Venice

January 15, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

If you ask me what my favorite city is, I will always answer with a big smile and a happy sigh "Venice". I might not be able to narrow down a favorite vacation to just one, but as far as cities goes, Venice is IT! Some people hate it, most people love it; to me, it is simply perfect. So much history, such a wonderful setting, so many beautiful buildings, the Sea, and it's in Italy.

We first went to Venice on a cold, rainy, windy day in February. It was such a dreadful day that not even the tourists ventured out to check out the town. We easily found parking in the Tronchetto parking garage (http://www.veniceparking.it/). While it may not be the most economical option to drive into Venice, I just like the freedom we have by driving rather than using the train or flying. Knowing that our vehicle is parked in a relatively safe area makes the relatively expensive parking fees okay to me. As far as I am concerned, Venice is worth it. Everytime we stayed in Venice, we used this parking garage, left our car there for a couple of days, and stayed in small hotels in Venice. We usually just left the garage and either hopped on a vaporetto (do not use any of the guys that tell you they have transportation to the hotels; they approach you in the garage, it is way to expensive, just use the public boats) or walked. To me, walking is the best way to discover Venice, but of course it may not be the best option with small kids in tow...

Venice

One of the hotels I remember is the Hotel Bartolomeo (http://www.hotelbartolomeo.com/english/), a nice and clean and pretty reasonable little hotel. It is very close to the Rialto Bridge in the heart of Venice, so you can get everywhere in Venice within just a few minutes. The other hotel I remember is the Hotel Ca D'Oro (http://www.venicehotelcadoro.com/); it is a little farther away in the Cannaregio district of Venice, but nothing really is too far of a walk in Venice. The city is so pretty at night, and this is the main reason why I would never stay on the mainland in a hotel, I want to be able to venture through the streets of Venice late in the evening when most day tourists have left the town, and even more so early in the morning just after daybreak. Don't get me wrong, Venice is beautiful and a must see even when you share it with thousands of people, but it is so different when it's calm and quiet before or after the "storm".

Well, but back to my first time in Venice. It was so miserable, cold, and windy, our umbrella was turned inside out. I was almost ready to just go back to the car and go home, but then we walked over the Ponte dell'Accademia, one of only a few bridges crossing the Canale Grande. From there, the view of the Canale Grande and the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute was out of this world beautiful, even on this gloomy wet day.

Venice

I became hooked on Venice at this moment. We walked the little streets, had some coffee in a little bar, made it all the way out to the Piazza di San Marco and just explored.

We went back to Venice I think three or four times. The weather was better than the first time, we went on a Gondola, and walked the many little roads. We went into the Church of San Marco, we went up the Campanile, found a beautiful park in Venice, went on the bus boats, or vaporetti, to go out to the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. The tickets for vaporetto only cost a few Euros, but you have so much flexibility as they run quite frequently. We haven't made it to the Lido, but you know us, it's another reason to go back to Venice.

 


Provence 2012

January 11, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Day 1: Drive to St.Remy-de-Provence

Unlike the last time we drove, this was a super easy breezy 10 hour drive for us. We drove through Switzerland and the drive through the French Alps was especially pretty. We checked into the Hotel L'Amandiere (http://hotel-amandiere.com/accueil_gb.html ), which turned out to be a gem. St.-Remy, as we learned in the following days, is a not exactly budget friendly destination. The L'Amandiere is a really reasonable hotel there, the pool was very nice, the staff was very friendly, and it was just a short 10 to 15 minute walk to the town center. There, we ate some very overpriced food, got some ice cream and headed back to get some sleep.

Day 2: Lavender!

Lavender field day! We had to drive for about an hour and a half to make it to Valensole, but man, was it worth it. Lavender fields in full glory. We returned to Puimoisson, where we found gorgeous lavender fields. Not only are they fields pretty to look at, they scent of lavender lingered in the air. Of course, we also went back to beautiful and peaceful St. Jurs.

We also discovered these huge fields of light purple flowers, I don't know what they are (please, if you do, enlighten me) with St.-Jurs in the background.

St.-Jurs

Back in St.-Remy, we found a nice restaurant with some great customer service and some tasty food.

Day 3: St.-Remy-de-Provence, Avignon, Tarascon, Les Baux de Provence

We started the day in St Remy to visit the sanatorium where Vincent van Gogh stayed after he mutilated himself by chopping of his ear. It is a wide spread area with a beautiful lavender garden, an apple orchard, and even a small field of poppies. Very Van Gogh.

