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“Monet's Playground” © by John White

John writes:

“This scene is from France in the town of Honfleur, in the Normandy region. This is a small fishing village where Monet frequented with his friends to paint the bright colors and vivid scenery that was so different from his home. I painted this early in the morning before the crowds made their way to this absolutely gorgeous spot.

“This was done on site en plein air and is an unframed 9"x12" original oil painting.”


Thanks yet again for this one to Jerry, and for all these other treasures that I have gratefully snaffled from him over the years.




This joyous and very successful movie (French, with English subtitles) tells the story of Philippe, a wealthy quadraplegic aristocrat (François Cluzet) crippled in a paragliding accident, whose life is transformed by the arrival of Driss (Omar Sy), a hip Senegalese ex-con from the projects.

Intouchables is based on the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his French-Algerian caregiver Abdel Sellou, a story captured in Abdel's book “You Changed My Life”, which tells us much more about the caregiver's own life and how it was transformed by the relationship.

It is the happiest of the movies in the Relationships and Personal Journeys section of my movies web page, which features some great stories about lives that have been damaged in one way or another and then become fixed, or at least improved.

If you haven't already seen it, Intouchables might be one of the best movies that you never heard of.

Click the image if you would like to read more about the movie and the true story that inspired it.





Trees on the Bibemus Plateau, in the countryside of Paul Cézanne, October 2010

(From a new page on my web site)


Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Côte d'Azur, France, September/October 2016

We returned again this year to one of our favourite cities. We were anxious to see how the people of Nice were faring after the horrific events of 14th July (short version: very well, they are carrying on with life as normal although the event will never be forgotten).


Out and about in Nice (click the picture to see more)


We had a nice day at nearby Beaulieu-sur-Mer, mainly to see the Villa Kérylos (click the picture to see more)


We also visited the National Marc Chagall Museum in Nice, on one of the few cloudy days (click the picture to see more)


If you are interested, these are also the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Out and About in Nice]
[Beaulieu-sur-Mer and the Villa Kérylos]
[National Marc Chagall Museum]

[Our first visit to Nice in 2015 (many pictures)]


If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post


Out and About in Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, September/October 2016

If you want to know why we like Nice (map link) so much, you will find lots of photos of our first visit to Nice here.

On this occasion we didn't take many pictures of places we had been before, but once again we had a very pleasant visit, and were exceptionally lucky with the weather.


Just a nice plaque on the wall of our apartment's small courtyard garden


View of the Promenade des Anglais and the Old Town from the Colline du Chateau - spectacular weather


Two hilarious locals on the Colline, passing many comments and something of a tourist attracion


A rare dull-weather evening on the Promenade des Anglais - but people still out and about as usual.


Promenade du Paillon - the fountains temporarily quiescent and lulling new visitors into a false sense of security...


...although nobody minds getting a little wet in this weather!


A beautiful sunset on the Promenade du Paillon...


...and people still out and about enjoying themselves

[Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer visit continues in Part 2]

Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Villa Kérylos, Côte d'Azur, France, September/October 2016

[Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer visit continued from Part 1]

Villa Kérylos in nearby Beaulieu-sur-Mer is a Greek-style property built in the early 1900s by French archaeologist Théodore Reinach [a very interesting guy], and his wife Fanny Kann, a daughter of Maximilien Kann and Betty Ephrussi, of the Ephrussi family. Madame Fanny Reinach was a cousin of Maurice Ephrussi, who was married to Béatrice de Rothschild. Inspired by the beauty of the Reinach's Villa Kerylos and the area they built the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild at nearby Cap Ferrat.”  —Wikipedia article


Beaulieu-sur-Mer (map link) is a well-named place only a 6-minute train ride from Nice Riquier station. Walking beneath the railway line at Beaulieu-sur-Mer brings you quickly down to the waterside via a pleasant short walk.


Looking towards Cap Ferrat, on the other side of which is Villefranche-sur-Mer, even closer to Nice


Looking towards Villa Kérylos


On the villa's terrace









There was a very arts and crafts movement feel about this place




[Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer visit continues in Part 3]

National Marc Chagall Museum, Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, September/October 2016

[Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer visit continued from Part 2]

The National Marc Chagall Museum, about a 15 minute walk uphill from central Nice, is the only museum dedicated to a famous artist that was opened by the artist himself (so far as I know). Many great artists, unfortunately, were not fully appreciated in their own life time. Marc Chagall is one of our favourite artists.

