Rain & Pain & Knitting Gain!

So far my teaching trip’s been great – a bit of an adventure in small ways, but overall REALLY wonderful!

My classes at Riverwools went beautifully.  It’s a great shop, incredibly well stocked, with ample parking and a nice cafe down the street.  Definitely trip-worthy for folks living around Terre Haute!  They made me feel SO welcome, so loved, and it was an excellent start for my first driving-teaching trip in over a year!

I taught a private class that my cousin (a newer knitter – I taught her a few years ago) set up.  We topped it off at 12 students, and that was just about right!  The students were SO good, so gifted, and an incredibly kind woman (and astounding knitter) allowed us to use her home for the classes. 

WHAT a beautiful great-room she has, what a lovely house!  It was one of the nicer locations I’ve taught a class, that’s for sure!  HUGE thanks to Peggy for the use of her home, Mary Ann for setting up the classes and Laurel for helping to make it happen!

My next class is in Canton, OH at the Stark County Library on June 13.  It’s been filling up pretty steadily and there are just a few spaces left.  You can register here if you like:

Stark County Library, Perry Branch
5710 12th St NW Canton, OH 44708
6/13/11   1pm
Combination Knitting Class $30
Add to Cart

I’m also doing a free lecture at the library and I’ll be signing books and selling some if folks want to purchase them.  I’ll be happy to sign anything though (so bring me your Nicky Epstein books and I’ll forge her name!)


The centerpiece of my trip is the annual TNNA convention in Columbus.  It’s a chance for me to touch base with other folks in the industry, see what’s happening and just keep the necessary connections working smoothly.

I’m not teaching here, which may be a blessing given my current joint situation, but I HAVE just heard from Interweave that they’ve added yet ANOTHER set of my classes to the Knitting Lab event in San Mateo in November.

Apparently I’m selling out (who knew?) so you’d probably better
sign up sooner rather than later if you want to be in one of my classes!

It’s wet here – raining pretty darned hard in Columbus – and like a barometer my knees and shoulders are giving me a pretty explicit weather report.

Barely visible GF shrimp, pesto & tomato pizza. YUM!

Last night I took a 3 mile ride after an AMAZING dinner at Marcellas (my favorite restaurant here as it’s not only a beautiful, well run Italian restaurant close to the hotel, they also have a GLUTEN FREE menu!)

My destination was Goodale Park, where life is good.


Ms. Annie's Wild Ride, via Daily Mile

I was ostensibly looking for tonic water (my roommate brought gin, which is why I love her…) and I found it at the United Dairy Farmers.  But I became so carried away with the warm, fragrant evening and rode in silly circles with my headlight flashing and a dopey grin on my face.

The ice cream I bought almost melted because I rode so long.  A slow, fun ride!

Folks were walking, hugging, kissing, playing music and kids were swinging all over the park.  What a fabulous evening to be free and mobile in Columbus!  I won’t be riding today, though, until/unless the rain stops, and I shall miss it.

Damn you, fibromyalgia!  You’ve won one round, but I shall win the match!

Fortunately, my hotel room is right across the hall from the whirlpool / exercise center so I can go ride a stationary bike and take a hot dip to help the joint pain.  Wet heat is an amazingly helpful thing for this pain!

From a purely disinterested perspective, the link between the weather and my join pain is  fascinating.  I sound like every older person in my family I’d listen to during weather storms as I was growing up.  “M’back is botherin’ me, I haven’t taken m’pill yet!”

It’s uncanny how I can sound EXACTLY like my Aunt Wanda on days like this.

I’m at the Hampton Inn across from the Columbus Convention Center, where TNNA will be taking place over the next few days.  I’m not teaching (given my joint angst that’s a mercy!) but I should be helping with the Stith Coop/Coop Press booth set up.  But I’m not.  Wah, wah wah…

It took a while to get the internet working, it’s finally working today and I’m afraid I’m not the general manager’s favorite person.

Dang.  Well, that’s a shame.

But I’m online now and finally able to return emails and get some work done!  I’m heading over with Mrs. Mannequin soon, and I’ll take some nice photos from the convention (where I’m allowed…) and report on great new yarns that are arriving and any subtle currents of design evolution as I wander from booth to booth.

I only wish I could ride my bike on the TNNA convention floor!

Hope From Mr. Levine

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 By Rick Levine

Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow

(Aug 23 – Sep 22)

It hasn’t been easy accepting the limitations that have been placed on you.

Now, as you finally acknowledge your role in a relationship or on the job, something happens that opens the door of possibilities to what you once wanted but have since let go.

Naturally, this can be exciting, confusing and upsetting all at once. Take a few deep breaths while you consider your choices.

Keep in mind that you have more time than you think to make up your mind.

To say the past few weeks have been – ahem – rather rich and full would be an understatement.

