After a hurried holiday breakfast and a few lingering embraces with the rest of our family, my daughter and I headed for the airport and boarded a waiting plane to Paris – traditional Christmas celebrations would have to wait until next year. I’ve always wanted to experience life in Paris during the holidays, and a plan slowly came together which captivated our daydreams for months until the sudden jarring news of the November terrorist attacks. After a brief pause amidst real concerns, we continued with our plans, an affirmation that life must continue in the face of adversity. After all, we will always need this iconic French city, and now Paris needed us back.
A strongly persistent tail wind agreed, pushing our plane forward and swiftly delivering us to our destination ahead of schedule in the pre-dawn hours to our beloved city of light. The full moon resting low in the sky guided our driver easily through the streets still twinkling with holiday decorations and deposited us curbside to a vacant Place Vendôme and a sleepy hotel desk manager. As we waited for our room, we didn’t understand that by stepping into the balmy pre-dawn night we were making an unspoken and unexpected agreement with the travel gods that we’d be up and very awake for the next 24 hours. Giddy and energized, we greeted the day with a few other travel vagabonds, and wandered the streets for hours until our dinner at the Eiffel tower and the ride to the top finale. It was the start of a week to remember, seven days between Christmas and New Year’s, a welcome return to a city we love and I think especially this time, a city that truly loved us back.
Our week in Paris was a meandering, window shopping, café lingering, schedule-free visit of sorts, and there were days that no cameras were allowed. A see-with-your eyes only rule was temporarily instated until a visit to lovely Montmartre. The small artist enclave once surrounded by vineyards is of course now a popular tourist destination, especially on beautiful sunny winter afternoons. This hilltop village is like being on top of the world, the vast views almost begging one to spread their wings and fly. Once grounded, the labyrinth of crooked streets come alive with interesting street scenes begging for capture.
The icing on my Parisian travel cake will always be the captivating Eiffel Tower, and upon reflection, it made perfect sense that on New Years Eve all roads seemed to lead to the Champs de Mars. United in purpose, the slow march from the Champs Élysée with thousands of other revelers will be forever etched in my memory. Strangers became friends, united by the pull of the great structure in our need to celebrate a night of new beginnings, an optimism normally taken for granted. The toned-down light show was more exciting than the greatest of firework displays and the exuberant cheers and happy chorus of voices is a sweet sound that I often hear in my daydreams. Cheers for happy memories, and for now, a belated Bonne Année to all.
A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light. ~ Leonardo da Vinci
Three crowded expressways, a couple of darkened blocks through Hollywood, one steep drive up what seemed like a small mountain range later, and I had finally reached my 5:30 am destination at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. The unknown perils of wandering alone in a dark park across the country from my home were quickly erased from my mind once I entered a parking lot busy with cars and saw the mix of hikers, walkers and photographers milling about as though it was their lunch hour break on a sunny afternoon. No longer a believer in new year’s resolutions, I began 2015 with one promise, to get up more often for the sunrise. A daily routine so simple for many people is a chore for this confirmed night owl, and when I do try to crawl out of bed by 6:30, the sun fun is long over.
Alone in Los Angeles for a few days, I spent a few too many hours fretting about whether I should just do it, get up in the tired hours and drive across the city in the dark to a place I’d only been once before in the daylight, to practice photography on the edge of morning. Funny how one internet article stands out among many others as a voice of reason, with concise instructions on the preparations for the best sunrise photography. So I followed the advice and encouragement of a virtual stranger, and before I settled in the night before, I filled the rental car with gas, put my tripod in the trunk, charged the camera battery, loaded empty memory cards and double checked the driving directions.
I’m still learning the ins and outs of photography, but at this point should be a little more on my game with the technical aspects and a master of the manual settings. Once I get going however, I tend to get distracted by the beauty of a moment, the quirks of the people around me, and this trip was no different. I became both intimated and awestruck by the roller bags filled with camera equipment and compact car sized lenses around me, and lost focus once I realized that the space I claimed overlooking the city was the one worth waiting in line for. Not enjoying the performing under pressure feeling, I gathered up my tripod and backpack and began the hike up the Hollywood Hills to gain a quieter perspective on the arrival of the new day. Along the way I passed dozens of walkers trekking back down, and like the slow dawn around me, I realized that they had already made a “get up before sunset” resolution, ignored the misery of rising in the dark having already discovered its rewards and joys. Their connection with the world was evidence. Cheerful good morning greetings and the smiles I received propelled me forward to fulfill the New Year’s promise to myself, and to finish my pre-dawn photography journey that morning, and if I stick with it, many more to come. Bring it on, sunrise.
Happy Morning People
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles January 8, 2015
I think about Paris when I’m high on red wine, I wish I could jump on a plane. And so many nights I just dream of the ocean. God, I wish I was sailing again.
~ Jimmy Buffett
Not familiar with Jimmy Buffett? He is a popular U.S. singer songwriter famous for his ability to help his fans escape to a tropical world of beaches and cool breezes. His music can bring you back to a favorite vacation moment or to the sound of the water lapping against your sailboat on the coldest and grayest of days. He has a loyal fan club known as Parrotheads, a group of fun partyers who work too hard and listen to Buffet as a way to wind down. His most popular songs include “Margaritaville,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” and my personal favorite, “Come Monday.”
Photo taken at Berkley Marina, located across the bay from San Francisco, California.
I didn’t expect the Berkeley side of the San Francisco Bay to be so mind-bendingly beautiful. Like many other travelers, my husband and I combine sight-seeing with exercising, usually by taking a power walk around the area. The hiking trails located throughout the bay side of Berkeley, California, northeast of San Francisco, made it easy to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, but the views were a foot slowing hike-stopper. Our fast pace became a stroll, and sitting on the benches facing the bay suddenly became more important than feeling the burn. We were in the area to visit the beautiful college town of Berkeley, but it was the stunning San Francisco Bay that stole the show.
The pull of the sea, a magnetic sunrise, passion for living.
It’s daybreak on Venice Beach and the sun targets the local pier for a hit of warmth and color. The weathered structure is suddenly transformed into art, light accentuating the etchings worked by the sea and the beautiful symmetry of its industrial design. In a few hours the same sun will bleach the cement pilings of color and the tide will swallow loudly the layers of ocean carvings. The desolate pier will become alive with human activity, and the artistry will evolve again.
As the sun sets she becomes greedy. She scoops up her riches and keeps them close until the gentle release of nightfall into dawn, when she relents, lightly dusting the earth, shimmering. Bejeweled.