Australia and Oceania, Europe · 39 Days · 137 Moments · June 2017

Chris and Susan do France. Again.

30 July 2017

Various stages of getting home: Farnham, Heathrow, Sydney and a final inadvertent selfie. An excellent holiday thanks to new and old friends and especially Stanto. The return was almost queueless and only marred by British Airways interesting seat allocation bingo. My new non favoured airline.

29 July 2017

Another pleasant day. Stately home and dinner in an up market pub restaurant.

28 July 2017

Left France yesterday. Drove to Nantes and handed over the car with no fuss. A bit of an immigration queue at Nantes but none in the UK as we were about the only people with non EU passports. Picked up by Su and Tony and off to Puttenham via lunch. A pleasant evening, including a lovely walk in a torrential downpour (Su had jacket to test). Spent most of today at a lovely National Trust garden.

26 July 2017

Boat exiting lock
The things you find on hill tops. The Dr Who angels didn't move. I hope.
Water powered mill at our boat base. Still, apparently, grinds flour and produces power. You can go in and wander around amongst all the moving gears, shafts and drive belts. I don't think OH&S has visited for a while. Pretty cool though. We have finished our boating now. A very pleasant few days on a very quiet river. And we now know we can cope pretty well on our own (only a few second attempts required). We were going to have our last French restaurant meal but it turns out we have had it as the only local one is closed Wednesday. Sheesh. We'll just have to put up with Susan cooking again. Just have to grin and bear it I suppose.
Afternoon walk stop
Oops warning
More tootling down the river
Another atmospheric day
Clever planting

25 July 2017

Evening sur le bateau
Eric insisted on interrupting his window cleaning duties to show us around the church.
Scenes from Chateau-Gontier (overnight stop). The church frescos are 11thC!!!!
More tootling.
Another day tootling down the river. Susan at the helm, she even did a lock.

24 July 2017

Last night from le bateau
Must forget St Christopher
Motored to Laval (a surprisingly pleasant unheralded town). Being Monday virtually everything was closed. But we still enjoyed ourselves wandering around and then had an excellent meal (foie gras, who guessed). Back down the river tomorrow.
Susan contemplating her eclusier duties
Overnight stop and morning walk

23 July 2017

It rained this afternoon. A lot. So we decided to plow on to close to our turn around point, Laval, and take two long days seeing the sites on the way back. The river is beautiful, wider than I expected and largely through forest. Which is a problem if you want to moor up to the bank. We chose a delightful mooring in the forest but it was occupied so we are on a lock pontoon. Showered and dry and warm with a glass of rosé to hand. Could be worse.
Lunch spot.

22 July 2017

And here is our little boat in the evening light. Note reverse parking (only two attempts). I haven't been talking food much this trip but tonight we wandered into the local town, Daon- small, not even a boulangerie, to an unpreposessing little restaurant. Had the best cote de boeuf. A surprise.
Then on to collect our penichette. Thanks to Graeme's previous tutelage I managed to pass the driving instruction (in fact the tutor had trouble believing I didn't have my own boat - thanks Graeme). The photo is of a riverside chateau which appeared to be rented out complete with boat.
Boating on the Mayenne
First stop Angers. Massive castle which we didn't enter. Another time. Nice town.
Morning goodbyes as the birthday chateau empties. Only two of us now.

21 July 2017

A lazy day. Walk into and around Langeais, leftover lunch, nap, novel reading.
Langeais: town and Stanto's interiors

20 July 2017

Birthday dinner
Azay-le-Rideau. Beautiful on the outside but badly presented internally. The attic was a highlight.
Lunch. We had a ground crew.
Famous for it's gardens
Villandry again!
Cycled to two chateaux. Villandry first.

19 July 2017

Pleasant old town but we saw less than we had intended due to a long non-lunch, which also confirmed I do not like andouillettes.
Visited Tours today. Very tall cathedral with a lot of high stained glass.

18 July 2017

Chenonceau today. Hot (37+ again). Crowded, very. But also spectacular on a vaguely human scale. Worth it.