The images below are my own photos (photography without flash is permitted in this museum), processed to correct perspective etc.














Stained glass windows in the auditorium



If you like this, you might like...

[All of my art posts]
[My stained-glass posts]

[Index of all my photoblogs]


Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, November 2015

This was our second trip to Nice this year (our first trip in Feb/March can be found here if you are interested). We revisited many of our favourite places, so this time I am showing our visit to the Asian Arts Museum and Phoenix Park, both in a nicely redeveloped area near the airport.

Click the image above if you would like to see this visit, otherwise if you would like to skip the photoblog then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post.


Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, February 28th to March 15th, 2015



Some posts about our recent visit to Nice on the Côte d'Azur appear below (or click either picture to go there).

If you are interested, here are the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, February 28th to March 15th, 2015]
[Day trip to Saint Paul de Vence, medieval walled commune in the Alpes-Maritimes]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post



If I had to choose just one picture to convey the flavour of expressioniste (Aline)'s wonderful pages (an impossible task) then this still from Albert Lamorisse's 1965 classic Le Ballon Rouge might be it (see here for her post with more stills).

And if I had to choose just one phrase to sum up her pages, it would be the "joie de vivre" which she kindly spreads to all of us. Whether it's her love of all things French, or beautiful fashion, or sunny pictures, or her delight in good food, or any of a hundred other things, I always (reluctantly) come away from her pages feeling much happier about life than when I arrived.

If you like this...

[Enjoy some more "joie de vivre"!]
[French films]


“Today the account of an extraordinary encounter with an extraordinary woman, leading me from Erfurt in Germany to Wessex in Britain, Simiane in the Provence and Orsalina near Locarno in Switzerland” —Gerbrand Caspers

A modern view of Simiane-la-Rotonde, Provence


“View of Simiane”, probably 8th century

If you're interested in art and/or history, click either image for a typically fascinating entry (one of very many) in Gerbrand's Linosaurus Blog - a detective story behind just one of thousands of linoleum and woodblock prints.

(Gerbrand hails from the Netherlands, but he is kind enough to present most of his treasure-trove in English.)






This is the most charming and delightful video that I have watched in a long time.

Camille Roux writes: “Hello, with my little brother we realized a trumpet-guitar cover of a [female] French singer (we're french) : Joyce Jonathan - Ca ira.”

Enjoy it for the music and the wonderful antics of this lovely pair. Also, I recommend another of Camille's videos, C'est écrit.

If (like me) you have never heard of Joyce Jonathan, try her video Je ne sais pas - you won't be sorry!

Another of Gatorindo's many great shares (click his tag above for a lot more good stuff that I've had from him). Thanks again, David!


I have to say that Marion Cotillard is fast becoming one of my favourite film actresses.

It helps, of course, that (IMO) she is one of the most beautiful women on the planet...


(Desktop wallpaper - click image for source)

However, she is also a very fine actress, as demonstrated in this recently-released movie (which I strongly recomment if you haven't seen it):

The movie co-stars the muscular Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts as Ali, an ex-fighter living a bleak life low on the income scale, accompanied by his young son from a failed relationship. The name of the movie, appropriately enough, refers to the taste in your mouth if you are on the receiving end of a hard punch.

The basic story sounds unlikely, and tells you little: Stéphanie, a trainer of Killer Whales at a marineland park, loses both legs above the knee in a horrific accident. Initially suicidal, she recovers her life through a developing relationship with the unsentimental, flawed Ali.

This is not a love story, in the conventional sense. What Ali offers Stéphanie comes through an unpitying friendship and (eventually) sex, and is one of the most moving human relationships that I have ever seen in the cinema.

This is not a special effects movie, either - it is about as far from one as you can get. However, it contains the most jaw-dropping special effects that transform Marion Cotillard into a paraplegic, with or without the prosthetics that she eventually receives. This is really "art concealing art" - the technique is so good that it vanishes from view, and you simply accept what you are looking at. (If you're interested, an outline description of the technique used by Mikros Image can be found some way down on this page).

