Saturday, September 22, 2012

Getting Creative with the Auryn Cam App

I have tried all kinds of apps that will add effects onto photos to turn them into paintings. My new favorite app is the AurynCam app. It has multiple settings that will add amazing artistic effects on to your photos. And it's free! Here are a few "paintings" that I have created out of some of my vacation photos from the summer using this incredible app!

Roof tops of Paris, pencil style

Blarney Castle, watercolor style

Roman Forum, cartoonized

St. Peters at sunset, colored sketch

Irish countryside, reminds me of a Dutch oil painting

Milan Cathedral, looks like an old parchment drawing

Florence sunset along the Arno, swirly like Van Gogh

Venice, reminds me of oil pastel

I have become somewhat addicted to playing around with this app, so expect a few more posts showing some of the creative things this app can do!

Easy Photo Gallery with iPhoto

I have these clipboards in my hallway that I use as an easy photo gallery.  Recently I added a few pictures from my trip to Ireland.

I always use iPhoto to print my pictures for this gallery because you can customize your printing and add a mat border around the image.  You simply need to click on the button that says to customize.  You will see options including various styles and colors.  I love how it adds a little added polish to the photos and saves a great deal of money by not having to mat them!

Teachers, note this is a great trick to use if you wish to display student photography projects!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Final Afternoon in Paris

We arrived at the Pompidou Center shortly after it opened at 11 am. We were delighted to discover that it is FREE on the first Sunday of every month. Yea! The line moved quickly because no one needed to buy tickets.  Surprisingly, the museum was not overly crowded.  

The exterior of the museum is fascinating.  All the pipes and ductwork are along the outside. You ride up a clear escalator tube on the outside to get to the upper floors where the artwork is located.

The views from the upper floor are spectacular!  (I did a little tweaking of this photo using the Snapseed app to add a little drama to the photo which was a little washed out.)

The art work is 20th century and very modern.  Not for everyone, but very fascinating.  Here is a closeup of a Chagall painting "Les Maries de la Tour Eiffel" - so wonderful to see the actual bright colors!

Some of the sculpture is placed to take advantage of the amazing view!  You can see Sacre Coeur in the background.

After spending several hours in the museum, we needed some food.  We went to a cafe in the nearby square and had savory crepes - ham and cheese.  These were delicious - a very crispy outer texture that I enjoyed.

We had a view of the colorful Stravinsky Fountain while we ate.  The sculptures represent various musical pieces that Stravinsky wrote including the Firebird.

We then walked down to St. Eustache - we've always enjoyed viewing the soaring Gothic ceilings in this church.  Lots of construction for a new park around the outside, so no exterior photos.

The afternoon light was coming through the stained glass windows and left amazing colored patterns on the floor.

The rest of the day was not so pleasant.  We went down into the Metro to get back to the Gare de Lyon. Normally we have had no problems using the Metro, but there was a spaghetti tangle of metro lines and we had the worst time finding a train that would take us to the station.  Then, when we got to Gare de Lyon, we came up on a different level than we left.  Thus it took us quite a while to find the corner of the  huge station where we stashed our luggage.  Next, we dragged our luggage up and down the various levels to find where the Air France shuttle bus was located.  Finally, when at the airport, we had to locate where the hotel shuttle buses were located and dragged our suitcases up to the highest floor to get our bus.  The whole adventure took us a good 4 hours and I was so glad to finally crash in our hotel.    The final injustice was there was no wifi in the hotel!!!

Next morning, we took a very crowded shuttle bus back to the airport to head home.  The frustrations of yesterday were washed away when we boarded the plane and the attendant said, "We are changing your seats."  My favorite word - UPGRADE!  Business class is so lovely - menus, silverware, and lots of leg room!  A wonderful way to end our journey.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Breakfast in Paris - Notre Dame

After our nasty Thello night train trip, we arrived in Paris and stashed our luggage.  We had a full day to spend and our plan was to visit the Pompidou Center Museum which opened at 11 am.  We walked along the Seine and just spent time outside Notre Dame enjoying the blue sky and the puffy clouds.

So much fun to walk around and look at the gargoyles.

I love looking at the rose windows from the exterior - they are beautiful even without the colors of the light through the stained glass.

As we walked around the street next to Notre Dame I could smell the crepes from the little stands.  That rubbery croissant on the train just wasn't good enough for breakfast in Paris.   So I lined up, ordered, and.....

....and then dined on this yummy Nutella Crepe in the shadows of Notre Dame.
Perfect Breakfast in Paris!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gelato in Italy

Were you sad because I didn't post any gelato pictures in my Italy posts?  Well, I decided that gelato in Italy is worthy of its own post! I believe we had gelato every day in Italy (except in Milan, somehow we missed it there).  It became a quest to find the best gelato place near our hotel that we could "adopt" for our stay.  I know we missed several other good ones - we had to save some for next trip!  On our typical day we would eat a large breakfast at the hotel, skip lunch, and then have gelato mid-afternoon to cool off and refresh. Some days merited a second gelato at night!

In Rome I was looking for the San Crispino gelato place, but we found Grom and since we were hot and ready for a snack we went there for our first taste of Italian goodness.  I'd read about Grom on several foodie blogs so I knew it had a good reputation.  We sat by the Plaza Navona and tried to eat quickly before it melted all over our hands. Note the cobblestone streets in the background.

We found Flor right on the Campo di Fiori, just around the corner from our hotel.  Lots of bright refreshing fruity flavors!

