Montgolfiere Weekly

An exploration of culture in its many forms


June 2016

A recent Paris visit: Being a short dissertation of potential value to the neophyte traveller

By Pat Rich


While it may come as a surprise to those anticipating that the whole world now speaks English, they do indeed still speak French in Paris. However, Parisians are now far more accommodating to unilingual English tourists than they were in the past. Those speaking English only will no longer be greeted with distain, and English is almost universally understood in tourist settings. Attempts to speak French by anglophones will be appreciated, but the visitor will generally find their Parisian host/server will instantly recognize a non-native accent and switch to English. Continue reading “A recent Paris visit: Being a short dissertation of potential value to the neophyte traveller”

A place and time

By Patricia Lightfoot

Place: St. Matthew’s Chapel, Niguliste Church, Tallinn, Estonia

Time: Late fifteenth century

What was happening: German artist Bernt Notke had painted a danse macabre or “dance of death” to be displayed in the church. The subject of the painting, skeletons leading understandably reluctant humans in a macabre dance, is surprising to twenty-first century eyes, but was a common theme of the late-Medieval period to remind people that they would die, whatever their station in life. Continue reading “A place and time”

A place and time

By Patricia Lightfoot

Place: Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, England

Time: August 26, 2015

What was happening: England has its Brexit woes, but its countryside is a great place to walk because of its well-signposted public footpaths, on which the pedestrian’s right of access is protected by law. The photo above was taken on a walk that started off in the Cotswold village of Winchcombe and took us on well-marked paths through rolling countryside, past farms built of the local pale honey-coloured stone and through fields. At a polite distance, we walked past sheep, cows, horses, and numerous Gloucester Old Spot pigs and their piglets. It was like walking through a real-life version of a children’s jigsaw puzzle showing an idyllic English country scene. The walk ended with a ploughman’s lunch at The Corner Cupboard, which is a suitably ancient pub where ramblers, as they are known here, often stop for refreshments. That’s the other great thing about walking in England, there’s always a local pub. Continue reading “A place and time”

A place and time

By Amy Flora

Place: Scout Lodge, Hackney

Time: May 14, 2016

What was happening: I have always found the best use of a Saturday is to go stomping about. Living in large cities has afforded me the opportunity to explore near endlessly. This particular day took me through Hackney, a part of London that is very close to my heart. Exploring on foot is such a unique way to see side streets and tiny shops, but, more important, to stumble upon second-hand book sales. Browsing second-hand books is such an emotional experience, where you evaluate books on so much more than subject matter. The tactile experience is often the most important one, seeing how a book has been preserved and loved by another. Continue reading “A place and time”

A place and time

By Patricia Lightfoot

Place: The west end of the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

Time: December 1, 1783

What was happening: The first manned flight of a hydrogen-filled balloon took place 10 days after the first manned flight of a hot air balloon, or montgolfiere. As described by Charles Coulston Gillespie in The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation 1783-1784 (Princeton University Press, 1983), crowds gathered in the Jardin des Tuileries to watch the ascent of the gas balloon, which was piloted by physicist J.A.C. Charles and the younger of the brothers Robert, who had assisted Charles in developing the balloon. Among other challenges, this had required the invention of a process to extract hydrogen on an industrial scale, which was an extremely hazardous undertaking, featuring the pouring of large quantities of sulphuric acid over iron filings to generate the gas. Continue reading “A place and time”

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