Australia and Oceania, Asia, Europe · 106 Days · 52 Moments · June 2017

Le Tour de France avec Le Webbs


25 September 2017

Our journi comes to an end! We have seen some wonderful sights, tasted some magnificent food & wine and covered a fair few kilometres using a range of transports. Hopefully the 'activity' across the weeks will balance out the calorie intake! Singapore stopover will be just a 'veg out' for us before final flight home. Now the thought & planning starts for the next journi!
Last day on tour! But Reims (Ronce? Rance? according to the locals - you need to be a local to get it right. No explanation) is as good as any in France to spend our last day. Walked to Taittinger for our champagne tour and tasting at 9.45. This completed our Champagne study tour because we were able to tour the tunnels and chalk pyramids (caves) 30m underground. Kilometres of caves were carved out by the Romans when Jesus was a boy to provide building materials. They are now used by the champagne houses to store their bottles as did the monks in the Middle Ages. But Thibaud IV The Count of Champagne and Brie was the man who turned it into a commercial enterprise. In between times he was crusading and writing poetry and songs of unrequited love to another man's wife. Hence he was known as Thibaud the Troubadour. Then it was onto Pommery and Maison Demoiselle for an exterior look, sans taste!

24 September 2017

Champagne tasting - what an amazing day! We joined another three couples from Surrey, England on a weekend jaunt. Clement was the chauffeur, champagne aficionado and resident of Reims. Started at 10 with a visit to Dom Caudron where we learnt about the méthode champenoise and toured the winery, delaying the tasting until the respectable time of 11. Well, that was the start! Each tasting was a glass! It was champagne in Champagne! Onto lunch at Hautvillers where we tasted another 6 with a tapas style platter of local dishes. We paid our respects to Dom Perignon, interred in the local church, then onto Épernay to visit the chateau of Michel Gonet on the Avenue du Champagne for another tasting! Our last stop was Mailly for a taste of their three Grand Cru champagnes. I can't say which I liked the best! They were all nicer than Yellow, if I remember? Of course it was a study tour and we learnt so much along the way.

23 September 2017

Yes - another cathedral, but alas it will be the last! And another 'Phil's Walking Tour' - another last! Reims is the last city we visit in our wonderful Le Tour de France. This time next week we will be home. The sun was shining as we walked the streets of Reims - each city so unique but so equally steeped in history. The upkeep of these old buildings & monuments must be incredible & so we can't be too critical when our photos are spoilt by scaffolding & cranes. The statuary, gilt & stained glass, together with the soaring columns & buttresses just so amazing. Joan of Arc, the saviour of France, is feted in Reims. She kicked out the English and came to Reims cathedral to see the coronation of the first King of France. The contemporary stained glass window, created by Marc Chagall, was a gift from the German government to make some amends for the ravages & damage the cathedral experienced in two world wars. The photos show bullet marks unfilled in the walls of Reims station.

22 September 2017

We joined the 'hordes' of coach & cruise tourist groups this morning to do our canal cruise. We queued up with every Dieter, Klaus and Heinrich and their lovely fraus. Our German friends are yet to master the art of waiting their turn and so we were relegated to the stern seats. Only one wheelchair and two Zimmer frames to avoid on our way to the rear. It was all Hans on deck as we putted through two locks along the Ill river. The river looks quite healthy in spite of its name. It was appropriate that we shared the boat with this group as Strasbourg has been shared between the French and the Germans for centuries. I soaked up the recorded historical information that provided a context for our stay in what's been one of my favourite spots. Blue skies & sunshine made for a beautiful day on the canal & walking through the beautiful precincts next to the canal.

21 September 2017

Today we took the Intercity TER to Colmar. It was a beautiful day after a cold foggy start. Our first perfect weather for weeks. Colmar is a lovely town and very tourist friendly. Picked up the obligatory map from the tourist office and off we went ticking off points of interest as we went. The old town is very similar to what we experienced in Strasbourg only smaller. The same German influence and with rows of very old buildings clinging to side of the river. Tarte flambe for lunch with an Alsace pinot gris. Gewürztraminer with our dinner this evening. My pal Al suggested the Alsatian wine might have 'bit of a bite and that we might need to woof it down' but I found it long in the nose and furry on the tongue. Boom! Boom!

