Glimpses of London

Some pictures of a hot and humid  Sunday afternoon spent in London before catching the Eurostar back to Paris….

Two hours on the grass in Hyde Park with the Sunday papers!

The New Zealand War Memorial at Hyde Park Corner

Horse riders get a special high-up button to cross the traffic at Hyde Park Corner

I hadn’t visited Parliament for years. Victoria Tower at the Palace of Westminster is most impressive… !

The Clocktower and the statue of Boudica (the original British rebel) stand by Westminster Bridge

Down the Hérault Valley

The landlady is on holiday, and so she lent me her carkeys for the week. Today was an opportunity to head southwest of Montpellier along some backroads to the lower reaches of the Hérault – the river which gives its name to Montpellier’s départment.

Pézenas is one of the oldest towns in Languedoc, and was spared development in the 19th century when the trainline to Paris was pushed through to Béziers, largely leaving Pézenas wallowing as a sleepy market town. However the place has been well and truly discovered by holiday-makers and the expat retiree set. Saturday is market day, and the license plates in the carpark signalled significant number of shoppers from Nijmegen, Brussels and Düsseldorf.

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The crowds in Pézenas were a little oppressive, so after buying a few vegetables for tomorrow’s lunch, I hightailed it south to Agde, where midday was beckoning, and the the cool grey streets were altogether more agreeable and quiet. Reposing beside the river in its unusual sombre stone architecture, Agde is celebrating its 2600th birthday this year (the place was founded as an Ionian Greek colony in 500 B.C.). A shady spot beside the fishing boats provided the perfect venue for lunch: a sandwich jambon beurre and a can of Orangina.

The beach was too close and too tempting to avoid, so a short drive took me to the mouth of the Hérault at Grau d’Agde,  a fairly low-key beach village by Mediterranean standards. Shoes were thrown off and I dipped my pink Anglo-Saxon legs in the sea. Elsewhere on the beach, sandcastles were in progress.

The return loop from Agde took in the baking hot streets of Florensac (where eight years ago I spent a winter holiday with my uncle and aunt), and the remains of the Roman bridge at St Thibéry. The bridge originally carried the traffic of the Via Domitia, linking Spain to Italy, and the bridge remained in use for a thousand years after the Romans left, until a flood in the 16th Century washed part of it away.

The Via Domitia runs through Montpellier, but today its moden equivalent is the A9 autouroute, zooming in an arc through Languedoc parallel to the coast.  After a day driving in the sun, it was this rather faster road that brought me back to Montpellier, just in time to save my Pézenas vegetables from expiring in the heat.

etnobofin in the New York Times (almost)

Here’s a little Web 2.0 story. Over the past few years blogging has become an increasingly integral part of the media, for better or for worse, and one of the side-effects of this is that content produced by “normal” people (like me, I suppose)  is more likely to be picked up and used by major media outlets.

ReadWriteWeb is a tech blog run out of New Zealand, rated by Technorati as one of the top 20 blogs in the world. They published a piece yesterday about Mark Zuckerberg’s pre-Harvard inspiration for Facebook. Prior to Harvard, Zuckerberg was a student at Phillip’s Exeter Academy, and the photo they chose to illustrate the piece was a photo I took last year during my short trip to New Hampshire:

Phillips Exeter Academy in the snow – March 29th, 2008

I found out about the photo’s use via Paul Spence at Genius Net, who tweeted the news overnight. (See, I told you it was a Web 2.0 story)

For extra coolness, ReadWriteWeb content is syndicated to the New York Times site, so although the New York Times version of the story doesn’t contain the photo, I still get a credit at the bottom of the article.  Does this make me a citizen journalist or something ?

Ice

For many parts of the UK, it’s been the coldest week for 30 years. In Birmingham temperatures got down to minus 9. The canals are still frozen and the geese and ducks in Cannon Hill Park are struggling to find a patch of water to swim in.

I wish I could have been in Oxford this week – Port Meadow froze and people were skating on it! Percy at Oxford Daily Photo has posted some photos and some nice images have been uploaded to Flickr by Isisbridge and robbie_shade.

Library of Congress on Flickr

At the Vermont state fair, Rutland, VT. September 1941

Old photos are cool. A good way to take a break from study is to browse the U.S. Library of Congress Flickr Stream . All of the photos are available without copyright restrictions.

The colour photos from the 1930s and 1940s are particularly fascinating – bringing an immediacy to an era often seen by us modern kids in black and white: women building B-17 bombers that will flatten Germany, farm scenes that seem pulled straight from the pages of a William Faulkner novel, portraits of people who seem to have a story to tell.

Painting

Irma Lee McElroy painting the wing of an aeroplane, Corpus Christi, TX. August 1942

What emotions are hidden behind the smiles of the evacuated Japanese-American ladies, deported to camps in the desert because of their race?  How long did the worker at the carbon black factory in Texas live?  Did the negro boy near Cincinnati, Ohio live long enough to vote for Obama a few weeks ago?

These are glimpses of America near the height of its industrial and military mobilisation. And yet amidst the images there is an intimacy that helps you realise how much has changed in 70 years, and how much is still the same.

Pie Town, New Mexico

At the Fair, Pie Town, NM. 1940