take two

This batch was a little more impressive. And these two videos are just excerpts of tonight's display, which started while it was still a little light out and is, as I type, ongoing.

ooh, aah

Why get to the esplanade in Boston hours and hours early on Wednesday when you can see a pretty decent fireworks display every night in Dorchester from the comfort and convenience of your apartment window for weeks before the 4th?! This year's illegal displays are way more impressive than last year, too. No sparklers or snakes here, this is the real deal. And night after night I wonder how it fails to attract any kind of police attention.

If only they could come up with a way to replicate the Pops' performance...


on widgets and other stuff

Nifty. I just discovered Google Reader's shared items widget thingy; you can see what I've shared at the bottom of the right-hand side of the page. I went through my starred items for starters, so it's all care of Rhizome.org at the moment. I subscribe to their multiple RSS feeds and it's usually pretty overwhelming; the "raw" platform in particular is more often than not spam of some sort (replica watches, viagra, that sorta thing) or some individual member's rant about what is or isn't art, blah, blah, blah. Every once in awhile, though, I come across something amazing, but the volume is just too much for me to comment on. So the widget solves that problem nicely, if you care to peruse it.

We recently got the three rolls of film we took on our London-Athens trip developed and scanned so I've been meaning to put this travel thread to bed already, but I need to do some image correction and downsizing, etc., before I can do so. There are very few pictures of me in the digital batch...which makes sense considering I had control of that camera for most of the trip. Not surprisingly, there are quite a few more in the film photos that Neal took. Nothing Tyra would be too upset about. Maybe I learned my lesson from last summer's travels and photo-taking I was not aware of.

Which reminds me, I've been wanting to blog about these sunglasses for awhile now. I resisted the temptation to buy the big honkin' variety so trendy lately, but when my several years old cheapo Walgreen's variety broke beyond my repair a couple of months ago, I decided to break down and buy a discount designer pair at Filene's Basement. I started trying on the big "owl eye" styles half-jokingly, but I found I actually kind of liked the way they look. I also bought a few of those really long shirts, you know, the ones that kind of look like babydoll dresses over jeans, and I have a strong urge to buy some footless leggings...

Also, I should add that I broke down and got bangs today. I had bangs my entire life and decided to grow them out just as everyone else seemed to get fringe-happy on me. It took me two tries and about three years to finally grow them out completely and get used to long hair, but recently, after a solid three or so years bang-free, I found myself searching the web for examples of the sexy sideswept variety, knowing full well they'd be pulled over in a bobby pin within the first twenty-four hours (and they are, but only because I'm staying in tonight). I just got tired of seeing so much of my forehead. To add to the drama, I returned to Joe at Hair Adventure after a year elsewhere. I won't say where elsewhere was, but after three tries, I was fed up. I haven't been so disappointed with a haircut in a really long time. Less than two months later, I felt downright desperate for a trim and I'd come across some photos taken during my original Hair Adventure cuts. We were in New York and I hadn't even brought a hair dryer and my do looked more done than on a good day lately with all my equipment and humidity-resistant products. So I thought I'd give Joe another go and I'm pretty pleased so far, even having resorted to the bobby pin so quickly.

Wow, what a self-absorbed post...Next time I promise I'll only tell you all about my travels!


what do they know?

Nigel keeps going on about how America gets it wrong each week with its votes (and to be fair, sometimes I agree) and the couples we put in the bottom three. Well, after tonight, I'm fairly convinced the judges don't know much more than we do, sending two of my favorite dancers home. Nigel scolded all four girls for not performing well enough in their solos (could they be a tad more specific as to what exactly "dancing for your life" means?), singled out Lauren - who should've gone home - and then simply told Jessi she'd be the one leaving the competition tonight. That's it?! No feedback, no reasoning?! I feel like they penalized her for her medical situation earlier in the week, and in a week when the votes did not actually put her in the bottom three, it was unfair to not give her another week, at least. Especially considering who she was up against. It's a tough decision, I'm sure, but Lauren seemed like a no-brainer to go home. She's like, a teenager, she'll be fine! And I'm sure Jessi will be, too, but I'm incredibly disappointed. I mean, c'mon, how great was that cha cha cha? Oh well, dancing is just one part of her triple threat dream...

