This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for June, 2012

First Trip into London

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 29, 2012

Hungerford Bridge, from south bank of Thames

I’m back in Israel. I think I caught a cold from being stuffed into a middle–of-the-row economy class seat on a long overnight flight.

On my second night, I took the South West Line train from Egham to London Waterloo Station to meet my sister. It’s a pity that I was to tired to take many photos because that evening had the best light of all the nights I was there. The photo above was taken just beside the Hungerford railway bridge near Waterloo Station.

London Eye

Here’s my sister digging into a plate of calamari. I had a beer. She doesn’t always dress in bright orange. She was wearing her cycling clothes and dragging a bicycle through the train station when I met her at the end of the platforms.


Tacey conjures calamari

Earlier that day a helicopter landed near the hotel to drop off a guest. We saw a round, mowed area in the grass and had wondered what it was. One of the pilots and a hotel worker are in the photo before. I was too late to photograph the passenger.

Not everyone comes by car

Posted in photography | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 27, 2012


This posting is a bit late because Stonehenge was one of the first things I did on this trip. I arrived at Luton airport on Sunday morning, on time (believe it or not), found my taxi driver, and reached Heathrow in 40 minutes. To my surprise, Shalom’s flight was still unloading bags and I had to wait about a half hour until he appeared. We picked up the rental car and hit the road. Getting to Stonehenge wasn’t very difficult, even after we accidentally got on the M4 instead of the M3. I adjusted my plan so we went past Slough and Maidenhead, turned south at Reading on the A33 at Basingstoke, joined the M4 and continued along the A303, turned off past Amesbury, and continued along A344 to Stonehenge.

Piece of cake. Gorgeous weather with great clouds and sunlight. Was that clouds or crowds? There were a lot of tourists. The setting on the Salisbury Plain is stunning, with rolling downs on all sides. The parking lot is in a field (large enough to accommodate buses; it reminded me of Meron on Lag be’Omer).

We stayed about an hour and I took some postcard shots of Stonehenge. Although it’s smaller than you might imagine, it’s still an impressive site. It’s also a challenge to get a good angle that shows the stones and doesn’t have scores of tourists in the background. You can’t get very close to the stones. You’re restricted to a path that runs around the edge of the site (in my husband’s day they were allowed to climb on the stones, but that was a long time ago). A free audio guide is available.

Postcard shot of Stonehenge


Salisbury Plain

Salisbury Crows






About 50 pagans arrived in costume with drums for a ceremony at 5 p.m. They were just getting started as we left.

Local pagans

Local Pagan

Seen in the Stonehenge gift shop:

Sheep Droppings in Stonehenge Shop

The real problem began when we tried finding crop circles. Crop circles aren’t easy to spot on the ground from a car and they aren’t always clearly marked on Google maps. I think we went past the Yarnsbury Castle crop circle (the castle itself is no longer standing). To make a very long story short, we got stuck on the A303 and it was hours before we were able to find a roundabout to turn around. I jumped out of the car a few times, waving my map and asking for directions. People were very helpful, but the clearest answer was, “Best place to turn around is Stonehenge. Soon as you see the country looking real pretty, you turn around. Otherwise you’re stuck with it until you get to Exeter.” Um, gee, thanks. I’m sure Devon is lovely at this time of year but it was a bit farther than we intended.

Salisbury Plain

The whole countryside was very beautiful and the weather was superb. It looked like a Turner landscape. But I was starting to worry about how long Shalom could continue driving after a long trip from Israel. In the end we managed to turn around at Wincanton, about 150 miles southwest of London. At least it stays light very late at this latitude and the weather and scenery were stunning. Shalom thinks he spotted the Yarnsbury Castle circle some distance after Stonehenge but I’m not positive. We couldn’t get a very good look at it from the opposite side of the road, moving along at 70 mph. An accident on the M25 slowed us down to a crawl. Eventually we got to Staines, I jumped out several times to ask directions across the Stains bridge because London A-Z doesn’t cover that area. It’s a good thing English is my first language. England has a bewildering range of accents (like the three guys running an Indian restaurant who were all trying to answer me at once).

We got to the hotel. Shalom hadn’t brought any kosher food, so I gave him half a can of tuna (I’d only brought one), crackers, a container of instant noodles, and a granola bar. He repaid me with a bottle of beer from the bar. The Runnymede-on-Thames is a posh hotel, certainly by my standards! I’ve never slept on so many feathers in my life — feather comforter, feather mattress pad, FOUR feather pillows (the bed is probably queen-size).

