Category Archives: France

Mini Euro Trip

With winter finally over, I was getting anxious to get out of the house and off exploring more areas. So into the van I went and headed off for Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, basically a mini Euro trip. Sounds like a lot but very achievable as each location is reachable within a day’s drive.  The first stop was down south to the northeastern point of Spain in the Catalonian region. First stop was an old monastery called Sant Pere de Rodes, built in the 10th and 11th century by Benedictine monks. The monastery is still in great shape and well worth a visit for the building and views of the Mediterranean.

Monastery

The Sant Pere de Rodes monastery located above El Port De La Selva

 

Following that interesting stop, it was on down the road to the village of Cadaques, Spain. It was in this once small fishing village that Salvador Dali spent some childhood summers and perhaps drew inspiration for his wild art. It was definitely a place of scenic beauty with mountains coming down to the sea front.

Cadaques

The village of Cadaques, Spain

Neaby Cadaques in the village of Port Ligat is the home of Dali. He didn’t just have his artwork in museums as can seen by the interesting exterior of his home. Wouldn’t it have been fun to have him as a neighbor? I don’t imagine property values dropped when he decorated though.

Dali

Dali’s house with some interesting heads located in Port Lligat, Spain.

Next stop on this trip was to one of my favorite Pyrenees locations and that is the principality of Andorra, located high up in the mountains. I always enjoy going by there because of its natural beauty. Plus you can’t beat the tax free gasoline, alcohol and colognes, a must stop for bargain shoppers!

 

Andorra

The mountains with ski areas above Andorra.

Following Andorra and a quick pit stop at my house, it was onwards to northern France. First on that agenda was to visit the house and gardens of Claude Monet at Giverny. It was here that Monet spent his last half of his life painting and gardening creating several impressionistic masterpieces. Well worth a visit, especially in the springtime when in bloom!

Monet

Monet’s house and garden at Giverny, France.

Monet

The Japanese footbridge in his water garden that Monet made famous

With a bit of nature and artistic culture under the belt, it was time for some sporting action so further north I ventured. Next up was the kite festival in Berck Sur Mer located in the very north of France. There is a reason that they hold the kite festival there as there is a continuous wind and I have to say it was mighty cold the first day. Fortunately the sun came out strongly and so did the kites. I was amazed at the maneuverability that these kites had and really loved all the colors in the sky.

kite festival

The kite festival in Berck Sur Mer, France

kite fesetival

A car fashioned out of kites with wheels that turned at the kite festival in Berck Sur Mer.

kite festival

Random kites floating in the sky at the kite festival in Berck Sur Mer, France

kite festival

Horizontal kites seemingly slicing the sky into sections at the kite festival in Berck Sur Mer, France

 

Well, it was au revoir to France and on further north to a town that I have been trying to visit for a couple of years. Finally I made it a priority and got myself to Bruges, Belgium. I had heard many glowing reviews about this town and have to say that it lived up to its reputation. From the cobble stoned streets and towers to the ancient bars with hundreds of beers available, it is truly a great place to wander for a couple of days. I’ll definitely put it on my revisit list, especially since I found a great campsite not far from town.

Bruges

The Market Square in Bruges, Belgium.

I still had a couple of days before I needed to be in Antwerp so I did a quick trip to one of my favorite cities, Amsterdam. There is a great campground located on the edge of the city giving you quick access into the center. This was the first time I took my foot scooter in and it worked great but I think the bicyclists in the bike lane didn’t know what to do with me in their lane. It all worked out and I will continue using my foot scooter on future trips. While there, I did a walking tour that travel writer Rick Steves gives away for free. His walking tours are great as they point out hidden gems that you wouldn’t notice unless you knew where to look.  This one below really caught me by surprise. It says HOMO SAPIENS NON URINAT IN VENTUM which translates to A WISE MAN DOESN’T PISS INTO THE WIND. The structure isn’t that old and the constructors had a sense of humor.

roman

A columned structure with some advice in latin in Amsterdam

With all the waterways in Amsterdam, it is always fun to be looking at what is going on. I caught this swan creating beautiful ripples while cleaning himself.

Amsterdam

A swan creates beautiful ripples while gently cleaning himself under a bridge in Amsterdam.

