Thursday, June 30, 2022


Honfleur is a picturesque port town across the Seine estuary from Le Havre. It's long been a tourist attraction, in no small part thanks to famous landscape artists like Monet and Boudin, among others, that painted the town, beach resorts, and the surrounding countryside in the 19th century. Ken and I stopped at the old port for a visit back in January of 1992. The winter colors were subdued and there was not much in the way of tourist activity. We enjoyed wandering around a little in the crowd-free streets before heading further west to the seaside resort town of Trouville for the night.

Buildings facing the old port in Honfleur, Normandy. Digitized color slide, January 1992.

If I remember correctly, it rained pretty hard that night and we found a small, nearly empty, restaurant in the center of Trouville, not far from our hotel, for dinner.

Speaking of rain, it's raining here this morning, as predicted. Well, almost as predicted. I don't think we're getting the amount of rain that one weather site forecast. Still, it's wet. I have a dentist appointment this morning, so I'll be driving around in the rain.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022


Have I posted this one before? It's a shot of Ken outside the tiny village of Camembert in Normandy. The village lends its name to one of France's iconic cheeses, and one of Ken's favorites. I just had to have his photo in front of the sign.

Ken in Camembert (or very close). Digitized color slide, Normandy, 1992.

I got the north forty cut yesterday. If I'm industrious, I will get the west forty cut today, in advance of the rain they're predicting for Thursday. I also did some weeding in the vegetable garden and fastened the tomatoes to their supports. They've made new roots since being transplanted and are beginning to get taller. There are even little tomatoes on some of the plants.

In other news, our erstwhile deck contractor returned our uncashed check, written a year and half ago. After his wife told Ken she wouldn't waste money on a stamp to send a check back to us because we cancelled the job, we sent a SASE (Stamped Self Adressed Envelope). The check arrived unceremoniously in yesterday's mail.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022


The crop of noix (walnuts) on the lone tree out among the vineyard parcels looks good this year. Like the grapes, the walnut profited from no spring freeze. These nuts go mainly to the wildlife. The guy that used to gather some passed away a few years ago.

Walnuts on the tree.

The town across the river from us is called Noyers-sur-Cher. A noyer is a walnut tree, so the town's name in English would be Walnut Trees-on-Cher.

I cut the south forty yesterday. Today, which should be warmer, I plan to do the north forty. I'm still cutting around the wild poppies. They continue to bloom and there are lots of seed pods, so I'm hopeful for a nice splash of red in the lawn next year.

Monday, June 27, 2022

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

Our rainy spell is over. At least for a few days. That will give me time to get the grass cut again. The weeds enjoyed the rain and are growing quickly, so I have work to do in the vegetable garden, too. Warmer temperatures and sunny days will feel nice. We have yet to break in the new barbecue grill.

Our little hamlet on a recent sort-of-sunny morning.

These are the last days of school before summer vacation starts on Thursday. I expect we will see an uptick in traffic heading to the zoo and to the hotels and vacation rentals around us this week. Should be good for the local economy.

Sunday, June 26, 2022


The acacia trees out by the vineyard parcels have finished flowering. Some people pick the flowers to batter and fry them, much like they do with zucchini blossoms. I've had zucchini blossoms that way once, but I've not tried to do it myself. I don't have enough flowers at any one time to make it worth the effort.

Acacia leaves.

We had a good soaking rain on Saturday. No wind, no lightning, and no hail (thank goodness!). Just a steady moderate rain for several hours. With the rain came chilly temperatures. I wondered this morning if the heat had come on, it felt that cold. It hadn't. Warmer highs are predicted as the week gets under way. It's time to cut the grass again.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The spare room

Can you believe that we used to have an American king-size bed in this room? There was barely space for anything else. The big bed got moved in 2010 when we had the loft finished. We moved this bed from a room that opened onto the living room. I removed the door and made that room a den/office.

We repainted the room ourselves nineteen years ago. Next time, I think we'll call a pro.

Although it doesn't really look like it in the photo, this room needs work. As in a fresh paint job and a new floor treatment. We had the carpet installed in 2003 and it still serves, but it's starting to show its age. Maybe it's time to ditch carpet for what they call un sol stratifié, a laminate flooring product that simulates wood (Pergo, for example).

Friday, June 24, 2022

Grapes are forming

The flowering is done and little grapes are forming throughout the vineyards out back. Even the few table grape plants that survive in our yard have grape bunches on them. I think there are more grapes out there than we've seen in recent years. That's probably because there was no April freeze this year to slow or outright destroy the vines' new growth.

