Travels: Hangzhou Daytrip August 2007

hangzhou_collage01.jpg

I did a day trip today to the city of Hangzhou to the south of Shanghai. Primary aim is to roam around the famous west lake of Hangzhou. And planning the trip took visits to Wikipedia, Travelpedia and finally a check on Google Earth to make sure I know what the whole place looks like before going there. The plan was to get to Hangzhou main Train Station (there’s a second station to the east) and then take a 1km walk to the lake front and do a clockwise tour of the lake. On the map, I estimated about 7km distance around the lake, and I should have about 5-6 hours to do it.

The most important thing about going for a day raid is to be well equipped. I wanted to take this trip for photographing the lake and the ecosystem around it, so I brought along my Lowepro Orion camera backpack for this trip. Two camera would be ideal here, so I packed the Ricoh GR Digital with 21mm adapter for closeup street shots, and the D2H with a 20mm f2.8 AFD, Voigtlander 40mm f2 SL, 105mm f2.5 AIS and for macro work, 70-180mm f4.5-5.6 AFD. For safe measures an SB800 was packed as well, as I knew I would be spending most of the time shooting in harsh noon sunlight. For the survival kit, I had my Garmin Vista GPS with fresh batteries, my Sony Clie made it along for blogging but Graffiti 2 just pisses me off again, a mobile phone in case I get lost, loads of mineral water stashed to the side pocket of the Lowepro. The pack was quite heavy, but everything I need (and I’m sure more than what I need) was in there.
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Travels: Castellane Champagne, Epernay, France

Epernay, smack in the middle of Champagne region (at least to me). There’s a rather impressive street called Avenue de Champagne where some of the large champagne houses reside. I was told there’s another one in Reims, but its so big I didn’t see it there. In Epernay, the champagne houses takes up a large majority of the town. You have Moet & Chandon, there’s Mercier as well and a bunch of others. Out of these Moet is the largest as far as I know.
Back to Castellane. I’ve heard of this champagne before as everytime we celebrate something in the office there’s at least a case of it. We wanted to go into the Mercier cellar tour but it was winter when we were there and was told later that most cellar tours (they call it “cave tours”) are closed. Castellane was open.

The cost of the tour was 7 Euro (early 2007) per person including a glass of brut champagne. Other than the usual “how do we make it”, there’s a nice walk in the cellars, that’s supposed to either stretch 1km or totaled 1km. I think it should be the former since we saw a long alleyway that stretches into infinity. Some of the bottles of wine still aging in there are covered in soft fungus.

Castellane Cellars

Very interesting… The picture above is a spy picture of the racks of champagne bottles that seems to be filled, either waiting for eternity, or waiting to be put on a robot arm that turns the bottle automatically.

Champagne de Castellane

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Travels: Dom Perignon’s Church, Hautvilliers, France

I think the title to this post is a little misleading. The church is not really called that. Have no idea what its called!
Anyway, the story here is that we were driving around the Champagne region in January 2007, and just outside Epernay, we stumbled across a rather nice looking village on a high ground, hence called hautevilliers, I suppose. Without a guide book and on the wrong road (we were supposed to be on the road to Reims) we came across a little church, that’s rather empty. We saw some German tourists outside, and thought maybe we’d take a break. When we went inside the empty church that has some monastic background music playing, we say a sign in French pointing in the direction of Dom Perignon’s grave, which is just in front of the altar. Dom Perignon is the monk everyone thinks invented the Champagne drink. The village is surrounded by vineyards. Can’t tell what they are, but I suppose all 3 type of grapes (Pinot Noir, Pinot Muniere, Chardonnay) are grown there.

Its not everyday that you get lost with a GPS and stumbled on an important place!

The church is here

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Shop: Prophot Photo Supplies, Paris

Had to replenish my Ilford Rapidfixer and found this shop hear metro stop Anvers or Cadet in the 9th Arrondisement. They seem to carry quite a wide range of stuff, surely the digital stuff, plenty of paper for inkjet printing and for photo developing, and most importantly for me B&W chemicals. Prices are usually displayed without tax and its added at the end. They do delivery as well but its 10Euro per delivery so for my volume its too large a proportion of the final cost.
Did see some developing kits there as well, like the tanks, spare reels, trays, and accessories. They’re not dirt cheap enough for me to buy on impulse, but nice to know its there if I need it by emergency. Finally bought a bottle of Rapid Fixer and HC110 from them. Enough to last me for years.

Here’s a copy and paste from the website:
PROPHOT is open From Monday to Friday.
Opening hours: 9:00 am – 12:30 pm / 1:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Prophot Photo Supplies, Paris

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Restaurant: Le Relais du Chateau, Beaugency, France

As we returned to Paris at the end of a day trip to the Loire Valley region, we entered Beaugency (nice small town right in between Blois and Orleans) around dinner time 7:30pm. There were the usual pizza and French steak joints, but we decided to stop in a real French restaurant to see what the region had to offer.
After strolling around the riverfront for a while, we stumbled upon this small and interesting family-runned restaurant (at least it seems like that, since the people serving you looked like they’re different generations from the same family). The service is upper-lipped, looks like a posh restaurant, but the price is rather normal for Parisien standards, roughly 25Euro/person without wine for the set menu. The cheese was nice.

Restaurant was empty at 7:30pm for sure, but like any other French restaurant with just a single turnover per table the whole night, it gets filled by about 8:30pm. Stop there if you’re in the area. But I don’t think its worth your petrol to drive 2 hrs from Paris.

Le Relais du Chateau

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Shop: La Vallée Village Outlet Shopping, Marne-La-Vallee

Here’s an outlet shopping center built along the same style as a typical outlet in the US, based on a village. The number of shops there are respectable, I’d say something like 30-40 ish, definitely not as big as the 100 shop outlets in New York etc.
Its located not too far from Euro Disneyland and I believe that you can take an RER over there as well. We drove this time, and its about 30mins from downtown Paris.

Interesting? Yeah, for me at least, Puma and Timberland as usual, but surprisingly this is the first time I’ve been to an outlet and didn’t buy a single thing. Prices are about the same as in the US, but just substitute the USD into EURO, and you’re done (summary: 30% more expensive by today’s currency rate). Before you plan, there’s another outlet closer to Paris.

La Vallee Village

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