Project 28 France, Spain and Ireland

20 March 17

Posted at 4:51

Short days and inclement weather in the early weeks of 2017 resulted in a slow down in Project 28 activity. I did however fit in trips to France, Spain and Ireland. The towns chosen for Project 28 in those countries were Laval, Salamanca and Galway.

Untitled

I chose Laval on the basis it is twinned with Boston, Lincolnshire. Other than being similar sized market towns in rural locations there are few similarities between Boston and Laval. Least of all is their attitudes towards the EU. Boston had the biggest percentage leave vote in the whole of the UK influenced very much by immigration levels. Laval on the other hand, seeing its population fall as its traditional linen industry declined, used EU funds for a technology park to attract new industries to the town offering the people an alternative to moving to major cities.

Musee du Vieux - Chateau and Pont VieuxMussee de Vieux - Chateau and Pont Vieux

This is the iconic image of Laval, the Mayenne, the chateaux and the Pont Vieux.

Laval to me was all about the river, La Mayenne.

Basilique Notre Dame d'AvesnieresBasilique Notre Dame d'Avesnieres

The weather during my stay was bitterly cold, the river turned to ice for much of each day. The clean cold air and winter light made for some nice images though.

Pont de l'EuropePont de l'Europe

Le Viaduct de LavalLe Viaduct de Laval

Pont VieuxPont Vieux

The old bridge with the chateau on the right and the Basilique  Notre Dame d'Avesnieres in the distance.

 

 

I left Laval and headed by train to Salamanca, Spain

City Hall ReflectionCity Hall reflection in Plaza Mayor

Salamanca in January proved to also be bitterly cold (more so than is usual I was told) and quite wet (it is on the plain I guess). Not what one expects when visiting Spain but on the positive side I had far less tourists to wrestle with than would have been the case for most of the year.

Plaza MayorPlaza Mayor

A friend had mentioned to me Lazarillo de Tormes so I sought out the sculpture in memory of Salamanca's most famous son.

Lazarillo del TormesLazarillo de Tormes

Salamanca from Scala CoeliSalamanca from Scala Coeli

If you have been following Project 28's progress you will be aware that since the outset if there is a ariel view available in the town I am visiting I take advantage of it. In Salamanca it was Scala Coeli. The climb there differed from any to date as the staircase was wooden, the stairs are narrow towards the top and finish with a tight spiral to the bell tower. There are two towers de Clerecia joined at the top by a walkway. There is a 360 degree view of Salamanca. My first ascent was met by a squally storm as I reached the top, I didn't venture out, in fact it was difficult to maintain a footing inside the tower. The following day the weather a lttle calmer enabled me to get some shots.

Catedral NuevaCatedral Nueva

The break in the weather enabled me to take a walk across the Roman bridge to the far side of the Tormes and look back at old Salamanca.

My return journey by rail involved a border crossing just South of Perpignan, on my journey to Spain I had crossed into Spain North of Irun on the Atlantic side. The crossing that way was, as one would imagine between Shengen countries, unnoticeable. The only difference I noticed when changing trains at Irun was on board the Spanish train the staff totally ignored the no smoking rule. However on my return my train, travelling from Barcelona to Lyon, stopped at Perpignan for an age. The train was boarded by numerous police and the ID of every passenger was thoroughly checked before the train moved on (40 mintes late putting connections at risk). This was my first experience of border control (other than at airports) during the project so far. I assumed it was prompted by terrorist concerns.

Next on my 'winter schedule' was Ireland, Galway in particular.

The Long WalkThe Long Walk

I guess the colourful houses of the Long Walk are the most photographed in Galway.

The Long Walk (sun)The Long walk with the sun out

Friends have told me I was lucky to see them in the sun and I must admit it was brief. The term 'wild Atlantic coast' is not inappropriate.

Galway Hookers and Browne DoorwayEyre Square

The central landmark of Galway with the Browne Doorway and the Galway Hookers. A man I met told me Galway is 'all about the Craic and the Hookers', thankfully he explained that Hookers are traditional fishing vessels before I got the wrong impression. Eyre Square is also know as Kennedy Square and there is a bust and a plaque to JFK commemorating his visit in 1963. JFK is revered in Galway more than I could ever have imagined. In fact..

UntitledJFK Mosaic

...there is even a mosaic of him in the Cathedral. I've met many from Galway who didn't know that. Rumour has it that JFK's family funded the completion of the Cathedral which was finally finished two years after his visit - progress had previously stalled due to lack of funds.

Fourteen Tribes of GalwayThe Fourteen Tribes of Galway

Galway from Mutton IslandGalway from Mutton Island

Nora Barnacle's HouseNora Barnacle's House

 

As the days now lengthen and Article 50 is served I will ramp up my travels to the 28 EU states. In April I plan a whistle stop tour of nine countries in 15 days which will bring my total to 20 so there will be just 8 to go.

 

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Project 28 Cyprus

15 January 17

Posted at 10:55

Cyprus the eigth country I visited for Project 28. My chosen town is Paphos. This would be my final visit in 2016. With days now short and in general the weather getting grim I would take a few weeks off shooting after Paphos.

