Posts Tagged With: souvenir

An Archangel Burns a Hole in a Skull and Malo Isn’t really Bad at All

The morning was uneventful which is okay by me since the rest of the  day (and this post) is going to be jam-packed with visual delight.

We are renting (“hiring” in Aussie and Brit talk) a car and heading out to the coast.  Our first stop will be Mont Saint Michel.  I’m a bit nervous about the drive.  French drivers are really good but drive at lightning speeds.  Fortunately I won’t be driving.  Dean has bought a GPS for our journey so we won’t be getting lost either.  We don’t have much of a route set up. We are traveling, as always, waiting where the winds – in this case the wheels – will take us.  I like it that way though at times setting up good accommodations requires a bit of knowing our itinerary ahead of time.

I cross the street to buy some croissants and milk and coffee for the road. And we are off.

It’s a two-hour ride to Mont Saint Michel and it just flies by.  Before we know it we are approaching the very familiar site of Mont Saint Michel.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island As we get closer the little spots I see in the distance turn into munching cows that concentrate solely on eating and disregard the island behind them.  They create a perfect photo-op that I can’t let pass by.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island Normandy, France, pilgrimage, abbey, island, cows  We park the Renault (which curiously enough has not been named by us) and take a shuttle bus Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, bienvenue, bienvenidos that takes us closer to the entrance and then walk to the island which is linked by a causeway, which makes it technically not an island any more.  A fact that does not deter from its beauty and impressiveness.Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island  There’s a medieval town on the mount with its expected winds and turns and narrowness.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, medieval town  The hoards of tourists remind me that this has been, through the ages, one of the top pilgrimage sites for Christians.  The abundance of souvenir shops Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, souvenirs lining the quaint (and exercise inducing) steep streets may make you forget that this place has much history, dating from when years didn’t have four numbers.  It also has a peculiar history.  It is said that before the abbey that’s on it was built in the 8th century, the Archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 and instructed him to build a church. Seems that Aubert ignored the archangel so Michael burned a hole in the bishop’s skull with his finger.  The abbey was built afterwards.  First there is a little chapel we visit.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, chapel  And then onwards towards the abbey. Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, Mont Saint Michel Abbey

Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, souvenirs  The abbey is built on the islet’s top point so it’s a bit of a climb. Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, church  It has a gothic feel to it.  The church Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island is more austere Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, church than any of the other churches we have visited but if it doesn’t quite match the beauty of the others it holds its own by just where it is situated.   Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island  Normandy, France, pilgrimage, abbey, island   Before heading back in I am fascinated by how large the seagulls Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, seagulls, birds are around here. Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, seagulls, birds Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, seagulls, birds  And how privileged they are to fly so high and have such an amazing place to land.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel  Once my eyes get unglued from the birds and the view, my imagination takes flight.  I can almost see the robed monks going from one side of the abbey to the other through this bridge.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, bridge  And going about their chores around water source which has the largest faucet I’ve ever seen.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, water, faucet  We go back inside to explore how the monks lived.  I like the simplicity and solidness of it all.   Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island   Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island  As usual, I am distracted by a window with a soft view of the outside.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, window, stained glass  But I concentrate on my steps in the inside for it is dark and a gentleman going down the steps has fallen.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, hallway

Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, Archangel Michael, psychopomp, archangel   I encounter the Archangel Michael in the basement.  He is a plaster replica of the one that is on top of the spire and he is the one I mentioned earlier who burned a hole in the bishop’s skull.  I certainly would do as ordered!  He is also a psychopomp – which I wouldn’t mention except for the fact that the name made me giggle – though the responsibilities of one are quite serious.  He leads the dead and weighs souls (didn’t know souls had weight) on the day of judgment and is often presented with a balance in the scenes of the Last Judgment. I would definitely want this guy on my side!!

It isn’t a sunny day but it almost enhances the feeling of going back in time.  The view, with the tides low around the mount, is a bit surreal.

Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel  Another unique feature of Mont Saint Michel is that the bay around it has the highest tidal variations in all of Europe.  At low tide the Mont is surrounded by sand.  At high tide the water comes in at an astonishing speed, compared to a galloping horse.  In fact, Wikitravel has a warning that says that it is not unheard of for tourists to die after being cut-off by the tide if not crossing through the causeway.  It must be quite a sight but we didn’t stay for we were headed to Saint Malo.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, tides  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, tides Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, tides Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, tides Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, tides I, quite the contrarian, have to look up as we are going down.  A door caught my attention and reminded me that this place was also used as a prison.  What a history!  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, door  As we descend the many steps we pass The Mere Poulard which cooks its famous mega omelettes on an open fire.  I was sorry I wasn’t hungry enough to eat there.  They looked really good, served in a really great setting.  But I am glad I didn’t for the reviews on yelp were pretty bad and at 28 to 60 Euros an omelette it would have been quite disappointing to not have an extraordinary meal.  Normandy, France,  pilgrimage, abbey, island, tides, Mont Saint Michel, La Mere Poulard, omelettes, restaurant  One look back.Normandy, France, pilgrimage, abbey, island, causeway

And we leave.  Mont Saint Michel, car park, Normandy, France  The Renault is waiting for us.  Mont Saint Michel, car park, Normandy, France  We have already paid for our ticket so Saint Malo here we come!

Saint Malo was recommended by a travel group I belong to, The Travelzine.  They said the walled city was lively and a good base to explore the area. We are not staying there (more on that later) but I am fascinated by walled cities and we figured it would be a good place to have dinner before we on to the farm.  We enter the narrow streets of the walled town and are at a loss to where to park.  A delivery van is blocking the street in front of us so I get out and ask him where to park.  He tells me to follow him and takes us to a municipal parking lot (car park for my Aussie and Brit readers) right next to the water and marina.  We cross the street to the city itself entering it through the Saint Thomas Gate.  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  We are rewarded with beautiful views as we climb the steps to walk the wall that surrounds the city.

Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city

I’ll just be quiet now, for the view captivates me and hopefully captivates you as well.

Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city

Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city

Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  Saint Malo.  Malo in Spanish means “bad” or “mean”.  This “malo” is good!!!

Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled cityThere’s a lookout point that has a telescope which points into the direction of areas I have some connection with.  The Falklands (Malvinas to the Argentinians and from where a lot of my friends are).Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  Rio de Janeiro, where I lived for 4 years. Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city Quebec, where two children of a family I considered my own live, one of them who I taught to drive.

A pool on the side of the sea that reminds me of Australia, a country I have learned to love because of who I love.  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  It’s not that warm outside but there are people enjoying it, diving from the board.  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city The city was not only walled but well protected. Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city  I loved the city but later Brittany locals (the region the town is located in) would tell me that they consider it a “sad” town mainly due to its history and the fact that it is walled in.

Hunger strikes me and Dean knows me well enough to get me into a restaurant fast before I get cranky. 🙂 So we dive into Le Lion D’Or.  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city, restaurant in Saint Malo, I’m glad we did cause it had great reviews on Tripadvisor and I would add mine to them.  I had a really great huge plate of mussels that was delicious though the mussels were small and could not compare in size to the Tasmanian mussels a friend and I had at the Sydney fish market, though they were matched in taste. Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city, restaurant in Saint Malo, The city is on the coast after all so I was counting on good seafood.  Saint Thomas Gate, Brittany, France, port city, walled city, marina, boats

Once we retrieve the car we are on our way to another real adventure… which I will tell you all about tomorrow!

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Versailles and Toto in One Day

We wake up early (this is becoming a pattern it seems) and head to the metro that will take us to the RER train which we will take.  Looking through the window, and past the bars in the wagon, I see a flash of an image of a weeping willow that will be forever ingrained in my psyche and my heart for it is under it that our péniche, Soleil, resides.  The dark clouds, the drizzle outside and the quickness in which we pass it do nothing to dampen the happy feeling had.

I take a quick photo and it is a bad one but here it is.   péniche, Port Debilly, 16yh Arrondissement, Paris, France, houseboat

After catching a glimpse of my little haven in Paris, a houseboat I considered my palace, we are going to Versailles, a palace with much greater notoriety, grandeur, and appeal. A fine drizzle does not cease for the full half hour the train ride takes. I wonder if it will dampen our visit. RER Versailles-Rive Gauche, France  Map, Versailles, palace, FranceI will soon find out since we are here.  We are promptly directed to cross the street for tickets which isn’t quite the truth since it’s a tour company where you buy a tour/ticket combination.  But it has headed us in the right direction and we follow the crowd.  It’s around 10:00 am and even with the bad weather and being a weekday, there is a huge amount of people as we approach the Chateau de Versailles.

Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate,

Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, There is a huge, interminable line to enter The Palace so we decide then and there, as we wait in line to buy the tickets, that we will visit the gardens first, rain and all.

I entertain myself with how they have chosen to decorate Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, the area where you wait in line, or as my Brit an Aussie friends would say: where we queue up.

We get our tickets Versailles tickets and as we walk to the gardens I find it a bit unsettling that there are guards/army guys with rifles all over.  I laugh internally because these very official looking guys were merely on a break and heading to the cafeteria.  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate,   This I don’t find unsettling at all… the gardens flanked by the palace are impressive, the dark skies and rain not being able to lessen its impact.Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate,

escargotsBut just in case I have forgotten to look down Dean points to what at first glance looks like little colorful buttons on the fence. On close inspection they are little snails which are probably just loving this weather where no one stops for them. Suddenly escargots in butter and garlic (a dish I actually like) doesn’t seem so appealing.

Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate,

Yo dude… look up!

So after this demand from the little cherub above I concentrate more on the statues we pass as we walk.  Le Printemps (Spring) Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, statue, Le Printemps, spring  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, statue, Le Printemps, spring is in the right time of the year, since summer hasn’t officially started, but it feels like fall -cool and rainy.  But perhaps daybreak, Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, statue, Le Matin, daybreak represented here Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, statue, Le Matin, daybreak may bring a sunny day.

The gardens cover such a huge expanse. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, Versailles gardens

They are impeccably manicured and for now a bit deserted for not many want to walk under the light rain.  I’m not cold yet so I am truly enjoying the semi-solitude it gives us

P1190102

P1190107 P1190112 P1190110 Lonely paths. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate

The plants and flowers in the garden are beautiful.  You can also find flowers of the inanimate kind. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, garden, sculpture, flower

Though I have a green thumb I lack the skill of shaping a tree to do this:  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, shrub, tree I can only imagine how incredible the water fountain show is coming out of these.  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate This path just charmed me. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, gardens, The Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, path, trees From nature we go into The Grand Trianon.  “A little pink marble palace with delightful gardens” is how Mansart, the architect, described it in 1867.  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Grand Trianon We find Empress Marie-Louse’s bedroom.  Originally it was Louis XIV’s bedchamber but she is the one that furnished the place as it is today with the exception of the bed which belonged to Napoleon.  It’s a little too pink for my taste. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Grand Trianon,  Empress Bedroom The Room of Mirrors, the furniture was sold during the Revolution and replaced by Napoleon. The archduchess Marie-Louise, Marie-Antoinette’s great-niece, whom the emperor married after divorcing Josephine used it as her drawing room.  I rarely carry a mirror in my purse.  Don’t think I’d like a room where I couldn’t avoid looking at myself!  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Grand Trianon,  The Room of Mirrors, mirrors  Don’t remember if this was in it but since we are on the subjects of mirrors…Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Grand Trianon,  Room of Mirrors, bust This is the family room. Doesn’t seem too cozy to me. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Grand Trianon,  yellow room Even all this opulence does not stop me from diverting my gaze towards the outside.  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Grand Trianon  To have a peek of Marie-Antoinette’s private life we go to her estate which, compared to The Grand Trianon, is almost rustic in feel. At least the hamlet is.  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, Marie Antoinette's Estate Starting with the Queen’s Garden.  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, Marie Antoinette's Estate  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, Marie Antoinette's Estate