For more on the movie, see this review from The Guardian or click one of the following images for more links.


Stéphanie with Ali, in a sequence where he persuades her to come into the sea with him


Stéphanie re-enacting her lost relationship with the Killer Whale, which apparently moved the audience to tears at the Cannes Film Festival


The reunion scene. Stéphanie, walking on prosthetics, appears in front of an empty tank, and taps on the glass. Time passes, and then the Orca appears and rises up in front of her. "its vast shadow falling like a benediction" (as Rachel Cook writes here in The Observer. This is the best screenshot that I could find (I'll add a better one later when I get the DVD!).


After watching Rust and Bone I seriously wanted to check that Marion Cotillard still has those lovely legs - and she does


If you like this, you might like Marion Cotillard in...

[La Vie en Rose (her Oscar-winning performance as Edith Piaf)]
[Nine (a sizzlingly hot musical based on Federico Fellini's semi-autobiographical movie )]
[Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen's feather-light time-travel romantic comedy, one of his most delightful films)]


France (Midi-Pyrénées), June 2012


The approach to the Abbaye Château de Camon (now a hotel owned by an English couple), in unseasonal weather


Click the picture to see some posts about our recent visit to the Midi-Pyrénées

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Toulouse]
[Abbaye Château de Camon]
[Mirepoix]
[Montségur]
[Carcassonne Old Walled City]
[Château de Foix]


France (Midi-Pyrénées), June 2012

In the first half of June my wife and I spent 9 days in this very pleasant part of southern France, starting with a couple of days in Toulouse.

While Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, and a considerable population is still growing around it, the central city is compact, attractive and full of history. As well as the river Garonne it also has a kind of water inner half-ring-road in the form of a tree-shaded canal, part of the network of canals in the Midi.

As an entry point to the Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse's Blagnac Airport is efficient, pleasant and not too large. If you rent a car you can collect it immediately outside the airport doors, and a convenient shuttle bus service runs ever 20 minutes, taking you into the centre of Toulouse (Place Jeanne D'Arc) in 15 minutes for only 5 euros.

If you are interested, a GoogleMap showing the places in this photoblog will be found here.


Toulouse - the Basilica of St. Sernin, a massive and very impressive structure, about 5 minutes walk from the Place Jeanne d'Arc





The Pont Neuf over the Garonne - the decorative holes in the piers are to allow floodwater to pass through without sweeping away the bridge




The Basilica in the evening light


Evening outside the Capitole... fire jugglers but not much audience!

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continues in Part 2]

Abbaye Château de Camon
[Midi-Pyrénées visit continued from Part 1]


My spouse found this great hotel at Camon, near Mirepoix, the Abbaye Château de Camon, a converted Abbey / Monastery / Château. We arrived too late for lunch, and this place only serves breakfast and (superb) dinner, but the owner said he could knock us up a "plain ham sandwich"...


...which turned out to be this! He brought out some nice cold drinks as well (a large cold beer for me), all of this being "on the house"


We eyed the swimming pool hopefully (more of that later...)


The terrace, used for breakfast and evening drinks, weather permitting



The main entrance (always open, and interested tourists sometimes wander through) leading through a corridor which was once the cloisters. There's an open courtyard with high walls to the left, used for eating dinner in good weather (hah!)
(HDR photo)


Not your usual hotel staircase...


The corridor on our floor


Dinner in the courtyard - after a promising start the heavens opened in a cloudburst of hailstones and rain. Water poured in through the door, being shoveled frantically back by heroic staff - the splashback from the initial torrent of hailstones reached onto our table, which we hurriedly carried into the refectory just next to here!


Lac de Montbel, very close to Camon (via very "back" back-roads) - now a reservoir and leisure park


... not that water is in short supply right now...


Gleam of sun, taken from our bedroom window...


... and the day's weather mooches off, to return promptly the next morning


The approach to the Château entrance, which runs up its side... very narrow in places, luckily very little traffic up here (40 foot drop to the right down to local fields in many places)


We sat by the pool (under cover, reading) just to say that we had done it!


