France

Elephant No. 40 – Aleria, Corsica 

On our way back to the airport in Corsica we stopped off at Aleria, which had been the biggest Roman settlement in Corsica (also known as Alalia to Herodotus and other Greeks). A quick foray to the archaeological site and museum (neither of which would be high on my list of Corsican recommendations!) yielded this fantastic elephant plate!

The plate dates to the 3rd century BC and is decorated with three colours (white, red, yellow) on a black glaze. Around the edges you can see laurel leaves, and there is also a man on the larger elephant, though very faded. It’s very similar to another elephant plate found in Capena from around the same time which has been better preserved. It’s possible that both plates refer to the victories of Pyrrhus in 280 BC, who defeated the Romans with the help of some elephants, or perhaps to his defeat in 275 BC, where elephants also had an important role. Eight of his elephants were actually captured alive and then displayed in the triumph in Rome following his defeat. A different interpretation of the plate suggests it could be depicting Dionysus returning from India on elephant, or alternatively the elephants could be simply decorative with no link to history or religion. Either way it was a great find!

All crowded round to see the exciting elephant


The other highlights of the small museum included these large Italian vases

Elephant No. 39 – Corsica, France

I’m currently on a family holiday in the south of France: we spent one week in Montpellier, and now we have one week in the beautiful, mountainous island of Corsica before heading home. Unfortunately the search for elephants has been very unsuccessful and the best specimen so far has been this bright yellow cover decorated with several small red elephants that Clara and I found on a rock. We had to try and snap a picture of it before the family that owned it noticed, but unfortunately I think they must have seen us as they then gave us a very strange look as we went past! Whoops…  (more…)

Elephant No. 9: Paris

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This elephant is outside the Musée D’Orsay, in Paris. Here you can see me with my friend Zoe enjoying a bit of spring sunshine before a stroll along the Seine. I spent a few days in the French capital last week with my family and was generally stunned by a number of new architectural masterpieces that have opened recently, particularly the Fondation Louis Vuitton building and the new concert hall, the Philharmonie. But it’s always nice to revisit old friends too; below is me in front of the same elephant in 2010, aged 17. (more…)

Five days in France

I’m a big fan of the European short break – getting away from the UK for even a short amount of time can be very refreshing, and it is possible to pack a surprising amount into a few days. I’ve just got back from spending five days in France, split between Paris and Lyon (visiting friends in both places), and here are a few of my highlights – mainly food-related, what a surprise…

1) Brunch in Paris. My god do the French know how to do brunch: multiple courses, freshly squeezed orange juice, a mixture of normal brunch-y foods (i.e. a soft-boiled egg, excellent bread) with other more unusual things (i.e. chocolate tart, artichoke and chestnut soup) that I now feel SHOULD be standard breakfast fare. Was particularly surprised at the soup, as I’m not a big fan of artichoke normally but this was delish, also had the French chestnut sauce thing with yoghurt and liked it for the first time. Perhaps the English do make brunch like this, but I’ve certainly never seen anything like it – it took us about 3 hours to get through. (more…)