17 July 2017

Then on to Fontevraud Abbey. Big place where Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart and his wife were buried. Big impressive buildings but it had been disbanded after the revolution and used as a prison for years and was a bit soleless. Had some funky stringline art in the crypt though.
Drove to Chinon. Semi ruined castle and medieval town associated with the Plantagenets and Jeanne d'Arc. Pretty cool (even though it was a hot, 37 by the afternoon, day).

16 July 2017

Artist at work
Evening chat
Chateau Langeais
The approach to Chateaufort (home)
Walked into Langeais for baguettes and croissants. Walked into Langeais for shopping at the market. Walked into Langeais to do the chateau. View from bedroom window.
Langeais: driveway to Stanto's, Langeais Chateau

15 July 2017

Drove two thirds of the way across France. The only real stop was Sens for lunch. The cathedral is, literally, awesome. 13thC stained glass still insitu, Thomas a'Becket spent his exile there, the architect invented flying buttresses! Stanto's chateau is in fact that. Pictures tomorrow.
A while since I used some of Susan's photos. The next few posts are some. Saverne

14 July 2017

The unicorn is the symbol of Saverne. I am sure there's a perfectly logical explanation.
A final glimpse
The castle up close
Drove south to meet three friends of Stanto's. Walked up to Haut Koenigsbourg castle. A 13thC edifice totally restored by Kaiser Whilhelm II in 1900-1908. Touristed but well done. And a final nice walk in the Vosges.

13 July 2017

Fireworks for Ang's 60th
Fine day. Wandering around Saverne before and after walking through woodlands to 3 separate castles ruins. And a snail.

12 July 2017

Poor old chap, feeling his age
A bit of a rainy day so we took our lives in my hands and drove to the Lalique museum and one of the Maginot Line fortresses, Simserhof. Lalique surprised me, in a good way, I had no idea he started as a jeweler. No photos of Simserhof, it was largely below ground. We took a tour of the magazine and accommodation areas. Huge and fascinating. Kilometers of underground tunnels and rooms with all the equipment still intact. Pity we couldn't visit the artillery bunkers.
A relief map covering our two weeks of activity.

11 July 2017

Path route markers
Chateaux de Griffon
Grotte Saint-Vit (chapel in a cave).
Stanto in photo position (I think) at La Fontaine Mélanie
Did a 4 hour walk from Saverne.
Morning walk around Saverne. The big building was a bishop's pad, now with multiple uses including a youth hostel on one floor of the right wing- Susan and I stayed there in 1984. The other photo is our current accommodation. We have the room behind the upper balcony.

10 July 2017

Train Basel to Strasbourg; car to Mont Sainte Odile monastery; walk for 4 hrs, mostly alongside the remains of a possibly early medieval wall that goes for 10+ km around the monastery; drive to Saverne, our base until Saturday. Driving was interesting- 3 nervous wrecks. It can only improve. And we only got lost once on the walk - you will hear that it was my fault. But I didn't have the map or guide. My case rests.

9 July 2017

A pleasant day. Spent it all in the Kunstmuseum (main art gallery in Basel). Two conjoined monumental buildings.
And a huge number of pictures including beautiful ones and famous ones. Also a Cezanne exhibition and one where paintings from the Prado were paired with similar in house ones. We enjoyed it all including a break for lunch. Back to France tomorrow to begin the car/walking bit of the trip.

8 July 2017

A bit of wandering around, looking for hats for Susan and Stanto. Then back to the Munster for a lunchtime organ recital, impressive. Lunch at an out of town art gallery. Steak tartare worth a photo (and delicious), the art mostly too "modern" for me (a few Monets and Warhols were good), but the building was great (high white walls and excellent lighting)- the photo is looking out to the fields from a thoughtfully situated lounge. Back to town for shopping, sandals and hat for Susan.
And inside. 9thC foundations, tombs (inc 10thC bishop and Erasmus) etc
Up the towers
Hot day in Basel. Changed hotels, not sure why in retrospect, then back to the Munster.
The cloisters

7 July 2017

The Munster
Rhine. We caught one of the cable ferries. Floating down the river with your clothes in a dry bag is a thing.
Last biking day. Mulhouse to Basel. Hot again so we left early and just kept going. Nice rural countryside, a few hills and then a reasonably low traffic route into Basel. Here for lunch. 55km. Two days in Basel now, without Jane who is going home for a week. Both forecast to be hot.

