Saturday, April 30, 2011

La Ferme de Julio

We've made it to the first farm! After a good day of traveling by train and bus, we arrived in Julio, a bit north of the coastal town of Montpellier. We got off of our, almost three hour, bus ride at an unnamed stop and within minutes heard someone whistling to us. Emerging from the other side of the road were Odile and Jacques, our hosts. We walked with them over a small bridge, up a walk path lined with foliage and arrived at their old house.

Everything about the house they build is charming and comforting. Here are the stairs we are treated to walk up after some hard physical labor in the garden. With this and the best smelling flowers on the way back, it's a nice reward at the end of the day.

Its been nice finding little details like this over the past few days. I could image myself putting up this milk can and letting nature spew out of it.

The area around the tiny neighborhood of farm houses is just beautiful, especially now. All the Irises are out in full bloom, along with roses and a lot of other flowers I have yet to identify, and there are so many different colors of them. This may look like a detailed flower arrangement, but it's just out there, growing along the path we take to reach the garden.

Casey and I are lucky to have our own room. It has a great view of the mountains and valley, and there is special guardian angel watching over our bed:

Ha! I have no idea what the story behind this is, but it is literally above our bed and facing us while we sleep. A bit creepy, but it's actually pretty funny now.

Yesterday, after work, we walked to the nearest town of Olargues. It is a charmingly small village with one main road that takes you from one side, through the village and out the other side in less than ten minutes - leisurely walking.

As we strolled through, we kept thinking how ridiculously French it was. Small planter boxes on window sills filled with colorful flowers, bright blue, wooden window shutters against the stone walls, and lazy cats sleeping in the sun. I felt like I was walking around in a postcard or travel guide.

We "hiked" up to the old chateau that used to be at the top of the hill. It must have built a very long time ago, because all that's left are steps, a few column bases and, impressively, a bell tower.

The view from the top was incredible!

From Casey's vantage point, you can see all the way down into the valley, where the river flows and up across to the other mountains. It was the type of view that made you wish you could fly. It's also the type of view I see right before I take off for flight in a flying dream (although I haven't had one of those in years. Damn!)

This is the bottom of the village from up top. Picturesque no?

I haven't taken my camera out to the garden yet, but hopefully I will soon so I can show you what we've been working on. But mainly, I've been doing a bunch of man work to prepare the land for sowing. Plowing and digging holes is quickly becoming my specialty. I've also gotten to plant some onion shoots, till some potatoes, and transplant some chicories. Casey has been harvesting asparagus, radish, snow peas and herbs while planting tomatoes, beans and spinach. She's also been weeding a bunch of strawberries, getting them ready to be deliciously red. We are learning a ton.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Lyon! We are in Lyon! After a long day of traveling, we got to Lyon, safe and sound and are staying at our friend's apartment. As luck would have it, everyone in the apartment is at a music festival and we have the place to ourselves. Quite a luxury.

We got in at sundown; not only nice to cool ourselves down from carrying our packs in the warm city, but also for getting a cool shoot.

We started the day off going to a pĆ¢tisserie and getting a croissant and a pain au chocolat (guess who got the one with chocolate!) for breakfast. Upon exiting, we were called over to a table of guys who invited us to have a coffee with them on the basis that we were the "best couple in Lyon." We joined them and ate our breakfast listening to them crack jokes, pick on each other and insist on listening to a song about San Francisco by Maxime le Forestier (the link is a video of the song). We got a pretty good insight of the French within our first 10 minutes out.

We spend the rest of the day walking all over the place, mainly to do errands and set ourselves up with food, a cell phone, power adapters, etc., but also to do some sightseeing.

We headed up to Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) at the top of the hill to visit Notre Dame de FourviƩre, an impressive cathedral that was packed on not just any Friday, but Good Friday. At the top of the cathedral was this shinny Mary. I've never seen anything like it.

We made our way down, grabbed a beer from a market and tried to find our way back to a square we had passed by earlier that day.

Surprisingly, we found it quite easily and enjoyed the hot day in the sun, near a fountain, watching a ton of kids play. There were at least as many kids as adults, each of them in constant movement with an endless supply of energy. We are quickly noticing that there are a lot of kids in this city. Maybe its just a regular amount of kids because San Francisco seems to only have four, but it sure seems like a lot. It was refreshing to see these kids play, and it made our day, besides our random first encounter with those French dudes.