I’ve traveled a LOT – both engagements scheduled last year, long before my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

I hadn’t considered canceling either Scotland or Italy, I wanted (selfishly, perhaps) to do both of them, Gerry encouraged me, and I hated the idea of setting a precedent of bowing out of something due to my health.


So I dedicated myself to staying as healthy as I could while in both locations.  For me, that meant lots of rest, and lots of exercise.  The bike is my favorite exercise method – it allows me to get around, and it’s like taking a big pain pill – it’s quite good at making my aches go away.

The blood flows all over, reaching places that hurt, and they hurt less (or at least that’s how I understood what my chiropractor told me…)

By renting and riding bikes in Scotland and Italy, the trips – and my life – have been the richer.

But even with all the bike riding in the world, the past few months were full of the usual travel tsuris, plus a few added crisis tossed in for extra chuckles.  It became – at times – quite overwhelming.

And, as is often the case when I feel overwhelmed, I begin to question everything about my life.  What are my plans?  Am I reaching my goals?  How pure are my actions? Why am I doing what I’m doing?  How long can I continue to work if I have to take a nap every day?  When did I turn into my grandmother?

I'm sorry, the answer must be in the form of a question.

Recently it feels like everything in my life is a question on the huge Jeopardy! board in my head (“I’ll take ‘Dealing With Fibromyalgia’ for $50, Alex”)

But the horoscope today gives me hope – it makes me feel like I don’t need to rush. 

I always feel like I need to rush.


I wish I were further along with History on Two Needles.

My brain is not processing the math & patterns as it should, and that’s stymied me.  I’ve found a wonderful local tech editor who I think will be able to put up with my oddnesses, I have a good friend who will help me sort out how to deal with the art direction, and I have yarn for the last few projects that need to be knit up.

All I really have to do is get the danged patterns written!  And that’s something that takes time.  The older I get, the more it seems that I require an easing in phase before settling in to write a pattern.

Whereas 5 years ago I could just grab an hour, plop down at the computer and work up the math for a project, now I need to settle in with the worksheet and reacquaint myself with the project for a few hours before my brain will go to the ‘math place’ and I can make sense of the structure.

...and the point would be...?

The fact that most of my patterns have an unusual construction doesn’t help, it often gives me the uncomfortable sense that I’m reinventing the wheel when I start to write a pattern.

On the other hand, I can look at my designs as pieces of origami.  No matter HOW good one is at the creating cranes or salt boxes or paper elephants, each new project begins with a few simple folds.

One can’t just skip over the first folds, these basic steps must be performed to allow you to move on to more complex folds.

It’s not that one is reinventing the fold, it’s that the first steps cannot be skipped.

So right now I’m gearing myself up to settle into a pattern writing phase, (brilliantly coordinated to kick in when I return from my next teaching engagement in Pennsylvania.)  October will mark an extended period of HOME TIME, and October will be pattern writing month.

My current mental preparation before the onset of “Worksheet Wonderland” are like those initial folds in an origami project.  (And it allows me to rationalize the time I’ve spent playing sudoku.)

It's my mental workout. Yeah, that's it...


I’ve hesitated in recent weeks to write about my health – it’s hard to read that you’re “moaning” about yourself – and I hate to go down that road.

Obviously I don’t think I’m moaning, but then no one ever does, do they?  I try to be pretty positive, pretty pro-active and intelligent about what I write and what I do related to Fibromyalgia.  But it’s a huge part of my life, I can’t deny that, and therefore it has a large impact on my design, writing and teaching.

So far, 9 months into this diagnosed adventure, I’m learning that every day is a new lesson.  I’m realizing that any boundary I discover is a moving target (why can I do X on Monday but not on Tuesday?  And why can I do it again on Wednesday?)

Here are a few truisms that I’ve discovered:

  • Wheat and gluten make me hurt, they make my joints and muscles ache, my throat becomes sore and my ears ring like a carillon.  I can be laid up in bed for days with these flu-like symptoms after eating a bit of wheat, even a tiny bit.
  • Wheat and gluten are in a LOT of products, but it’s easier to avoid them than I might have thought, and there are some very good alternatives.
  • Vitamin D3 is like a miracle for me.  When I err and take some wheat, I can flush it out of my system more quickly with a lot of water and some Vit D3.  I take a good amount each day, and when I skip it, I feel it.
  • I get more tired physically than I used to.  When I get tired, it’s like a light turning off.  There’s not a lot of warning, and suddenly I’m almost paralyzed with exhaustion.
  • Perhaps counter-intuitively, a good amount of exercise each day will keep the pain to a minimum and raise my energy levels.  When I go for two or more days without a good bike ride or yoga, I hurt like heck the next day. Which makes movement even harder.
  • Very hot weather is hard for me.  Very cold weather is hard for me.  Wet weather is hard for me.  I am feeling rather fearful of this Winter, hoping that I’m able to use activity, vitamin D and rest to stay relatively pain free.

