Category Archives: France

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

Painted windows

A Lick of Paint

Lyon loves murals. There are tens of beautifully painted walls and buildings around the city. Books are published listing the various murals and where to go to see them. The murals are maintained, refreshed, and growing in number.

We enjoy taking our visitors to see some of the murals. Often one or two murals are on the way to our final destination and stopping off to see the murals makes for a fun diversion.

The mural at Espace Guignol has plaques expanding on its history.

The wall in 1986 was bleak.

The wall as it was in 1986

The wall as it was in 1986

The company owning the advertising boards asked for the right to paint the wall. The result is a colourful, eye catching, mural that banishes the once bleak wall to history.

The same wall in 2013

The same wall in 2013

Painted windows

Painted windows

An acute angle helps reveal the skilled artistry

An acute angle helps reveal the skilled artistry

Little details help complete the scene

Little details help complete the scene

Impressively, graffiti is absent. The mural is maintained and appears to be updated every so often. We notice changes in the sponsoring company’s logos, painted shop fronts, and layout every so often. No major changes but tweaks and touch ups here and there.

If you happen to visit Lyon, take the opportunity to ask in the tourist office for a guide or map highlighting the clusters of murals. They are worth seeing.