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?

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 – Avignon Part One

Where do I even begin with Avignon?

O, la, la! C’est tres magnifique! It’s bold and beautiful, with all the right amount of consumerism attached.

Panorama over the Palais des Papes

After a hideously slow eight hour trek down the motorway in Mowgali (my car, if you didn’t know) we managed to arrive late in Avignon, found our hotel, settled in, ate a lot and waited for a new day to come. And what a day.

For a Sunday it’s incredible how busy Avignon was. Luckily, our hotel is a stone’s throw away from the Palais des Papes or The Palace of the Popes and we got through the ticket office before the multitude of mass tours got there. Even though it had only just opened, 10 am it was pretty packed and at some points I did feel a bit like cattle being herded. But, elbow-y tour parties with ignorant guides (I’m sorry but seriously it is not necessary to use flags to beat another person)  could not detract from what an incredibly unusual and somewhat bizarre building this Palace is.

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With the building so obviously built, rebuilt, destroyed and rebuilt again, there are so many different types of architecture I couldn’t keep up. There was no uniformity other then chaos but that chaos added to the feeling of use and history of the building. It was strange how something that would usually piss off my inner OCD-esqueness actually made me acutely aware of how strangely perfect the Palace was.

Honestly, its truly magnificent. The gardens are being refurbished or perhaps more appropriately being excavated and therefore don’t look that attractive presently, but it will come. You can pop outside for a quick look but, apart from once again being discombobulated by the exterior which has had a makeover from all different eras from 14th century right up until the 20th century, the gardens are lacking.

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One niggle of mine, and my dads was the lack of memorabilia throughout the Palace. With all the history of it, that comes with houses a number of Popes, not to mention that different uses it has had throughout time e.g. a prison and barracks you could argue (or at least we did) that there should be some more things to look out. Big rooms were left looking redundant because apart from one tiny piece of mural that was left from the 14th century nothing else was in there. It seemed a shame, but still worth the visit.

Bring on the Pont D’ Avignon, or Pont Saint-Bénéze which is a bridge, semi-bridge now that was started in the 13th century when Saint-Bénéze, a shepherd decided to take his stick and tell the people of Avignon the Lord had told him to build a bridge. So he did. Although not much remains of the original bridge which had 22 arches at one time, it’s still got a charismatic charm which lifts your hear (sorry for the gooey stuff). Sitting sur le Rhône (on the River Rhône) the four arches that are left allow you to walk a short way out into the river to, if you want to, wave at passing boats. You can get an audio guide, for free – bonus, that tells you the story of Mr Bénéze, the bridges construction and rather sweetly the story of the mini chapel that features within the bridge. A very intriguing story, and if you have the time the audio guide also plays you a lot of music that is relevant, apparently, to this famous Pont D’Avignon.

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I know, there’s more. I apologise.

If you head back up the street to the Palais des Papes there is a beautiful, little park with some amazing panoramas of the Rhône. Little duck ponds with the cutest and literally I mean cute ducklings (yes I know there aren’t all year round but ahh), a beautiful cave kind-of fountain and a little restaurant with a friendly international atmosphere. It was a great place for a sit down, after taking in so much.

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Our next few stops were museums. Out of the four I visited today, there were only two that really stood out for me. Both are incredibly arty, which is slightly strange for me, but worth the visit. The other two, even though I made the fuss of going were a let down and without the Pass which you can get with certain other tickets I wouldn’t have paid the full price for them (The Calvert Archaeology Museum and the Angladon Museum).

Avignon15_095But, on to bigger and better things with the two museums we did enjoy. The first was the Petit Palais Museum, no prizes for guessing what the english name of the museum is…Full of religious painting from as far back as the 13th century this collection holds a massive amount of art for such a small price €6 full tariff, €3 with a pass (which are given to you on your Avignon Passion at each tourist hotspot). Although I’m not a massive religious art fan and there was a lot to see, almost too much, I didn’t find I got too overwhelmed with the whole place. There was a small amount of overwhelming when I reached room 14 and it told me that rooms 15 and 16 were down yet another flight of stairs, but I swiftly got over it and plodded on down. It really is a lovely museum and in some respects was really inspiring.

Of course my favourite museum had nothing really to do with religion or France, at least the bit I loved, at all. This was The Calvert Museum (NOT THE CALVERT ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM but the actual Calvert House), which is set in a beautiful privately owned home. You’re greeted by the nicest lady who lets you take photos with no flash and gives you a little book guide in your particular language. Lovely. The guide takes you through room by room starting quite sweetly with the entrance. Your move onwards into a world full of paintings, sculptures and a whole load of history. Whilst there is a lot about France my favourite rooms were about Ancient Egypt. It really is lovely. With canopic jars, and little figurines and some mummified cats and crocodiles – these few rooms were fascinating.

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After that, well we pretty much got back to the hotel and slept for a couple of hours before we managed to get ourselves out of bed and off for dinner.

NOTE TO ALL: I am now the proud owner of a rather large blister, don’t worry no photos are shown, but please, please if you come to Avignon take a good sturdy and comfortable pair of shoes. Honestly. Ow!

San Gimignano

Summer is a time of promise and excitement. The weather is warmer and for lucky ones, me included, we get to go on holiday. This month has brought me and friends to the beautiful area of Tuscany in Italy. With promises of hot weather and romantically beautifully surroundings alongside some pretty damn good food I was dreaming of Carbonara in the days leading up to the flight. SanGimignanoItaly15:6_02 I don’t need to go into much about the flight day or the lazy day we had yesterday because there really is not much to say. I finished and started a book, look out for my blog post on Funny Girl by Nick Hornby and we had a mass rainstorm followed by some glorious sunshine. Today was different.

The town of San Gimignano
The town of San Gimignano

It started off, beautifully. So, instead of a lazy day by the pool we heaped into the cars and trundled off down to San Gimignano delle Belle Torri or in English San Gimignano of the Beautiful Towers. A winding drive up to the walled city enables you to get a real look at the 14 medieval towers that are encapsulated by the surrounding walls and give you a sense of what you might be getting when you manage to get parked. According to The Lonely Planet’s Guide to Tuscany book: “the towers were symbols of the power and wealth of the city’s medieval families,” and you can tell. They are simply stunning. Slightly intimidating but incredibly beautiful.

The town of San Gimignano
The town of San Gimignano

The name San Gimignano delle Belle Torri gets its Sand Gimignano name from: “the Bishop of Moderna, St Gimignano, who is said to have saved the city from a barbarian assault,” and the dell Belle Torri from perhaps obviously the towers that reach to the sky. Originally there were not just the 14 towers that you can see today but over 70 of them, hence its name.

The town of San Gimignano
The town of San Gimignano

This first trip out was a little mixed and confused I reckon. I ended up missing going into a the Museo d’Arte Sacra as I had to rush to the closet ATM to buy a bag I couldn’t resist. So, it’s more likely that I was the mixed and confused one as opposed to the actual day. Take a look at my beautiful leather bag designed by Vera Pelle that I managed to pick up for €22. It’s only small and I can’t even fit my purse in it but it smells and looks gorgeous. IMG_1188 09.21.59

The town of San Gimignano
The town of San Gimignano

I did however manage to have a look round the Museo della Tortura, which is as the name suggests The Museum of Torture. Located in the Torre della Diavola, the She-Devil’s Tower it contains a grim and unnerving presentations of not only medieval torture devices (it does touch upon ones still used today) but also a Chinese torture exhibition room. With the stomach churning information and medieval drawings/photographs of how certain contraptions were used this museum is not for the faint hearted. It’s brutal but ultimately made me think about how ridiculously lucky I am to have been born in this century and into a country that condemns those acts that people believed were their right to inflict on others in those days (and still today unfortunately).

Museo dello Tortura in San Gimignano
Museo dello Tortura in San Gimignano

There was so much more to see of San Gimignano. But the storm happened. It was torrential. It was cold and I’m not sure the restaurant we became stranded in appreciated the mass of people, ourselves included, who huddled into their doorways to escape the rain. We waited twenty minutes and then we ran back to the car to escape the storm and leave San Gimignano behind us. I wonder where we head to next.

Venetian Mask Shop, San Gimignano
Venetian Mask Shop, San Gimignano