A French Adventure – Honfleur

So the last French adventure I’m having is in Honfleur. Now on my third visit in so many years this is a great place to stop on the way back to Calais to get the train. From Honfleur you can see the Normandy bridge which takes you closer to home, England.

A port town this is one of my favourite places in the world.

It’s peaceful, it’s fun and the food. Well the food is simply gorgeous. And if that’s not enough to win you over. They have a massive butterfly house!

Honfleur15_08One of the main things that always strikes me first about Honfleur is how beautiful a port town can be. It doesn’t seem to have any pretentious about it, and the people are so ridiculously friendly. The first year we went I got a parking fine (hangs head in shame) and everyone was so helpful in telling me how I went about sorting the whole thing out.

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I know that I promised I wouldn’t make my dad get on any other small trains but I discovered Honfleur had one, and I’m sorry to report I made him get on it. We managed to grab the front seats which made the journey so much more fun, although didn’t give me enough time to get my camera ready for upcoming shots. It’s amazing how fast those little trains can travel. Having walked around Honfleur before I was so grateful that the train took us up the hill to this beautiful church called Notre Dame de Grace. Sitting on top of a hill, which let me tell you know is a bloody hard walk, it has such a quaint feel to it. Nothing too extravagant, except for the bells. Which of course, in my awe-struckedness I didn’t take a picture of, so thank you google for this:

They are located outside of the Notre Dame de Grace and sound beautifully on the hour. In sync and with an absolutely amazing rhythm, I guess part of the appeal is that I’ve never been close to bells ringing before and weirdly enough it’s wonderful.

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The train takes you on a tour around Honfleur and shows you the beach on the outskirts which is lovely. We’d never been before so it was fantastic to see some other areas of Honfleur that really were that bit too far to walk to. Apart from Notre Dame de Grace though, you don’t get a chance to get off the train so really it’s more of a quick look and drive past and if you want to visit you need to set your mind to walking.

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Of course no trip to Honfleur would be complete without getting a ticket to the Naturospace (click the link to go to the website). It’s a wonderful site where you can spend time with butterflies, parrots, giant moths, little ground dwelling birds and fish. I love a good koi pond. It really is beautiful.

Note: It is really humid, so you know take a glasses cloth if you wear glasses and avoid keeping your hats on if you don’t want a sweaty head. (Yes, experience)

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This year is a special year for me though, because for the last two I have been trying to photograph the elusive blue butterfly, of course no exact names given as I don’t know them, but if you ever go you will know which one I mean. It’s fast, it’s electric blue on the inside of it’s wings and it almost never settles on tress or plants. But this year, and yes it’s an awful photograph, but I got a picture of it!

So Freaking Proud of this blurry photograph
So proud of this blurry photograph

I was so happy, especially as I thought all my snapping of them flying around had been in vain.

Check out some of my other photos of my day in Honfleur.

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Well that’s the French Adventure over, I wonder where to next?

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A French Adventure – Reims

Reims, should probably be a longer post then this but we were literally there no time at all. So, as usual I forced my poor and unsuspecting father into one of those mini trains. Literally, if you could hear the evil laughter that the memory brings back for me you will think I’m an awful person. But anyway, I made him get in that one – last one I promise, poor man. And we went, perhaps unsurprisingly around the city of Reims.

The home of Champagne. Drool face.

What I love most about Reims is that the cathedral, bear in mind I’ve now been three or four times, is still partially covered in scaffolding. This year I think I’ve completed the circuit of the cathedral but unfortunately the cover is directly in the middle of the front of this beautiful building. Apparently it’s a long haul cleaning trip around, and by the time they’ve finished they’ll probably have to restart.

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Full of Gothic architecture, Reims is a place of imagination (at least in my eyes it is). The place, specifically the cathedral has gone through a lot. During WWI and then WWII it was heavily bombarded with shells and ended up being fully restored, thankfully, after both wars. It’s hard to describe Reims, with it’s old style buildings but totally modern feel to it as you continue to walk around I always feel slightly confused as to where I’m actually headed.

The cathedral is home to the smiling angel, see if you can spot her/him in this photo. Key hint: The Angel is smiling!

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As I write this I literally just googled the Gold Angel, and my last blog post on Reims popped up. I think that finishes this blog post (face palm slap). But I will add the link to the previous post which is basically what we did this year, but will add some photos below.

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A French Adventure – Lyon – Part Three – A River Cruise

There’s not really much to write about this river cruise. I think the photographs speak for themselves. But, as we all realise I quite like listening or reading my own words, #sorrynotsorry I’ll be brief.

