Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oh, Bologna!

Well, I lied about my next post being about Wales. Oh, well. Why? Because I remembered a recent Jeopardy episode answer/question about an interesting fountain in Bologna, Italy. If my memory is correct and my vision as good as I think it is, I've been to that fountain. And they definitely didn't show the most interesting part. I guess that makes it my job.

Come on, how much fun is that? Bologna is worth a visit just to see the fountain. Well, maybe.

As long as I'm posting, a few other notes about Bologna. I visited the city while spending a semester in England. A friend and I went on a weekend trip to Italy (Bologna and Florence) in the extreme cold (okay, it wasn't that bad) of February. Thanks to the greatness that is Ryanair, plane tickets cost close to nothing though the out-of-the-way airport isn't the most convenient. Whatever. Basically, our trip there was somewhat like a random pin in a map. (Other country? Check. Low airfare? Check. Gelato? Check.)

Bologna is a city of towers. Apparently, there used to be over two hundred though now I think about twenty remain. These two are (obviously) right next to each other, right in the middle of the city. I love the idea of random medieval buildings suddenly appearing.

No, your eyes and my photography are not deceiving you; they are leaning. That's right, leaning towers in Italy are not unique to Pisa.

Also notable about Bologna? The walkways, or porticos, I guess. Basically, a lot of "downtown" Bologna is connected by covered walkways that help shield people from rain, snow, sun, and the like. The city is famous for them and they are nice to walk through.

Once again, my post isn't as detailed as I'd like. Maybe my upcoming post about Wales will be better.

Friday, August 28, 2009

SHARK! For real this time.

Here it is, the long-awaited, much anticipated (ha!) aquarium post! Hooray! I've actually visited two aquariums recently so what is it with me and fish? Anyone who may have actually read my blog knows I went to the New England Aquarium just last week. While that's a great aquarium, it's not the one I'm writing about today.

On my recent weekend trip to New York City, my good friend Sadako (I'd turn that into a link if I knew how) and I ventured out of Manhattan, across all of of Brooklyn, to that strange remaining vestige of a bygone era: Coney Island. Ah, yes, Coney Island. Home of the Cyclone, the sideshow, and the New York Aquarium (oh, and a kick-ass merry-go-round). Our main destination was, as one could probably guess, the aquarium.

The journey there started with a long ride on the subway. (Did we take the Q? I think so.) Here's where I recommend 20 Questions as a fun game for long trips. Okay, back to the trip adventure. I'm trying so hard to make this sound interesting. Sigh.

After getting off the train, it was only a short walk to the aquarium. The New York Aquarium is not huge, not flashy, and not, to my knowledge, a big tourist destination. It does have its charms, though.

The aquarium is actually a series of buildings and outdoor tanks (often with indoor viewing areas). This is nice because the noise level is generally not too bad and, even in a small-ish space, things don't get too crowded. The design also helps designate types of animals and exhibits.

This aquarium visit brought out the movie-maker and photographer in Sadako and the results are a sight to behold. First, maybe my favorite: the jellyfish. The jellyfish building (there are a lot of jellyfish at the NY Aquarium) uses blacklight (I think) to create a cool, underwater effect. It's actually pretty eerie though the sound on this video might not demonstrate that. I still love it though:
I wish I knew how to just post the video here...

The NY Aquarium is also, as the title of my post suggests, a good place to see sharks. In captivity. Where they can't hurt you. Or something. Here's their video:
Fun, huh? Even if someone lied about a seal.

For your viewing pleasure, one more video:
Impressive, isn't it? There are some great pictures as well. I should probably post them...

Anyway, the aquarium was, as always, lots of fun. Pretty fish, scary sharks, and so on. Definitely worth a visit.

More information:

Up next: Wales, for real this time. After that I'm thinking Yosemite, if anyone cares. I have a pretty good story there.

Sidenote to Sadako: sorry if I didn't do this justice... Too tired.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Coming Soon

Confession time! Occasionally when boredom strikes, I do crappy jigsaw puzzles online. Some of them result in pretty cool pictures and there's the option of linking them to blogs. And so we have a new feature here at Travel Rambling: The Upcoming Post Post. It's a game! Where everybody wins!

What's the point of this? Well, I'll sometimes post a puzzle that relates to something I'll actually be posting about soon. For the bored, it's a quick way to fill a little time. For anyone who may ever actually read my blog, it's a teaser for an upcoming post. So, here's the first one:

Let's hope this works...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SHARK! no, wait... WHALE!!!

I'm cheating. I was supposed to post about the NY Aquarium. Oh, well, screw that (for now. I'll get to it very soon along with the New England Aquarium.) Why? Because I went on a whale watch yesterday and it's totally worth posting about.

Given my love for crappy kids books and the BSC in particular, eventually I'll get my snark on and post about Dawn's Family Feud, a fabulous book including a trip to Boston and, yes, a whale watch. But for now it's all about me.

Lots of companies offer whale watches from Boston/Gloucester/eastern MA. I went on the New England Aquarium's whale watch which leaves right from Boston. Convenient. And a decent deal with a combo ticket to the aquarium. For about $50, I got to visit the aquarium and spend almost four hours on a boat. I even saw some whales. Hooray!

The trip begins with a slow-ish half hour, getting out of Boston Harbor. It's quite nice, offering great views of the Boston skyline and nearby islands.

After that, it's the open ocean. Thanks, I think, to plankton, the North Atlantic of the MA coast is pretty green. Not the prettiest ocean around but that's okay. I do have to say it's really nice on the open water. To me, it didn't feel rough at all (they said waves were 1-2 ft.) and the ride was really pleasant.

Our whale watching destination was Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, home of lots of marine life. It takes about an hour on the open ocean to get to Stellwagen and the trip is relaxing. Whale sightings are guaranteed (if you don't see whales you get a voucher for another trip) and yesterday's trip was not a disappointment. We saw three different kinds of whales including minke whales (apparently they're usually very shy but they seemed to be quite frisky yesterday!) and I think a fin whale. Plus one other. I'll check the log when it's up.

In my experience, contrary to the depiction in books, whale sightings are often pretty brief. Maybe you'll see a spout, a huge dark shape surfacing and disappearing, and that's about it. All from a distance. Which isn't to say it isn't exciting. It is. Whales are wild animals, they're huge and impressive, and it's pretty cool to see them in their natural habitat. I definitely tried to get pictures of the whales but I'm not sure I ever really succeded. Here's one possibility, the dark dot in the middle might be a whale. I think. Or maybe this is the wrong picture. Well, here's a picture of the open ocean:

The actual whale watching portion of the trip lasted about an hour. We traveled a bit through the ocean based on where whales had been sighted recently. The part I found really exciting (honestly) was searching the water and every so often spotting a whale and, along with others on the boat, pointing and shouting. Hard to describe I guess... I think I mean that although there was a naturalist on board, whales would often be seen first by people on the boat. Like me. And it's oddly thrilling.
After the watching of the whales, it was time to head back to Boston. The trip back was really just like the trip out so nothing particularly exciting there. All in all, a fun experience.
Coming up: a post about Wales.