Thursday, July 22, 2010

Phil Toledano

I've been looking at the work of Phil Toledano for the past few days. He's that rare combination of commercial and fine art photographer that I see too few of. I have great respect for anyone who can live with the day to day rigors of assignment photography and still find the time and energy to produce work destined for books and galleries.

His project work has a remarkable breadth. Days With my Father is deeply personal. Bankrupt and The United States of Entertainment are quite political. And Phonesex and A New Kind of Beauty are really social commentary. There are others, as well.

His assignment work is slick and funny and creative. And extremely well crafted.

Well worth a look.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mikes (Pronounced Mick-esh)

Cesky Krumlov is the second most visited site in the Czech Republic, after Prague. It's a Renaissance town with an imposing castle surrounded by winding, narrow, cobblestone streets. After falling into ruin during the years of Communist rule, they've been restoring it since about 1990 and their efforts are impressive. The Baroque and Renaissance buildings are beautiful and often extravagently painted on the exterior. The streets are lined with shops, restaurants, and pubs. And the Czechs certainly know how to make beer.

Mikes Milan owns a flower shop near where we're staying. I was stricken by this large, sturdy man surrounded by the delicate offerings of his business. The fact that he spoke no English and I spoke no Czech was a bit of a problem, but after he called a friend on his cell phone to translate and explain what I wanted, he was happy to let me photograph.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Jan is about to graduate from high school in Cesky Krumlov, The Czech Republic. He's traveled a fair bit for someone from such a small town. His trips have included the south of France and Toronto. He plans to study biology at a nearby university in the fall.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hermann & Franz

Andrea and I ended up in the tiny town of Wesenufer on the Danube River in the north west corner of Austria near Germany. We're headed for the Czech Republic and the pouring rain finally got to us, so we stopped. The Gasthof zum Schiffmeister was the first place we went into looking for a room. There was a long table with a few folks drinking beer and they seemed friendly in spite of the fact they spoke almost no English and we speak no German. After we had checked into our room, we went back down and sat at a table near them, drinking beer and playing gin rummy. I asked if I could take some pictures and they agreed after I assured them I wasn't the papparazzi. Over the next several hours, we noticed that people came and left, but that table was always busy. The cast of characters changed continually. Sometimes it was more boisterous and sometimes less, but it was always occupied and always lively.  Several times we accepted schnapz from people sitting there and they eventually invited us to join them. 

Franz and Hermann were two of the regulars.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Dino Spreafico runs the Hotel Flora in Chiavenna, Italy. It's been in his family for sixty years. Although much of his time is taken up with the hotel, it was clear that his passion is photography. He showed me some of his published work and I was impressed. He seems comfortable making his living one way and indulging his passion in another.


Alesandra Matera runs Paitin Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast outside Alba, Italy. She has incredible energy and always seems happy and exuberant. Although she doesn't speak much English, she can usually make her point known through sheer enthusiasm.


Luca Elia is lives with his family outside of Alba, Italy. He's in his last year of high school and will be going to college in Milan next year. His father hopes he'll be interested in working for the family's wine business, but doesn't seem to be pushing him in any way. Luca loves riding motorcycles.


Giavanni Elia owns Paitin Winery in Bricco de Neive with his brother Silvano. The winery has been in their family since 1796. Their best wine is a Barbaresco. It's similar to the Barolos more common in the US, but many think is just as good. Giavanni was kind enough to give us a tour of his winery and spend some time telling us about the region's history. He was unassuming yet still obviously proud of his family's heritage.

Finally, a new post and a new adventure

I've gotten several e-mails asking me when I would post again, so here it is. The last several weeks have been a bit of a blur. Finishing the quarter in Lacoste was a marathon of broken printers, low paper and ink supplies, matting disasters, and generally panicked students. It all came together admirably with a Vernissage the students were all proud of. (And I was, too!) The weather was perfect, the sales were brisk, and the relief after so much time and effort was significant. A good time was had by all.

The last official dinner was a boisterous and bitter/sweet affair. Adam Sklenar put together a slide show of highlights from the "Spring in Lacoste" and made us all laugh before many started getting teary at the prospect of it all coming to an end. I must admit, I haven't ever had an experience like this with feeling so much affection for my students. I genuinely liked them, as well as admiring both their work and their work ethic. Eight weeks living and working together every day makes for much more intense emotions than "normal" college.

