I love the medium of pastel. It started when I borrowed a book about pastel from my local library when I was about fourteen. I started off with a box of twelve Rowney soft pastels in portrait colours, bought in Kennedy's. Gradually I built up my collection and began to use Sennelier, and more recently, Schminke soft pastels: by this stage I have several hundred soft pastels!
For hard pastels I had nothing but contempt! Lately I discovered that Conté chalks (which I've always loved) extend naturally into Conté hard pastels and that I can get away with a much smaller assortment than I need for soft pastels. I've been having problems with my hands lately, so something which allows me to carry less gear is very welcome! I'm enjoying the results I get with the hard pastels (now Faber-Castell as well): they don't produce the same richness of colour tat you get with the soft ones, but they have their own qualities. In particular, they work well with pastel pencils, so greater precision is possible.
Discovering pastel was also what ignited my great love of Degas!