20 September 2017

We travelled on the TGV to Strasbourg - it's speed never fails to amaze! So comfortable, reasonably priced and you disembark close to the city centre. Another pocket of France has been added to our itinerary at the expense of Portugal. If Strasbourg Cathedral is not the biggest and best cathedral I have seen, I don't know what is. Photos don't do this cathedral justice - just too big for my camera. Although there does appear to be a pointy steeple missing. (According to my sense of balance a symmetry) Experiencing this has made the trip to Alsace worthwhile. It was great to wander through the little streets of La Petite France between the 17thC houses of tanners, fishermen, cobblers, chandlers and other tradies of that time. Can't visit Alsace without trying some Alsatian wine. Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris?

19 September 2017

Dijon, the City of 100 Steeples - didn't quite see them all! I thought we had visited the Dukes of Burgundy palace in Beaune, but it was obviously their holiday home. This is it! Up there with Versailles standard. Can you see the two Philips the Good standing together? Philip the Bold set the dynasty up with astute marriages and diplomacy and Philip the Good, his grandson (the son of John the Fearless who was murdered.....um!) continued his grandfather's work. Anthony, the Grand Bastard, (no offence), who won the Burgundy Archers' contest 5 years in a row, John's half brother, was also very supportive! As well as the architecture, we gave Burgundy's two famous mustard makers a workout. Maille, which can be found in supermarkets at home, and Edmond Fallot. Luckily the tasting amounts were not as large as our wine tastings. The 150gm mustard with truffles only €39, nearly up there with the Burgundy Grand Crus wines! Washed the mustard down with a glass of Leffe Ruby beer.

18 September 2017

Our Beaune neighbourhood, Les Tilleuls de Monge, home for the last 4 days. Off to Dijon in the morning. Maybe we'll have some 'mustard tastings' instead of wine!
Last night we did the Beaune 'les Chemins de Lumières' which is a bit like a White Night in Melbourne with animations projected onto heritage buildings telling a story. Today another slower paced day with a 'Phil's Walking Tour' prior to our wine tasting. Started off at the botanical gardens of Beaune with the 'children's farm next door'. Then the 'serious stuff' started with our wine tasting in the Marché Aux Vins, the cellars(caves) being beneath a 14C church. Monks are credited with establishing the Burgundy tradition of wine excellence. Our tasting consisted of 6 wines. But it was self-serve! No CCTV! Funny thing that some of the wine measure pourers didn't seem to cut out. And if you weren't sure of the wine, you could try another taste! Instead of 6 tastings, we had closer to 6 glasses! Unfortunately the Grand Crus was not available for tasting - the photo with the cost of these bottles is perhaps an indication why! The gallery of sculptures was a Paul Day exhibition.

17 September 2017

A wine focus today - we started at the Musèe de Vin housed in the old Dukes of Burgundy residence. The most prominent Dukes being Phillip the Bold & Phillip the Good. Rather apt, I think. We then met up with Charlie, our tour guide who drove us north of Beaune to the Côte de Nuits, the Pinot Noir region of Burgundy. Pinot Noir is a favourite wine of ours so we were pretty happy! But what we are used to in a Pinot Noir and what Burgundy produces is a little different. The grape is the grape but it is the terroir that defines it. Obviously our good friends in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Pen. have a bit more licence to fiddle with the process regardless of terroir or climats. The wine makers in Burgundy are monitored and defined by the patch of 'terroir' their grapes are grown on (the climat). This could be less than half an acre. A bottle from the right climat can cost 1000€. Burgundy has over 4000 individual wine makers, no big corporations. Willow Creek for us still rates no 1!

