Crex Meadows Summer Photogaphy

Photo buddy John Pennoyer (see his website for some great photography - and I spent last Wednesday and Thursday at Crex Meadows in God's country (Wisconsin!!).  We had some good photo-ops and, sadly, a falling out over my "guide" services - more on that later.

We reached the Grantsburg area around 2:30 pm and started a reconnoiter of the Fish Lake area where John was looking for butterflies.  We found and photographed two that John identified as "Fiddlemary Astro-something" and a "Blue Little Guy".  Here is an image of the Blue Little Guy:

"Blue Little Guy"

"Fiddlemary Astro-something"

I may not have the names exactly correct, but it's close and they are cute.

After checking into the five-star Grantsburg Inn, we did a trip around Crex looking for places to shoot the milky way and possibly a sunset.  After a nice drive around the area (due to my excellent guiding), we went into Grantsburg for a gourmet dinner at T-Dawg's bar and grill.  Unfortunately, the sunset was a bust (very few clouds, only on the horizon, and they blocked the sun).  We went back to the Inn for a nap and ventured back out at 10:30 for our night photography.  We were treated to the milky way and several meteors.  Here are a couple of my favorite shots.

Milky Way looking towards Grantsburg (thus the light pollution).

Stars over an old oak.

We photographed until 1:00am and headed back to the Inn for a restful night. 

At 4:30am we crawled out of bed and headed out to Phantom Lake for a possible sunrise.  That turned out to be the highlight of the trip.  We got to photograph a beautiful pink sunrise over a calm reflective bay on Phantom Lake.

A great trip!

Now for the sad part.  My photo partner (henceforth "client 1") accused me of leading him on the wrong route as we left Crex.  I felt it was a much nicer route and one "client 1" had never been on.  As a result of this, "client 1" refused to pay for my services (which at $500 an hour seems fair to me).  In addition, "client 1" dropped his camera and long lens on my coffee cup, resulting in the loss of at least 50% of my morning joe. 

I have been in touch with my lawyer, Ima Frawd (of the firm Ware, Dafug, Awee) and Ima assures me we have a solid case.  Ima is a world-renowned guide lawyer and should strike fear into the heart of "client 1".   He points to my sterling reputation based on my past guiding work on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the more recent lunar landings.  In addition, I have found my way home every single time I've been out - a record most of you can't claim.

I'm sure this suit will make the international press, so keep an eye on the progress.  Also, pass this blog on to your friends so that the jury pool will get the inside scope on the lawsuit.

Until next time. 

Bordeaux 2019 - River Cruise

Cruising the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers

The "River Chanson"

Click here for a Map of the area visited on this trip.  If you zoom in on the Bordeaux area you will get a good idea of the area we traveled on the ship.

The captain welcomes us to the River Chanson.

The River Chanson.
Our river cruise began in the port city of Bordeaux.  We sailed the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and ended back in Bordeaux.  As you may have noticed from the above photo, the rivers are very muddy due to the huge tides (around fourteen feet by my estimation).  As a result of the tides, the flow of the river was usually very strong and would change directions as the tide switched.  The cruise was limited as to the farthest we could go upriver due to the ancient bridges which the ship could not go under.  Grand Circle is eliminating this cruise next year and the Chanson will be moved to the Rhone River for a different cruise.

The Chanson is a small river ship that has recently been renovated.  They did a fine job making the ship both warm and inviting.  The ship includes a restaurant, bar/lounge, and a very nice deck area (which also included a bar).  We enjoyed the deck area the most but were driven down to the lounge on several occasions due to the heat (it was very hot in Europe when we were there in late June, early July).

The crew was tremendous!!  Always helpful, courteous, and enjoyable to talk with.  Most were from Eastern Europe.  One of the highlights for us was the crew talent show (they did a great job and we had lots of laughs).  The restaurant staff and the cooks were the best!  Kathy and I agree that the food (and wine) were the best we have had on a river cruise.  The efforts of the staff that you usually don't see much of also did a fine job and we appreciate their dedication and hard work.

We stopped at several towns along the rivers, including - Bourg, Blaye, Pauillac, Libourne, and St. Emilion.   Bourg is a quaint little town that is not usually visited by tourist, so it has kept its charm and old-world feel.

"You are here!"

In Blaye, we toured the citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is noted for its defensive innovations which were added in 1685 by Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban.  The citadel was used to protect Bordeaux which is 30 miles south of Blaye.

The Porte Royale

Pauillac and Saint Emilion are two well-known wine spots in this part of France.  In Pauillac, which is in the Medoc wine region, we visited a winery to observe the process and taste some wine.  It was an interesting tour and the wine was very nice.

