Wednesday, December 30, 2009

YandA trip December 2009

 YandA sailing on the Nile--we did not pick up babies floating in boxes....

On December 13, I(A) flew to San Francisco to attend the Annual Fall Meeting
of the American Geophysical Union. It was a good
meeting and was followed by a weekend in San Mateo where my
cousin Fred and his wife Mariel (a high school classmate of
mine) live and we were joined for the weekend by my
granddaughter Maya who is a student in Eugene OR. After a
wonderful weekend, I flew to Berlin to meet Yosefa and to visit
her daughter Galia and her family including three
The California Part

We picked up Maya at SFO airport and made our way to San Mateo.
We lit the eighth Hannuka candle together and then had a very
nice shabbat dinner. As you can see, Maya took Fred and Mariel
into camp very easily.

In our family, we think that falling in
love with Maya is a very appropriate reaction to her. Of
course, we are all most objective.

The next day, Fred and Mariel busied themselves with helping
their daughter Annie and her husband plus child move into a new
house. Fred dropped us off at the BART station in Millbrae and
we made our way into the city. The afternoon was spent at
SFMOMAthe local museum of modern art. The museum was founded
in 1935 and is running a special exhibition for its 75th
birthday which was fascinating. There were also many other
goodies there, too many to describe.

Go to San Francisco and
visit this wonderful museum. We then met Fred and Mariel for
dinner at The The Stinking Rose/, an Italian restaurant in the North
Beach that specializes in the use of garlic, which was known as
the stinking rose in centuries past. An excellent dinner was
enjoyed by all.

On Sunday, we visited both Annie and Shelley at their homes and
enjoyed them and little Lauren aged 15 months and Casey aged10.
Casey received a Wii for Xmas and was having a great time with
it.  Mariel is an experienced and super savta--

Earlier Fred and A watched football while M and M went
shopping and apparently had a good time. In the evening our
friend  Maya's Mike

joined us and we went out for dinner at a Mexican
restaurant. Monday, Fred took us to the airport, Maya returned
to Eugene and the YandA scene shifted to Berlin.

 Despite flight delays caused by heavy snow in Europe we managed
to meet up in Berlin with not too much of a delay relative to
the original plan. Y was not jet-lagged, just plane tired... A
was of course jet-lagged and had train delays between Frankfurt
Airport and Berlin, but overcame it very well. The next day we
got to take the older children to Hansel and Gretel at the
Deutsche Oper along with half Berlin and their grandparents
(the children get to go for free, which is nice). The children
read the super-titles in German with ease, these grandparents
know the story and stumble along somehow, but enjoy the show
and the music very much.  Here is a
A good time was had by all, to
culminate with coffee and chocolate muffins nearby. Actually on
our way home, we stopped for a quick gift shopping which was
even more painless than predicted, either the recession or the
German predilection for planning in advance had contributed to
making a purchase in a toy store on the
23rd of December an easy task. The children waited opposite the
model car track race and the whole job was done in twenty

On Christmas Eve we took advantage of the last shopping day to
do the rest of our shopping - various small items - and were
happy to pick up a couple of DVD's we were looking for and a
birthday gift for Natan who will be five next week. We lunched
at an Asian place and were virtually pushed out as everything
closed at 2 pm...the children had spent the midday hours at a
closed swimming pool from which they could see the snow through
the windows!

Next day we went on our own to the newly reopened "New Museum"
to see the Egyptian exhibition which had been in storage since
1939 because of war damage to the building. The collection is
impressive and varied, there are explanations in English, and
our experience of other similar exhibitions enabled us to
appreciate and select the best of this one.  Pharaoh  Seti I
took time out from talking to his god after death to greet us.

