Sunday, 7 August 2011

Sunday in Chalon

When you have visitors to stay what do you do around here on a Sunday? Chalon-sur-Saône has a wonderful market scattered around the old town and it is really worth a visit. On the way to the market Cees’ son had to be shown where his father had stayed for 3 weeks a couple of years ago during the “great pace-maker escape” of 2009, see photo and arrow. By the way, if you ever have to spend time in the cardiac unit of Chalon hospital, make sure you get a west facing room, there are lovely views of the cathedral from that side.

On to the market. The market is centred around the cathedral, but it seems to change streets every time we visit it. This time the market meandered around some streets we have never visited before and culminated in a very attractive small square. There seemed to be a disproportionate number of “organic” vegetable stalls this time, but the usual goats’ cheese, dried sausages and roast chicken stalls were also present in abundance, giving the whole a very appetising aroma. After spending the best part of an hour and half wandering round listening to the street musicians and enjoying the atmosphere, we made our move to lunch at the Indian restaurant Bollywood. Either we are getting less fussy or this restaurant is getting better every time we visit and this time was no exception - now that’s what I call a good Sunday lunch.

Chalon is the birth place of Nicéphore Niépce said to be the inventor of photography and it houses a museum detailing his achievements and housing several exhibitions per year about cameras and/or photography. When we visited this afternoon, there was an exhibition on family albums from the late 1800s up to the 1990s, just random family albums that have somehow come into the hands of the museum. It felt a little voyeuristic looking at family holiday snaps and baby photos from people you do not know and will most probably never meet, but I found them fascinating. Sadly though, the layout was such that it didn’t seem to grab every visitor’s attention.

The second exhibition was of a Swiss photographer (Karlheinz Weinberger) who took pictures of teenage “rebels” in the early 1960s, the photos must have looked intimidating and they would have been shocking to the general Swiss public in their time, but they look rather quaint in the 21st century. Having said that they were well taken and gave an interesting view of these Swiss gangs.

The supposed highlight of the museum was what I can only describe as an excessively long film explaining what was meant by calling Nicéphore Niépce “the inventor of photography”. In fact as far as I could tell from the story, although he never made a penny out of his invention, he was the first person to manage to get an image (be it a copy of a picture, an imprint of a leaf or a “photo” of his back garden) to be reproduced by using light from the sun. He did not produce photos as we know them, he used a chemical layer on a sheet of metal to cause the metal to be etched with the image just using sunlight, this metal sheet was then inked and used in a conventional press creating a reproduction. It could have been a very interesting film, but the length and the repetitiveness of the content left us all yawning.

So all in all I would say that the museum had lots and lots of potential, it had cameras galore, photos galore and information galore, but it didn’t seem to hang together, all in all it was sadly a missed opportunity.

Then it was home to Chazelle for a long sit in the back garden, feet up enjoying a glass of beer. I cannot imagine a better way to spend a Sunday.

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