Thursday, July 24, 2014

euro-whirl 2014: coma ruga, spain.

we spent the last, oh about five days, of our trip in coma ruga, spain (about 45 minutes outside of barthelona). ben was slotted to speak at a conference that has, up to this point in my life, the most intense title i've ever heard (the "10th international workshop on nanomagnetism & superconductivity at the nanoscale." i'm like, super-what-now?) you can read more about the conference ( want? :/) right HERE, & you can even find ben's name & his talk title right HERE! (scroll down a bit - the list is alphabetized by last name!) i sat in on his talk, & he knocked it out of the park, of course. i understood next to nothing (i mean, would you??), but he did great. that's what years of growing up giving talks as a child & teenager in church will do for you...make you an awesome public speaker :)

......& it happened to be a great perk that the hotel we stayed at/the conference was being held at was mere steps from the beach. they make up for having long, complex conference titles about intense subjects by holding these meetings in exotic/amazing/beautiful places...i mean, this was the view from our hotel room:

& here's a look at the beach itself (this was such a beautifully skin-toasting day!):

the next day was a little more overcast, & a little more breezy (but still just as, if not more, pleasant for a long, slow walk right where the water meets the sand))

(this bathing suit, as well as the one a few photos up, are both from anthropologie. i bought it in one color, & loved it so much i bought it in a second color. my thinking is, well-fitting, flattering one pieces are so hard to find, when you find a good one, you gotta snatch it multiples! but don't tell ben until after the payment goes through...i kid! i...kid. haha.)

& ben's intrepid runs & jumps in the sands of time: 

such wonderful posture as he sails through the air! look how straight his back is!

& here's ben just contemplatin' nano-whatsits & spec...trographs &...neutrons, & stuff:

&...that's it! those are pretty much all our pictures from coma ruga. after two weeks of lots of go-go-go traveling through europe, it was kind of nice to put our feet up & relax in one place for a while. we did a lot of laying out on the beach, exercising, reading, getting our hearts broken by world cup games (the u.s. lost to belgium while we were there, ben still can't talk about it), eating, & sleeping.

Monday, July 21, 2014

euro-whirl 2014: the highlands.

on our second day in scotland, we took a nice long driving tour up through the highlands. i was keeping my eye out for any wild, flaming-haired, be-kelted, on-the-run hot scotsman (or is it..."hotsman"??) a la jamie fraser from this book (which i so conveniently happened to finish right as we started the scotland leg of our trip. such perfect timing! at first i was embarrassed to admit i read not only outlander but the following three books, but then i was like, nah, i'll own it). anyway, i was keeping my eye out for any hotsman, but then i was like, i've got a hotsman of my own, so, i'm good:

loch lomond, lads & lasses:

the rest & be thankful pass:

such green. much highlands. so beauty. very scotland:

we also made a stop at inveraray castle (in other news, we debated the pronunciation of the word "inveraray." is it "in-VER-uh-ray," or is it, as i am more inclined to think, "in-vuh-RAY-RAY!" because the second pronunciation would be much more conducive to the saying i've made up & am looking to put on t-shirts, "let's get cray-cray at inve-ray-ray!") speaking of getting cray-cray, they also happened to film a downton abbey christmas episode at the castle. you can read about all that HERE. in the little cafe (where we bought a few biscuits & jam) they had all these giant portraits of members of the crawley brood, that were kind of startling when you turned around & weren't expecting them to be staring back at you. i don't want to say anything more about that christmas episode, because in the span of an hour & a half or so, it singlehandedly turned me against that danged show forever...even though i ended up shamelessly binge-watching season 4 {maybe before it even debuted in america??}. oops. *shakes fists while her shout of "why, cousin mattheewwwwwwwww?!? whyyyyy...." fades off into the night*

more at castle inve-ray-ray:

okay, so, ohmygosh. so, the shaggy coo. oh, the shaggy coo. (wikipedia is telling me they're called, simply, "highland cattle," but rick steves told me they're called "shaggy coos." who to believe?!?) after reading (in ricky's book) about this sweet cow found particularly in the highlands of scotland we kept our eyes open all day to see if we could spot any in the fields. after several hours of driving & stopping at various sites, we had no luck. BUT THEN. there was this one time i was feeling a little carsick & we turned into a little lane off the road to get out & walk around a little bit, & THIS IS WHAT WE FOUND RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF US:

i mean look at them!!! the hair in front of their sweet faces!

this little cream-colored gal was especially interested in us:

i'd kill for fringe & perfect sun-colored highlights like his!

yeah, this sweet girl walked forward, away from the others, & stood real close to the gate just staring at us, even as we drove away a few minutes later. she didn't make a single sound. just looked. she was so sweet.

until next time, sweet little coo!