As soon as the students left on the bus for Marseille airport, Andrea and I left for Nice. We spent two days in the beautful town of Vence, ten kilometers from the Mediterranean. We walked around the old city of Nice, went to the Matisse Museum, and went to the Matisse Chapel- all delightful. The Cote d'Azur is very dramatic with huge mountains rising from the sea.

We headed east and north into the Piedmont region of Italy and happened upon a rural B+B outside the small town of Alba. This is wine country and is famous for it's Barolo and Barbaresco wines. They're hardy and heady wines and well know in the States. After two days touring and tasting, we traveled to north of Milan and stopped near the northern border in a town called Chiavenna.

Today, we drove into Switzerland and stopped in a tiny town called Guarda, halfway up a mountain and with a panoramic view of the valley. It's raining, so Andrea and I have holed up in a room in our pensione and are catching up with e-mail, pictures, and blogs. We're looking at snow covered, jagged peaks out our window. We're drinking wine given to us from the proprietor of a winery I photographed the other day. All is right with the world.

Stay tuned for pictures. . .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Monsieur Ariski Follow-up

The day after I photographed Ariski, Andrea and I were surprised by the sound of dogs fighting and yelling in the lane outside our apartment. I rushed out the door and a yellow Lab ran past me. I recognized her as a sweet dog who is often around the village, making friends, scrounging for snacks. She was closely followed by Ariski's dog. I stood between him and the Lab and he seemed satisfied with my presence as a deterrent to continuing the fight.

Ariski came up the lane, yelling at the top of his lungs. He was obviously incredibly angry and I was the closest object for him to vent at. I don't speak a lot of French, but I usually can pick some words out of most conversations. Not so with Ariski's tirade. It was completely incomprehensible to me. Je suis désolé, Monsieur, I said, although I had nothing to be sorry about. She wasn't my dog, after all. He came closer to me and I tensed up, but he then turned toward the path to the chateau. He continued yelling, screaming really, all the way up the path. Five minutes later, we could still hear him up by the chateau.

OK, maybe he was just upset. Or drunk. Or both. Or maybe he's not so gentle.

More Cemeteries

I've continued to shoot cemeteries here in France. Please go here if you'd like to see more.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monsieur Ariski

I was warned about Ariski long before I came to Lacoste. I was told he was crazy, that he had attacked a student, that the local residents tolerated him, but that he preyed on foreigners. Stay away, I was told, he's trouble. Especially when he's been drinking.

I had seen him a number of times, walking through the village with his dog. Here comes the Yeti, one of the SCAD chef's had said to me when he saw him coming our way. He approached and I saw he was holding a heavy rope slung over his shoulder. I turned as he passed and realized the rope was tied to two cowboy boots and each was stuffed with fresh daffodils.

This past Sunday SCAD organized the Sidewalk Arts Festival where students, local children, and Lacoste residents spend a few hours drawing with chalk on the pavement. Suddenly the ground under one's feet is an explosion of color and a good time is had by all. While we were setting up, Ariski came ambling through. On  the spur of the moment I asked him if I could take his picture. "Est'ce que possible prendre une photo, Monsieur? Un portrait avec votre chien?" I asked. "Yeah," he replied in English. "Parlez-vous Anglais?" I asked. "A little." "I'll be right back, OK?"

I ran up the hill and fetched my camera and lights as quickly as possible. He was still there when I returned ten minutes later. He understood me and took direction very well as I asked him to sit on a low stone wall. His dog clearly wanted to be close by. They were both as gentle as could be.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Christine and Jean-Yves

Andrea and I walked to Bonnieux a few weeks ago. Down the hill from Lacoste, across the valley, and then back up a hill into Bonnieux- it took us over an hour as we got a little lost and stopped often to inspect ancient stone walls, gnarled cherry trees, and the views in both directions. It was a perfect day with bright blue skies. As we came into the town, we passed a ceramics shop and decided to stop. We were immediately impressed by the quality of the work. The forms were graceful and perfectly rendered, the glazes colorful and painterly. The proprietor greeted us warmly and was pleased to speak English with us as soon as our basic French ran its limited course. He was Jean-Yves, the husband of the potter, he told us. It was quickly apparent he was her biggest fan as well. He gave us a tour of her studio and was interested in SCAD and the Lacoste program. We parted with his assurance that we could come back any time to photograph his wife, Christine.

