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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Friday - London to PARIS to London - in 19 Hours

Lulu's class in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Lulu on the street of Paris in front of "ideal librarie."

Ratty old Cargo Vespa. I love the scooters of Paris.

Class on bridge over the Seine River right after boat ride on way to dinner party.

Everyone's favorite picture from the tour boat in front of Eiffel Tower.

A ship is a boat that carries another boat. note the little amphi-car on deck.

Seine River cruise with a little champagne.

Students on the boat cruise.

More students on the boat cruise. In Paris a bottle of champagne was cheaper than a bottle of ginger ale. We brought the ginger ale home.

The Eiffel Tower is just so big - over 1000 feet tall and about 500 wide at the base.

These are Vespa Apes - a small 3 wheel scooter capable of carrying 7 people.

Arch of Triumph from our double decker open bus on the Champs Elysee.

I once had a friend that bought a purse at this place for $1500.

This is the PAris opera House from our bus.

There is an Apple store in the base of the Louvre now - appropriate for a work of art.

Lulu's class mustered here after their visit to the Louvre.

One of the highlights of Lulu's class every summer is to go to Paris. In the past - she has taken the students there for up to a week - but they seem to prefer going for one day of class with some staying over for the weekend on their own.

Yesterday was busy 19 hours - but lots of stuff cramped into that time. It started out at 4:30 AM - the group mustered in front of the apartments. The walk to St Pancras Station took about 15 minutes. At 5:30 - our Eurostar Train was rocketing across the British countryside toward the English Channel Tunnel.

We lost an hour due to time zone change - and at 9 AM the FSU staff was waiting at the Gard du Nord Train Station with the subway passes and Louvre tickets. After a crowded subway ride - we arrived at the Louvre Museum at 10 AM. While the students were turned loose in one of the world's greatest museums - Lulu and I made a visit to a neat little deli and pastry shop to line up the group's lunch - rather than have them spend a fortune on museum food. We also dropped by a grocery to pick up some champaign. For the next few hours - I was lugging around a backpack full of the bubbly.

After the Louvre - we boarded a double decker bus for a sight seeing tour of the city. They sky was pretty foggy and overcast - but no evidence of rain. We zigzagged across the Seine - seeing the Opera House - the Champs Elysses - circled the Arch of Triumph - and made a one hour stop at the Eiffel Tower. Since it was very crowded there and the sky was still overcast - most of the kids decided to climb the tower the next day. We would save this time for the board tour and supper.

After the Eiffel Tour - it was back on the bus and a rush to Notre Dame Cathedral to catch our 3:45 river cruise. Lulu rushed ahead to get tickets and make sure the boat did not leave without us. It reminded me of the old credit card commercials where the kids were jumping from the dock to the boat. We were all settled in on the upper deck for the lifetime cruise. The sun broke out just in time for an unforgetable time. As we left the dock behind and circled the Isle de France and Notre Dame Cathedral - pop pop pop could be heard as the champagne corks were flying. Lulu had purchased "champagne glasses" at the dollar store back home - and to my amazement - they are survived. As we poured the champagne - I kept watching Lulu's back as she pour the bubbly. Interestingly enough - the bottle of ginger ale that we bought cost more than the champagne - Dom Perignon is was not. But that did not matter - and the bottle of ginger ale made it back to London unopened.

Cameras of the media classes were clicking at the speed of light as the boat made a u-turn at the Eiffel Tower. The sun was blazing at our back as we cruised back up the river.

The kids had an hour to spend touring the Notre Dame Cathedral and getting in some shopping. At 6:30 we trekked up the hill to our hokey restaurant. The food was great - but the best part was the entertainment. The roving musicians but on a fantastic show and so did some of Lulu's students. You will see plenty of video of them dancing and singing - a really nice bunch and really good sports.

At 8:30 - 6 of us had to leave the party to catch our train back to London. 15 stayed on for the weekend - and front he noise as we left - it appeared the party would drag on a little longer. FSU was picking up the tab for that dinner - Lulu paid the bill as we left.

The beeline - down the hill - past Notre Dame - into the subway - went fast as the sun was setting in the west. As our Eurostar pulled out of the station - we watch that big orange ball drop over the Seine to the west. No one remembers much as the train zoomed at 200 MPH through the chunnel. Everyone slept.

The train pulled into St Pancras Station at 10:30 - and by 11 PM were in beds.

Pictures and videos will follow - the internet is having trouble handling all those precious memories. We will always have Paris - even if it was only 19 hours.

Look At This Cool Citroen

This cars had an air suspension - no springs - you rode on a bladder of air

The only car I know where you can ride low or high - just by pulling a handle.

Arsenal 2 - Argentina 2 - The Only Soccer Team With Its Own Tube Station

After the game - fans all over your home.

After the 2-2 tie.

The area is paved with these paid for by fans.

The new stadium is next to the old stadium - same Arsenal neighborhood of old row homes.

The original 100 year old stadium - turned to condos.

These houses have backyards that front the old stadium.

Keith and Liz took us to a soccer game. For the past 10 years - Keith has become a "gooner" following the Gunners of Arsenal.

When you look at the maps of London's subway - you see a stop for Arsenal. Arsenal is a little neighborhood in London where they used to make all the cannon. So when it was time to sponsor a soccer team - a "football" team - they called them the gunners.

For 100 years - they played in this neat stadium surrounded by row homes. People could watch the games from their back windows. About 5 years ago they built a new stadium. You would think they would find a spacious site for the big money business. No - they put it right next to the old one. You would think they would turn the old stadium into a parking lot. No - they put condos there.

The new stadium is spacious - holds maybe 80,000. After the game - it is a zoo of foot traffic. I can't imagine living there with all the rowdy fans - people looking in your windows - peeing in your yards.

This was an exhibition game with a team from Argentina. The fans were mild - but your life could be in danger if you wore a blue shirt when Chelsea came to play.

You may re-call the famous movie "Fever Pitch" was written about the Arsenal Team and their fans. They call the field a pitch. Later - the same movie was written about the baseball playing Boston Red Sox - and they kept the name "Fever Pitch" for the movie.

A player can earn $20 million for playing a 40 game season here - this is not for the weak of heart. Also - you can place bets on the game right at the stadium - legally.


Sunday in Little Venice London - On A Canal Boat

The canals have locks to raise and lower the boat from one canal to the next. This is the Camden Locks in North London.

There were several pretty mansions along the canal.

Canal Camper enjoy the old freight boats. they are rigged with full bathrooms and showers - just like a motor home - only slower. They are not cheap - prices range from $100k to $200k.
In a tunnel looking backward.

The canal boats are long and skinny - 70 feet by 6 feet.

The cabins were added later - they were open boats. They hauled a lot of coal into London for fireplaces.

Little Venice is a pretty part of London.

From the bridge in Little Venice.

3500 miles of canals still criss cross England. From 1800 to 1950 - they were the major way to transport good throughout the country. Today - mostly canal campers - navigate the waters.

We got on a 100 year old cargo boat at Little Venice. Our journey covered 4 miles in 1 hour - you can figure out the speed - in other words people could walk faster than we went. But this boat was capable of hauling 40 tons of cargo - being pulled by one horse. Today the boats have a small diesel engine chugging along - but they still are limited by the canal for speed. If you go any faster - you would pull the other boats from their moorings.

Many people live in their canals boats. They have coal stoves for heat and batteries for electricity. When the batteries get low their diesel engines re-charge them. Our boat was 72 feet long and 6 feet wide - you can see why they are called long boats.

All along the canal there is a footpath. At one time this was where the horses pulled the boats. We went through a 900 foot tunnel - in the old days they would push themselves through the tunnels with their legs.

Our tour was over at Camden Locks - a bazaar collection of street markets. From there we took the subway home.

Although we did not go through any locks - there were about 10 of them before the canal boat would reach the Thames. The lock gates are still operated by hand.

Best Selling Electric Car in the World - The G-Wiz

To show you how short this little 4 seater is - I tried to stretch my arms around her. It is about 8 feet long and 4 feet wide.

There are a total of 2100 electric cars in London. The G-Wiz is by far the most popular. The Reva Company in India has been making them for 10 years.

As you can see by the picture above - it is only about 8 feet long. It seats 4 people very tightly. I doubt if anyone over an 8 year older can squeeze into the back seats.

It has a small 15 horsepower electric motor driving the back wheels. It can go 50 miles per hour - for about 50 miles - less if you turn on the heater or air conditioning because they run off the batteries too. If you use the more expensive lithium-ion batteries the range jumps up to 75 miles. It takes 9 hours to completely re-charge the 8 - 6 volt batteries by plugging into a regular household outlet. Over here - all outlets are 220 volts.

It ends up costing about 2 cents a mile to run it - much lower than any gasoline powered car. If you use nuke or hydroelectric power to generate your electricity - this is a pollution free car.

