Category Archives: France

Petals fallen to the ground

Cherry Blossoms

I have been taking photos of the same tree for a couple of years now. The tree sits near traffic lights on Boulevard des Belges and is unassuming. Then for a few weeks, the tree becomes a colourful burst of petals and pink.

Composite of a tree blossoming

Composite of a tree blossoming (click to enlarge)

The composite image combines four photos over a short period of time. The photos age from oldest on the left to most recent on the right.

Four photographs used in the composite

Four photographs used in the composite

2014 March 20 – First signs of life after winter;
2014 March 27 – Buds appearing;
2014 March 31 – Blossom begins;
2014 April 05 – Full bloom.

The blossom is long since gone. Rainy days and the wind carried the petals to the ground. The tree is green now but once again unremarkable among the city streets.

Petals blown into patterns by the wind

Petals blown into patterns by the wind

During a walk into the city another blossom tree caught my attention and a short film of cherry blossoms was created.

Green springtime leaves

More Squirrels

I am playing with a new camera and trying to figure out its limits, my limits, and how to get the most from it. It is going to take a while.

The newly released Canon PowerShot SX700 HS is lovely. Holding a shot still while zoomed in x30 is tricky but possible; although probably better left to a tripod when the shots are critical.

Below are a few photos and a short film of squirrels foraging in our local park. Most of the shots are taken at maximum zoom.

Red squirrel on a tree

Red squirrel on a tree

Red squirrel on a tree

Red squirrel on a tree

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Looking up at Fourvière from Place Bellecour in Lyon, France

Lyon Funicular – Fourvière to Saint-Jean

“Going to put that on Facebook.” the man nearby  pondered aloud. I was not convinced he wanted an answer or even intended I could understand him. He had spoken in English more to himself than to anyone else around.

I stood by the front of the cab, camera in hand, quietly capturing the journey down from Fourvière.

With the camera recording the last thing I wanted to do was reply and spoil the audio. I smiled and that appeared to be enough. The camera’s microphone is terrible but the audio would be unsalvageable with a conversation over the top.

The funicular saves the crowd a walk up the steep hill that overlooks the old town of Lyon. The walk is not bad and we had come up this way earlier that day.

For our return we took advantage of the rare free transport being offered and I took my opportunity to put together a short film, Fourvière to Saint-Jean.

La tour part-dieu, Lyon

Hot Water

After two weeks without hot water, I am looking forward to running that hot tap soon. The plumbers have just finished and are leaving behind a brand new water heater. The new heater looks identical to our last but this one is not leaking water through the electrics.

Beneath the leaking hot water heater

Beneath the leaking hot water heater

Having dealt with leaks from the apartment above twice since moving to Lyon, it came as no surprise to once again suffer another leak. This time our wall mounted water heater was the source, rather than the apartment above.

Two weeks ago Megan walked into the kitchen and let out an odd sound; a sound something between surprise and confusion. I rushed to the kitchen to find her trying to determine why a sizeable area around our sink was covering with water. A thin layer of water coated the sink, the nearby floor, and our cooker top.

A slowly forming drip from the water heater fell, hit the edge of our drying rack, and splattered.

The water was leaking from the base of the heater, near the red power light, and seemingly far too close to the electrics hidden inside. I quickly cut the power at our power box and then cut the water to the apartment.

A few minutes examination revealed an obscured tap to cut off just the water to the heater. After those simple steps we had isolated the now dangerous device.

The dripping continued for another hour and stopped.

Our landlords were not slow but instead a combination of multiple visits by the plumber, securing an invoice for the replacement, and scheduling time all mounted up. The final visit was postponed. Another client of the plumber having a “big problem”. So it is only now our new heater has been installed.

It will not be long now until we get back our steady, reliable, hot water. I will not miss having to heat water in a pan.

