Archive for November, 2009

The Caves of Orgnac

November 4, 2009 12:13 am

Heading Into The AbyssImagine being a potholer in 1935 and going down a hole that everyone knew about but had never visited before because it seemed too deep.  Well (pardon the pun), French spelunkerer Robert de Joly and a small team descended the hole in August 1935 and found themselves in a vast cavern covering 2.5 acres. Stalagmites and stalactites were everywhere. We went to vist these grand Grottes d’Orgnac, as they are now known, at the weekend. Rather than climbing down a hole, we walked down many steps into an immense underground cavern of great beauty.  Our tour took us up and down many stairs and by the end of the tour we were 121 metres below ground.  Luckily for us, at the end of the walk there was a lift to return us to ground level.

Curtains of StoneIt felt amazing to be in the caverns, it was beautiful. We saw many stalagmites growing up to 11 metres high. They were all made of little platelettes, each of which took thousands of years to create. Platelettes formed because the water that created them dripped from a great height. A little pool of water sits at the top of each stalagmite and every time a drop falls, it splashes water out horizontally to form the plate.  For some reason the French call them piles of crepes!

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Weekend in Paris

November 2, 2009 7:56 pm

P1030682Kevin set his computer to send him a reminder to buy TGV tickets exactly 3 months before the weekend we chose to visit Paris (a little planning can save a lot on train fare) and off we went at the appointed time. We did the usual touristy things like visit the Louvre, meander the magnificent boulevards and neighborhoods, and dine in classic old bistros. New for me was a visit to the cemetery, Père Lachaise. As a gentle breeze wafted falling autumn leaves through golden sunlight, we had a lovely quiet stroll past thousands of tombs, some belonging to people well-remembered but most others to people apparently long-forgotten. I was amazed to find Chopin’s grave absolutely brimming with fresh bouquets of beautiful flowers. I thought it must have been his birthday, but not quite yet. The 200th anniversary of his birth is 1 March 2010. However, as chance would have it, we found ourselves standing before his grave exactly 160 years to the day of his death. Quelle coincidence …

Albert Kahn MuseumThe next day we were very excited to be going to the Albert Kahn Museum. We discovered this fascinating Frenchman in a BBC production called The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn. Permettez-moi to quote from Wikipedia: “In 1909 Kahn travelled to Japan on business and returned with many photographs of the journey. This prompted him to begin a project collecting a photographic record of the entire Earth. He appointed Jean Brunhes as the project director, and sent photographers to every continent to record images of the planet using the first colour photography, autochrome plates, and early cinematography. Between 1909 and 1931 they collected 72,000 colour photographs and 183,000 meters of film. These form a unique historical record of 50 countries, known as ‘The Archives of the Planet’.” (To check out some of these photographs, click here.)

Unfortunately, our advance planning did not include checking the museum’s website and, to our horror, the photography section of the museum was closed until two days later to prepare for the next exhibit. Ugh! But we were able to walk through the stunning gardens at the museum. Kahn had several Japanese houses dismantled and reassembled in the gardens he constructed in Paris. In addition to a lovely Japanese garden, he built a glass conservatory, an English garden, a conifer wood, and a rose garden. The site was well worth the visit but, I’m sure, would have been even better with the photography exhibit. Check out our photos of our weekend in Paris.