We did a walking tour of Saint Emilion and tried some macarons, an almond variety of the much loved French cookie.  We also bought a nice bottle of red wine that we brought home and plan to share with the kids at Christmas.

The cookie store.

We docked and spent overnight in the village of Libourne.  Here we visited a local patisserie and sampled some of the goodies (I inhaled my favorite, a chocolate eclair).   That night the town held a music festival and I walked into town to take some photos and listen to music, it was a lot of fun!

A local band rocks out!

The music festivals were also being celebrated in Bordeaux when we ended the cruise there.  On our last night on the ship, we were treated to a fireworks display related to the music festival and the "tall ships" that were in the harbor for the celebration.

Fireworks over Bordeaux harbor.

One of the tall ships from Russia.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the River Chanson and I sure miss the food!!

I have posted more images from this part of our trip here: Google Photos.  The best way to look at the images is to click on the first one then go through them using the right and left arrows.  If you do it this way you will see the pithy comments I made.  Also, the time stamp on the images are wrong as I forgot to change the time in the camera I used (I know I can change it, but it's not worth the effort - if you really need to know the time, add seven hours and it should be close).

The next posting will cover our stay in Toulouse, with a side trip to the walled city of Carcasonne.


Bordeaux 2019 - Nantes

Adventure Overview

Our Grand Circle Tour (GCT) trip this year was an adventure in many ways.  We had some great food and wine.  Sampled some fine French cheese and tried the local mussels.  We were treated to some tall sailing ships and fireworks in Bordeaux.  And we happened to be in Barcelona during the Gay Pride Festival.  The trip also included several local tours were we learned about the history of the different areas we visited.  All in all, it was a busy, but fun trip.  

The trip included a visit to the Bordeaux region of France on a riverboat sailing the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.  We began our trip in the city of Nantes, followed by the river cruise, three days in Toulouse (with a day trip to Carcassonne),  a couple of days in the tiny, but lovely, country of Andorra, and finally three days in Barcelona.  

I will be publishing five blogs about this trip.  This first blog covers the time we spent in Nantes.  The following blogs will document the river cruise, Toulouse and Carcassonne, Andorra, and Barcelona.  Hopefully breaking up the trip into five blogs will make it less time consuming for my adoring followers and easier to enjoy.  At the end of the blogs, I will include a link to the Google Photo albums for each area (I will try to keep the number of images in each album to 50-75).


The old town

Nantes was founded by the Celts in 70 BC.  It is located on the Loire River in west-central France. Our first impression of the city was not so good.  The ride from the airport to our hotel meandered through the industrial outskirts of the city and it was not very pretty!  But once we reached our hotel in the old town area of the city, we were pleasantly surprised.  This area of the city has some fine bars and restaurants and many old interesting buildings.  We had a walking tour of the old town including a visit to the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne.  Nantes is also known as the birthplace of Jules Verne, one of my favorite authors.

Our hotel the Radisson Blu Nantes was nicely situated for walking to lunch or dinner and to all areas of the old town.  We also used public transportation, the tram, to get back from the Isle of Nantes where we saw the machines (more about that below).

I highly recommend a visit to this city if you are traveling in the area!  

The Chateau.

Interesting art in the old city.

Machines of the Isle of Nantes

The highlight of Nantes for both Kathy and me was a trip to the "Machines of the Isle of Nantes".  The machines were inspired by the works of Jules Verne.  They are extremely clever and lots of fun!  The machines move through the use of steam, gears, and pistons.  They create an abundance of noise and motion.    It was particularly fun to see the reaction of the kids to the machines (including the elderly kids in our group).

These are some of the machines including the most famous machine the Grand Elephant. 

Riding the caterpillar.

Huge Ant

The spider!

The elephant sprays on the crowd.

This gives you an idea of the size of the elephant.

The machines visit also included a ride on the merry-go-round for us older folks (who are really young at heart).  The carousel was huge and included rides on two levels.

The carousel

The "Game of Thrones" ride

La Rochelle

We ended the Nantes portion of the trip with a bus ride to the ship in Bordeaux.  Along the way, we spent some time in La Rochelle.  Located on the Bay of Biscay, La Rochelle is a beautiful little town which was featured in the Alexandre Dumas novel "The Three Musketeers".  We had a walking tour then a nice lunch.  Weather was gorgeous and the trip to our ship was relaxing and interesting.

The harbor with the old entrance towers.

Have fun deciding what they are talking about!

The sailing tradition is reflected in the art in a local church.

Nantes was a great start to our trip!  I've added more photos to a Google album which you can view here: Nantes Photo Album