Thursday, June 14, 2012

Part Two. From New York City to London to Paris.

I believe that the places where roots grow, are home. Whether or not you have lived there.
Tucson, home
New York City, home
London, where my roots grew well before me, home.
Paris, a beautiful city.
Reggio Calabria, where Monica's roots grew, home.

Tucson and NYC, see Part One.
Let's get on to Part Two. London and Paris.

Monica and I flew Virgin Atlantic. First Class. Starting with the Virgin Upper Class lounge.
It's incredible what a life time of never cashing in credit card points can buy you.
Now, the last time we flew First Class by choice was......NEVER! OK, we were upgraded a couple of times, but that was so long ago, there might have been a stewardess and props on that plane. Yes, of course I'm exaggerating. I'm not really that old, but Monica probably remembers the stewardess and props. 
I'm digging myself deeper, no?

Arriving in London the next day, we took the express train from Heathrow (I get it now, that's why it's called the Heathrow Express!) to Paddington Station. From there a quick hack ride to St. Pancras Station to pick up the Chunnel train to Paris.
All right, I admit that this was a VERY brief visit to London (3-4 hours) but I still felt very much at home. Thanks Mom and Dad!
And St. Pancras is really duded up for the Summer Olympics.
Saved from demolition in the early 1960s, it was renovated and now serves as the terminus for the Eurotrain to France. And it has a shopping mall. And a bus station. A really impressive structure.
Just wish it was heated.
Hey, I'm just saying.
Oh, and they had FOOD at St. Pancras.
Did I ever mention that Monica and I tend to travel on our stomachs?
A word about the Eurostar train to Paris.
It's quiet. Extremely quiet!
And smooth. Extremely smooth!
184 MPH!
Admittedly, I'm comparing it to the only high speed train that I've experienced.
Metro North.
Oh, that explains it.
On to Paris..
Our first meal in Paris.
Was it good? Frankly, I didn't give a rats ***.
It's Paris.
It's a street cafe.
You could watch Paris go by.
And yeah, it was really good. And I didn't even have to order the eggs runny (as though I could have mustered enough French to do that.) They just come that way!
Well, while we're speaking food.....
 Oh Leigh, look. I've spotted food! I believe that's bread! We weren't doing anything today, were we? 
And look, fake veggies. No, they look way too good to be real. Wait, they are real!
Fish! Fresh
 And Pierre actually called me back to take his picture. Oh, Pierre is the lobster.
No, just kidding. And the fish monger's name wasn't Pierre. That was my name in my French language High School class. I guess because Leigh just doesn't translate well into French.
 And Finally, my favorite meal in Paris.
A hole in the wall on Rue des Matres called Rose Bakery. The restaurant extended some distance into the rear of the narrow building. Florescent fixtures and plain drab walls. But you know you've got a sure thing when you see the beautifully prepared food up front and there's always a line to get in. 
I ordered this dish the old tried and true method. I looked around the restaurant and saw a gent eating something that looked delish. In my best French (not good, not good at all) I asked what he was eating. Mercifully, he took my crumpled menu and pointed to the dish. I'm still not exactly sure what it was, but if I could located it on that menu again, I'd surely order it tout de suite!

And that dear blogger friends, is the end of the first chapter on Paris.
More to come shortly. And then off to Italy where Monica met her roots, face to face!

Monday, May 21, 2012

How to photograph a Solar Eclipse
By Leigh Spigelman.

First, try to persuade the powers that be to schedule the eclipse at a convenient time.

Failing that, if hungry at say 90 minutes before the peak of the event, go out for dinner.

Now you've properly prepared yourself for the grueling task ahead. Namely, getting the heck home in time to photograph this important celestial coincidence.

OK, this is going to be easy. Just get the eclipse glasses on. Aim. Focus and fire!

Oh, the glasses.
Photo credit to Monica Spigelman
 You might as well have called these fashionista glasses the cones of darkness. It was so dark that Monica knocked the camera tripod out of position three times because she simply couldn't see it! And she was standing only 12" away. Really? Really!

As to aim, focus and fire? Fuggettaboutit! 
I had to feel my way to the camera and even then I had to feel my way to the view finder. 
Focusing? Forget auto focus. Had to be manual, which to me, on a good day, is to be avoided at any cost. Well, you do what you gotta do.

