In which there is a new draft, a new shape, twice as much lace, and a few gifs for good measure.Read More
So, here's the thing. When you're a student, you spend most of your time either in a classroom or doing homework. Sometimes all of your time. Sometimes so much time that there's none left to spend on sleeping. Or eating. Or friends. When you're working, it's the same although I've been lucky so far to not have the kind of work that comes home with me, past the occasional entertaining story at the dinner table. When you're travelling, there's no time for crafty business but it's alright because SELFIES! Sorry..It's alright because you're enriching your knowledge of culture and diversity and taking pictures of all of the exciting things (ahem)... There's not a lot of time for craftiness, unless you make it.
Unless you're in a holding pattern between Job A, Job B, and more travelling- in which case, you attempt to make up for all the crafting time lost!
I made this dress last month- in October- and it was the first dress I'd made yet this year, which is tragic. I have since nearly finished one more and have plans and fabric for a third, but that number is still much too low for something on my list of favorite things to do.
I found this fabric without really looking at Joanns, and brought home enough to make 'some kind of dress'... Sometimes there's a plan, most times there's not.
I drafted the lace-up bodice pattern myself, and then just kind of made up the skirt part as I went. The fact that this pattern only exists in my head, though, doesn't mean it can't be learned from.
- 3 yards Brown Floral Fabric (100% Cotton)
- 1/2 yard Contrasting Grey Floral Fabric (also 100% Cotton)
- 12 ft. of Grey Paracord
- 10 Spacer beads (for lacing)
- Contrasting silk thread for topstitching
- Zipper (I eventually replaced mine with a metal one, after my invisible zip ended up having a flaw)
- Lining fabric (I used some undyed muslin from the stash because I'm thrifty like that)
Having a bias tape maker was also helpful, since there's a lot of that in this dress. Also the usual sewing machine, needles appropriate for the job, etc.
After making a mockup out of cheap woven fabric I keep around for precisely that job, and making sure it fit how I wanted it to, I started working on the bodice. I consists of 7 panels- center front with princess seams, then side front, side back, and center back. The center back piece supports the lacing. I had originally planned for the zipper to be at the center back, but that kind of went out the window when I decided there needed to be bias tape at the waist and a little design under the lacing. Side zips are easier to manage getting in and out of anyways.
After I had the bodice constructed, I made the entire 1/2 yard of grey contrasting fabric into 1/4" Bias tape. If you're unfamiliar and you wish to be, there are excellent tutorials for this in most quilting books, which is how I refreshed my memory. I used a few inches of the tape to bind the center front, and then cut two 72" pieces that bound the reset of the top edge, starting with the center back at the base of the lacing and then going up under the arms. When these pieces met the princess seam in the front, they became the straps, which cross in the back and then lace down. The bias tape is handstitched (invisible mattress stitch- my favorite!) closed over lengths of paracord which I used to add strength and roundness to the straps. I finally found an use for the stuff!
After adding the skirt (just six triangular pieces- take the waist measurement of the bodice, divide by six- that's the measurement of each skirt panel, add seam allowance of course. The hem measurement was based on maximizing the fabric I had leftover.) I decided it needed some extra flair, so I used some of my (plentiful) leftover bias tape to add interest at the waist and hem. These pieces were pinned in place while Lucille wore the dress, and then machine top-stitched with yellow silk thread. I like silk because it tangles less, and the thread has a different sheen than cotton or polyester- and it stands off the surface in a lovely way. I also generally try to avoid sewing with polyester thread if what I'm sewing into is cotton. I'm not actually sure if it matters, but I like it anyways.
The hem is more bias tape (continuity!) with a top-stitched piece 2 1/2" from the bottom. Because of the way the bodice is made, the skirt is lower in the back than it is in the front- the perfect length so that I'm not sitting my bare legs down on chairs and such! The nice thing about making your own clothes is that you can account not only for the way you're shaped, but the way you prefer to wear them. All my store-bought dresses are a bit short, so I compensate by making all my handmade dresses a bit long. Things even out.
I hope that if you happened upon this blog because you're interested in dressmaking- that I have provided you with at least a bit of an explanation of the proceedings. One of the best parts about making new clothes is getting to wear them though, so that's what's happening next!
Less than a week after finishing this dress, I drove up to the lovely city of Chicago for two days to catch up with Jon.
The weather was spotty, but acceptable. We were for a short time trapped in a Starbucks due to the rain, but even that wasn't too bad. We spent a day in the Museum of Science and Industry which was fantastically awesome- albeit dimly lit so photos were difficult.
The building the museum is in is mostly underground so it looks oddly small on the outside- and then you wander in and realize that there are 12 planes including a Boeing 747 hanging from the ceiling...
This is a wonderful place! Full of not only exhibits that teach science in interesting ways (Launching balls across rooms over innocent bystanders below, anyone?) but also some pretty excellent historical artifacts.
There was a special exhibit while we were there called 'Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives' which had a whole chronology of Disney- from the movies and shows to Disneyland itself. There were examples of the multi-plane camera technology he used early on, plus lots of models, sketches, and video clips, and some incredibly exciting newer stuff...like, say, costumes from some recent films...!
