A few days in Provence. Day 1

Day 1 Friday

Up at 5 this morning. Taxi booked for 06:30. A chilly morning. Caught the 06.49 from Bishops Stortford to Tottenham Hale.

Bloody silly ticket doesn’t work. This happens so much these days with the automatic barriers. I got told off by a rail man for just using my body weight to force through one of the barriers.

07:40 and sitting in St Pancras station at a Pret having coffee. Still got nearly 2 hours before we depart.

St Pancras International

12:40 and just arriving in Paris. Reading the news it seems the French rail workers are on strike in some areas. Just hoping it doesn’t affect our journey through Paris to Gare de Lyon for our onward journey.

Paris Gare du nord.
Paris gare du nord

Disembarked Eurostar and found our way to line D metro in the direction of Melun. It would seem that the strikes have hit this line as there is a 44 minute wait for the next train.

Line D metro direction sud

We eventually get to gare du Lyon after a 7 minute metro ride. Our tickets still don’t let us out through the barriers. I’m wondering if we should have validated them somewhere. Haven’t seen a machine though. Liz panicked us by looking at the out of date information which had us departing at 14:19 which only gave us a couple of minutes. Panic over though when we looked at the actual tickets which show we still have an hour and half before we depart.

Waiting in Hall A for our departure.

It turns out that was the wrong location. We had to go upstairs to Hall 2 for the departure.

Hall 2 at gare de Lyon waiting for the TGV train.

19:30 and we’ve arrived at the Best Western Galice. We tried looking for the bus stop at the station but could only see a bus to the airport and not one for the Aix old town in the dark. It had been a long day and we decided to splash out €40 on a cab to the hotel.

That’s it. Were settled in. Time for a beer or two!

A day in Elsecar and another film camera purchase.

Elsecar Heritage Centre is a collection of buildings in Barnsley which are now of listed building status of historical architectural heritage. Now a collection of shops and craft workshops, they were originally built to support the adjacent mine workings, ironworks and railway. Built in 1850, they were reopened in 1987 in their present guise.

The clock shop in the centre.
The clock repairer.
The crossing for the steam railway.
The Newcomen Beam engine.

The mine workings in this area were some of the deepest in the area. To access the deep workings required the installation of this beam engine to extract the water. It ran from 1795 to 1923 and is now the oldest example of a beam engine in the country that is still situated in it’s original position. It can now only be operated with the assistance of a hydraulic pump due to the dilapidated state of its steam powered engine.

The busy antiques centre.
I did consider getting a new phone but thought I probably wouldn’t be able to get social media on this one 😅
I saw this box pushed up the corner of one of the areas of the antique shop and with some excitement opened it up and found a very nice little film camera in almost perfect condition, complete with its manual.
Voigtlander Vito C. Hardly any marks on it and the case looked like it hadn’t been used. Not a bad buy for £15. Can’t wait to try it out!

Africa 2019 Part 3

Day 5 and 6.

Day 5. Today we are leaving Karatu and heading to the Serengeti National Park.

Skirting the edge of the Ngorongoro crater we were able to stop at a vantage point to look back to the landscape we had visited.

We started to drive down from the high ground around the crater and descended to the flat lands of the Serengeti plains. On the way we passed some more Maasai villages.

Maasai along the route
Maasai villages along the route.
Small, medium and large!
The monument called ‘The Cradle of Man’ which commemorates the work done by Louis and Mary Leakey in discovering fossils of early mankind in this area.
Keith posing by the entrance to the Serengeti.
A Topi.
The plains seem to go on forever.
Our tented camp for the next three nights.

We arrived at our next accommodation which is a tent on the Serengeti plains. A very luxurious tent though with an en-suite toilet and shower. The shower though was a bag hoisted up a pole behind the tent. You had to ask for the water to be delivered as it had to be heated over the fire first. We also had to have a shower whilst it was still light as no one was allowed to wander through the camp after dark as there were many wild animals around.

