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 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 banks 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 at the museum, we only saw a little of the vast collections gathered there.Â One day we really must return.
So, too, with the mother of all palaces, the Chateau de Versailles, which we visited on our way out of Paris as we headed for deep into Normandy.Â Having left Paris well behind, our initial destination was the picturesque town of Hornfleur - to see for ourselves why it is a holiday resort beloved by both the English and the French.Â And so we did.Â Today we cover more ground to go and see for ourselves two firsts that occurred on D-Day, 1944, in Normandy.Â We're bound for Pegasus Bridge and then the town of Sainte Mere-Eglise.
But enough of my dreadful drivel!Â I'll keep my pathetic commentary very short.Â However, 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!
Throughout Normandy we saw piles and piles of these - sugar beet, we were told.
Ferme de la Ranconniere, in the village of Crepon, was our home base for some nights here in Normandy.Â This complex dates back to medieval times and is a fusion of two accommodation types: a traditional guest house and a boutique, three-star style hotel.
(Source: a drive-by paparazzi, illustrativeÂ photograph, as shown in The Dead Sea Scrolls; Second Armageddon Appendix - captioned: No Safe Haven Here From the Four Shrieking Horsemen Galloping in the Blood Red Sky.)
Here the English Oracle and a latter day Joan of Arc somehow make themselves understood when checking in.Â Just as well, for the light is fading fast outside; and we'd hate to have to go searching for somewhere else if our advanced bookings had gone adrift due to misunderstandings.
Joan of Arc, no doubt listening to the voices in her head, points to a gateway opening into the deepening gloom.Â Has the Oracle somehow booked us into sleeping in the stables with the cows?
(Source: image extracted from the under the counter, plain paper bag edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls shock sealed section of, The Ladies Handbook for Groping French Gentlemen.)
We can but trust that the voices in Joan's head understand better than she the English Oracle's command of pigeon French.
Our cavernous rooms are without question the best by far of all those that we stayed in during our time in France.Â Never doubt the voices in Joan of Arc's head!
A pink dawn greets us at breakfast and hangs around while the sun crawls out of bed.Â And as we set off exploring what the day will bring, this angel with drawn bow takes aim.Â And lets fly.Â Why is he here, in the nude and with attitude?Â Who knows!Â This is France.Â Yes, France where things are done that make no sense to English Oracles and American Leprechaun Sergeant-Majors.Â Anonymous photographers merely shrug - all of it is absolutely nuts!
(Source: image by courtesy of the Vatican Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, everyman's elucidation encyclical of, The Cleansed Untold History of Angels With Long Bows.)
A pause to buy refreshments in a hamlet means a quick exploration with the camera of this old church and graveyard across the road.Â Why?Â Because it is France.
(Source: cautionary illustration regarding Catholic burials in Protestant graveyards, listed in the shock Vatican Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, entitled, Don't Let This Happen to You!)
Much farther along the road we arrive at a spot Hans was particularly keen to see - Pegasus Bridge.Â A hundred yards from the bridge is this memorial to Major John Howard, the Commanding Officer of the airborne troops who captured the bridge in the early hours of D-Day.
Here we have Pegasus Bridge - it's capture was the first D-Day victory in Normandy.
It was essential to the success of the D-Day landings that this and other bridges be captured to allow for the breakout of Allied troops from the landing beaches.
This WWII anti-tank gun now harmlessly sniffs the air.
Ham andÂ Â Â Jam
Now this once critically important strategic bridge is a sleepy one, catering for the traffic trickling through a small town.
This Allied tank is part of the memorial to the fallen at Pegasus Bridge.
On the road once more and traveling at a reasonable pace, we suddenly come across this museum, commemorating the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944.
This is the actual landing craft used in the movie, Saving Private Ryan.Â Some time after the movie was made this landing craft was found languishing in a scrapyard in Portsmouth where it was about to be destroyed,Â It was purchased, shipped back to Normandy and restored.
Here the Sergeant-Major is decidedly blue at the Royal Leprechaun Army being deprived of advanced equipment like this.
Let's get a closer look of this on the bunker wall.
Having hit the road again until lunchtime, it's now nosebag time!
Ah, this could so easily be something in the 19th century.Â How timeless some scenes really are.
The Sergeant-Major and the English Oracle are feted - with no fuss too much - while the hungry, anonymous and lowly photographer can only stand shivering outside in the chilled wind recording it all. Â
After lunch, with the bones thrown to the photographer, we're on the road again.Â Numbed finger manage to press the shutter to capture this graphic billboard commanding attention beside the expressway.Â
We're turning left, to historic Sainte Mere-Eglise.Â Why?Â Wait and see!
A most unusual WW II memorial drapes from the spire of the St Mere-Eglise Church Normandy.Â For good reason this church was featured in the movie, The Longest Day.
It is claimed that Sainte Mere-Eglise was the first French town liberated by the Allies on D-Day.
This is one of two stained glass windows in the church commemorating the USA 82nd Airborne Division's liberation of the town.Â It depicts Saint Michael (patron saint of paratroopers) and the insignia of Allied military units that fought in or near the town.Â The centre panel, at the bottom, proclaims: They Have come Back.Â The other window depicts the Virgin Mary surrounded by paratroopers.
And here on the edge of the town square are roadsigns to various touristy locations, exploiting what happened here on D-Day.
This bland building has an interesting D-Day history, as the plaque describes.Â Let's check it out.
And there we have it.
This shop exploits all things military, be it WWII or not, to flog to tourists
A solid but ugly memorial stands at the edge of the town square, with the church behind it.Â Let's have a closer look.
Now look to the right, at the figure dangling from the church.
This is a memorial to paratrooper John Steele whose parachute got caught on the spire and who dangled there for two hours - wounded in the foot but playing dead - with the German troops below.Â He was captured but promptly escaped.Â This incident - and the church itself - were featured in the movie:Â The Longest Day, with the actor Red Buttons playing John Steele.
Surreal English & French
003 Dover & St Ives
004 Windsor Castle
007 Trafalgar Square
015 Honfleur Bound