Clos Cantenac

Early morning fog made for some very interesting photo opportunities.  Unfortunately I had to cut my “fun” short as we had an appointment for a tour and tasting with a third Opimian supplier and I had to get ready to go. 

It was a beautiful, sunny morning for our drive to Clos Cantenac, .  Unlike the past two mornings where we were initially a wee bit uncertain if we were at the right place, this morning there was no doubt. A big sign confirmed our arrival. 

The winery owner, Martin Krajewski, has a history with Opimian dating back many years.  In fact we had attended a winetasting dinner in Edmonton a number of years ago where Martin was the guest of honour and told us about the winery he owned at the time, Chateau de Sours.  I recall Martin being both entertaining and very interesting to listen to. Over the years I have bought a number of Chateau de Sours wines. He bought Clos Cantenac in 2007 and has built it up from 1.6 hectares to 6 hectares.

Catherine, our host

We met Catherine, my contact for arranging the visit, who took us on a tour. Catherine outlined how, since Martin purchased Clos Cantenac, he has not only increased the number of hectares, but has done much to improve the vineyard, modernized the buildings and equipment, and added new buildings. The result is a very modern winery that produces tremendous wines.
The grapes are all hand-picked. We were lucky to have arrived on a day when they were harvesting grapes. Part way through our tour Martin’s daughter Charlotte arrived. Charlotte lives in New Zealand but has been coming over each year for the harvest. The plan seems to be that she will soon move to France to take an active roll in a winery they have recently purchased in Pomerol. She told us that the grapes would be arriving shortly and if we wanted to stick around we could see the initial process of winemaking.

In the meantime we finished off our tour with a look at their barrel room and a small laboratory.  Then it was off to the tasting room to sample some wines. On the way, Martin Krajewski arrived so we had a chance to meet him and visit for a few minutes.


Catherine explains operation of sorting machine

Barrel Room

In the tasting room, we started off with a rose – L’exuberance.  The bottle itself is a work of art and the wine is delicious. It would be a perfect wine to enjoy on the patio. We then moved on to the Petit Cantenac which is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  We finished off with the Clos Cantenac which is 100% Merlot. The Petit Cantenac was a little lighter and fruitier while the Clos Cantenac was more full bodied and bolder. Both were excellent!

Even the bottle is a thing of beauty.

Petit Cantenac

Back at the winery the grapes had started to arrive. Catherine and Charlotte together explained the process to us. Because these grapes were destined to be a rose, there was only one sorting table. Normally, for a red, there would be a second sorting table after the destemming. Today the grapes went from the sorting table to the destemming machine then into the press. The juice is pumped into a stainless steel tank which cools it overnight and the process of turning grape juice into wine begins. In all the years that we have toured wineries this is only the second time that we have seen this part of the process so it was very exciting.

Sorting Table


Grapes on conveyor to press

Charlotte explaining process to Susan


L-R Susan, Martin, Charlotte, Catherine


After bidding farewell to the very fine folks at Clos Cantenac, it was off to Puisseguin for lunch at Bistro de la Gare. We had the three course fixed menu which was wonderful. It was a beautiful day for sitting in the patio, eating fine food, drinking a bit of local wine, and enjoying the sunshine which has been missing from most of our time in France so far.

We were back at our gîte by mid-afternoon where we had a chance to relax and catch up on some photo editing. Later in the afternoon we enjoyed some of the warm sunshine as we had a great visit with Steve and Rob along with a couple from another one of the gîtes, Ed and Maria from the Netherlands.  Shall I say we went through several bottles of rose?!!



Maria, Ed, and Rob

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Chateau Daugay

Up before dawn, I drove down the hill in hopes of getting a shot of Chateau de Monbadon in the golden light of early morning. I had guessed that the sun would be at the right angle from a vantage spot on the road that goes around behind the Chateau. Not everything goes as planned. The building side that faced me was angled too far away from the sun to catch the golden light. Ah well, you can’t win them all.

