I’ve never been to Paris before, even though I’ve been to France several times in the (distant) past. Because of this, I decided I would go to Paris in a weekend. In order to maximise the time there and to minimise the cost, I took an overnight coach with Ouibus. I left London on Friday night and left Paris on Sunday night, arriving home on Monday morning. It was Continue reading

Two designated drivers

Two designated drivers

So we went to Cornbury Festival, and what a weekend it was. We were absolutely spoilt with the weather, not really used to having a summer in England any more, and two weeks later we’re still bathed in a heatwave. It started with a trip to the supermarket with all five of us, to buy food for the weekend. We wandered aimlessly round a huge supermarket for an hour with an empty trolley until we got to the booze aisle, then filled it. It was a two hour drive in two cars to the Great Tew Estate, where the festival was held.

The party tent

The party tent

We set up camp on a dedicated ground for our staff and set to work partying. Each person working had two shifts to work, and I think we got the best ones over the whole weekend. All three from our shop were on shift together…12-6pm next to the main stage on Friday, and 9am-3pm in the VIP tent on Sunday. No work saturday. There were no late nights, no insanely early mornings, and both shifts were relatively quiet. We had plenty of time to play all day Saturday, during which I got to watch a great standup show by Alan Davies.

Discreet BBQ

Discreet BBQ

Some of the crew

Some of the crew

By the end of Saturday morning, we had drunk 2 cases of beers, finished 3 litres of vodka, and finished the Jaeger. The rest of the weekend was relatively free from alcohol…relatively.

Surprisingly, we didn’t see as many of the live performances as I thought we might, but I don’t regret that. Lucy Spraggan and James Arthur were definitely the highlights for me.

I still haven’t had proper chance to recover yet, tomorrow is my first real day off since being back on 7th July. Maybe the hangover will hit me in the morning?

The photos aren’t some of my best, I’m afraid. I was too nervous of taking my proper camera, I wished I had now, it would have been safe. The backdrop was amazing, and iPhone snaps can’t really do it justice!

Crowd

Crowd

Valley in the background

Valley in the background

Sunset

Sunset

Did you go to Cornbury? Did you see us?

La Pêche - Re-edited in HDR with Photomatix Pro

La Pêche – Re-edited in HDR with Photomatix Pro

I thought I’d experiment a little with some HDR images. I have again been inspired by browsing 500px.com, as there are many HDR images on this site that seem to become popular. I looked into some HDR apps and downloaded a trial for Photomatix Pro, then loaded one of my favourite images into it, and here is the result of a little experimentation with the presets available within it.

If you’re not familiar with HDR, it stands for High Dynamic Range, and is a composite image made by combining multiple exposures of the same shot, ideally captured in-camera. Most HDR programs available allow you to load a single image, and use a ‘tonemapping’ option, so that you don’t need multiple exposures. The end result is, traditionally, a perfectly exposed image, as it takes the best exposed areas of each and merges them together, however it creates some pretty surreal effects, that have made it quite a popular tool; just go to Google Image earch and type ‘hdr’ to see what you get.

So I uploaded this image to my profile on the 500px website, and in the time it’s taken me to compose this post, the image has received as many views as the original unedited version that I uploaded to the same site two years ago.

I think I visited France twice in 2007, once with a friend in the summer for a week to Brittany, it looks like I didn’t take any photos on that trip, so that means I can’t actually remember when it was.

My parents were visiting France in November 2007 for three weeks, and in the middle of this they had booked a holiday cottage in Arles. I decided the night before they were due to arrive there that I was going to fly out to meet them, so I asked them to pick me up from Avignon airport the next day. As they had their car out there it was easy enough, and it was easy for us all to go and visit various places.

Roman Theatre, Arles

Roman Theatre, Arles

It was also cold. The Mistral is a wind that can be particularly strong down the Rhone valley, and brings particularly cold air in the winter. I wasn’t expecting it to be that cold. What it did mean though was beautifully crisp, clear skies for the whole time we were there, and stunning views wherever we went.

First we explored the town of Arles, a lovely town, with a number of Roman buildings including a theatre, amphitheatre and bath houses. It is also home to the Café Van Gogh, the subject of Van Gogh’s 1888 painting, ‘Café Terrace at Night’.

Les Arenes, Nîmes

Les Arenes, Nîmes, view from ‘Tour Magne’

We took a trip out to explore Nîmes, with beautiful 19th Century gardens and the Roman ‘Tour Magne’ (Great Tower) atop a hill, with stunning views of the city.

We also took a trip down to the Mediterranean coast, to the medieval town of Aigues-Mortes, with well-preserved defensive walls. The walk around the top of the walls was bitterly cold but well worth it.

Driving back we saw flamingos in their natural habitat on a lake in the Camargue, Western Europe’s largest river delta. It is largely made up of brine marshes and shallow pools.

My final exploration was when my parents dropped me off in Avignon so I could catch my flight home. I convinced them to take my luggage in their car and bring it home with them later on, so that when they dropped me off I had the day, and my hands, free to explore the town.

I first went to the tourist information centre to book a taxi to the airport for that afternoon, for some reason, the staff didn’t recognise my accent and offer to speak in english, not that I was offended.

The Pope's Palace, Avignon

The Pope’s Palace, Avignon

I took a walk round, and went out onto the Pont St Bénezet, perhaps better known as the Pont d’Avignon from the childrens’ song. I then went round the Pope’s Palace, a stunning and massive Gothic building. Unfortunately photography was banned inside, which was quite a disappointment.