New grapes. They'll plump up over the summer.

I put together our new barbecue grill yesterday. It took me a couple of hours and a few swear words. The new grill is exactly the same as the old one, which had rusted out. I expect that the same fate awaits the new one, but I like the way it works. So, we're cookin' with gas again!

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Artichokes and bulky items

They're not flowering yet, but they're still looking pretty. Over the course of summer, these artichoke flowers will bloom. If they survive the aphids. But they usually do.

Artichoke flower heads.

The guy I called to haul away our bulky items showed up last evening as promised, amid a few rain showers. He was very friendly with a big smile and we helped him load up his benne, a kind of dump truck. The container part of the truck not only tips back, the whole thing can be moved off the chassis of the truck to sit on the ground, making loading it a piece of cake. It took no time to get our mattress, freezer, sofa, and old barbecue grill into the container and back up on the truck. In a flash, he and our bulky items were gone. Now that we have room, we can start work on cleaning out the garage. Neither Ken nor I thought to take photos.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Ready, Sète, go

After leaving Nîmes and stopping in Arles and Aigues-Mortes, Ken and I made our way south along the Mediterranean coast through La Grande-Motte and on to the port city of Sète. The city is well known as the birthplace of folk singer Georges Brassens. I took this photo from a high spot south of the port. The big body of water on the upper right is, I think, the Etang de Thau. The Mediterranean is to the left.

A train heading north toward Sète. Digitized color slide, 1989.

Storms are predicted again today. We'll see what happens. I called a guy last week to come and take some of our objets encrombrants (bulky items) to the dump. We have an old American king-size mattress, a chest freezer, and a small sofa. The refuse company used to take these kinds of things away once a year, but they stopped doing that when covid hit. So now they point us to contractors get rid of the stuff. Anyway, the guy is supposed to come this evening, so I'm hoping the weather won't force a cancellation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022


On our way back toward Paris at the end of our southwestern road trip, we stopped in the small city of Cognac. Of course, we visited a distillery and had a taste of the famed brandy. I think it might have been Martel. I don't remember why I took this photo, maybe because of the kids playing in the street. Looks like it was garbage day, too.

A quiet street in Cognac. Digitized color slide, 1989.

Another weather system came through last night near midnight. Much less thunder and lighting, but apparently a good amount of rain. I fell asleep once the leading edge of the front passed through.

Monday, June 20, 2022

La fontaine Stravinsky

What's a trip to Paris without a stop at the Stravinsky Fountain, next to the Pompidou Center? Often described as "whimsical," the fountain features both monochromatic and colorful representations of Igor Stravinsky's work that move and/or spray water in its shallow basin. The fountain was created in 1983. Here's another shot from the last time I was in Paris in 2018.

Stravinsky Fountain, Paris. Digitized color slide, 1990's

Our heat wave kind of ended last night, and with a bang. We had thunder and lightning for a couple of hours along with rain (I'm not certain how much, but there are puddles in the road). This morning it's cooler, but very humid. Our thermometer that measures humidity says it's at 91% at 06h00.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Sunday me

Here's another photo that Ken took of me during our southwest France trip back in 1989. I'm sitting on the ruins of an ancient Roman amphitheater in the city of Saintes. The city straddles the Charente River; the approximately two thousand year-old ruins are on the left bank.

Yours truly sitting among the Roman ruins in Saintes. Digitized color slide, 1989.

I awoke to lightning and thunderstorms between 04h00 and 05h00 this morning. There was some rain, but not a lot, and pretty much no wind. But lots of lightning. We're expecting a high of 33ºC (91ºF) today, with more storms this evening and into the night. That's a far cry from yesterday's high of over 38ºC (100ºF). We didn't get up to the predicted high of 41ºC (105ºF), but it was très hot nonetheless. It should be even cooler tomorrow.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

We're havin' a heat wave

Today is supposed to be the hottest day of our current heat wave. Warm desert air is being pumped up from northern Africa blocking low pressure (and rain) from moving into western Europe. The result is clear and dry days. And heat. The forecast is for a high of 41ºC (105ºF) this afternoon.

The umbrella provides much appreciated mid-day shade to the deck. The thermometer on the table reads 33.9ºC (93ºF).
There are Tasha's ears on the lower right.

