Around the world. ( Part 3)

I love going to Europe.  It feels so different than North America.  It is rich in history. Everywhere I  stop to  take photos. They help to  keep the memories alive.

The first countries I visited in Europe are France, UK and Wales. Then Denmark, Switzerland , Italy and Spain. There is not a country I like best . They are all interesting to me. I wish I could see them all.

What is your favorite country  in Europe ? Is  the language a problem when you visit a country where you cannot speak the language ? Do you try to learn a few words before you go ?

I will share a few pictures taken during my trips in Europe.

Every time I have been to Switzerland , I enjoyed the green landscapes. So many nice places to see .  Spending time in Gruyeres was fantastic. Another time we went in the Canton of Valais and we did some hiking. The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces very scenic .

In Italy, the first city I visited was Rome ( I showed some pics from my 2003 trip in the previous post). In 2012, we went to Venice. It was a dream for me. I remember being so excited. We spent 4 days in the city walking everywhere and going to the islands of  Burano and Murano.  If you knew how  many pictures I took during that trip, you would not believe me.

In Italy, on other trips, we have been visiting the  Gran Paradiso National Park and  Turin. We discovered Piedmonte area and Cinque  Terre  ( on a walking trip). We really enjoyed Cinque Terre and went on hikes between the villages. We stayed in Vernazza one of the 5 villages of CT.  We also went to Genova,  Pisa, Lucca and Florence.

In 2015, at last, I went back to Paris after 23 years and this time my husband was with me. As French is my first language, there was no worry for me to get by.  On my bucket list was to go up to the very top of the Eiffel tower. The view was great.

On that trip we also visited the Bay of Arcachon, the Dune du Pilat, the lighthouse of Cordouan.  We even flew over the whole bay in a small airplane for 4.  So many great memories.

Bordeaux and  St-Emilion  were also part of that 2015 trip.

We were also lucky to visit Toulouse and  wonderful villages of the Haute-Garonne. Albi, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Carcassonne, Foix .  Here another collage for you.

Many  green vistas to see while we traveled in France.

Spain is another great country. We know quite well Barcelona as we have been more than once. We  walked on the  Camino for 11 days with a group and guides ( On Foot in Spain). You can find some posts on our walks here on my blog.

So many good memories . I can’t wait to discover more of Europe .

Thank you for reading my post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography

As a traveler I capture lots of photos.  Those are my best memories. I can always go back to them and recall  the moment. I don’t want it to be only an  image sitting in a folder of my computer. I want to share it with people who appreciate the art of photography.  I might inspire people who are going to look at them and think “I really want to go there one day.” It happened to me many times. Do you recall it happen to you also ? Would you tell me ?

Today , only a few pictures from different trips or  sometimes just around where I live. Taken with my small camera  or with my smartphone.  I picked 12 photos just for you. And maybe just for my own pleasure of sharing.   Macro, nature, architecture, landscape, food or people. It is all interesting for me.

Many thanks for viewing and comments.

January : Vancouver, BC

February. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Chiracahua National Monument Monument , Arizona

Tombstone, Arizona

March: Just in a grocery store !

May: Palouse, Washington State, USA

July: British-Columbia, Canada

September:  La Morra, Piedmont, Italy.

Montforte d’Alba,  Piedmont, Italy

Boccadasse,  Italy

November: Vancouver, Canada

December: Whistler, Canada

If you have a favorite photo, tell me which one.

Thanks.

 

 

 

Florence

Florence will be the last city we visited on this European trip. We did not have much time  to spend there.  The center of the city is very compact and can be visited by foot in a day or two if it is all what you have.  Our hotel was well located. Probably less than 700 meters from the famous Ponte Vecchio.

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Florence’s most famous bridge is lined with gold and silver shops, diamonds also . The bridge is always busy with people walking and taking pictures! Not sure if people are buying but looking is fun and free.

We walked up some stairs and reached Piazzale Michelangelo. Great view on the city from there because we had to go up.  We could see the whole center of the city and of course the Duomo.

