Back in Paris

I’m happy to tell you that I am feeling better than I was when I wrote my last article. Mentally I seem to be on waves and at least now I know things will get better. At the moment I seem to be OK. Right now we’ve got that said we can go on. In another article I had talked about photos that I had wanted to share with you all.

As you can read in previous articles, my first visit with Kate to Paris was based on where “she” wanted to go, and this visit was to be no different. Kate had decided on the Louvre and Eiffel Tower for our first visit. This time it was going to be Les Invalides and the Champs Elysées.

During this last visit to Paris I was with Kate and we started off checking out Les Invalides to make sure that Napoleon was still dead and wasn’t up to ruining Europe. He is still dead, but maybe over compensating with his huge tomb. Maybe he was the Petit Caporal after all. Maybe…. Anyway, our modern day politicians are managing to mess everything perfectly well by themselves. Did you see how I got political and edgy without mentioning any names there? As I told my father the other day, it’s not a good day if you can’t make a dig at the French or make a small child cry.

So back to Paris, hoping to avoid the train adventure from the visit with Jean Guillaume. It was a lovely day and we were ready to have some serious fun. Foot wear and walking stick in hand, we were ready. We arrived and of course headed off to Marks and Spencers to get an early lunch. Oh shock and horror, they hadn’t been delivered with sandwiches. I was devastated. I wanted a bite of my childhood again. But it wasn’t to be. We got a couple of salads and some fruit and headed off to the little park where I had eaten with Jean Guillaume.

Then we had to revisit the Metro. I still love the metro for it’s different stations and all the tiling. It just has a little magic of its own. I know that with the crowds of Parisians, police, delinquents, junkies begging for money etc, we might have a tendency to forget it. I think as I am no longer a regular user that I am no longer blinded to all that. And don’t forget, it was still August where all the Parisians bugger off on holiday and leave their town to us tourists.

Anyway back to the visit. At Les Invalides we were greeted by the Gendarmerie Nationale who wanted to check our bags and make sure that weren’t going to do anything naughty. We were fine and headed off to buy our tickets. The first display showed horses with various bits of armour and mannequins showing how dashing French Cavalry Officers used to be. Luckily for the British, our Cavalry was better and we actually got quite good at thrashing Frenchie and giving him a damned good whooping…

We saw huge amounts of swords, and I still don’t know why we don’t pronounce the “W.” But it does explain why we nicked the idea of the Busby from the French for our Guards in the Household division. Those swords could do a lot of damage.

We worked our way around and looked at various weapons that the French had and imagining the damage they could inflict on somebody. We saw the works of Vauban and his genius in building defences. We saw exhibits from the First World War in which my grandfather fought, and exhibits from World War Two, that despite what they might like to believe wasn’t won by the French even though they might have come a close second if we’re being gracious with them. We got on to Indochine where the French started giving up their colonial possession’s, including North Africa, but we don’t talk about that, and then on to the Cold War. Which technically we won, but should have been much more gracious in victory and maybe we wouldn’t be having the problems we actually have in Russia today.

Anyway… We managaed to find the exit and after passing through the gift shop buying here a couple of BD’s in the series that she is reading, about French kids during the Occupation. It was time to check on Old Boney!

The building that houses him is beautiful. Very French. Stylish, and the tombs are amazing. Some dedicated to Generals who gave their names to so many streets in France. Foch, Vauban, Turenne, de Lattre de Tassigny, Philippe Leclerc de Hautlecocque. Even the Capitaine Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle who wrote the French National Anthem. Ok, so they’re not all bad however French they may be…

It really was very inspiring, and I almost feel guilty that the British beat the French at Waterloo. Almost…. It is true that we the Prussians with us, and that Napoleon’s artillery was rendered useless by the mud. OMG, I’m turning into one of them. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp Meeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Back onto the metro and up to the Place de l’Etoile. Kate wanted to see the Arc de Triomphe that we usually see on TV when the Gilets Jaunes weren’t very happy with the little Manu, and the police wanted something to do on a Saturday afternoon.

Mind you, it really is quite impressive. Kate wanted to visit the Champs Elysées, so visit it we would. I had decided to walk from one end to the other. It is supposed to be the most beautiful avenue in the world, and at Christmas time, when it is all lit up it really is very special. That day it was still pretty good though.

Kate was getting peckish and it was time for this photographer to have a coffee. The place we ended up was bright yellow and you might need some sunglasses if you go there. The Café Joyeux is an amazing place. Their staff are mentally handicaped, and managed by team leaders who guide them and help them have a meaningful job and career. The service was impeccable and everything felt so natural which is a fitting tribute to their professionalism. It really is a very “Joyeux” experience, and if you’re in Paris then please drop in and see them. Oh, and the coffee is amazing too. It’s a proper café and not just a social project. We have to power to change things.

We continued our trip down the Avenue and saw the original Guerlain Shop that was opened in 1914. Now the Parisians are just amazing at making things that are beautiful, and here it was particularly true, and everything smelt amazing.

