31 May 2009

2006: Good Weather

June 1: Today, BBC24 deadpans the news this is the worst weather-related May in 27 years... Below-normal temperatures, rain, and wind made May look and feel more like late November for its wildness. So, today, June 1st, is incredible for being something May has not been: warm (high temp was about 22c), very slight breeze from the northwest, with blue skies in all directions All Day Long.


So, after I spent too much time on the Internet getting my latest rantings and photos online, the car was pointed northeast to Paimpol. Slowly. Many of the same places I visited early-on were revisited, including the death-defying drive from Ploubazlanec to Pors-Even and back. It is mostly one-lane, hidden curves behind the houses which form the lane boundaries themselves. Imagine, now, some idiot (or two) driving the hired land yacht towards the harbour of Pors-Even, no place to turn around, 8% down grade, and only the occasional spot on the road where both cars can literally scrape by each other.

Excitement, with insurance and frantic gesturing thrown in.

While the photo opportunities were few, it was wonderful to be out and about in such cleansing sunshine. The surrounding countrysides were lit by bazillions of shades of green, kelly to electric to neon to lime to ... I honestly had trouble at times recognizing bits I drive past on a regular basis because the change in colour from washed-out to sunlit is so amazing... [ 2009: The chapel tower shown here is famous world-wide: St Gonéry ]

Did I mention there are tons of artichokes around? :)

30 May 2009

2006: May 30, West and South

Weather report - Wind from the southwest has shifted to the north, making things much cooler, but a bit of sun still filtered through to interminable clouds add touches of glorious springtime colour to otherwise dull-green-washed hillsides.

Saturday, I went southwest from Guingamp, visiting Le Grâces Trois (though I really couldn't figure out where the other deux were), Callac, Duault, and parts between. The sun followed me as far as the Grâces, then played blustery evil hide-n-seek the rest of the day. The birds, of course, knew this game well, and played it to perfection. There are gorges near Duault, but decided the day wasn't a good one for hiking six miles into isolated backcountry, and road signage for the Gorges du Corong disappeared once I found the hiking trail.

Sunday was spent just a bit west of homebase, only going as far as the D11 highway. There are a few French chateaus in the area, and a number of 16th-century chapels here and there. For me, the highlight was discovering a small bridge on the D30 (just east of the D11) that crossed the rivière Léguer. There is a mill partially-hidden from the road about 150 metres upstream, and the view downstream will require I revisit in better lighting.

Today (Tuesday), my travels took me further westbound, along the coastline from just west of Lannion to the Finistere-Côtes d'Armor border at Locquirec. And while the birds continued their game (to perfection), the pampillons (butterflies) were out and incredible. I was lucky enough to photograph four of the five new species I ran into, and speak ever so temporarily with a curious older woman in the middle of nowhere. Her accent wasn't nearly as severe as Madame's, and we almost chatted about something other than what I was doing, which was chasing small and fidgety flying things in front of her home with a large camera.

I also discovered the only people who stop on these roads are foreign photographers, which to the best of my knowledge, pretty much limits this dataset to one point: me. It turns out the French haven't yet become "flip you off" irritated, but annoyed or uncomprehending they do appear to be as they drive by. I suppose this is in part due to the lack of places to pull over for the vast majority of roads around Bretagne, and perhaps in part because they expect their prey (the car in front of them, exhibit A (me)) to barrel down these narrow roads at breakneck speeds so they don't run over you in the split-second they decide to go around you, missing both bumpers and the roadside edges (which, in some cases, are houses and other largely-immovable objects) by hairs...

REAL Laundry Day is tomorrow. Don't argue with me :)

29 May 2009

Wenas, Part 4 of 4: ID Challenge

How many can be positively-identified? I think there are a few Empids in this group, and if they sang, they weren't heard. Apologies in advance for the quality of the shots. Many of these are severe crops, sun shots, OR the birds faced one direction only, which leaves one to try to work out what their breast, or wing bars, or beak, might look like.

This entry will be updated as IDs are made...

I think this might be a Brown-headed Cowbird female...

A Chipping Sparrow chick?

Wenas, Part 3 of 4

Sunday: got Very Cold last night. Waking shivering at 4, then again at 5, and finally at 6.30 lead me to believe this might require an arctic sleeping bag next time.

First bird of the day was a Rufous Hummingbird, quickly followed by a Calliope. The Zimmerman camp had their feeders up, and for a while they were quite busy. I believe it was Mr Z who said a Calliope male looks as if he has bright fuschia-coloured FuManchu whiskers, and I have to admit, he does.

And so it became time for my semi-annual hike up the western ridge in search of whatever appears. In years past, there are usually Townsend's Solitaires nesting in the trail bank, but this year I spotted not a one. There were more than a few Turkey Vultures on high thermals, though.

Back at creek level, there was an Olive-sided Flycatcher ("quick! three beers!"), Brown-headed Cowbirds, and a Western Tanager male in such plumage as to make the women cry. Another flycatcher was photographed, but as it wasn't vocalising, I'll leave its ID up to you :)

A walk past the eastern bridge to the Beaver Lodge was undertaken, where several Yellow-pine Chipmunks, Belted Kingfishers, a pair of Spotted Sandpipers, and a host of White-breasted Nuthatches (with nest!) kept me company.

It was incredible to be wandering around the former pond, thinking the felled trees were taken down by foresters or loggers, but too many had the stereotypical gnawed shapes we've come to recognize as beaver lunch. I last walked the pond area a few years back, and most of the dry ground of today was under water then.

About 1330, I decided it was time to very slowly drive back to Ellensburg along the Umptanum Ridge. During the next 2 hours or so, there were more Chipping Sparrows, Brewer's Blackbirds, a few Black-billed Magpies, Turkey Vultures, American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, and one honest-to-goodness Golden Eagle on a high thermal. Western Bluebirds were all over the place, as were Says Phoebes. There was a bluebird nestbox (#42) with WB Nuthatches inside. I have to thank whomever was watching that nestbox for keeping me honest, as I might not have spent the extra moment or two searching for whatever they were seeing, even as slow as I was going.

One of the last photo ops took place near the Umptanum Falls car park, where a flash of orange and black flitting through the sage was a gorgeous Bullock's Oriole. I must have looked interesting photographing sage, because two different cars stopped for a few minutes to ask what I was looking at. For the first, the bird remained hidden, but the second car was patient and rewarded me with "OOOH!"s for each passenger when he was finally spotted.

Among the butterflies seen this weekend: Painted Ladies, Cabbage Whites by the boatload, Western Tiger Swallowtails, and at least one Pale Tiger Swallowtail (in camp, Satyrday).

For those that have stayed with me through this weekend of flying goodies, I'd like to say "Thank You." For those who are better birders than I, those who don't mind an ID challenge, or those who are simply curious, the next Wenas post will be a "what did i see?" sort of thing. I'm guessing there will be a lot of debate as to what some of them are (there usually is), so let your opinions be heard!

This list of birds is hardly definitive, but gives an idea as to what can be found by even novices such as myself with a lot of help from friends and helpful acquaintances.

Lastly, I'd like to thank everyone who helped make this trip more fascinating than normal: The Neil and Carleen Zimmerman clan, Carol Schulz, Rob Sandelin, Brett Wolfe, Yakima Steve, and the family (I'm sorry, but I don't think we exchanged names) who had their own hummer feeder, the family I kept running into while hiking around. Your generosity and humour are appreciated.

27 May 2009

Quotes, # 011: Life

Danny Kaye was an entertainer we so rarely see today, someone gifted in numerous fields of endeavour: an accomplished singer, dancer, actor, comedian, conductor, Chinese chef, and pilot.

I believe this quote truly epitomizes what it meant to be Danny Kaye.

This image, as well as all of the preceding Quotes, are for sale as physical art you can put on your office or home walls. Our example here is available in 12x18" and 20x30" posters. Feel free to email me if you'd like to own this piece of American Pie(ty). Be the first on your block to be the first on your block.

All rights reserved, © caren park, http://RealistAtLarge.blogspot.com.

Cheese Racing

This has to be one of the stranger and, quite frankly, more dangerous events around.

And all for a wheel of Gloucester cheese :)

26 May 2009

Wenas, Part 2 of ?

Once in the campground, it was frequently feast or famine, sometimes with the same bird. As an example, I've had horrible luck in photographing the White-headed Woodpecker, and this year was no exception. When I had camera in hand, he and his cohort were usually well over 100 metres away, winging carefree. When I was awakened by pounding on a nearby snag during an afternoon siesta, as I got the camera pointed he took off.

Chipping Sparrows were the "easy" photo this trip. They were literally everywhere around the campgrounds, and frequently allowed reasonable looks. Mountain Chickadees were also everywhere; Brett Wolfe clued me into their "cheese burger" call, but while they were boisterous, they were rarely photographable.

My highlight on Satyrday was a return from stalking the elusive WHWO into the hillsides on the south of the camp. As I neared the Audubon Zone, happy fiddle music wafted on the warm breeze. Tracking it down was easy, and the nice gentleman providing the beautiful melodies was just as generous with his "feel free" when asked if I could take his portrait.

While I do have several with his face, I think this particular shot best-exemplified the afternoon: hard-working fingers creating wondrous sounds "just because."

If anyone knows Yakima Steve, please thank him for me.

25 May 2009

2006: I Wish I Knew More French

Current symptoms: cough due to nasal drainage. Attempt to make pharmacy ("le chemist") understand this with my trivial knowledge of French, and it starts to look like an old Charlie Chaplin movie, all mime and vigor, and both of us looking somewhat silly to the other. I have to admit, though, he really did try to understand, and apparently understood enough English to belly-laugh when I said (in English) "I wish I knew more French".

For what it's worth, my sense of direction is usually pretty good. I've only been truly lost a handful of times in my life, and I owe this in part to an ability to read and understand maps. This sense allows me to point my mode of transport in a particular direction and recognize that, while I may not know precisely where I "am", I'm not even remotely lost. I just don't KNOW where I am at that moment.

Perhaps nitpicking, but it's a nit I'm comfortable with.

My adventure this morning started when I was trying to (one more time) find an internet connection for ANY price in the town of Guingamp. I did this by going first to the library (closed), then the Tourist Information Bureau (next door to library, also closed). While ruminating about the "why", I noticed a company listed on the Guingamp tourist map: RTW Multimedia - Guingamp. Among the services listed are "Internet", though I'm not sure if they set up or provide access. So, with nothing more than a glance at the map, I find RTW. Across town. Closed.

Note the location for future reference, as a sign inside intimates "access" without saying so directly. Get some well-needed groceries, and head for home via "short cut."

Now, let me say the Michelin map is pretty good for getting you from major road (like Interstate 5) to less-major roads (like Woodinville-Duvall road). When the towns are named in French, and they are serviced by regular less-major roads, Michelin does a great job. When, however, the signs are in Breton, and the roads in question are in some spots the equivalent of fire service trails, Michelin breaks down.

This means, while I was headed in the right direction for as long as I stayed on the less-major roads, where I made my best mistake was in thinking that, just because the road/trail goes to St Laurent, it would tell me where to turn for my connection with Pedernec (less than 2 miles away).

EEEEE. Wrong answer. The Breton signs are numerous, and remind me of someone who tells you everything truthfully, but who doesn't tell you the whole story. "Can you get to Cleveland from here?" "Yes" <== a good example of Breton signage. We won't even talk about the signage that doesn't exist on far too many intersections between towns...

As you can see, I made it home. 30 minutes later than normal. From what I can determine, I made a huge loop on the wrong side of the D767 highway. With the weather overcast and leaky, I got no visual cues from that big yellow thing that supposedly exists. Big positive: I might not have ventured down these roads had I not gotten lost. Yes, I will be hiking/biking those roads/trails in the coming weeks, as they are picturesque and quaint. And, for what it's worth, the experience has taught me not to trust Breton signage further than I can throw it.

Note #1: Never did find out why so many places were closed today, when their signs stated they were open Thursday mornings until noon.

Note #2: Guingamp's cathedral bells started to go nuts at 10am, and didn't stop for a few minutes. Pedernec's church bells started going nuts at noon, and didn't stop for a few minutes. Coin-ki-dink? And no, we're not talking the normal on-the-hour "tolling", but major- and minor-league bells booming without noticeable pattern...

Note #3: The overcast and overall temperatures remind me of Seattle in the spring. The strength of the average wind, and the fact it really truly rains here, does not. I don't think the funnel hose of the Pineapple Express (from Hawaii to Washington state) is any different from the Gulf Stream (from the Caribbean to the Channel), but the Olympic Mountains really do act as one more barrier for the worst weather, something this area does not have...

Note #4: The birds are driving me bonkers. With the exception of the swallows, swifts, crows, and gulls, almost everything else seems to exist only within the dense leafy bits of very healthy deciduous trees. You can hear the songs, but "seeing" the birds singing the songs is difficult at best. I've photo'd the occasional passerine (perching bird), but results so far are annoying at best. I'm hoping to be shown some good bird-watching locations soon by Leslie, an ex-pat English friend of The Boys...

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to fix my moral equivalent of chicken soup: home-made spaghetti with meat and mushroom sauce. It always makes me feel better about being sick.


8.57 Euros / Kilo Ground meat ("Viande Hachée pur Boeuf (15%)")
0.99 Euros / 500 grams Penne Pasta
0.47 Euros / Litre Orange Juice (economy "Jus d'orange" - you would never mistake this for California's best, but Florida's? :) As the name brands cost 4-5 times more, this will do easily)

Noted for Future RSS Reference:

I've noticed my RSS program doesn't seem to deal well with "foreign" characters like the Pound Sterling or Euro character ("£" and "€"), and the accents used by the French (all of them) over (mostly) vowels. So, if it seems like my spelling of places or things is a little out of sorts, feel free to blame it on the RSS program doing its own interpretation of what I really did want to say. The program can handle these characters internally, but the moment you ask it to export, it decides to "play". Yes, it's a bug, and I will complain to the authors in a timely fashion, so until they fix it (or I find another), you are forced to wonder if I'm drunk or the program is.

Trust me :)

Wenas, Part 1 of ?

On my way to the Wenas Campout for People Who Hate ORVs, near the top of Umptanum Ridge is a set of abandoned buildings, recently used as (1) target practice, (2) a party place for the under-aged crowd, and (3) much less socially-sanctioned activities.

As I approached, I noticed a decent-sized bird perched on a snag just above the roof of the main house. Took a few photos for later IDing, then decided to get closer as it was difficult to discern who was there.

The percher was an American Kestrel, but he never waited around for his de Mille screen shot. "I coulda made you a star!" What s/he did, though, was get me out of the car and wandering the complex for the first time.

I'm really surprised someone hasn't torn them all down, or at least made it difficult to enter. Carefully walking through, I hear a bit of chirping that calls me toward the inside of the front porch. As I get closer, the chirping stops, but I still can't figure out where it came from.

Rounding a corner, I almost physically intersect with what I believe is a Says Phoebe, one of the possible parents to my haunted and still-hidden sounds, who immediately leaves the window area to land on a snag about 25 feet away. It's then I notice what is probably the other parent on a branch about 15 feet distant. They both are unsure what to do with me, and bounce between branches and snag, taking a look, moving back, moving forward, rinse and repeat.

They allow me a few Kodak moments, when it finally dawns on me they want in, and I walk back to the road.

Getting out of the car turns out to be the catalyst that turned the average 30-minute bumpy and dusty drive from Ellensburg to Wenas into a 90-minute field trip. Along the way: Northern Mockingbirds, Mourning Doves, Red-winged Blackbirds, Western Meadowlarks, Brewer's Blackbirds, Common Ravens, Bar and Tree Swallows, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, a Western Kingbird, more Says, Black-billed Magpies, a possible Golden Eagle (too far for my photography to be definitive, near the same ridgeline), several gorgeous Turkey Vultures, and Red-tailed Hawks. I'm sure others were missed, but not a bad start to the weekend.

22 May 2009

2006: May 22 - J'ai un rhume

Weather report - Rain. Through the week. Wind has died down slightly, but weather prophets seem to think this is only temporary. The cold, however, is not temporary. Lower than normal temps have come along. Snow has been reported in the north of Scotland, and frost is not unusual almost everywhere else.

So, the fact I woke with a head cold was met with resignation. Learned the word for this type of "sick" ("rhume" - think of Peter Sellers trying to say the word "room", and you've got it) and the phrase for "sick in the head" ("rhume avec maux de tête"). The chemist in Guingamp recommended a mix of Paracetamol (aches), Chlorpheniramine (nose), and Vitamin C (because it's "the fad"). Not sure the over-the-counter dosages are high enough to really help, but the three will be better at treating the symptoms than simple aspirin, which is what I brought with me.

And, for whatever reason, I couldn't find anything remotely close to these drugs in the relatively-large grocery in Bégard. It may be that I just didn't visit the right part of the store, or it could be against the law. If I'm lucky lucky, I'll awaken tomorrow without symptoms. If not, the following is important to remember:
"If you take the right drugs, you will be fine in a week. If you don't take these drugs, you will probably be better in seven days."
And no matter, in seven days I'll be able to think of the word "symptoms" in ENGLISH in less than 3 minutes.

21 May 2009

2006: Flower Suicide

Not what I was expecting this morning as I went out the backdoor to search for Le Chat Gris and her kits: the red rectangular planterbox left in my care by The Boys attempted suicide last night during some piece of the wild wind and thunderstorm (that is still going on, thank you very much). It jumped from the rail ledge where it has lived for a bazillion years, landing in a face-plant of sorts at the backdoor step. I've fixed it so it's still viable, but coming days will tell the tale... If nothing else positive comes from this, at least I know it had water to survive until someone with opposable thumbs (albeit black ones) came along to put Humpty back on its ledge.

I shouldn't be allowed responsibility anywhere for flowers. I love to photograph them, but put them in my care at their peril.

And this wasn't even my fault.

Of course, the wind isn't the only problem. There is water coming inside from underneath the front doorway. Twice in three hours. I think this qualifies officially as a siege. Man the battlements and the forward torpedoes!


When The Boys returned to Hastings, among the items left to my ministrations was a bar of dark chocolate. Now, everyone who knows me knows about my love affair with milk chocolate and Mexican chocolate when it becomes molé, a fantastic flavour for topping pasta, chicken, or rice. Other than molé, though, dark chocolate and I don't normally get along well; it's usually too unrefined for these aging taste buds. However, what they left behind has me rethinking (at least for this brand) my view that dark only exists for those without discerning tastes. And the odd thing, it appears to be marketed by what passes for a generic brand here, "Belle France". Warning: If I find a distributor for Noir Superieur, and I can't talk a Belgian friend into his source for a specific hazelnut chocolate, I may have this dark wonder shipped to Seattle by the case. Je t'aime, Pur Beurre de Cacao, vous êtes merveilleux.

Music of the Moment:

The Penguins - Memories of El Monte
Mannheim Steamroller - Mere Image

Eclectic, to say the least...

[ 2009: the feral Grey Cat and her kits were an ongoing source of fun throughout my stay. It was obvious from the start she was in charge of a territory that included my backyard, the barn mentioned yesterday, and more than a bit of the other houses to my east. The kits were born not long before I arrived, and just as skittish as she. The Boyz (Ambrose and Les) left instructions to feed the kits, and feed them I did.

Towards the end of my stay, the little black male would actually come into the flat as far as the bathroom, about 4 feet, looking for his meal, letting me handle him only once or twice. His sister and parents never allowed such familiarity. Indeed, I saw the father with the family only a few times in three months.

