Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The London Eye

One modern attraction in London that was completely new to me is the London Eye on the South Bank, the currently tallest Ferris wheel in Europe. Of course I had heard about it before and seen pictures, but when I was in London the last time - I think it was in 1995 - there was no London Eye, no construction started either.

The London Eye sits kitty corner from the Houses of Parliament across the Thames. From Big Ben you just cross Westminster Bridge (from which the top photo was taken) to the other side of the river and then you're almost there.

We had heard of long lines, and since we didn't really want to queue for a long time we got our tickets online a couple days before. We just had to pick up our tickets and waited only for five to ten minutes until we could board one of the capsules.

So here we are, shall we go up now?

As you can see, the passenger capsules are attached to the external circumference of the wheel and they are rotated by electric motors. You don't feel the rotation at all. It's a very quiet and wonderful ride.

The ride takes about 30 minutes, and usually the wheel doesn't stop. It goes slow enough that people can get into the moving capsules. The wheel only stops for disabled or elderly people so that they can embark and disembark safely.

There are up to 25 people in a capsule. You can walk around and look out onto London from every side, but you can also sit on the bench that is provided in the middle of the capsule. 25 people doesn't feel crowded at all.

The views over London are fascinating. I didn't, however, take many photos, since it is not easy to get crisp and sharp photos through the windows of the capsule. The windows are convex, and that makes photographing difficult. All the pictures I took turned out pretty crappy. But looking straight down through the skillful construction of the wheel is no less fascinating!

Here we are on top of the wheel on a brilliant sunny day. To the right you can see the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben.

And here is yours truly with her family, tremendously enjoying this very special ride.

Seriously, I loved to see the capsule beneath us "floating" over the Thames! Doesn't it look marvelous?

This is how you come back down to the start of the ride... those 30 minutes were over way too fast. I could have done the ride again - immediately.

But the London Eye offers great opportunities for photos from the ground as well!


Do you want a part of London on your refrigerator?
I have magnets of photos I took in London in my Etsy shop.

Friday, September 12, 2014


This is the first time that I am joining in Kim Klassen's Friday Finds. I have often thought about it - so what's holding me back?

These pictures are from earlier this summer, but I just found them again. My neighbor from across the street has so much lavender in her garden that she doesn't know what to do with it all. I told her that I love lavender no matter in what state it is. So she brought me a huge bunch - so much that I could fill several vases and container with it. The entire house was filled with lavender scent - just beautiful. I took these pictures when I was "sorting" the lavender, and I liked how it looked when it was lying on the table. I put this beautiful light that a friend of mine made out of a wine bottle, a coaster he brought from Hawaii and a big tea light next to the lavender and it immediately got this special mood - peaceful, calm, beautiful. No question - I had to take several photos.

While arranging the lavender I lost many parts of the tiny flowers, so I scooped them up and put them in an old bowl where they still spread their irresistible fragrance.


There are new mini journals available in my Etsy shop.
I have been busy making these.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fancy Fence at Sacré-Cœur

One day in Paris we went up to Montmartre. After we had climbed the stairs to the white basilica of Sacré-Cœur and visited it, we directed our steps to the Place du Tertre. While walking along Sacré-Cœur I noticed this beautiful fence.

I liked the spiral tops - it looked quite fancy and very beautiful. The fence was pretty high and I took some "blind" shots - holding the camera high above my head and just clicking away. Not very professional, but there was no other way. Yes, sometimes it sucks not being 6ft. or taller!

After I had seen the first blind shot on my camera display I decided to take pictures "through" the fence as if you were looking through it like in a tunnel. I tried several times, but there wasn't even one photo that was really good. However, they're still interesting.

It gives you an idea what this fence looked like on the "inside". The rust is beautiful as well.

Of course this fence is a good fence and deserves to be linked to Theresa's blog.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Some New Whirls From MyKitchen

Most of you probably know that I like to cook. Usually I cook every evening for my family, and usually it's a dinner made from scratch - with the exception of most Fridays that I have declared to junk food Fridays. Sundays are very low key as well. But apart from that, I cook, and usually I love it. I would even say I'm a pretty darn good cook.

Every other Thursday we meet with our German friends. We always meet in someone's home and everybody brings something to eat. Sometimes I bake bread and make Obatzter, sometimes I let Trader Joe's cook (meaning I throw some prepared food in the oven) and sometimes I try something new. It really depends on my mood.

A few weeks ago I made sun-dried tomato and Parmesan whirls for the first time. When I try a recipe for the first time I follow it to the book. After that I add my alterations. This one turned out not quite the way I had hoped, but it was still delicious, and therefore I present to you my very own version.

You will need:

1 package puff pastry (the all-butter sheets)
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg

Drain the sun-dried tomatoes and dice. Roll the pastry into a thin rectangle (you will actually get two of them) and evenly cover with the diced tomatoes, leaving a bit of space at the edges. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top of the tomatoes.

Beat the egg. Brush one long edge of the pastry with the egg and roll up the pastry into a log from the opposite side. "Glue" together. Transfer the rolled up pastry to a baking sheet and refrigerate for one hour.

After one hour, take the logs out of the fridge and brush with the beaten egg (I put the egg back into the fridge as well). Cut the logs in 0.5" wide slices (this is the messy part). Place these on a cookie sheet and brush with the remaining egg (yes, that one egg goes a long way!).

The whirls are baked in the oven at 400° F for 30 minutes, until they are golden brown. The whirls can be served warm or cold.


