Keuka Lake 2008, Week 4

Week 4 at Keuka Lake is a wrap, and I'm sitting here in the grey cottage watching heavy rains over the lake as we do final prep for summer camp at Camp Gorton. I hope the rain stops by the time we leave - checkin at camp is a pain when everything is wet.

We had another crazy week of activities here at the lake, both indoor and outdoor. We continued playing games, including some Glory to Rome and Hand and Foot (a canasta variant), and had some great adventures on the water. Julie's brother Mike and friend Carla were in town.

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For the first time in my memory we did some double skiing. Matthew and I paired up, with me taking the longer rope and going on one ski and Matthew up front on two. It was a bit hard to get up on the ski but once we did it was a blast.

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Jacob and Mike also teamed up.

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One of the highlights of the week was the sailboat battles. Jacob and Matthew went out on the sunfish, armed for the ensuing battle with the pirate raider Flying Dutchman.

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Mike and Carla crewed the dutchman, armed with bailing buckets as their weapons of choice.

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The sailing is quite good practice - the faster but less maneuverable dutchman chases down the sunfish, which is forced to jibe and come about frequently to avoid direct hits. Matthew turned traitor at one point, leaping from the sunfish to join the dutchman crew.

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The boys moved onto their next project - sealing the deck railings at the grey cottage.

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The boys and I are of to Camp Gorton in about 90 minutes. I'll take plenty of photos there and hope to provide an update next Saturday or Sunday, but I'll be incommunicado until then.

Europe 2008, Paris Days 4 and 5

We began the day at the Rodin museum, an impressive display of sculptures and other artifacts of his life (the museum is housed in his former residence). N.B - the sculpture below is my first attempt at HDR photography - criticism welcome. The green leaves from the garden were a nice contrast to the stark bronze of the sculpture, but I wanted to get the shadows and highlights on the work as well. This was hand-held, quick shutter burst, with +/- 2 stop exposure bracketing.

Rodin Sculpture - HDR

The gardens are nothing short of amazing at the museum - it would be worth an annual pass just for the privilege of relaxing on a bench and reading amongst such works of art.

Boys in Rodin museum park

The surprise highlight of the day for me was the war museum at Les Invalides. I wasn't expecting much, but the WWI and WWII chronological exhibits were very well done - nearly as high quality as the Imperial War Museum in London. Unfortunately we didn't budget more than about 30 minutes or this stop and I was continually shooed along.

Invalides

From Les Invalides we walked to the Musee d'Orsay, one of my all-time favorites. Museum fatigue was in full force for the boys, so everyone else did a quick highlights tour while I stayed for 2-3 hours for some more in-depth investigation. Rick Steve's guide (not far removed from the one I used when last visiting in 1990) does a great job of illustrating the transition and contrast into the Impressionist era.

d'Orsay

Everyone else left the museum to visit the Jardin du Luxembourg, an expansive public park that would prove to be a great resting and play area. Julie paid for Matthew to enter the playground area, with mostly injury-free results.

Matthew plays at the park

When I arrived Jacob and I wandered around in search of the chess games. There was some solid play going on, and some hot tempers at times. We decided to just watch and not play.

Chess at the park

We spent the evening wandering the steps and alleys of Montmarte, home of bohemians like Dali and Picasso and cabarets like the Moulin Rouge.

Monte Marte steps

There was music in the plaza, jugglers in the streets, and craziness in the cabaret district. Very thematic.

Moulin Rouge

We were ready for more Indian food and found a tiny but great choice in Shenaz. The staff was very patient and helpful and we had quite a feast. And, thankfully, no sausages.

Dinner at Monte Marte

Our final day began with a visit to the holy chapel Sainte-Chapelle. Beautiful gothic architecture and stained glass.

Cathedral

And how about this - the French edition of the Pillars of the Earth boardgame sitting there in the gift shop.

Pillars of the Earth in the cathedral

After a visit to the Jewish district and a great Israeli / Mediterranean lunch feast, our last stop was to the Pompidou Centre. The kids had a great time ogling the sometimes, shall we say, evocative art in this bastion of modern art and abstract expressionism. I figured the red rhino was a pretty safe picture to post.

Red Rhino

That's it! Only three months later and I finish my Europe postings. For those of you still paying attention, thanks for your patience.

