Les Champs Numeriques: Nice’s Promenade du Paillon

Concealed beneath the greenery: A network of fibre-optic cables and next-gen connectivity hardware
Concealed beneath the greenery: A network of fibre-optic cables and next-gen connectivity

Nice’s Coulée Verte – or, loosely translated, ‘Green Corridor’ – replaces two monumental, aspirational but irredeemably ugly brutalist structures; its central bus station (Gare Routiere) and a spectacularly hideous public car park. Both sported huge roof terraces complete with tennis and baseball courts, ornamental gardens, interesting stairwells etc., but all were neglected, abandoned, and the projects were ultimately unsuccessful. The Promenade du Paillon, reports Nice Matin1opens September 2013, replacing these sorry structures with a  remise en beauté des 3 hectares de verdure, avec sous-sols intelligents (fibre optique, réseaux internet, électrique): a return to beauty comprising 3 hectares of greenery with (get this) subterranean connectivity.

1. Nice Matin Mar 15 2013

Back to Basics: Sharon Stone at Cannes

Sharon Stone, voted ‘best dressed’ by Forbes,
at the Cannes premier of “Behind the Candelabra”


More than 20 years after flashing her assets at Michael Douglas in  Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone returns to watch him seduce Matt Damon in Behind the Candelabra. 

The French have a strong taste for Hollywood nostalgia and went crazy at her unexpected appearance  – last year’s visit by Bruce Willis elicited a similarly rapturous response.

Wearing the colours of the Côte d’Azur, Stone was among the last to mount the red carpet – entirely alone.

Scooped! a kiss from Jean Dujardin

Jean Dujardin at Cannes, 2011
Jean Dujardin wows the crowd at Cannes, 2011

Somehow, I managed to steal a kiss from Jean Dujardin, who was wildly popular with the French crowd at Cannes, and wholly unknown by everyone else, back then in May 2011. Somehow, all the fuss seemed to be about Uggy, the dog, winner of that year’s Palm Dog award. Paw on the pulse, as they say…

So last night’s Best Actor Award, the first to a Frenchman, is proof that kissing as many people as possible brings you good karma, and not glandular fever, after all.

Swan, meditating, St James’s Park

Swan, St James's Park

This swan caught my eye one sunlit evening as I crossed the park. Although the image required a bit of retouching – removing debris from the surface of the water and upping the contrast to remove a green tinge from the lake, as far as’nature’shots go, it’s a relatively natural one.

We Have a Chest: Cheryl Cole hits Cannes


Cheryl Cole and her (now) internationally famous décolletage

It’s true that you’ve never got your camera to hand when you really want one, and I kicked myself earlier in the week as I happened upon DeNiro, Jude Law and Linn Ullmann exiting the back of the Majestic Hotel, where the Festival Jury had been meeting. Ten minutes later, walking along the Croisette, I heard shouts of “Claudia, Claudia!” and hey – there was La Cardinale,  who waved back at her fans in delight.

However, all is not lost, dear reader. Instead, we bring you Cheryl Cole, instantaneous star of the red carpet at the premier of Habimus Papam (We Have a Pope). Bucking both tradition and her snugly-fitting dress, the chanteuse elected not to wear black for her audience with Il Papa, instead working on the principle that, when surrounded by foreigners who may not be quite sure who you are or what you do, flash something that they can’t possibly miss and they’ll be sure to hurry off and find out. In truth, that’s exactly what I did — having mistaken her for a white-clad Latina who was perhaps a relation of Morena Baccarin — and that she was at Cannes. Malheureusement pas.

If, for some strange reason, you’re not an X Factor or footie fan, and aren’t sure quite who Cheryl Cole is, she’s a British (soon to be international!) Pop Superstar.

So, for the shot of Cheryl, an  opportunity for another caption competition, perhaps. I’ll go first:  “If you’ve gorrit, flaunt it!” or maybe  ‘The Mammae and the Papa”.

Palais du Festival, 2011
The Palais: Faye Dunaway and her elegantly folded legs survey the red carpet. And Cheryl.

Fountains, frozen, the Louvre Paris

I.M Pei's fountain, Musée du Louvre, Paris, frozen at 1/200s

And not a drop to drink…

This edit was inspired by an extremely severe bout of winter flu during which I lay parched and feverish with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, yet strangely nauseated by the taste of water. Hydrophobic, like a rabid dog.

Although no dog has ever explained to a human exactly how our world appears to its own race, it is believed that their ability to capture motion is considerably better than ours, with excellent night vision though poorer colour sensitivity. This means that TV and film, for example, are perceived as a series of rapidly-moving stills, and the effervescent, monochromatic columns of water shown in this image are visible to them without digital technology and post processing.

You can approximate this effect for yourself by wearing coloured glasses on a moonlit night, waiting five minutes for your vision to adjust, and blinking furiously while focusing intently on a fast-moving body of water. Things will happen. Passers-by may shy away, thinking you are mad. You may meet someone interesting; a policeman, perhaps.  A hobo, lover, or stray dog.

Give it a go, some lonely night.

Pei's triangular reflecting pool replicates both the image and form form of the Pyramide and its facets

Love is…in the air

OMG - it's full of starlings: a heart-shaped murmuration above the Nice Opera

Moments before swooping to their roosts as the sun set on 2010, the last starling murmuration of 2010 formed a heart that beat twice before dispersing into the evening air.

A number of theories attempt to explain the birds’ behaviour: the ‘safety in numbers’ principle (self explanatory); or that none of them wants to be first to roost; and lastly perhaps that each wishes to roost next to a bigger and more successful companion who may lead them to their source of food the next day.

The French name for starling, “etourneau“, derives from the Latin “sturnus“.  Although it carries intimations of eternity, the word has an entirely different etymology. However, entirely credible that Rome, with its millions of starlings twittering furiously, fluttering and swarming across the skies, dropping tons of toxic shit onto its priceless ruins, may have earned the nickname ‘eternal city’ through such a misunderstanding— “La cité des etournaux” has a certain ring of truth to it.

Alors, love and magic on New Year’s Eve — may 2011 bring you both.


Full of … Grace

Grace Kelly, the Monaco Years, at the Grimaldi Forum, Montecarlo

Grace Kelly – The Monaco Years, an exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of her death, eclipsed attempts by all others to do the same, which was, of course, the point.

Her dresses were later passed to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, but Monaco’s most memorable and moving exhibits were letters that the then Princess Grace exchanged with Alfred Hitchcock.  Ironically, these mourn the passing of her Hollywood years; the ultra-conservative Grimaldi and his Monégasques would have absolutely no truck with their Princess playing a psychologically damaged femme fatale, being ravished by Sean Connery, or otherwise cavorting around L.A. as in her days of yore.

Princess Grace writes that she was “heartbroken” to give up the role of Marnie – again, an ironic choice of words for a newlywed. Hitchcock’s compassionate reply suggests a tenderness for which he’s not usually remembered.

Clearly, the princess discovered too late that she’d chosen a crown over an acting career, distracted perhaps by the enormity of her choices. Years later, her 21-year-old daughter Caroline would blurt that she couldn’t “stand to carry the burden of her [mother’s] unrealized ambition”.

And ambitious she was: Oleg Cassini, her erstwhile fiancé, claimed Kelly said she’d “rather be a princess than a countess,” maybe forgetting for a too-long moment that, perhaps, what she wanted all along, in fact, was to be what she was — an actress.