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New Mexico

Back in the fall I took one day to make a loop through the Jemez.  This is a favorite day trip of mine and each time I get to see a little something new.  This time I took a side road up to see some tunnels through a steep pass that I’d never been out to see before.

Here’s a deep red mud puddle after a rain.
One of my favorite petroglyphs on part of Bandelier.
More petroglyphs
Friendly spider crossing the road
Albuquerque knows how to do sunsets
The color on this truck was amazing: no editing!
Fall colors in the Jemez
Final sunset with the city lights below
Mountains near the train tunnels

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Jardins de Marqueyssac

This is a chateau and large garden on a ridge-line above the Dordogne river. Normally open during the day, it sometimes opens in the evening for a candlelit view of the gardens along with music. I would go back in a heartbeat. I’d love to also see it during the day.

As we were about to walk in, the light glowing through a grape arbor caught my eye.

Inside, in addition to musicians, there were ‘fairies’, colorfully lit fountains and these little goblins popping out of the earth. In the daytime there was a mini rope-net course for the kids to play on, but we didn’t have much time there before it became too dark to see.

Fairies
Enchanted pool
Our girls casting some sort of spell.
Earth goblins. I think I need some of these for my yard.
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Château de Chambord

The main word that comes to mind is “ostentatious”. I mean, building a giant, spired, wood-paneled, fake-castle/palace as your summer home (or in this case, hunting lodge) is alway ostentatious, but this one really seemed to do it more.

Just look at it!

From a distance
Getting closer…
Can you see that this is a detail on the roof and it’s still enormous?

It was only used for seven weeks total by the builder (in the 16th Century), in part because it’s completely impractical.  It’s too big and open to heat effectively and there was no nearby village to supply food so everything had to be carried in for the 2000 or so guests who would arrive all at once.  But it has some really neat features.  One of the most famous is the double helix staircase.  Two staircases spiral around each other and you can stop at the internal windows and look at your friends going up the opposite stair.

Looking up the center of the staircase

And there are fire-salamanders everywhere, and who is not a fan of fire-salamanders?

Fiery king salamander

And, as usual, the gardens were vast and impressive.

There was an equestrian show at an outdoor pavilion on the grounds that I missed, and I’m a bit sorry I did because it sounded amazing.  Next time, I guess?

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Château de Chenonceau

This château has everything: white stone towers, a river, grand rooms, complicated gardens, a tree-lined path and a hedge maze.  We may be early in our journey, but I declared it “Peak Castle” all other castles are downhill from here.  Technically I consider this a ‘palace’ – a non-defensive structure, leaving room for me to really enjoy some less elaborate and more defensive structures.  While we were there we saw a few people paddling by in canoes which also seems a great way to view it.

I was impressed by the amount of copper-ware in the kitchens and the vast black-and-white checkerboard tiles in the long gallery that spans the river, but the best part was definitely the exterior of the castle and the grounds, which were stunning.

Note the person reading on the wall above the river.
View from the far side of the river, over a little drawbridge.
Just a glimpse of one of the gardens.
Hedge maze!
More of the garden visible.

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Troglodyte House, Poce-sur-Cisse, France

Hello again!

We’ve been away on a 3-week long trip to France and now that we are back it’s time to go through the photos. I always liked the idea of traveling with children, but it turns out that I find organizing for that many people stressful, so we kept putting it off.  Finally, I noticed that my oldest was 18 and if we wanted to do a major, whole-family trip, I had better act now.

For our first three days we stayed in a ‘troglodyte house’, a home partially built into the limestone hillside behind it.  I really love the idea that if you ever thought your house was too small you could just continue to dig into it and make it bigger.

 

This one has some remnants of an old wine press in it.  The back rooms were wonderfully cool, which we enjoyed because temperatures in France were very hot for our entire stay. A house two down from this one was for sale, and while we loved staying there, the rooms are also perpetually damp and that might get old after a while.

Church and canal in Poce-sur-Cisse
Outside the troglodyte house at night.

This little canal and bridge was in town, near the patisserie. It did not take much time at all for us to get used to the ubiquitous presence of fresh daily baguettes and pastries within walking distance.  The baguettes were inexpensive, generally .8 euros or less, which is FAR less than I would expect to pay for them in the US.

At night it was very quiet and dark, all the street lamp went out at midnight giving a good view of the sky.   In the early morning we saw hot-air balloons in the distance.  When we had free time at home, we listened to “Coffee Break French” podcast to try to prepare ourselves for actual conversations.

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Winthrop and the Methow Valley

We went on a rafting trip on the Methow River this weekend.  The river was a bit too rough for me to drag the camera out regularly, but I was playing around with night scenes and exposure length.

Trying to catch the “blue hour” in Winthrop, WA
This mountain looks like the Black Gate of Mordor. I have concerns.
Playing around some more with a darker sky and the light in the clouds.
Pretty cloud
Diablo Lake
4 second exposure of the lake at night. I really like how the sky turned out but I was having trouble with focus.
These ducks had no fear. I do not have a telephoto lens.
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Seattle

It feels like I only go into the city when we have visitors, but we did, and I did.  Of course we had to go to Pike Market and Seattle Center (on the monorail! – it’s the best way!)

Obligatory shot of Pike Market sign

Seattle Center
Pacific Science Center

From the monorail

Final shot.  I have a thing for amusing signs and this guy looks like there’s just been some sort of Urgent Diaper Emergency.

Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb
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Whidbey Island

Whenever we have guests from out of town and I’m looking for a day trip, this is one of my favorites.  We start by driving up to Deception Pass and walk out over the bridge to Pass Island.

View from about mid-span.

The current through the narrow channel can reach 8 knots at peak flow. I’ve been kayaking near there before but never through the pass itself.  This time there was a series of standing waves west of the bridge and high winds, which made crossing a white-knuckle experience.  I was afraid to look through the viewfinder, so this picture was taking by just pointing the camera in a direction and hoping it caught something good.

From the bridge we headed downhill into the park for a walk along the beach and a look at the ancient (800+ year old) douglas fir.  We’ve heard this called the “Monkey Tree” but I have no idea where that name comes from (we did fill it with our own little monkeys).

Then it was on to the hike itself.

A different wind-contorted tree with ukulele player
Ebey’s Landing
Looking up the bluff

Then our final stop was Fort Casey where we flew kites and let the kids run around in the tunnels. For some reason I always forget to take photos at Fort Casey, but here’s my dog looking alert in front of the old battery.

From there we headed south to the ferry for a short hop back to the mainland.

The only thing that would make this trip better is if it could be done in reverse so you wound up by Snow Goose Produce for gigantic ice cream cones on the way home.

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Arboretum

I managed to come down with the 3-week crud that has been plaguing everyone, but late last week I finally felt up to moving around and we went down to Seattle to catch the cherry trees before the blooms faded.  I didn’t wind up with too many great photos of cherry blossoms, but there was quite a bit to impress.

What I learned:  I need to think about the composition of my shots more and I find that difficult when I’m still tired.  It’s hard to nail the focus on macro shots, especially when I don’t have a tripod. I’m still learning how to take photos in aperture priority mode and it’s not always a success.

ferns and moss on a tree
tiny orange bells
mysterious fairy glen
fiddlehead
hellebore
katsura