A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Monet’s Garden

After the Somme, we traveled through to Giverny – which is where Claude Monet finally bought a house and spent the last years of his life. He is one of the leading impressionist painters of his time and the only one who created his own muse - his garden. It is quite a vast place and it is like the bit in Mary Poppins, when they jump into the street chalk drawing that Dick Van-Dyke has drawn (for my American friends, there is not a single English man that speaks or has ever spoken like Dick in Mary Poppins, but it is fine, we love him for it).

The colours and the density of the planting is reflected in the swathes of colour on Claude’s canvas. Monet, amongst others, had been influenced by Japanese art and so, when he could afford it, he created a second garden - a Japanese garden, and this is where the lily pond and the bridge are, that is familiar to most everyone. You squint your eyes slightly and there you are, in front of one of his paintings. He was particularly interested in the reflections and the way different light changed the ‘feel’ of what you were looking at. If you have ever seen ‘The Lily’s’, they on a canvas the size of a sitting room wall, and so you really do have them recreated in the garden, or is it the other way around? It was in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas I saw Monet's Lilys and I know that Jim would love to see this.

The best bit of the experience was going into Monet’s studio in his house. Standing in the spot where he must have stood for days and days, contemplating his paintings. There are some fabulous Monet quotes that describe that give an insight into his experience of being an artist (something, that I am definitely not).

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”

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“No one but myself knows the anxiety I go through and the trouble I give myself to finish paintings which do not satisfy me and seem to please so very few others.”

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“Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.”

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“It's raining again and once again I have had to put the studies I started to one side... I am witnessing a complete transformation taking place in Nature, and my courage is failing as a result.”

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“I am only good at two things, and those are: gardening and painting.”

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“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.”

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“I'm enjoying the most perfect tranquility, free from all worries, and in consequence would like to stay this way forever, in a peaceful corner of the countryside like this.”

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We were going to stay on our first France Passion this night, on our way to the Loire Valley, but the gentleman running the car park explained that we were very welcome to stay the night in the carpark – a lovely big field with another lovely view. So we did, for free, with about 5 other vans. We left the next morning as he opened up, to head for Versailles and then the Loire, for something I was very much looking forward to, the Chateau's and the International Garden Festival at Chaumont Chateau.

Posted by placesinbetween 13:58 Comments (0)

Versailles

Written by Caroline

Here are two pictures that described how we felt about Versailles!

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Briefly...

It was a pain to find parking for a van of our size, they were not equipped to deal with campervans, as so many other places have been.

It was a bit chilly and overcast.

We bumped into an English family, who had completely run out of energy for touristing after a week in Paris and gave us their tickets for the house – Thank you lovely people, and you made the right choice.

We queued for just under an hour, which was fine, as we had a packed lunch and shared some cheese with the lovely Brazilians in front of us (they out did us on the picnic front when they cracked open a bottle of red!)

When we finally got in, the place was heaving – it was like the Boxing Day sales (I’m guessing, I don’t love a bargain enough to go shopping on Boxing Day).We went along with the throng, saw things from afar, over the heads of about 50 people and then it got silly.

It was just before the bedrooms. The entrance to the corridor had 70 plus people all pushing through and causing a jam. Alan and I suddenly realised we didn’t care enough about the beauty and opulence of Louis XIV to put ourselves through this and we buggered off, out of the place (feeling we could, because we hadn’t paid for tickets). If you are going to go to Versailles, go early in the morning and get the train in.

We went and had a cuppa in a nice café, bought an éclair to make up for the chaos we had just experienced and drove to Dreux to our first France Passion.

Posted by placesinbetween 14:28 Comments (1)

The Loire

Written by Caroline

We had decided to stay here for four days and ended up staying five, taking advantage of a free camping area outside of one of the Chateau, for the last night. We used the fabulous cycle path that goes from one end of the Loire to the other to get around. We do not intend to use the van for day trips, but the bicycles, and it is working out really well. Alan needs a gel seat and I need a hip replacement but other than that cycling is a fab way to get around.

