Sunday, June 29, 2014

Invasion Force
 These starfish are taking over.

Two months ago we saw the first of these purple long-armed starfish, this Sunday we saw at least fifteen. I find it hard to believe that a bunch of eggs developed and managed to grow so big in so short a time, so they must be part of an invasion force. It is only a matter of time until we will have to bow down to our new rulers.

Click HERE for more photos from this morning's ocean swim.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Source of Deadly Meningitis

Meet the Giant African Land Snail. I see lots of them on my walks, especially after a soaking rain, but this one was by far the largest I've ever seen. Some people stomp on them whenever they see them, but I am always reluctant to kill living creatures (except for mosquitoes actively trying to bite me). Now that I've read the Wikipedia article - - I will not be so reluctant in the future. I knew they were an invasive species, but that they spread a dangerous Meningitis to humans does concern me.

I also see a lot of Egrets, but liked the way this one was brightly lit by the sun and perched before a darkly shaded background.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Maui No Ka Oi

How great to be back in the ocean again. France may have wonderful food but Maui No Ka Oi.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Au Revoir France

Maui here I come.

Cool plane, two stories of seating the full length of the jet. Not to mention the exercise room up in priority class where I'm traveling. Yes!

Next stop, LA.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Bientot Avignon

As a farewell to Avignon, I crossed the river again this evening to get a high-resolution photograph of the city at night. This version will easily print five feet across and will undoubtedly end up hanging on our living room wall.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Another First

 Last night was another first for me, and I love first experiences.

All the streets of old Avignon were closed to traffic and well over a hundred thousand people packed those streets. There were stages on practically every corner and music to fit all tastes. Wow. Of all the possible music festivals to be my first, I'm glad it was this one.

Over on youtube I threw together a brief montage of acts taken with my phone.You can find it at:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Gladiator Redux

 Today was market day in Uzes so I took a bus to this up-and-coming trendy town. I bought tasty dried apples and some really smelly (my criterium for good) cheese.

Then as a favor to Doug I took another bus, this time to Nimes to visit the best preserved Roman Arena in the world. This is where they filmed "Gladiator" with Russel Crowe.

Oh, and I stopped and toured a couple of castle/fortresses along the way, of course.

A train ride home upped my luxury quotient, but I am now being bombarded by non-stop very loud reggae music from the convent below. I have to get out and away. NOW!

Music Festival

The huge Avignon arts festival is still a week off, but in preparation stages are set up all over town for all kinds of music.

Even the convent below my balcony has a stage in their courtyard. And what kind of music do you think they're featuring? Classical, Gregorian Chant, Medeival? Nope. Reggae. All Reggae, all day.

But I'll spare you that and instead give you a small taste of one performance at the train station today...

umm, the direct upload from my iPhone did not seem to work, so here is a link to the same video on youtube -

Friday, June 20, 2014

Another Day, Another Castle (or 2 or 3 or...)

 I experimented with the public bus system this morning and was most impressed. The buses were on-time, comfortable and fast. Oh, and cheap.

I looked at a lunch cruise down the Rhone to the town of Tarascon which cost $100. Or I could take the bus for $5 round trip and spend as much time wandering as I wanted. Today I opted for the bus. The town was nice and I was very impressed by the castles and cathedrals. And I saved $95. Oh, and had a great lunch too.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gladiator School

 I felt like getting out of town today and thought Arles sounded interesting. Things like a Roman Arena, and that this is the town that drove Van Gogh insane, all caught my attention.

First I checked on the bus which cost $2 but takes three hours. Then I looked at the train which cost $25 but only takes 19 minutes. Train it is.

The streets of the town are incredibly scenic and I took tons of painting pictures with my special camera.