Following Amsterdam, I started heading towards Antwerp but made a stop at the Keukenhof gardens located in Lisse, Netherlands. I had heard stories about the 80 acres with 7 million flower bulbs and thought springtime would be the perfect time to visit. Unfortunately, so did a million other people and I have to say I didn’t stay long as the crowds were just a bit too overwhelming for me and it just wasn’t enjoyable. It was a beautiful place but maybe there is a better time to visit, who knows.

Keukenhof

Tulips glowing in the sunlight at Keukenhof gardens

Keukenhof

A wide range of flowering bulbs at the Keukenhof gardens in Lisse, Netherlands

I wrapped up my tour in Antwerp where I spent the weekend running and socializing with a large group of friends. It was then back down to my house to host some guests and do a little more garden renovation. Next trip coming up soon will be a journey to Madrid for a weekend followed by some time in the Spanish Pyrenees hiking and enjoying the old villages. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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Euro Summer Wrap Up!

Well it’s been a couple of months since I last posted and I apologize. Not that I’ve been slacking but actually have been working very hard on my house putting in new doors and windows, new stone floor outside and basically preparing the house for a more comfortable winter. I’ve finally finished all the projects and happy with the results. While I haven’t taken any big trips, I was able to take a lot of 1-2 week mini Euro vacations around France, Spain, Andorra, Belgium, Holland and Monaco. So let me share a few pix from those locations….

I visited Alsace Lorraine for the first time. A beautiful part of France that has changed hands between France and Germany many times. You can really see it in the style of houses and a lot of the street names which are in German and French. One thing is for certain, it is pretty. Here is a shot in the little town of Colmar. Look closely and you can see the stork nest with stork on top of the church!

 

Colmar, Alsace

Street in Colmar, Alsace Lorraine, France

Another place visited this summer was St Martin Du Canigou, an Abbey built in the French Pyrenees mountains in 1009. It was a vigorous hike up to this but well worth the view. If you visit, you can do the loop trail which takes you back down on a trail through the woods and gives some great views of the Abbey.

St Martin Du Canigou

The Abbaye of St Martin Du Canigou in the French Pyrenees.

Recently, I traveled through the Dordogne and Lot regions which are located about the center of SouthWestern France. It is an area of farms, rolling hills, Foie Gras and great old villages. Here is a picture of the bridge Pont Valentré located in Cahors, France. It was begun in 1308 and finished in 1378, a quick 70 years to build! But obviously it was well built as it is still standing over 600 years later.  The towers were used by the military in the defense of the town but never actually saw combat.

Pont Valentré

Valentré bridge in the city of Cahors, France

The same bridge with some fall foliage coming through.

Pont Valentré

Fall colors at the Pont Valentré in Cahors, France

In addition to Cahors, I also ventured to Rocamadour which is a pilgrimage stop on one of the Santiago de Compostela routes. It had some beautiful chapels and very timely hot air balloon. I also found out through some research that there is a balloon festival every Sept so I plan on going back to catch that show!

Rocamadour Balloon

A hot air balloon rising above the village of Rocamadour

Earlier in the summer, I was over by Arles for a great photo festival called Les Recontres D’Arles. When leaving the festival, I passed a lot of sunflower fields and decided to get in and up close with one!

Sunflower, Arles

Sunflower in a field near Arles, France

I spent a couple of weeks over on the Cote D’Azur house sitting for some friends and was able to visit Monaco for the first time.  You can’t really grasp the density of the place until you get up above it and gather the view.

Monaco

A view of Monaco from the grounds by the Prince’s Palace

While in Monaco, I stopped in the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, a fantastic aquarium directed by Jacques Cousteau for over 30 years. I was really intrigued by this fellow, which I believe is a Blue Surgeonfish.

Blue Surgeonfish

Blue Surgeonfish at Monaco Aquarium

 

And my travels wouldn’t be complete without some visits to chapels including the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona…

Organs of Sagrada Familia

Beautiful light reflected on organ pipes of Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

 

the Strasbourg Cathedral at night during a light show projection…

Strasbourg Cathedral

The Strasbourg Cathedral with a light show being projected on the front.

