Bordeaux – home of the flashest Macca’s building ever!

Apparently it’s almost 6 months since I added a post – even worse, it’s just over 2 years since my big trip ended and here I am still trying to add it to my blog!

1st August 2013

Hotel Ariane, Pontorson, France

Hotel Ariane, Pontorson, France

I spent a couple of hours sketching in Pontorson before heading south for Bordeaux on the trusty trains again. Well, actually I had to go north first to Caen then south, it was a long day but thankfully still plenty of light when I arrived that evening about 6:30.

 

And………… I didn’t get lost on the way to Acanthe Hotel, Bordeaux on rue Saint-Rémi.

Talk about a good pick, great price, place and so very cute. I was just behind the Place de la Bourse with it’s Miroir d’Eau and the riverfront with lots of cafes, shops and restaurants all round, wonderful spot to spend a few days.

Place de Bourse, Bordeaux, France

Place de Bourse, Bordeaux, France

Another day, another city and another Hop-on-Hop-off bus – they really are a great way to get your bearings and scope out where you might want to spend more time. I also booked a winery tour for the next day, a tad expensive but I haven’t spent much on that sort of thing; and honestly, you can’t go to Bordeaux and not do a winery tour can you?

I loved the architecture in this city, so many grand buildings and so much history in quite a small area really. It’s not just the museums and theatres that are housed in beautiful surrounds but shops and places like the ubiquitous McDonalds.

Sketch of front of McDonalds building Bordeaux France

Sketch of front of McDonalds building Bordeaux France

Once again I walked my feet off during the first day; visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, envying those dipping their feet in the water of the fountain at the Monument de Girondins, marvelling at the Pont de Pierre and its light fittings, shaking my head at the Porte Cailhau (it was built around 1494!) and the Grosse Cloche and just generally loving wandering the streets of the city.

 

 

 

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Mont St Michel

30th & 31st July 2013

France is actually a large country when you’re trying to decide where to go and what to see – bit obvious I know, but I just hadn’t realized before how big it was. Anyhow, I decided to leave Belgium and the Netherlands for another time and start heading down towards Spain and Portugal. Also, since I’d been to St Michael’s Mount in England I decided to visit Mont St Michel here and that was on the way – sort of!!!

Hotel Arianne, Pontoroson

Hotel Arianne, Pontoroson

Once again my choice of accommodation was more or less guided by proximity to the train and price – of course, but being a popular tourist destination in France prices were a bit steep even in little Pontorson. Although the hotel was fairly close to the train station I still managed to have trouble finding my way, not hugely lost, just a little off track – bewildering!! But, once I found it, the Hotel Ariane turned out to be a good find; lovely people, a bar and a nice leafy outdoor area just to name a few of it’s charms. It wasn’t difficult to find where to catch the bus to Mont St Michel either.

Main thoroughfare of Mont St Michel

Main thoroughfare of Mont St Michel

Totally surprising is how I’d say I found Mont St Michel! I was so not prepared for the number of buses and tourists. I’ve found out since it is the 3rd most popular tourist destination in France!! Needless to say the island was quite crowded, more so around the shops than higher up and in some parts of the abbey itself; but with a little effort I found a couple of quiet spots to have a picnic lunch and a sketch or two.

The entrance to the town is through an ancient fortified guardroom and gates with a huge porticullis – all chock a block with tourists and modern day trappings but still very intriguing. The narrow main street through the village is crowded on both sides with shops and restaurants. If you keep following along behind the people in front eventually you get to the Grande Staircase leading to the Abbey.

Mont St Michel ponticullis

Mont St Michel ponticullis

The first church on the island dates back to the year 708 with the abbey, monastery and fortifications being added through the next few hundred years. It was also used as a prison for political prisoners during the French Revolution. The cloisters and refectory, the views from the ramparts, as well as the giant tread-wheel down in the foundations were highlights. I’d love to have been able to stay on the island and enjoy it after dark with-out the crowds, but we can’t have it all can we.

 

 

 

 

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A decision to make – to go north or south?

26th July 2013

French counrtyside Boulougne sur Mer to Calais, (shame about the sign!)

French counrtyside Boulougne sur Mer to Calais, (shame about the sign!)

