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Since we have been following the excellent British-American-Franco-Canadian television series, Versailles, set during the construction of Versailles Palace during the reign of notoriously flamboyant Louis XIV, we were delighted to actually visit this French Historic Monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace oozes opulence and is breathtaking.

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I made it to the Palace of Versailles!

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A huge line up to get in. Booking online saved us a long wait.

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Originally his father’s hunting lodge, the young King Louis transformed it, between1661 and 1710, to become this extravagant palace surrounded by stylized French and English gardens. Moving from Paris, he made it the official Royal residence and centre of his government. Every detail of its construction was intended to glorify the king.

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The gilded gates to the palace. Note the Sun King motifs.

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Louis chose the sun as his emblem and symbol of power, and is known as the Sun King.

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King Louis XVI in front of his palace.

The interior of the palace is amazing, filled with art, gold and fine furniture. Louis was a patron of the arts and filled his home with valuable pieces. I love how the ceilings were painted in heavenly scenes.DSCN1854

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The Royal Chapel

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The King’s infamous bedchamber

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The Queen’s staircase

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Marble statues of the king at various stages of his life are displayed throughout.

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An older King Louis XIV. Reigning for 72 years, from 1643 to 1715, he outlived his son and grandson.

The most amazing room is the famous Hall of Mirrors, created by King Louis himself and used to entertain guests and show off his wealth and success. This was also the room where the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919, ending the First World War. In spite of the many tourists, jostling to get the perfect photo, it was still exciting to be there.

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The Hall of Mirrors

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Standing in the Hall of Mirrors

Time did not permit us to wander around the extensive gardens and exquisite fountains. But they can be viewed from many rooms in the palace, especially from the Hall of Mirrors.

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The fabulous gardens viewed from the Hall of Mirrors

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A glimpse of the spectacular gardens

The only room not packed with other tourists was the Gallery of Battles which traces the military history of France from the reign of Clovis I to Napoleon. Dozens of paintings depict key battles, and the hall contains more than 80 busts of celebrated military leaders. Here I found a painting of a childhood hero, Joan of Arc or rather, Jeanne d’Arc

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Jeanne d’Arc in the Gallery of Battles

From the natural simplicity of Monet’s home in Giverny to the splendour of the Palace of Versailles, we had a glimpse of two very different French lifestyles and a piece of history I have been reading about all my life.

In case you are interested, here is the trailer of the final series of Versailles with King Louis XIV brilliantly portrayed by George Blagden.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p068mfqk

 

 

 

 

When our friends inquired what I wanted to see while visiting them in France, I asked if Giverny, the home of Claude Monet, was near. They said it was only one hour away and would be happy to take us there. I am so glad we went to this magical place. It felt like I had stepped into a Monet painting.

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Monet’s garden

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The village of Giverny is storybook delightful and I can see why Monet chose it as a place to live, paint, garden and raise his large blended family.

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The village of Giverny

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The gardens are simply breathtaking. This was Monet´s happy place and it is evident he was inspired by the amazing array of shapes and colours. I gazed mesmerized at the well-known and oft-painted lily pond.

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And I stood on the same bridge I have long admired in his painting. Not only was this visit a dream come true, it felt like a living dream!

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“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ― Claude Monet

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“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers. ” – Claude Monet

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A profusion of colours

His charming house is incredibly comfortable with views of the gardens from every room. As I entered, I half expected Monet to be there welcoming me as he did many guests in the past. His art and that of his contemporaries adorn the walls of all the rooms as it did when he lived there. His spirit permeates the rooms.

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Monet’s house in Giverny

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My favourite room was the sunny, cheerful kitchen. I imagined Claude, Anne and their eight children laughing and chatting as they shared meals.

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We visited the Impressionist Art Gallery on site and had a lovely meal overlooking part of the garden. I stopped at a small shop in Giverny and bought the perfect, handmade French hat to remember this auspicious visit.

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Water Lily Pond with Japanese Bridge by Claude Monet

I could have stayed all day, but alas it had to end. This is now my happy place which I will return to in my mind many times. Thank you, Alain and Cathy, for taking me here!

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Friends in the garden

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“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ― Claude Monet

The photographs by Darlene Foster, Paul Foster and Cathy Marsen 

We are back from our wonderful time in France. It was a driving holiday and Dot came along. She proved to be an excellent little traveller and was happy to see her Spaniel friend in France. The French countryside was lovely and I finally got to see Paris! It was everything I dreamt of and more. So much history, culture and great food. Our friends were the perfect hosts and tour guides. They made sure we saw everything possible in the time we had. More dreams came true for me. Here are just a few of our special memories.

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Our first view of the Eiffel Tower. Loved that families picnicked on the lawns.

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Even someone having a nap by the tower.

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The impressive Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs-Élysées

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The Famous Opera House (no phantom in sight)

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The Seine and one of the many bridges to Île de la Cité

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The Louvre, Palace Royal

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The Louvre Pyramid

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Musician at the Louvre

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The Seine with Notre Dame Cathedral in the background

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Notre Dame Cathedral (no hunchback either)

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Napolean in front of the Miltary Museum

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The Dôme des Invalides which houses the tomb of Napolean

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Place des Vosges, a palace built by Henri IV in 1605, now a trendy shopping area with cafes and art galleries

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Victor Hugo resided at Place de Vosges, a fashionable square to live in during the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Shakespeare and Company, a well-known bookstore featured in a few movies, at Kilometer Zero, the point at which all French roads begin.

