June - July 2017
  • Day48

    France, Paris.

    July 25, 2017 in France ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Our last day. Damn. We've had a fantastic trip. Not ready to go home, and yet we are. Continuing the theme of finding little known places Roge found a museum a mere 5 k walk from us, near the Champs Élysées. The finest Parisian private art collection, so the brochure says. Husband and wife, Edouard Andre and Nelie Jacquemart travelled Europe in the late 1800's ( particularly Italy) collecting art and displaying it in their magnificent mansion. This mansion is now open to the public in its original state with all of the art work. They had the ceilings raised in some rooms to accomodate whole painted ceilings that they collected from Venice. The mansion has a fabulous staircase and winter garden (created with a glass roof) designed by the architect that was the
    second choice for the design of the Grand Palais. It is said he got his revenge by designing a magnificent staircase in this mansion, and it is. This is one of the better museums we have been to, and, again hardly anyone there. An extraordinary thing happened while we were there. I was standing in front of a Rembrandt, fanning myself with the brochure as it was pretty stuffy, when the security guard walked behind me to fully open two huge windows to let in the breeze. No alarms, no barriers, just two walk through windows open into a room full of Rembrandt's, Van Dyk's and the like. Amazing. We finished off the visit with a coffee and cake in the restaurant. We had planned on visiting the Jewish part of Les Marais district which is where we re staying just so that we could have some fine middle eastern food. We had done this last time we were in Paris and were keen to do it again. Decided to walk off the cake, so another 5k's. We have bought so many umbrellas this trip. It seems every time we decide it's not going to rain and leave the umbrellas behind, it does. Today was no exception, despite the weather forecast saying no rain. We resisted and didn't buy another one. We got a little lost but found where we needed to be and had a great lunch. Wandered back to our place doing a little shopping long the way. I really could stay in Paris another week or so. There is so much more that we could do. This is the last blog entry. We catch our plan home tomorrow to endure another 27 hour flight. Until next time....
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day47

    France, Chateau Maintenon

    July 24, 2017 in France ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Our 2nd last day in Paris, in fact, our second last day of holidays. I feel as though it's time to start heading home. Some time ago I had been searching the 'net for lesser known and visited places around Paris. Fortunately I came across the Chateau Maintenon. It's located out of Paris so we caught a regional train to travel the hour it took us to get there. We're not early starters, so headed off about 10.30 as we had to get 2 different trains to get to Montparnasse station. The Chateau is easily walkable from the station and is located in the little village that goes by the same name.The Chateau's first structures were built in the 13th century and added in successive centuries, but it is particularly known for two things: it was the home of Louis XIV's governess of his illegitimate children, then she became his mistress and then his wife in a secret marriage. The second thing it is known for is the amazing aqueducts that were intended to bring water to the Palace of Versailles some 80k's away. The aqueducts look spectacular and construction started in 1685. However they were never completed as money began to dry up (did you see what I did there?). The Chateau commands an imposing view regardless from which ever direction you look - it still has a functioning moat and canals and the most amazing partere garden first designed in 1676 by the famous French landscape gardener Andre Le Notre (who also designed Versailles gardens). The inside is typical Chateau, incredibly interesting particularly some very old fabric painted wall papers that have been retained and restored. It has none of the over the top glitz of Versailles, which makes it more like a liveable home.we had lunch at a local cafe in the village, and got the train back. This is definitely one of the best Chateaux we have visited, absolutely loved it and the fact that there were only 6 other people there confirms my view that it's worth looking for the not so touristy attractions. We pretty much had the place to ourselves.Read more