Time for the taxi to the airport, and it didn’t turn up. I returned to the Tourist office, where the helpful staff (who still didn’t speak any english) directed me to a taxi rank and said if I couldn’t get a taxi I should come back and they will ‘sort something out’.

Below are some of my favourite photos from this trip:

I have ‘Lyme Regis’ as a saved search in my wordpress app, so I check it once every couple of days to look for any inspiring photos etc, especially now I’ve moved away and have lived in Sussex for about 16 months. I thought I’d use this to see if anyone actually uses saved searches, I know the post may be found in other ways but do people actually use saved searches?

So for anyone that has ‘Lyme Regis’ as a saved search, here’s a short pick of my photos and if you do, post a comment and let me know your thoughts .

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La Mairie de Vannes

I haven’t been updating this blog as often as I’d like, so I had this little idea that once in a while I’d take a little look back at something I’ve done, or somewhere I’ve been somewhere in the past.

Today, I’m going to share some of my experiences of a 16 day trip to France in 2005; just me and my car. The main reason for going was because I fancied touring abroad in my new (to me) Audi Cabiolet. I didn’t plan a lot in advance. In fact all I did plan ahead were the Channel Tunnel crossings there and back. I booked them the day before I left. Another day before that was when I decided I was going to go on holiday.

The Tunnel crossing was incredibly early in the morning, and by the time I set out I had decided on a few stop off points along the north coast of France that I thought I’d like to see. From Lyme Regis I set out at some time around midnight. By about 4pm local time I had been to, and been very disappointed with, the few places I’d wanted to see, and had ended up in St Malo, having already driven for 15 hours. By now I realise I could have got a seven-hour night ferry and six hours of sleep, but it turns out that this is the only thing I would have changed about the whole experience. That said, it was a fantastic drive.

River Loire flowing through Saumur

The campsite I had previously visited was completely full, despite my pleading that the tent I had was minuscule, so I scouted out a bit, and found a site in the nearby village of La Richardais, for the princely sum of €4 per night (it was actually less than that but I don’t remember exactly). I stayed three nights here to get used to being in a foreign country on my own with nothing but the contents of the tiny boot for support. I had decided that my main aim of the holiday would be to get down to Millau in the south of France, to see the recently opened Viaduc du Millau. Seven years later I still haven’t seen it.

Fireplaces of two floors, Chateau de Chinon

Leaving Saint-Malo I headed south and stopped off in Saumur. I spent another few days here, and explored numerous places. I ventured out to Chinon, upstream a little. here I went round the chateau, and on an exploratory walk, I discovered the remains of some troglodytic dwellings in the hillside above the town. For the days I spent here, I didn’t actually explore Saumur itself very much, and the chateau was closed for refurbishment while I was there.

A troglodytic room as it would have looked

I also visited Rochemenier, a relatively intact cave-dwelling village, dug into an area of open flat land. There is a beautiful carved out chapel, and a room set up how it would have been inhabited.

Next I set out and headed south, but it was approaching the french summer bank holiday, and there were numerous serious traffic accidents, so I decided I would head directly west, towards the coast. and ended up in La Rochelle. Many campsites were full, so I just drove until I found one, in a field in Esnandes, just a few miles north. Here they had a restaurant, of sorts, which was actually some wooden posts with corrugated iron sheets on top. I got chatting to the site owner, and she suggested that I stick around until the next evening, when there would be a show celebrating 60 years since the Germans left the village after the Second World War. This show turned out to last nearly 24 hours, including a fair with military displays and music all day, followed by an evening concert, and a Son et Lumière display.

Son et Lumière display, Esnandes

Before this show, Esnandes appeared to me to be a tiny sleepy town with barely any shops. The hour-long Son et Lumière display started at nearly midnight, and featured the church as the set, with thousands and thousands of people sitting to watch. A sound system had been set up around the entire field, and the show featured people recounting stories, puppets reenacting events, illuminated water fountains, and a massive firework display. Even after this the event wasn’t over, with an open sided marquee and dance floor with DJ, playing on until gone 4am. What a show that was.

Fêtes d’Arvor, Vannes

Next stop: Vannes, and again I stumbled upon a great festival; the Fêtes d’Arvor [www.fetes-arvor.org]. It’s a traditional annual festival to elect the new ‘Reine’, or queen of the Brittany region. Groups come from villages and towns across Brittany in their traditional costume, and take part in a procession through the town, each with music and dance, a parade lasting several hours. It culminated in the most amazing fireworks display I’ve ever seen, launched from the ramparts of some of the old town walls, and the whole display was timed perfectly to music.

The old Port at Honfleur

The last stop before the trip home was a few nights in Deauville exploring its surroundings. I visited Honfleur, a beautiful town with lovely buildings surrounding an old port, and I took a boat trip, so that I could go under the impressive Pont de Normandie. Driving back home, I drove over it too.

Pont de Normandie

I love driving in France, the roads are exceptionally good; you just don’t get the potholes that are all over the place here, there is less traffic too, and I found driving on the wrong side of the road that much easier having the roof down, because with a quick glance over either shoulder, I had no blind spot to worry about. I ended up driving just over 2500 miles in the 16 days I was away.

I haven’t included all images I took, that would be silly, and I am not going to display them all one by one in the post, so below is a slideshow of some of the highlights, displaying in a random order: