30 August 2011

Summer Luge

THE SUMMER LUGE track in Le Mont-Dore was way faster and way more fun that I thought when I first saw it. Totally surprised by how fast it was (or, more likely, how fast it seemed). Check out Henry's face. In other news, I called the real estate agent who is selling the building below -- it has 12 apartments, is currently vacant, and sits on the edge of La Bourboule. Curious to hear the price. Guesses?

A vendre: 5 floors, 11-12 apartments.

A view of the building from a bit further up the river.

A local cheese shop in town. The Auvergne has several A.O.C. cheeses, including one of my
favorites, Saint Nectaire, which is made about 40 minutes from where we are staying. Cantal and Bleu d'Auvergne -- which I think rivals the more famous Roquefort -- also come from this region.

28 August 2011


IMPRESSIVE BEAUTY ONCE again. This country never ceases to amaze me on that front.

Our four-day little stop over in the Auvergne started with a hike up Puy de Sancey today -- the highest point in the Massif Central. [Note: by 'hike' I, of course, mean 'took the cable car']. To be fair, the le téléphérique du Sancy only gets you near the top, the last several hundred meters are by foot up a very steep series of steps and paths. The Puy de Sancy is at a ski station just outside of Le Mont-Dore, a gorgeous little village about 5 km from where we are staying in La Bourboule. After a quick stop for a picnic lunch, we got our tickets for the cable car and didn't get off until we hit 1800 meters -- nearly 6000 ft. At the top we had a stunning 360 degree view -- 1886 meters above sea level. Not exactly Mont Blanc, but pretty impressive anyway.

Point us in the right direction.

Julia got on her tippy-toes in order to be taller than Kerri.
Soon, she won't have to do that.

As picnic areas go, this ranks as pretty impressive.
As sunglasses go, Patrick's rank as pretty sweet.

Bread, cheese, tomatoes. That's about all we need for lunch.

Near the top of the Puy de Sancy

Um...my shoe during a little break.

A little later on in the aforementioned break.

Trying out the timer. Boy do we need a new camera. 5.0 megapixels is
so 2005.

The last 400 meters were the hardest. Almost like a ladder.

26 August 2011

Bet You Have Never Seen This Before

OH, HEY, DID I show put this photo up yet? Guess where I took it? (Look carefully). We ate here a couple weeks ago. And the other goods news...the Paris store opens in November!

In case you can't make out the sign, this is on Charring Cross Road in the heart of London. The first Chipotle to open in Europe. While we were there we talked for a few minutes to the guy who is heading up all UK operations and he gave us the details about the Paris store (it's going to be at 20 Boulevard Montmartre).

Who wants to help me franchise these a little further south. Say in the Cannes/Nice area?

To the Massif...

TOMORROW IS OUR final day in the Poitou-Charentes region of France and we will be heading back to the southeast after a four-day stop in La Bourboule -- a mountain village in the Massif Central, the least-well-known of the major mountain ranges in France. While certainly not the Alpes or the Pyrenees, the Massif Central is located in the south-central part of the country (just west of the Rhone Valley) and covers 15 percent of France and has some impressive peaks -- the largest one topping out at over 1800 meters.

After 8 weeks in the flats of western France, the mountains will be quite a change. Oh, and the forecasted evening temperatures of 6-7 degrees (Celsius) is also quite exciting. Nothing beats a cool evening after a hot summer day.

[Note: the school year must be starting soon; this sounded like a geography lesson.]

23 August 2011

Rumble Rumble

KERRI WAS ON Skype with her parents this evening when the picture on her computer started shaking. Here's why:
5.9 Earthquake Shakes Washington - Washington Post

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Washington area Tuesday, shaking buildings and prompting office workers to pour into the streets of the capital.

The earthquake’s epicenter was nine miles south of Mineral, Va., and 87 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS initially recorded the quake at 5.8 magnitude but later upgraded it to a 5.9. It struck at 1:51 p.m. Eastern time, the USGS said. At 2.8 magnitude aftershock was reported at 2:46 p.m.
A senior Obama administration official said the White House “shook pretty hard” and that employees evacuated onto the driveway between the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Construction workers also got off scaffolding wrapped around the EEOB.