We also went into the room where Van Gogh stayed. It was kind of strange to be in there, outside it was so beautiful, sunny and warm, but inside it felt kind of claustrophic. The windows have bars, it is dark and the air is stale. I wonder how Van Gogh felt in there, and how the mental illnesses of the patients in the institution were treated adequately. From St.-Remy, we drove to Avignon and went back to the Papal Palace. This time, we went inside and took the audio guided tour, which Noah was a big fan of. I was so impressed with the little guy, he was so happy to push the numbers and listen to the explanations. We lost his teddy bear in there, but with the help of some very nice staff (whoever claims that the French are rude is totally wrong. We've been to Normandy, Paris, and Provence, and never have we encountered a rude French person. Quite on the contrary, they ranged from super friendly to indifferent, but NEVER ever rude!) we were able to find it. Huge sigh of relief! We bought Noah a knight's helmet and a sword. He rocked his little outfit, he walked through Avignon wearing his gear, and people just smiled when he passed them by.

Next stop on this busy day were the towns of Beaucaire on the Rhone river, which has a very pretty port, and the medieval town of Tarascon, which boasts the fantastic Chateau de Tarascon. The castle is huge and HIGH; we climbed all the way up there to the "roof terrace" , I was actually kind of scared up there, the wind at the height...they're not my style. Still, the view is great from up there, but I was a happy to go back down.

The final destination for today was the village of Les Baux de Provence, another fortified medieval town which sits on a tuff stone plateau.

Day 4: Back to the Lavender Fields

Oh shucks, there were so many places left that I wanted to see, but we had only this day left. We decided to go back to the lavender fields....found some more and that was our trip :)

I'm already kind of thinking of going back to Provence, I still would like to stay in the Ardeche region for a few days, and do maybe a week on the Cote d'Azur. Who knows what our future holds and where we'll live, but I'm sure we'll go back!

If you'd like to see more photos from our second Provence trip, check out this gallery: http://www.sabinereedphotography.com/p390425770


Santorini

January 10, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

What can I say...You HAVE to go to Santorini. It is another one of these places that I've always wanted to go to, never thought I would make it, ended up making and there, and it was so much better than I could have ever imagined. Of all of our vacations, with Noah and without him, this is one of the top 3 ones...well, we say that about pretty much every trip, though ;).

We are pretty thrifty travellers when it comes to accommodation, I like it clean, close to some some supermarkets and restaurants and bars, yet still quiet, and reasonable. I will always choose a smaller family run hotel over a bigger and more fancy place that might offer "more", e.g. kid's clubs or a huge pool. A pool was so not necessary for us when we traveled as a couple, but with Noah along, a small pool is a plus; he loves a pool, that's all he asks for when we go on vacation.

In Santorini, we stayed at Hotel Levante Beach right on Kamari Beach (http://www.levante.gr/).

Great location in the town of Kamri, not right in the center of the town, but just a short walk away from it, the beach is across the little street that is open to pedestrians and some smaller vehicles that deliver stuff to the hotels and stores. Since Santorini is a volcanic island, the beach is made of dark larger gravel rocks, so for a chicken like Bob, some aquasocks might come in handy. Noah and I are beasts, we just walked barefoot. The beach isn't exactly kidfriendly, the surf rolls in pretty rough at times and it gets deep quickly. Therefore, for plain old family fun, the small pool in the hotel came in super handy!

On another sidenote, when we fly to our vacation destination, I usually book a package that includes the flights and the hotel. Most of the times, this is the cheapest and - more importantly - most convenient way to get to our destination. In the case of Santorini, we could have flown into Athens and then use a ferry to get to our island, but we figured there is so much to see and do on Santorini, so we might as well get there as quickly as possible and save Athens for a weekend trip one day. For hotels, I usually book on the cheaper side, but I make sure we can easily walk to the beach or are right on the beach, and that we maybe have a pool for Noah, cause well, as you've learned, Noah loves a pool. I couldn't care less about it. A clean room, that's all I need...

 

Day 1: Getting there...

