Friday, July 22, 2005

mouse skull

mouseskull, originally uploaded by efroymson.

Gus found this while raking the lawn. I thought it was an interesting subject for a photograph. This was almost a "studio" picture, although I was using halogen worklights instead of studio lights, and the background is from the face mask we got when we went karting in Berlin.

I used the D70 with a Macro lens, and put it on the tripod. A very different kind of shooting than the handheld, available light, rangefinder stuff I usually do.

We are getting back into the routine here, and I can tell you that six weeks of eating and drinking your way across Europe is not a good way to prepare for karate. On Tuesday I thought a few times I would either faint, or throw up, or both. Last night it was just painful.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


F1000013, originally uploaded by efroymson.

Posting from home, but I wanted to share this picture. I think we took it in Spain, but did not get it developed until almost our last day in Paris. The roll is a new kind of Black and White that is developed with the same chemistry as standard color film (C-41) so you can get it done anywhere. Had it scanned onto CD also, as is now my habit.

My efforts to interest Gus in photography obviously did not pan out as well as I had hoped, since this was a roll of film we bought in Poland ...

Anyway, I think this one looks pretty cool. In any case I do not regret the purchase of the 25mm lens.

The flight back was long, and got off to an annoying start, as Air France does not believe in "boarding by row". There is just a huge queue, and either you wait in it, or you don't (as we did). Just sat and played with the laptop until the line got shorter. Should have blogged from there, but we were running on too little sleep.

Our last day in Paris consisted in discovering that the Discovery Museum is closed on Mondays, the Orangerie is closed for renovations, the Musee D'Orsay is also closed on Mondays (though we were told that the Museums in Paris all close on Tuesday, not Monday), that the IRCAM center is not really open for visitors on Monday evenings, and that the Pompidou Center is open, and open late, and has all sorts of really cool stuff.

We went to Rue De Rosiers for some truly awesome felafel, perhaps the best I have ever had. No Saudis there for some reason though ...

We did not get to the Seine in time for the last cruise, so we walked around a bit, until the rain hurried us back on to the Metro and to the hotel.

Monday, July 18, 2005


EPSN1695, originally uploaded by efroymson.

Leaving France tomorrow morning, so this is our last day here. A little sad. Took a lot of pictures of fireworks, more on Flickr (and still more not). That was on Bastille Day in Bordeaux. Here in Paris we have visited the Jewish Quarter, a few museums, including the Louvre, the Picasso museum, Victor Hugo's house, and a museum of the history of Paris. Disappointed in the latter in that the only reference to the "terror" that I could find was a tiny model of a guillotine. Apparently the French are not so proud of that part of their history.

Last night had some felafel at a moderately expensive place near the Pantheon. Highlight was the Saudi sisters at the next table smoking hookahs. They left in a chauffered Mercedes. One corrected my Arabic, apparently Salaam Aleikhem is only "hello", for goodbye you say "ma-a-salaam".
We went to two concerts yesterday, both in churches. The first was near Les Halles, and was a short (.5 hour) organ recital. Just two pieces. The first was good, the second rather strange. Sounded like random synthesizer music actually. After the concert a service began. Got a small bite nearby, "Italien" crepes. They were simple, mozarella, tomato, olive oil and pepper, but really, really good. It is odd how suddenly you will find something that is much better than you expect. If you want to find the place, it is a little shop (no seating that I saw) just across from the escalators that go down to Rambuteau.

Second concert was 3 Bach Cello pieces. The young man playing them was helped by the excellent acoustics, and impaired by the heat, and the need to compete with singing birds. I enjoyed it.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Broiling in Paris

We have arrived in Paris, which is also very hot. Went to St. Emilion this morning, which was very pretty. Tasted lots of good wine, bought a few bottles. Went down into a cave, carved out of the limestone the town is built over. Other than the severe difficulties with finding our directions, it was a great morning. The TGV to Paris was pleasant enough. Oddly there were no stops between Bordeaux and Paris, making it a pretty quick trip.

Picked up my glasses from the Opticien near the Gare d'Lyon, they came out quite well I think. Wearing them now. Wandered around a bit, went to the Bastille in honor of yesterday (not that there is much to see there) then ate around there. Stopped by the Centre Pompidou to take a look at the inside out building, and the fountain.

It is deeply unpleasant in here, as there is no A/C for the computers or the humans in this hall.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bordeaux is very hot

The previous message was supposed to have been published yesterday, but Blogger was not well, and could not post it.