Runnymede-on-Thames Hotel

The hotel backs onto the Thames and you can walk along the Thames River path and see the locks.

Bell Weir, Thames

Ducks at the Bell Weir.

Ducks on Bell Weir, Thames

Posted in photography | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

It began with a cat and a dead squirrel…

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 26, 2012

Cat with Dead Squirrel

We had an interesting evening after today’s course was over. Four of us in the Enterprise Architect course are staying at the Runnymede-on-Thames spa hotel. We got back to the hotel, sat on the terrace for a while, and drank beer. Michael went up to his room but Shalom, Dave, and I decided to go for a walk along the Thames. We photographed some ducks and walked along the Thames River path.

Ducks on Thames

At some point Dave said, “What is that thing? And what does it have in its mouth?” A large black-and-white cat trotted towards us, carrying a dead squirrel. Oddly, it showed no fear. It just trotted past us and continued to the marina, where a few people stood on the dock drinking beer.

Cat with Dead Squirrel Led to Marina

The cat darted into one of the boats and was ejected by the owner almost immediately.

Cat with Dead Squirrel Ejected from Boat

Without dropping the squirrel, the cat continued down the path, over the bridge, to the far side of the marina. The guy who carried the cat out of his boat invited us to look around inside. He’s very proud of his decorating. He showed us a whale vertebra mounted on the wall, from the Faroes, where he worked recently; he found it on the beach.

Boat interior

He showed us a photo of his mother’s family:

Boat interior

and played a home-made slide guitar:

Homemade Slide Guitar

We spent more time chatting with another couple. John, from Scotland, and his Welsh wife (I never did catch her name) have been living in a long boat (actually a narrow boat) since last September. He is an unemployed carpenter and she works in fashion around Oxford Circus in London. Shalom (below) is photographing John’s photo on his phone (I won’t say what it was but you can assume that it’s rather rude). They told us about what it was like to sail up and down the Thames and along the Severn.

Photographing Photo

Dave, from Canada, is on the left side of the photo, with John and his wife:

Couple on Boat

Their kitchen was so organized! I guess it would have to be in such a tiny space.

Kitchen in boat

There are definite advantages to not staying at the Crowne Plaza near Heathrow. You’d never find a narrow boat moored by the airport.

Posted in photography | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Burano Lace Museum

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 22, 2012

Museo del Merletto, Burano

This posting is for the lace geeks out there. On our second full day in Venice we took the vaporetto (water bus) from Fondamente Nuove to Burano. Burano is known for its vividly coloured houses (that’s for another posting) and its lace. The lanes and squares of Burano are filled with shops selling over-priced lace made in China. But that’s what the tourists want.

The Museo del Merletto is located in the old lace-making school in Piazza Galuppi of Burano. The Scuola Merletti di Burano founded in 1872 and in operation until 1970. In 1981 it was converted into a museum. It re-opened to the public in 2011 after extensive renovations and it houses both Venetian and Burano needle laces, as well as providing a venue for local lace-makers to demonstrate their skill.

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Even the lockers are decorated with lace!

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Edging on an alb, late 19th century.

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Table center, late 19th century.

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Two lacemakers were at the school when I was there. Neither of them spoke English and my Italian wasn’t up to the task of discussing lace on my 3rd day in Italy, but I did find out that they use cotton thread.


The lacemaker at the back of the photo above was working on a fan (to be mounted in a frame, not on fan sticks, obviously). I was disappointed that I couldn’t see her working the reseau ground. She had finished the base design and was doing the fairly mindless job of couching the cordonnet. I can’t say I blame her for bringing easier work when one is being jostled by curious tourists and school tours, but I was hoping to see her work the ground!

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Museo del Merletto, Burano

The other lacemaker was working on a large edging for a cloth.

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Girls from a school tour sat in the empty lacemaking chairs and pretended to make lace.

Museo del Merletto, Burano

Posted in Crafts, Italy, photography | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Horses of San Marco, Venice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 21, 2012

Horses of San Marco, Venice

Horses of San Marco, Venice

This may be hard to believe, but the four bronze (actually, they’re copper) horses above the door of the San Marco Basilica in Venice pre-date Christianity. They have been attributed to Lysippos, the 4th century BCE Greek sculptor, although this theory is not universally accepted. But that gives you an idea of their age.

They were originally displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople, until Venetian soldiers sacked the city in 1204 and took the horses as spoils of war. In 1256, Doge Enrico Dandolo sent the horses to Venice where they were installed on the cathedral. The horses traveled to Paris with Napoleon in 1797 and became part of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. The horses were returned by the Austrian emperor in 1815, after the Battle of Waterloo. As my husband says, they’ve seen a lot of Europe.

