the other side Tate Modern daily opens it's doors to fans of modern art. Admission is free as in most London museums. Actually I can not say I'm a fan of modern art as in general I'm an amateur in art things. But I enjoy looking at pictures or sculptures and trying to find what the artist possibly wants to express or just what I think the piece of art is meaning to me. More than once I got a feeling that a certain work meant nothing at all. Today I still remember some famous artists and works I have seen that day such as Summertime by Jackson Pollock, The Kiss by Auguste Rodin and Water-Lilies by Claude Monet.

Tate Modern

After the art lesson I felt so worn out for all the walking and staying around all day I needed to get a rest in my hotel room. Later I craved for some Italian food for dinner and we went to a restaurant on Queensway near our hotel in the Notting Hill/Bayswater region. The food was fabulous and the prices reasonable although we had to wait for our pizza for more than thirty minutes but as the wine was good too I didn't care that much. Later I recognized that this restaurant actually belonged to a chain of Italian restaurants which is called Bella Italia and is spread all over London.

After a short walk for exploration reasons in our neighborhood we went back to the hotel to get a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

London is calling me!

Hey guys,
its this time of year! You wonder which time I think of? I think of the time in the year I do my vacation. Last year I have been to Paris. And this year I finally want to visit London. I actually already have been to London but not as an adult. This time I'm going with my boyfriend and we have planned (yes, I admit that I have planned) loads of entertaining and cultural activities!

I'm off tomorrow and will be back next week and hopefully have some nice pictures for you!

Happy reading!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa

The book is set in 1950s Peru. Pedro Camacho is a Bolivian writer of peculiar and a little eccentric radio plays which are famous all over Peru. But suddenly the plays become a mess, characters from different plays appear in plays where they do not belong. Pedro Camacho seems to have lost overview or is it just some artistic expression?
Pedro's story is intertwined with that of Mario, a student and wanna be professional writer. He falls in love with his aunt Julia, the divorced sister of uncle's wife, who is some 13 years older than Mario. When they decide to run off and marry the familiy becomes panicky as all their hopes lay on Mario.

This was the first Llosa book I read. I was not disappointed, the story is entertaining as well as the chapters of the radio plays, which gave some extensive report on 1950s Lima and it's social structure. That this book is partly autobiographical makes it just more interesting as Mario Vargas Llosa aslo married his aunt Julia, who was thirteen years his senior. But the book was actually written when those two were already divorced again. As a matter of fact Julia Urquidi Illanes wrote a book herself, it is called Lo que Varguitas no Dijo (What Varguitas didn’t say), which is telling her side of the story.

★ ★ ★ ★

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Frida Kahlo - A Biograohy of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera

Hayden Herrera did a good job on portraying Frida Kahlo's life, the famous Mexican artist. Many attempted to do it likewise but did not come close. This is what critics say. I found this book entertaining at the beginning and in the middle part but it slowed down at the end. I got to know very much about the unique person of Frida Kahlo as well as of Diego Rivera, Frida's husband with whom she could not live without. But there were also times when Frida could not stand living with him either. For an example take the year when they divorced and one year later married again.

I got to know very much about the meaning of Frida's paintings and that the source of all that was her self, her pain and loneliness. But I did not get rid of the feeling that what the author described as self-centeredness in Frida's character was actually something I don't like in people.

What I found remarkable is that once it is stated that Frida wanted to paint not for the expression of her art but because she wanted to make a living out of her paintings and be an independent woman. That's strength.

I think the reason that the book slowed down in the end can be found in the fact that Frida's life did too. Her back hurt very much and she was unable to leave her bed.

I haven't read any other Frida biography but her very own diary which she wrote in her last years but if you are interested in Frida Kahlo's life I'm sure you can't go wrong with this book.

★ ★ ★