Oktoberfest 2012 – part 2

Wednesday, 26 September 2012
The trip on the night train was a little rough.  Doug and I were both coming down with some sort of illness (congestion & low grade fever) and neither of us really slept.  We got into Florence around 6am and found the bus station to catch the bus to Siena.  In my sickie fog, I had to ask a local (in Italian) where the station was because I couldn’t quite remember.  We found it, caught the bus without a problem, and made it to Siena around 7:30 or so.  It was still REALLY early, so we figured we’d find the hotel and leave our luggage until it was official check in time.  Well, between when I booked and when we arrived, the hotel had changed addresses, and we had no idea.  We stood outside, feverish and bewildered, until someone passing by saw us with our backpacks (and thank goodness I still remember enough Italian) and communicated that the hotel had moved, it was up the street.  It was still MUCH too early anyway, so we took up a spot in the Piazza del Campo and alternated taking naps on the sun-warmed bricks.  After we finally checked into the hotel, we found a pharmacy and some cold meds and then went back for a long nap since we were both pretty well beat.  It ended up being a very off day, but we needed the rest pretty badly.  We did manage to get up for a walk and dinner later in the evening and then it was back to the hotel for sleep.
Siena Panorama

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Thursday, 27 September 2012
We had booked a tour with a local company, so we got up and met our guide, Gianni, at the entrance to our hotel.  It may have been much more expensive than renting a car and driving around ourselves, but not having to drive and having the knowledge that Gianni had was really worth it.  Gianni took us to some little known places, knew the best wineries to tour and sample, and taught us about the wineries and how they worked.  We visited during peak harvest season, so most of the operations were in full swing and really neat to see at that level.  We stopped at the Borgo San Felice which was once a town, but had been completely bought up by a hotel company.  The whole thing, except for one house, was a resort.  As Gianni explained, people slowly moved away, closer to Florence and Siena, and this little town out in the country was getting emptier and emptier.  It’s happened a few times, apparently, and all sorts of celebrities will rent out the town for a weekend for events.  We made two stops at wineries for wine tastings, had an incredible lunch at a small, family-run restaurant, and wandered through little Tuscan towns all day long.  We got back to Siena around 5pm, wandered around for a while, and found an amazing dinner – wild boar was ‘in season’ and pici was on the menu, so we had our fill of some very regional and typical Sienese food.
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Friday, 28 September 2012
We got up early, found breakfast (espresso and a pastry) and got a taxi to the train station for the train to Rome and then out to Ostia.  There was a snafu with the hotel that I was pretty pissed about.  We booked the hotel four months in advance, but somehow they were overbooked and we got bumped to a ‘sister’ hotel that was further away and probably the most gaudy and tacky hotel I’ve ever seen.  Think Caribbean (palm trees, etc) meets Rome, meets China, with a military museum, ALL AT ONCE.  The room we were brought to was clean enough, but we couldn’t walk anywhere which was one of the benefits of the hotel I had originally booked at.  The plan for the day, since Rome was really a stop over for our flight to Brussels, was to go to Ostia Antica nearby.  It’s basically like Pompeii without the volcanic activity.  Really, IMHO, better than Pompeii, because you don’t have to go through Naples and it feels SO much bigger.  We spent the afternoon wandering through the ruins, and then went off to find dinner.  Well, the restaurants didn’t open till 7:30 or 8pm, and were pretty firm about that time, so we walked around and had a glass of wine at a cafe to waste time.  We ended up at a really wonderful little place that even gave us a complimentary cordial to finish the incredible dinner.  We got our pickup back to the hotel and prepared for the flight the following day.  By this point we were both feeling better and not hitting the cold medicine as much!
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Saturday, 29 September 2012
The hotel had a shuttle service to the airport which was nearby in Fiumicino, so that was thankfully an easy transfer.  Our flight was pretty short and we arrived in Brussels in the early afternoon.  A short train ride later and we were brought practically to the front door of our hotel.  Not bad!  The hotel was a B&B based out of an artist’s studio and the retired couple who ran the whole operation were really sweet.  The rooms were SPACIOUS and each had a different theme and color scheme.  Really neat – it felt so comfortable and like home.  Breakfast consisted of bread brought up in the morning with a layout of spreads (jam, nutella, etc) and coffee/tea, all do-it-yourself in the kitchen on your floor.  I really loved this setup and how well it worked.  We had been in Brussels the year prior, so we had a pretty good handle of where we were and where we wanted to go.  First stop was the Cantillon Brewery, my personal favorite brewery, ever.  They still make beer in the old fashion, using wild yeast, and have such a limited production that we can’t get it at home, so we brought a few bottles home.  Then it was off to Moeder Lambic for a few more beers before dinner.  The beer tends to be not as strong (ABV 5% or so), so it’s easy to sit around and enjoy a beer or three and not get totally sloshed.  We walked around the area around our hotel for a while, saw the Manneken Pis and the usual crowd gathered around him, had dinner, and made it back to the hotel.
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Sunday, 30 September 2012
We figured not much would be open on Sunday, so we decided to head back to the Military History Museum since we knew we missed a section of it the last time, plus, it’s free to enter!  We did sleep in a little though and took our time getting going in the morning.  On the walk there, we wandered through a flea market and oogled all the things on display, mostly antiques.  Turned out that we didn’t miss nearly as much as we thought we did at the museum, but we did get to go to the roof top and see a full panorama of Brussels which was pretty neat.  The musuem also had a special exhibit on the day-to-day items of soldiers during World War I and II which was pretty fascinating.  The things they brought with them, the things they were issued, things they made themselves.  After the museum, we went to find Wafels and Frites, as you do in Brussels.  We made a few stops for food and beer as the day went on, lingering for a while here and there, having a taste of some AMAZING Chimay 150th anniversary beer.  There was of course, Delirium, and another stop at Moeder Lambic before dinner which was Doug’s favorite, Waterzooi, and I had the Flemish Rabbit.  Brussels, I love you, and would love to spend more time seeing the rest of Belgium!
Brussels-Panorama

