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 looking around.Â Then it was a long drive to Paris and an early night at our hotel.Â Yet bright and early the following morning we were up and at 'em ... using the underground railway to deposit us near enough to walk to the Eiffel Tower.Â After Bob and the English Oracle returned from riding the tower's elevator the almost 1,000 feet to the top to stare into thick fog, we walked to the nearby river Seine and went cruising on a ferry.Â Of course, we just had to disembark to go and visit the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame, on the bank of the Seine.
It was a tiring but exciting day. As was the next one when we tracked down the Academie Nationale De Musique - known as The Opera.Â There we saw two brass bands of buskers going head to head on the steps of the Academie.Â It was a blast!Â But easily the highlight so far was our next adventure into the milling throng that is Paris.Â We spent many hours in the museum to eclipse all museums - in the world renowned Musee du Louvre ... known simply as, The Louvre.Â Despite the time we spent there, we only saw a little of the vast collections gathered there.Â One day we really must return.
But enough of my dreadful drivel.Â Today we're leaving Paris to drive to Normandy.Â However, on the way but still in the metropolitan area we're going to make a couple of detours so as to round out our experiencing of things French.Â I'll keep my pathetic 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!
Now let's hit the road for the mother of all palaces, the
Chateau de Versailles
It is Sunday morning, just after dawn,Â Thankfully, here the heart of Paris is not choked with grid locked traffic and assaulted by blaring horns.Â Â We can escape with no hassles at all.
Thanks to the magic of finding an express route free of traffic, we are soon transported here to the famous Arc de Triomphe.Â It was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who, after his Austerlitz victory on December 2nd 1805, declared to his soldiers: "You will return home through arches of triumph".
(Source: in The Prophecies of the Dead Sea Scrolls passing mention is made of a mysterious oracle named Wikipedia whose opinions are questioned far less often than they should be; who pronounces that a Gaulish Emperor with bones apart passes through triumph to defeat, explaining to his soldiers: "I was arched.")
Although the arch was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victories, he was deposed before the arch was completed.Â In fact, it wasn't completed until 1836, long after Bonaparte was gone.
(Source: ibid., Bones Apart declaring to his soldiers: "I'm out of here.")
The Arc de Triomphe is inscribed with the names of the Marshals who commanded French troops during Napoleon's time; and it also has engraved upon it the names of the 128 battles fought by Napoleon's republic.
(Source: ibid., Bones Apart confides to his confessor, Father Marshal, that his battle with the bottle was due to quaffing the highly addictive Sparkling Red Republic label of tread-your-own wine - doing so in a binge of no less than 128 bottles.)
Below the arch is the flame of remembrance above the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, who was buried here on 11th November 1920 - he represents the 1,500,000 French soldiers who died during World War I.
This is one early morning view from the base of the Arc de Triomphe, which is the central hub for twelve radiating broad avenues.Â Driving down one of them, we say adieu to Paris and speed towards arguably one of the most opulent and breath taking palaces in the world.
The car is parked ... and even as its doors are being locked, the camera of the excited anonymous photographer is already recording the bustling scene of people streaming towards the entrance of the palace's outer courtyard.
Here a map with accompanying essential information are photographed, to be read at leisure at home.Â Perhaps.Â Sometime.Â Probably never.Â Such is life.
Now let's not hang about reading bloody maps, Sergeant-Major!Â The English Oracle is already leading the way through the first set of gates.Â Splendour beckons.
The towering English Oracle, the diminutive Sergeant-Major of the Royal Leprechaun Army and the anonymous photographer hobbling on blistered feet together make a formidable trio to go and check out the palace.Â Perhaps to form an opinion as to how the Chateau de Versailles compares to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.
Here we are confronted by gilded gates and high fence that block our way into the inner courtyard and force us to left turn and buy our entrance tickets.
We've payed the piper and called the Let's go inside tune.Â Ahead, what appears to be a green wall with clinging ivy is an optical illusion ... it is a huge painted canvas.Â Don't ask why - this is France.Â Could this be the dazzling palace that blows stolid Windsor Castle and frumpy Buckingham Palace into the weeds?
Like these folks armed with cameras and posing for shooting cameras, we've decided to check out the world famous palace grounds before eyeballing the inside of the chateau.Â Just look at this unbelievable view!
Who would believe the size of this vista unless they saw it for themselves or have had a bo-peep at this photograph.Â It's rhetorical!Â Don't answer - this is France.
Could this be one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse whose come to earth to give the four nags a drink while the other three riders are propping up the bar in The End is Nigh sky tavern? Â
Nah!Â He's in a chariot; and all of them are too huge to be anything else but ineffectual gods.Â With pigeons and seagulls sitting and crapping on their heads.
And this startled summery personage, whoever she may be, is reclining on sheaths of wheat, along with equally slack and startled cherubs.Â
What's that, madame?Â If you could get the damned pigeons you'd bash their brains out, would you?Â Oh, dear.
Yes, madame, I'm sure you're not amused.Â Pardon?Â It's mademoiselle, is it?Â You're not married, either.Â No wonder you're not amused.
You can't keep enough clean water to wash the crap off, you say?
Yes, mademoiselle, you and the kid are going to complain bitterly about the poop.Â I don't blame you.
Never mind, son, but I guess them's the breaks in a nudist colony.
That's it, kiddo, blow your own damned horn for help.Â No one else will.
Ah, madame, you've sent for a bow.Â Â I'm sorry, I meant mademoiselle.Â Yes, goddesses that are crapped on don't ordinarily get married.Â You're going to kick Cupid's butt all the same, you reckon?
Yes, Messieur, I do think the mademoiselle in the funny hat is giving you the eye.
Messieur, your cup has runneth over.Â Perhaps you and the kid both need to clean up.
Oh, dear, another direct hit!Â Madame, I did warn you not to look up.Â And now you've knocked both jugs over.
What, you're going to throttle the little pooping bastards?
No, mademoiselle, I don't need to buy your clean water to wash off the crap.Â I wore a hat.Â I hear you train the pigeons.
Ah, enough of the wild life outside.Â Let's gaze about here in astonishment as we listen to the hand-held tape recorders telling us about points of interest.Â There must be something funny on the audio because Bob is laughing.Â My damned audio unit doesn't work - it's French.
Wow!Â This is but part of the Royal Chapel.
Here they can but listen to the audio as they gaze around in awe at something or other.Â I must be content with photographing the huge painting of Napoleon crowning Josephine as Empress of France.Â Nobody else here seemed to have noticed it.
This is hard not to notice, though some are giving it their best shot to ignore the King's bedchamber.Â Not that it matters.Â Louis XIV is missing in action.
The Queen's bedchamber is impossible to miss.Â She lost her head, so she's not here.
Did someone say, Let there be light! Wow!
His Majesty Louis XIV bids you adieu and thanks you for the euros .... please do come again with even more donations.
Surreal English & French
003 Dover & St Ives
004 Windsor Castle
007 Trafalgar Square