Likewise, I think the judges made the wrong decision with the guys, sending Jesus home over Neil (who would have gotten the boot from me) and Danny. I didn't think Neil's solo was particularly stellar and in the competition overall, Jesus has been a more consistent performer. Danny is an amazing dancer, so I would have been pretty shocked to see him go, but what was that snickering about when it was revealed that Cedric was safe while he was not? Dude, get over yourself just a little bit. You, too, judges.

jessi's (my) girl

I've done a little bit of searching today but haven't been able to find any news on Jessi's condition. I was so disappointed that she wasn't able to dance last night; even the rehearsal video looked amazing (that one move where Pasha brings her up through his legs...wow!). I guess I'll just have to wait until tonight's results show to find out if she's healthy enough to "dance for her life."

So that was a major bummer but there were a lot of solid routines, once again. I'm finding it near impossible to vote for less than half of the couples; hopefully this voting thing will be easier when it's by individual dancer. Sara and Jesus made a huge improvement for me over last week, which was more an issue of choreography than skill, but still. I thought Anya actually did a pretty good job at hip hop, all things considered. Sabra is really growing on me; her rumba with Dominic was possibly my favorite routine of the night. And another improvement for Jaimie and Hok but I'm not sure how America will respond to that whole hummingbird-flower dynamic.

Kameron is probably one of my favorite guys so far, but I just can't vote for him and Lacey as a couple until they get something other than ballroom. You know what, Mary Murphy, you can spare me the nuances of the quick step versus swing, ballroom is ballroom and Lacey's been in her comfort zone pretty much this entire season. Huh, that's funny, just like her brother Benji last season...

I think that's the only thing annoying me so far. That and the fact that I can't re-watch any routines that might show up on YouTube thanks to the videos having been seemingly instantaneously removed by Dick Clark Productions, Inc. Damn copyright claims!


neither here nor there: day 8 (continued)

This series of posts is taking way longer than the actual trip. I blame it on my summer job, which, while pretty much exactly what I was looking for, takes place in an office. Two years, apparently, is enough time to forget all the things I didn't particularly like about working in an office (why does my face feel so oily by the end of the day when I stayed inside and didn't sweat a single drop all day? Weird...) and grad school has officially ruined whatever attention span I had (eight hours is an awfully long time to do one thing). Mainly the fact that the last thing I want to do after eight hours in an office is anything even remotely computer-related. A positive outcome of this, however, is that I might just finish crocheting the blanket I started five years ago.

This is just about the last photo we took on top of the Acropolis. Rather, the last photo that a friendly Aussie guy took of us. To be fair, he must have sensed his first try was totally out of focus because he did take a second image in which at least the Parthenon is in focus. This blurrier version, though, is pretty great, I think.

From there we walked down the hill through the ancient Agora to the Monstiraki market where we enjoyed large quantities of meat, tzatziki, and Greek beer for lunch. We assumed the National Archaeological Museum closed early that afternoon, since that's what our guidebook indicated, so we decided to take the metro to the Port of Pireas. We didn't have time to visit any islands on this brief trip but we at least wanted a glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea.

It was a long walk from the metro station but we got a good look at the water before heading back into the city. At that point we decided to spend our last couple of sightseeing hours in Athens on the bus tour that we'd failed to pick up the day before. We knew the last bus departed from the Archaeological Museum at 6, so that's where we headed, getting there a bit early. As we walked around the square, we were sure we saw people going into and out of the museum. Sure enough, despite the information in two different sources, the museum had apparently switched to summer hours early (we were starting to notice a trend). We vacillated between the bus and the museum for about 15 minutes. The museum was on my list of things to do, but to be honest, I was pretty museum-ed out by then. I kind of just wanted to sit on a bus for a couple of hours. In the end we went with a rather dazed walk-through of the museum. I'm still full of antiquity. I was, however, pretty amazed by all the statues they have that have been found in the sea over the years. They have folks there who actually specialize in conserving art and artifacts found in the ocean.