 

and a tiny prayer room at Notre Dame D’Auvers in Arles

Notre Dame D'Auvers

A tiny prayer room at the Notre Dame D’Auvers
Chapel

 

Well that about wraps up the travels. The summer wrap up wouldn’t be complete without a parting shot from my village, St Martin De L’Arçon. It is really great after being on the road to come back to this peaceful place, get a nice glass of wine and sit on the terrace and enjoy the tranquility.

St Martin De L'Arçon

Sunset on a fall day in St Martin De L’Arçon, France

I’ve got a big trip coming up very soon, destination is a surprise (for my friends who know, don’t give it away!). I look forward to blogging from this future locale which will be quite a bit different from what I’ve posted lately.  Cheers and keep on traveling!

 

 

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Land of the Volcanos

As I was returning from a family reunion in Orleans last week, I decided to exit the highway and go to an area of France famous for its dormant volcanos. I had seen the volcanos in the distance several times when driving on the autoroute and had always wondered what it was like. The region is called Auvergne and it is located about lower mid center of France and is also known as a high altitude area called the Massif Central.  

(Please click the images for larger views!)

volcano

Dormant volcanos located in the Auvergne region of France

While this region is known for the volcanos, it is also well known for their beautiful cows who give the milk for great Cantal cheese. Here is a shot of a friendly fellow.

Grazing Cow wondering what I'm doing on his turf!

Grazing Cow wondering what I’m doing on his turf!

I spent the night in Le Mont-Dore which is a spa town surrounded by the mountains. In the morning, I decided to do a hike to see the Grand Waterfall. While it was beautiful, I preferred the smaller falls that were just below the big falls. Here is an idyllic little area with multiple falls.

waterfalls

Some small waterfalls located above Le Mont-Dore.

While driving further south, I got a little rain which quickly cleared and provided this gorgeous rainbow.

Rainbow

Beautiful rainbow above a small mountain in the Auvergne region of France

The last stop on this mini-trip was to the Millau Viaduct. I had driven over this beautiful bridge many times but often wondered what it was like to be seen from underneath, especially since it has the designation as the tallest bridge in the world. I drove quickly so that I could catch the last rays of sundown and then decided to wait until the bridge lights came on .

Millau

The Millau viaduct with the river Tarn at sunset

That was the end of the trip with me finally getting home at 1:00 in the morning.  A nice diversion from the high speed autoroutes!

 

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Tour D’Italia

The grand Tour D’Italia finally begins…almost!

 

Left home last night after dropping of a German craftsman (and new friend) who was visiting to measure my windows and doors which he will build over the next two months and then install in June. He flew back to Germany and I kept heading East towards Italy. Made it to the Riviera town of Menton, France, very close to the Italian border. Always fun to come in late at night and discover the town in the daylight when you wake up.

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Today, I drive on to Cinque Terre in Italy where I will hike the 5 coastal towns. Looking forward to this very scenic hike.  Arrivederci! Lorenzo 🙂

La Trec’in in Toulouse

Last weekend, the stars aligned just right and made it the perfect time for a weekend trip to Toulouse, the Rose city, a place I’d never been. I had concert tickets for a French psychedelic band on Friday night, and decided I should stay the weekend, go to some rugby, sightsee and catch a hash trail. It turned out to be a great weekend, really a fantastic city that people should put on their visit list for France. I’d like to share just a few images of a couple of churches I visited and one people shot that I found interesting.  I began by just wandering around and stumbled upon this beautiful church called Cathédrale Saint-Étienne. It was started in the 13th century and finished in the 17th century (I’ll never complain about slow workers again!) It had such a nice setting so I had to enter. (Please click on images for larger view)

Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Toulouse

Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Toulouse France

Once inside, I was not let down. It was absolutely beautiful with some nice low volume choir music going on. These churches in Europe are truly amazing and should not be missed. I went to the back of the church to get a full length view and was able to capture this image. What I found most impressive was the alter behind the priest. It was about 40 feet high and very impressive with the intricate carvings.

Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Toulouse France

Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Toulouse France

 

While I was standing in the back and catching all the sights, I looked over to my right and noticed an amazing beam of light highlighting a door. I later found out it was a confessional. Maybe it was a sign for me but I guess I missed that one. I still found it beautiful to look at.

