I visited Portugal again for the AAMAS conference. I spent a night in Lisbon, with charming but convoluted Moorish streets, many museums (including one detailing 5000 years of pharmacy; reading the Portuguese descriptions was a fun challenge). I discovered that I was missing some critical elements of haberdashery:

Also, one should be careful in Lisbon, lest one get caught in a shoot-out:

Lisbon's castle was lovely, with stonework like the bark on the trees. Before heading to the conference, I stopped in Sintra, a mountain town with a Moorish fort and several fairy-tale Palaces. Hiking to the summit with my poster-tube, rucksack, and brightly-patterned skirt (and let's not forget the pigtails), I think I looked just local enough – despite the lack of head feathers – that several Portuguese tourists stopped and asked me for directions to various sights. My favorite sight was the Quinta de Regaleira, a romantic fantasy dream-estate that seemed like something out of Myst or Manhole!

Javier came to England in June and Hadrian's wall, where we met several animal friends. I learned just how loud donkeys can be and that cow's eyes, being decent large, are quite well-manufactured for staring. The first day we endured the constant rain and 10 degree weather on that very chilly summer solstice for 20 miles, only to discover that the Greenhead hostel had no heating in the summer! Fortunately, we were able to dry our clothes in the hotel across the street. The next day was much prettier, and we walked the highest and northernmost points of the wall. We enjoyed the scenic views, though since the Roman road that supplied the wall forts is now a highway, it didn't quite feel like the edge of civilization. An excavation of a fort near our hostel in Once Brewed contained a series of Roman postcards, including one from a mother sending her son warm socks. Smart woman!

Later in the summer, I visited Helsinki for ICML. We did not have much time for touristing, but we did see both a new church (left: see the lovely lighting; it's built into solid rock!) as well as an old church (center left: see how it's designed to make you feel very small). It never got quite dark, as seen by the photo at 1 in the morning – it was quite bizarre walking out of a restaurant at 11pm and feeling like it was early evening. For the banquet, we went to an island fortress with fun little tunnels and storage rooms to explore (photo taken around 9pm).

Meanwhile, back in Cambridge, I thought I had lived a bit of history when the new clock was installed on Kings Parade. Unveiled by Stephen Hawking and apparently costing 1 billion pounds, the inexorable (well, mostly: due to some mechanical difficulties, it resets every five minutes) eating of time by the scary-eyed cricket makes it clear that someone wasn't too keen on the fact that time only moves forward. It reminds me both of Douglas Adams and the questions asked by King George (how Cambridge! The wackiness in real life!) as well as the dragon riding the wheel of time.

Of course, the big event of the summer was our wedding! I was really touched by all the work everyone put in to make the event such a huge success, and it was absolutely lovely to see everyone enjoying themselves and having a good time. We won't forget the touching performances on the mendhi night, the parade with tupperware drums, nor the Thomas Crown affair twist on the shoe-stealing tradition! Thanks everyone for making our wedding such a fun time!

Immediately after the wedding, we flew to Puerto Rico to visit Javier's grandparents. They surprised us with another reception, and the next day we had a feast with beans, avocados, mangos, and fruits that I had never seen or tasted before all from Abuelo's backyard garden. We also spent a morning in old San Juan. The metal cobble-stone streets reminded me (understandably) of my trips to the Iberian peninsula. One of the highlights was a walk along the outer walls of the fort, which is inhabited by a massive number of cats.

Last modified: 2012/04/09 11:33
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