This appears to be the only photo I have of Mom and her two kids together. I have many of each separately, but it was rare to see them all bunched into one spot. ]

20 May 2009

2006: Laundry Issues

Note to self: ALWAYS do laundry (1) when it's reasonably dry outside (no washing machine or dryer in apartment, no laundry in town), (2) when winds are less than 20mph (unless you wish for drying laundry to find its way to places unknown and/or unwelcome), and (3) when you have other clothes to wear.

Remember, it's the little things.

[ 2009: I was located as close to "downtown" Pedernec as you could be, given a population of one or two thousand scattered within a dozen or so square miles. From the backyard itself, I had a clear view of sky only if I looked straight up, surrounded by houses and, in one case, a working barn. From the front porch, I had a clear view directly southeast, where weather rarely manifested, for about 100 metres or so. Needless to say, my early warning system was a bit on the slow side.

So, if I saw sunshine straight up, I had to ask myself: Do I feel lucky today? If clouds are motoring through at 20+ mph sustained, a not unlikely scenario for my first week, my chances of being rained on at some point within an hour were pretty good. No clothes dryer inside meant relying on accurate guesses that would keep my kitchen sink-newly-handwashed clothing from going through a natural rinse cycle outside. Over and Over and Over.

And let's not forget the possibility that blow-dried clothing might be found in the neighbour's barn. (3) Other clothes to wear becomes pretty important. ]

19 May 2009

Quotes, # 010: Friendship

About three years ago, I was asked to housesit for friends of mine. They were headed to Japan for six months, and I was coming up on a European adventure of my own as soon as they returned; the timing was perfect.

Their home is a large and unique structure on a fair bit of FENCED land located in Hillman City. My responsibilities included keeping track of several (mostly psychotic / neurotic) cats and two decent-sized canines named Lincoln and Park. Your imagination can run rampant about the names.

Both dogs have a penchant for going on walk-about without human companionship, a trait that is Very Discouraged and yet Difficult to Stop. The fact there was a tall fence in place seemed to simply create a challenge for our intrepid wanderers.

After one such jaunt, they had been returned to their yard. As you can see from the photograph, they seemed sad and contrite. It was all a ploy; they were simply planning their next adventure, and I fell for it.

This image, as well as all of the preceding Quotes, are for sale as physical art you can put on your office or home walls. Our example here is available in 12x18" and 20x30" posters. Feel free to email me if you'd like to own this piece of American Pie(ty). Be the first on your block to be the first on your block.

All rights reserved, © caren park, http://RealistAtLarge.blogspot.com.

2006: May 19 - It's not Thursday

Hmmm. Just because a petrol station states 24h/24 doesn't mean it is open 24 hours for those with cash in hand. This morning, I had just finished with the next few days worth of grocery shopping, and went out to the connected petrol station to fill up my tank. Found out they take a 2-hour break in the middle of every day they work, and so I had to come back "later". When "later" happened, the price was 47 Euros for 36.66 litres (1.282 Euros/litre). One week of driving costs one tank of gas costs about 60 $ US. Guess I'll not be driving nearly as much as I'd like. [ 2009: Even at its recent worst, US petrol prices have not come close to those normal European prices of several years ago. And yet the generic "we" complain.

FYI: My vehicle of choice was about the size of a Honda Fit, was comparable in interior space and driving comfort to my '95 Saturn SL, and got 40+ mpg IN CITY using unleaded gas. "We" seem to get excited if we get 30 mpg on highways. Feel free to note sarcasm. ]


1 Pound Sterling = 1.47 Euros = 1.90 US Dollars (per the BBC business report this morning)

Weather for the next four days -> Nothing new: Windy and rainy, with tomorrow morning's winds expected to reach 40-45mph sustained, 60+ gusts (gale force 8) for much of the day. Even the weather geeks in the Channel Islands (less than 100 miles from here as the crow flies) are starting to talk about how unusual this weather pattern has been for May. Lucky me. :)

Oh: The magpie I'm seeing is named Pie Bavarde (Pica Pica), the sandpiper Bécasseau Variable (Calidris Alpina), the egret Aigrette Garzette (Egretta Garzetta). It's unfortunate the local library has only two ornithological books for use in identifying birds, and both are (1) very incomplete and (2) written in French. Wonder if David Sibley has written a European ID book in English? I can hope... [ 2009: The library was open only a few days each week, and only a few hours each of those days. Even so, it was spacious, clean, and reasonably-populated for a town the size of Guingamp. My French wasn't (and still is not) good enough to do much more research than browse at sparse photos. ]


Lucky for me, I don't generate a lot of garbage. Why? Today is Friday. My computer says it is Friday. Early Friday morning is Trash Pickup Day. I have gone through the entire day thinking today was Thursday. Wrong answer.

18 May 2009

2006: May 18, Thursday

Even though the weather has not been "reasonable" of late, I decided to head out anyway to get as much "good" out of the day as possible. And, between squalls and (at-times) 50mph winds, some of my best nature photography of the trip was taken today.

The day started with an attempt to find Ménez Bré, a natural site at 303 metres above sea level, one of the highest points in Bretagne. If it weren't for the clouds screaming by, and the wind trying to blow me off the top of the hill when it was finally found, the chiseled stone map that describes the surrounding countryside makes me believe I could have seen towns as far as 30 miles away... Among items of interest anyway: (1) an unidentified bird a bit larger than a sparrow singing its heart out about 50 feet above my head as s/he surfed the wind over the abandoned church building, and (2) the mass of children (with a few chaperones) who were peddling to the top of the hill. As this was a Thursday, around 10.30 am, it had me wondering if there was a national school holiday (and these kids were part of a cycling club), or if this was an accepted local school exercise program. Most of the surrounding countryside is perhaps 30 metres at most above sea level, and the climb up the hill from either side is fairly steep, so anyone attempting to bicycle to the top is either going to get their heart started or stopped.

As I headed eastbound on the N12 towards St Brieuc, the sun really started to shine. In the town of Binic, the flags were pegged straight-out with a wind clocked at 30mph steady, and windsurfers were laying claim to bits of the inner harbour. Just north, the Chapelle Notre-Dame d'Espérance, a tiny (comparatively) chapel high on a bluff overlooking Étables-sur-Mer and the Baie de Saint-Brieuc posed for the camera.

Of course, the sun is now starting to play peek-a-boo, and the occasional squall moves through. After stopping in a patisserie in Plouha for expensive sugar goodness, it's back behind the wheel to Paimpol and the drive along the Circuit de la Côte des Ajoncs (the Coast of "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT AJONCS MEANS"). Talk about drop-dead gorgeous, especially for those into rugged coastlines akin to that seen on the northwest Olympic Peninsula or at Big Sur, California. The tide was headed out, so I wasn't thinking shorebirds, and yet found both a sandpiper (12+) and a plover (30+) species. The plovers reminded me of Ruddy Turnstones found in Washington state. [ 2009: The plovers were Ruddy Turnstones. I hadn't realized a Pacific Northwet bird could be found in Europe. Huh. ] Neither were particular skittish, which was nice, and both allowed me within 50 feet for some nice photos.

In between getting squalled on, I've located a house built between and into two huge rock outcroppings, a chateau on top of a narrow bluff, a few beach hiking trails, my first French nature preserve, and more young bicycle enthusiasts (with chaperones). Before the squalls became downright biblical in proportions, it was my pleasure to photograph what I originally took to be a harrier (from the way it hovered/flew over open fields), but was probably a Kestrel instead. [ 2009: Some folks (myself included) believe the bird may be a Lesser Kestrel, based on local (to Bretagne) research made for French publication (paler colours, no obvious black spots on back, small size, shorter wings and tail, for example). Some believe this is more likely a Common Kestrel, exclusively because of the grey malar stripe. However, there are photos and descriptions extant from reputable birding websites and photographers that feel the malar stripe is not determinate. Huh. Either way, the bird was a wonderful find, and ...] The photo made my day...

Purple to black clouds are now dumping impressive amounts of water on ma voiture (car) as it heads home eight hours after the start of the day.

Two hours later, the sun has just gone down, and there's not a cloud to be seen to my direct south. Go figure...

17 May 2009

2006: Bad News, Good News, Bad News

The weather has started to annoy me. Since arriving, there has only been one day that was remotely close to "clear skies", and around noon last Friday I made the mistake of stating it felt like thunderstorms later. Oops. Since, we've had wind and showery in the afternoons, and wind and clouds in the mornings... The advice I'd received regarding the annoying-to-transport windbreaker and heavy sweatshirt was advice well-taken. The only positive is I've been able to catch up on a bit of the clean-up work I'd taken with me (photos in need of triage, for example).

To give you an idea of what life can be like here, allow me to entertain you with lunch: Go to the bakery ("boulangerie") which is not quite 50 metres north on Rue de Guingamp. Once there, order a croissant and a baguette (incroyable!) to go, pay less than 2 Euros for the pair. Smile all the way home. Once home, bring out the breadboard, a sharp bread knife, put some butter and some of the best strawberry preserves I've eaten in years on a plate, and move the whole kit into the front garden. While the sun peeks through the scudding clouds (40+ mph, on average), slice a bit of baguette, lightly butter said bit, add preserves, and smile a lot more as you bite into that little bit of heaven, all the while watching the swallows and swifts as they catch their own lunch, and listening to the melodic cacophany of birds singing.

I'm sorry, but someone has to do it.

Unfortunately, not everything has been enjoyable. Yesterday was the first time I'd had a chance to check my email, finding internet access at "Le Bibliothèque" for the town of Guingamp, where they at least allow about 30 minutes (even though they won't let me connect for upload or download). 1500 messages to sort out (and mostly throw as spam and not-locally-useful mail). And, while I had no time to read 99.99% of what was left, one of them caught my eye: a friendly acquaintance from Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, was killed in a traffic accident the evening of my arrival in France. We had talked about meeting when I was "in country", but our schedules hadn't gelled.

Michael, you will be missed...

16 May 2009

JBP, Friday PM

Before appearing at JBP, I made a quick stop at Bellevue Botanical Garden, found this lovely little flower near the western trail, just off the grassy knoll next to the gift centre. If anyone knows what it is, I'd appreciate knowing. There were no markers at the flower itself.

JBP Highlight: one male Blue-winged Teal sleeping (mostly) with several Gadwalls. At least one person says he's been in the inner cove for the past few days, so it's a good bet he won't be around too much longer. No useful photo (beyond an ID shot), as he decided he wanted to be on the other side of the cove the entire afternoon.
Lots of Red-winged Blackbirds bouncing off everything in sight, including passing crows, several Great Blue Herons, and a person or two. RWBB chicks chirping on at least one nest, females sitting eggs on a few dozen others... Swallow porn still occurring, but there's at least one Tree Swallow couple on eggs.

At the Warbler Willows, a Red-breasted Sapsucker enjoyed banging on both almost-dead willows (middle boardwalk, first bend). Lots of tasty birch and aspen around, and he's choosing dead wood. Go figure :)

There's a Canada Goose nest in the inner cove about 15 feet from the former beaver lodge. Starlings still on nest in former(?) Red-breasted Sapsucker hole, end of western boardwalk.

Some of the Barn Swallows are incredible combinations of oranges and reds.

To prove no BARS were harmed during the taking of this photograph:

Across the cove, there's a line of logs against the far shoreline. On those logs, approximately 40-50 turtles, queued as if waiting for the new Harry Potter film.

Five Mallard chicks started out across the cove, from the middle boardwalk to the western end; no adult in sight. 15 minutes later, four chicks returned. As they reached the middle's end, they split into two pairs, and I lost sight of them. I'm going to guess we'll not have these guys around too much longer.

Just as I was leaving, two wood duck females flew through...

15 May 2009

2006: May 15 - Groceries and the Intertubes


From country to country, though grocery stores may look the same on the outside, and frequently on the inside as well, taking the US norm for granted is probably not a good idea. In the UK, cheese can and will take an entire 10-metre long aisle at Sainsbury's or Tesco, with cheddar (and the various cheddar styles) filling at least half of that aisle. Monterey Jack and other North American cheeses are almost impossible to find. In France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, purchasing milk can be fraught with adventure. Years ago, my first milk purchase in Belgium looked right, came in the right-shaped container, was found in the dairy area, and carried the French word for milk ("lait"). Close, but no cigar, as what I purchased was actually fermented, or "sour". An acquired and fairly popular taste to be sure, it wasn't even remotely palatable to me. We won't even discuss "long-life" products.

And just today, I've discovered that fresh veg and fruits cannot be just taken to the Intermarché supermarket checker. First, they need to be weighed, priced, and bagged in the produce area, and given an appropriate barcoded sticker. Then, they can be taken to the check-out and paid for.

Of course, when the checker asked me where the stickers were, I assumed she was speaking of the small label number sticker we see on the side of the fruit or vegetables that tells the US checker what the produce is, and I pointed to same.


She looked at me as if I'd just rolled in off the proverbial turnip truck which, metaphorically-speaking, I had. Several agonizing and embarrassing minutes later, she returned from the produce area with my single zucchini ("courgette"), apple ("pomme"), and pear ("poire") all decked out in their new clothing, complete with weight in kilograms, price in Euros, and bar code to help her scan it directly.

The phrase that works here, and so far cannot be overused, is "Je suis désolé" ("I am sorry"), and after I received my change and was walking to the car, I could imagine the conversation going on between her and the customers in line behind me.