16 September 2017

Beaune- such a sweet little town & our accommodation is just 'the icing on the cake'. It has been a slower paced day today after saying au revoir to Trish & Richard. The village market took over the town's entire pedestrian zone this morning. We had a yummy café au lait avec gateau & then headed off to visit to the Hotel-Dieu Hospice which, besides wine, is the crowning glory of the city. A hospital established for the poor by the Chancellor of a Duke of Burgundy (Phillip the 😊) It is an amazing piece of architecture dating back to 1443. The nuns/sisters who have operated the hospice were the stars of the display. 👰Based on a charter of Charity & Care & with perpetual income from successful vineyards (still contributing) it continued to operate until 1955. We were there at a good time because the skies opened up & the rain poured down. Hoping for weather a bit finer tomorrow for our wine tasting trip up into the Côte de Nuits, Pinot Noir country.

15 September 2017

After a long & stressful day yesterday spent on and off trains, today was a good one. We caught up with friends Trish & Richard & set off on a wine tasting trip. We had been given the inside info from our 'landlord' André - alas, many of his suggestions were not available due to either being booked out with tour groups or not open due to harvest time. With Richard's clever driving & in spite of Phil's navigation we still managed to find a couple of tasting options & a lovely lunch spot. Back to our accommodation in Beaune for a cheese & charcuterie dinner accompanied by some lovely local Burgundy wines. But you must remember, it is all about the terroir! The grape is the grape! Yes, It is Chardonnay, but, where has it been grown? That is the important thing. Oak? Pfft! That is not an issue. Where the vines are planted governs the quality. So say the Burgundy Beverage Boffins!

13 September 2017

We left our delightful accomodation at St Cirq Lapopie with regret & headed towards Toulouse, mostly driving along winding narrow roads, past sleepy villages - in France no one seems to get going before 10.00! We dropped the car after a short stint on a tollway & hopped on a train to Carcassonne - a fortress city to put it mildly. BUT inside the walls it is a 'cité de ville' full of cheap & not so cheap souvenir shops & eateries! From the outside the castle is imposing. It is what one expects a castle to look like. The basilica inside the town has 'the best stained glass windows in the south of France'. I don't want to give the town outside the mediaeval centre of Carcassonne a bad rap but, dodgy, dirty looking blokes sitting around doing nothing or begging, clusters of loud teenagers, ear-piercing motor bikes and noisy, unsupervised kids didn't endear it to me! Glad we are off to Burgundy. There may well be other castles in the cities & towns we visit, but maybe we have seen enough?

12 September 2017

Run rabbit, run rabbit - run, run, run! Well we certainly hit the jackpot with our accommodation in St-Cirq-Lapopie. We pulled up in beautiful sunshine and were shown to our room - glamorous & comfortable with the added plus of our own little patio amongst the vines, looking across at the fortress town of St-Cirq-Lapopie. What a shame we are only here for one night! We left La Roque Gageac heading south towards Toulouse. We climbed out of the Dordogne Valley, travelling on narrow winding roads, never having a speed limit more than 70. Then we descended into the Lot Valley following a tributary until we came upon the river. As we neared St Cirq the road travelled through a tunnel and a cutting carved out of the sandstone cliffs. Each of these fortress towns are just so spectacular in their own right - the narrow streets, the style of architecture, the 'églises' (churches) and of course the panoramic views from the rocky outcrops, fortress walls & towers.
Today we say au revoir to La Roque-Gageac, 'one of the most beautiful villages in France' and move on to another of these little villages on the Lot River, St Cirq Lapopie, as we make our way back towards the Burgundy region. La Roque has been a delightful base to use as we set out to discover the wonders of the Dordogne & Perigord regions of France.

11 September 2017

Another day of mixed weather - overcast skies, downpours and then brilliant sunshine! Long sleeves all day. We can now attest to having experienced palatial chateaux & fortress castles, burial crypts & catacombs, troglodyte caves & mediaeval villages. Of course dotted amongst all these have been the wineries & the magnificent rivers. The Dordogne region has been majestic to say the least! On our tour today, Renault satnav took us to a goose farm where the poor geese were awaiting their demise. Every store, market and tourist boutique has Foie Gras as the 'go to' option for the savvy Perigord souvenir hunter. Unfortunately this is not good news for the ducks and geese. The pâté made out of the liver is twice as expensive as the pâté made out of other parts of the bird (entier) We visited the sandstone caves used by cave persons a few thousand years before Adam & Eve, which were later modified to become a Middle Ages village. Then to Domme another of ´Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.´

10 September 2017

We started out with a gabarre ride on the Dordogne gliding past castles on each bend in the river. It was overcast but no rain. The gabarre is a flat bottomed barge that plied its trade on this section of the river a couple of centuries ago. The castles here are vastly different to the chateaux on the Loire. They are more like fortresses built to withstand attacks. In the 15th century they were of either Catholic or Protestant persuasion. The Castelnaud de la Chapelle changed hands and allegiances seven times until the Archbishop of Bordeaux had it burnt down. The micks had the last word! Enough is enough. If we can't have it, nobody can! Beynac was in the hands of Richard the Lionheart when he wasn't crusading in far off lands and Robin Hood was looking after things in Nottingham. At both castles we walked up the hill to the gate, an almost vertical climb, to find that we could have driven around the back. Exercise! Luckily no rocks or boiling oil halted this infidel advance.

9 September 2017

Started off the day with overcast skies as we headed towards Sarlat for 'market day'. So many different stalls that were like being in a gourmet delicatessen. The centre of Sarlat la Canéda is a complete mediaeval village. The market is not confined to an area but extends up the long main street and into side streets to squares and halls. The usual market fare was in abundance but the food was special. Cheeses, salamis, pate de foie of all types, olives & tapenades; guess what we are having for dinner tonight? Another delightful French gourmet lunch. The cathedral was another soaring one with beautiful stained glass - we were lucky enough to be there when the organist was rehearsing - just so ethereal! Back to La Roque to enjoy some brilliant sunshine and to dodge persistent showers. Four seasons in one day!

8 September 2017

Au revoir Biarritz! We caught the local bus to the airport to pick up our car, a Renault Captur - the SUV you have when you don't have an SUV! The GPS helped us navigate our way through the web of roads and motorways to Bordeaux & then on to St. Emilion. The luxury of a night here would have enabled us to enjoy the amazing array of restaurants & wine available. But we had to be content with meandering through the cobblestoned paths ticking off the heritage sites in this, another,UNESCO listed town. We headed off through an ocean of vines towards the Dordogne. La Roque Gageac is listed as one of 'the most beautiful villages in France'. It is a quaint little village at the side of the river, Dordogne. The village clings to a narrow strip of land between the river and the soaring cliff behind. Quite spectacular & unique. Our accommodation doesn't quite reach the same heights as the surroundings. We are here for a while and look forward to exploring the region.

7 September 2017

Biarritz, what a magnificent spot! A bit like our Torquay on a larger scale & with that 'European flair'. The skies were overcast, but some glimpses of sun and it certainly wasn't cold. The inhabitants know how to enjoy their environment and embellish it with their food & wine choices. Our hotel is opposite one of their smaller beach coves. We can hear the Atlantic waves washing onto shore. Safe little harbours for the boats have been created with small brasseries set up in most unlikely spots. Couldn't resist the mussels for lunch. We have really enjoyed the basque gourmand delicacies. Unfortunately being back in France our wine has jumped up to at least €6 a glass! A great little haven prior to picking up our car tomorrow as we move into the Dordogne region of France.