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The following day, which I don’t need to make a whole entry about, was our flight home, involving a 7 hour layover in Washington, DC.  Ick.  The joys of frequent flyer miles flights.

Overall, the trip was incredible – from the crowded and crazy fun time at Oktoberfest, and then to the more relaxed trip through Italy and Brussels, it was really an awesome vacation.  If you’d like to see more photos, I’ve got the full set uploaded to flickr, here.

Oktoberfest 2012 – part 1

This is a VERY belated post from a trip we took in late September. Things have been really hectic since then and I haven’t been able to sit down and put it all in a blog post, so FINALLY, here it is.  I’m splitting this into two parts because the first half of the trip was Oktoberfest and the second half was a mini-trip through Italy and Brussels.  We used frequent flyer miles for the flights, so we ended up having to fly through Rome and Brussels to get home anyway, so it made sense to extend the layovers and make a bonus vacation out of it.

Friday, 21 September, 2012
Landed in Munich where I met my husband and two of his friends from work who had arrived straight from their ship earlier that day. Made my way through the incredibly crowded metro system and met them at the train station. We split up and got settled in our respective hotels (all three different) and met to go out for lunch at the Augustiner Keller.  We were all pretty tired after the travel (the guys got in at about 6am local time), so we decided a nap was a good idea and headed back to our hotels with a plan to meet up later for dinner and beer (as you do in Germany, during Oktoberfest).  Well that didn’t quite happen.  Doug and I were the only two who woke back up.  We did manage to go out shopping for Dirndl and Lederhosen though, ready for the opening day on Saturday.
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Saturday, 22 September, 2012
Got up and had breakfast at our hotel (the spread was AMAZING at the breakfast buffet).  Got together with everyone and headed out to watch the parade.  It was drizzly and cold, but we were determined.  Grabbed some beers on the way to enjoy at the parade and grabbed a pretty decent spot.  The first man down, opening the parade, was a stout man leading two dachshunds.  After that, Wagon after wagon of beer barrels rolled by, each wagon representing a tent at the fest grounds or a brewery in Germany.  Then it really started to pour down rain, as the parade was finishing.  We scrambled down the street to the entrance to the grounds and tried to get into a tent which just wasn’t happening.  We turned around and went back out into the rain, off to find somewhere to eat and drink, but everything was full.  Finally we made our way back to the Augustiner Keller from yesterday, hoping they still had room indoors.  THEY DID.  A very nice waitress ushered us to a table that was reserved for later that day, but we had enough time to eat, so it was no big deal.  Turns out the folks who had reserved the table never showed up, so we spent a good long while inside, drying off, and enjoying food and drink.  It FINALLY stopped raining, so back to the fest grounds we went.  The guys hopped some rides (bumper cars, and some ridiculous scrambler-on-steroids type ride), and we had another pint or two and some sausage.  As it got dark, we found our way into the Hacker-Pschorr tent, well, the outside anyway, and met two nice young men from Venice, and two other guys from England.  Had a blast.  Went back to our hotels to try it again the next day.
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Sunday, September 23, 2012
