Posts Tagged ‘France’

Architecture Tour of Phnom Penh by Cyclo II

13/09/2016

At the end of the first part I left people tantalised. (Well maybe I did, maybe you don’t give a toss, for the narrative I’ll continue believing I do) A whole piece about a tour of Phnom Penh by cyclo and no cyclos. What gives, eh? The last picture was the key to the tantalising with the back of our guide and some cyclos. So, to release the tension here are pictures of cyclos from the rest of the tour.

The first two pictures on the right show us mounting up, what other verb can I use for getting on/in a cyclo? The one on the left at the top shows us processing towards Wat Phnom and then they show, from the left, the author at repose in his cyclo, the convoy of cyclos turning left, in amongst the traffic and the start, sort of like the start of the Le Mans! (Wat Phnom is again in the background, we have traveled anti-clockwise from 3 to 6.)  So, now the lust for cyclos is sated I can move on with the narrative, our first stop was at a Chinese temple.

 

From the top, we see the outside of the temple which is in the grounds of s school. Our guide, Virak, said the King was pleased to have the Chinese in Cambodia and gave them the land on which the school and temple are built. It is possible to learn Madarin at the school for $100 a year he said. The people who worship at the temple are from southern China and Taiwan. Next picture down shows the detail of the window and on the right, at the top of the column a Khmer detail. Going in, on the right, we saw the dragon to protect people on the water, which is why the fish are in front of it. On the left was the tiger to protect people on the land and it has plants in front of it. Both have a small dragon and tiger pictured also to reflect continuity. I just like drums which is why that picture is there and the final, main, picture is of the altar.

Next stop was another Chinese temple. This time made of wood. In writing this I found another blog written about the tour (giving a different perspective of it) which also posted a picture (left) of the temple from three years ago. I think it makes an interesting comparison to what we saw.

Our guide said that before the Khmer Rouge there were no other buildings here but the price of land and the largely uncontrolled state of planning and building mean that people build something wherever they can. Obviously the temple has not been used for worship for a long time.

We walked further on and came to another religious building, a former Catholic Chapel which was used for Taikwando and as a school but is also now lived in and is very dark so people need to keep the lights on and I can’t imagine there’s too much ventilation for cooking smoke and fumes.

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We then got back in the cyclos and went to the National Library of Cambodia. Obviously built in the colonial period, we are back in the European quarter with very classical architecture, although the columns share the Khmer feature with the Chinese temple, the only nod to the location of the building. The Khmer Rouge used this as a kitchen and canteen with animals living in the grounds which were slaughtered and then cooked and eaten inside. Some of the books were used for the cooking. The library is in the centre with the stores and offices in the wings, which can just be seen, on the left and the right respectively. Back to the cyclos.

We then toured past the Hotel Raffles Le Royal. (Top right) Built in 1929, what the hotel’s biog doesn’t say is that after the coup in 1970, as part of the republicanisation of the country, it’s name was changed to Hotel Le Phnom and it is as that it features in the film ‘The Killing Fields‘.  After a five year renovation by the Raffles group it is one of the more high class hotels.  Then, bottom right, is the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications building. Another government office building – what’s so special about that? It is not what is there now that matters but what was there before. It is the site of the former Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame. (Pictured, from a stamp, below) Building work on it started in 1951 financed by the, secular, French government, but it was dynamited in 1976 by the Khmer Rouge. The architect said he was not disappointed by its fate as it had been built on the same layout as the Wat Phnom at the other end of the boulevard and he had never been happy with the challenge to the primeval Budhist pagoda in the city. The final picture on the left is us passing the station built in the 30’s by the engineer who also worked on the architectural wonder that is the Central Market, and it was said that he learned how to work with reinforced concrete on this building before going on to use it so successfully on the market.

