Category Archives: France

Weekly Travel Theme – Motion

train sunset(Racing by a show-stopping Santa Barbara sunset on the Amtrak Coast Starlight)

The back-to-back, Monday-Tuesday, one-two photo challenge punch continues with this week’s Travel Theme of “Motion” from Where’s My Backpack. It is a counter-intuitive concept, to capture motion in a snapshot – I thought Ailsa picked the perfect quote to reflect this:

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.” – William Faulkner

And, with that, here are a few glimpses of motion I have captured both here and abroad.

dolphins(Dolphins playing alongside our whale watching trip in San Diego)

monkeys(Young rhesus macaques playing with prayer flags – and visitors – at Swayambhunath – The Monkey Temple – in Kathmandu, Nepal)

surfers(Watching the last wave of the evening, and resting after a long day in the sun and sea – Playa Dominica, Costa Rica)

pelaton(The Peloton entering Place de Concorde in the final stage of the Tour de France – Paris, France)

cairo(The slow meander of The Nile on a clear night – Cairo, Egypt)

niece on the move

nephew on the move(And, of course, no “Motion” post would be complete in my world without featuring my niece and nephew (both newly) in motion – thrilled with their mobility and clearly on a mission to tackle my camera.)

Weekly Travel Theme – Peaceful

santa barbara train(From Amtrak Coast Starlight, looking out at the Pacific Ocean, north of Santa Barbara, CA)

I am most at peace around flowing water. I do have to wonder if this evolved from being brought up in a beachside community or, possibly, being raised by an avid surfer. Either way, I can sit alongside a river or overlooking a beach, and watch the water for hours on end. When things are particularly tense in the rest of my life, watching (meditating along with?) this continuous, repetitive, unaltered ebb and flow allows me to truly exhale and let the stress go.

grand canal(The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy)

If I had my way, I would never again live more than 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean – inhaling the salt air deeply and listening to the waves pound endlessly against the shore is rejuvenating  Something about that power, the wind in my hair, and the wild, untamed beauty of the Pacific always sets things right.

SONY DSC(Private beach front, Coco Palm, Maldives)

Yet, after several years living alongside rivers, I have also come to appreciate the quiet solitude that can be found watching life flow by. The river always provides a cool breeze to soothe one’s brow on a hot day and a stopping place alongside to take in the view (or a jog) downstream or to set up an impromptu picnic at dusk.

honfleur at dusk(Harbor-side dinner at dusk, Honfleur, France)

When Ailsa posed her Weekly Travel Theme of “Peaceful”, bodies of water on (around/in) which I have traveled – in all moods – and found peace came to mind. Here are some of my favorites.

french riviera(Overlooking the Côte d’Azur while driving from Nice to Monaco)

windmill spotting 2(Windmill spotting while on a small canal outside of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Sunset at Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica)

tiber(Dusk settles over the Tiber River, Rome, Italy)

omaha beach(Contemplating freedom while looking across the English Channel – on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France)

 

seine(Notre Dame Cathedral and Ile de la Cité as seen from a Seine river cruise, Paris, France)

 

big sur(Bixby bridge, driving southbound on California Highway 1 through Big Sur)

Weekly Photo Challenge – Fleeting

Although it has been more than six months since I returned from Paris to San Diego, on lazy Sunday afternoons my mind turns to long, winding, warm Parisian evenings with friends – enjoying aperitifs on terraces and picnics in parks. For much of my time there, my camera was my constant companion – to ensure that I would capturing everything that I could miss from the other side of the world. In an odd twist of fate, so much of my time was spent behind that lens that, often, I don’t have actual memories – only a series of mental snapshots that recall particular occasions. Bastille Day 2011 was one of those. I vividly recall laughing with friends while sprawled on the Champs de Mars, dancing the can-can at sunset and the “superheroes” that joined us. The fireworks, however? Luckily I have the photos, which captured each fleeting, vibrant burst of color as the explosion lit up the Eiffel Tower and the night sky in front of me.

fleeting

This week’s photo challenge, “Fleeting” was prompted by The Daily Post

French Friday – Bateaux Mouches

bateaux mouchesClichés do not become such without reflecting some truth, right? This is certainly the case when it comes to seeing the sights in Paris. It may be exhausting to wait in line and wade through crowds, but can you really say you have ‘done’ Paris if you skip out on the Louvre, Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower? There are just some places and views that need to be seen for oneself.pont alexandre and grand palais (Grand Palais and Pont Alexandre III)

I had always taken the “eh, it’s for tourists” attitude when it came to the Seine river cruises. These barges boats, filled with hundreds of tourists, zoom up and down the river day and night, dodging bridges, commercial vessels and lighting up the city with megawatt spotlights after the sun goes down (never stare directly into the light – trust me). Several of the companies even offered multi-course dinner cruises for (what I considered) extortionate prices – not only had I heard that the food was utterly mediocre, but I also couldn’t fathom sitting inside a boat, facing a table full of food when the perfectly lit skyline of Paris zoomed by alongside you.under the pont alexandre (Pont Alexandre III, from below)

However, as my time in Paris was growing short this summer and I was deciding what things I could not miss before leaving, several friends reassured me that taking one of these rides – either at dusk or after the sun went down – was a must-do. It is such a different perspective, they told me, to see the city from the river – to view it as a bustling port of sorts – and realize how central the Seine is to the identity and function of the city itself. houseboat(Houseboats moored on the Seine)

I had my chance when family came to visit in late July. After (too) many hours standing in line for the Eiffel Tower (something else left for those last days), it was wonderful to get on our barge-like motorboat, soak in the last rays of late-afternoon sun and see the city as I never had before. We chose to stay away from any variety of dinner cruise (because of the aforementioned price and distraction) and decided on the Bateaux Mouches based on personal recommendations. We were not disappointed – it truly was a different, even more beautiful city when seen from the Seine. Especially as the sun dipped deeper into the sky and the clouds spread out around us.assemblee nationale (Assemblee Nationale)

For a fun Friday frolic, I’m including an armchair tour here. Enjoy! orsay(Musée d’Orsay)

louvre(Louvre spotting)

waves(Waving from the tip of Ile de la Cité)

pont neuf(Pont Neuf, from below)

notre dame front(Notre Dame, from the front…)

notre dame back(…and from the rear)

quai front(Paris quai-front housing)

dancers(Dancers practicing river-side)

hotel de ville(Hôtel de Ville)

paris plage(Late afternoon Paris Plages – the summertime ‘beach’ next to the Seine)

another(We are not alone – a passing Bateaux Mouches in front of Pont des Arts)

invalides(Sun setting as Les Invalides peeks over the railing)

eiffel tower(And, of course, we end with the monument to rule them all – the Eiffel Tower)

French Friday – Musée Carnavalet

guillotine

Not typically on many first round of picks for Paris sightseeing, the Musée Carnavalet, tucked into a ‘modest’ hôtel in the Marais and around the corner from the popular Place des Vosges, is a haphazard mix of obscure relics, revolutionary portraits, Roman ruins and well-manicured gardens that, together, bring the history of Paris alive.

carnavalet exterior

Even though it was a relatively small museum, each room was stuffed, choc-a-block with knick-knacks, portraits, sculptures, books and other relics of several bygone eras. Clearly too much to fully recap here; rather, I just have a few favorites I pulled from the numerous photos to share here, in hopes of piquing the curiosity for those who maybe visiting soon (Mere!)

houses over the seine

Some of my favorite displays were those that showed Paris as a medieval city, prior to limestone facades and clean air (ick). The painting above shows houses on the Pont Notre Dame being destroyed after unsanitary conditions, overcrowding and unsafe building practices threatened the safety of the bridge itself, providing a glimpse into the chaos of that time.

pont neuf

Interestingly, it was due to the overcrowding of Pont Notre Dame that the order to build Pont Neuf was given by Henry II. Now the oldest intact bridge in the city, this “New Bridge” is decorated on both sides with grotesque gargoyle masks. The museum featured several of the original heads on display. The Pont Neuf is one of my favorite landmarks in the city and it is especially beautiful at night when lit with a soft yellow glow that accentuates the exaggerated, unique features of each mask. In person, the faces were gigantic – at least 3-4 feet in length and 2-3 feet across – really driving home the extreme difficulty it must have been to mount all 385 of them during construction.

prerevolutionary models

The Carnavalet is particularly known for its collection of French Revolution memorabilia. Prior to making our way to that display, I took the time to really study these models of Paris neighborhoods prior to the uprising. Intercity guerilla warfare was used by the French people against the army, which often ended up trapped in narrow alleys and winding streets while in civil combat, leaving them completely exposed for attack. This inability to control the populace would later lead to the complete revamping of the city into one of long, straight, wide boulevards (by Haussmann) that could easily be used for maneuvering large forces, if necessary.

bastille

The collections of French revolutionary documents, portraits, paintings – even war drums – were truly stunning. After reading about the storming of the Bastille for years in history class, it was incredibly satisfying to see a model of the infamous prison in person. It appears that it was as impenetrable as the tales told. Even the keys for the cells were on display!

bastille keys

Two of the most striking paintings were those below depicting the executions of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. I was caught off-guard to see how Louis XVI is still waiting for the blade, but the artist seemingly had no compunction about showing the blood spurting from Marie Antoinette’s neck.

execution of louis xvi

execution of marie antoinette

The collection of royal pieces was extensive and there was even a replica of their prison room set up for viewing (very posh, for a prison cell).

gardens 4

After several rooms of that took us quickly through the Revoluton, Reign of Terror and the beginning of Napoleon’s Empire, it was definitely time for a bit of fresh air. One of the most stunning aspects of the museum were the gorgeously manicured gardens, invisible to the outside and there for the enjoyment (and picnic needs) of visitors. Fleur-de-lis were cut into the low-lying shrubs, and fresh flowers were blooming all around.

