Monday, 15 August 2011

Hotel du Parc, Puducherry (formerly known as Pondicherry)

I enjoy sketching and painting. Generally I use reference pictures and I am quite willing to spend a lot of time over each drawing. But over the last few years I have begun to enjoy sketching on location. However this calls for a different approach. Speed is important, and capturing the essential forms, proportions, perspective, and mood are more important than details.

Although I would love to sketch on location more often, so far I have been able to do this only when I am on a holiday. One such occasion was on a family holiday to Puducherry last year. Puducherry means "new settlement" and this is how this settlement was known before the French occupied it for over two and a half centuries. During this period it was called Pondicherry and much of the French influence is strongly present in Puducherry even now.

On our holiday we stayed at Hotel du Parc. This is a small heritage hotel which is very conveniently located in the French Quarter of the town close to the beach, the park, the ashram, and the museum. It is housed in a restored portion of Villa Aroume which was built in early 17th century and served as the residence of several French Governors including Dupleix.

My first sketch was done sitting at the doorstep of our room looking across the courtyard at the entrance to the room occupied by the other members of our holiday group. I was able to sit in the shade (which is an important consideration in India). And, since this was within the hotel and not in anyone's way, I was left undisturbed for the entire duration of my sketching.

For the second sketch I sat in the courtyard looking out towards the entrance gate. This time I was a bit more exposed, in every sense. I was in the direct path of a lot of the hotel residents and staff, and several of them stopped to look over my shoulder and chat with me. One of them even offered to stand over me with an umbrella and provide me shade.

While I was busy sketching a young man walked up and very apologetically introduced himself as the architect who had helped convert the old building into a hotel. He happened to be visiting the place.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Paris Observatory, Meudon, France

My sketch shows the Paris Observatory, located at Meudon on the outskirts of Paris. This is the last sketch in my Tour de France 2010 series. LIke each of the previous 20 sketches in this series, this one too is 12 cm x 9.5 cm (approx. 4.75" x 3.75").

The observatory was built in the 17th century under King Louis XIV, and was extended several times in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The most recent additions were made in 1951.
The world's first national almanac was published by the Paris Observatory in the 17th century, and in the mid-19th century the observatory published the first weather maps. In 1913 the Paris Observatory collaborated with the US Naval Observatory to establish the exact longitudinal difference between the two observatories. This was done by exchanging radio signals, with the Paris Observatory using the Eiffel Tower as an antenna.

The 2010 Tour de France concluded on 25th July 2010, 23 days after the cyclists started from Rotterdam. In all there were 21 days of racing and 2 rest days. Since 1975 the race has finished in Paris at the Champs Elysees. The route into Paris varies every year, but it now concludes with 8 laps of the Champs Elysees. In the past this used to be 10 laps. 

Traditionally the winner of the overall classification (yellow jersey) is settled before this last stage. The wearer of the yellow jersey at the start of the final stage therefore has the luxury of savouring the ride into Paris and has only to ensure that he does not meet with any mishap on the way. But there have been a couple of exceptions to this.

In 1979 Joop Zoetemelk attacked Bernard Hinault on the last stage, hoping to win enough time to claim the victory. But Hinault chased Zoetemelk down, and beat him for the stage victory and the overall prize.

In 1989 Laurent Fignon led Greg LeMond by 50 seconds coming into the final stage of the Tour. But that stage was a time trial and therefore, without violating any tradition, LeMond was able to overcome the deficit and win by 8 seconds. (Just the end of around 3300 kms of racing only 8 seconds separated the first two riders that year!!!)

This tradition of not attacking the wearer of the yellow jersey does not extend to the other classifications and on several occasions these have been settled on the last day in thrilling fashion.

The final stage starts with the race leader's team serving champagne, and there is a lot of joking and relaxed riding. But as the riders approach Paris the pace quickens, and around Champs Elysees the racing is really very intense for the stage victory and to settle the various classifications other than the yellow jersey.

The final stage of the 2010 Tour de France was won by Mark Cavendish, who became the first winner of consecutive Champs-Élysées stages. The Isle of Man sprinter won five stages in the 2010 Tour, more than any other rider, taking his career tally to 15 stage wins. and this year (i.e. in the 2011 Tour) he once again won 5 stages including the final (Champs Elysees) stage. He certainly deserves his nickname "the Manx Missile".

For Contador this was his third Tour de France victory, and the second time in a row that Andy Schleck had to finish a step lower than Contador on the winners' podium. Alessandro Petacchi won the sprinters classification (green jersey), Anthony Charteau won the king of the mountains classification (polka dot jersey), Andy Schleck won the best young rider classification (white jersey), and  Team RadioShack won the team competition.

To all of you who have been with me on my virtual journey...... thank you for your patience and encouragement.