Posts Tagged ‘santa fe’

Goodbye, Santa Fe

June 6, 2009

Just a quick note to let you know that I’ll be leaving Santa Fe this afternoon, and spending the night in Albuquerque before flying to Boston.

The conference has been a great experience, as has Santa Fe itself. More updates on that later!


Astronomy and knitting make a great combination

June 4, 2009

So far the conference has been great—we’ve just finished the third day so there’s lots to catch you up on.

The first day, Monday, started well despite a few technical hiccups. My talk was at 4pm, after afternoon tea, in the last session of the day. At most Astronomy conferences (including this one) the talks are divided into sessions with a common theme—so my talk was appropriately in the Red Giants session. The session chair was my supervisor Peter, a logical choice I guess, since he is rather well known in the pulsating red giants field.

The talk itself went off fairly well, no technical difficulties for me, and due to many hours of practise I didn’t forget what I wanted to say. I even got a few sympathetic giggles out of the audience, who appreciated the exasperation of trying to solve the Long Secondary Period mystery. No one asked any of the questions I was expecting, and there were a couple I felt I couldn’t answer very well, but nobody seemed to mind. In fact, after all the talks had finished I had people coming up to me to compliment me on what a good talk it was! Someone even asked for a copy of my thesis when it was done—I had to break it to him that it would probably be at least a year in coming. But hey, feeling pretty chuffed :) And in the two days since, I’ve had several more people tell me what a good talk they thought it was. I’m so pleased all my work paid off, and I attribute most of my success to the Science Communication workshop I attended in November.

After a fortifying gin and tonic (oh sweet gin! it solves all problems) I joined Peter and Margaret for dinner with a couple of professors from Los Alamos. We went to a lovely local restaurant which had both tex-mex and southwest cuisine, and sat on the balcony overlooking the plaza. And had some very tasty margaritas, of course. I feel it’s my duty to sample a good range of margaritas while I’m here, it being the local specialty and all. I didn’t even realise until I came to Santa Fe that there are different sorts of margaritas. But some places have (apparently) up to a hundred on their menu.

On Tuesday, the conference seemed so much more relaxed—having got the talk over and done with did wonders for the nerves. I took the opportunity to read as many of the posters as I could during the coffee breaks. At conferences the people who don’t get scheduled for a talk (or who don’t want to give one) make a poster about their research, and these are usually displayed just outside the conference room, usually where the coffee and snacks are served. So many people submitted posters for this conference that they’re having two sessions of them: the first lot are up for the first half of the week, then they get taken down and the second lot are put up.

Tuesday was great as I started to meet some more people my age (other students and postdocs) from different institutions. I had lunch with three girls from Texas A&M, and we had the best time chatting and laughing, so much so that we were late for the after-lunch talk session! That evening we went out with a whole bunch of other people, and found some great mexican food and awesome margaritas. Vicky (from Liverpool) and I were particularly excited by the frozen margaritas served in pint glasses. Pints! And later on we returned to the hotel bar to test more margaritas, unfrozen this time but nonetheless good.


At one point Vicky’s glass made a bid for freedom—neither of us are quite sure how it happened, but one moment it was sitting happily at least 10cm from the edge, then the next moment, without any help from us, it had tipped a good measure of margarita into her lap and over the floor. Weak with laughter, I managed to make it to the bar for a wodge of serviettes, which alerted the barman to our plight. And ten minutes later, he brings us both a free margarita! To make up for having spilled the first one, apparently. Talk about score. After that, it was probably a good thing that our rooms were just upstairs!

Today we had only a half day of talks, as the conference tour to Los Alamos was taking place this afternoon. I was among those who decided not to go, feeling that I didn’t really need to know more about the Manhattan Project, and that in any case I’d rather explore Santa Fe a bit more. I joined Catherine, a Canadian girl doing a postdoc in Paris, for the afternoon. Catherine is a fellow knitter (we’ve both been knitting away at socks during the talks) so after grabbing some freshly cooked carnitas for lunch from a street vendor, we checked out a few yarn stores.