5 September 2017

Today was another 'Phil's Walking Tour', this time, San Sebastián. Our last here after purchasing bus tickets to Biarritz for the morning. Our constant dilemma here is, do we spend €10 on coffee & cake or €3.50 for 2 glasses of wine? The San Sebastianos start drinking at about 10 in the morning - at least we wait until midday. It was a bit cooler today and the ladies on the beach had paid €21 to hire their beach tent but still needed their jackets on. They could have had 10 glasses of wine for that and been more comfortable in the bar! The sun did come out in the afternoon as we sipped on our txokoli (the local white drop). Rosé only €1.60 a glass, the local drop very upmarket at €2.25! San Sebastián not the most beautiful city - it is a bit of a hotch potch with horrible new buildings built in between & next to beautiful older style ones - they really detract from the appearance of the city's boulevards & riverside vistas.
We have visited NGA Canberra; NGV Melbourne; MONA in Hobart; Guggenheim in Venice to name a few - the Guggenheim in Bilbao was just amazing and far beyond any expectations. The architectural design inside and out was just phenomenal. The exhibitions varied and amazing. The spaces inside were huge. One massive room with thick, solid sheet steel installations moulded into spirals and maze-like arrangements was truly memorable. Walking through these passages between the steel walls tended to do your head in, at one time becoming light-headed and next dizzy. There was a Bill Viola video retrospective which to the uninitiated was weird. The Paris at the End of the Century was a learning experience with comparisons made between Neo-Impressionism, Pointilism and computer imagery using pixels. Also how the human brain fills the gaps to form solid blocks of colour. But the big spider was cool! Once again a delightful lunch of pintxos & Spanish wine - delicious!

4 September 2017

Au revoir Bordeaux, France - ola San Sebastián, Spain! 🚄🤗 Have arrived in San Sebastian to beautiful sunshine & 26^ - as you can see from the crowded beaches, it is a little warmer than it would seem Melbourne is at the moment! Doesn't quite compare with our Main Beach strip - I really think it is all a bit kitsch - although it is one of the few European beaches we have seen that actually had sand as opposed to pebbles & stones lining the shore! We did a quick wander of the old town to get our taste buds salivating ready for a feast of pintxos and Spanish wine. What a unique experience! They call it San Sebastián's take on tapas but it is more than that. Grab a plate, pick up a few tantalising morsels, get a couple of reds and pay at the end of the bar! Job done. Move to the next bar and see what they have! Wine about $3 a glass! About the same as each food item! Nom, nom!

3 September 2017

Our last day in Bordeaux has been somewhat of a lazy one. We had planned to do a wine tasting river cruise but being a Sunday there were very limited choices & by the time we had planned our day we were too late for a lunch cruise and there were no dinner cruises running! We climbed the 220 steps of the St. Michael tower to take in the magnificent sweeping views across the town and then meandered through the flea market and on to the fresh produce market. The flea market was full of the normal 'junk' reminiscent of Trash 'n' Treasure at Wantirna drive-in. However the fresh produce market, as always, never disappoints, no matter what country you are in. I guess it is the same attraction of the Vic Market at home. Bordeaux is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We followed the walking tour route that took in the 14 sites of historical significance. About 15 kms counting the vertical steps in the tower and the stroll along the quays in the afternoon. Time for a Bordeaux rosé!

1 September 2017

Arrived in Bordeaux & settled into our accomodation after orienteering ourselves amidst crowds and rain. The second photo shows the view from our window. We have had a quick wander to get our bearings, pick up some 'tourist info' and also do some shopping. We are in a studio apartment accommodation this time - a change from hotels if you don't count the lugging of cases up the dark, spiral staircase! 😬
"Take Versailles and blend it with Antwerp and you have Bordeaux" said Victor Hugo. Certainly the best of both worlds of architectural style and location. We started our day at the market in the shadows of St Michel and its soaring tower. Finally got a decent coffee and caught the tram (more G:link than 109) to La Cité du Vin. Everything you needed to know about the history, manufacture and characteristics of wine around the world. The Barossa Valley was the only Australian representative, with celebrity wine makers extolling the virtues of the Australian terroir. My favourite part was trying to identify the different bouquets in wine. Not a good result! 10% success rate for me! We both had a glass of Bordeaux red in the wonderful tasting room. We tootled up La Garonne on the bateau back to Bordeaux central, hopping on the classic red double decker bus for a guided tour, which gave us more of an appreciation of this beautiful city.