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Saturday we went to Chateau Chaumont – a 5km cycle ride away along the river Loire.

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We weren’t sure about going into the castle – sort of had our fill of ancient interiors, but got a cheap all in one ticket from the campsite and so threw touristic prejudice to the wind, and look what we found in the Chateau…
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Sarkis

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Luzia Simons

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Shin-Ichi Kubota

"You have to know how to blossom where God planted you" Said the Prophet - from The Invisible Project, Manfred Menz

We loved it and think it is a great idea to use the Chateau for art as well as present its historic story. As the Brochure explained:

The Chateau of Chaumont-Sur-Loire (15th to 19th Century) and its landscaped park, with hundred year old cedars, provide a breath taking view over the untamed Loire.
Respecting the Chaumont-sur-Loire tradition of elegance and avant-gardism which inspired Balzan, Vigny, Proust and Rodin, the cultural program gives a bold rhythm to life at the Domaine with its installation by contemporary artists.
The Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire is the foremost Centre for Art and Nature entirely devoted to the relationship between nature and culture, artistic creation and the impact of landscape, our heritage and contemporary art.

Right up my alley!

Then to the Garden Festival, the theme being Gardens of the Future or ‘the art of happy diversity’. We picked up a few good tips for our garden of the future. The theme was about how we are loosing species and therefore we are loosing biodiversity, which has so many benefits. We were introduced to the gardens with this:
This is an invitation for contemplation, meditation and silence. A moments inattention is all it takes to destroy months of work

I was also interested in this quote,

Once tastes have been globalised, what will pursuit of universal beauty demand?

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Then the Chateau’s gardens, and some really nice sculpture. All in all, a really lovely day. We spent all day there, wandering around, had a picnic lunch and I love art exhibitions of all kinds – I’m a very visual person, and it was in a fairytale setting (I’ve a soft spot for ‘happy ever after’s) in the Loire Valley with beautiful weather. I’d always thought I’d go to the area and so my expectations were pretty high. The reality didn’t meet them, but I felt utterly content with what it did give me.

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Alan encouraged my irreverent side (yes, I do blame Alan :-)

Sunday – we had a day of pottering at the van, internet, and general normalness, which was good. Although, the aforementioned break-ins had happened the night before, so there was that drama to spice things up a bit. We had a lovely older Danish couple near by, who were initially quite upset about being broken into. I went and gave the lady a hug, whilst her hubbie was sorting things out, and later gave them a quick lesson on email, because their mobiles had been taken.

Monday – A cycle ride towards Amboise Chateau, but didn’t make it. Alan was very happy to see the rural French version of public toilets though…

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and I was thrilled to find a Salon de The…

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Tuesday – Left to head to Nevers, in the direction of Lyon, via Amboise Chateau

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and then Chenonceau Chateau. The pictures from Chenonceau speak for themselves, and we realised we were in no hurry to drive, so we stayed just outside the chateau.

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The inside was pretty lovely too. I felt the need to show that this was a ball room...
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Dr Turner – a photo of a flock wallpapered room which we thought you might appreciate.
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Mr Coleman – Look how big our Mortor is!!
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Posted by placesinbetween 14:35 Comments (1)

An insight into living in a campervan

Written by Caroline

Here is a brief description of the goings on that take place to maintain life in Nerys.

Firstly, I’ve done a bit of ‘home making’. Some piccies on the wall and a couple of small stuffed animals; given to me by extremely special people; that have come along for the ride.

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You have been enlightened to the difficulty of all our cupboards. Thanks for the suggestion Mr Woods. I have annotated a little piccie to show you how we have done it (I must be missing putting powerpoint presentations together Mathew!)

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There are three places that you can hit your head, the entrance to the bathroom, the side door and the corner of the kitchen counter, if you are scrabbling around on the floor – for some reason, that seems to be a regular occurrence. So, we are still bumping our head three weeks in, but other than that. I did hit my forehead so hard I needed to sit down and ice pack it for five minutes to avoid a bump.