I had no idea that these would be here and I think there was probably a scary amount of excitement going on...especially when I turned around:
I MADE Alice and the hatter from photos right after this movie came out- I may have taken some liberties with the hatter, but seeing in person that my Alice was spot on- that was such a cool feeling. I'm sure that I got some strange looks for the complete freak out I had about the whole thing.... even Sheep was looking at me like I was a little nuts-o. Worth it. Worth it times a million.
After the Museum, we walked around the zoo for a bit (I love cities with free zoos. St. Louis's is totally better though...Sorry, Chicago) and then headed off to Gino's for some super tasty Chicago-Style Deep Dish pizza.
The thing you have to understand about Chicago style deep dish pizza is that it's basically cheese, flaky crust, a little bit of tomato sauce and toppings, and then some cheese... and some more cheese.
The thing you have to understand about me is that I love cheese.
That's really all you need to know.
Day two of Chicago was some exploring of shops, and general walking about the city. What more fitting than to see this totally epic two story display of old sewing machines in front of a clothing store... in a dress I made myself! Many selfies were had by all... especially since we have some of the sewing machines that were displayed behind me.
I got lots of complements on my dress while we were walking around the city, and I love when strangers tell me I've done a good job on something like that... They have no motivation to lie to you so you know you're doing alright.
We sat in a park to people-watch and were at one point offered free cookies- which is the marker of a fantastic day- and sheep was indeed very unhappy when it was time to leave.
Chicago is another city I hope to be able to explore more at some point, and it seems like a pretty spectacular place to live- if a little windy. It's nice also to be in such close proximity to the great lakes, because those are always good for an adventure or two. I'm so happy to be able to finally get back into making moderately large-scale projects again, something I've missed pretty incredibly basically the whole time I've been in school. Obviously, having a job slows things down a little but not as much as school ever did. There are so many more dress-related projects and assorted other crafty adventures to come, and I have never been so excited with the prospect!
It's incredible to me- and I don't think you can understand it unless you've experienced it- how quickly the people you meet in the places you end up go from strangers to best friends. I met so many people at camp, and I won't forget a single one of them. They're all such wonderful people, and sure, some of them got on my nerves sometimes (six cups of my coffee at once, Wojciech. We have to ration the caffeine!) and some of them I didn't get to know as well as I would have liked (Brodsky- even though I'm still not sure if you're a bigger feminist than me, you're still pretty awesome.) The only thing I can think that might be responsible for all the bonds we've formed is the environment that camp has created for us. Whatever it is, these people are my people now- and I love them all.
One very special and particularly important person is the reason I not only retained my sanity, but also ended up with rainbow hair for half of the summer! Ashley, it seems that this is the only photo I have of us together- which is tragic- but at least that night was loads of fun! I'll have to come to New Jersey and then we can take a million selfies and I'll do a blog post all about our adventures.
We both stayed up way past bedtime and painted a Manic Panic rainbow into my hair:
After sending her an early-morning completed-hair selfie so that we could make sure that she was the first to see it (that's only fair)- I paraded this new look around for the rest of camp!
As a side note to all you boys and girls out there who are afraid to dye your hair interesting colors because you're afraid you'll reduce your job prospects- that is silly. If I can do this, so can you. Rainbow hair, much like Camp, is all about expressing yourself in ways the rest of the world may not necessarily agree with, and it's a good way to test out things before you take them out into the real world. I, for the record, also got hired and currently have a full time job in the field I went to college for and was hired for said job with this very head of rainbow hair.
Take that, society.
My freshly rainbowed hair coincided (totally on purpose) with my last two days off, which were spent wandering the busy streets of Boston and having Huge Nerd Moments about history (and teaching a certain person from New Zealand that The Boston Tea Party was not a literal tea party)...
Boston is a really excellent city for history-viewing, because it's all in a very small, walkable area and they even have these clever lines in the sidewalk (the freedom trail) to let you know if you're close to something, and what it is. Paul Revere, incidentally, is buried in the same cemetery as Mother Goose, so we got to see that too. After time spent in some really interesting and cool graveyards, we headed to a shopping area to people watch (and, okay, maybe shop a little tiny bit...)
I found this giant rainbow slinky in Newbury Comics, and obviously a girl with rainbow hair who finds her first giant rainbow slinky has to document the experience...
Day two centered around a field trip to the Science Center- which is located next to a loch, and whose main set of windows overlooks a pretty spectacular skyline. There's also a butterfly house on the roof (also overlooking said skyline)- which makes it practically the coolest thing I can currently think of.
They say if a butterfly lands on you it's good luck- but what if it doesn't stay there long enough for you to take a photo? One of this little guy's friends sat on my wrist for a couple of seconds until he was distracted by a colorful flower.
These butterflies (much like the sheep in Bath or the ones in the pasture next to Stonehenge) don't know how jealous I am that their views are better than mine.
On our way to a fantastic little Irish Pub for dinner, we passed the site of the Boston Massacre, and Sheep insisted that we stop for selfies. Sheep insists that this is the epitome of American tourism and is not an opportunity to be missed.
