Saturday, March 19, 2011

River Cottage 2011

hope you enjoy the book of photos from our stay at River Cottage in January and February this year.  I promised my self I would get this done before I left for Tunisia!


around like a mad woman... although I am not really sure they race but maybe they do since Charlie Sheen is clearly mad and he has epitomized "racing" of late.  this coming week is so incredibly full that I have already begun to pack for my Thursday departure.  two days of board meetings, a planning session/dinner and then dinner Wednesday with a friend from London (met through business but segued into personal friend.) then Thursday- at last- off to Tunisia.

why do I say "at last" ?  well I actually booked this trip in very early 2008 for departure in March of 2009. so it has really been about three years in the making.  the payment for the spring 2009 trip was due in late fall 2008.  remember the late fall 2008? I certainly do.  we were in the Dordogne with our Danish friend Aase having a wonderful vacation except that whenever we got on the Internet the stock market was in free fall... absolute free fall- in the span of the week we rented our lovely apartment in Sarlat the market dropped precipitously and in the month of October 2008 lost about 4000 points on the DJIA. 

so I called the travel company and told them I had to cancel the trip as it made no sense whatsoever to sell anything when the market had tanked (of course it only got worse finally seeing the most recent bottom in March 2009 - the month I had planned on being in Tunisia) anyway- back to the point.  it took a long time for my schedule to open up again since my sister got sick in March 2009 and my mother got sicker in April 2009 and I spent the last week of April 2009 shuttling between hospitals 35 miles apart where they each were being cared for.

we got my mom stabilized and into a nursing home and my sister out of ICU and into rehab and then my mom into assisted living and my sister to home health care and we thought we had passed the crises.  but I was spending a lot of time traveling back and forth between my then full time job and home in Chicago and my families' homes in Cincinnati. 

it was around this time that my mom and I made the deal about scattering her ashes.  she was so very close to dying and somehow pulled through. I think she did it for my sister, to see her through her illness. I thought perhaps my mother was going to "go to Israel" with us in December of 2009 but she soldiered on.

the day we were headed off to Paris for my birthday trip - in late February 2010 I learned of my sister's diagnosis.  no need to revisit the same territory over again that I have delved into in earlier posts - she only made it to mid June 2010 and my mom until December 2010.  and that is pretty much the same time I changed my plans to go to Tunisia. 

along the way I had re-booked the trip for December 2011 but after my mom died I knew my travel schedule would be lighter during the spring of the year when Phil was most busy so I rescheduled for departure March 24th.  and then, when Jennifer came in December to visit, I mentioned to her that I was finally going, she asked the date.

about a week later she told me she had been able to book for the same trip.  now we are about ready to head to Tunisia where in December and January the Jasmine Revolution started an amazing process in the middle east of citizens banding together to create (mostly) peaceful transitions to more open government in Tunisia and Egypt.  the process is - of course - ongoing.  the world watches to see what "democracy" will bring these nations - both under the thumb of long standing regimes that were dictatorships in all but name.

so I have charged all my camera batteries and wiped all my memory cards of old photos and readied my travel meds for "in case, in case" and started my packing.  in my bag is a jar containing my "mom" for the first of her foreign trips to new countries!  some people have found this weird but I get joy in just typing those words.  finally, after her long battle and restricted life of the last few years she is "back on the road"!

so I thought a few Dordogne photos would be a good choice for today because it was my mother's favorite segment of our 1996 trip to France and also because as I mentioned, we were in the Dordogne when I had to cancel my first scheduling of the Tunisia trip. 

Rocamadour - a stop on the Route de Santiago de Compostela
 Moulin de L'Abbaye in Brantome (the room my mother and I shared is the blue shuttered corner room)
a view of the Dordogne River from the village of Domme
a stunning village tucked under the rocks along the Dordogne- La Roque Gageac (my best guess)
 a beautiful doorway in Sarlat the town where we stayed on both trips

the Dordogne has the distinction of being the one trip I have taken a second time and liked just as much as the first time.  I worried that in the 12 years between visits it would have been over-run with tourists and franchises but it remained lovely, charming and unspoiled.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

the quiet times

are when I find myself drawn to picking up the phone and calling my mom.  usually that would be sometime before or after dinner.  tonight as I was preparing our meal - the spaghetti sauce simmering and I was thinking about making a salad  when I had the urge to call her.  I have been reading my Tunisia book and information from the travel company and getting excited about what our group of ten will be seeing there.

earlier today I dragged out my old disk from one of the travelers on the Morocco trip.  after the main group of us left Morocco, three of the group went on to Tunisia for four or five days.  they were generous enough to share their photos on a disk in a little slide show.  the photographer, Judit, was the first person I knew who traveled with a digital camera. 

she was quite adept at technology and upon their return asked us to send her photos which she incorporated into her slide shows on the disk.  at the time I was a dyed-in-the-wool film photographer, and these photos didn't really sway me to digital as they were low resolution and in reproducing them they had things like bands of shades of blue in the sky rather than the gradient one would get with film.

of course later I came to understand the concept of pixelation and the size of the file producing the spectrum of resolution but I was completely unsold on digital then- she was always charging the camera battery and in the desert when we were camped in the Sahara for several nights she completely lost juice and had to rely on her friend's film camera. 

however, I did like the slide shows and saved them for all these years.  (the morocco trip was in April 2000)

later when Phil and I went to China and Tibet in 2002 (exactly two years after the Morocco trip) I again ran into a traveler with digital.  her name was Phyllis and she was fully equipped - even traveling with a laptop to burn CDs of the photos along the way.  she was quite an avid picture taker- shot anything and everything and I knew some of these photos just were never going to be of value.  for instance she took lots and lots of photos from moving vehicles and in 2002 there was no range finder camera without shutter lag that could handle high speed exposures in motion.

Phyllis had the latest equipment for amateurs and even bought a new camera at the end of the trip when we got to Hong  Kong.  why I recite this tale is because Phyllis was also generous with her fellow travelers and she made a full set of photos for each couple or single traveler on the trip to take home with us. 

I had of course thought Phyllis must be quite an excellent photographer because she certainly was enthusiastic in her shooting.  but when I got home and opened the photos I found her technique seriously lacking when it came to composition.  my computer at the time had rudimentary photo editing software, so I decided to give it a try using Phyllis's images.  I made a set of really wonderful photographs of the trip that I then consolidated into one disk and sent to each of the group members - noting these were Phyllis's photos that I had edited in order to learn the software. 

that was the turning point for me- I bought my first digital camera in the summer of 2002 right before my mother and aunt and I took off for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  the rest as they say.... was history.  but that does remind me of a story about traveling that comes from that trip to the Baltic countries.  many folks at my office followed my travels pretty closely but sometimes seemed at a loss to clearly understand where I was.  when on the trip to the Baltics, there was some really bad flooding in the southern part of eastern Europe.  when I returned someone in the office said to me: "I hope you trip wasn't ruined by all the flooding."  to which I replied that I wasn't exactly sure but that I would bet that the Baltic's were about a thousand miles from the Balkan countries which had been inundated with the floods. 

as it turned out I was wrong - it is only 850 miles or so. 

anyway- that is the story of how I became a fan of digital photography and now for some images that will hopefully make fans of any readers as well. 

From the top- Cambodia, Russia, France, Amsterdam and Hawaii.