It is incredibly hot here, hotter than Barcelona or Perpignan or Avignon or anywhere else we have been. We have not done too much today, as the heat defeats my ability to plan. Perhaps tomorrow we will try to make an excursion to St. Emilion in the morning, before our train to Paris. Perhaps the Caves will be cool.

Had a pretty good lunch today, though it remains somewhat difficult to find food meeting my preferences. The first place we inquired at was pretty much "huitres et boeuf", or oysters and beef, neither of which was okay. Did find a place with real fish just a bit further down.

Have been reading instapundit, miss the commentary. Even paying for it, as we are at another i-cafe.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


We don't have a wifi connection in the hotel here, as we have had the past several places, so the blogging and emailing will be less. The last entries I posted from the lobby of our two star hotel in San Sebastian, they had to reboot their router between my uploading the photos to flickr, and my blogging them, but it wsa okay.
Things in France are more expensive than in Spain. It looks like using the machine to wash clothes here will cost as much as having them done in Madrid. But it is not really a big deal. We ate at a restaraunt very close to the local Notre Dame (I think it was called DuPont) that had black mullet that was delicious. Even the grilled tomato was great. The desert was a triple, a profiterole (perhaps the best I have ever had) a fruit pudding-cake that was not so great, and a small creme brulee.
It was the most expensive meal so far, but worth it I think. Had some local wine, I could not resist the name, it was Nodoz believe it or not. I wonder if it is related to the familiar pill (familiar to truck drivers and cramming students at least). There was some difficulty getting to sleep last night in any case.
All this blogging about food is making me hungry.
Today we walked around a bit, there are a lot of rather pretty buildings in this town. Spent a good bit of time aboard the Colbert, a retired missile cruiser that is now docked here. Oddly, although Bordeaux is 100 km from the Atlantic, it is a major port. It was fun to wander around the ship, which was much more comfortable to traverse than the Russian sub in Hamburg. I enjoyed seeing the missile launcher, which was explained by a video in the room above the magazine. I don't quite know how they backfitted the huge mechanism into the ship (which originally just had AA guns) it must have been a huge undertaking.
We also visited the customs museum here, but it was not as interesting as the one in Hamburg. I was amazed to learn that France used to have internal customs duties, that seems like a terrible idea. Eventually they realized that, and got rid of the "tax farmers" but it was not easy for them. Reminds me a bit of the situation in the US, with a preposterous income tax system that is entrenched and all but impossible to simplify.
Also stopped in a couple of cafes for coffee and to read the paper (two euros for the Int'l Herald Tribune!). Nice just to relax.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


EPSN1384, originally uploaded by efroymson.

I thought this fellow with the metal detector looked rather lonely out on the beach. I remember when Radio Shack sold them, and I really wanted one. Now it seems kind of sad. Gus wondered whether he was doing this for a living. I suspect it is just a hobby.

I really like the way the chairs came out. Someone who saw this photo on Flickr thought they looked like they were praying, which was not what I saw, but there is something of a personality to them I think.

We have a train to Bordeaux to catch soon. Actually, first we go to Hendaye, and then to Bordeaux. One of the remnants of the pre-EU system seems to be the necessity of changing trains when going to or from Spain.


EPSN1397, originally uploaded by efroymson.

There is a very large and pretty church here in San Sebastian. We walked around a lot last night, and found this place as we walked near the center of the town. It was actually pleasantly cool at midnight, which was a nice surprise, since the hotel room was rather warm all day.

Kids on the beach

EPSN1389, originally uploaded by efroymson.

We went for a walk last night, and I took some pictures. Here are some kids who seem to have substitued candles for (banned?) campfire. It is hard to tell from the way the picture came out, but it was pretty dark.

We had been a bit on the beach earlier, it was really quite nice. The water seemed very cold at first, but was pleasant enough after a minute.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Hieronymous Bosch

EPSN1325, originally uploaded by efroymson.

Or "El Bosco" as he is known here. Gus has a book called "Pish, Posh, said Hieronymous Bosch" which has some cute pictures and poetry inspired by Bosch but considerably less grim. He was at first disappointed not to find "pickle-winged fish", but I think he got over it.

Read over my large Bosch book just before leaving, that was helpful. Especially nice to remember some of the symbolism in "the cure for folly".

Joan Arp

EPSN1283, originally uploaded by efroymson.

This is from the Arp museum in Barcelona. I like the child-like technique.


EPSN1318, originally uploaded by efroymson.

St. Sebastian has always been my favorite. I don't know why, but somehow a man who even peppered with arrows keeps his composure is compelling. Goya's Sebastian is not exactly peppered, but has reason enough for a less sanguine expression than the one here.

