Here’s one of my favorite shots from the new collection of photographs from our visit to La Belle Vue in Neffiés, France. The devil is in the detail, as the idiom goes. And boy, were there a lot of details to document there. This particular photo is from what I beleive is a vintage room divider. Not sure how vintage it actually is, though.
View more images of details here.
I shot most of these images with a Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens and though much bulkier and consequentially heavier than my old Canon 35mm f1.4L lens, I find the results to be both cleaner and crispier. One of the benefits of leaving the Canon camp, at least temporarily, was to experience shooting with gear that wasn’t so damn heavy and offered me better video features. After four years, the Canon was getting long in the tooth.
The Sony A7III camera body weighs a bit less than half of my Canon 5Ds, but with the Sigma 35mm lens screwed on, the difference is negligible. My two Zeiss prime lenses are much lighter, but also significantly more expensive. Seems as if Sigma has chosen more or at least heavier glass lens elements in the 35mm f1.4 Art in order to achieve as good results as Canon gets with fewer/lighter glass elements in their version of the 35mm f1.4L. Which makes perfect sense.
I didn’t start drinking coffee regularly until I was about 25. There’s a likelihood that the habit began around the time when the infamous “Galliano Hotshot” swept the planet’s bars and restaurants. Up until then, I didn’t think coffee was much more than a bitter beverage for grownups.
Swedes are one of the leading coffee consumers in the world and today, there are more cafés and more kinds of coffee than ever before. Last year, I paid a visit to my old friends Katti and Budha’s Kaffe och Rosteri – a gorgeous café waaaaay up north in Lycksele where coffee is the drink du jour. Budha is undisputably one of the country’s formost roasting experts and has a plethora of knowledge on how to uncover and enjoy all the aromas and tastes available – if you’re sincere and serious about roasting, brewing and serving coffee. Short video from the cafe can be viewed here.
Several years ago, I visited a coffee plantation in Antigua, Guatemala called Filadelfia which is now a full-fledged coffee resort. The beans above, however, are from a shoot I had yesterday afternoon right here in Malmö.
Back from France. A country I’ve visited twice already this year and enjoy returning to whenever possible. Over the years, I think I’ve been to France around 20 times. Mostly to Paris, the Alps, Nice and Provence. Yeah, I really do dig the French.
Outside of Paris, the French really embrace traditions with an intense passion.
Some of the age-old tradtions and cultural antics we experienced seem so unnecessarily impractical – at least to a foreigner. Like why even low-end tourist restaurants stop serving food in the afternoon. Why many shops and cafés still don’t take credit cards and why so many find driving so ridiculously fast on narrow, single lane country roads the most reasonable way to get from a to b.
But there is so much I absolutely adore about the French. Including the language, the often amazing dining experiences (sans Foie gras) and the wonderfully regulated table etiquette (sans smoking). But also how the French invest so heavily in conversation – never shying away from sharing intellectual, albeit often controversial thoughts and opinions about everything and anything. I love that the French love to talk (in French, of course).
Since I haven’t improved much on my basic French since High School, my personal language barrier is sadly still in place. However, the French are much better today at speaking English than they were when I visited during my first Eurail Pass Tour back in the summer of ’83. Much better, even.
Though still often a bit arrogant and operatically dramatic in gestures and facial expressions, I’d argue that in general, that Frenchmen working in the hotel and restaurant industries have made noticeable strides with their attitude and behavior – even if you don’t speak their tongue. Much more so than Gemans outside of Berlin. Last I visited Leipzig, I remember it being really hard to communicate with the locals. Where the French get dramatic, the Germans tend to shy away. Or, in some bizarr situations that I’ve expereinced in Germany, folks just keep on chatting with you in German, as if you were joking about, nicht sprechen sie Deutsch.
In France, the age old rule still applies, though. You know, that if you just try to word a few things in French, the uneasiness wanes and you instantly go from being a foe to a bro. Especially among young folks in bigger cities. Not so much in the Languedoc region, where we just spent five days. Even young folks working in tourism there didn’t seem to speak or understand much English. Probably because the vast majority of their customers are French – hence little need to be able to parley (or, practice) Anglais.
Not saying it’s the only reason for the lack of interest in speaking another language, but the fact that French television (state run and private) have for eons dubbed foreign films and shows in French, has literally deprived the country of at least becoming somewhat familiar with a different way to communicate than just in langue française.
On the other hand, France is such a large, all-encompassing country, geographically speaking, that if you’re French and don’t feel the need to travel abroad for whatever reason, lack of language skills could be one, there’s just about everything you need right at home; alps, gorgeous, palm lined beaches, islands, a multitude of wine districts and a half dozen or so cosmopolitan cities. Which I suppose you could make the argument also applies to the United States and would also serve as an explanation to why so many Americans choose to vacation within the country. That and the fact that only 36% of Americans actually have a passport…
Anyway, the few villages we visited during our short stay in Languedoc were charmingly old and astonishingly beautiful – and most locals we met were genuinely friendly – if not always exceptionaally communicable. Last night we ate a couple of kilos of white wine marinated mussels at the main square in the beach community of Carnon Plage (near Montpellier). The service was excellent, the mussels and fries exquisite and when the bill arrived, our dinner was as surprisingly affordable as everywhere else we’d eaten during the trip to southern France. Except for the two poke bowls at The Beach Club along Carnon Plage which we found both underwhelming in taste and way overpriced.
So, what does this all have to do with the sunflowers above? Well, not much. Aside from the fact that they were shot just outside of the ancient Roman city of Arles in Provence in a field that had possibly attracted a certain Vincent van Gogh – a few years earlier.
Today, while working in southern France, Charlotte and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.
We were married on this very day in 1998 at Brunnby Church, near Mölle-by-the-Sea, in southern Sweden. Charlotte’s family’s priest, Ola Stålnacke, performed the ceremony and there were around 100 invited guests at the church and wedding dinner which we hosted at a nearby Faulty Towers kind of hotell called, Turisthotellet.
I clearly remember the many heartfelt speeches, that the food was bland and how the after dinner music was awful (due to the crappy dj I’d hired). Yet for many, many years, several of our guests would mention to us how much fun they’d had and that our wedding dinner was what they used to benchmark and compare other weddings with. I’m obviously biased, but I can’t remember a wedding that has even comes close to that very special day on August 15, 1998.
Last night, we celebrated our anniversary with a late-ish dinner at one of Neffies’ most popular restaurants, Bistrot L’escampette where we enjoyed a tasty three course meal together with local patrons.
It was romantic insofar that we spent most of the dinner reminiscing about how we first met, our first few months together and how fast time has passed since. We agreed that the vast majority of our two decades together have been really fun and adventurous.
Like for any couple that have lasted as long as we have, there have been a few arguments and disagreements. But they pale when compared to the amount of times we’ve laughed hysterically together, revelled in our successes and rejoiced at how wonderful a life we’ve managed to carve out for ourselves. Of all of our accomplishments, we’re of course proudest of our soon 18 year old daughter Elle. Hope she’s as lucky as we have been and will one day meet her soulmate.
Here’s the first thing you see after entering through the gate at Le Belle Vue where we are staying for another night.
I check in to around 25-30 different hotels per year. I’m already at 19 for 2018 and it’s just August. I’m guessing it’ll be closer to 35 hotels before the year is over. I honestly don’t know anyone that sleeps in so many different beds as Charlotte and I do. None of which beat our crazy comfortable bed at home, I might add.
First impressions at hotels are important in all kinds of ways and situations. Especially in the hospitality industry – in which I’ve spent a significant amount of time, both working within and, for the past two decades, as a guest.
There’s an old saying that if your first impression of a hotel (or, a BnB for that matter) is good, you’ll enjoy the stay and overlook most shortcomings that might follow. Similarly, if your very first impression is miserable, it will take about 7 consecutive positive experiences to overcome that first negative one.
I certainly subscribe to this »theory« and therefore pay absurdly close attention to all visual and auditory input and cues during the first few minutes after arriving at a hotel. The beautiful garden installation above is a great example of how to visually manage the aforementioned crucial first impression. At least visually.
This beautiful old gate is on the same street as where Charlotte and I are staying right now, at Yvonne and Micke’s BnB, La Belle Vue in Neffiès – a small village in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. We’re about an hour from Montpellier and three and some change from Barcelona.
I’ve been to Provence plenty of times and love that part of the country. Especially towns with Roman ruins, like Arles.
Neffiès, which belongs to the arrondissement Béziers, is tiny and quieter than any place I’ve ever been to in France. And as I understand it, it’s just one of hundreds of similarly small villages – scattered throughout the region – and that are around 1000 years old. Lots of patina to be enjoyed here, for sure.
Today, after a sumptuous breakfast on the patio, we spent a few hours discovering a slice of the coast called Sérignan Plage after which we headed to Pézenas for lunch. While there, we checked out the town’s biggest draw; antiques. Someone told me today during breakfast that on the main antique drag, there are no less than 54 shops selling vintage stuff.
August is a strange month here in Sweden. It’s officially the last full month of summer and though usually warm and meteorologically fair, August is when most folks return to the grind after their annual summer vacation.
To me, August is kinda like March, just on the opposite side of the calendar year. It’s the gateway month to September, which for some reason has always been my favorite. Maybe it’s just the name, S-E-P-T-E-M-B-E-R that I dig. Or, perhaps I’ve listened a few too many times to EWF’s classic 70s tune, “September” and subconsciously made its way to the top of my top-favorite-months list.
Surely everyone has a favorite month?
We’re currently in the aftermath of a rather vigorous summer storm and the temperature has fallen to a – for the season – more normal level. It’s this time of year when extraordinarily colorful, often surrealisticaly dramatic sundowns play out over the sea and Copenhagen beyond. Like the one above, shot the other night a few feet from our front door.
The young actress (and our neighbor’s lively and photogenique granddaugher) Julia Carlsten in a little film I put together yesterday afternoon. The flamingo(named Angel by Charlotte) arrived from Amazon UK the day before yesterday and I had little Julia in mind as I pressed the order button. Shot entirlely with an iPhone 7+, a GoPro Hero 4 and then edited in Final Cut Pro X.
The backyard patio at 10 pm last night – which at 25 C was likely the warmest summer night in Malmö in many, many years. The condo’s garden is huge whereas our little oasis is enclosed and cozy. In the eight years we’ve lived on Sundspromenaden, 2018 is easily the summer when we ate most meals (95%) on the patio.
Though the heatwave has (thankfully) subsided, according to the most recent meteorological forecast I’ve seen, we will still get to enjoy another week or so of comfortably warm weather. Which means Charlotte and I can continue our ritualistic morning swim – even after our 20th wedding anniversary trip next week.
For the past few summers, Charlotte and I have ventured of the reservation (Västra Hamnen) and biked past the camping area Sibarp, under the Öresund Bridge and a few klicks beyond.
My agenda is clear and always the same; try to synchronize the visit with evening light so that I can get a few usable shots of the magnificent bridge. As this is a “no-fly-zone” I couldn’t use the drone for yesterday’s visit. Instead, we rode a bit further south and ended up in a rural pasture near Bunkeflo Strand. It was beautiful, but a bit too far. Heading back homewards, we stopped under the bridge and I finally got my fix of the bridge that connects Sweden with Denmark.
More bridge images here.