Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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.

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Me being Jane Austen.

Sally has asked me to dig out an article from my archives about visiting Jane Austen’s cottage. Many of you are aware I am a Jane Austen fan, so this was an exciting occasion for me. If you would like to participate on Sally’s blog by sharing some of your travel themed posts, written before October 2017.. contact sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Time for a new series of Posts from Your Archives and the theme this time is all about travel.

The aim of this series is to showcase your blog and any creative work that you do from books, art, photography and crafts. You pick between one and four links to posts that you have written for your own blog since you began blogging up to October 2017 and you simply send the link to those blogs to sally.cronin@moyhill.com

You have to do nothing more as I will capture the post and images from your blog and I will then post with full copyright to you.. with your creative work and your links to buy and to connect. I might sometimes need a little more information but I am quite resourceful in finding out everything I need.

So far in the Posts from Your Archives from September 2017, there have been…

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There are just so many things to see and do in Barcelona that it’s impossible to see everything in one visit. Every time I go, I discover something new and exciting. I took my out-of-town guests to this fascinating city last summer where we visited Mount Tibidabo, the highest point in Barcelona, and loved it!

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The charming blue tram

Getting there was part of the fun. We first took a bus, then a pleasant ride on a quaint blue tram with a friendly driver that took us through Barcelona’s most affluent residential area. The well-loved blue tram has been in operation since 1901 and still has that old world charm with dark wood seats and ceiling.

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Beautiful homes from the window of the tram. Note the gorgeous wrought iron fence and gate.

The tram only took us halfway up the mountain. To reach the top we had to board a vintage funicular. We entered the colourful contraption with trepidation but decided that if it had been pulling folks up to the top of the mountain for 116 years, it must be OK.

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Dubious funicular to the top of the mountain

Once safely delivered to the top of Mount Tibidabo, we were greeted by a classic amusement park built in 1889. Overlooking the vintage rides and fast food kiosks, the impressive Temple of Tibidabo built in 1902, stands proud. Also known as the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is adorned with a golden bronze statue of Jesus with outstretched arms as if giving a benediction to all of Barcelona.

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We had a quick look at the old Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and other childhood rides but decided not to go on them. Our prime interest was the church.

The interior of the church was impressive with many works of art, murals, statues, mosaics and stained glass windows.

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Many awesome icons inside the church including a Black Madonna and Child.

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I loved the details like this iron door infront of  a private chapel

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Mosaic floor depicting the story of the loaves and fishes

An elevator took us up to the terrace offering amazing panoramic views of the city, port and coastline. As we walked around the entire circumference we enjoyed close-up views of large stone statues depicting the twelve Apostles posted at intervals, ornate bell towers and intricate carvings.

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An ornate bell tower on the terrace

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One of the twelve Apostles overlooking the city

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Another apostle, with a fabulous view.

Stone stairs took us to more levels until we reached the top under the golden statue of Jesus. It was amazing. The wind blew, the sun shone and we were delighted to have had this experience.

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We worked our way to the top via the spiral stone staircases.

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More intriguing details. In the foreground is the top of a gate made to look like a flowering plant.

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After enjoying a nice lunch, I had yummy deep-fried artichokes with aioli dip and an iced coffee, we bought a few souvenirs and took the funicular, tram, and bus trip back to our hotel in time for another exciting outing.

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Visiting Mount Tibidabo with good friends made it all the more enjoyable!

I am a guest on Sue Vincent´s blog where I share information and pictures of a unique sanctuary I´ve visited here in Spain. Sue´s blog is very interesting with many great posts. Check it out.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Spain is well known for its fascinating cathedrals such as La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, The Mesquite in Cordoba and the Cathedral of Seville to name a few. Besides the well-known religious structures, there are many smaller places of worship tucked away in villages, mountains and locations not often frequented by tourists. I love discovering these as they have their own distinctive personalities and are certainly worth a visit.

Sue has graciously agreed for me to be a guest on her blog so I can tell you about a few of these lesser known churches in Spain we have discovered, not far from where we live. One of the most unique being the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Magdalena near Novelda, in Alicante province, only an hour drive from our place.

Although I love scouring old sites, this delightful example of Spanish Art Nouveau, was built between 1918 and 1946, so…

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