Saturday, 26 May 2012

Paris Poppies

“The poppies hung Dew-dabbed on their stalks.” John Keats.

Up by the Sacré Cœur yesterday morning, early, I saw the most wonderful poppies.

Oversized pale pink poppies, standing high, overlooking Paris. 

Thin papery petals let through the light.

I've never seen poppies like these. Large, very large, washed out pale pink poppies bending gently in the breeze.

Gathered below the Sacré Cœur.

Here are a few more Paris poppies. A glorious orange-red one.

My son had to steady this poppy.

Look inside it! No photo editing, this is the way it looked!

Monday, 21 May 2012

The Magic of Glass

A while back I took this photo through a window in an antiques shop near where we live. I liked the way the photo came out: delicate green, turquoise and silvery colour tones.

Then, the other day I took this photo of a glass chandelier in a stall at the Marché aux Puces at St Ouen. In addition to the silvery green colour tones, there is a touch of mellow aubergine.

I decided to gather together some more images of 'colourless' glass. I love the subtle complexity of reflected and refracted light.

Even road safety cats-eyes look lovely close up.

Glass and reflections.

Glass and refraction.

And glass with the sun setting behind it (Pont Alexandre III).

All good, and strangely soothing.

I wrote another 'Glass' post a while back, it can be found here.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Les Puces on an 'off' day

The Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, and closed the rest of the week. I've been curious for some time now to see how it looks and feels on an 'off' day without the crowds. So yesterday morning, after dropping the kids off at school I decided to continue on towards the market. I did our usual route, coming at the market from Porte de Montmartre and then heading eastwards. The first thing that struck me was how wide all the roads in the market are without the people. These two photos are taken in the same road, rue Jean-Henri Fabre, that runs just north of, and parallel to the infamous peripherique. This road was being cordoned off as they were doing a film shoot of a car chase.

Had I not known, I would never have guessed that there was a vibrant market along this road three days a week. When I looked down at the pavement, however, I saw some clues. Dents from all the market stall supports.

Once I headed into the heart of the market it was obvious that this was a market on an 'off' day. Tags, rollers shutters, tags and more tags.

Banga Style.

Tags on more traditional doors.

The gates to a metal scrap yard in the heart of the market were open. I just managed to take this photo before I was hurried along les photos sont interdites madame, no photos madame! Look at all those lead dormer windows on the roof.

The market was eerily quiet.

With some lovely details. The red and blue on this 'no parking' sign are just sublime, even les taggeurs have tagged discretely.

In a narrow market arcade.

A restored advertisement. Look at that sky!

A man opening up his café. Dogs seems to be a running theme.

This stack of old French windows looked gorgeous in the morning light.

And these two fellows are biding their time until they're let out again next Saturday.

For more photos of the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen can be found here  (thumbnails) and here (slideshow).

The market is open on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. Details of when the market is on can be found here at 'Paris Perfect' (in English) and here (in French and English).

Friday, 11 May 2012

All things grey and wet

I walked up the hill to the Sacré Cœur this morning, in the rain. Why? Well I just felt like it. When I go on walks like this, with a view to taking some photos, I often don't know what I'm looking for when I start out, and then I establish a theme along the way. It rapidly became apparent that today's theme was going to be 'all things grey and wet'. There's no denying that it's easier to take good photos on a clear sunny day. This was going to be challenging. 

As I walked around the back of the Sacré Cœur, the noise of water falling around the base of the church from spouting gargoyles was quite overpowering. Water was gushing out from their mouths, rather like this...

...and this. They suddenly make much more sense when you see them in action, which you rarely do as you  don't tend to look up when it's pouring down with rain.

Grey was easy enough to find.

The sky was grey, with added grey.

I found a few puddles with reflections of the Sacré Cœur. Grey, and wet.

And then, as I approached the Place de Tertre, I spotted a burst of colour against the grey. A penguin having a rest.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Le Passe Muraille et des Fesses Mystérieuses

One of the first books I read when I came to France almost twenty years ago was Le Passe Muraille (The Walker-Through Walls), a short story written by Marcel Aymé which tells the story of a forty-two year old man, Dutilleul who suddenly discovers that he can pass through walls with the greatest of ease. Initially he doesn't really take advantage of this ability, but gradually starts to exploit it for less than honourable purposes. Then one day as he was passing through a garden wall, he suddenly felt resistance half way through the wall. He became immobilised and imprisoned...

'He is there to this very day, imprisoned in the stone. When people go walking down the Rue Norvins late at night after the bustle of Paris has died down, they hear a muffled voice which seems to come from beyond the grave; they think it’s the sound of the wind whistling through the streets of Montmartre. It’s Lone Wolf Dutilleul lamenting the end of his glorious career and mourning his all too brief love affair.'*

Le voila, Dutilleul trying to squeeze his way out!

Every body likes to take his hand and try and pull him through.

The other day when I was walking up rue Norvins I noticed that Dutilleul has a companion. Could it be his amoureuse?

'The young woman was waiting for him, full of impatience aroused by her memories of the previous night; that night they made love until three o’clock in the morning.'*

Des fesses mystérieuses ! Some mysterious buttocks!

It is probably worth mentioning the the statue of Dutilleul passing through the wall is much larger than life.

A translation of the Le Passe Muraille can be found on this here (The Stress Cafe). At the bottom of the translation are further links to the original French version and some additional information about the Author, Marcel Aymé.

* Extracts from the translation by Karen Reshkin.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Dinosaurs in Oxford

Okay, so it's not really called the Dinosaur museum, but the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. However, the museum does feature dinosaurs heads and and whatnot, so that's what we call it.

Whenever we're in Oxford visiting my family and it rains (i.e. whenever we're in Oxford), we always visit to this museum. It is crammed full of fascinating objects: skeletons, fossils, stuffed animals (which you're instructed to stroke), live stick insects and other weird bugs, luminous rocks, carved busts of famous scientists, and much more, all exhibited in rather antiquated glass cabinets.

It is not just the exhibits that are interesting. The architecture of the building is quite something. Built in 1861, the design of the museum was an open competition initiated by Henry Acland, an anatomist who believed that everybody should have a chance to learn from science. From the 32 entries, an Irish architecture firm, Deane & Woodward, Dublin, won. The design is neo gothic and was greatly influenced by John Ruskin, an art critic who believed that architecture should be shaped by the energies of the natural world. Well I think we could say this particular objective was achieved.

The most striking feature of the museum is the glass roof. For a building constructed 150 years ago I find it amazing how light and delicate the roof structure is.

And then there are the elaborate details, influenced by nature.

As we left the museum imagine my surprise when we spotted this...RWAAARRRRRRR!

Further information about the architecture of the Oxford museum can be found here.