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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girona

For quite a long time I wanted to visit Girona, the capital of the province and one of the most interesting medieval cities in Spain. Finally , I was able to spend two days in that beautiful city in Catalonia.

We had booked a B & B in the old town, not far from the Cathedral, in the heart of the old Jewish  ghetto. The Pension Bellmirall was a good choice for us as it is well located . The building dates originally from the 14th century. It has been  restored and altered over the year. It felt like a museum as many paintings of the artist Isidre Vicens were on the walls. The artist lived in this house for many years and it still belongs to his daughter.

With a map it is easy to explore Girona.   And the only way to discover the particular charm of this city is on foot. You can wander for hours through the Call- the labyrinthine old quarter with its narrow, steep alleyways and lanes and its ancient stone houses which form a rampart chain along the Onyar river.  Every morning, we walked by the beautiful Cathedral. We could even hear the bells during the night. We were a little surprised they ring the bells all night long.  Every fifteen minutes !  The 14th-century Cathedral represents many architectural styles including Gothic and Romanesque but its most notably Catalàn baroque. The facade dates from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Cathedral contains many works of art displayed for the most in its museum.

We visited the inside and the cloister. It has an unusual trapezoidal layout.

In the museum, I enjoyed the tapestery of the Creation,  an unique piece  of Romanesque  embroidery,  dating from 11th-12th centuries and depicting humans and animals in the Garden of Eden.

Sometimes it is little details that catches your eyes. Like this door handle on the huge door.

Or what you see on the pavement…

We were lucky to have wonderful weather although it was October.

The extension of the Roman walls during the medieval ages enables visitors like us to stroll along a walkway following some sections of the longest Carolingian walls in Europe. You can get really nice views on the city.

We  adopted a bar by the Placa de la Independencia to get our apero. It was also a good time to taste some tapas.

The city of Girona is divided by the Onyar river. That means that we got to cross bridges and enjoy the view of the colorful houses along that river.

I will keep very good memories of this time spent in Girona. If you have a chance to visit, I know you will like it also.

Thank you for your visit on my blog, Fun and Life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Gr-65. Day 2

Day 2. Livinhac-le-Haut to Figeac.

That morning after a wonderful breakfast, we were getting our bags ready.  We could see some pilgrims walking by our bedroom’s window.  We were eager to join them as fast as we could. There was  fog. It did not stay like that all day. It was usually getting warmer after an hour and had to strip some layers.

We stopped at a chapel with very old frescoes ( XIII century).

Again we met with Thomas, the German walker. If you stay in the same city  there is good chance you are going to see the same people from time to time. He was a friendly man. We enjoyed connecting  with other walkers.

Then we heard some gun shots. Oh !  I knew it was hunting season but it was a bit scary. We saw a man and his dog. I took time to talk with him and asked him if I could take a photo. He did not mind. So here it is with his dog.

My stomach started to  tell me it was time to eat. Luckily we found a picnic table by the church in St-Felix. There was also some public washrooms nearby. It is a good thing if you don’t want to have to put your pants down in the nature .

We arrived in Figeac. A much bigger town  than our last stop. We found our gîte. Although we were a bit tired  , we decided it would be nice to visit the area. We ended up walking slowly with a couple from Quebec. We bought some  local beer and wine for the dinner . We enjoyed the architecture of Figeac. We  did not have time or energy to wander too far  but this trip was not really about sightseeing.

Dinner  with other pilgrims was a good time to share our stories. We were making plans to walk with our friends ( the 3 friendly pilgrims from France)  the next day. Nobody wanted to stay up  very late. We all needed a good night of sleep. More on our travel on the camino in France  next week. Thanks for reading. Always a pleasure to read your comments.

 

France (part 2): Conques.

We were in France with a special  plan . Our friends drove us to Conques. Ah! What a lovely village.  On a sunny day it was  so pleasant to walk around .  The Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy  in the middle of the village has been  a popular stop for pilgrims traveling the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela.

There is little exterior ornamentation on Conques’ abbaye  except necessary buttresses and cornices. The exception to this is the Last Judgment tympanum located above the western entrance.

This was the reason for us to go there. We were going to start a 9 days “pilgrimage” on the GR-65 that is also called Via Podiensis. This route starts in Puy-en-Velay.  200 km east of Conques.  For us it was just  easier to start our adventure in Conques. But we have plans to go back and walk the part we missed in 2017.

We had time to enjoy the  village before and after we left our bags at the Centre d’acceuil Abbaye Sainte-Foy. A team of volunteers help us to check-in. We bought our lunch for the next day and someone  showed us our room. We could feel this place was perfect for us to start our adventure.  There was much to explore in Conques. We decided not to visit the cloister. Maybe we will go back and have more time.

In the Abbaye , in the afternoon, a lady was playing the organ.  It was fantastic to visit the Abbaye at our leisure.  We had a busy schedule ( vêpres, dinner, pilgrim’s benediction , explanation of the tympanum of the Abbaye, organ concert). “Vêpres”  is s a sunset evening prayer service. We did not have to attend  but I felt this was part of our experience on the Camino.

At dinner, we met some friendly French people at our table. There were about 70 other pilgrims. Most of them would be walking the next day but some were ending their journey.  They  were from France,  Germany, Switzerland, South Korea, Quebec.

On my next post, I will  start tell what happen during our 9 days on the Camino. Thank you so much for reading my story. And if you have time and feel like leaving me a short comment, I will be happy to read it and reply if you have questions.

 

 

France (part 1)

We  flew from Amsterdam to Toulouse where our friends were waiting for us.              Over the next few days we did many outings in the area with them.

Château de Mazères. This large residence was  the country residence of the Archbishops of Auch, “resolutely limited to two floors, sitting in the center of a large winery and folded into five bodies of irregular buildings around a courtyard longer than wide, accentuated its cold and residential character, if it were not illuminated by the use of bricks and stones harmoniously mixed, playing with their differences of color and materials. It is flanked by a medieval square tower. ” The couple who bought the building is renovating. A big job  but I think they do it with passion!

Toulouse.     A city with unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks, which earned it the nickname la Ville Rose (“the Pink City”).

The violet of Toulouse is the emblem of the city of Toulouse. You can get pretty much everything you want with that flavor.

It was blue that made Toulouse wealthy. Varying shades of the color are everywhere on shutters, on lamp-posts, doors, windows and ornamental ironwork. It’s a subtle blue-grey that perfectly complements the ancient red brickwork. Trade in pastel (woad, the yellow-flowered plant whose leaves yield a blue dye) allowed Toulouse merchants to amass vast fortunes.

St-Jacques  or St-James  seen in Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques.  We were going to see “him”  or at least his image  many times during this trip !

At the market, we bought some typical sausages of Toulouse. Delicious !

We also went  to Moissac. Known worldwide for its prestigious Abbey of Saint-Pierre, the capitals of the cloister of the abbey and tympanum are listed by UNESCO under the roads to  Santiago de Compostela.

Another day. Another direction. A quick visit in St-Felix Lauragais. Taking time to admire the view on the area. Isn’t it  beautiful ?

Back in Toulouse . Enjoying a walk along the Canal du Midi on a sunny afternoon. Many people were cycling. The perfect terrain as it is quite flat. I will say thank you to my friend Claude for taking this picture of me and my husband.

Good time for sure.  It was soon time to get ready other adventures that  will be the topic on my next post.

Thanks for reading. And for leaving a comment if you have time and wish to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam (part 3)

On our last morning in Amsterdam…

More to see . We did not want to leave without walking  in the Red Light District. I had read in a book that  is  was better not to take photos. But there was a few places  I felt is was OK. It was early in the morning and almost nobody were on the streets.

According to my travel guide,  nearly  a thousand prostitutes work in the Red Light District, sharing  about 200 windows and a very long history. Prostitution was officially legalized in 2000 and is now considered just another profession with rules, regulations and taxes.

Here is the statue  dedicated to the Unknown Prostitute. She’s nicknamed Belle.

Little Venice. “The Venice of the North”.  Little Venice is a term used  Europe-wide  for any charming  neighborhood with canal side houses. Like Venice , the city was built in a  marshy  delta area, on millions of  pilings  and like Venice it grewed rich on sea trade.

In the Red Light District, the oldest neighborhood of Amsterdam,  I visited an hidden church.  Amstelkring Museum. From the outside, the building look like any other houses but inside, it holds a secret, a small , lavishly decorated place of worship hidden in the attic. Back in  the 16th century there was one group they kept in the closet. The Catholics. For two centuries ( 1578-1795), Catholicism in Amsterdam was illegal but tolerated. In 1663, a wealthy merchant built Our lord in the Attic.

You can often see the year  when  the houses were built. Like this one  . 1686.

Our B & B- Hotel Brouwer, was also in an older building ( had been renovated a bit) . 1652.

We enjoyed our  days in Amsterdam. Such a friendly city.  I was hoping we would have time to go to Haarlem by train but finally there was so much to see in Amsterdam and not enough time to venture in this city. Maybe it would be just nice to visit another time.

This is the end of my posts on Amsterdam. We are going to fly to France and have other adventures.

Thanks for reading. See you in France !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam (part 1)

Amsterdam. A modern city. Bikes, canals, bridges, houseboats, museums, tulips, cheese, Red Light District, coffee shops selling cannabis (we did not try). Great architecture.

Visiting Amsterdam in September would mean less tourists and we hoped for good weather.  We did not get too lucky on the weather. We had clouds and rain  on and off everyday but it did not stopped us to see all  the places we wanted. And you know there is always a museum around the corner.

We arrived early on a Monday morning.  We took the train to get to the city center and  walked to find our  hotel.  We had chosen a small B & B, very well located. We had a good view on Singel Canal.  I stared at that view ,  never got tired of it.

From our B & B we could walk everywhere we wanted. We  did not waste any time to start our visits. First the Amsterdam  Museum giving us an idea of the city’s growth from fishing village to global trade center, some paintings and  much more  information we could absorb  with the jet lag.

We decided to wander in the city and get some fresh air. Going inside the Cheese museum was a good idea to taste some cheese and learn a bit of history.

Clogs are traditional wooden shoes from this country.

We went out  for dinner in the Jordaan district. We were surprised how the restaurant  we had picked from our guide was busy for a Monday night. Got back to our  B & B for a good rest as the next day , we were going to visit  The Van Gogh Museum and also the  Rijksmuseum. It was at least  30 minutes walk but a good chance to see the city.

Van Gogh was a creative genius, he produced brightly colored landscapes in impressionist style and many self-portraits.  He had a tumultuous life. The museum  with more than 200 paintings was fantastic and help me to  know more about the artist. We spent at least 1:30 hours  in the museum.

The Rijsksmuseum is located very close to the Van Gogh Museum. It was also very interesting to discover the paintings of many Dutch Masters like Vermeer, Steen, Hals and Rembrandt .

We walked some more…

We had time to visit the Royal Palace,  a lavish city hall, that take us back to the Golden Age of  the 17th century.

We really enjoyed Amsterdam. Walking by the canals…

Bikes are  everywhere…

A lovely city. More to see on my next post. Thanks for reading.