Back to the gîte for breakfast then off to today’s winery tour. Today we would be visiting Chateau Daugay , another Opimian supplier.

Chateau Daugay

After GPS took us on another series of twists and turns we arrived at a house that looked like the one pictured on the website. It turned out to be the right location and we met up with M. Jean-Bernard Grenie, my contact and an instantly likeable gentleman. When we advised we were from Alberta he exclaimed that he had been in Alberta in June, at a wine summit at Lake Louise!

M. Grenie started off giving us a bit of the history of Ch. Daugay. The beautiful home on the property dates back 200 years to the time of Napolean. His wife (Mme. Helene de Bouard-Grenie) is the current owner who took over the winery from her parents.

Descending the steps in front of the house took us into the vineyard. On vines averaging 40 years old, the vineyard is comprised of 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. M. Grenie picked several of the Merlot grapes for us to taste. They were extremely sweet. They were not quite ready to pick though, we were told. They aren’t ready until the seeds just crack when you bite down on them. While they do get the grapes tested regularly to determine when they are best harvested, M. Grenie also relies on his own experience, instinct and “seed cracking” test to confirm the optimum time to harvest. The grapes are then hand-picked.

When the grapes are hauled to the winery they are destemmed, sorted, then go through a Mistral sorting machine, which blows away remaining bits of stems and leaves, before the final sorting table. The wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel vats and aged in oak barrels.

Winery with canopy set up to cover sorting tables

We had the unique opportunity to taste, along with M. Grenie, 5 day-old Merlot juice. It was very sweet as it really hadn’t yet started turning into wine. M. Grenie described it as having great potential!

Fermentation Tanks

The next stop was the tasting room where we sampled the 2015 vintage. At first taste the wine from the freshly opened bottle was quite fruity with a definite taste of blackberry or cherry. It was quite amazing over the next 10 or 15 minutes to experience how the taste of the wine changed. As it had a chance to breathe the flavours opened up and the wine became a little more mellow. One can easily see how after a few more years aging in the bottle this wine will be outstanding.

I look forward to ordering some Chateau Daugay wine when next they are offered by Opimian. M. Grenie is obviously a master at his craft and takes great pride in producing very fine wine.

As we were walking back to the car we mentioned that we were heading into St. Emilion for lunch. We have a restaurant in town, M. Grenie told us. The chef is a one-star Michelin chef and you can buy Ch. Daugay by the glass. It sounded like a perfect choice to us, so with the directions to Logis de la Cadène we set off for St. Emilion.

The town was very full of tourists but we managed to find a parking stall which, as it turned out, wasn’t too far a walk from the restaurant. Logis de la Cadene is located partway down a very steep cobblestone walkway. While not inexpensive, lunch was extremely good and the presentation first rate!  And of course we each enjoyed a glass of the 2011 Chateau Daugay.

Logis de la Cadène


After lunch it was back to Clos Vieux Rochers to relax for the remainder of the afternoon. I did have to make a few stops on the way back to take some photos.

Back “home” had a delightful time sitting in the sun chatting with Rob and Steve over a bottle of wine.

Around 6:30 I set off for a location that offered yet a different view of Chateau de Monbadon, to capture it in the late afternoon sun. This time it turned out to be a good location with some nice late-day sunlight.

Chateau de Monbadon

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Vignobles Darriet

After a fairly easy drive for an hour then several kilometres of narrow one-lane roadways, the GPS told us we had arrived at out destination. The only problem was that nothing around us showed the name Vignobles Darriet, the winery with which we had an appointment for a tour and tasting. There was one sizeable property which showed the name Chateau Dauphiné Rondillon.  In the back of my mind was a thought that it was one of the six Chateaus owned by the Darriets. We pulled in, parked and I went into the office to check if we were in the right place. The two ladies in the office assured me it was and in fact one was Amy, my contact.