The fridge and freezer are good. We always have ice in the freezer, so we can cool our white wine and our bottled water.
The gas oven is next to useless. Think we’d get a bigger fridge and get rid of it if we decided to keep the van. The gas hob is great, but we have already used nearly 6kg of gas, so we are thinking of creative ways to reduce our gas usage. Alan wants us to eat raw food a lot!
Since I am responsible for all driving, Alan does all the cooking.

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This is the result of some funky little poachers we brought with us.

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We have ourselves a little routine – not because are enjoy being sad and middle aged, but because space is a premium and so you have to work things out.
I put the bed away in the morning (it becomes our luxurious sofa) and Alan puts it down in the evening.
Alan is responsible for outside the van – the bikes, the waste water, the toilet cassette…lucky him.
I am responsible for inside the van – and I have become quite the house proud vanwife. I clean the kitchen floor every night – all three square feet of it.
We have great ipod speakers that run ten hours and have been listening to a diary by Agnes Hubert, called ‘Resistance’. Agnes was in the Paris Resistance in WW2. And a bit of ‘Sorry I haven’t a clue’ – good old Humphery Littleton. (OK, we do like being sad and middle aged).

I play my guitar whilst Alan cooks and then I do the washing up. I sleep whilst Alan jogs in the morning.

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So far I have driven over 1000miles. Alan is now expert at giving directions.

The van has very much become home and we feel quite cosy and happy in it. We are of course, spending a lot of time together, because we don’t have jobs and there is only one room in Nerys, unless you want to sit in the toilet. But I am currently sitting under the awning, outside, writing this, listening to the birds and enjoying the blue sky and beautiful weather, whilst Alan is having a little French siesta after lunch. We have both been for a swim and a fartlek this morning and have some planning to do for our Italian leg of the journey.

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Posted by placesinbetween 15:45 Comments (1)

Leaving the Loire towards Lyon

Written by Caroline

A note to the wise on tourist websites. With my rose tinted glasses on again, I found Nevers. The name amused me, it was on our route and there was a France Passion near by. Checking out the website, it looked as though it would be a lovely place to visit. We drive through Vierzon and past Bourges, because Nevers was the place to be. Blimey, what a disappointment. Maybe, we are touristed out, but I think it was more that it had completely oversold itself. We spent an hour walking around trying to squeeze some loveliness out of it. And then headed off to our Cow Cheese farm for the evening.

Our second day of driving, we were heading to a Vineyard in Beaujolas country, just north of Lyon, but I got tired of driving, so we staying in an Aires de Service on the edge of a town. We keep coming across the most beautiful of towns. Today was Charolles. Then the next day was a medieval town on a hill. And after two days, we make it to Lyon. We are staying just on the outskirts, in Dardilly. We buy an all day travel card for 4.80 euro each which works on the train, tram and bus.

Posted by placesinbetween 23:36 Comments (1)

Lyon's Bouchons…food for the fearless

Lyon loves its food. It is famous for ‘Bouchons’ which are traditional local eateries. When I say traditional, though, I mean – challenging. They are famous for serving cow intestine, pig brain and the likes. I don’t even like eating lamb chops because of the all the fat and bone fiddleyness… but Alan was very curious and since we weren’t sure where we were going to be for his birthday, the Monday following, we made our day in Lyon, his birthday day. Which meant eating at the Bouchons.

We had read an article on t’internet, and they had recommended Café Federation. We searched it out, they were booked for dinner, but had a table there and then for a set menu lunch.

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Starters included lentils marinated in pigs fat and mayonnaise covered..pigs fat.

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I was very brave and tried it all, but by the time that I was having to choose the main – there is no menu, just the waitress, slowly explaining each dish in French, I felt the kind of nervous you feel just before you are about to go on a rollar coaster. Excited, but sick and wondering exactly why you are putting yourself through this experience.

We were not too brave. I had pigs cheek casserole and Alan had blood sausage with stewed apples. And they were both delicious. We had a lovely local red to keep our spirits up and I felt a mixture of relief, exhilaration and satisfaction – if still a bit nauseous.

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We went to see a chocolate making factory,

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couple of galleries, this one was Bernard Rancillac, who, we were told, is a leader in pop art, and his brother, who is a sculptor.

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and then went to the Lumiere Museum.

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Our final stop was the Opera de Lyon (a ballet venue, like in Covent Garden. Never have understood whilst they the buildings are called Opera Houses, when no one sings…) They had some free outdoor entertainment and it turned out, were offering one act of the ballet they were about to show – Giselle, for free, before it opened the week after. We put Alan’s birthday treat day – and queued for an hour to go see this ballet. No orchestra, just recoded music, but a fabulous performance and really lovely music. I appreciate physical theatre (I love the London Mime Festival ) and dance more and more. When my arms hurt from my enthusiastic clapping, and they’ve been throwing their bodies around the stage for an hour, I recognise the grace and commitment.

Posted by placesinbetween 07:12 Comments (0)

After Lyons

Written by Caroline

It is Sunday 8 May and we are due in Cannes on Wednesday. Alan has work on Thursday, so we need to day to set up and have a look around, before ‘the circus arrives’ as Alan puts it. It is six and a half hours drive altogether. We had met a nice Geordie gentleman, who had said that the Ardeche Forest was lovely, so we have found a France Passion - an independent vineyard to stay at.

So, the Ardeche…

We were quite wowed as we turned off the motorway East, into the Ardeche forest. Monuments and villages on mountain peaks, and a landscape that seems quite unique to what we have seen so far. The hills are thick with trees, but there is also a lot of agricultural land. Strawberries – Fraise, seems to be one of the local produce.

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Madame Boyer, welcomed us to her vineyard. French and English words were used in one single sentence, but between us, we had a fruitful conversation and were invited to a retrospective of 10 years of art that she has been showing in the building she sells their wine. We come back at 5.30pm and enjoyed observing and every now and again, interacting with a community event. Wine was shared, everybody had bought a plate of food each (there was even cheese and pineapple on sticks!!! ☺ but of a superior nature because of the tasty cheese – although you’ll be hard pressed to beat a good piece of cheddar…I digress) there were speeches and we had a few nice chats. What a treat, to turn up and drop in on something like that. Some of the art was rather good as well…

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Posted by placesinbetween 07:17 Comments (0)

Alan’s birthday – Chateauneuf du Pape

Written by Caroline

A famous appallation Controlee region, we stayed at the Chateau Cabrieres. A family run vineyard. We parked up in front of their place and we were looking over their 30 hectares of vines and the alps in the background. Mr Vernier was a lovely generous man. We had our wine tasting with him and he told us all about how hard they work, how passionate and proud they are about their business and what it is like for the four weeks in September, when they pick their grapes. They have four different grape vines, and mix them to make their red and rose. They make their wine here and sell it themselves.

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We we made very welcome and Mr Vernier even gave Alan a bottle of red as a birthday present. We also got a couple of bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape for the journey :-)

We would have loved to have stayed longer, but have to make our way to Cannes. Alan had a nice birthday in a beautiful region. I had bought birthday banners and balloons with us, and we had a lunch of wine and cheese. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALAN xx

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We went into town later and I treated Alan to a meal out, but it was a bit disastrous. Nice place but the food wasn't up to Alan's high standards. The 3km walk back to the Chateau under a moonlit sky and after two bottles of wine, was...how shall we put it...interesting :-)

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Posted by placesinbetween 07:20 Comments (0)

The Vistas

Written By Caroline (assume this is the case until you see 'Written by Alan' :-)

We have equated some of the countryside that we have seen with more familiar ground.

The Picardy region reminds us a bit of Suffolk.
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The Centre - Loire Department, like Shropshire
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The Borbogne region, Derbyshire.
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The Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is really lovely and has the auspicious position of being compared with nowhere else!
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Posted by placesinbetween 06:09 Comments (1)

A few 'interesting' moments…

We have had some driving moments. Some traffic calming in a small village, first thing in the morning, took us onto the other side of the road. I obviously felt very comfortable on the left hand side, so I stayed there!! The face of the lady in the oncoming car soon reminded me I was on the wrong side of the road! We now have a little routine, when we leave a campsite. I take a moment to remember what way to go around roundabouts before starting the journey.