Day 1 was not too spectacular. We drove to Nuernberg, parked the car in the long-term parking garage, found our flight, were in the air for about two and a half hours, were picked up at the airport, and got delivered to our hotel. Not really to the front door, it took us about 15 minutes to find the place, since the driver dropped us off in some back alley. I was pleasantly surprised by the hotel. The staff was friendly, our room was pretty big and had a nice little terrace, and it was quiet. We kind of lucked out, because some of the rooms faced a big parking lot that was busy from early morning till late at night, but we didn't notice that at all. The hotel had a decent  sized pool with stairs (perfect for Noah, cause he could just hand out by the stairs and play in the water), an awesome breezy bar area from which you could see the beach and the Sea, and a wonderful upstairs terrace. There, we had breakfast every morning looking over Kamari and the Mediterranean Sea. We didn't do anything spectacular on that first day, just hung out at the beach and the pool and at the bar.

 

Day 2: The Sea

Day two was pretty much reserved for checking out what Kamari had to offer. Kamari is a typical beach town. Most of it has been built specifically for tourism purposes, so on the pedestrian street parallel to the beach there are plenty of bars, restaurants, shops, and hotels. There's always something to do and you can people watch all day. Even though it is pretty touristy (which is cool, cause we are tourists and we have to hang out somewhere. I don't like this attitude of "I don't want to be a tourist". Nobody wants to be "a tourist", but that's what we are when we  go on a holiday), I think they did a great job of keeping it small. There is only a handful of buildings that is higher than two stories, so you don't feel overwhelmed and it doesn't feel crowded. This day was a perfect day for Noah, we went back and forth between the pool and the beach, tossed rocks in the water, Noah practiced his jump-of-big-rocks-into-the-surf skills, we had some beer and some Cocktails at the bar, and Noah devoured water melon slices. The staff at the hotel was great, as I have mentioned before, after the third serving, they'd just bring out water melon for Noah whenever we would sit down there with him. He loved it!

 

Day 3: A Volcano and a small Village

Well, on day three I was ready for some action. We had booked a boat tour that brought us to the lava island of Nea Kameni. Santorini is an island of volcanic origin. Remnants of the volcano can be found in the form of other islands. Nea Kameni is pretty much the still active volcano. We walked up to the volcano (it was HOT) from where we enjoyed some awesome views of Santorini. Back on the boat, we sailed on to Palea Kameni. I got to hop in the water there, there are hot springs in the water and some mud that makes you beautiful. The hot springs were great, it felt like swimming from cold Sea water into a nice comfy however sulphuric smelling hot tub. I covered myself in a little mud, but no difference, after washing it off, I still looked the same. From Nea Kameni, we went on to Thirsassia, which is Santorinis little sister island. It was such a nice change of pace; while Santorini 's larger towns are buys and full of locals and tourists, Thirassia only has one major village named Manolas and it is very quiet, peaceful, and simple. I left my boys in the port of Thirassia to climb the winding stairs up to Manolas. The village is as postcard Greek as you can imagine it, white buildings, a church with a blue dome shaped roof, and Sea views are ever present. Walking down the steps was a lot easier than going up in the midday heat. We hopped on board of our boat one last time to cruise along the Caldera, the crater cliffs, of Santorini. This is, where we caught our first glimpses of Oia, Imerovigli, and Fira.

The rest of the afternoon we did what we had done the days before, relaxed, got some drinks, and enjoyed the pool and the Sea.

 

Day 4: A Ghost Town, a Village build for tourists, and gorgeous Oia

This day was reserved for a half day bus tour through the northern part of Santorini that would end with watching the sunset at Oia, supposedly one of the most gorgeous sunsets ever. We started out in the early afternoon. Our first stop was the oldest church of the island, Panagia Episkopi. It sits on a little hill with beautiful views over the Eastern part of the island and is surrounded by a beautiful garden inviting you for a little stroll. Next, we visited the ghost village of Mesa Gonia. I have to say, from a photographers perspective, this village is a dream come true. If we'd go again, I'd make sure to go back there not in the middle of the day, but at sunset or very early in the morning, just to be able to catch the gloomy mood better. However, despite the fact that we walked through the narrow alleyways with a bunch of fellow tourists, it felt kind of strange to be in this deserted place where people used to live, but is now falling apart a little more every day. If I remember correctly, the people of Mesa Gonia left their village after an earthquake...Well, on we went to Pyrgos, a really pretty town sitting on a mountain which allows you to look over the whole island. Pyrgos boasts typical cycladic architecture, Byzantine churches, and a Venetian castle. In order to get to the castle, you have to navigate through the small alleys ; this is truly fantastic because there is something to discover behind every corner, interesting stairs, a door framed by some flowerpots, things like that. We made it up to the castle, and back down, got some drinks because it was hot and Noah was worn out from walking so much, and we went on to Imerovigli.