This was one of the my favourite parts of the whole French holiday. Even through the mass red sunburn, and yes I was wearing suncream, and the constant fear of dropping my camera in either the River Rhône or River Saône or the bit where they come together, it was amazing.

The two women who captained the boat and gave us the tour; in both English and French I might add, were literally perfection. A smooth ride, and a witty line or too which translated well in both languages they really made the trip stand out.  When you go and get your tickets from the teeny weeny office, remember there are other trips that go in a different direction on offer too!

So without further ado, here’s what you can look forward to on the trip we took.

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So Excited. Happy Faces and Happy Hats!

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To Catch up on my French Adventure join me at the beginning in Dijon here. Or read about the other two aspects of my Lyon trip: The Basilique or The Museums.

A French Adventure – Lyon – Part Two – A Look Around

After the breathtaking goodness of the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière I was a little bit conscious of the fact that perhaps we had seen all that Lyon had to offer.

Of course, my fears (as usual) were unfounded. Although in my opinion: “not as good as the Basilique,” the rest of Lyon was simply wonderful – which perhaps is saying a lot for Lyon as a whole. If you haven’t check out my Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière click the link, and if you don’t fancy reading about museums and a little bit of ice cream follow my link to the Lyon River Cruise here, and if you don’t fancy that – well I can’t help you.

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One of the key places to go in Lyon if you want to feel all culturally aware, which we did, is the Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon or The Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon. It is possibly the largest Fine Arts museums I’ve ever been in and took us a staggering four hours to get round, mind I ran some of the way.
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Showcased in a beautiful 17th century building, the 70-room collection is extensive, amazing and if I’m being honest completely tiring. From Ancient Egypt to a room solely dedicated to different medals this museum is not for the faint hearted – or those wearing inappropriate footwear. But, and it is a large but, even though the last 30 or so rooms are pretty blurry to me in a mass of art of all different ages/styles the bits I do remember, such as this beautiful piece of wood carving that I believe was from Iran,

Syria - Wood carving from a door about 1277
Syria – Wood carving from a door about 1277

and this ever so slightly terrifying sculpture from Laurent-Honoré Marqueste’s Perseus killing a Gorgon, are things that I literally will keep with me forever. Cheesy, yep I know.

Perss et la Gorgone - Laurent Marqueste
Perseus et la Gorgone – Laurent Marqueste

I think one of the biggest failings of this museum which is ironic really as it is also it’s positives is just how much the museum houses. Perhaps, if we’d of had enough time I would have gone back more then once to actually feel like I was seeing everything which in some cases I was merely walking past trying to finish the museum. I still highly recommend it though, and as stated before wear some bloody comfortable shoes.

Odalisque by James Pradier
Odalisque by James Pradier

After a trek and a half around the Museum of Fine Arts I decided that of course it was time for an ice-cream. And not just any ice-cream, oh no, an ice-cream I had been waiting for since arriving in Lyon. A rose shaped ice-cream. Could life get any better. I literally found out it couldn’t. Bearing in mind it started raining as soon as I had my first and last ice-cream of the holiday it was a dream.

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Before lunch on the second day of the trip in Lyon, and before our river cruise – see that blog here, I dragged my poor dad along to the Musée Miniature et Cinéma which was amazing. At least I thought so.

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Filled with bits and bobs from some ridiculously random movies; Hollywood, French and Bollywood and others the multiple-floored movie exhibit is brilliant. It’s light-hearted with the occasional curtain which reveals it might be too much for young eyes (such as some of the latex props from Buffy (yes Buffy, and yes double brackets)) but it also showed short films on how props were made, and how and what behind the scenes entailed on some sets.

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Alongside the film memorabilia (which is all original and from the actually films credited) was the miniature part of the museum. It was slightly odd, such as a miniature unused swimming pool but very intriguing. How anyone has created as much detail on some of the rooms and objects in this section was completely beyond my comprehension. It was exquisite craftsmanship, and really pretty awesome.

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There is one part of the museum I didn’t photograph, partially because I was took freaked out to hold my camera and secondly because I was so ridiculously freaked out I just wanted to get out of the exhibition – which was all to do with dolls. Not pretty dolls of the Disney-kind but creepy dolls – with bicycle wheels for hands and strangely terrifying music which made me feel like I was hyperventilating. If you fancy that kind of thing go for it, but if I ever visit again I will be avoiding that floor in its total.

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Lyon15_232If you’ve enjoyed this blog post feel free to check out my first A French Adventure in Dijon here.

A French Adventure – Avignon Part Two

I did have to split my time in Avignon in two, even if today’s adventures weren’t quite as expansive as yesterday was. It was more about the travelling I did between the two, and by travelling I mean by foot.

We got up extra early this morning to walk over two bridges and discover the Fort Saint-Andre.

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The walk was long, the wind was strong and the small inclines felt like mountains, but it was a good trip. Fort Saint-Andre is across the river from Avignon situated in a small town called Villeneuve lez Avignon. According to our guide pamphlet it is a: “perfect example of medieval military architecture,” honestly I’m not so sure.

The walk up there wasn’t as tough as I’m making out. It took us approximately an hour and half both ways and was a bit up and down to say the least.  When we finally arrived we got told the gardens and the abbey, which I had wrongly assumed were attached (although they are) were not open, so it was only the fort we could see. Although the fort was fine, I can’t think of a better dull but good adjective for it, the only real thing about it was the panoramic views of Avignon that we got from the top of a battlement.

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There were some interesting ruins but we couldn’t access them to see more. It did seem a little strange that we could only get to one of the three places, but it was affirmed to me by our concierge later that evening that most tourist attractions were closed on a Monday. Note to all travellers: don’t come to Avignon on a Monday.

That being said, after we managed the walk back we found a beautiful restaurant, that was by the Porte de L’Oule opening in the city’s walls.

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My poor dad was more then happy to go back to the hotel to sleep after this meal, but I decided that it was time to try the Avignon mini train that I kept seeing making its rounds around the city. Can I just apologise now to my dad, although good (?) it was bumpy, uncomfortable and honestly although it gave you some slight historic knowledge I felt that having already been around most of its stops I knew it all already.

Having said that it is a nice and easy 40 minutes drive where you don’t have to do anything bar trying to stay in the carriage.

I tried a panorama, but in reality I was too close to the Palais des Papes.
I tried a panorama, but in reality I was too close to the Palais des Papes. Still kind of love it though

A French Adventure – Dijon

When I think of France, I think of my dad and our annual trip to visit a different part of France. From when I was small right up till now, aged 22, dad and I have one thing in common and that is our love of France. Planning this holiday, we decided to do longer drives to get us further south, and that is how we found ourselves five hours away from Calais in Dijon. Yes, where Maille mustard comes from.

Place de la République
Place de la République

I’ll be the first to admit that when we arrived in Dijon, I was honestly worried about the whole thing. We’d driven round a bit and I can safely say I felt totally underwhelmed by the place. In fact I was so disappointed I complained about everything – from how far we were from the Old Town to being too hot constantly. Sorry Dad! Once I got over my initial heat phobia and laziness and walked the 10 minutes to the Old Town in Dijon, I face-palmed. How, honestly having been to France for at least 10 years have thought Dijon was going to be a let down? I don’t know why I even bothered thinking it wasn’t going to be good, I’ve never been anywhere in France I haven’t thought was pretty after all.

Palais des Ducs
Palais des Ducs

There’s a special something about Dijon, that I still can’t quite put my finger on. It’s not a magical sense of wonder, but there’s something that makes it, importantly, special. I would argue, probably wrongly that Dijon is unassuming place, once you get past a couple of big buildings that is.

It’s quietly excellent, much like my father. (Mum, if you’re reading this you’re  loudly excellent – don’t you worry)

From it’s narrow little streets, which can fit a semi-bus, honestly they are tiny, to it’s hidden away museums, Dijon does seem to have something for everyone. Adults can relax in the sunshine in the square of the Palais des Ducs, kids literally run around screaming in a non-irritating way in the fountains and everyone just seems to accept more. I only say that because usually kids running around in fountains would seriously annoy me, anywhere else in the world and I would complain most whole-heartedly but when you’re sitting there it’s like peace. (Cue cliche and cringe) Plus a couple of beers later and everything starts to seem pretty sedate anyway.

Detail is a massive part of the architecture in Dijon
Detail is a massive part of the architecture in Dijon

In the west wing of the Palais des Ducs is one of the oldest museums in France, established in 1787 or so I am told, is The Museum of Fine Arts or en français Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon. The museum houses a unique collection of art, from jewellery and sculptures to armour and paintings, and ranges in time period from Ancient Egypt (why?) to the 21st century. It’s full of just about anything you can think of, at least in terms of art history and is definitely a way to at least feel like your learned something during your trip and not just stuffed yourself with food and wine.

