From 2009 until now, I have posted many series of wide-ranging photo essays. Â A total of 72 of these essays – surreal and otherwise, and consisting of just over 1,000 photographs – were devoted to Western Australia.Â Another 58 photo photo essays – surreal and non-surreal, and comprised of some 1,800 images – focused on America.Â
I reckon that for a while people have seen enough of my take on slivers of experiencing life in Western Australia and North America.Â As a complete change, let’s bravely have a bit of a gander at what it’s like to engage in what I’ve loosely termed as the Surreal English & French experience.
It is a surreal look in that every one of the 634 photographs in this series has been altered. This has been mainly accomplished by using Picasa but sometimes by also using Microsoft Paint as well to manipulate the images.Â Not a single image is as the eye would ordinarily see it.
We are taking each country in turn, beginning with England.Â And we kicked it all off by using shanks ponies and train to travel to London.Â It was a kind of reconnoiter, if you like … very much a case of tentatively dipping our big toe into the murky waters of the English experience.
Emboldened by surviving unscathed our first excursion from our home base at Sunningdale, we then journeyed by car along back roads and country lanes to see what the heck is within a couple of hours reach of home.Â We got to see lots of snug pubs with pints and pints of frothing cold beer … oops, I mean hot cocoa in hamlets and towns that soon floated by in a hot chocolate haze but I kind of remember Henley-on-something-or-other, Oxford University’s bicycle racks and Guildford in vain search of Charles Dickens.Â In the following expedition we ranged much farther, driving to Dover and catching a train to St Ives in Cornwall.Â Just because, really.Â We had no plan in mind other than to go look.
Once we’d returned to Sunningdale and recovered from that coastal ordeal, we headed off to Windsor Castle.Â It is not only Europe’s largest but is actually also the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.Â We put our feet up for a day or two and then caught the train to Waterloo Station to go exploring the Westminster area, including the knock-your-socks-off Abbey.Â A few days later we caught the train into London again to go see the bustling river Thames area.Â Some days after that, we once more caught the train to London, this time to trudge on blistered feet all about Trafalgar Square and then route march to Buckingham Palace.Â Liz and Phil didn’t invite us in for a cuppa.
Magnanimously, we chose to not live in bitter memories of royal slights in the past.Â Instead, we headed by car for France.Â Â As with all all of our expeditions, it necessitated beginning as soon as it was light enough to head off and then not putting our feet up until well after dark … the daylight hours in England andÂ France during late-autumn and winter are quite short.Â And the light for good photography is fast fleeting and very brief.Â It can be said that at this time of year, England and Europe are a very dark experience.
Having crossed under the English Channel via the Chunnel, we drove to historic Boulogne, the largest fishing port in France, if not the whole of Europe. Â The emperor Claudius used the town as his base for the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43.Â Some 1,800 years later, in 1805, Napoleon massed his Grande Armee in Boulogne to invade England.Â Â But the supremacy of Britain’s Royal Navy prevented any such actual invasion from occurring.Â And that was true again in WWII, when a mooted invasion by Hitler’s forces was manifestly impossible because the Royal Navy ruled the waves and the Royal Air Force ruled the skies.
Enough of this gibberish by me!Â It’s absolute rot, of course!Â Suffice to say that we explored the restaurants and the ancient part of Boulogne and had an interesting time looking around.Â Then it was a long drive to Paris and an early night at our hotel.Â Yet bright and early the following morning we were up and at ‘em … using the underground railway to deposit us near enough to walk to the Eiffel Tower.Â After Bob and the English Oracle returned from riding the tower’s elevator the almost 1,000 feet to the top to stare into thick fog, we walked to the nearby river Seine and went cruising on a ferry.Â Of course, we just had to disembark to go and visit the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame, on the banks of the Seine.
It was a tiring but exciting day. As was the next one when we tracked down the Academie Nationale De Musique – known as The Opera.Â There we saw two brass bands of buskers going head to head on the steps of the Academie.Â It was a blast!Â But easily the highlight so far was our next adventure into the milling throng that is Paris.Â We spent many hours in the museum to eclipse all museums – in the world renowned Musee du Louvre … known simply as, The Louvre.Â Despite the time we spent at the museum, we only saw a little of the vast collections gathered there.Â One day we really must return.
So, too, with the mother of all palaces, the Chateau de Versailles, which we visited on our way out of Paris as we headed for deep into Normandy.Â Having left Paris well behind, our initial destination was the picturesque town of Hornfleur - to see for ourselves why it is a holiday resort beloved by both the English and the French. And so we did.Â Then we covered still more ground in Normandy, driving to look at two firsts that occurred on D-Day, 1944.Â We went toÂ Pegasus Bridge and then to the town of Sainte Mere-Eglise.Â After this detour, we headed for the stretch of Normandy beaches where the D-Day landings occurred.
Now, on this our very last excursion we’re going to explore the American Cemetery and Memorial located at Omaha Beach.Â Some 10,000 Americans are buried there.Â And it was here that the poignant closing scene of the movie, Saving Private Ryan was filmed – near the small bed of roses in Image 31.
Unlike all the other expeditions, this final one will not use referencing utilizing the petrified encyclicals found in the Dead Sea Scrolls Style Manual nor those prescribed in the Roman Army’s standing orders for the supervision of the Ninth Legion while on rest and recreation leave in Gaul. Â However, the poetry used in the photography captions are referenced, using hyperlinks.Â The images themselves are self-referencing – all were taken by me, in-situ.Â
We must be getting close.
It is very well signposted and easy enough to find.
Not far now!
Having parked the car, we reach the corner of the sprawling Visitor Center and are greeted with the observation by General Omar Bradley, U.S. First Army Commander.
Also upon the Visitor Center’s wall we read Ike’s final message to the troops departing England to invade Normandy.
Inside the Visitor Center there are audio-visual presentations as well as plaques like this one – all reading material is bilingual: in English and French.
As we exit the far end of the Visitor Center to enter the cemetery, we read this assessment.
Below lies Omaha Beach in heavy but rising fog.
The fog has lifted and moved out to sea … and we can clearly see a portion of the beach where the Americans landed.Â Then, the tide was way out.
On this platform overlooking the beach, a diorama graphically illustrates the course of events.
Having gotten the context of the landings, Bob climbs flights of steps to experience the looming and impressive memorial to the fallen.
Not graffiti!Â Colorfully engraved upon these towering walls are the major details of military operations from the 6th June 1944 D-Day invasion to the surrender of Germany on 8th May 1945.
It takes a while to absorb!
Here is the graphic account – the English version, but there also being a French version – of the fierce battles fought from Normandy to the Elbe.
For The Fallen
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
(See full poem at, FirstWorldWar.com:a multimedia history of world war one.)
In Flanders Fields
by Â John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
The Memorial Chapel to the fallen.
Engraved on the wall of the chapel.
The flags of the countries that took part.
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,
that here obedient to their laws we lie
I hope you have found this entire series to be of interest and entertaining.
If not, what can I do except shrug and say: C’est la vie!
Surreal English & French
003 Dover & St Ives
004 Windsor Castle
007 Trafalgar Square
015 Honfleur Bound
016 D-Day Firsts