Paris in February

Posted in La France, Travel at 16:01

L'Européen - Paris 12ème

At this time last week, I was arriving in the 12ème arrondissement of Paris, home to the Gare de Lyon, Viaduc des arts, and the Bastille, among others. Like the last time I was there, it was for a three-day job training course, so I didn’t have much daylight to explore the city. I did very much enjoy my time there, though, since I got to catch up with two friends who introduced me to some great eateries, and also got to see some sights I hadn’t before.

The photo above is of a place I had already seen – this is a beautiful building across the street from Gare de Lyon, photographed just over a year ago in daylight here. It has a bit of everything: great art deco type on the brasserie signage, the Haussmanian architecture so typical of Paris, and striking colors. My first photo in the city was actually of place de la Bastille – when I got home, I was treated to the neat surprise of it being in bleu blanc rouge, “blue white red”, the colors of the French flag.

Place de la Bastille, twilight

In all the times I’d been to Paris, I still hadn’t seen the Sacré Cœur basilica in Montmartre. It was quite a métro and walking trip to get there from Bastille, but I was treated to a gorgeous twilight setting with rare clear skies and the nearly-full moon gracing them. My Paris photos in this set include those of Montmartre; this one below is my favorite. The bright spot in the sky is not the moon, but something else (I quite like it, whatever it is). This is a purely Parisian shot, as I’d forgotten my monopod at home, so I used one of the wrought iron railings in front of Sacré Cœur to set my camera on.

View from Montmartre - Paris

The next day, the biting cold, windy weather got another addition: snow! I was delighted. Paris covered in a clean white dusting was an unforgettable sight and something I’d long hoped to see.

Opéra de la Bastille sous la neige

Cats and snow

Posted in Cats, Nice at 16:08

Here you have my Mister Furry-Britches, aka Kanoko, accompanied by Miss Soot Sprite, aka Susu. Filmed in 720p HD for your viewing pleasure. I’d just gotten the handheld camcorder, so hadn’t yet changed the settings to 1080p, but well, it’s cats. I hope to catch Susu doing her “throw my own toys” trick soon, and some of the funny shenanigans she and Kanoko get up to. As you can see even in this short video, they get along pretty well.

I also hope to film things in my part of the world – this is just a little camera, but I’m already impressed with how well it films. Plus, as it’s so small, it will be easy to put in my purse and take everywhere.

We’re in the middle of a cold snap in France, the Riviera included. A couple of days ago we had snow, though mainly in the back country. I walked up a nearby hill to photograph what I could from Nice.

Vue de l'observatoire, Nice

Vue de Cimiez et des collines

More typography in Nice

Posted in Nice at 18:37

Tabac Gorbella - librairie

This morning I had errands to run in Le Ray, a quartier in the northern part of Nice. There are several businesses and buildings with neat typography on them in the area – I had photographed a few with my cameraphone last year, but it doesn’t take very good quality pictures. I thought to take my DSLR along with me on my errands today. You can see all the photos in my new set on Flickr: Signage in Nice.

AB Serrurerie, Le Ray

Negresco in the morning sun

Posted in Nice at 18:46

Negresco

This morning, the Nice-Cannes Marathon was held. It started at the Jardins Albert 1er in Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais. I left early this morning to try to photograph a colleague who participated, but unfortunately, I arrived a few minutes too late and only caught the end. However, I made the most of the closed Promenade, free of vehicles and drenched in a beautiful morning sun, with wintry clouds still around. This photograph of the Negresco is my favorite. The sepia-toned sunlight is natural, no photo editing, and the wind obliged with a nice gust for the French flag. There are more pictures in my Architecture of Nice set, near the end.

To see the difference light makes, compare the Negresco above to the photo below, taken mid-June 2009:
Negresco, June 2009

New friends

Posted in Cats at 17:04

Kanoko and Susu, synchronized grooming
Susu (the new black kitten) has been shadowing Kanoko since her second day with us. On her first day and night, she cried constantly – it was clear that she missed her birth family. She continued crying on her second day, but noticed there was a big, fluffy, calm cat around. She has since made it her singular mission to win Kanoko’s heart, and as you can see, she’s made good progress towards her goal!

