Archive for the ‘Society and Culture’ Category


goudji.jpgAn exhibit is taking place in Paris now (ending beginning of January) at the famous Gallerie Claude Bernard of the work of GoudjiGoudji is a Georgian who has been living in Paris for a long time and I consider him to be the finest gold-and-silversmith alive. Building upon millenia of tradition, he literally sculpts timeless masterpieces that, though immediately identifiable as his work, still feel vaguely familiar. One can feel Celtic, Etruscan, Scythian, Egyptian influences in these magical pieces that feel like they have been built upon the bedrock of civilisation. The poetry but also the uniqueness of these one-of-a-kind pieces throw back to a tradition of gold and silver work that I didn’t believe still existed. The Art of Goudji captures through it’s beauty, rarity, craftmanship something of the true spirit of luxury in the way homonym Gucci never can. A must see if you’re in Paris !!!

Chantilly, more than whipped cream ;-)

Last Sunday, on what turned out to be the last sunny day of summer 2004, I visited the Château de Chantilly. Beyond being the place of origin of whipped cream (in french : crème Chantilly), Chantilly, which is about 40 km north of Paris, was also the home of that great line of french nobles : the Princes de Condé. This was where they built their castle. The castle I visited is however the result of the many modifications that a quintessential nineteenth century gentleman brought to it. This gentleman was Henri d’Orléans, Duc d’Aumale and fifth son of King Louis-Philippe d’Orléans. The career of Henri d’Orléans was all that one could expect of a gentleman in his days. He was first a soldier, then a businessman, then a scholar and art collector, and finally a generous donor as, upon his death, he bequeathed the castle and all it’s impressive content to the French State. The castle has remained the home of his great collection and is now visitable by the public. Amongst works shown, one can find masterpieces by such great artists as Rafael, Fra Lippo Lippi, Van Dyck and Corot to name but a few. The library is also very impressive and has a very scholarly feel to it with all it’s old leatherbound books and gas lighting. Last but not least, the gardens, “à la française” of course, also make for a nice walk.

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Mariette Pacha

mariette.jpgDuring my short stay on the Opal Coast, I went to see an interesting exhibit about one of Boulogne-sur-Mer’s famous citizens : Auguste Mariette a.k.a. Mariette Pacha. Anyone familiar with egyptology will know the name. He is the father of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and discoverer of quantity of tombs and sites across all of Egypt. He was a sort of visionary pre-Indiana Jones type, a passionate, fearless egyptologist in the early days of egyptology (1850’s) where there was as much treasure hunting as archaelogy going on. A teacher who becomes an archaeologist, adventurer and first Bey then Pacha makes for a great story and the exhibit entitled Gods, Tombs and a Scholar – in Egypt in Mariette Pacha’s Footsteps tells it well. However it ends next week. The website which is quite informative will hopefully stay up longer.

How about this for Lightning…

I named this blog Ride Lightning mainly as reference to the Metallica album Ride the Lightning and as metaphor for the pace of technological change. I can’t however deny that lightning, being part of the title, has become something of a keyword for me, a trigger for my attention. And today my attention was triggered 😉 There is an article in Wired about a place in New Mexico where the artist Walter De Maria has set up a mile-long grid of 400 steel poles to attract lightning. It’s a permanent work of land art called Lightning Field and you can actually go there on holiday and wait for lightning to strike (happens often in the summer…). It’s apparently quite a spectacle (though I didn’t find any pictures).

Tanah Lot Temple (Bali)

Another temple in Bali and a very famous one at that… This temple is in a beautiful scenic location right on the sea (and that’s why it’s famous). That’s also what makes it a tourist trap. This place and Kuta (where the bomb went off…) were the two only places I saw in Bali where one is confronted with mass tourism. Which for me makes both spots places to avoid. To come back to Tanah Lot, once one forgets about the hordes of tourists, one comes away with two distinct impressions : the location is really stunning but the temple is disappointing. There really is not much to see from an architectural point of view and one is not really moved by any palpable sense of spirituality. It’s just another place to take pretty pictures…


Petitenget : Temple of the “Secret Box”

In Bali near Seminyak and located almost right on the beach is the temple of Petitenget or Temple of the “Secret Box”. Legend has it that a holy man from Java came to Bali to teach. He had brought a box with him. When he returned to Java, he left his box behind. The balinese people, in awe of the holy man and out of respect for his belongings, dared not touch nor open the box and built this temple around it.


The Beauty of Balinese Dance

I will not write too much here because I’m know next to nothing about this but I did have the good fortune to assist to a traditional Balinese Dance spectacle and it was very beautiful. The dances are very graceful and in sync with the complex rythms of traditional indonesian music. The costumes are spectacular. And the whole show is multigenerational with children and adults playing equal parts. These are very sophisticated dances so I guess the children must start very young. Here are some pictures to give and idea.


Visas and Idiocy

I don’t usually rant in this space but for once I will. I’m writing these lines stuck in a hotel in Singapore. I should be at the Oberoi in Bali but instead I’m stuck at the Royal Plaza on Scotts :-(

How did this come to be ? I left Paris with Airfrance on Friday night destination Bali via Singapore. Upon arrival in Singapore we were refused embarkation to Bali because we didn’t have a Visa for Indonesia. Visa that nobody told us we needed beforehand, Visa that was so-called obtainable upon arrival. The error stems from the fact that I reserved my trip in France whilst speaking french so everyone simply thought I was french. It so happens that the french do not need a visa but belgians and dutch do. Even this last point is only recent though (feb 2004), our guidebook which Guy (the belgian friend I’m traveling with) bought one month ago still says that for Dutch and Belgian citizens no visa is necessary.

I would just like to say bravo Indonesia for being such a logical and modern country and for having changed it’s laws in such a welcoming way for Belgians and Dutch (Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony….), bravo Airfrance for automatically thinking that if you speak french you must be french, bravo Oberoi for not mentioning once that visas are required even though they wanted our passport numbers for the reservation.

And by the way, Singapore is not even worth mentioning here…