Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photos of the Day - 1/12, 1/14

Photo of the Day: 1/12
This is early in the morning, at our office parking lot. Although most telecommuters work from home, Jim and I have rented office space not too far from the house and go there every day. We're almost always the first ones there. Our car looks very lonely in the lot.

Photo of the Day: 1/14

In my office I have a bookcase that holds only a few books. On the top shelf is my new Mr. Coffee Iced Tea maker, my dictionary and my thesaurus. I have been a coke/diet coke drinker for many years and recently decided to switch to iced tea. On the second shelf is a collection of cups and napkins, paper plates for cake day, a couple of diet cokes (I didn't give them up), and a bottle of olive oil. Bottom shelf is loaded with phone books and the last of my binders from my 30-year career. I haven't looked at the contents of most of my binders for at least a year, so they're getting the heave-ho!

A quiet end to a lovely trip

Friday, September 19

It rained. No swimming. We did go to Eze and ran between the rain drops to see if we could find Catherine’s perfume (no) and enjoy some cappuccino (yes). We did troop up the steep hill to the walled city (what’s with all these steep streets??) and enjoyed the view of the sea and some hotel gardens that we could peer down into. Although it was rainy, it ended up being a nice last day.

We went back to the resort. I settled the bill – a couple of phone calls and a couple of days of morning croissants – I was very happy to find that we didn’t have to pay for towel rental. We spent the rest of the day packing, cleaning out the refrigerator, playing cards, looking out at the rain. It finally cleared up late in the day – too late and too cool to go swimming J

Saturday, September 20

Our trip back to the airport was quick and uneventful. As we approached the tunnel that might or might not be closed, we found that it was indeed open for business, so we took it and the A8 back to Nice. Traveling always makes me a little nervous – not about hijacking or terrorists or plane crashes – it’s all about getting to the airport on time, getting to the gate on time. We
were there in plenty of time. Our flight back was very long – we changed planes and airports again in London – and we got back to Atlanta in the middle of the afternoon. Ehren and Dylan were there to meet us. The long wait for luggage was finally over (interestingly, they re-examine the luggage in the US – at least, at the Atlanta airport!) and we made our way to the car, the highway, and home!

Biot but not Antibes

Thursday, September 18

I mentioned to Jim that I wanted to take it really easy on Friday, staying at the resort and getting in a last swim (I really miss our Bristol swimming pool!) so we decided to go to Biot and Antibes on Thursday, for our last excursion day. We had seen the signs about the tunnel to and from the A8 being possibly closed on Saturday, so we decided to go to Nice by way of the 6007 road – the Moyen Corniche again. It was definitely more scenic than the A8 – that Mediterranean on our left as we drove West. We also saw signs for the village of Eze, with some signs for perfumeries. I had been on the lookout for Casmir perfume for my friend Catherine and was excited to think that maybe I’d find some for her in Eze. Jim and I decided we’d go to Eze on Friday, along with the swimming plans.

By the way, every time we drove by the sign that warned us that the tunnel would be closed overnight except for the weekend, we couldn’t quite decide whether it meant that included 5am-ish on Saturday morning – when we figured we’d need to be on the road for our return to the airport. I’ll keep you in suspense about what we ended up doing …

The drive west was just gorgeous. Our weather had been especially spectacular the second week – less humid than when we first arrived, sunny for the most part, and the coolness of fall in the air. The sea shimmered – a deep beautiful blue even on cloudy days – as we drove to Nice. We continued on past Nice, and saw the signs for Biot several miles later. Our interest in Biot was inspired by a reference to a Bonsai tree arboretum, which Jim and I both saw as intriguing. When we arrived in Biot (darned if it wasn’t about Noon again!), we saw that it was quite the medieval village. The streets were steep and the public parking area was quite complicated to navigate – narrow, steep, and multi-leveled. We parked and noticed that there were many references on the signs to geckos. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’ll say it now – the gecko is the official mascot of the Gleckler family (our branch, at any rate). Jim loves to doodle and has created a series of drawings of “geckodons” – the don’t really look like the lizard, but the name falls trippingly from the tongue – more so than, say, “gleckodons”.