There were a number of other great pictures, enough to absorb the best part of yesterday looking at them. Gus was a bit disappointed at first with the pace through the museum, but I reminded him that the Prado was the main reason we came to Madrid in the first place. I think he liked the pictures too, after a while.

We are learning a bit about how to eat here. It is not as bad as China, in that if you order fish here (for example fried sardines) they are not likely to sprinkle bits of pork on it, no matter how much they love pork.

Today we went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum, which was not as good as the Prado, not by a long shot. The Prado allows photography, without flash (fine by me as I was using an f1.4 lens) but the T-B does not allow any, so no pix from there. That is not the reason I did not like it so much though.

The reason is that the pictures are not as good. No giant Raphaels, or Bosch or anything. The special exhibit of Corot was also rather disappointing. I have never been much of a fan, and now that feeling is confirmed. Too bland and unambitious.

Did have some fun with a sketchbook though. Gus and I were competing on sketching from the paintings, it was rather fun. Interesting to see how quickly he caught on. His technique seemed to improve when he had a subject he was more interested in also, his best effort was the head of a slavering dog.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

In Madrid

Took a rather long train ride from Barcelona, arrived in Madrid earlier this evening. Seems like a great city, not so hot as we had been warned (because it is rather late at night?) and good places to eat and so on.

Had Anchovies, Escarole and Tomato salad, Potatoes and Eggs, and bread for dinner. Quite tasty.

Fantastic Cheese

We went to a modern dance performance last night (Romeo and Juliet). It was in a theater on the Ramblas, at 9:30. We bought tickets at about 8:00, so that did not leave too much time for dinner. We found a place called the Attic almost across the street from the theater. They had English language menus (not surprising given that the Ramblas is a major tourist center) and friendly service, and the salad and entrees were good, but the best was saved for last.

I was very impressed that Gus, a thirteen year old American boy, would select "an assortment of cheeses" as his dessert of choice from a menu that included mousse and cake and so on, but he did. We were pretty full, so we split it. The second best cheese was a relatively mild cheese with carroway or something like it.

The fantastic cheese was a blue cheese that was not mild at all, but was rich, and textured, and delicious and spicy and went very well with the last of the wine.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Branching column

EPSN1159, originally uploaded by efroymson.

Here you can just see a bit of the top of a branching column. I can't explain it very well, but it is related (I believe) to the reversed catenary curves I mentioned earlier. Gaudi also had an interest in laboratory testing of materials, and specified different types of stone for different places, with stronger stone where the stresses were greater.

It looks like it is just stone, but that is not true. There are iron (steel?) supports running through the columns, which are hollow.

Sagra Familia

EPSN1103, originally uploaded by efroymson.

We visited the famous Sagra Familia temple. It is indeed spectacular. We walked up the towers, the views were amazing. It was just as interesting to see how the thing is put together, with branching columns and freestanding circular stairs and so on.

Gaudi was a genius one hundred years ahead of his time.

More skating

EPSN1265, originally uploaded by efroymson.

We made it to the Contemporary Art museum again. It was open today. Some cool things in there, but a lot of rather bland hypermodern junk. The skaters were out in force again, and I took the opportunity to try some new tricks.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Not Kosher

EPSN1061, originally uploaded by efroymson.

After the reconquista and 1492 it seems that the Spanish were quite determined to eliminate any traces of Islamic or Jewish culture. Or maybe they just really like the taste of pork. In either case, there are pig carcasses all over this city.

This was one of the few with the pigs face visible, usually it is just the leg and buttock of the animal hanging from the ceiling. I had to open the little door to the display fridge to get a picture untainted by reflections, and the woman in the store told me not to do that, so I hope you enjoy this photo, so my misdeed can be in some way compensated for.


EPSN1072, originally uploaded by efroymson.

There were many kids on skateboards in front of the closed museum. I was trying to get a "dynamic" shot, this was one of the best. Perhaps when I learn to hold my camera the other way, I will be able to get heads and feet both.

Cool graffiti

EPSN1067, originally uploaded by efroymson.

We were trying to get to the Museum of Contemporary art, but it is closed on Tuesdays. I guess I should have read my little museum handout more carefully. In any case there was tons of really cool graffiti near there.