Melbourne: A multi-tiered stand of cupcakes

My Cupcake

The cupcake infatuation was in full swing during our time in Melbourne. We saw small shops spring up across the city dedicated to the baking and selling of cupcakes – small sponges covered with icing. Many cupcakes were extravagantly decorated to resemble anything but a sugary treat.

Cupcakes tick many of the boxes required to be the basis of a new craze. They are cheap to make, consistent, familiar, and infinitely differentiable through size and decoration. They can also attract the sizeable mark-up needed to maintain a business. A cupcake and coffee is often presented as an affordable luxury.

Melbourne: Boxes of mini cupcakes

Melbourne: Boxes of mini cupcakes

Melbourne: A multi-tiered stand of cupcakes

Melbourne: A multi-tiered stand of cupcakes

We saw this cottage industry appear in Melbourne and wondered if it would last. Other fads had come and gone. We moved shortly afterwards and I have thought little of cupcakes since.

So I was surprised to see a new cupcake store has opened in Lyon, France. When we passed the store it was attracting attention from others on the street. Passers-by commented and pointed out the business to their friends.

Lyon: My Cupcake

Lyon: My Cupcake

The cupcake store is clearly still a novelty in this city, Lyon. A food lover’s city in a country with pastries and delicious treats available on almost every street.

I wonder how the My Cupcake will fare against the established bakeries. It is unlikely to be the first cupcake store in Lyon but its existence suggests a growing market for treats from other cultures.

Dijon's government offices

Where the Mustard Comes From – Dijon

We had passed through Dijon a few times on the train. Our train line from Paris to Lyon passes through this notable and grand city.

Dijon has given its name to mustard. Or at least that is how I knew the name of Dijon long before I knew of the city. Mustards tended to be of the American, English, or Dijon varieties; anything else was exotic or niche.

The city of Dijon is the capital of its region, ensuring the commune has ample grand buildings, a rich – sumptuous even – history, and more than enough to keep us occupied for a weekend’s visit.

There is a trend in France to have large expanses of exposed space. Space lined with gravel, stone, or some unforgiving material. No trees, little shade, and few places to sit. The sun shining back from ground as well as from above.

Dijon suffered its own set of beautiful buildings surrounded by large open stone spaces. Stunning and at the same time unfriendly. We surveyed, got our photos, and wandered on.

The obvious retort is to suggest sitting in the shade in a cafe. This is not our thing. Sitting outside in a French cafe, tends to bring with it nearby smokers. Sitting in a cafe with a coffee and cigarette may be an iconically French scene but that does not make it pleasant for the non-smoker.

A gateway into Dijon

A gateway into Dijon

Patterned roof tiles visible down a Dijon street

Patterned roof tiles visible down a Dijon street

Roof tiles in Dijon

Roof tiles in Dijon

Patterned roof tiles on a church

Patterned roof tiles on a church

Wood carved door

Wood carved door

Courtyard

Courtyard

Formal ponds in a Dijon park

Formal ponds in a Dijon park

On the path to the lake

On the path to the lake

A lake near Dijon

A lake near Dijon

A monster roams the shore of the lake

A monster roams the shore of the lake

Corner of a building in Dijon

Corner of a building in Dijon

Outside Dijon's covered market

Outside Dijon’s covered market

Closing time within Dijon's covered market

Closing time within Dijon’s covered market

Varieties of Dijon mustard

Varieties of Dijon mustard

Imposing church front

Imposing church front

A row of gargoyles

A row of gargoyles

Stained glass window

Stained glass window

An owl carved into a church; rubbing it is believed to impart good fortune

An owl carved into a church; rubbing it is believed to impart good fortune

Initials carved in stone

Initials carved in stone

Advertising for a Dijon performance

Advertising for a Dijon performance

Dijon's government offices

Dijon’s government offices

Staircase with a Dijon government office

Staircase with a Dijon government office

Kitchen chimney stack

Kitchen chimney stack

Sculptures in a Dijon museum

Sculptures in a Dijon museum

Intricate ceiling corner in a Dijon gallery

Intricate ceiling corner in a Dijon gallery

Suspended Christmas trees

Butter Santa and the Aftermath of the New Year

I noticed with child like delight figures moulded from butter in the supermarket. Silly novelty items that appeared weeks before Christmas. They have since vanished. We did not buy one but I did take a photo.

