Leaving Toulouse – The Final Chapter

We so enjoyed our short visit with Elisa and Andrea in Toulouse. It is a beautiful place with great bike trails. Since I didn’t bring my camera, I bought some postcards of the major attractions of the town and have included them as pictures. Toulouse is the center of the European aerospace industry and has a population of over 1.2 million people. The Basilica of St. Sernin is the largest Romanesque Church in Europe. The Bell tower was so beautiful at night. The La Place du Capitole is the municipal building for Toulouse and has a great open square in front of it. Toulouse is home to 3 major Universities and has a youthful culture.
imageimage

Andrea loaded up all our luggage and drove us to the train station. We took the 9:48 train from Toulouse and arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris at 15:52 (that is 3:52PM in our language!). We took a shuttle bus to our hotel, had some (French) Onion Soup one more time and we plan to go to sleep soon. We need to be at the airport tomorrow around 8:00AM to catch our flights home.
imageimageimageimage

It has been a wonderful six weeks in France and I have enjoyed almost everything but I am ready to get home!

Advertisements

Castles, Churches and Toulouse

I will start with last night’s dinner at our B&B. Jocelyne & Eric were tremendous hosts. The first course was Foie Gras with fig sauce, the 2nd was grilled duck breast, the 3rd was goat cheese with walnuts, and for dessert we had Saint-Honore'(cream puffs in an elaborate design with sauce).
imageimageimageimage

We left in the morning and stopped at Najac, a small medieval castle and town. This castle was built in 1153. Richard the Lionhearted, King of England had been here to sign a treaty. The last picture is a model of what the castle was like before it was in ruins.
imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Albi was the next stop. Albi’s cathedral is huge. The exterior looks more like a fortress than a cathedral and is built out of red brick. The interior of the church has few stained glass windows and is brightly painted. It looks essentially as it did in 1500.
imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum is located in the building that was the Bishop’s house and has the largest collection of his paintings, posters and sketches. He was born here in 1864.
imageimageimageimageimage

After returning the rental car to the Toulouse airport, we took a taxi to Elisa’s apartment. Andrea, her boyfriend, made us a wonderful Italian dinner (Tagliatelle al ragu and Frittata di zucchini) and then we went for a night bike ride into the City Center. I didn’t take my camera so no pictures. 😦
imageimageimage

Relaxation in the Lot River Valley

Finally a little R & R! We had a late breakfast and then went to Pech Merle, a cave that is a beautiful example from prehistory, preserved for some 25,000 years. There are cave paintings of horses, bison and mammoths. There is also the footprint of a Cro-Magnon man. No pictures were allowed-these are from the museum.

imageimageimageimageimageimage

We took a boat trip up the Lot River through one of the 9 river locks that are not automated. There is a tow path that was cut into the rock to pull the coal barges along the river. The last picture in this series is of the “English Castle”. During the 100 Year War, the English lived here and had a cave system dug for escape when attacked by the French.
imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

A Village Tour

The road from St Emilion to the Lot Valley has many quaint villages and seems to be a place for Parisians escaping the city. We stopped many times and met some wonderful people. The shop keepers seemed to love talking to Americans. Maybe there are not so many of us in this area. We had a picnic in one of the town squares.

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

We made a quick stop in Cahors to see one of the greatest Medieval bridges in France. This bridge was built in 1308 to keep out the English. The legend is that the devil is trapped in here and plays tricks on the residents. I walked up one of the ramparts on some really scary steps.
imageimageimageimageimage

We then went to our Bed & Breakfast in the small village of Saint-Martin Labouval on the Lot River. The owners, Eric & Jocelyne, have a wonderful place with a pool and a hot tub. The gardens and rooms are beautiful.
imageimageimageimageimageimage

The town of St-Cirq-Lapopie is the most famous of the Lot hill towns and is built going up the cliffs. We had dinner there. Tomorrow we will explore the valley.
imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Road Trip to Wine Country

We caught the ferry at 8:30 leaving Groix. Then a six hour drive to St. Emilion in the Bordeaux Region. Our hotel is so cute, with a rugby theme. Joe would love it. We had mussels for lunch again but this time in a Roquefort sauce. Amazing with two glasses of wine. St. Emilion is very picturesque, with a lot of wine and tourists. After Groix, it is kind of fake like Disney World.
image
image
imageimageimageimageimageimage
image

St. Emilion reminds Barbara and me of some of the wine towns in Tuscany, especially Montepulciano. Here are some pictures of the town.
imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Here are some night shots. A little fuzzy with my IPad!
imageimageimageimage
image

Bike Ride from Heaven

Barbara was up early taking pictures of the sunrise. The weather was wonderful, sunny and no wind. We started bike riding at 9:30 around the island of Groix (pronounced Gwa), which is a 2×6 mile island. It was fantastic! The west side of the island was windswept meadows with high, rocky cliffs on the Atlantic Ocean. The east side has beautiful sand beaches and more houses.