The main highlight

of course, is the original
 bust of Nefertiti, of which we had seen the copy in Cairo
(There is a claim by a Swiss archeologist
that the bust is really a 1912 fake.). She is really impressive, both in her
beauty and in the wonder of the preservation of the sculpture
and the texture of its surface.  The Germans are refusing
to return her to Egypt claiming that the bust is too fragile
to be transported. 
In the cafe afterward, we got
to discussing this with a German lady who sat next to us, and
from there on into a long conversation on various subjects for
a whole hour which culminated in exchanging names and

Today we went with the family

to see the Biosphere in Potsdam.
This entailed a long ride by various forms of public transport
and then a ten minute walk, but the weather has been kind since
we got here - somewhat wet but no temperatures much below
freezing. The biosphere encloses an artificial climate with
tropical plants and animals, birds, butterflies and many exotic
types which are mostly exhibited in terraria, aquaria or cages.
It was very interesting, the children ran along the paths
exploring and we followed taking it all in. An angry gekko
hissed and clawed at us through the glass and several very well
disguised insects were very difficult to distinguish from their
surroundings. Bats hung from the ceiling.

Here, however, everything was in German, with no
concessions to speakers of other languages. In the evening a
young couple of friends came to dinner - a Swiss convert to
Judaism who has completed a Ph.D in Islamic studies at Yale and
is post-doctoring in Berlin with his Israeli wife and two young
children... you don't get much further than that for
multi-culturism! we had some interesting conversation. The
couple speak Hebrew between themselves, also Schweitzerdeutsch
to the little boy, but he was born in the the US and now goes to
kindergarten in Berlin, so he has four languages already! the
second child is only seven months' old and non lingual so far.

Sunday was packing, a farewell breakfast and homeward bound. A
boarded a train for Frankfurt and Y a plane.  After a bit of confusion, we
managed to meet at Frankfurt Airport and catch the Lufthansa night flight home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

RandA or Rafi's trip to London: July 2009

How Rafi after his Bar Mitzva took his Saba and off they
went to see London and its historical sites.

RandA London July 2, 2009

We left Winnipeg together with Yosefa on Tuesday 30.6, said
farewell to her in Toronto where she went to be Tata Fifa to
little Hillel. We flew on to London with Air Canada, a suitably
boring flight. We arrived and made our way to the hotel. This
was and is a major disappointment and Odelia who recommended it
will have her ears pasted back when I get home. It claims to be
an apartment hotel, but the room is tiny and up four flights
with no elevator. There are rudimentary cooking facilities, but
no breakfast is served. The TV is a joke with a rabbit ear
antenna that gets nothing. Rafi does not seem to mind so we
will not let it spoil our fun. This morning we found a source
of grilled cheese sandwiches so Rafi had a breakfast. The same
snack bar scrambled eggs for me.

Today we went to the Tower Hill tube station to
meet our guide for the trip to Greenwich. She is a charming
white haired lady with a wealth of information stored
underneath her hair.

The boat ride was lovely and Kim the
guide took us around historic Greenwich with a full detailed
set of gossipy tales ranging from the 11th to the 19th
centuries. After she left us we repaired to a pub for lunch,
I fish & chips plus beer and Rafi a side of chips and a few
pints of apple juice.

We next climbed the hill to the Royal Observatory where we saw
the history of time and a planetarium show.

The museum of time and longitude was fascinating and then of course we had to straddle the Earth and have a foot in each hemisphere:

We then spent an
hour each online at an Internet cafe and returned to London by
train. We spent the evening in a cinema watching the sort of
fantasy action film that teenagers love. I found it silly,
but the theater was air conditioned and more comfortable than
the room.

And now to quote Mr. Pepys, who visited the observatory
often, and so to bed.

Friday July 3
Today was not the most successful of days. We overslept
because of the late film and missed our planned walking tour
of the old Jewish quarter of London. We got off the tube at
Westminster and walked over to the Aquarium where we spent an
interesting few hours, although the place was crowded and
noisy with school classes and mamas in hijabs shepherding
masses of children around. We see the demographic future of
Europe before our eyes.
After Rafi finished his souvenir shopping we went back to the
hotel to drop off the stuff and change cameras. Yesterday
I forgot to take the camera to Greenwich and bought at
disposal Kodak at the appropriately punnish shop named
Traders Gate at the Tower.
After that we decided to go to St. Paul's Cathedral. We had a
minor lunch crisis resolved by finding a pizzeria and then took
a ride in a double decker bus to Trafalgar Square where we
noted Adm. Nelson on his column

and a bust of Cunningham the
last British ruler of our country on a plinth. I am pleased to
report to you that Gen. Cunningham was appropriately visited by
a pigeon while we were there. The square is being tarted up in
style for tomorrow's pride parade. I append a picture that puts
it in perspective...

and shows that there is no
discrimination at the highest
of municipal levels.
From there we went to the canonical
internet cafe to write to our families and then took another
double decker bus back to our hotel in nowhere land.

