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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New toys

Christmas has come early to our household.

You may have noted recent comments where I've mentioned the subject of photography. Overall, I've been thrilled with the performance of my tiny Sony camera. It takes great photographs, especially in low light, and it's small enough to put in my pocket. I carry it with me everywhere - and I can take photographs very discreetly, usually with no flash. However, there have been times when I've been frustrated by its limitations.

Patrice, too, has a small pocket-sized digital camera and he has also been frustrated when bumping up against its technical limits.


We went shopping this week -- and came home with two identical Sony DSLR cameras. Big ones. The latest model - with LOTS of bells and whistles. We couldn't resist.

We went out yesterday to try out the new cameras. The subject was Notre Dame - here's one of the classic angles.

Now, do you see the spire in the very center (above)? We also had fun with our new telephoto lens. Here is a closeup of that spire - there were people working on it.

And the fact that the new camera has 24M pixels, you can enlarge the photos a LOT. This is exactly the same photo as above - just enlarged.

Elaine's cameras - before and after

The new me - with larger camera and longer hair ;-)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My talented daughter-in-law - Part 2

You may have seen the scarves designed by Rachel, my daughter in law, here. Rachel has now opened a new Etsy shop featuring hand painted mobiles for babies. Check them out here.

As you might imagine, this one is among my favorites:

Christmas is coming soon!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving in Paris

Yesterday was just another Thursday in France. We went to the bank, to the library, etc. However, we did have our own Thanksgiving dinner - just the two of us.

We went to the butcher shop where we had plenty of choices:

From the top left: pheasant, wild duck, pintade*, free range chicken, and yes, turkey!
(the furry critters are wild rabbits on the left and a hare on the right)

We chose a pintade which is known in English as a guinea hen. It looks like this when still walking around:

And this - when ready to eat

We cooked it with sauerkraut and a little bacon. Sounds weird, but it was delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving to all dear friends and family. I hope your holiday was filled with love and good food.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


On Monday afternoon we cycled over to the Hôtel de Ville to check out the Sempé exhibit. Jean-Jacques Sempé, cartoonist born in 1932, has been a regular contributor to several French magazines since the 1950s. He has been featured in L'Express, Le Figaro, Nouvel Observateur and Télérama. He has released dozens of albums of cartoons and is also the creator of Le Petit Nicolas.

Sempe is well known to Americans thanks to his cartoons which appear regularly in The New Yorker magazine.

Here are some examples from the exhibit:

The English version of the website is pretty slim. You can learn a lot more about Sempé if you can understand the French site.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stéphane's birthday

Patrice's son Stéphane turns 40 on November 21. We celebrated his birthday this weekend with dinner at the Buffalo Grill. We decided to dress for the occasion - our cowboy shirts went well with the Montana theme.

Patrice's daughter Florence and son Stéphane

Father and son:

Stéphane's new helmet

Profiterolles for dessert

Happy Birthday Stéphane!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lac du Der - part 3 - churches

The region near the Lac du Der has a unique architectual heritage. There is very little building stone, but plenty of water and clay. Churches built of wood are very rare in France and this style is unique to this area.

Here are a couple of stunning examples: Outines -

And Lentilles -

Lac du Der - part 2 - cranes

The Lac du Der is the largest lake in France. It was created in the 1970s to regulate the flow of water in the rivers and to keep Paris and the Seine river safe from flooding. The lake provides a refuge for common cranes (grues cendrées) which migrate south from Scandinavia. The water is very low at this time of the year, but the cranes don't seem to mind.

The cranes look like this up close. (I didn't take this photo - they're too skittish and I was too far away to get a good shot)

Most photographers come equipped with equipment like this:

My camera takes photos like this:

You can get up early and see them take off, (we didn't) or you can watch them return to the lake at sunset (we did).

The cranes make a distinctive cry. It sounds like this:

Lac du Der - part 1 - photo exhibit

This week's excursion took us about 200 kms east of Paris to the Lac du Der in the Champagne region of France. No, we weren't shopping for or drinking champagne; we went on the advice of my friend Marcel who recommended the area for three reasons: 1. the cranes, 2. a nature photography festival, and 3. the churches.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and visited the photography exhibit first. This is the cover photo for the exposition.

