Château de Tarascon

I love touring around France in out-of-the-way places that tourists have never visited or likely never will. And the most amazing thing about Southern France is that even the tiniest towns have magnificent relics. Far from any place you’ll see tourists sit two villages on opposite sides of the Rhone River, Beaucaire and Tarascon.

And you can’t find anything more “castley” than this, the Château de Tarascon:

Getting a narcissistic stork to finally eat a bit of ham

The storks that like to hang out at the Alsatian highway rest areas in Eastern France must surely be narcissists, because they let humans get quite close and watch them, but they always refuse to eat just about anything you might toss out. In fact, they sort of parade around with a certain stork-arrogance, strutting about in their very arrogant stork-like way but otherwise ignoring the humans altogether.

Until now!

Although this snap doesn’t capture it, I fed this stork a piece of ham (Schinken) I found, and he scarfed it down.

I don’t have a bad feeling because I think he already set his sights on the ham before I got there.

FAKE: Porte Jaune Unstretched

I was pretty impressed with this view of the Porte Jaune building in the downtown area of the Alsacian village of Mulhouse:

Just for the record: the photos I post are never in any way retouched or enhanced or changed – except for cropping.

But in this series of blog posts entitled FAKE I publish some rather interesting images I have enhanced in some way.

Rhein Crane

Continuing the series, I took this snap but did not have much time to linger around. So it’s definitely on my bucket list to go back one day and and try to understand the purpose of this pipe: does it onload or offload – or perhaps both? And does it deal with liquids or compressed gases – or perhaps both?

I only know that for the brief moment I was visiting, it was standing at lazy attention, like a lone and tired sentinel guarding a post that no one ever visited.

FAKE: Water Tower

I was pretty impressed with this impression of an antique water tower – used for filling steam trains – and it reminded of some of the work of M.C. Escher, who was known for hanging objects in empty space.

Just for the record: the photos I post are never in any way retouched or enhanced or changed – except for cropping.

But in this series of blog posts entitled FAKE I publish some rather interesting images I have enhanced in some way.

Two views of the amazing Iron Man in Mulhouse

A common sight for visitors to the Alsacian village of Mulhouse, it’s always been completely unclear to me: is he wiping oily sweat from his brow, screening the sunlight out of his eyes, straining to see a friend at a long distance, or just sitting in contemplation?

It could be exactly that ambiguity of emotions that the artist was trying to convey.

And that’s exactly the problem with art!  It could be the artist was going for just one of these emotions, but missed the mark and now left us all wondering!

FAKE: Umbrella pines

I was pretty impressed by this modified snap of some umbrella trees in Provence:

Just for the record: the photos I post are never in any way retouched or enhanced or changed – except for cropping.

But in this series of blog posts entitled FAKE I publish some rather interesting images I have enhanced in some way.

French influence – or just a good idea?

Saigon is a frustrating place for me in many ways. Knowing the French history, as I walk through Saigon my eyes are drawn towards French-looking things, and I ask myself whether they are coincidences – such as a coffee shop with a French name, named so only because it sounds posh, as this example shows with two such French-named coffee shops next to each other:

or truly part of the French legacy (such as the system of Arondissments used to district the city).

Here is a case in point:

As I’ve written about before, French traffic signals are some of the best design traffic signals in the world. Is this just coincidence, or a vestige of the French legacy? Here is a similarly looking traffic signal in France,

Modified Silvester Method

This is something you don’t see everyday!

Well, in fact, a sign like this giving basic instructions in CPR is probably something you do see everyday, such as this sign I saw in a train station in France:

But what you don’t see everyday is the part of the sign giving instructions in the use of the Modified Silvester Method:

I’d never heard about this before – so I looked it up. It is not a version of CPR (which affects the movement of blood) but rather artificial respiration (getting the lungs to inflate and deflate).  I am not sure if this method is actually taught or encouraged anymore, and the date on the sign points to its age:

 

When Pulver is not really pulver

There is a small hamlet in the south of Alsace, France called Pulversheim. It is known for its abandoned potassium mines, which remain scattered across the landscape as this amazing, awe inspiring snap shows:

For a long time I thought the hamlet was probably a case of form after function: Pulversheim (or home to pulver) because of the potassium mine.