  • Day47

    France, Paris

    July 24, 2017 in France ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    A big day today, the highlight of Roge's holiday. We've got tickets for the finish line at the Tour de France. We haven't actually picked up the tickets yet and Roge is getting just a little anxious. The guy who has the tickets hasn't contacted him yet but I'm pretty sure it'll work out....we have a few hours yet to go. We have wandered around the corner to a cafe for breakfast. I think this'll be our "go too" place for brekkie for the next 3 days as it's pretty good and not badly priced. We had forgotten how expensive Paris is. To kill a bit of time we walked to the "Conciergerie" a Royal Residence and prison dating from the 6th century but having had a number of additions along the way. This building is right by the river and a place we have walked past many times before and not noticed. I have to say it is one of the most interesting places we've visited in Paris, and not just because it's not all Louis XVI' lavishness. It was used as as a small prison during the time of the revolution. It's where Marie Antoinette came to have her head removed. In one small room there was a basket of hair and some shears - apparently prisoners had their hair cut so as not to impede the blade of the guillotine. You really can't begin to imagine how bad these places must have been. At last! We have a rendezvous to pick up the tickets! Yay! We'd had to jump on a train and head to Port Maillot quite a few stops away. We'll walk to the Champs Élysées from there. The security for this event became apparent pretty early on - 3 or 4 stations either side of the Champs Élysées were closed - our train expressed right through, luckily we didn't need to get off at any of them. We picked the tickets up without a hitch and made our way the finish line. It took us quite a while to find the way in to the restricted area - so many police, so many big guns. Once in we were in a pretty ritzy area with only two hundred people. Plenty of gorgeous food available all day and an open bar....cocktail at 6 was fantastic, best Mojitos!!! Could easily be my new summer drink. We had great spots right on the barrier and directly opposite a big screen and right on the finish and so close to all the action and excitement- perfect. It was an absolutely fantastic event. Check out the pic's!!!Read more

  • Day45

    France, Paris

    July 22, 2017 in France ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Well here we are in Paris again. We love Paris. We travelled up from Brittany by train yesterday, everything worked well. We got the car dropped off and caught the train to Paris, all without a hitch. Had a bit of an explore last night around where we are staying in the Marais district and familiarised ourselves with the area then dinner at a lovely little restaurant in the Place de Vosges where we both had the duck. This morning we wandered over to the Musee Picasso for a look. We both discussed whether we had been there last trip but it turned out that we hadn't as it was closed for reno's last time. Great museum really enjoyed our visit. There was a major exhibition on his first wife Olga that was very interesting. We then went for a stroll up to Sacre Couer. We must be getting a bit tired as we took the funicular up and then went on one of those little tourist trains for a trip around Montmartre. Turned out that it was a good way to see Montmartre in the end. Headed back to the hotel to catch the time trial in the Tour de France. Time to head out for a drink and dinner .Read more

  • Day43

    France, Bretagne, coast

    July 20, 2017 in France ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Since it's our last day here we decided to explore some more of the coast since we're so close to it, and it's so beautiful. We both love a French market and hadn't caught one yet. Dinan's was today so we headed up there early. And I mean up there. We are located right down by the river port and Dinan proper is right at the top of a very steep hill. As expected, the market didn't disappoint, but I have some questions...why can't we get garlic like that in Australia, why do roasting chickens smell so damn good at French market? The market is held in the old town square, surrounded by beautiful old buildings, selling lots of yummy fresh food. I just love it that you can go to a market and get your fruit and veg, meat and fish, cheese. There are no shops selling this produce in towns. Everyone waits for, and shops at the weekly market. From the market we headed west to Cap Frehel. There is an old lighthouse on a very rugged piece of coast. It was quite a walk in and very windy. It was/is a key navigational point for St Malo - the coast is very rocky around here. There is an old lighthouse here from the 1700's next to one built in the 1946 as the one previously had been blown up by the Germans. From there around the coast a few k's to Fort Latte which has been a fortified headland since about the 12th century. For the life of me I just don't get this one. The coast is really rocky here with big cliffs and a beach just around the corner. No invaders would attempt to come ashore at this rocky cliff face, until of course you build a fort and then they all want in. There was nothing to protect. Makes no sense to me. The fort itself was quite interesting, draw bridge, dungeons, privately owned (how does that even happen?), beautifully maintained, great views. Couldn't get a latte!

    We missed visiting Dinard when we were at St Malo so decided to head there today - same bit of coast, just on a bit further. Drove around and around and around, couldn't find a park and didn't see anything that would encourage us to stop so decided to press on to Cancale which we had heard great things about. It didn't disappoint. A beautiful side town with a fabulous selection of seafood restaurants along the shoreline. For those of you who have missed the food photos check out today's lunch photo- I think you'll be impressed. We were. We both liked this place soooo much, could easily come back here for an extended visit. After lunch, straight into a bar with a telly so Roge could watch the last of today's Le Tour. Tomorrow....Paris. Yipeee!!'m
    Read more

  • Day42

    France: river, village, chateau

    July 19, 2017 in France ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Started the day with a nice little trip to the station to book our tickets from Nantes to Paris for Friday. Seemed like it'd be much easier this way and we'd be guaranteed a seat. We have to drive to Nantes, about 2 hours away to leave the car. Hoping it all goes like clock work....buying the tickets did, Roge is a bloody expert at this kind of thing. Back down to the Port of Dinan for a boat ride up the river Rance. An hour and half later we had been through a lock, had seen a really nice little village called Lehon that we plan on visiting and learned some interesting history about the river and this area. Roger had found an interesting looking village only a short way from us (the one we wanted to visited the day of the storm) and so we decided to go there, and then onto a chateau in a nearby town. The village, Dol de Bretagne, is known for its massive and very old Cathedral. I have to say I've seen a lot, inside and out, and this one has to be one of my favourites. I'm not much interested in the activities that go on inside, but the architecture. This one was something else. Originally from Roman times, burnt down in 1203, and rebuilt 3 centuries ago in gothic style, it has two impressive towers. Well, one is impressive. The other tower was never completed as the story goes that the devil dismantled overnight whatever construction work had been done during the day. Interestingly, this Cathedral was also part of the towns defences and has crenelated canon walls. We walked around the town, the usual very old medieval houses, some half timbered. Just lovely.
    Onto the Chateau. I have to say, I was surprised. Didn't find out until we leaving that the Chateau is the Arthurian legendary castle of Lancelot, it rests in Merlin the Wizard's magical forest of Broceliande and guards the mystical lake of the sorceress and fairy Queen Viviane the lady of the lake. And what a Chateau it was. It was built in the 11th and 12th century and had a connection with the Cathedral we had just been too. The Chateau is also famous for being the childhood home of Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand. It was completely trashed during the revolution and left unattended for one hundred years. It remains under private ownership of descendants of the original family and is only open by escorted tour. I had forgotten how boring those tours are when they're all in French. Nonetheless, a very interesting and remarkable Chateau, with a few interesting stories. Apparently back in the day it was the "thing" to include a black cat in the walls of any new section of construction (a living one) to chase out bad spirits. When undertaking some recent reno's they uncovered the mummified body of one poor kitty. The believed some weird shit back in medieval days. The Chateau is in 62 acres of parkland with a magnificent tree lined driveway- I imagine it was heavily forested back then. Would have looked fantastic.
    Read more

  • Day41

    France, St Malo

    July 18, 2017 in France ⋅ 🌬 18 °C

    St Malo is a very large fortified town about 30k's down the coast from where we are at Dinan. Dinan is on the river Rance and this used to be a major thoroughfare for transporting fresh goods to St Malo. At our end it is quite small, at the St Malo end, the exact opposite. St Malo is a modern day thriving commercial port, and this sits quite comfortably with the historic part of town. The fortified wall is impressive, dates from the 14thC and is largely still intact, particularly on the seaward side. We had a lazy start to the day, leaving Dinan about 9.30am. It was already quite hot and 31 degrees by the time we arrived in St Malo. This is the hottest day we've had since leaving Lake Como. And, as was the case there, it seems every hot day has to finish in a thunderstorm. It arrived a whole lot earlier though. We were watching it build most of the day and just got tickets for a water taxi to take us across the inlet to another town, Dinard. It was starting to look pretty serious so we made the decision to skip the ride and go onto a Chateau that we had planned to see. Half way there we revised again and went straight home, driving most of the way through it. Luckily for us we managed to see a fair bit of old St Malo - a town now high on my list of great towns. Roge hasn't seemed to mind the early return home - he gets a whole afternoon to watch Le Tour!Read more

