In which I decide this blog will have lots less knitting content

The other day, I was thinking about how I needed to blog, and I realized I was dreading it. I dreaded it because it meant taking pictures, uploading them, tagging them, then writing a blog post and linking to those pictures. It’s not just writing, it’s logistics. Sometimes I want to just sit down and write. About things that are important to me.

For instance, I exercised a lot today. I’m exhausted and redfaced. I did a triathlon a few years back, but my swimming’s pretty bad and the only upcoming triathlon is far too close for me to consider. I’m toying with the idea of a duathlon. There’s one this fall that requires a 2 mile run, 12 mile bike ride, 2 mile run. I haven’t ridden a bike since that tri 5 years ago, so I’m working on that first. Today I rode to my neighborhood pool where I swam a few laps, then sat to dry a little. I hopped on the bike, then tooled around the neighborhood until I was ready to fall over. I’m trying to build up my “share the road” confidence and briefly ventured onto one busy street. I bailed on another, though, and stuck to the sidewalk.peach

So now I’m sitting here on the couch drinking my Peachee and thinking about what I’d like this blog to become. I enjoy thoughtful conversations with thoughtful people about all kinds of things: crafts, books, movies, food, politics, travel. The blogs I enjoy reading most aren’t controversial. No one whacks you over the head with what they think, but they do inspire thought. And laughter. And creativity.

I’m going to give myself permission to write about something other than knitting when I want to. As has probably been evident sometimes, I’ve forced myself to write about yarn previously when I wasn’t that excited about it. But many of the best knitting blogs contain little in the way of knitting content. So I’m not going to fret anymore. I’ll let the spirit take me where it does, and hopefully I’ll flex my writing muscles a little along the way.

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Vacation: Day 8-10

On Day 8, we spent the morning packing up and walking through Avignon one last time.  Then we drove back to the Marseille airport and dropped off our rental car. Our hotel sent a van to pick us up, and we spent the evening there.

Hotel near Marseille airport

Our last day in France, we decided to go to Marseille. Without a car, it ended up being a tad complicated. We’d planned on having the hotel take us back to the airport. Check. Then picking up the bus to head to the train station. Fail. You have to buy your train ticket first to get on the bus, and none of the SNCF kiosks would recognize our credit cards. Since there were no people there to help us, we ended up employing my vocab word for this trip: navette (shuttle). We took the shuttle/big bus that runs from the Marseille airport (that is actually about 20 minutes from Marseille, in Marignane) to the main train station in Marseille proper. It’s faster than having to take the bus/train, a little more expensive, and it was our only option. Once at the train station, we bought two unlimited metro passes and took the subway to the Old Port.

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It was earlier enough in the day that the fish market was still there. This port is the heart of old Marseille, the second biggest city in France. The port was established by the Greeks in about 600 BC and it’s been used continually since. (There’s a new port on the western side of the city that can accommodate bigger ships.)

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We had a vague idea of the location of the tourism office, and we were lucky enough to see signs pointing us towards it. Somehow we missed a turn in the Place Charles de Gaulle, but to our luck, this led us to one of the two Nespresso stores in Marseille. We were hoping to find one of them (I had the addresses in my purse), but stumbling across one made it seem so serendipitous.  We went in and were given a taste of chocolate and a cup of espresso. We bought a really cool Nespresso pod dispenser. (We’re big fans if you haven’t guessed.)

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Then we found the Tourism office right on La Canebiere, a very famous street that we didn’t get to explore. The woman in the tourism office pointed us to some restaurants to find bouillabaisse, a local specialty: fish soup. The places she recommended were a little pricier than we wanted, so we walked around until we found one Phil liked the look of. I was hoping for a salad since I don’t eat fish, but his pick didn’t have any salad on the menu, or anything I’d eat. Long story short, the chef came out and agreed to make something for me. His exact words, in fact, were “I’ll make something for you.” I had no idea what to expect.

Phil loved his soup.

Phil has bouillabaisse

I got a beautiful salad! The chef came out to check on me, even.

My chef's special

We wanted to take it easy since this was our last day of vacation. We got tickets for one of the little train tours, and it was awesome! Marseille is such a big city, that it was a good way to see a bit of everything as quickly as possible. We snaked along the coast for awhile, glimpsing Chateau D’If nearby. (I honestly didn’t know it was a real place.)

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Chateau d'If

We rode along the Corniche.

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And we went up some very steep hills.

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A passing motorcyclist waved as he passed us.

Motorcyclist waves to tourists

Then we glimpsed our final destination: Notre Dame de la Garde. Yes, our little train went up that hill, the highest point in Marseille.

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From the top of the Garde, you could see all of Marseille. It was truly overwhelming. The population density was astounding. The Mediterranean was wonderfully blue. We walked around in awe for a little bit before going up to the church.

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Inside, every square inch of the church is decorated. Miniature boats hang from the ceiling, each one unique, a testament to the importance of marine life in this city. The church was so colorful, it was the last thing we expected when we walked in.

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The train took us back to the Old Port, where we picked the subway up, headed back to the train station and took the shuttle back home. (We tried the train again, since there were people to help this time, but the line for tickets was insanely long and slow.)

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Day 10 consisted of getting to the airport stupid early, the airline somehow switching our side-by-side seats on us, then arguing to get some seats next to each other back, then waiting forever. Security in Paris took forever, then we landed in Houston tired and cranky and happy to be home.

We had a great time in France! We loved taking it slow and taking days off to just enjoy our surroundings and relax. I know I can overplan and overtax Phil, so this was the best of both worlds. We had a detailed plan in place, but a lot of flexibility built into it. We focused on enjoying ourselves, not checking places off of a list. It worked out best for both of us. I wasn’t panicked by a lack of planning, and Phil wasn’t dragged across the French countryside every day.