Patrice and I were awed by the expo. I don't think we'll ever have the time or the patience or the equipment to capture the kind of photos we saw in the exhibit. . . The photos were breathtaking and reminded me what you can do with a "real" camera and special lenses rather than a pocket sized point-and-shoot. . .

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Armistice Day

We happened to be on the Champs Élysées on November 11th. We missed the parade, but visited the Arc de Triomphe where the President traditionally places a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier with its eternal flame.

The enormous flag flies only for special occasions.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Henri Cartier Bresson

Christie's in Paris recently auctioned one hundred photographs from the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation. The photographs were displayed for viewing before the auction and anyone could visit the galleries for free -- so we stopped by for a look.

Wow. What a stunning collection. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Of course, we couldn't afford to buy one. Prices started at around 6,000 euros.
And this one went for a record 433,000 euros!

You can check out the results here for yourself.

By the way, speaking of Christie's auctions -- there's one coming up in December in NYC -- The Elizabeth Taylor collection.

If you've got a little spare change, you might pick up a diamond ring. Here's one that is up for auction.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Autumn treasures

After a few days of rain, the sun has come out and the weather has been relatively mild for November - a good time to go for a walk in the forest of Sénart about 25 km south of Paris.

The leaves have mostly fallen, and it wasn't until the we were returning to the car that we crossed paths with some mushroom hunters.

Mushrooms! I am wild about mushroom hunting - as you can see in the photo below - the result of a spectacular mushroom hunt a few years ago in southern Colorado where I collected several pounds of chanterelles and cèpes (also known as porcini or boletus edulis).

So yesterday, when I caught sight of a basket full of mushrooms in the arms of a fellow hiker in the woods, I was entranced. Too bad we had to get back to Paris for an appointment and didn't have time for a hunt. And unfortunately I don't really know how to read the oak forest where local mushrooms hide.

This is all I saw - no cèpes or chanterelles - and not good to eat :-(

Anyway, maybe I can return to the forest for another hunt in the days to come. . .

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


We have been doing more and more biking in Paris, sometimes with our own bikes, and sometimes with the Vélib. Do you remember when I tried and failed to use the Vélib last July? Well, now I am armed with my very own French bank card with smart chip. And now I can rent the Vélib as often as I wish.

Here we are riding the Vélib along the banks of the Seine which are closed to traffic every Sunday.

Lately, we've been using the Vélib instead of the motor scooter to get around town. We went to the movies the other night, and came home ~10pm using the Vélib.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Strikes and demonstrations

The French take their rights and responsibilities as citizens very seriously. And the rising malaise due to the economic situation, coupled with the upcoming presidental elections in May, 2012 are heating up the political environment. Demonstrations of discontent happen almost daily.

For example, we have attended (and photographed) demonstrations by retired people protesting their diminished purchasing power, firemen who are protesting revisions in their career paths, and a march condemning violence against women. Teachers are protesting increased class sizes, and even midwives have been on the march to protest the situation surrounding birth in France.
Religious extremists have also been in the news. The offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly newspaper, were recently firebombed, and Christian fundamentalists are protesting a theatre piece currently showing in Paris. On Sunday, we attended a demonstration decrying these acts of violence and defending freedom of speech.

Firemen on the march

Protesting violence against women

Demonstration of retired people

The national police are always present, but most demonstrations have been peaceful.

Some people march, others just watch.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November 1st

November 1st (Toussaint or All Saints Day) is a holiday in France. It is equivalent to Memorial Day in the U.S. - a time when people visit cemeteries and remember their deceased relatives. It is also the exact date of the death of Patrice's wife Giselle in 2004 and his mother's death in 2008. Both of them died on the same date (different year) in the same room of the same hospital of the same malady - cancer.

Each year since 2004, Patrice has traveled to Nantes to place flowers on Giselle's tomb. And so, following our visit to St. Brieuc, we traveled south to Nantes to continue the tradition.

It was a solemn occasion, made happier by the fact that we are together.