31 August 2017

Some things I have thought about this week: 1. I would like 1€ for every "Bonjour" I have said....and received! 2. I would also like 1€ for every bloody zip I have undone and done up! Never the right pocket at the right time.......cases, bum bags, back packs, handbag, fly! 3. It seems our 'fellow' female travellers opted for electric bikes. How good is Christine?
It was our last day on the bikes so a slower paced day with only 25kms. We threw the rule book away and did our own thing. Crossed the Loire to the north bank and pedalled out to Vouvray where we stopped for a morning coffee. Beer was being served at 10.30 but I showed constraint. Then, onto Chateau Moncontour for a taste and cellar tour. As well as a bottle of the local Blanc de Blanc Chris picked up the latest in byo bags, a tasteful vibrant pink! We headed for home through the vineyards stopping for lunch at Restaurant Joseph for the Plat de Jour, another sumptuous French meal. As is often the case when you deviate from the tour guide you come across sights that are a complete surprise! La Guingette de Rochecorbon is a place by the river where you can 'eat, drink, dance and play!' And that is what dozens of senior citizens from Tours were doing on this lovely Thursday afternoon. We were happy to be spectators this time with a beer and wine away from the dance floor.

30 August 2017

When in France ................! We farewelled Amboise this morning & rather than needing sunshade, we actually needed to don our rain ponchos. Fortunately the rain didn't last for long! It was a pleasant 27km ride to Tours - passing the troglodyte cave homes, vineyards stretching as far as the eye could see, both red & white grapes almost ready for harvest. What a surprise along the way! An old lean-to over doors that lead into cave rooms set up with water, glasses and sweets for 'nos amis, les cyclistes'. No payment expected. Just sign the visitors' book. So hospitable! We caught up to the Loire & followed it into Tours. We had the afternoon to meander through the streets of the city, spend some time at the magnificent cathedral (must almost equal Notre Dame in its sheer magnificence) and then sit down for a well earned French champagne.

29 August 2017

36 degrees today & 50kms - and again, who was it that said there was only gently undulating countryside! The conditions for our cycling today were not great BUT we did complete the circuit with many a stop when we could find some shade to get out of the burning sun. The round trip should have been 43 km but we added at least another 7 to the total. The written directions, maps and signs often created confusion which led to faulty decision making, sending us along the wrong track. Some delightful sections along the Cher others that were a real grind, as we climbed long hills in the blazing sun. Considering we had to climb out of the Loire Valley to get to the Cher Valley then back again striking these hills shouldn't have been a surprise. When we arrived back in Amboise, hot, sweaty and pretty worn out, we found an inviting bar in a troglodyte cave to enjoy some icy refreshments to reinvigorate us. Off to Tours tomorrow - 27 km if it goes to plan.
Chateau Chenonceau - the pictures say it all. Amazing!

28 August 2017

Amboise - after another big day of cycling, a lovely spot to unwind with a nice cold SB! 🍷🥂🍺
Day 3 du Tour - goodbye to Blois as we head towards Amboise. It was forecast to be another hot day, 35^ but the mornings are just beautiful. We travelled through some lovely countryside - oak and birch forests with mistletoe and many of the trees just starting to turn to their beautiful autumn golden hues, vineyards with red & white bunches of grapes, and followed the Loire River at times. We gave the Chateau Chaumont Sur Loire a miss today. We don't need any more reminders of Mme Medici's wealth and power. We Came across Europe's excuse for a snake on the track and found a great spot by the Loire for a beer stop! A much easier route to navigate today, But we did negotiate two, '2 hat hills' which are the equivalent of riding up Parring Road, twice! We arrived at our quaint Amboise hotel after cycling 44km's. A lovely day of cycling, although the afternoon heat does take its toll as the body wearies. Did it easier today, though!

27 August 2017

Chateau Cheverny was pretty spectacular once we got there. Who said there were no hills along the Loire - not to mention the added head wind. A long hot ride BUT we made it even with a few stressful moments trying to calculate the correct route! The castle itself was magnificent as were the surrounding gardens. The ride took us through cornfields, sunflower plots, vineyards and across beautiful waterways. It was a bit disconcerting riding past a couple of lakes where there was a duck shooting day. Bang on 11 am the fusillade began. The shooting continued for 10 minutes and the smell of gun powder was in the air. We ducked and kept pedalling. In total we rode 53kms, a little more than we should have due to the elusive and confusing bike route signs. We were ready for a 'coldie' when we hit La Place de la Resistance in Blois. Today was probably pushing up to mid thirties - but it was OK in the shaded forests. Tomorrow we cycle off to our next base - Amboise. Hopefully no wrong turns!

