Tag Archives: Chalon-sur-Saone

Paris in October – part 9 – Chalon-sur-Saone

Well, Chalon-sur-Saone is NOT in Paris, obviously. But I did go there as part of this trip. Chalon is a small city on the banks of the Saone (pronounced Son) river, about 130 kilometers from the Swiss border. The reason for the visit was not to take a river cruise (Chalon is the departure point for many river cruises as the Saone feeds into the Rhone river at Lyons and from there flows to the Mediterranean) but to visit the birthplace of photography. But didn’t Louis Daguerre invent it in Paris in 1839? No. Nicephore Niepce (pronounced Knee-eps) actually discovered the very first viable photographic process in 1822 when he was able to create photogravure etchings. By 1825 he was working with a process he called “heliography” involving coating bitumen of Judea dissolved in lavender oil on pewter plates. It was fine for mechanical reproduction of static subjects but not terribly useful for anything else, as his exposure times ran longer than eight hours. In the early 1830s he collaborated with Daguerre on developing an improved process. Alas, he died in 1833, and was not able to see the fruition of his labors.

Today’s post from Chalon covers the black-and-white photos I took. Chalon is more than river cruises and dead inventors – the town dates back to Roman times, and although little visible remains of its Roman years, the medieval core of the city is still very visible and accessible. The square in front of the cathedral features half-timbered buildings from the 14th century.

Patron Saint Statue, Chalon
Patron Saint Statue, Chalon

The cathedral in Chalon may look somewhat newer – the facade took heavy damage and was restored in the 19th century, but parts of the structure date back to the 8th.

Chalon Cathedral
Chalon Cathedral
Le Majorelle, Chalon Cathedral Square
Le Majorelle, Chalon Cathedral Square

Thinking of how things change, here we have very clear evidence – in the 19th century there was a major reformation of the way street addresses were indicated. Previously, instead of having odd numbered houses on one side of the street and evens on the other, the numbers would go up sequentially on one side of a street and when they reached the end of the street, they’d turn around and keep going up until they got to the beginning, so it was possible to have number 3 in the same block as number 252, which was extremely confusing. Also, with all the turmoil in France from the 1780s until the 1880s, streets were frequently re-named. This intersection shows what were once Rue Voltaire and Rue Comerce are now Rue du Pont and Rue du Chatelet.

Speculum Vitae, Chalon
Speculum Vitae, Chalon

Number 9 is a good example – I don’t know what the original street number was, but the 9 is a typical blue and white enamel-on-metal plaque from the late 19th/early 20th century. The house, obviously, dates to 1550.

Number 9, circa 1550
Number 9, circa 1550

Rue de L’Oratorie is another example. This is the street on which Niepce was born; his house is behind me, at modern #15. However, there is a plaque on the wall of the courtyard that leads to Rue de L’Oratorie which says the Niepce birth home is at #9. THe plaque indicating the location of the home was placed before the address reformation, so you can imagine my confusion when looking for #9 and not finding it at all! Fortunately Rue de L’Oratorie is only really 2 blocks long, and there is a second sign in the rue on the house itself. I don’t have photos of the house taken with the Rolleiflex because it’s quite nondescript and the rue itself is rather narrow at that end, making it hard to photograph more than a bit of a wall. I do have photos on my iPhone of the signs that I’ll post with the color images later.

Rue de L'Oratorie, Chalon
Rue de L’Oratorie, Chalon

These are views of the Tour Saudon, a 14th century tower house right around the corner from Niepce’s birthplace.

Tour Saudon, Gate
Tour Saudon, Gate
Tour Saudon, Rue de L'Oratorie
Tour Saudon, Rue de L’Oratorie

Also on the Rue de L’Oratorie, this house has a bridge connecting its two halves on each side of the street.

Bridge House, Rue de L'Oratorie
Bridge House, Rue de L’Oratorie

Paris in October – part 6 – transportation – Planes and Trains

Whenever you travel, of course it involves transportation. I suppose I could call this post “trains, planes and automobiles”, although cars were the least feature of this trip for me. Starting off with planes, the return flight from Paris was on an Air France Airbus A380. I had wanted to see what one was like since they were announced back in the late 1990s. Thanks to my dad splurging on our plane tickets, we had seats in the premium economy section, which put us on the upper deck of the plane. Perhaps because of its size, the A380 was the smoothest riding plane I can recall flying in.

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Here it is at the gate at Charles De Gaulle airport.

One other neat feature of the plane is that in the entertainment console in the headrest, one option is to view the tail cam. They have a camera somewhere near the top of the tail rudder that has a view of the aircraft and the landscape below it. Here it is, on the approach to Dulles International Airport:

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Most of my travels within France were train based. I took the Metro within Paris, a commuter train to Versailles, and a TGV to Chalon. The TGV to Chalon was not the famous super-fast train that goes to Marseilles in 3 hours, but nonetheless, it’s a fast, smooth, quiet train that pivots as it goes around curves.

Paris Metro scenes:

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The Monnaie station (the Mint) had these large ceramic replica coins flowing up the wall, over the ceiling and on to the wall of the opposite platform. The platform also had this giant antique coin press on display:
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I wish they would do things like that here in the Washington DC metro.

Here’s a take on the same station in black-and-white.

Paris Metro-Pont Neuf
Paris Metro-Pont Neuf

And another view of the Metro in motion:

Speeding Metro
Speeding Metro

I took a TGV from Paris to Chalon-sur-Saone to go visit the home of Nicephore Niepce, the original inventor of photography. To say that my train trip was an adventure would be fairly accurate – my first train, which was supposed to take me directly to Chalon, instead took me to Besancon, which is a scant 60km from the Swiss border. I had to take three more trains to end up in Chalon, two and a half hours after I was supposed to arrive there.