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Our last stop was at the former Hotel International which was originally built 1900-1910 On what was Phnom Penh’s busiest shopping streets as the Magasin Paris, the place to get your items fresh from France. It has been altered many times and no longer a hotel; the old signs are still readable on the entrance, i.e.’Horlogerie’, a clock store. The Hotel’s name, in Khmer, is still visible high up the building and you can see where people have built homes on the roof and like the hotel at the start of the tour it is now lived in by many families and the ground floor is given over to shops. Our guide said he had recently seen adverts for the hotel from the 1970’s when the hotel was heavily discounting the rooms, no doubt a function of the uncertainty as a result of the civil war taking place between the Lon Nol government and the Khmer Rouge. We got back into the cyclos and returned to the Post Office Square. If you are in Phnom Penh do take one of their tours, you learn not just about architecture but the history of the city and country, social history and so much more and the enthusiasm of the guide for the subject is contagious.

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Engexit?

09/06/2016

So, the Euros 2016 are almost upon us. With some friends at work I am part of a facebook page chatting and, we have to , obvs bantering about the tournament, chances of different teams etc. The group also offers a chance to crowd source opinions for a colleague who plans to gamble on the tournament and hopes to repeat his World Cup heroics of coming out $300 ahead.

I have contributed a fun imagining of England’s performance based upon the many disappointments I have had to suffer since the 1970’s World Cup as an Englishman and football fan. It is just a bit of fun, or is it….

Ok, so 50 years of hurt, though even I’m not old enough to remember ‘66 and the World Cup victory. Based upon the experience of most of the previous competitions England have qualified for, and , remembering the 70’s and 80’s that was not always a given, what do I expect this time?

It has already started with past hero’s saying we ‘have the most exciting team since ‘66.

The hyperbole level has already started rising and it will only get worse as the Russia match get closer.

In the match against Russia we let in a soft early goal and a key player, possibly Joe Hart,(You do not know how much it hurts me even to suggest this) will be injured and out until the next round. We will get lucky and equalise late on when Rooney has gone off and Kane and Vardy are playing as a duo up front.

Not bowing to the clamour from the press Hodgson plays Rooney as part of a front three with Kane and Vardy out wide against Wales. The Welsh clearly want it more than the over-paid, over-hyped English team and win 2-0.

For the last group match Hodgson bows to the pressure from the media and the English public and plays Kane and Vardy up front and England win this ‘must win’ match 2 -1, again coming from behind, to qualify in second place behind Wales thanks to a 0-0 draw between Russia and Slovakia and Wales beating the both of them.

We play the surprise winners of group A, Romania, in the next round, and win 2-1 thanks to a dodgy off-side goal. The media and public are now crowing about how England have beaten the tamers of the host country and pre-tournament favourites, and how we can go all the way.

In the next round,  despite heroics from a fit again Joe Hart, we go out on penalties to France, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Italy.(Take your pick) The players arrive home to opprobrium and vilification and a national newspaper printing Roy Hodgson’s head over a turd and another printing the home addresses of the failures with the headline, “We know where you live” and death threats against them leading to a round the clock Police presence required at their homes.

Just a bit of fun……..

Le Tour diary II

07/07/2014

So, after being awoken by the caravan going past (previous here) Steve and I headed down into town.     At about the spot where we had seen the cyclists heading to the presentation on Thursday there were the tour buses and cars with bikes on them. We got a bit sidetracked looking around the outside of the ‘Village technique’ which was based upon Millennium Square so that when we got to the part of Leeds the Départ was leaving from they were not letting any more people into it as it was so full. We walked along the length of the Headrow and found a place at Eastgate, with the incongruent mix of being opposite the West Yorkshire Playhouse and underneath the imposing, Orwellian building on the hill that houses the Department for Work and Pensions. We were about three or four back from the barrier but them being on the road and us on the pavement meant we had a good view. That deteriorated as the tallest family in Leeds seemed to come and stand in front of us which meant we could see what was happening but didn’t get any decent pictures. So the tour came past and we got to see them but it had a phony war sense to it as the race didn’t start until it had been decided to by royalty. The excitement having passed we headed off back into town and I took photos of some of the interesting use of language including the photo above. The rest of the tour was watched on TV followed by the World Cup.

Sunday we got up early and headed into Leeds to the station. Tickets were bought and then we headed to the platform for the train. As the picture shows it was platform 2b, or not! (Thesp. joke there) P1120927 A train came into the platform,people got off and our train was announced and we got on it. After the time for the train to leave had passed people started getting off it and heading further down the platform. We went out and asked the guard what was happening and another train had come in and would be the earlier train we wanted and the one we had been sat on would now be a later train. So we got on the new train but still left almost quarter of an hour later than timetabled. P1120929 At every station the platforms were packed and it wasn’t long before the train was standing room only. There was a party atmosphere on it though with people were going out for the day, they were going to have fun and they were talking about where they were planning to see the cycling, people were seen to change their mind and go with others. We didn’t.

On arrival at Keighley we got off. We left national railways behind and queued up to get onto the Worth Valley Railway, a steam route run by volunteers. It too left late to allow the people who were in the train from Leeds behind us that had been the one we were sitting on. At least getting on the earlier train meant we got to sit by the window. So the train slowly left the station and we had to listen to the usual guff that these trains were so much better and the carriage was so much better when it was clearly so much slower than a modern train would have been over the track and the seating, whilst not as uncomfortable as boards would be, was certainly not as comfortable as modern trains. P1120935 An experience not helped any by the chap speaking all this guff allowed his kid to bounce up and down on the seat, making the ride more sea-ship like than one would want. Despite the slowness, and despite nearly choking when the engine went in a tunnel, I still felt a certain romance looking out the window and seeing the engine, full-steam-ahead heading over a bridge towards a tunnel on a bend as pictured above. After twenty to thirty minutes we arrived at our destination and got off the train and headed out of the station.

We left the station and, after talking to a Tour guide, found that the caravan was due soon and the race itself in a couple of hours. We got across the road from the station and found a café and had a coffee to fortify ourselves for the day. The caravan came past and I saw again the things that had almost been part of my nightmares, or wakingmares the day before. I did fail in my challenge of taking a photo of the Yorkshire Tea floats as they came past. However, this time it wasn’t my morning befuddledness but chasing after the free pack of tea hurled my way. How did they know. I’m not a proper Englishman.  I don’t understand tea. If my childhood was deprived in any way (clue; it wasn’t) it was that I never leant how to make or appreciate proper tea. I have learnt something of the former from having to care for someone who does appreciate their tea, in fact needs it in the morning to be human. So I was pleased to get a pack of the special THÉ for the Tour. I then discovered that they were giving away a years supply of tea if you tweeted a picture of yourself with yourself and the pack, hence the picture above. I added a few hashtags relating to the fact it was in Haworth, home to the Brontés, etc etc.

After the caravan had passed we looked around and found a place round the corner with a view of the cyclists coming towards us and, whilst I saved it Steve scouted around Haworth to see if there was a better place to be. There wasn’t.  By the time he returned the sun had crossed the yardarm and, our new position just happening to be outside a pub, we sought help for our thirst inside. And, it just had to be Velo, a special brew from local Yorkshire Masham brewery to celebrate the Tour in France, Black Sheep, which Steve had visited the previous year.

After a couple the leaders raced through and people hardly noticed. They were there and gone. I managed to get a photo of them,(above). A few support vehicles came through and then the motorbikes and the peloton was upon us. People were cheering. banners were up, photos were being taken. The carnival mood reached a fever pitch as we witnessed what we had come to see.  Then they were gone.

There is more to come. You too can experience what it was like to be there. Come back in a day and see what it was like.

Well I promised it and here it is. The Tour de France in Yorkshire, in the Bronte village of Haworth to be exact. Experience the Tour de France in Yorkshire, in the Bronte village of Haworth to be exact, through the wonder of Stevecam. It’s almost like you were there:

 

 

François Hollande – Balls of Steel!