One of the hardest things is dealing with folks who either can not, or will not, understand that I can be paralyzed with pain – to the point of tears – on Monday, but able to ride my bike 6 miles on Tuesday.

I hate being seen as a victim, but at the same time I refuse to be ashamed of being ill, to not talk about it at all. It’s not in my nature to suck it up and be silent, I’m too much of an extrovert (and, to be honest, a ‘me-show’) for that.

My Salts!

I want folks to understand that this is a manageable condition.  It’s not fun, but it has forced me to be more intelligent about the way I live my life, and that’s not a bad thing!

I haven’t had to take medication specifically for Fibro yet – I am currently not insured so I couldn’t afford them anyway. I’ve been doing well so far with diet, exercise, Vit D3, rest, chiropractor, massage every now and then AND acupuncture when I can.

Having said that, though, I do have days when I’m just out of commission.  More days than I like to admit.

And the days when I am functional are less full and busy than they’ve been in the past, and they’re fewer and farther between.  Less work gets done than I’d hoped, less money is earned, and I feel – like many folks these days – a little worried.  But what would life be without some worry to keep us honest?

Excuse me while I gracefully collapse onto the fainting couch…


Sunday was the Stitch & Pitch Twins game, and I’d planned on attending with Steven B’s group.  At the last minute Steven told me another ticket had become available, so I grabbed it for Max (he hadn’t been to a game at the new Target Field yet.) It was a beautiful day, so we made the decision to bike over to Steven’s and then to the game (12 miles total) knowing that if we got tired we could hop on a Metro bus (each bus in the twin cities is equipped with a bike rack) so we’d be in good shape.

Yes Ladies, He KNITS!

The ride was wonderful!  It was easy going, the uphill parts didn’t seem bad and the downhill parts were a blast!  Sunday morning the streets were pretty empty, traffic was at a minimum, and Max and I stuck to bike paths and back streets as much as possible.

It was – as always – a delight to see Steven, to see his great space, and after picking up our tickets Max and I headed over to Target Field.  Now THAT is a beautiful ball park!  We sat in the bleachers, just behind the 1st base foul pole, and enjoyed as much of the game as we saw.

Around the 7th inning I could feel a pretty strong Fibro-flare up coming on.  I can tell one’s on the way when my muscles begin to ache, my throat gets sore and my ears ring.  It’s almost like clockwork, now that I know what the signs are.  I think in this case it was sitting for an extended period on metal benches in a shady, cold area (yes, it’s Minnesota…) but for whatever reason, I knew that I had a doozy of a mini-flare-up coming.

So Max and I made our goodbyes (and THANK YOU to the kind woman who tossed some kettle corn at Max!  We all enjoyed it thoroughly!) and headed off to the bus, conveniently located just below the stadium.

We caught the express, got our bikes all settled on the rack (I was pretty shaky by this time, when I called Gerry I dropped my iphone and cracked the glass – phone still works.  Gerry’s confident that he can fix it) and in 20 minutes were were a mile from our home, so we hopped off the bus and rode the rest of the way.  Wonderful!

Max at Target Field

Despite the expense of the day (perhaps guilt at being away from the kids for so long had a bit to do with that. The tix were $20 and there were food items purchased at the park…) it was SO great.

Sunday was a good example of how I can deal with the Fibro while getting as much as possible out of life.

I rode when I could, I  I interacted with other folks as much as I could, I stayed as long as I could, then when it became too much for me physically I made my exit and got home with minimal stress.

I’ll remember Sunday as a really golden day – a very hopeful day.

Rome, and Home


I’m home!!

It took me a few days to get my internal clock back to St. Paul time, and I’m not entirely certain I’m there, but I’m feeling more ‘present’ every day!

View from my Window

Italy was absolutely amazing.  Frascati, the town where our tour stayed, was a beautiful, hilltop, sun drenched maze of cobbled streets and shuttered windows.

We stayed at the Hotel Colonna, which was much nicer than any of the pensiones I was able to afford the last time I visited Italy 30 years ago!

Capuccino at Breakfast

Each morning breakfast was laid out for us – a full spread of fruit, yogurt, breads (but not for me!), juices and water, a HUGE tea selection AND any coffee drink that we might want.

I’m not a huge coffee drinker in the morning, but I did allow myself a few cappuccinos while I was there!

Cheese Piglets

After a few days the coffee became a bit too much for my system, so I retreated back to my world of tea, but I enjoyed my trip to coffee-land!

I am not sure how Alanna did it, but the Tactile Travel group was diverse enough to be absolutely fascinating, similar enough to create very good friendships, with each individual bringing a great deal of enthusiasm  to our entire experience.

Roman Flowers

She says this is how all of her tours are, which is pretty amazing!

I arrived later than the rest of the group and jumped in with both feet on my first teaching day showing everyone the finer points of entrelac (using my charted entrelac handout) and discovering what other techniques they’d like to learn in future teaching sessions.

