Friday, April 23, 2010


Our cat , Gandalf, toasting his face in a patch of sunlight. I loved the dramatic light and the reflections in his eye.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Overcast -PhotoFriday

Hotel Negresco's famous dome on an overcast day.

This was taken a few weeks back when we had snow in Nice - very unusual weather for the South of France. Normally, we have blue skies most days, even in winter.

Nice and the South of France were originally winter holiday resorts as the  Victorians wanted to escape the dreary Northern winters.

The dome of the Negresco pictured here was supposedly designed by Gustav Eiffel but I'm not sure if that has ever been definitely proven. Edouard Niermans was the architect for the  whole hotel.

The luxury hotel opened in 1912 but was  requisitioned in 1914 and used as a war hospital for wounded WW1 soldiers  . The lack of high paying guests during the war  and the vast expenditure on the building work bankrupted  the original owner, Henri Negresco.

The Negresco Hotel is now classed as a Historic monument .

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Biot and the Templars

In 1209 , the Count of Provence donated the village of Biot and some of the surrounding land to the local Knights Templar. Biot became the most important and rich Templar stronghold in the area for almost one hundred years , until various Papal and Royal decress excommunicated the Templars and confiscated their lands.

Biot village celebrates the Templars every year with a mediaeval fair and re-enactments of the donation of Biot and other events in local Templar history.
There are classical music and choral music concerts, lectures and discussions, and religious services as well as the usual craftsfolk, living history troupes, acrobats and street perfomers, etc

These are some modern Templars marching off the field of combat at the fair.The costuming and attention to detail is amazing.

One drummer drumming out the pace for the marching Templars.
The standrard bearer marching in the procession.

Some other knights-I can't remember their exact allegiance but they were the opponents of the Templars in the combat displays so intended to represent the King at the time of the consfication of land in 1308.

The chainmail and helmets must have been swelteringly hot to wear in the sunshine while walking, never mind when running about with a big sword and shield.

The smith hard at work at his portable forge.

This was one of the beggar and leper troupe. They had an encampment in the village and at time wandered around announcing their presence with clappers, wooden rattles [like old fashioned footbal rattles] and bells and begging for alms.
This guy was wandering around begging kisses from people.

The makeup was excellent and even though we all knew the sores etc were fake, there was still an automatic reflex to recoil away from the affiction. It was very odd to react like that as I am not a squeamish person at all.

A very colourful character with a tame crow and a tiny terrier peeking out of the bag.
Maybe its meant to be a mediaeval version of the portable miniature chihuahua.

The crow was really amazing -raised from very young but this one wasn't able to mimic human sp[eech.

Several members of the crow family [ crows, magpies, jackdaws etc] are better talkers/mimics than the more exotic 'talking' birds and they used to be kept as pets by poorer people -right back to the middle ages.

Some of the female camp followers in the Templar procession.

On the right -the open sides of the pinafore type dress [surcot] were initially called 'Hell's windows' because it was thought that men would tempted by the daring cut away sides , which revealed the womans shape and potentially lead to men's hands wandering. Side lacing makes the surcot slightly more chaste.

On rare occasions, an elf is seen in the crowd. I've noticed one or two turning up at medieval fairs here in recent years.

The singer here was an incredibly jolly Italian chap with a very infectious grin. He was singing Mediaeval and renaissance songs and encouraging audience participation with the choruses.
The musicians in the background were trying hard to keep their faces straight.

This guy was one of several who had birds of prey for hawking. Its an American hawk of some kind, rather than a European species.

A sundial , sunny coloured house and sun dried washing on the line.

Close-up you can see the gnomen is an arrow shot into the sun. The Provençal motto translates as 'the sun shines for everyone'.

This arrow piercing a heart was on the roof of a different house.
One of the cobbled streets -fairly typical for mediaeval villages in this area.

I liked this carving of a lion or cat embedded in one of the village walls. It looked like it had been firedamaged at some point in its history but it had presumably been rescued and re-used.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Up above the streets and houses...

Some atmospheric shots of  the Nice observatory wreathed in clouds  with a rainbow stretched over it.

The full rainbow wasn't visible but the clouds and light were very dramatic.  

  The rainbow didn't last long - it just faded over a cuple of minutes . The clouds around the observatory dissipated quite quickly too.

I've had the Rainbow theme tune stuck in my head since I took these photos the other evening. Its always some madly annoying song , never something I actually like.Rainbow was the UK's answer to Sesame Street in the 70s and 80s and it now has a sort of cult following. There are lots of clips on YouTube of the puppets Zippy, Bungle and  George and the very odd-seeming  human presenters. 

You can even find the infamous risqué 'twanger' sketch that was filmed as an in-house  joke but never ever  broadcast.