6 July 2017

Clever paint job
Dreyfus came from Mulhouse. I think this is meant to be he.
History museum building
Wildlife beside the Rhone to Rhine canal. How many species can you see? Points for those who can identify the mammals.
Bike in forest
Rhine river and canal
The pale yellow line on the railing is the border between France and Germany. Susan's head is in Germany. We had a short day today, Ottmarsheim to Mulhouse, so we extended it by crossing the Rhine to have a coffee in Germany. As you do. The day, back in France, was largely on paths through forest or by canals. Pleasant but it was hot, 34C forecast but to got to 38. Worse tomorrow apparently and our hardest day potentially. Goody. Wandered in Mulhouse for the afternoon. It is an industrial city with an old centre but almost all the central area was open air market, no food just cheap stuff, not good. The main museum and church were both closed. Spent a while in the history museum which was good and in a great 16thC building.

5 July 2017

Fairly awesome 11thC church. Being beautifully restored.
Rural cycling. Can't complain about this but much of today was on or beside roads so a bit less idyllic.
Colmar to Ottmarsheim. Sunny and hot by the end. Flat and mildly boring. These photos are of one of the highlights. Vauban designed these defenses back in the 17thC. They are still virtually intact and surround the town with only 4 gates. Cool. PS Journi just informed me I need to pay (regularly) to keep the photo quality up. Might have to switch to Wordpress if it proves an issue

4 July 2017

Wandering around Colmar. A busy, touristy (but not too bad), Alsatian city. We like it but have to be off earlyish tomorrow, another 50+km day. Meant to be flat though, we have left the hills and vineyards for the Rhine valley.
Lunch with storks
En route to Colmar. A flatter day. Dinner last night was good except that the main course 3 of us had, sauerkraut, sausages, gammon, preserved pork and potatoes, was huge enough for 6 hungry people I reckon. We didn't finish
Morning walk around Kayserberg
Our hotel, again.

3 July 2017

Susan doing her diary on our balcony
Susan and I had a walk around Obernai before breakfast as we had a big day in the saddle before us. And it was a big day nearly 60km and mostly up and down through vineyards and a string of beautiful towns and villages. We didn't have time to look at any in much detail. Some great looking castles in the hills nearby but we will save them for next week when we have a car. We are staying in a very comfortable hotel in Kayserberg. The view from our bedroom window is awesome. Dinner in the hotel Winstub, unfortunately not the 2 Michelin starred restaurant but the same chef.
Some hills are just too much
On the route
A few town scenes
Sunday nights hotel garden. In the gap between concentric town walls, tower in the background

2 July 2017

A few photos from yesterday (Sunday)
Jane arrived yesterday evening after an eventful train trip from Paris via Paris. We had our bike tour introduction and received our bikes and gear. Dinner at a nearby restaurant (all dinners and breakfast are included in the tour). The girls went to mass in Strasbourg Cathedral so not an early start. Weather patchy mostly cloudy with bits of sun and drizzle. Cycling was, mostly, on quiet roads or cycle paths and largely on the flat until a few Vosges foothills happened (one by navigational misadventure- of which we had several, we blame our tools). The bikes are pretty good. Some lovely rural countryside along the disused Bruche canal and then onto the Alsace wine route. Vineyards everywhere and very green including bunches of small grapes. The towns have a lot of medieval buildings still standing. All pretty cool. Tonight a pretty swish hotel in Obernai.

1 July 2017

A few of Susan's photos over the last few days

30 June 2017

Continuation of previous post, apparently ran out of word and picture limit. This morning I felt OK so Susan and I had a look at the inside of the cathedral. A pretty awesome space but I think the outside probably more impressive. We went back to collect Stanto, check out and walk across town to our first cycling hotel. Then wandering again some lunch. Stanto and I have taken to our beds whilst Susan is off museuming. Was there ever any doubt about which is the weaker sex?
Getting slack already, two days since a post. Yesterday we began by climbing the cathedral tower. Great views, I'll try to limit the photos I add. Then we wandered the old town- it is very attractive with Alsatian buildings, squares, curved narrow streets all surrounded by a moat formed by a river splitting and rejoining. Finished off with a visit to the Museum of Alsace, which was interesting and in a great old building (two broken into one actually). Back to the hotel where I collapsed with the beginnings of a bout of food poisoning. Stanto and Susan went to dinner in the Michelin starred restaurant we had booked. At which Stanto began his bout of food poisoning- must have been the steak tartare. Susan enjoyed the meal at least.

