Sunday, January 28, 2018

Le Carnaval de Nice (The Nice Carnival, France)

Because of my upcoming right knee surgery I won't be able to write a post for awhile.  I was going to wait until summer for this second knee surgery but the surgeon had a cancellation in a few days, and my knee is super painful now and prevents me from doing much.  I thought about writing a post but do not wish to talk about surgery, or my husband's Alzheimer's disease which is progressing - I may have posts on those subjects later on, but I wished to write about something fun, alive and French.  I have been unable to go back to France, my country of origin, since 2014, because of my husband's illness, and I miss it.  In 2012 we spent some time in Nice, one of my favorite cities.  Unfortunately, most of those photographs are still in Georgia, I just have a couple here with me in Nashville: a panorama, buying a souvenir, getting ready to take a picture of an old street and my husband eating Turkish sweets in our studio in Nice.

I have written about Nice in several posts.  Look at my July 20, 2013 post Nice and the Tour de France,  and at my addendum to my post of July 15, 2016 - here. The Nice Carnival is coming up and that is a fun subject!  First of all the word "carnival" is very old.  If you look for it in the American web, after you go through many entries on the Carnival Cruise Line, it will tell you that "Carnival is a Western Christian festive season that occurs before the liturgical season of Lent.  The main events typically occur during February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide (or Pre-Lent.)"  Not quite, though.  As usual, the early Christian church took over the carnival festivities, as they did with many other festivals and holidays, such as the Christmas tree, etc., from the Pagans.  The carrus navalis was the boat on which Dionysos, god from the sea, entered the Greek Islands.  It is the oldest definition and pre-dates the Christian one.  It was in winter and was ritualized to bring back spring and thus the New Year.  Primitive men adorned themselves with animal skins.  Dionysos, below, from an early Tunisian mosaic.

This year the Carnival of Nice will be held from February 17 through March 3, 2018.  The carnival is opened by its "king."  The topic of the carnival is taken from the King's theme.  For example in 1890 it was the King of the Bicycle, in 1908 a Diplomat King, in 1927 King of Toys, in 1953 King of the Circus, in 1995 King of Movies, in 2010 King of the Blue Planet, in 2012 King of Sports, in 2016 King of Media and this year it is "King of Space" (Roi de l'Espace.)  It includes 6 carnival parades, by day and night, with more than 1000 dancers and musicians from all over the world along 17 made-up floats.  It also includes the traditional battle of flower parades with flower decorated floats and extravagant costumed models.  The Carnaval de Nice is the largest and oldest carnival in the world and the most important festival on the French Riviera.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

The Carnival of Nice was first mentioned in 1294 by the Count of Provence, Charles Anjou, who said he had "passed some joyous days of carnival in its good city of Nice."  The carnival of today started in the 19th century.  In 1873 a Committee for French Festivals re-organized the carnival of Nice.  They established the first street parades to provide a real spectacle for the community.  It became an annual celebration.  On various days throughout the Carnival, "Batailles de Fleurs" / battles with flowers, take place and thousand of fragrant fresh-cut flowers are thrown to the crowds from the floats.

In 2009 the carnival attracted 1.2 million visitors.  The carnival brought together 1,500 street artists and 1,800 people as security guards, escorts, trackers, etc.  It required 4,000 hours of work spread over six month, twenty tons of confetti, fifteen countries, 190 journalists, media from 19 countries and a lot more.  The Nice Carnival has been famous for a very long time.  Below are some vintage postcards on the carnival.

In addition to postcards, attractive posters have been created along the years, some by well-known artists.  The poster in the heading is courtesy Christian Estrosi, current Mayor of Nice.

Wouldn't you love to attend this famous carnival in Nice?  I certainly would!  How much fun to be there and watch the grand parade with all the themed floats and large puppets and all the attendants in outrageous costumes.  The floats parade around the streets of Nice, day and night.  On the last day of the celebration the King Carnival, who this year is the King of Space, and stands in the main float, is burned in the Baie des Anges.  This amazing spectacle is accompanied by a massive firework and music.  Oh la la!

Being France, they love to make fun at politicians, French and international.  This year the president of the USA, Donald Trump, will be depicted as a giant gorilla.  I read in a French newspaper that in one or more floats giant caricatures of Donald Trump, Theresa May, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin will be included as leaders of the "Planet of the Apes."  It is not surprising as in just one year the median global approval of U.S. leadership has fallen badly, according to a recent Gallup poll (the largest single-year decline.)  After just six months of Trump, confidence in the U.S. leadership fell 75 percentage points in Germany, 70 points in France, 57 points in Britain and 54 points in Japan.  So, no wonder they love to make fun of him, really all over the world.  Below is a worker making his final touches on the Nice Carnival puppet.  ( Courtesy of WAPO.)

This year's theme is drawing on real-life recent events that have been in the news, such as new solar systems being discovered daily, the upcoming sight-seeing trip around the moon, and events in science and education as well as news from world politics.  Some people may not approve of this, but this is untamed France with a long history of satire, as you can remember with the famous newspaper Charlie Hebdo.  (See my post of January 22, 2015 Charlie Hebdo and French Satire.)  This newspaper says "Charlie Hebdo is a punch in the face... Against those who try to stop us thinking.  Against those who fear imagination.  Against those who don't like us to laugh ... Charlie Hebdo has no need of God, nor any need of Wall Street.  Charlie doesn't need two cars and three cell phones to be happy.  To be happy, Charlie Hebdo draws, writes, interviews, ponders and laughs at everything on this earth which is ridiculous, giggles at all that is absurb or preposterous in life.  Which is to say - very nearly eveything.  Because life is so awfully short that it would be a pity to spend it whining in dismay instead of laughing it up a storm."  And more.  What better way to chase off the gloom of winter, health problems and disillusion in world politics than going to a fun carnival in beautiful Nice?  In Nissa la Bella! (shown below along the Nice hymn sung in the Nice dialect.)






Friday, December 8, 2017

Another season another state ... and more

In the last 4 months I tried several times to start writing a post, but there were too many interruptions.  My choice for a heading photo kept changing.  I had decided on a photo of the solar eclipse in Tennessee, then fall foliage on our street in Nashville, then finally decided to post a snow scene I took today in Georgia - anothere state, and another season for sure.  My good camera is in Nashville, but luckily my Nikon D40 is still here so I could take the photos below.

I also looked out from each window: from the windows in the backyard where a little bird was taking shelter on the window screen, from the front yard waching the vehicles moving slowly along, and from the window I can see behind my computer. (Click on collage to enlarge.)

In July I had been staying in Brentwood, TN, at our daughter's house, during my post knee operation therapy.  My last therapy session was on Sepember 7, 2017.  I needed to have these sessions finished so I could drive back to Georgia to keep clearing our house there.  I had not driven anywhere since early July.  I read that Brentwood, TN, had been ranked the 5th best small city in the US out of 1,200 cities with a population between 25,000 and 10,000 people, but I saw little of it (Nashville ranks no. 13 out of the country's 100 largest metropolitan areas.)  Lots of people converged to Nashville from many states and from out of the country to see the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.  Our eldest daughter, who lives in Pittsburgh, PA, came down with her husband to view the eclipse.   This was a Total Solar Eclipse - see its path in the pics below.

A total eclipse is quite rare.  This was the first total solar eclipse to sweep across the United States in 99 years.  Most cities on the path of this eclipse organized activities around this unique event - Nashville, being the largest city on its path, assembled creative ways to entice people to come to the city, to the museums, parks, restaurants, cafes and more.  Almost 500,000 visitors came to Nashville and hundreds of millions of people watched from other places.

Armed with our special eclipse glasses we drove the 11 miles from Brentwood to Nashville shortly before the eclipse.  We thought the freeway would be jammed but it was almost empty, the streets too.  The sun was bright with few clouds around.  No other people were on our street - they had gathered at the park nearby.  Our group kept looking up, but I could not stand too long and sat on a rock by the front of the house.  There was a pretty Rose of Sharon shrub near me I had not seen before.

