Thursday, April 30, 2009

For Your "Listening" Pleasure

Just had the following conversation: (sorry, it's kind of long)

Him: You've changed a lot. Looks like your vacation did you some good.
Me: Oh, really? Hm. I don't know what could have changed, but you're the second person in three days to tell me that.
Him: Yeah, you're even more beautiful than before.
Me: (Blushing) (Thinking: Seriously? How is it possible that people say things like this??)
Me: Ummm... thanks, that's nice.
Him: So, we should hang out this weekend. What do you have going on?
Me: Well, I'm busy Saturday night, so what about tomorrow?
Him: Okay.
we discuss the details of this...
Him: You have such a beautiful smile. You should share it with me.
Me: Umm... what?
Him: You should share it with me.
Me: (Thinking, "Okaaaay.). *Big smile in his direction.*
Him: You know, share.
Me: (Confused. Didn't I just grin at you?)
Me: I don't understand.
Him: You know. Share. Like if I have a glass of water, and mine is gone, you give me some of yours. Share. (He's almot yelling now, like that will help me understand the meaning of this very basic concept. I promise, fella, that's not the problem. I KNOW what the verb partager means.)
Me: (Great. He thinks I'm retarded. How am I the one who gets the toddler-style explanation in this conversation?)
Me: Okay.
Him: (Apparently needing to change subjects...) You're so beautiful. I should marry you.
Me: Uuummmmm... (can I un-do our date now? Remember two seconds ago when we had a really wierd communication problem? Let's not get married.). Sorry, that's not going to happen.
Him: Why not?
Me: (Seriously?) Because I am not looking for romance right now. I'm leaving in two months, and long-distance doesn't cut it for me.
Him: But what if you fell in love?
Me: (At this point, almost trying to squash any remaining hope.) Well, I don't fall in love easily or quickly.
Him: Oh. Okay.

First, enough with the wierd marriage comments. I find it to be a big turn-off that a) you think you want to marry me already and b)that your comment about marriage was directly related to a comment about my beauty. That's not a good enough reason to get married.

Second, it makes me feel really awkward that you keep talking about how beautiful I am. And it makes the compliment much less meaningful. I'm glad you think I'm pretty. But ease up a bit, because I still need to learn to gracefully take compliments.

Third, I insisted this evening that I am only looking for friendship. So, let's stick with the plan.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Street Photography

Street Photography is the topic of the month for April at Take-Out Photo.

Paris is definitely a great place to get some street photography in... and since my family was headed out to a few different places over Easter break, I kept this theme in mind and tried to get a few pictures in.

Some are more loose interpretations of street photography, and some offer a more traditional approach. I tried to use only manual settings, because one of my goals over the next year is to really feel at ease using manual exposure settings on my camera. As a result, some of them are not exposed quite right (or not at all right), or may have white balance issues, etc.

So here they are, sorted by location:

Paris: Charles de Gaulle Etoile (roundabout by the Arc de Triomphe)
The Champs Elysees. What better street to get a picture of traffic? Or, at least the lights of passing traffic...
Giverny (Monet's stomping ground)

Salzburg, Austria
This street in Salzburg requires the stores to have a special stylized store sign made up that hangs out perpendicular from the storefront. Even good ol' McDonald's had to design one.
A lil' game of chess in a square in Salzburg (but we walked through so many interconnected squares, I don't know which one this is.)

Prague, Czech Republic
In Prague they were still having their Easter Market and an Easter festival, so there were all kinds of booths out, including this guy who was weaving scarves, bags, blankets, and shirts. I bought myself a lil' teeny messenger-style bag. Then I went back and bought a bigger one.

Another artisan at the Easter Market was this blacksmith who was making ornate doorbells. Actual bells to hang outside your front door for visitors to ring. Very cool.

The pictures above and below were taken within the Prague Castle museum area. The music was really fantastic, and we bought a CD. I love how enthusiastic the flautist (I think that's a flute) is in the picture below. It was so fun to watch.

Vienna, Austria
Walking through the grounds of one section of the enormous Hapsburg palace in Vienna, we came across a lighting crew. Obviously there was some kind of photo shoot or filming going on inside... but we couldn't figure out what it was.
Then in the art museum (also built by the Hapsburgs) I came across this man who was creating a replica of the painting by his right shoulder. It was amazingly accurate, but a bit brighter, which I loved. What talent. And patience.