We went back this past week, this time with a car so we could safely carry purchases of her pots, and my backpack full of photo gear. Jean-Yves was pleased to see us and after I had done a portrait of he and Christine we were surprised to be invited into their home. We were led through the living space into an airy sun porch were we sat for two hours, talking, drinking wine, and eating olives and crackers. We talked of our children, of our travels, we talked politics. Jean-Yves was particularly pleased to make a pun in English. Referring to me, he said, "Well, we like the Forest better than the Bush!" At one point he brought out an old family album of photographs of his childhood. His father was an avid amateur photographer and the album was filled with large black and white prints. He had a knack for capturing the subtle gestures of his family rendered in exquisite light. I told him how lucky he was to have such a detailed story of his childhood told in such a beautiful way.

Eventually we went back to the shop where Andrea and I bought several pieces to bring home with us as a reminder of our afternoon.

It was a perfect day.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Gilles is a chef in SCAD's cafeteria here in Lacoste. The food is often very good, not like most college cafeterias. Gilles and the other chefs try to find a balance between real local cuisine and food American students will find familiar and comforting far from home. They always have vegetarian entrees, but they seem a little perplexed by the vegans. "No butter? No cheese? Life would not be worth living. . ." I'm only guessing what they think. Gilles speaks almost no English and very few of the students speak any more than the most rudimentary French. What's amusing is that he doesn't let that stop him from going into long, usually one-sided conversations. He clearly has something he wants us to know and he seems convinced that if only he can say enough, we'll eventually understand. He may be right.

The Louvre

One of (or THE?) most famous museums in the world. Literally acres of art go in all directions. Mobs of people make a bee line for the Mona Lisa, passing by more interesting pieces. Two Vermeers take my breath away. The great hall of Rubens is remarkable in its own way- am I the only one who feels that the inclusion of at least one naked breast in every painting feels gratuitous? How many days would it take to see the entire collection? More specifically, how many hours can I take before my eyes glaze over with art numbness?

But, it's relatively early in the day. The mobs have yet to reach some of the less travelled corners. And the light coming in is beautiful. If you want to see more go here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

French Cemeteries

They take their grave sites very seriously here and I've been drawn to document them. Elaborate ceramic flowers, real flowers, plastic and silk flowers, laminated photographs of the deceased, paintings, banners, and many other types of memorablilia appear. I don't know whether this phenomenon is specific to this region or the small towns I've been visiting. I plan to go to Pere Lachaise in Paris to see if one of the most famous cemeteries in the world has displays like these. And I plan to keep photographing them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Cafe du France opened for the season on April 1. The French don't observe April Fool's Day, but they do have Poisson d'Avril, The Fish of April. The spirit of the two is similar as children try to secretly attach paper fish fish to the backs of their unsuspecting friends and family. However, this has nothing to do with the opening of Cafe du France.

The cafe closes for the season in the fall and locals have to drive to share a glass of vin rouge with their cronies. Between the locals and the students, the opening means an instantly thriving business. That combination also makes for interesting energy inside and out as American students try their rudimentary French and local folks try their basic English. The mood is generally amiable. Rinaldo the bartender manages to serve the drinks, wash the glasses, and keep the peace.

The Polar Bear Club- Provence Chapter

We drove through a rain storm to Fort de Buoux. Unfortuantely, when we arrived, the climb to the top was closed. It's steep and treacherous and the caretaker was concerned about people losing their footing. Since there are no hand or guard rails, the multitude of drops over hundreds of feet requires prudence. There were a number of extraordinary sites left to walk to and explore, however. These three found the allure of a frigid mountain waterfall impossible to resist. I, on the other hand, found it quite easy to resist.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Le Sentier des Ochre

The ocher mines of Roussillon are one of the most dramatic sights I've seen in Provence. For over 2,000 years, people have been mining and using the pigments made from the world's largest known deposit of ocher. There are at least seventeen different hues of the substance and they range from brilliant yellows to oranges, reds, and purples. Besides the colors, the landscape is eroded into a maze of canyons and fissures. You can see more here . And there are some pictures of the village here .