Shabbat is
upon us soon and we shall see how we deal with it.

Saturday July 4, evening

First happy Fourth to our American friends although it was not
noted here in London.

After a bit of discussion that included Rafi' suggestion that
we walk to the Zoo, we ended up going there about noontime by a
combination of underground, bus and walking. The London Zoo is
famous and indeed we saw many fascinating things, although I
think the ballyhoo is somewhat exaggerated. In fact, the Ramat
Gan Zoo and Safari offer no less, although there were a few
exotic animals not found everywhere. The message is heavy
conservation and rain forest preservation propaganda, very well
done and we hope effective.

Members of the family who know the Zebra stripes story will certainly be impressed by this character from the narrative:

I append a modern sculptor's concept of Mr. Tiger, Sir:

We stayed until closing time and
then came home via bus and rail but by a different route.

rested in the room for a while and then went out for a meal

I phoned my dear friend Yael and she invited us to dinner on
Wednesday evening. Rafi should feel at home with a double dose
of Ari-age kids in the form of their twins, Iris and Opher.

Sunday July 5, evening

Today we had to get out early because the local underground
line, the Jubilee, was closed all day for works of various
types and we had get down to the center by bus. It worked out
OK and we reached Tower Hill in time to join the tour of the
old Jewish Quarter,

i.e. the East End of London. We had an
excellent and knowledgable guide named Judy

who knows all the
ins and out of the history of the Jews of London. We saw the
old Portuguese synagogue

where Montifiori had been a member as
well as the Disraeli family who converted their children to the
Anglican church while remaining Jewish themselves. Rafi was suitably impressed
by all this.

We went
through the old Whitechapel market and old Petticoat Lane and
many other fascinating things and places. For example the old soup kitchen
for poor Jews:

The violin in the sidewalk marks the site of the old Yiddish
theater of London. The theater was quite popular in its time,
but after a fire stampede it closed and the owner went on to
start a Yiddish theater in New York.

The Jews have more or
less moved out, but the synagogue serves Jews who work in the
City during the week and an older congregation (about 60
people) on Shabbat. We then wandered through the marketplace
which is now Bangladesh West as you can see from this former synagogue

and found a nice Italian
restaurant in the neighborhood of Spitalfields. There are also restaurants
whose names evoke statistical associations...sorry about that.

A fellow tourist took a shot of us:

I would never
have come to these places on my own. I highly recommend this
tour to anyone who comes to London.

After lunch, things became confused. The web site had
announced the Harry Potter tour for 1700, but when we found no
one at the site, we checked the printed pamphlet and found that
it had gone off two hours earlier. I thought it was because of
synching my Palm with the computer, but indeed the discrepancy
was theirs. It may be because I downloaded in June and now they
have a July timetable. Tomorrow I shall found out about the
difference in the time set for the Westminster Abbey tour.

Despite the loss of the HP tour,it was a good day and we did
very well together.

Monday July 6, evening

Today was quite a busy and successful day. In the morning we
joined a walking tour called Secrets of Westminster Abbey. Our
guide Mary knows the gossip since the days of Edward the
Confessor and of course Henry III who rebuilt the Abbey on the
site of the church and monastery build by Edward the Confessor.
We visited a large number of illustrious dead people from many
walks of life and various eras. Photography is forbidden in the
Abbey, so we have no pix to show. I have been there in the past
more than once, but this was my first guided tour. I have no
idea what Rafi took away from it,but he will have the memory.

In the afternoon, we did the ultimate, we flew The Eye of
London. This is a monster Ferris wheel (135 meters in
diameter) on the pier near
Westminster. It gave us a beautiful view of London and was a
real experience. I probably would never have done it were it
not for being on tour with Rafi. I append a few samples of the view and
of Rafi the astronaut.