At every historic monument that I've visited, I've encountered at least one school group on an outing. And I've noticed in every singe case that the adults conduct an activity to keep the children engaged. Today they were teaching gladiator fighting techniques to the kids, and the kids were loving it. I was hoping for some private instruction, but no such luck.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


 Avignon's horrific St. Anne prison was shut down ten years ago; so when the modern art museum needed to close for renovations, they moved a large number of exhibits to the deserted jail cells. Every cell in the prison shows off one or two installations: some funny, some disturbing, some tragic, many moving, and many more boring as hell. In fact I sometimes enjoyed looking at the former prisoners' pin-ups more than the artwork.

And, of course, what museum would be complete without a piece of art consisting of tennis balls stuffed with candies? This one's for you, Doug.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Robin Hood

 This morning I hiked across the Rhone river and out a little ways to Fort St. Andrew. For someone like me who grew up watching Robin Hood movies it was way cool - something right out of the crusades.

And the view back across the river caught me by surprise. I hadn't realized how much the citadel of Avignon rose above the surrounding plain. Nor how tall the mountains off in the distance were.

Anyway, it was a great way to spend my birthday. Now for dinner at home . . . alone.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


 At first Avignon's narrow streets are somewhat off-putting.

In the local section where I'm staying (no hotels or fancy shops here), most of the streets are only ten to fifteen feet wide and are solidly lined with four-story walls of stone or stucco. Initially these artificial canyons seemed sterile and lonely. But after walking them several times daily, I've warmed up to them. I love the personal touches, the flower boxes and brightly painted doors and shutters. In the heat of the day I am especially appreciative of the cool stone shade cast by the high walls, and today's light showers seldom made it into these narrow slots.

Of course, every few blocks the streets open into tree lined squares which are always filled with people. People who are sitting, strolling, chatting, shopping, dining and riding carousels. I love this place.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Choir of Angels

I was awoken by a choir of heavenly angels this morning.

Our apartment in Avignon faces into the courtyard of a convent, and this being Sunday morning, the nuns were singing ever so sweetly when I woke up.


This morning Doug deserted me and boarded the TGV (Very Fast Train - but in French) for his return to Maui.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Picasso and Popes

 This morning we toured the Palace of the Popes in Avignon.

Strangely, most of this former center of worldwide Catholicism was filled with artwork in the manner of Picasso of an overtly sexual manner. In fact hanging over the alter of the main chapel was a reclining nude prostitute. Very strange.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Our Home Town

 Here are some more of our impressions of Avignon, our temporary home town. The photos at the top and bottom were taken from across the river before and after sunset. We are absolutely taken by this old town.

We went sailing from the Mediterranean town of Cassis this morning. How is it every time we head out into this large sea, it is glassy flat calm?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Glanum and Beyond

 The Mediterranean climate here in the south of France is hot and arid (it hit 104 today where we were hiking), so we always wonder how the ancients survived in this landscape. We explored the ruins of the settlement of Glanum near where we are staying and there were numerous wells full of water. These wells have served people for over 2,500 years, but what I could not figure out - where does the water come from?

Fortunately, this heat was a dry one, so it wasn't at all unpleasant to be out and about.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Red and Yellow

 I've never seen a lightening storm like the one we watched from our hotel room on our last night in Paris. It went on for hours and at it's peak there was about one bolt of lightening every second. Yes, an incredible sixty bolts per minute. Stunning.

The second photo is the view out our bedroom window when we woke up this morning in Avignon. Magical.

And finally, we visited the old ocher mines near here and are now covered in red and yellow dust.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Magical Provence

Today was a quick train ride from Paris to the south of France, and it is absolutely magical here. Avignon is turning out to be all I had hoped for -- and more.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Quick Recovery

 Paris was sizzling today and people were wading in numerous fountains. For us the temperature was perfect and we finally abandoned our jeans and sweatshirts for shorts and t-shirts.

It was especially nice being outdoors after spending a day in bed with a nasty cold yesterday.

Friday, June 6, 2014

My Turn

 Today found us enjoying city life and wandering the streets of Paris seeing the sights.

Today was also my turn to make lunch. Thank goodness there are so many, many local purveyors of fresh - well - everything. Fresh fruit, vegetables, pastries, cheese, meat, everything. And all within two blocks of our apartment.