Thursday, 7 March 2019
Thursday, 29 November 2018
A couple of hours drive from Troyes, Fontainebleau was our last significant stop on the way home. We stayed at Barbizon, but before going there we had a good look around Fontainebleau Palace and its grounds.
The place has a rich history…
“The hamlet of Fontainebleau was endowed with a royal hunting lodge and a chapel by Louis VII in the middle of the twelfth century. A century later, Louis IX, also called Saint Louis, who held Fontainebleau in high esteem and referred to it as "his wilderness", had a country house and a hospital constructed there.
The connection between the town of Fontainebleau and the French monarchy was reinforced with the transformation of the royal country house into a true royal palace, the Palace of Fontainebleau. This was accomplished by the great builder-king, Francis I (1494–1547), who, in the largest of his many construction projects, reconstructed, expanded, and transformed the royal château at Fontainebleau into a residence that became his favourite, as well as the residence of his mistress, Anne, duchess of Étampes.”
And so on … including Napoleon Bonaparte’s presence before his first abdication:
“On 20 April 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte, shortly before his first abdication, bid farewell to the Old Guard, the renowned grognards (gripers) who had served with him since his very first campaigns, in the "White Horse Courtyard" (la cour du Cheval Blanc) at the Palace of Fontainebleau. (The courtyard has since been renamed the "Courtyard of Goodbyes".) According to contemporary sources, the occasion was very moving. The 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau stripped Napoleon of his powers (but not his title as Emperor of the French) and sent him into exile on Elba.”
It’s a magnificent palace. Here are just a few of our pictures.
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
A damp day in Timperley should have enabled me to return to indexing our Alpine Trip pictures. If I had got up to Day 49 (tomorrow, perhaps?) I’d have reached Troyes, on our way home. Here there are lots of wineries, and the cathedral has masses of lovely stained glass.
At least my punctures are mended and I’m up to date with emails and a few domestic chores, if not with the never ending task of ‘processing’ photos!
Monday, 5 November 2018
The Zinalrothorn (4221 metres) features in this view from above a rather disappointingly murky lake at which we had hoped for some good reflections. It had been slow going over ‘fields’ of giant boulders to get here from Taschhutte, on another wonderfully clear day.
Thursday, 1 November 2018
Wednesday, 31 October 2018
This is Day 38 of our ‘Summer in the Alps’. Whilst Richard and I were wrestling our bikes over some mountain passes to Livigno (see here – the ‘Day 37’ heading should read ‘Day 38’), Sue was wrestling her way up from Chamanna Tuoi (a mountain hut at 2250 metres) towards the Vermunt Pass, just below Piz Buin at around 2800 metres. The snow got too deep for her to continue safely, so she returned to the hut to finish her entry in the visitors’ book.
Friday, 26 October 2018
Well, I’m up to Day 27 of ‘Summer in the Alps’ with photo processing. On that day we left the Adlerweg (aka Kalkalpen Traverse) at Ansbacher Hut – pictured above.
From here we descended to Flirsch, leaving the ongoing path to Memminger Hut that coursed across the steep mountainside to our left.
It was a treat to discover Ghost Orchids on the descent.
Curiously, whilst composing this entry, I’ve just discovered that there is a Cicerone Guide to the Adlerweg. Hence the Kalkalpen Traverse guidebook hasn’t been updated. Curiously, when I contacted Cicerone about an update to my 1986 guidebook they didn’t mention the Adlerweg book though it covers most of the same ground.
Monday, 22 October 2018
I’m going to maintain a daily posting to entertain Dot, who is in the unfortunate position of having to forgo her frequent ‘coffee breaks’ with a neighbour who is very seriously ill. This lady is surrounded by people who don’t realise her close relationship for the past 30 to 35 years with Dot, who is not being updated on her condition and is naturally upset, especially as she isn’t sufficiently mobile to visit the neighbour.
So I hope these photos cheer you up, Dot. Pictured above are Sue, Jack, Ann and Colin, following me up to the 2821 metre summit of Kastenegg, with Großglockner in the background.
Below, a gem of the Alps, Spring Gentian, whose vivid shades of blue grace most limestone mountainsides.
These were both taken from ‘Day 18’ of our trip, which is where I’m up to with ‘processing’ the pictures. It seems appropriate to draw these images from the pictures I’m currently working on (albeit I am simply re-naming them at this point – I’ll describe the editing process next time).
Monday, 1 October 2018
This is part of a regular Wednesday evening programme for Stockport Walking and Outdoor Group.