We hit a very high pavement edge, going into a town. I pulled over, fearing the worse, but the tyre and hub cap looked fine, so we carried on. We had been playing games from a book that we’d been given ‘are we there yet’ to keep us amused. I think maybe we won’t be doing that again…

The other moment, was when I got distracted looking at all the interesting goings on around us, through a small town and didn’t keep my eye on the road. Alan, being nearer the on coming traffic, gave a little shout and we got back on track.

Oh, and I ran a red light driving into Amiens, with the Bluemore clan following (oops)

All necessary shots across the dashboard to remind me that I can not be a tourist and in charge of a 2.5ton vehicle. They were all in the first two weeks (we are a six weeks in now, and it has been fine since then).

The best driving experience has been over the Alps Maritime. Because we are not using the motorways, we definitely get the scenic route. If I can upload the video Alan took, I will, but there were a few squeals and ‘bloody hells’ from me, but you will see that I had a big grin on my face at the same time. Gren, Marcus and Chris (little Bro) will know that I love fast cars and driving, so it was a thrill to go through the mountains and Nerys did brilliantly.

Other none driving related moments

We have had two incidences, one with our grey water (shower and sinks). We drove with a full waste tank and it came out of the shower plug back into the shower tray, soaking the mat in there. We now empty the grey water when it is half full!

The other, was more of a close call. There is a little light on the toilet that tells you when the cassette is full. Alan is responsible for taking the cassette from a little door on the outside of the van and emptying the contents. Well, it turns out that the light doesn’t work. Because we had been free camping, we hadn’t been near a ‘cheminique’ where you can empty your waste, and the cassette was getting full to bursting…Joy. We were staying at a Vineyard in Aix de Provence. We had to leave at the crack of dawn, to find an Aire de Service to empty the cassette and a toilet for us in the meantime. I had to write a note, in my best French, apologising for leaving without a bye nor leave. Well, we did not find a single Aire and so we had to drive for three hours, to our Cannes campsite. Just in case, we had put cling film over the toilet bowl (yes, we were concerned) but it was unnecessary. Thank goodness. Although, we did the Alp Maritime drive mentioned above that morning, and each corner and rise and fall, had an extra element of danger to it….Sloosh.

Posted by placesinbetween 06:22 Comments (0)

Cannes Film Festival

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How can I describe this event to the uninitiated?? The first thing to say is that there are various strands of the festival, films in competition, films out of competition and films showing at the buyers market. The focus is the ‘buyers’ and ‘distributors’ who buy the rights to distribute the films in territories, different countries.

Most of the films shown at Cannes have no distribution when initially screened, so a film, such as Tree of Life, when it was shown In Competition did not have a UK distributor. After the screening it would be hoped that a positive reaction will ensure a buyer would pick up the film for a UK release. Some films at the festival may never be seen outside of the festival circuit or will not to be purchased for all the ‘territories’ if they are considered too niche or too specific to the country of origin. So they will make no money and everyone that invested in the film will make no return.

Sometimes, the directors and producers even wave their fee, just so there is enough money to finish the film, because they are artists and passionate about their project.

The best way I can think to describe what I saw at Cannes is that there is a hierarchy.

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At the top of the chain –are the security, looking very smart.
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They run the place. If you do not have the correct badge, you are not getting in.

Next are the buyers – the purse string holders. A buyer representative goes to lots of films – 6 a day perhaps, and talks to lots of producers; who have films or ideas for films; who need financing or distribution help. This is the business side of the Festival, and ultimately what it is all about. These people have all access passes and get invited to all the parties.