Since there's very little humidity, the heat is more bearable than it could be. Still, I'll be glad when the temperatures drop to a more reasonable level. Meanwhile, we're enjoying cold salads and some light grilling for our meals. The deck is nice, and since it faces east, it's shaded in the hottest part of the day. The vegetable garden seems to be doing well. I do a lot of watering in the mornings.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Dead water

I was struck by all the vehicles parked outside the walls of this medieval city in Provence called Aigues-Mortes, which literally means "dead (or stagnant) water." This is not a museum but an actual town where people live and work. It is also, of course, a tourist destination. We just did a drive-by on our way down the Mediterranean coast.

Aigues-Mortes is surrounded on all four sides by a defensive wall. Digitized color slide, 1989.

We had some major movement on the deck renovation front yesterday: Ken fired the contractor. We decided we could wait no more. We've been very patient for the last year and a half. I don't want to spend a third summer without full use of the deck. Moving the furniture up and down stairs is no fun. Much of what is normally on the deck has been stored in our garage (along with everything else in the free world) for the past eighteen months. We're both tired of it.

So, once he had confirmed with the bank that our check had indeed expired and they would not honor it, Ken called the contractor (his wife) and said we had changed our minds about the project. She was not happy. So be it.

I power-washed the deck tiles yesterday morning (that hadn't been done in the last two seasons in anticipation of the demolition and they were awful looking) and moved the table, chairs, umbrella, some potted plants, and a storage unit out. It's a big relief to have the deck back, and clean, and not have the daily stress of wondering when someone might show up to do the work. What if they did the demolition and then left us for weeks or more before finishing the job? I shudder to think.

We have a couple of leads for other contractors thanks to friends and neighbors, so we'll place a call in the near future and see if someone can schedule us for the work to be done in the fall or next spring.

Thursday, June 16, 2022


Wednesday's high temperature hit 32ºC here at the house. That's nearly 90ºF, unusual for us. Even though the greenhouse door and windows were open, several of the plants inside didn't fare too well. A couple were burned to a crisp, like this aucuba. This is the first time this has happened, I think.

The aucuba took a beating. We have another one on the deck that's ok. Maybe this one will come back from the roots?

High temperatures are predicted to inch up (centimeter up?) through the weekend, reaching a scorching 41ºC on Saturday. That's 105ºF. Yikes! We will be moving more plants out of the greenhouse today. We may need to start sleeping downstairs. The loft gets way too hot even though the fans are going. We don't have air conditioning; not many people do here. Tasha and Bert don't do well in the heat. Nor do we.

I got my hair cut yesterday (thank goodness!). The salon owner was talking about the heat (and who isn't right now?). I mentioned the big heat wave in 2003. She shrugged and said she didn't remember. Of course she didn't; she was probably a toddler then. Ugh.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Les arènes d'Arles

We didn't go in, but we did park in the lot outside. Free parking. Hard to come by outside a stadium these days. I imagine that chariots parked here at one time. The amphithéâtre, as it's also known, in Arles was built in the first century by the Romans (of course). What's that old saying? Oh yeah: When in Fellebia, do as the Fellebians do.*

The arena in Arles is still used today. Digitized color slide, 1989.

I may sound like I'm repeating myself, probably because I am, but it's expected to get real hot over the next couple of days. Mid 30s C by the end of the week. We're going to roast.

*Five points for anyone who gets that one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Jumpin' around

I'm not really going in order, in case you didn't notice. This is the city of Arles in the lower Rhône Valley. Arles is the point at which the Rhône delta begins. In the centuries before the Common Era, it was a celtic settlement frequented by Greek traders. The Romans moved in around the second century BCE.

Looking over the rooftops in central Arles. Digitized color slide, 1989.

We stopped in Arles on our way south from Nîmes early in our trip. We had a look at the Roman amphitheater and walked around in the center of the old town for a while before getting back on the road.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Pont de la Daurade

This is all that's left of the twelfth century bridge over the Garonne River at Toulouse that connected the Daurade monastery and church with the community of Saint-Cyprien across the river. I was standing on the sixteenth century Pont Neuf (New Bridge) to take the picture. The Pont Neuf was ordered built by none other than King François I to replace the fragile Daurade bridge, victim of many floods on the river. The new bridge opened in 1632 and, shortly after, flood waters once again damaged the old. The city abandoned the Daurade bridge and eventually demolished it.

The last remaining arch of the Pont de la Daurade on the Garonne at Toulouse. Digitized color slide, 1989.

I planted a row of green beans and yellow beans yesterday. I still haven't set up the soaker hoses, so I'm watering by hand. And I'm weeding with my trusty hoe. Ken transplanted some collard greens that he grew from seeds in the greenhouse earlier this spring. He put some of them in a big pot and plans to move the remaining seedlings out into the garden.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

A busier street

I wish I could remember what day of the week it was when we stopped in Toulouse. The photos I've posted so far might imply a sleepy Sunday, but I don't think it was. This street was quite busy. And, hey, isn't that another 2cv? Nice parking job.