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

We met the nicest people. We did not meet any other Americans all day. We went to an Escargot Farm and a Goat Cheese Farm. Also, some of the houses are so quaint and the flowers were beautiful.
imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

There are 8 megalith sites on the island. These are stone monuments that were placed around 3,000 BC by pre-Celtic tribes. These megaliths are marked on a map of the island but can be difficult to find on the walking paths around the island.
image

We finished our ride around the island about 4:30, then took hot showers. We had a great dinner of oysters and fish in a local restaurant. We were so hungry that I forgot to take any pictures of the food! Early to bed tonight because we have to catch the first ferry out in the morning!
imageimage

The Monks, the Germans and the Fisherman

We started an early day at Mont St Michel Abbey. We thought we would beat all the crowds and get up there by the 9AM opening. After walking about 250 steps up and waiting 15 minutes we realized we were an hour early! We walked down, had a cup of coffee and then walked back up again. If you ever come here you need to spend the night on the island to experience the beauty of this place without the thousands of day trippers. The first church was built here in 708AD by Bishop Aubert. The legend is that the Archangel Michael appeared to Bishop Aubert and instructed him to build a church on this rock island. He repeatedly ignored the ArchAngel until Michael burned a hole in the Bishop’s skull. Sounds like a hard headed man to me. During the French Revolution, the monks were kicked out or murdered and the heads of many of the statues were destroyed. The Abbey was turned into a prison for awhile and then returned to the Catholics.
imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

The following pictures are of us leaving the Island (taken from the shuttle bus) and then in the mustard fields that cover much of the farmland here.
imageimageimageimageimage

One of the German World War II Cemeteries is close to Mont St Michel so we stopped there on the way south. It was a sobering place and sad to see how young most of these boys were that fought for Hitler. There are over 11,000 plaques in this cemetery. Beyond the ridge you can still see Mont St Michel.
imageimageimageimageimageimage

We drove a few hours to L’Orient on the Brittany coast to catch a ferry to the island of Groix (pronounced GWA). We will be spending two nights here on this small island -2 x 5 miles. Tomorrow we will be bike riding. The last pictures are of our hotel and the view from our room.
imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Bayeux Tapestry, D Day & Omaha Beach and Mont Saint-Michel

We went to Bayeux to see the famous Tapestry which shows the history of the battle of Hastings in 1066 between William the Conqueror and King Harold of England. This is a 70 yard tapestry created in the 11th Century commissioned by William’s half brother, the Cardinal of the Bayeux Cathedral.
imageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Since we were in Normandy, we took the back roads to the D Day Beaches and the American World War II cemetery. It was cold and overcast but it fit the setting. This was a very moving experience to see the flat beaches and high cliffs that the soldiers had to cross under enemy fire. The American Cemetery crowns a bluff just above Omaha Beach. There are 9,387 white marble crosses and Stars of David in memory of the Americans that gave their lives on these beaches to free Europe.
imageimageimageimageimage

From there we drove to Mont St-Michel. Even thought it was so cloudy and overcast when we arrived, the distant silhouette of this island is breathtaking! As we approached in the very late afternoon, there were MANY busloads of tourists leaving. We had hotel reservations to stay on the island and it was wonderful to enjoy it at night without many people. We plan to get up early and tour the abbey on top before those pesky tourists descend on us again!
imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Barbara and I had a great dinner at a restaurant overlooking the bay and then walked back over the causeway towards the mainland to get a picture of Mont St-Michel at night.
imageimageimage

Monet and Honfleur

We left Paris and my apartment this morning at 6 AM, went to the airport to get our rental car and then drove to Giverny, Monet’s house and gardens to try and beat the tour groups.

 

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

We drove to Honfleur on the Normandy Coast. This place is so picturesque. The Seine river meets the Atlantic Ocean here just south of La Havre, the big shipping port. This town was also the favorite of some of the Impressionist painters and home to Eugene Boudin. These are pictures of our Bed & Breakfast, built in the 17th century originally as a convent for Augustinian sisters, then used as a cider factory.
imageimageimageimageimageimage

These next pictures are in the old town, harbor and inside St. Catherine Church, built by this fishing community in 1466.
imageimageimage
imageimageimageimageimage

We took a walk to the end of the inlet to see the English Channel and La Havre with vast cargo ships leaving France. There were some beautiful parks all along the way.
imageimageimageimageimageimage

For our lunch, we had mussels and lamb. This picture is of our desserts. Mine was a pear soaked in mint covered with chocolate sauce. Looked weird but tasted great. Barb’s was a warm apple muffin with custard sauce.
image

Here are some night shots of the harbor in the rain. Maybe tomorrow the sun will shine.
imageimageimage

Our Last Day in Paris

The Petit Palais (Small Palace) was our destination for the day. This magnificent building was built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition (World’s Fair). It is now the Musee des Beaux-Arts and has a fine collection of paintings and sculpture. There are also some fine examples of Galle glass vases that Barb and Kevin collect. It also has a wonderful courtyard garden.
imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
imageimageimageimage
The Grand Palais, also built for the 1900 Exhibition, was closed and only used for temporary exhibits. This is a very large, erector-set building with an iron and glass exterior.
imageimageimage

Barbara went food shopping while I went to the train station to buy our Bullet Train tickets back to Paris at the end of the “road trip” we will start tomorrow to southwestern France. I had a really hard time getting the tickets and it was wonderful to come back to the apartment because Barb had a great salmon dinner awaiting me.
image