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Every corner of the city is interesting.  Most churches now operate like museums, charging  an admission fee to see their art treasures.  The Duomo   also called Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral was free.  The Church’s noisy neo-Gothic façade from the 1870s is covered with pink, green and white Tuscan marble. The inside of the Dome  is decorated by one of the largest painting of the Renaissance, a huge Last Judgment by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari.  We spent about 30 minutes inside.

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Many piazzas,  sculptures  and  great architecture everywhere. Florence is a very touristic city. We saw many people traveling in group.  The city is safe and if you like walking you can just do it  all day long.  You cannot get bored as long as you stop to rest, have a gelato or a cappucino.  This is Italy !  If you like Renaissance paintings you go to the Uffizi Gallery.   In the Uffizi’s courtyard , many artists and statues of Florentines like Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli , Michelangelo, Vespucci and “the mangificient ” de Medici.

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dsc03922If you want to see David , you go to the Accademia but you can also see him at the  Piazzale Michelangelo and here it is free . I only show you the back here !!!

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If you’ve been to Italy, you know how great is to visit  the country, enjoy the food and the wine. The people are friendly. They speak English. The trains are not expensive and  are  easy to take . I am already thinking I want to go back!

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”                   Aldous Huxley

I hope  you enjoyed my posts on Italy. It will be the last post  on this trip. Other adventures and travel next week.

Grazie e ciao !  Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Lucca and Pisa

We left Cinque Terre and again we traveled by train. We were lucky that Trainitalia was not on strike anymore  as it had been the previous day. We had booked a  B & B to spend  3 nights in Lucca.

The first afternoon, we  went to explore the fortified city  surrounded by well-preserved ramparts.  The 2.5 miles path is ideal for an overview of the city by foot ( or bike).  Lucca’s wall effectively keeps out both traffic and it seems the stress of modern world. Locals are very protective of their wall, which they enjoy like a community garden. This city is simply a uniquely human and undamaged, never-bombed city. Romanesque churches seem to be around every corner as do fun-loving and shady piazzas.

We bought the combo ticket that allowed us to see the Museum of the Cathedral, the Cathedral, the campanile (bell tower) and also  see San Giovanni  Church.

The construction of  San Martino Cathedral  started in the 11th century. It is a mix of architectural and artistic styles. Its elaborate Pisan-Romanesque façade- featuring Christian teaching scenes, animals, and candy-cane-stripped columns- dominate the piazza. The façade’s central figure is St.Martin. This façade is asymmetrical. The inside was beautiful.

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After visiting the Cathedral, we went up the bell tower. I asked the young man how many steps we had to climb. The answer was 217.  The view on the city was good.  Mountains, red roofs,  clock tower,  Guinigi Tower with its garden on top (to the right on the photo below).

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In its heyday, Lucca packed 160 towers-one on nearly every corner- and 70 churches within its wall. No wonder I am always amazed to see so many churches when I travel to Europe. Each tower was the home of a wealthy merchant family.

In San Giovanni Church  is where there is concert with Puccini  music every night. He was born in Lucca. We climbed the bell tower of that church.  From above, we could see the Cathedral, the bell tower of the Cathedral and the piazza San Martino.

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Lots of bicycles in Lucca. Many are leaning on a wall waiting for a ride.  On nice days (even in the rain) people ride their bikes. It is a great city to walk and  enjoy the architecture.

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The next day we took a bus to visit Pisa. Piazza del Duomo was nicknamed the “Campo dei Miracoli” or Field of Miracles for the grandness of the undertaking . There were lots of tourists. dsc03200

Pisa’s bell tower is nearly 200 feet tall and 55 feet wide. The first stones were laid in 1173. It started to lean almost immediately after construction began. The heavy Tower-resting on a very shallow 13-foot foundation- was obviously sinking on the south side into the marshy, multilayered unstable soil.  The tower was built over two centuries by at least three different architects.  In 1990, the Tower was closed for repairs and $30 million (US) was spent trying to stabilize it.  It was reopened to the public in December 2001. Every 30 minutes, 30 people can go up the 294 tilting stairs to the top. We did not go  up.