It’s The Petite Trianon Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, Marie Antoinette's Estate, Petite Trianon is beautiful inside and is impressing me more than The Grand Trianon. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, Marie Antoinette's Estate Perhaps because it has a music room with a harp and a theater (which we did not see).  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, Marie Antoinette's Estate  And a billard room with the biggest pool table I’ve ever seen. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, Marie Antoinette's Estate Her bedroom sitting room. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, Marie Antoinette's Estate

Once outside, the light rain is no more. It’s graduated to a Rain with a capital R.  There’s a little shuttle bus/choo-choo-train that shuttles people for an additional fee between The Grand Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s Estate and the Palace which we decide to wait in line for rather than walk the miles in between under the rain.  In back of us in line is a family from San Diego who we chat with. P1190168 Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, Marie Antoinette's Estate Arriving to the Palace we find the line has dwindled to nothing and silly of us, thought the crowds had too. Nope, once inside it feels like there are a million people which makes it a bit harder to enjoy. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace

I think if this guy, Henry D’Aguesseau, – a French Chancellor -says to stop, I definitely would. Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace But for now I have another window to look out of.  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace What’s this?  A souvenir shop in the middle of the Palace and among antique statues? Me don’t like.  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, souvenir shop I’m sure that Michel de L’Hopital, a statesman from the 1500’s, would not approve either.  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, statesman,    Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, Hall of Mirrors This is what I had to battle with to take the previous photos.  Ugh, claustrophobia may be kicking in soon.

 Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds

 Without the crowds.

 Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace

With it.  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace    Beautiful with or without people.

 Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace

Without crowds.   Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace,

With crowds.   Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace,  That was the Mars salon which is a planet and also a God of War. A bedroom.    Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace

Probably the most famous room of all:  The Hall of Mirrors.  Merely a passageway and waiting room and an over the top feast for the eyes. 357 mirrors adorn the 17 arches in this room. A paradise for those who like to see themselves reflected.   Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds, Hall of Mirrors    Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds, The Hall of Mirrors    Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds, The Hall of Mirrors

I like the figure of a goth girl strolling through it looking ahead, not much interest displayed.   Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds, The Hall of Mirrors

This is me, bringing you yet another photo. 🙂  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds, The Hall of Mirrors  And now to the Queen’s Antechamber where the family had its meals.   Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, The antechamber of the Grand Couvert, Queen's Antechamber, Can someone show me how to fold napkins like this please?  Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, The antechamber of the Grand Couvert, Queen's Antechamber, What a beautiful door.  One that may lead me outdoors and even though the rain hasn’t ceased it is starting to look really like paradise just to be able to get away from the hustle and bustle of the thousand of tourists swarming around.   Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds,

 Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds    Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds  Yes, I want to be out there!  So a sculpture later, which clearly depicts a lung,   Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds, sculpture and we are out.  Yay!

 Versailles, Ile-de-France, France, palace, The Palace, tourists, crowds

I’m hungry (Isn’t that rare?) so again I do not complain when we head into the first fast food we find which happens to be another upscale McDonald’s where a few Americans are talking and saying that these Frenchies are going to feel very disappointed if they go to one of our McDonald’s.  Yeah, they probably would but they would like the prices.  McDonald's Into the RER we go.  It will take us back home. This one doesn’t want to let us forget where we came from. Seems that it is trying to be as ornate and over the top as Versailles.  🙂  P1190240 P1190241 P1190242 We get to the apartment,      quickly change and off we go again for we are going to see Toto! concert, 35th Anniversary tour, Zenith Center, Paris, France

We take a cab and follow the people. The Zenith Center (Le Zenith) is one of the most important concert halls in Paris.  P1190246 P1190248

What a fabulous day and what a way to end it.  We dance (we were practically on stage) to the tune of songs like: Rosanna, Africa, Hold the Line and I’ll Be Over You, taking me back in time!!  Zenith Center, Paris, France, concert, 35th Anniversary tour

Categories: 19th arrondissement, Chateau de Versailles, France, Ile-de-France, Zenith (Le Zenith) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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