Archive for November, 2010
On the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, in the region where Florida and Georgia meet, lies an area called Amelia Island. Two weekends ago I had the pleasure to travel there with a group of Sonomans who are also fellow pétanque addicts (um, I mean, enthusiasts). The occasion was the 2010 Pétanque America Open tournament. 120 teams from the U.S., Canada and France competed in a 2 day tournament.
I have competed in pétanque tournaments in southern Florida, but had never before been to the northern part of the state. I was expecting warm November Florida weather. Not there — cool, breezy temperatures greeted us eager pétanquers!!
While the focus of my trip was primarily for the tournament, I was eager to spend some time exploring with camera in hand. The downtown area of Amelia Island is full of quaint Victorian charm. The period of 1875 – 1900 was the town’s greatest period of prosperity. In 1973, the National Register of Historic Places designated the downtown as a Historic District. Therefore, the abundant Victorian architecture is now being preserved for years to come.
Amelia Island has a unique history. In its 400 years of recorded history, the island has been under the rule of 8 different countries, or ruling entities. The following is a brief timeline of the 8 flags that have been raised over Amelia Island:
1562 – 1565: French
1566 – 1763: Spanish
1763 – 1783: English
1783 – 1821: Spanish (3 interruptions: ”Patriots of Amelia Island,” “Green Cross of Florida,” “Mexican Rebel Flag”)
1821 – present: American (1 interruption: ”Confederate” – 1861 – 1862)
I invite you to click on to the Gallery page to view more of my Amelia Island photos.
The rain began on Friday, as had been predicted. It continued through most of Saturday, but as Sunday’s morning light broke through, it appeared that there would be a break from the rain.
The day after a rainfall; my absolute favorite type of weather — blue skies, thick and puffy clouds, cool temperatures. At this time of year, the rolling hills and fields are quickly turning their vibrant shade of green for the winter.
A lazy Sunday morning (a very rare event for me!) ensued, followed by spending the early afternoon hours in the living room, in front of a warm and crackling fire. I know……..perfection!! Yet around 3PM, the eager and aspiring “light chaser” in me took hold once again. There was diffuse sunlight filtering through and around the clouds — impossible for me to ignore. The siren call of my Nikon was just too loud to ignore.
About a 5 minute drive from my home, in the nearby Carneros appellation, lies a small pond. I first discovered it many years ago while on a bike ride. I find myself frequently returning to this spot for its tranquil and rustic beauty.
The sun kept moving in and out of the clouds, requiring frequent exposure setting changes.
The following 4 photos are the same shot but with changes to the shutter speed and/or ISO settings. I would love to hear from anyone if there are preferences in these 4 and why. All comments are welcome and very helpful.
Last weekend I traveled to Amelia Island, Florida, to compete in the annual Pétanque America Open tournament.
I am frequently asked: ”What is pétanque?” My response: ”It’s a funny French game that I play.” While that is an entirely sufficient answer for me, I realize it doesn’t really provide much to the person who is genuinely asking. So first of all — its pronunciation: pay-tonk. My friend and frequent pétanque partner Narin, recently offered this perfect and simple explanation of the game: “Pétanque is a game where lawn bowling meets marbles.”
The game originated in 1907 in the petit village of La Ciotat, in the South of France. The name derives from the Provençal dialect la petanca, meaning “feet together.” Wikipedia offers a fairly succinct description of the game’s object:
“…….. the goal is, while standing inside a starting circle with both feet on the ground, to throw hollow metal balls (boules) as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (literally “piglet”).”
In the following photos, my friend and club-mate Peggy, demonstrates pointing technique:
La Federation Française de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal (FFPJP) is the international umbrella organization and has over 375,000 members. Here in the United States, the national organization is the Federation of Pétanque, United States of America (FPUSA) and has nearly 1,600 members in almost 40 clubs throughout the country. On the local level, our little town of Sonoma has one of the USA’s most avid and colorful clubs, aptly named the Valley of the Moon Pétanque Club (VOMPC). I am a card-carrying member of all of these and have been for the last 10 years.
For me, and for many others who share the sweet “addiction” to this game, pétanque is so much more than simply the game that is played. Pétanque can be played casually among friends gathered together — a wonderfully social way to spend an afternoon. Or for those who have a naturally competitive bent, organized tournaments can be found almost every weekend throughout the Bay Area. The VOMPC is but one of several Bay Area clubs that offer monthly tournaments. Moreover, there is a very special tradition that always accompanies these games, whether in a social format or highly competitive tournament. A generous (sometimes lavish) bounty of good food and wine is essential to the pétanque experience. The combination of a day spent outdoors with friends, playing a highly enjoyable game, and taking a break to share a wonderful meal, is what keeps bringing me back to pétanque, over and over again. It is a ready-made joie de vivre for those who enthusiastically partake.
I never would have guessed how many French expatriates live in Sonoma (and in the Bay Area) were it not for this game. If a visitor to our small town were to walk by the pétanque courts (conveniently located adjacent to The Plaza) and listen to the French language being spoken, and notice the picnic baskets of food and wine, that visitor might think he or she stumbled into a small French village.