By the way, I have lots more stuff on my flickr site. I should note that the photos start out as 24 megabyte images (6 mpixels * three colors * 12 bits) and the camera squashes them to about 3 mbits, then my flickr upload crunches them down to about 60k, so the quality is dramatically reduced, but good enough for web.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Perpignan to Barcelona

We are in Barcelona now. Our last day in Perpignan we visited the Palace of the Kings of Majorca, which was a set of Kings I had never heard of. There was a lot of information about James the Conqueror, King of Aragon, and his younger son James, who became the first King of Majorca when his father split his possessions between his sons. I found it interesting because it goes to the history of the border between Spain and France. It seemed logical to me that the Pyrenees would mark the border, and apparently it seemed logical to James as well.

We also visited a (the?) Cathedral before rushing back to the Hotel to get our bags and get to the Train Station. We had a short ride to Port Bou, which is in Spain. It disconcerted me to have to speak Spanish. While I am not that great with French, I can at least order food, ask for a room with two beds, and so on. In Spanish I can ask for green chile on an enchilada, but not much else. Fortunately a lot of people here do in fact speak English.

Last night we went out for Paella rather late. I ordered the Paella Verdura, thinking it would be a vegetarian dish. It mostly was, but about halfway through I noticed some little shrimp in it. I tried to excuse them as "accidental" contamination, but there were too many for it to have been an accident. Just picked them out and went on. The paella was delicious, especially the slightly burned bit at the bottom of the pan. There was oil and vinegar and salt and pepper on the table, they seemed to make it even better.

Today we were up rather late, and broke our fast with bread and cheese and olives and bananas and a couple of Chocolate Croissants. We picked it up at a "Condis" supermercata, but I don't think it has anything to do with Secretary Rice. The prices for food and hotel rooms are more reasonable in this country than in France.

We visited La Pedrera, a Gaudi Apartment house that is now a museum. It has some very interesting displays on his methods. I enjoyed seeing the use of string and weights to make catenary curves, that when viewed in a mirror become the structure of a building. Sort of an analog computer. The building itself is very beautiful, and it was a lot of fun to roam around the roof, looking at the wacky things Gaudi had done with the usually pedestrian assortment of pipes that project from a roof.

Later we were wandering about trying to find our way back to the Ramblas, when we noticed a very unusual building. There were a large number of people filing in, so we checked it out. It was a concert hall, and there was a concert at 21h00. Since that was about ten minutes away, we bought tickets and went in. It was a very good concert. I was not so pleased about the Schumann on the program, I usually find him rather "fussy", but one of the pieces was not bad. They also played Mozart, Falla, Liszt and Franck. I think the Liszt may have been the best. All were chamber pieces, which the hall was really too big for, but the sound was good, especially after the intermission, when we grabbed better seats.

The hall itself was amazing, the interior has huge plaster sculptures including winged horses, an assortment of stained glass, including a sort of droplet about to break from the ceiling, and other bits and pieces of rococco or Art Deco, or whatever it is.

After three hours in the concert hall, we were definitely ready for dinner, and so when we saw a Maoz vegetarian Felafel stand we went straight for it. Delicious.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Nimes and Perpignan

Yesterday was rather a crazy day. After breakfast, which was again very good (the Grand Hotel in Avignon puts on a great spread, delicious cheese, baguettes of regular white bread and an herbed bread that I could not cut (just tore instead) because it was so soft, fruit and yogurt and so on) we went across the street to the Poste to send back to my house some stuff we were tired of hauling around. It was not really cheap, but five minutes later as we were racing to the train station to catch the train to Nimes, it was already obviously worthwhile.

Nimes was great. I just noticed that Gus blogged about the Arena, it was really cool. I was impressed with the stairs up and down, the whole system for getting folks in and out. After almost two thousand years it is still in use, we missed Aida, which I think played last night. There is a contemporary art museum there two, across the street from an old Imperial Temple. We saw an exhibit of recent German art, some of which was rather wild. We both liked the ink drawing of people with balloons attached who were all fighting each other or engaged in other unwholesome activities.

The building is a Norman Foster, and has columns of its own that are taller, thinner, plainer, and less necessary than the colums on the Temple. Foster's just hold up an awning, which had some wing shaped appendages that looked mobile, and a system for misting water on the cafe patio. It helped.

We almost missed our train to Perpignan, because the fellow who very helpfully printed out a schedule for us only indicated two of the trains that required reservation. Fortunately we were able to get a reservation with about four minutes to spare.

We had a hard time finding any place open late last night, and so had a Quick, but not very good, dinner.

Today we went to the beach not too far from here, took out a sea kayak for an hour, got burned (or maybe tanned, more likely in Gus's case than mine) swam a bit, and went on a short cruise. Had some really good fish for dinner. Gus's tuna was better than my Lotte in orange sauce.