We stayed in our house driveway and waited.  First I saw what is called "shadow bands."  Seconds before the eclipse totality thin wavy lines appeared on the ground - ephemeral and rapidly moving as you can see from my pictures below.

Then it started to get darker.  The birds stopped singing, the street lights came on, and it became cooler and very quiet - a bit eerie.  It was not pitch dark, just a strange weird darkness.  I tried to take pictures with a couple of cameras, through my cell phone, my iPad and my eclipse glasses but they did not come out too sharp.  It was a very special moment, and then it was over.

Just a few days later, on August 25, 2017, Major Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast and the city of Houston.  It stalled over the area for several days producing devastating and catastrophic flooding.  Some areas received more than 40 inches of rain in less than 48 hours, some up to 51 inches (1m30.)  Houston is a boom town of approximately 2 million people and spreading over 600 square miles (1,600 sq km.)  Over 40 people were killed, 100,000 homes were damaged and 500,000 vehicles waterlogged by flood waters - resulting in $190 billion in damages.  (Pictures courtesy CNBC.)

The images on television were terrible but my husband did not understand them, because of his progessing Alzheimer's disease.  By profession he had been an environmental planner and river planner.  I remember well how, years ago, maybe in the 1980s, he had told me that Houston was the example given as a city waiting for a major flooding catastrophe.  He told me it was not "if it happens" but "when" because he said that the city of Houston let developers build on massive flood plains and wetlands.  They refuse to institute any type of land use plan.  I wanted to tell him - "look, you were right, see what happened to Houston" but his eyes were vacant.  More deaths and property damages are caused by flooding than by tornadoes or hurricanes.  Lack of development control and sprawl contribute to flooding, but Houston is happy to proclaim that it is free of any control.  However, when a major disaster hits, they expect Federal Aid (meaning US tax payers) to come and pay for the damages (and they do...)  This will not change then.  In 1845 the Berlin Academy of Sciences sent geologist Carl Ferdinand von Roemer (1818-1891) to evaluate the mineral assets of Texas.  Roemer, called now the Father of Texas, said at the time that the Brazos River prairie close to the Houston area was an "endless swamp."  He did not feel it would be a good place to build a city... (below map from NYT and photo of Ferdinan von Roemer.)

I had planned to write extensively about Houston explosive population and lack of local control, but before I could there was another major disaster called Hurricane Irma.  Starting on August 30, 2017, Irma hit the Caribbean, producing winds up to 185 mph.  Ten trillion gallon of water of rain fell on Florida.  Irma was expecting to hit the state of Georgia by Septembert 10, and metro Atlanta by Monday 11.  I had finished my knee therapy the previous Friday and decided to drive from Tennessee to Georgia that Sunday, against the opinion of my family who thought it was dangerous - I just wanted to be home in case a tree fell on the house.  I thought there would be a lot of traffic on the freeway going south, but it was very light - the freeway going north was jammed.  It felt strange driving down the highway with hardly any cars but many first responder trucks.  There were convoys of ambulances, energy crew trucks, some coming as far as Michigan and Indiana - all driving south to offer help.

I had brought flash lights, batteries, water and some food with me, but in West Cobb County where our house is located it just rained.  Other towns of Georgia, including the Atlanta area, suffered damages.  (Pictures courtesy the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

Before returning to Nashville in September, I called the Smith Gilbert Gardens (I have written posts on it several times, look under "gardens" on the side of my blog) to offer them my beautiful philodendron.  It is about 20 years old and too large for me to move to Nashville.  I knew it would die in our backyard during the winter and was not sure what to do with it.  I was so pleased when a young man from the gardens came to pick it up.

Looking through my pictures since July and giving information about them would make this post much too long.  I tried to drive back to Georgia from Tennessee at least once a month and stay ten days to keep sorting, giving away and moving items, but it is going very slowly.  In October, by coincidence, I came back on the Sunday of the Chalkfest festival on the Marietta Square.  I went and took many pictures of the artwork on the asphalt and I'll show them in a future post.  In November when I came back to Georgia I found a bag with color prints I had taken in 1993 on a trip to Morocco, Paris and London.  I had not seen these photos since then (I'll show some of them in a future post, too.)  Then I drove from Nashville to Georgia again this past Monday, December 4th.  That day was very sunny and warm - 70 degrees F (21C.)  The weather changed quickly since today, three days later, we are having a snow storm.  I don't remember seeing snow here so early in the season.  It is very pretty.

As I write this, at 4:30 pm on Friday 8 December, it is still snowing.  It started this morning before 7:30 am and it has not stopped.  You can see from the bird feeder that there must be 3 inches of snow, at least.  The shrubbery is bent under the weight.

The electricity has been erratic, coming on and off all afternoon.  While the electricity was out I went back outside to take more pictures.  It is not often that we have that much snow here; we had none in early 2017 and just one day in early 2016, a very light snow.  I like the look of the brown pine tree trunks against the white snow.

Addendum Saturday morning December 9, 2017 - It must have snowed all night because at 8:30 am when I went out the accumulation on the bird bath looked like 10 to 12 inches high.

 I took some pictures, then as I was donwloading them I saw that the sun had come out; everything looked so bright through my window behind the computer.

I bundled up again and went out to take more pictures.  The snow is melting now but it is quite beautiful indeed and I can't stopped looking at this winter wonderland, so unusual here in Georgia.


Second Addendum: Saturday afternoon.  I just could not stay in the house and clean up when the sun and snow looked so tempting outdoors.  I fetched my Canadian fur hat and my down coat, which I had not moved to Nashville yet, took my cane and went for a walk with my old camera.  I'll place the photos in order in the collage below so you can go on the walk with me.  Please click on the collage twice to see well.  First, I took the path behind our house (you can see the back of our outbuilding on the right) and walked to the lake; a tree had fallen in the lake.  Then I came back to the road and walked carefully because packs of snow were falling down from the wind and branches were on the pavement.  I passed our neighbor's house that is for sale at $1.2 million.  Then went by the little white house across the street that has a red barn and finally went up the path leading to the Kemp Farm.  (It is a road with eclectic houses, McMansions near tiny houses then a farm.)  I saw no one else on the road but cars passed me; two even stopped asking if I needed a ride.
 
3rd Addendum (last one):  Monday December 11, 2017, 12 noon.  I drove around in the neighborhood and saw many branches and trees down; snow is melting but there is still much left.  The news on TV said that our area, West Cobb County, had been one of the worst hit by the snow storm.  Our road even made the news too yesterday with around 100 trees down (it's a long road.)  This morning at around 8:00 am the snow was still thick on top our cars and the bird bath.  The sun was coming up so I took a photo of our back yard with my cell phone.  Then later I played with it to make the photo more attractive.  I think our little old barn looks seasonal for the holidays, don't you think?




 I do not know if I'll be able to write another post before Christmas.  I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and Joyous Holidays.


Anyway you celebrate them, enjoy yourself and be happy!



Monday, July 31, 2017

Summer of 2017 and the Tour de France

My last post was written in May, then June went by and July is about over.  The clearing out of the Georgia house for the move to Tennessee has stalled as I had to get ready for my first knee operation.  I had a left knee replacement surgery in the middle of July.  Now is the time to take it easy and go through therapy - no driving.  I cannot stay seated at the computer for long as it starts hurting, so this post is taking several days.  But I know this shall pass (until the right knee operation!)  June 17, 2017 was our 50th wedding anniversary.  My husband did not know about it because of his progressing Alzheimer's disease, but I took him to a restaurant anyway.  We went to a newly opened Greek restaurant nearyby in Smyrna, GA.  There was music providing a fun ambiance.

The menu was large with colorful pictures of the dishes and of places in Greece.  Click on collage twice to enlarge and see better.

We ordered from the Chef's Special menu.  Jim had the Stuffed Cabbage, that was delicious, and I had the leg of lamb, not so delicious but a bit dry with too much meat.  The salad and bread were good.  The baklava bearing the number 50 was a nice touch.

Dancing lessons were given to anyone interested.  My photos are dark as I did not use a flash.

I have been looking at my pictures of the last two months to remember what we did to share here.  My husband kept busy watering weeds in the back yard, even right after the rain.  Once I did find a turtle he had placed, for some reason, inside an empty planter.  I looked at it for a while and she did not move.  I thought the poor turtle was dead but placed it on top of a plate of water, and soon enough her little eyes came out and looked at me.  It felt rewarding that I had found her in time.  (Turtle in French is "tortue" and is a feminine word.)

While clearing up I found a box with old bottle of wines.  One was from 1978.  I thought it would taste like vinegar, but no, it was still good.  I emailed the vineyard in California, still in business, and sent them a photo.  The manager emailed me back his thanks.  Under my daughter's bed I found an old bear.  Then, way back under her bed I found a big black box.  She messaged me that I could open it, that it contained a project she had meant to do for us as a 20th wedding anniversary present.  Inside were many photographs and movie films that I had thought were lost.  They had sat in this box, undisturbed, since 1987!  Just think, the first time I was seeing them in 30 years!  I did not have time to look at all of them but did find a picture of our daughter Celine with the old bear I had just found under her bed.  I also remembered the photo of our other daughter Jessica at her 2 year old birthday party.  It's going to be fun to have the old movie films made into DVDs and look at them - most are from San Francisco in the 1960s.

At the end of June we went to my primary care physician to get a quick release for my knee operation.  I remember taking a photo to show how nice and empty the waiting room was.  We were not in the office very long.  But just as we were on our way out the door, there was a tornado warning and patients were asked to assemble in an indoor hall - quite a few of them.  We were packed in there for close to 3 hours with doctors, nurses, patients, some with upset and unruly children and autistic teenagers who were going into hysterics - quite an afternoon! (I moved my cell phone camera on purpose to blur the faces of the people in the hall.)

The evening before my knee operation we went to a fine Mexican restaurant in Brentwood, Tennessee, Uncle Julio.  It was not too warm and we sat outside. They advertize authentic, made from scratch Mexican specialties.  It was difficult to decide what to eat as the menu listed so many interesting choices.  While deciding we ate a delicious roasted tomato salsa and queso dip with homemade tortillas.


Our four grandchildren were fascinated by the waiter making side table guacomole, which he explained to them as he went along.

I saw glimpses of the 14th of July (what Anglophones call Bastille's Day) celebrations in Paris on my Ipad and room TV while in the hospital.  To celebrate the 100th anniversary of US troops arriving in France to fight in World War 1, this year the 14 of July celebrations were placed under the Franco-American friendship.  US President Donald Trump had been invited by French President Emmanuel Macron as a guest of honor.  Top picture in the collage below is a Library of Congress photo of US General "Black Jack" John J. Pershing arriving in Boulogne, France on 13 June 1917, then a photo of him next to French General Peltier.  In center are the two presidents and wives having dinner on July 13, 2017, in the Alain Ducasse's upscale restaurant "Jules Verne" on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.

The parade down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees started with 145 US troops marching ahead.  More than 3700 French military personnel followed them.  At the end of the parade the French inter-military orchestra played for 86 seconds, "Nissa la Bella" the city of Nice national hymn, in remembrance of the 86 victims of the terrorist attack there on 14 July 2016.  They ended by positioning the band to form the word "Nice."  President Macron later that day flew to Nice to pay tribute to the victims.

Nissa la Bella was written on July 14, 1903.  It is the city of Nice hymn in the dialect of the town, Occitan dialect.  The lyrics say: Ô ma belle Nice, Reine des fleurs, Tes vieilles toitures Je chanterai toujours. Je chanterai les montagnes, Tes si riches décors, Tes vertes campagnes, Ton grand soleil d’or.    Translation:  O my beautiful Nice, Queen of flowers, Your old roofs, I'll always sing.  I will sing the mountains, Your rich scenery, Your green countryside, Your great golden sun.  I found it on youtube, written in the dialect and in French.



         


As is the tradition, the 14 of July festivities ended with fireworks by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, as well as in most other French cities and towns.

I was in hospital for four days - July 12 through 15th.  My doctor sent me a pretty red rose, and the CEO of the hospital a beautiful bouquet of unusual flowers.  I also watched the Tour de France on my little TV in my hospital room.

This year the 104th Tour de France started in Dusseldorf, Germany on July 1st, 2017.  It ended on Sunday July 23, 2017 on the Paris Champs-Elysees.  It was made up of 21 stages and covered a total distance of 3,540 kilometres/2,143.73 miles.  It included 9 flat stages, 5 hilly stages, 5 mountain stages, 2 individual time-trial stages and 2 rest days.  It also included a total of 23 mountain climbs or hills.  The Tour visited three neighboring countries: Germany, Belgium and Luxemburg; 635 towns were visited among 34 counties of France.  Twenty two international teams made of 198 cyclists started the Tour.  More statistics:  2000 media personnel (TV, radio, newspaper and magazine reporters and photographers,) 23,000 police and security personnel along the route, 170 publicity caravans, 100,000 recyclable garbage bags, 2,800 special signposts installed on dangerous points along the Tour roads, 5,540,000 fans following the Tour on social media, 13 million plus fans watching by the side of the route, 1 billion TV viewers in 190 countries.

Starting with "What is the Tour de France?" on July 22, 2009, every year I write a post on the Tour - you can find the posts by looking under Tour de France on the side of my blog.  I did not mention before the caravans following the Tour, or more accurately ahead of the Tour - 170 publicity caravans (custom-built especially for the Tour) representing 43 organizations.  Their long procession arrives one hour ahead of the race.  Their personnel, usually students working on this special summer job, hand out 14 million gifts to the roadside spectators.  Children and adults alike love getting the caps, sweets, key rings, souvenirs thrown at them.  It gives the Tour this special noisy, crazy fun with blaring music and excitement.


From the millions of fans along the roadside, of all ages and types (animal included,) some wear outlandish outfits or makeup.

The helicopters following the Tour offer us some great overviews and glimpses of the surrounding landscape.  (Do not forget to click on the pictures in the collage twice to see them better.)

I like watching the cyclists who have been running in several previous races, such as Alberto Contador of Spain, Richie Porte and Mark Renshaw of Australia, Thomas Voeckler, Sylvain Chavanel, Thibaut Pinot and Alain Bardet of France, Tony Martin, Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel of Germany and Nairo Quintana of Colombia.  Unfortunately, this year my two favorite sprinters, Mark Cavendish of the UK and Peter Sagan of Slovakia did not finish the Tour.  During the sprint at the end of stage four, Mark Cavendish crashed after hitting Peter Sagans' elbow.  Mark suffered a fractured shoulder blade and withdrew.  The Tour authority disqualified Peter Sagan saying that his dangerous elbow move provoked the accident.  (I think this was controversial and I did not agree.)  But this gave an opportunity for other sprinters to win like the rising star from Canberra, Australia, Michael Matthews.  Matthews won the green jersey for this year's Tour de France.

 Another rising star is Warren Barguil from Brittany, France.  He made the French fans happy by winning Stage 13 on July 14, Bastille Day, against Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador.  He is the first frenchman to win on the 14th of July since 2005.  President Macron personnaly congratulated him.  Barguil ended winning the polka dot king of the mountain jersey for the 2017 Tour.  Christopher Froome won the Tour de France, his fourth win in a row.  Below top left is Warren Barguil and then President Macron and Barguil.  The rest of the photos show the final Stage going through Paris and the winners.

Below are more pictures from the 2017 Tour de France.

Now I have to wait another year to watch the Tour again.  I was happy to just find out that my son-in-law has the book on the Official History of the Tour de France (pictured in the heading.)  It will be fun to have a look at it and learn more.  I end this post by saying "Vive le Tour!"





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