Monday, April 22, 2019

Christmas Market in Alsace - Riquewihr

These are pictures from a pre-Christmas trip we made to Strasbourg a few months ago, which I hadn't got around to posting. Alsace, the region of Strasbourg, has a fair sprinkling of "beaux villages", which I have made it my life's mission to visit. Many of them are also famous for the Christmas Market they conduct in the run up to Christmas. Here is the first, the village of Riquewihr, not far from the city of Strasbourg. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Mornas - Medieval Village and the church Val Romigier

Heading back to Lyon on the A7 after our trip to Marseilles, our Skoda Yeti starting flashing all kinds of scary lights on the dashboard. Not wanting to have a breakdown on the highway, we slided out at the next exit and decided to make the rest of the way by the small roads. The bad thing about small roads is that it takes you three times as much time to get where you are going. The good thing is that they are a lot more fun, and you get to see things you would have missed otherwise.
For instance, just outside the city of Valance, I saw this little Medieval tower peeping from behind a chalk cliff, with a sleepy little village nestled in the foothills:
Following the policy of never letting an interesting sight go unexamined, we turned in to investigate. It turned out to be the 8th century medieval village of Mornas, and its 12th century fortress on the cliff. We skirted the village and headed up the hill to the fortress. We never got there. Because on the way, we hit on this jewel of a church,  the 12th century church of Val Romigier, being painstakingly restored by the inhabitants of Mornas. We spent so much time looking over this church, we had no time to see the other delights of this village, which includes troglodyte caves, two other historic churches, the fortress, of course, and a dike.
Check it out...

Monday, April 08, 2019

Marseilles - L'Estaque - Cezanne's Paradise Lost

Last day in Marseilles. We had time for one last sight before driving back home. I voted for L'Estaque, the berceau of the impressionist movement in art. It was to this sleepy fishing village, just a stone's throw from Marseilles, that Cezanne had come for his holidays, been entranced, and had gone on to draw a series of paintings that had launched the impressionist movement. He was followed by a series of other painters:   Braque, Derain, Dufy, Marquet, Friesz, Macke, Renoir, Guigou and Monticelli... This village inspired three movements: impressionism, fauvism, cubism. Here is one of Cezannes paintings of this village:

Finding the village wasn't difficult. As you take the exit from Marseilles towards Lyon via A7, nice large signboards guide you to it. Once in the village, nice small signboards guide you to the "Artist's Walk", which includes the very spot on the port from which Cezanne painted his most famous painting of L'Estaque. There is a plaque commemorating the spot. 

UNFORTUNATELY, this is what you see...

Oh well... I guess it was stupid of me to imagine it would still be exactly as it was in Cezanne's time. The village itself is not so bad: it is no longer a quaint fishing village with quaint fishermen's cottages, but it isn't a concrete jungle either. It is like an upmarket, posh holiday resort with fancy bourgeois mansions. The bay is chock-a-block with pleasure yachts. So many boats you can barely see the water. I suppose this place is a victim to its fame. All the stinking rich business types want a piece of it.
Anyhow, it is still worth a visit if you are an aficionado of the arts. Just don't expect too much.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Marseille - MuCem

Continuing my series of posts on our Marseilles trip... right on the bank of the Mediterranean Sea, to one side of the Vieux Port, is one of the major eyesores of Marseilles, the Museum of Mediterranean Civilizations, or MuCem for short. I'm not much of a lad for museums, and museums housed in zippy post-modern buildings even less. This was one place Blandine and I had promised to avoid in Marseilles. But you can't... I mean, it sits there like a blot on the horizon the moment you land in Vieux Port. You can try shielding your eye from it, but it draws you in against your will, like a magnet. Despite loathing it for spoiling Marseille's magnificent seafront facade, we found ourselves sidling towards it. Finally, we gave in and went in for a closer look. But we stuck to one part of our resolve, we refused to see the exhibits. We merely took a close look at the cast iron latticework that covers the building. As an engineer, I was intrigued as to how it stays in place. Luckily, you can go all over the building and look at the latticework up close without paying an entry fee. The entry fee is just in case you enter the exhibition hall, which we did not. Here are some pics of the blasted place, especially the lattice work that intrigued me...