Hats, guests, for the use of... (the Château also has a fine selection of guest umbrellas)

[A GoogleMap of this area will be found here]

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continues in Part 3]

Mirepoix
[Midi-Pyrénées visit continued from Part 2]


The ruined Château de Lagarde, seen on the short drive from Camon to Mirepoix


Mirepoix, a delightful medieval town. In Occitan its name means "see the fish", a reference to the clear waters of the river Hers


Lots of restaurants and cafés under the covered edges of the square, some run by English people who have adapted completely to the local way of life (and a few Spanish or possibly Catalan people running places here, too)


Locals - note the sun! In fact this was the day of the Festival of Cathar Bands in Mirepoix, and someone obviously had a direct line to the weather controller because it didn't rain all afternoon!



Different bands play simultaneously in different parts of the square...


...assessed critically by the local experts


The small carousel was in operation today (normally it doesn't run until July)


... balloons on sale ...


Market day, the following Monday - not sunny but at least not raining!




[A GoogleMap of this area will be found here]

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continues in Part 4]

Château of Montségur
[Midi-Pyrénées visit continued from Part 3]


The ruined Château of Montségur, a short drive to the south of Lavalenet (see map) and a long steep climb from here for the determined. Last refuge of the Cathars, people of a religion diametrically opposed to the Catholic church, persecuted and burnt alive when taken, which happened here in 1244


The "easy" bit of the climb, near the top. My spouse bounded up like a gazelle. I learnt that even with a temperature of 13ºC, 56ºF, you need to take water on this climb... no refreshments or facilities of any sort at the top...


... all such things are in the village of Montségur, a LONG way below (telephoto lens!)


The path around the back of the Chateau is a little frightening, with very steep drops below. An English couple let their toddler run along this path ahead of them... yikes! No safety barriers, as generally when it comes to precipitous footpaths the French believe in Natural Selection...


A whole village was built here, by people obviously related to mountain goats!


Should you ever walk down here, please note that identical-looking balks of timber are used (a) for forming the edge of steps in particularly steep places and (b) for edging the twisting path (flush with the ground) where there is a long drop below. Useful to tell these apart!


Some nice views lower down...

[A GoogleMap of this area will be found here]

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continues in Part 5]

Carcassonne - The Old Walled City

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continued from Part 4]

Carcassonne, the old walled city - huge and highly impressive. A very pleasant drive from Mirepoix along the D119, lovely countryside, and much nicer weather in spite of being not that far away







Although it doesn't look it from these photos, the walled city is very large and was very full of people - what it must be like in the high season I dread to think!


Culture break


There must be an amazing view from the top of the Basilica, as it is perched way above the surrounding area


Beautiful stained glass inside the Basilica... sorry that it's not too clear, as this was a hand-held shot and it was quite dark. A quartet of Russian singers was performing unofficially ... a beautiful sound.

[A GoogleMap of this area will be found here]

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continues in Part 6]

The Château of Foix
[Midi-Pyrénées visit continued from Part 5]


Foix, to the south-west of Mirepoix. A very pleasant town with a small interesting Château at its top, which we were heading for - and a lucky break in the weather for a few hours!


Walking up...


...and up...


...nice views over the town (we haven't reached the Château yet)


...a nice sitting-out spot (it's in the previous photo - my little Lumix DMC-TZ4 camera has an amazing telephoto lens for its size)


Looking around..


The entrance!


Up some more... Later on I climbed the square tower, my spouse climbed the round one, but I apparently missed her appearance by a minute or so (see later)



The tower that my spouse climbed. As with "my" tower, when standing on the parapets at the top, you are actually outside the walls!


The bedroom of Henri IV, a little way up the square tower, a place to stay if you are Royal and like being very isolated...


Looking down from the parapet... telephoto lens again, it actually looked a LONG way down... No glass here... if you drop something, it's gone...


Where my spouse was, a minute or so after I left...



The railway station at Foix (and a few hours later, it was raining again...)


Back at the hotel...
The day of departure, and the weather changed...


Sunny all around, with a great forecast for the next several days...

Ah well, you can't win 'em all - and even cloud and rain in this part of the world is more enjoyable than in England!