It all worked out ok in the end, and the return trip was far less adventurous. Here is the Gare D’ Lyon, my starting (and ending) point in Paris:

TGV, Gare D' Lyon
TGV, Gare D’ Lyon

Clocks, Platform, Gare D' Lyon
Clocks, Platform, Gare D’ Lyon

Paris in October – part 3: Food Porn

In part one, I mentioned the orgy of great food I had. Here is proof of the deliciousness to be found in Paris and Chalon-sur-Saone, and nary a Michelin star in sight (or the accompanying heart-stopping bill).
Endive salad, and roasted whole fish:

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French onion soup and Coq au Vin:

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Salmon in a cream broth with potato purée topped with pesto, and brownies with pistachio crumbles and sauce:

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The dining room at the Musee D’Orsay where I ate the aforementioned salmon and brownies:

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Endive salad with raw white mushrooms, sautéed onions with sweet red peppers, sprinkled with crumbled egg yolk, grilled pork with a pumpkin casserole topped with a cream sauce and gruyere cheese, and the wildest eclair you’ve ever seen:

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The above was from the dining room at the Hotel St. Georges in Chalon-sur-Saone, the birthplace of photography (thus my reason for going there). I can highly recommend the St. Georges hotel and their restaurant- the rooms were brand new, sparkling clean, the service was friendly and impeccable, and the dining room was one of the best restaurants I ate at on the entire trip.

The dining room:

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More food:

Boeuf Bourguinon:

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Lunch at the take-away counter at Versailles. A ham sandwich and an eclair:
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Charcuterie plate:

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Steak with potatoes and greens:
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Bananas with creme anglaise and powdered cocoa:

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Green salad and grilled lamb chops with pumpkin purée:
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The only quibble I have with the French is that they seem to have no idea whatever of what to do with pasta. The noodles in the boeuf Bourguinon were way past al dente and somewhere between soft and dissolved. I grabbed a veal Milanese for lunch which was perfectly cooked and delicious, but the pasta side that came with was bare of sauce (a very small cup of marinara was provided to dip the cutlet in) or even butter! It was like, “we know there’s supposed to be pasta with Italian food, but we don’t know what to do with it, so we’ll just stick it over there and hope nobody notices”.

And last but not least, the humble hot dog. The French manage to elevate one of the most humble of foods into gourmet territory by putting it in a baguette slathered with Dijon mustard and topping it with melted cheese.

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Paris in October – Part 1

My apologies for the very long delay in writing. Did you all miss me? Part of it was just a general busy-ness and part of it was that I was traveling to Paris for ten days, then waiting for my color film to come back from the lab, and processing and scanning my black-and-white work. Paris was a blast – I have to say it was an orgy of great food – I did not have a single bad meal, or even a humdrum one, in the entire 10 days. Well, ok, the breakfast at the airport on the day of the return flight was, well, airport food, but that doesn’t really count. I’d say the meals on Air France made up for it. I’ll save the rest of the food chat for another post – I took pictures of most of my meals.

I took only one camera with me on this trip, the Rolleiflex. It has only one focal length, and is entirely manual. I know to some folks, shooting their entire vacation with a normal lens would be heresy. I found that in actuality, there were perhaps a half-dozen photos that I took that in retrospect would have been better with a different focal length, and another half-dozen to ten that I didn’t take because they wouldn’t work with the focal length I had. This out of almost 400 frames (33 rolls of 120, 12 frames/roll). I kept my film palette largely restricted to two films – Kodak Ektar 100 for color (with two exceptions) and Tri-X for black-and-white. I did make the mistake of dragging along with me a whole bunch of additional film that I didn’t need to bring (way too much alternative black-and-white film, like some Ilford Pan-F and FP4+). The color exceptions were some Portra 160 for long night-time exposures and some Portra 800 for low-light where I could only hand-hold the camera.

I’ll start this series of posts off with a pair of highlights: the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Eiffel Tower:

Eiffel Tower Shadow, Clouds
Eiffel Tower Shadow, Clouds

This was a happy catch. I saw the shadow of the tower and the clouds passing overhead reflected in the glass of the security partition for the queue to enter the Eiffel Tower. I took a chance that it would work, and voila! (Tish, that’s French!!!) I was afraid that it would come out fuzzy because I was trying to focus on two different things that were not actually on the plane where they appeared (the security glass partition) and the color balance would be impossible to get right because the anti-shatter coatings on the glass created a bit of a prismatic effect. There’s still a touch of yellow in the clouds I couldn’t eliminate but otherwise it wasn’t too bad.

Here’s a shot of Notre Dame Cathedral, taken from a different perspective.

Towers, Notre Dame Cathedral
Towers, Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame is actually a challenge to photograph because it has a very direct east-west orientation, so for much of the day, the facade that you want to see represented is facing west and in shadow/backlit. I was able to time this photo in the late afternoon so it was well illuminated.

The Rollei made for a perfect travel camera – phenomenal image quality, very easy to handle, and because it is so quiet (no mirror slap, the leaf shutter just makes a little ‘snick’ when it fires) it is great for candids. Thinking of which, I did grab a couple portraits of friends of mine who came over from London to visit. They recently moved there from Singapore. The last time we saw each other in person was 2003, so almost exactly a decade apart. Gosh have we all changed, but it was so great to see them again.

Mirza and Peter
Mirza and Peter
Mirza, Cafe Le Progrès
Mirza, Cafe Le Progrès
Peter, Profile, Blvd St. Martin
Peter, Profile, Blvd St. Martin