It has been built mainly for tourists along the Caldera. The views are indescribable; everything you expect from Santorini and more. Some of the most serene and expensive hotels of Santorini are located in this quiet town, but also a wonderful church with the typical blue dome roof and a bell tower. The final destination of the day was beautiful Oia, the town on the northern tip of Santorini from where you can see the Caldera cliff on one side of the town and the open Sea on the other side. The iconic image of the church roof looking over the Caldera, Oia, and Thirassia in the distance has its origin here. Walking Oia - again - is a dream come true for a photographer, heck, for anybody who wants to feel like he/she is walking on a picture perfect postcard. The place filled up as the sun began to set, and we kind of missed the sunset because we didn't quite know where the best location for sunset watching was, but also because it was hard to find our way through the crows. We had decided before that we would get a rental car after having gotten an idea on how large the island was by using a bus at firt, and this - along with Imerovigli - was my top choice for a return trip. Driving back to the hotel in the dark in the bus was something else. I always rely on the fact that bus drivers know what they are doing, that they have driving these roads for years, and that - just like me - don't want to die...;)

 

Day 5 The Beach & The Sunset from a Boat

In the morning, we relaxed a little from the strenuous walking we did the day before (oh, please, it wasn't that bad, but Noah acted like he ran a marathon). We spent some time on the beach, Noah ate watermelons, everybody was happy. In the evening, we went on a little sunset boat trip along the Caldera all the way up to Oia from where we watched the sunset from our boat.

 

Day 6 Take a Break

Today was just another beach day. I worked so hard on my tan. Exhausting.

 

Day 7 Amoudi...enough said!

Time for action! We finally rented a car. We first went to Fira, the little capital city of Santorini and took the funicular down to the port. We watched the cruise guests being brought to the port in small motor boats from the big cruise shops. I don't know what my deal is, a cruise just doesn't seem intriguing to me at all. The people were all hauled in, followed their tour guide like lemmings (where is my tolerance for tourists now, right?), and they would only see a tiny little bit of Santorini. I felt so bad for them ;). We did the so not touristy thing (NOT) of riding donkeys up the winding trail back into Fira. Noah and I shared a ride, it was so uncomfortable, I scraped my legs on the walls along the trail, cause the donkey doesn't care how close it gets to the rock wall as long as it doesn't affect it; the donkey does not worry about the passenger AT ALL. Noah wasn't too hooked on it either. Bob was a sight, I think his donkey had a panic attack when it realized that this big ole dude was all his. Well, our donkeys delivered us safely to Fira, so we walked a little bit around town. We then went on to Imerovigli, this time we had the town pretty much to ourselves. From there, we made it back to Oia. We decided to walk down to the port of Amoudi. What a perfect place this is. Fisher boats, rustic restaurants with a lot of flair, not too crowded, crystal clean water...We found a great little restaurant. We ate the best Saganaki we've ever had, man, Feta cheese is so out of this world tasty, and these guys prepared it so well. From the port, we walked a little further to a tiny little beach. We went up the hill back to Oia with the infamous donkeys. The LAST time ever in my lifetime. Uncomfortable, bumpy, and man, the poor donkeys, this walk is no joke! Bob found a fantastic pastry bakery and their baklava really was phenomenal! Bob and Noah hung out in the village while I secured a spot on the old fort of Oia which apparently is one of the best places to be when the sun sets. Saw the sunset, pretty cool, and drove back home. I felt a little more safe with Bob driving than in the bus ;)

Day 8 Ancient Thira and back to Oia and Amoudi

It was time for some culture. We drove up to ancient Thira with our little rental car. We've been on some scary roads in our lifetime, but holy cow, this thing made me clench my teeth, hold on tight to the car door, and close my eyes. Hmm, then again, I'm a big chicken, maybe it really wasn't that bad...Anyhow, ancient Thira sits on this humongous monolith, the view from there is great, and while strategically, it is genius to put a town up there as you can spot intruders easily, building it must have been a tremendous logistical challenge.  Even though ancient Thira is pretty much in ruins, the site is well managed and gives you an idea on how small town life used to be like in ancient Greek times. Afterwards, we went back to Oia, and more specifically to Amoudi Bay, because yes, it is that beautiful. I could spend a whole vacation there and not ever venture out, and that says a lot about how special this place really is.