Again, we had plans for everyone to meet together, and it never really happened, so, it was down to me, Doug, and Paul.  Doug and I got stopped by a huge parade that we stood to watch for a while.  The same man with the two dachshunds from yesterday opened the parade again – all the service companies involved in Oktoberfest started this one. We walked around and did a little shopping, eventually having lunch at Schneider Weiss.  We wandered around the fest grounds for a bit and made it into the Augustiner tent, and found a table!  Granted, it was later on in the day, and the place was still shoulder-to-shoulder, but we found an empty spot and grabbed it.  We sat talking to a bunch of random people at the table, and Doug even found his slightly older beard twin (he grew that out just for Oktoberfest).  Lots of laughs, and it was an incredible time.  No one in our group speaks much (any?) German, but it’s amazing what you can get across without words.  Google Translate on the phone was pretty helpful too, but most people seemed to speak at least a few words of English.  After the tent closed, the guys did another round of bumper cars, and somehow we ended up at a bar on the way back which was really crazy.  It was a LONG night, and we were sure to sleep in LATE the next day.
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Monday, 24 September, 2012
We managed to make it to Mike’s Bike Tour, a little worse for wear, but had a blast on the tour, even if it rained.  AGAIN.  After the tour was over, we went to the Hofbrauhaus since it was right at Mike’s Bike Tour shop where the tour ended.  We sat with a few guys who were in our bike tour group and found two other Americans to add to our table as well.  Always a good time  :)   We split off and wandered around the fairgrounds for a while, having a beer on a carousel small beer tent, and enjoying all kinds of fair food – chocolate covered fruit, candied nuts, sausage, etc.  Really, the whole of Oktoberfest is like an enormous state fair with LOTS AND LOTS of beer.
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Tuesday, 25 September 2012
We signed up for the tour of the concentration camp at Dachau since we’d had plenty enough of the fairgrounds and wanted to do something cultural.  I had been to Dachau almost 10 years ago, but didn’t do a proper tour, so I’m sure I missed a lot.  Turns out the place had gone through some massive changes – the entrance was in a different spot, and overall, the grounds and buildings had been upgraded with better exhibits.  Our guide was really wonderful, in spite of the horrific history that happened there, and was able to present everything in a clear manner without trying to diminish what had happened there.  After we got back (it was almost a full day tour), we went back to the grounds for one last go-through (and I needed to pick up a postcard), and the guys used up the rest of their ride tokens.  Doug and I were hopping on the night train to Florence, Italy, so we parted ways and off we went.
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A House in Plympton

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A house in Plympton was all I knew about the photo above before I started doing some digging.  The photo had fortunately been labelled with an address, so it at least gave me something to go on.  First, I went to Google maps to see if I could look up the address and see if it’s still there on street view.  9 Moorland View, Plympton, UK, resolved to 9 Moorland Ave and the houses on the street all looked about the same, and beyond that it looks like the street had been reunumbered at one point.  GREAT.  One of the houses had a little plaque with “1899” above the door which helped me a little more.  If the homes were built in 1899, it’s likely that the 1901 or 1911 England censuses would be able to tell me who those two children are on the front steps.