I feel very lucky, since it’s rare that cats get along so well so quickly, even when one is an adult and another is a kitten. Susu was clearly socialized well, because even as a mischievous kitten (all kittens are full of mischief!), she behaves wonderfully and still hasn’t gotten into any trouble, not even at night nor when I’m out of the house. Kanoko has been around other cats all his life, and is also well-behaved. Their personalities go well together, and it’s a delight to see them both happy to play with one another.

Susu was a bit wary of cameras at first, but lately has let me take more pictures of her. Especially after I photographed Kanoko sitting on the ADSL modem.

Kanoko graces the ADSL modem

She then jumped up next to him, and once finished grooming, finally let me take more shots of her.

Susu pretending to ignore the USB and keyboard cables    Demure Susu

De la typographie

Posted in La France, Nice at 17:08

Ferronnerie

Lately I’ve been on a sewing spree, and enjoying the nicer spring weather we’ve been having. With the start of the Festival de Cannes (Cannes Film Festival), the usual stormier spring weather has returned, so I have a bit more indoors time.

This morning I had several errands to run, but didn’t think to take my good DSLR with me. In any case, I walked my favorite street for variety of type styles in Nice and took some photos with my cameraphone. Someday I will think to take my DSLR here, since there are some gorgeous villas along the same street, and I really want to get a shot of my favorite little store before it entirely disappears. That would be this one, with the art deco lettering and architecture:
UNIC antenne

I also get a kick out of this old lock advertisement whenever I pass it. “With the Parade lock, Picard removes [the need for] keys! Come try it – Free entry”. In the past, when you entered a shop in France, you were expected to buy something – if you didn’t want to buy anything, you stayed outside to window shop. “Entrée libre” meant you could come inside without the expectation to buy.
Serrure Parade ad

Un aïoli dans le Vieux Nice

Posted in La France, Nice at 19:00

Suggestion du jour, Pilha Leva

Yesterday, rather than sew, I realized I had better go to the mairie (city hall) to request my French ID. At the citizenship ceremony, our cartes de séjour et de résidence, visitor/work/residence permits, were taken by the préfecture since gaining French nationality meant we’d no longer be “visitors”. We were given our new French birth certificates, which are one of the documents needed to request French ID. Rather than go to city hall on a Saturday morning, likely to be crowded, I decided to use one of my weekday vacation mornings and then make the most of my detour in the old town. After une flânerie (a stroll), I had aïoli, a traditional Provençal dish with a garlic, basil, pepper and egg white sauce. In fact, the name aïoli is the name of the sauce, which, theoretically, could be served with anything that goes along well, but as the name of a dish, it usually comes with potatoes, courgette (zucchini), leeks, carrots, boiled egg, and white fish.

When I got home and uploaded photos, I realized that in all my years here, I still hadn’t created a photoset for Nice’s old town. That’s done now: Vieux Nice photoset includes the photos from yesterday and several older ones.

Tomorrow is May Day, so here’s some traditional May Day muguet (lily of the valley)!

Muguet (Lily of the valley)

Madame Stevenson a voté

Posted in La France at 10:50

Saint Barthélémy belltower, twilight

I just had my first experience of voting in France. Today was the first round of élections cantonales, regional elections. Like in the States, public schools are used as bureaux de vote, polling stations. Yours is marked on your carte d’électeur, voter registration card. In France, you’re part of a canton, a “seat”. What I didn’t realize is that each seat is also subdivided into bureaux, offices. So I was surprised when I went to the elementary school, entered what I thought to be my canton‘s voting area, and was told that it wasn’t mine… I had to find my bureau.