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Wall

It was a fun evening. Faculty and staff from SCAD-Lacoste plus Andrea and the librarian from Savannah, Jessica, gathered for a cook-out. I grilled chicken and everyone brought wonderful food- vegetables to grill, taboule, vegetables melted with chevre, bean salad, pasta salad. We went to a terrace near the top of Lacoste with a view of the valley. The night was cool, but comfortable, and the conversation was lively. Our tables were alongside a thirty foot tall ancient wall, but with the open view to the other side it felt cozy, not claustrophobic.

Throughout the evening, stones, some small, others larger kept falling from the wall. We usually looked to see where they were coming from and we even wondered if students were above us playing a joke. The wall had an odd angle since it had once supported a vaulted ceiling, but, hey, it had stood for 700 years- it wasn't going anywhere soon. It made some of us a little nervous, but others felt there wasn't a problem.

The party finally broke up and we said our good nights and went to our various apartments. Right after Andrea and I walked in our door, Eleanor called. "You've got to come back here right now! That whole wall just caved in!"

There were two steel tables and ten chairs where we all sat for three hours. They're now covered with ten or twelve feet of stone and earth.  In the third picture, you can see the remains of one chair. I'd guess that was the one farthest from the wall. The crater at the top is about twenty or thirty feet across and goes back about fifteen feet. You can see the remains of the wall on the left.

Eleanor and Peter, who live about fifty meters away, said there was one crash, quickly folllowed by another. I'd guess the wall came down and the earth gave way immediately after.

I timed the walk from that terrace to my apartment when I went back this morning to take these pictures. One minute, thirty-five seconds. We couldn't have been in the door more than a minute and a half when Eleanor called.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cecile Cottom

Cecile Cottom is married to a friend of mine. Matt Cottom and I both rented studio space in a building in downtown Rochester, NY. It seems like a hundred years ago, so much has changed since then, but Matt and I renewed contact after we bumped into each other in New York City a couple of years ago. I knew he was married to a woman from Marseille and when I found out I was going to be in Provence, I asked Matt for contact information on Cecile and her family. As luck would have it, Cecile was in Marseille and I asked her to come to Lacoste as a guest of SCAD and talk to students about her work and theirs.

Cecile is a talented photographer who works both in the commercial and fine art worlds. She spent two days at SCAD-Lacoste and was articulate and probing in her discussions. Her project, A Priori, is a beautiful document of people born in the 1970's. She takes the simplicity of a static studio portrait environment and, through her sensitive eye, has produced work that has incredible depth and variety, while at the same time is constrained by the limitations she has placed on herself.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I met Laurent in Gordes. He smiled and said Bonjour. We talked for a few minutes and I asked if I could take his portrait. He agreed and it actually turned into a bit of a demonstration for my students as I used my new Einchrom lights. They seemed to enjoy watching me work and we'll talk about what I did as I show them the whole take in class.

That afternoon I was in Gordes with another group of students and I stopped in to see Laurent to tell him I had looked at the pictures and thought they had come out nicely. We again started talking (his English is very good) and he told me about his unusual background. He spends 8 months of the year running his shop in Gordes selling little girls' dresses and other tourist items and the rest of the year he spends in India with his wife, traveling around on motorcycles and promoting dance parties. He's quite open about the unusual life he and his friends lead. He said, "In France I make money. In India I make life."

The Butcher's Wife

On the plaza behind the chateau in the center of Gordes is Couteau-sud, the village butcher shop. One of the proprietors, Madam Estelle Couteau, was quite gracious and allowed me to photograph her. With the help of sign language, we shared enough of each other's native tongues to have an enjoyable portrait session. She told me about her young family and I told her of my grown children. We both spoke with pride.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fashion Shoot

On 31 May 2010, photographer Corine Brisbois came to Lacoste to shoot the fashions of L'etoile de Marie. The designer prides herself in always using local resources, so the photographer, models, stylists, fabrics, even the people who actually make the clothes, come from Provence. The only outsider was SCAD student Kyle Humphrey, who was lucky enough to be available and assisted Corine on the shoot.

