Stage 5 – Cagnes-sur-Mer – Marseille (228.5km)

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 5 Brignoles

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 5 Brignoles

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 5 Le Bec de L'Aigle

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 5 Le Bec de L’Aigle

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 5 La Baie de Cassis

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 5 La Baie de Cassis

Towns & Villages:
Brignoles, Cassis, Marseille & Marseille Harbour

Le Lac de Carces, La Montagne de la Loube, Le Bec de l’Aigle & La Baie de Cassis

L’Abbaye du Thoronet

Stage 4 – Nice – Nice (25km)

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 4 – Nice

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 4 – Nice

Stage 3 – Ajaccio – Calvi (145.5km)

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 3 Le Capo Rosso, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 3 Le Capo Rosso, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 3 - Le Golfe de Girolata, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 3 – Le Golfe de Girolata, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 3 - Calvi, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 3 – Calvi, Corsica

Towns & Villages:
Ajaccio, Cargèse (L’eglise greque Ste-Marie et St-Spyridion), Calvi

Capo di Feno, Le Rocher des Gozzi, Le Capo Rosso, Les Gorges de Spelunica, Le Golfe de Girolata, La Punta Scandola, Le Fango (river & estuary)

Stage 2 – Bastia – Ajaccio (156km)

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 2 - Saint Florent, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 2 – Saint-Florent, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 2 - Le Desert des Agriates, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 2 – Le Desert des Agriates, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 2 - Ajaccio, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 2 – Ajaccio, Corsica

Towns & Villages:
Bastia, Saint-Florent, Nonza, Omessa, Corte, Vivario & Ajaccio

Le Cap Corse, Le Desert des Agriates, Le Monte Cinto, La Pointe de Pinzi Corbini & Les Gorges de la Restonica

For several years thoughout the Tour de France I have been adding pictures and comment day by day about places along the way.  I have usually written something about cycling too but this was never my original plan.  As much as I like following the excitement of the race and have got to know the names of teams and individual riders, recording Tour statistics was never the original plan so this year I will be concentrating almost exclusively on what I love most about France – the country and the scenery – using this blog as a way to keep a record of places which need to go on our ‘must visit’ list.  Of course, there are places we have already visited here as well – in most cases because I feel they are worth a further look.  The television coverage usually starts part way along the route, so in most cases the starting point and earlier places along the route will be missing – I can only record what I have seen!

We will of course be cheering the Sky Team, in particular UK riders Chris Froome, in contention for the yellow jersey in succession to Bradley Wiggins (out due to injury) and also Mark Cavendish, riding for Omega Pharma-Quick Step, who has his sights on yet more stage wins and the green overall points jersey. I shall also continue to post a link to the (English language) Official Tour de France website page with the stage details indicated below.

Stage 1 – Porto-Vecchio – Bastia (Corsica) – 213km

Tour de France – Stage 1 – Torra di a Parata, Pointe de la Parata, Phare des Sanguinaires, Corsica

Tour de France – Stage 1 – Torra di a Parata, Pointe de la Parata, Phare des Sanguinaires, Corsica

There were no pictures of Porto-Vecchio but instead aerial pictures of the Genoese Tower (Torra di a Parata) on the pointe de la Parata with its offshore islands and lighthouse, Phare des Sanguinaires, close to Ajaccio. Also of interest today were the aerial pictures of the Site Archeologic de la Ville Antique d’Aleria and L’Etang d’Urbino, just south of the Etang pictured below.

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 1 – L’Etang de Diane, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 1 – L’Etang de Diane, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 1 – Bastia, Corsica

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 1 – Bastia, Corsica

Statue of Alfred, Lord Tennyson - Lincoln Cathedral

Statue of Alfred, Lord Tennyson – Lincoln Cathedral

We have just returned from a couple of days visiting the delightful English cathedral city of Lincoln, which boasts not only an exceptional Norman cathedral but also Roman remains, a castle and picturesque steep streets with medieval buildings.  At the rear of the hilltop cathedral, near to the chapter house, can be found a statue to the Lincolnshire born Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson who stands, holding a clump of grass and stems, his dog patiently sitting at his side.  This famous poem is quoted on the plinth.

