Monday, 31 January 2011

Portofino -a Luxury Relax

Portofino is a kind of Paradise for those who looks for luxury relax in Italy. There are different places everybody knows they are from this level here: Capri as an other example. If Capri is more "alive" with it's 2 towns and some brethtaking sightseeings, Portofino seemed to me decisively more isolated from the life. The right place for those who is tired by the great crush of the cities.

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I was in Portofino when I came in Italy as a tourist, and it's about 20 years ago, there was this little village probably built to serve the owners of the villas over it (they tell about Roman origins). The village is lent to the rocks from one side and has a seafront where you can walk (about 300 m long, I think) and sit in one of the cafes.

You can come there with a car and leave it in a garage, too (as we did). Than you can have an excursion. Behind the houses, there is an antique street -very spectacular for those who likes such walks- and you can reach that villa over there (it was the municipality, if I remember it good).

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The little port was full of big and not too big yachts when we were there. People like to pass some time there.In fact, this port is not only isolated from the land but the only road of access is not always open for visitors, too. At least it was so when we were there.

From time to time Italy is shaked up by the stories that happen with the families living in the luxury villas in Portofino, and if you want to write a book, it's probably the best place where to pass a productive vacation. I assure, you will have many inspirational moments when you stay there.

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 If you want to visit Portofino as a tourist, the best decision is to come there with a cruise ship: one day stay is enough to explore the place. You have to choose luxury cruise lines because they have relatively little ships that can enter such little ports.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Picture of the Day Catch-Up: January 16-29, 2011

Wow, I think if I put up these pictures, I'll finally be caught up with my Pictures of the Day (well, except for today's picture, of course!). In any case, enjoy!

January 16th: We went to Zarcero with Lucy, Wilson, Belamy, and Lily. It was a nice little day-trip. These are Belamy's rollerskates.

January 17th: I made some crepes today, and they were quite tasty. I'm not a huge fan of the picture, and I thought I had taken some more pictures this day, but apparently I didn't!

January 18th: A picture of the annual festival in Palmares. Mostly, it's annoying.

January 19th: I took a picture of my headphones to use in a blog posting on my language learning blog.

January 20th: Juan and Paola's daughter Hannah, playing in their yard. Very cute!

January 21st: Some kids playing on Brasilito beach, where I teach a class on Friday evening.

January 22nd: A picture of a tree stump in Santa Cruz, in the Guanacaste province. I teach a class there Saturday mornings.

January 23rd: "Captain Corelli's Mandolin," by Louis de Bernieres. Lucy loaned it to me, and I finished reading it today. It was a good story, although the book itself had seen better days.

January 24th: Our theme for our weekly photo project was "depth of field." I didn't quite know how to handle it, so throughout the week I took some "comparison" pictures using both small and large apertures. This one is actually not a comparison, but just a tangled ethernet cord at work.

January 25th: A swing-set at the school where we work. It's a normal elementary school during the day.

January 26th: Today was the first day of the NCTE (National Conference for Teachers of English) at the CCCN in San Jose. I liked the silhouetted look of people walking down this passageway.

January 27th: At the NCTE, I saw quite a few of my old Sykes coworkers, including my friend Angie. It happened to be her birthday, so I asked to take a few pictures of her. Very nice. Happy birthday, Angie!

January 28th: Angela at the San Pedro Mall, after the NCTE.

January 29th: f/22. More experimenting with apertures and (what I hoped would be) depth of field. In the end, not quite what I was going for.

Well, that's it for now. We're technically caught-up, at least for another two hours or so! Thanks for reading, and have a great day and week!

Weekly Picture Project: Week 4 (Depth of Field)

This week's assignment was a bit more difficult for me, partly because I was pretty busy with an English teachers conference in San Jose, and partly because I don't know a great deal about Depth of Field. Learning about it was important, though, like eating vegetables for my photographic brain.

So, what I did was to take two very similar pictures, three times. For each pair, I took one with a large aperture (and therefore a lower f-stop number, and theoretically a more shallow depth of field... if your eyes glazed over while reading that, don't worry; just check out the pictures, and you'll likely see a difference), and I also took one with a smaller aperture (which would reverse all that crap in the previous parentheses).

In any case, just compare the two pictures. The smaller the f-stop number, the more limited the focus should be (which would lead to hopefully pleasantly blurry background, for example... I think):

Pair 1: Swing-set in the jungle gym at work:



Pair 2: Coffee mug at work



Pair 3: Angela in the San Pedro Mall



This hurts my brain, but I believe you get the point. I haven't noted the shutter speed or the ISO for each of these pictures, but if you're interested in that, that's too bad.

Actually, if you really do want to figure those out, you can click on the picture and find that information in flickr.

Thanks for reading, and I'll hope to see you here again next week!

Coastal Walking Holiday June 2011

We have our annual coastal walking holiday from 14-17th June. The location is the Gulf of Morbihan, where we will spend three nights. In addition to walking on the coastal path around the Gulf, we shall also spend a day on the Ile d'Arz. The walking level is easy, and total cost of accommodation (chalet, shared rooms) and meals will be about 150� per person.
Please declare interest asap, places are limited, and some bookings are already in.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Medieval Feast in Antique Benedictine Abbey

Benedictine Abbey of Cava dei Tirreni (not far from Salerno and very comfortable to reach from Naples) celebrates it's Millennium this year. This very interesting place I've just wrote before (Reinforce Your Spirituality in an Antique Monastery) has an interesting story to tell to those who likes Medieval Feasts and "alive" shows. In 1092, this monastery was visited by Pope Urban II who consecrated the church built by S.Alferio. Urban II together with duke Roger of Salerno and his court came to the monastery at feet.

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In the first weekend of September, today, you can assist a very interesting representation of this important for the Abbey event, when you can see all the residents of the village Corpo di Cava that was built to serve the necessities of monks and pilgrims showing not only the event but the style of live of the population at the time when Normanns ruled the region.

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Flag flyers show their art, trombonieri (trumpet players) and jugglers, and -clear- many many tasty things fruits of this earth.

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If you are interested to visit the Abbey, you can contact me ( or directly the guides of Badia (Abbey You can stay one day or more there or in one of the B&B-s or other structures of the zone. Write me and I'll help you to plan your trip in Italy.

The photos are kindly offered by the guides of Badia di Cava dei Tirreni.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Weekly Picture Project: Week 3 (Contrast, Composition, or Coffee)

We had three options for our weekly photo project: contrast, composition, or coffee (guess which one was my suggestion). In any case, I had a hard time focusing on one, so I just decided to work on all three. As usual, if you want to see larger versions of any of them, just click on the link or the picture itself.

So, we'll start with Coffee:

Coffee 1: My morning friend, in a mug from Johnson's Corner, a northern Colorado truck stop where I once stayed 18 hours (the 24 hour project didn't quite pan out that day).

Coffee 2: Wow, it had been almost a year since I'd seen Abuela! I had to go to San Ramon to renew my residency ID card, so I called her and finally got a hold of her. I went to her house for some tasty (traditionally-prepared) coffee. It was great to see her again!

Now, for Composition:

Composition 1: Part of a nativity scene in Zarcero. After Christmas, it gets really elaborate. They put Jesus in the manger, Joseph is sent out to bring in wood, Mary's washing Jesus's diapers and baby clothes in the river, and the angels are stuck with babysitting.

Composition 2: Also in Zarcero. I tried to frame the women on the bench with the jugglers and their pin thingies.

Composition 3: Trying to do some more framing. These kids are playing on the beach at Playa Brasilito, where I'm currently teaching a class on Friday evenings.

Finally, how about some Contrast:

Contrast 1: I admit, I didn't really know what "contrast" was in a photographic context. I just thought it was light and dark, the cats are two different colors... kinda half-assed, but whatever.

Contrast 2: I think this is more along the lines of what "contrast" really is. This is the ceiling fan in my hotel room in Santa Cruz.

Contrast 3: The roots/stump of a big tree in the main park in Santa Cruz, Guanacaste.

So, that's it for the moment. I'm almost caught up on uploading the Pictures of the Day, so I'll try to get them on the blog in a day or two. I do feel bad that this has turned into a picture blog, since I know some people originally started following it for writing, but my brain's gone a bit dry these days.

In any case, thanks for looking/reading, and have a great day!

Pictures of the Day: January 6 - 15, 2011

Here are some more Pictures of the Day from earlier in January. Some of them have already been posted as part of my weekly picture projects, but others haven't. Either way, I hope you like them!

January 6th: The roof of the terminal at Denver International Airport. I started a new photo project with my aunt Kris and her friend Janey where we take up to three pictures related to a specific topic each week and then compare the results. This week's topic was "architecture," so I focused on the lighting at different airports, since I was traveling a lot that week.

January 7th: The lighting at Juan Santamaria International Airport, in San Jose, Costa Rica.

January 8th: Running out of time in the day, one often takes a picture of one's camera accessories in order to get a Picture of the Day.

January 9th: My sister-in-law Teresa working in her kitchen. The topic for my side photo project this week was "backlighting." Teresa and Ramon invited Angela and I over for lunch, and it was delicious!

January 10th: The church in San Rafael, the town between Berlin and San Ramon.

January 11th: Some fake fruit that we can use in our classes. What can we use it FOR, you ask? For fruit simulation, of course.

January 12th: We went to a 9-day funeral anniversary (a "novenario") in Berlin for my sister-in-law's husband's dad. His name was Jose Maria and although I only met him once, he was really nice. So, nine days after a funeral, they pray again, and Angela and I went to the mass. Afterwards, there was an amazing sunset from Berlin, so I took some pictures.

January 13th: The George/Jorge Washington Elementary School in San Ramon, looking like it came out of the alternative version of Hill Valley, 1985.

January 14th: Some trees on a road in Guanacaste. I now teach a class in a different part of the Guanacaste province, but it's still a nice drive.

January 15th: Our lovely niece Kati. She came over to see some handbags that Angela had brought back from the US, and I asked her if I could get a few pictures of her with different light. She was standing in the hallway with the sunset light coming in through the back of the house. I was sitting at my desk. What can I say, when you get a good opportunity for a Picture of the Day and you don't even have to stand up, you go for it! Thanks, Kati!

That's it for the moment. I'm also uploading some more pictures right now, so I'll try to get completely caught up as soon as possible. Thanks for reading!

Triborough Bridge 1961

Life Magazine Archives: George Silk, Photographer

Tuesday January 25th How to read a Breton Church

We have a day of visiting churches on Tuesday 25th. This is the follow-up to our course How to read a Breton Church, but is open to anyone (4�, free to course members). Meet at Pleyben in salon du th� in bakery in SE corner of market square at 10.15 for coffee, depart 10.30.
Transport will be in own cars (sharing if possible), and we'll be visting several locations, with a lunch-stop, probably at Sizun. Some of us are going to eat out, but you can bring a packed lunch if preferred. Finish about 4pm.
The purpose is to identify characteristic arrangements, themes and symbols in church architecture and decoration, so that this knowledge can be applied in your own visits all over Brittany. PLEASE BRING PRINTED SHEETS FROM COURSE IF YOU CAN!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

1961 New York Boat Show

"You should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days."*

There are several funny lines by Burt Lancaster's character in the 1979 movie Atlantic City. As a longtime resident of the declining resort town, he first appears to be someone who remembers the town's glory days. As the movie progresses, you start to realize he is someone who is hopelessly nostalgic about a past that never truly existed. Not only were the organized crime rackets better back in his day, the ocean was better too. Pursuing a much younger Susan Sarandon, it becomes clear what he misses most about the past is his youth.
I don't think I am blinded by nostalgia however when I describe the New York National Boat Show in the 1960's and '70's. Life Magazine covered it; the Tonight Show stopped by; and Jackie O' brought John-John too. It was like Super Bowl Sunday.... a January ritual....a mid winter classic.
You should have seen the boat show back then.

We would arrive on a Friday night; check out the spanking new boats; mingle with summer friends; gaze in awe at the swanky new gear; and leave with stuffed shopping bags full of brochures and giveaways.  Afterwards, we would eat at Lima's Fish-A-Teria (any fish you wish). My dad would have the fried fish special with a Lowenbrau; I had linguine with red clam sauce and a Freddie Bartholomew. My dopey older brother would ask for beef burgundy, in white wine, without the beef. It was a cosmopolitan and nautical, slapstick nirvana.
Four decades have done nothing to diminish those midtown-Manhattan, Polaroid days. Yes, the mostly mythical Mad Men era of girdles and scotch gave way to a more gritty and declining New York in the early 1970's. Films such as Serpico, The French Connection, and Midnight Cowboy show a city on its last legs, far removed from Breakfast At Tiffany's and An Affair To Remember. New York no longer had God (or Gerald Ford) on its side.

The New York National Boat Show however, was Burt Bacharach in a turtleneck, and Sterling Hayden smoking a pipe; with Natalie Wood-dressed girls inviting us aboard. Created in 1905, it was held in such long lost locales as the second Madison Square Garden, Grand Central Palace, Kingsbridge Armory, and the New York Coliseum. It is the Coliseum (1958-1986) years where it reached its highest fame. It is also the years I remember best.
Like baseball's All Star Game, the show began to lose its cache sometime in the 1980's. And also like the All Star Game, it was for a multitude of reasons: 
  1. the autumn in-water shows are now larger.

  2. potential customers today don't need to wait for a product to appear at a show in order to view it.

  3. many boats today are not transportable by land due to their height and width.

  4. there are cheaper ways for companies to showcase their wares.

The photos above are from the Life Magazine/Google Archives circa 1961.  I am not sure, but it looks like they are delivering a Stephens Cabin Cruiser to the big show; maybe a 35-36 footer. Rolling through the streets of Manhattan......I sound like an old coot, don't I?

You should have seen the teamsters in those days.

The New York Boat Show is underway at the Jacob Javits Center, January 19th-23rd. Though only a shell of its former self, it is still a fun way to spend a winter afternoon. Sadly, Lima's Fish-A -Teria is long gone; so are the Freddy Bartholomews.

Google/Life Archives: 1961 Boat Show Delivery
YouTube: 1970's Lowenbrau Commercial (Merv, you're a genius)
YouTube: Burt Lancaster, Atlantic City (quote is at 1:15)