Street musician, Aachen

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This accomplished accordionist was playing in the square by Aachen’s large and impressive cathedral.  I was on dog duty, looking after our pooch while my other half was inside the cathedral (no dogs allowed).

It was a pleasure to sit in the square for a while and listen to him playing, and I dropped some coins into his hat when I eventually moved on to wander around this central area of Aachen, in Germany.

It’s a lively, attractive city, with cobbled streets in the medieval old town and market area. There are many small squares, several slightly quirky fountains, and of course, the magnificent cathedral built by Charlemagne. The interior reflects his wealth, power and influence, but there are plenty of architectural and historical riches to be found on the streets in the surrounding area too.

Definitely somewhere to return to!

Five or six spots?

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I recently photographed this burnet moth in the Dordogne, at a place on a walk we enjoy in the hills near the river Vezere. We’ve dubbed this place Butterfly Corner. It’s where the path through the woods opens out and joins a road which leads down to the nearby village.

Why is it Butterfly Corner for us? It’s because the patch of land belonging to the house there has been allowed to go wild and be natural, and it attracts a large number of insects – we saw bees, a hornet, and plenty of butterflies. It’s no great hardship, after a walk uphill, to hang around for a while watching and photographing what we see there, busy in the wild flowers.

I was quite excited to see this burnet moth as I’ve not seen one in the UK for several years. I said, with the confidence of the incorrect, “It’s a Six Spot Burnet”. But now I’m home and I’ve had time to look at my photos, it’s clear that it doesn’t have six spots. It has five.

A look at the Butterfly Conservation website threw more confusion my way. Apparently there is more than one kind of Five Spot Burnet; there is a Narrow-bordered Five Spot Burnet – and guess what? They’re very similar and it’s difficult to say which is which unless you’re an absolute expert on the shape and angle of the narrowness of the wings.

So here it is. A Five – not a Six – Spot Burnet, and that will have to do!

The annual photo challenge

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We’re just back from France, having toured in our motorhome for the past 4 weeks through Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and France. We ended up for some R&R at our favourite lush and floral campsite in the Dordogne region, near the River Vezere.

In September there are banks of colourful flowers like these, attracting, bees, butterflies and hummingbird hawk moths. The annual challenge is to get a half decent photograph of  one of these furry moths in action. They move fast, their wings are ususally a blur, and worst of all, they flit rapidly from one flower to another, so the chances of getting a shot often becomes less likely as they seem to know when the lens is on them.

This one isn’t too bad; it’s the best of the bunch. But whenever we visit this campsite I go back for more of what I call photographic torture!

More of our travels to follow – life back in Blighty has be caught up on – but here are links to a few earlier posts with photos from the same location taken at the same time of year.

Hummingbird hawk moth on orange flower – not too bad, this one.

Carpenter bee smothered in pollen.

Clouded yellow butterfly on wild scabious.

A selection of insects, all photpgraphed in the same location.

Twin sisters, Brittany

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These happy ladies are volunteers in Chapelle du Kreisker, Saint-Pol-de-Leon, selling tickets for those keen enough to climb the 79 metre-high bell tower for a view over the surrounding area.

The 179 steps to the top are accessed by a very narrow steep, stone, spiral staircase. Husband and son went up, taking photos of the narrowness of the staircase just to convince me and daughter-in-law that we’d made the right decision to stay on the ground.

I asked the ladies if they were sisters….”Yes! But we are twins”, they said laughing and with eyes twinkling.

“Which one is the oldest?” I asked (my dormant French woke up and was used).

It’s the twin on the right. She didn’t know by how many minutes she was the senior twin, but there was a fair amount of good humoured joking going on between the two of them about this.

Crocosmia Lucifer

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There it was, flowering in the garden. Familiar-looking and vermilion, but I couldn’t remember what it was called and ended up asking my far more knowledgeable neighbour. “Crocosmia” she said. I was none the wiser.

But I took a photo of one virile, prehistoric-looking budding stem because of reminded me of a dinosaur’s head – maybe a pterodactyl?

Fast forward a few days and we were talking again, me and Mrs Greenfingers next door, and she dropped into the conversation the other name for this flower, which I remembered right away. Montbretia.

I couldn’t help thinking that naming this version of the flower Lucifer was rather appropriate. It’s light and bright, and has a devilish look to it when seen from the angle  photographed.