The rental car was a little bit of a mixed bag. We liked the flexibility, but it was a bit stressful navigating (for me) and driving (for Phil) in a place we weren’t familiar with. No major incidents, though.

We loved our apartment. It was perfectly situated and gave us a little home to come back to every night. We even cooked in one evening.

Looking back over our trip, I miss it already!

Vacation: Day 6

We were exhausted after Carcassonne and a little sick of driving, so on this day we opted to stay in Avignon and spent more time exploring “our” city. We tried to do a better job of documenting where we stayed. Here are pictures of our apartment stairs and our balcony view:

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Our apartment was in Place St. Didier, a square that once served as the wood and silk market for Avignon. Also, an execution place. According to the historical marker below, a botched execution led to a public uprising that did away with executions in this area.

I found a knitting store! This picture doesn’t do it justice as it was closed on Monday. The store was very cute, and the man who ran it was very patient with me (I visited twice). They had Phildar, Bouton d’Or, Katia and maybe one or two other lines. The selection was pretty small, but decent. I was surprised to see cashmere, mohair and other natural fibers. I tried to talk Phil into letting me take home some pure silk, but I ended up with two balls of purple merino DK. Good enough.

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We walked down Place de la Republique, the main street in old Avignon, in search of a post office. I’ve found that each trip to a francophone nation has given me a new vocabulary word that seems to be The Word of The Trip. When we went to Tahiti, The Word of The Trip was “timbre” for stamp. I’d never heard it before, and we happened to be sending lots of postcards. It came in handy this trip!

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We found my favorite ice cream bar. This goes back to an old friend who taught me to look for Magnum bars while overseas. I’ve found them in every single country I’ve looked, except for the U.S. I always make Phil hold up the label for a photo. (As far as I can remember, I’ve had Magnum bars in Mexico, French Polynesia, France, Israel, the Netherlands and China.)

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We headed back towards the St. Benezet bridge and climbed up the Dog Tower. From the top of the tower, you walk a short bit of rampart, then head up stairs to the Rocher Des Doms. At the top is a stunning view of Villeneuve Les Avignon.
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Rocher Des Doms is a beautiful garden tucked between the city walls and the papal palace. It’s wonderfully communal, with tourists and locals all enjoying the views and the picnic areas.
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We visited the cathedral next to the papal palace. Benedict XII is buried there; the sign was in Latin and I was proud to know enough to be able to read it.

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We ended the day with some tapenade and chevre from the grocer in the square below combined with a baguette from Les Halles and a bottle of wine from our dear friends on Day 3. It was a pretty good day!

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My love/hate relationship with running

I had a personal first this weekend. I ran a marathon relay with my husband and two friends. I can’t quite recall how far some of my long-distance track practices went in high school, but I think 6.5 miles may be the farthest I’ve ever run. I loved it. Despite the cold wind and muddy trail, it was a great day and lots of fun. Our team placed 18th out of 34, which was about what we expected.

Training is a chore for me. I don’t feel highly motivated to get out and run. I enjoy it (usually) once I get out there, though. I especially like pushing my limits and feeling impressed with myself when I meet or surpass my goals.

I’m considering doing a super sprint distance triathlon in May. It’s really soon after I return from vacation, so that’s one knock against it. I’m borrowing a friend’s bike, and I need to get out to ride. This race is super short, though, so I feel pretty confident that I can be ready. I did a longer triathlon about 5 years ago and survived.

When you have no words

It’s taken me awhile to come to write this. I feel like I have nothing new to say. Grief is a universal fact, and my share is no worse than anyone else’s. In fact, it’s quite light compared to some. It’s a particularly sad time for those of us who love journalism. The news paradigm is shifting, and newspapers are scrambling to find their place in the brave new world. Coupled with that persistent underlying stress in the American Press‘ newsroom are two very recent, very poignant deaths.

When Brian Guilbeau, award-winning sports columnist, passed away on Nov. 13, everyone who ever encountered him felt the loss. Cystic fibrosis is a hell of a disease, and he beat the odds to make the life he had: living long past doctors’ predictions and fathering a beautiful daughter. It doesn’t make it easier, though. Those who worked so closely with Brian felt like he was family. I remember Brian and his laugh very well. He was a wonderful person and a great co-worker.

And now Hector, our award-winning investigative journalist, passed away on Tuesday from leukemia. I worked more closely with Hector, and I remember his thoughtfulness and his love of his craft. He could write a detailed front-page story with half the words it took his peers. In the midst of his personal mission to keep City Hall honest, he almost always found the time to pick his kids up from school. He was the fastest walker, the fastest talker I ever knew, and he personified the stereotype you see in the movies of newspaper people, down to the sharp wit.

I treasure my memories of both Brian and Hector, both too young to say goodbye to. I have incredible sympathy for their families, as I can’t imagine the pain they feel. Included in that is their American Press family. My heart is with all of you, and it’s full of grief. Both men are irreplaceable in our hearts and in the newsroom. Their deaths are a blow to the art of journalism.

What I did Saturday

Ballunar Fest at Johnson Space Center!!!!!

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

Sorry I'm MIA

I’ve been having internet problems at home that should be rectified very soon. So I can’t really share any pictures.

I’ve finished the star blanket at long last, but have yet to give it to the recipient, so that’s pending. I’ve been trying to finish up the July sock club socks as September should be arriving soon. It’s like pulling teeth, though, as I’m really hating the pooling. Auburn Camp Shirt work continues.

Regularly scheduled programming should resume very soon.

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