June 8, 2008
I could reminisce for hours on the memorable places of my life. Last week, Allen and I revisited one of those places – the path through the Pyrenees known as the Sentier Cathare. We hiked from Quillan to Foix in five days, hoofing over 100 km (66.5 miles). We barely shut up the entire time, either. And along the way, I took a few pictures, which you can find here. I’ll follow up with a narrative as I’m able to catch up.
March 12, 2008
We’re back from Malta, and while I haven’t posted an account of our trip yet, I wanted to take care of a few housekeeping tasks to keep you up to date!
First of all, I’ve been cataloguing and captioning my pictures throughout the trip, so I was able to upload them all tonight. Check the Picasa link on the left, or try this one for Malta, and don’t forget Gozo. Be forewarned; there are 540 pictures between the two albums. So I’ve also posted an album of highlights from our trip.
Second, I’d like to answer some questions for you. So here are the questions I wanted to cover while on my trip. Let’s say I did some research.
Will it actually rain the whole time we’re in Malta? Actually, it hardly rained at all! We did get stuck in some miserable drizzle on Saturday, but the rain warmed the weather a little. Most of the vacation was sun, sun, and more sun. I didn’t wear my jacket one day.
What is there to do there really? What? How did I not already know how much there is to do in Malta? In fact, I’m sorry I didn’t because we missed out on the Hypogeum, a megalithic cave system, because we hadn’t reserved tickets in advance. But we could have stayed another week and stayed busy. Some of my favorites were the Azure Window on Gozo and the fishing village of Marsaxlokk.
Will we get in a car accident in the country with the highest road accident rate in Europe? We almost witnessed a few. And in the courtesy shuttle back from Valletta, we almost hit a bus. A British woman with pink hair said to the driver, “Oh, you just missed him. Don’t worry - we’ll get him next time.”
Will Allen throw up on the plane? Despite portents that made me assign a 90% probability of vomit on this vacation, there was none! Allen’s flu went away, and I survived motion sickness scares from taxis, buses, airport shuttles, airplanes, and very small boats on very big waves. Malta is full of miracles.
Will Mom and I do anything but stitch? I accomplished very little on this front.
Will we return to France totally broke? Suffice it to say, yes.
Will I be allowed back into France with my original entry visa? Another Maltese miracle. I hate to say this out loud, but no one looked at my passport when I arrived in France. I don’t mean that no one noticed my visa. I mean, no one asked to see my passport at all. Vive la France!
February 27, 2008
Remember our goal to do all 50 City Walks before leaving Paris? No? That’s probably because we haven’t done one in so long. We revisited that goal during Elizabeth’s visit though, and we achieved two City Walks on Saturday and then finished out the day with an amazing meal.
Elizabeth and I had heard that Saturday would be a beautiful day, and we decided to do a photo walk. So we chose several City Walks (two we definitely wanted to achieve and two side walks if we had time), and around 12:30 pm, the three of us set off into the city. Unfortunately the weather was warm enough but with gray skies. Still, we were ready for adventure! We were returning to Canal Saint Martin because the City Walk card detailed a beautiful square in the middle of the Hopital Saint Louis. It supposedly rivals Place des Vosges for the title of most beautiful square in Paris and was designed by the same architect.
We walked towards the Bastille and then followed Boulevard Beaumarchais to Place de la Republique and then cut over to Canal Saint Martin.
Though we tried to see the fabled square in the Hopital Saint Louis, access to it was locked. What we could see through the gates was charming. It gave me a bit of heartache to not be able to get in. So much for going back to the canal for the purpose of completing the City Walk. The hospital itself was a beautiful structure, and we wondered aloud about what it would have been like in 1607, when it was built to house plague victims.
We then returned to the canal and sat and ate lunch next to one of the locks.