Then there are the stars – actors and directors that we’ve all heard of and that helicopter in from their yacht. They all seemed friendly and good natured, although Robert deNiro (the head of the Cannes Jury at the moment) is not known for being too gushy – which is fine by me.
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And Sean Penn seems the same. Sean missed the press conference for Tree of Life because he was flying in from Haiti, after doing some humanitarian work. Uma Thurman looked ravishing, in long jade earrings, a understated dress and a big smile. Antonio Banderas was the most entertaining on the red carpet.
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I briefly saw Jonathon Ross run up the steps, in his shades. Looking like he’d dropped out of society (I hear he is very happy fulfilling his childhood dream of writing comic books). I also saw Jude Law, Faye Dunaway was there, Jane Fonda, Woody Allen, Michael Sheen and Owen Wilson.

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I questioned going and starring at people walking up the red carpet, because everyone we were hanging out with were industry types and it would be deemed as quite uncool. Then I remembered, that you only get one opportunity like this and it was really fun. I chatted to lots of interesting people whilst standing about for a couple of hours and it was a real spectacle. And I loved seeing all the dresses.

The next tier down are the Directors, Producers and Actors of all the films that are ‘out of competition’. They are here for the buyers market and the ‘Directors Fortnight’ – Quinzaine des Relisateurs. It is work for them, but at the same time, there are lots of egos and (necessary it seems) self promotion. I went to a film party on the beach, and there were a lot of people who were there ‘to be seen’.

Then there are the worker bees. Publicists, who work extremely hard, look after the artists, organise the press junkets, Q&A’s and goodness knows what else. I met people who run film festivals – here looking to get films on their programme and lots and lots of self employed people. For instance, a guy who writes music for films – Goldfish, was his latest short. He has a place in LA and says ‘you have to have a presence there to get anywhere in this industry’.

There are also lots of people working at Cannes, who come from the support side of the industry, like the British Film Institute – (BFI) and MicroWave who were represented at the British Film Council. The UK Film Council have been merged into the BFI and are no longer. Both companies had worked on putting together the British Pavillion programme.
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There is a Pavillion for each country and this is where business workshops, meetings and networking takes place.

The job title ‘Producer’ seems to very loosely used and this is the next tier. There is a official role of Producer and Executive producer, but it seems you call yourself a Producer if you have a script, an idea for a script, a desire to direct or even just an interest in being a part of making a film. These people are at Cannes to network, looking for finance, advice.

And then the film crews and all the reporters. Walking around backwards with their microphones and filming Cannes moments
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This is my favourite photo from Cannes:
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Finally, the last tiers:

The official press.
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When they are taking photos on the red carpet, they have to wear black ties. Which I thought was great.
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You can hear them shouting ‘Robert, Robert’ to get the stars (called Robert) to turn their way. It is quite a cacophony and like a flock of birds after bugs in the sky.

The freelance photographers. I saw a few of these guys (not many women) behaving extremely badly.
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Pushing people out of the way to get to the front of a crowd. I also met a very nice young freelancer, whilst in the ‘fan pen’ next to the Red Carpet. He tends to use long lenses and stay out of the mele.

Tourist photographers. This was bonkers. There are a lot of guys and girls walking up and down The Croissette – the main road in Cannes along the front, where all the different cinemas and ‘famous’ hotels are. Anyone who is dressed up, a bit prettier than the rest, or plainly loves themselves, these photographers snap photos, ask for poses, talk to them like the Paparazzi talk to famous people ‘over here’ ‘just one more’. A lot of people completely sign up for it and pose and love it. Then they get handed a business card and if they want of copy of their photos, they have to go to a shop and buy them - like at the end of a ride at Alton Towers. I’m sad I didn’t get a photo of this happening, because I’m not sure how good my description is, but there were one couple in their ball dress and black tie, there were about six photographers flitting around them or down on one knee, creating a scene, telling them to turn this way or that. This is a little of what I saw:
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There were beautiful boats, lots of well dressed policeman, an open air cinema on the beach, and more people in black ties than you'll find at the Oscars...