[A GoogleMap of this area will be found here]




"Garden in the Rain - Paris" © by Ida Macondo



"Rainy dusk in Paris" by Thomas Kinkade (painting as Robert Girrard)

Thomas Kinkade, who died unexpectedly on April 6th, was a self-styled "painter of light" whose idyllic cottages and other works are very popular, although not considered great art by critics.

I do like this painting, done under his pseudonym of Robert Girrard, which he used when exploring the style of French Impressionism.



La Venise Verte (The Green Venice) from a visit to the Vendée, Western France in 1996


"Gust of wind" (small detail from "The Bedroom", 1998)

Lovely watercolours by Bottletop, whose Categorian blog is well worth visiting (for many reasons)


"Corsican Cats"

A rainy day in Corsica... and the local cats find a great way to spend it. Click the picture for the full story!

(It's been raining in England for what seems like forever - ever since drought warnings and the enforcement of a hosepipe ban....)



"Bookstalls in Paris"


"Marchande des Primeurs (first fruit and vegetables of the season)"

Two of my favourite paintings by the Czech artist Tavik František Šimon (T.F. Šimon)




This is a truly wonderful and enchanting movie. Based on the medal-winning semi-graphic book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, written and illustrated by Brian Selznick, it tells the story of an orphan boy living in the hidden crevices and passageways of the Gare Montparnasse in Paris, winding the railway station's clocks and stealing food to survive.

Part of the enjoyment of this movie is wondering where the plot is taking you as various surprises unfold, so describing it too much would be a spoiler. It is an enthralling adventure, a mystery, a celebration of the early development of the cinema, and much more besides.

For the movie's creator, Martin Scorsese, this was obviously a work of love. The creation of the old railway station and its Parisian surroundings is a work of art, with some of the best CGI work you are likely to see, and (unusually) really justifies and brilliantly exploits the use of 3D. If you can still catch it in the 3D format then please don't miss it!

Asa Butterfield is brilliant in the role of Hugo - you may remember him from The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas. I see that he has been chosen to play Ender in the forthcoming movie of Ender's Game, which is the first part of (IMO) one of the finest science fiction epics ever written (reasons given here). I can't imagine a better choice, although I am always nervous about how well great writing will transcribe to the screen.

The wonderfully complex automaton that appears in the movie is NOT a CGI creation - it is quite real, the work of an English creative design and manufacturing team. If you have seen the movie then the automaton is a story that is worth following in its own right (click the bottom right of the above image if you are interested, or go here).

BTW:

The pioneering cinematic work of Georges Méliès that features as part of the story in Hugo also features in The Story of Film: An Odyssey by Mark Cousins, a superb TV series in 15 one-hour parts based on his book. It was one of the best things on TV this year.

If you like this...

[My movies page]




From my friend Rebecca's blog Handmade Bags, Food and France:

Having covered culture and food, I think I should be allowed to mention another shop. I was intent on this trip to visit 'Merci' a concept store (whatever that means) that sells lovely stuff in the 3rd arrondissement. The idea behind Merci was for owners Bernard and Marie-France Cohen who founded Bonpoint to give something back to the people of Madagascar - where Bonpoint manufactured their clothes. Profits from the store go to a foundation in Madagascar that helps mothers to support their children through working as seamstresses. Merci has also teamed up with famous designers who design pieces specifically for the store and who forgo their margin in order to benefit the foundation. Clothes, books, homewares and accessories are beautifully laid out in a charming loft style building complete with a café and friendly staff.

Rebecca owns a lovely property near Aix-en-Provence which is available for rent. We spent a very pleasant 2 weeks there in October 2010 - if you are interested, you can see my photoblog of that trip here.

I watched Ratatouille again recently, and was reminded of what a great (and hugely enjoyable) work of art this is - it's my personal favourite of all Pixar's productions so far.

Click the picture if you would like further ramblings on this subject!



This wonderfully entertaining 2010 movie, the first by French director Luc Besson after a gap of 6 years, is a nice blend of Amélie and Raiders of the Lost Ark, with many original and witty touches of its own.

The French actress and television presenter Louise Bourgoin, whom I had not seen before, makes a cracking heroine, and the other characters (human and otherwise) include some priceless gems of absurdity (you will never again be able to watch a film like The Mummy without cracking up!)

Luc Besson is probably best known for Léon and The Fifth Element. This movie, which could not be more different, shows what an astonishing range this director has.