12/01/2013

During the primary to be the Parti Socialiste candidate to be French President it became public that Lille Mayor, Martine Aubry, 4b0e71ec32d06e4d0e1c5533601643db4dd2e1d9had a nickname for her opponent, François Hollande, that was “couilles molles” or ‘soft balls’ because of his inability to make a decision.(cf here for example)

Ordering French forces into Mali, at the invitation of the head of the government of the country and working with the United Nations, to stop the advance of the Islamist fighters has shown that not to be the case. The UN had agreed to a force from the African Union to work with the Mali forces to gain back territory from the Islamist invaders but it was said that it would be September before they would be ready to go and the Islamist fighters were gaining ground rapidly. This intervention has allowed the Malian force to stop the advance of the fighters and now, hope fully they can repulse them and restore the control of the government over the whole of the country.(here is the statement of the President of France) Well done M. Hollande

SNCF drop a bollock

16/12/2012

Having booked tickets with the French national rail carrier, SNCF, they have my email address and SNCFsend me occasional emails letting me know about good deals etc. Just as any sensible company does their marketing. However, their recent email (above) was a a bit of a mistake. They tried to entice me onto the train to visit Christmas Markets. Living in Strasbourg, the ‘Capital of Christmas’ why would I want to go anywhere else to a Christmas Market?

OK the city is rammed – it was very difficult walking to the pub to see City defeat Newcastle 3-1 yesterday due to the large number of people, and, I may wish to visit other markets, having got bored of Strasbourg’s? So lets take a look at where they suggest I go, one of the historic ones in Dresden, Bautzen or Vienna? One of the major attractions, say Dortmund, Erfurt, Nuremberg, Dresden, Stuttgart or Augsburg? No, of course not they are all in Germany or Austria and this is the French national rail company. The choice I was offered are:

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Metz? Seriously, Metz? When it’s so close to Meh? But more important where do they say Metz is? Alsace. As any fule know Metz is in Lorraine. Oh dear SNCF.

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:

St Luke’s Summer

20/10/2012

According to the Oxford Dictionaries website St Luke’s Summer is “a period of fine weather around 18 October (the saint’s feast day).” That is certainly what we’ve been having recently here in Strasbourg. Today the weather was sunny and the temperature reached 23°, it has been warm for the end of the week and it is forecast to last into the beginning of next week. It is wonderful seeing the sun so late in the year, people are sat outside cafes and you can go out without a coat, although being France, every French person is still wearing a scarf although there is no need.

Getting up in the dark is no fun but seeing the dawn break is a consolation, as can be seen from the first photo above. The second picture has the Protestant Seminary on the right and the church of St Thomas, sometimes known as the Protestant Cathedral of Strasbourg since the return of the city to France in 1681, behind it. The building on the left is a block of homes and the people on the foreground are standing on St Thomas’ bridge.

Finally, another picture taken at dusk on the banks of the Ill as the sun sets. Being seen as something of an interloper people are always asking me, do you like living in Strasbourg? Then I just think about these views as part of my daily journey to and from work and there really is only one answer. The sun shining in October is an added bonus. Thank you St Luke. I don’t know what you did to earn the sun and good weather around your day but it is welcome, now time to go to Franchi for the best sea salt caramel ice-cream, the definition of to-die-for.

A voté

16/06/2012

Which is what is said when you drop your vote into the box when voting here in France. Tomorrow is the second round in the French Legislative elections. Unfortunately I will not be voting. The first round of the elections took place last Sunday and in most places there was no-one who won more than 50% of the votes, so there is a run off between the top two or three candidates this Sunday.

Where I live in the centre of Strasbourg (Strasbourg 1 constituency result pictured – I like to think of it as Strasbourg City, or Strasbourg Centre constituency) we had the only Parti Socialiste(PS) deputé in Alsace elected last time, in 2007. This time Armand Jung is through to the second round with almost 42% and the UMP challenger has 28% so hopefully he will be back representing me after tomorrow.

The good news is that there had been fears that there might be a Front National(FN) deputé elected in Alsace but there was not. It was thought if they did not elect someone straight off then they might get candidates though to the second round. In fact they have only got one through to the second round of the elections, and that in a ‘triangular contest’ i.e with a PS and a UMP candidate. So hopefully they will not get a candidate elected in Alsace. The map shows that the vote of the FN from the Presidential election got stronger the further you got from centres of population, with the blue getting darker as the votes for the FN increased.

Other things to look for  include the result from Strasbourg 2, or Strasbourg South as I like to think of it. This seat has been held by the UMP since the 80’s and had Ostwald moved into it as part of a redistribution before the elections which brought in 27,000 voters believed to lean more towards the right. Despite that the PS led in the first round  and it looks like we might have Alsace’s second PS deputé.

In the third Strasbourg constituency, imaginatively called Strasbourg 3, or Strasbourg North to me, there was a huge commotion because the PS mayor of Schiltigheim, who had been selected to fight the seat for the PS, was forced to stand down as part of a deal with Europe Ecologie-Les Verts(EELV). Here there is an all woman slate with a female EELV candidate and PS substitute. Their task is much harder, only being ahead by 39% – 37% and a lot will depend upon how the FN vote splits between the different candidates.

Otherwise, nationally in the first round a number of PS deputés were re-elected but only one UMP deputé and that was here in Alsace. One of the things I like about Alsace is how Christ is a common surname. So, one of our existing deputés was J. Christ and he is in front on the first round and looks like he will be re-elected on the second round. It does the heart good to imagine the French equivalent of the Speaker, which could be Sego if she overcomes her little local difficulty, shouting Christ in Parliament to call him to speak! (Although one thing that came out before the election was that he didn’t do too much of that- the UMP excuse being that he was busy on Parliamentary committees showing not much changes the world over.)

Nationally the issue is whether the Vague Rose will result in the PS electing enough deputés to govern on their own or whether they will need support from other parties. All will be revealed tomorrow night.

Supping, but not cheering, with the enemy

12/06/2012

I’m glad I left early to save some space for friends in the Irish Pub for last night’s game as friends and other people I was not expecting joined us, having a table and a lot of stools worked out well. The place was packed and it was hard to hear JTO singing our national anthem pretty much on her own. When it came time for the French national anthem all the, mainly young – the pub is at the edge of the University near the area where lots of students live – people sang it with gusto. It is a rousing song, which despite its name was written here in Strasbourg, and it was good to hear it sung with such passion. It was the only time that there was any singing as the French present with us did not sing for the rest of the match, just some almost Parliamentary banging on the table when something exciting or good for France happened.

When England scored first the group I was with jumped up and cheered loudly. This was of course exceeded in volume when the French team equalised. I was left wondering why Samir Nasri didn’t scored like that more often for Manchester City this last season?

I apologise for the quality of the pictures but they were taken on an iPod and it is not too good when there is little light. The top left is the view of the screen from my seat and the one behind is out onto the terrace and garden behind my seat and the last one is looking through, past another screen on the wall opposite the bar, to the bar.

Before the match started someone came round inviting entries for a competition to win a bottle of champagne. To do so you had to guess the score of the night’s matches. I said 1-0 to England scored in the 48th minute and 2-1 to Sweden. Needless to say I will not be taking up forecasting football results and was happy to lose the chance to win the champagne when England scored first around 30 minutes into the match.

I was pleasantly surprised at England’s positive start to the match and thrilled when they scored. The atmosphere in the pub quietened a bit after that but picked up after the French equalised and then got more tense as they got on top, having more possession, but without scoring. An enjoyable evening with some friends and, having lost the chance to win the champagne I didn’t have to stay on to see the other match.

I did think that by leaving I would lose the chance to see the match as one-third of the games are being broadcast on TF1, one-third on M6 and the remaining on the pay channel bein, the French branding for Al Jazera Sports. The France – England match being on terrestrial TF1 the other was on bein. But I had been reminded by a friend that we could watch matches free to air on German TV so I saw the game on ZFR.

The change is now

07/05/2012

People might have noticed that there was an election taking place in France for the post of President yesterday. On my way to one of the city’s Irish pubs in order to watch a football match yesterday I passed a school which was being used as a polling station with people going in to vote. All very familiar.

What is not familiar and is, therefore, different is that the municipality provide space for the different parties to post-up posters of their candidate. The ones seen here are just outside the polling station pictured earlier. When there were ten candidates in the first round there were ten of these hoardings outside this school and at different locations all over Strasbourg.

Opposite the posters and the polling station someone had put forward their own view on the vote, Left = Right + vaseline:


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