Monday, July 30, 2007

Costa Rica - part 1

I made it back safe and sound from the mission trip to Costa Rica. It was wonderful and exhausting. I want to process a little and have some profound thoughts to write down so it may be a few days until I get more posted on the trip. I also will have pictures to post.
The country is beautiful. I got burned to a crisp on our beach day despite two applications of sunscreen. The ministry we worked with was amazing. Had a blast helping pour concrete - seriously. The kids at the daycare & children's home were so much fun. The Ticos (Costa Ricans) were great to work with. Had interesting experiences serving with a feeding program in very marginal areas of San Jose. Did a kids' party & feeding at a squatters camp. And developed good relationships with people on our team.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I am an enginerd

I like to think of myself as fairly normal but there are things that happen that remind me I’m an enginerd. It’s a sad day. Sigh. Time to lay to rest my Hewlett Packard 32s RPN scientific calculator. I have come to this sad realization over the last few months as use of the 5, 8 & 9 buttons has become intermittent and it’s spreading to the 3. My dad bought me this calculator when I was in 9th grade. It’s seen me through high school, college, and 10 years of work – 18 years of solid service and I only had to change the batteries twice. It’s like letting go of my security blanket. I’m only letting go because it’s gotten so bad and it’s with much reluctance that I lay it down.

After a little search, I found HP makes a shiny new 33s model that’s an RPN scientific calculator (I’ve been using RPN for 18 years, I can’t go back to a regular calculator). It’ll take some getting use to, but hopefully it will provide just as faithful service as my 32s. I’m still going to mourn its passing so healing can begin.

For you non-enginerds, RPN stands for Reverse Polish Notation. You enter numbers and functions in a different order which makes long strings & intermediate functions a lot easier than a standard calculator. As your eyes are now glazing over, I’ll end the explanation there.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Home on the Range

I'm home - arrived Friday night about 9:30 PM to grand old Wichita. It was harder to leave than I expected after 3 months. The next few months will see if I get to go back. A few last photos of France for your viewing pleasure.

This was my typical morning walk.

This was my one bedroom apartment with tiny kitchenette.

And here's all the wine I tried. Basically a new bottle each week. Learns lots and expanded my taste. St. Emillion and St. Emillion Grand Cru are my favorite reds though Bordeaux is good too. And Bordeaux Blanc is good. (Yes, Dave, I've become a wino.)
Au revior from France. But in the meantime, I must prepare this week for my mission trip to Costa Rica next week. So stay tuned and in about 2 weeks I'll post pictures and stories from that adventure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Down to the last of it

Last weekend my plans were changed at the last minute. So I decided to head north since I hadn’t explored much in that direction. Went to Cahors, a medieval town that has the strongest red wine in France. The river around it makes the town into a peninsula. There were several farmers’ markets & flea markets going on.

Then I drove the backroads for a bit to get to an overlook point on Mont St Cyr.
Sunday I went for an afternoon drive through some small towns just west of Tournefeuille. Accidently went on an African safari. There’s a “Parc Zoologique” in the area that you see signs for all over the place. I decided to try to find it. Drove into the parking lot to turn around but they have it set up in such a way that once you enter, you can’t leave without going through it. So I paid the 11.50 Euro and drove through the safari. Then parked and walked through the zoo part. I wasn’t impressed - it’s no Sedgwick County Zoo.

Sunday morning I took a walk to take pictures of Tournefeuille. It is a “Ville Fleurie” – a national “flower city” designation. All the medians are nicely planted & maintained. Here are a few.

You’ll even find Utopia here.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

4th of July

We took the 4th of July off as a holiday because we’ve had many issues with our HR & Payroll departments and it’s just easier to not do anything out of the ordinary or they can’t handle it. So we took the day off.

Most of us decided to check out the Bordeaux region. Several of us really like St. Emilion wine. It’s a smooth red. So we headed to St. Emilion which is east of Bordeaux. The scenery is beautiful – vineyards as far as the eye can see.

St. Emilion is a great medieval town on a hill with beautiful views from the church at the top of the hill. We ate in a square at the base of the church – you can see the white umbrellas.

A few of the guys climbed to the top of the church steeple and I waved at them from the ground. I bought a bottle of St. Emilion Grand Cru. Can’t wait to try it. It was such a great town – little side streets with amazing views when you pop around a corner. These are the places I will miss the most.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Maison (home) again

Wednesday we were to head back. First though we stopped in Cannes for a few hours at the beach. Paid 10 Euro for half a day. It was nice. I managed to get a little sun without turning into a lobster. The drive 5 hour drive back was long but fine. It was a good trip. We didn’t have nearly enough time in Cote d’Azur, but I wouldn’t have cut anything else out either.


