Thursday, 17 September 2015

A Year in Pictures – 29 July to 14 August 2015 – Summer Hols (Part 1)

First of all, it must now be confessed that this is no longer a 365-day photo project, as backlog has got the better of me and here I am finally posting photographs taken several weeks ago, while at the same time not having taken a single photograph since 11 September. I have in fact already taken over 365 photos this year, but not all for this blog and not every day. So the original project is dead, but long live the project, because I still intend that these posts should reflect my photographic choices over the period of a year and show some evidence of *clears throat* development of vision and technique.

Now we have cleared the air with that little reality check, here is the first of two posts showing images from my summer holidays. The following photos, apart from the last one, were all taken in France. 

29 July
We have a little family house in Brittany. Being a holiday home, it is unoccupied for parts of the year, so that when we arrive there for a stay, there are invariably eight-legged residents that we are not over keen to share space with, as well as old cobwebs that make the place look unloved (which it is definitely not). I find the faithful feather duster the gentlest way of showing the arachnids the door or (in this case) the Velux window.

30 July
Being further west than our home in Greater London, Brittany gives us really long evenings in August and the "golden hour" before the sun disappears over the horizon feels more extended and generous. My wife and I like to take a stroll around the hamlet to see what changes have been made since we were last there as well as marvel at how long our shadows become as the sun sinks lower in the sky.

31 July
Just up the road is the very pleasant town of Ploërmel, where there is a large lake—le Lac au Duc—on the east side of which is a sizeable hydrangea walk. It takes about an hour to get round the whole thing at a gentle pace and the number and diversity of plants is spectacular. I used not to like hydrangeas that much, as their flowers looked, well, a bit 'leafy'. Now I love them.
1 August
The house is near the Nantes-Brest Canal and we often take cycle rides along the towpath, which in turn links up with the French national network of cycleways, les Voies Vertes. On this day we made the 13km ride to Josselin, where we had lunch. I took this shot of a working flour mill on the return journey. Sorry about the blown highlights on the brightest wall of the mill, but don't you love the way the French arrange their trees?

2 August
Back to Josselin, this time by car, for an organ recital in the main church, le Basilique Notre-Dame du Roncier. Here is a detail from the richly wrought metal pulpit staircase.

3 August
Part of the dresser at our house. As you see, we only like our visitors to write happy things about their stay under our roof. Cheese and wine are of course tremendous aids to happiness.

4 August
Another day, another cycle ride by the canal, this time to another historic town: Malestroit. The lock keepers along the route compete for a prize for the best floral display.

5 August
Every year the town of La Gacilly hosts a photographic exhibition over several months, much of which is in the open air. We always try and see this, although there is far more than one can absorb in one day. The town, which is on the River Aff, is the base of the ecologically conscious cosmetics and toiletries manufacturer, Yves Rocher—one of the main sponsors of the exhibition, whose themes are generally around issues of ecology, the lives of indigenous peoples (particularly if their situation is vulnerable), landscape and wildlife. This is part of the display of wonderful work by the French photographer, Vincent Munier.

6 August
We have now left Brittany and are en route south and east towards the volcanic landscape of the Auvergne. We make an overnight stop (arranged through Airbnb) in a 16th-century house south of Saumur. This is part of the kitchen fireplace.

7 August
We have arranged a six-night stay in le Mont-Dore in the Auvergne. This is part of the view out over the town from the very well appointed apartment we have hired (also through Airbnb).

8 August
Prior to our arrival in le Mont-Dore, France had been experiencing a heatwave from which only Brittany appeared to have been spared (certainly our weather in the west had been very pleasant and not too hot at all). This day it rained heavily for much of the time but we managed to get out and explore the town a bit. Here is an iPhone shot of one of the bridges over the Dordogne, whose source (formed from the rivers Dore and Dogne) is close to le Mont-Dore. The river flows right through the middle of the town at the base of a beautiful valley and is a cooling presence  when the weather heats up

9 August
We visit caves excavated by the Romans to create thermal baths for the treatment of their wounded soldiers after the Battle of Gergovia in 52 BC, at which the Gauls led by Vercingetorix defeated Julius Caesar's army. Only two of the tens of wooden tubs they placed in the caves survive, preserved by mineral encrustations accumulated over many centuries. The rest of the tubs and much of the surrounding caves were destroyed by an earthquake some centuries ago, but these precious survivals and the remnants of the cave structures give a vivid impression of what the Romans created.

9 August
The road back to le Mont-Dore took us past this dramatic example of the volcanic landscape that is the distinctive feature of the Auvergne. The weather was still quite rainy, making for some spectacular skies and low cloud.

10 August
We climb the mountain known as le Capucin, so called because its round shape resembles the cowl of a Capuchin monk. Here is part of the the view from the top (over 1,400m).

10 August
In the evening we walk up from the centre of le Mont-Dore to see la Grande Cascade, the waterfall that tumbles over the edge of the sheer face of one of the mountains that dominate the town. The walk takes us through lush forest, where the abundant shade and the nearby river help to keep us cool as we climb.

11 August
We take the cable car to the summit of le Puy de Sancy, at 1,886m the tallest peak in the Auvergne, from whose slopes spring the rivers Dore and Dogne. Down in the valley you can see here lies le Mont-Dore, though it is hidden from view inn this shot by the rocks just right of centre. We walk down, which takes about two hours and the path is quite treacherous, having many quite extensive areas of small loose stones. Nothing however detracts from the glories of this landscape.

12 August
A sinister face emerges from the woodwork in the Romanesque church of St Anne in Besse. This is the hottest day of our holiday but it is cool in the church, so we linger for a while to drink in the ancient wonders of the architecture.

14 August
There is no photo for 13 August as were slogging up the motorway from the Auvergne to reach our last overnight stop (also arranged through Airbnb), just south of Rouen, where our kind and very friendly hosts offered us refreshment and conversation before we retired for the night. After breakfast with them and more, very interesting, conversation we made our way to Dieppe and the ferry to Newhaven, where this was the charming view on offer.

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