From 2009 until now, I have posted many series of wide-ranging photo essays. Â A total of 72 of these essays - surreal and otherwise, and consisting of just over 1,000 photographs - were devoted to Western Australia.Â Another 58 photo photo essays - surreal and non-surreal, and comprised of some 1,800 images - focused on America.Â
I reckon that for a while people have seen enough of my take on slivers of experiencing life in Western Australia and North America.Â As a complete change, let's bravely have a bit of a gander at what it's like to engage in what I've loosely termed as the Surreal English & French experience.
It is a surreal look in that every one of the 634 photographs in this series has been altered. This has been mainly accomplished by using Picasa but sometimes by also using Microsoft Paint as well to manipulate the images.Â Not a single image is as the eye would ordinarily see it.
We are taking each country in turn, beginning with England.Â And we kicked it all off by using shanks ponies and train to travel to London.Â It was a kind of reconnoiter, if you like ... very much a case of tentatively dipping our big toe into the murky waters of the English experience.
Emboldened by surviving unscathed our first excursion from our home base at Sunningdale, we then journeyed by car along back roads and country lanes to see what the heck is within a couple of hours reach of home.Â We got to see lots of snug pubs with pints and pints of frothing cold beer ... oops, I mean hot cocoa in hamlets and towns that soon floated by in a hot chocolate haze but I kind of remember Henley-on-something-or-other, Oxford University's bicycle racks and Guildford in vain search of Charles Dickens.Â In the following expedition we ranged much farther, driving to Dover and catching a train to St Ives in Cornwall.Â Just because, really.Â We had no plan in mind other than to go look.
Once we'd returned to Sunningdale and recovered from that coastal ordeal, we headed off to Windsor Castle.Â It is not only Europe's largest but is actually also the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.Â We put our feet up for a day or two and then caught the train to Waterloo Station to go exploring the Westminster area, including the knock-your-socks-off Abbey.Â A few days later we caught the train into London again to go see the bustling river Thames area.Â Some days after that, we once more caught the train to London, this time to trudge on blistered feet all about Trafalgar Square and then route march to Buckingham Palace.Â Liz and Phil didn't invite us in for a cuppa.
Magnanimously, we chose to not live in bitter memories of royal slights in the past days.Â Instead, we headed by car for France.Â Â As with all all of our expeditions, it necessitated beginning as soon as it was light enough to head off and then not putting our feet up until well after dark ... the daylight hours in England andÂ France during late-autumn and winter are quite short.Â And the light for good photography is fast fleeting and very brief.Â It can be said that at this time of year, England and Europe are a very dark experience.
Having crossed under the English Channel via the Chunnel, we drove to historic Boulogne, the largest fishing port in France, if not the whole of Europe. Â The emperor Claudius used the town as his base for the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43.Â Some 1,800 years later, in 1805, Napoleon massed his Grande Armee in Boulogne to invade England.Â Â But the supremacy of Britain's Royal Navy prevented any such actual invasion from occurring.Â And that was true again in WWII, when a mooted invasion by Hitler's forces was manifestly impossible because the Royal Navy ruled the waves and the Royal Air Force ruled the skies.
Enough of this gibberish by me!Â It's absolute rot, of course!Â Suffice to say that we explored the restaurants and the ancient part of Boulogne and had an interesting time.Â But with the sunlight due to check out soon enough, we've got to get on the road again.Â We're heading for Paris and the hotel rooms with hot showers and food and ... and all waiting for us to arrive.
So enough of my dreadful drivel.Â Mercifully, I'll keep my hopeless commentary very short.Â Nevertheless, I will scrupulously cite any references, meticulously following the petrified encyclicals in the Dead Sea Scrolls Style Manual that detail the turning-to-salt procedures for use on defrocked scholars.Â Should such encyclicals deviate markedly from the Roman Army's standing orders for the supervision by the Ninth Legion of the style of gladiatorial poetry contests written to death in Gaul, such deviation will be noted.Â C'est la vie!
The big signs on the expressways reassure us that we are indeed headed for Paris - as unbelievable as it actually seems to Bob and me.Â To think that we are going to Paris.Â To Paris!Â This has to be a dream!
Or a nightmare.Â Yes, we've hit Paris at peak hour, in the dark and with stop-start traffic going at a crawl.Â By the time we get to the hotel and have checked in, we'll all be ready to just hit the sack.Â Traveling can be so very exhausting.
Well, we've had breakfast in the hotel and have just stepped out of the lobby into the daylight scenery.Â Yep, this is Paris.
Never mind, it's time to hit the pavement running!Â The heavy traffic means avoiding traveling by car in the city - or by bus, for that matter - and catching the subway, known as the Metro.
The gaping mouth of the underground system.Â May Saint Jude be with us.
And into the bowels of the beast we go.
The English Oracle pointing out to the sergeant-major recently retired from the Royal Leprechaun Army where the escape route is in case of a goblin nuclear attack via the subway.
This express light rail doesn't hang about - you run for it or get left behind, wondering why the damned French did this to you.Â But we rode it to where we wanted to go and emerged unscathed.
The Paris pigeons are like that .... hold out a buck or a euro and this is what happens.
Yes, yes, Bob, here we have it!Â The Eiffel Tower, soaring almost 1,000 feet smack bang into the clouds.Â On a clear day from the top you can see for some 37 miles.Â But foggy like this you can just see the hand with which to smack yourself silly for foolishly terrifying yourself by riding the elevator to the top.
The Eiffel Tower traffic light Grande Prix, with the scooters dominating the poll positions.
Are you mad standing here looking up with gaping mouth at 10,000 tons waiting for an earthquake to come crashing down on top of you?Â But if you must know before they search among the 15,000 pieces of iron and 2.3 million rivets to find what remains of you, there are 40 tons of this turd brown paint also waiting to squash you into pulp.
(Source: a little known fact sheet issued by the Roman Army Travel Bureau to the Ninth Legion centurions of Britannic birth sent on professional development courses held in Gaul, quoted in full under the heading of Eiffel Tower statistics and other Gaulish lies in the annotated edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls.)
Approximately 6.8 million people visit the tower every year, with over an estimated quarter of a billion visitors in all since the tower was opened on March 31, 1889, with construction having commenced in 1887.Â Most choose to ride the yellow elevator, fervently praying as they rise up towards Heaven.
(Source: ibid and also The Theology of Babel and Other Towers in the French Foreign Legion handbook for English nationals fervent in the Legion.)
There are those demented ones who prefer to walk up and other more sensible ones who in moments of sheer madness rode the elevator up but realized the edifice could come crashing down with an earth tremor at any moment ... and they're not waiting in the queue for the damned lift to come and evacuate them to safety.
Here is the head of Gustave Eiffel, 1832 - 1923, who was guillotined for building this rusting instrument of terror.
Those shaken by the Eiffel Tower experience can here unwind their still spinning heads and soothe their queasy stomachs with pop corn.
Special forces and gendarmes swarming around the tower and other places attracting crowds do their best to be unobtrusive .... but sub-machine guns are hard to make less conspicuous.
Now this beats walking!Â Unless you're Dobbin.
Here we see a devout worshiper in ritualistic fertility prayer to the great tower.
Ah, our taxi has arrived to take us down the Seine, away from 1,000 feet of heavy iron just waiting to topple.
Yes, with a house boat like this, you too can let it all hang out and be part of the scene that tourists photograph.
The tower and funky bridges recede, as does the threat of a possible earthquake.
Now this has the Wow factor by the bucket load!Â And not because these handmaidens of the gods are topless.Â It's that the golden galley has a bank of seven oars.
(Source: life-like artwork by artist Maximus Realtor for the French Foreign Legion recruitment poster entitled Topless Handmaidens and You in the Legion.)
And what should we be passing by but the word famous Cathedral of Notre-Dame - Cathedral of Our Lady.Â For a look at that, we've got to get off this tub.
At least two others have also abandoned ship ... no doubt to trudge to the cathedral.Â
Ah .... this is so symbolic of the eternal romantic city.
Notre-Dame in fast turning autumn glory.Â Here the centuries stare us in the face.
What to photograph and how best to do it are dilemmas faced by Bob.
But why not snap the great Emperor Charlemagne and hairy buddies outside the front of the cathedral?Â Over here, Bob!
Where the bloody hell is that damned barber shop?Â I want a haircut!
(Source: a drive-by shooting with a telephoto lens from within a blanket over the head while galloping passed on a mule, with the image illustrating Charlemagne's insightful article I'll Hang Every Bastard Hiding From Me! as published in the Gauling Hairdresser Times, and deathly cross referenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls.)
This is the magnificent North Rose window, one of a set of three in the cathedral that date back to the 13th century.
After having lost the track of time within the timeless cathedral where no flash photography is allowed, we head back the way we came to catch our ferry.
Everyone, just everyone in Paris has a camera and just about everyone manages to get in front of the lens.Â Â Don't say, cheese.Â Learn to say, fromage!
And so we say goodbye to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, perhaps with the next earthquake sinking it into the Seine.
Ah, the tower is still standing, and ready to petrify millions more.
And as the Eiffel Tower's lights up to become a giant lollypop, Bob smiles happy in the knowledge that she and the English Oracle rode the elevator of death to the very top of the tower and from there conjectured on what they might see if it wasn't for the bloody fog.Â Â They lived to tell the tale.
Surreal English & French
003 Dover & St Ives
004 Windsor Castle
007 Trafalgar Square