We visiting the Cathedral.  The 320 foot-nave was the longest in Christendom when it was built. The stripped marble and arches-on-columns give it an exotic, almost mosque–like feel.  There was so much to admire again. The large paintings, the 15 foot tall octagonal pulpit sculpted by Giovanni Pisano, the dome, the stain glass, the ceiling, the floor .

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Then, we walked away for  Campo dei Miracoli to have a feel of the city. It was interesting as not many people go  to other areas of the town. More than 45,000 students keep this city alive. The weather was excellent. It was a good day to  explore. We found a good gelateria. We indulged (again)!

Back in Lucca  for the rest of the day and one night before going to Florence by train.

It will be the story of my next post.

 

 

 

Cinque Terre ( part 4)

That day, we took the train to Manarola to start  the  hike. We were going with Philippe and Mireille to Riomaggiore.  It was not a very long hike.

Riomaggiore (meaning river major) is built into a river gorge. It has a tiny harbor protected by large slabs of alabaster and marble which serve as tanning beds for sunbathers. The town is a fascinating tangle of pastel homes leaning on each other like drunken sailors.

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After a snack and a drink, we said good bye to our friends. We had time to do more walking.   We went up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Montenegro. We could not go inside  the sanctuary  but we enjoyed  the hike and the view on the Ligurian Sea ( an arm of the Mediterranean Sea).

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We took the train back to Vernazza .  We  watched the sunset from our deck.

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The next day was our last day in Cinque Terre. We stayed in the village. I took more photos.

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By chance, I met our friends Barbara and Michel from Paris. They were also visiting Cinque Terre with some friends. It was  great to see them. We had spent time with them last year in Paris.

I went back to the beach before dinner.

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I must say this time in Vernazza was very special. The hikes were good and the ambiance of this  small village  was  great. By the end of the day, it was quiet. We could have a drink by the harbor,  find a restaurant for dinner and enjoy the quietness of our room way above the village ( 100 steps to go up and down the main street).

A little sad to leave Vernazza  but our trip is not over  yet. Thanks for reading.

 

Cinque Terre ( part 2)

Happy Chinese New Year to all who celebrate this New Year…

and here is part 2 of  our story on Cinque Terre. This post is abit longer than most of my post but sometimes there is just more to say.

No need of an alarm clock. At 7 am, we heard the bells of the church. We went down      (100 steps) to Piazza Marconi for our  Italian breakfast  facing the harbor.

It was  market day in Vernazza and there was of lot of action. This market is very important not only to buy fresh fruits and vegetables but other necessities of life mostly  for people living in that village. There was a truck selling salami and cheese. People can shop for fresh herbs also.  We also did a little bit of shopping as we  had a little fridge in our room  and then, up  100 steps to get ready for the day.  You guessed ? Another  hike.

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We had decided we would do the walk from Vernazza to Monterosso.  Only 3.3 km one way.  This is the blue trail.  We are closer to the sea. We had to buy our Trekking card for the day at a little booth on the trail. The cost was 7,50 euros.  It helps to keep up  the trails in good condition. That particular  trail goes up and soon you get a superb  view  on the village down below.  It was around 11 AM . You can see a boat bringing tourists to the village. They come and go all day long.

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The trail has been- until the last century- the only connection between the two towns. It belongs to a trail of network that answered and still answers the needs of harvest (woods, olives, vines, vegetables and fruits). This path is wild and most rewarding. The hike leads to the perception of the Mediterranean landscape that is characterized from the juxtaposition of cultivated lands (sunny slopes-terraces of vines and olives) and maquis.

It was quite busy with people coming our way and sometimes the trail was very narrow ( maybe 40 cm) and we had to wait.  We had to be careful. There was  a railing at some places but not everywhere. The view was nice. It didn’t take long before we could have a glimpse of Monterosso.  Many  of the hikers were French.  Cinque Terre is not so far from France so it makes sense that they also want to travel there. We exchanged some “Bonjour” and kept walking. The last part  of the trail was quite steep going down.