  • Day40

    France, Mont St Michel

    July 17, 2017 in France ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Well, we certainly weren't disappointed. The advice had been to get there early as it is apparently the 2nd most visited tourist attraction in France, and so looking at 50k drive we left about 9am. The forecast had been for a fine day of 27 degrees but when we left it was a very foggy 19. It is quite well organised - you arrive at a large car park with visitors centre and can walk the 2.5k's to the Mont or take a bus type thing or horse and cart. We walked. All the better to take some absolutely stunning photos. We arrived at low tide so got the full vista of the Mont surrounded by sand. And it really is everything I expected it to be. Once you get there it is quite small, all narrow winding cobbled streets leading to a very steep straight up hill walk to the abbey which has had pride of place at the top of the rock since about the 12th century. There is some outstanding art work in quirky places throughout the abbey - I particularly liked the big gold dragons foot gripping the top of one of the battlements, and the large eagle trapped in a stone cloister. There is not much village to speak of, what was there is now a conglomerate of very touristy shops and some food places. Roge spied a lovely looking restaurant on our way in and very fortuitously booked us a table for later. Who would have thought it would get so crazy busy?? It was a good thing we were ready to leave when the crowds were at there worst. The fog had cleared and it had got quite hot by the time we had to walk back to the car - we got a whole different set of pic's on the return trip.Read more

  • Day39

    France, Dinan

    July 16, 2017 in France ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    We left Amiens in plenty of time to have a nicely paced drive to Dinan to meet the host at our cottage between 2.30 and 3.30. What we got was an absolutely bloody nightmare of a drive, not realising that with Bastille Day on Friday everyone, and I mean everyone, in France had decided to hit the road for a long weekend and they all heading in the same direction as us. Every other autobahn and autostrada we have driven on have a very modern and efficient approach to collecting tolls - you either buy a toll pass and stick it on your windscreen and get zapped as you through under a camera or, as in Germany they're free. Not so in France. Apparently, and i don't know how true this is, the different departments in France couldn't agree on a national system as they were all fearful of loosing money so there are tolls booths at the beginning and end of small stretches of autostrada. You have to pay, or get a ticket for the next stretch at each of these points. An extra two hours was added to our trip. We finally arrived in Dinan and after a bit of confusion (sometimes the GPS is really bloody unreliable) we found the cottage and it is delightful. Right by the edge of the river and close to the Port of Dinan. There is quite a bit of history to this town and we made the decision to sleep in and just explore Dinan on our first full day. Dinan was originally a trade village and an important strategic and defensive post back in the 1500's. It is known for its half timbered houses, well preserved castle wall and castle and keep, abbey and medieval town. It is quite steep (very) leading up from the port through narrow little cobbled streets. It is also very heavily tourist -y here, most from over the water in England. Man they can whinge, but enough of that, I could go for ages on conversations I've overheard and then I'd start to sound whingey. We walked up to the castle, walked the wall, went into the castle, and were lucky enough to be here for the annual Harp Festival. I can see why it never really took off as an instrument. I'm pretty sure there wouldn't have been much heading banging or mosh pits going on back in the day. Had a great lunch at a restaurant serving sea food given we're only about 10k's from the coast just about everyone serves moules (mussels) at the least. Tomorrow we are off to the second most visited attraction in France - the Mont St Michel. We have been advised to get there early to avoid the hordes. Can't wait - this is on my bucket list.Read more

  • Day38

    France, Amiens

    July 15, 2017 in France ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Had a lazy start to the day....slept in, breakfast late. Had planned on just walking the main sights of this lovely city. We had been told by the concierge to take a boat trip to "Des Hortillages" - floating islands that have been formed from peat bogs some 2000 years ago. These islands are now small plots with a small house and large veggie garden - they really are quite amazing. You travel on a flat bottomed barge type boat through little canals that weave their way through the islands. No roads, no cars, and incredibly quiet given they are right in the middle of the city. From there we strolled to the house Jules Verne lived in for 18 years. It's not open to public, there is just a sign telling you that where he lived, from there on the La Cirque, a beautiful old building that had copped a bit of damage in the war and has been rebuilt and is still under going works today. Amiens was apparently a key target of interest to the invading forces in both wars and most of the buildings have received damage. There is a fabulous museum building, not open to the public that had significant damage, was rebuilt, and is now undergoing major renovations. It's a pit we couldn't go in, it looked pretty impressive. We had a pretty lazy day, finishing off with drinks no dinner by the river. Off to our next stop, Dinan, where we are out of hotels (yay!) and have our our cottage for a week. Can't wait.Read more