In Canada we are members of a country-wide wine club, the Opimian Society. The society is essentially a wine-buying co-op which through nearly monthly offerings makes wine from all over the world available to its members. As well, most of the local chapters hold various wine-tasting events throughout the year. Another benefit of membership is that when you travel to wine-producing regions they will put you in touch with some of the wineries who supply wines to the Society. Vignobles Darriet, , was the first of three visits we had arranged in the Bordeaux region.

My contact Amy turned out to also be the guide for our visit. A delightful young lady, she was also very knowledgeable about the wine-making operation. Our tour  naturally started at the vineyard. Amy explained that the Darriet family have owned the winery for over 200 years. Currently the operation is run by a brother and sister, the eighth generation to do so. Amongst their children they hope that there will be a ninth generation of wine-makers.

Amy talks about the Semillon grape

Over the years the family has acquired 6 Chateaus scattered around the region. At this particular property the Sémillon grape is grown for the making of sweet wine. Amy explained that the vines we were looking at were 100 years old which was very unusual. Vines generally have out-lived their useful lifespan long before 100 years. However, with these vines being such an important part of the family history, they are being babied along so as to produce grapes as long as they possibly can. She also pointed out a 100-year old pear tree in the middle of the vines. Ordinarily it would have been cut down to make it easier to machine-harvest the grapes. Again, because they hand-pick these grapes and the tree is “part of the family”, it continues to grow and produce pears.


100 Year Old Pear Tree

Sémillon grapes

Amy explained that from this vineyard they produce sweet wine and outlined the process by which it is made. Essentially it depends on the grapes becoming covered with a mild called botrytis. Three conditions are required for the development of botrytis:  wind, fog, and sun. The fog provides moisture, the wind dries the grapes and the sun provides heat. With the right conditions the botrytis develops and causes the skins of the grapes to become very thin. The moisture in the grapes can then more easily evaporate and as the grapes shrivel the sugars in the grape become very concentrated. Basically it is from these shrivelled mold-covered sugar-intense grapes that the beautiful Semillon wine is produced. Occasionally a year occurs where the right conditions don’t happen, the botrytis doesn’t develop and they can’t produce their sweet wine.


Amy shows us the 100 yr old wine press

Our next stop was the barrel room and adjacent room that contained a 100 year-old wine press that is still being used for their highest quality wine. Other historical artifacts are scattered through the two rooms including some very old bottles of wine. One very interesting item was a menu of wines served at a lunch many years ago in honor of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. One of the wines served was a 1937 Chateau Dauphiné Rondillon!
The sweet wine, Amy explained, is aged in tanks for a year then ages for two years in new French Oak barrels. Other wines are barrel-aged in 2 or three year old barrels for different times, depending on the requirements of the particular type of wine.

A couple of old wines

Our next stop, and some might argue the best stop, was of course the tasting!  And what a wonderful tasting it was!  We started with a white, then a rose, followed by several reds and finishing up with two sweet wines. We ended selecting several to purchase as “souvenirs” of our visit (OK they will be consumed long before we leave France).

The tasting line-up


Our thanks to Amy for the warm hospitality she extended to us on behalf of Vignobles Darriet!

From Chateau Dauphiné Rondillon we drove a few kilometres into Cadillac for lunch. Following lunch I wandered around a walled-in part of the town then visited Chateau Cadillac.



The Chateau dates back to the early 1600’s originally built for the Duke of Epernon. The building was acquired by the State in 1818 and became a women’s prison. As a prison it ended up holding the record of the highest mortality rate and for the worst treatment of prisoners in France!  The prison was closed in 1890 then became a remand centre for girls until 1952. Today the Chateau houses quite a collection of old tapestries and rooms restored to their original look.

During the day the weather continuously improved to the point that when we returned to Clos Vieux Rochers we spent some time sitting in the sun enjoying some white wine.

