Thursday, March 29, 2007

Repurposing Paris...

One of my favorite aspects of wandering though Europe is noticing the layers of civilization--one era folded carefully (or not) into another. For the most part, the U.S. hasn't had to fold back in on itself yet, so our re-purposing of old structures is less noticeable.

For example, the Musee de Cluny. In the 3rd century, it was a Roman Bath. Then in the Middle Ages, an abbey was built on top of the foundation of the baths. Along the way to becoming a public museum, the building was a religious college, a private home, and a "dissection room". Today, those overlapping purposes are exposed to create a home for Medieval art, including famous unicorn tapestries (below).

The Tomb of Napoleon was constructed in a prominent location in the grand Dome Church within the Invalides.

My favorite museum in Paris is probably the Musee d'Orsay, which is a breathtaking transformation of a beautiful train station built for the 1900 world exposition. Prior to becoming a museum in the late 1970's, the building was a WWII package center, a movie set, and a hotel.

On the opposite side of the Seine from the Musee d'Orsay is the recently remodeled Musee de l'Orangerie, which houses several of Monet's famous Nympheas paintings. The building was formerly a greenhouse for orange trees.

Finally, one of the coolest blendings of old and new is the brand new Musee du quai Branly, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. As you can see in the photo below, the museum has a classic Parisian frontage which melds into newly-built modern design wings.

Monday, March 26, 2007

How the garden grows...

This weekend, Jeff and I hit the annual Flower and Garden Show at the Cow Palace. We have come to really look forward to this event. The creative exhibition gardens seem to feed our desire to get outside and make changes in our own garden. Unfortunately, this year was a bit of a disappointment. Unlike last year (photos here), we found the exhibition gardens to be a bit lacking in creativity. (Hence the flowery pooch to the left!)

Nevertheless, we really did enjoy the show. We each found a favorite garden. Jeff's was an "undersea" theme, with succulents of all shapes and sizes to represent coral and anemones and other ocean floor sculptures.

My favorite was a simple "urban meadow", that made seemingly unruly plants look beautiful and effortless.

One thing that didn't change was our annual chat with the obsidian wind chime artists...Richard and Deborah from Portland. We've seen them each year, and always have a fantastic time talking about their latest creations.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Winter at Versailles...

Versailles is definitely the height of grand excess. The main Chateau is enormous, the grounds are expansive, and even the secondary buildings are opulent.

But in the winter, Versailles is quieter and more personal. In contrast to the throngs of visitors we encountered last June, February tourists seem more reverent...or perhaps just muffled by heavy coats and wool hats. This Versailles is still glittering inside, but the rooms are more accessible, allowing us to spend more time envisioning the life of the occupants.

Outside, the ornamental gardens sit awaiting spring plantings. The famous fountains and Grand Canal are still. The sculptures stand covered--protected from the elements.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Window shopping in Paris...

I love the hustle and bustle of city streets, but my favorite time of day is dusk. At this time, shop windows really jump out against the faintly lit buildings. The windows become living dioramas, busting with color.

One of my favorite views was watching this young baker at work. I will probably cross-post this on Strangers, but I like the image so much that I had to post it here as well.

My definition of a perfect day...

It is Friday. It is sunny. And Jeff is home from almost two weeks in China. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


For those of you who haven't checked out Jeff's blog this week, today is the day. Jeff has posted some of his pictures from Beijing, including three fascinating shots of his walk through a local market. For me, these shots are just so foreign, particularly when you compare them with my shots of Paris. I just have no reference for everyday life in China.

(By the way...just a hint. If you COMMENT on Jeff's blog, he may be more motivated to post more pictures :)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Did you know...

...that the Governor of Idaho is Butch Otter. Maybe it was the caffine, but that factoid made me giggle.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Great frickin' chicken...

This my final post of the weekend...but I could't help but give well-deserved kudos to Firefly, a cozy restaurant in Noe Valley.

The menu boldly states that their fried chicken is the best you have ever tasted. Well, bravo, Firefly. This is damn good chicken. A leg...moist. A breast...very moist. And a favorite piece...perfect. Very well seasoned.

Was it the 'best'? Well, my dad's fried chicked will always be the best...but this is the best I have had in San Francisco by far!

It didn't hurt that our bartender was super friendly. (Yes, we sat at the bar, because we didn't have a reservation.) He recommended great wine, offered mouth-watering descriptions of the house specialties, and recomended an amazing chocolate cake for desert.

Finally...a little bit of Paris...

My quiet weekend at home (combined with Jeff being away traveling) gave me a chance to work on some photos from Paris. Hey, its only been six weeks?

As I worked on this first set, I realized that they are all fairly iconic. They are from our first couple of days in the city, when everywhere you turn there is a must-see vista. So, I don't think that I need to write captions for need to point out the Eiffel Tower or the immediately-recognizable gargoyles of Notre Dame. I'll just let the images speak for themselves.

Where in the world is Jeffrey...

Once in a blue moon, Jeff gets to travel for work rather than me. And unlike me and my trips to domestic cities, Jeff gets sent to some truly exotic places. So, for the past week, Jeff has been in China, working in his company's Beijing office. He has taken some truly amazing photos...I am SOOOOOO jealous! He has really captured the essence of the crowded markets and the immense squares. So, with the caveat that I am bending my rule and posting pictures that I did not take, I chose the shot at the left just to tease you all. I'll let Jeff share all of his great shots and the associated stories when he returns.

Also, I really got a kick out of the photo below (which he also took). We had read a news article just before Jeff's trip that the Chinese government wanted to close the Starbucks in the shopping area at the Forbidden City. So, this was Jeff's inside joke to me that capitalism was still alive and well in small doses in the Forbidden City :)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Irish for a day...

Happy St. Patrick's Day. I left the house this morning with no idea that there was a St. Patties parade downtown. But, being the people watcher that I am, I couldn't resist the opportunity to watch silly bystanders with "Kiss Me I'm Irish" tee-shirts and Guinness hats.

Parades are REALLY tough to photograph, because there is so much dead space between people. But, my zoom lens gave me a chance to pull in some of the diverse faces and bright colors. So, enjoy :)

And yes, there is even a nice photo of our charming mayor amongst these images.