All are welcome on this or any other Wednesday.
Many thanks to all 35 or so who filled the room and made the effort of producing the slideshow so soon after we had returned from the trip worthwhile.
Saturday, 15 September 2018
The Tannery was a good place to stay, if a little run down. It certainly provided good facilities for last night's al fresco meal. Not all B&B rooms sport a kitchen and a dining table, albeit this kitchen was hidden in a wardrobe! Like most rooms we've stayed in, it had a TV. Quite unnecessary, as we haven't switched any of them on since watching the 'Adrian Chiles - Alcoholic' programme with Jill and James three weeks ago. Only three weeks? It feels longer!
Breakfast was in an outhouse in the garden. Then we paid our tourist tax (€1 each), topped the car up with coolant (aka water), and headed off to refuel for the last time. €1.46 a litre - about £1.30 - prices at home are £1.34, so not much difference.
The toll free drive to Calais, during which the white cliffs of Dover shone in the distance, took about an hour and we were placed on the 11.20 train that we'd booked. It was running 20 minutes late so we had time for coffee and we bought some cooking wine - €30 for 12 bottles of J P Cheney plonk. We'll need that when we receive the speeding fines!
Incidentally, I don't mention costs very often here as we don't work to a budget and they aren't of any great interest to me, but I do keep a track of them and anyone wanting more information regarding such sordid details is welcome to ask.
Back in the UK on a sunny day, I have noted that I omitted to record yesterday's incident with some police. We thought we were being stopped so that they could check that we had all the paraphernalia required in France - high visibility jackets, breathalyser, warning triangle, GB sticker, etc, but we were quickly waved on before a huge peleton of cyclists whizzed past just behind us.
The police could usefully have been deployed on the ramparts of Montreuil, where sadly many of the viewing benches have been vandalised.
The drive TO Calais was rather easier than the drive FROM Folkestone. We planned to travel on Saturday rather than Friday because we thought the traffic would be easier. We failed to factor in the closure of the M20 motorway this weekend. That cost us an hour and a half.
Never mind, we got home before dark. Just!
The Tannery B&B - our quarters are the first floor rooms with the four shuttered windows
Inside the B&B
View from the ramparts
Evening by the ramparts
The Tannery from our breakfast room in the garden
So that's it. 'Summer in the Alps' is at an end. Almost time to move on, but there are a few photos to process, etc.
Thanks to Mike for looking after the house, and thanks for the comments, those of you, my dear readers, who had not only the stamina to follow our journey, but also had the tenacity to interact... And to the silent majority:
"Hello, I hope you enjoyed it."
Friday, 14 September 2018
Presented with yet another sunny day we tucked in to the lavish breakfast provided by Chambre d'Hôte Petit Angelus. No more food was needed until supper time.
On our host's recommendation we drove a little way back down the road and parked near a visitor centre, from where a 5 km walk called the Promenade des Gorges de Franchard provided a typical example of walks in the Fontainebleau Forest. We followed some blue waymarks through the silent forest to a viewpoint. Sadly the Alps were just a little beyond the horizon.
Occasionally we misplaced the waymarks and had to backtrack. This was perhaps due to the distraction of other marks on some of the rocks. Fontainebleau Forest ranks highly on European climbing maps, being a first rate venue for bouldering. It has its own grading system. Sue whizzed up an 'orange' whilst I completely flunked a 'yellow'.
The place was deserted, or so we thought until we got mixed up briefly with a coach load of French pensioners.
After a while we found ourselves back on the sun scorched earth by a ruined hermitage near the visitor centre. Here there is a large plaque on the ground commemorating 'UICN 1948 to 1998', being 'Union International for the Conservation of Nature'.
Returning to Barbizon, we took a stroll down the high street before enjoying a coffee at one of the village's many hostelries. Barbizon seemed to us to be France's version of Broadway, for those familiar with that Cotswold village. There's a fête here on Sunday - the place will be bursting.
The afternoon was spent travelling about 200 miles to Montreuil-sur-Mer. We've managed to get through France from Geneva without using any toll roads. That's made for a pleasantly scenic journey and in theory has saved us a few euros. But that doesn't take account of the speed cameras that have flashed us when doing 31 kph in a 30 kph speed limit zone. The penalty is €135. We might have a few of those! Luckily, I'm not having to pay for any root canal treatment this month.
