Friday, September 28, 2012

A Weekend In Yosemite

Next weekend we borrowed a bunch of camping gear from Rebecca and Jeremy, and Rebecca's car, and drove over to Yosemite NP, our third visit in a year. And for the first time, we never even got to the Valley.
Our modest campsite at Crane Flat, where nothing at all is flat, not even tent
platforms; we hadn't tent-camped since Ireland in April-May, 2009; unlike
Ireland, at least it didn't rain; looked like it hadn't rained in months in Yosemite

But we enjoyed our first campfires in years...since the Bighorns in August, 2008
(the Chimaera, singular as they are, don't count); campfires are pretty much a 3rd
world thing, except in the US and Canada (where they charge extra)

On the Tioga Road, en route to our Saturday goal...

Lembert Dome, overlooking Tuolomne Meadows, which Vicki had climbed in

On the summit of Lembert Dome

Nearby Dog Lake

Driving back toward the Valley

Next day, hiking in the Tuolomne Grove of
Giant Sequoias

Me in the dead Tunnel Tree

Before the Age of Spray Paint

And later in the nicer but less popular Merced Grove

Tree toucher

Looking up the same giant tree

Return To California And Beyond

So on August 24th we jetted from Toulouse to Paris, took the familiar Air France bus from Orly to CDG, and then jetted to SFO. I watched The Big Lebowski again; and again. It's becoming something of a long haul ritual for me, when available, as it generally is. After a hundred viewings or more, it is still my favorite movie. And in English too. (Incidentally, I watched a bit of the French version, a disappointment, frankly, The Dude replaced by Le Duke, and Jeff Bridges' character "in whom casualness runs deep" is replaced by a gangster/tough guy voice). "Hey, attention, homme, il ya une boisson ici!"
Waiting for us, of course, was grand-daughter Penelope, now 16 months old,
and well into toddlerhood

Middle California is a nice place, and I'll allow as there are
some nice folks there, but the main attraction is P, here in her
swing at the Holbrook-Palmer Park in nearby Atherton

And here with Mama at the Rio del Mar Beach at the south end of the Peninsula

Visibility was about 1/10th of a mile, tops; yes, the water was cold, but P took to
it like the California surfer girl she'll soon become...

And here we are, a week later, at the Art and Wine Festival in Mountain View

A few not-so-nice folks at the Festival

Moments after the Happy Baby suck-bag incident in Mountain View

World's greatest tie-dye outfit, courtesy of grand-aunt Carole and cousin Lexi

And the travels continue, me on an NEH site visit in Laramie,

And in the beautiful old Plains Hotel in Cheyenne; some
nice folks in Wyoming, too

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Au Revoir, France, and Europe

We spent our last couple days in France, and Europe, in the very generous and pleasant company of friends Jane and Gordon at their home near Cadeilhan, in Gers, not far from Toulouse. Southwestern France is a gentle, beautiful countryside, within half a day's drive of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and the Pyrenees and Spain, with culture and history and pre-history at every turn. And the food and drink are, well, um, French. We'll return there in April of 2013.
Jane and Gordon

Their beautiful home near Cadeilhan; very traditional, but
completely updated; it is for sale, and very reasonably priced
at c. 200,000 euros (contact

Not your average European kitchen

Detached guest/rental cottage

Enormous stone barn/workshop/garage, with room for large

And with full outdoor kitchen and entertainment area

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


We proceeded on to the bastide town of Larressingle, which bills itself as France's smallest fortified town and as a mini-Carcassone. It was nice, very scenic, but nano-Carcassone would have been more accurate. I did get my Armagnac tasting, however, and more.
Au Camp du Siege Medievale; a nano-themepark, closed,

Entrance to Larressingle

One of the more interesting facets of
Larressingle, its very old half-dome church

Carving in the church

OK, the mermaid stained glass is perhaps not

Exterior of church

Walls and tower

Larressingle is definitely on the Camino de Santiago
pilgrimage route; some few pilgrims use donkeys
(and transistor radios)


In the few days that remained of our "summer vacation," we headed back north, wanting to see more of Gascony. I had read that Armagnac is becoming the "single malt scotch" of France and wanted to see its region and have a tasting. (I drank some Armagnac many years ago; it was good, and much cheaper than cognac.) So we drove up to Condom, France, to visit the Armagnac cooperative. Vicki had other, perhaps obscure, reasons for wanting to visit Condom.
Tree-lined roads are one of the emblems of France, and they
are nowhere in more abundance than in this region 

Unfortunately, the cooperative in Condom sold only one
brand of Armagnac

But they sold plenty of wine, in bulk

So anyway we visited Condom; the actual expression in
French is, I have read, preservatif

We next visited the Chateau de Cassaigne; but balked at the
admission fee

In the vicinity, the bastide town of Lectoure

Monday, September 17, 2012

Auch Stained Glass

Auch's windows are 16th century, later than most we have admired. By 1513, when these windows were created, much had been learned, obviously, about color, perspective, balance, optics, and also about subject matter. Some say there is great hidden meaning and symbolism in the Auch windows, but we did not stay long enough to notice anything more than the multiplicity of themes, stories, morals, and more. The beauty and clarity are really what hits you in all of these 18 windows, no matter how brief your visit, as well as the Renaissance mixture of Biblical and Classical. We know the name of the artist: Arnaud de Moles, a Gascon. There are whole websites on Auch's windows--some of them a bit goofy (don't read the profundities)--and I'll post just a few pix here.
These are the uninteresting windows on the west and east ends
of the nave, mostly clear, but

There are mythological figures and even some Arcimboldo-type figures up higher

The clarity of the figures is stunning; here are some Green Men (?); I am so proud
of my little camera for capturing these figures, 40 feet up in the air...

I never miss an Adam and Eve and friend

As seen on Terry Gilliam's Monty Python

Jonah being fed to the "whale"

Other nasty critters

Typical window 

The Sybil Europa in the middle; each of the major windows features a Sybil; last
place we saw a bunch of Sybils was, um, the Sistine Chapel; this was of course
the time when The Church was trying to appropriate whatever glory it could from
the ancients