Champs de Bataille, 1914-1916

At the crossroads between Fort de Vaux, Verdun and Ford de Douaumont, the dying Lion marks the spot of the German furthest advancement. It’s just a hundred meters short of Fort de Soueville, Verdun’s last defense.

The German troops were Bavarian. Hence the Bavarian lion.

Two Hotchkiss machine guns fired from this position, providing additional firepower to the 155mm guns in the disappearing turret.

The entrance to the Fort Souville, heavily bombarded by the Germans.

There were no trees in the area, so the turret guns would have a clear view of the ravines below.

This is the top of the disappearing turret that housed two 155 short-barrel guns. With the 80-ton counterweight, the guns were raised to fire. Then the mechanism would lower them to re-load.

The German bombardment lifted a lot of ground to expose the concrete walls of the gun tower.

This is an observation point

The Hotchkiss guns controlled the ravine in the direction of Fort Douaumont. To avoid them, the German attacked from the left.

The German attack was stopped in the trenches below. It came to bayonet combat.

The famous “Trench of the Bayonets” near Fort de Douaumont. The French soldiers lie below with the rifles still in their hands. Unfortunately, all the original bayonets and even the replacement fake ones have been stolen.  The only thing to see are wooden crosses. The story is here http://www.battledetective.com/casefiles17.html

The Verdun Memorial

The Verdun Ossuary and Cemetery.

After the war, the decision was made to plant a few million trees to cover the destruction. Most of these trees started in the 1920s and continue to propagate naturally.

You must be aware that the area contains an estimated 80,000 unburied French and German soldiers as well as the countless unexploded munitions.

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The last ride south of the Loire

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Roadkill is what cars do. The ultimate killing machine
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Discovering the old Chateau de Res. Whatever is left of it.
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THere used to be a waterway under the chateau. A very smart design, there is a lake nearby. It was easy to connect it to the chateau with a small canal.
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I’ve always used the Marathon tires. Even though they are not as fast as the sleek Kojaks, the Marathons are super strong and super reliable.
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One of the last sunny evenings at Journet
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The View Point at Montmorillon
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‘Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.’

1200-oiling-bromptonThe Brompton must be oiled for the winter. Until the next year it’s going to be stored folded and greased.

The least exciting part of travel

It takes the whole day to travel from LT to Montmorillon (bike), from Montmorillon to Poitiers (TER), from Poitiers to Gare Montparnasse (TGV), from Montparnasse to Gare du Nord (Metro), from Gare du Nord to Charles de Gaulle (RER), from Charles de Gaulle to Hyatt (hotel shuttle). When you step into your room your are already exhausted
The Greta Garbo arrives from LA three hours later than expected. So we have to wait for almost 5 hours until they prepare her for the return flight to Los Angeles
Meanwhile, I notice something new: a praying room for believers, presumably moslem. As it’s next to the “Toilets” I see an Arab man washing his feet in the sink (same sink where you wash your face and hands)
Finally, we are on the way to LA

The transformation of travel into music and images

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After several years of Jeanne d’Arc research and visiting virtually every place in France related to her. It still feels like I am barely touching the subject.
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Pam’s brushes and my Leica. The tools of the trade that have been around the world
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Some of the guitars, the ultimate dream machines (a Dano Electric, the Hoffner base – hello Paul McCartney!) two trumpets in their cases and a massive Sitar in the corner. Also in a case.
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My Fender Telecaster (France), the best guitar ever
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The Sketchbooks of Normandie
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Hong Kong, winter 2017. Pam writes down some of my “sayings”
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The Rolleiflex for some studio work
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Pam’s at work
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You just have to keep going, no matter what
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Normandy 2017

The long haul home

I jotted this schedule to avoid Paris. Spending a few hours on a train to Bordeaux seemed like a good idea: these trains are larger than the TGV so you can do some work. It’s easier to load / unload the bicycle as well. In fact, all the three seats in my row were vacant so I was able to take a good nap from Marseille to Toulouse.

Bordeaux St Jean

However, there is some train collision which messes up the entire network. I arrive in Bordeaux 55 minutes late. My train to Poitier has left. I have about one hour until the next train. Which is also late! So I have some time for a beer.

Finally, I am on the TGV for Paris Montparnasse. Two minutes after the train pulls off the platform somebody throws a massive rock in my window. WOW. There are some angry people in France.

The conductor calls the police and they make me move to a different seat (the cracked window is just fine with me but they insist).

By the time I arrive in Poitiers it’s pitch-black and raining. I barely manage to hop on the last train for Montmorillon. 40 minutes later I am on my bicycle on the night road to L.T.

It’s drizzling but I feel good. Because of the clouds and water mist there is diffusion of light in the air. So you can actually see the edge of the road.

It’s much worse when it is crystal clear and there’s no moon. The black skies absorb all the light from the earth.  When it happens you can’t see the road at all.  You vanish in this overwhelming darkness! But not this time