As can be expected, all the signs featuring the geckos were in French, so it was difficult to figure out why the gecko was so prominent. We made our way to the main street and found (big surprise) that the tourist office was closed until 2pm. So we decided to poke around and see what there was to see in the town. One of the souvenir shops had apparently just been the target of shoplifters, and the proprietor was talking to a couple of policemen. It was, however, exactly the type of shop I wanted to go into, so I did, and it wasn’t a problem. The police interview stuff was happening in French, of course, so I could only imagine that the proprietor was describing what had happened, how she figured out what had been going on, providing descriptions of the shoplifters, etc. I was looking for souvenir geckos and was very surprised not to find any. I looked the shop over and while there was all sorts of stuff related to Biot history, no geckos – until I was about to leave the shop and saw several on the wall above a doorway. They were interesting and attractive and one of them would go well with the gecko figures we have on the wall in our entryway, I decided to forego a purchase. But I have the memory J

We decided not to wait for the tourist office to open, so we asked at a mini mart kind of place how to get to the Bonsai arboretum. We headed out of the town center and made our way down the right street, but had trouble figuring out where to turn. We stopped in at a little luncheonette in a small industrial section and I went inside to see if I could find someone who spoke English. One of the waitresses was very helpful and drew a map of how to get to the Bonsai place. I still have the map, of course! She drew it on her order pad.

The Bonsai place was like a nursery, with an entrance fee (very nominal, as I recall). There were four sections – outdoor trees for purchase, outdoor trees not for purchase, indoor trees for purchase, indoor trees not for purchase. We spent about an hour wandering around, snapping tons of photos. Bonsais are amazing. Basically, the word means tree in a pot, but that of course doesn’t do it justice. I think just about any tree can be made into a Bonsai. I’ll include some photos here. I was very taken with the faces peering through the tree roots.

When we decided to head out of Biot, it was pretty late in the day. We were tired. We ended up never making it to Antibes. So we made our way back along the same route – we found a McDonalds and decided to stop in for a snack. The woman behind the counter was so taken with my attempts at French that she gave us a complimentary something or other and we did a lot of smiling at each other. Jim noted that while you couldn’t get a cup of coffee at the Mickey D’s, you could buy a beer (though not at the drive through).

After we got back to the resort, we decided to try the pizza place in Cap d’Ail again – but again, no place to park. We ended up going back to the same Italian restaurant we had visited with Pat and Tony. Jim had clam and pasta and I ordered a bowl of gnocchi – my God, it was enormous! I ate about a quarter of it and have decided gnocchi is not for me. Potato and pasta? I don’t think so.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Photos of the Day - 1/5 - 1/7

Photo of the day: 1/5/09
This is Sassy. She's about 13 or so years old. We inherited her, reluctantly, from Jim's mother, when she died in 2000. Prior to that, no one liked Sassy because Sassy liked no one. Except for Jim's mom. We tried to figure out how to get rid of her after June died, but realized that we'd never do a good sales job on anyone - we'd long called her the cat from hell, so we knew we'd never find anyone to take her. So, we kept her. And have come to love her very much. She's a typical Siamese, with gorgeous slanted blue eyes and that really annoying Siamese cry. She sleeps with us every night; in the winter, she slinks down under the covers between us; in the summer, she sleeps on top of the covers, but still between us. We have another cat, Del, and some day it will be his turn to be featured on Photo of the Day.

Photo of the day: 1/6/09

These are Cheryl's bags. I think the flowery one is her handbag; the other one holds her yarn. The blue is the cuffs of her jeans, a little tender ankle showing above the leather of her clog. Cheryl is in one of my knitting groups and is a fellow writer.

Photo of the day: 1/7/09

This is my knitting bag, with a pink project I have going. Both of these items are on my desk at work. Yes, I knit at work. Sometimes. I spend a lot of time in meetings on the phone. If I'm not running the meeting, and I just need to listen, I knit. It is very soothing. It keeps me from stressing out about my work.

Bonus photo of the day:

This is my skeleton, riding a lamp on my desk at work. That is a penguin-topped pencil jutting thru the skeleton's rib cage. Those are maps in the background - a map of the US and a map of the world, in case you can't quite tell.
I love to pose this skeleton in various ways on my desk thru the year. I used to just put him out at Halloween time, then I kept him out thru Christmas, when I would put a jaunty scarf on him. And now, he's too much fun to ever put away. He's held this pose for quite awhile, so it's probably time to find a new position for him.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The French Alps

Wednesday, September 17

Les Alpes-Maritimes! Before we left on our trip, I had found that one of France’s seven national parks was not far from where we would be staying. Jim loves to go to parks where he can see trees and mountains and lakes and streams. The park was the Mercantour and looked like maybe it was an hour’s drive north of Monaco. It took longer than that to get there, but it was a wonderful drive.

We took the Moyen Corniche to Menton and then went north to Sospel. We stopped in Sospel to pick up some bread and cheese for lunch, and also had some coffee while we were there (actually, we never drank “coffee” in France, strictly speaking; they serve it in demi-tasse cups and it would probably be way too strong for our taste – we brewed our own coffee in the apartment, American-style, and we ordered cappuccino when we were out and about).

As we drove into the higher altitudes, the temps got cooler and cooler. I have a photo of the car dashboard with a readout of 14 degrees Celsius at one point. We figured that was in the 40s. We had a couple of chances to get out and walk, but we used the car to do the L’Authion circuit. We saw some hikers doing it on foot – good for them! L’Authion was the site of one or more WWII battles and we saw the shells of a few buildings and a tank abandoned on the mountainside. It was hard to fathom how a battle could have been worth fighting there, but the German march across Western Europe must have been pretty relentless.

The drive up to the French Alps and back was pretty exhausting for Jim – lots of switchbacks and a lot of gear changing in the car. We had his lovely curried dish for dinner with bread leftover from earlier in the day. Ahhhhh!

St. Paul de Vence and Vence

Tuesday, September 16

On Tuesday, we went to St. Paul de Vence and Vence. Not sure why their names are similar. They are close to each other but not on top of each other.

St. Paul was quite intriguing. Very touristy but we found the steep, narrow streets of the art galleries to be compelling. Not every store front was a gallery but almost 95% of them were. And much of it was very expensive original oil paintings, but there were some more affordable items. I met artist Silvia Bertini at work in her atelier, her hands covered in paint, and I bought one of her limited edition prints. Her work at first looked like collage, but it was perhaps more assemblage. She layered paint and other materials onto boards and canvas; she mentioned that she used marble dust mixed with her paint to achieve certain textures. I loved her use of color. If I’m successful in posting this photo I grabbed from the St. Paul de Vence website, then you can see!
Sample of Silvia's artwork >>>>>>>>>

We also took many photos of the narrow streets and I caught lots of doorways and windows.

We left St. Paul and drove to Vence. Jim was a little vague about what he wanted to see there; he mentioned the Chapel de Rosaire but until we got there, I didn’t make the connection that it was the chapel Matisse had designed – how terrific that we got to see his drawings for it in Nice and then saw the finished paintings of the stations of the cross, the Madonna and Child on the walls of the chapel itself. We stayed for a lecture by the docent – but it was completely in French, so I only understood about every 20th word. I can’t remember the French for “fall” (tombe, perhaps) but I could follow when the docent was talking about the stations where Christ fell the first time, the second time. Her voice was very soothing to listen to, even if I couldn’t understand most of what she was saying about Matisse and his paintings in the chapel.

We drove back to the resort and although we ate a simple dinner at the pool snack bar, Jim made his famous curried lentils and vegetables for the next day’s dinner.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy new year

I decided to take a photo a day and post it here as a way to write regularly in the blog. Here it is, Jan 4th, and while I have taken at least one photo a day, I haven't started posting until now. Ha! Could have predicted it, I guess. Anyway, my first photo of the year is the bucket in our bathroom. GA has been in a drought for quite awhile - started before we got here and it's still going on. We thought about ways we could save water and in addition to things we already were doing - particularly, not letting the water run while brushing teeth or doing the dishes - we decided to catch the water that runs in the shower prior to the water getting hot enough. And we catch it in this bucket. In our master bathroom, we have a shower stall and what is called a garden tub. I don't know whose idea this tub was, but I can't imagine anyone larger than a second grader taking a comfortable bath in it. So, we pretty much use the tub as a place for our water bucket to rest! We use the collected water to flush the toilet, by the way.

You might also be interested to know that we save water in the showering process by turning off the water between rinses. Water on, get wet. Water off, soap up. Water on, rinse off. Water off, lather hair. Etc.

Photo # 2, for 1/2/09, is of Jim from a perspective I rarely have - the back seat of the car. While he would tell you I am quite the back seat driver, I'm usually doing it from the front passenger seat. At this time, we were on our way to Guitar Center for Jim to spend a couple of gift certificates, and Ehren was riding with us. I suggested they sit in the front seat together to make it easier to talk. I was in the back seat knitting, listening to the radio on my MP3 player. :-)

For Jan 3, I caught this oil slick in the parking lot at the Borders bookstore in Snellville. I got a couple of Borders gift cards for Christmas (yay!) so I went to spend them. Never hard for me to do. I had just left my writers' group meeting with some suggestions for novels with characters who were not easy to like. Hmmmm. Anyway, I like this oil on the pavement.

I took two photos for 1/4. My friend Norita gave us these two lawn ornaments and they are right next to the front steps up to the porch. They glow softly in the dark.

This second photo is a view of our neighborhood from our front walk. We're on a bit of a hill and this cul de sac is a little downhill from us. The subdivision is about 3 or 4 years old; the maples in our front yard are still pretty small. The sky has been sort of bleak for the last few weeks - fairly unusual for this area. The temps have been mild, and while it's certainly better than being in the 20s with wind chill, it doesn't seem right to have 50s and 60s in January. Shhhhh. Don't tell anyone I said that.