After some searching, and wondering how such a small seat could have a half-dozen offices, I did eventually find mine. Then I was nearly led astray by an elderly woman whose actions I was following, figuring she knew better. She went straight to the table of candidate cards and to the polling booth without signing in! I too had gone right to the candidate cards and taken a few (I already knew you have to take more than one), but decided I had probably better try signing in first. So I went to the voting table, manned by four people: two women, with the registration rolls and empty envelopes, one woman manning the ballot box, and a man who held the voter rolls and had people sign once they’d voted. I presented my carte d’électeur and ID to the two women at the registration rolls. “Madame Stevenson Anne-Marie, c’est bien ça ?” “Oui, et c’est juste Anna,” I smiled. “C’est bon !” she said, marking an X by my name and passing my card on to the second woman. The second woman then presented me with an empty envelope, and passed my card on to the woman at the ballot box.

From there on I knew, roughly, what to do: put my chosen candidate’s card into the envelope. But what to do with the leftover ones? There’s no trash can in the polling booths. This is something we don’t encounter in the US, where we use punch cards that come with a different (and one could argue, more serious) lot of problems. So I folded the remaining candidate cards shut, left the booth and went to the ballot box. The woman at it asked, “Madame Stevenson, oui ?” she asked, looking at my voter card. “Oui, c’est moi,” I said. “Madame Stevenson !” she announced, which surprised me, and she opened the envelope slot. I put in my envelope. The man at the voter rolls announced, “a voté !” I nearly laughed but kept it to a smile, and the man asked me to please sign by my name. When I had, he returned my voter card and ID to me. There was a large trash can with discarded candidate cards by the door; I added mine.

There you have it! I’m glad to know what to expect for future elections. I felt awkward at this first one! As for the photo above, I took it last evening while on a walkabout hoping to see the full moon… which I never did due to all the clouds we had. You can see more photos of St. Barthélémy neighborhood at twilight there, starting with St. Barthélémy in the trees.

Spring is arriving

Posted in Gardening, Nice at 17:55

Luxury dog

While this furry canine may not seem to have a strong link to flowering prune trees, daffodils and irises, all heralds of spring, in fact, I photographed her (or him) next door to Graineterie Fiol, a seed and plant shop in Vieux Nice. It’s the time of year to plant seeds for summer growth. Yesterday I picked up some chives, Romanesco broccoli, Saxa radishes, violets, and coleus, a decorative plant, then planted them today. Radishes grow quickly, and this Saxa variety should be ready to eat in less than a month, after which I’ll plant some more regularly. The broccoli take longer to mature at 3-4 months, and I’ll be able to cultivate the chives for quite a while. The violets will decorate the fence border, and the coleus should be a nice addition to my potted plants. Both are plants that do well in the shade. Despite living on the French Riviera, I don’t get a lot of sun, since my apartment’s terrace is a northern exposure. This is a good thing here, however, since it makes a huge difference in summer temperatures at my place. The only downside is that I can’t grow any of the showy flowers that require full sun.

Another sign of spring’s arrival is the annual Carnaval, held around Mardi Gras each year in Nice. As a humorous link between my Oregon hometown and my current home in Nice, I snapped this shot of Brice de Nice holding a “Nice” brand surfboard. Nice’s Greek name was Nikaïa, from the Greek goddess of victory Nike — you can probably think of a related sports brand. It was founded in Eugene, Oregon.

Brice de Nice - Carnaval 2011

Wriggly cat

Posted in Cats at 13:46

Kanoko wriggling

It’s exceptionally warm for February in Nice today, at 15°C (about 60°F). I took advantage of it and cleaned my rain-dirtied shutters while Kanoko explored the terrace. At one point he started wriggling around, stopping occasionally, so I grabbed my camera to try and get a good shot of his furry stomach. He responded to my standing over him by wriggling even more, but silly human that I am, I kept trying to take photos anyway.

I ended up with a series of blurry furry Maine Coon wriggles. It’s fun to see which parts of him stay still and are in focus, and which others move into blurs. This one is my favorite, with his tongue darting out and the contrasts between his beautiful fur colors — he’s a brown mackerel tabby. There’s a detailed online guide to housecat coat colors and patterns here.