Tuesday evening we drove to Monaco. This was a must for me since we were so close. It’s slightly confusing as Monaco is the principality and Monte Carlo is it’s capital city, but Monaco is only about 370 acres and Monte Carlo occupies most of it. It’s quite beautiful, situated on cliffs next to the sea.
We parked at the casino.
Walked around the harbor. There must be a few billion dollars worth of yachts sitting in that marina. Passed the starting line of the Monaco Grand Prix.
Walked to the palace. Large, but not that pretty.
We had dinner of crepes on a little street near the palace. No sightings of Prince Albert though. On the walk back to the casino I called Sharon to wish them a happy anniversary. JT was up from his nap and talked to me a little. Sharon asked if he wanted to sing Winnie-the-Pooh for me. Half way thru the song he stopped and said “Sing Aunt Jemfer!” So I was walking down the street in Monte Carlo singing Winnie-the-Pooh with JT. It was too surreal and funny.
We played slots at the casino. I won 30 Euros.

Grasse & St Paul de Vence

At dinner Monday night a British couple had told us we should tour one of the perfume factories in Grasse. In Provence, most of the essenses for the world’s perfumes are manufactured. Each company hires a “nose”, who has 6-8 years of training in scents. There are only 150 noses in the world and 100 of them are in Provence. So Tuesday morning we toured a Fragonard factory – it was small but interesting and they really just do it to give a sales pitch to buy their products. Then after a long time trying to get out of Grasse, we made it to St-Paul-de-Vence. It is a medieval walled city on a hill from which you can see the sea.
Jen’s friends had told her eating at La Colombe d’Or was a must. Several artists used to frequent this hotel & restaurant – Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso. We had a very expensive lunch on the terrace. If you go, it’s a must to have reservations. Then we shopped in the town.

Monday, July 2, 2007


Monday June 25 we took the long drive to the French Riviera (Cote d’Azur). It took about 6 hours. We stopped in Cannes since it was before our hotel in Nice and we didn’t want to waste any time. The beach is beautiful & sandy there. There was one huge yacht in the harbor. The shopping area is called La Croisette and runs along the shore. There are the fancy designer shops and then further in are the ones us common people can afford. It was busy but not bad. I am told that during the film festival in May that it is shoulder to shoulder people.

We then went to Nice to get settled at the hotel. We were staying in Nice since it was central to all we wanted to do in the area. Turns out it’s a skippable place. It is much cheaper to stay there but not all that exciting. There is a Matisse museum I’d love to visit some day. The beach is gravel – common in the area. You rent mattresses to lay on. Most beaches on the Riviera are pay beaches – cost about 15 Euro for a day and you get a chair and it’s usually at a restaurant where you get access to a bathroom.


On Saturday, June 23, we drove south from Andorra into Spain. The mountains were beautiful. Arrived in Barcelona on the coast in about 2.5 hours. Found the hotel with no problem; however, the name on my internet reservation was different than the name on the front of the hotel. After 3 times around the block, we decided that had to be it and went to check in. We walked to Sagrada Familia. It is a cathedral that Gaudi designed and started building before his death. It is still under construction and it is expected to take another 30 years to complete. Two of the 3 facades are complete. Gaudi completed the Nativity façade. The Passion (Christ’s death) was completed by another artist but in a much different style. The Resurrection façade is not done yet. It is a very interesting building.

Then went to the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter). Happened upon a little court in which it is said that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella received Christopher Columbus upon his return from America.
In the evening we had paella at a restaurant near the beach. Ended up talking to a group of British people sitting next to us and spent the rest of the evening with them. It was the Fete de San Juan (St. John Festival) that day in Barcelona. It is said that St. John traveled through this area on his later missionary journeys. The festival consists of beach parties and fireworks.
On Sunday I took a morning walk around L’Eixample – amazing Spanish architecture and some Modernista buildings. The building that houses the Guell museum is the most interesting.
Then we went to Parc Montjuic. It is the highest point of the city and where Olympic Stadium is. There are several beautiful gardens and museums as well.

We wandered around Las Ramblas some before getting ready to go to the beach. We went to the beach near Parc Olimpic – Olympic Village where all the athletes were housed during the 1992 games. The Games revitalized Barcelona. This area is now full of restaurants and hotels. The beach was quite busy. More paella for dinner.

I enjoyed Barcelona, go to do everything I had wanted to except visit a few art museums. But maybe next time. I found that I had blocked out all the Spanish I learned in school in order to learn what little French I have on this trip, but I did understand numbers in Spanish where I still don’t in French.