Our tent.
Having a welcome beer after a dusty day driving to the camp.

Day 6. Start of our early morning game drives.

Sunrise at 06:00 am the next morning.
Lions guarding a wildebeest kill.

We stopped at this point to watch a pride of lions. They had a wildebeest kill and they were guarding it from the prowling hyenas in the background that wanted to steal it from them.

The lions would get up and move around but always leave two lions guarding their kill.

To get some shade they would even wander over and flop down under the Toyota.
These small deer would stand high up on the kopjes for a good vantage point.
Cheetah

Our next sighting was these two cheetahs which had obviously just fed.

Cheetah’s head covered in blood from where it had been feeding.

The cheetah fare very well in these large open plains which suits their high speed hunting style.

Further along we came upon this group of lions spread out amongst the rocks.
Hippo

We came upon a rather shallow pond and was amazed to see a hippo had taken up residence. He was even so obliging that he gave us a yawn.

More cheetah on the prowl in the grass.
Some more lions relaxing on some rocks.
The zebra loved to roll in the dust!
Evening and storm clouds rolling in on the Serengeti.
Wart Hog.

A visit to Blakenham Woodland Garden

APRIL. 26, 2019

Blakenham Woodland Garden is situated in Suffolk near Ipswich. We went on a visit with our U3A Garden Group yesterday. A great time of year for flowers.

The morning started with coffee and tea with home made cakes in the barn followed by a walk round the woodland then on to the kitchen garden.

After the visit to the house a few of us went off to the Butt and Oyster pub in Pin Mill for a very nice lunch which was followed by a walk along the river Orwell foreshore.

The house

John Hare, MP for Sudbury and Woodbridge bought the wooded hill next to his house in 1951. Unusually for the area, which is surrounded by old chalk pits, the soil in the wood is green sand which allowed him to plant all kinds of acid loving plants like azaleas,rhododendrons and magnolias.

When he left politics in 1982 John Hare became Viscount Blakenham and Treasurer of the R.H.S.

When John Blakenham died in 1982 the garden was made into a charitable trust in order to ensure the survival of his remarkable collection.

The Orwell bridge elevated to allow ships to pass under on their way from Ipswich docks.

London City, Rooftop Garden and City Hall photography walk.

MAY. 10, 2019

Starting off at Liverpool Street Station in bright sunlight.

This was a walk planned to visit the recently opened rooftop garden at No 120 Fenchurch Street, London with members of Bishops Stortford Camera Club.

I had been notified of this new venue by a blog called ‘Look up London’ back in February but thought I’d wait until the weather improved. The day before the planned outing almost proved me wrong with storms and torrential rain However, I’m not put off easily by a bit of good old British inclement weather so went ahead with the trip anyway.

I love the way that in London you often get the contrasts of architectural styles.You have the stonework of St Andrew Undershaft Church here contrasting with the steel and glass of the Willis Towers building, then Lloyds

Just as we arrived at No 120 it started to rain but we did manage to get some lunch at Pret in Fen Court. Under cover and with everyone walking through with umbrellas up it proved to be a good opportunity for some street photography. I’d set a couple of assignments for the group, one of them being ‘Gestures in Street Photography’ so this proved to be an ideal time to get some shots.

Diane trying to blend i with the surroundings!
The colour is red!

After a while we did manage to get to the 15th floor and take some photographs before another black cloud came over and it rained again.

The gang minus two. Martin and Hazel and disappeared.

After around 20 minutes we decided to get some refreshment in the pub across the road and wait for the rain to stop.

One drink later we continued on down to London Bridge. Along the way we went into St Olave’s Church, founded in the 11th century it is one of the few medieval churches that survived the Great Fire of London.

The interior of St Olave's

Walking down Old Billingsgate Walk we went along the footpath on the north shore of the Thames and just before London Bridge there is a very good spot to photograph the Shard across the river with a triangular piece of art work in the foreground.

