Category Archives: Travel

Hospitality, Part 2B? Sherry’s last days

So, wrapping up Barcelona with Sherry, having toured the Gothic part of Barcelona…

The part of Barcelona where the old cathedral is.

The part of Barcelona where the old cathedral is. Note the Google maps dude on the right actually MAPPING the courtyard! Seriously.

…we stopped at Park Guell, designed also by Gaudi, on the way out.

One of several entrances to the park, which has paying, controlled access to the most popular section.

One of several entrances to the park, which has paying, controlled access to the most popular section.

Truly funky architecture.

Truly funky architecture.

Street entertainers were everywhere, too.

Street entertainers were everywhere, too.

The acoustics must have been very appealing.

The acoustics must have been very appealing.

My friend enjoying the "concert."

My friend enjoying the “concert.”

Quite a few levels at a height above the old city.

Quite a few levels at a height above the old city.

I think he was going for caves, or something.

I think he was going for caves, or something.

It is very detailed. We only saw this section from a distance, because we didn't have time to wait for our paid assigned entry time.

It is very detailed. We only saw this section from a distance, because we didn’t have time to wait for our paid assigned entry time.

We finished up her trip with another visit into Toulouse, and found a classic era church, quite lovely.

A church from the 19th and 20th centuries...positively modern!

A church from the 19th and 20th centuries…positively modern!

The lighting inside was perfect for the windows!

The lighting inside was perfect for the windows!

The modern church.

The altar.

I hated to see her go, but we weren’t alone for long. My high school friend Jennifer took the extra room a week later!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under France, Travel

Hospitality Part 2, Barcelona (or, You Can’t Get Too Much of a Good Thing)

My husband and son accompanied me and Sherry to Barcelona. My friend Sherry is a beach girl; she lived a large portion of her life in Southern California, but she’s been landlocked in recent years. I thought she would really enjoy Barcelona and the Mediterranean, and I loved Barcelona so much I wanted to revisit it and share it with her.

Roadtrip!!

Roadtrip!!

I made sure our hotel had easy access to the beach.

Dirty window, but that is definitely the sea.

Dirty window, but that is definitely the sea.

 

And to the right...

And to the right…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we made sure to have at least one seafood dinner on the beach. The size of my prawns was SHOCKING. Honestly, I couldn’t eat them alone. Sherry had to crack them open for me; I was just too grossed out.

Each of these things are as big as my hand. Look at those eyes looking at me!

Each of these things are as big as my hand. Look at those eyes looking at me!

Then we toured the most-visited site in Spain, the Sagrada Familia, designed by famous architect Antoni Gaudi. Oh my! It really was different than any other cathedral I have visited.

Our tour guide explained in both English AND Spanish, which was a nice exercise for Theo's beginning Spanish.

Our tour guide explained in both English AND Spanish, which was a nice exercise for Theo’s beginning Spanish.

Click through to follow us on our tour… Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Travel

When all that glitters IS gold…

Glitter and glint are EVERYWHERE at Versailles. I mean, you hear that the Sun King was a liberal fan of gold, but wow. This was extreme.

Stoney halfway down the long promenade to the Chateau Versailles.

Stoney halfway down the long promenade to the Chateau Versailles.

Even in the distance, on a rainy day, the chateau gleams with gold.

My family joining the crowd.

My family joining the crowd.

Guarding the entrance.

Greeting all-comers.

 

Gold at the gate.

Gold at the gate.

A tiny slice of this enormous castle.

A tiny, less ornate, slice of this enormous castle.

A close-up of the glint we saw in the distance.

A close-up of the glint we saw in the distance.

Suffice it to say that this theme was continued indoors. Doorways, mantles, fabrics, ceilings, stairways, well…everything was covered in its fair share of gold. By the time we reached the end, I was actually tired of it. Some things are special and lovely because they are rare. To me, gold is pretty garish when it’s not an accent, but the main palette.

Also by the time we were finished, Theo had grown quite a headache. We took the metro back to our hotel and began dosing him up with decongestant and Advil. The next day he wasn’t really better, so we went into Paris with just Myriah. Coming up, the Louvre.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under France, Travel

The City of (Christmas) Lights

The day after Christmas 2013, we packed up and headed for an adventure in Paris. Theo wasn’t feeling so hot, but truly, he had had some sort of cold or bad allergies since before Thanksgiving, so we just pressed on. We stayed at a Hilton at Orly Airport, which was pretty cheap with big rooms, but very, very tired and nothing like picturesque. However, the breakfast was good, it had great access to the metro, and kept us from having to drive into Paris traffic.

It's best feature is size.

It’s best feature is size.

That night we took the metro into Paris, and our first view of the Eiffel Tower was at night (quite fitting for Christmas).

Sort of like a Christmas tree.

Sort of like a Christmas tree.

up close

An up close view. We went back in the daylight so Stoney could see the engineering, of course.

We took a boat tour aboard the Bateaux Mouches, although we didn’t go past Notre Dame, due to the Seine River being so high it affected our clearance. The night was quite cool and damp, but the boats were heated.

The Christmas Spirit, Paris-style.

The Christmas Spirit, Paris-style.