gardens 5

Benches were provided for guests to sit a while, perhaps enjoy a sandwich and take some time to process everything that had been seen. Ivy crawled over castle walls and other museum goers glanced out at the gardens from windows high above.

gardens 2

Even on a humid, hot, overcast day, it was a peaceful place to enjoy a bit of quiet, review the guidebook and reenergize for the last push through the museum, one that took us back farther than any exhibit yet.

skeleton

Strangely out of chronological order (although wonderfully cool after transversing the somewhat stuffy museum), the Musee Carnvalet houses an impressive collection from ancient Lutetia, the Roman’s name for village that was to become Paris, when it was founded in 52 AD. These included partial statuary, a dugout canoe (apparently older even than the Roman settlement), sarcophagi and human remains.

gardens 3

It seemed fitting to end the tour in Lutèce as a reminder that a city has been in this place for millennia, called different names and lead by a wide variety of kings, emperors and, now, presidents. The overwhelming message was one of timelessness – in the face of revolution, terror, squalor or splendor, Paris lives on.

(Last) Weekly Photo Challenge – Change

A week (or two) ago, the theme of the Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post was “Change”. I read about it late on that Sunday night and was excited about the possibilities of my submission, which I began crafting as I drifted off to sleep that night. The next day, Boston happened. I allowed myself be catapulted into a 24-hour-news-hungry, astonished, angry, obsessive place for the entirety of the week. Then another work trip, followed by a brief, rejuvinating drive down the California coast and now here we are.

Putting together a post on the theme of change has continued to dominate my blog-oriented thoughts. Everything about my life has changed in the past six months and I am only now starting to feel settled, comfortable and truly happy with it all. Summing this up seemed like a fitting way to (yet again) re-establish my normal routine (blogging and otherwise).

So, what does change look like for me? The pictures speak for themselves; much more than 5700 miles separates my life(s) in Paris (then) and San Diego (now).

HomePlace Chappe(then)

The intersection of Rue Chappe and Rue des Trois Freres, just down from my apartment in the 18th arrondissement in Paris, France

sd home (now)

My own personal palm tree in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, CA.

The View

sacre couer(then)

Basilica Sacre Coeur, in the summer, around sunset (featuring a spectacular view over the city)

channel islands(now)

The view of the Channel Islands speeding by while traveling south by train from the Central Coast of CA to San Diego.

Dinner

cheri bibi

(then)

Spring lamb and fava beans at Cheri Bibi.

RK sushi(now)

Playboy Roll at RK Sushi.

Touristing

tour eiffel(then)

The Eiffel Tower as seen from the Bir-Hakeim bridge.

big sur(now)

Big Sur coastline, as seen from the southbound lanes of CA Highway 1

CSA shareslate feb panier(then)

Late February 2012 in Paris: Russet potatoes, celery root, green leaf lettuce, brown lentils and apples.

late feb csa (now)

Late February 2013, in San Diego: Blood oranges, lemons, mandarins, green leaf lettuce, chard, kale, spring mix, carrots, caulflower, romanesco, bok choy and strawberries.

Family scarf family(then)

anna2 wesley (now)

I am lucky enough to have found a family of friends wherever I have landed thus far – and my ‘family’ in Paris was comprised of the best kinds of people. Yet, when I learned that my siblings were going to make me an aunt (multiple times over) in the last year, I knew it was time to come home, for good. The change I can see, on a weekly basis, as my niece and nephew grow brings an unspeakable joy to my heart. I can tell that they now recognize my voice, they always laugh at my silly faces and are just starting to learn how to put their pudgy arms around me for baby’s first hugs. There are so many reasons I am happy to be home, but being an active participant in my family, watching these children grown and change are the best reasons of all.

P.S. At the top of the list of “things that never change” is my predilection to let this blog be the first thing to drop when times get tough. I am very thankful for my new ‘interfriend’ Mere – whom I had the great pleasure of meeting in person last week – for her kind and inspiring words to jumpstart my posting again. It seems I am slowly creating a California family of friends, and I am so excited to discover what unfolds next.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

red2

(Not so long ago I set a personal goal of using this space to explore, expand, share and play with my photography. Now that I am back on the blogging bandwagon, I have decided to up the ante with two photo-themed posts a week: the Weekly Travel Theme from Where’s My Backpack? and, now, the Weekly Photo Challenge from The Daily Post). 

This week’s challenge from The Daily Post is “Color”. It is great timing for this theme, as spring is blooming all around. Rather than follow the most straightforward path out and post flower images, I decided dig through my photo archives a bit. During my last year in Paris, I got it in my head that I wanted to photograph Vespa scooters in all of their color variations as I wandered around the city as part of a personal photography project. I had an image in my head of them framed together and decorating the wall of an office someday, bringing a whimsical splash of color to an otherwise serious space. This seems like a great moment to share my collection so far. I am satisfied with the variety of shapes, sizes and hues, but definitely feel the missing green Vespa. Does anyone have a photo they would like to share to round out the rainbow?