Page 4 of londonpenguin Travel Blog Posts

Europe » France October 1st 2014

Geo: 43.7034, 7.2662Today was our last day on the bus. That's always sad because the driver is usually a big part of the group. We'll all be sorry to see Gilles go; he played a French version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" on the bus, and it made everyone light-hearted again. So we started the morning with a visit to Les Baux, a centuries-old hill town. There's a massive ruined castle at the top, with a spectacular view of the valleys below. The town got its name from the bauxite that was mined there. There are still quarries, but they're only cutting sandstone now. In the Middle Ages, Les Baux was ruled by lords who claimed to be descended from King Balthazar of Magi fame. They were ruthless warriors, but eventually they lost Les Baux and ... read more
Les Baux
Biscuiterie in Les Baux
"The Kiss" by Klimt

Europe » France September 30th 2014

Geo: 43.6767, 4.6278Best hairdryer yet! We started out this morning with a walk around Arles with a local guide. Very grey skies, but not raining. Our hotel is between the Classical Theater and the Roman Arena, so we started outside the Theater. It was built by the Romans in the first century B.C. and excavated during the 18th and 19th centuries. In its heyday, it was much larger than what you can see today; it could seat 10,000 people who came for plays and other spectacles. It fell into disuse and was used during the Middle Ages as a quarry for building other buildings in the city (e.g., St. Trophime church). Whereas Greek amphitheaters were built in the best spots acoustically, the Romans didn't really care. However, the acoustics in this theater were so poor, that ... read more
Lion in the Hotel de Ville
Two ancient columns support a wall in Forum Square

Europe » France September 29th 2014

Geo: 43.6767, 4.6278There was a lovely breakfast, with a basket of bread and a basket of fruit for each table. Plus plain yogurt, jams, and hot chocolate (or coffee or tea). One of the items in the bread basket was something like a donut hole. It was really good! For most of the time that I was in the breakfast room, I had company in the form of a very fat and terribly sweet basset hound, and a very fat and terribly sweet retriever. They've been fed too much by hotel guests, but they seemed pretty happy. Also, they had doggy breath.Today was a long bus day. It's still raining, and the sky was so dark. At home, we'd call this weather "November." Occasionally we'd get dripped on because the sunroof in the bus wasn't sealed ... read more
The Pont du Gard
Crossing the Pont du Gard

Europe » France September 28th 2014

Geo: 43.2126, 2.3561I fell asleep last night to the sounds of cheering and music in the square. We were out of the hotel by 8:15 and on our way. Virginie gave a talk about the French education system using Anne-Sophie as a student. The only requirement for a child to start school is that he or she be potty trained, so one-third of French kids go to the maternelle (preschool) when they are two years old. Ninety-nine percent are in school by the age of three. However, school is not mandatory until the age of six (until 16). After preschool, children go to the école primaire for five years. Among other things, they are given 1.5-2 hours for lunch, which consists of good food and includes a real plate and proper cutlery. (Virginie's comment was: "In ... read more
Quick freeway stop to see Carcassone from afar
My room at Hotel Montmorency
In front of our hotel

Europe » France » Aquitaine September 27th 2014

Geo: 44.8913, 1.21502A vacation from our vacation! I woke up at 7:30 and wasn't as sore as I thought I would be, which probably means I'll be really sore tomorrow. I took my time getting ready and made it down to breakfast at 9:00. Probably half the group was down there at that time, so I guess we all took advantage of being able to sleep in.Sarlat has two market days: Wednesday, which is just food, and Saturday (i.e., today), which is pretty much everything. The main road through town and lots of the side streets were closed to cars, and there was booth after booth after booth. There were clothes, scarves, shoes, books, CDs, purses, jewelry, pottery, linens and fabrics, kitchen things, clever flat wooden things that unfolded into useful things, garden ornaments, and a ... read more
Enormous doors on a former church
A rare unpeopled lane on market day
House in Sarlat