Ready, cap'n!

Ready, cap’n!

What would become my favorite museum, the Musee D'Orsay.

What would become my favorite museum, the Musee D’Orsay.

Lights at night

Lights at night

The Paris lady liberty

The Paris lady liberty

...and up close.

…and up close.

After the tour we had a delicious dinner at an Italian restaurant nearby. And yes, all the French folk in Paris seem capable of a functional English. Tomorrow, Versailles.

Leave a comment

Filed under France, Travel

Albi and Adding Another Art Museum

Our last tourist trip this summer was to Albi, this time a daytrip date without Theodore. It was a really lovely city, and as clean as anything in Switzerland. It is also home to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum, so I have another to add to my collection. I was quite surprised at how much of his work was on, essentially, cardboard panels. Much like my sound-suppression paintings at the apartment, only studies for great artworks. Or not even studies! Starving artist isn’t always a cliché.

At the entrance to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum.

At the entrance to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum.

Coming up on Albi's centre ville.

Coming up on Albi’s centre ville.

The cathedral here is supposed to be the largest brick cathedral in France. Apparently most are made of stone.

cathedral plaza

cathedral stairs

Stoney going in.

cathedralstatues

Ornate stonework.

It may also be the gaudiest interior in France, although my sample size is rather small still.

It may also be the gaudiest interior in France, although my sample size is rather small still.

Impressive organ.

Impressive organ.

Albi’s cathedral and T-L’s museum were next to the Bishop’s home (actually, I think the museum was in the bishop’s home), and you could tour his garden. It was a little marvel.

The other side of the city in the distance.

People lining the walkway.

We considered a river boat tour, but I chickened out at the last minute.

We considered a river boat tour, but I chickened out at the last minute.

We were actually there on a holiday weekend, so there were some shops closed in spite of its touristy nature. One was the bookstore pictured, which I would totally have LOVED to see! We did manage, for dinner, an interesting wood-fire cooked pizza, in which the mushrooms were served large and entire. The pizza shop was right across from the carousel. Fun date!

The evening's entertainment.

The evening’s entertainment.

bookshop

Sad moment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, France, Travel

A Stop in Lyon, France

Rather than make such a long drive our last day of vacation, we stayed overnight in Lyon. This was the city that gave us SUCH a headache as an attempted lunch stop on the way to Switzerland, due to the Tour du France passing through. Honestly, finding our hotel on the way back was something of a headache, too. In the end, though, I loved it.

We stayed at the Hilton in the Cite International, which had upgraded us as HHonors members to a luxury room. I loved the very French welcome!

Macarons, and a note welcoming me by name!

Macarons, and a note welcoming me by name!

There was a lot of remodeling going on, so perhaps that’s why the upgrade. The room was spacious by European standards, and Theo’s favorite so far. My only inconvenience was the glass door to the bathroom, only semi-frosted, so that one had to be mindful of the privacy of others and stay away when the facilities were in use. We were high up in the hotel, so the window view was very nice.

Across the river Rhone (?) as seen from our hotel room.

Across the river Rhone  as seen from our hotel room.

Zooming in on the view, including the ancient arches among more modern buildings.

Zooming in on the view, including the ancient arches among more modern buildings.

The hotel upgrade was very nice, with a reception in a top floor area with snacks and drinks, as well as breakfast up there. A very nice breakfast. But you know, it felt sort of awkward, too, requiring special access, and we’re just plain folk.

The hotel was part of this long commercial strip, with bookends of an arena on one side, and apartments on the other, with retail space, restaurants, a casino and cinema, and a modern art museum in the middle. This is a view from above.

This view reminds me a little of a Georgia O'Keefe cityscape, or even more maybe Joseph Stella or Charles Sheeler.

This view reminds me a little of a Georgia O’Keefe cityscape, or even more maybe Joseph Stella or Charles Sheeler.

Outside the modern art museum.

Outside the modern art museum.

Stoney with his buddy, the skater, outside the residential section.

Stoney with his buddy, the skater, outside the residential section.

Stoney chilling at the end of the area where our hotel was.

Stoney chilling at the end of the area where our hotel was.

 

Our best discovery was one of the largest urban parks in France, the Parc de la Tete d’Or. We only saw a portion, but I have so many lovely photos from that visit that I’ll give the Parc its own post.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under France, Travel

Passing Through Geneva

Geneva was our port of entry for Switzerland, and also our exit. Upon arriving, we had to stop and purchase a decal for the car window that permitted us to drive on Swiss roads. This is their alternative to tollroads, which are a huge expense in France. Winding through Geneva to get to Bern had shown us a lovely city on a lake, with sidewalks overflowing with wildly dressed mostly-young people. There must have been a festival of some sorts, it was that wildly dressed; like pirate-wear and almost no-wear. We struggled to navigate through the crowds and did not stop.

Leaving Brienz, we enjoyed the nicest rest stop we have found in Europe thus far:

Texas plates? Really?!

Texas plates? In Switzerland? Really?!