City Hall, where that particular historical event occurred, obviously still exists in Boston. The incredible thing about it, though, is that nothing else that originally surrounded it is still intact. Instead, it's been blocked in by tall skyscrapers and taller skyscrapers. That little building has a completely different view of the world than it did when it was built, and I think it's really wild that we get to experience it in this way.
Boston was a great city, and perfect for doing all those touristy things you think about doing in places like that. It was, however- and very surprisingly so- the first city I've ever been to that I don't think I'd want to live in. Places give you vibes I think, and Boston is a place of rushing and doing and getting done, and I'm not really looking for that kind of thing presently. It seemed disconcertingly... normal. Weird.
In between all the sports photography I was up to during the day, I used my nights (and occasional early mornings) to my advantage. I love nighttime photos, so that sort of worked out. Opportunities like this sort of make up for all the balls you get hit with... occupational hazard.
Just as things were beginning it seemed, the end of the eight weeks was upon us. I made my end-of-summer slideshows, we packed all the kids into busses to airports and trains, and suddenly camp was much emptier than it had been. I was feeling a little down when I got on my plane, but was swiftly cheered up by a very friendly delta flight attendant who presented Sheep and I each with a pair of Delta wing pins. Sheep wore his all the way home, and so did I.
Camp couldn't have been a more wonderful experience. I don't actually know what I was expecting when I signed up in February (other than that I'd be able to delay getting a grown-up job by a few more months) but it turned out to be one of the most incredible summers I've had in my (short? long? time is relative, grasshopper) life. I've made friends from Canada to New Zealand, and I have couches to crash on all over the world. We all made some pretty spectacular memories, and I wouldn't have changed a thing (except I maybe would have brought, like, three more hoodies and a sweater. Nights are cold in Maine...)
In addition to having made approximately 90 friends (and four or five new best friends)- and getting a chance to spend at least a little bit of time with that pesky sister of mine who was too busy travelling the world last year to be home pretty much at all- I also somehow evolved from a sun and physical activity/sports hating indoor person to a fairly outdoorsy, somewhat tanned person who hates sports slightly less. Okay, perhaps 'evolved' is too strong a word...No miracles were performed at camp (at least none by me...) but I realized there's a lot more on the list of things I can do than I previously thought. I managed, for example, for the first time in my life to kick a soccer ball in exactly the direction I intended for it to go. I climbed (the easy side of) the rock wall, and took photos of kiddos from the top. I even attempted baseball, which hasn't been a thing for years. I swam in the ocean, and I climbed a mountain.
I did literally climb a mountain but it's also a metaphor.
It's possible I would have learned all that stuff and tried all those things on my own accord, but it most likely would have taken me years to make it happen. Camp provides a safe and supportive place for everyone who shows up-campers and staff alike-to try things before they go back out into the real world; I took advantage of that, and it has instilled in me a desire to climb more mountains. As for the meeting of the people- there's no way that would have happened without camp, and I'm so happy to have met every single one of them. Even the weird ones.
Especially the weird ones.
Post graduation and Grand European Adventure, I took a job at a summer camp in the lovely state of Maine in an effort to delay the inevitable onset of Adulthood. For the record, this turned out to be an excellent plan. Besides, travelling by yourself on an airplane for the first time is kind of like adulthood...a little bit. It's like a test run. I met a woman at the airport on the way out who asked me what I was knitting, and through conversation it turned out that she was a pretty successful children's book author. I told her I wanted to be an illustrator (This is not an untruth, it's just that I also want to be a screen printer, dressmaker, editor, small business owner, knitwear pattern designer, photographer, and a graphic artist. The whole point of The Void is to give me more time to choose). She gave me her card, which is excellent and very exciting! I was off to a great start- knitting in public places is one of the best ways to meet people. Especially knitting in public places with unusually colored hair.
This is as close as I have ever been to New York City: My flight had a connection in LaGuardia, and we flew almost right over the city.
Sheep had a grand time looking out the window, because he has never seen New York either. I think. I mean, he could have taken a trip while I was sleeping or something. Regardless, I get the feeling he was feeling pretty excited about the whole thing.
When we got off the first plane (and you must understand that by 'we' what I actually mean is 'Sheep and I')- we were greeted by a much smaller one for the next leg of the trip. Much Smaller.
Some already-present counselors picked a group of us up the airport, and we all headed back to camp. Upon arrival, I spent equal amounts of time being a reclusive weirdo, and attempting to present myself as a social and well-adjusted member of society (Lies! but it turns out nobody else really is either...) During the reclusive phases, I spent a lot of time wandering around camp (read: getting lost) taking photos of this new temporary home of mine.
Obviously, I can't post photos I took of the campers. I don't even have them anymore- but don't fear! I have plenty of photographic evidence that this summer happened. So much, in fact, that I've had to split it up into two blog posts. You'll notice that in all these photos I have pink hair, and in all the photos of the subsequent post, I have rainbow hair. That happened.
After a week of orientation, which mostly consisted of trying to decide whether as a photographer I was considered a counselor or admin (neither?), we were let out for one day off with our new friends. I went with a group of ten or so others to climb a mountain!
Okay, not a very big mountain and not all the way up- but it still counts.
Let's just have an aside really quick so we can talk about this thing. I went to climb a mountain. Me. She who was in an out of physical therapy and doctors appointments for five or six years, and only recently what one might consider functional, and even then sometimes only with the help of braces and splints. She who gets winded climbing stairs, and flat-out refused ladders for years. She whose knees sound like grinding gravel, and who frequently loses feeling in her arms if she lifts them above her head.
I decided to climb a mountain. I decided to go to a boy's sports camp and chase soccer balls so that I could photograph the action, and walked miles a day around and around so that I could catch all the kiddos at all the events. I do not know what possessed this little indoor Kat to leave her computer, but she did. And she climbed a mountain.
It's a metaphor.
Here's the thing about Maine. You've probably heard that they have excellent lobster (true) and seafood (also true)- that there are a lot of mountains and lakes and beautiful landscapes (very true. you'll see). You've probably also heard that Stephen King grew up there and wrote most of his horror stories based on that experience.
So there's a certain dichotomy going on here, and if you know me then you know that dichotomy is a thing I love. We'd be driving along these country roads in the middle of who knows where, and it would all be beautiful when suddenly we'd come upon something that seemed startlingly like it was fresh out of Cabin in the Woods (related note: excellent movie. Do not watch before bed.) I don't have photos of those things because I was for the most part busy being weirded out by 'why is that gas station covered in hubcaps?' and 'who would put a boat in their front yard if it looked like that'
But we were talking about a mountain.
So, Tumbledown is a mountain that used to be a volcano that has a crater in the top, and that crater is filled with rainwater- and there's an entire ecosystem contained in that rainwater-filled crater lake. So we hiked up a mountain to go swimming! There's a thing you don't get to do every day. I have absolutely zero photos from the way up the mountain because I was trying not to die (d'you remember the bit about being winded climbing stairs?) but I did take photos at the top!
Sheep also quite enjoyed the view, although he did not go swimming in the lake.
So- I survived the upward journey, and I went swimming in a lake at the top of a mountain, and also had lunch and let some fish nibble at my toes- and after a few hours and loads of pictures, we headed back down.
Down was not actually better than up, but I did remember to take pictures.
English Peter (not to be confused with Irish Peter) led Sophie astray on the way down and they ended up lost for a period of time, but they turned up at the bottom, so crisis averted. It also turns out that walking downhill isn't great for questionable knees (much worse than up, surprisingly) so I didn't really do much in the way of movement for a while after that, but it was still totally worth it.
I climbed the heck outta that mountain.
It was late when we got back to camp, but we all ended up on couches in a basement watching Sherlock Holmes (The Robert Downey Jr. one)- and it was a great last day before the kids arrived. Orientation week at summer camp is a lot like actually being a camper, and it was a little disconcerting when the kids finally did show up...
Here's a picture of a rock:
So, mountain climbing aside, camp started and things got hectic. I was taking a couple hundred photos a day, and uploading them to the website at night so the kids parents could see how much fun they were having. After I weeded out all the ones with the weird faces. Let's talk about the faces people make when they place sports. It's weird. you'll have to take my word for it, as all those photos are safe on a hard drive in camp's winter offices right now. Somewhere in between all the hectic days though, I had a spectacularly excellent 22nd birthday.
I decided to attempt to do all the things from Taylor Swift's song '22', the first of which is 'Dress up like hipsters'. I had to improvise with a pair of not-my-high-waisted-shorts, and at one point I had a plaid shirt. T Swift also has cat ears in the music video which I felt was appropriate, so I spent some time in the Arts and Crafts shed and made myself a pair.
Annie and Lindsey serenaded me with the song, and I definitely cried a little and am not ashamed. There was also cake:
and Sophie and Jon left me a pile of pink balloons with entertaining things drawn on them, so I took selfies with them:
Overall, having accomplished nearly all of the things on the to-do list provided by Taylor Swift, this birthday was a wonderful one. There was some debate about whether 'breakfast at midnight' should occur on the midnight preceding or succeeding the birthday itself, but I ended up falling asleep before I could decide, two nights in a row... I did miss the 'birthday girl gets to choose what she wants to eat for dinner' tradition at home, but it was worth it. Especially when I went to take pictures of the littlest campers, and none of them were there until Karen yelled 'Hi Kat!' and they all came out from behind trees and cabins and started yell-singing happy birthday at me. Have you ever had 60 eight to ten year olds sing happy birthday to you all at once? I bet not. It was one of the best moments of the entire summer.
We're given a few days off throughout the summer (4) and my first one was spent in Portland, which is about an hour away from camp. Portland is wonderful, and from my day-long impression, a very hipster place. Young and full of life and just a tiny bit weird- in the good way. We spent a good bit of time just wandering and observing what we came across- for example the chain link walls of this small bridge are covered in padlocks.
My impression of Portland was that I would like to live there. It worries me that I get pretty much exactly that impression from all of the places that I visit. Maybe I'd like to spend some time in a brick apartment building like this, and people-watch passers by from the fire escape.
We also did a lot of window shopping, because windows is about as far as you get on a summer camp budget- but there were some beautiful things that I may even be able to make in the future- like this hanging stained glass piece made with the bases of crystal and carnival glass wine glasses. Who cares if I don't actually know anything about stained glass...