Our 'road trips' to Europe often use Montreuil-sur-Mer as a springboard to the Channel Tunnel, less than 50 miles away. So it's easy to get home in a day from here. We passed through on days 30/31 of this very trip. Tonight we are staying in the old Tannery (La Tannerie de Montreuil). This is outside the city wall that was built in 1567, but is actually part of the earlier city wall built in the 13th century to protect the seaport, as it was then. The town has a colourful history, and we always enjoy the 3 km 'Promenade of the Ramparts' walk. Today that took place after dinner, which comprised a number of tasty, locally sourced, items. Except the smoked salmon - that was Scottish. Luckily our room comes fully equipped with kitchen (hidden in a wardrobe!) and dining facilities.
We walked about 5 km in Fontainebleau Forest, and a further 5 km around Barbizon and Montreuil-sur-Mer
In Fontainebleau Forest
Viewpoint in Fontainebleau Forest
The UICN plaque in Fontainebleau Forest
House in Barbizon
The Town Hall in Montreuil-sur-Mer
Thursday, 13 September 2018
Overcast and 18°C! We can't remember the last time we had the temperature inside the car higher than it was outside.
We were breakfasted and away from the apartment by 9 am, bumping into Edwice on the way out.
An easy two hour journey saw us enjoying café au lait outside a bar in Fontainebleau, where we had found easy parking on the edge of town by the chateau. A few postcards were written and sent, then we wandered along to the chateau. There's renovation work going on, and the dull overcast day did nothing for the external attractiveness of the place. But once inside, the Napoleon Museum and a tour of the Great Apartments took about three hours to get round. Helpfully, the information boards were in English as well as French.
All good stuff. When I get home I'll have to get out the timeline of French history. The decorations and contents of the rooms, including many remarkable ceilings, was astounding. Frescoes and stucco work, huge tapestries, and lavish furnishings....
We'd had our fill by mid afternoon so we enjoyed a walk in the gardens and the ornamental woodland, returning to the car beside the ornamental canal that was well stocked with water lilies and coots.
A very short drive to the smart artisan village of Barbizon was punctuated by a stop in a lay-by where Sue spotted a man in need of help. He had Parkinson's disease and had entered an 'off' state whilst returning to his car. Sue helped him shuffle very slowly back to the car, and he managed to drive away.
We still had plenty of time after the short journey to settle in at Chambres d'Hôte Le Petit Angelus, before strolling to the centre of the village for a really excellent meal at l'Ermitage St Antoine.
We walked about 7 km around Fontainebleau.
Today's pictures were all taken at the chateau in Fontainebleau.
Wednesday, 12 September 2018
Seemingly perfect weather again, but today's walk in temperatures of 30 to 35°C had us reflecting on how grateful we are to have spent much of the summer above 1500 metres, where it's a bit cooler. Today's walk, despite being on flat surfaces, was hard work under the burning sun. We were pleased to have some respite provided by woodland sections.
Since Edwice had paid for our parking* outside the apartment until 11 am, we could afford a slow start (thanks, Sue for popping out yet again to source some croissants) and a short wander before heading out to the Petit Orient.
The focus of this morning's wander was the Cathedral. Yes, Troyes is a city, not a town as I suggested yesterday. St-Pierre St-Paul Cathedral was constructed between the 13th and the 17th centuries. It's a magnificent building some 114 metres in length, 50 metres wide, and nearly 30 metres high. It contains a remarkable 1500 square metres of stained glass, and many treasures and artifacts. Well worth a visit.
Returning via the disused canal where artworks and sculptures are on display, we then set off into the nearby countryside. A walking guide in the apartment attracted us to a 15 km meander in the Parc naturel régional de la Forêt d'Orient, a half hour drive away.
Parking at Géraudot, we set off down a hot and dusty track that thankfully led into some cooler woodland. The paths were deserted apart from a lone mountain biker. Mud skippers dived into some puddles as we passed by. There must have been some rain here to have created those puddles, and the track may be a quagmire in winter.
Eventually we left the wood and joined a farm track where some pear trees were shedding their fruit. Nearby, some bright green frogs played hide and seek with us in a wet trench outside some farm buildings. Further on, a pile of windfall apples puzzled us. There was no apple tree on the vicinity.
We reached a tarmac track that ran beside Lac du Temple, a reservoir and bird reserve. Lunch was taken on dried up mud flats under one of many white willow trees that litter the shoreline beyond the stretch of dried mud that's proof of a hot summer.
There were lots of birds on view, including Great and Little Egrets, Swans, Lapwings, Gadwall, mewing Buzzards overhead, Cormorants, ordinary Herons, etc. Mating dragonflies surrounded us and it was
very peaceful with no discernable noise (except my tinitus!).
