Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Once we hit the A6 it was plain sailing in a southeastern direction to Burgundy until we were halfway on the A38 to Dijon when Samantha, our trusted GPS, suddenly had a brain-fart, ejected us from the highway and we, with little idea of where we were going and which route we should be taking, followed her instructions to the T. She directed us all along route D35, through valleys covered in natural flora, a forest near the hamlet of Urcy, passed stony farm buildings seemingly hundreds of years old, and from time to time along a road that seemed to switch back on itself at several places, or so it felt anyway. There were times we thought we should turn around as we meandered further and further into hilly country where we saw little other traffic, no vineyards or any white Charolais cattle for which Burgundy is so famous. We knew we were in Burgundy but it certainly didn’t look like the wine country I was expecting. But then we convinced ourselves again to just go another kilometer to see where the crooked and twisting road and Samantha will takes us. We followed the GPS like lambs to the slaughter. Eventually we crested a rather high hill and below us a large valley opened up and in the hazy light of the custardy late afternoon the sweeping road led through vineyard upon vineyard to a town in the distance. Samantha has delivered us on the doorstep of Nuits-Saint-Georges, in the northern half of the world famous Cote d’Or wine region of Burgundy.
Clos de Vougeot, towering over the nearby village. A Grand Cru vineyard started by the austere monks from nearby Citeaux in the 12th century and later winemaking was perfected here by the Cisterians monks until it was confiscated by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Although I had initial plans to go to Dijon in the afternoon, our late arrival at our hotel nipped that plan in the bud and after a short rest we were back in our rented VW and drove around the area to explore and try to find a restaurant for dinner. The hotel had a restaurant but it was excessively expensive. The French countryside is littered with tiny villages, sometimes strung like pearls on a necklace all along a minor two-lane road, sometimes no more than five or six kilometers apart. But unlike here in America most of these tiny villages have either none or only one or two restaurants and most definitely no fast foods restaurants.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
A relative empty Paris on a early morning walkabout
Early morning and a rising sun behind the church of Saint Sulpice
The D'Orsay Museum
Below the Pantheon is its crypt where the heroes and heroines are buried. On the right, a statue of the writer Voltaire.
Intricate cut-stone, lace-like arch crossing the middle of the nave of the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Church
Monday, May 12, 2014
Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte III rooms at the Louvre Museum, The Grand Salon with its imposing chandelier. Grand is a very appropriate word for this room.
M on the Alexander III Bridge, one of 37 bridges that span the Seine River in Paris and my opinion the grandest of them all.
Modern Paris as seen from the Arc de Triompf
Sunday, April 27, 2014
We gathered our luggage, each only a travel bag large enough to fit the airline’s restriction for take-on luggage and a small backpack. This time we were traveling light. Last time our cases were too large and a real schlep to drag up and down the stairs of the metro. As Bob Dylan alleged; we were so much older then, we are so much younger (and wiser) now.
At the next station, Châtalet-Les Halles, the train nearly emptied. It was only 18 months ago that we nearly got miserably lost in this monstrosity of an underground train station, the biggest in Western Europe, as we tried to find a way out of the labyrinth of underground tunnels that serve as walkways. But this time we stayed put. One more stop. We had to still sink deeper into the bowels of the city. We had to still go underneath the Seine River to get to Saint-Michel station, which is actually located directly underneath the river. After our arrival there we exited the train and maneuvered ourselves along the very narrow platform, much like London’s Underground stations, up a zillion stairs with wheeled luggage dragged behind, and exited onto the sidewalk of Quai Saint-Michel on the left bank of the Seine.
China was cross off the shortlist quickly; still too cold that time of the year. Machu Pichu followed, didn’t feel right yet. Amsterdam to Vienna via Munich and Salzburg; same as China, still too cold. Spain was the next consideration, and my personal preference, and fitted the bill perfectly. This time of year Madrid and Barcelona was getting warm and down south the temperatures would be in the eighties. But, at the same time South Africa was calling because we had some unfinished business there to attend to. It was not must-do business, but it is always nice to see friends and family again. We thought of a quick stop in Gauteng to see family, a short trip to the Kruger National Park, and a swing through inland Kwazulu-Natal before heading down south to Cape Town, which would have included a circular road trip through the Karoo, especially a visit to Calvinia to do some genealogy research on my family. Probably too much to fit in a short visit.
“What’s up” I asked.
“Well, I don’t want to throw a wrench in the works, but there is a great package to France.”
“Uhmm, been there recently” I said, but looked any way.
After all, you’re in France. Shift down a gear. Travel slowly and eat even slower. Savor the food, breath in the wine, relish the moments, admire the scenery and above all treasure the fortuity to be able to travel.