Hallstatt, Austria. (Such a cool village. More on that later--it gets its own post.)
Hallstatt is the dead-end of a road that snakes around the lake you can see below. It was a mining town, and is built up the side of the hill. So, staircases like the one pictured above, are the streets. Incredibly charming village, but I'm thinking it would be less charming if I had to lug groceries or -- heaven forbid -- something like a washing machine to my house.
Tourist season wasn't quite in full swing when we were there, and I liked how this cafe looked somewhat deserted. You can see the orange lanters above that hint at what the ambience must be like on a calm summer evening... but not in early April. :)

Strasbourg, France
Free hugs in Strasbourg!

Dresden, Germany
I thought it was kind of cool that this guy was just dancing away in the street, headphones in his ears. My dad thought it was odd.
I think this guy did, too. (I actually didn't even notice that he and his daughter were going to walk into the frame--but I think it makes the picture even better to see someone else's reaction to the dancing.)

Thanks, Marc, for having such a cool Monthly Special for April! It was a lot of fun to try my hand at street photography.

Ye Shall Know Me by My Earrings

Today I was walking down the sidewalk, enjoying the feel of the mist-like rain that was falling on the city, when a young man doing street-contacting for some sort of national organization stopped me.

Him: "Mademoiselle?" (Just as I am walking past him)

Me: "Oui?" (Doing a 180 to face him)

H: How are you?

M: Fine, thanks, how are you.

H: Super.

M: Good.

H: You're not French are you?

M: (Thinking: You CANNOT be serious. I can't even manage to say HELLO without sounding like an American?!)

M: (Out Loud) No, I'm not. (Hoping I look confused as to why he's saying this)

H: Well, it's actually because of your earrings.

M: My earrings? (Oh, of COURSE it was my earrings...naturally.)

H: Yeah. French women don't wear earrings like that.

M: (Out loud) Oh. (Thinking: Oh, yeah. I forgot how French women don't like color.)

H: They look like candy.

M: Hm.

H: Well, since you're not French, I can't give you my spiel, so have a great day!

M: You, too.

So, next time you see someone wearing earrings like these*:

you can safely assume that, though they may not be American, above all... they aren't French.

*Yes, those are the actual "candy" earrings I am wearing today

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring Blossoms

So, I kind of like this picture. Even though it's REALLY overexposed. Maybe I'll print it and frame it. Maybe.

Taken between the Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Elysees Clemenceau Metro stop by the Grand Palais.

Less Morbid, but Still focused on the Dead

A less creepy monument to those who have passed on is the Pantheon. I've already shown you some pictures of that, so I'll kep it nice and brief here.

We went. It was fast. And cold.

Here is Amy posing with a spliced model of the Pantheon.

The end.

I See Dead People

No disrespect intended... but every time I see a cemetery, visit a crypt, etc. the line from 6th Sense comes to mind.

Maybe that's because my father is constantly saying it. Thanks, dad. :)

So, one of the things Amy really wanted to do while she was in Paris was see the Catacombs. On Thursday (I think), we ventured out to get there bright and early... and still found ourselves in line behind a HUGE group. There had to be at least 100 of them in line ahead of us. This was a problem because the catacombs can only accomodate so many people at a time, so they only let a few people in at once, and then the line just stagnates for a while. The other reason it was a problem was that Ames and I had a train to catch later so we could head out to Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Luckily, there were also about 30 kids from that group that got in line after us, so just before the doors opened, their group "director" told us and two or three people behind us in line that we could go ahead of their entire group in order for them to stay together. Hello! Really nice, and really convenient for Amy and I, because that left us just enough time to see the Catacombs and make it to the train station.
The unassuming entrance to the Catacombs

Amy and I standing below an inscription that reads: Stop! This place is the Empire of Death!

Skulls forming a heart. I don't know whether to think that's sweet or full-on creepy. But I'm leaning toward creepy.

Me quaking in my boots

Amy laughing in the face of Death. Ha!

I think it would be fascinating to be here during the resurrection. Don't you? Can you imagine the chaos? I know this is probably a really incorrect view of things, but I can just picture bones flying around to make it back to their proper body... and I think it would be interesting to watch.

Climbing the never-ending spiral staircase to the exit.

Arc de Triomphe

Amy and I also paid a little visit to the Arc de Triomphe and its 284 stairs. The reward it definitely worth the effort.

Plus, after about 230 stairs, you get a little break, and you can look at this cool interacive display.