After lunch we returned to a stretch of tarmac beside the reservoir, picking our way past puddles of melted tar, and dodging the occasional cyclist that was speeding along in a bid to avoid getting bogged down.
Sue was navigating. She was distracted by a strange concrete artifact about 200 metres long, from which a mechanical sweeper was scattering stones onto the otherwise pristine cycle/walking track. Very puzzling, and not on the planned route. A compass bearing helped to re-locate the correct route, thankfully through more woodland with yummy looking mushrooms on a beech tree, and active red squirrels.
After the four hour walk, we drove a few metres down the road to a convenient hostelry to re-hydrate, having exhausted our flask of tea. Here we met Martin and Ken, road cyclists from Leeds. They were on an interesting trip and we enjoyed a banter with them for an hour or so. Curiously, there was a link between Martin and our 'Project 1949' in Zermatt. (He knows the individual who was the cause of the problem in relation to which the favour I gave was repaid by way of the Zermatt photo album.)
They headed off to their five star hotel for a jacuzzi, and Sue and I continued our exploration (or 're-exploration', we've been near here before) of the area by visiting the village of Montieramey. Pretty enough, but no stunningly distinguishing features.
Back via a supermarket for the ingredients of an excellent salad supper on our patio, then a stroll down to the canal to see 'The Heart of Troyes' beating at night.
We walked about 15 km, with 50 metres of ascent on the Petit Orient walk, plus sundry bimbles of about 4 km.
A detail from the Cathedral
Resting in our apartment
Woodland in Le Petit Orient
Lunch by Lac du Temple
The Heart of Troyes
* Parking in Troyes is a thorny issue. It used to be FOC, and that's how it's advertised for this apartment. But in an effort to reduce the chaos, the city has introduced charges. It didn't look too chaotic to me, so perhaps the new system is working. Edwice said it shouldn't be a problem for us anyway due to 'Brexit sympathy' towards friendly visitors, whereby the wardens wouldn't dream of ticketing a car with a GB plate!
Another lovely day with wall to wall sunshine. We made the best of it despite a 190 mile drive.
Yet again we started slowly, leaving it until around 9.30 to leave Hotel Jura and wander down the road to the convenient Café des Touristes, into which we were encouraged to bring our croissants, sourced from a nearby boulangerie. It's great in France!
After a while we sprung into action and walked up to the 'Belvédère de l'Hermitage' and the belvedere 'Chaumont' to reach the Sainte-Anne Cave, about 2 km from the café. It was a bit like Thor's Cave in the Peak District, but easier to access. A rope dangled enticingly and clearly had we been able to get over the choke near the cave entrance there would have been more to explore.
On the way up, we noticed that the vegetation was covered with moths. They also covered the roof of the cave. That might have been the attraction for what appeared to be a lone bat with a taste for 'moth'.
Far below, a massive cemetery and the cathedral, with modern housing in the middle distance and the sounds of children playing mingling with the sound of motors. Quite a contrast to the relative silence, apart from the sound of bells, above Zermatt.
Just beside the cave is a receptacle carved into the stone, with water that is considered miraculous. Louis the 11th apparently drank some. We didn't have that level of bravery.
After walking back down and topping up with coffee we recommenced our road trip by travelling over the splendid Jura countryside. Lovely quiet roads through wonderful scenery with lakes and woodland.
I haven't mentioned temperatures for a while, but again today - as often on this trip - they were showing at over 30°C.
We scooted down a side road in search of a quiet spot for lunch and found ourselves passing twelve stations of the cross and arriving at the Mont Roland retreat. An ideal spot, with picnic tables and wide views over the rolling countryside.
Beyond Mont Roland the countryside looked pretty flat but it was actually quite crinkly, at least as far as the source of the River Seine, which we then followed most of the way to Troyes.
Our host, Ed, turned out to be a lady. She soon installed us in her town centre apartment, and by 6.30 we were strolling around the ancient pedestrianised streets of the old town.
Dinner at Felix's had been recommended by Ed, and it went down well. Booking was necessary. We sat next to a French family whose grandma seemed to prefer talking to us than to her own family.
Then it was a wander around the still vibrant streets before a not so early turning in.
We walked about 7 km, with 250 metres of ascent.
Sainte-Anne Cave entrance
View from Sainte-Anne Cave
Lunchtime view from Mont Roland
Old buildings in Troyes (2)