A foggy morning in Toulouse. Digitized color slide, 1989.

We're enjoying summery weather this weekend and it's expected to continue through the coming week. Yippee!

Saturday, June 11, 2022

l'Eglise des Jacobins

Part of a convent complex in central Toulouse, the Jacobian Church is one of the jewels of southern French gothic architecture. The church was constructed mostly of red brick in the 13th and 14th centuries. My photo was an attempt to capture what they call the palmier (palm tree), a column and rib-vaulted structure above the choir. I didn't do a very good job. Can I get a do-over?

Le palmier, église des Jacobins, Toulouse. Digitized color slide, 1989.

I read on Wikipedia that the palmier is considered an architectural masterpiece and that the church itself represents the "pinnacle" of the southern French gothic style. I don't think I knew any of this at the time I visited; I just thought it was pretty. I probably read something about it in our guide book, and probably after the fact, but I don't remember. And to think I had just received my undergraduate degree in architecture. Oh, the shame.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Basilique Saint-Sernin

As I said yesterday, Ken and I didn't spend enough time in Toulouse to really see it. We walked around for a while in the historic center of town then got back in the car to continue on our way. I took photos of things that caught my eye in that short time. Many of my shots aren't very good, but they're a document of our brief visit.

Basilique Saint-Sernin, Toulouse. Digitized color slide, 1989.

Blog reader CHM mentioned in his comment yesterday Toulouse's Basilique Saint-Sernin. I have a couple of images of the church's bell tower seen from the streets of the old city. There may be other shots still in slide trays up in the attic, but I haven't looked for them, yet.

Back in the late 80s, I was only getting started with SLR photography. Film and processing were expensive, so I didn't take a lot of photos of the same subject. Nowadays, with digital photography, the idea of saving on film costs is gone. I would love to go back to some of these places to take more pictures. But there are also places I haven't seen yet that I'd like to get to. What's that old saying? So much to do, so little time...

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Born Toulouse

Here's a random street scene from a foggy morning in Toulouse. We didn't stay long, just an hour or two on our way west. Again, this is a place I'd like to revisit. I hear that it's a very nice city of about half a million people. The aerospace industry, namely Airbus, and other high-tech business are located in and around Toulouse as are some of the best higher education institutions in the country.

A quiet street on a foggy morning in central Toulouse. Digitized color slide, 1989.

I know that there's been a lot of investment in renovation, new building, and infrastructure in the city since our short visit back in 1989.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022


I think that this is the Pont de la Citadelle in Grenoble, spanning the Isère River. I went into Google Maps, 3D mode, and zoomed in to more or less the same view and, voilà ! Ain't technology grand. Except that, this morning, Google decided not to recognize my email login. Grrrr.

Pont de la Citadelle (I think), Grenoble. Digitized color slide, 1989.

By the way, it's raining! It started in the wee hours and is supposed to last through the morning, according to the weather site I frequently consult. So, that's a good thing. Although, my walk with Tasha this morning will be a little soggy.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022


Although it's not in the southwest, Grenoble is where Ken and I started our southwestern road trip back in 1989. Ken was there for work; I flew to Paris and took a train down to meet him. We walked a little that evening, but I don't remember much about the place. I was quite jet-lagged having just arrived from San Francisco. We took a ride up in the téléphèrique to a view spot at the Fort de la Bastille, high above the Isère River. If I've got photos from up there, they haven't yet been scanned.

Grenoble's famous "bulles" (bubbles), an aerial tram linking the Isère valley with the mountaintop fort. Digitized color slide, 1989.

I remember eating dinner at a pizza place close to the river and that it was good. Pizza is the most important food group, after all. The next morning we got in the rental car and headed south and west toward Nîmes. That's the only time I've been to Grenoble.

Monday, June 06, 2022


Having grown up mostly in suburbs and then spending my early adulthood in cities, I was not exposed to much in the way of livestock (I did live for a very short time in a country house next to a farm with cows). Oh, there were zoos, game farms, and the wild animal park outside San Diego to remind me that wild animals did, in fact, exist. To me, farm animals were almost as exotic. I guess that's why I would stop and take pictures of the livestock on small farms in France. These aren't huge industrial scale stockyards, but mostly family farms that raise cows, goats, poultry, pigs, or, in this case, a few sheep.

Is that a sheepish grin? Digitized color slide, St.-Savin, 1989.