The official knew of no damage to the White House but said paint or plaster chips had fallen onto carpeting inside the executive mansion.

Employees fled the U.S. Capitol, and House and Senate office buildings were evacuated, as tremors shook the buildings for several seconds.
Earthquakes don't hit DC often so I can only imagine how people reacted (kind of wish we had been there...)

22 August 2011

French Tour Continues...

SUMMERS ARE ALWAYS an interesting mix of relaxing and busy for us. Due to the fact that we have to be out of our 'regular' house for 3 months each summer, we get to (have to?) find new places to stay. As I've mentioned numerous times, we try to go somewhere new every year so as to explore as much of the country as possible -- sometimes even venturing outside the country like we did last summer in Italy.

But it's never quite as simple as just finding one place for the whole time because at the end of each summer I have to be back for work a few days before we actually get to move into our house. This summer is no different so we are preparing for two more moves between now and September 3. Yes, two more. Since our stay in the Poitou-Charentes ends one week before we can move in, Kerri did some searching on the internet and found a place for us to stay for four days high in the mountains of the Massive Central -- a village called La Bourboule, which sits at nearly 3000ft. We haven't spent a lot of time in the center of France so a few days there will allow for exploration of a new region -- something that's always kind of fun. After La Bourboule we'll head back home and crash for a couple of night at our neighbor's house (it is vacant as he currently lives in New Jersey) before returning to our place in the first weekend of September.

Four full moves this summer. Plus several nights in hotels during trips with Kerri's parents. Par for the course for us. It's enough to almost make me look forward to the routine. Almost.

19 August 2011

Robbed in Paris

KERRI'S PARENTS FLEW back to DC yesterday and we spent the last couple of days with them in Paris. As you can see, Kerri and I got robbed in a cafe near the Tour Montparnasse just before our return home:

15 August 2011

Whirlwind Tour

OUR TRIP TO England last week included a full schedule: two days in Normandy, a ferry crossing and a Chunnel crossing, a trip to the university where Kerri and I went to school for a short time (and where Les went to school for one year in the mid-'60s), cathedrals, castles, shops, cafes, and a stop in the Loire valley on the way home. Evidence...

Omaha Beach, Normandy

Normandy American Cemetery Memorial

Omaha Beach in Normandy

Mont Saint Michel

Canterbury Cathedral

Our camera battery ran out, so that's the end of the photos. Kerri has already downloaded the photos her parents took in Windsor, and then back in France during our visit to Chartres and the Chateau de Chenonceau.

It was interesting to be in London during the riots. While we didn't personally see any evidence of the violence (despite going through Clapham Junction), it was on the minds of the people. During our lunch at Chipotle (yes, you read that correctly -- there is a new Chipotle on Charring Cross Road) the UK manager for the company spoke with us about his plans to close early if he thought trouble was near. Other shop owners also were ready to close down in a hurry if anything happened. The newspapers were also in full UK-Tabloid mode, splashing huge photos and dramatic headlines across all the front pages. Perhaps the most over-the-top front page compared the riots to the German blitz during World War II. Perhaps a bit of a stretch, no?

12 August 2011

Henry Wanted to Ride

WE'RE BACK FROM a little trip to England and while unpacking and going through photos I'm putting this up at the request of our youngest...he's six.

Two summers ago we put together this from the Alsace region...

Now if I can get our daughter to go more than 1km I'll have a third video ready.

09 August 2011

This Earth, This Realm...

WE'VE HEADED TO England for a few days. Not enough time to see too much, but Canterbury, Dover, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Henley and Newbold College -- where Kerri and I went to university for a couple years-- isn't bad for two days. London still on the docket for today -- and we'll hope the riots stay away. Pretty rough couple of nights for North London.

01 August 2011

Depressing Chart

FOR THE PAST two years I've been paying grad school tuition in Switzerland using US dollars. That's why this chart is so depressing.

See that high point just before the start of 2009? That's when my payments started. Damnit!