I would get my double scoop cup and sit at the tables in the little sitting area right in front of our hotel.  Above, yummy mango and coconut!

In Florence, we tried a couple other spots that were just ok before we discovered Venchi a few blocks from our hotel.  It is both a chocolate and a gelato shop.  Mmmmmmm - dreamy chocolate flavors!

An evening treat enjoyed on the Palazzo Vecchio - our second gelato of that day!  Notice my new boyfriend David in the background!

Gelateria San Stae was steps down the street from our hotel in Venice. A tiny little local place with lots of interesting flavors.  (Can you say Prosecco gelato?)


We also came across Mille Voglie in one of the Venice neighborhoods we were exploring.  It was very good and had some unique flavor choices.  I think the flavor above is kiwi.

I went into a serious gelato withdrawal depression when I arrived home and their wasn't a gelato shop around the corner (or anywhere) that I could visit each day.  Most American ice cream just does come close to the yummy creamy flavors that you can get in Italy.  I'd return, just for the chance to eat some more gelato!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thello Night Train - Venice to Paris (A Not so Nice Experience)

I was so looking forward to taking the night train from Venice to Paris.  Ah yes, I had dreams about the  retro charm of train travel.  We booked a first class compartment and I thought it would be an interesting thing to experience once in my life.  We had hoped to take a night train from Paris to Rome, but discovered that it was undergoing updates, so our best option was the Thello train from Venice to Paris.

We boarded the train early in the evening in Venice and found our reserved compartment.  It was even smaller than I expected, but that was ok, because I knew it would be small. We had an upper and lower berth already made up for us for bed, so it wasn't particularly comfortable sitting.  We had a wall a few feet in front of the bed with a small shelf under which we stashed our suitcases. There was just enough space to slide into the room, but not to turn around. In the corner, was a little "closet" that housed a teeny sink that you operated with a foot pedal.  The restrooms were down the hall. We each had a bag that had a few toiletries and some paper slippers and a couple bottles of water. (No other drinkable water on board other than for purchase.)

Immediately, we noticed how stifling the train car was.  After a hot hot day in Venice, scrunching into a tiny sweaty compartment did not make us happy.  The car attendant indicated that there was something wrong with the air conditioning and they were working on it.  She did nothing to help us get comfortable in our room or show us how to open the windows.  We started messing with the windows (so did the Spanish speaking couple next to us) and we finally figured out how to open which gave some relief. Every other train car had air, so I think our attendant disappeared into a cooler car, because we didn't get much assistance from her or see her again until the end of the trip when she returned our passports. (It would have been nice to have someone show us how to stow the top bunk in the morning and turn the compartment back to seats, too.) We also found that there was no power in our outlets, so it was impossible to recharge our phones.

After 3 sweltering hours, we pulled into Milan around midnight. We heard some voices and some pounding, so someone must have tried to fix the air, but alas, no air when took off again.  Finally, several hours later, things cooled off as we got farther north into the mountains and there was some cool air coming into the windows.  We slept some, but it was not the first class experience I expected.

In the morning, the shared restrooms in our car were totally disgusting.  There was no toilet paper and the floors were covered with water.  Yuck.  No one ever bothered to clean them.  It was gross.

We walked down to the restaurant car - they had a breakfast with a rubbery croissant, tea or coffee in a paper cup, and a plastic bottle of juice.  That was it.

For an expensive first class ticket, we got a cheap third class experience. Around 9 am we arrived in Paris and were able to depart this awful mess.  So beware, if you decide to book this train - it may not be the class of service and accommodation that you expect!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Venice - Day 3, Murano

For our last day in Venice, we took a slow vaporetto ride out to the nearby island of Murano.

Murano is best known as the glassblowing center where they make items of beautiful Murano glass.  It was hot, so we spent about one minute in here checking out the glass blowing.

Lots of shops, all filled with colorful glass.  We did quite a bit of shopping here - picked up a few gifts and some beaded jewelry.  

Several locations had large displays of Chiluly-like glass sculptures.  

We wanted some seafood while in Venice, so decided to try this restaurant that had a deck over the water.

Shrimp pasta - there actually were quite a few shrimp hiding under all that pasta.

I had sole (that's grilled polenta on the side).  It came as a whole fish and then the waiter deftly deboned the entire thing with a spoon and knife.  It was grilled and seasoned to perfection.

We probably could have wandered more around Murano, but it was so hot during the afternoon, and I think by this time we were about toured out.  We headed back to Venice and had a few hours to kill before boarding a night train to return to Paris.  More about our train trip in the next post!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Il Refolo - Venice

You may have noticed how much I enjoy having a "meal with a view." So dining in Venice was a treat! This is the location of Il Refolo where we dined during our second night in Venice.  We had another perfect table right along this beautiful canal.  Again, we were quite early, but most tables were reserved and filled up quickly.

Another perfect view as the gondolas glided by - great entertainment as you wait for your meal.

We opted for pizza.  I had a spicy pepperoni pizza that I loved! Perfect crunchy crust, so good!  My favorite pizza in Italy, although Dar Poeta in Rome was great, too.

Prosciutto and tomato pizza.

Pizzas and gondolas.  Too perfect!

This location was a lot of fun.  It seemed like a real neighborhood where people hung out.  Kids were playing and a cute dog roamed around the canal.  People poked their heads out the windows.  Church bells rang.  It was a lovely evening!


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