The group was exceptionally skilled.  In every group there are very fast learners, and folks who digest all the information at a more measured pace, which was certainly true here.

The Secret of Sprite?

But – as usual – the folks who take their time learning the techniques seem to work on a deeper level, so everyone gathers a great deal of information.  We all learn, some get it at once, and some get it at last! It’s simply the distribution of information that changes from student to student.

But my teaching was not the main reason folks traveled halfway around the world – ITALY was the reason!

The relaxed Italian attitude of la dolce vita is a life enriching experience.  Each conversation, meal and moment are enjoyed to the fullest, which is an extraordinary thing.

Coliseum at Sunset

This attitude also kept Alanna on her toes, matching our group size to available transportation and taking the steering wheel when necessary (she’s QUITE a good driver!) Alanna was constantly revising our itinerary so our group could get the most out of our time in Italy.

Temple in the Restaurant

Folks were flexible, and they weren’t disappointed.  So much can happen on a trip, but having a flexible attitude and a good sense of humor brings it all back to a joyful place – which is where we found ourselves again and again!

Our group was FUNNY!  Each person was so full of laughter, so full of fun, and we played off of each other – encouraging our silliness – in a wonderful way.

GF Pizza

There were 3 “couples” – two friends, a mother/daughter and a husband/wife – and a solo traveler (like me!) so we sort of hooked up together for some stuff.

Imagine my surprise and joy when I discovered that Robin & Jack, the husband/wife duo, live near me in Minnesota!  We hit it off beautifully, and I hope to introduce them to the entire Modesitt-Landy clan in the near future!

Namaste Bag Travels Well!

I’m hopeful I’ll get to see Rosie & Linda, two friends who took the trip together, at Knitters Day Out in Pennsylvania next weekend!

I was thrilled to see that my friends Jill & Sheryl (daughter/mother) who I stay with when I’m teaching in their home towns, were on the tour. 

They both suffer from wheat sensitivity, so I wasn’t the only gluten free diner for most of our meals!

Ristorante Sibella, Tivoli

Rounding out our tour was Katherine, a lovely, funny, unexpectedly scintillating knitter from Washington, D.C.  I loved spending time with her, I only wish we could have arranged it to ‘do’ Rome together for a day before I fly home!

The food was tremendous – molto delizioso – and the greatest surprise was that when I got home I’d actually lost a bit of weight!  It certainly wasn’t for trying!

Breakfast with CROISSANTS!

Not eating wheat while in Italy may have helped, but I did have some pretty amazing gluten free pasta (Jill told me that 30% of all Italians have some form of celiac) and I did NOT want for food at any time on the trip!

At one point Sheryl and I escaped to a grocery and came back well stocked with gluten free goodies (croissants!!) which became a welcome part of our prima colazione each day!

Villa D'Este Tiles

Along with the scheduled group trips, we each took separate and small group trips to Rome, Ostia Antica, or just walking – or, given the main export of Frascati, stumbling – around in the beautiful village.

Me & Tivoli Fountain

I didn’t go on all the day trips, I enjoyed being with the group, but I also was happy to have some me-time to recharge my batteries so I would be a more pleasant traveling companion! I’m an extrovert much of the time, but I have enough introvert tendencies that

I really do need my alone time if I’m going to be fit company!

I heard from the everyone that the trips I missed were absolutely amazing, and based on the day trip to Villa D’Este in Tivoli which I did participate in, I would believe it.

ME Time

Tiber Side View

Tiber Side View

While the group visited a villa on Friday, I took time to gather my thoughts, take a train into Rome, and rented a not-great bike near the Coliseum and rode over 13 miles.  Absolutely amazing.

Caeser's Feet

I was on a wild goose chase for a restaurant that had gone out of business, but having a goal allowed me a sense of direction.  I enjoyed myself on my wild ride more than I had in months!

I’d read that Rome was a difficult on a bike, but I found it to be a very good biking city.  There are a lot of scooters, and therefore the traffic is used to small, quick things darting in and out of the way.  As long as I rode intelligently, signaled, stayed to off roads where possible and bike lanes, I was golden!

Roman Bubbler

Unfortunately, in two bike rentals I blew two tires.  Whether that’s a commentary on Rome’s streets or my weight, I’m not sure, but with my blowout in Scotland that makes me a triple threat.

There are small fountains, like constantly running hydrants, all over Roma.  The water is clear and cold and sweet, and my bottle was seldom empty.  Most welcome was the fountain on the Via Garibaldi at the top of a LONG stairway (I carried my bike up) where I drank about 3 bottles full.  I had such a hard (read, sweaty) ride that I felt like I drank my body weight in fountain water, but I saw more on that ride than I ever would have with a group or on a bus tour.

Sunset Column

As a doctor recently pointed out, I’m not fit.  Well, not perfectly fit, but I’m doing better than I was… I get around.

