Archive for June, 2010

Nice – France: 150-year anniversary air show

Posted in La France, Nice at 19:52

Patrouille de France

On this day in 1860, the French flag replaced the duchy of Savoy flag for the first time in Nice. Today that event was celebrated with parachutists and a performance by the Patrouille de France, one of the world’s oldest aerobatic demonstration teams, formed in 1931. I grew up watching air shows at our local airport, and once saw the Blue Angels perform, so I was very much looking forward to today’s festivities. My expectations were far exceeded — the Patrouille de France, led by Virginie Guyot, the first woman ever (in the world) to lead an aerobatic demonstration team, was breathtaking, especially over the background of a particularly beautiful Mediterranean.

Despite there being quite the crowd, I was able to find a spot near the beach and Place Albert 1er, which was where the performances were set to take place. First, a group of 35 parachutists dropped into a formation supposed to be “150”, though we spectators had a hard time making it out in the blazing sun. They landed not far from where I was. Then it was time for the Patrouille de France’s performance.

They took off from Nice’s airport, their smoke trails on, and impressed us all with their first crowd fly-by. I ended up taking loads of photos, which you can browse in this set. My favorite is above, and the following are pretty nice too:
o Smoke trails over the Baie des Anges, showing the beautiful blues the Mediterranean decided to wear today. She doesn’t often look like this!
o Landing approach simulation also shows the gorgeous blues in the sea, and one of the Patrouille de France’s Alpha Jets flying with its landing gear down.
o Concorde formation!
o Threading the needle, although the literal translation of the description given by the announcer would be “flying through the center of a triangle”.
o This formation was neat as well, since the planes were constantly changing position.
o A star for the final formation.

A bell is born and a crowd is fed

Posted in La France, Nice at 16:54

Flags of France and Nice

Today’s festivities began with the removal of the bell cast yesterday night. While we waited for Estrosi, mayor of Nice (and also minister of industry), the clamps were removed from the mold, and we watched flags being thrown over a background of drum and fife music. Once Estrosi arrived, the mold removal could begin. The manager of Paccard explained that to help the bell dislodge from its mold, the casing needed to be hammered. He presented the hammer to Estrosi for “a first few strikes,” but once Estrosi had started, he kept going, despite polite requests from Paccard workers to let them take over. After a few minutes of hammering, the bell was finially dislodged and it came out of its mold. It was covered in residue, which Paccard workers began to remove. Estrosi posed for another photo, then workers sandblasted and polished the bell.The finished bell will resemble its two sisters, also cast for the 150th anniversary of Nice joining France.

While the bell was being sandblasted and polished, a large group of chefs were cooking for all who dared approach. It was less chaotic than I had expected, but there was still plenty of jostling as people tried their best to get at the free food on offer. I managed to get three dishes: a socca salad, then “Niçois sushi”, and finally a mango sorbet with chopped strawberries and basil, with a strawberry coulis. One of the many other dishes prepared was stockfish, which, of course, originates from Norway. How did it become a specialty in Nice? Norwegian sailors would bring stockfish to Nice and exchange it for olive oil, quite simply! After most of the food had been given out, techno was put on the speakers and our chefs danced onstage.

Tomorrow, the bell that was finished today will be formally presented to the City of Nice and blessed by a church representative, since it’s for Notre Dame. (“Notre Dame” simply means “our lady”, so there are several churches and cathedrals named Notre Dame throughout France.)

La coulée de cloche

Posted in La France, Nice at 23:43

Casting the bell

To start the festivities surrounding the 150th anniversary of Nice joining France, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” was performed, followed by a traditional church bell casting. The bell shall be for Nice’s Notre Dame church, and was cast by the Fonderie Paccard. Paccard is from Sévrier, on the Lac d’Annecy in Savoy, the duchy of which Nice had been a member. Their bells were, and still are, so well-known that before Savoy joined France, Paccard exported bells to France, as well as to many other countries, including the USA.

The oven was turned on at 5 this morning, with a 78% copper and 12% tin mix (to make bronze), with some phosphorous added while we watched the casting this evening at 10. The finished bell will weigh 225 kilos and ring a C#, or “do dièse” since they refer to musical notes using solfege in French, and have a fixed “do”. The head of Paccard mentioned that the largest bell they ever made weighed 33 metric tonnes, and can be found in an American church. After adding the phosphorous and waiting a few minutes, the caster took the temperature of the heated alloy: 1100 degrees Celsius (or about 2012 degrees Fahrenheit), “perfect for a bell this size,” said the manager. Then a sample was taken and cooled. The first one didn’t look, feel or sound right, giving a tinny, weak buzz when tapped, so a second sample was taken a few minutes later. We could all hear the difference when the manager tapped on it: this sample rang a clear note. Then the caster began to pour the molten alloy into the mold below, which only lasted a few seconds, but was quite the sight to behold! Once it was over, the manager invited us to return tomorrow for the bell’s removal and polishing tomorrow at noon. I’m looking forward to hearing what this bell sounds like.

Upcoming celebration in Nice

Posted in La France, Nice at 17:38

Politiquement incorrect
300-odd years ago, Nice was not part of France, but part of the Duchy of Savoy, and later the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont. Duchy of Savoy territories were the last to join France, their annexation in the 1860 Treaty of Turin ratified by a hotly-contested vote that is still the subject of debate today. Calls for secession from France continue, by authors such as Alain Roullier and groups like Liberà Nissa and the harder-right Nissa Rebela, which I photographed for a “politically incorrect” topic in a recent competition here. (The winner was a photograph of someone using a French flag as toilet paper, to put it politely. When that caused an uproar, the winner was stripped of their prize, which was then given to a photograph of a pregnant woman holding a burning cigarette in front of her stomach. All I can say is that if those were the types of photos they were looking for, I’m glad I didn’t win.)

Amidst this debate, celebrations for Nice’s 150th year as part of France are set for this weekend, beginning Friday evening with a traditional bell-casting for the Notre Dame church here. Festivities will end with a flyover by the Patrouille de France on Monday, the day the French flag was raised over the Palais des Ducs de Savoie, today known as the Palais de la Préfecture in Vieux Nice (Old Nice). I’m going to try to make it to all the events and hope to blog them every day from this Friday to next Monday.