A small graffiti bird on a huge construction wall brightened up a street corner:
Do you remember how I mentioned that Maine is known for its lobster? The state is mostly coastline, and summer is lobster season- so what better time to try it than on a day out on the town in Portland?
We stopped at a place that was built on a dock overlooking the harbor. There was live music, an awesome atmosphere, and of course- the fresh-caught daily lobster selection for dinner! Although this wasn't the first time I'd had lobster, it was definitely the first time I'd had A lobster. They literally come with instructions. I have mixed feelings about food that you need instructions to eat, but the glorious taste of lobster dipped in butter kind of negates any argument I was going to make about that. And I am absolutely wearing the lobster bib.
So, basically- Portland is wonderful, lobster is awesome, and I would absolutely live there given the chance. It was a refreshing break to be able to walk around and just pick a direction whenever we wanted to. And there were no kiddos yelling "Hey Kat! Get an action shot!"- If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me this summer...
Back at camp, things continued as normal. Someone left a can of temporary spray-in hair dye in my mailbox, so I went blue for a day which threw some people off considerably ("No!! I liked the pink!"). I sort of figured that the gift giver would come forward and claim responsibility for the awesomeness that ensued, but they never did- so thank you, random friend, for being such a wonderful enabler!
The next day off was spent on a beach.
Before we get further into this, you should know that beaches and I have a history, and it basically boils down to this: I am not fond of sunlight, sand, or saltwater, and beaches are all of these things.
We picked a good day for beachgoing though, because the sun remained hidden most of the day but the rain waited until we'd left. So that takes care of the sunlight problem. As for the sand, there was a bit there in the beginning where I was cursing whatever part of me agreed to this plan... ("there's sand in my shoes! there's sand between my toes, it's going to get in my hair and everywhere. Whose plan was this? Why did I agree to come here?! I've been tricked! The cake is a lie!")- and I spent twenty minutes or so on a bench with my feet tucked up under me and a towel over my head.
I adjusted, though. I think if this summer proved anything, it proved that I am capable of adjustment, and that I Tried New Things And Didn't Even Die.
There's me, before I decided that I was going to actually get more than my feet wet. It was a little chilly but the kind that you get used to after you're in. Eventually I stopped taking ridiculous selfies and went swimming. I went in all the way up to my neck, but I didn't get my head wet. I didn't know what the saltwater would do to my hair...
First time swimming in the Atlantic ocean in.... a lot of years! and it was just so much fun!
There- we're halfway through the Maine adventure, and you'll notice that something very colorful happens in the next post. So far, the summer was turning out to be so much more than I ever could have expected it to be, and things were on an upward swing. I climbed a mountain, swam in the ocean, and took So. Many. Pictures. And- as someone said at some point- the best is yet to come!
Well, here it is: The last installment in the story of The Grand European Adventure. No worries, though- There are about to be a lot of exciting things going on around here.
So, I'm a little mad about Berlin- and this is for two reasons. First, we weren't even there for two full days which is just not enough as it turns out, and second because it was the last not-quite-two-days of the trip, and all involved parties were exhausted and just really wanted to sleep a lot. I would like to go back to Berlin. I would like to absorb its beauty, and marvel at the oldness and the newness and the general uniqueness of its situation. I would like to experience the culture because in the 1.75 days that I was there it was apparent that theirs is a culture worth experiencing. I would like to go to the nightclubs and raves, and be alternative and punk, and I want to spend more time in that strange world where my colorful hair is more normal than your natural hair. Berlin questions everything, and takes nothing at face value simply because it is or has been that way. I want to do that with them.
The first thing I saw when I stepped off the train in Berlin was a girl with green hair. The second thing I saw was a boy with orange hair. There is a punk culture here like you wouldn't even believe. I fit in less for the touristy American clothes I was wearing than I did for my hair- which, let me tell you, is a new thing for me. I spent a bit of time wishing I'd brought some of my [vast] collection of snarky t shirts...
The weather was beautiful for most of the two days we spent there, so we walked all over the place and saw a great many things. Here's an older style bridge surrounded by an entirely modern city. It's all like that- a combination of new wedged in between old. Our hostel was actually a beautiful old hotel that's being slowly restored. There are places where new windows lean up against walls in hallways, waiting to be put up, and the grand marble staircases are dusty with disuse but ever beautiful just the same. Someday, it will be beautiful and I would like to see it when it's finished. Meanwhile, there's a rabbit hutch in the courtyard- if that's the sort of thing that floats your boat. I was fond of the fluffy bunnies. It was also very close to a still standing section of the Berlin Wall, so that was our first stop.
The wall runs along a road, and has been covered in paint and graffiti, some of which is sectioned off murals done by artists from all over the world:
Graffiti means something different in Germany than it does in the States- Here, it's something you try to scrub off or cover up, but in Berlin graffiti is something desirable- you're sort of more considered more authentic if your building is colored. The entire city is covered and just so very colorful. The wall is something they're generally trying to forget about- the city is moving on, as well it should, but this section stands as a monument to prove that not all bad things have to end up that way.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the 'many small people' one, especially since the Berlin Wall makes you feel so very small indeed. It sort of gives me hope that maybe the way I choose to live my life will in turn make someone else's life change for the better as well. We as individuals sometimes feel insignificant in the Great Void of the universe, but we can move mountains.
Mostly, it's just really cool that they've turned this into a colorful monument to hope and change, even though a lot of people want to hide and forget that particular slice of history.
After we walked down the longest still standing section of the Berlin Wall (which isn't actually all that long, maybe a few blocks) we field tripped up a ways to see some very cool government buildings, and the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor). If you're planning a trip, this is an excellent spot for people-watching, because it's right on a big open space, it's touristy but also with a lot of local types walking around too. Also the American Embassy is conveniently located immediately to my right in this photo (Just off frame)
We ended up here twice, mostly because it was on our way, and we spent a lot of time because there was a surprise concert that we hung around at for a while. The lead singer had purple hair!- but there were too many people for pictures. Also riot police? Berlin has this thing going on with lots of enforcement-types with big guns. Machine guns for airport security guards, anyone? Don't think I didn't notice. Nothing eventful happened with that, though.
The Brandenburg gate is right up the street from a new and very interesting Holocaust memorial. It's large, imposing, and its job is to make you think. Right in a busy part of the city, only a few blocks from the embassies and the government buildings, it takes up an entire block.
There's Lill in the center for scale purposes.
The interesting thing about this place is that there's no documentation- you can read about it on the internet, sure, but if you're there standing in front of it there's no sign or explanation for its presence. it just is. And it is big. There's a small plaque with a year and the name of the artist, but that's only if you know where to look. The general idea is that you draw your own conclusions from it if you know why it's there, and if you don't then you're just mildly discomforted with its presence. That's what art, is about, right? Disturbing the comfortable? This memorial combines Berlin's desire to be modern with a need to remember its past.
We also visited the Jewish Museum, which was thoroughly interesting, although really deserved to have been split up over a series of two or three days. There's just a lot to take in. It's beautifully organized and curated, but it's also massive and four stories and packed with stuff to look at.
One of the things that the internet told us to do in Berlin was visit the Charlottenburg palace, so we made a special trip out (Okay, so the public transit system in Berlin is fabulous and it really wasn't that difficult to get to the other end of the city at all, so it's not like it was all that hard...) to see it- even though it got cold and rainy as soon as we got off the train and had to walk 6 blocks to see it.... We took cover under a building to eat lunch somewhere in there, but our attempt to wait out the rain was nonetheless successful.
The photos we took may have been a little drab, but we had a lot of fun despite the cold and rain.
Berlin was beautiful. This post probably seems all over the place and disjointed because all I have to work with are these little flashes from that part of the trip- we were so exhausted and so incredibly ready to go home and I think that colored the experience a little, but it was nonetheless one of my favorite parts of the trip. Lies, it was all my favorite. If I ever have an opportunity again to go back to any of these places, I would take it in a heartbeat- especially if I could spend even just a few more days in Berlin.
Just when we thought the trip was over- we were on out way home, sitting in the airport...we encountered one last adventure. Our plane was delayed overnight due to some kind of engine failure, so the airline put us up in a hotel (we were bussed there along with the 1 or 2 hundred other people who were also on the flight), and finally flew us out the next day. There was much confusion about this, and I have never experienced a concentration of unhappy people as high as that in the reticketing line the morning of the flight. (Seriously, dude- you huffing and pacing behind me is not actually going to make this line move any faster. )
On the bright side, over the two days that we were delayed, I finished an amount of baby blanket equal to that which I had finished over the two weeks preceding. I would have finished the blanket on the way home if I hadn't (been stupid) forgotten to get the last ball of yarn out of my checked bag.
So I modeled it in progress and took loads of selfies instead:
It was 67 degrees and 86% humidity when we stepped off the plane in St. Louis again, and the first thing I said when I got off the plane was "Nope! Take me back! I want to go back!" The weather is just so much more agreeable there...I didn't even mind the rain.
I finished the last section of blanket and bound off at camp a month or two later, but we're getting to that. Meanwhile I reentered the States with a load of passport stamps, souvenirs, and lots of worldly experience (Still not actually sure if I gained any worldly knowledge though) . I'm only sorry I couldn't blog on the go, because I would have been able to share daily instead of in only four installments with over three months between when it happened and when I wrote about it. I'll arrange something for my next big trip, though. Stick around and we'll get to that part of the story too- My world traveling adventures are far from over.
Our adventure began and ended in London- but before I begin the epic that is England, let me give you an idea about my feelings for London: I have, as souvenirs, obtained a London Underground mouse pad, coffee mug, and poster, a union jack scarf, English yarn from English sheep, English candy, and Many Many Pictures Of Everything.
So, you can imagine my excitement when London finally happened.
London was an adventure in three parts: the first section, the day we flew in, was that my sister Lillian and her friend Billy the British Paratrooper were going to pick us up from the airport. Heathrow has this big Arrivals hall where everyone comes out after passing through customs, and someone famous must have been flying in because there were all these teenage girls everywhere- a bunch of them yelled that they like my hair, which was pretty funny. We met up with Lill and Billy the British Paratrooper, and took off for the University of East Anglia, where they are studying. We never made it to school because there was an accident on the M11 involving a lorry, three cars, and a 'horse box' - and after being stuck in traffic for 3 hours the police told us to turn around on the highway and drive [on the American side of the road!!!] back the way we came. All the other ways to get back were blocked as well, so we gave up, exhausted and hungry but having had a good lesson on the colloquial differences between American English and British English- and also on the Cockney accent- and Billy the British Paratrooper was kind enough to show us around Essex, (a traditional carvery dinner, a pub, and some sheep painted on the ceiling of an underpass!!) and then let us crash in his house- but not before making us tea the authentic British way!
(Sorry that's the grainiest photo known to man... selfies in the dark tend not to end well, but SHEEP.)
Not only was Billy kind enough to let us stay in his house and eat his breakfast, he also drove us back to the airport the next morning at 4am to catch our flight to Ireland. Because Billy is the best.
After Ireland, which I told you about in the previous post (If you haven't read it, at least go back and look at the pictures, because Ireland is so beautiful and so green!), we flew back to London to continue our adventure there.
We took the tube from the airport to our hostel, which was about two blocks from King's Cross station. The automated voice said 'mind the gap', and I had a Huge Nerd Moment about that- you can ask Aric, I was probably embarrassing. That is why I was giggling like a mad woman every time the doors opened and closed...
The first full day was another bus trip- this time to see Stonehenge and Bath:
Stonehenge is technically an archaeological site- so we couldn't go all the way up to it- can't disturb the fragile earth. Also I guess they've had problems with graffiti in the past. It is, however, kind of located on a hill, so it was easy to take pictures of just the stones and crop out most of the tourists surrounding them.
It was surrounded by pastures full of sheep, and I consider it one of the greatest disappointments of my career as a photographer that I was not able to get both the sheep and Stonehenge in the same picture. I tried, though. Oh, how I tried. Also, my souvenir from Stonehenge is an eraser that just has the word 'ROCKS' on it in a huge point size- which I feel is an accurate description of what we saw there.
After not-an-actual-henge (actual henges have some kind of ditch dug around them that this one doesn't have...I think), we continued on to Bath, where there is a cathedral that is built tall because the angels needed to climb down the ladders from heaven.
D'you see the ladders? With the little stone angels climbing down? Also, check out those flying buttresses! The building there on the right is the entrance to the Roman Baths, which I'm getting to, I promise.
After exploring the city a bit, and having lunch at a place that boasted the city's best baguettes, (they were really good... also we met a gentleman who wrote for the New York Times there, and he and his wife were hilarious) we took a tour of the Roman Baths.
The neat thing about the Baths, is that the museum lets you explore what's left of the original Roman architecture, and gives you a pretty good idea of what it would have looked like back in the day. Check out this still-functioning drain, for example:
It still carries the leftover water from where it overflows from the baths into a very complex drainage system. How cool is that!
The main area had a lot of tourists crawling all over it, but this secondary area was empty. The baths aren't in use anymore, but there is a spa nearby that still uses the spring water for treatments. At the end of the museum, there's a fountain where you can try the water fresh from the spring. They really played up how it didn't taste like normal water, and it was gross and all that- but I tried it and it wasn't actually that bad. Just a very slight aftertaste, but nothing anyone shouldn't be able to handle. Since the Romans thought it had magical healing properties (and maybe it does- it has a lot of very good for you minerals in it), I also tried washing my hands in it. There were no immediate changes, but apparently it takes a few days to take effect.. plus, I didn't sacrifice anything to the Gods. It has, however, been two and a half weeks and my hands are behaving normally- so maybe there's something to it after all.
Almost all of the buildings in Bath are built from this same kind of stone, but this was the only one we saw with a porous version of it- part of the process that the water goes through before it emerges from the hot spring, is that it is filtered through porous rock like this deep in the ground. It was really cool to see it used in the buildings as well, since it is so integral to the city.
After not enough time at all, we were on the bus headed back to London. It was a beautiful day, and we both agreed that five hours was not enough time for Bath. We would like to go back and spend a week or so there- it's very laid back, and every inch is beautiful.
We got back into London around 7 that evening, explored the portion of the Thames along which lies the London Eye, Big Ben, and Parliament.
Going up in the Eye is expensive, but I think it's just as pretty from the ground anyways.
We decided to stick around and watch the sun set over Big Ben and Parliament, because I knew that Big Ben would be lit at night, and I sort of assumed that Parliament would be too.
It's a lot darker than I expected. Maybe because we light the White House so intensely here, I was expecting the same of such an important British building. We didn't get a chance to go see Buckingham Palace, so I don't know how that is lit at night. Big Ben was beautiful anyways, though.
The next day, we headed off to see the Tower of London- which is perhaps the biggest misnomer in British History. The Tower of London is a castle. Inside some walls, surrounded by a dry moat. I mean, don't get me wrong, it is very cool, and an excellent museum with lots of cool stuff- but a tower? A tower, it is not.
There are soldiers stationed at the Tower still, but it has mostly been converted into a museum.
