Sunday, January 31, 2016

Going to Paris - Deux

Taking so long to go to Paris was not optimal.  I could say that money was the reason, but that would be less than honest.  Over the years I have spent more than enough money on other things, such as cars, housing, etc.  Certainly those are essentials, but also certainly I could have made different choices and saved the difference.

So maybe the real answer is priorities and being clear with myself.  When after a few decades of no contact I reconnected with my oldest friend the French teacher, I began thinking about going.  Having her relate her experiences during and after each journey got the juices flowing.  And after all, she is my personal travel resource for Paris in particular, and France in general.

Somehow I got it in my head to use frequent flyer miles to make the trip "free".   I had a few thousand miles on United, but not enough for a return trip.  So I started accumulating more by transferring points from other loyalty programs when possible, and eventually got a United-branded credit card with a bonus of several thousand points for signing up, plus points awarded for all purchases.  This works really well when I use the card for travel and other expenses reimbursed by my company.  Win!

But of course there is a dark side.  What capitalist pig business wouldn't get you coming AND going?  As I approached the number of miles required for a free return ticket (30,000 as I recall,) the amount changed - the number of points required, that is.  I watched it go up from 30K to 40K and eventually 60K.  I detect bastages in the marketing department!

When my son moved to Paris for work I was thrilled for him - and myself, of course.  Free lodging!  So that became a key element of the plan.  Sure I could pay for lodging, but that would have meant a shorter stay.  I may never be able to afford to go again, so staying for longer than a few days, if at all possible, is important to me.

That also means I can relax.  No need to cram everything into a few days.  While I will succumb to visiting at least a few of the tourist sites that everyone considers de rigeur (for a reason to be admitted discussed below,) whenever I travel I like to seek out the hidden, unknown and even ordinary.  Especially cities are defined by the people who have built and are building them.  Obviously geography and weather are foundational to how a village, town, city, et., is shaped.  But the everyday breathing in and out of a city is defined by its citizens.

And is there a better major city to people watch?  I am certain there will be disagreement on this, some of it centring around certain beaches in Brazil, Cannes, etc.  I'm not allowed on those beaches -that has nothing to do with my current parole stipulations.

The real reason for visiting at least some of the usual touristy sites is that if you don't, you catch hell from everyone.  "What?!?  You didn't go to the Eiffel Tower?  What are you, a commie pinko?" (Someone knows who he is ...)

"You didn't even try to get to La Sainte Chapelle!!! I'm no longer your oldest friend!!!"

Ok, I'm using a bit of hyperbole to just say my aim is balance.   

Back to why the delay ... more than financing the trip, the other factor that kept me from booking for such a long time was the reality of mobility issues.  Paris is a walking city, which is a significant part of its appeal.  That's hard for me at the best of times.  But after a few years of weight gain, combined with reduced flexibility due to a sedentary job, I knew I could end up going and being disappointed.

I decided to turn that into a challenge - make Paris an absolute goal so that it became my motivation to get in shape.  I started that process near the end of December.  I went back to my physiotherapy provider, going twice a week for a few weeks to kick start me and provide instructions for continuing at home.  Once I booked the ticket this weekend, I was fully committed.

Once Christmas was past, I began reducing my caloric intake.  As I got more flexible I was able to walk more easily, which helped with losing weight, which helped increase flexibility, which helped ... the opposite of the vicious circle.

My goal is another 10 pounds loss minimum, but I'm not fixated on that.  In fact my real long term goal is another 15-20 pounds.  I don't know if that's realistic, but we will see.  I'm not going to defeat myself by trying to grab the unobtainium.  Anyone who does that usually ends up regressing, sometimes ending up in a far worse situation.

Once the weather warms up a bit more here at home and daylight lingers longer, I will go on walking photo excursions of increasing duration.  I may even buy a cheap-ish bicycle and get back my cycling chops.

I hear people ride bikes in Paris and they can easily be rented.  The bikes, that is, not the people.  Well, some of them can be rented, but that's not permitted.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Going to Paris - Partie la Premiere

I began taking in French in Grade 5.  Our teacher was the formidable Mme Foreman.  I can't recall if she was from Paris or elsewhere in France, but she married and emigrated to North America.  If there was a better French teacher for elementary level, I can't imagine it.  Even students who did not like nor did well learning French, liked her.  Most of us loved her.

For several years we did not see a printed word of French.  This is the way we learn language in infancy -- duh.  We were privileged to be in a laboratory school run by the local university.  It was very progressive and allowed for experimentation of curriculum and methods.

I can't say that everything that the school attempted worked, but the method of foreign language instruction was an unqualified success.  One of our classmates struggled with pronunciation - you could see his brain churning as he struggled to translate and speak.  Yet he ended up living in Belgium, becoming fluent and accomplishing a stellar career in marketing management for major corporations involved in both consumer and commercial marine operations -- en deux langues. Or more.

Another classmate, whom I knew from birth and thus is my "oldest" (she will hate that designation!) friend on this earth became a French teacher.  With undergraduate and graduate level studies at two universities in France, including La Sorbonne, she retired after 33 wonderful years of teaching high school French.  She is a true successor to Mme Foreman, ushering a huge number of students not only into the joy of learning a new language, but of being open to a cultural world holding wonder and fascination.  (She travels back to Paris at least annually, so I may have a travel guide ...)

At the end of high school I was nearly fluent.  I remember walking a path along the St. Lawrence, chatting with an innkeeper in Cap Madeleine, Quebec, and being nearly giddy that we could converse without any trouble on my part either to understand or speak.  Our conversation flowed easily; it was heavenly.  I managed to keep my giddiness concealed.

Fast forward a few decades and I am no longer fluent.  Or even close.  I can shift into gear, but the right vocabulary, the correct grammar is locked a few levels lower, encased in cobwebs.  It comes slowly.  Sometimes Google or an app are required.

But my children.  Oh my children ...

My daughter achieved her Masters at University of Toronto and has embarked on a career teaching in a French immersion school in Toronto (Scarborough) ... and my son gained Bachelors, Masters and PhD diplomas in linguistics, with heavy computer science qualifications.

My son now works in cognitive linguistics and computation in ... Paris.  He lucked into a wonderful apartment in le troisieme (le Marais) so it seems eminently logical that should Dad choose to visit, free lodging would be available.  And it is.

Next up ... why the wait?

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

More X-Pro/Zuiko Love for Kalli

I am in the process of "thinning the herd" - that is, selling excess camera gear.  So I've been bringing cameras, bodies, lenses, accessories and paraphernalia from storage to sell online.  It turns out I have two Zuiko 50/1.4 lenses, and I stuck the one I'm going to sell on the X-Pro to shoot my favourite subject.

I'm getting better at manual focus (I actually read the manual to learn about focus magnification!) so this time the focus was much better.  And I think  my post process sharpening was better, though I'm sure someone could comment about "sharpening artifacts".  Whatever, it's the dog that counts.  If I recall, this was shot wide open at f1.4.

Click the photo to embiggin.