Almost all businesses for miles around close on Sundays. All day Sunday. Every Sunday. This includes the aforementioned Intermarché supermarket. The exceptions include the local baker (at least early in the morning) and the local bar. Most retail businesses during the week observe the traditional siesta, where most workers take several hours for lunch, which can and does include wine.

I provide this information for you to do with as you please. :)


The possibility of using the Internet in Lannion went from inconvenient to unlikely today (Monday). The local city hall ("Hôtel de Ville") and library ("bibliothèque") both offer a few minutes of free ("gratuit") internet daily, but only on their outdated computers, connected by dial-up phone line connections. This arrangement, while it would allow me to at least send an email or two every so often, would not allow me to update my blog or upload photographs to the website. Needless to say, I'm still looking for an alternative that works. Absolute worst case, I save all the writings, all the photos, all the links, etc, and send them when I get home.

Not optimal. However...

13 May 2009

Prescription Cheerios

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that General Mills, the purveyors of Cheerios, will be required to either (1) remove or rework a particular statement on its box, or (2) remove Cheerios from store shelves.

Seems the advertising wording on the box technically makes Cheerios a drug:
Based on claims made on your product’s label, we have determined that your Cheerios® Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease.
I thought so. :)

Quotes, # 009: Work Ethic

Our tired dog from Lannion is the face for this quote, and I believe, quite apropos. Wonderfully enough, he also lends himself to a number of other quotes which will appear here in coming weeks.

He was spotted on my first full adventure in Bretagne, wandering the town of Lannion, and if I remember correctly, he was lying in the doorway of a pub near one of the few upper car parks in town. It was quite a hike from the river below, but well worth the effort.

This image, as well as all of the preceding Quotes, are for sale as physical art you can put on your office or home walls. Our example here is available in 12x18" and 20x30" posters. Feel free to email me if you'd like to own this piece of American Pie(ty). Be the first on your block to be the first on your block.

All rights reserved, © caren park, http://RealistAtLarge.blogspot.com.

2006: Madame

Please meet "Madame", an 82-year-old woman who is as cheerful as the day is long, who was/is apparently a champion "bouler" (somewhat akin to lawn bowling), and in love with her garden flowers. I can't remember the last time I met anyone who was as full of life and cheery as Madame. And yes, even when we talk with her, the "M" in Madame is capitalized. She lives next-door, and understands almost everything I say, and I understand perhaps 30% of what she says. Please don't laugh. A lot of what she says is "Oooh, la la!". Really. Hopefully, my ratio will go up, because it will be a Long Sabbatical if I don't figure out more quickly what she's saying. Her accent is a little difficult, and she speaks quickly-enough to get a speeding violation in some Southern states. As such, she's my best chance at immersion learning.

And she has yet to let me go by her front door, which I must do in order to see France, without asking about my day. She's been told (1) I'm American, (2) that I photograph things, and (3) I'll be around for a few months. So, the town knows me now. Thank you, Madame. (grin)

Petrol prices around Bretagne range from 1.25 Euros to 1.65 Euros per litre. Most vehicles are still very small, and I don't think I've seen anything larger than a Mercedes diesel sports car (excepting business vans and cargo tractor trailers). With prices like that, alternative modes of transport (bicycles, motorbikes, scooters, walking) are acceptable and used by almost everyone.

Birds seen:
Crows, Rock Doves, European Starlings, House Sparrows, Magpies (unknown variety, but widespread: paint it completely black, then put a white racing stripe on the top of the wing and underneath), and what I think are House Finches... Many types of swallows, at least one species of swift hawking bugs perhaps 100 feet above a town square in Lannion, and a few raptors (all unidentified).

Only one worth noting: the Boys took me for a quick trip through the area between Pedernec on the south, Lannion and Perros-Guirec on the north, and Treguier on the east. While in Lannion, I spotted a huge canine sitting in the doorway to a retail establishment. His demeanour and facial expressions were priceless, and will eventually be posted to the website. Greeting cards with his face WILL be made available upon my return.

[ 2009: Posters have also been made of his beautiful visage. Feel free to contact me for more information :) ]


Tourist Information in Lannion has informed me that internet access is available, if for limited times. Given the limitations, I probably won't be uploading photographs to the website until I can find access that doesn't mind more than a few minutes of upload time. As well, links that I would normally include in each missive will also be perhaps a few blog entries behind the original. Without access to the net while writing this, my ability to point you to interesting places on the web is lessened... Je suis désolé (je swee day-zo-lay - I am sorry). With luck, such access locally is available...

11 May 2009

2006: May 11

Full English breakfast at the Chiltern was delicious, and quite the high-calorie cholesterol bomb I remembered from years past. Thankfully, I don't often get a chance to eat them. Thank you.

The half-filled flight took about one hour once we were in the air. Weather on the ground in Brest is in the low 20s C, humid, very light breeze. Dealing with auto hire takes longer than necessary, as they had one person to handle several flights worth of people at once (one might say "poor planning"). Needless to say, our person was frazzled.

However, once on the road, the day lightened enormously, and I was able to enjoy the drive through the French countryside.

There are, apparently, several ways in to the town of Pedernec. Normal: exit from D767 and drive directly into town. Me: I found one (lucky me) my hosts and landlords weren't sure they knew, exiting the N12 at one of the many exits for the D712, then drive north-east after first accidentally passing the sign that said "Pedernec." My way was eminently more rural, almost-but-not-quite two-lane'ish, with tractors and magpies and cows and school kids in uniforms. After asking a local (in my not-very-good French) where Rue de Guingamp was located, my future home was relatively easy to find.

Readers, please meet Ambrose and Les, elsewise known as "The Boys". They have been my friends for about 5 years now, and have agreed to be my landlords for the next few months. They will, unfortunately, head back to their world in Hastings in 36 hours to return to work. I tried to get them to stay longer, but their sense of responsibility got the better of them.

[ 2009: If memory serves, they purchased this flat a few years back as a quiet place of contemplation in preparation for their mutual retirements, somewhere they could get away from it all inexpensively when time allowed.

We do the cheek-kissing and hugging thing, then they bundle me into my voiture, and we head north for an early dinner. Downtown Bégard, about six miles away, has a very centralized business district, completely enclosed by parallel one-way roads. On the outskirts of town is where the local supermarket (le Supermarché) can be found. Appearances can be deceiving; as much as it looks like an American (or British) supermarket, shopping here for certain items took a little getting used to. Details later :)

Dinner was pizza, with four cheeses, very Italian in design, texture, and flavour, light salad, tasty beverage. Mmmm. ]

Petrol prices around London proper currently average 98 pence per litre (about 1.70 US $). Prices in France start at about 1.30 Euros (about the same 1.70 US $) for the same litre. You can do the math. Depending on whether or not you ascribe to 3.75 litres to a gallon, or 5 litres (imperial?), the cost is still well over twice the US price. And roads are just as clogged with autos as in the US, with a big exception: SUVs are almost non-existent, and when you see them, they tend to be Range Rovers (mostly about the size of an older Ford Explorer). Most cars are petrol-efficient tiny things (relative to US autos, anyway) from Fiat, Renault, Peugeot, Toyota, etc. Older vehicles are also rare. And while I haven't seen a three-wheeled car YET, I would see them occasionally a few years back.