29 June 2017

Woke at some ungodly hour to check out and catch the Eurostar to Lille. Uneventful, thankfully. Wandered around Lille and lunched at a very pleasant back street cafe. Lille seemed a nice, not particularly touristy, city. The cathedral fairly modern but impressive, especially the facade of translucent marble. Also impressive was the citadel by Vauban. Still in use by the military. TGV to Strasbourg. Good trip with lots of sleeping. And pastries. Strasbourg is a specky town. Looking forward to exploring tomorrow. Dinner in a very nice restaurant. I didn't have foire gras. Only a few of you will know how rare that is. It probably won't happen again! I had steak tartare.
Photographer's pose
Last day in London. Walked via Bond St to the Wallace Collection. A bit like the Soane but posher. Rembrandt, Canaletto, gold, Sevre, armour (even some to try on). A real melange. It was great. Then Harrod's food hall to buy lunch to eat by The Serpentine, in the drizzle. Thought that Churchill's War Rooms would be good, huge queue. Banqueting Hall, closed for private function! So off to the Portrait Gallery. Caught the BP portrait prize exhibition. Excellent. We met Alissa for a very enjoyable evening at a very pleasant Italian restaurant. Thanks Alissa.

28 June 2017

Our hotel
An even bigger version
Paper birds in the Burlington Arcade

27 June 2017

Bit of a wet day in London. We walked to the Courtald gallery then Temple Church and the Inns of Court. And then the Sir John Soane museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields. All interesting in their various ways. An afternoon nap and dinner in.
View from the bedroom window
Temple Church (1140)
A real Christian church
Art in the street
Art in the park

26 June 2017

One of the most interesting things at Grey House was a donkey wheel. Medieval and used into the 20thC to raise water from a deep well to fill a tank to supply running water. Basically a big hamster wheel turning a tree trunk to which buckets were attached by rope. The donkey walked in the wheel. Pretty cool unless you're the donkey.
Jet lag has me in its grip, I fell asleep trying to write this last night and then woke at 04:30. Am afternoon nap calls already and it is only 06:30. Yesterday (Monday) we trained to Henley on Thames, were picked by Christine and Peter (who had driven down from Birmingham, Christine is a cousin of sorts) and spent most of the day wandering around Grey House, a National Trust estate. It was a most pleasant day. Lovely weather and company and environs. The house had a history dating from 1066, much of the current structure 16th C. But quite small and left as the last owner left it in 2003. All set in a very pleasant rural property. We completed that part of the day with a pint on the banks of the Thames at Henley with Christine and Peter. We met Stanto as we were walking back to the hotel and went for a very pleasant meal at Al Duca a nearby Italian. Then we collapsed.

25 June 2017

And we're off. Left Hobart at 06:20. Had time in Sydney to meet Nico for brunch and a little wander before our 14:50 flight to London. Arrived in London at 04:40. Still a bit of in immigration queue but didn't even see a customs person. Dumped our bags at the hotel and walked through Green (behind the hotel) and St James parks to the Thames. Then through Pimlico (excellent coffee and croissant) and Hyde Park to the Design Museum (several exhibitions all interesting). Tube back to Piccadilly for a pub lunch and afternoon nap. Our hotel, Royal Overseas League, is very pleasant and backs on to Green Park. Had drinkies in the garden and dinner inside with Stanto.
Drinkies at ROSL. Green Park behind
Bedroom window view
Sandcastle at Design Museum
Albert memorial
From Westminster Bridge
St James Park
Sunrise over Europe

23 June 2017

Sunrise on the way to Sydney

22 June 2017

Haven't left yet. Trying to get my head around this app.