Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Although Foix is in the foothills, it is still a decent drive to the snow capped peaks higher in the Pyrenees. We decided to explore the Foix farmers' market, picking up a few dried sausages, cheese, and local organic wine. Foix, like many of the towns in France, boasts a castle. This one is quite spectacular in that it is still mostly intact. It was regarded as being inpenetrable at the time. In fact, it was closed for the lunch hour when tried to visit, but at this point we were already kinda overloaded with castles and entry fees.
If we all had to draw a castle, I bet it would look something like Foix castle.
Next day we headed up to La Plateau de Beille to do some XC skiing. We had been snow-and mountain deprived for almost 12 months, and were looking forward to cold, crisp mountain air. Snow was a bit thin in some places, but the higher we went, the better the snow and the views across the valleys. SJD, as usual, packed snacks to keep me moving along the way.
SJD in her element.
Why do the words "...and the agony of defeat" come to mind. Why don't these skis turn left?
Me looking somewhat more competent. Probably best to stick to bikes though.
Despite not fully grasping how to actually steer or stop XC skies, it was fun. The tired muscles at the end of the day stewed up nicely over night into fully aching and mostly useless limbs by the next morning. Hmmm...oh well.
(TDF note - Plateau de Beille will once again be a 2007 mountain-top stage finish. Oh my. Yes, these climbs seem longer and steeper in person than on OLN. Will have to check our DVD stash to see who won the stage in past years.)
On the way home we stopped at a full size supermarket to stock the refrigerator for the week. I had almost forgotten what a fresh vegetable department looked like. An aisle dedicated pig parts. Another for cheese. Forgive me...
Upon touch down in Europe (Frankfurt) we made a bee line to the nearest cafe to treat ourselves to a nice bowl of (restrain your excitement) cold fresh milk and cornflakes. And coffee. And bacon (Brian). And eggs. Oh what a delight it was. We didn't even wait to exit the airport or reach our final destination.
We now had just two days in Paris, but made the best of it. We stayed at a small hotel that I stayed at once before several years ago. The staff is still very pleasant. Rooms are clean, simple and cheap. The location is great for exploring central Paris on foot and Metro.
Despite several trips to Paris previously, neither SJD nor I had actually been up the Eifel Tower. Weather was actually quite nice at the bottom. We took several photos before paying a few Euros to walk to the top. Elevators are for wimps...according to SJD. Personally, I think they're somewhat convenient. The wind was really howling above the first level. We were not allowed to climb beyond the 2nd level (oh darn) because the wind and rain was probably really stinging up there. Not just kinda stinging like while we were taking in the sites on the 2nd level.
Sturdy tower I reckon.
Looks good close up.
Looks even more spectacular at night.
(Bonus! I'm slowly reading a really good book The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. It recounts events in Chicago during the 1890's leading up to the World's Fair. Lots of Chicago architecture history is covered in an entertaining way. There is a serial murderer element as well. All good Chicago stuff. Oh, also there are quite a few references and comparisons to Paris and Eiffel Tower. A big thanks to a former coworker, Mike Holland, for turning me on to this book.)
Somehow we managed (not intentionally) to not step foot in a single museum. Ok, we kinda walked around for half a day in a daze looking at all the storefronts full of things to purchase, but really didn't need in Accra, or in DC for that matter. Wool blazers? Nah. Shoes? Sandals do just fine here. Bike parts? Oooh, that was a tough one, but we resisted. Instead, we sampled chausson au pomme, salade chevre chaud and vin bon marche at every given opportunity. Oh, just for good measure we popped into a few of the well known sites like St. Chapelle, Sacre Coure, Jardin du Luxembourg, and a few markets along the way. We're tourists don'tcha know?
We took a boat tour up and down the Seine. Even bought tickets for an evening ballet performance at the old Opera House for 7 Euro apiece. I did this once before. The view was highly obstructed, especially if you actually sat in your seat. You could hear the performers jumping around on stage, and every now and then get to see them exit stage left. But to see the building itself is well worth the price of admission. Experiencing the lengthy bows and ritualized curtain calls is also amusing. (SJD note - BEP suggested the lengthy applause for one piece was due to relief that it was over...I made an effort to find a better view and actually found the dancing to be quite good)
We were settling into a lifestyle of exuberance rather nicely despite a weak exchange rate and the disappointing realization that my French speaking skills have almost all but disappeared. I kinda toss out the correct words, pause, hope that the French speaker can put them in the correct order, turn to SJD (whose French was only marginally better) for translation assistance, then point and gesture. I try...I really do.
Alas, it is time to head to Toulouse and Foix on the TGV.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Friday, February 09, 2007
Monday, February 05, 2007
Party Of Three from Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune
From: "Kelly F."
Subject: Saving Accra's Roots
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 2007 06:01:13 -0800 (PST)
Please spread the word ! Dear friend, In recent days, a family of centuries-old Niim trees
have been cut down on the Cantonments Roundabout island. These trees provided both beauty and shade from one of the city's highest elevations. Many citizens of Accra have expressed dismay. The artists of the Foundation for Contemporary Art would like to commemorate the death of these trees and voice concern about the increasing destruction of trees on public lands.
They will stage an event to be entitled 'Art in the Garden-12: Saving Accra's Roots' on Saturday the 10th of February from four pm until seven pm at the Cantoments Roundabout. If you support this, please come on Saturday. Wear red and black, the colours of funerary mourning. Foundation for Contemporary Art Accra Ghana.
Via Costarella 6 Trevi (PG) 06039 Italia>00393397557854
www.virginiaryan.com c/o Foundation Contemporary Art,
Dubois Centre, Ghana.
Yesterday we coordinated a much shorter ride than the previous week. Probably only half the distance, but connecting a few villages and valleys via buff tight and twisty singletrack. SJD, Chris and I had ridden this loop before. Chris took tumble in some soft sand as he was preparing to deal with a plank crossing just ahead. No real harm done although he looked like he'd been rolled in whole wheat flour (the dust sticks).
About mid-way, we tacked on a few more Ks out of curiosity. The extra loop was quite technical with steep rock drops, narrow grooves, and tight corners. It reminded us of riding bits of Gambrill, the Watershed or Michaux. Just barely rideable, but certainly worth the effort.
Here is a link to Chris' GPS data.
My rough and tumble super jock wife took a rather hard tumble, hitting her backside and forearm on log and boulder. It happened so quickly that we guess she veered into a stump just beside the trail. This will generally flip you and your bike around 180 in an instant.
(Note from SJD's slightly different (aka more accurate) version of events: my dear husband was rolling along just behind me as we went through a casava field. He decided it was a good time for a botany lesson and called out " is that casava on the right?" Distracted -- and trying to be helpful -- I turned my head. As we all know, the first rule of mountain biking is to look where you want to go. Unfortunately, just to the right was exactly where I didn't want to go. There was a nice sturdy tree stump that sent me flying... Lesson learned: tune out the botany questions until break time.)
The ride ended without much more calamity. Chris and his wife invited us over to his house for snacks, beer and a dip in their pool.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
The rest of the zoo trip wasn't nearly as exciting, thankfully. It does house a modest population of lions, ostriches, snakes, turtles, raptors, rodents, and small antelope all appearing healthy, if a bit eager to get to their newer home.
Friday, February 02, 2007
We arrived in Ghana 'round about September. Even though we were carless well into November, we submitted paperwork back in September to start the licensing, insurance, and registration process, assuming there would be a bit of bureaucratic red tape to cut through.
The car was eventually sprung from customs. Fine and dandy. We inquired about the status of the Ghanaian driver's license. The conversation was more or less as follows.
Me: "So, all paperwork is cleared? What about the Ghana Driver's License?
Expediter: "Yes please, it will be ready in 3 months, maybe."
Me: "Three MONTHS??? From September? Why so long? Am I okay to drive with my US license?" Too many questions at once...
Expediter: "Yes, three months. Yes, your license is good."
Me: "That is amazing.... Three hours max in DC... Ok, whatever. So I can drive?" The Ghanaians waiting for me to just move along chuckled at my growing disgust.
Three months would be January 2007 more or less.
We've been driving worry free on a DC license. Weaving through police check points and toll booths without a care all because the expediter said we could.
SJD received her official Ghana International Driving Permit this week. It was an exciting moment to hold the very official looking document - a small book similar to a passport. She is licensed to go out an drive like a nut to her little hearts content. Toot that horn. Drive on the wrong side of the road with your flashers on. Remove some lug nuts, and throw a oil drum on the roof. Let's go for a drive with the lights out.
We flipped past the cover reading GHANA International Driving Permit to the first page listing 80 or so countries honoring the GIDP. Next page: the photo, taped on. Name. Incorrect DOB. Futher instructions on page 38, yes page thirty-eight of your GIDP...
According to P38, SJD is allowed to drive type A, B,C private cars in all 80 or so countries. Not bad. EXCEPT GHANA. The biggest stamp in the entire GIDP states "NOT VALID IN GHANA".
So apparently SJD can still drive anywhere EXCEPT Ghana while we wait for Ghana to process their own version of a driver's license. I, on the other hand, have been informed that my paperwork for either license was never submitted by the expediter way back in September. So maybe sometime in June... Then again, maybe not.