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Pacific Northwest, United States
We'll use this blog to put out some photo tips we've found through our shooting experiences. Along with family stuff. Going to give this blog thing a try and thanks in advance for looking. And especially being aware I'm learning all this as I go!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

THREE WEEKS IN FRANCE May 2, 2008 San-Malo & Mont St Michel

The area around Yoyo’s home is mostly farmland. When we got up and everyone was getting ready Wes & I walked around outside. The field behind their house was being planted. There was a tractor puling a small flatbed that had 3 to 4 people on it. As it drove slowly down the rows these people were leaning over and putting young plants into the rows that had been plowed. This is probably how most of the smaller farms do it here.
Thierry said his brother wants to be a farmer and loves this area of France. Yoyo is younger than Thierry, a bit taller but you can tell they are brothers. Both Yoyo & Delphine are in the Navy. Delphine is pregnant with a baby girl that is due in early fall. They are going to name her Lylou which is the name of a famous French person. Yoyo has a son from prior marriage, 4 years old Kylian. He wasn’t with his dad this weekend.
For breakfast we had homemade bread and jam and then headed out for the day
The City of San-Malo

Our first stop around lunchtime was at a fortified city, San-Malo. This is a rather large city that is on the ocean and is completely walled. We walked out through a gateway onto the beach to walk out to a fort. It sits up on an island that during high tide is not reachable except by boat. We didn’t go inside the fort as there was a fee.

We had a picnic lunch on the beach before heading to Mont St Michel.

Mia and Ethan at San-Malo

Yoyo and Delphine at San-Malo

After we had our lunch of sandwiches we made from the cheeses, sausages and pates from the market we stopped at yesterday we looked for a restroom before heading out. Restrooms throughout the cities are pay toilets. They cost 30 cents to unlock. When you are finished you hit a button to unlock the door to leave. And before the next person can enter the door locks because the whole inside sprays to disinfect everything so the next person has a clean restroom. I expected to not have a toilet paper as it would be wet. But it’s under a cover and it was dry.

Mont Saint Michel is so tall that after we came out of a hilly forest you can see it from quite a distance.
This is the 2nd most visited place in all of France, the 1st is the Eiffel tower. They began building it in 700 and it has changed many times to what it is now. It used to be impassible during high tide but they have built up a road to the island. You still leave your vehicles in a parking lot and walk to the island. I left the road and walked alongside the water edge to take photos. It was hard walking as the ground very slick and also sticky too. Reading about Mont St Michel they talk about people being stuck in quicksand outside the city walls and drowning as the tide comes in. Yikes.

This is an incredible place but very crowded. There were many tour buses so not only were there all the people from the parking lot but all these tour groups. When I went into the main gateway I had planned on hopefully making it all the way up to the cathedral. It’s quite a climb up there but I figured I had time. We were going to be here about 4 to 5 hours but once I got through the gateway I gave it up.

There were so many people and the street was so narrow I could only shuffle along with the crush of people going in. It was worse than Disneyland on a crowded holiday weekend. There was also another crush of people going out on the opposite side of the street. It looked just awesome and I found out later from Mia & Thierry that it did thin out if I had just kept going. They made it all the way to the top and said the cathedral was incredible.

I went to the other side of the city and went in through a different gateway that was much less crowded.
I walked up a ways to see the views but hadn’t ran into Wes or the kids. We’ve been breaking away so we can take photos and the kids do their thing and then we meet up later.
I later found the kids and not too much longer we connected up with Wes. The little ones were getting really tired as we had been on the go all day.

THREE WEEKS IN FRANCE May 1, 2008 From Marennes to Brittany

Today started the beginning of a long holiday weekend and we drove to Keronquedoc, Cleder in Brittany where Thierry’s brother Lionel (everyone calls him Yoyo) and his girlfriend Delphine’s home.
When we woke up we could hear the usual church bells and the turtledoves. It’s such a peaceful sound compared to our sounds at home that consist of train horns and the planes flying overhead. We loaded up a rental minivan which is a challenge as the narrow roads keep you closing the van doors constantly as car comes by or they will be ripped off. Here it seems that the pedestrian need to watch for vehicles.
We had lunch in a city about halfway to Yoyo’s named Auray. It had the usual tall old church that you see in all towns, but the one thing we saw that was different were the roofs. All the houses in this area have black roofs made of slate where the houses further south are terra cotta which is an earthen color.
It was 600km to Yoyo's home in Keronquedoc, Brittany and we got there around dinner time. Their home is another built of stone which we now realize is the usual home here. It is small with a bedroom and bathroom on the 2nd story and in the attic they have made a bedroom for Yoyo’s son, Kylian. Yoyo & Delphine are going to sleep on the futon in the living area, Wes & I have their bedroom and Thierry’s family get the upstairs. The boys then get to play with all Kylian’s toys. Here is Thierry and Mia outside of Yoyo & Delphine's home.
After we had dinner we drove to the ocean which is a short 2-3 km away. There are a lot of boulders on the beach and many large rocks out in the surf. The clouds are huge and look like a storm is on it's way but it didn’t rain so it made for some dramatic photos.
There is an old abandoned stone house on an outcropping of rocks which was used for customs during the days when there was a lot of merchant shipping being done along the coast. Thierry said these abandoned customs houses are all along the coastline. Brittany is a very rugged area and the weather is very chilly, wet and wild. It is considered to be different from the rest of France as it’s been founded by the British. So they have evolved into a culture different from France & England but mix of both.

The Common House on a cliff overlooking the sea.

We were not sure what this home was or even if it is still occupied. Notice the Common House in the background.

This was a village inland in Brittany as we were driving to a marketplace.

Here is an archway in a church which led to the cemetery.

We stopped in a small village, called Locronan close to their home to get cheese and some other items for snacks. The village we stopped in has one of the last covered markets in Brittany. It is very old and is in the town square. All villages have this so on their market days the area is closed to vehicles. The vendors are local people who bring their produce, meats & sausages, flowers, any items they’ve made and set up their booths on certain days of the week. They no longer use the covered market though but are set up all around it. And in all these villages all the streets are cobblestone.

After we got what we needed we went back home and had some cheese and drinks. I've had a lot of wine here since I've been in France. Here in Brittany they are famous for apples. So there is an apple cider and apple beer. I had some hard apple cider and it wasn’t too bad. What I’ve discovered what realy like is what Thierry’s mother usually has. This is a blackberry liquor mixed with Perrier. This is very good.

THREE WEEKS IN FRANCE April 30, 2008 Stayed the day in Marennes

We stayed the day in Marennes today. Thierry’s parents come for lunch every Wednesday which his mother makes. She also gathers up all the laundry and irons everything after she made lunch. She loves to do this. So, this lunch consists of a rice salad, then green beans and potatoes & meat. Then we have cheese and bread and always more wine.
It was a beautiful day so Wes & I went out for a walk. We went up to the church which was built in the 1500s. It has a really tall steeple as all churches do here in France. You can always tell you are coming up to a village as you can see the church from miles away.

As Marennes is a village on the coast they have a marina near their town center.
This is one for the homes we walked past. It's like nothing I could have imagined.
So even after the large lunch that lasted over an hour that was more the size of a dinner….dinner time rolled around and they do an even larger meal. And after dinner we had more cheese. Tonight we had Roquefort, gouda & a creamy cheese. About the only cheese I’ve found I don’t like is goat’s cheese, it’s too strong.

THREE WEEKS IN FRANCE April 29, 2008 La Rochelle Aquarium

On the way to the aquarium we drove through the village of Brouage which is a few kilometers from Marennes. This town had actually been a fortress so it‘s completely enclosed with only two ways in. We decided this would be visited on another day when it isn't raining. This image of a village is not Brouage but another village we drove through on the way to the aquarium.

Being that we are right along the sea there has been a lot of swamps and wetlands, so along the road we saw a lot of swans & storks. The storks build their huge nests on nearly every power pole.

The aquarium is very nice. An elevator takes you inside and when it opens you enter through a glass walkway so you are surrounded on all sides by jelly fish.
In the exhibits there is one very large fish that had a blue face with a knob on his forehead, big blue lips, a greenish blue body and bulging eyes like a chameleon. He was huge and so amazingly unique. As he slowly swam by people his eye would rotate around so he watched them as he went by.
They also had a gigantic tank with another large seating area filled with sharks, including hammerheads and swordfish
This orchid was in a garden we walked through in the aquarium.
We had lunch at the aquarium which I assumed would have something like hot dogs or hamburgers. It was a regular restaurant and we all decided we would just have salads. We all decided on something different so we could sample each others. Mia translated with some help from the waiter and we had things like country style ham (which is almost like lox), chicken, seafood and a variety of different type salad vegetables. But not the usual, there was eggplant (which I usually hate, but this was great), many other veggies that I didn’t recognize and the usual lettuce. And it was so pretty when it was brought to our table we took pictures of each plate before we ate it. What fun even a meal can be.
Just look at these 'salads'.
Each one was almost too beautiful to eat.
And we all had a different salad so we could sample each others.

It is even exciting driving through the countryside. I had the impression that there would be some old buildings here but never thought everything was old beyond belief. The narrow streets curve through all these little villages and all the homes are ancient and charming.
Even the shed in Thierry's back yard is picture perfect.
When we got home most of Thierry’s family was going to be there to meet us. So what they do in France is have a time before dinner where you have drinks and eat snack foods. So all the bottles come out and all kinds of snack foods. So we met Thierry’s cousin Rose-Marie, her husband Stephane, Thierry’s aunt Monique & her husband Gilles and countless nephews. So as they all showed up there was the usual greetings with kisses all around. Even the littlest kids kiss each other. I had noticed each morning that Laura & Lulu come over before they leave for school and say Bon Jour and everyone kisses. It is quite a sight to see.
Rose-Marie’s husband. Stephane had bought her a Nikon camera in the US which we brought over for her. It’s much cheaper to buy stateside. Mia had told me that they both speak English pretty good and had lived in England for a while. Thierry’s whole family is great but being able to speak with some of the family was so nice.
Evelyne made quiche that was kind of different. It doesn’t have a lot of eggs but does have sour cream. It was delicious and she also made a pizza which was again great.