Our purchases for the day

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Bordeaux Bound

After a seven-hour drive from Honfleur we arrived at our home for the next week near Puisseguin in the Bordeaux region of France, about an hour east of the city Bordeaux.

We will spend the week in a gîte (cottage) at the vineyard Clos Vieux Rochers . Upon arrival we met our hosts Steve and Rob. We also met a cameraman/director for the BBC Four program A New Life in the Sun.  He was spending the day at the property filming for the upcoming Season 3. With our permission he videoed our arrival, check-in, unloading the car, and later briefly interviewed us. Quite a welcome to be sure!

After Steve showed us through our gîte we had a chance to haul in our luggage and get settled in. A short time later Rob took us on a tour of the vineyard and winery. He explained that we were in the Castillon Côte de Bordeaux wine region.  Since purchasing a virtually derelict property two years ago they have done a tremendous job starting the rejuvenation of the vineyard and have started producing some tremendous wine. Their wine is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

The vineyard

Rob talking about the vineyard

The Wine











Steve and Rob have also done an amazing job of renovating the old farmhouse into four guest gîtes. Just opened in April, the accommodation is first class. Our week here is going to be very comfortable.

Our gîte

Dinner in the nearby village of Montagne was another special experience. Besides us in the restaurant, there was a group of 50 for a pre-wedding dinner. Both the service and food was excellent despite the challenges of serving a group of 50 besides us.

Up before dawn to photograph the property at daybreak, I was rewarded with a gorgeous sunrise.

The rest of the day was spent doing some grocery shopping in a nearby village and relaxing in the gîte. Late in the afternoon I drove a short distance to photograph Chateau de Monbadon.

Chateau de Monbadon

Sunday, our second full day, was yet another rainy day. After breakfast the rain let up so I went for a little stroll around the property.

Mid-day we drove to Castillon-la-Bataille.  Being Sunday pretty much everything was closed and the streets were pretty quiet. After strolling the streets for a while we went down to the Dordogne River, which the town borders, where I photographed the bridge and river.

Bridge at Castillon

Dordogne River

I finished off the day with down the road from our rental and around the vineyard. Every time I go for a walk I find new things to photograph.

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Honfleur Part 3

After two full days of visiting museums at the Normandy Beaches we decided to take it easy for our final two days in Honfleur.

Wednesday was cloudy, cool, windy and rainy – a perfect day to go the the beach!  Well not so much the beach as to two very popular seaside towns which just happen to be adjacent to each other.

Trouville-sur-Mer appears to be the larger of the two and is loaded with cafés and shops. Across the river, Deauville has a beautiful beach but doesn’t seem to have as many cafés, or at least not that we found. We parked and took a little stroll to the beach but it was too windy and rainy to spend any time there so we went back to Trouville to find some lunch.

After lunch it was a leisurely drive back to Honfleur with a stop for groceries.

The next day was even more leisurely. We slept in, had a late breakfast and in early afternoon strolled down to the Vieux Basin area. After lunch at a little crêperie we visited the Musée d’Ethnographie. It is just behind the Musée Marine that I visited the other day. With displays of historical artifacts and apparel it offers a good glimpse into the history of Honfleur.

Old Prison on right





Vieux Basin

Sidewalk Cafe at Vieux Basin

The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the apartment and getting  packed up for our departure from Honfleur the next morning. The apartment had served us well for our stay in Honfleur.  It was comfortable, had a nice view, was well equipped for cooking a few meals “at home” and was about a 5 minute walk to the Vieux Basin and the historical district that surrounded it.



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Honfleur Part 2

One reason for visiting Honfleur was to photograph the Vieux Basin. As the angle I wanted lent itself to an early morning shoot, I was up and on location before sunrise on 3 different mornings. While the light wasn’t what I would call spectacular on any of the mornings, here is one of the shots that I liked.

Vieux Harbor

Another reason for visiting Honfleur is that it is in Normandy, relatively close to the D-Day Beaches. I wanted to learn more about what occurred on June 6, 1944 and to fit things together geographically in a way that only visiting sites can do. We spent two days of our time in Honfleur doing just that.

The first day we drove through the beautiful French countryside to the Pegasus Memorial at Ranville. The Benouville Bridge and a nearby bridge at Ranville were taken just before midnight on June 5th by British Paratroopers and troops that landed in gliders. By taking the two bridges a counter-offensive by the Germans against the Allies at the Normandy Beaches was made more difficult. The Benouville Bridge was renamed the Pegasus Bridge in 1944.

Pegasus Memorial

Glider – didn’t realize how big they were

Current Pegasus Bridge

Model of Pegasus Bridge

One thing I didn’t fully appreciate until visiting this museum was the size of the gliders.

Our next stop was the museum at Juno Beach where the Canadian troops came ashore. The museum tells the story of the Canadian troops who captured Juno Beach then continued inland to meet up with British troops. Of the five Allied landing beaches, the Canadians at Juno  Beach had advanced the furthest inland by the eve of D-Day.

Juno Beach

Juno Beach

Museum at Juno Beach

Juno Beach

Juno Beach

We finished off the day by visiting the Beny-sur-mer Canadian War Cemetery near Reviers. Here is the final resting place for over 2000 Canadian soldiers killed in the early stage of the Battle of Normandy, most at Juno Beach or on the drive to take Caen. It is a beautiful and peaceful tribute to those young men. It is also an emotional place as you walk along and see the ages at which these young men made the ultimate sacrifice.

Canadian Cemetery

Canadian Cemetery

Canadian Cemetery

Canadian Cemetery

The following day began with a short walk on Omaha Beach then a visit to the American Cemetery just above the beach. Entered through the visitors center, the cemetery and grounds are beautifully maintained. Like at the Canadian Cemetery, one tends to get quite somber while walking amongst the grave markers of these brave young men.

Omaha Beach

American Cemetery Visitors Center

American Cemetery Visitors Center

American Cemetery

American Cemetery

American Cemetery

A short distance away is the Overlord Museum which we visited after lunch. This museum, similar to the other museums, tells the story of D-Day with emphasis on the American landings at Omaha and Utah beaches. Within the museum is quite a display of both Allied and German equipment and vehicles. It was quite something to get an up close view of things I had only seen in movies.

Overlord Museum

Overlord Museum

Overlord Museum

After establishing themselves in Normandy, the Allies needed a way for supply ships to land vehicles and supplies until they could eventually take control of harbours along the coast. After their landing on Gold Beach, the British quickly took control of Bayeux and nearby Arromanches for the purpose of building an artificial harbour. Our last stop of the day was at Arromanches to view the remains of the artificial or “Mulbery” harbour and to see the film 100 Days of Normandy at the 360 degree theatre. The movie was a good summation of our visits over the past two days.




It is one thing to learn about history in books and films. But I think have found you get a far greater appreciation of it when you visit historical sites and get a feel for not only what happened but also the local geography. For me the D-Day Beaches are no longer just names but real places and I have a better understanding of just where they are. The countryside is so beautiful it is still hard to imagine what took place here.

On the drive back from Arromanches I was struck by the town of Reviers. I had to stop and wander the streets with my camera for a while.





Our final two days in Honfleur were a little quieter and will be the subject of my next post.

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Honfleur Part 1

As the train slowed while approaching Rouen, we gathered up our luggage and joined the other passengers waiting to disembark. Once inside the station we soon located the car rental booths.  After a short session of paperwork we loaded our luggage in the car then went back out through Gare de Rouen to find some lunch.

