Monthly Archives: July 2013

Photo: Gelato on the Spanish Steps, Rome

spanish-steps-romeSomewhere back in March or April when I was dreary and depressed that Dutch winter refused to release its hold on the country I bought a cheap weekend ticket to Rome in June, on the grounds that even if the weather not better I at least had a weekend of warmth and sunshine to look forward to.  And I’m pleased to report that the plan worked perfectly- the sun was hot, the food delicious, and I got to break out my summer dresses for the first time this year!

It’s really hard to describe time in Rome without falling into a corny saying, but anyway, when in Rome one thing that is fairly mandatory is gelato on the Spanish Steps.  Sure there are probably a hundred tourists for every local, but the people watching is fantastic!  My favorites, for the record, were all the peddlers selling knockoff illegal designer handbags and the like: if you stand at the top of the steps every once in awhile you’d see them scramble up their wares in an instant and run up the steps (making you realize why the handbags are always displayed on a sheet- easy to grab and run!), leaving you to wonder why until you saw policemen walking up.  All the peddlers would then wait a reasonable distance away with one keeping watch, and when the policemen left they’d all trot back to resume their sales.  For some reason this was rather entertaining to watch, and the one time I saw the police actually catch someone who was too slow they just had a conversation and let the guy go.

Clearly, they were already familiar with each other…


Photo: New Hampshire… Rocks!!!

Madison Boulder

huge glacial erraticIn the “list of odd things I’ve seen but never expected to” category, I am now including this rock.  It is the Madison Boulder, located innocuously off a stretch of road and hidden in the forest so you don’t really see the thing until you suddenly find yourself almost right in front of it.  And when you do it seems a bit crazy that something so very big and impressive could be hiding out in the forest without you knowing about it.  What is the biggest rock I’ve ever seen doing in the middle of the woods?

It turns out the Madison Boulder is a glacial erratic- one of the biggest in the world, in fact, with an estimated weight of 4,662 tons (though- warning, geek joke- such a precise number made me question the sign maker’s significant figure usage…).  About 25,000 years ago during the last Ice Age the entire region was covered in a giant sheet of ice more than a mile thick, which carried along boulders big and small which were made smooth by the constant pressures, but as anyone who has visited the area knows many of these were then left behind during the glacial retreat (along with a few thousand glacial lakes).  The Madison Boulder just happens to be the very biggest in all of New England.

And I know I must say this a lot guys, but science is so cool.  For thousands of years after the Ice Ages people surely stumbled across this rock wondering what on Earth it was doing hiding in the middle of the forest, but we are lucky enough to not have to wonder!  And frankly a giant sheet of ice a mile high stretching thousands of miles is probably way cooler than anything you could think up as a credible answer anyway…

Photo: View of Mount Washington

Mount WashingtonThis is the view from the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, where two things of note have happened in my opinion: the IMF was founded in the Bretton Woods conference here in 1944, and my sister got married here last week.

Which explains the silence here: the wedding was such a lovely and wonderful affair that it took a week to recover from.

That said, a bit more to come in a bit on exploring the White Mountains in New Hampshire since the wedding!  The mountains seen in the range here by the way are the Presidentials, named such since they are all named after former US Presidents, with the highest peak of the bunch being Mount Washington.  You can drive up it and gawk at the house tied down with iron chains where in April 1934 observers recorded what was the fastest wind gust in the world for many decades.  Lots of odd bits of history pop up in New Hampshire, but it makes for a lovely background to say wedding vows.