Europe 2008, Paris Day 3

Day 3 in France started with an early morning trip to Île de la Cite for a visit to Notre Dame de Paris, famous for gargoyles, gypsies, and hunchbacks. We saw at least 2 of the 3.

Strike a pose

We roamed the island for a while, visiting Ponte Neuf and the Memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation before crossing to visit the Rive Gauche.

Crossing the seine

While most of the stalls along the river were close, Shakespeare and Company was not so we spent 20 minutes or so browsing the English book selection.

Shakespeare and co.

Our big museum visit of the day was the Louvre, and we devised a plan to keep the boys engaged that worked perfectly. We allowed them to roam on their own but gave them a checklist of exhibits to see. They had fun and we were able to browse at our own leisurely pace. The highlight for me was the Coronation of Napoleon.

Louvre

We opted to eat in our hotel room that night, icing / chilling our beer (from Orval) and champagne (from Taittinger) to go with... what else but Pizza Hut?

Julie shows off her ice cubes

Julie and Lisa surprised us with a collection of dessert pastries - very tasty. Also, if you happen to get a pizza in Paris from Pizza Hut, make sure you get it with "cheesy fun crust" - there's nothing like it in the US and we still talk about it today.

Dinner in the room

Europe 2008, France Day 1 and 2

My goal is to finish my posts on Europe before my next trip to Europe. Nothing like setting the bar high.

We finished our tour of Belgium near the French border and drove through the countryside to our first stop in Reims (or Rheims) to break up the drive a bit. We started with a champagne tour at Taittinger, arriving without knowing when tours would run but fortunately we had another English speaking couple show up that allowed us to supersede their previously scheduled French language tour. We did have to wait in the lobby for a while to make sure nobody else would show up.

Waiting for champaigne tour

The tour was fascinating - we went deep into the cellars and witnessed a great overview of the process, plus some tasty sampling afterwards.

Champaigne

That evening we wandered around the heart of Reims, including a visit to the spectacular Notre Dame de Reims cathedral. This cathedral has been a participant in many historical events, including coronations of many kings and battles during WWI.

Notre Dame, Rheims

Early the next morning we departed our hotel to enter Paris. My navigation skills were a bit lacking as we missed a key turnoff on the south central loop around the city and we managed to get stuck on the freeway for several miles and unfortunately had to pay a tool to make our way back. Dave and I dropped everyone off at the hotel to check in so that we could head into town towards Les Invalides to return the car. We lucked into a fueling station near the drop-off and hopped on the metro to head south and meet up with the family.

Our hotel - Best Western

Unfortunately the catacombs were closed for renovation! Julie of course had a backup plan - the Musée de l’Orangerie where we could see some of Monet's finest works plus pick up our museum pass - an amazing deal if you are spending a few days in Paris. Julie was our guide throughout the Paris stay - it was rare to see her without the Rick Steves book in hand.

l'Orangerie

Next up was the hike up Champs Élysées from the Place de la Concorde (with obelisk) to the Arc de Triomphe. The weather was cool but clear and the skies a deep blue.

Boys at monolith

Except when the thunderstorm hit us and we had to hide away in the Grand Palais. One day into our Paris trip the museums were starting to wear on the two most likely suspects: Dave and Matthew. All the more reason to have a museum pass and allow us to hop and hop out without worrying about getting a full value from a single visit.

Bored in a museum

We enjoyed stopping in a few of the shops along the Champs - most impressive were the concept cars in the Renault Peugeot (I knew that! but thanks George...) show room.

Champs fancy cars

And of course, the culmination of the walk is the Arc de Triomphe. We climbed to the top - within a 24 hour period we would climb the Arc, the Eiffel [as far as we could), and Notre Dame - for a spectacular view of the city.

Arc

Note: this is not perfect scale - view of the tower from the Arc.

Dave poking the tower

We originally planned to climb the tower later in the week, but with the weather clear and our legs fresh we decided to take advantage of our location and climb it. We approached from the Trocadéro and got a few nice shots of the illuminated tower. Climbing as high as we could followed by the final elevator lift was a smart move and probably saved us an hour of waiting in line at the base for tickets and an elevator.

Night shot of the tower

We finished the day at a brasserie near our hotel, which was most notable for possibly the worst piece of sausage any of us have ever tasted. Lesson learned, we'll stick to sausages from Germany and England in the future.

Worst. Sausage. Ever.