And what's with how good looking these cones of darkness make you look? I mean, you could buy a really cheapo pair of sunglasses and look cool. So what's with these?
Except of course Monica.
She looks GREAT.
Really? Really!

Ahhh, but the proof is in the pudding, or something like that. So here it was, finally. Aim, as soon as I found the camera. Focus, kind of. And FIRE!
Whooo boy. 
Maybe this wasn't as easy as I thought.
Probably might have helped to have gotten organized before hand. But hey, don't let a negative thought get in the way of a really fun and exciting journey of discovery. 
Well, I'd already shot the camera's load, so to speak, by shooting at 100 ISO at 1/8000 of a second and F25. That's it folks, The camera isn't going to get better than that.
Now I'm in high gear, searching for my gear. I figure two neutral density filters + a polarizing filter should give me the equivalent of 13 more f stops of darkness. That's alot!
OK, let's find those suckers. But not before I take off the cones of darkness. Geez, I could have killed myself with those things on.
So, here are the elements that I assembled. 
Rather an elegant solution. My chest starts to puff out. I put the cones of darkness back on.
Until I realize that this contraption, I mean elegant solution, isn't EVER going to screw on to my 70-200mm lens. The size is way to small.
OK, no worries. I'll hand hold the sucker in front of the lens! Maybe Ansel Adams wouldn't approve, but he's not here at the moment.

 Yes, that's me looking oh so suave, asking Monica to shout so that I know which way to turn for the photo.
Photo credit to Monica Spigelman

But does it work?
Well YES!
If you like crescent moon shots.
As it turned out, I did get some pretty good solar eclipse shots. 
They occurred well after the height of the eclipse, but I think they turned out pretty darn well.
Is there a moral to this post?
Have a wife who laughs with you.
And be don't be afraid to laugh at yourself, even if it's after the fact.
Be prepared, really!
Try your best and then react.
And a little good luck never hurts.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A new trip. A wonderful trip. Truth is of course, they all are.
But this one was special. 
From Tucson to New York City.
From New York City to London (ever so briefly.)
From London to Paris.
From Paris to Reggio Calabria.
From a beautiful home.
If you followed that, you know Monica and I well. If not, no worries, I'll explain.
But first, we start with New York City.
Our original home.
I'll take any excuse to stop over in NYC because I love to visit family, feel the energy in the streets , visit places I've never been, experience the food and see the seeming incongruity of it all lock together, and then move forward in unpredictable ways.

Oh wait. Did I mention food?

Up to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for a wonderful lunch at Roberto's Restaurant, where the spoken Italian was as thick and chewy as the squid salads. Monica and I enjoyed Alan, Diane, Duyen and Brett's company and the food kept coming. After my first visit there, the verdict is in. I'd love to go back!

After lunch, more food. 
This time mostly to look at. 
 The Arthur Avenue Retail Market.
 Not exactly a super market, but the diversity of its offerings was staggering.

 Did you say you were looking for fruits and vegetables?

How about olives?
Black, brown, green?
Stored in nifty retro wooden casks?

Hand rolled?
In front of you?
Well, if you insist.

Music. And a full service restaurant.
Why not?

More food.
You like cheese and Italian sausage.
So who doesn't?

And what goes perfectly with all of this crazy good Italian food?
Sun dried tomatoes and peperoni.
OK, I'm not exactly sure if that's pepperoni on the right. Monica says it's hot peppers in oil.
But it looks colorful. What else could you ask for?
So then,

Finally we take a break from food.
Monica and I visited that mecca of Italian food super stores, Eately.
And we ate more.
Hey, this is my vacation. Tough.
I hope Monica forgives me, because Mario and Lidia are her faves. Truthfully, this wasn't the best meal we had. But it sure looked good.

Oh, did I mention we happened to visit over the Easter holiday.
Do you know what that means?
AnnMarie and Jim cooked a wonderful Easter feast, as always!
And to top off our NYC visit, we all got to celebrate Brett's birthday. 
And that cake was good.

Next blog post will take us to the other side.
No, no one died. Jeez!
I mean Europe.
See you soon, virtually.