I was downright pooped that evening. Especially having checked the Acropolis off my list, I felt done. Needless to say, we didn't do much else in Athens. I think I took a long bath and enjoyed some pretzels and maybe a granola bar from the snack bag before calling it a night.


what do I know?

Wow, two couples I voted for in the bottom three. That's harsh. I was so worried Jessi was going home; she's definitely among my favorite girls. It's always sad to see them cry, but if I had to pick, it would've been Faina. I think her performance suffered from having a somewhat reserved personality.

Among the guys, I was shocked, but not disappointed by the judges' decision to send Jimmy home over Cedric. I think both Jessi and Cedric have been brought down by their ballroom partners. Because the voting is by couple (and I'm already dialing four to six numbers each week) I have to base my calls on the overall performance of the duo. So I feel like a bit of a hypocrite when I complain that Cedric has been in the bottom three each week; I didn't vote for him...but I probably would have if voting was by individual dancer. I just think he's amazing and if he can get his hands under control (and avoid too many weeks of ballroom) he'll do just fine. Ultimately, I think this competition can do more for him than it would for Jimmy, whose formal training and talent should be sufficiently nudged along by making it to the top 20. Cedric's got a lot of potential and a lot to learn, so I'm glad he's sticking around...for another week, at least.

Of course, I have no idea what I'm talking about and absolutely no sense of the dance industry. Good thing this is partially up to me, right?


too much ballroom

Some thoughts on tonight's performances on SYTYCD. The thing is, I like ballroom, but I think because there's so much of it on the show, the choreographers are trying to mix things up and make it cool by infusing it with non-traditional moves and setting routines to pop and rock music. The result: "things that make you go...hmmm," i.e. slightly awkward performances by Jaimie & Hok and Sara & Jesus. I like all of those dancers individually but I just wasn't feeling their performances tonight. Also, why did they put all of the taller girls with the smallest guys, possibly putting Jaimie & Hok in the same position as Ashlee & Ricky found themselves last week.

But ultimately, despite some awkward moments, this is a pretty tight bunch. Top couples tonight for me included Lauren & Neil (although I still find Lauren a little too confident, like she's not trying quite hard enough to earn my vote...I gave it to her anyway), Jessie & Pasha (more Jessie than Pasha, really), Anya & Danny (Neal described Anya as a cross between Scarlett Johansson and Russian-born Natasha from the most recent cycle of ANTM), and Shauna & Jimmy. I find both Shauna and Jimmy a tad goofy, but they've delivered two excellent performances so what more can I ask for. And where can I get my hands on that SYTYCD schwag?

On the choreography front, Shane's still my fave (notably absent this week; I say less ballroom, more Shane Sparks), but Dave Scott's routines were pretty great; I'm not convinced, however, that the steppin' sounds in Shauna & Jimmy's routine were actually coming from their hands and feet. And I've decided that lyric/contemporary is a little like performance art: when it's good, it's amazing (remember Allison and Ivan's Mia Michaels routine from last season? the one with the bench? wow...); but more often than not, for me at least, someone completely unschooled in the art of flexed feet and winding torsos through arms and such, it just leaves me squirming.

Finally, I managed to narrow down my votes from six couples last week to just four tonight.



I wasn't sure if I'd blog about the end result of Sophie's visit to the pet groomer. If, indeed, she'd been given the full-on lion cut, I wasn't sure I wanted her to suffer any further humiliation. But as you can see the groomer was mostly successful in coming up with a less extreme solution to Sophie's New England summer-induced fur woes. Actually, the picture makes it look like not much has changed, but she is indeed fully clipped. It's a bit choppy, which shouldn't come as too much of a surprise considering the groomer our vet hires only does lion cuts; this, I think, was quite a compromise for her. I think it'll do, but I have to admit, I was actually a little disappointed when the vet tech brought her out. I think part of me was secretly looking forward to seeing a more lion-like (and male lion, at that) cat.

Which makes me think of various comments I read after doing an image search on the lion cut. Clearly, pet groomers have come up with a cut, though functional, that also satisfies some weird desire many humans have to mess with nature (and I remain convinced that even the lion cut is nothing compared to dog breeding in general). But ultimately I can't imagine most cat owners actually enjoy this kind of thing. Spend one summer with a long-haired cat and you too will be convinced that not only your life will be improved but the cat will be more comfortable as well.

Anyway, this whole experience reminded me of Chrissa's similar situation at the end of last summer. It makes me wonder how Dinah's holding up so far this time around.


summer daze

It's official: summer has arrived. Neither the heat nor humidity have hit intolerable levels yet but the ACs are installed and the cats look like this about 95% of the time.

Doesn't Sophie look downright defeated by all that fluff? Learning from last summer's onslaught of heat and humidity on her rather cottony fur, she has an appointment a bit later this week with the groomer who stops by our local vet a couple of times a week. This cat does not look so happy with its "lion cut," a popular summer style for long-hair cats. I'm hoping the groomer can come up with something a little less extreme.

Anyway, I too am feeling the full effect of the lazy days of summer. Despite having lots to blog about - not to mention a couple more days of travel notes - I just can't muster the energy to put it all in words. And I've come to the end of my four-day weekend. Sigh. Fortunately, one exciting new adventure this past weekend was shared with another blogger and she's already blogged about it, so you can read her take on it for now. Maybe I'll find some time to catch up next weekend, which starts in just three days. It's tough being an art student.


that was a little weird

Doesn't Cat Deeley have lovely Raggedy Ann eyelashes?

SYTYCD eliminated its first guy and girl tonight. But not before Season 2 winner Benji Schwimmer dropped his pants and revealed his patriotic undies. What was that about? Anyway, Ashlee and Ricky were not among the six couples I voted for last night. It's just too early to pick one or two favorites and honestly, I didn't think there were any standouts in either direction. Even Ashlee and Ricky were mostly just an awkward physical match. Early interests of mine, though, include Anya (who's super-hot), Jaimie (Nigel compared Lauren to Allison from last season but I think Jaimie shares more of a likeness, physically and in terms of dance potential), Hok (he's pretty amazing but I'm not sure how versatile he's going to be), Lauren (although I think she might be to SYTYCD a little bit what Jade was to ANTM), Kameron, Neil, and Sara (she's pretty great, I just can't wait to see what else she can do).

As you might be able to tell from my lack of parenthetical annotations, there aren't too many standouts yet among the guys for me. I wasn't blown away by Cedric previously either but I think I must not have been paying attention. That boy is cuh-razy on the dance floor! And I just love Shane Sparks' choreography. I like him better than Wade Robson. Zombie dancing aside, the thing that falls apart with Wade's routines - not to his fault, but still - is that they so rely on the dancers being completely synchronized. When they're not you really notice. Shane, on the other hand, allows dancers to really "vibe off each other," and then there are moments where they come together and the whole routine kind of pops. It's great. Plus, there's some serious old school flavor in Shane's routines that I just love.

And, what, no "Suddenly I See" to bid adieu to the departing "beautiful girl"?! I can't decide how I feel about that, actually...


neither here nor there: day 8

I'm tired and it's getting late and I'm starting a new job tomorrow. But here are some quickly annotated photos to wrap up the image portion of this blog series (you might remember that the last photo I took was on top of the Acropolis, about midway through day 8 of our trip). I'll add some additional thoughts, digressions, and photos in the coming weeks.

