Posts Tagged ‘expat’

Architecture tour of Phnom Penh by Cyclo I

12/09/2016

Cyclo. You know those things with a seat in the front and a chap pedaling at the back. Well, the fab people at Khmer Architecture Tours do one of Phnom Penh by cyclo and Sunday morning I did it. Previously I had taken the “1960s Houses and Villas in Toul Kork + the White Building in Bassac” tour and found it interesting, not just in terms of the architecture, but also in terms of the Cambodia history and social history that was learnt. We met at the Post Office, which was a place I knew well from leaving there to travel to Sihanoukville by bus and, more recently, as the place to collect post from my PO Box. The lack of a functioning postal service, as would be understood in the West meant it was more visited by tourists than locals. It was 8:30 which meant I didn’t spend enough time the night before celebrating Manchester being blue. The Post Office, pictured below.

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The middle building with the three arched entrances was built at the beginning of the last century with additions of the red roofed wings in the 30’s and flat roofed wings at the edge in the 1990’s. On the top you’ll see are some loudspeakers which our guide said replaced a cupola when the Japanese were here in the 1940’s. However, they remind me so much of the civil defence system to be seen throughout France which is rehearsed at midday on the first Wednesday throughout the country. I asked the guide if he thought they could have been under the cupola and only discovered once the Japanese removed it but he demurred.

Across the street is a former hotel, (pictured top right) built in the first decade of the last century. After the Khmer Rouge left Vietnamese people lived in it until they left at the end of the 80’s when people working for the Post Office moved in and took over the premises. They kindly let us into the public areas on the first floor but residents on the second were not so keen to let us visit. We went up a stairway to the right of the door and onto the first floor where there were original features which came from France including tiles.(pictured left) In the last century Hotel Grand was built backing onto the building, facing onto the Tonle Sap River and after a time the owner bought this hotel and connected this to the other, the back of which can be seen in the bottom middle left picture.  They were joined together such that a corridor went at right angles at the end of the picture bottom middle right, which was taken from the same spot as looking out onto the courtyard and back of the hotel just after turning 90 degrees. The picture bottom right shows one of the room numbers, still visible and bottom left us with the guide on the landing.

The third of four buildings on the square was built as the Bank of Indochina and became 103702-730419the property of the Van family in the 1965. After the Khmer Rouge it became government buildings until around 2000 when the family got/bought it back from them and it has been fully renovated and is now quite a fancy restaurant, named Van’s. I was recommended the 17:00 – 19:00 ‘happy hour’ and was minded to investigate but rain throughout the time prevented it from happening, maybe another time.

We walked round to see the front of Hotel Grand, sometime called the Hotel Grand grand-hotelManolis after the eponymous owner, but I took no pictures of it.The guide had a picture of how it used to be, similar to the one on the right. The two arches on the left still house a small restaurant/cafe but the ones on the right have been removed to create a KFC. The website for Getty images, which features a similar photo, but not this one below,(for rights reasons) said “Phom Penh’s first KFC opened in a refurbished colonial building along the waterfront. Many older colonial buildings have been renovated in recent years, while others have been razed for new construction. p1110123Others limp on as shabby apartments and businesses..” Hmm, so lets obliterate the front of a classical piece of colonial architecture and replace it with something which looks just the same as if it was built in Dagenham or Delhi. The pictures the guide showed of the hotel lobby said even more what a loss this was to the city, for not much gain.

A proper example of a former colonial piece of architecture sympathetically restored is the coffee shop across the road, also on the quay.

Anyway, we walked back onto the square, across it and then round the back of the former p1170112Police Station. This building was built in the 1930’s to replace the previous police station built there in 1910. No-one knows why the previous one was replaced but the guide explained that this one had an external wall and then a corridor all around the building before the offices, cells etc inside. Allowing the outside wall to take the heat or the rain, air to circulate and the offices, cells etc to be cool without air-con. Intelligent building design in the tropics.

Anyway, the story from the guide was that the building was bought by a company who wanted to raise it and build a skyscraper but it has never happened. So, some people run a business in the courtyard and live, along with other people in the building. The number of trees growing on the building were pointed out and it was said that the roof leaked and that trees (As seen on the roof top right of this picture from the rear of the building) and water, two of the dangers to built structures, mean that unless something is done, it would eventually collapse.

The picture on the right, our guide argued, showed how the architect had designed the building as a coherent whole, the pattern below the window reflecting the arch at the top of the window, as well as the features for a building in the tropics already mentioned, which was reflect throughout the building and that was why this was actually more deserving of renovation than the Post Office and the KFC.

Anyway, I started by talking about a Cyclo tour and all it’s been so far is a trudging around the Post Office Square looking at buildings that used to be something, apart from the Post Office, obviously. So have I sold you short? Are there really any Cyclos? Well you’ll just have to wait for the next installment. Which may, or may not, involve Chinese temples, Catholic Chapels, a library, a destroyed Catholic Cathedral, apartments now shops and a former apartment store. As a hint, one last picture.

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Why I swim

30/08/2016

Today I swam a kilometre for the second time, the first, according to my facebook post, so it must be true, was on 19th July. Since I achieved this distance I have not spent any time in the water until just over a week ago, so it was pleasing to achieve it again today. What I also achieved today was to swim 600 metres non-stop. The first time I have done this, and 50% better than my previous non-stop distance.

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The picture shows the pool I go to at the Olympic Stadium.(It was taken in February the building site behind, between the pool and the Cambodian Olympic Committee building, would now not fit in the picture.) People who do not remember the Cambodian Olympics will not be wrong as there has not been one. The stadium was designed and built in 1963-4 to Olympic standards to accommodate the 1964 GANEFO Games by Khmer modern architect Vann Molyvann and I find the pool is a joy to swim in.

It is only this year that I have started swimming as my exercise. As a teen I had swum a lot, getting my 800 metres badge and the silver life-saving badge. But a verruca resulted in me not swimming for 18 months and still going to the pool every week to watch my brother achieve a lot of other badges etc. He is a good swimmer and has continued doing it. I really lost interest in doing it much other than splish-splashing around for fun.

Then JTO visited at the beginning of this year, she is a devout swimmer and goes wherever she is so visited the pool a number of times, I walked with her to the pool from my former residence a couple of times and had a swim.(Former residence sounds so much grander than the flat I used to live in!) After she had gone I realised that I was not getting much exercise. Over the previous summer I had been living in Leeds and had cycled more than 4 miles to work and home again every day and, because of the spread out nature of my workplace at the university, had been walking more than 10,000 steps every day. Some days now I walked less than 1,000 steps and traveled everywhere by Tuk-Tuk. I was getting fatter and not getting much exercise.

As a result I decided to give swimming a go. I set myself a goal of swimming a kilometre, and then swimming a kilometre non-stop. A post on facebook, after doing 900 metres for the first time, by a friend resulted in me subsequently adding a further goal of swimming a mile, or the closest to it, of 1,500 metres. In my first swim in March I swam 6 lengths of the 50 metres pool and stopped after each one. In the heat of the Phnom Penh day it is nice to get into the water, although the pool is more like the temperature of a nice bath. The picture below shows some people who came to see me achieve my first goal!

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As I said, I achieved the first goal last month. Afterwards I kind of enjoyed laying off the monomania necessary to keep going at it. However, after a few weeks I started to miss swimming and the exercise. I started to feel tired in my limbs more often and didn’t get that clear head and oxygen high from doing the exercise. I missed it. So little over a week ago I started walking down to the pool from my flat again. First time I swam 600 metres and it has built up from there. So I was somewhat pleased to swim the distance again. I was also pleased to achieve another personal best of swimming 600 metres non-stop, more than twice the distance I originally managed without any stops- progress!

My current schedule means that I work very full days Monday, Wednesday and Friday and all Saturday morning. However I do not start work until later in the afternoon Tuesday and Thursday so I am able to get to the pool in the morning on those days and on Sunday and I like to do so. I am lucky to live in a place where an outdoor pool is available all the time, costs only $2 for foreigners like me, and it is a joy to get into the water and out of the heat.It is even better that, outside Sunday afternoons, I pretty much get the pool to myself. Imagine, an Olympic size pool, in a hot country, pretty much to yourself.

I love the taste of Kampot pepper in the evening

23/06/2016

Saturday has been a day of work for me since starting this job last September, unless part of a general series of holidays. However Saturday 18th June was the sole public holiday as the King’s mother’s birthday. Thank you King for having a mother. Thank you mother for giving birth to the King. So, no work, and, as soon as I found out, a couple of days in Kampot organised.

The resumption of the train meant I could travel down by the train so 7:00 am saw me sat in my seat waiting to leave. A little later, as a result of connecting to the wagon carrying the cars down with us and one small boy was certainly excited to see us pass his father’s car, we set off.

A couple of hours after clearing Phnom Penh, having been offered nice fresh bread by the couple opposite which helped get me through, and picking up speed, we then came to Takeo and a stop. Nice as the couple opposite had been, the leg room in the blue train had not been so great, so it was good to get up and get away from them for a bit, after feeling cooped up. As before the station was lined with people selling all sorts of food and everyone got off for a 20 minute stop.

Arrived in Kampot in time for lunch and where else but the fish market, with great views out across the river to Bokor Mountain, as well as a cool breeze through the structure designed to make the most of it, the like of the breeze had not been experienced in Phnom Penh, and good food.

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After a brief siesta it was off to catch a boat. Whilst waiting for it to sail a couple of friends, who I take part in a weekly quiz with ran past, I knew they were in town with the Phnom Penh Hash House Harriers, but what a small world eh?

The cruise had been sold as a chance to see the sunset over Bokor Mountain so I looked to capture that, together with the scenery many people have become familiar with from photos of the region and then films, particularly Vietnam War films. The other thing after the boat set off was a parade of Cham fishermen off to work. The first picture captures the two with the fisherman off to work in front of the mountain:

For me that palm tree with the the different segments in a circle is just so iconic of the area.

Whilst pictures to the left, taken into the setting sun created the two like the ones above, taken to the right the dying light of the sun left enough to get pictures with the reflections of trees and buildings in the river and, against my expectations, of a flower that there had been lots of, floating down the river.

Well, finally a couple of pictures of a sunset, but no Bokor Mountain. A prize for someone who can say what extra there is in the big picture on the left. The second picture on the right (clockwise) is taken from the boat looking out and was when, after R & B and Khmer and K pop, Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones came on. All of a sudden it felt like being on a boat travelling down the Mekong, up the Mekong or elsewhere in a Vietnam War film and I was just waiting for the whir of the helicopter blades and the opening up of the gunfire from the banks. Fortunately nether of those happened. The ultimate picture shows a reflection from a building under a pretty full moon. I left the boat and passed the fish market where the Hash House Harriers were esconced and loud singing could be heard on my way to get food and a drink.

Dinner was at the Bokor Mountain Lodge, below left, where they do a fantastic Red Snapper cooked with ginger and Kampot pepper. They also have a flag from Manchester City winning the FA Cup in 2011, the first trophy since the 1976 League Cup victory which saw us back to winning trophies, and I was told one of the partners in running the place is a City fan, so, if I go back to Kampot, that is where I would have to stay. It is always a must to eat it there when in the ‘pot’. Talking of which, afterwards I went to another must visit place, Oh Neils, where I ran into a large number of the Hash House Harriers at the end of a day running and drinking ,which started not long after they left Phnom Penh at 7:00 too. (Picture of Oh Neils was taken the morning after, it is usually very much more welcoming.)

First world problems in a developing country

31/05/2016

On the way home last night, despite purchasing a bottle of gin and a lime, I realised there 20160531_140226.jpgwas no tonic at home. No shop near me sells tonic, despite a frantic search, although the place I lived previously was more cosmopolitan and had it readily available. So, the gin remained unopened.

This morning then the dilemma. Could I justify going to the supermarket just to get tonic and a lemon? Heck yes. So I went to my local supermarket and, instead of a six pack of tonic at $2.80 I could get a slab at $8.90. Result. But, one step forward two steps back. No lemons for sale. Existential crisis, what to do? Lime it will have to be.

My other piece of shopping on the way home was a paintbrush. This is not because I have just developed a love of the fine-arts but because my chilli plant is flowering. I dot see many bees around the neighbourhood, despite there being more greenery than you would think in the centre of Phnom Penh. 20160531_141159.jpgSo, if I want chillis, which I most certainly do, then I am going to have to fertilise the plant myself, which has now been done to the two flowers showing so far. With more on the way it looks like I’m going to have to get more familiar with fertilising things than I previously thought I would.

Tuesday and Thursday I start work at 17:30 which kind of makes up for having to work five hours on Saturday morning. It allows me to get admin, studying, cleaning and other things done which do not then have to be done at the weekend. One thing I also have come to enjoy doing is 20160531_111914.jpggoing for a swim at the Olympic Pool in the Olympic Stadium. It was not built to host the Olympics but there was hope of getting the Asian Games in the 60’s which led to the construction of the stadium, pool etc. For $2 I usually get personal use of a 50 metre pool. This time I was not alone. A video was being shot, first the star lip-syncing then joined by a troupe of backing dancers. First with the diving board and pool as a backdrop, then through the fence. It entertained me as I made my way up and down to complete my 7 x 100 metres swim. On getting out I took the picture above of the ‘star’ does any reader know who it is?

No Through Road

01/11/2015

Saturday morning is my earliest start at work. 8:00 for a four and a half hour shift, with breaks lasting until 13:00. 20151031_170728_22010392404_oThis week it also happened to be the day after our staff party so I was not at my most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and took long enough getting up that I did not have enough time for breakfast. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am subhuman early in the morning, if not up to midday and that breakfast is one thing which helps make me more human. So the last thing I 20151031_170654_22445236890_oneeded was something to throw things out of kilter.

So, I walk downstairs, open the gate, turn out of the flat and get in the tuk-tuk and see that the road is blocked off in front of us. (Picture top left)

Ahhhhh how will I get to work? I’ll be late, they’ll think I got so drunk at the staff do I couldn’t make it. Fortunately the panic did 20151031_134233_22617175782_onot last long as the driver turned the tuk-tuk round and we went another route around the road blockage. Actually it worked in my advantage as the changed route took us past the ABC Bakery and I was able to stop and get breakfast. So, things improved.

I did the shift and returned home to see the public notice telling people that the road was closed.(top right) Later on I paid my rent to my landlord and, chatting with his daughter whilst he was seeking change for me, I discovered that the road had been closed for a wedding, which was better than closing it for a funeral,  and that it would be closed for two days.(picture second left showing how effectively the road was closed) I also learnt that there would not be singing and dancing on Saturday evening but that it would take place on Sunday morning.

So Sunday morning I was up early and out 20151101_122112_22473843730_oon the balcony for my breakfast and I heard some quite haunting and beautiful music. Not exactly what I am used to but pleasant none the less. Later on, after midday, people started to leave for their cars. (picture second right) Though, in parenthesis I do know what the trucks were doing in the centre of the street blocking the car in. Earlier one of them had been piled high with bikes, clearance of a second-hand bike shop? Who knows what?

Well, Sunday afternoon I went to the The Flicks 1, self-described as a community movie house, (A room soundproofed with a projector, quadraphonic audio and scatter cushions and some seats i.e. not a conventional multiplex)  to see Beasts of No Nation about a child in an African country who loses his mother and sister and then sees his father and elder brother killed and 20151101_163857_22678703511_oends up fighting for a militia.

I returned home to see the street as clear as it had been before the tent was constructed, (last picture left) with maybe a bit extra rubbish by the side of the road but that would be gone by the morning and probably was nothing to do with the wedding but just the people whose houses were cut off during it, not having their rubbish collected whilst the street was blocked.

So just another day in Phnom Penh. The street was blocked. Some people got married and then it was clear again. People’s lives went on around it and walking around and talking to, admittedly only a few people, I did not detect any fuss or people expressing inconvenience.

UPDATE

This morning a new tent appeared on the street. Oh, it really is wedding season. But then people just went through it as if it wasn’t there. Tent there at 12:30 when I left for work and gone at 20:15 when I got home again and seemingly gone for some time so the tuk-tuk driver knew not to worry about taking another route to avoid it when going back home.

Everything’s gone green & crazy English

05/12/2012

On Friday I went to see some people about work after Christmas and cycled through an area of Strasbourg called Esplanade to get there. I have been along this route several times, particularly when I used to go Fencing but I was either on the tram or did not have my camera. This time I did and I reproduce for you a picture of two tower blocks.

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So what? They’re tower blocks, just the ame as in any other city? The black panels facing us are not just any cladding but are solar panels, facing the south. So, the building will not just consume electricity  but generate it too.  Something I think is good and I’m pleased to see the Council making an effort to reduce the environmental impact. They have a plan for this which can be read here.

On a separate note, whilst making my way home on Friday I passed a shop that had closed down. In its window was the following sign:

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What is a ‘relooking’ apart from another bastardisation of the English language when swallowed into French. Just the same as using parking as a noun for the car park or talking about trainings for training courses. Grrrrr!

The title comes from one of the first singles from New Order, one of the many fabulous tracks from the band, after they stopped being Joy Division, enjoy:

Strasbourg’s modern art ‘Sistine Chapel’?

03/02/2012

Aubette 1928, featuring the Cabaret-Ciné-Bal is one of the names given to the space in the aubette 1928 building in Strasbourg. On Saturday afternoon, along with about 20 other people, of a mixture of nationalities, I had a guided tour around the building, courtesy of the Alsace chapter of the English Speaking Community. In an 18th century building that  dominates the central square, Place Kléber, in Strasbourg. It was built by the French architect Blondel on the site of a ruined church and was part of an original plan to build on all four sides of the Place Kléber to commemorate the move of Strasbourg into France at the end of the seventeenth century. In the 1920’s half the building was rented by the Horn brothers, an architect and pharmacist from Mulhouse, who had been asked to help construct and build the new opening, which became rue du 22 Novembre. The brothers wanted to create space for the public and they asked the artist who had decorated their  new hotel at 15 rue du 22 Novembre (Now known as the Hotel Hannong), Sophie Taeuber-Arp, to decorate the nine different public spaces in the building. Sophie was married to fellow Dadaist artist Jean Hans Arp, who had been born just around the corner in Strasbourg before his family moved to Switzerland. The two Arps. were joined by fellow Dadaist and member of the De Stilj movement, architect Théo Van Doesburg. The decoration that has been restored is very reminiscent of De Stijl‘s best known artist, Piet Mondrian. We were told that he and Van Doesburg had fallen out by the time the latter was decorating the building in Strasbourg. Mondrian is famous for his works of art featuring the primary colours and straight lines at 90° from each other. As you can see from the second picture in the dance-hall/cinema Van Doesburg had the 90 lines at the diagonal and used colours other than the primary colours. We were told this is the reason the two fell out. I am a big fan of Mondrian so seeing these rooms decorated by another member of the same group was fantastic and such a total surprise for me to find something so wonderful right here in Strasbourg. I have heard the work done to the Aubette has been described as the modern art equivalent of the Sistine Chapel.

The first photograph shows the entrance to this section of the building from the ground floor of the Aubette building where there are a lot of shops. As I said, the second shows the dance-hall cinema/and you can see the use of diagonal lines which we were told was done by Van Doesburg to give a feeling of movement to encourage people to be up and dancing. The third picture shows a room which was a transition from the dance-hall/cinema to the restaurant, which is the fourth picture. In the transition area you might get a drink or listen to a couple of musicians or a small band playing. The restaurant was more genuinely like the work of Mondrian although it had pale as well as strong versions of the colours. It would have been quite an impressive room to be sat eating in. The next two pictures are of the stairwell, back down to the entrance, featuring the striking stained glass window which is the main feature.

We then left for the Hotel Hannong where there is a whole wall taken up with a display showing what the Aubette looked like at the time. Only one floor of the building, featuring three rooms and the staircase, has been renovated there were nine rooms altogether. The other rooms featured further work by Van Doesburg as well as Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Jean Hans Arp. A group of us stayed at the hotel for a coffee and a chat. On my return home I fished out a book I’ve had for a while on De Stijl and was surprised to find that it had 14 pages on the Aubette with further pictures of how it looked at the time.

Altogether one of the best and most enjoyable Saturday afternoons I have spent in Strasbourg. If you live in or visit the city make sure you visit this shrine to modern art. You will not be disappointed.

Eleanor Fuller Presents Sooo British

28/01/2012

As part of the Strasbourg So British promotion, which I previously wrote about here and here, this evening I am going to see the film “Mrs Henderson Presents” at the Odysée cinema gratuit, free, nichts, for nothing. Not bad eh?

It is part of a retrospective season of Stephen Frears films which includes; ChériThe Queen, Mrs Henderson Presents, Mary ReillyPrick Up Your EarsDangerous LiaisonsThe Hit and Tamara Drewe. We are getting to see tonights showing free courtesy of the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom Delegation to the Council of Europe. It is the first time in four and a half years living here  that I have had any contact with the local representatives of the British government.

Earlier this month there was a season of films by David Lean at the Star cinema and there will be a season of Ken Loach films at the  Odysée in April and May. I leave this post here in order to properly follow the events with the England cricket team in the desert.

UPSATE: Here is a photo from before the film started where the two hosts for the evening, the manager of the cinema and the UK Representative, are introducing the film. There was a good audience and the people I talked to enjoyed the film. It was good to sit in an old fashioned theatre style cinema, it has been in use as such since 1913.

La rentrée

17/09/2011

In July or August, large parts of France slow down or close up shop completely. The children are no longer at school, the government head off to their Summer homes and the beaches, and many restaurants and other businesses close down as well. Most French people go on holiday for all or part of either month – the worst times for traffic jams are the ‘grand depart’ at the beginning of July and the beginning of August when the Julyists return home and the Augustians head off on their holiday.

All of which means that la rentrée, in September, is more than just students and teachers going back to school; it’s also everyone else returning home and going back to work, returning to normality. It is nice that rather than the Summer ending quietly and people slipping back to work with just the return of children to school much more of an event is made of the whole thing.

One of the major institutions in Strasbourg is the Council of Europe and last night was their rentrée party. For an organisation that represents 47 countries in Europe, and on its fringes, the theme this year was of course the Antilles. Hence the dancers above who performed twice whilst I was there, and were comprised of people who do the Antilles dancing on Fridays at the Council of Europe.

On arrival there was food, but it was coming to the end of being served, and unfortunately we missed the speeches! We met some friends, failed to partake of the punch (pictured) chosing Cremant as our poison of choice, and chatted before the very good dancing happened, after which people took to the dance floor to shake a leg. Around which time, neither of us having our dancing shoes on, we made our excuses and left.

Banksy or not II and an interesting local outdoor artist.

24/03/2011

Three days ago I wrote a piece about some street art that had appeared near where I live in Strasbourg featuring the picture on the left.  After posting the piece on Twitter and Facebook the consensus amongst the replies was that the work was not by Banksy, which was pretty much what I thought too.

Afterwards two things happened.  The first was that I was followed on twitter by Banksy Graffiti, no doubt after my tweet and post appeared via a Google or similar alert. The second contact came from ‘Mes pensées étranges‘ in the comments of the piece via Expat Blog where she said,

“Hello! Found your blog on the expat website. I’ve recently noticed more art like this too. It’s hard to say if it’s Banksy, but I think it’s more like someone who’s been influenced by Banksy’s works. Have you been around la Petit France recently? There is a great one there near les Ponts Couverts of a black and white girl who looks to be coloring what appears to be a spray paint tag. I have a picture of it here if you’re interested: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150130558119679&set=a.10150113985839679.289716.533054678&theater

The site mentioned is just about ten minutes from where I live so yesterday evening I decided to wander around the area and see if I could find the piece linked to and/or anything else.

The first thing I found was the above and left piece on the base of post carrying the power to the work being carried out on the Vauban Dam.  It doesn’t look to me like a piece by Banksy at all and that’s before you look closer and see it is signed ‘Dan 23’.  Bearing in mind it is upon the transportable base of a post it needn’t even have been painted here but could have been done elsewhere and just ended up here with this work, although the site for Dan 23 does have it pictured in this spot.

Further walking around took me to the Pont de la Spitzmühle and turning looking through an arch  to Quai de la Petite France and Square L Weiss I saw the piece I was looking for.

So what do you think, Banksy or a very good copyist? Here are photos of some of Banksy’s other outdoors work for comparison. Stay tuned for another Banksy related post tomorrow


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