 

Day 9 The South

We had returned the car the day before, so today we went on a bus tour to discover some more of Santorini. We went on the highest mountain of Santorini, the Prophet Elias. There is also a military instillation up there as well as a monestary. Next, we went to the village of Megalochori, another one of these typical cycladic villages with narrow alleys and white houses. One of the curches there has a really interesting bell tower that spans across the tiny main street. The pace is very different than that of Oia or Fira or Kamari, it is quiet and calm and there are just a few kind of classy (not necessarily expensive) stores selling hand crafted items. The next town we went to was called Emborio. From there, we went to the beach in Perissa. Perissa and Kamari are the two main towns for the thriftier tourists, but, maybe it is because I'm biased, I think I prefer Kamari to Perissa. After lunch we went on to the Santos Winery for some wine tasting. Who liked it? I liked it! It was a pretty busy day, but in the end, we were happy to be back in our little hotel.

 

Day 10 Relax a little

Day 10 we spent on the beach. And we decided that we needed to rent a car one more time. We just had to go back to Amoudi and see some more of the island.

 

Day 11 Back to Amoudi

So, our last day we spend going back to Amoudi, to the little restaurant in the port, and walked through OIa one more time. In the evening, we went to the Caldera, but this time south of Fira, found a nice restaurant and watched the sun set there.

 

Day 12 Home

So, this was the day for us to go home. Noah got to swim in the pool for one last time, then it was time to check out of the hotel and take the bus back to the airport. What can I say, Noah and I both cried big old tears cause we didn't want to go home. I'm so happy that I have a vacation baby, Noah loves going on vacation, he is up to anything even when we tell him that we'll just look at old houses. And like his Mom, he never wants to go home and wishes he could stay just another day. Or two. Or a week....

Santorini really was one of the best vacations we ever went on. I know, I say this about pretty much every trip we have ever taken, but Santorini honestly was a whole different level of awesomeness. There was something for all of us, beautiful views and motives for my camera, great food for Bob, the pool and the beach and friendly people that would cater to his every need for Noah.

If you ever find yourself thinking about going to Santorini, just go for it, don't worry about the money too much, you won't remember the money you spend later, but you'll have great memories that will last forever.


Provence 2011

January 09, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

We liked Provence so much, we went twice.

I've always wanted to see the lavender fields in Provence in full bloom. When Bob decided that he wanted to have lasik surgery done on his eyes in Landstuhl, I had a lightbulb moment: It's end of July, we are close to the French border, we should go to Provence. It's right there, just a ten hour drive from Landstuhl. That is nothing to the Reed family; to us, this means it's right around the corner! The first year we went, we unfortunately were about a week or two too late to see lavender fields in bloom. Most of the fields had been harvested already. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful trip; we saw so much in less than a week, beautiful landscapes, picturesque villages, impressive medieval towns, and even the Sea.

Day 1:The drive and our wonderful little hotel

The first day of our little trip began with a doctor's appointment to check Bob's freshly operated on eyes. He was fine, so off we went on our little adventure. We made the drive in about 12 hours because we hit some traffic jams along the way, but it was nothing too crazy. The tolls kind of surprised us at first, but then again, we are spoiled in Germany with neither having to pay tolls on our autobahn nor having to buy a vignette. When we arrived, it was already dark. We stayed in the Hotel Mas de la Senancole (http://www.mas-de-la-senancole.com/uk/index.php) close to the picturesque hillside town of Gordes. I loved our little hotel, the staff was very friendly, and the area was quiet and peaceful. Our little room was wonderful, large enough for all of us (oh, did I mention, we had Jack with us. He was a five months old puppy at the time..), and a door that opened into the garden.

 

Day 2: Abbey de Senanque, Sault, and the quest to find at least one last blooming lavender field

After a wonderful breakfast in the garden by the the pool of our little hotel, we drove through Gordes and arrived still early at the Abbey de Senanque. The abbey is a major tourist spot, so we made sure we'd get there before the crowds made it there. It is situated in a tranquil area and surrounded by a large lavender field. It really was the only one that was still kind of blooming. Well, it was pretty dried out already, but at least we got the idea of what a lavender field looks like. We just walked around the grounds of the abbey, I took some photos, we enjoyed the peace and quiet, and when we noticed more and more people arriving, we drove on.

The rest of the day we spent driving around the Luberon in hope of finding more lavender fields. We really didn't have any luck with the exception of one field that didn't seem to be worked on anymore, but despite of that, the area is very pretty. We made it to Sault, checked out some stores and got something to eat in a little Bistro.

The afternoon we spent on the pool just relaxing and enjoying the warm sun of Provence.

 

Day 3: Avignon, Pont du Gard, Camargue & the Beach

After yet another nice breakfast we drove to Avignon. The papal city is fantastic. We had a kid and a dog along with us, but we still managed to see a lot of the sights, however, we could not go into the Papal Palace itself. Well, there is always next  time ;)....Since there was no way that the kid or the dog would walk the town with us, we decided to hop on a little train thingy. They didn't even care that we our puppy along. The train was great because it really gave us a good overview of the Avignon. It took us through the old town, but also through the gardens of the Papal Palace. We then moved on to the Pont St.-Benezet, the bridge that is the subject of the little song "Sur le Pont d'Avignon". Only about half of the bridge that used to cross the Rhone remains, and very often it gets very windy there. The breeze comes in from the Mediterranean Sea and we could definitely feel it that day. Poor Noah almost freaked out walking across the bridge, and to make matters worse, he let go of the little flyer he held in his little hand and it fell in the water. Noah pretty much lost it, but he was okay once we got off the bridge.

Well. We'd seen enough of Avignon, so we went on to the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct which is remarkably well maintained. I highly recommend visiting there, not only do you get to see a structure that gives you an idea of the genius of Roman builders, but it is also a great location to spend a whole day there. Lots of families just hung out along the river that the Pont du Gard crosses, it is a slow moving shallow river lined by beaches of larger gravel stones, perfect for throwing rocks in the water, looking for fish, taking a swim, or letting the dog go crazy. We would have liked to stay longer, but oh well, the Reeds had to move on...so much to see on so little time...

Pont du Gard

Our next destination on this busy day was the Camargue. On our way there, we got superlost, but it turned out to be a great leap of fate. We found Beaucaire and Tarascon. We only drove through the towns, but at that point, we already kind of knew that we would come back to Provence another time to see more. We drove through the Camargue, the flatland area between land and sea in the Rhone delta,  where you may see flamingos as well as beautiful white Camargue horses. We made it all the way to Saint-Maries-de-Mar on the Mediterranean Sea. It is a well known beach town, so of course we were there along with thousands of tourists...it was a Sunday night I think...It was still pretty, Noah got to play on the beach an got superfilthy dirty and covered in sand...a boy's dream come true.

We made it back to our hotel late at night. This was a superbusy yet fantastic day spent in a medieval town, looking at a fantastic Roman remnant of history, and on a warm sunny beach. 

 

Day 4: Roussillion, I found what I've been looking for, St. Jurs, Gorges du Verdon

Well,  other travellers - especially those accompanied by a preschooler and a young dog - might have taken a break to relax. Not us. We made our way to Roussillion. The town sits on ochre cliffs which are spectacular. The little town itself is worth a trip with its narrow streets and the beautiful views, but you can also wander through former quarries. Awesome. Noah had fun climbing around, Jacks paws morphed into a deep ochre color, and I got to take a ton of photos. From Roussillion we moved on to the Vaclause area. I still had hopes to find a lavender field. This is what we discovered.

Somewhere between Puimoisson and St. Jurs

I was so happy, even though this might not be THE perfect field. Our drive led us through Cavaillon, Puimoisson, and ended in St.-Jurs. This little village might have been the favorite place we've found on this trip, so unexpected, so beautiful sitting on a mountain on the edge of the Alps. However, we agreed that Provence on a whole was a big surprise to us. We expected it to be kind of nice, of course, it is being hyped, but we thought, oh well, how great can it really be. To us, it really was and is one of the prettiest areas we've been to, and we appreciated the combination of different landscapes, medieval towns, picturesque villages, lavender, great food, and that provencal flair.