In addition to buying locally, Marie uses only fabric that is grown organically. Her philosophy is that even fashion can be kind to the earth. 

Everyone on the shoot was relaxed and easy to be with. In spite of the fact that she didn't speak much English and he spoke no French,  Corine was kind and inclusive working with Kyle and made it a point to show him results on the back of her camera and explain what she was doing.

Working with wonderful people, on a beautiful day, in an incredible place- does it get any better?


Seductive Beauty

The first day, in all my classes, I talked about working, photographing, in a new place, especially a place as beautiful as Lacoste. It's easy to be seduced by, even blinded by the beauty of this place. The challenge is figuring out how to get past that surface and produce work that has substance.

It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with pretty pictures. They have a place. Certainly I wouldn't discourage anyone from taking photographs that will sell. Our Vernissage is coming in seven weeks and I'll be very happy if my students sell a lot. And making pictures that show friends and family at home what a striking environment Provence is- well, that's OK, too.

The problem is if one stops at that surface and doesn't take the time to explore what's beneath. An artist asking themselves the right questions can help. What makes this place unique? What is special about the quality of light here? What is it like living in a place where one routinely encounters structures that were built years, even centuries before America was even discovered? What are the people like? How do they live? What is the experience of being a foreigner like? How does it feel to be unable to communicate with the checkout person at a grocery store?

At the same time, I know I've been seduced, too. I'm taking pretty pictures with unabashed pleasure.

I admit it- I can't help myself. But I hope I'm also making pictures that aren't quite as predictable.

And the portraits I've begun working on, like Jean Pierre, certainly qualify as a start to scratching to see what's behind that beautiful facade. There will be two posts later today with additional portraits, as well.

In the meantime, if you'd like to see more pretty pictures, go here here and here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jim Marshall

Legendary rock and roll photographer Jim Marshall died last week.

A few years ago I was shooting an annual report in NYC. The manager of the bank where I was setting up came over and told me she wanted to introduce me to a customer of her's that was also a photographer. "This is Jim Marshall", she said.

I was distracted with my shoot, but we started talking and I asked him what kind of work he did. "Oh, I shot musicians, mostly. I was based in San Francisco in the 60's."

"Oh my god! You're THE Jim Marshall?"

"Yeah, I guess I am."

We talked for about half an hour and then I needed to get back to work. We exchanged business cards and I thought, THAT was fun!

A month later a large envelope showed up in the mail. Inside was his first book with a signed inscription, "Forest, thanks for being a fan of my work, your friend Jim."

Wow. He will be missed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

SCAD Picnic at Pont Julien

On their first morning in Lacoste, we took the students to the market in Apt. It's the oldest continuously running market in France, and one of the oldest in Europe, and they all seemed to enjoy their introduction to a French institution. On the way back we stopped at Pont Julien, a bridge built by the Romans over  2,000 years ago and had a picnic. (By the way, this blog seems to crop the right side of the video frame, so if you want to see the uncropped picture, go here. If anyone reading this knows how I can solve this problem, please tell me. Thanks.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ahhhhh. . .the sun

Four hours since my last post and it's a whole new world. I'm told the weather in Provence is unpredictable. For now- this sky, this light!

As far as the students go- bring 'em on!


It's 10:30 in the morning. It's pouring rain. POURING! Sixty students will arrive in six hours. Most will be exhausted after taking the red eye from the States. This could be interesting.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jean Pierre Soalhat

Jean Pierre Soalhat is a mosaic artist with a studio east of where I'm living in Lacoste. The village of Caseneuve is way up on a hilltop on the north slope of the Luberon Mountains. The view from near his studio looks like this:

The drive was spectacular and my navigator, Dick Krepel, kept saying, "Oh, my god, that's beautiful! Don't look! Keep your eyes on the road! That'a amazing! Don't look!" Apparently he was concerned with hairpin curves, no guard rails, and cliffs. Coward! Luckily there was a turn-off on the way back so I could enjoy a little of the scenery.

Jean Pierre makes intricate ceramic mosaics using a variety of materials. Many of his pieces use shards recycled from ancient Roman ruins. Occassionally he uses things as seemingly mundane as beach glass. They are large, complex, and beautiful and he has sold them to collectors around the world. He has a quick wit and welcomed Dick and I warmly in spite of the fact that he was in the midst of preparing for a huge show that was shipping in less than a week.

This is the first image from a project I'll be working on for the next three months, tentatively titled European Portraits. It's also the first time I've used some great new equipment the good folks at Manfrotto Distribution were kind enough to let me use. The Elinchrom Ranger Quadra is a very small, light battery strobe system that worked flawlessly. It handles and performs just like studio strobes, but the entire package with pack, battery, two heads, and cables weighs less than ten pounds. I can carry everything I need including lights, cameras, stands, modifiers, back-ups, and tripod on my back. Sometime in the next few weeks I'll post a video tour of this system.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is only about 20 minutes from where I'm living in Lacoste. The drive is through farmland. Vineyards, olive groves, and lavender fields line the roads. When we arrive the small town is so crowded we have to park some blocks away from the center where a dozen streets are lined with vendors. Fresh and prepared foods, Provencial antiques, used books, clothes, housewares- the list of goods for sale seems endless. You can see the full version that doesn't crop the right side of the frame here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

As the sun goes down

I was taking inventory of the equipment and supplies at SCAD here in Lacoste, trying to figure out what I might need for students I have yet to meet. I wondered whether they would be shooting digitally or traditionally- whether they would be interested in using lighting equipment to shoot portraits- whether we should plan on using prints or projectors for critiques, when I went outside for a break and the setting sun was spilling this golden light on Bonnieux across the valley.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday in Provence

We got up fairly early after a late night at a restaurant in Bonnieux to go to the market in Isle Sur le Sorgue. It was an easy 20 minute drive and the market takes over the whole town every Sunday. Antiques, food of all sorts, housewares, herbs- it's all there. I'll be posting a video of the wonderful sights later tonight (hopefully) but in the meantime, here's three pictures inside the cathedral in the center of town. It's a baroque treasure, not particularly notable in the art history books, but a fine example of a small town's church.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The View from Here

I arrived in Lacoste, Provence, France at about 2 this afternoon. The flight from the States was uneventful, but long, and sleep deprivation is never my favorite. While my delirium is setting in, I still realize that I'm in an incredibly beautiful place. This is the front door of my apartment:

And this is what it looks like in one direction and then the other, up and down the lane past my door:

This is the wall opposite my front door:

And this is the view from the hilltop behind my house looking east toward Bonnieux:

Good God! I just realized I've been in France for over eight hours and I haven't had a glass of wine yet! This is a situation that must be rectified immediately!

(Watch for more soon.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My European Adventure

I'm taking another plunge and leaving the country for 3 months to teach in Provence and pursue a photographic project. I've been lucky enough to visit wonderful places in the past- Tibet, Beijing, Paris, London, Tuscany, Umbria- but living outside the United States for an extended period has never been a possibility until now. I'll be teaching at the Savannah College of Art & Design's Lacoste, France campus and following the academic quarter at the end of May, I'll be taking a three week road trip through Europe. The plan is to head east from Provence through northern Italy, then head more northerly into Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic before going back toward the west and southern Germany and Belgium before driving south and returning to the States from Marseille.

I plan to stay in primarily rural areas and small towns and photograph the people I meet along the way. Elinchrom Lighting has been kind enough to give me the use of their newest system, the Ranger Quadra, to use for this project. The Quadra is perfect for my uses. It's extremely small, light, and portable and will serve me well while I shoot portraits. It balances my duel needs between the size of small, shoe mount strobes with the power of the larger, heavier AC units. I can't wait. I also plan to use them as a demonstration to my students of how to add artificial light to positively affect qualities of natural light.

In addition to Elinchrom's support, SCAD has given me a Presidential Fellowship that allows me to spend the weeks necessary to adequately pursue the project. SCAD has greatly exceeded my hopes as far as being a supportive and exciting place to work. I feel very lucky to be here. Especially considering that it's the first real job I've ever had! I thought I'd have adjustment problems after being a self-employed free-lancer for so many years, but that hasn't been the case at all.

I'm very interested in hearing from any and all about any towns or attractions in the geographic areas mentioned earlier in this post. Please keep in mind, I'll be trying to avoid urban areas, but I know there are many of you who have traveled extensively and may have ideas for me. I'd love to hear them.