Turtle Fountain

I’m an almost 50-year-old, overweight Minnesotan.  If I can handle the hills on a bike in Rome, there’s a good chance that many other folks can, too!

A bike is a great way to get the ‘lay of the land’ – to get a sense of the scale and layout of a city – and the €10 I spent on the bike rental that Friday was some of the best money I spent!

The next day, Saturday, our entire group went into Rome for some button and fabric shopping, some eating, and some walking around.  Part of our group then visited the new MAXXI museum and had a feast of contemporary art.

Jewish Quarter

Jill, Sheryl and I sought out a wonderful gluten free pizzaria, Voglia di Pizza (nom, nom, nom) shopped, and took a walk through the Jewish quarter.

We also got a bit – ahem – lost (entirely my fault) but a happy cab ride later and we rendez-vou’d with the group at the lovely yarn shop Pippi Calzelunghe Roma.

See my last blog post for more details…


Who's Who in Tivoli

Sunday was more teaching – a morning class, then a few hours in the afternoon – covering some tips and tricks and fun stuff.  It’s always odd to teach to a smaller group of accomplished knitters – I don’t want to teach down to anyone, but I want to make sure everyone gets something that’s new and exciting to them!  I tried – and I think I succeeded – in giving everyone a little something new for their various knitting toolboxes.

I tried to spend one on one time with folks who wanted/needed it – I let everyone know that I was available at any time if they wanted to stop by my room or grab me if they saw me lounging in the piazza.  A few took me up on it, but I always walk away feeling like I should/could have done more.  I guess that’s what keeps me hungry for new techniques to share with my students!



Monday evening a tour was scheduled for our group to travel around Rome by van, guided by Alan Epstein (author of the book, “As The Romans Do”) but the finalized plans were up in the air (the availability of promised, reserved tour buses was a constant headache for Alanna!)

There was a question as to whether the bus would be large enough to accommodate our group PLUS the guide & driver, and I didn’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable (either physically squeezed, or feeling bad that I couldn’t fit into the van…)

Roman Biking Holiday

So after teaching in the morning I headed off to Rome where I’d arranged to rent a second bike, this time with a more reputable bike rental place, accompanied by Jill – she was ALSO dying for a good ride!  We rented from Top Bike Rental, and I cannot recommend then highly enough!

Our bikes were excellent!  Well maintained, all gears worked great and we had helmets, a lock and a cable.  All for €13 per person for the full day.

We arrived very late and the proprietor felt badly that we’d only have half a day.  He suggested that if we had a safe place to lock the bikes up all night we could keep them until midday the next day.  SOLD!

A Roman Cat with Attitude

Of course, that meant that we had to make sure we caught the ‘bike train’ back to Frascati and could not return with the group as our bikes would definitely NOT fit in the van (we weren’t even sure if we would!)

So off we headed, all over Rome, having the most MAGNIFICENT ride!  We headed to the Coliseum, along the Circus Maximus (watch my wheels, Jill!) then down the stairs to ride along the Tiber River.  As in St. Paul, there are metal gutters along many stairways to allow folks to roll bikes up and down easily – yay!

Bartolomeo Bikes

But once we hit the river-ride, I had a blowout and we were reduced to limping our bikes back to the bike rental place.  On the way it occurred to both of us that there was NO need for Jill to go back with me, that she could ride around and have a great time on her own, so we split up with a rendez vous point of Voglia di Pizza.

Off she rode, I waved goodbye and turned a corner and happened right upon a – BIKE SHOP!  And not just any bike shop, but Bartolomeo!

For €5 my tube was replaced (I was happy to pay that rather than walk uphill 2 miles to the bike place) and I was off again with an hour to kill before meeting Jill!

Life is good when fortuna smiles on you!

Gluten Free Dessert

We ate (desserts!) and rode and shopped and ate and shopped – what a great day!  Then we rode over to the La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, where the group was meeting for dinner, arriving at around 8:30pm.

We’d been texting folks in our group all through the day, updating them on our change in plans (overnight bikes) and checking on their progress.  As the last train for Frascati was leaving at 9:52 and the group was due to arrive at the restaurant at 9:00, we were terrified that if we waited to eat with everyone we’d never make our train.

Previous Unlucky Bike

So we ate early!  The restaurant treated us like royalty – we ate alone at a HUGE round table for 9 – and had a magnificent gluten free dinner.  YAY friendly, amazing Roman chefs!  We were just finishing dessert as the group arrived and could only stay with them for 15 minutes.  We thought we’d allowed a good amount of time to get to the station, but one wrong turn + one HUGE hill + two very full bellies made the ride much more exhausting than we’d expected.

Roman Lace

But we made it (whew!) and immediately collapsed into our train, the bikes stowed in their little holders, our happy full bellies finally able to rest.  What an amazing day!

The hotel staff was kind enough to allow us to park the bikes in the garage.  It was quite a run – literally a run – to the garage.  The clerk ran ahead and Jill and I biked to keep up, it was some kind of crazy midnight running-of-the-bulls and we giggled like hyenas (including the clerk!)

The next morning, bright and early, Jill and I biked to the station and caught the 9:30 to Rome.  Other members of our group were on the train (we didn’t see them until we got off!) and they headed from Rome off to Ostia Antica.  I was sorry to miss that non-official trip, but we had bikes, and the bikes were calling our names!



If you do get a chance to bike in Rome, GO to the Villa Borghese park!  It will be one of the best things you’ll do!

The closest I can find in comparison would be Central Park in NY – and we found the equivalent of the Literary Walk up by the Pincio area of the Villa Boghese Gardens.  Amazing, beautiful, wonderful!  And if you don’t already have a bike, you can rent one there!

The View

Of course we had to stop and have a Caffe Latte Freddo and some chocolate (keeping up our strength!) before riding down to the Piazza del Popolo, and then heading up the Via Flamina crossing to a point where I’d discovered a slightly scary-steep ramp down to the Tiber edge path.  No walking/carrying our bikes down THIS time!

Ride by the Tiber.  It may seem touristy, but it’s wonderful.  And I saw a LOT of broken glass (maybe THAT’S what happened to my tires?) so be aware and be careful.  But it’s a lovely, rather isolated place to be while still in the middle of everything, and the views from the river edge are quite wonderful.  Just amazing.  And no blow out that day!

More Views!

Extra bonus for us, when we decided to walk our bikes back up to street level we were right by the Tiber Island, where the stairs are not steep and the metal bike gutter is far enough away from the wall that rolling them up was a breeze.

A bit more riding, just to get ourselves back to the bike rental, and then we were on busses or walking for the rest of the day.  More eating, more shopping, more fun – wonderful!

The train back to Frascati was an adventure (my bobble head gladiator fell on me…) and then finally home to shower, check email, and meet the group for our last, sensational dinner at – well – I don’t remember.  But it was fun and delicious and wonderful.

Last Shot Before I Dropped My Camera

Just like Italy!

Super Nanny

Max and I are home – YAY!!  Today Gerry and Hannah arrive (I messed up when I booked the flights, entirely my own fault) but this arriving on different days is kind of cool, too!

Max Studies over the Atlantic

I’ve realized over this trip that traveling with the 4 of us can be like herding cats.  In traveling energy, Max and I are similar while Gerry and Hannah are two peas in a pod.

A very slowly moving pod.

Max and I get up early, travel quickly, and plan ahead.  Hannah and Gerry tend to want to sleep in, stroll, and let things take them by surprise.

These are two VERY different energies that can clash in an enforced high-pressure setting like international travel.  Thus, although I didn’t consciously plan it this way, it’s probably VERY good that our travel was divided in this manner.


Why am I starting with the worst?  Because it’s like a spicy appetizer to a VERY satisfying meal.  Tomorrow I’ll write all about the BEST stuff we did, but today is catharsis…

Family Biking at Phoenix Park

Biking in Phoenix Park

In some ways Dublin was the BEST of our trip (This Is Knit, The Book of Kells, biking in Phoenix Park – all AMAZING memories!)

And in other ways Dublin was the absolute pits.

Having lived in New York for 20 years, I understand the dynamic of a large city, how cramming so many folks into a limited space ratchets up the tension a few notches.

Each large city – no matter how wonderful – has it’s own flavor with a slightly sour after taste.  To me, NY feels brusque, LA feels self absorbed, London feels a bit patronizing and Dublin feels like an inefficient-but-controlling nanny constantly telling one that they’re being naughty.

Nice Cockles

Naughty tourists.

Most of the negative interactions we had in Dublin revolved around us misunderstanding what someone in authority wanted us to do, and thus our inability to walk the invisible line they’d drawn.  See my post yesterday about the Nanny Hotel experience.

The wallet loss aside (which could have happened ANYWHERE) there seemed to be an almost – delight? – when our family was confused or had a hard time understanding something, and thus had to be admonished.

There was a, “Well, that is what happens to naughty children who don’t follow the rules…” attitude in Dublin, which we hadn’t run into at ALL in the rest of Ireland.

I’m sure it springs from the huge number of tourists who come through, and the Dubliner’s exhaustion with dealing with them.

An example was when we visited the National Museum.  We’d looked forward to this, there were exhibits that interested EACH of us, and after seeing the book of Kells we wandered through Georgian Dublin over to the Museum.

National Museum of Ireland, Front Door

As you walk in the building you’re overwhelmed with the architectural detail – the carving, the tile work, the interior of the entry dome, it’s all AMAZING!  I love architectural detail, I take photos of parts of buildings all the time and spent a few minutes outside photographing the front doors before walking in.

What I didn’t see was the hidden image of a camera with a line through it which was etched into a glass wall (seriously, it was HIDDEN behind a door.) No photography.

Now, I would NEVER photograph an exhibit unless I had permission or knew that it was allowed.  I wasn’t in the exhibition area, I was in the gift shop area.  What I was interested in photographing was the tile in the floor.  But if no cameras are allowed, I totally understand and I’m happy to put the canon away.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see the sign.  No one did.  NO ONE.

So when I pulled out my camera to photograph, I was yelled at.

“NO CAMERAS!” Very harsh, like the Soup Nazi.  SO I put it away.

But the fellow who’d yelled had to come over and say,  condescendingly, “You cannot take photographs in the museum, you have to put your camera away.” (it was away)

But he wouldn’t stop.  I don’t know if he was making an example of me in front of the other visitors, or if it just made him feel good, but he walked over to the “no camera” etching (which was only visible once you were INSIDE the museum looking back out through the front door) and said, “The sign is right here, there is NO photography.”

Thanks.  No pics.  I get it.

Once through the entry foyer we did what we usually do at museums; separated to view what interests each of us most with a ‘meet up time’ set about an hour later.

Now, I swear it was NOT my paranoid take on things, but I am positive that there was one guard who was trailing me to make sure I didn’t whip out the camera and sneak a black market pic of a stair railing.  I’d go upstairs, there he was.  I went downstairs, there he was.  I watched a video, he was outside the theater when I left.  I went to the cafe to meet the family and get a bite, he was right behind me.  Very odd.  I hope he had a good time – I know I did!

One of my favorite places to eat are museum cafes.  Often the food is just wonderful, and it’s usually not terribly expensive.  This cafe was strong on the great dishes, but the prices were higher than I’d expected.

They weren’t listed on the items, they were posted clearly on the wall by the cash register, but I found it hard to match the long descriptions of the dishes with the written text.  Let’s face it, reading a menu board, especially at a oblique angle, is NO ONE’s favorite thing to do.

So I was totally unprepared that an entree for me, a few cookies and tea for 4 would total €36.  We put back the cellophane wrapped cookies (much to the disgust of the woman at the counter) bringing my chicken roullade and tea for 4 to €24.  Looking at the receipt I saw we were charged for something we didn’t order, which further PO’d the cashier when we pointed it out (she looked at us as if we’d just made a big mess in her cafe – “Naughty, naughty Americans…”)

However, the museum was AMAZING.  We could have spent days there.  The cases themselves were not labeled extensively, but there was very good text along each exhibit and the arrangements were very good.  I saw a WONDERFUL video episode from a series called “Legacy” (which I would LOVE to find and purchase!) and seeing the bog people close up was an experience no one in the family will forget.  Amazing.

I also saw a knit beret-type hat with a flat brim that had been found in a bog, dated to the 16th C.  It was definitely knit in the round.  Food for thought.

As we finished up at the museum and started to leave,  I asked one of the gift shop cashiers about the video,

“Hi – I have a question; the video I saw about Vikings, would —“
– [clipped & short, interrupting] “‘S’not available.  Don’t have it.”
– Okay.  Thanks very much.  Sorry I bothered you…

Can You Spot The Duck?

Just then Max looked up and saw a DUCK sitting on the glass in the oculus of the dome  and asked the guard if it would be okay if he took a picture of it.

Happily, the guard said, “Yes” so the kids snapped a few shots of the duck

(And in the process the kids got a nice shot of the ceiling for me, too!  A nice companion to a ceiling at Aughnanure Castle)

Ceiling at Aughnanure Castle

Unhappily, some other visitors saw Max with his camera, so they took theirs out, and were  swiftly deterred with a strong and snappish, “NO CAMERAS!”

Naughty tourists.

The duck was not admonished.

Fumin’ & a-fussin’

Today was Dublin Redux day, a day for a do-over for our family and Dublin, and it was a magnificent one!

Because Max & I are flying out Sunday and Gerry & Hannah are flying out Monday (idiotic mistake on my part…) we knew we’d have to stay over in Dublin at least one night.  The flights are morning flights, so that added a day, too, so Gerry & Hannah will be here in the Dublin area for 3 days.

All the hotels I’d looked into were booked (perhaps because it’s the last weekend in May), so I went with a recommendation I’d received from a travel video (BIG mistake) and booked us into the Bewley’s Hotel at the Airport.  BIG MISTAKE

Please, whatever you do, AVOID BEWLEYS.

I’ve heard of the “Nanny State” – but I’d never experienced the “Nanny Hotel” until now.  At each turn I feel as though the hotel guests are treated like naughty children who can’t be trusted.

When one checks into the Bewley’s one is met with the frustrating inability to open the window more than a crack.  I know this isn’t unusual in European lower & mid-level hotels, but until now I’ve usually found a fan in the room.  Not here.

Our room is SO hot it’s difficult to be in it without having the door open onto the slightly-cooler hallway.  We can’t BUY a breeze, a passing whiff of air, nothing.  No fan is available and there is NO air conditioning because – as the woman at the desk smugly told us – We are eco-friendly…”

The implication was clear, “We are eco-friendly, you fat sow from the US who can’t live without central air for more than 1 day…”

Or maybe I just read that into what she’d said – after all, I was very hot.

Did I mention this was after a VERY hot 4 hour bus ride from Lifford to Dublin Airport in a non-air conditioned Eire bus?  Before you think I’m just being a fat sow of an American, EVERYONE on the bus was sweating and a brief survey at the ladies room during our rest stop netted the results that NO ONE had experienced such a hot bus before.  HOT, baby.

But back to Bewleys.  So we can’t open the window because their “insurance won’t allow it.” Read: “We get a break on our insurance if we don’t let folks actually USE the windows…”

Dirt, or a Heat Filtration System?

And we can’t really use the windows for their other intended purpose as they are SO dirty it’s hard to see out of them.  Why even HAVE windows, Bewleys?  Just to torment us?

Okay, we figured that we could just spend time in the FRIGID lounge area (no air conditioning?  Yeah, right…), paying twice as much for a cider as in any pub in Dublin, and it was only for 2 days.

Besides, it had taken SO much effort to get all of our luggage into the very tiny room (they call it a “family room” – but it’s the same size as any other room, just with an extra bed in it and costing €20 more) that we quailed at the thought of finding and moving to a different hotel.

After one of the most expensive dinners we’d had while in Ireland (and we ordered from the cheap bar menu) we headed back upstairs to drown our sorrows in some fine, fine television.

Except…  The Nanny Hotel won’t allow us to raise the volume high enough to hear the damned TV.  Some channels (sports, live audience shows) are relatively loud.  But the shows we want to watch (science documentary or movie) are so quiet that we have to – literally – gather around the TV so we can hear it.

Whatever it takes to bring the family together, right?

When I called the front desk to ask if there was a problem with the TV we were told that this is how all the TV’s are programmed (only to go to 50% volume.)

Why?  So we don’t disturb the other guests. Naughty, naughty guests, to make SO much noise with your TV-weevy…!

However, as I write this neither kid is able to fall asleep because the music from the disco below is SO loud that it actually drowns out the quiet science documentary we’re trying to watch (we put the TV on to drown out the DJ and the party downstairs)

My first call downstairs was met with, “Disco?  We don’t have a disco.  Or any parties tonight.”

It was like Agnes of God.  Baby?  What baby?

I told the fellow at the desk that I’d been downstairs 5 minutes earlier and the music from the disco/party was so loud folks had to shout at the desk to be heard.  So he conceded, “Yes, I will speak to the DJ…” That was 40 minutes ago – no movement in volume.  Perhaps the DJ couldn’t hear him?

But enough about the annoyingly smug and non-user-friendly Bewleys.  “Eco-friendly” my aunt Fanny. Back to Dublin and our lovely day there!

Up Top & In The Front!Since we’re at the airport, we had to take the hotel bus to the airport, then buy a €10 family all-day pass to ride the bus into the city, all over the city, and back to the airport from the city.  It turned out to be quite a bargain, we really used the busses today!

We visited Trinity college, saw the Book of Kells and walked all over Georgian Dublin.  We visited Merrion Square Park and the statue of Oscar Wilde, the National Library and the National Museum.  Mostly, though, we just enjoyed riding around on the top level of double decker busses – something Max had wanted to do the entire trip!

After investigating the city center to our fill, we took the bus to Phoenix Park where we rented bicycles and rode through a lovely landscape (VERY reminiscent of Prospect Park in Brooklyn) for an hour.  It was, without a doubt, the highlight of my time in Dublin and I owe great thanks to whichever of my students suggested it during my class 3 weeks ago.  THANK YOU!

Bravery In The Face of Scrapes

Unfortunately, we had a casualty when Hannah took a spill on her bike and not only scratched up her knee pretty badly, but ripped her favorite pair of jeans.  It’s hard to tell which she’s most upset about!

I was very proud that even with her aches and pains, she hopped back on the bike and made it back to the bike rental station where we did an initial cleaning of her wound and bandaged it loosely.

Then back on the bus to dinner, and a brief walk to a lovely cafe for tea and dessert (we like to split up our meals when possible as it allows us to see more of the city an experience more restaurants.)

One wonderful thing that happened this evening was as Gerry was experiencing a bit of his ulceretic colitis flare up (that wasn’t the wonderful thing) we happened on the idea of visiting the chemists we’d passed which advertised a “Doctor On Duty”

The doctor allowed Gerry 2 days of his Asocol, the drug he takes back home but which he was running out of, and that seems to have done the trick.  We felt so lucky to find the doctor/pharmacy.  Yay!

Update: It’s 12:40 and the drums have stopped.  Does this mean they’ll be attacking soon?  At least we can sleep…