For her upcoming birthday I had decided to buy my daughter some clothes on the Champs Elysées in H et M. Ok it’s not the most luxurious of brands but there was that little extra special feeling because of the location, and the trip was about Kate and not necessarily me. We came away with two dresses, some shoes, some hair stuff, and somewhat poorer, but it was her birthday after all…. And during a Daddy daughter day, stuff like that happens.

It was just lovely having time together and walking together. She was wearing Doc Martens boots with a bit of of a heel, but she managed to keep going. We would sit down and just breathe. I love that corner of Paris and always will do. We arrived at the Place de La Concord where the French decided to end the Royalty a little more brutally but guillotining them and it is amazing how beautiful a place it is now compared to the place of suffering and bloodshed all those many years ago.

We managed to get to WH Smiths before it shut to get a goodie bag with all kinds of sweets, pickle, and tea to take home. Kate fell asleep on the train home. Which isn’t surprising for a girl who had walked more than 22.000 paces in one day. Bless her cotton socks.

Omaha Beach, Normandy

Omaha Beach was one of the five beaches that had to be taken on D Day, 6th July 1944. That task was given to the 1st and 29th Infantry Division of the US Army. To say they took a hammering is an understatement, and General Bradley saw the very grave situation, and one stage nearly abandoned the operation. The grit and determination of his men paid off and they took the beach, but the amount of casualties and dead was tremendous, around 2000 men. A great sacrifice was made that day.

Whilst on that beach, I saw American families turn up, and the emotion was visible on their faces. It is almost a spiritual experience for them, and a form of pilgrimage. The dead are remembered, not only by the few that survived, but by the local population , and the French in general. Just next to the beach, there is the American War Cemetery at Coleville sur Mer. The prisitne graves serve as a reminder to those of us that didn’t experience what they did: the horrors of war!

I remember seeing footage of an old veteran who landed on Omaha, saying that the greatest reward they had, was to see children playing on that beach now, enjoying the peace that was earned by those men who lay down their lives on that same beach all those years ago.

I’ve decided to share photos of both the beach and the cemetery with you. The camera used that day was the Canon 6D Mark II with the 16-35mm Canon lens.

Pegasus Bridge

This is the first in a series of posts about Normandy, and now you know where I went on holiday this year! Having lived in France for so long Normandy conjures up images of apples, cider, Calva, and Normans amazed by the fact that you can actually eat apples and not just use them to make alcoholic drinks.

It conjures up images of rain for the French, and I jokingly remind them that the British go there for the “good weather!” It conjures up history by the bucket load, William the Bastard, who became William the Conqueror, and the Bayeux Tapestry which is 1000 year old propaganda, and sparked off a rivalry between the two countries, which lasted for centuries, and still does especially when we beat the French at rugby. It conjures up images of landings made by Allied troops on the 6th of June 1944, to free France and Europe from Nazi occupation and tyranny.

This article is about one of the places where one of those battles took place. Please take the time to click on the various links to Wikipedia to learn more about the operations and people involved. Thank you.

To some Pegasus Bridge might mean nothing but to others it means the end of Nazi occupation in Normandy, France. Madame Arlette Grondée is the same age as my mother and witnessed the Second World War first hand. On the night of the 5th of June, just before midnight, three gliders containing airborne troops landed just across the canal from where her parents ran a café. That café is still there and so is Madame Grondée. I know, because I asked her for a photo and she very kindly agreed. It’s not every day that one meets a legend, and part of history.

I visited this area as a boy and I lust have been the same age as my daughter is now when I was last there. But as an adult, the whole thing has an other dimension to it. The bust of Major Howard (Company Commander of “D” Company, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and part of the 6th Airborne Division) is on the exact site where the three gliders landed. It’s literally on top of the bridge!

Operation Deadstick was a success and a vital victory in the D-Day Operations. The dead were buried in the Parish Cemetery in Rainville, and amongst them is HD Brotheridge, the first British causality of the actions in Normandy. To the left of his grave is a plaque put up by the Grondée family in recognition of his sacrifice.

The tools of the trade that day were the Canon 6D Mark II, and the Canon 16-35mm lens.

Certain images from this gallery can be purchased for a limited time here

Nantes, the Green Line!

Le Voyage à Nantes is an art festival that happens every year in Nantes. They give out maps with the green line that travels all the way through the city and if you don’t have a map, you can just follow the green line on the ground. Yes. I shit you not. They have painted a green line that you can follow all around the city. Did the creator have a cocaine problem but wanted to be eco-friendly? That’s not what really bothers me. What really bothers me is that the whole line is 12km long! If that’s not intense then I don’t know what is!!!

Not wanting to be selfish, and sharing is caring and all that, I decided to bring along Killian. He needs to get out more and get some vitamin D. I also needed a minder. He’s always good for that kind of thing.

