09 March 2006

Friends visiting

I haven't had time to write blog entries this week. After spending a nice Sunday with our English friends (it was my birthday), Walt and I went into high gear to get ready to receive a visit from some friends from California. There always seem to be a million things to do to get the house ready. This time, we actually slightly rearranged our living room furniture as we were doing our spring cleaning. The new arrangement is proving to be nicer than the old one.

We did our spring cleaning early because not only are friends here this week and weekend, but another couple of San Francisco-area friends will arrive next Wednesday for a week. Then in early April our friend Sue from California will come for an extended visit. Meantime, we plan a short trip to Paris at the very end of March to see California friends there, and a couple of them will, we hope, come and spend a few days with us here. This is turning into our busy season, and it promises to be busy until mid-July this year, with visitors from California, Alabama, Normandy, and Colorado. They are all good friends and we are happy to see them, especially after the long, cold, lonely winter we have had this year!

We got five inches of snow last Saturday, the most we have had since we moved here in 2003. There was still some some on the ground until Wednesday, though it was slowly melting the whole time. Now the weather has turned relatively warm (50s F), with rain and quite a bit of gusty wind. We probably won't do much sightseeing with our friends today unless the weather improves some, and that's not predicted.

What we are going to to do today is go out to a restaurant for lunch. That's not something we do very often, so it's a treat. The restaurant I've picked is over in Noyers-sur-Cher, on the other side of the river. It's the kind of place I've heard described as a "white van" establishment. In other words, it's more or less a truckstop. All the French tradesmen seem to have little Renault, Citroën, or Peugeot vans that you see driving around all over the countryside. Our bread lady has one, for example. When you see a restaurant with a number of the white vans parked out front at noontime, you know it's worth a try. I've only eaten at this particular white van restaurant once before, and that was with my mother when she was visiting last September. We both thought the food was very good. Maybe I'll have time to write about it in a day or two.

Oh, and about the river, it has considerably overflowed its banks over the past few days. I don't think any houses are flooded — at least I haven't heard about any — but on my way to the train station in Vierzon (35 miles east) to pick up Chris and Tony late yesterday afternoon I saw a lot of flooded fields and several Route Barrée signs where little roads are closed because they are under water. It was raining and getting dark, so I hadn't taken my camera with me — no pictures. Maybe today.

Speaking of cameras (Dennis, this is an answer to your recent question), I have three digital cameras. One is a Kodak DC4800, which I've had for 5 years or longer. It's a three-megapixel model. The lens has a good wide angle (28 mm equivalent) and a 3x optical zoom. The 4800, which has been out of production for years now, is the one I use to take food pictures. I keep it in the kitchen. It has no manual focus, but the automatic focus gives great results in macro mode. It performs really well in low light conditions. In the kitchen, I often take a few pictures in macro mode sans flash, and then I take some from farther back by using the zoom and turning on the flash. Usually I get images that I'm happy with.

My other two cameras are an older Canon Powershot Pro90 IS, which is also good for closeup shots but which has the advantage of a 10x optical zoom. It's 2.5 megapixels (which I think is plenty). It's a great camera for telephoto shots, but it's a big heavy model (24 oz.) that I only haul around when my main purpose for going out is to take pictures. I do use it for inside closeup once in a while because I like its manual focus feature.

Finally, I have a new Canon Powershot S70, which I am trying to learn to like. It's a seven-megapixel model, but I have it set to take pictures smaller than that because the full-size ones always seem blurry. So far, I like it for wide-angle landscape shots in good light conditions. And I like that it's small and fits easily into a coat pocket. But it's actually a little too small for my hands, so I'm less comfortable using it that I am with the other two cameras.

Adobe Photoshop is the other key to getting decent pictures. I use it to crop, resize, and sharpen pictures, and to modify their brightness, contrast, and color saturation.


  1. I just ran into your blog and am enjoying the entries. I used to live in the Loire Valley. Your food photos are great, what type of camera do you use for them?

    There's quite a network of expat blogs and it's great fun to get different takes on people's experiences.

  2. Hi bcinfrance,

    I've been looking at your blog too. I've never been to Rodez so it's nice to get an idea what it's like.

    The answer to your question about cameras is in the entry above.


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