August 6-10, 2023

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

zoomA short diary for the week.

Our Sunday start highlight was the monthly Zoom call with cousins Maryetta, Tim, Tom, and Kathleen. Without a doubt, this is the best Covid holdover, not as fun as the in-person visits we had last month, but filled with laughs. (The picture shows Tim explaining how his air conditioner works in Lisbon. I'm glad we have better in Fresno, but I'd trade most other parts of his Euro-life for our Valley-existence.)

We spent considerable time this week preparing for our Great European Road Trip (GERT). For Germany, we have contacted a half dozen friends and we are trying to make enough time for everyone and still have our own tourist time. It looks doable, including some visits at the start in September and others at the end of October, before we fly home. It's exciting.

ItalyItalian arrangements are proceeding. For orientation, I re-solved the Italian food puzzle. Then, we focused on a longish stay in Bologna/Modena, but the Germany-to-Italy distance called for a few days rest midway, in the Dolomite Mountains. (REAL drivers could make it without such a stop, but we are retired and do not like long drives - "long" being anything over about four hours.) I think MY focus in Modena will be cars, since the area has a few famous museums and still produces such famous cars as Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Aptera. Marianne will focus on Balsamic vinegar.

France is still a blank slate. We have been unable to track down our friend who had hosted us years ago in the Dordogne Valley. Old phone numbers that no longer seem to work do not portend well. We'll keep trying.

Meanwhile, we are scheduling last minute medical checks with dental cleaning and doctor visits to investigate aches and spots. I'm not sure anything would stop us.cords

Technology has also occupied us, starting with cords and plugs. In US travel, both Marianne and I have our collections that serve to charge and connect all our devices (two iPhones, an iPad, a Kindle, hearing aids, ear buds, watches, this computer, a portable GPS, batteries, etc.) For Europe, we have some new devices and, of course, different power and we have a self-imposed weight and complication limit. Car travel meant we could throw everything we have into the trunk, but flight carry-on is not so generous. Of course, we could always buy what we need in Germany, but planning and preparation makes us worry less.

My big deal for technology training has been getting used to using just an iPhone for pictures. The Leica and Canons will stay home, greatly simplifying my travel, but I need to learn the boundaries of the phone camera. Here are some experiments:

Low light. The iPhone is amazing in the dark.
I could hardly see anything in this room, but the picture came out easily.
Closeups. Getting close and personal with flowers and bugs is tricky, but not hard.
stamen bee
Portraits. The iPhone has a "portrait" mode that fuzzes the background.
On my flower, it also softened the main image, but that may be what people-subjects like!
Lenses. The iPhone has wide angle, normal, and tele lenses
as well as an "ultra-wide" option that uses software to expand the scope of the wide lens.
Here is the same bar scene with all four ranges.
x wide wide
normal tele
The resolution of the iPhone is half that of the Canon cameras I use, and a quarter of the Leica,
but for travel scenes, all this should be fine.

So, now it's time for more preparation and, a little, worry and concern. Travel brings it all.

Stay tuned.

John and Marianne.