HUNT William Henry (1790‑1864) Primroses and Bird's Nest

HUNT William Henry (1790‑1864) Primroses and Bird’s Nest

Flower in the crannied wall

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)
Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson was Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria’s reign and remains one of the most popular British poets.  He  was born in Somersby in Lincolnshire, son of the rector of the village church and fourth of 12 children. He was from a middle-class line of Tennysons, but also had a noble and royal ancestry.  Tennyson excelled at penning short lyrics and much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes although he also wrote some notable blank verse. During his career, Tennyson attempted drama, but his plays enjoyed little success. A number of phrases from Tennyson’s work have become commonplaces of the English language.

William Henry Hunt (1790‑1864)
An English watercolour painter born in Central London and later in Hastings.  Hunt was apprenticed to the landscape-painter John Varley and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1807. Hunt was one of the creators of the English school of watercolour painting becoming connected with the Society of Painters in Watercolours at its beginning, being elected an associate in 1824 and a full member in 1827. Until the year of his death Hunt was one of the most prolific contributors to the Society’s exhibitions. He was, says John Ruskin, all in all, the finest ever painter of still life but his subjects, especially those of his later life, are extremely simple.  Technically, his works exhibit all the resources of the watercolour painter’s craft with an exceptional sense of colour. Hunt earned special notice during his lifetime for the accuracy and fine detail of his still lifes with birds’ nests—so much so that he acquired the nickname “Bird’s Nest” Hunt.

KANDINSKY Wassily (1866-1896) Improvisation 26 ‘Oars’


When you see de rainbow you know God know wha he doing –
one big smile across the sky –
I tell you God got style the man got style
When you see
raincloud pass
and de rainbow
make a show
I tell you
is God doing
the man doing limbo

But sometimes
you know
when I see
de rainbow
so full of glow
and curving
like she bearing child
I does want know
if God
ain’t a woman

If that is so
the woman got style
man she got style

John Agard (1949- )
An Afro-Guyanese playwright, poet and children’s writer, who grew up in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana) and now lives in the United Kingdom.  As a child he loved to listen to cricket commentary on the radio and began making up his own, which led to a love of language.  He went on to study English, French and Latin at ‘A’ level, writing his first poetry when he was in the sixth-form.  Leaving school in 1967, he taught the languages he had studied and worked in a local library.  He was also a sub-editor and feature writer for the Guyana Sunday Chronicle, publishing two books whilst still in Guyana.  Agard moved to the UK in 1977, working for the Commonwealth Institute and the BBC in London. His awards include the Paul Hamlyn Award for Poetry, the Cholmondeley Award and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.  He was also Poet-in-Residence at the National Maritime Museum.  In 2012, he was selected for the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1896)
An influential Russian painter and art theorist credited with painting the first purely abstract works. Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics and was offered a professorship at the University of Dorpat.  He began painting studies (life-drawing, sketching and anatomy) at the age of 30.  In 1896 Kandinsky settled in Munich, eventually studying at the Academy of Fine Arts. He returned to Moscow in 1914, after the outbreak of World War I.  Unsympathetic to the official theories on art in Moscow Kandinsky returned to Germany in 1921 teaching at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture from 1922 until the Nazis closed it in 1933. He then moved to France where he lived for the rest of his life, became a French citizen in 1939, and produced some of his most prominent art. He died at Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1944.

Pech Merle Caves, Lot, France – Cave art – Hand imprint from the Prehistoric period

In Silence

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
To speak your

To the living walls.
Who are you?
Are you? Whose
Silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
Are you (as these stones
Are quiet). Do not
Think of what you are
Still less of
What you may one day be.
Be what you are (but who?) be
The unthinkable one
You do not know.

O be still, while
You are still alive,
And all things live around you
Speaking (I do not hear)
To your own being,
Speaking by the Unknown
That is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
To be my own silence:
And this is difficult. The whole
World is secretly on fire. The stones
Burn, even the stones
They burn me. How can a man be still or
Listen to all things burning? How can he dare
To sit with them
When all their silence
Is on fire?”

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
An Anglo-American Catholic writer and mystic and a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky.  Merton was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. In 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis. Merton wrote more than 70 books, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as many essays and reviews, including his best-selling autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, once listed as one of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century.  Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding, pioneering dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including the Dalai Lama.