We went first to the Needle’s Eye where, remembering the size of my suitcase, I managed to restrain myself to small and light (but nonetheless wonderful!) buttons:


those goose ones are actually different sorts of inlaid wood—amazing.

Next we visited Oodles Yarn and Bead Gallery, where we were greeted by a friendly little dog called Harry. His equally friendly owner, the proprietor Bev, showed us a skein of Harry-hair yarn, and assured us their website would be up soon. Somehow some yarn jumped into my bag, but I’m consoling myself that it’s only two small skeins, and anyway, I can just take another carry-on piece when I fly home, right?


Anyway, it reminds me of summertime and fairy floss.

Then we had to make another trip to Tutto, because we liked it so much. Catherine bought some yarn for a jumper she’s been wanting to make, and I found some cute buttons that managed to distract me from most of the yarn—but it was hard to resist the Koigu.


Don’t they look just like lollies? It’ll be hard enough for me not to put them in my mouth, so I don’t think these will be going on any childrens’ knits.

Anyway, now I’m off for some Thai with Peter and Margaret—it’ll be nice to have a reprieve from all that Mexican!

Santa Fe

June 3, 2009

Sunday—jewel among days—was my one footloose and fancy-free day in Santa Fe. As if by some divine benevolence, the weather was beautifully sunny and balmy, so I hastened to explore this intriguing new city. Well, not perhaps hastened so much. I did have sleep to catch up on. Let’s just say I only just made it to the hotel restaurant before they stopped serving breakfast.

Full of green tea and tropical fruit (watermelon! At this time of year!), I set out on my journey of discovery. Just up the street, next to the cathedral, there were markets on in a shady, leafy park.


I managed to restrain myself to buying only a few gifts and souvenirs. There were lots of local artists, jewellers, and crafters of all sorts. This lady was carding buffalo hair, while her husband sold the knitted buffalo purses she made, along with cute creatures made of local detritus—wood, seed pods, animal bones, etc.


After leaving the markets I wandered the streets, admiring the springtime greenery and examining the adobe buildings. I found this delightful courtyard where vegetables and herbs mixed with flowers and trees, like some fantastical but functional oasis.

so green!

I came across a gelateria, and in celebration of the warm weather treated myself to a scoop of lavender and honey gelato.


(It was delicious, despite my expression in the photo above. I think I was confused by something my camera was doing.)

Of course my wanderings were not restricted to appreciation of the weather alone. Not when there is shopping to do. Santa Fe seems to have so many shops (and so many restaurants), something that results from the large number of tourists, I guess. It was fun to see all the things they sold, and imagine what I would buy if I had the luggage space (and the money). However much more interesting than the established stores was the space outside the Palace of the Governors, where native crafters were selling their creations from blankets on the ground. The prices here were more to my budget, and I also felt better about buying the wares directly from the creators as opposed to in the stores—that way I know the money’s going where it’s most deserved. More gifts and souvenirs found their way into my bag here, but somehow I avoided buying any of the turquoise jewellery that you see everywhere in Santa Fe. But I’ve been thinking about it ever since, so I might go back in my free afternoon tomorrow.

Santa Fe likes to be known as the ‘City Different’, which I guess means it has lots of international food options, lots of museums, and lots of art—both for sale and displayed everywhere you look. Not having been in many other US cities for any length of time (yet!) I can’t comment on how different it is, but it’s certainly nice. There’s a happy, relaxed vibe, and lots to see and do. Some of the most interesting sculptures I found were these fish


but there was lots more art, all around town.

Of course, a shopping trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting a yarn store. I managed to find the lovely Tutto Santa Fe just twenty minutes before their closing time. Hidden up a flight of stairs, it’s like you’ve discovered a wonderful secret.

tutto santa fe

That yellow bag on the counter at the far left of the picture contains all my purchases…but I figure I’m justified in going crazy here. I can’t buy most of these yarn brands in Australia!