Paphos Town 1Paphos Town Centre

Pafos town centre resembles a bomb site. Apart from a small area around the little bus station every street and square is in a state of refurbishment. This all in preparation for Pafos becoming the European City of Culture 2017 which kicks off in February.

Paphos Town 3Paphos Town Centre

I can't see the town being ready by then.

Set MenuEuropean City of Culture 2017

It's difficult to envisage Paphos as the European City of Culture and impossible to envisage any sort of culinary culture. The restaurants, bars and cafes both in the town and the currently somewhat more presentable port area pander to the taste of both tourist and the massive ex pat community. Both are predominantly but not exclusively British. the attraction of Cyprus to the Brits is not only the climate and relatively low cost of living but seems to also stem from the UK's military bases historic and current in Cyprus. I was in Paphos in December so not the tourist high season but I met many Brits who have either emigrated to Cyprus or at least spend the majority of the year there. Many of these had served in the military stationed in Cyprus at some point in their lives. The majority of ex pats I met hailed from Northern towns in Lancashire and Yorkshire and also the Midlands. In my brief encounters with them they gave me the impression of stereotypical 'leave' supporters, middle aged or elderly, white and from 'working class' areas. I must say most also appeared stereotypes you would expect to offer you some moody merchandise or worse. It is wrong to 'judge a book by the cover' of course. I was struck by the irony of probable Brexit supporters currently enjoying the benefits of freedom of movement and the right to reside and work anywhere in the EU. In discussing my project and their situation none volunteered any concerns about their way of life changing. Many had opinions on migrants and migration not appearing to grasp the irony of their comments.

So in the City of Culture it was not easy to grasp what the culture of Pafos or indeed Cyprus is. It looked more and more as though the town had sold its soul. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Kings Avenue.

Kings Avenue MallKings Avenue Mall

Between the port and the town is Kings Avenue Mall. The mall appears to be the pride and joy of the town. A grey metal and concrete monstrosity photographed here from one of the 'archaeological sites of special interest'. I never ventured into the mall but from seeing the signage it contains the usual raft of global corporations from Costa Coffee and Waggamama to Zara, M&S, Mango et al, I'm sure you get the picture. There is nothing particularly Cypriot or Greek about the content or the architecture. For me that's a shame.

There are in and around some examples more typical of the local culture and history. There are many archaeological sites.

Archaeological Site Of Kato PafosArchaeological Site of Kato Pafos

UntitledSaranta Kolones Castle

To the North of the harbour lies the site of Kato Pafos. To the left of the road is a large area with many ancient building remains, catacombes, amphitheatres etc. For a small admission fee you can enjoy walking around the large archaeologocal site.

 Basilica of ChrysopolitissaBasilica of Chrysopolitissa

On the other side of the road are Ottoman and Medieval baths and the Basilica of Chrysopolitissa. The Basilica site for me typifies what I found to be the chaotic management, direction and planning in Pafos. Whereas in the main site one can wander amongst the ruins without restriction, which is nice from a freedom perspective but not good for preservation. Across the way at the Basilica an elevated walkway, wide enough to be able to accommodate two wheelchairs alongside each other, over the site and alongside and in front of the church. This grey metal and wooden structure has really destroyed the aesthetics of the building, it is on top of many ancient stones, foundations and pillars. One gets the impression that the construction of this platform no doubt displaced and moved many of the ruins, add to that the installation of floodlight boxes at ground level. It is difficult to imagine that this site is as it was discovered or that archaeologists had a great deal of say in its current presentation.

Sol AlterSol Alter

In 2014 the Pafos2017 team selected five Cypriot artists to create twelve sculptures along the coastal path at Pafos as part of and ready for the City of Culture year. This is one, Sol Alter by Yiota Ioannidou, the others are a collection of themes with little cohesion.

Paphos Port Paphos Port

The port is pleasant and I imagine very lively in the season.

Banana PlantationBanana Plantation

To my surprise there are numerous banana plantations surrounding Pafos. I was unaware that bananas even grew there, they are unique to the Pafos area.

FishermenFishermen Pafos Port

This scene, somewhat romantically I guess, is in my mind what I would expect. Three fishermen sitting putting the world to rights under guise of fishing. There were at least a smattering of such simple living traditional Mediterranean folk to be found in Pafos but they were lost amongst the 'immigrants' from other EU states, most notably the UK but also Germany and Scandinavia. The economy, businesses and politicians appear to panda to the needs of ex pats and tourists, understandably but sadly as the traditional way of life disappears. I wondered if being a member of the EU had accentuated this change and the globalisation epitomised by Kings Avenue Mall. I also wonder if Pafos will be ready to be the European City of Culture, if the town refurbishment will be complete before the end let alone the beginning of the year. If I'm honest I am unsure that City of Culture will ever be a description applicable to Pafos.

So Cyprus is the 8th country I have visited and the last for 2016. In late January I will be off to France and Spain followed by Ireland. Thereafter I am scheduling Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Czech Republic and Poland to be covered in one rail trip. By early May I will have photographed towns in 20 of the 28 EU states. I have 8 other states to fit in from Finland to Greece.