In London it sells for 9995 pounds which is about $15,000. In Costa Rica - they sell for $12,000 American. It weighs about 1500 pounds - 600 pounds of that is batteries. It can carry 600 pounds of people.

The batteries are supposed to last 5 years. The brakes turn into generators to re-charge the batteries when you are stopping.

In the picture - I was just measuring the car - not trying to pick it up and take home with me to the USA.

London is a very large crowded congested city. In order to cut down on the street traffic - cars are heavily taxed. Every day you cross into the congested zone - you pay $16. Gasoline is also very expensive - about $8.00 a gallon - most of that is taxes. Parking fees are also very high. If you drive an electric car over here - they waive all those fees. Even with all those incentives including some free charge stations - only 2100 people out of 9 million own an electric car here. If the idea can't make a go of it here - where can it succeed?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

BILLY ELLIOT - Thursday Matinee with Keith - Liz - and Spencer

This is the first time Liz got to see the show. Her aunt lives just a couple blocks from where they are standing.

The show went from 2:30 to 5:30. After the show - Keith and Liz had an early supper and Lulu and I had a late one - together. We all walked to a pub about two blocks south of the Victoria Palace. Then we took a double decker bus home.

SPENCER is the number one Billy Elliot fan in the world. He sits in the front row and I got to sit next to him today. He lets me know when the good stuff is going to happen.

Every time I see Spencer at the show - I do a story on my blog about him. He says he carries my business card and the stories I have written in his bag to every show. He always introduces me as Harry - his friend from America. I am flattered.

This is the 4th summer in a row we saw Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace - what a fantastic show is was. The play has been running every night at 7:30 - and Wednesday and Thursday and Saturday at 2:30 PM. The theatre has been full every time we saw the show.

Keith was able to get us front row seats online. At every show we have seen our theatre buddy - Spencer. He goes to two shows every Wednesday and Thursday - for over 4 years. He carries a scrapbook with pictures of every kid that ever placed Billy. Today a young man from Seattle played Billy. I can't imagine a kid 12 years of age remembering 3 hours of dialog - singing - and dancing. The older I get - the more it amazes me.

EEL PIE ISLAND - Where Rolling Stones - The Who - Eric Clapton - David Bowie Cut Their Teeth

Eel Pie Island in the Thames is only accessible on one lowly footbridge from Twickenham near Richmond in London.

This map shows the closest subway stop to Eel Pie Island. The subway line ends in Richmond.

Here you see Rolling Stones - Brian Jones - Bill Wyman - Mick Jagger - Keith Richards on stage at the Eel Pie Hotel. They played there once a week thru 1963. It was mainly a rhythm and blue club.

This footbridge was the only access to Eel Pie Island. Named in honor of all the eels in the Thames River.

The Eel Pie Hotel mysteriously burned down in 1971 - but all the cool legends remain. The Beatles came here -met The Stones - and wrote them "I Want To Be Your Man." It became their second hit - and helped rocket them to stardom.

Back in 1963 - when kids in Tamaqua were going to Lakewood to see the Beach Boys or Lakeside to dance to the Jordan Brothers - kids in London were flocking to Eel Pie Island in the Thames River to enjoy The Rolling Stones - The Who - Eric Clapton - David Bowie play in a dilapidated old wooden hotel. The hotel is gone now - but the island remains - along with its little wooden footbridge - sort of a gatekeeper to the past. It has become a shrine of sorts - and rich baby boomers have covered it with cottages - trying to capture their youth.
Fellow Coal Cracker Cindy Miller lives near here and she turned us on to the story. You can look up "Eel Pie Island Hotel" on google and find lots of good stories and a few pictures.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Camp Nisatin Was A Highlight Of My 1950's Summers

I was a Boy Scout in the 1950s - back before they started discriminating against gays. My dad was a scoutmaster - and every summer we spent a week at Camp Nisatin. My troop was number 161 - based in a small one room school down by the Zion Stone Church in Snyders PA.

There is not a lot of information about the camp on the net - and even less pictures of the place. The camp was near Summit Station where Route 183 crossed over the Blue Mountain.

My Dad got two weeks vacation from the mines - and one was spent at Camp Nisatin - the other one was spent on a 50 mile hike of the Appalachian Trail. One of my last acts as a Boy Scout was going to the Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron NM in 1962.