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Of course, I bought a book!

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Place Colette, a typical Paris street scene

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Many wonderful cafes and restaurants. I think I found the hunchback!

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Liberty, Equality, Fraternity on all the government buildings.

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The other Statue of Liberty

There was so much more, like the Musée d’Orsay, the Ceramics Museum, Monet’s house and garden and the Palace of Versailles. But they will have to wait for another post or two!

“He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo.
Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic.
Nothing is more sublime.” 
― Victor Hugo

 

 

Recently, a dear cousin happened to be in Barcelona for a day before she embarked on a cruise. I love to see family so took a quick trip to my favourite Spanish city to spend the day with her. We packed a lot in and had fun.

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Cousins at Plaça Catalunya in Barcelona

We managed to see quite a bit and catch up on family news. One place she really wanted to see was Gaudi’s Sagrada Família. Every time I visit this amazing work in progress, more parts of it have been completed. She was awestruck, as everyone is when they it.

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Happy to see La Sagrada Família

After a bus trip around the city and a delightful lunch on Passeig de Gràcia we visited another of Gaudi’s magical buildings, Casa Batlló, all decked out with roses.

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Casa Batlló dressed in roses

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Inside Casa Batlló

The roses were in honour of St. George’s Day or Día de San Jorge as it is known here in Spain. I loved all the references to roses and books scattered about the intriguing house.

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I found out later that Día de San Jorge is also known as the day of books and roses. A day where lovers exchange books and roses to honour the legend of St. George or San Jorge, who is the patron saint of Catalonia.

We ended the day by strolling along La Rambla and having dinner on this iconic street. This building covered in umbrellas with a dragon on the corner caught our attention.

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An umbrella building on La Rambla

I had the next morning to myself before flying back home so after a cafe con leche and a chocolate filled croissant across from Plaça Catalunya, I decided to walk to the Gothic Quarter which was nearby. I came upon the impressive Barcelona Cathedral built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona. Beside it is the Gaudi Exhibition Museum. Since this had been a very Gaudi trip,  I went into the museum and had a good look around. The displays depicted items from the great man’s life and things that influenced his work.  It was very informative and I got to know more about Antoni Gaudi and how he came up with his unique ideas.

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The legend of St. George slaying the dragon influenced Gaudi’s work. In fact, the roof of Casa Batllo is meant to look like the back of a dragon with a sword through it.

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Gaudi’s workbench

The building housing the exhibition was incredible. It was built in the 12th century as a hospital for the poor. Gaudi himself was a patron and would often visit the sick. Remains of the old walls and frescos added to the experience. It was well worth the visit.

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And when I went back outside, a bride and groom were preparing for a photo shoot by the cathedral. How special.

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And an orchestra played music on the steps of the cathedral

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People in the audience joined hands and danced to the music.

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The sun shone, music played, people danced and I was overflowing with happiness. A perfect little getaway to a city that never ceases to amaze me and a chance to see a family member.

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Don’t you just love this outfit made of fresh flowers?

We are off on a driving holiday to France so I may be offline for a few days, but will respond to your comments as soon as possible.

Pam over at RoughWighting answered the questions to the Real Neat Blog Award in a clever fashion. Please do check it out. She has a great question at the end for all to answer. You can see my answer in the comments. Enjoy!

roughwighting

pansy, blogging, getting to know youWhat’s a fun way to learn about individuals? Perhaps by asking them to list the books they’ve read. Or, even better, to read the books they’ve written. Even though we authors may revel in our fiction (allowing our characters to act in ways we’d never dare), still, there are ways to delve into the likes and dislikes of someone by reading between the lines.

Here’s an example through my innocuous flash fiction, below, based on a set of questions I was asked when nominated last week for the Real Neat Blog Award by Darlene (a real neat blogger). The questions are included at the bottom of this post.

Spring is blooming toward summer, and I am zooming off to meet my girlfriends in San Francisco for a long weekend. Rose will be there, as well as Daisy, Iris, and Lily.

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Here are Esme’s awesome answers to the Real Neat Blog Award. Check out her blog, filled with amazing recipes and other real neat stuff.

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Real Neat Award
Thank you, Darlene, from Darlene Foster’s Blog for nominating me for this ‘Real Neat Blog Award’.  I am humbled and honored by your kindness and thinking of me!

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Jennie over at A Teacher’s Reflections posted this today and I just had to share it.

Check out Thank You, Superheroes and Jennie’s blog where she shares her teaching experience and the wonderful way she introduces her young students to books, reading, music, art and life. You will be impressed.

Today is National Superhero Day and this is what Jennie has to say about superheroes.

A Superhero is brave and caring, perseveres, takes risks, helps others, and saves the day.  A Superhero makes a difference.

Teachers fit the description perfectly.

I recently spent a fabulous day at an international school close to my home in Spain. I visited five classrooms of Grade 5 and 6 students, where I did a PowerPoint presentation about my writing and read from my Amanda Travels books. The students came from all over the world and enjoyed hearing about the places Amanda has travelled to. They were attentive, enthusiastic and asked well thought out questions. They were a delight to spend time with.

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Presenting to students at El Limonar International School

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A book-loving grade 6 class 

I was very impressed by the efficiency and dedication of the teachers. They are certainly ensuring that future generations are well educated and prepared for life. I consider them all superheroes.

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Display for Book Week at El Limonar International School

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With my Grade 3 Superhero, Miss Roll

A good teacher can make a huge difference in a child’s life.

Did you know a teacher that you consider a superhero?


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