Crown from The Museum of Fine Arts
Crown from The Museum of Fine Arts, Anonymous

The museum really does seem to have a lot squashed all into one place. Maybe too much. Too much that doesn’t always necessarily fit with the other selections. Note the Ancient Egyptian section, I keep talking about it but I still don’t get it. This shouldn’t put you off though, with free entry meaning you can also access part of the former Hotel of the Dukes of Burgundy and visit the kitchens, the hotel and the Tower of Philip the Good, which unfortunately was closed when we went, you get a lot for nothing. The place really does express the history very well, and it’s an amazing relief from the 38 degree heat we found ourselves in, another pro point for visiting. There are other museums to visit in Dijon such as Musée Magnin, an unassuming museum in a 17th century home which houses a beautiful collection of French, amongst other places, paintings and furniture. This museum, was lovely, cool (which is surprisingly very important when it get so hot) and showcased a wide range of different styles.

I have no idea who or what these two little beauties are.
Jacques de Baerze, Melchior Broederlam, Retable des Saints et Martys

Another undeniable sweet aspect to Dijon was the market, honestly I’m not sure if it is everyday but it was in full swing today. Lucky us. The market takes up a lot of the town and you see stalls dotted around everywhere you look, but the main area was a building which housed the food market. If we were staying in a house, or had access to a kitchen, I’m pretty sure we would have made our dinner from the amazing foods they had on offer. Dijon15_057 The most important place of all though in Dijon has to do with food. Perhaps most surprisingly with MUSTARD. That’s right I capitalised it. A condiment that is used around the globe to make things taste better, or in my case worse. Mustard from Dijon, i.e Dijon Mustard has a special place in the city. You can get anything in Dijon’s Maille shop, from mustard with orange – bleurgh to Dijon with Chablis – which was actually pretty good. If you want mustard mixed with something head here.

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This man poured our Chablis Mustard form a pump.
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A bit of white wine mustard, yum?!

Why not Sancerre?

One word. Sancerre! Oo la la, c’était très bien. Quick grab a pen and write that name down, yes it has to do with a extraordinary wine, yes you do get to drink it whilst you’re there with the added bonus of looking out at some of the most magnifique views in France.

Lovingly nestled on the top of a hill, Sancerre overlooks the beautiful Loire Valley and proves that wine tastes even better when drank at its source. Sancerre itself has a pretty medieval feel to it, although this is not in the cold and harsh way that some places are. In fact it’s pretty much the polar opposite to cold – with it’s gentle off white stone it oozes charm and atmosphere.

From Orléans it took about an 1 hour and 3/4 to get there, but we did get joyfully lost for a good twenty minutes. The drive isn’t too bad and if you’re lucky enough to take the main road it’s simply a doodle – although watch out for some Sunday drivers along the D955, they seem to be everywhere.

The best place to start in Sancerre which of course we didn’t do was head to the Office de Tourisme first, which is located along the Ramparts des Augustins. Honestly if I’d for a second used my brain and remembered it’s always easier to explore a place with a map then potentially we wouldn’t of struggled with one of our main problems – opening times! The Office de Tourisme itself is located opposite a wonderful panorama, trust me you’ll know when you get there. The map they give you gives you a route for Sancerre as well as a restaurant guide.

Hello view from the Ramparts des Augustins.
Hello view from the Ramparts des Augustins.

Speaking of food. Woweee! I know I can hardly be the food critic of Sancerre as technically I’ve only been to one restaurant but hello there Auberge Joseph Mellot, potentially the scrummiest food I’ve had yet in France. It was amazing. Ah-maz-ing. The food was simple but beautifully prepared, cooked and presented. Yum! To visit their website click here!

To be honest there isn’t really too much more to say, I spent most of my time lounging enjoying the sun, the wine – which I will add seems to be a whole lot drier than the Sancerre I’m used to in England but it was gorgeous, and not to mention the food. One massive tip I would hand out freely is planning. When we went the Maison de Sancerre and the Tour (which is a tower with an apparently stunning view) were both closed. So check them out first. From what I’ve literally just researched timings go somewhere between 10am – 12pm and then restarting at 3pm for the Tour, but the Maision de Sancerre seems to be out of season until September!

This witch was sitting outside a beautiful wine Sancerre wine shop. I'm still not too sure why, or why she is holding a plug but I'm impressed.
This witch was sitting outside a beautiful wine Sancerre wine shop. I’m still not too sure why, or why she is holding a plug but I’m impressed.
This little beauty was sitting outside a restaurant. It was for a wedding and this two beautifully dressed (and beautiful) Frenchmen hopped in it and sped off. I'm so jealous!
This little beauty was sitting outside a restaurant. It was for a wedding and this two beautifully dressed (and beautiful) Frenchmen hopped in it and sped off. I’m so jealous!
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Hello little harp. This little nugget we found as we were driving round getting more and more lost. Placed on top of a roundabout I still can’t actually tell you whereabouts it was?!
Another little panorama.
Another little panorama.