Our hunger satisfied, we returned to the car for our drive to Honfleur. Now, one of the fun features of GPS is that it really doesn’t find satellite signals too well when you are in an underground parkade. So of course when you exit the garage you have no directions as to which way to turn. And on a maze of narrow little streets there is no immediate place to pull over until the GPS has a signal and can initiate instructions. So we spent a few minutes driving around blindly until we found a parking stall and could wait for the GPS to be ready. Soon, we had a signal and were on our way. After a few initial wrong turns we were on the highway heading to Honfleur. Once in town we met up with our landlord and we’re shown the apartment that we had rented for the week.

After settling in I went out on an exploratory walk to find an ATM, grocery store and to do an initial recognizance of the famed Vieux  Basin which turned out to be about a 5 minute walk from the apartment. The Basin was as beautiful as I imagine it would be and I couldn’t wait to photograph it when the lighting was better. Between grocery shopping and dinner I didn’t actually get out shooting until the next afternoon. It had rained overnight and most of the day but it looked like the sky was clearing a bit and there might be a break in the weather so off i went in search of some streetscapes. They aren’t hard to find in Honfleur. Just about any street your walk down offers opportunities. As sunset approached I headed down to the Vieux Basin. I knew from research before the trip that the shot I wanted was a sunrise shot but I wanted to try some long exposures in Blue Hour hoping to catch some nice lights from the cafes and street lamps.

Place Saint-Léonard

Street scene, Honfleur

Vieux Basin

I had lots of fun “playing” with different shots. About the time I was thinking about packing up, the rain started again. By the time I was partially packed up it was coming down fairly hard. I raced for cover under the awning of a nearby cafe, collapsing my tripod as I ran. After a few minutes the downpour subsided and I set off for the apartment. As I walked down one street I saw a shot I couldn’t resist.  Knowing that it was likely going to start raining again I set up my tripod under the overhang of a roof and worked my shot. I was only back in the apartment for a couple of minutes when it started raining in buckets. I had taken a chance but I got a shot that I was happy with.

Night scene, Honfleur

The next morning I was up early for a sunrise shoot at Vieux Basin then walked around the area catching the early morning light. After breakfast it was off to a three museums and further exploration of Honfleur.

Marine Museum

The first museum was the Musée de Marine. It was located in an old church. Even though all the signs were in French I understood what most of the exhibit were having seen many similar items in the many maritime museums I have visited over the years.


The second museum was Masons Satie. Erik Satie was born in Honfleur and was somewhat of an eccentric composer. The museum is a very interesting blend of the whimsical and Satie’s music.

Maisons Satie

Flying pear – Maisons Satie

Maisons Satie

The third museum was the Eugene Boudin Museum. The museum houses paintings by Boudin and other impressionists as well as 20th century artists who lived and/or worked in Honfleur and area.

Musée Eugène Bodin

One of the reasons for visiting Normandy was to visit some of the D-Day Beaches. My next post will cover those visits.

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We started our month-long trip to France with a few days in Paris. While our flight to Paris was uneventful, I cannot say the same thing about our arrival in and departure from this great city.

Upon arrival we naturally went through customs which basically involved providing our passports, having them stamped, and we were on our way. Unfortunately at that point we followed the crowd out the exit before realizing “hey we don’t have our luggage”. We had completely missed the luggage return area off to the right as we left the customs counter. The throng of passengers we followed all, obviously, had carry on luggage only. So we “snuck” back in the “no re-entry” doors where, of course we were stopped by a customs official. Fortunately, at that point a very nice French-speaking lady asked us what happened. She said the same thing had happened to her once and explained the situation to the customs official. He very kindly allowed us to go back to get our luggage. Whew!  Five minutes in Paris and we had already dodged going to jail!

So then it was off to the hotel by taxi. The ride totally convinced me that I had made the right decision to not drive in Paris but to pick up our rental car outside the city. It seems lane markings are only a suggestion. It was quite an experience but we made it safely to our hotel. We were too early to get in to our room so we left our luggage and went for a stroll. 

Artus Hotel

The Artus Hotel is a very nice little boutique hotel located in a great location on the Left Bank. It is within very easy walking distance to lots of attractions such as the Louvre, Pont Neuf, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Musée Sorsay, and many others. It is on Rue de Buci which is lined with countless cafés. A half block from the hotel we had our first experience sipping a latte at a sidewalk café. We felt like we had truly arrived in France.

Our next stop was a different café for lunch, then back to the hotel where we relaxed in the lobby until our room was ready.

After getting settled in our room I grabbed my camera to go explore the neighbourhood a bit. It was on this stroll that I fully realized how close we actually were to so many iconic locations.

View from Pont Neuf

Louvre at sunset

The next morning I returned to the Pont Neuf for a pre-sunrise view.

Early morning from Pont Neuf

As we only had two full days in Paris, I had pre-booked a two-day hop on-hop off tour that included a one-hour boat tour on Seine. This is always a great way to see a city if your time is short, particularly the first time you visit the place. It provides a commentary on what you are seeing and gives the flexibility to get off when you want to explore an area then get back on the bus to resume your tour. We have done this in many cities and are sold on the concept.

I also had booked a 3-hour guided tour of the Louvre for the second morning. This was well worth the price. Not only did you avoid any lineups at the ticket booth but, with limited time you got a good overview of the museum along with a bit of history.

Rather than giving a long commentary on the tours, I will let a selection of photos speak for themselves.

Our last morning in Paris started off with breakfast of croissants, coffee and orange juice. Then it was back to the hotel to finish packing and check out. We had planned to get a taxi and get to Gare St. Lazare early enough to make sure we knew the lay of the land when it came to catching a train to Rouen. What we hadn’t counted on was our taxi driver dropping us off at the wrong train station!  This was after he repeated the name St. Lazare back to us at least a couple times!  When we walked into the station and checked the departure screens, our train wasn’t on it. When we stopped a passing conductor to help us, he checked our ticket and advised us we were at the wrong station.  We were at Gare Montparnasse. When we asked if we had time to get to St. Lazare by taxi he shrugged his shoulders and said “maybe” – but he didn’t look hopeful.

So off we raced to find a taxi to get us to Gare St. Lazare. Rushing in the door we checked at an information booth for the correct track number – of course it was the farthest away track from us in the station!  We made it to the train literally with minutes to spare. Ah well, it’s all part of the adventure!

A little over an hour later we arrived in Rouen, picked up our rental car, and began the second chapter of our trip. Stay tuned.

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Tonquin Valley Hike

Several weeks ago I joined 9 friends for our annual backpacking trip.  This year’s excursion was a 5-day hike on the Tonquin Valley Trail in Jasper National Park.  The trail is about 43 km long which we broke into 4 segments.  As you come out at a different spot than you start, it does involve some transportation logistics, particularly with 10 people.  Essentially you need to leave one car at the endpoint to shuttle drivers back to their cars at the starting point.

We were starting at the Portal trailhead which is on the road up to Marmot Basin Ski Resort.  Our exit point was the Astoria trailhead which is on the road to Mt. Edith Cavel.  Early in the morning I headed up the Cavel road and left my car at the endpoint.  Garry followed me up and drove me back to meet the rest of the group at the Athabasca Hotel in Jasper for breakfast.  About mid-morning we had a 3-car convoy head up to the Portal trailhead for the start of our adventure.TonquinMap_FullExtent_1920

As I mentioned, we broke our hike into 4 segments.  The first day we hiked to Portal Campground then carried on to Amethyst campground the next day where we stayed for 2 nights.  On the way out we stayed Switchback campground.

The first two days we enjoyed beautiful, clear weather.

When we arrived at Amethyst Lake, the water was warm enough go go in for a swim.  It was beautifully refreshing on a hot day.  Unfortunately, in the evening the wind came up and started blowing in smoke from the BC wildfires.  It made for a hazy sunset.

By morning the atmosphere was quite smokey.  4 of us decided to do a day-hike to Moat Lake while the others opted to spend the day at Amethyst Lake fishing and relaxing.