But nothing could be further than the truth!

It was not easy to research, but in fact the town was long in existance before the discovery of potassium, and it was named after Mr. Pulver.

Go figure!

Mystery tower in Alsace

When you drive into this small Alsacian hamlet you can’t help but be overwhelmed by this stunning site – but upon closer inspection, there’s nary a sign in sight to tell you its history or what it does or when it was built:

But if you take a little walk around it you come to a an interesting work of art:

Lake Geneva

To me, Lake Geneva is the most spectacular and breathtaking of all the Swiss lakes. It’s truly massive in size, and at least looking south into France from Switzerland it’s backstopped by some of the most awe inspiring Alps you can imagine.

Here is a panoramic shot of Lake Geneva, just north of Montreux and looking south:

The amazing Arondissments of Paris and Quận of Saigon

Saigon and Paris are very similar in one regard: the cities themselves are organized into numbered districts.

In Paris a district is called an Arondissment, there are a total of 20 of them, and the districts appear clockwise starting at the center:

In Saigon a district is called a Quận, there are a total of 19 of them, and although the districts start at the center, they are not as neatly clockwise as in Paris:

Why is Saigon similar to Paris? Does this have to do with the history of the French in Saigon? I suppose it does, but I don’t know the details.

Stork poop

OK, sounds gross, but it’s one of those questions you gotta ask!

Alsace and Southern Germany are filled with storks, as this snap of a village in Alsace shows:

But it makes you wonder: do storks poop into and onto their nests (as do many birds, such as pigeons), or do they keep their nests clean and make sure their body waste goes over the side, as this snap would seem to suggest:

How the wonders of the South French countryside are linked to the development of human intelligence

The fellow with the circle around his head is Saint Laurent – but not THAT Saint Laurent that you are thinking about!

But what does Saint Laurent have to do with Southern France, you might ask?

While driving across a lonely rural road from Nimes (a French village that a lot of tourists visit) to Beaucaire (a French village that a lot of tourists don’t), I spotted what looked to be a old stone building deep in a farm field. Because there were no angry tourist-hating French farmers with pitchforks around – and because the Gendarmes were probably all busy elsewhere looking after the protesting Gilets Jaunes, I took the liberty if not the risk of trespassing on the farm to take this wonderful snap:

I like the way the sun reflects off the stone and really highlights the building.

Fortunately, there was a sign just outside, so I quickly came to know this was the Cathedral of Saint-Laurent, dating back to the 1100’s.

And what does any of this have to do with the development of human intelligence?

Turns out that Saint Laurent was martyred in 258 for refusing to hand over the church’s riches to the local Roman emperor. What makes this very interesting indeed is while he was being persecuted for refusing to hand over riches, Rome itself was being ravaged by one of the first instances of the bubonic plague, the so-called Plague of Cyprian that killed thousands of people every day.

This is an electron micrograph of the plague, Yersinius pestis:

Interestingly, it has been show that Europeans today have increased resistance to this bacteria, most likely due to natural selection processes, i.e., the millions of people with less resistance were killed in the many outbreaks of the plague over the centuries.

This is what led me to speculate that, in a similar way, the Herpes virus has had a pronounced effect in the development of human intelligence.

Pickly pear in Provence

While traipsing about the southern countryside in Provence, I spotted this cactus hiding out behind another plant:

This is no ordinary French cactus – in fact, it isn’t French at all!  It is a species of cactus known as the prickly pear, and it is in fact an invasive species that was introduced to Europe – from America – back in the sixteenth century.

Interestingly, like a fool, I tried to pick up one of the fruits and received about one thousand little stingers in my finger. I was able to remove most of them – but now, three weeks later, as I write this post, there is still one lodged in my finger and causing me pain. Not quite sure what will happen, since try as I might, I can’t seem to remove it – or even see it.