Allen and I realized that the creperie hadn’t charged us for our cokes, so when I went back to pay, the owner told me they were free because I’d been honest. It’s kind of funny – they’d have been free either way. But I was glad I went back. It’s one thing to rip off a chain store who accidentally didn’t charge you, but I hate for a small business to lose money. Especially small businesses with such friendly owners.
After lunch, we followed the canal up to the point that it went underground. We left its side to walk up to Parc des Buttes Chaumont, following a couple of guys that had been strolling along the canal with their “contemporary art.”
We dubbed them “Baby Legs.” It was really funny to follow them with Elizabeth and I trying to surreptitiously take pictures from that close behind them. Lots of people were giving them weird looks. And can you imagine? “Hey, Gustave, I was thinking I’d get my baby legs, and you’d get your baby legs, and we could all go for a walk to the park.” Genius! Once we got to the park, we ended up lounging on the same lawn, where we saw a photographer walk up to them.
We theorized that the photographer could have been following them and taking pictures of people’s reactions. Frankly, Elizabeth and I would have been their stars. Let us know if you ever see the photography collection that resulted in.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont was supposed to have a 98-foot waterfall, but it wasn’t running on Saturday. I was a little disappointed, but I couldn’t complain too much. The view from the top of the hill was really quite pleasing.
Oh, I meant this view. You can see Sacre Coeur off in the distance.
We ascended to a beautiful gazebo and took several pictures of it above and below.
The blue sky came out for us for just a little while, conveniently in time for gazebo pictures. Allen took this one, with the new plantings in the foreground.
Afterwards we headed to a Russian Orthodox church tucked in an alley. We’d never have found it without City Walks. It had beautiful painted wooden doors. I took pictures of the individual door panels. Here is my favorite of the moment.
In fact, I took about fifty pictures of the church from every angle, so here’s a link to the Picasa album that has the rest of them (and all of the pictures from Saturday’s exploring). After the visit to the church, we caught the metro at Danube to head home. We’d thought about walking, but it was already almost 5:30 pm, and we had a dinner reservation for 7:30 pm. (How American of us, by the way, having such an early dinner reservation, but we’d only made it earlier that day, and we’d hoped to have more luck getting a table by asking for an early time.) We were all tired on the metro, and when we got home Allen took a nap.
At this point in the blog post, I can’t believe we were still going on Saturday. So I’ll write about dinner at A.O.C. in a new post.
February 26, 2008
I’m working on getting my blog up-to-date with Elizabeth’s visit from last week. I’m just missing the events of the weekend. (And don’t worry – I did a whole lot of nothing today (Monday) so I wouldn’t have to write anything about it.) But in the meantime, I’ve put all my pictures up on Picasa.
You’ll find several new albums there. I’ve added new babysitting pictures (of Roxanne, and in a new album with Michael and Katharine). I also added pictures of my tutoring kids, Adrienne and Natsumi.
Then I made an album called Restaurants in Paris, which so far only includes pictures from La Nature a Paris and L’A.O.C. The day Allen and I spent at Canal Saint Martin with Antoine and Typhaine is documented in an album.
The biggest album is pictures from Elizabeth’s recent visit. Once I get those last two blog posts up, those pictures might make a bit more sense.
The final new album is simply called February in Paris. It contains all of the “leftover” photos that I took around Paris on my daily walks. I have to do something with all the pictures that remain after I choose my daily Gallery Schmanz pick!
February 15, 2008
At about 6:30 pm, I realized that Wednesday was as close to a perfect day as I would find in Paris.
I had woken up early to start my new job. On the way there, I passed Jack in the street, with Michael on his shoulders. Michael sported a huge grin that seemed to say, “Look! This is a person I know and like!” I know how he feels. (Or, I know how I project him to feel. Surprise!) Running into people makes me feel like I actually live there. Pinch me! A couple of weeks ago when we had dinner at Mimi and Jack’s the first time, we exchanged waves through the metro window at the Sevres-Babylone station. Tuesday I ran into Eugenia (a college friend who’s studying at Sciences-Po) at the corner of Rue de Rennes and Rue de Sevres.