It's an interactive display of all the arches in the world. In the lower right corner of the picture you can see the touch-screen display of the world. By touching a continent, it then zooms in on that continent, and you can then click on little "Arc de Triomphe" icons to see pictures, locations, and the reason why each arch was erected. Cool, right?
Then there are only a few stairs left to climb and you get to enjoy the views.

Good timing means you can see the Eiffel Tower sparkle from an excellent vantage point.

We also caught the last hint of the sunset as the sun set behind La Defense. Rose colored skies make the business district look almost... pretty. It's a cool skyline to contrast with the color of the sky, at least.

Amy on the top of the Arc

Me on the top of the Arc

Ghostly lights of traffic circulating around the 12-lane roundabout that surrounds the Arc de Triomphe. Not the best picture, technically speaking, but I really like it because A) for once, I managed to get a reasonable straight horizon line, and B) it's mostly symmetrical.

So, there you have it. 284 stairs, a few pics, 12 lanes of traffic, and 2 tired sisters.

First Sunday = FREE

On the first Sunday of each month, all of the state-run museums in France are free. So, after Ames and I go-karted (okay, it was a golf cart...) our way through the gardens of Versailles, we hopped the RER back to the city and went to the Rodin Museum and the Picasso Museum.

The Rodin Museum was amazing. I highly recommend it as a 2-hour stop if you are ever in Paris. (It will only take 2 hours if you have a short wait to get in, and you like to look at and think about the sculptures. If you are like my father and jet through museums at the speed of light, this museum will take you 30 minutes once you get in, including the beautiful gardens).

Oh, also... many of the major works presented inside the house are presented in their final versions in the gardens. It's only 1 Euro to go in the gardens... if you're looking to save money and time. (You're welcome.)

A view of the back of the house from the gardens.

Amy being a statue in the gardens (with a tree growing out of her head. Sorry, Ames.)
The Thinker

Creepy fish-face lady

Just a little taste of what the interior of the house looks like. I'm sure it was in much better condition when it was inhabited... but it's still beautiful.

The Kiss

This one is called "The Hand of God" and it is shaping the forms of Adam and Eve. It is also on a turntable pedestal and displayed in front of a large mirror, because Rodin intended for this sculpture to be viewed from all sides. You can see the back of the sculpture reflected in the mirror (And I can't tell you how many evil stares Amy and I got when we moved the turntable. It's OKAY, people!! This is actually allowed!!)

The Cathedral (formed with two right hands)

The Picasso Museum is, in my opinion, completely skippable. There are several reasons I came to this conclusion:

1) The layout is horribly tangled, so you have to cross through rooms you've already been in (and disrupt people who are trying to stop and look while you, annoyed, have to walk through the room YET AGAIN)

2) No air conditioning, too many people, and no open windows. Stuffy, hot, and altogether unpleasant.

3) I found the presentation of the works to be jumbled and I couldn't make sense of it. Was it chronological? By theme? Were Picasso's works presented next to art he had acquired that specifically influenced those works? Or was it purposefully chaotic? Maybe that was the point.

Either way, photography wasn't allowed in the museum, so here is a quick view of the front facade (which looks like it's being renovated... let's hope that's why the inside of the museum is such a mess).

and a clandestine picture of a painting from the museum. This was housed in a room the size of a small bathroom... and apparently no museum staff was relegated to sit there all day. So, yep. I took a picture.

I'm not a huge Picasso fan to begin with--though there were some works (mainly sculptures) in the museum that I liked. Overall, I would say that if you're not an art fanatic or a big Picasso fan, you can feel good about leaving this one behind.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Gardens and Fountains of Versailles

On Sunday Amy and I went to Versailles to see the fountains play. We rented a little golf cart so we could get through all of the gardens faster, because on the first Sunday of each month all state museums are free, and we wanted to get back to city quickly so we could get in a couple of other museums. Here are some highlights from Versailles:

How random is this? I almost liked it, but then I didn't. It's just a bunch of different colored hoses hooked to some metal rings to become a fountain. It looked better from farther away.

You can barely even tell, but the boxy shape behind the fountain spray is the castle... waaaay back up at the beginning of the gardens.

Turning at the same fountain, but in the opposite direciton, you can enjoy the seemingly infinite view of the rest of the gardens.

Amy in one of the gardens by awesomely sculpted potted shrubbery.

Same garden. This time an awesomely sculpted fountain.
(Though less awesome was the fact that even though the fountains "play" from 11:30 - 1:30, they don't all go at the same time, as evidenced by this fountain. Laaaame.)