[ 2009: When all was said and done, my little car was roomy, had "get up and go", and averaged 42 mpg driving around town. Detroit, it CAN be done. ]

Birds seen:
Ravens, Crows, Rock Doves, European Starlings, a bird that reminded me of a Magpie quickly moving through a flowering cherry tree, and still another bird that reminded me of a Red-winged Blackbird (no call heard). Many other birds I have no idea what they were, but they were singing up a storm...

No photos taken; camera still packed away.

Funny HaHa:
Seems our RyanAir pilot came in a little heavy to Brest Airport. Seems he may have miscalculated his distance to the ground on landing. Seems we bounced. Just a little. Thank you. Seems that, as soon as it was obviously safe to do so (we were taxi'ing to the plane-stopping and people-getting-off place), spontaneous applause started in the back of the plane and moved forward quickly... Seems we have an embarrassed pilot on our hands. No real danger. Folks in the back felt more bounce than I did. Plane butts are shakier than plane shoulders :)

10 May 2009

Quotes, # 008: Reasons for Sex

I'm really not sure how to introduce this next poster. The image was photographed in a tiny little Luxembourg town, about 25 miles southwest of Luxembourg City while my friends and I were wandering around looking for lunch. This was not the first larger-than-life ceramic advertisement seen. Indeed, all over Europe, similar mascots selling a wide variety of beers abound. However, this was the first that made us all laugh quite heartily for our own individual and possibly deviant reasons.

For what it's worth, I feel the hot dog stands well on its own, but with the quote from Billy Crystal? In my most humble opinion, it shines... :)

This image, as well as all of the preceding Quotes, are for sale as physical art you can put on your office or home walls. Our example here is available in 12x18" and 20x30" posters. Feel free to email me if you'd like to own this piece of American Pie(ty). Be the first on your block to be the first on your block.

All rights reserved, © caren park, http://RealistAtLarge.blogspot.com.

2006: May 10

Once on the ground at Heathrow, customs was also uneventful, and the gentleman behind the counter was as much fun as any provided by the Home Office I'd ever encountered.

Weather is much warmer than I was led to believe. Temp was approximately 20-22 C, and a bit on the muggy side. Of course, I'm carrying about 25 kilos of things that once I'm finally in the car will not be problematic; at the moment, they are unwieldly at best. This includes a light jacket and heavy sweatshirt, neither of which fits into the luggage (don't ask (grin)). I've been promised the need for both, even during the summer, and so they come along.

National Express, while not the most expeditious of coach companies, gets you there. Three hours, one illegal turn and a red-light run later. Local coach service (Arriva) not much better. Supposedly, it's a 10- to 20-minute drive from Luton to the hotel, so I should not have been surprised it only took 50 minutes (grin). [ 2009: It's always interesting when traveling on local buses during the equivalent of rush hour after getting off an airplane. When was the last time you commuted crammed into a seat next to someone with luggage enough to last months on the road? ]

The Chiltern Hotel is a pleasant surprise. I personally don't believe it's as close to the airport as it claims on its website, and it's definitely not in the most desirable part of town, but the internal ambience and the helpfulness of the support staff more than make up for any of these minor deficiencies. Shower doesn't work right? I am given the key to an empty room down the hall. Lift doesn't work? Obtain prompt help with luggage to the first floor... Need someone to talk to at 3am because I can't get back to sleep? Never fear, Ibrahim is available and quite friendly.

Listed prices locally say single, en-suite rooms run about £ 80 per night, yet the internet rate, which includes a full-English breakfast, was approximately £ 25.

Definitely a pleasant surprise.

Helpful Information:
£ 1 (Pound Sterling) - US $ 1.70 - Euro 1.40 (very approximate and highly-volatile)
1 Kilo - 2.2 pounds
Temperature in Centrigrade ==> 9/5x + 32 in Fahrenheit (double C, subtract 10%, add 32. It gets easier)
Lift - Elevator
En-suite - Bathroom in room (quite desirable)
Home Office - Customs and Immigration Service
Coach - Bus
1st Floor (UK) - 2nd Floor (US)

09 May 2009

2006: May 09

Flight is uneventful, except for two extremely-bright spots: (1) two children, a bit under and a bit over 1 year of age, travelling on the same bulkhead row, both did extremely-well, fussy for only a few moments the entire trip. and (2) Check-in with British Airways is always a treat, and when requested, the change from cramped knees to a tall-friendly seat (though still in steerage) was made with a smile.

2006: All My Bags are Packed, I'm Ready to Go

Time for a little lesson in "What's Goin' On" and "Where is She Going?" ::

I'm flying light this time, with one laptop bag, one camera bag, and one backpack crammed with clothing (and not very much, at that. Takes up room, though)... All non-essentials have been winnowed down, and I am extremely hopeful I've packed everything needed, from battery chargers to foreign power plug converters to passport, and Euros/Pounds/a few dollars, just in case credit and/or debit cards end up being frozen for what the card companies deem "inappropriate activity", ie, use in another country though warned it would happen...

For the most part, planning for this trip has gone smoother than others, perhaps because I've done it so many times. You learn what you can take, what you shouldn't, and hope you've made the right decisions. My only concern will be the puddle-jump from London's Luton Airport to Brest on Thursday (10 May), as RyanAir has changed their carry-on policy recently, and I'm hoping they'll see two small bags (cameras/computer) as "small enough not to check"... If not, I'm going to be quite anxious while RyanAir has my belongings in their custody...

Pedernec is located in the northwest corner of France, in the state of Bretagne. Even Google Maps didn't know where this place was until a few days ago (literally), and the streets were not labeled when last I checked two weeks ago. I will endeavour to update you with an exact location once I'm actually in-country and settled, but generically-speaking, here is where I will be in 48 hours or so: Here is a decent-sized map, and here is Google Map's vision -- feel free to zoom in or out to get a better idea where TravelGirl will land...

The N12/E50 appears to be the main highway between Brest (flying in a little after noon local time on Thursday) and Guingamp. The drive should take about an hour and change once the leased vehicle has been procured...