26 August 2017

Day 1 of Le Tour. The bikes were there and waiting for us with maps provided. We meandered through the Saturday market on our way to the bridge across the Loire, pedalled our way along the bike path beside the river then headed south through the forest to Chambord. Every picture tells a story, don't it? I doubt whether any of our future Chateaux are going to top this! Picnic lunch on the grass, consisting of baguettes with cheese and tomatoes from the market. Navigation was a bit of a challenge, we missed the first turn for the round trip back to Blois so ended up pedalling back the way we came. Met Phil the Brit with the dreads, tats and nose ring (no photo, sorry), at a wayside stop by the river. He was riding from Newcastle to southern Spain to visit his mum and sister! I thought we were being adventurous! Stopped for a beer by the river, then home. 40 km down and looking forward to Cheverny tomorrow.

25 August 2017

We travelled on the train to the medieval town of Blois today which is our base for the first 3 nights of our Loire cycling trip. After settling into our hotel we spent the afternoon wandering the streets and ending up at the chateau. This chateau dates back to the 1400's - just amazing! It's notable for its architectural styles. Gothic, Classic, Renaissance and even a little Baroque! And the throne of 7 kings and 10 queens. I think by the end of our time in the Loire, Bordeaux, Dordogne & Burgundy regions we might be ' chateaued out'! One highlight is the amazing range of wines on offer and at very reasonable cost too! Always French and always local. 🍷🍷

24 August 2017

Our last morning in Paris & the skies have opened up. Lightning, thunder & pouring rain! A good day for a slower pace & a train ride. On the way back from our morning Cafe Creme we sheltered at the Hotel de Sully which is a museum of national monuments and beautiful building in itself.
Our degustation lunch at Jules Verne restaurant on the second stage of the Eiffel Tower turned out to be a wonderful experience. The pictures say it all! Nearly as good as Vue de Monde! Our booking was for 1pm. We were a bit thrown to realise the need for yet more security checks. Fortunately for us there was a priority entry point. The lift up the south pillar was quite exciting. Never been in a lift that went around a bend! Everything about the lunch impressed. The multilingual and down to earth waiters, the beautifully presented dishes that tasted great, the wine and of course the view. 28€ for my glass of French champagne, but worth every euro! 🥂🥂🥂
Started off the day with a walk through Luxembourg Gardens and the beautiful Parisienne precincts as we moved towards our lunch date at Jules Verne restaurant, Eiffel Tower. After lunch we headed towards the Paris catacombs - quite eerie. After queuing for 11/2 hours, finally made it through the doors. The walls are made up of thousands & thousands of skeletal bones dug up when more space was needed for development in the 1800's. The skulls & femurs have been 'packed together' to create the main wall with the smaller bones thrown to the back. Phil has been trying to view catacombs all over Europe in our earlier trips - he wasn't let down! 💀💀💀😳

23 August 2017

Our neighbourhood - Le Marais!
Today's destination - Monet's Garden in Giverny. Such a beautiful spot - so calming, serene & quite beautiful. We were pleased that this delightful spot wasn't quite as inundated with 'tourists' as we had expected. The stepping off point on the way was the town of Vernon which was interesting - so old & steeped in history. Couldn't resist a photo of the old mill that was once driven by the waters of the Seine. The highlight of the visit to Claude's house was trying to capture the right viewing spot to replicate his famous Water Lilies work - but, the visit was more than that! You could appreciate the inspiration Monet drew from his surroundings. Then it was home to the Marais for dinner at Cafe Hugo on the Place Des Vosges. Another good day in perfect weather.