Then there are the Fans:
I thought all the step ladders by the Red Carpet were for the freelance photographers, but they are for fans.
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They sit there, nearly all day, to glimpse a star and hopefully get an autograph or a hand shake. They stand outside hotels, not knowing who is staying there, but hoping to catch a glimpse of someone famous.

Finally, the tourists. People who happened across Cannes by accident; were traveling through and didn’t realise it was on; or were on a cruise ship and dumped on land for a couple of hours. Wandering around, looking slightly bemused and not quite understanding what was going on.

I’m not sure where I fit in. I was lucky enough to have generous friends of Alan, who get me into things, so I wasn’t just a tourist. I dipped in and out of standing with the fans, and just starring, but not for long. I got a slight insight into the industry, and went to a ‘dos and don’ts of making your first feature’ so I understand what Alan might have to deal with. I just watched and went to a few parties, and it was all very nice.

What about the Films?

Well, Alan had access to more than me, so I would cycle in from our campsite, about 3km’s down the coast, in my own time.
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My commute.
It was a wonderful cycle ride, and I would sing away to myself and prepare for the craziness of Cannes. I bought tickets for the Directors Fortnight films. I had six tickets and had chosen some films that looked interesting out of about 25.

I am not a critic. There are enough of those around. I don’t notice the nuances of the cinematography or weak scripts. I can only say how the film made me feel and what it made me think and how affecting it was. I said to someone at a party that I was ‘representing the normal audience member’ at Cannes – the ones paying to go and see films.

A taster of what I saw:
Code Blue – horrific story, I needed a drink after. Quite disturbing and I should have left and saved myself the trauma. But some beautiful, interesting moments.

En Ville – coming of age story. I was bored. Not really very engaging characters for me. I missed the message.

Apres le Sud – My favourite of the all the Quinzieme films I saw. Personal stories, enterwining.

The Island – a couple coming to terms with the complex nature of being human story. Disliked by those in the industry. For me it had some interesting messages, but was strangely split into two halves. An ‘on the island’ half and an ‘in Big Brother’ – odd half. The reaction from the audience on leaving seemed to be slight bemusement.

I was also very lucky in that Alan’s pass meant he could get two tickets for the in competition films.

I saw Tree of Life – Terrance Malik, Meloncholia – Lars von Triers and The Skin I live in – Almodovor. All three Directors are well established with a very definite style. All three films were very enjoyable. The first two were epic, end of the world stuff, classical music, moments of otherworldliness. The Almodovor a good engaging story with really interesting characters. I thought Kirsten Dunst was great in Meloncholia and everyone talked about the first ten minutes being extraordinary, which I agree with. I thought the performances by Brad Pitt and his wife, played by Jessica Chastain was very good, and I think I need to see this film a second time to really appreciate it. The Guardian critic – Peter Bradshaw, eloquently wrote the things that, on reflection, I believe are true, but don’t think I got from one viewing. (but I am just a lowly cinema goer…)

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Alan and I happy in the Palais Cinema.

The coup is seeing these films before they are on general release and for two of them, being one of the first in the world to see them on the big screen. I know that this is a big thing for some people, as I know of at least one friend who was very jealous. Also, underlining how lucky I was, were the people outside with little signs up (one on his iPad) saying ‘ticket please’. Once through security, people were running up the steps to get good seats, but depending on your pass, you were ushered into certain areas anyway. I took a moment to savour my red carpet moment. Not in a pretty dress on the arm of Alan looking lovely in his black tie, as I’d hoped, but a one off nevertheless.

So, the film festival from a Cannes Virgin’s, non industry type’s point of view. A people watchers dream!
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Posted by placesinbetween 06:24 Comments (0)

The transition from Cannes to the rest of the world

After Cannes, and some rather late nights – quite a bit of drinking and not a home cooked meal in sight, we were a bit shell shocked and knackered. We also, were lacking an essential piece of equipment for Italy – a red and white stripy back board for the bike rack. And of course, I check into camping equipment places right at the last minute (being last minute types) on a Saturday afternoon and the place is closed on a Sunday and Monday. We take advantage of this though, stay two days in a peaceful site with a lovely pool, in Cagnes Sur Mer.