The 1901 census pretty much told me the address didn’t exist then.  Okay, fine, on to 1911, which found the 9 Moorland Ave address via the address search on the census page.  I went to ancestry.com to check out the census images and sure enough, 9 Moorland View, Plympton, UK was the home to Bessie (Battin) Shugg and her sons Maurice and Gordon Shugg in 1911.  Bessie was the sister of my great-great grandmother, Jessie (Battin) Powis.  This was likely taken around 1911, before they left for the USA.  Bessie’s husband, Arnold Shugg, left for the USA in 1906, so he doesn’t show up on the 1911 census.

I’m counting this find as a small victory because I had a pretty large piece of information to go on – the address.  Still, it’s neat to be able to link the photo to a house that still exists, and the people who lived there.

A Year of Sock Knitting, part 2 – 2012

I was originally shooting for 12 in 2012, and I just squeaked by with a quick pair of DK weight socks for grandma.  I could probably do another pair, but I don’t think I’ll have the time.  Anyway, the lineup is below!

Rick Socks Pattern: Rick
Designer: Cookie A
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5mm)
Yarn: Sheepy Time Knits Sheepy Feet in, “Tangerine Tango”
-Ravelry Project Link-
I ended up having to cast on more to make the sock fit.  Cast on 72, and then had to finagle around the heel to get the pattern to line up.  The socks don’t exactly match since I’m a lazy knitter who tends not to write down good enough notes to do the second sock the same, but it worked out well enough, and they’re bright and fun to wear.
DSC_9418_color Pattern: Dayflower Socks
Designer: Dayflower Socks
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5mm)
Yarn: Sheepy Time Knits Grab Bag Mystery Yarn in, “Electric Blueberry”
-Ravelry Project Link-
These worked up pretty quickly and were the right combination of lace and ribbing so that it was interesting without being boring.  The color and the pattern just matched up perfectly and I couldn’t have been happier with how they turned out.  The yarn was a neat thing too since it was from a club that offered a ‘grab bag’ option – list the weight of yarn you want and the dyer picked out something that would work.  It did!  I really like how lofty and airy this particular yarn is and it was fun to try something completely different.
DSC_1153 Pattern: Primavera Socks
Designer: natalja
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5mm)
Yarn: Little Red Bicycle Tricycle Sock in, “Mistletoe Grope”
-Ravelry Project Link-
A friend gifted me the yarn for these socks a few years ago as part of a set where the yarn matched two pots of eye shadow.  Pretty neat!  I finally got around to using the yarn and love how it knit up in this pattern.  It’s totally holiday-yarn-barf, but somehow, the pattern breaks up any pooling and keeps it interesting.  I do love the little spot of pooling on the heel since it kinda looks like a candy cane stripe.
DSC_1261 Pattern: Jaywalker
Designer: Grumperina
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5mm)
Yarn: Lang Yarns Jawoll Magic in colorway 1001
-Ravelry Project Link-
Because no year is complete without a pair of Jaywalkers.  Am I right or am I right?  My brother brought back the yarn from a trip to the Netherlands and it was just SO much fun to knit with.  The colors are spectacular and made for a fun sock.  I had worn them before getting a picture, so they’re not as crisp as they were right off the needles, but they sure are cozy.
DSC_1274 Pattern: Pointelle
Designer: Cookie A
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5 mm)
Yarn: Sheepy Time Knits Sheepy Time MCN in “Driftwood”
-Ravelry Project Link-
These probably rank as my #3 most difficult pair of the year.  It wasn’t that the chart was particularly difficult, but it did involve actually looking at the chart instead of knitting away.  I knit the larger size, but probably could’ve done the smaller size since there’s a lot of extra room, especially around the foot.  I do love them, and love the subtle variation in the yarn that works well to show off the pattern without swallowing it up.
DSC_1199 Pattern: Simple Skyp Socks
Designer: Adrienne Ku
Needles: US 2 (2.75 mm)
Yarn: Schachenmayr nomotta Regia Design Line Kaffe Fassett 6-fädig 6ply in colorway 05958
-Ravelry Project Link-
These were very simple and quick two-day socks.  We were going to visit grandma and I needed something quick to knit up for her that she’d enjoy, hence these socks.  The bright colors really jumped out at me and the pattern has a neat almost herringbone style motif inbetween the ribbing.  Grandma was very happy with them and tried them right on – they fit perfectly!  Gotta love ending the year with a fun pair of socks like these.

A Year of Sock Knitting, part 1 – 2012

I was originally shooting for 12 in 2012, and I just squeaked by with a quick pair of DK weight socks for grandma.  I could probably do another pair, but I don’t think I’ll have the time.  Anyway, the lineup is below!

DSC_5178-picsay.jpg Pattern: Steampunkery
Designer: Heatherly Walker
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5mm)
Yarn: Holiday Yarns FlockSock Sock Yarn in, “Vanilla” – purchased as a kit
-Ravelry Project Link-
They were an absolute PAIN to knit.  I must’ve gotten an early version of the kit because there were errors and omissions throughout the pattern.  No errata supplied, nothing.  I am happy with the finished product though since they’re SO pretty, and what a neat idea to have the fully functional button up flap on the leg.
DSC_0491 Pattern: Child’s Sock in Miranda Pattern
Designer: Nancy Bush
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5mm)
Yarn: Little Red Bicycle’s Boneshaker BFL Sock in, “Oh, Io”
-Ravelry Project Link-
These were meant to be children’s socks, but I cast on 64 stitches and worked the pattern as normal, ignoring the calf shaping.  They came out great, and I love that the pattern is replicated from a historical pattern.
DSC_5455 Pattern: Gentleman’s Fancy Socks
Designer: Nancy Bush
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5mm)
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential Solids & Twists in, “Sarge”
-Ravelry Project Link-
A friend requested socks ages ago and I finally got around to knitting them.  What took so long?  The requestor has a size 14 men’s shoe!  Yikes!  Took the better part of 2.25 skeins, but he commented in a thank you note that they are, “easily the coolest pair of socks I’ve ever owned.”  WIN!
DSC_5717 Pattern: 14 Karat
Designer: Glenna C.
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5mm)
Yarn: Sheepy Time Knits, All Your Base in “Sunken Treasure”
-Ravelry Project Link-
Twisted stitches Ahoy!  The chart was easy to follow, just time consuming, and I’m not good at memorizing charts with cables.  Still though, they came out beautifully and I love the color depth in the yarn – there are so many colors that pop out of that yarn.
DSC_5712 Pattern: Business Casual
Designer: Tanis Lavallée
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5 mm)
Yarn: Sheepy Time Knits, All Your Base in “Fathoms Below”
-Ravelry Project Link-
They were easy enough to knit, but the photo doesn’t show the pattern very well.  The diamond pattern shows up just fine in real life but didn’t photograph very well.  The color is a favorite – I love the greens and black together.
DSC_6385 Pattern: Escher-Würfel (Escher’s cube)
Designer: Stephanie van der Linden
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5 mm)
Yarn: Sheepy Time Knits, Pearl Necklace in “Grey Matter”
-Ravelry Project Link-
The pattern is really just a stitch pattern to create the cube effect.  I cast on 60 and knit a basic cuff-down sock.  I was a little worried that 60 wouldn’t be enough stitches, but it was perfect with enough room (and a little extra) to stretch around my calves.  Very happy with how these came out!