Streaky Bay

Dawn at Streaky bay was spectacular. Up early for some photos and took in some of the historical walk to get the circulation going and hunt for a bakery.

Dawn at Streaky Bay
We found fresh bread at a bakery just near a granite stone commemorating the site of the original post and telegraph station – more on this when we come to Eucla.

Streaky Bay itself was established as a town amazingly early in terms of Australia’s European history. It was recorded in the log of Dutchman Peter Nuyts in 1627 from the ship Golden Zeepard. Then 200 years later, Capt Mathew Flinders rediscovered and named the place ‘Streaky Bay’ from the reflections off the seaweed in the water during his mapping of the South Australian coastline from his ship, the ‘Investigator’. In 1839 Edward John Eyre – an early explorer – established a camp in the area, where he discovered fresh water in a local waterhole.

Just ten years later, Streaky Bay was operating a whaling station and by 1854 the area was opened up for agriculture. The town was originally called ‘Flinders’, and the name was officially changed to Streaky Bay in 1940.

Streaky Bay Hotel Motel
Considering the hotel we stayed in was built in 1868 we felt a tangible connection to an early part of Australia’s European settlement. And the place is still popular today with the recreational fishing community.

French carousels – colourful past and present

One of the great delights, whether in the Tuilleries garden in Paris or at the centre of many French towns, are the myriad colourful carousels. They are loved by children worldwide and form a component of almost every amusement park.

Carousel, Tuilleries, Paris

Carousel, Tuilleries, Paris

Once they were the main attraction, but time and technology has moved on. They seem the most innocent of rides, sparking the imagination of young fairy princesses and princes. And these days carousels come in many forms, whether purely horses in the traditional way, or with tigers and elephants in the ‘menagerie’ style or more recently teacups, planes or fanciful creatures.

Carousel - Arles, France

Carousel – Arles, France

They make such an innocent and healthy alternative to electronic – often warlike- simulation games… or do they?

Their origins were not so innocent as many imagine, nor are they a recent invention. Back in the 12th century, Arabian and Turkish horsemen used to develop their horsemanship skills with a game involving tossing a ball or rings as they galloped in a circle. These training games were observed by the Italian crusaders who identified these contests as martial training, and they gave it the name garosello, or in the spanish carosella – meaning ‘little war’ – related to the french word for war la guerre.

Carousel - horse

Carousel – horse

The crusaders brought the practice back to Europe and it became part of the jousting tournaments. Children love to model adult behaviour and especially where there is an element of excitement to fuel their imagination.

By the 17th century the cavalry displays had gained greater popularity and had become a popular ring sport. Louis XIV turned it into a huge spectacle in 1662 with Le Grand Carousel held in the square between the Tuilleries gardens and the Louvre. It became known as the Place du Carrousel, and young French noblemen trained for this game by lancing rings while riding legless wooden horses attached to a rotating platform.

Carousel - Avignon, France

Carousel – Avignon, France

Soon it evolved into a popular entertainment, and the practice horses were painted and decorated lavishly in imitation of the lavish public cavalry displays.

By 1800 this new entertainment had been copied and replicated throughout France, their size only limited by the available power sources – human or mules. In 1861 Englishman Thomas Bradshaw was the first to build one powered by steam, and around 1866 Frederick Savage developed a portable steam engine and cranking system to enable the horses to rise and fall while they were turned, and the modern carousel was born.

Carousel - Nantes, France

Carousel – Nantes, France

Popular amusements in the US and UK, they reached new heights between 1875 and 1930 – when the Great Depression forced the closure of many amusement arcades. Today, they may not be the main attraction, but they are present in many forms in all modern fairgrounds and of course form a delightful and colourful sight from Paris to Arles or Avignon.

Carousel - Seoul, Korea

Carousel – Seoul, Korea

Indeed, they are all over the world – from the US to Korea to Australia – but how many stop to think about where they came from and how they came into being?

Carousel word cloud

Carousel word cloud



Paris – an office to rival Versailles

Imagine working in a local council office. Now imagine that the view from your desk involved gilded statues and paintings worthy of a national museum? What if your office made the Palace of Versailles look plain? There is such an office. If you are the mayor of Paris (Anne Hidalgo) you’ll know, because she and her staff work in the Hotel de Ville – the City Hall – of Paris. Even most Parisians won’t have seen it – unless you are paying your water rates or getting some official paperwork signed. Or you might be lucky enough to be a fonctionaire (bureaucrat). But once a year, in the third weekend in September, Paris has a Heritage Weekend (Patrimoine) where anyone can go through the building. And we just happened to be in Paris on the right weekend. And what a building!

The Hotel de Ville stands out even in central Paris on the Rue de Rivoli for its renaissance style, perfect proportions and amazing decorative elements.

Hotel de Ville, Paris

Hotel de Ville, Paris

It occupies a plaza between the Rue de Rivoli and the Seine river. And there is a story to it. In the early part of the 12th Century the merchants of Paris formed a corporation – possibly to fight off competition from Rouen. By 1121 King Louis VI agreed to transfer the income from wine taxes from wine imports into Paris. And they imported a LOT of wine! His successor – Louis VII – gave the merchants a monopoly on all river-based trade between Paris and Nantes, giving them the name ‘water merchants’. Perhaps they drank like fish?

As their wealth and power grew, they took on more of the administrative tasks of the city, establishing a city council, a court for disputes and, in 1357 the merchant’s provost bought a house next to the river – already a landmark, known as the house of pillars – which was to become the seat of municipal institutions. By 1529 the house – already much extended and falling into disrepair, was demolished along with some neighbouring buildings to make way for a new one. King François I saw an opportunity for ‘re-branding’ and re-affirming his authority, and offered his personal architect, the Italian Domenico da Cortona – known as El Boccador – who had built many chateaus in the Loire Valley. It was ambitious and took a while to build, finally completed in 1628. By now it was heavily influenced by high Italian Renaissance design.

Paris Hotel de Ville - stair tower

Paris Hotel de Ville – stair tower

In the 19th century it was extended further and given a makeover with interiors decorated by some of the leading artists of the day – Ingres, Delacroix, Cabanel and Lehman. But the Paris Commune of 1871 saw it destroyed by fire.

In 1872 an open competition was held for its restoration – with stringent design conditions, such as the original El Boccador Renaissance facade had to be replicated as closely as possible. Rebuilding took a decade between 1873 and 1883 with the result being an amazing renaissance-style building – yet fitted with the most advanced additions, such as electric lighting, a hydraulic lift, a steam-based central heating system, and the bureaucrat’s delight – the telephone!

If you ever wondered about the efficiency of French bureaucracy, consider the distractions….

Paris Hotel de Ville wall decoration

Paris Hotel de Ville wall decoration

And if you look up you’ll never go back to your engrossing spreadsheet again. Indeed you won’t even be checking Facebook!

Paris Hotel de Ville ceiling

Paris Hotel de Ville ceiling

Ever wondered why council meetings take so long to reach a decision? Consider the council chambers where the counsellors gather for their meetings – I think I would be spending most of my time just gazing around!

Paris Hotel de Ville - Council Chambers

Paris Hotel de Ville – Council Chambers

This is definitely one of Paris’ hidden gems – which sadly few get to see. If you want to plan to see it – it is open to the public once a year during the Heritage week (la Patrimoine) – when not just the Mairie de Paris throws open its doors, but also some 40+ other buildings, galleries and museums offer free entry – If you get the chance, don’t miss it! There’s even an app to download for your ipad or iphone (not sure if there’s an android or windows version).

Hmmm – maybe it’s time I refurbished my office…

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