THREE WEEKS IN FRANCE--April 28, 2008 de la Palmyre France Zoo

When we woke up the first morning in France the first thing I did was open the windows onto the street. The homes are similar to brownstones and all connected. The homes all have shutters which we kept open. And because the houses are all made of something like concrete blocks and then coated the window sill is very deep. All the streets and sidewalks are very narrow. As there are no parking spaces people pull their cars onto the sidewalks. So the building across from theirs is very close.
It was a beautiful morning with cars zooming down the streets, kids meeting in the alleyways on their way to school and cats lapping milk out of bowls set out. Mia had gone out before we had gotten up to get fresh croissants for breakfast. She said she saw me looking out the window as she drove away.
We spent the day at a zoo that’s about a half hour away. On the way we stopped at Phare de la Coubre lighthouse. We didn’t go into the light house but got a kick out of the sign outside which stated cautions about the ascent which included the elderly, cardiac person, several others but my favorite was drunk people.

The zoo is at de la Palmyre and it is one of the best zoos I‘ve ever seen. It is ranked as one of the best private zoos in Europe. Even before you go into the zoo there is an area filled with flamingos. They are spectacular.
One amazing thing about this zoo is all of the animals can be fed by the visitors except for the primates. So we’ve loaded up with baguettes.
That was pretty cool as there is one spot where the elephant will stand at the edge of the moat and reach his trunk. They can reach far enough at that spot that you can put a piece of bread in the trunk. If you hold it for a few moments you can feel the elephants breath. Then their prehensile snout grabs right onto it
We fed many animals but when we came to the hippos I think they were the most spectacular. The mom and dad had their one year old between them all floating in the water. We could see their ears and their snouts and they were pretty inactive. Until Mia tossed a piece of bread into the water. They snapped to attention in an instant and all three opened their huge jaws. They are gigantic and even the little one was right there waiting for his share of the bounty.

Another unique item here are the stand up toilets for both sexes. That was quite unique but I won't go into details. You must go there yourself for this experience. Sorry, no images of that.

The next incredible thing was walking by the tiger enclosure we found the big male pacing. Until he saw Wes setting up his tripod next to the glass. He stopped pacing then started snarling and roaring as he lunging at Wes. It was very obvious that he hated Wes’ tripod as he raced around the enclosure and kept lunging towards Wes. This enclosure was glass and wire enclosed with what looked like electrical wiring on the top. But we were still scared as this tiger was going crazy. I could just imagine having our first full day in France being mauled by an escaped tiger. He finally calmed down but still was pacing and looking very angry.
The next exhibit I really liked was the wolves. There is a pack of about 7 to 9 wolves with 8 of them all the same reddish color. They are really robust and healthy looking as all the animals are here. They were running around the enclosure occasionally beating each other up as wolves do. Then Mia threw some bread over the glass wall. Boy did that set them off. They all were competing to get the bread and chasing each other.
The monkey house has so many different types of small monkeys. And they all seemed to have babies, some with two babies clinging onto their mom’s fur. Wes got one little guy that was sticking his tongue out for whatever reason. And boy, did he have a long tongue for such a little guy.
The rain had continued off and on during the whole day. During one deluge we waited under a shelter while Mia went and grabbed us some lunch. She brought back these wonderful hot dogs. The meat was put into a pocket filled with the condiments. And while we were under this shelter a group of kids on a school field trip joined us. Once they found we were from America they practiced their English on us and sang us a French song. It was just delightful. Then one of the teachers had all the kids try to blow the rain away.
It was an incredible day, nothing like going all the way to Europe to go to the zoo. But with the boys in school and Thierry working the next couple of days we are hanging close to Marennes.



Lulu and Laura
Once we got back to Marennes the boys were home from school and Evelyne's youngest daughter, Laura had decided I was hers. She is the same age as Ethan, 5 and even though we can’t talk she wants to be on my lap or by my side. Mia said she is quite a handful and clamps onto anyone new. She and her sister, Lulu have these huge eyes and are very cute kids.
This first night here Evelyne cooked dinner. Mia and Evelyne trade off cooking every other night. Evelyne made pork for dinner which was very good. But what is amazing is there was dish after dish brought from the kitchen. This is their usual dinner which last for at least an hour.. Then they do dessert which is usually cheese. We had Brie & Gouda which you spread on a piece of a baguette that you tear off as it’s passed around the table.