Archive for the 'The Map Room' Category

Thus Perish the Enemies of the Republic

I’m one of those lucky travelers who usually makes it through airport security with no hassles. But leaving Geneva, the Swiss Frontier guards asked to search my bag. The guard put on gloves and removed a small box tucked into my laundry. He opened it and pulled out the contents, a small chocolate marmite (cauldron). He smiled, said something in French, and carefully placed it back in the box. It made the trip back to Berkeley unbroken and this evening, we celebrated L’escalade in the traditional manner…smashing our marmite and shouting “Thus perish the enemies of the Republic!” The choclate pot and marzipan vegetables were amazing! Little did I know that the shop where I purchased the marmite is one of Geneva’s most famous choclatiers, Du Rhone.


There are no Christmas markets in Geneva but there are chocolate shops. This week they are filled with chocolate cauldrons for the Fete de L’Escalade, an annual festival to celebrate the defeat of Charles Emmanuel I’s troops by the city’s defenders on December 12, 1602. According to legend,during the attack a woman dropped a pot of boiling soup on the head of an attacker, killing him. The chocolate marmites, which are filled with marzipan vegetables, are broken and eaten as part of the festivals activities. I bought one and we’ll have our own celebration at home!

Pac Man eating dots in Geneva

I’m in Switzerland for a couple days of business meetings. The city is lit for the holidays. In the town square, there is a huge Christmas tree with gorgeous, hand-blown glass balls. My favorite decoration is a string of lights that run along part of Lake Geneva. Every 100 yards or so is a Pac Man being chased by colorful Ghosts. It was the winning design from from a University art competition. I thought I spied a small Christmas market on the walk back from dinner tonight. I’ll try to make it there before catching my flight home tomorrow.

In Cologne for GamesCom

This week I traveled to Cologne, Germany for GamesCom, the world’s biggest video game convention. Business meetings kept me from exploring much of the city, but I did manage to visit the massive 13th century cathedral and meet up with my old friend R2. Famous for its beer, Cologne is also home to Europe’s largest underground garage. Popular Mechanics used my picture of the  Rheinauhafen Parking Tunnel to help illustrate “The World’s 18 Strangest Garages” Read their story here and check out number 11.

A History of the World in 100 Objects

I’m listening to the BBC Radio 4 podcast, A History of the World in 100 Objects. Each of the 100 15-minute episodes, tells the story of one item from the British Museum’s collection. The program, written and narrated by Museum Director Neil MacGregor, covers two million years of human history. I like how he has grouped famous and less known objects into weekly themes. This week’s theme, the movement of goods and ideas from 400 – 700AD, includes not only the Sutton Hoo Helmet but also a roof tile from Korea. I learn something new from each episode like where Ramesses II (seen above in a photo I took a few years ago) got that hole in his chest. It was not, as I suspected, the result of a French bullet. The podcast is available on iTunes. Check out the official website here for more information.

S Novym Godom 2009!

Happy New Year from the Derringdos! This photo is from the ice rink put up by Gum (pronounced goom) on Red Square. When Annabel visited Mosow in 1985, Gum had empty shelves made of wooden crates. Today it’s packed with designer fashions and a huge gelato stand. Here are a few pictures of Red Square from my short visit in December.

Ascending the Face

Last week, Nettie and I went camping in Yosemite with her class. The kids pulled together the gear, cooked the meals (s’mores every night), and assembled the schedule. Our group hiked up to Vernal Falls, rode horses around Mirror Lake and climbed rocks for an afternoon. Nettie climbs like a spider. In addition to the typical deer, ground squirrels and scrub jays, we spotted a coyote and bear cub. On the last night we drove up to Glacier Point to view the sunset and valley at night.

Cologne Space Invader

I saw this orange space invader on the way out to dinner. You can find dozens of these little guys in cities around the world. They’re mosaics created and placed by street artist, Invader. According to his web site, this is one of 24 in Cologne. You can see pictures of space invaders from around the world here on Flickr.

Europe’s Largest Garage

This parking garage in Cologne is, on the authority of my driver, Europe’s largest. It stretches over 4KM, but only has three entrances. Many of the parking stalls have elevators that allow one car to be parked above another. According to my driver, it has been built to withstand the periodic flooding of the Rhine, although any cars left in the lot will be completely submerged.

Bikes and Bulldozers

Bikes in London

I don’t remember seeing so many bicyclists on London’s streets. With no noticeable bike lanes to guide them, they are brave souls. My driver mentioned that the mayor, who he referred to as “Red Ken”, was planning on offering thousands of bikes for rent for short trips around London. Another noticeable difference since my last visit about a year ago is the amount of construction. Streets are being excavated, sidewalks replaced and buildings erected all over London.