Well this part of my travels was a bit like wandering in the wilderness – couldn’t seem to make up my mind. From Paris to Arras, on to Boulougne sur Mer and Calais then back down to Rouen before heading to  Pontorson to see Mont Saint-Michel. Just no real plan and almost feeling like I’ve wasted at least a week.Then again, it’s all new and different so I just need to plan ahead better in future!

A few new summer clothes in Boulougne sur Mer have helped lift my spirits a tad, a couple of skits and a top. A bus ride, (because the trains weren’t running), between Boulougne sur Mer and Calais, was a nice change. We called in to all the little train stations on the way, seems I saw more than I usually do on the train.

Poster in Musee Memoire 1939-1945, Calais, France

Poster in Musee Memoire 1939-1945, Calais, France

There’s an old fashioned WW2 museum at Calais set in the middle of a lovely park that was well worth visiting. Among other things I found a few newspaper articles about the North Africa campaign of WW2, where my Dad served at Torbruk and other places.

Also found this poster that’s been reproduced massively in recent times, pretty sure I’ve seen a pic of P!nk using this pose.

One of the huge differences between Europe and Australia that always strikes me is the architecture. The town halls in Australia are barely noticeable in most places but here they’re like a palace. Calais has a particularly special one I think, at least from the outside, It’s one of the prettiest I’ve seen and the gardens surrounding it were spectacular.

Hotel de Ville, Calais, France

Hotel de Ville, Calais, France

Rouen was just an overnight stop on the way south again, so I didn’t see much. After arriving I headed to the Musee des Beaux Arts, which wasn’t far from the train station and little hotel where I was staying, but was disappointed to find it shut. It was on my way back from there I found myself feeling quite unsafe for the first time since leaving home almost 4 months ago. Taking a different route I seemed to be in a bit of an unsavoury area and closing in on evening it just felt wrong and a little scary. Quicker steps, tighter clutching of my bag while trying to appear nonchalant (I read somewhere you’re supposed to try and not look worried, lol), and five minutes later I was back on busier streets. Wow, that was rather weird and totally unexpected but maybe a good reminder as I’ve probably stopped being quite as vigilant and careful as I was at first.

My room in Rouen was a little gem, almost right next to the train station but absolutely no noise – how cool is that!! Check it out here – Hotel Le Depart

 

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No idea where to go next!

23rd July 2013

St Nicholas Church, Boulougne-sur-Mer

St Nicholas Church, Boulougne-sur-Mer

I really hadn’t thought much past Paris and the WW! battlefields so when I left Arras I thought I might head to the coast then up to Belgium and the Netherlands. I still wasn’t feeling very well after my few bouts of sickness in Paris and a few nights in a seaside town sounded good – Boulonge-sur-Mer ended up being my next stop. I sort of found that by trying to be reasonably close to the train station you sometimes don’t end up being in the best part of town. Not that it was terrible but I didn’t even end up seeing the beach/ocean at all, oh well, another lesson learnt!!

Boulougne-sur-Mer

Boulougne-sur-Mer

I walked and walked in this town, mainly because there really wasn’t much near where I stayed. The old part of town was lovely and even the main shopping/eating part was very different for me, more typically urban I think rather than touristy.

The old town has fortified walls with towers and gates spread along its length, you can walk along the top and get wonderful views across the lower newer parts of town. The path is so very pretty with lovely shady trees on either side in parts and wonderful old buildings all round.Again I was blown away by how old it all was, the ramparts and St Nicholas’ church were both built in the 1200’s, just amazing.

Notre Dame Basillica, Boulougne-sur-Mer

Notre Dame Basillica, Boulougne-sur-Mer

The Town Hall in the centre of the old town is a really pretty building and in front are structured gardens worth a quick look. I had a yummy lunch at a little cafe across from here and watched the people at the next table being served and eat the most interesting mussel dish I’ve seen. I didn’t take them up on their offer to share but they were absolutely ecstatic over them.

I actually spent a bit of time in the Notre Dame Basillica drawing; I even had a couple of little French children trying to talk to me and admiring my poor attempt at portraying the altar, they were very cute.

The streets in the old town were lovely too and lined with all sorts of wonderful facades, old windows and ornate signs.

 

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