The next day we started our day off at the farmers market. Within the first few stalls, we were welcomed with bright and fragrant flowers, colorful and fresh vegetables, pungent cheese and drool-all-over-yourself pastries. We made our way through once and successfully bought red leaf lettuce, pears, white asparagus, rotisserie chicken and a half dozen of the freshest eggs on the way back, mostly without any language hiccups - at least for Casey.

I didn't get any pictures of the market because I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole experience, but I did manage to get a cool photo of used book salesmen just up from the market along the canal. After our walk home, we savored our lunch and took it easy.

Today was the best yet. We took our time getting out the door. Being Easter, there's nothing open and our only plans were to go to the park. We ate a bit of breakfast and spent some time reading and drawing. Then we got ready for the sunny day.

There is a giant park just north of the city center and a nice 20 minute walk away. It is one of the most beautiful parks I've ever been to, and the beautiful weather today put it over the edge.

Here's Casey, appropriately matched with the wild roses. There were seriously the best thing I have smelled in a very long time, and not just because my nose hasn't worked in a very long time.

We walked around a giant lake, watching the birds and all the families out. I was surprised at how many people were out, although with this in their city, I can't blame them for spending every weekend here.

We passed by a carousel and I got this one. I just like it because it feels like film. We then made our way to the zoo, which just happened to be in the park and was free of charge. Jackpot!

I'll leave you to scroll through these:

This last one is probably my favorite. The size of it really doesn't do it justice, so click on it to see some detail. I have no idea how someone can look at this and not believe in evolution.

We're here for one more day and heading to the first farm on Tuesday. From our brief experience at the train station, I think we're going to need some good energy for our travel day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Coachella 2011

I have no idea why it has taken me so long to realize this, but the best part of live music, especially a weekend full of it, is camaraderie. And I don't mean just between guys, as the word is generally used, but between everyone. On the broad level, I am surrounded by a ton of strangers that have at least one common point of interest as me - the music. We enjoy, relish in, and in some cases, individually have our minds blown by the showmanship, musicality and badassness of the bands. We uphold an unspoken code, which when respected, strengthens the bond. On a more personal level, I get to hang out with my close friends and experience this camaraderie fueled by great weather, great music, and a ton of walking. If you haven't figured it out yet, I just got back from Coachella.

Usually, I like to go in order of the shows I went to, sprinkled with a few interesting things I saw/did. But, seeing as I am limited on good pictures this time, I'm going to show you Coachella through different aspects of it. First - The Environment. The fist picture up there is the art installation that has grown to define Coachella for me. A common meeting place and just a cool sculpture.

Here's another art installation. It was somewhat interactive with music playing the whole time, but as you can see, most people used it as refuge from the sun. It's a human formed shadow in the shape of a bus shaped cassette tape player.

Crazy sky writing. At first, it was cool to hang a banner from your plane and advertise. Then it was cool to blow smoke from your plane and write cursive messages. NOW, it's cool to hop into your plane, get four of your buddies to do the same, and actually write text in the sky with synchronized and choreographed spurts of smoke. Insane.

Sun down is by far the the most beautiful part of Coachella. Not only does the sky perform its visual spectrum, but the intense heat dies down, leaving the warm winds to slowly cool you. Sometimes the experience, paired with the right music, is too much.

Next part of Coachella - The People. Did you know that there are A LOT of different people in the world? If you answered "no," first, please realize that it was a hypothetical question in joke and second, please get out more; diversity it awesome. With that said, the crowd was actually pretty normal with sprinkles of special.

Here's a sprinkle of special. I think this guy is top 3 of best outfits for the festival. There was something about the outfit that reminded me of the San Francisco. Maybe the suspenders...?

Did I mention it was hot down there? On Saturday, the day of this picture, the high was around 98. These ingenious kids took the tops off the compost and recycling bins and used then as shade. Not the most hygienic source of comfort, but it gets the job done.

I thought this shirt was homemade and thought it funny that THIS dude not only made it, but wore it. Turns out, its not homemade.

This label must have been homemade because, come on, The Boss? I guess I just don't get who she was trying to tell this to.

Ok, I feel a little bad for posting this, but it was just too good not to. If you don't yet know what a douche bag is (in reference to a person), here is your definition in picture form:

From my count, there are at least four examples of a douche. It's not necessarily the bro status of over worked-out, waxed and tanned torsos and the irony of a group of narcissist that think they are each god's gift to the world. It's the disrespectful use of a Native American headdress. In trying to give them some credit, this was somewhat of a trend this year. But in my opinion, you have to realize what was done to Native American's and what making a trend out of their traditional dress means.

