QC Blog: 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dreams May Die

It's been a long year.  My grand-nephew James was born at the beginning of the year, bringing great joy and happiness to all our family. We celebrated birthdays and christenings, and vacationed in Stone Harbor/Avalon in New Jersey.  Sadly, in October, Mark's mom, Louise, passed away.  Although she had some medical problems, it was unexpected and difficult.  Family is so important at times like that.  We felt wrapped in the love from our families.  I am so awed by the unexpected kindnesses that came from different portions of our family.  I love you all.

Even though it's been exactly a year since we were in France, it seems like a lifetime ago. How fast things fade from your memory!  Death has a way of readjusting all your priorities.  When clearing away all the things that one accumulates in a lifetime, you keep asking - what is really important in my life?  What are the things that define me?  What are the things that matter?  What do I want my kids to think is important enough not to throw into a box and give to a charity?  Is my life so cluttered, they would never be able to find the important things?

All the things I've been putting off sorting, getting rid of, donating, and selling, I'm doing it now.

I've made an interesting discovery in the process.  I love photography.  Once upon a time I had a dream.  I've wanted a darkroom since I was about 16 years old.  I always felt like a real photographer when I was in the darkroom.  When I got married, every birthday and Christmas present for about 3 years was a piece to complete my darkroom.  I bought the enlarger with great care and family members would buy different pieces - the trays, the squeeges, the thermometers, the developing tanks, the safelights. My 3 year old nephew suggested he could buy me a light for my darkroom, so that I could see :)  My first darkroom in Baltimore was in our basement, on a board that was mounted over the washer and dryer when not in use. 

After moving back to Pittsburgh, my father-in-law built me a darkroom in our house.  It had a door, it was a real room.  It had two counters, and a light fixture for the safelight, with a special light switch, to turn off the safelight and turn on the white light, replicating the darkroom I worked in at my high school, when I was Photography Editor of the yearbook.  But my children were little and I didn't have a lot of time to work in it, but I still had the dream.  I showed my niece and nephew how to make a sunprint and used the darkroom to develop the print.  I printed some photos of my oldest son that I had taken in b&w.  I kept telling myself that there would be time soon for me to work in the darkroom.

When we moved to our present house in 1995 and finished the basement, I made sure we built another darkroom, exactly like the one my FIL had built for me in our old house.  I was still determined to find the time to get into the darkroom. I bought chemicals and developed some film.  Soon, I kept telling myself.

Shortly after that, the world went digital.  People could print photos at home.  Adobe created Lightroom - a computer darkroom.  I got my own digital camera when I started doing virtual tours.  As the years went by, I realized I enjoyed using the computer to play with photos.  In the last year, I've begun to admit to myself that maybe I should get rid of my darkroom, but I was afraid to say it out loud, afraid I was giving up.  When I did, the world didn't end.  There was no earthquake.  And my heart didn't break.

I did an inventory last week of all my darkroom equipment, having made up my mind to get rid of it.  It's not worth much these days.  I realized that the enlarger is still wrapped in the same plastic bag that I put on it when I moved it 15 years ago.  I haven't opened it since we moved.

What was I waiting for?   Somehow, having the dream and achieving the dream are not the same thing.  Time has just passed by and what was once my largest dream has changed with time. Spending the time with my children when they were little was more important than spending that time in my darkroom.  Letting go of my darkroom does not mean I do not love photography, or that I don't want to develop photos.  I am just changing the way I do it.  Changing with the times, using the technology of the decade.  I really didn't miss anything, and getting rid of my stuff will not make me less of a photographer. I will survive without the stuff. 

"...There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them."
                                                                                                                                                 Jim Croce

 Next: Vienne and Lyon

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tournon & Tain L'Hermitage

So much has happened in the last few months. We've had a new addition to our family and he's forever changed who we are. I'll write more about him in another post so I can devote myself properly to the subject.
It seems like eons ago that we went to France. I want to finish writing about our trip (mostly so I'll remember it), so I'll pick it up at Tournon sur Rhone and Tain L'Hermitage.

We finally had a morning of sailing. It was a beautiful day and we had a chance to meet some of our fellow Viking travelers above deck.

We were able to experience going through a lock firsthand. It was actually the 8th one we've been through and we still have 7 more on the trip up the Rhone and down the Saone. It's really impressive how they work. My sister Patty attended a Captain's tour of the Wheelhouse, where you could meet Captain Dario Weber from Belgium. As soon as we saw him, we decided he looked like Moondoggie, and if you don't understand that reference, you're just too young! Sigh!

Our views were of vineyards and funny shaped trees and clear blue water and blue blue skies and of course castles. When we docked it was next to another ship, with about 6 inches of space between them.

Mark and Patty and I went for a walk in the town of Tournon. Chrissie stayed behind, feeling a little under the weather. The shops were closed for lunch, and stayed closed from about 11:00am till almost 2:00pm. There was a statue of Marc Seguin, who invented a Steam Engine and designed a European suspension bridge across the Rhone. We walked toward a huge castle built right into the hillside, where the museum had closed for the season the week before. The castle was built between the 14th and 16th centuries. There were loads of cute shops and eateries (all closed) and we saw our first sportsbar in this little town.

After a lunch break on the boat, Chrissie rejoined us and we went on the guided tour in the afternoon, and walked across the Marc Seguin pedestrian footbridge to Tain l'Hermitage on the opposite side of the Rhone river. Here we stopped at a small museum, Musee Palue, whose owner sells paintings of her father's, who was an artist. She spoke to us in French and the guide interpreted for her. Our tour guide wore a leopard coat with black boots and sunglasses and the whole experience was so... French. We met the bus, who then took us to the top of the hill beyond the sloped vineyards to a local winery in Tain L'Hermitage for our wine tasting. They showed us their wine cellars and explained how the wine was made, then we tasted 3 different kinds.

After wine, of course, what tastes better than chocolate? We stopped at the Chocolaterie Valrhona, a company that sells chocolate and also has a school for professional chefs focusing on chocolate dishes and pastries. There were free samples as well as a large selection of delicious chocolate. This one was tough, I had to find something for the boys, small enough to carry home. I settled on circular discs, but I should have bought the flat boxes they had instead. It didn't really matter, it was all great. (By the way, you can buy this chocolate on Amazon - it tasted better than any chocolate I've ever had, and can you believe this, I've had a lot?)

Back to the boat, where again, we eat a sumptuous dinner and get ready for the next day's adventure.

Next: Vienne and Lyon

Friday, January 6, 2012

Avignon and Provence

Lucky for us, the river level went down and we were able to set sail for Avignon that evening.  The ship sailed past Avignon first, so we could see the bridge of St. Benezet, better known as the Pont d'Avignon, and the town at night.  We started each morning with a generous breakfast in the dining room.  Hot tea (really hot tea) was served from a pot, and we could choose from eggs, waffles, thinly sliced hams, granola and yogurt, various fruit juices, to a great chocolate chip muffin that I just had to have every morning.  Then it was back to the stateroom to lace up our tennis shoes and get ready for the trip of the day.
Today's shore excursion was in Avignon, in an area known as the Provence, famous for their lavender.  We didn't get to see the lavender in bloom, but bought some wonderfully scented lavender soap here.  The walls that surrounded the town extend for three miles.

Inside the "old town" that has been preserved is the Palais de Popes (Palace of the Popes) where the Popes lived in the 1300's. 
It is a huge structure at almost 50.000 square feet.  They told us it took 20 years to build this incredible stone palace.  We were allowed to take pictures everywhere except the rooms where there was fabric on the walls, or in the Sacristy.  The flashes (just like sunlight) would further deteriorate the fabric, so it's not permitted.  The rooms were cavernous, and a fireplace took up an entire wall.

Next to that was a cathedral called Notre-Dame-des-Doms, that has a golden statue that was placed on top in the 19th century.
Naturally, on our way out of this elegant palace, there was a gift shop, that sold everything from wine to knightly gear to pens with the pope on top.  I bought a jelly jar cover with Avignon embroidered on top, to try and keep to my pledge that everything I bought would be fabric or flat (so it would fit in the suitcase). 
The Eglis Saint-Pierre is one of the most beautiful churches in Avignon, is located in the center of the city. It was built at the beginning of the 16th century. A few years later, in 1551, the wooden doors were added.  When we walked in the church, it smelled of incense and was breathtaking  It is famous for it's Gothic facade and the solid walnut doors.  Along both sides of the church are chapels dedicated to saints. 
I was so awed by the beauty that I only took one picture of the inside of the church. 
We walked through an indoor market, that had everything from chocolates to poultry and fruits.  We walked down the Rue des Teinturiers, a beautiful and picturesque street in Avignon, that runs next to the canal and saw the Chapelle des Penitents Gris, a monastery that is still active today and the Couvent des Cordeliers, Avignon's largest convent when it was founded in 1929.
 The street has giant plane trees, resembling the American sycamore tree.
On our way back to the boat, we walked the 'Rue de la Republique', the main street in Avignon.  There were stores and shops but we didn't have time to look at them.  I think we bought lavender soap on the way.  Once back at the boat, we set sail for Viviers while some of our cruise people went to a wine tasting at the Chateauneuf du Pape. That evening, Mark and Chrissie went on the Viviers walk.  They enjoyed it immensely.  It is a medieval town with a cathedral at the top of the hill, St. Vincent.  I was just too tuckered out to walk another step.

Next: Tournon & Tain L'Hermitage

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