Well, St. Jurs was beautiful, peaceful, tranquil. I wasn't ready to go back to the hotel yet, so we drove to the Gorges du Verdon. Well, I had to drive, and I kind of chickened out, the road along the gorge is no joke. Bob would have braved it easily, but it was little too much for me to handle. I'm such a coward sometimes. We made a little past Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, and then went on home. This whole area would be a great destination for a week's vacation. You can hike, do all kinds of water sports, hang out in the small towns along the gorge, or use it as the hub to explore the lavender fields as well the Cote d'Azur. It's too bad, that there are only so many places we can really see and explore in a lifetime. Well, that and the fact that our wallets kind of put a limit on the vacations we can take...;)

 

Day 5: Let's go home...whether we are ready or not..

Today, it was time to get back to Landstuhl in order to make it to Bob's checkup the next day. We hit the motorway, but we couldn't quite leave Southern France yet. We took a little detour where Bob and Noah checked out a crocodile farm while I hung out with Jack. They wouldn't let Jack inside, well, he would have made great crocodile food, I guess. From there we drove on to the Ardeche river. The drive was yet again gorgeous, we stopped in a wonderful little town overlooking the river. The Ardeche region is like the Gorges du Verdon, you could spend a week there and not run out of things to do. It is well known for kayaking and you can take short kayaking trips or spend a few days on the river. Well, it was time to go for good...

At the end of our trip, we were hooked on Provence. We decided pretty quickly that we would go back, I just HAD to see some lavender fields in full glory. Even though Provence has more than enough flair to make up for the lack of blooming lavender fields, in the end I've really wanted to see ;)


Need a New Year's Resolution? I've got a good one...Free those photos!

December 29, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

I've started taking photos with a very basic point-and-shoot 35mm camera. Later, I've upgraded to a SLR. I loved film; you really had to learn your stuff, which kind of film for what kind of photography, you had to learn what ISO was, and you really had to learn the more technical aspects of photography. You had to do this, because there was a limit to the number of pictures you could take, and it was usually 24 or 36 images that would fit on a roll of film. It cost money to have those films or slides developed and to make prints from them, so speaking for myself, I didn't take as many photos as I'm doing now. The only option to really view them was as a print on the wall or as a print in an album.

Fast forward to the ages of digital photography: I am taking 10 times as many pictures on vacations, at family gatherings, and also at sessions for clients than I wold have with film. I don't have to think about that every click of the shutter with a film camera basically cost some money; I can take as many pictures as I'd like to. My camera and my memory card have been paid for, I can delete what I don't like. I can go for different poses, capture many more moments, and I'm doing this because I think that later I'll go through all of these photos to pick my favorites. With the exception of client photos I never do that. My personal photos rest in peace on several photo graveyards which are located on the hard drive of my computer, on a variety of external hard drives, DVDs, even CDs, USB sticks, you name it. I am actually good about backing up my photos (I still have all the negatives and slides of photos I've taken in the film days). I'm not good about viewing them and appreciating them and remembering the moments.

Noah loves to look at photos on my phone or on the computer, but the other day at my Mom's house, she busted out a photo album that she has made of the prints that I give to her here and there from our little family things. Noah loved it and went back and forth through the albums while my Mom told him stories about the photos. It's something she used to do with us, look at old pictures and the more we'd look at these photos, the more her memories of what we were like as babies, of what happened at this moment on a vacation, of why our Dad was laughing so hard on a particular photo, became ours as well.

Now, I am digging out all of our photos, slowly but gradually, from the digital photo graveyards. I've ordered tons of 4 by 6 prints that I glue into photo albums, but I've also created a few photo books. While I love an album that I have made, I like the fact that a photo book doesn't take up as much space while still showing off my photos beautifully. I use the photo albums mainly for photos from our vacations, I have one theme that's finished, I can upload all the photos into that one specific book, and I don't have to add anything on. Photos from Noah, I'll put in scrapbooks, I'm now making an effort to at least organize the photos, put the best ones in the scrapbook based on date, and if I don't have a lot of time, I'll put on a sticky tape with a note that describes shortly why this photo is important. Usually, I don't need that note because the photo reminds me...I'm not the best scrapbooker, it just takes too much time and effort for me, but who cares, a scrapbook doesn't have to be fancy as long as it holds some photos and precious memories.

So, I've made my New Year's resolution mid December, and I'll vow to continue to do this, to get my photos off of that computer, and into an album or onto a calendar or - the very best of them - on a gallery wrap canvas, like the one of Noah that I have mentioned in another blog post.

If you don't have the time to free your photos, make sure to always back them up so you won't lose some treasured memories!!!

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