Monday, January 25, 2010

As the saying goes, "Sometimes things happen". On Saturday, January 24th, I went into Vancouver to deliver a car to a friend. I had already spent 2.5 hours shooting downtown in the morning, so I only tucked the G9 into my pocket for this quick trip, just in case. After delivering the car, I noticed these brilliant reflections caused by the very low winter sun, the unusual break in the clouds, and, since it was a late Saturday afternoon, the office buildings had few lit lights so the glass windows were excellent mirrors. I shot quickly, solely while on Georgia and then on Howe. By the time the bus arrived, the sun had been covered by low clouds and the magic disappeared.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Granville Island Market in January

There is nothing in Vancouver quite like Granville Market on Granville Island. This former industrial site was transformed decades ago into a thriving bustling farmers market and artisan shop district. It also has a busy ship repair area (not shown here), several parks, beautiful walkways that stretch for kilometers, places for children to play, and a good supply of coffee shops, cafes and bakeries.

Our photography class took a field trip to the island and these photos came from that brief visit on an overcast, rather dark Tuesday this January. The Vancouver weather is unseasonably warm (10 C), which has the Olympic organizers all worried about snow, thinking about adding chemicals to artificial snow, etc., but real people just walk around the city and enjoy the warmth.

Parking can be a problem in the high tourist season, but a number of garages offer good parking.

One forgets that deliveries are crucial for all the fruits, vegetables and wares we enjoy pursuing in the Market.

You can either walk into shops and Granville Market itself, or walk outside, around all the buildings and activities.

The Market and shops are also kid friendly.

Most people go directly to Granville Market itself, looking for some of the city's finest produce, meats, fish, honey, wines, etc.

Buskers are formally approved before being allowed to perform on the Island, so you can hear and see good performances.

I am fascinated by how many people crowd into the Market and yet are on their cell phones, talking with friends elsewhere rather than with people close at hand. I guess I'm getting old.

Coffee stalls are all the rage on the west coast, places to get the finest beans and meet friends.
Granville Island Brewery makes some of the city's finest micro brews. The beer master came from Germany and follows the Bavarian purity laws to the letter.

My teacher, Ian McGuffie, reminds us that 'mistakes are the portals to discovery'. This shot was a mistake (hopelessly out of focus), yet I found I could take part of it and make an interesting abstract photograph. It is a shot through the window of a fabric shop, which was faintly lit by an antique table lamp.

Thousands of people like to live within walking distance of Granville Island, for good reason.

And finally, a reminder that in British Columbia we are not allowed to smoke in any public building. This is a fantastic province.

Friday, January 1, 2010

La Galerie Toscane, B&B in Lasalle, Gard, France

Views from the gallery looking across the valley.

Even a sudden heavy rain was beautiful to watch from the gallery.

You can just see the Galerie Toscane from across the valley.

We stayed for one full week in late April at one of the very best B&Bs ever, La Galerie Toscane, which is hidden away in the Cévennes in the medieval village of Lasalle. We selected this B&B because of its easy access to numerous villages and towns in the Cévennes, because it promised to feature gardens, and yes, because we soon figured out that Geneviève speaks English (and was also willing to speak in a very clear and simple French when we indicated we wished to practice a bit).

The official website gives the important information. The home was reconstructed over a period of time, but the most important changes were made shortly after 1898 in a grand Italian manner after the owner had made his fortune in Italy and decided to retire in beautiful Lasalle. In particular, he created a wonderful balcony, or galerie in the style of Tuscany. We requested the guest room which has access to this balcony and the balcony proved to be one of the highlights of our stay. We could sit there in solitude, reading, listening to the birds and enjoying the views of neighbouring mountains and the valley. We could watch (and photograph) the sudden spring rain in dry comfort, all the while being in our own little world.

The estate's garden consists of three usable levels and is slowly being developed once again after decades of not being used (top priority was obviously modernizing the home itself). The former 18th-century owner bought rights to the excess water from the local public fountain, piping that water into his covered cistern. This enabled his staff to water the various gardens with relative ease as the water flowed from one level to another. The property fronts onto the village's river which regularly overflows the uncultivated lowest fourth of the land, yet it is beautiful to watch.

Geneviève was not just a very gracious host but she is also an accomplished cook, so we enjoyed several evening meals with her, which gave us additional opportunity to learn about the history and sights of the Gard, the Cévennes and Lasalle itself. Breakfasts were always more than ample and very tasty, often featuring a number of local cheeses, breads, fresh fruits, and her homemade jams and jellies. She also volunteered to phone on our behalf to make reservations at special restaurants within easy driving distance in the surrounding villages and hills, establishments we would otherwise have not encountered.

Geneviève delights in showing visitors the grounds and talking about the history of the village, this very special property, and gardening. For instance, since there were times of severe persecution of the Protestants in Lasalle, so La Galerie Toscane included a small closet with a carefully concealed false floor which gave access to a hidden room where the residents could safely hide from the king's men.

Some of my other blog entries provide photos of sights we enjoyed during our week of explorations in this general area: the small village of Lézan, the Château de Fressac, another small mountain village, St Jean du Gard, the major Roman city of Nîmes (we took the train from Paris to Nîmes where we then rented our car for the week), the village of Durfort in Gard, the unusual La Bambouseraie (Bamboo Gardens), the village of Uzès, also Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie (obviously known for its pottery), and the famous Roman bridge and aqueduct, Pont du Garde. There are many other places to visit, all within an easy drive from La Galerie Toscane. We hope to return soon!