Wednesday Postcard: Montmartre in Paris

©️1997 The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Bonjour! This week’s carte postale features a Montmartre staircase photographed in 1924 by French artist, Eugène Atget (1857-1927). The original photograph was created using a printing process called albumen, which was invented by French inventor, Louis Blanquart-Evrard.

I bought the postcard during my visit to the Getty Center in Los Angeles in 1998. I recall having to board a tram for a short, but scenic ride up the hill to get to the entrance of the museum.

The black and white image on this postcard inspired me to explore the Montmartre area “next time” since I’d had limited time during my first visit to Paris.

When I finally returned to Paris, I spent nearly an entire day in Montmartre. It was my mission to climb the famous staircase shown on my postcard! But when I got there, I learned that there were actually several steep staircases in the area!

As I’d imagined, the staircases afforded incredible views, like the Parisian rooftops with their distinctive chimney pots, or flues made of clay!

Since I had a Navigo Découverte transit pass (which gave me unlimited rides on the Paris métro, as well as the funicular), I walked down the stairs and took the Montmartre funicular back up a few times just for fun!

Funiculaire de Montmartre (2018)

Come to think of it, it was like riding the tram up to the Getty Center!

Postcard: Detail of travertine in the Getty Center Courtyard | Photo by A. Vertikoff

Over the years, I have accumulated hundreds of postcards from around the world, which I’ve either purchased from my local antique shops or received from thoughtful jet-setting family and friends who know I collect them. When I travel, I also like to send myself a carte postale just for fun!

I hope these postcards will make you want to revisit a favorite vacation spot or to embark on a journey to the destination of your dreams (when it’s safe to travel freely again, of course!)

And if you’ve been to the destination featured, tell me about your experience there – I’d love to hear from you.

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, take care!

Flashback Friday: Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2017

The 4th of July Parade in Alameda, California (10 miles/16 km east of San Francisco) is one of the largest Independence Day parades in the United States, with over 170 floats and 2,500 participants.

A little over 3 miles/5 km long, the parade route is also the longest route in the United States, drawing over 60,000 spectators from around the Bay Area.

Unfortunately, there won’t be any floats, horses, marching bands, dancers, or vintage cars this year. The 4th of July Parade for 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic.

In honor of the holiday, I’d like to share 4 of my favorites from the 2017 parade:

Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2017 – I love the beignets at Café Jolie!

Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2017 – honoring all the brave people serving in the Armed Forces

Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2017

Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2017 – a mini BART train!

What do we celebrate on the 4th of July?

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 2, 1776, but it wasn’t approved by the Second Continental Congress until July 4, 1776. We celebrate the day that the thirteen colonies gained independence from Great Britain.

The famous passage says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Since there won’t be parades, carnivals, large family reunions, and fireworks this year, it’ll be a good opportunity to reflect and think about those words.

An unalienable (or inalienable) right is something that can’t be given away or denied, like freedom.

But recent events have shown that we’re not quite living up to the Founding Fathers’ ideals.

Ask any person of color, woman, or member of the LGBTQIA community in America!

It just goes to show that even on its 244th birthday, the United States is still a relatively young nation and we’ve still got lots of work to do!

Happy Independence Day! 🇺🇸

Bay to Breakers: San Francisco’s Famous Foot Race is Going Virtual

The 109th Bay to Breakers 12K foot race through the streets of San Francisco will now be a virtual race taking place from Sunday, September 20, 2020 to Friday, October 2, 2020!

Instead of the traditional “live” route through San Francisco — from downtown SF (“Bay”) all the way to the Pacific Ocean, where the waves break and touch the shore (“Breakers”) — participants will get to choose their own route. Each day, there will also be a costume theme.

They call it virtual, but it won’t be filmed. Instead, participants will have the option to run around their neighborhoods or on their treadmills at home. It’s not quite the same, but Bay to Breakers organizers are determined to keep its spirit alive!

So far, I have done Bay to Breakers three times – in 2011, 2014, and 2018. I’m a long-distance walker, not a runner, so I go for the fun of it.

Bay to Breakers 2011

Doing Bay to Breakers is like being in a parade. It’s festive! It’s like a traveling fashion show. It’s a great opportunity to re-use an old Halloween costume. One year, I felt especially creative and made Frozen-inspired costumes. My friend was Queen Elsa and I was Princess Anna!

Bay to Breakers 2014

bacon-wrapped hot dogs

I spy a French bakery – do you see it?

Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies

Bay to Breakers is an all-ages affair, but if you want to bring the baby, you’ll need to wear the child in a backpack-type of carrier. A few years ago, they banned alcohol and anything on wheels, like floats.

But part of the fun is trying to see what you can get away with, right? So, you’ll see the course dotted with the occasional baby stroller. Also, some people carry alcoholic beverages in plain-looking water bottles. Security officers are not likely to stop or cite rule breakers if they are discreet.