Passing out of Switzerland through Geneva, we had planned to stop and visit. Theo had selected a lunch site at the top of a major multi-level department store, Manora, which took several passes around to locate nearby parking. It’s one of those cities where you can see where you want to be, but street directions may not get you there easily. The restaurant is sort of like a cafeteria, but divided into stations. For instance, a fresh pizza station, a pasta station, a sushi station, a grill. The food was good, and fresh, but you had to watch out for a la carte pricing. For Switzerland, though, it wasn’t too terribly costly.

Then we attempted to strike out on foot and see some of the city.

A park across from the lake.

A park across from the lake.

Some pavilion-like structure in the park.

Some pavilion-like structure in the park.

Up close, it is quite detailed.

Up close, it is quite detailed.

I guess this is how they keep the park so clean?

I guess this is how they keep the park so clean?

The famous water cannon on Lake Geneva.

The famous water cannon on Lake Geneva.

An Anglican church. There are so, so many more Protestant churches in Switzerland! This one was a cutie!

An Anglican church. There are so, so many more Protestant churches in Switzerland! This one was a cutie! It kind of reminded me of Charleston churches.

We only visited a few hours before moving on to our destination for the night: Lyon. Geneva just didn’t call to us; after so much vacationing, we were looking forward to returning to France. You can find all of our Swiss visit by clicking the tag Switzerland on the sidebar to your right, or searching the tag Switzerland, once it moves out of the tag cloud.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Scenes of Brienz

This post is just to give a feel for the lovely city of Brienz, including the much-preserved art of woodcarving. It’s a big deal in this area, and in Brienz was featured not only in two major studios, but in a museum dedicated to the craft. But you couldn’t turn a corner without encountering examples.

A column near the outdoor dining area of our hotel. And if you go back to first shots of the hotel, you can see the carved lintel on the building across the back garden.

A column near the outdoor dining area of our hotel. And if you go back to first shots of the hotel, you can see the carved lintel on the building across the back garden.

An ode to tourists? I am trying to remember where I captured this fellow; I think either outside the museum or the office of tourism.

An ode to tourists? I am trying to remember where I captured this fellow; I think either outside the museum or the office of tourism.

It's not Swiss without a cow, right?

It’s not Swiss without a cow, right?

He we are, heading down to the lake. It's not a long walk, really; but it is a steep descent.

Here we are, heading down to the lake. It’s not a long walk, really; but it is a steep descent. Follow us lakeside!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Yes, there really is a Swiss Knife Valley.

And we took the very winding, often narrow, looooooong-tunnelled route between Brienz and Brunnen, the home of the Victorinox museum and the heart of Swiss Knife Valley. The lure of assembling one’s very own, monogrammed original Swiss Army Knife was too great to stay away. We did need an appointment, which was easily made in English by phone the day before.

Brunnen, home of the Victorinox museum.

Brunnen, home of the Victorinox museum.

The instructor there in the middle, explaining to Stoney and Theo the parts they are putting together.

The instructor there in the middle, explaining to Stoney and Theo the parts they are putting together.

The truly handy end results, accompanied by all kinds of new trivia.

The truly handy end results, accompanied by all kinds of new trivia.

But Brunnen was more than just a knife museum. It also had a stunning view…

I think Switzerland must have as many lakes as they have mountains.

I think Switzerland must have as many lakes as they have mountains.

Th everpresent haze over the mountains and lake. I am going to have fun playing with these effects in paint!

Th everpresent haze over the mountains and lake. I am going to have fun playing with these effects in paint!

And, although not the most picturesque Swiss town we visited, it had an irresistible miniature golf course. We succumbed.

Theo, displaying his laissez-faire form. He actually really golfs, so you can see he considers this total play.

Theo, displaying his laissez-faire form. He actually really golfs, so you can see he considers this total play.

The statuary throughout this little course was amazing. Half of why I chose to play was just to get closer to the forms. It certainly wasn’t my high likelihood of dominating at this game. Ahem.

See the peacock in the distance behind the lion?

See the peacock in the distance behind the lion?

An eagle.

An eagle.

A giant mantid.

A giant mantid.

A wof.

A wolf.

I think Brunnen is a great place to take kids. It was very engaging and kid-accessible. And we have wonderful souvenirs!  I even have a pair of Victorinox steak knives now, just not with my name engraved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel

Lake Brienz: Trekking to a Waterfall

Switzerland has lots of waterfalls. It stands to reason, right? I wanted to visit one, and the nearest was accessible by either car or boat. Well, technically you could hike or bike there as well, but that would be all day and more athletic than I have EVER been, so really, no. And Stoney is not a fan of water transport, tolerant as he was in Venice. So car it was. However, let me just say that driving around the bottom tip of this lake and up to the parking for this waterfall was considerably more “adventurous” than any boat ride. The road was steep, hairpin riddled, and in places truly not wide enough for oncoming cars to pass. Shuttle buses came up this road! Seriously?

Anyway, we arrived to this scenery.

This is what I came for! The large chair is an unnecessary photo prop, though, as you will see.

This is what I came for! The large chair is an unnecessary photo prop, though, as you will see.

Come join me on our tour! And fair warning…this is a bit of a photo-bombing. I am not sharing half what I have, but it is so gorgeous I can’t help myself.

Follow Stoney!

Follow Stoney!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel