Sunday, June 29, 2008

English experience

We are indebted to our most excellent hosts, Steve and Alan, for making our arrival in England much softer after our difficult trip. They provided great food and a gathering with colleagues from my sabbatical at the Univ of Newcastle in 2006. Steve organized for me a presentation ("PowerPoint: Readin', Writin' and Rhetoric")at the Univ of Durham which was well attended with engaged and thoughtful scholars.

Beyond that, Steve took us on a tour of Hadrian's Wall which we couldn't manage in 2006. The weather was pretty raw, but occasional stops in pubs and tea rooms made it all quite enjoyable.

This is part of a Roman encampment--remains of the grainery. Notice the little columns which held the floor. Warm air was blown underneath to keep the grain dry. (Officers got similar quarters, but the regular soldiers did without.)

Here's view from the back gate of one of the forts along the wall. Notice the wall continuing around the trees on the right and proceeding to the summit of the crag.(See if you can follow it by clicking on the picture to expand it.) All this to keep the Scots from attacking from that direction.

Life got a bit better in England during the Victorian age. We visiting Wallington Hall(appropriate name--most every town or estate has some reference to the wall here). Here are some "classic" images of a Victorian estate and gardens:

A second excursion was to the homestead of the (George) Washington estate. Interestingly, it is in a town called Washington. The family roots were here, but George's family had moved to the colonies two generations before. The first picture is the kitchen; the second the outside of the hall; the third is the gardens in front of the hall.

Twenty-four hours later we are in Lugano, Switzerland.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Disaster En Route

After getting off to a promising start, our non-stop flight from SF to London was diverted to Calgary, Canada, when a passenger was taken seriously ill. The diversion--time spent circling to unload thousands of pounds of jet fuel, then about 2 hours on the ground figuring out a new flight plan and replacing the fuel--got us into London 3.5 hours late. Our connection was long gone (along with the money we paid for it) and we had to purchase an on-the-spot train ticket which ran us $400 for two--one way way.

We always figure in extra costs when we travel, but a total cost of $1,000 to get from London to Newcastle hurts. Now, the fun of filing appeals and claims to travel insurers.

I'm posting this from the train, which I really do like in spite of the cost. The English ountryside is green and lush right now as you can see from the image above.

Quite different from the Central Valley...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Getting ready

Yesterday we received documents and forms from the Swiss government allowing us to proceed with the work visa. Today we made a trip to the Swiss consulate in San Francisco to submit the material--time is very short and I need my passport back in hand to make the trip.

While it took three hours to get from Sacramento to SF (the traffic has not abated even with the price of gas at almost $4.50/gal), it only took about fifteen minutes in the consulate. Both we and the Swiss are fairly efficient!

We're going to leave the night before our flight and stay in SF rather than deal with the wear and tear of the traffic tie-ups. My nerves couldn't stand another thirty minute wait to get on the Bay Bridge.

So far, so good.