Pech Merle is a cave which opens onto a hillside at Cabrerets in the Lot département of the Midi-Pyrénées region in France, about 35 minutes by road east of Cahors. It is the home of one of the few prehistoric cave painting sites in France which remain open to the general public. Extending for more than a mile from the entrance are caverns the walls of which are painted with dramatic murals dating from some 25,000 years BC.  The area once had a great river flowing through it, cutting underground channels which were later used by humans for shelter and eventually for mural painting.  The walls of seven of the chambers at Pech Merle have fresh, lifelike images of a woolly mammoth, spotted horses, single colour horses, bovids, reindeer, handprints and some humans. Footprints of children, preserved in what was once clay, have been found more than half a mile underground. Within a six mile radius of the site are ten other caves with prehistoric art but none of these are open to the public. It is supposed that, at some point in the past, rain and sliding earth covered the cave entrances providing an airtight seal until the 20th century. The cave at Pech Merle has been open to the public since 1926 but visiting groups are limited in size and number so as not to destroy the delicate artwork.

MANKES Jan (1889-1920) Young Starling

MANKES Jan (1889-1920) Young Starling


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
American poet born in Massachusetts who lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life. She was thought of as an eccentric by the locals and became known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room. Most of her friendships were carried out by correspondence.  Dickinson was a prolific private poet but fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime. Dickinson’s poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation.  Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality.  Lavinia, Emily’s younger sister, discovered a cache of poems after Dickinson’s death in 1886.  It was then that the breadth of Dickinson’s work became apparent.  A complete and mostly unaltered collection of her poetry became available for the first time in 1955 when The Poems of Emily Dickinson was published by Thomas H. Johnson. Despite some unfavorable reviews and skepticism during the late 19th and early 20th century as to Dickinson’s literary prowess, she is now almost universally considered to be one of the most important American poets.

Jan Mankes (1889-1920)
A Dutch painter who produced around 200 paintings, 100 drawings and 50 prints before dying of tuberculosis at the age of 30.  His restrained, detailed work ranged from self portraits to landscapes and studies of birds and animals. His work is now exhibited in the Scheringa Museum of Realism, the Museum of Modern Art at Arnhem and the Belvédère Museum at Heerenveen.

Joseph – U A Fanthorpe

TISSOT James Joseph Jacques (1836–1902) The Anxiety of Saint Joseph


I am Joseph, carpenter,
Of David’s kingly line,
I wanted an heir, discovered
My wife’s son wasn’t mine.

I am an obstinate lover,
Loved Mary for better or worse.
Wouldn’t stop loving when I found
Someone Else came first.

Mine was the likeness I hoped for
When the first-born man-child came
But nothing of him was me, I couldn’t
Even choose his name.

I am Joseph who wanted
To teach my own boy how to live.
My lesson for my foster son:
Endure. Love. Give.

U A Fanthorpe (1929-2009)
Ursula Fanthorpe is one of my all time favourite poets and this poem is the one I like best of her Christmas poems,  although it was a difficult choice.  I hope to add more of her poems in the future.

James Joseph Jacques Tissot (1836–1902)
A French painter born to a family of Italian descent in the port town of Nantes who spent much of his career in Great Britain.  It is probable that his parents’ involvement in the fashion industry influenced his attention to detail in women’s clothing during his career and his youth spent in Nantes contributed to his frequent depiction of ships and boats in his later works.  Tissot travelled to Paris to pursue an education in art. Around this time, Tissot made the acquaintance of James McNeill Whistler, Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet. Tissot fought in the Franco-Prussian War as part of the improvised defense of Paris leaving Paris for London in 1871 and quickly developed a reputation as a painter of elegantly dressed women shown in scenes of fashionable life.  In 1885, Tissot experienced a re-conversion to Catholicism, which led him to spend the rest of his life illustrating the Bible. To assist in his completion of biblical illustrations, he travelled to the Middle East making studies of the landscape and people with the ensuing series of 365 gouache illustrations of the life of Christ shown to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences. Tissot spent the last years of his life working on paintings of subjects from the Old Testament, although these were never completed. Tissot died in Doubs, France.