There are a few Dali statues on the walk along the pier that I
found interesting.

We then repaired to an Internet cafe and I chatted with both
Yosefa and Hadass while Rafi communicated with his brother Ari
and his sister Shira.

Tuesday, July 7, evening

Today was a day with no particular tours, although there had
been a tentative plan to do the Westminster history gig.
Instead I let Rafi sleep in until 0830 since he had been
complaining of fatigue. We retrieved our travel documents from
the safe and made our way by bus to King's Cross. The bus line
was new to us and wended its way through Hampstead which I knew
not at all. We bought his train ticket to Edinburgh and then he
asked to see Buckingham Palace. Off we went to Green Park,
strolled through the Park in the off and on rain and viewed the
royal residence. Rafi asked if the guards in the booths were
real people or statues, which says something about discipline
and immobility.

We continued our walk through Whitehall, had some lunch, posed
the Abbey with Rafi, with the drizzle doing its intermittent
thing. We saw the well guarded entrance to Downing St. and since Mr.
and Mrs. Brown

did not appear eager to invite us in for tea, we went on. We
saw the base of a battalion of Grenadier Guards with a phone number for anyone interested in joining and a horse guard as well.

At Trafalgar Square we found a book shop which was something I
had promised him. He spent a bundle of his own money on books
and we proceeded by bus to Hanley's toy store for Ma'ayan's
gift. I could not find Fischer so he will have to settle for
Meccano. Rafi went a bit wild buying presents for his sibs so I
bailed him out.

As we headed for the exit, the sky opened up and the grandpa of
thundershowers hit us. I was amazed to see that the drainage
on Regent St. failed and the sidewalks flooded. Eventually we
reached an underground station and wended our way back to the
hotel. For a free day, it was quite adventurous.

Tomorrow we shall tour the Tower of London, which, according
to Yosefa, is a must for anyone visiting here. In the afternoon
we are at the British Museum and in the evening dinner with
Yael and her family.

Wednesday, July 8, evening

Indeed we went to the Tower and has a fascinating tour with an
excellent guide. Unfortunately we left the camera in the room,
but I bought a disposable and managed to take some pictures.
BTW, we did the same thing on the Greenwich tour on our first
day. I will make digital pix of them at home and fit them all
into the blog.
The Tower and its environs

are a metaphor for all English
history and Brian the guide knows all the ins and outs. Much of
the history is quite cruel and gory, but that seems to be the
way of the world. Many of the kings were not nice guys,but
presumably they had heard of Leo Durocher, the great American
philosopher (of baseball) who left behind the dictum "nice guys
finish last" which has yet to be disproved. The Tower does contain
some creepy places

We saw the Crown Jewels and were suitably impressed. In my next incarnation I might apply to be a royal, although without the implication of decapitation as in the old days. Rafi seemed quite taken with the place:

We did not make it to the British Museum because the Tower tour
was longer than we expected. Now we are in the room packed and
ready to take off tomorrow, Rafi for Edinburgh and I to the
airport for my early flight on Friday. We shall soon get on our
way to dinner with Yael, Yonni et al.

Dinner was great and I greatly enjoyed touching base with Yael
and Yonni. Rafi hit it off beautifully with the twins and they
had a wonderful time together. At the end, Yael drove us home
and we geared up for the morning.

Saturday, July 11 at home

On Thursday morning we took a taxi to King's Cross, dropped my
stuff at left luggage, had a quickie breakfast at a Nero kiosk
and made our way to track 1 where the train to Edinburgh was
waiting. I parked Rafi in his reserved first class seat and off
he went. There is no longer a need for a platform ticket, you
simply walk up to the train and board it.
As soon as he left, I began to miss him.

I spent the morning and early afternoon at the British Library
which I strongly recommend to anyone who is visiting London. In
the evening, I went to a hotel at Heathrow and yesterday flew
home to Yosefa who was waiting at the airport. It was a fun
trip for me and I hope for Rafi.