*gasp* is that a rugged highlander there on the right, come to seduce me with his thick scottish brogue & recitations of rabbie burns-ian poetry that he knows by heart??....oh, nope, nvm, it's just a tree.

this picture doesn't quite do it justice, but this map we used to drive all through the highlands took up the entire front seat of our wee rental car.

speaking of "wee" (the most awkward transition ever), look at this cute, teenser castle plopped out on a tiny patch of land in the middle of a lake!

that tiny castle is almost as cute as the shaggy coos. almost!

driving through the highlands was a really good choice. we were able to cover a lot of ground & stop a lot along the way. i'm almost, almost done blogging about our europe trip - i think one or two more posts should do the trick!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

euro-whirl 2014: edinburgh.

the day after dover, we made the 8-hour drive up to scotland. it was funny - we mentioned to a few different people while in london, harwell, & dover that we would be driving up to scotland. their reaction? "whyyyyy would you do that?" "how LONG is the drive?!" "that's SO far away!" i guess long road trips aren't as common a thing in the united kingdom? whereas for ben & i, who both grew up with healthy, even hearty, doses of hours upon hours in the car on various road trips, an eight hour drive is nothing. seriously, it's nothing. so funny. we caught up on a few episodes of this american life, a few diffent npr bits, maybe a full album or two - & we were there.

we loved edinburgh. i was just telling a friend who's going to scotland soon - i almost wish we had more time there! we spent a full day (out of the two days we were spending in scotland altogether) in edinburgh, & even then, i'd love to come back & check out even more. hopefully we can come back under better weather circumstances - it ended up being a chilly, overcast day, & it even rained here & there. all as evidenced by this photo, ha:

man, scotland has a really fascinating history & was home to some really important individuals. walter scott, the jacobite uprising, william wallace, robert the bruce, robert burns, robert louis stevenson (everyone really seemed to enjoy the name robert). we loved stopping at different historical sites & monuments & reading about the events or person the site was dedicated to. & i mean...kilts! bagpipes! plaid! scottish accents! despite these all being very stereotypical depictions of scottish culture, it was all almost too much for me sometimes. i loved it.

here's the scott monument, dedicated to sir walter scott, author of ivanhoe, rob roy, & others. it was really cool looking, described by bill bryson as a "gothic rocket ship" (wikipedia told me that one).

everything was so greeeeen. the perfect time of year to be there!

...except for the times it got so cold i had to borrow ben's sweatshirt occasionally. when that would happen, it brought the official count up to, yep, five layers of clothing i was wearing that day.

the royal mile is a stretch of streets that goes through the old town. we went uphill, starting at the very end of the mile at holyrood palace (where the queen of england spends a week every summer, because she has such a hard life). the royal mile has a lot of really neat & significant buildings along it including churches, museums (such as the writer's museum or the museum of childhood [?!]), along with lots of tourist spots, bars & restaurants, & other kind of eclectic places, capped off by the edinburgh castle at the top.

this trippy mirror was outside of the camera obscura, a museum right next to the edinburgh castle (its official name being "camera obscura & the world of illusions). i'm bummed it was closed when we were there, because look at all the crazy stuff it's got going on inside.

outside the writer's musuem (which was also closed. we need to be better planners. next time, edinburgh!)

"a wee gift from scotland." i want to start adding the word "wee" into as many conversations possible, as well as start calling church "kirk" (not that "kirk").

& photos from the church of st. giles (where, after looking around, i promptly found a seat & took a 15 minute nap while ben snapped some photos, haha) :

& just rows upon rows of pretty buildings, below. edinburgh is the second largest tourist attraction in the united kingdom, after london. & it's been named a UNESCO city of literature (as has iowa city!? i must read up on this). in short, it's a really culturally rich, vibrant city & we loved it.

thanks, edinburgh! (tip: rick steves reminds us that "only outsiders pronounce the "burgh" in "edinburgh" like the one in "pittsburgh.")