A few minutes later, I was in the third floor apartment above La Nature A Paris (the organic restaurant – of all places) drawing flowers and chatting in English with five-year-old Rafaela. We spent the next two hours coloring, and she spoke far more English than I expected on my first visit. Drawing flowers became drawing royal families and their castles and then cutting them out and creating a whole back story for a puppet show. Oh la. Two hours passed quickly, and Rafaela was disappointed to go to the centre de loisirs. (At which point, she engaged in some really frustrating behavior to annoy her father, who I felt bad for. Eek. It didn’t seem like normal behavior for her, though, based on how she’d acted with me and how her father reacted.)
So, despite a little discomfort for me at the end, I labelled my first day on the new job a success. Time for some shopping. I visited several stores on Boulevard Saint Michel and bought nothing. I crossed the square in front of the Sorbonne and found a panini shop on a side street. Then I wandered back towards home with a steaming goat cheese panini. Along the way I paused to take pictures or to warm myself in the sunlight. I stayed on roads behind Boulevard Saint Germain (my usual route) and found buildings and shops I didn’t know were just a block off my trail. I felt free and independent, as I stopped mid-sidewalk or squatted to take just the right picture without paying attention to the passers-by around me. Here is a dog’s eye view of a Velib’ bike station:
As I walked back onto the island, I stopped at Berthillon and got a double scoop of ice cream – pear and turron. (I always get two scoops so I can order pear and try something new.) The turron translated fabulously into an ice cream. Instead of emerging on Rue des Deux Ponts, I wandered down past the church and turned in front of the school. Someone had spray-painted a bench turquoise and purple. I wondered why and snapped a picture.
Around 2:20 pm, I left the house to walk to babysitting. The walk was as refreshing as my wandering earlier had been, and though I left myself only 40 minutes to get from my apartment to Agnes’ place, I felt that my pace had been slow and leisurely the whole way. The three hours with the babies passed quickly with minimal tears and plenty of baby giggles. Afterwards I did some more shopping on Rue de Rennes, picking up the black sweater I referred to in another post.
By the time I arrived home, I was ready for a big bowl of cereal. But my day wasn’t over yet. I left at 8:30 to meet Agnes, Ping, and some other international ex-pats for a late showing of P.S. I Love You (which was cute, made me cry a bit because I am a sap, and featured Denny from Gray’s Anatomy and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). We emerged near midnight, and I took the metro home via Cite. The elevator at Cite feels like teleportation to me, but this time I ruined the magic by timing its ascent through the silo and felt each of the 13 seconds. Still, I decided the day was a success. Thanks, Paris.
January 13, 2008
If you look to the right of your screen, you should now see a box that says, “Pictures,” with a link to our pictures on Picasa. Finally! Everything’s up there now except the pictures we took in Scotland and the pictures Allen took before I arrived. This is a very exciting day for me (and was a very exciting late night yesterday)!
I started out with Flickr but wasn’t ready to upgrade with them as quickly as I needed to. It seemed like no time before I maxed out the number of pictures I could put up, and I hadn’t yet decided if I loved the site or not. A friend of mine uses Picasa (Google’s photo application), and they turned out to have a lot of storage. So all of my hundreds of pictures are up there now, without me having had to pay. However, I don’t think I can tag pictures like you can on Flickr.
Putting pictures on Picasa still took me a while. I wanted to caption everything (sheesh), and I began experimenting with their photo fixing tools. Now you know I’ve been cheating. Do most professional photographers tweak their photos? I’m just wondering how bad my original pictures are (not that I think they’re professional). I’ve become slightly addicted to the “Sharpen” effect. I like to be able to see the ripples in the water or the cracks in the stone wall. I just hope I’m not giving my photos a fake look by “perfecting” them too much.
So here is my question to you all: What tweaks or fixes do you do to photos before you share them with the world?