Looking up toward London Bridge.
Looking down toward Tower Bridge.

Crossing London Bridge we went for coffee before proceeding along the southbank to the area surrounding City Hall. There are great views across the river and back to the Shard as well as City Hall itself.

City Hall on the Southbank.
Back across the Thames from City Hall.
I often think this looks like a modern version of a Roman amphitheatre.

On past Tower Bridge is an area known as Shad Thames, one of the Victorian era’s largest warehouse complexes. Here were tea, coffee, dried fruit and spice warehouses which are now apartments. It was known as the ‘larder of London’ and you can still see the overhead gantries which connected the warehouses today.

Shad Thames.
Shad Thames.

Turning back on ourselves we then went over Tower Bridge to end our walk at The Minories pub which is built in one of the old railway tunnels. You can sit having a drink whilst listening to the rumble of the trains going overhead.

Graffiti to Art

JUNE. 28, 2019

Some years ago all you would see would be humorous or socio-political scribblings on walls of someone trying to make a point. In America it probably all started by being applied to the side of trains in the 1920s and 1930s.
Over a number of years however the original graphical scribblings on the walls have been transformed to a more colourful and artistic form.

Initially illegal with a constant battle going on between the artist and the authorities it has now in some cases been given the seal of approval. In some areas, walling been given for the artist to create their works of art on a more permanent basis.

These are some of my photos taken around Europe.

Cyprus

Abandoned Hotel Belangaria, Trudos Mountains, Cyprus.
A political statement? - Abandoned Hotel Belangaria, Trudos Mountains, Cyprus.
Cyprus for the locals - Abandoned Hotel Belangaria, Trudos Mountains, Cyprus.
Wall art - Nicosia, Cyprus.

Germany

Wall art - Heidelberg, Germany.

France

Wall Art - St Nazaire, France
Wall art - Nantes.

Getting close to home now with some wall art taken in Camden, London.

Camden, London.
Camden, London
Camden, London
Camden, London.
Camden, London.

In more recent years too the work has moved from the public domain and has been seen more in galleries. I’m not sure if that is a good or bad move though. I leave the reader to form their own opinion.

Amsterdam

More Banksy in Amsterdam.

Photography and other advice for safari.

NOVEMBER. 17, 2019

The Serengeti, Tanzania

Going on a safari was a new experience for me so before leaving I did ask for some advice on what best to take etc on a couple of photography club Facebook groups. Whilst I did get some useful information such as ‘don’t fall out of the jeep’ and ‘hold on to your camera’ it was more equipment advice I was after.

Now I’ve completed 5 whole days of travelling through Northern Tanzania I thought I’d just put together my thoughts on it.

I organised the trip so that we were there at the beginning of November to try to catch the start of the rains. This brings on the grass so the animals are on the move. This in turn brings the predators that follow the herds. All done so we would hopefully catch the photos of the big herds on the plains and those close ups of the big cats.

The animals get very close sometimes. We had to pull over to let an elephant pass.
This is where the 12-60 lens came into its own!

Route.

We followed a route from Arusha, over to Lake Manyara National Park on the first day. Second day was taken up with a long day driving round the Ngorogoro Crater Park which in fact is a volcanic caldera. This was followed by moving on to a tented camp situated right on the Serengeti, for the next 3 days. Being situated right in the Serengeti meant we had maximised our time actually viewing animals without taking time driving to and from the park area. Up at 05:30 for breakfast and set off in the Land cruiser at 07:00 straight into where its all happening. The accommodation in the luxury tents with en-suite toilet and shower was very good and the food in the camp was exceptional.

The tents at the Kati Kati bush camp.
Lake Manyara from the air. This was the location of our first day on safari. This was taken a few days later whilst flying over the lake on our way to the island of Zanzibar.
The Ngorogoro caldera. Taken from the air whilst flying over to Zanzibar a few days later.
Our guide, Alfred, purchasing some red bananas on the way to our destination. I nicknamed him King Alfred the Great due to his knowledge of the flora and fauna. He found this highly amusing.

Vehicle and guide.

We booked our safari as part of an overall holiday package through a company called Audley Travel which we’ve used a few times before. Our guide, who is a Massai had an encyclopaedic knowledge of flora and fauna of the area and certainly made the trip for us and was well worth the tip we gave him at the end of the 5 days. The vehicle he used was a Toyota Land Cruiser. Very comfortable and with 6 seats in the back, although there was only 4 of us. It had a roof which raised up so you could stand up and look out. You could stand on the seats (shoes off) and get a higher perspective. Generally I found the people of Tanzania some of the most friendly I’ve come across in the world.

Clothing.

So, what to wear. It’s hot but there are also some tsetse flies in some areas so it’s best to wear lightweight long trousers. Zip offs are best so you can convert to shorts when needed. Also wear lightweight long sleeved shirts. At times you will be standing on the seats of the vehicle to get a better view through the raised roof and as they don’t like shoes on the seats, wear slip off shoes, they are easily put on and off quickly. I was wearing easily removed Keen sandals with socks. Not a very cool look but I was hoping the socks would prevent some bites (they didn’t).

Biting things (other than big cats).

There aren’t many of the tsetses about but they can give a nasty bite as I know as one bit right through my socks. Tsetses can also carry African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness so its best to avoid getting bitten. On the subject of bites, make sure you’re taking your anti malaria tablets too as there are mosquitos about in the wet areas.

I called this photo 'band of brothers'. It was 5 large male lions (one out of shot) walking toward us across the Serengeti.

Photography equipment.

Firstly, I thought, correctly that there was going to be a lot of dust kicking up on the Serengeti. So I decided to invest in a second camera body which would accept my existing Micro Four Thirds system lenses. This meant that I need not be changing lenses in that dusty environment. I use a Lumix GX8 so I purchased an Olympus OM-D E-M1 body second hand from the MPB Web site. At £285 it was an acceptable add on cost to the holiday.

Close up of baboons grooming.

One aspect of this trip was that I wasn’t sure of the best lenses to take as I want sure how close, or far away the animals would be. I understand that it is a difficult one as no one knows what is going to happen when working with animals. I settled on taking two prime lenses, which I didn’t use much and two zoom lenses, a 12-60mm and a 100-300mm. The two zoom lenses were the ones I used most as they covered most eventualities.

Wildebeest.

I also took my Gorillapod but it turned out that it was best to be able to move freely and in any case, there wasn’t anywhere I could actually wind it round the roof structure of the Land Cruiser.

Wart Hog

One thing I forgot to take was a blower brush. That would have been a good accessory to help in cleaning the dust off the cameras at the end of the day. The do get very dusty in the vehicle.

So, a blower brush and a couple of cleaning cloths are worth having.

It’s probably best to take a couple of spare memory cards too as you are sure to take a lot more photos than you think. When you are close to an animal it may not be adopting the best pose so you tend to just keep shooting in the hope of capturing just that moment when the head turns to get that profile or the direct stare from the eyes.

Cheetah with it's kill, a Thompsons Gazelle.
A cheetah with blood dripping from it's mouth after eating a recent kill.

A good camera bag is worth having but be prepared for it to get very grubby and need a good clean up at the end of the safari. The vehicle we had was very well equipped with places to slot your camera in between shots. There was a trough in front of me with some padded bags so you could place one camera safely there and a suspended bag slung over the back of the font seats with compartments in which would accept a camera fitted with a zoom lens.

Two giraffe sparing under a tree.

The vehicle was also equipped with an inverter and power sockets to charge batteries though I didn’t use that as I had plenty of spares.

French Group trip to Lyon 2019 Day 2

OCTOBER. 08, 2019

Day 2 – Friday 4th October -Lyon and the Vieux Lyon.

Outside the Hotel Charlemagne.

After a good nights sleep we started our second day with a walk north and up and over the station at Perrache to go to Place Bellecour to pick up our Lyon cards which we had all pre-ordered. A 3 day card for €43 gets you free local travel and free entry into museums plus a river boat trip which was great value.

The Lyon!
....and down the other side.

We met up with Elaine and Steve who had joined us as they were staying fairly locally in their camper van. At this point it had started to rain a bit.

Superman was on holiday in Lyon whilst we were there!
Place Bellecour, and tourists!

We then continued up along the River Saone to get the funicular to travel up to the the Old City. Before travelling up to the top though we stopped at a small cafe called Café de La Ficelle just to the right of the funicular entrance and had some lunch.

On the banks of the Saone river.
Buying some provisions.

At the top we visited the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, a fantastic cathedral.

Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere

Returning down the funicular we then had a walk south along the west side of the river and visited the Cathedral Saint Jean Baptiste and walked through the old town streets.

Cathedral Saint Jean Baptiste

Returning back over the river we caught our boat to take us on the river tour. It was a very pleasant tour but was getting a bit cold, especially as we chose seats on the top of the boat for a better view. We had some great views of the area called the Confluence which is where the Rhone and the Saone rivers meet in the south of Lyon.

At the meeting point of the two rivers is the post-industrial La Confluence. It is the site of an urban renewal project, with upscale apartments, offices, and parks like the Jardin Aquatique Jean Couty, built overlooking the River Saône.

The Confluence museum.

French Group trip to Lyon 2019 Day 1

OCTOBER. 08, 2019

Day 1 – Thursday 3rd October

An early start this morning with the taxi picking us up at 05:30. Picking up Gill and Vince on the way we caught the 06:10 from Bishops Stortford, picking up Paul and Lin at Harlow Town. Changing to the underground at at Tottenham Hale we had a bit of a problem with our tickets. The lady at the gate said they weren’t valid because Tottenham Hale isn’t a London terminal. I just ignored here and we all went through the gate.

We arrived at St Pancras in plenty of time to catch our Eurostar train which was to take us to Lille. It was good that we got there early as there was hardly anyone around so we just sailed through security and passport checks. Well, maybe ‘sailed through’ is not the right statement as couple of us had a problem with the Eurostar tickets as they hadn’t printed them correctly and the ticket was missing part of the bar code. We eventually got them reprinted at the Eurostar desk even though they seemed to be having a lot of problems with their ticket printing machine.

Got under way on time at 08:55 after sorting ourselves out with our seating (some of us were fussy about which way they sit ) for a couple of stops before we travel under the channel and on to France. We arrived in Lille around 11:30. A not very interesting station with limited facilities, although they did seem to be doing a lot of work on the station concourse.

The cafe at Lille
Waiting at Lille station
Well, it was an early start!

We had quite a wait at Lille as we weren’t due to depart until 14:03. Another 3 hours watching the French countryside zoom past saw us arriving at Lyon Part Dieu station where we got the tram (destination Debourg) just across the road to drop us at the Suchet stop. Very convenient location as it was almost opposite our hotel, The Hotel Charlemagne.

We checked in to the hotel and paid the €2.50 per night per person for the local tax and sorted out which rooms we wanted. The hotel is very smart and appears to have had extensive modernisation.

Our room was small but very comfortable, with a large and comfortable bed. A kettle was supplied and fresh bottles of water were supplied to the room each day. The hotel had a nice bar area with a friendly barman who dished out rather large gins and tonics, not that I’m complaining!

The bar area at the hotel
Some of the art work in the foyer of the hotel

In the evening we walked north of the hotel and through a pedestrian tunnel to go to the Brasserie George at 30 Cours de Verdun Perrache. Liz and I had the quenelle.

The tunnel which we had to walk through
The Brasserie George.