jeudi 28 février 2008

Adieu Loire

Monday morning I was feeling rather sad I had not overpacked my bag with more changes of clothes. Oh well.

We headed out that day on a winding way back to Lyon, stopping to see some sights along the way.

We made a quick stop in Germigny-des-Prés to check out the 11th century Carolingian church. It was built by Theodulf of Orléans in 806 and is one of France's oldest churches.We then cruised through St Benoit dur Loire to check out the 11th century romanesque Basilique, which unfortunately was closed.Although the cathedrals today are monuments in plain gray stone, in fact, all these medieval churches were once elaborately painted. I've been feeling very curious about what the painting originally looked like. There are only a few places here and there that you can see paint on these old churches, and most of it is really faded, but you can get the idea of how they used to do it. This picture shows some remnants of the paint job.We then stopped in Sully-sur-Loire to look at the chateau there, which is your basic medieval fortress, moat and all, which was built to defend the river crossing there.
After lunch we made our way down to Bourges to admire the gothic cathedral of St Etienne, after which we hit the road home.

mercredi 27 février 2008

The accidental 3-day weekend

The next day we cruised over to the chateau de Chambord, which was enormous and spectacular, making it all the more laughable that it had been built to be a hunting lodge for king Francois I. No wonder the revolution happened.
It featured an amazing ceiling with carvings of salamanders, the king's emblem.
Of course, all those stone walls and high ceilings meant it was freezing inside. B and I headed to the roof to warm up.Here is a close-up of an interior tower.Then we left. As anyone who knows me knows, I have been long since cursed by the god of car problems. On our way out I noticed the car was making a loud noise, which we subsequently noticed was because we had a flat tire. This being a Sunday in France, we were out of luck. I called Hertz and they said we had to wait until the nearest rental place opened the next day to get another car. So we had to drive on the rinky-dink spare tire to Orleans and spend the night.

Needless to say, B changed the tire while I was on the phone with Hertz. Sometimes I am perfectly happy about gender roles.

But hey, now I have been to old Orleans as well as New Orleans. This is the only picture I took in Orleans, of the Joan of Arc statue. And we did find a very cute hotel there.

lundi 25 février 2008

Loire Valley trip

I headed up to the Loire Valley this weekend to enjoy the warm weather and admire chateaux. B and I rented a car and headed up Friday night, staying in Tours at this place, which was pretty nice. We arrived late Friday and had a great Lebanese meal along the petite rue Colbert.

On Saturday we drove through the exceedingly cute town of Amboise, which is known for its impressive chateau and also being the town that Leonardo da Vinci lived in during the last years of his life. Here is part of the chateau. My guidebook informed us that king Charles VIII grew up here, and later died here, in 1498, after hitting his head on a low lintel on his way to a jeu de paume game. His unfortunate 22 year old bride, Anne de Bretagne, was then forced by contract to marry the next king of France, Louis XII. I was feeling happy to be independently employed.We then cruised through the countryside, where there were various hunters standing around holding rifles, waiting for a sanglier (wild boar) to show up.

We then headed over to the Chateau de Chenonceau. It was just disgustingly gorgeous and had huge, elaborate gardens and was surrounded by woods. It is apparently the former home of one of Henri II's mistresses, among others.Chenonceau sits in the middle of a river. The gardens were pretty amazing. We then walked around the town of Loches, which is the former home of Agnes Sorel and was one of the spots that Joan of Arc stopped to drum up support.

mercredi 20 février 2008

Barcelona - day 1

The weekend before last I headed to Barcelona with a friend from work, Karina. It was fantastic-- such a beautiful city. We took advantage of the many fabulous restaurants and also went down to the beach on saturday.

On Friday we arrived, and after checking into the hotel, we had an amazing tapas lunch at the Cerveceria Catalana. It was absolutely delicious; as Karina said, "I could eat here every day." It was the start of many meals with pan con tomate and sliced Iberian jambon, plus several other delicioso tapas, ending with crema catalana, which is similar to creme brulee.

After lunch we headed out to the Sagrada Familia. Now, when I was 20 I went to Barcelona, and I was too much of a broke student to cough up the cash to go inside. So I was determined to head in this time. Alas. We arrived around 5 PM, and they told us they had already closed the lift to the top. So, I still have not seen all of the Sagrada Familia! I am determined to go back and see the whole thing.

Here are my pics.

Naturally, after this point my camera's batteries died, so I will add more pics when Karina gives me hers.