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Project 28 Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

15 November 16

Posted at 4:48

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is the second smallest country by population in the EU. Population is just above half a million (Malta has just under half a million). The capital and the town I visited is Luxembourg City boasting a population of just over 100,000. Luxembourg is one of the founding nations of the EU and has played a central role from the outset. Luxembourg City is home to institutions like the European Court of Justice, European Court of Auditors, Secretariat of the European Parliament, European Investment Bank, European Investment Fund, European Stability Mechanism and so on, I think you probably get the picture.

Cour Constitutionnelle - Cour Superieure De JusticeCour Superieur de Justice

I chose to make a day trip to Luxembourg whilst I was staying in Liege. I only gave myself seven hours to discover and photograph the city, so, excuse the pun, I wonder if that was enough time to give it justice.

My intial impressions after walking from the station was of a nondescript rather dull town. It had the feel of being populated with lawyers, bankers and civil servants. There is also a feeling of money with some massive construction projects underway. 

From the viaduct over the Pettruss Valley I spotted the Skatepark Pettruss.

Skatepark PettrusssSkatepark Pettruss

Quite an amazing, and somewhat surprising sight.

Skatepark

I made my way down into the valley to have a closer inspection.

Viaduct and SkateparkSkatepark and Viaduct

My intial thoughts were what an 'antiseptic' place it was but having found out that the skatepark only opened in July 2016 I guess after just being open for three months it would be pristine. It took twelve years to actually bring the project to fruition at a cost of over 2m €. 

Old and New Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a contrast of the old and the new and as mentioned earlier there is a lot of new construction underway. 

Old Luxembourg is centered around a honeycomb of tunnels that for centuries have served as fortification and shelter. Up to 35,000 people sheltered in the Bock Casemates during WW2.

Casemates Du BockCasemates Du Bock

The casemates were initially carved by the Spanish in the 1700s. Today it is an amazing area of tunnels and caves beneath Montee de Clausen.

CasematesBock tunnel

The lady in the tourist office assumed that the Casemates would be what I (and all other tourists) would be there to see. The casemates are well worth the visit as is the surrounding area of Old Luxembourg.

NeimensterNeimenster

 

River AlzetteRiver Alzette

 

Historic LuxembourgHistoric Luxembourg

 

In the end I only spent five hours in the city and took an earlier train back to Liege. I achieved my prime objective of documenting the city for Project 28. As time went by I found the city more interesting than my first impressions

 

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Project 28 Belgium

14 November 16

Posted at 5:05

The 5th country I visited was Belgium, the city of Liege. Liege is in the Eastern Wallonia region of Belgium. The Walloon Federal Region is one of three that make up Belgium, Wallonia as the regions government renamed it, is the French speaking part of Belgium with over 80% of French speaking nationals residing there. The federal regions of Belgium enjoy a lot of devolved powers including even setting their own foreign policy and trade agreements. I am currently unsure of how this sits in the context of the EU. Just prior to my visit Wallonia had at the eleventh hour held the other 27 countries of the EU to 'ransom over the competition of an EU trade agreement with Canada that had taken seven years to negotiate.

Gare des Guillemins 1Gare Des Guillemins

I arrived in Liege by train from Brussells. The train station, Gare Des Guillemins is a sight to behold. An ultra modern, futuristic building somewhat at odds with the surroundings but never the less creating a positive, if slightly confusing, impression of the city. The architecture worth of a couple more images I feel.

Gare Des Guillemins 2

 

Gare Des Guillemins 3

 

Paradis TowerParadis Tower

Looking from the station in the direction of the town is Gare Des Guillemins architectural soulmate the Paradis Tower (here seen from the river). A structure as equally out of place in Liege, perhaps both are an indication of the direction of future development in Liege but for now albeit impressive they look out of place.

A walk along the river Meuse towards the centre of town soon exposes more traditional and historic architecture.

Institut ZoologiqueInstitut Zoologique

And then there is the architecture that was 'modern' once upon a time

Cite AdministrativeCite Adminstrative

Then there are mixtures of old and new

Statue Le PlongeurStatue Le Plonguer

Overlooking the city is the Citadelle, the Montagne de Bueren, now the site of a hospital, for me it seemed an ideal spot to capture what is now becoming a Project 28 trademark - an ariel shot.

UntitledLiege from The Citadelle

Citadelle Steps Looking UpMontagne De Bueren

There is just a little matter of 374 steps to climb up. It's number one on the Huffington Post's list of most extreme staircases.

Citadelle Steps Looking Down

No so bad on the way down though.

La Meuse By NightMeuse by night

A walk along the river Meuse is a nice experience in Liege, at night it is transformed with each of the bridges being lit up in ever changing colours.

Belgium of course is one of the six founding nations of the EU and is home to the EU and NATO headquarters. In many ways there is much in Belgium, the way the country is divided and the way at least Walloon appears out of step with the union. It is complex! Whilst staying in Liege I had the ideal opportunity to catch a train to Luxembourg, another founding state and the next country I would visit for Project 28.

 

 

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