June 30, 2012

Painting the Town with Animals

Some graffiti I found during my stay in Annecy, France. All of these could be found all over the town, in multiple incarnations. 

For example, in front of the Monoprix (supermarket/drugstore chain, practically the only store open before 8:30am), there was this sheep pushing a shopping cart.

Incredibly realistic pigeons in discreet areas, away from the main streets.

He pops up in the Bat Power graffiti above too.

June 27, 2012

Farmers Market in the Old Village

In Annecy's old village, a farmers market is held twice a week. It extends several streets, and you can buy everything from vegetables to cheese (from the Haute-Savoie region) to spices. Stands are set up around seven in the morning, but the market does not come into full swing until around 9 am.

I'm always drawn to the food and vegetables you can't get in Japan, such as these incredibly bumpy tomatoes.

It took me a while to figure out that these leaves and flowers were not all from one plant. Mesclum is essentially a variety of salad leaves tossed together.

Purple garlic, sold by the bunch.

Look closely at the unusual shape of the pale-skinned onions.

The olive stands are mouthwatering, but unfortunately not suited to air travel.

For some reason, blueberries are impossible to find in Japan, and raspberries are not much easier. (Even blackberry jams don't seem to be imported.) For this reason, being able to enjoy them fresh is, for me, the greatest perk of going to the market. 

An Ibis in front of Ibis Hotel

 I keep on spotting ibises wherever I go. This one was in Annecy, France in front of the Ibis hotel.

It kept on moving around to ever more photogenic spots.

On the right, the lights from the shops up the street are reflected in the river.

June 26, 2012

Aerial Views of Amsterdam

One of the best things about short flights aside from the obvious is that since you are flying at a relatively low altitude, you get to see where you're flying over. I purposely chose a window seat on my flight to Amsterdam from Geneva so I could see the view, but I hadn't bargained on such beautiful sights. The color-coded bars of fields were simply astounding.

 You could see houses here and there, and smatterings of white -- the sign of sheep!

 The fields weren't all uniform lines, though. They gave way to less rigidly structured areas such as this...

...before segueing into the rectangular shapes of Amsterdam.

An Encounter with a Baby Coot

Last year, when I visited Annecy, I was amazed to see a just-born baby Coot. I found another Coot nest this year as well, in the canal just at the edge of Lake Annecy. Since the weather was much warmer this year, the egg had probably hatched a couple weeks earlier than last year.
It didn't look like the baby needed much help eating. (Last year, I managed to get a shot of a baby being fed by its parent.) For some reason, the parent coot was continuing to build its nest, which was already quite significant. 

 It even snatched some weeds from another coot in its pursuit.

 The feet are surprisingly large and paddle-like.

 The baby awaits.

 This is the area immediately surrounding the nest.

The photo following this one may be shocking to some people. I was zeroing in on the little pale blob on the bottom left of the photo.

 At first, I thought it was a lizard, but it turned out to be a just-born baby bird. Had it been thrown from its nest or had it fallen? It was both fascinating and repellent.

Miffy Spotting at Schipol Airport

As airlines go, KLM is definitely one of the more stylish. It goes a long way towards making a long-haul flight more bearable, though I'm convinced their coach seats are small than most coach seats.They definitely get the details right -- look at the adorable little Dutch motifs on their paper cups. I also like the tiny bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar you get with your hot meal.

The KLM Miffy is also adorable, although hard to justify buying at my age.  

 Last year, when I went to France, I changed planes in Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport, as sleek and stylish an airport as you could hope for. This year, I went through Amsterdam's Schipol Airport, which is equally diverting, not least because of all the Miffy parphenalia they offer.

 Tiny little wooden clogs. They also offer "wearable" human foot-sized clogs made of wood.

The geisha Miffy made me feel slightly uncomfortable. Unless this is kimono Miffy.

An Alice in Wonderland-like reading space. The detailing on the cups is lovely too.

A wine bar. There is also a chocolate bar, and a ramen bar that is run by disgruntled young workers who have to explain the menu every time someone asks them what "soya" is. Would "soy sauce" be easier for people to understand? 

The airport library, which puts local libraries to shame in terms of style.

Panoramic Shots of Annecy, France

I went to Annecy, France in early June for the Annecy International Animation Festival -- or rather, the animation market held in affiliation. Annecy gained a certain bit of attention last year as a candidate for the 2018 Winter Olympics. As beautiful as this town is, I understand why it wasn't chosen. It's a little too small to withstand Olympic-size crowds, and added infrastructure would ruin its appeal.

 Lake Annecy, a haven for ducks and their babies, and coots.

The Imperial, a casino/hotel/convention center. This space is essentially on the lake, standing on aluminum poles. This would never fly in earthquake-prone Japan.

Outside the temporary tent. How can you concentrate on networking when the lake is in full view?

After taking this photo, I locked myself out.

June 19, 2012

Koishikawa Botanical Gardens

Koishikawa Botanical Gardens, a park owned by the Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo. The park itself is surprisingly vast and just under-the-radar enough that you can take a walk around the forest-like sections without feeling like half of Tokyo has come along with you.

 There is also a Japanese garden section, perfect for picnics. This used to be the University of Tokyo's Medical School building. It is now a museum, and from what I could see from the outside, it houses a number of animal skeletons.

The greenhouse is almost hilariously neglected. You can imagine it being used for research, but clearly no-one has given any thought to making it appealing for visitors.

The only surviving portion of a Chinese medicine tree. If I remember correctly, the tree was split when it was struck by lightning.

 Slightly maze-like paths leading to the "forest".

 A small shrine in the middle of the park.

 An ibis isn't necessarily an indication of abundant nature, but you do feel as though you've stepped out of the city when you see one.

It was catching bugs one after another.