Like most bloggers, I enjoy writing. I also enjoy taking photographs – as many as my long-suffering wife, Bernie, can tolerate, on our travels.
One of my favourite styles of photography is black and white – particularly the high-contrast ‘Noir’ mode offered by modern cameras. I recently suppressed the urge to upgrade my ageing Apple laptop in favour of spending the money on a new iPhone II pro, the one with the three lenses, aimed at the more serious snapper… It is always with me, as it masquerades as a phone, too…
For the second year in a row, we travelled to northern France in January. It’s a touch masochistic, as the weather around the Pas de Calais region is nothing short of freezing at that time of year. But we enjoy catching up with our French relatives and the coldness of the climate is matched by the familial warmth and hospitality.
The French family is split between Calais and Lille. We enjoy both, but, last year, on an escorted trip up the coast, we discovered the Belle Époque seaside town of Wimereux, only thirty minutes from Calais. With no time to stop – our beloved French matriarch was cooking the family’s Sunday lunch! – we looked longingly at the beautiful streets and houses as we were driven past..
So, this time, between the visit to Lille, on the Belgian border, and the return to Calais, we booked a two night stay in what turned out to be a lovely B&B in the heart of Wimereux, within walking distance of the promenade and the shops. Visits to relatives can be intense, so the chance to unwind and just stroll was very welcome… We resolved that the car would stay where it was – parked right outside the B&B – and we would spend the two days walking… and, in my case, taking photographs to celebrate such a beautiful place.
The town was established during France’s ‘second empire’; a term that refers to the period of Napoleon III (1808-1873), who, seeking to emulate his illustrious forebears, changed France radically, centring the country on Paris and creating a sophisticated national rail network.
The train brought well-heeled visitors to Wimereux, resulting in a vibrant seaside town full of houses and other buildings in the sophisticated ‘end of century’ style. The town is proud of its heritage and looks after its historic buildings. Wimereux was originally a place of secondary residence for wealthy families from Lille and Paris, but has now become a residential suburb of Boulogne-Sur-Mer. It is visibly international, and attracts Britons and Belgians, many of whom have settled permanently.
The secondary title of this blog: Sodium Stroll, refers to the fact that all these photos were taking late at night under winter street lighting, which we used to call ‘sodium lamps’ – a reference to the metal used to give the yellow-muted light they provide. For my purposes, this light is ideal for capturing ‘mood’.
Mood is what I’m after, here…
Walking in the monochrome dark like this invites whimsy and reflection. The captions to the photos reflect that.
It’s bitter on the promenade, but most people we encounter take the time to stop and share the moment… We are all drawn by a certain something in this darkness.
The cold is becoming bitter. We decide to return to our B&B in a final circuit of streets.
Along the way, I notice the ‘sodium light’ is throwing an effective and humorous shadow along the white walls. It’s an ideal end to the whimsy. One of my Facebook friends has dubbed this my ‘Harry Lime’ shot…. A reference to the 1949 ‘Noir’ film, The Third Man.
It was a very cold night… and, yes, that is my hat, made in Paris and bought in Lille.
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.
The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.