We headed to the Acropolis by way of Hadrian's Arch:

the Temple of Olympia Zeus:

and the Plaka:

With a quick detour to the New Museum at the base of the hill, built specifically to eventually house the Elgin Marbles, still empty and under construction at the moment:

We bought our student-rate tickets:

Showed them off a bit:

And made our way up the hill, stopping first at the Theater of Dionysos:

Where I spotted an orange tabby:

and some late spring flowers:

Next stop on our ascent was the Theater of Herodes Atticus:

Finally, we made it to the top and entered through the Propylaia:

The initial impression of the Parthenon, as you pass through the old gate, still up the hill a bit, is overwhelming.

I'm not sure if there really is some inherent sense of 2500 years of history, or if it was the heat, or the hike, or just the anticipation, or a combination of all four...it was, I think, the definition of awesome.

We walked around the South Frieze, taking pictures of the site and the view. Here's more of a birds-eye view of the New Museum below:

There's also an old museum on top of the acropolis, guarded by this owl statue outside:

The Old Museum houses stuff that was found when the Parthenon was built, stuff that's even older than the existing 2500 year old structure. Also housed in the museum are the original Caryatids of the Erechtheon (the versions "in situ" are replicas):

And that's about it, folks. You can browse all the trip photos blogged about here. Neal took a roll of slides, mostly at the Acropolis, as well as three rolls of film photography throughout the trip, so I'll add to this series when those prints come back. I have a few more thoughts to share, as well, but hopefully these last images will tide you over 'til then.


neither here nor there: day 7

Let's see, where were we? Ah, yes, our first full day in Athens.

With just five hours of sleep we were reluctant to wake up around 9 a.m., but especially after not making this leg of the trip had been a real possibility for a brief time, I was anxious to get started. We had energy bars for breakfast and after a quick detour to check out the rooftop view, we boarded the hotel shuttle to Syntagma Square.

We supplemented our energy bar breakfasts with coffee (a "Freddocino" for me) and donuts sold from a street vendor. We wandered around Syntagma Square a bit, and checked out the visitor's center down the street, where we received limited information about the whereabouts of ATM's and the details of the hop-on/hop-off bus tour. We noted some fancy hotels, right on the square.

I thought the Parliament building looked awfully pink until I realized that was just the effect of my slightly rose-colored glasses on the beige stone.

They even have a changing of the guard ceremony and this one is hourly, not just once daily.

We passed what we assumed were three guards headed down to begin the ceremony as we walked along the side of the Parliament building to the Benaki Museum.

This museum was on my general neo-classical list of things to see and do and I was not disappointed by the architecture and general impression of the place and particularly with the gallery devoted to Athens through the eyes of foreigners. I was only disappointed by the fact that the gift shop didn't seem to have a book or other collection of reproductions of the many, mostly 19th-century drawings and paintings of the Acropolis in that gallery.

From there we walked to Lykavitos Hill via Kolonaki Square where we passed on pricey lunch options (the nearby Chanel and Gucci stores should have warned us), still full from our breakfast of caffeine and sugar.

It's a decent walk (and a number of stairs) to the base of the hill so that by the time we got there we were easily persuaded into paying to take the funicular the rest of the way to the top.

The view from the top was indeed impressive, especially as a storm moved in from the northeast.

There's a little church devoted to St. George at the top:

The view to the southwest was a bit hazy but you could still make out the Acropolis across town and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.

Here's a close-up:

You can also see the Olympic Stadium, which we later tried to get to by way of the tour bus but failed.

We decided to pass on the 4 euro drinks being served in the little café at the top and took the funicular back down after about a half-hour, making our way back to Syntagma Square. On the walk we spotted the Parthenon between apartment buildings.

Seeing the Acropolis from various vantage points throughout our first day (we reserved Sunday for the actual visit) was surreal, as if the maquette I'd seen and photographed in Boston had been magically imposed upon the hazy skyline.

Back near Syntagma Square, we enjoyed souvlaki in the company of just a few of Athens' stray dogs.

