So!  Part 2 of our recent visit to France (part 1 here if you’ve not seen it) involved a train journey from the Alsace in the North-East to Nimes in the South…

…where we joined Clare’s old uni pal Kate to hang out at her parents place down there near Uzès.

A snap I caught of Kate’s lethal driving, as we headed back to her place in San Quentin La Poterie

For the shutterbugs out there, this trip I was shooting on my new Sony NEX7 mirrorless body, using the Metabones Smart Adapter to bolt on my Canon lenses.  But without Rich’s bag of lenses that I was borrowing in the Alsace, I was back to only having two lenses on hand, my 24mm f1.4 and 35mm f1.4.

As soon as we’d dropped off our bags, we headed out for the Pont Du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River built in the 1st Century AD.

After having read the excellent ‘Pompeii‘ book by Robert Harris, set around the story of the aquarius in charge of the nuts aquaduct system around Pompeii at the time of Vesuvius’ erruption, I find this structure fascinating; which was once part of the 50 km-long structure built by the Romans to carry water from an Uzès spring to the Roman colony of Nemausus – now Nîmes (thank you Wikipedia!).  A UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, it’s the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges and is the best preserved after the Aqueduct of Segovia.

Anyhoos – it was fab to catch up with Kate

[ Dorks: Note the lovely depth of field you get on the NEX body with fast aperture primes! ]It seemed wrong not to celebrate our reunion with some fizz as the sun set
Good times

The quality of the RAW files out of 24 megapixel Sony are very much alike to DSLR files, in both cleanness and latitude for processing.

And although significantly smaller than a DSLR, when strapped to DSLR lenses, it’s size isn’t miles off.

While the girls caught up, I wandered downstream a bit on a bit of a photohuntI like this one showing the last rays on the Pont Du Gard.

After a bit of R&R (and the completion of the very excellent iPad game Kingdom Rush!), we visited the fine city of Uzès…

…an typically Provençal tree-lined French city.

While the girls headed towards the Market for things to burn on the BBQ I set off into the town to snap a few photos

As it’s ancient and beautiful, it’s a particularly touristy town, but a few streets off the main squares and streets and it’s deserted!

Wild lavendar grows by the streetside, filling the air.

And pretty much every building is a sandy yellow

And doors and knockers are interesting pastel shades.

[ I’m trying so hard not to drop knocker related innuendo here ]

A beautifully ancient doorwayOutside a cafeA tiny boutique clothes shop

Olives growing wild on the streetThere’s something I like about this scene.Eventually, I drew close to the Uzès main market squareLeading up to the main square, packed in between boulangeries and pâtisseries, shops sold antiques and niknaksand on the main square was pretty much everything else you could needRed beans? You got it.Local honey… checkI think it’s not offically a French market if you can’t buy garlic snails…And no French trip as a child for me was complete without shopping for big knives!

[ Love the old shop dude’s expression ]NutsHot dog
Stiiiiinky GarlicThe focussing on the NEX7 without official Sony lenses is interesting because all focussing has to be done manually.  This does slows things down, but because the screen has a peaking feature (where sharp areas on the LCD/viewfinder screen flash up on screen to show you’re in focus) and can be tipped either up or down, means you can quite subtly shoot natural documentary scenes from hip hight without looking like you are.

After a bit of practice it’s actually a lot of fun to use.

And the results have a satisfyingly professional flavour to them
Like owning Apple laptops & iMac’s as well as an iPhone, it took me a while to buy into the idea of ‘needing’ an iPad, when it seems to be both a compromise between and very similar to two things you already own, I was reluctant to buy into mirrorless cameras. 

They’re essentially the bastard child of compact and DSLR cameras, and I watched and waited in the wings as the technology developed.

I watched a fellow pro buy the NEX7 as a compact back up body in case his DSLR went down in a church, and after having used one, can see how it could be used professionally in a pinch.The results captured are really nice, and as with all top-end gear, only limited by the glass you put on them.

So as with shooting the 24mm & 35mm f1.4 lenses on the pro-DSLRs, ghosting occasionally appeared shooting wide-open at f1.4But shooting at hip hight and looking down at the tipped out LCD, I was able to get some lovely natural scenes like this…

…and this

This shot was probably my fave of the day

After hooking up with the girls again, we headed over for a local specialty, a galette

It’s basically a savoury buckwheat flour pancake served in crêperies

Decisions decisions (made easier with Orangina – that somehow tastes SO much better in France!)Nom nom nom

Good times.

Afterwards we went off piste heading back to the car, and saw a whole bunch more quiet French side-streetsManually focussing on moving subjects ain’t easy!The lovely Clare!Stopping in a doorway for a snapMy angels

…and a wee shot Clare took of me doing my utmost to blend in with the locals!

[ If you think handing a pro SLR to someone to shoot a shot of you is hard, try a manual focus Sony NEX! ]
A few times during our stay we’d driven through this beautiful little provincial village not far from Kates, so while the girls lounged by the pool, I hopped on a bike and headed over (trying to remember which side of the road to ride on) …

The village was called Saint Siffret

and some of the hills weren’t much fun to cycle up!

But the golden evening sunlight made the photographs more than worthwhile

Not convinced by the standards of security set by this doorIt was such a lovely, sleepy town – the kind that can only have become the way it is over hundreds of years

Love this gate, featuring a mini-doorway and little viewing hole.  It’s like something out of Lord of The Rings

I spent a while looking for a nice view of the town, and squeezed off a few impressive panorama’s on the Sony’s Sweep Panorama function

Another excellent doorway spotted on the way down.

I love the tree-lined roads in the south of France, and I’d cycled past this on the way towards the town, but thought I’d save photography for the way back when the sun was lower, and it looks fab.  It’s hard to make out on the small image above, but trees lined this road almost as far as the eye can see!

Once I got back, I embraced man-duties and fired up the BBQ (briquettes with no-firelighters besides matches and scrap paper – joy!) and on went the spoils of the market, before we got stuck into the Vacqueyras!

So although having been back nearly two weeks now, and it already feeling like a lifetime ago, it was so nice to hang out in France for a long week, visiting such varying areas: The Germanic Alsace – meaty, cheesy and bound by floral wine – and the Langedoc, also cheesy & meaty but more traditionally winey, and dusky and running at a different tempo altogether.

Although still very much in the middle of a busy summer’s wedding season, it was great to get away for some R&R!

[ Again – if you missed the Alsatian part – click here ]

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