We then head into Nice for the day, which we liked a lot.
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Tried some local cuisine – including a chick pea pancake – Socca, which was uninspiring, but went to a lovely food and flower market, some great little shops, bought some freshly made Gnochi - Bloody lovely.

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Went to a couple of art galleries, to balance out my cultural needs, after the film festival, and saw a brass band in a band stand by the sea. Lovely.

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Contemporary art gallery
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Beaux arts gallery

We headed off into the mountains for a couple of days to see what the hinterland was like and came across some really beautiful scenery.
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The drive, was hairy. I was getting used to the twists and turns, but the overhanging rocks were really disconcerting.

We ended up driving to Vence, to another campsite with a great pool, and for the first time this trip, sat by the pool, had a beer at lunch and did very little.
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It is extraordinary how easy it is to fill your time and so this day of nothing, was a treat.

Feeling recovered, and having stayed a day longer than needed in the mountains, we go to the camping shop on the Wednesday, stocked up and then head to Italy.

Posted by placesinbetween 07:16 Comments (1)

Over riding impressions of France…now we are in Italy.

Arrived in France 20 April - Left France on 25 May 2011

After five weeks traveling through France from North to South, with the only major city visits being Lyon and Amiens, and most of the rest of the time in the countryside, what has stayed with us. (The caveat, is that we have only seen a small part of a very large country, so all my lovely French friends have to accept that this is our experience so far of your home country.

Alan, says ‘lovely’ and ‘very French’! On a push, he also says, lush, cheap wine, brilliant beef. And then on reflection, ‘somewhere I would happily move to. We have both loved France so far.

For me, it is that it is very clean. Hardly any rubbish or graffiti. The roads are well kept and quiet of traffic. The people we have met and spoken with have been lovely without exception and encouraging us in our French speaking. The green space is expansive, varied and really quite gorgeous.

There is a lot of dog shit on the pavements. A lot of dogs, and most houses seem to have huge gates across their driveway, I think to keep those dogs in.

It doesn’t seem to matter that your house is a bit tatty. Needing a lick of paint or a bit of patching up, but considering most of the places we saw, had pretty old houses in small villages, rather than new builds, it sort of seemed fitting and I certainly am not passing judgment.

All in all, we have loved being in France and look forward to returning there, which will be about the beginning of September.

Oh, and I loved that so many roads were lined with trees.

Posted by placesinbetween 07:29 Comments (2)

A further note on France

I have since learnt, that I have Napoleon to thank for the lovely tree lined straight roads. They were built for his armies to walk to which ever country they were invading, and Napoleon thought it would be nice for them to have trees to shade them as they marched. I thought it was for aesthetic reasons, not fighting.

Posted by placesinbetween 23:36 Comments (0)

What happened in Italy???

Where have we been? Why no blog??

If France was countryside, wild animals and sleepy villages, Italy has been thunderstorms, mountains, hair pin bends and walled cities. It has been more frenetic for us, busier and perhaps a bit more challenging. The idyll of bucolic France is far behind and so the story of six weeks in Italy begins…

We visited just a small portion of Italy. As you may well know, Italy has only been on country for 150 years (it is younger than Australia!). This means that it is extremely regional in feel. I chatted to a well educated English chap whilst at a campsite near Venice and he stated ‘you can not find a real Italian cookbook’ to illustrate that food is very regional as well. We found out that pesto is from Genoa in the Liguria region. I guess it is the same everywhere. Pies in the North, curries in the Midlands, Spag. Bol, in the South???! OK, so this reminds me that a lot of people that we spoke to, had very strong opinions of Italy. Firstly, that it is not really interested in the rest of the world. There are hardly any Macdonalds and it certainly doesn’t feel very effected by globalization. This is also reflected in the people that live in the areas that we visited. Italians. It just reminds me what a beautiful melting pot we are in the UK and all that our country gains from that.

But I dive in at the middle of our Italian story. Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start….

Posted by placesinbetween 23:37 Comments (0)

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