Rather than one big tour, it is separated up into multiple sections, where you can learn about such things as the Kings that lived and ruled there, the history of English currency, conquests, armor and weapons- and, of course, the crown jewels. The benefit of this is that you can pick and choose what you see- the problem is that you have to try really hard to make sure you don't miss anything. We spent almost an entire day there. The crown jewels were awesome- even if they do put you on a people-conveyor so that you can't stand around them...and even if they don't let you take photos.
Tower Bridge (which is London Bridge if you're actually from London) was right outside the Tower walls
There was a little exhibit up inside there, but we heard it wasn't all that great, so we just took pictures instead. Many pictures.
That day was also an interesting day for pink hair and fashion sense: I actually don't know if it was the hair or the thigh-high argyle socks I was wearing, but I was glad I felt pretty okay with how I looked because people were staring. A lot. More than usual. Maybe it's because that area is really touristy, but whatever it was, it was weird. I did observe a distinct lack of tall socks in England, though, and that's not something I'm willing to give up. People are just going to have to stare, I guess.
If you're ever in London, I highly suggest you spend a day at the British Museum: entrance is free, and it has the biggest collection of ...stuff... that I have ever seen in one place. They have the Rosetta stone, rooms and rooms on ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Americas. As Billy puts it, "It's a bunch of stuff that we stole!"- and that's accurate. We stayed until close the first day, and then went back the day after.
Here's my story about the British Museum, though- I was wandering around one of the Egypt rooms- looking at this really cool beaded burial shroud that included a description of the restoration process that it went through before it was displayed because that's just the kind of nerd I am.... and this 12 or so year old kid walks up to me (right up to me. 3 feet away or so)- and he holds up his phone, and takes a picture of me! Flash and everything, it was completely the opposite of subtle. So I was just standing there, with my 'this is really interesting museum face' on, (my mouth was probably a little open, and there was probably a bit of Resting Bitch Face involved, because that is a thing that I do)- and the kid runs back to his group of perhaps 10 or 11 friends, and he holds up his phone and points at me! So of course, all his friends hold up their phones and start taking photos of me too! Flashes and everything. I wasn't aware that my pink hair was going to make me part of the Egypt exhibit, but there are now a dozen British schoolchildren with most likely terrible photos of me on their phones, and they're probably also on Facebook. It's like being famous, but with none of the perks.
Anyways, pink hair adventures aside, the next stop was Abbey Road, so we could do The Walk...
This turned out to be a hilarious train wreck, because there were a bunch of other people there, and at zebra crossings it's illegal to drive through if you even so much as see someone who might want to cross the road. So basically, all these people are standing with their toes in the crosswalk waiting for the cars to go by so they could do their walks, and all the cars are stopped, waiting for people to walk. It was a mess, but we timed our walks with lulls in the traffic, so there weren't too many cars. In order for the photo to be from the right angle though, the photographer has to be out in the road as well- so although we did the walk, the photos aren't quite right.
We also went and found both 221B Baker Streets- first the one on Baker Street, home of Sherlock Holmes, and now the Sherlock Holmes Museum,- and second, the one that is the filming location of BBC Sherlock- which is not on Baker Street at all. It is, however, really and actually the home of Speedy's restaurant and cafe, where we had breakfast!
We didn't actually go into the Holmes museum, because it was expensive and I heard that it wasn't all that great. It's a huge admission of my nerd-dom that I can say with fair certainty that I probably already know everything that the Holmes museum had to tell anyways. Fact of the day: 221B Baker Street didn't actually exist when Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his stories- the street didn't yet go down that far, so it was a made up address. Kind of like using 555- numbers in TV shows, I guess.
Also, here is a Very Important Picture of me knitting a recreation of Granny's baby blanket on the London Underground at the Baker Street station:
And some Sherlocks:
The Baker Street tube station is covered in tiny Sherlock Holmeses. Some of them even make up bigger Sherlock Holmeses!
These grainy photos do not even begin to establish how excited I was about Baker Street- I don't believe the words actually exist.
We found these phone booths on the way to the Transport Museum, which was awesome, especially since the history of London Transport is so interesting. Happy 151sth anniversary to the London Underground, wheee! I'm especially happy about the Underground sign in the background. The Transport Museum's gift shop is where I got the aforementioned mousepad, mug, and poster. They also sold things made from the fabric that the seats on the tube trains are upholstered with- it's called Moquette. Each line has its own unique pattern- my favorite was the Bakerloo line, which is kind of geometric honeycomb-esque. Aric said he's more of a Central Line man, although it is distinctly possible that he was being facetious. Here's a link if you want to check out the fabrics.
So that was London. After four short days there, we were on our way to Amsterdam. I wasn't happy to leave, but I definitely plan to go back. There is one part left to the London Adventure that I'm going to include with Berlin, because it didn't happen until the end of our trip. There have been negative opinions about the weather there, but it seems to me like the weather is specifically designed for fair skinned, easily-burnt people such as myself- plus it's cool, and distinctly lacking in humidity. The accents are wonderful, the people are great. People-watching on the tube is second to none. Plus, they have great television. The tea is excellent, and scones there are much better than the scones anywhere else. Basically, London is the best, and I want to go back.
Watch this space for the Adventures in Amsterdam with Pink Hair.