Europe » France » Aquitaine September 26th 2014

Geo: 44.8913, 1.21502Hard-boiled eggs at breakfast this morning!Our first stop this morning was at the Grotte de Rouffignac (grotte is French for cave). Around 14,000 years ago, the cave was inhabited successively by cave bears and then Cro-Magnon man. Around 13,000 years ago, Cro-Magnon man seems to have taken over the cave network. (Technically, our first stop was a few hundred yards before the cave. We got out of the coach to have a look at some foie gras on the hoof. Gosh, geese are noisy!)Because we went very deep into the cave we had to take a small train. Our guide, Elisabeth, showed us all the art left behind by our early ancestors. There were carved mammoth figures as well as painted, and painted woolly rhinoceroses, horses, bison and ibex. There were also plenty of ... read more
Mammoth at Grotte de Rouffignac
La Roque-Gageac
Floating down the Dordogne

Europe » France » Aquitaine September 25th 2014

Geo: 44.8913, 1.21502It's a pity that we had to leave Hotel Diderot this morning: I had finally figured out how to work my door! Breakfast was the same as yesterday. I tried strawberry jam with cocoa beans in it, and it had sort of a spicy flavor to it. I also tried the chocolat chaud, but it wasn't so chaud anymore. Since we were about to have a very long day on the bus, Virginie took us back to Jean and Marie's life. Apparently, the onion soup worked, and nine months later Marie gives birth to a daughter, whom they name Anne-Sophie. Marie will be given 16 weeks off of work at full pay. (If Anne-Sophie had had a twin, Marie would have been given 34 weeks off.) Fortunately, there were no complications with the birth ... read more
Virginie prepares our picnic
Grave marker at Oradour

Europe » France » Centre » Chinon September 24th 2014

Geo: 47.1661, 0.238081Breakfast this morning was several different kinds of bread, including brioche and croissants, fruit salad, and goat cheese. Laurent, one of the hotel's owners, recommended that we pour honey on the goat cheese, top it with walnuts that we cracked ourselves in some really heavy duty crackers, and then spread it on some of the bread. I didn't do the honey part, but spreading it on bread was a great idea. Laurent makes his own jam, and there were probably 20 different varieties on the tables: raspberry, strawberry, peach and quince, marmalade, rhubarb, yellow plum, pear, and green tomato and candied lemon (the label read "Please Love Me."), among others. I tried a dollop of Please Love Me, and it was't too bad. It was odd at first because all you could taste were ... read more
Moi at Villandry
Creepy carp

Europe » France » Centre » Chinon September 23rd 2014

Geo: 47.1661, 0.238081We were out of the hotel at 8:30 this morning, and Virginie started things off by giving us Mentchikoffs. Chartres is famous for two treats: macarons and Mentchikoffs. We had macarons yesterday (and they were gooood!). Mentchikoffs were created during a craze for all things Russian and named after a Russian general. They consist of ground almonds in chocolate, which are then baked into a meringue. They are super tasty. Unfortunately, Virginie says that she's never seen them outside of Chartres, so I won't be able to bring a sample back for anyone. You'll just have to imagine how chocolaty and creamy they are. ;)Somewhere along the road we passed a small farm. There was a small doghouse under what was probably the kitchen window. On top of the doghouse was a small goat, ... read more
Eglise St.-Florentin

Europe » France » Centre » Chartres September 22nd 2014

Geo: 48.4444, 1.48417I didn't sleep too badly last night. I woke up quite a lot but was able to get back to sleep. I did have some odd dreams though. In one, I was some sort of vengeance demon, and I sneaked up on a small evil person and flung him into space. I don't know where that came from! Must've been the kir before dinner last night.After we had all eaten (the usual sort of selection, and I was able to roll my own ham and cheese crepes), we walked back to the Cathedral and down into the lower town by the river Eure. At one time, the river was used for all sorts of awful trades and was generally filled with offal and other nasty stuff. When most of those trades were no longer ... read more
Notre-Dame de Chartres
Cathedral in the daylight

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