We arrived in the Old Town of Monterosso and took time to explore the village. We passed Piazza Garibaldi. Giuseppe Garibaldi was a dashing firebrand revolutionary who, in 1870, helped unite the people of Italy into a modern nation. We saw beaches with umbrellas all lined up. Some beaches are free (where there are no umbrellas) and some are not. Those beaches are the best of Cinque Terre.

Here how we can describe  Monterosso al mare. Beautiful beaches, rugged cliffs, crystal-clear turquoise waters. It is the largest of the Cinque Terre villages. Medieval tower (Aurora) on the hills of the Cappucini separates the ancient part of the village from the more modern part. The village is encircled by hills and by forest of scrubby bushes and small trees.

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We were in no hurry.  We walked on the narrow streets, visited the churches and went up to have a good view of the city. After a snack we went back on the trail.  An old man was making fresh orange juice and for 2 euros, we were happy to buy one. I asked the man to take his picture. He gave us a nice smile.  In the morning, when we passed his stand,  he was quite busy  but when we came back we were his only customer. I know he is there most of the time as someone else had see him ( not the same month).

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Back in Vernazza, we went to our little beach. I went quickly into the sea to put my feet and not much !  For me it was enough to stay  a minute  (or less) as I always find the water too cold.

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I looked for special rocks on the beach. We met a couple from France.  After our little chat, we decided we would hike together the following day.  What a nice day ! More to come on Cinque Terre  on my next post. Thanks for reading. Grazie !!!

 

 

 

 

 

Cinque Terre ( part 1)

Time to go and explore Cinque Terre.  Will you come  with me ?

Cinque Terre means “five lands” which are the five villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. But just think of the region as a spider web of trails, towns, and villages. This stretch of coastline is a mix of tiny hamlets. Cinque Terre is clinging to the cliffs along gorgeous stretch of the Ligurian coast.  Each town has maintained its own distinct charm and views from the trails in between are as breathtaking as ever.
The Cinque Terre is recognized by UNESCO as a place of worldwide importance to cultural and natural heritage. As of July 2014, Italy has 50 total sites inscribed on UNESCO’s list, making it the country with most World Heritage Sites.  The terrain is so steep that for centuries foot paths were the only way to get from place to place. Backpackers discovered the CT in the 1970s. It is very easy to travel from one village to another one. You buy a ticket in a machine for 4 euros and you wait for the train. It comes by often. The tourists, who are not hiking, come by boat all day long . They eat gelato, do shopping and take pictures. They usually sleep in La Spezia ( south) or Levanto (north).

The first reason why we wanted to visit Cinque Terre was for hiking between the villages.  The very first afternoon, we explored a trail that led us to a sanctuary.  High above each of the five villages is a religious sanctuary, a small chapel that is an integrated part of the communities’ life and is connected by a stone path to the village.  Those hikes are challenging but allow us to have great views.  As soon as we were up a little, we could admire Vernazza and the harbor, the dome of the church, the castle and its tower. dsc01966

Sactuary of the Madonna di Reggio.

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We were on Via della Coasta. There was a sign with a shell and since we have walked on the Camino in Spain, we noticed the shells here and there.  There was no fear of getting lost, plenty of signs with the markers white and red. There were nice little flowers along the trail. Really it was a trail just for us.

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We only met two people later that afternoon. A real paradise. What could we ask for more? Good exercise, good weather, great views. It was a long hike but we always enjoy our walks.  Maybe it was not many km but as it was up hill. I was happy we had a good training before coming to Italy.

Before dinner we had time to explore a little bit of Vernazza. On the next photo you see the church , the beach and piazza Marconi with its colorful umbrellas.

With its narrow streets and small squares, Vernazza is arguably the most charming of the five towns. With best access to the sea, it became wealthier than its neighbors (shown by the elaborate arcades, loggias and marble work). The village’s pink slate-roof houses and colorful squares contrast with the remains of the medieval fort and castle.

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We were happy to stay in Vernazza for a few nights and have time to explore all the 5 villages while hiking between them.

More on  our time in Cinque Terre and more photos  next week. Thanks – as always- for reading and your comment.

Ciao e grazie.