For dinner that night we headed out to the El Born neighborhood. I forget where we went, but we had even more pan con tomate and sliced Iberian jambon, as well as asparagus, bacalao, and several other tapas dishes. YUM!

mardi 19 février 2008

Paris of the Piedmont

Here is a rap celebrating the Paris of the Piedmont, my former stomping grounds, Carrboro. Lyrics are below.

It's Carrboro

Lyrics: Brian Risk, Billy McCormick
Music: Brian Risk

It’s a place where the hippies and the hipsters meet
Gonna get my grub on at the Weaver Street
Hoola-hoopers out front and they got some bare feet
Got a lot of bongo drummers and a lot of different beats

I’m shoppin at Tha Weave - the total is twenty
He don’t pull out a Jackson, you know he’s droppin’ Plenty
At the Farmers Market I buy my spinich
For the prez I want Dennis Kucinich

Wootini got a lot of funky toyz
If you disrespect you betta bring ya boyz
You know you gonna check my stance, my poize
C’mon Carrboro, let’s make some noize!

If it’s locally owned: It’s Carrboro!
Oganically grown: It’s Carrboro!
Your heart will warm: It’s Carrboro!
Got that hometown charm: It’s Carrboro!

Raleigh and Durham and Fayetteville
If it ain’t in Carrboro it aint worth my skill
I won’t even go to Chapel Hill
My momma cools her pies on the window-sill

Vis to the Art to the Video
Blockbuster; Pay-Per-View; Netflix: NO!
The Viz got the foreign flicks from Hong Kong
Over 21 room to get your freak on

It’s Sunday night; sportin’ my bling bling
OCSC! get that dollar Yeungling
Chillin’ on the crux of Bim and Fidelity
C’mon Carrboro let’s kick some melody

With wide bike lanes: It’s Carrboro!
And whole wheat grains: It’s Carrboro!
Who’s the best in show: It’s Carrboro!
Where you wanna go: It’s Carrboro!

Tylers and Acme and Spotted Dog
So close together, G, you won’t have to jog
Beehive Hairdo next to Maple View
gonna get my ink on down at Glenn’s Tattoo

Every Fall it’s got a mackin’ music fest
Its the Paris of the Piedmont it’s been confessed
It passed the test, it’s passed the rest.
Like Ron Jeremy Carrboro’s been blessed!

We’re cookin’ music so good the Cat’s Cradle meowed
Showin so much respect my sensei bowed
With public schools to make your momma proud
C’mon Carrboro let’s shout out loud!

Babes at Padgett Station: It’s Carrboro!
Mike Roig’s metal creations: it’s Carrboro!
Club nova thrift store: It’s Carrboro!
A DSI encore: It’s Carrboro!

OpenEye Cafe: It’s Carrboro!
it’s cool to be gay: It’s Carrboro!
The kind of dunk you slam: It’s Carrboro!
Where we dropped this jam: It’s Carrboro!

mercredi 13 février 2008

Scientist valentines

My friend alerted me to this site. Any scientists feeling romantic out there? The Carl Sagan one, with the turtleneck, is clearly the best.

mercredi 6 février 2008

Valmorel la belle

I had a good day snowboarding on Saturday, although annoyingly my goggles were stolen on the bus ride up there. I was pissed!

I thought the weather was going to be lousy, but it cleared up throughout the day and got prettier and prettier. Plus it was very not crowded. There was so much powder that it piled up in big snowdrifts.

This is what it looked like when I first got there in the morning:
Starting to clear up...
Then as the day went on...Gorgeous!

samedi 2 février 2008

Le Mariage

Who knew? It felt like in the last few months that the French people I knew weren't pleased with the Carla Bruni business, I think in part because they were offended that the president's love life was being covered so thoroughly by the press. (Although it was Sarkozy who apparently invited photographers on his beach vacation). This has unfortunately been contributing to his l'impopularité.

And my Italian friend Silvia has been making fun of her singing style, although truth be told, I don't remember why. Perhaps because, as you can see in the clip below, she is a little on the breathy side. Both Silvia and Carla Bruni are natives of Torino, so Silvia has been hearing her music for a long time.

Some of the more cynical among us, around the lunch table, voiced the opinion that she was just dating him in order to boost sales of her next record. But, it seems that true love has prevailed! Will the French embrace the new Madame Sarkozy? Will this rally his low approval rating? Time will tell.