The cast of characters who play this game — well…… I like to say that they come from central casting for a Fellini film: young, old, competitive, timid, boisterous, quiet, from all socio-economic strata, etc. You name the personality type — pétanque has it. Though I would say the age range of most players in the U.S. is 35ish and above, there are those younger. And certainly, there are players who are well into their 70′s and beyond. I appreciate the agelessness of pétanque, which has allowed me the enjoyment of friendships and acquaintances along many age groups. Furthermore, there is something about competition where a person’s true nature manifests itself. The personalities of players (from the gifted and gracious competitor, to the on-court tantrums of a bad loser) that I have witnessed over the years, never cease to amaze me.
Technique wise, pétanque is easy to learn, yet difficult to master. A high level of eye to hand coordination is helpful as this is a game of precision. At the more advanced competitive levels, tactics and strategy form a major aspect of the game. For those with an acutely competitive nature, pétanque is the perfect vehicle in which to explore one’s competitive drive and ability to perform under pressure. Over the years, it is under these highly competitive and pressurized tournament situations, that I have formed some of my deepest adult friendships. Holly, Shannon, Peter, PJ, Patrick, Narin, Erin, Mike — you are my family.
(Photo of me by Alexis Legendre)
Lastly, my story of pétanque would be incomplete without mentioning the following: it was on a pétanque court where I met Gilles………….
As his family finalized their preparations to depart for a long weekend on the Florida coast of Amelia Island, so too did Leo the dog ready himself for his own little getaway.
I remember when Sean was a toddler and visiting many of the local daycare centers/nursery schools. It was so important to find a warm atmosphere, with nurturing caregivers, cleanliness, etc!! I realize that Leo is not my son — he is a dog — but a much beloved part of our family. Therefore, the kennel (dare I say — doggy daycare) where he stays while we are away from home is rather important.
Vintage Kennel Club is a wonderful place for the dogs who board there. Situated in a rural area of cows, horses and vineyards, it is run by 2 men (partners in business and in life) who are genuine animal lovers. For many years, they took care of our previous dog, John-John the Basset Hound. These days, their kennel is home away from home to Leo…………….and he just LOVES it there. The owners, with great humor, subtitle their business as “a Dog Ranch and Spa.” Trust me, this kennel is all “ranch,” with large outdoor play areas for the boarding dogs. The “spa” aspect refers to (for an extra fee) the bath they will give your dog while there.
So on last Wednesday, as Leo and I turned into the kennel’s driveway, his excitement quickly escalated. As I turned off the car’s motor and Mike began walking towards us, my beloved dog in the back seat of the car could barely contain himself. Fortunately, I had my camera in the car. I am so pleased to have captured the anticipation in Leo’s eyes as he longingly waited to be welcomed by Mike.
I drove away from the “ranch and spa” full of eager anticipation for my impending travel, but also with the security that Mr. Leo would be safe and happy on his holiday.
Fall foliage — images of Vermont and other New England locations are typically associated with these words. Yet during this time of year, we in Sonoma experience our own version. The deciduous trees and grapevines have completed their season — soon they will be lying dormant during the winter. But before all their leaves fall to the ground, for about 3 to 4 weeks, Sonoma Valley is awash with vibrant autumnal colors in various shades of red, green and yellow.
(To view an enlargement of any photo, please click on the image. I also invite you to click on the Gallery page to view more “Fall Foliage” images.)
On the quiet and rural street in which I live, there are many fields — for vineyards or grazing animals. Two particular fields never fail to catch my attention as I pass them by. Directly across from my house, one of these fields encompasses around 15 acres. The owners of the field have begun initial work to plant vineyards of Pinot Noir. While it will be lovely to have vineyards as the view across from my home, I really enjoy the vast and empty field that currently lies there. It offers unobstructed views of the many trees on the field and the neighboring hillsides. But the daily presence of many tractors on the field, remind me that soon this wide and open area will eventually be covered with grapevines.
Yesterday morning was a typically early departure to drive Sean to his 7AM class. As I was making my way back, and turning the final curve that leads to my driveway, the vast field came into view. But unlike the usual 7AMish sunrise, the morning’s sky displayed in the field’s background was an emerging sunrise of unbelievable colors and drama.
For the next 15 minutes, I stood on that field with my camera and tripod. Alternating between watching the sunrise through my camera lens and with my own eyes, it was surely one of the most brilliant sunrises in recent memory.
Fast forward to 11 hours later, and to the other field that is so eye-catching. Less than a quarter of a mile from my home, there is a 10 acre field where large and majestic looking horses graze (I do not know their breed). Sunset was quickly approaching and while in my car, as I came upon the horse field, I was once again greeted by skies of extraordinary beauty.
If the day had ended having only witnessed and captured photos of the morning’s dramatic sunrise, I would have been happy. However, serendipity was with me, because like the early morning hours, I found myself alone again with my camera and tripod. This time it was to watch and capture a descending sun and its accompanying array of colors in its full glory.
P.S. At 2AM this Sunday morning, Daylight Saving Time returns: ”Fall back and Spring ahead” as the saying goes. The extra 1 hour that will be gained when the clocks are set back will be much appreciated. The pre 7AM drive to school will no longer take place in the dark. I WILL miss seeing the sunrise each morning — both the beautiful and the ordinary ones.