Walking in the vineyards today, we noticed lots of red vines...already. The color is beautiful and the cool temperatures are comfortable, but I hope this doesn't mean that our seasons are shifted. I'm hoping to get back to some summer, and have at least a short stretch of miserable heat. (I still haven't adapted to the lack of the humidity and mosquitoes.)
As good midwesterners we have the craving- we know it's sweet corn season back home. Unfortunately, we can't get the endless mounds of golden goodness here in France. There are plenty of feed corn fields, but no sweet corn. We buy just 2 ears of sweet corn per summer to grill just once. 3 euros for 2 ears wrapped in plastic doesn't figure out to my guy who sold sweetcorn roadside at a dollar a dozen. We also lived 5 years in a town who's main event is the summer Corn Fest. So, we need our corn in the summer. Since it's been so cold, I made vegan corn chowder. We're eating this giant pot of sweet-creamy goodness all weekend to keep warm. It was so good that I'll be making it again soon and share the recipe.
At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands in front of the camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect- a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us, and it is part of the biography by which we want to be known.
I've been thinking a lot lately about photographs. Not why we make the photos that we do, but why we make them at all. So I'm wondering, why do you make pictures?
 Adams, Robert. Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews. New York: Aperture, 1994.
Since I've been spending some inside time this summer, I made something to hang on one of our empty dining room walls- a penciled collection of collective nouns for groups of birds. Isn't the language really beautiful? It creates some wonderful images in your mind- a tiding of magpies, richness of martens, bouquet of pheasants, murmuration of starlings, spring of teal, parliament of owls, watch of nightingails...
We were headed to the final day of the Montreux jazz festival, but stopped at Vevey on the way. Just a few miles outside Montreux, Vevey was calm and relaxing and we decided to stay the day instead of pushing through the crowded festival. Maybe we'll get there sometime, but Vevey made for a great lakefront day, and there's a giant fork, so...why not.
Picnic in the grass.
It was such a relaxing day, we needed a cafe to get through the afternoon. Pretty floral cups at Cathy's Biscuits.
Time to swim. Refreshing lake water in the early evening.
This summer day kept going with a movie lakeside, on the lawn, in Geneva. It was America Night, showing Top Gun on the giant inflatable screen. The crowd of many American expats was really into this one, sporting aviators and cheering for Mav and Goose.
Hope you're having a summery weekend.
Back on the fast, curvy highway, we detoured to the little village of Forno. The peaks looked interesting from the road, so we traveled back a little from our return route and wandered.
We stopped at a rooftop spaghetteria for lunch, explored the few streets of the village, and ascended a hillside trail.
A few ladies sweeping their stairways tried to talk with us, but our Italian isn't so buona.
Giant hydrangeas everywhere.
We continued a bit further in the car, until I saw the sea. Detoured again, we agreed we must stop and at the very least dip our toes in the water at Massa.
Before long, I was holding his tee shirt and Derek was out in the water. Our first time at the sea this summer, and it was hard to drag ourselves out of the sand, knowing we still had most of the drive home still ahead of us. Can we stall a little longer? Some beach side Vampire Pizza.
Now it's getting late. We're still not ready to go back. Tomorrow is Sunday, so we think we should stay the night, spend a day at Cinque Terre. We're so close. Unfortunately, there is no place to stay-it's high tourism season and everything is full. We tried hotels, campgrounds, got kicked out of a parking lot, and as much as we wanted to make it through the night at a rest stop...it just wasn't working. Neither of us really wanted to find out who was going to sleeping on the roadside mattress that we parked beside. After multiple attempts, no luck, and now it's really late, we have no choice but to drive home through the night (giving up a day at the beach was tough, but driving 5 hours in the dark to see sunrise as we walked into our house was painful). Luckily a strong rain and hail storm helped us sleep away the morning. We've got to learn to plan ahead...but it was an adventure.
Today we had the chance to do a little sight-seeing together. This made for a nice day, time with my husband. Above: headed out after breakfast from our hotel.
We spent the morning walking in the shade at the Boboli Gardens and exploring the Pitti Palace.
Afternoon, and time to give our feet a break, we settled in for a long lunch at a quiet pizzeria.
Back to touristing, the Duomo.
Gelato.We are eating very well on this trip. Yum, vegan tiramisu gelato (made from rice milk).
You can't go to Florence without chasing some pigeons- so we did that and then enjoyed the evening watching street performers and passersby.
A major bonus for any good physics conference is the conference dinner. This one tops the list for ambiance and view. The group dinner was held at the Frescobaldi Winery. One of Italy's oldest wineries, it has been operated by the same family for 700 years, passing now into it's 30th generation.
Can I just gush about how gorgeous this place is...
We took a tour of the winery, castle, and cellars full of old, old bottles.
The rolling hillsides and the golden light leave me speechless.
Conference group photo:
We tasted several of the local wines with dinner and before on the grassy terrace.
After just two days in the city, I was already in need of some space and fresh air. Even in an inspiring city like Florence, I need to run for the hills, so the cool vineyard breezes were magical. I think I can head back for another day of crowd dodging and rubbernecking, but first, everybody's favorite- time to eat and drink into the starlight (and then sleep on the bus back to the city).
After walking Derek to the conference venue, I spent a good part of the morning people watching outside the Duomo. It was still early ans tour groups were just starting to gather. I chatted up a few American tourists (who at first thought I wanted to pick their pockets), but really I was just excited to hear English with an American accent. Since "hey, you speak English" has become one of the most common scam starters, I need a new pick-up line. Conference days can be long, even in exciting places, so I was eager for a piece of home and a little conversation. Once the middle-aged, first-time travelers accepted my midwestern roots, I had company for a few minutes.
I spent the rest of the day wandering the city. It was hot and my feet grew tired and swollen. I may be able to take 20 mile strolls in the countryside without even noticing, but city walking is a different beast. Although a ways off the beaten path, I found my way to an all vegan bakery. That's right: vegan bakery in Italy. I bought one of every type of cookie, a croissant, pan au chocolate, and a bag of biscotti. i carried my loot back to the steps of one of Florence's many cathedrals and savored my very first vegan croissant (and a few cookies), and found my way to a giant iced-coffee before more wandering in the hot narrow streets. I joined the conference group for an early evening organ and trumpet concert, before dragging Derek all the way across town, back to the vegan bakery for dinner. The food was not so great, but chocolate cheesecake with whipped cream was totally worth the sweat and blisters.
This is my third time in Florence, and I'm still not standing in line to see the David...although I do want to visit the Accademia one of these days, I've begun an unintentional boycott.
After 8 straight hours of driving (not a single stop) on not so straight roads, we arrived in Florence. We started off the morning with a run and packing and leisurely breakfast before starting out. It was a long, winding journey south through the mountain tunnels. We were so happy to finally arrive, walk to the city center at sunset, and settle into an awesome restaurant for some pizza and wine. Our hotel is about 3 miles outside the center (nice and quiet with charming grounds) so it was quiet late by the time we turned in, but cozy, full, and relaxed after the crazy drive, ready to rest before Derek's conference presentation first thing in the morning.