A good full review, based on an interview with Luc Besson, will be found here.

Thanks to my younger daughter (who bought me the DVD as an early Christmas present) for this great find!



Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, starring Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson, is a simply delightful movie. It's a feather-light time-travel romantic comedy (with many clever touches), but there is real craft in creating one as enjoyable as this, and this is one of the best. Don't miss it!

Click the picture for a good review.

[More of my favourite movies...]


Aix-en-Provence, October 2010

We spent the first half of October in a rented place near Aix-en-Provence, a part of France that I have always wanted to visit (and the favourite hang-out of Paul Cézanne).

What can I say? It was just wonderful.

If you would like to see our pictures of that trip, please click the image above or go here.



"On A French River 1893"


"A French River Landscape"

Two lovely paintings by the Norwegian impressionistic artist Frits Thaulow


(Original post: March 2nd, 2011)

This sparkling romantic comedy ("Priceless" in English) was shown recently on UK TV, thankfully in French with subtitles. Audrey Tautou's gold-digger, determined not to fall in love, reminds many people of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany's, and Gad Elmaleh's performance as her equally determined and long-suffering lover is also a delight.

If you have never seen it, I recommend that you catch this one (the DVD is only £5 from play.com!).


If you like French "joie de vivre", you might like these previous posts...

[Samba Saravah (from the movie Un Homme et Une Femme)]
[October in Aix-en-Provence]
[Corsican Cats]

and...

[My movies page]



Spray and acrylic painting by the French street artist Liliwenn, the title of which comes from the first line of this poem:



Give yourself a treat and click on the text above, which will take you a page where you can listen to this poem being read in the beautiful French language.


If you like this, you might like...

[Samba Saravah, from "Un Homme Et Une Femme"]



"Painting in La Miroiterie (Paris 20e, 88 rue de Menilmontant) - Oct 2010" by Liliwenn, who writes:

"This alive and artistic place will be destroyed in March 2011. A big shame..."

Liliwenn produces some amazing street art, among other things. Her Flickr site is full of wonderful stuff.

I discovered her on the fabulous pages of DaysEye.
Aix-en-Provence, October 2010

We spent the first half of October in a rented place near Aix-en-Provence, a part of France that I have always wanted to visit (and the favourite hang-out of Paul Cézanne).


The TGV is a great way to travel. We took the Eurostar from London, through the Channel Tunnel, and changed platforms at Lille to get on the TGV. It is very smooth and quiet - at 186+ MPH it doesn't seem to be going all that fast, until a train passes in the opposite direction!


At the Aix TGV station this sign offers free recharging of your electric vehicle... a sign of the times, you might say!


Early morning at our rented place (La Pistache) just to the east of Aix-en-Provence... it's going to be a beautiful day!



Walking downhill from our house, we passed lots of nice places...




... at the bottom of the hill is one of many reminders of local history



Crossing the road, we got to a a park-and-ride place providing access to the Bibémus Plateau, part of the Montagne Sainte Victoire area


Walking up to the Bibémus Plateau, looking back across the valley (our house is there somewhere)


Many interesting rock formations...


... and a very pleasant place for a quiet walk



Vauvenargues, a hill village about 15 minutes drive from our house, heading away from Aix (on the north side of Mont Ste Victoire)




A window right next to our favourite cafe terrace





The last resting place of Pablo Picasso


We had only 3 days of rain in the whole fortnight. Even in the rain Aix is a nice place!




The main market square, unusually quiet!


Aix in the sun...


It's the middle of October. In a few days winter will come to England...


The wonderful market in Aix



Mushrooms... more mushrooms... and the chairs belonging to the cafes that use the same area when the market closes around 12:30


We bought some red tuna from here which made a fabulous component of a Salade Niçoise


The electric taxi/bus, making the rounds


The flower market


It was quite windy at times!


That little contretemps brought a smile to this seller's face...



The Place Hôtel de Ville, just to the north of the market square, containing several cafes that made a good meeting-up place





The famous mountain painted so often by Paul Cézanne, mostly from this direction. It looks conical from here, but this is only the western end of a long mountain (see later pictures looking along the south side in the opposite direction)



A windy day, with rain clearing over...


