Last week we spent five full days in the Black Forest in Germany. We stayed in the quite village of Hinterzarten (which can be reached by train from Leuven via Liege – Cologne – Freiburg), did three not too heavy but rather scenic hikes around the region (to the highest point of the Black Forest, to a nearby lake, and through the local gorge), and also visited the city of Freiburg. We were quite lucky with the weather, it was perfect for the hikes, as it was mild, sunny, and it only rained for an afternoon. I had way too many slices of schwarzwald cake, and plenty of nice food in the local restaurants/hotels (except for the first day, when we visited the Italian place nearby), and Clio was very happy to be outside in a nice forest. Unluckily during our stay the Belgians got also kicked out of the European Championships, but yeah, you can not have everything :D
Thursday the 24th we first headed to the Harborwalk facing the Waterfront to take pictures of the Boston skyline in the morning sunlight. Then after a quick sandwich and salad lunch, we visited the New England Aquarium. This was the first time that I have been to a proper aquarium ever, and it was awesome. Clio loves fishes (and that is an understatement), so for her it was almost as good as going to Disneyland. We could even pet some animals in the ‘ray and shark touch tank’. We spent more than 3 hours here! Afterwards we still walked through Chinatown and spent some time in the Public Garden (surrounded by hundreds of squirrels) before taking the subway home in the sunset.
On the morning of the 25th we started with a visit to the Science Museum. It was all right, especially the more interesting interactive elements, although I was a tiny bit disappointed with their collection overall. It’s not like the science museum in London… I think this one might be more fun for smaller children. But then after a lunch break (BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich for the win!) and buying a few more GoPro accessories (that are so much cheaper in the USA), we went kayaking on the Charles River. There was quite some wind, but the water was not too rough, especially inside the Storrow Lagoon along the Esplanade. The view towards the city was really nice and we enjoyed our time in the sunshine a lot. I am sure if we lived somewhere in New England, I would have a sea kayak.
Saturday was our last full day, and the first day when we were not exactly sure what to do. After quite some thinking we decided to go to South Boston. We walked along the Harborwalk from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum all the way up to Castle Island. The weather was still nice, although the wind got quite strong, so we were happy to warm up with a hamburger and a hot dog at the end :) Then we took a bus towards Downtown to find a place that had happy hour for oysters (for Clio).
Then Sunday morning we still had a nice brunch (where I had a gigantic breakfast pizza) at the MIT before going to the airport. The flight was uneventful, especially since we were sitting on the left side of the plane and thus we did not get to see the total lunar eclipse happening on the other side… And unluckily there were no northern lights on our side either. We arrived home on the afternoon with some serious jet lag. Clio tried to fight it with some sleeping, while I tried to stay awake playing FIFA 16 on the PS4…
To sum it up, we had a really nice time in Boston, it was really worth going. I spent quite some time making a selection of the hundreds of photos I had taken there, so if you are curious to see more than the very strict selection of this blog post, then head over to my Flick gallery. Thanks for reading!
On Tuesday – if I remember correctly – I was first properly beaten in the game of The Rivals for Catan (and this repeated itself at least one more time during our stay, and I kept loosing by only one point…), then we headed to Fenway Park. Now this might seem like an interesting choice, but I have a weird, slightly unexplainable attraction towards baseball. For some reason I like baseball movies, I even play baseball sometimes on the PS4 (MLB 15 The Show), but maybe the most important of all, I think baseball is an important part of the American culture and heritage. So it is only logical to visit the oldest and most famous ballpark in the MLB. (Clio was nice enough to come along although I know it was totally boring for her.) We had a 1 hour guided tour with quite some interesting info, and plenty of photo opportunities of the field, the stands, and the Boston skyline. Afterwards we walked to the Public Library and the Trinity Church, followed by some window shopping on Newbury Street.
The next day we took the commuter train (luckily into the opposite direction of all the actual commuters) to Rockport, a very cute, tiny fishing village one hour North of Boston. Here we had lobster for lunch (my first whole lobster ever), Salt Water Taffy for dessert, and Clio could finally go and find all the crabs hiding on the beach :) The sun was so strong and the air so clean (turning the sky extremely blue), that although the temperature was only around 20 degrees Celsius, we had to put plenty of sunscreen on. It was a great day, and a nice change after spending so much time in the city. Also the train ride itself was quite scenic, with nice views of the villages, small bays, and forests around. When I have my driving licence, I am happy to come back for a roadtrip of New England.
To be continued!
Since I have nothing to do right now as I am sitting in the middle of the worst weather I have ever seen on La Palma, I have some time to write about our trip to Massachusetts. (By the way, this is my 200th night ‘working’ at a professional observatory!)
We spent 7 full days (20-26 September) in and around Boston, enjoying a really nice Indian summer. As the hotel prices in the area are totally insane, we stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Cambridge just 5 minutes from the Central station of the subway. This was quite convenient, not only because we could reach downtown Boston in no time, but also because there was a very nice sushi place (and other restaurants and shops) just a few minutes from our door.
We arrived with an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin on the evening of the 19th, and thanks to the very smooth US Preclearance back in the Irish capital, we could immediately just pick up our bags and take the shuttle bus/subway to our apartment. The 20th was a Sunday, and we spent the full day in Cambridge, mostly in and around Harvard University. We went on a very nice and unexpectedly informative guided tour of the campus, then after lunch from the Au Bon Pain (hmmm, really nice BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich), we visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Thanks to Clio’s amazing organisation skills we had pre-purchased (low price) tickets for everywhere with a custom Go Boston card, so we did not have to pay entrance fee (or wait in line) on the spot anywhere that week. The museum was interesting, especially the Glass Flower collection of “over 4000 models – some 3000 on display – that was created by the glass artisans, Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolf. The commission began in 1886, continued for five decades, and represents more than 830 plant species.” At the end of the day I bought a pair of trail running shoes (which are since then very much approved), then we walked back home following the Charles River.
On Monday the 21st we got to taste how crowded the morning commute can be on the subway, so we tried to avoid the peak hours afterwards (with quite some success). We spent the day walking along The Freedom Trail, passing by most of the historical spots of Boston. Although non of us is really interested in this part of the US history, the architectural beauty of some buildings and the atmosphere of old Boston is well worth the visit. Boston is luckily much more compact than New York for example, so we did not feel completely dead at the end of the trail. On the contrary, we kept walking further across the green streets of Bacon Hill, then along the green riverside of the Esplanade before heading home.
To be continued!
I am back on La Palma (again), supervising our Master students at the telescope (again). Although I did not bring the ‘big guns’ from my photo gear this time, I still have my small camera with me. The first night of this observing run was my 100th night at the Mercator telescope :) To celebrate this, here is a picture I took of the beautiful planetary conjunction before Sunrise on the morning of the 11th with my FUJIFILM X100S camera (with an equivalent focal length of 35 mm) set at f/2.8, at ISO 800, and using an exposure time of 10 seconds.
Although the Moon looks full, it is just a thin crescent (which is better visible after clicking on the image), but the dark side is quite strongly lit by light reflected back from the Earth. This is called earthshine. (At the same moment, Earth looks almost full from the surface of the Moon, so there is a lot of Earthlight even on the dark parts.)