The event is also educational, let’s just say! You learn about plants (cannabis), anatomy (nudity), and games (adult toys and paraphernalia)…and so much more!

But no one judges and no one cares because it’s all for fun. Sure there’s serious prize money involved, but those winnings go to the top two finishers who usually reach the finish line around the 30-minute mark. Incredible! It takes me 30 minutes just to locate the starting line for the walkers’ corral!

Bay to Breakers 2018

“athletic” is used loosely here

Traditional tortilla toss at the starting line

The Murphy Windmill, one of two windmills in Golden Gate Park

Every registered participant who reaches the finish line gets a finisher’s medal and all the free snacks you can eat courtesy of event sponsors.

By no means did I win any costume contests nor break any speed records (my personal best remains at 2:15:50 at my first Bay to Breakers in 2011.)

Bay to Breakers 2011

But walking through San Francisco —literally from downtown SF all the way to Ocean Beach — provides a feeling of satisfaction like no other. It’s kind of addictive. Maybe that’s why people sign up year after year!

Question is: Will people sign up this year for the virtual race? I’m concerned about everyone’s safety. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, with recent spikes in new cases in many places (California, sadly, being one of them.) We are still required to practice physical distancing.

It’ll be interesting to see how the virtual race will go. According to the Bay to Breakers website, “You can run wherever. The beauty of a virtual race is you can create your own course – we recommend something that’ll shock the neighbors.”

Like what? Participants wearing face masks and not much else, perhaps? I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s Bay to Breakers – that’s the spirit!

Stay healthy and safe, everyone! 😷

DNA: French Newspaper of Alsace Region

Flashback to Nov 2012: I spotted this wagon cart in South Lake Tahoe, California

Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace (“Latest news from Alsace”) is a regional newspaper based in Strasbourg, France.

It was founded in 1877 by a German publisher named Heinrich Ludwig Kayser. It was originally called Neueste Nachrichten (“Latest news”).


I wonder if issues of the newspaper used to be sold from wagon carts like the one above?

Strolling Around San Francisco’s Marina District

What you may have heard is true! The San Francisco Bay Area is currently experiencing scheduled power outages, strong winds, and poor air quality due to smoke from wildfires. But that won’t keep us from going out and about enjoying life!

These photographs were taken on Saturday (October 26, 2019) during a leisurely stroll I took with my family in San Francisco’s Marina District.

Starbucks Reserve Coffee Bar | 2132 Chestnut St in San Francisco

Classic Affogato – “2 shots of espresso poured over vanilla ice cream” and Dark Chocolate Strato – “a creamy, icy beverage finished with an espresso float”:

I am reusing the plastic cup! It’s sturdy and it looks nice, too. This location is a coffee bar only. It doesn’t have a roastery. (Read about my visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle here.)

Le Marais Bakery (North Beach location) | 2066 Chestnut St in San Francisco

Another Le Marais Bakery in San Francisco! Two down, one to go! (Read about my visit to the Le Marais Bakery in the Mission District here.)

someone left their art in San Francisco

Looking east from Yacht Road Alcatraz Island:

Looking west from Yacht Road Golden Gate Bridge at golden hour:

Palace of Fine Arts:

A swan swims in the tranquil Palace Lagoon:

Have you been to San Francisco? Tell me in the comments below!

Let’s keep everyone impacted by the California Wildfires in mind and hope they stay safe.

Behind the Scenes of a Senior Portrait Photo Shoot

j’adore the studio’s décor

Senior portraits are not ordinary photographs. They commemorate an important part of a young person’s life: the pinnacle of their high school career as they embark on a promising new phase in life. In that regard, taking senior portraits is a rite of passage in itself!

That said, I did not take a senior portrait for the yearbook.

At my high school, senior portraits were taken in a single day during the summer in the school cafeteria. If you couldn’t make it, you were out of luck as they didn’t have make-up picture days.

I thought, Besides, I couldn’t possibly take time off from my minimum wage part time summer job of warming hamburger buns, scrubbing potatoes, and dispensing Frosty desserts just to take a picture for the yearbook! Pfft.

I know, sour grapes! But I do take some comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone. Adding insult to injury, my high school yearbook had a page listing the names of “Camera Shy Seniors.” We’d outnumbered the seniors who’d had portraits taken! So there!

But I don’t feel bad about missing out. Well, not anymore, thanks to a vicarious occasion I call: My Daughter’s Senior Portrait Photo Shoot!

I’d like to share what I learned:

📸You need to travel to the photography studio

Since my daughter’s high school works with a studio, senior portraits are not taken at the school cafeteria. For this photo shoot, we drove over 20 miles/ 32 km to the studio.

📸You need to arrive at the studio with hair and makeup done

📸You pay a sitting fee

The fee you pay varies depending on the type of photo you want: yearbook photo only; yearbook photo and one outfit; yearbook photo and two outfits; and so on.