We started by the most important thing of the day. Food. Luckily it was lunchtime so I felt slightly less guilty about eating in public. Right, the first stop is usually the Sugar Blue Café. I really like the food. It’s actually healthy, but not only healthy, it looks good, but not only looks good, but tastes good, but not only tastes good, but they have cheesecake. Yes. Cheesecake. I’m so weak. But it goes so well with the cup of tea…

Of course we had to walk a bit just to feel even less guilty about the Cheesecake. Did somebody say Cheesecake? I ended up at Place Graslin. Needed coffee. Kiki had a beer. It was a bit warm after all. About 36°C… I told him about the day I was there with Kate and that it was just as warm and how she ended up getting soaked to the skin in the fountain, and how I was getting all panicky because I didn’t have a towel for her or a change of clothes.

We had to decide how to follow the line. We were sitting on the terrace of Le Molière and thought we’d be intelligent. Bad idea, but we managed to get the map up on our phones. The line passes right by the café, and you can either go left, or right. We tried, rock, paper, scissors, which is generally foolproof especially when it comes down to who is going to pay for the beers. But in the end we went for the more conventional, “oh f**k it!”

So having “f**ked it,” we eplored the Cours Cambronne, named after a famous Napoleonic General, who decided that he didn’t want to surrender to the British at Waterloo… Ah well! Silly billy!!

He became major of the Imperial Guard in 1814, and accompanied Napoléon into exile to the island of Elba, where he was a military commander. He then returned with Napoléon to France on 1 March 1815 for the Hundred Days, capturing the fortress of Sisteron (5 March), and was made a Count by Napoléon when they arrived at Paris. Cambronne was seriously wounded at the Battle of Waterloo and was taken prisoner by the British.

The exact circumstances of his surrender to the British are disputed. At the battle’s conclusion, Cambronne was commanding the last of the Old Guard when General Colville called on him to surrender. According to a journalist named Rougement, Cambronne replied: “La garde meurt et ne se rend pas !” (“The Guard dies and does not surrender!”). These words were often repeated and put on the base of a statue of Cambronne in Nantes after his death.

Other sources reported that Colville insisted and ultimately Cambronne replied with one word: “Merde!” (literally, “Shit!”, figuratively, “Go to hell!”) This version of the reply became famous in its own right, becoming known as le mot de Cambronne (“the word of Cambronne”) and repeated in Victor Hugo’s account of Waterloo in his novel Les Misérables and in Edmond Rostand’s play L’Aiglon. The name Cambronne was later used as a polite euphemism (“What a load of old Cambronne!”) and sometimes even as a verb, “cambronniser“.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Cambronne

We said goodbye to the little girl and allowed here to get back on her pedestal. Or was she trying to get down?

We found the line again, and then saw a dotted line… Interesting… An alternative? Well, what the heck. We followed it and discovered traces of Nantes more artisanal past, traces of joiners, cobblers, plumbers, bookbinders, and industrial tribunals. I love seeing these little bits of history still fighting to leave their mark on the town. A town or city has to be in tune with its past and it’s own story. People leave their mark on a place. The question is how will leave our mark, and what will that mark be?

For the photo geeks out there. The tools today were the Canon 6D Mark II and the 16-35mm lens.

Credit must also go to Magalie and her article about the Voyage à Nantes who inspired me to write this article, and get off my fat arse and try and get myself some culture!

Abbaye de Maillezais Vendée

Originally from Yorkshire, we were brought up on the merits of Rievaulx and Fountains Abbeys. They were of course the most famous and beautiful of the abbeys destroyed by Henry VIII when the pope said no he couldn’t have a divorce to be able to marry Anne Boleyn. Bit of an over-reaction in my opinion especially when you think how it turned out in the end…

Anyway. This article isn’t about them. No. It’s about Maillezais Abbey in Vendée. It’s a little bit of a hike, but you basically just get on the motorway and don’t forget your exit the way I did, and ended up taking a very scenic route, which was very scenic. Luckily my daughter didn’t realise this. My wife would have been telling me how bloody useless I am. Ahhh, the joys of youth!

I’m going to start with the photos I took on the Easter Monday 2019, and then I’ll do an other article about my previous visit when I was with a film camera…

In this series I was using the Canon 6D Mark II with the Canon 16-35mm lens, and the Helios M44-2 58mm lens, which seems to be becoming my “go to” kit…

Walkabout in Nantes with the lads from Instagram – Part II

So we’re still out taking photos and learning from each other. We all know Nantes and it’s good to see how other people might see the place. Photography is one of those things that actually lets me show you a moment in time through my eyes. It’s especially so when you have a camera and are looking through the viewfinder. I see something in a moment of time that will never come back, because as soon as I presse the shutter release it’s already happened, and is already in the past. I can’t take that moment back. But I have a snapshot. In life you can’t look with my eyes in the same way that I can look with your eyes. However, photography allows this. It’s maybe one of things that makes it so amazing. It’s surreal.

We managed to find the Château des Ducs de Bretagne. Still with the X100F…