This was the lovely man who helped me—unfortunately I didn’t catch his name but he was so friendly and knowledgable—and a knitter! The lady in line ahead of me was buying wool for a gorgeous baby dress and he was talking her through some of the difficult points of the pattern, and encouraging her to come back if she ran into trouble. What a darling.

tutto santa fe

I also visited Miriam’s Well to buy some Cascade Eco for my owls jumper (at last!). It too was lovely but I must have been flustered after getting lost three times, because when I finally found it I forgot to take pictures.

So it was a pretty good haul yarn-wise, although just about everything I bought was Cascade! You can see a couple of skeins of Koigu KPPPM there though…


That evening was the conference opening reception, held on a terrace in the hotel. My supervisor, Peter, and his wife turned up, and they introduced me to a few people—it was a bit intimidating going into a room full of astronomers when I didn’t know any of them! Especially feeling a bit nervous about my talk the next day. But all went well and after some authentic Italian for dinner, I put myself to bed, feeling that an impending talk demanded a good night’s sleep.

A trans-Pacific odyssey

June 2, 2009

After many hours of travelling, I finally made it.

The flight from Canberra to Sydney was short and uneventful, as expected. Once I’d checked in for my flight to San Francisco, I grabbed a much needed coffee and bikkie—an Anzac seemed appropriate.


Despite my otherwise intentions, that’s the first and last photo I took while in transit. Apparently I was either too busy going through security, or just felt the whole experience was so soul-destroying that it didn’t warrant documenting. Oh well.

I had a few hours to kill in Sydney so I wandered the duty-free shops to check out the deals for when I fly back in (one litre Bombay Sapphire, here I come!). Then it was onto the plane—my first 747, and I was lucky enough to get an exit row! Helloooo, two metres of legroom. However despite books and magazines and audio books and movies and a laptop to play with, I still missed my knitting. Though I probably wouldn’t have had elbow room to knit, thanks to the huge guy beside me. I had decided not to sleep much (not that it would be easy for me anyway) but unfortunately my one hour of shut-eye was disturbed by shrill-voiced women who felt the need to talk right near my chair, and babies who chose that hour to start squawking, after twelve hours of adorable silence. Hmmm.

But I arrived in San Francisco in a relatively decent mood, and they let me into the country and everything. There was even a massage salon in the airport, but I didn’t have time for a pedicure before my next flight. Bugger.

Boarded my third (and final) plane, bound this time for Albuquerque. Again somehow luck was on my side and I was seated in the very front row of the plane, which meant a few precious extra centimetres of legroom. Bliss! However the lack of sleep and excess of travelling was catching up with me, and two or so hours in an aeroplane seat just seemed like too much to bear. But I got to Albuquerque, and I got on the shuttle bus to Santa Fe, and just over an hour later I was at my hotel. Having not slept for over 30 hours.

Overtiredness does strange things to your perception. My first glimpses of Santa Fe convinced me that it was an intimidating and outlandish place. Everyone I met seemed to watch me warily, as though expecting me to cover myself in peanut butter and break into song. (Of course, after ten hours of sleep and some decent food it was apparent that these impressions were a little hysterical. But a sleep-deprived person cannot be reasoned with. And it’s very likely that the only reason peanut-flavoured Gene Kelly didn’t happen was lack of energy.)

The hotel is gorgeous—somehow, again, luck was on my side and the el-cheapo conference special (less than a third of the rack rate!) meant I got a large and luxurious room. Just like a 4 star hotel at home, but bigger. And more Mexican.

The most pleasing thing was the huge bed


(Ten pillows. Ten!) but I was also delighted with the enclosed balcony


and the amusingly fussy presentation of the towels. It’s nice to think someone did all this to impress me.


I decided on room service for dinner (terribly decadent, but fit to mix with the general public I most certainly was not) and ended up with a massive serve of very tasty fajitas.


And they even had white wine from New Zealand. *insert satisfied sigh here*

Anyway, as I zonked out rather quickly after that, it seems appropriate to end here, and save the exploration of Santa Fe for a new post.