📸You wear fake clothes for the standard yearbook picture

My daughter got a velvet drape Velcro’d to her over her clothes.

little sister snapped this pic

📸If you’ve selected an upgraded package, they will take your portrait in graduation gear

You are fitted with a gown along with a cap and tassel with graduation year. Then they’ll have you hold a leatherette diploma folder that’s gold-leaf embossed with your high school’s name in a fancy font, like Old English

📸If you’ve selected a further upgraded package, you go to another room with more backdrops

You can pose in regular clothes to show your personality. I saw some students wearing dance attire or athletic uniforms. One student posed with their pet! My daughter posed with her violin that she’s been playing since she was in middle school.

📸The entire photo shoot takes about 30 minutes (unless you take the yearbook photo only, in which case, you’re done in 5 minutes)!

After all the pictures were taken, I thought I’d be directed to another room to pore over sets of digital proofs. I thought I’d be unabashedly gushing over them. I thought I’d be suckered into buying prints of all of them. (And I would because proud mama.)

But I thought wrong. After all the pictures were taken, the studio said they would send an email with a link to view proofs and purchase prints. How efficient!

In terms of poses, props, and backdrops, overall, I’d say this senior portrait photo shoot was pretty similar to baby photo shoots they do at shopping mall studios! The only difference is who’s in tears! I’m not crying, you’re crying!

Wishing the Class of 2020 all the best! 🎓

Did you take high school senior portraits? Share your experience (and senior portrait, if you’d like) in the comments below!

Meaningful Photos: a Mindfulness Practice

Photo collage made with MOLDIV

Meaningful Photos is one of many science-based practices for a meaningful life curated by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

For this mindfulness exercise, the how-to states:

“[Take] 15 minutes per day for one week to take the photos.”

Instead I did the following:

From my phone’s camera roll, I selected nine favorite photos that were taken over the past year or so. I figure I hadn’t deleted them for a reason – the photos are meaningful to me!

So here are my nine photos and my nine answers to the question:

“What does this photo represent, and why is it meaningful?”

Top Row:

Left: This is a picture of the sky over Paris, taken from the Meudon Observatory and Park. It is meaningful because it reminds me that my attitude can make or break my day. People will sometimes say, “It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky” as if clouds were bad/ugly things that mar an otherwise good day. I was feeling pretty good and positive being in Paris, so no amount of cloud cover could get me down!

Center: This is a picture of my Navigo Découverte transit pass. It is meaningful because it represents freedom. I could tap on and off on various modes of public transportation in Paris. It made me feel like a local and less of a tourist. Plus the lady who sold it to me said the pass was good for 10 years. She told me, “That’s good because you will be back within 10 years!” Did she know something I didn’t? I certainly hope to return to Paris!

Right: This is a picture of a sunset over Toulouse. It is meaningful because it reminds me that beauty and art are everywhere if you only pay attention. When I snapped this picture, my friend, Rachael, jokingly asked me, “Aren’t there sunsets in California?” Well, of course, but I hadn’t seen a pink sunset from the Pink City of Toulouse, which, for me, doesn’t happen every day!

Middle Row:

Left: This is a picture of homemade beef empanadas I made. It is meaningful because it reminds me that the younger me who dreamed of being a pastry chef is alive and well in me!

Center: This is a picture of me with lavender. It is meaningful because it reminds me to be original. They say, “stop and smell the roses.” Why not say “linger with the lavender?” (Read the health benefits of lavender here.)

Right: This is a picture of a margarita. It is meaningful because it represents life and fun with family and friends because they give me one for my birthday each year.

Bottom Row:

Left: This is a picture of the Louvre WiFi login screen. It is meaningful because it serves as a reminder of how dependent I’ve become on my phone and other electronic gadgets. I was in the world famous museum for goodness’ sake! Yet, there I was — sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor — charging my phone because it didn’t have enough juice for me to take and share pictures of my visit to the Louvre! Had I brought a battery-operated digital camera, I would have had more time to enjoy the museum. In our so-called wireless world, why do we constantly find ourselves tethered to power outlets?

Center: This is a picture of home from a plane. It is meaningful because it reminds me not to take anything for granted (OMG, oh my gratitude, I am able to travel and on a plane!?!) Also, no matter how wonderful your travels have been, there’s nothing better than your own place with your own bed and stuff at home!

Right: This is a picture of “This too shall pass” on a crosswalk button. It is meaningful because it reminds me to live in the moment. Don’t worry about the bad moments because they won’t always be bad! Also enjoy the good moments because they won’t last forever either!

Now it’s your turn. I encourage you to do this Meaningful Photos exercise! If you do, I hope you’ll share your thoughts and reflections!

Whether or not you snap a photo today, I wish you a good, happy, and meaningful day!