Friday, September 5, 2014

This Squirrel is Ready to Kill

They look so innocent, don't they? So cute, with their big eyes and those sweet little faces. They are so funny and entertaining to watch when they chase each other up and down the trees.

So so cute...

They are smart - too smart sometimes. Especially when they are looking for food. The bird feeders are no problem for them - they eat upside down if it has to be, no matter how uncomfortable that might be. And if they fall down, they simply get up again.

And when the bird feeders are empty? The squirrel is still hungry. So what does the smart squirrel do? S/he looks for other food sources.

They love sunflower seeds.

There are sunflowers in my garden. Let me rephrase that - there WERE sunflowers in my garden. Not as many as last year since the birds (and probably the squirrels as well) picked the seeds after I had put them in the ground. There weren't that many that they overlooked. But the few that actually made it into flowers were gorgeous.

I loved them.

So did the squirrels.

There wasn't a single sunflower that wasn't "killed" by the squirrels. When I saw the first "victimized" sunflower - or what was left of it - lying on the ground, I had no idea what had happened and I actually thought it was the skunks or the raccoons that frequent our garden almost every night. But then I saw a squirrel sitting at the base of a huge sunflower, looking up at the flower head and quickly racing up the stem, putting the plant to the ground - and taking off with the flower head. This happened within seconds.

I was speechless. Those flower heads were huge! Squirrels - not so much.

It was a quick and daring kill. As mad as I was, I also admired those little fearless beasts for their courage. I suspect that in this drought they are probably desperate for food.

The next thing I did was taking my camera and taking pictures of the remaining sunflowers before they became victims of my "sweet little innocent looking" friends.

None of the sunflowers has survived. And if there were a few left because the squirrels were going for the biggest flower heads, I took them inside and put them in a vase.

A very different sunflower year.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Music in the Streets

Street music is something I love - it gives a town or city a certain flair if there are musicians out in the streets entertaining others with their musical talent.

Street music can be seen - pardon me, heard! - in many places in Europe. It's something that just belongs to city streets and plazas, and it's not only for warm summer days when the living is easy. More often than not you find street musicians at Christmas markets all over Germany when the temperatures are barely hovering over the freezing point.

But I digress. Today I want to show you some of the street musicians we came across during our trip in Europe, mainly in Great Britain and Paris. There weren't that many in Hameln, Germany while we were there - probably because it was a regular week day and not a Saturday when there are more crowds. There also weren't that many in Amsterdam which surprised me a little bit.

However, this guy in Edinburgh played his beautiful bagpipe melodies even though it was raining and not many people stopped to listen to him. He was fully dressed in tartan and quite the sight.

In London, we met another bagpipe player in Trafalgar Square who tried to make his music heard in all the traffic. Not an easy job! He didn't seem to be very concerned though and kept his British calm.

Walking along the South Bank was quite the sound experience. There were so many street musicians, and sometimes their music mixed when you had just left one of them and approached the next one. It could be a rather interesting mix sometimes with all the different kinds of music.

These guys were also flirting with Kaefer while playing their joyful tunes. It actually was fun!

And he was my favorite.

The most music though you can hear in the long passageways of the tube, the underground transportation in London. The acoustics down there are fabulous and you already hear the music when you either enter the station from the street or when you disembark ("alight" as the English call it) a train. It's something I always associate with London.

Paris, on the other hand, didn't have much music in the metro, but there were tons of street musicians everywhere. A saxophonist at the Champs de Mars near the Tour Eiffel...

...and a guitarist at the Centre Pompidou.

Not far from him there was this a cappella choir whose singing we enjoyed a lot.

And so did this little girl while sitting on her dad's shoulder and holding the flowers (for her mom?). Isn't she adorable?

A cappella seems to be quite popular in Paris, because the same day we saw another choir who sang in a courtyard in the oldest part of Paris, the Marais.

Of course most of the street musicians we met in the Quartier Latin, where the university is found and life is loud and vibrant. The music was a broad mix of everything you could think of - I enjoyed walking along the streets and alleys and discovering new bands all the time.

Now let's get dancing, just like this old lady in this photo!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Always Something New in the Royal City (August Break 2014)

London seemed to be one gigantic construction zone - especially in the City (the financial district), but also in other parts - and often old and new are right next to each other. Above in the picture you can see the construction of new hyper-modern buildings around old St. Paul's Cathedral.

Old buildings, new buildings - this is the 21st century reality of London. It could be horrible. However, the modern architects are doing quite a fine job. I actually like the stark contrast between new and old. I find it rather inspiring.

The view from Tower Bridge to the Tower of London (founded in 1066!) and behind it, "the Gherkin" - one of my favorite modern buildings.

Or look at this - "the Shard", another favorite. It looks unfinished, but it's complete. The architect of this skyscraper is Renzo Piano - the same guy who built the Centre Pompidou in Paris (together with Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini), the New York Times Building and the California Academy of Sciences. It is 87 storey and 306 meters (1,004 ft.) high and has an observation deck which we unfortunately did not visit. It is currently the tallest building in the European Union.

If you look to the bottom right corner of the next photo you can see one of the gates to the Tower of London. It does look small compared to the huge buildings in its neighborhood.

I do think that most of the modern buildings have style - they're inspiring. It's modern architecture at its best - creative, innovative, interesting. Here you can see the "Gherkin" again, hiding behind other buildings.

The view from the London Eye - quite impressive, don't you think?

This modern side of London is for Susannah Conway's prompt "Something new" for the August Break 2014.