We returned a few days later to the Bibémus Plateau for another view of the mountain - glorious weather again!


The dam built by Émile Zola's father


We drove around to the southern side of the mountain. This is looking west, along the rolling plateau beneath the mountain that is an amazing feature (volcanic, I think). (This is not the Bibémus Plateau, which is out of sight in the far distance.)




The Château de la Barben, about 1,000 years old, modified several times and slightly damaged by the 1909 Lambesc earthquake. It is still lived in and you can stay (or even get married) here.




For some reason this reminds me of the Narnia stories...



Back at our rented house, at sunset on one of the few rainy days


Early next morning... a bit misty... it's going to be another beautiful day


I am wondering if this tower that we could see from our house is the Tour de César painted by Cézanne?


Sunset on our last evening... A twig acquired by my wife for artistic purposes, resting in a last gleam of sun on our neighbour's garden table


We will have to come back here one day


If you liked this...

[Our family recipes (good for a self-catering holiday in Provence)]



An example from the great photoblog of KeithinFrance from Brittany, discovered (as with so many good things in life) via Aline



This is the 3-kilometre bridge that connects the mainland of France to the Île d'Oléron, the second-largest island in France after Corsica - one of many great photographs by Aline Nédélec, who specializes in architecture and the River Charente.
"Corsican Cats"

My wife always insisted that she was not a cat person. The trouble is, cats don't know this.

2004 was the year she finally got busted, and it took Corsican cats to do it.

Corsica has a large population of feral cats, but there is a distinct sub-species of these that inhabits anywhere within a five mile radius of a self-catering villa (and that covers a lot of territory).



It wasn't long before our local cat found her. It ignored me. It headed straight for the person who didn't like cats.




Sigh...

...it wasn't long before plates of cat food and other gourmet cat delicacies were mysteriously appearing outside the kitchen door, and that had nothing to do with me!


The word spread, and 3 years later when we returned to Corsica, only a few miles from our previous place, the local cat appeared within seconds...



As I say, this is a distinct sub-species of "feral"...



...and turned out to be the advance guard of a large family with ever-increasing ramifications.




The youngest members of the family weren't introduced until several days had gone by.







On the few rainy days when we were stuck indoors, we spent what seemed like hours watching this wild bunch of felines hang out on the beach towel (probably mine) that my cat-hating spouse had so kindly provided.

We have never felt the need to watch TV while staying in Corsica.



If you like this...

[My Corsica page]




For me, Ratatouille was the most enjoyable movie of 2007. Apart from the appealing story and the staggeringly good animation, there was the wry experience of being educated in the enjoyment of good food by a rat!

Like many people, I suspect, I now take great animation like this for granted. I have to keep reminding myself that thinking about the artistry in this movie (or in any good animated or special-effects movie) as "computer generated" is like crediting the artistry of Rembrandt to the hog bristles in his brushes and to the pigments in his paint!

This article gives some idea of what was actually involved in making Ratatouille. It really is a case of art concealing art (I knew the expression but never looked up its origin, hence the link!). Pixar Animation Studios can be justifiably proud of this one.

(I am glad to see that the DVD also has a copy of the hilarious Pixar short Lifted, which was shown with Ratatouille in our local cinema.)






[Japanese animation at its finest: the master-works of Hayao Miyazaki]
[My movies page]





Samba Saravah is a musical sequence from Claude Lelouch's movie Un Homme Et Une Femme, one of my all-time favourites.

It's hard to believe now that when this film appeared in England in 1966, the censors gave it an X certificate. Times have certainly changed...

It's essential to see this movie in French, with subtitles if necessary. The French language (and this movie) has a rhythm, a style and a soul to it that just doesn't translate into English.

Every time that I hear this music, the words go on dancing in my head for hours afterwards:

“…Mais quelque soit le sentiment qu’elle exprime,
Elle est blanche de formes et de rimes.
Blanche de formes et de rimes,
Elle est nègre, bien nègre dans son coeur…”


You will find all the words of this song (with a translation) here. Click the picture above to play the video - it will open in a separate window.

I had to add a couple of pictures of the beautiful Anouk Aimée...








If you like this, you'll find more on this movie here:

[My movies page]