Here is one thing I did find out about Camp Nisatin. Do you remember the giant dining hall? In the late 1940's or early 1950's the dance pavilion at the Manila Grove picnic grounds in Coaldale was dismantled and taken to the camp and reassembled (today the Cub Day Camp hall). Memeu Lodge took on the task to dig out the cellar to provide storage for the camps supplies and equipment.

The Manila Grove picnic ground were located along Route 209 in Coaldale just west of the Coaldale Hospital. As a toddler I remember going there to listen to the Coaldale Victory Band - Dad played piccolo for them. Then he worked in Number 8 Mine - just up the road.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wild Librarian's Summer Adventure in London

Real Tattoo of London Skyline

Lulu's has a class of 19 - mostly librarians. They are very busy over here learning about photography - web page design - podcasting - etc. Some are more busy than others. This young lady most really love the time she is spending in London - she will have a reminder with her forever.

Heaven knows what will happen after a weekend in Paris. "How can you keep them down on the farm - after they've seen Pareee!"

"Here's looking at you kid - you'll always have London!"

Click on WILD in the headline to see the full story.

Monday, July 25, 2011

An Afternoon With Cindy Miller - Yes - The Tamaqua Basketball Legend and Now Women of the World

We spent Sunday afternoon with fellow Tamaquan - Cindy Miller of Twickenham. I think I was standing on the curb in this picture. THS grads - 1966 - 1980 - 1972.

Cindy took this picture of us along the Thames River at Richmond. That is Marilyn Monroe next to me secretly living in exile in England.

A few miles upstream from London - the Thames is much more quaint. There is lots of activity on and off the water. We had drinks on the white veranda on the right. There is a foot and bike path along the river all the way back to London. We walked it a mile or so.

Sunday - we spent a few hours with Cindy Miller - yes - the THS high basketball high scorer for 27 years. First off - she looks great and has a dynamite job. She is a take charge girl. She is about 6-1 - slimmer than I remember her - dark hair cut short - and looks like a page out of Vogue. She is living with a classmate from Tamaqua that was on the team with her. Cindy still has the dark hair with a few gray ones in there - and the sharp eyes she had as an expert shooter. She still has leader written all over her. She was a wonderful host - took us to a river bar for drinks outside - then to a mediterranean restaurant for supper.

She is vice president for UK, Ireland and the Nordic Countries for United Parcel Service! She is also in charge of all the delivery logistics for the Olympics - moving everything in and out of there - that is why she is here. UPS is a main sponsor of the games.

After Tamaqua - Cindy went to UNC - played hoops for 3 years. She came home and finished at PSU. She took a job as a driver for UPS at Tamaqua - Allentown to Philly to Brooklyn to Chicago to Brussels. Brussels was the big move for 2 years - and now London. She expects to be here 3-4 years.

Under the ex-patriate law - she can work here up to 5 years - she expects 3 to 4. She pays income tax and social security on all her earnings to the USA.

She said she got her first manager job with UPS - she was working at Allentown - and a regional manager offered her the a management position because 3 other guys refused to move. She just said how much? When do I move? After that she said it was easy. She said the first move was hard but now each new move is an adventure - and a chance to purge stuff :-) Karen Deininger - partner of 20 years who also happens to have been a fellow Tamaqua grad and teammate - was back in the states on family business.

They live in an apartment in Twickenham - across the river from Richmond on the Thames River. Cindy drives a BMW 535 Diesel. their place is just 5 miles short of Heathrow Airport. The Thames is really pretty there with lots of restaurants along the water and people boating on the river - paddlecraft. This is an exclusive little town - home of English Rugby and also home to Eel Pie Island. In 1963 there was an old hotel on th eisland where The Rolling Stones improved their craft along with The Who - The Yardbirds - David Bowie - Rod Stewart - Eric Clapton - Cream - and others.

She told us of her travels to Israel - she said it is safe there - and Egypt - she says she would not go back there right now - very dangerous for outsiders. She was hassled many times visiting the pyramids and would not take family there. She loves Spain and their food.

After dinner - she caught a cab for us - and poof - she was gone.

I have to tell you - this girl has strong character. When she played basketball - she had a humor and dignity beyond her years. She never got in anybody's face. She was a true sportsman. She was only 16 years old when she led Tamaqua to the state championship and being name All-State. Her record of 2200 points in a career survived from 1980 to 2007. I am guessing she is 49 now and her best years are still to come. I remember her Dad trying to get her into Little League baseball - and Knee-Hi Football - but the doctors teaming up with the leagues to not let her play. She was "our" Billy Jean King. She won the Elks foul shooting contest every year. And head to head - she could beat most of the boys.