22 August 2017

............and she just seems to 'tease us' at every corner! 🇫🇷 🇫🇷 🇫🇷
There was a distinct aroma of pastries as I left for my morning run. Petit dejeuner - pastries purchased from the boulangerie on the corner. Travel is not only about sights, the other four senses are equally stimulated. Off to Versailles via the Metro and the Train! Obviously the vehicles that run on the Metro in Paris are not trains. Trains run on the RER network. A minor confusion for me. After today, I realise I went too early on my statement regarding Marina Bay Sands Towers and the Sydney Opera House. Check out these photos of the palace and gardens at Versailles. I don't know whether Louis XVI was aware that his subjects were about to be revolting but it seems a little obvious to me that milking the downtrodden so he can live a life of ridiculous opulence might get a few people offside. I see parallels in Australia now! Man the barricades! The remaining photos show the Paris Opera. A beautiful post-revolution building. Can you spot The Phantom?

21 August 2017

After a long night with an added 6hours due to time difference, we arrived in 'gay Paris' at our hotel in Le Marais which really is a delight. We were too early & our room was not ready for several hours. What better option than 'Phil's walking tour of La Rive Droit'. 16k later we have revisited so many of our favourite haunts around Paris with the odd rosé/beer/bubbles to keep us going. Notre Dame is truly magnificent & never lets one down, although the 'deaf/mute petition' collectors preyed upon our naivete and excitement at being in this magnificent city yet again. At least they only got €5. The Eiffel Tower peaking over the buildings at every corner, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Les Jardin Des Tuileries, Champs d'Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Hotel de Ville, Place Vendome - all the sites of the right bank - and they are just as good 4th time around! Tomorrow we think maybe Versailles - also for a second visit. Paris, je t'aime. ❤️
Bonjour Paris! 🥂🗼

19 August 2017

After a lazy start, we spent the morning at the Gardens by the Bay. Not quite so many people today! We took in the Cloud Forest & the Flower Dome. Two amazing architectural and horticultural triumphs that just happen to make a little money on the side. In saying this, a trip to Singapore probably wouldn't be complete without doing these. The Sky Walk was closed due to impending rain. Finished off the day up the top of the Marina Bay Towers at Ce La Vie for some light refreshments. Another Singapore Sling! I reckon the Marina Bay Towers rival the Sydney Opera House as architectural and engineering icons. That Apple skin on the roundabout in Fitzsimmons Lane isn't bad either. Next stop Paris! 🤗🤗
Left the Carlton for a walk along The Singapore River to Clarke Quay. On through the Lau Pa Sat Market to 'Satay Street' for tea. Street food at its worst, I suggest. We then followed the crowds to Gardens by the Bay for the sound and light show that was visually spectacular and noisily patriotic. The highlight of the night was returning to Raffles Hotel for the iconic Singapore Sling cocktails. Sipping away while throwing peanut shells on the floor as is the tradition. To be at the hotel, which has been the backdrop to so many books I have read, was a bucket list moment.
Today we started off at the Botanic Gardens. We walked from one end to the other noting the similarities and differences to Melbourne's. Certainly a good way to get some exercise and soak up the beautiful surroundings. Took the bus to Orchard Road for some noodles and spring rolls then off to Little India for a beer (8%, you ripper!) and a wander through the markets. Who needs to go to Mumbai? (Probably we do, some time!) back to the Carlton for swim and a Grigio.

18 August 2017

We Arrived in Singapore after an uneventful flight. Always nice to leave the flight after 10 hours rather than being in transit before another long flight leg. We have 2 full days here to wander and see some of the sites we missed last visit. Had a tapas dinner at Luke Mangans Salt before taking in some of the Singapore 'Night' illuminations. White Night a la Singapore without having to wait until 9.30 for it to get dark!

2 August 2017

60% of the trip has been booked, leaving some flexibility to alter our plans in the last fortnight. The Portugal leg has now been categorised as 'possible' depending on whether we decide to stay in France a bit longer. I have been practising my French and intend to use this conversation starter regularly. "Je suis desole mais je ne parle pas francais!" We have put in a serious training regime - legs and taste bud preparation for our cycling and sampling in the the wine regions of the Loire, Bordeaux and Burgundy of southern France. Hoping our 'padded cycling pants' do their job!

12 June 2017