I’ve been home for a couple of days now, and, as usual, I’m starting to feel that I’ve never been away. Here are some of my favourite photos from the trip.
This was a day of two halves, after breakfast things disintegrated somewhat, initially because of shut metro stations and later because of bulk people. Leaving the hotel I met an Australian couple I had said hello to at breakfast, they had been to Versailles yesterday and said the queue had been two hours long.
Royce and I had arranged to meet at Versailles, probably in the queue, but I had not imagined how bad that queue could be. There may have been 10000 people and we queued for over two hours. The palace is very large and very splendid but most rooms were so crushed with tourists that you needed to hold your camera above your head to take a photo. Fortunately when we got to the gardens they are so large we could find a peaceful spot to eat our sandwiches (filled rolls in our terms) and drink our cans of fizz. After the long walk from the end of the gardens back to the station and 2 train changes I got back to the hotel after 6pm pretty weary and sore. On the train there was an Italian family sitting opposite us and the children showed signs of restlessness until their father gave them their drawing pads. So I got my pad out and showed the kids some drawings and then sketched a portrait of the boy (Marco). The drawing was a bit rough but the kids and their parents seemed to enjoy it.
A shower and a lie down fixed my weariness and I have just finished dinner at a nearby restaurant. Duck with potato bake followed by creme brulee.
My brother, Royce, and I had arranged to meet in the nice garden behind Notre Dame cathedral at 10 this morning. This worked like a charm and just before 10 there we were sitting on a bench under some trees in a light drizzle catching up on how each other’s holidays were going. We had another walk around the inside of the cathedral then as we were deciding what to do next I got a call from my friend Jenny from Holland who had driven down to catch up with me. They had booked a hotel across the road so we headed back and found them at a nearby cafe where we enjoyed a coffee and another catch up. Hein offered to drive us somewhere so we headed off to Fontainebleau palace about an hour and a half away. The palace is a pretty impressive place with one section devoted to stuff from Napoleon iii and amazingly decorated rooms from earlier including a room and bed designed for Marie Antoinette. There is so much gold leaf guilding almost every room, and so many rooms that one becomes almost bored with what is unbelievable luxury.
We were traveling in Hein’s immaculate 1965 Peugeot 404 wagon and came back through the center of Paris at about 6pm. The trip went well, in spite of the Parisian drivers until we got near our hotel and needed to find parking at which point it became a bit of a nightmare until we found an underground park for the Gare du Nord. Royce headed back to his camping ground and Jenny, Hein and I have shared a convivial meal
There is not a lot to say about today. Mark left before breakfast to catch his train to Barcelona and has reported this arrival and expedition to the Picasso museum.
I spent most of the morning in the hotel because a trip back to historic Avingnon would have left me with little time in the town. I had a few pen sketches so I coloured a couple (one above from Arles) before heading to the station.
The train was a bit late but the trip was a joy, high speed trains are so much more pleasant than planes. They have more room and at times offer great views, I got fleeting views of castles, rivers, hill towns, churches, crops and forests. The train had two levels and my seat was on the top and the speed was great.
I’m back in the same ibis hotel in Paris and might head out to do some sight seeing before dinner.
Checking my guide book I discovered that the Musee d’Orsay had a late night on Thursday so I consulted my map of the metro and decided on a route. I wish they it could have been that easy. The first train I got on had a breakdown and never left the station, finally they announced that we all must get off. Consulting my map again I had a fair walk to a platform for a metro line which had 6 more stops to get to the same station where I needed to change to another line. That went fine until I found that the line I was to change to was not running. The next option was to walk. When I finally got to the gallery I had a pretty sore knee and was hot and sweaty.
However it was great to re-visit what I rate as the best gallery in the world. I had forgotten what an extensive collection of impressionist paintings they have. There seemed to be dozens of paintings by Pissaro, Renoir, Sisley, Monet, van Gogh, and the list goes on. Most pleasing to me were Renoir’s “Ball at the Moulin de la Galette” and one of Vincent’s self portraits.
A different route back to my hotel and it was after 10pm do I decided it was too late for dinner.