 

Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Toulouse France

Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Toulouse France

From there, I proceeded to walk around the old town of Toulouse and headed over to one more church that was supposed to be a must see.  While it was very impressive outside, I had heard the inside was amazing with the columns. Even though it was empty and under some construction, I was stunned by the beauty of the stained glass and especially the way the colored light was hitting the columns at that time of day. If you look closely, you can see a face in one of the columns….

Les Jacobins, Toulouse France

Les Jacobins, Toulouse France

 

I wrapped up my walkaround by going to Le Capitole, which is the large municipal building in the center of the city with a large open area for people to visit. A great place for people watching, I ordered lunch at a cafe right next to it and enjoyed watching. After a few minutes, this gentleman came down and sat and watched as well. I just like how he needed to take a breather and watch the sites.

Le Capitole, Toulouse France

Le Capitole,Toulouse France

That was about it. That night, I went to a Rugby match which was exciting, and the next day went to run with the Toulouse Hash House Harriers. I also visited two nice museums, a photography museum called Chateau D’Eau and a contemporary art museum called Les Abattoirs. Both museums highly recommended.  Cheers! Laurent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Les Alpes and more!

Well, it’s been a busy Spring…as many of you know, finally graduated from Academy of Art University in May. Took 5 years chipping away at it but was well worth the effort and a great school. Glad I had the opportunity to this with the GI Bill. Following that, I took off to the Alps (about 5 hours away) to shoot my friend Bob Thompson’s bike company Far and Away Cycling (http://www.farandawaycycling.com/) tour of the French Alps. Great fun and great people, hats off to these hard core riders, day after day on those hills

 

 

 

After we finished up Bob, Chantal and I went up for a couple of days in Chamonix, at the base of Mont Blanc. Gorgeous area. We had to wait a day for the weather to clear but when it did, we took the cable car up to Aiguille Du Midi and saw some incredible mountain scenery. Really was worth the visit up.

 

Aiguille Du Midi above Chamonix France with sun ring caused by ice crystals

 

High icicles

Icicles on the side of the Aiguille Du Midi station above the clouds near Chamonix France

Panorama

A panorama view of the French Alps from the Aiguille Du Midi station near Chamonix France

Chamonix mountains

Cloud cover on the mountains above Chamonix France.

 

 

After that, I had a couple of separate visitors for a total 2 weeks and now I’ve started the planning for my big Scandinavia trip. I’ll be taking off this Friday for a little over 2 months visiting Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland with an on the way stop in Amsterdam to have some parking sensors put in the rear bumper of the VW. Really looking forward to taking off and seeing this part of the world I have yet to visit. More frequent blog updates will be happening from the trip. Cheers! Laurent

 

 

 

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Euro Update

Greetings all, well much has happened since the last blog post as most of you know. The biggest thing was my move to southern France. It has been almost one year (minus 2 days) since I decided I would move after reading a great book called Wide Eyed Wanderers. The book is about a couple that quits their jobs and travels for two years in a VW campervan. So, very much like my adventure however I decided to also buy a house and live here in between travelling. There have been some busy times in making this happen but it all seems to be getting easier as each day goes by and I get more settled. Do I regret it? I miss my friends and family in America however I feel so different, very alive, like a kid experiencing new things daily. I just started my final online semester today in Fine Art photography and will finish up in May and that is when the travelling and shooting happen. Excited about that and all the future holds. Don’t want to keep bloggin on but do want to thank everyone who helped get me here, from crash space to car rides to encouragement. Thanks all!

Click the picture below for larger view!

 

Saint Martin De L'Arcon, France, Orb river, Mt Caroux

This is a picture up the valley of my village, Saint Martin De L’Arcon in the background, on the side of Mt Caroux. There are great hiking trails all through the hills of that mountain.

Kitchen

This is where I am working from because it is next to the wood burning stove. I’ll move to downstairs when it warms up.

Van

This is my Campervan that will be my home/office/kitchen when on the road. It really is comfortable and much more roomy than living/travelling in my 4runner as I did.

Rainbow

Here is a rainbow shot from my bedroom window here. They seem to be common which is due to our micro-climate that we get on the side of this mountain.

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