For her age - she could be a model - she is trim - carries herself like a thoroughbred - and I am guessing still has to beat guys off with a stick. In your mind - you have heroes - and she is one of mine. It is so much fun - meeting one of your heroes later in life - and they still remain bigger than life. At least - that is the way I see it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekend in Wales - Grandfather William J Quick Came From Here

This was the new concert hall on the bay in Cardiff .

Welsh Galloping Ponies on the boardwalk by the bay.

This was one of the coal docks in the harbor in Cardiff. It could also be closed and drained into a dry dock to work on ships.

One of the old main street now turned into a giant shopping mall in Cardiff. Directly behind me was the Cardiff Castle.

Harry in Welsh battle gear - notice the long nose protector.

I never met Grandfather William J Quick - he died in 1945 and I was born 3 years later. He was a time keeper in the mines near Mahanoy City. But his family came from the coal mines of Wales - so it was time to visit a little heritage. It is only about 2 hours by train from London to Cardiff - the capital of this small country. It has a fine harbor so this was a perfect place to ship their coal to the rest of the world. Down in the harbor is a large ornate old building where the Bute family ran their coal empire. They build the railroad and made a fortune by charging a tariff per ton to bring the coal to the docks.

The coal in Wales comes from the same Pennsylvanian Layers of rock that we mine back home in Tamaqua. In Wales - there is soft coal in the eastern area and hard coal (anthracite) in the western areas. The worst mining disaster in United Kingdom history occurred at Senghenydd in 1913 when 439 miners were killed in an explosion. Back home in Pennsylvania - the experienced Welsh were engineers and managers in the coal mines. Laborers came from Ireland - later Italy and Eastern Europe.

We spent the night in Cardiff - the capital - staying downtown in the new Mauldrin Hotel. Cardiff is one of the top 6 shopping attractions in Europe. The streets were removed from downtown making a giant shopping complex. The old buildings were restored but their doors emptied out onto a giant meandering mall paddock.

Cardiff Castle from about 1000 AD is in remarkable condition. It is the cornerstone of the downtown area. In the 20th century the Bute Family lived in the giant castle - they got their wealth from coal mining.

Time flew by and I never got to visit the cemeteries to search for the Quick surname. Popular names here in signage are - Williams - Evans - Jones - Morgan. Nancy's Mom Betty's maiden name is Morgan.

On the way home - I could not help appreciating the UK Rail System. The clock struck 6 when we were downtown in Cardiff. An express train was leaving Cardiff at 6:25 - we had quite a jaunt back to the hotel to pick up our bags. We did not even have train tickets. I went back to the hotel to pick up our bags - Lulu went straight to the station. Usually we do not split up this close to departure - but we were getting comfortable in Wales. I got to the train station - Lulu already bought the train tickets. We were on the platform with 10 minutes to spare. No big deal - because there was another train in an hour. On the way home - the train made just a couple stops - one was in Reading. Just like in the old days - when we were kids coming back to Tamaqua on a trip from Philly --- Reading.

A month in Britain gives you a chance to look back. You wonder what it was like then - that made your ancestors hop on a boat - leaving everything familiar for a new start and promise over the horizon. In this case - they left one coal cracker town to work in another coal cracker town. History repeats itself.

Nothing puts the smile on a coal crackers face - but to see a hunk of coal. Notice the soft hands - the coal cracker never saw the back side of a shovel.

This was inside the Cardiff Castle - looking toward the new 80,000 seat Millenium Stadium.

Lulu and I in front of the Castle Keep in Cardiff Wales.

Weddings are common at the city hall here.

This young couple will honeymoon in their VW camper. Lulu and I eloped in a Chevy panel truck in 1971.

Three times in my life - I have had a professional shave. Disneyworld in 1980 - Oxford in 2008 - and now Wales in 2011. Very few places can one find this pleasure for 12 pounds. ($18.00)

The shave started and ended with a steaming hot towel - just like you see in the old movies. The guy shaved me 3 times - and not even close to a cut or blood.

This is the old farmers market in downtown Cardiff. It is like the Hometown Auction - but spotless. They will slice the bread - then slice the ham and cheese on the spot - and hand you a sandwich. I could not handle the corned beef though.

Souvenirs make of coal are very popular.

People brag about French and Italian bread. I tasted none better than these Welsh breads and pastries. I was buying these small rolls for 30 pence until Lulu showed me that they were 1.20 a dozen! That brings a new meaning to baker's dozen.