We hit the road a bit earlier and were in the car park at the Pont du Gard before 11.30 after the drive from Arles. The aquaduct is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most important attractions in France. It was built by the Romans in the first century AD to supply the town of Nimes with water. I have been there before with Paulette and have painted the bridge but I’d forgotten just how massive it is. There were a vast number of people there but the site is so big we never felt really crowded.
There were lots of people in canoes paddling under the bridge and many swimming and jumping off rocks into the river. Mark climbed to the top on one side while I enjoyed the view and the shade. It got to about 33 degrees today perhaps our hottest yet.
Our journey took us on to Avingnon where we checked into our hotel before visiting the historic town with its Palais des Papes where rival Popes resided in the 15 th century.
The palace is massive and the town sits on the Rhone which seems to surround it, we climbed a hill above the big church near the main square which provided panoramic views. A photo of the Pont d’Avingnon was essential. The town was very busy so we found a bar in a quieter square and had a beer while listening to a couple of buskers.
Next we retrieved the car from a car park 4 stories underground. We had entered the parking by the river and came out, on foot, in the center of the city. Farewell was said to the car which had served us well, then we walked back to the hotel.
After a substantial breakfast I took the car into the town to avoid the 15 minute walk but after driving around for 10 minutes looking for a park that decision was feeling counterproductive. However I found a parking building and managed to squeeze our small car into a park so tight I had to get out of the passengers side. With my, current, poor flexibility that was a challenge.
For about an hour and a half I sat in a garden and completed a pen & wash pic of the Roman theatre (as opposed to the arena).
Mark met me at midday and we strolled across to the Musee Reattu which has a collection ranging from the 1600s through to Picasso who bequeathed 57 drawings and two paintings. The Picasso drawings were from about 1971 and were a pleasure to view. There was also an excellent photography exhibition showing.
Lunch came after 2pm as usual then we split up again and I made a sketch of some pretty randomly placed buildings before meeting up again for a beer before heading back to the hotel.
We have found a laundromat so we might get our washing done before tea.
Laundry proved no problem and, fortunately, the laundrette was just beside a bar so we managed a couple of drinks while we were waiting.
Mark used Trip advisor and discovered that the bistros just the other side of the laundromat from the bar was well recommended so we went there for dinner and got what was almost certainly the best meal we have had. Mark had the guinea fowl and I decided on a salad which came with a whole baked camembert. Dessert was a tiramisu for Mark and tart aux pommes for me.
This morning’s action started with us trying to find somewhere to print Mark’s train ticket. He had booked on the internet from his tablet but is required to have a printed copy. Unfortunately we drew a blank on this, a year or two ago it would have been easy to find an internet cafe but today every one just uses their phones.
A fast autoroute drive took us past Montpellier then a slower road to Aigues-Morte, an ancient walled town on the Rhone canal. I’ve been there before and it felt just as nice but I’d forgotten the busy commercial areas on the outskirts of all these towns. We had a coffee and I made a quick sketch before wandering around the town snapping photos madly. Or at least Quilliam was.
Mark has been doing most of the driving but had a glass of red wine with his gourmet hamburger lunch so I drove across the Carmargue to Arles.
Our, budget, hotel is 15 minutes walk from the old town of Arles and while I had a brief lie down Mark headed off and managed to get his tickets printed at an Algerian internet cafe. The French keyboard baffled him for a bit however.
I met him in the town and we wandered up to the Roman Arena where we had a beer outside while I made a sketch of the buildings. A lot of people were queuing to get into the arena so we joined the line for what was described as a bull show. It was mostly a horse riding exhibition displaying the culture of the guardians of the Camargue. But there was a part of the show where an angry bull chased young men , dressed in white who jumped out of the arena to avoid being gored. Unfortunately, the bull also knew how to jump the first fence and repeatedly had to be enticed back into the ring.
We ended up supporting the bull who clearly just wanted to go home. The rest, however, was a great spectacle in a fabulous place, Mark and I were imagining that almost 2000 years ago Roman citizens had sat on the same step watching gladiators or lions v Christians.
Dinner outside in a nice square then the walk back to the hotel.
13000 steps today and the knee feels pretty good.