The horses guarded the cathedral facade until the 1980s, when they were moved into the basilica’s museum to protect them from damage caused by air pollution. The original horses are in the photo below. In the entrance hall, there is a staircase on your right, as you enter the nave of the cathedral. The museum (and access to the parapet) costs 10 euros, which is a bit steep but you can get some great photos of the piazza and the Doge’s palace.

Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice

This Sunday I’m flying to Staines UK and will be taking a course all week, so I won’t be posting much (at least not about Italy). The course is Enterprise Architect. I always wanted to build a starship. 🙂

Posted in Italy, photography | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Quiet Side of Venice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 20, 2012

Fondamenta Case Nuove, Venice

Photo of Fondamenta Case Nuove at sunset.

The center of Venice, around San Marco and the Rialto bridge, is so crowded and noisy that it’s easy to forget that Venice has quiet streets. On our last night we walked around the Sestria Cannaregio. Venice is divided into six (= “sei” in Italian) sestrias and Cannaregio is one of the quietest. It is near the Santa Lucia train station, around the Jewish Ghetto. You can actually hear birds singing, instead of suitcase wheels rumbling over concrete. By the way, did you know that the population of the historic section of Venice (without Mestre and the other mainland areas) is approximately 60,000? And that they receive over 7 million visitors a year?

Rio di San Girolamo, Venice

In the late afternoon we stopped for beer at a cafe on Rio di San Girolamo. We were the only customers for a while, until two Italian women met, kissed each other on the cheek, sat down, and ordered some wine.

Rio di San Girolamo, Venice

Our waiter was amused when I asked if I could take his picture.

Waiter, Venice

No gondolas, just the small private boats that function as cars in this city.

Rio di San Girolamo, Venice

Posted in Italy, photography | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Piazza and Piazzetta San Marco, Venice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 20, 2012

Piazza and Piazetta San Marco, Venice

I think this photo might be an unusual view of San Marco Square (Piazza San Marco) because it shows both the Piazza and the Piazzetta San Marco. The Piazza is the wide area on the right, with the red flag pole. The Piazetta is the smaller square on the left that opens onto the lagoon, just beyond the Doge’s palace. The front leg of one of the bronze horses above the doorway of Saint Mark’s Basilica is visible on the left side of the photo. The tall tower in the center is the campanile, another excellent place for photographing the city. It has an elevator and costs 8 euros.

This isn’t a composite. I took it with a Canon 10-22 mm lens (it also proved invaluable for photographing large cathedrals in small city squares). I was standing on the high walkway above the arches. This part of the cathedral costs an extra 10 euros but it includes the museum and access to the parapet, where you can photograph the Piazza from above.

Posted in Italy, photography | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Decayed Beauty of Venice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 19, 2012

Blue Door, Venice

You probably know, without my telling you, that Venice has more problems with dampness in buildings than most parts of the world. The perpetual moisture causes paint to blister, plaster to crack and flake, and wood to rot. Many of the buildings are crumbling before our eyes, but the slow decay creates amazing textures and colours around the windows and doors. I photographed a few windows, grills, and walls while walking along the canals.

Red Wall with Windows

Venice Canal

Grill in Red Wall

Door in Yellow Wall


Posted in Italy, photography | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Winged Lion, Symbol of Venice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 18, 2012

Winged Lion in Piazza San Marco

This photo was taken from the bell tower opposite San Marco Basilica. The winged lion is both a symbol of St. Mark the Evangelist (= San Marco), patron of Venice, and of the City of Venice itself. Winged lions are depicted in many piazzas. This lion on the stop of the standard is actually higher than the dome of the basilica itself. The telephoto lens compresses the distance so that it appears as if the lion is just above the tourists on the ground.

You can see the relative distance below:

Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice

Posted in Italy, photography | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Venice in the Rain

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 18, 2012

Venice in the Rain

We arrived just after several days of heavy rain. I could see the flooded fields from the airplane window as we approached Milan. Venice has a very different character in the rain. In bright sunlight, the tourists are streaming through every side and main street and your eyes are dazzled by the ubiquitous sparkly masks. After a heavy rain, Venice has a quieter, softer, more solemn feeling. Colors are muted.

Canal Grande, Venice
The gondolas were in the dock, covered with plastic.

Gondolas in the rain

Even the normally packed Piazza San Marco is quiet. I liked the jaunty red chairs with no one to occupy them, so I rendered the rest of the photo in B/W.

Red Chairs

San Marco Basilica, Venice

Posted in Italy, photography | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »