Gamla Stan

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Largely car-free, Gamla Stan is the “Town between bridges”, and is the old town of Stockholm. Tiny streets, cobble,  hidden squares and archaic architecture characterise Gamla Stan. Build using North German architecture styles, it features a large square at its centre and is surrounded by old merchant houses. This square was the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath, where Swedish noblemen were massacred by the Danish King Christian II in November, 1520.

For such a small, cramped place, it’s surprisingly steep in parts. One can only imagine what it was like 500 years ago.

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Stockholm – a golden city

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A few years ago, we traveled to Stockholm as part of a larger Euro adventure, and a few images popped out of my catalogue that I felt needed a refresher and a public viewing.

I guess if you lived in Stockholm, you’d be used to it, but being built on 14 islands all joined up with more than 50 bridges, it was weird for us. Water is everywhere and the currents around the islands as the tide rises and falls can be treacherous. Our hotel was alongside one of the water ways and with cityscapes all around, it was beautiful.

Looking at this image, I remembered how beautiful it was, and tried to give it that sense of gold.

     Aperture: ƒ/5.6 Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II Focal length: 50mm ISO: 100 Shutter speed: 1/1000s
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Cross and sunflare

Roadside cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember that the Languedoc region is famous not just for cassoulet, but also the Cathars, so religion and Christianity are a big deal out this way even though it’s been a bit of a backwater for centuries. The papacy were ensconced just down the road in Avnignon, so the resultant abbeys, monasteries, castles and cathedrals that dot the landscape pay homage to an age gone by.

The image above was taken on a small dirt road near the canal where we encountered some old ladies doing washing at some old concrete basins. One wonders if they have electric light when the sun goes down…

     Aperture: ƒ/22 Camera: Canon EOS 20D Focal length: 17mm ISO: 100 Shutter speed: 1/1000s
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A French tragedy

 

Walking about town

Walking about town

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling through rural France sure is alluring. There’s always something around each corner to evoke the senses. It truly is wonderful. However, there’s a darker side…

Pretty much all of humanity know of World War One. Or the Great War. If there ever was such a thing. Great big bloody mess more like.

Anyway, this is evidenced in memorials to the fallen in each town. More accurately, the fallen FROM each town that traveled to war for some reason. Each an every town centre had a memorial to those lost, in variably with names inscribed in stone to those sons, husbands, bothers and fathers that never made it home. Reams and reams of names in most cases bear witness to the harsh reality of war.

The largest town we passed through, Castelnaudary, naturally had the largest memorial. It even had pictures. Sobering doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Even the smallest hamlet so far from the front gave their loved ones to die for the cause. It’s no wonder then that a generation later in 1940, when faced with the same decisions, France decided to forgo the loss and not lose any more valuable lives. And it’s for this they are remembered, rather than the valiant defense of their country in ‘The Great War’.

     Aperture: ƒ/16 Camera: Canon EOS 20D Focal length: 24mm ISO: 100 Shutter speed: 1/80s
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A darker side under the underpass

barging-20070523-800x600-8France is a strange place at times. After all it has gone through, there are such divisive entities trying to split it apart. What, with all the silliness in world politics today (think Brexit, Trump etc), it’s no wonder that someone like Le Pen can gain traction in a society like France’s.

He might have some reasonable ideas on governance, but it’s too bad that it’s all sullied but a general right-wing leaning. His popularity among neo-Nazis is enough to make one’s skin crawl. He’s been quoted as saying that Nazi gas chambers were a ‘minor point’ in history.

France held elections in 2007, and poster were still found under some bridges for our viewing (dis)pleasure.

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Castelnaudary

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Castelnaudary is the highest point on the Canal du Midi – remember, a canal does not flow like a river as the course does not slope. To move canal traffic up or down, a system of locks must be used. Every canal has a highest point, and it’s at this point where all water lost through “locking down” must be replaced.

Castelnaudary has a massive basin that receives run-off water from surround hills, town storm water and the like. It’s a wonderful town and we spent our anniversary here, eating pizza on our penichette and drinking red wine. It was great. An otter even swam past.

The image above is the bridge that crosses the canal just where the “Grand Bassin” opens up into the reservoir for the entire Canal du Midi. We fed swans here and would love to return some day…

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Clickety clack goes the train track

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canals and railway lines have a lot in common: Both like to be as flat as possible, but seeing as the Canal du Midi was built before commercial rail travel was even invented (1680 vs 1804), the advent of rail travel had to cater for the canal. In several location, the canal passes over the railway or vice versa. However, the two are joined at the proverbial hip, and are seldom too far apart.

Above is an image taken during one of our lunch stops just a short walk away from the canal. The locks close for lunch you see, and we’re pretty sure the lock keepers union would strike if some foreign tourist expected a lock to operate during lunchtime. Perhaps it was the French than invented the concept of siesta?

     Aperture: ƒ/16 Camera: Canon EOS 20D Focal length: 30mm ISO: 100 Shutter speed: 1/100s
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The Cathars were here

 

Catharism was a Christian dualist revival movement in the time between the 12th and 14th centuries. Simply put, they held firm to the idea of two Gods – the good one of the New Testament, and the evil one of the Old Testament. Naturally, this didn’t wash too well with the monotheistic Catholic Church. It was round about this time that the Catholic papacy was in Avignon. So, literally just down the road from the pope’s house, and he was not too keen with this going on under his nose. So began the Albigensian Crusade to get rid of the Cathars from the Languedoc Region. I think it’s safe to assume there was a lot of cruelty. In fact this crusade has been labeled as “one of the most conclusive cases of genocide in religious history”.

Incidentally, this is where we get the word “cathartic” from. It means “the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.”

     Aperture: ƒ/5.6 Camera: Canon EOS 20D Focal length: 85mm ISO: 100 Shutter speed: 1/50s
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Barging through a canal

barging-20070524-800x600-9A good few years ago, someone recommended canal barging to us as a good way to pass the time. Having little clue about boating, we investigated, weighed the pros and cons, and decided to take the plunge in 2008.

We decided on the Canal du Midi in France. This runs from near Toulouse and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. The premise is that you’re given a boat, or penichette, taught how to sail drive it, and you set off on your way. ON YOUR OWN.

We chose a one-way journey from about 30km SE of Toulouse and ending just outside Narbonne. Places we travelled through were Castelnaudery, Bram and Carcassonne. Too many to mention really.

The idea is that you travel along the canal, navigate through locks (up and down), stop anywhere you like for food or to spend the night and the only deadline is being at the end in a week’s time. It was AMAZING. Not the cheapest holiday, but the best adventure anyone could ever imagine. The image above is just the average view you have on an average day. In other words, stunning!

     Aperture: ƒ/22 Camera: Canon EOS 20D Focal length: 17mm ISO: 100 Shutter speed: 1/1000s
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Chapman’s Peak – next stop Antarctica

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You can’t see Antarctica of course, but it’s there all right.

This image was taken on a bike ride up Chapman’s Peak Drive. I’d taken my little point and shoot camera with (I normally shoot with my cell phone) and I was rewarded with a stunning sunset.

 

     Aperture: ƒ/3.8 Camera: Canon PowerShot SX610 HS Focal length: 4.5mm ISO: 160 Shutter speed: 1/500s
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