By the time we got to Moat Lake the air seemed to be clearing a bit.  The water was a bit chilly for swimming.  We had a quick dip then dried off in the sun as we ate lunch.


Moat Lake


Moat Lake

Back at Amethyst Lake, later in the afternoon, the water had cooled somewhat from the day before.  It was still warm enough, barely, to wade in but one really didn’t want to stay in very long.

That evening we experienced one of the highlights of the trip, a visit by 3 Mountain Caribou.  These beautiful animals are endangered and the Parks Canada goes to great lengths to protect them.  Luckily for us, the threesome didn’t seem overly concerned about our presence and spent quite a period of time munching delicacies in the meadow.  That gave us lots of time for photos!







By now the smoke had really rolled back into the valley and once again sundown was a hazy orange.


The next day we hiked to Switchback campground and the following day finished up our adventure on this beautiful trail.  In spite of the smokey conditions at times, the scenery was spectacular!





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Northern Arizona

Last spring I spent 5 days in Northern Arizona with my camera club buddies.  It has taken me a while to process photos from that trip as it seems every time I would get going on them another project would come along and the Arizona photos would get pushed to the background.  At any rate, I now have completed my work on the photos and have a selection to share.

Our first stop was an overnight stay at the Grand Canyon for both sunset and sunrise shoots.  The canyon truly is magnificent and one could easily spend several days photographing it from different locations and times of day.

Grand Canyon – late afternoon


Sunrise at Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon – sunrise


Early morning moon over Grand Canyon


Early morning sun – Grand Canyon

After our sunrise shoot we skedaddled off to Page, AZ for an afternoon Photo Tour of Lower Antelope Canyon.  Both Lower and Upper Antelope Canyons are located on Navajo Tribal Land.  The only way to visit the canyons is on a guided tour.  On the regular tours, tripods and monopods are not allowed although people are welcome to take their cameras.  We opted to pay the extra fare for a Photographic Tour and it was well worth the extra expense.  Not only are you permitted to take tripods but the tour guides are great at showing you the better spots for shots and periodically will hold up the endless stream of tourist passing through a cavern so that you can get some good photos without people in them.  Unfortunately, in March the sun is not in the most ideal locations for the iconic shots of the canyons but the lighting was still reasonably good.

That evening and the next morning we shot Horseshoe Bend.  This is a very popular viewpoint and the canyon rim is lined with spectators and photographers.  It was slightly less crowded at sunrise with mainly somewhat serious photographers showing up in the dark.  The larger crowds didn’t show up until sunrise or slightly after.


Moon high over Horseshoe Bend


Sunrise warms the distant hills at Horseshoe Bend

Following our sunrise shoot at Horseshoe Bend and breakfast, it was off for a Photo Tour of Upper Antelope Canyon.


Sunbeam in Upper Antelope Canyon


Falling Sand in Upper Antelope Canyon


Upper Antelope Canyon

A short distance north of Page, just over the border into Utah, are some interesting rock formations called The Toadstools for obvious reasons.  Late afternoon found us photographing these sculpted formations as the sun sank low in the sky.


Toadstools bask in late afternoon sun

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Toadstool at sunset

Sedona, known for its red rock formations, was our destination the next day.  Our sunset shoot was Cathedral Rock.  Just when we thought the sun was down and we had lost the best light, a sudden burst of reflected light bathed the rock in a beautiful, intense color.

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Cathedral Rock

Sunrise the next morning found us photographing Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.


Bell Rock


Courthouse Butte

Our last stop before our long drive home was V Bar V Ranch, south of Sedona.  This heritage site, maintained by the US Forest Service, is home to 1,032 petroglyphs in 13 panels.  An interpreter provided a very interesting talk on the history and meaning of the petroglyphs. The half-mile path to the petroglyphs was full of photographic opportunities and was a great final stop on our trip.

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