A Santa made from butter

A Santa made from butter

On New Year’s Day, we wandered out into the quiet city streets and discovered the local glass recycling point was full and surrounded by evidence of the night before. The funnel shown in the centre of the photo descends into a large container submerged below the pavement.

Last year we noted piles of Christmas trees abandoned on the street corners. They remained for months ebbing in size as some were removed, only to replaced by more. That the cycle continued for so long means somewhere trees are continuing to shed pine needles on the floors of apartments well into the new year.

Overflowing glass recycling point

Overflowing glass recycling point

The commune has also noticed this cycle and this year signs have gone up near the park entrance asking for trees to be left there. The pile is impressive but it has not entirely stopped the informal street corner collections.

Christmas tree drop off point sign

Christmas tree drop off point sign

Piled up Christmas trees

Piled up Christmas trees

Keymi: face of a young boy

Street Art in Clermont-Ferrand

We did not have to walk far from the train station to realise Clermont-Ferrand is the home to some talented street artists.

Some pieces are clearly graffiti but others suggest authorised street art. The line between the two is not clear.

The artwork tagged by Keymi stood out above all others.

Keymi: cartoon mouse and bear

Keymi: cartoon mouse and bear

Keymi: face of a young boy

Keymi: face of a young boy

Overgrown garages and graffiti

Overgrown garages and graffiti

Better than tagging

Better than tagging

Organised subversive artwork

Organised subversive artwork

Made in China

Made in China

Mural of a whale

Mural of a whale

Figure in medieval costume

Figure in medieval costume

Clermont-Ferrand

Clermont-Ferrand

Our initial impressions of Clermont-Ferrand were not overwhelming. As the double-barrelled name suggests, the city is a combination of two centres: Clermont and Montferrand. They are surprisingly distinct locations.

Our hotel was located near Montferrand. The hotel was next door to a garden centre that boasted the unusual opening hours of 7am until 7pm. This is surprising in France, a country that typically closes for lunch and has less than expansive opening hours. The times were misleading and the centre did close for lunch; they just neglected to mention that in their opening hours.

Montferrand is the smaller centre but home to a set of beautiful old streets. The edges of the streets lined with medieval buildings. The buildings would not have looked out of place in a film set.

We visited Clermont, its busy shopping centre, and its towering cathedral.

Montferrand

Street in Monferrand

Street in Monferrand

Seats set back in a Monferrand street

Seats set back in a Monferrand street

l'église Notre-Dame de Montferrand

l’église Notre-Dame de Montferrand

Church window from outside

Church window from outside

Inside the church

Inside the church

Church window from inside

Church window from inside

Painted church ceiling

Painted church ceiling

Le musée d’art Roger-Quilliot

Central hall of le musée d’art Roger-Quilliot

Central hall of le musée d’art Roger-Quilliot

Sculpture in le musée d’art Roger-Quilliot

Sculpture in le musée d’art Roger-Quilliot

Spiral staircase in Sculpture in le musée d’art Roger-Quilliot

Spiral staircase in Sculpture in le musée d’art Roger-Quilliot

Gallery within Spiral staircase in Sculpture in le musée d’art Roger-Quilliot

Gallery within Spiral staircase in Sculpture in le musée d’art Roger-Quilliot

Clermont

Beautiful metalwork in fountain

Beautiful metalwork in fountain

Garden within Clermont's town hall

Garden within Clermont’s town hall

Imposing cathedral in Clermont

Imposing cathedral in Clermont

Inside the cathedral in Clermont

Inside the cathedral in Clermont

Quieter street in Clermont

Quieter street in Clermont

View beyond Clermont

View beyond Clermont