Ok, time for me to get off my soap box and on to The Music. Just short intros since I've been yapping up till now.
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. It was great to see this SF girl perform again. Consistent and crowd pleasing.

Another SF performance was the Morning Benders. They get "Best Song of the Festival" with their performance of Excuses. In a hot tent packed with old and new fans, they lead us all into a harmonious round of uninhibited singing.

Glasser. Amazing. Amazingly weird.

Rye Rye. I only caught a few songs of hers, but it was all high energy and a ton of fun.

Not to mention a ton of sas to go with it!

This Kills did just that. Killed! We got up close for this show and they rocked it. With hair all in her face, the occasional spit across the stage and a voice controlled from melodic to scream in the a deep register, Alison Mosshart defines cool. As a pictorial definition, please refer to the picture below.
And then there was The National. The National that made the sun set. The National that controlled the wind. It was an eerie effect that bordered along the lines of sublime how The National somehow coordinated their songs with the intensity of the wind. Hands down best experience of Coachella.

Now on to The Stages. Actually, now that I look at the pictures I have, just the main stage. The Coachella stage is where all the big acts perform and is usually the one with all the tricks. This year, the festival outdid itself.

Interpol gave us an amazing audio-visual show with unique videos, giving their performance dimension. I was pretty far back and only included this pictures because of the pumped fist. Total empathy for that dude.

Kanye West had pyro at his show. PYRO! I've never seen that before and he just kept pumping it out with bursts of fire, fireworks over the stage, and this waterfall of fire. Crazy! Fire!

Animal Collective had these awesome cubes that displayed their psychedelic backdrop. OOOooo, the colors!

And Arcade Fire's giant face. Their show was actually satisfying from afar. Their performance is so theatrical with so many members, that the camera guys probably had an easy time capturing something cool at all times.

I will say that Coachella's intermission stage show was pretty cool. Two giant grids would close the stage off, followed by an audio-light show that pumped the crowd up. My only beef is that it came off more as a stall tactic when they would start it 10 minutes after the band should have started. I've got another beef to pick with that stage, and that was the sound. They messed up on the sound way too many times for me to be cool about it. There is nothing like being disappointed at an awesome show because of the sound. Lame.

Who did I go with you ask? The Friends.

Well, the original crew was back together for another Coachella. Casey, Richmond and I saw most of the shows together.

From left to right, it's Rose, Dawson, Casey, Mary, Damien, and Richmond (although since this was a sneak attack picture, it only looks like Casey and Richmond were meant to be in it)

Similar crew again, minus Mary and added Kristen (and me). Its a bummer that it came out blurry, but it works. I had so much fun with my comrades this weekend. Thanks guys!

Coachella was awesome as usual. And, the more awesome part of the whole thing is that it was Casey and my kickoff for our big trip. In seven hours we will be on a plane for France! Thus said, the next post will be entirely in French! Haha, just kidding, I don't speak French yet :/

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New camera. New adventures

I'm finally done with work, the planning is finally settled, everything is packed up and all that's standing between me and fun are pesky little last minute errands. But that's completely fine with me. Having had my last day of work last week, I've been busy getting everything ready and even doing a painting (which I unfortunately ran out of time tom complete and thus so will not post a picture)

I've also been playing around with a new camera I got for my birthday. My first digital SLR and it couldn't have come at a better time. A couple days ago I rented a car and Casey and I headed for Sacramento to have dinner with our friends Lexi and Bobby and to store some stuff at their place. I took the camera.

Just some play shots, but this one was taken at some distance. I'm totally stoked on the quality of light and how much detail I get from far away.

This one shows how awesome the colors are. It kind of defines an RBG file. Hope you guys don't mind me putting your faces on my blog.

Since we still had the car the next day, we decided to go to Land's End and see where the ocean meets the bay.

Here's a dorky picture of Casey. I took this one pretty far away too.

And the postcard. In a way, it was nice doing this touristy activity. We won't get to see this for a while and it will be a nice image to look at when were "homesick" for SF.

Tonight, we drive down to COACHELLA! I won't be able to take my new camera in fear that they won't let me in because it is such a cool camera, but I'll hopefully be getting some awesome shots nonetheless.