I saw these sheep just outside of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, a place that's not far from where we live now. But in 1989 when I took this picture, it felt a world away from my urban life in San Francisco.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Sunday me

I've posted this photo before, the last time in 2014, but I've re-worked it again, cropping it less, messing with the color and sharpness. Ken took the picture with my camera on a street in Nîmes. The spires in the background rise from the church of Saint-Baudile de Nîmes, I think. The street may be the rue National, but it's changed so much from when the photo was taken (I'm using Google Maps street view to try to identify it) that it's hard to be sure. It looks like three women in the photo are wearing the same overcoat. Once you see it, you can't un-see it.

Me in Nîmes, 29 years old. Digitized color slide, 1989.

A storm moved over us last night with some light thunder and lightning and some rain. It wasn't a downpour, but it also wasn't a whole lot. Still, every little bit helps.

Saturday, June 04, 2022

The ancestor of jeans

Did you know that the word "denim" is a contraction of de Nîmes, meaning "from Nîmes," a southern French city that dates from ancient Roman times? According to Wikipedia, the city of Nîmes became a major producer and exporter of the woven wool and silk fabric in the mid sixteenth century. The fabric "from Nîmes" became known simply as "denim." It wouldn't be until the early nineteenth century that Americans (principally in North Carolina at the time) would use cotton to manufacture the denim cloth we now associate with blue jeans.

I'm sure I was wearing jeans when I took this picture. Digitized color slide, Nîmes, 1989.

This photo has nothing to do with jeans or denim, except that I took it in the city of Nîmes back in 1989. One of the houses on this small street is covered with scaffolding, probably undergoing a face lift. The parked 2cv makes it just so French.

Friday, June 03, 2022

Overcast and dry

Although Thursday turned out to be a sunny day, more recent days than not have been overcast, threatening, but never delivering, rain. The ground is parched and is as solid as concrete. We often see lightning at night, but it's off to our east or west, as if we lived under a bubble that forces storm fronts to split and go around us. Not that I'm longing for storms; they can be scary, especially if they bring hail. But some nice steady rain would be much appreciated.

The vineyard a week ago. Overcast, lush, yet dry.

The grape vines, with their deep roots, are doing fine. You can see their lush green leaves in the photo. The vines are flowering now and there are many more bunches (that will turn into grapes) than I've seen in recent years, thanks to the lack of frosts this spring. As for our vegetable garden, the only thing I can say is that the drought will help to keep the weeds down, in stark contrast to last year's over-soaked summer and weed fest (and we don't want to see that again). The toms and zukes are in, and they're thirsty. At least I can water where it's needed. The next thing to do is to carve a row to plant green beans in. Maybe I should invest in a jackhammer...

Thursday, June 02, 2022

A sign of the wines

I've seen giant wine bottle signs in many of the wine regions that I've visited in France over the years. This one's in the Saint-Emilion area. I looked on the web for information about the winery in the photo, but there is nothing recent, so I'm thinking that they are no longer in business, or at least not under the name on the "label."

Château Hermitage St.-Louis, Montagne-Saint-Emilion. Digitized color slide, 1989.

Saint-émilion, named for the principle town in the area, is an AOP (appellation d'origine protégée) wine that is an assemblage (blend) of three red grape varities: merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon. It's a subset of the greater Bordeaux wine producing region. We didn't spend any time in Saint-Emilion except to drive through and stop for this photo. Maybe one day we'll see it again.

I finally got the tomatoes planted yesterday. Today I'll work on the zucchini. We're still expecting a stormy, and hopefully rainy, weekend ahead.

My optical shop adventure was successful and I will soon have two new pairs of glasses. One with my existing frames and another with new frames. They should be ready for pick-up and fitting sometime next week.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022


The artichokes in our back yard have made their flower buds, so here's the annual portrait. It probably won't be the last. We had a surprise last year when a new artichoke plant came up in the vegetable garden. It survived winter and is now a couple of feet tall, with a nice flower bud in the center. I think the plant probably sprouted from seed. The garden plot is where I pile the dead stalks and their seed heads in the fall before I dispose of them. One of the seeds must have survived and sprouted.

Flower heads on the artichoke plant.

I didn't get the tomatoes planted in the ground yesterday, but I did make some progress. I dug the holes (not easy in the parched concrete-like soil) and filled them with water a couple of times to soften the dirt around them. I'm going to try to get the seedlings in today. The week is warming up and some rain is predicted toward the weekend. This is my window of opportunity. There are also some zucchini seedlings ready to go in as well.