Wishing there was more to this entry than the above; Sorry. I will make it up to you. Promise. Yeah, I know... Take care, people... Plan leaves in just a few hours :)

[ 2009: Even today, the Google Maps satellite view of the area surrounding Pedernec is blurred for most towns; hopefully, that will change. I took about 1500 Euros with me in cash, so that my US bank wouldn't ruin everything by closing down accounts accidentally. Thankfully, that didn't happen. However, given exchange rates and how many places didn't take debit or credit cards, it wasn't a bad decision in and of itself. I found a way to use them all, no pressure, no worries. ]

06 May 2009

2006: Making a List

Among the many items I need to check:

-- All Bills are taken care of, either paid in full, or executed automagickally

-- Items not travelling with me are in storage, safely so

-- Folks who should be on "the List" are ON the mailing list, and folks who do not wish to be have been removed.

This is where you come in. If you receive this email and/or blog entry and do not wish to be on the list, just let me know... You will be removed ASAP...

For everyone else, welcome back! We are days away from lift-off at Casa de Mes Amies near Seward Park (just southeast of Seattle), and almost everything on my to-do list has been taken care of. Tickets have been purchased, car has been rented (expensive), friends and family have been notified, and I'll start packing in the next day or two. I'm hoping to take just two bags for the entire trip: one of those bags will contain all camera and computer equipment (heavy carry-on); the other, clothing (very light check-in).

While this may seem to be a fairly silly thing to do given the difference in weight, it is incredibly important for the most expensive items to make the journey in one piece, without an unwanted change in ownership, or requiring replacement or repair. The clothes, I can purchase enough to get me by for a lot less than the cheapest repair or replacement on the electronics.

For what it's worth, I'm really jazzed about returning to Europe. From the time I was a kid, I've always wanted to travel. For one reason or another, travel came to me later than sooner. I'm just glad I'm healthy and self-sufficient enough to be able to enjoy the little sojourns that make life so interesting.

Until next time...

05 May 2009

Stuck Inside Today Bird Stories, inspired by Connie Sidles

More years ago than I care to say, I had taken visiting family and friends to Deception Pass. As I clambered on the rocky heights in the middle of Pass Island, I noticed a fair-sized raptor slowly working its way to the east along the southern channel between the tiny island and Whidbey's northern extreme. It was obviously a laborious struggle, tacking against the stiff breeze coming from onshore.
This was back in the days when I didn't own a camera (how odd that feels now), and didn't know a mallard from a sea eagle (not much different today :)). Yet, there was something wonderfully-relaxing about watching this bird on its appointed task.
As the raptor reached the eastern edge of Pass Island, it banked gracefully and, with the wind at its back, rocketed through the pass, under the bridge, and into the waters of Puget Sound at breakneck speed.
About halfway down the Deception Pass State Park Beach, it then turned and, diligently, flapped against the wind to slowly return and pass my aerie lookout on the island. Redux, it banked and raced pell-mell through the pass.
I watched this three times, and to this day wonder if the bird thought this activity was "fun", or any number of other anthropomorphic encumbrances for it. For each minute of afterburner jet flight, there were 10-15 minutes of Wright Brothers. Even without a camera, my memories of that long-ago late morning are still sharp. And I also wonder if I watched something unique or everyday in its life.

04 May 2009

2006: Introduction

For those of you new to the TravelGirl blog, welcome! For those of you who have been there, done that, and are STILL with me, Thank You!

There are several reasons why I decided to put together a blog, and they remain the same (mostly) as they were during the many years of previous travel: to edumacate the young'uns, and to offer a different perspective on the world at large before current political and religious fervour changes everything for what I believe will be worse.

However, I've discovered a third reason: documentation that reminds me of those traveling days, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the weather, the people, the architecture natural and manmade, the animals, and the fascination with being in a foreign land and experiencing life in person.

Going through my previous writings (which I will make available to anyone who wishes, time-permitting) brings back the memories I hold dear but don't always think of day-to-day: the grandeur of York Minster and Salisbury Cathedral, the sadness embued in the church courtyard of Malo and the history-stained rolling countryside of the Battle of the Bulge, the mellow wonder of Belgian hazelnut chocolate, Trappist Westmalle beer, and late-night chess, the laughter of the people who watched me photograph different church interiors on my back (then did so themselves moments later), the eeriness of hearing children at play (and not seeing them) while standing on a very cold January afternoon before the memorials at Pere Lachaise Cemetaire to those who died in the concentration camps of World War II...

I find of these and more am I made, and gladly so.

So, without further adieu, I want to invite everyone who wishes to join me once again for adventure, for knowledge, for perspective. Our trip will start on 09 May, from Seattle-Tacoma Airport in Washington state, and will end on 08 August, same place. In between, who knows?

03 May 2009

Quotes, # 007: Desire

It is my opinion most of us subscribe to Ms Tomlin's quotation at some point in our lives.

Our Helmeted Guinea Fowl here probably had the same thought in mind when I photographed it at Seattle's Seward Park a few years back. It was a long, long way from home; no one I spoke with knew how they came to be found near campsite #4 for the better part of several years.

They have since disappeared as mysteriously from the park as they appeared. That's sad. They had many friends among the humans, some of whom were frequent visitors, occasionally providing seed (and less-nutritious food) munchies.

This image, as well as all of the preceding Quotes, are for sale as physical art you can put on your office or home walls. Feel free to email me if you'd like to own this piece of American Pie(ty). Be the first on your block to be the first on your block.

All rights reserved, © caren park, http://RealistAtLarge.blogspot.com.

01 May 2009

2009.05 Desktop Calendar

For the May Desktop Calendar photo, I harken back to the town of Landerneau, about as west as you can get in France, a blue-sky summer afternoon along the river which flows through the middle of town.

In the stream, a Mute Swan and Black Swan preen, swimming back and forth for the better part of an hour. The Mute is a bit more native, having been introduced in France about 300 years ago; the Black is native to Australia. As he is the second of his kind to be spotted by myself in the last week (the first about 50 miles east), a little investigation finds the Blacks are probably escapees or released birds.

Please feel free to download this photo for personal use on your computer's desktop. To download, just click once on the image, which will bring up the enlarged image on a new webpage. Then, right-click on the image and follow your operating system's instructions for pictures / images.

For those interested in learning more about the attempt to become a neighbour in and around Pedernec, I'll be re-playing the original blog entries (with larger photos) in "real-time" over the next three-plus months. In addition to the original text, I hope to have additional things to say. Think of this as The Official Director's Cut for my adventure. If you would like to be informed as the entries become available and you have an RSS Feed Reader, please look to your right on the blog's webpage, locate the "If You Like What You See Here, Please Subscribe" section, then click on the RSS button "Posts" and follow your browser's directions.

Enjoy :)