At that point we thought we'd catch the hop-on/hop-off bus tour at the Parliament stop, thinking it'd eventually loop around to the stadium. We waited about twenty minutes and were urged to jump on when it finally arrived. On our way to the next stop, as we fiddled with our euros to try and pay the attendant, she explained to us that the bus is not so much a loop as a route that ends two stops after Parliament. The route begins at the National Archaeological Museum but by then we had missed the last bus. We walked back to where we'd just been and took the metro back to the hotel.

After confirming that our view did not include the Acropolis, we made our way to the rooftop bar, where we watched the sun set...

(...over beer and hummus...)

...and the Acropolis light up.

Wow, so that's what it's like to spend a productive, uneventful day of sightseeing.


neither here nor there: digression

Unfortunately, I've run out of time today to continue with day seven, our first full day in Athens. I'll be headed to the airport shortly to pick up the in-laws, in town for the weekend. But I'll be back on Monday. Have a lovely weekend.


neither here nor there: day 6

Is there something better than "best case scenario"? That's what I was thinking early Friday morning as the embassy man walked back to the window with my passport in his hand. Neal and I got up early and skipped breakfast so we could make it to Bond Street early enough to get the correct kind of passport photos before the embassy openend at 8:30. Apparently the photos I took in one of those drugstore photo-booths (it looked official) weren't quite to U.S. standards so we "borrowed" wireless internet access the night before to find a place near the embassy that could retake my passport photos. We found a place that opened at the same time, which drove me a little mad, wanting, obviously, to get to the embassy as soon, if not before, it opened. At any rate, we made it to the Bond Street area a little after 8 a.m. and the photo place appeared to be open. We walked up several flights of narrow stairs (I think the guy who works there must not want to walk back down the stairs to open the door when he's officially ready to open) to an open photo studio. The guy working appeared to be getting dressed in a little room in the back. It was a little weird.

But I had my photos and we were in line at the embassy by about 8:15. There were only a few people in line ahead of me so it wasn't long before I was filling out forms and standing back in line for a temporary replacement. I was just happy that it looked like I would indeed be out in time to catch my afternoon flight, but as the man behind the counter was processing my forms he stopped and repeated my name a couple of times before getting up to walk away without saying anything to either of us. Initially, I was confused and a little annoyed, thinking maybe there was someone with the same last name who worked there. Like I have time for sillyness such as this! It started to dawn on me as he walked back, though, and I was so happy I could cry by the time he got back to his desk. Apparently, my passport was found by a security officer in the park where I thought I'd lost it and returned to the embassy the afternoon before. It was the last lost passport he processed on Thursday before heading out. I just happened to get the same guy and he just happened to recognize my name. I asked him how often that happens. He hesitated for a second and then replied, "Never."

I think I floated out, after promising to take extra good care of my passport from then on. We grabbed breakfast on our way to the Holborn police station to close out the report we'd placed the day before, on recommendation of the embassy. It was unnecessary, apparently, and Neal and I joked that they probably recycle the reports at the end of each day.

From there we headed back to the hotel, picked up our bags, and got back on the underground for the airport. Getting through check-in and security at Heathrow was way more efficient than in Boston, getting through both within about a half-hour. They don't list gates until five minutes or so before boarding (and occasionally your gate will be in a different terminal, 15 to 20 minutes away), leaving you with little to do other than mill about the duty free shops, where you might be inclined to buy a one-kilogram bar of dairy milk. But your husband will dissuade you.

Anyway, we flew to Athens on Lufthansa, via a four-hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany. Beer and wine are free but there's little in the way of in-cabin entertainment. Flying into Frankfurt was a surreal experience. As I've noted here before, I lived on Rhein Main Air Base between the summer of 1987 and early fall of 1991. The base, officially closed as of 2005, shared an airstrip with the airport. There's a mile and a half or so long road that connected the main part of the base with the residential area, running along one edge of the runway.

That road is still there, as is the Berlin Airlift memorial. You can read more about the base and memorial here.

There was a shuttle bus and casual carpool linking the two parts of the base, but I remember walking along that road many times, watching the planes fly directly overhead before landing. There were also soccer fields as you got close to the residential area, near where the Lufthansa food processing building was. It always smelled a little funny around there. Other than that one road, I couldn't tell if the rest of the base was still standing in any form. As we rode the tram from one terminal to the next, I felt like I was getting pretty close to where the residential area had been but I couldn't tell for sure. I did see the Steigenberger Hotel, though, where we stayed for the first couple of weeks we were in Germany and walked to base by way of the "back gate" every day.

In my eagerness to explore the airport, I guess I didn't notice that we'd left a security area. At any rate, after getting really confused and finding it near impossible to get to a central food court area in one of the newer terminals we decided to head back to where we started in search of the bar we passed coming in. I'm still not sure how we got so turned around, but after passing back through security complete with full-on frisking we made our way to our next gate, bought a pretzel from a little cart and waited patiently. Charlie Kaufman should set his next screenplay in the Frankfurt Airport.

Our flight to Athens was delayed but otherwise uneventful. They served us slightly warm beer and maltaschen, a (if I remember correctly) more southern Germany specialty. German ravioli is what we used to call it. I can't believe there's no wikipedia page for maltaschen.

Needless to say, with an afternoon flight, a four-hour layover, and a 45 minute or so delay, we got into Athens pretty late. Technically, we could have taken a 70-minute bus ride to Syntagma Square and then tried to hail a taxi from there, but we decided instead to take a taxi directly from the airport to the hotel. It was about 2:30/3 a.m. by then. 30 minutes and 50 euros (all the cash we had exchanged in the Frankfurt airport) later we arrived at our hotel, checked in, and collapsed.


neither here nor there: intermission

I don't know about you, but I could use a break! I'll be back tomorrow with a full report on day six. In the meantime, here's a video clip I took at the Changing of the Guards ceremony during our first full day in London. I love the Southpark-style shuffle they do to align themselves with one another. Stay tuned to the second half of the minute-long video for minor adjustments following the initial movements.


neither here nor there: day 5

At last we make it to the British Museum. Thursday got off to a great start. We slept in a bit, skipping out on the English breakfast (free is great and all, but I can only eat so much eggs and bacon), making it to the Museum shortly after it opened.

We admired the Great Court for a bit as we enjoyed scones in the café before getting to work in the Parthenon galleries.

We spent a long time in the two side galleries immediately before the Duveen gallery. In the gallery to the right as you walk in, there's a maquette of the Parthenon as it would have looked completed in 438 or so B.C.

...which was shortly thereafter completely surrounded by a school group.

Also in that gallery are plaster casts of some of the marbles. One of the wall labels reads: "The sculptures themselves are now less complete than the casts, which are therefore an important record of the condition of the sculpture before it was damaged by two centuries of exposure to the elements."

Most of the stuff in that gallery is plaster cast or replica, but there are a couple of instances where old and authentic meets new and artificial.

There's another maquette in the opposite gallery, to the left as you enter through the glass doors, but this one has the Parthenon in situ, on top of the Acropolis.

This one is different from the maquette in the MFA in that it depicts the Parthenon and surrounding buildings as they looked before centuries of invasions, revisions, explosions, removal of select sculptures, etc. And it's on the wall, offering you a bird's eye view of the city on a hill without craning your neck or bending on tip toes over a glass case.

There are a few more fragments in this gallery but the lighting is generally pretty dim to accommodate for a video on the opposite wall so most of the pictures I took were hopelessly blurry (I'm not a big fan of flash).

In the Duveen gallery, I went a little crazy with taking photos. I took pictures of the general view, taking it all in:

of other people taking a look (or taking a rest, as it were):

of the floor:

of the backs of things:

and other details:

Walking through the Parthenon galleries, I kept having these flashes of scenes from the 1982 animated film The Last Unicorn, based on Peter S. Beagle's book of the same title.

Particularly strong was the Midnight Carnival scene, where the witch Mommy Fortuna, who can see the magical creature for what she really is, nevertheless casts a spell on her, as she has on numerous other animals, to make people see a unicorn instead of a mare. Her authenticity shouldn't be discernible to the visitors, but as they walk around, something changes when they get to her cage, like they know something's different about her, even though the illusion is no different than the other creatures. There's something really sad about that whole movie (I get a lump in my throat still, just reading the synopsis on Wikipedia). Oh, to be 5 again.

But anyway, I digress. There's other famous stuff in the British Museum, like the Rosetta Stone.

You can just barely see the Parthenon galleries through the glass that surrounds the stone. There's also a replica of it just across the Great Court, in the Enlightenment Gallery, out in the open and on a tilt, as it was originally displayed. I noticed several people looking very confused by the replica's unceremonious display. "This can't possibly be the real thing."

At that point we decided, since the Museum was open late that night, to take a break for lunch and a visit to nearby Sir John Soane's Museum. After lunch we decided to head back to Bloomsbury Square for yet another 99 Flake. The day was going so well. I had thoroughly enjoyed the British Museum and was excited to head to Athens the next day, and we even had time for ice cream in the park before heading to the second museum of the day. I took a picture of the pigeons, having a scavenging "bath" in the trashbin.

At that point I checked my guidebook for something and when I went to put it back in my bag I noticed my passport was missing. I immediately freaked out. I dumped everything out of my bag, checked under the bench, raced over to where the ice cream truck had been. Nothing. I think I cried a little. When I couldn't be 100% sure I'd even put it in my bag that morning, Neal bet me ten pounds that it was still in the hotel room (come to think of it, he never paid up...although I did find a ten pound note on the ground our last night in London...).

I was convinced I lost it because I was pretty sure I would've noticed it missing earlier in the day had I left it in the hotel, but just to be sure, after we retraced our steps through the Holborn, Bloomsbury, and Fitzrovia neighborhoods, I went back to the hotel while Neal checked the park again. No luck on either end. "Oh, little blue rectangle, where are you?"

With no phone in our B&B room, I had to use the phone in the lobby and as I was trying to make sense of the embassy's mind-boggling menus the attendant on duty kept interrupting me, trying, I'm sure, to be helpful. Eventually, I gave up on the phone and we decided to go in person, trying desperately to get there before 5, not even sure of the hours. Not surprisingly, we were too late, but the guard was incredibly helpful (and optimistic, which helped), explaining that we should come back prepared first thing the next morning. Hopefully we'd have time to get a temporary replacement with enough time to make our 2 p.m. flight to Athens.

After getting passport photos from a vending machine in Boots (which I later learned were not valid for U.S. standards) we headed back to the area where I thought I lost it, placing a lost items report at the Holborn police station. There was nothing else we could do so we tried to make the most of the evening. The Sir John Soane's Museum was closed by then, so we spent another hour or so back at the British Museum.

When we returned to the hotel the man who'd previously been so helpful (or at least had tried to be) was suddenly quite negative. If we weren't scheduled to check out the next morning by 11, it wouldn't have been an issue, but as we explained the latest to him and requested to store our bags just in case by some miracle we got out of the embassy in time to retrieve them, check out, and make our flight, he guaranteed me that I'd be at the embassy all day. Fortunately for us, they had availability that next night, but we'd be on our own if we needed any more time than that.

The thing is, I understand where he was coming from, only wanting to warn me that it wasn't exactly realistic to expect to resolve the problem quickly enough to move on with our itinerary, as planned, but it would have been equally foolish to give up and, defeated, give in to London for another night. If we hadn't packed our bags that night and planned for the worst and best case scenarios, I wouldn't have made my flight to Athens via Frankfurt the next afternoon, where, during the four-hour layover, I finally caught up on my journal.