Friday, February 22, 2008

Photo Friday -Art -Jelly Babies

The route of the new Nice Tramway has become an open-air museum of modern art, L’Art dans la ville, with a variety of artworks by 15 international artists.

Some of the works include the jingles which announce the stations in a variety of voice tones and languages, calligraphic massages on the sides of the tram stations and special lighting under bridges and between some of the buildings.

This is the artwork by Spanish artist , Jaume Plensa, called Conversation à Nice. It is installed n the centre of Nice at place Masséna.

During the day the sculptures are an opalescent white , but at night they are lit up and cycle through a range of colours.

According to Jaume Plensa's artist statement, the figures are meant to represent the 7 continents and the ease of modern communication. Additionally , they are meant be a modern landmark almost like a lighthouse and to watch over and protect the passers-by.

I have heard a variety of suggestions about the meaning of the statues that differs from the official one - the most common theme is that the statues are cross-legged Buddhas or possibly yogis who represent the different areas of Nice [quartiers] , although people are slightly puzzled as to why Buddhas represent the quartiers.

My favourite suggestion is from my kids and their friend is that the statues are giant jelly babies!
-though I suspect that is a very ex-pat British opinion due their familiarity with the jelly baby sweets.

One of the sculptures when blue.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I'd been thrilled to see the dog sled running through the snow at Casterino when we visited the recently. I didn't get a good action shot of the dogs in action but I was pleased to at least get the full sled and dog team into one shot.

This is the musher seeing to his dogs. Musher seems like a strange sounding word but its apparently the correct term for the human in charge of the dog sled team.
He was taking them off the sled harness and making a big fuss of them all individually, which was really nice to see.

The dogs had a rest and a snack after their run. Some chose to have a quick snooze.

This dog was my favourite. It was so beautiful curdled up and sleeping in the snow. The reddish gold coloured fur seemed to glow against the white.

This dog was really lovely , especially with the fine dusting of snow on his dark furry head.
I was pleased I managed to capture a photo of his bright pink tongue.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

photo friday - 'What Is That?'

I've taken a few 'What Is That?' photos over the years. Mostly , I've managed to figure out what i've photographed but I haven't had any luck with this alien-looking plant.

The seedpods were about the size of a mango, so reasonably big , and the whole plant looked so strange that we started calling it a triffid without really noticing.

As the seedpods ripen they seem to split and release hundreds of black seeds carried on hairy parachutes.
I've spent some time looking at seed catalogues but still have no idea what this plant is.

This is an example of Teabagus arborealis -the tree dwelling tea bag. Its something that often provokes a 'What Is That?' response when out in the countryside -but further examination reveals it to be an ordinary teabag that some idiot has thrown up into the branches, rather than taking their rubbish home.

Its particularly annoying because they must be carrying a vacuum flask and cup around with them and a used tea bag isn't exactly heavy.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Snowy Mountain Sports

When we visited Casterino the other day, we saw a lot of paragliders [parapente in french] .

I don't think I can ever see me doing any paragliding - I am too freaked out by heights.

I expect there is a tremendous feeling of being at one with the birds and the views must be unbelievable -but the thought of potentially smashing into the ground [or trees] at the end puts me off.

Having said that, I didn't see any bad landings so maybe its not as dangerous as I fear.

This was the landing target -it doesn't look to me like it would be very visible from the air, though most managed to land close.

I saw two little kids triumphantly carrying off some small blue flags, so the target must have become progressively more difficult to see as the afternoon went on.

A few paragliders landed in the middle of the mountain bike racers, and the billowing parachute was an awkward obstacle to cycle round.

The mountainbikers were taking part in a 4hour moutainbike relay race over snow -La 4ème édition des 4 Heures VTT sur neige.

The two-person teams had to cycle a 6km route as many times as possible in 4hours in relay. The snow was pretty thick and visibility poor so it must have been hard going.

A pile of bright red snowshoes just begged to be photographed.

A very sleek black skidoo was a more hightech approach to speeding across the snow-they make a lot of noise and have other drawbacks but they do look like they would be fun. I can't drive and I am pathetic at steering virtual machines in computer games so I'd have to give the skidoo a miss too.

We saw a dog sled pulled by some beautiful huskies -it was possible to reserve rides on the dog sled in advance, I think the price was around 35 euros per person so it would have been a bit much since there were 4 of us.

I would have liked to have taken a ride on the sledge, though, maybe another time.

I have some really lovely photos of the dogs themselves which I will post tomorrow.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Casterino in the Snow

We took the Train des Neiges to Val Casterino at the weekend.
The Train des Neiges is a special train and shuttle bus that takes people to the snow for winter sports certain weekends of the year. This one departs from Nice [others leave from Marseilles and Aix and have different snowy destinations].

We had been intending to take the train des neiges to the snow for years and never managed to get organised enough to do it [a booking needs to be made a few days in advance] so it was great to finally get there.

Casterino is a tiny hamlet , high up [altitude roughly 1550 m/5085 ft] in the Alpes Maritimes close to the French-Italian border. Its strange to think that this is higher than Ben Nevis [Scotland and Britain's highest mountain] which is only 1344 metres/4406ft.

The scenery is amazing as Casterino is in the middle of three mountains - Mont Ste Marie [2740m, just under 9000ft] Monts Chajol [2293m /7500ft] and Mont Agnelet [2201m/7220ft].

Unfortunately , snow fell all day so visibility was not prefect, although it added to the impression of walking around inside a Christmas card.
I wasn't able to work out which mountain was which from my photos-maybe next time we visit, I will pay more attention.

There aren't very many buildings in the hamlet but most of them are beautiful wooden Alpine houses , with carved balconies.

I think the man standing with the bundle of red snowshoes is one of the mountain guides. In the summer people trek out from Casterino with guides ; on foot, in 4x4s and on horseback to see the famous ancient rock carvings of the Vallée des Merveilles.

I saw a man clearing thick snow from the roof -its hard to imagine that this is just a couple of hours from Nice.

The rich tones of the wood contrasted beautifully with the grey local stone stairs and snowbanks.

Casterino is surrounded by wooded slopes so there are no formal downhill ski slopes. Most of the skiing is cross country but other sports are also available such as snow shoeing, dog sledding , ice climbing, paragliding and sliding on sledges and building snow men .

Next time we go, hopefully early next month, we have decided to hire snowshoes and see more of the trails around Casterino.