31 October 2011
29 October 2011
Villa of Sir Thomas Hanbury
It’s Saturday, the entire village is quiet as everyone seems to be away for the long All Saint’s Day weekend so in order not to be left out, we decided to get out of the house and go to Italy. It’s been almost 8 years since we have been planning to visit this charming mediterranean garden of Thomas Hanbury just off the Italian-French border. We first heard it from an English-couple who once was our guest at our apartment in Vence when we used to run it as a holiday flat. Since then, H and I had been promising ourselves to visit this Botanic garden place but our busy and travelling lifestyle always kept us from realizing this plan, hence, we decided to do it today, hurray!
The tomb of Hanbury and his wife. He died in 1907 at the age of 75. He purchased the 18-hectare land, together with the ancient ruins of the 11th century Palazzo Orengo with a fortune acquired in China from trading in silk, cotton, tea and property. The garden was declared a Nature Preserve in 2000.
Giant cacti, tropical plants from all over the world where Thomas Hanbury traveled and collected seeds and cuttings and planted them in this huge garden that juts down into the sea.
The visit lasted for two hours since they were closing up at 5pm but our hearts were racing, truly excited about the beautiful plants that are simply out of this world! H says this must be one of the most beautiful gardens he has ever seen. We promised to return in Springtime when all the flowers will be in full bloom!
28 October 2011
Went to the village of Mortola superior in Italy (just half an hour from home) which is 300meters above sea level and noticed with amazement how these vines climbing from someone’s wall has not turned orange yet. Take it from the long sunny days the Italian Riviera is famous for.
27 October 2011
We used to live in this town, city of arts and flowers. Here you can find the works of famous artists such as Henri Matisse’s Rosary Chapel and Marc Chagall’s mosaic art displayed inside the Vence Cathedral.
This is the famous mountain of St Jeanette as seen from a square in Vence. The building in the foreground is the Centre Culturel where I used to attend my first French lessons. I’m still learning it now, mind you, after 12 years in France!
After that short trip of our ex-town, we stopped over in the coastal town of Cagnes sur Mer to take in some of the Cote d’Azur’s sea air. I haven’t been feeling well lately, must be the flu, and I thought a generous dose of sea air would clear it all up. And in between inhaling/exhaling, watching the going ons on the water is such a delight!
Eglise des Pecheurs (Fishermen’s church) of Cros de Cagnes, the coastal quarter of Cagnes sur Mer.
25 October 2011
We finally got the caravan hooked into the car and towed it through the morning traffic of Lyon without worries. We drove towards the High Alps in the southeast. The red, yellow and orange colours of autumn is fantastic! With the mountains framing the landscape, it’s like a picture postcard!
What a delight to stumble upon the walnut orchards just outside Grenoble. Walnut trees as far as the eye can see! These are the famous Noix de Grenoble which was awarded in 1938 an Apellation d’Origine Controlee, a title given to French wines. (Earlier this month, we also saw the chickens of Bourg-en-Bresse with the same AOC title!)
Such beautiful surroundings! We promised that when we return, we shall do a more detailed exploration of this jewel part of France, the Isere.
L’Albenc, Isere, Rhone-Alps, France
Now lighter without the caravan, we continued our drive towards home but not without stopping at places that catch our curiousity. We are now in the town of La Mure. Fascinating to see the entire road lined up with flowers. Flower shops after flower shops who gamely display their chrysanthenum collection for the approaching All Saints’ Day.
La Mure is a small town in the heart of the Alps, south of the department of Isère,
about 900 m above sea level on the Plateau Matheysin.
Errr..we actually stopped in La Mure just to buy some patisserie. We’ve been driving continuously and my sweet tooth is craving for something nice…
Would have loved to sit for their famous fondue but we need to get going, ouch!
CORPS, the name of this village which we drove past by. I got curious because Corps in French means “body”. It’s a very pretty mountain village with only 500 inhabitants but of course, increases multifold in the summer when holidaymakers invade the area.
Corps is the last village before getting through the mountains of the High Alps.
From a moving car, you get to stumble upon old and remote chapels like this one so the camera has to be ready for that split of a second shot.
It’s getting near midnight and we needed some few minutes nap before we can move again. Home is just three hours away and it would be nice to sleep in our own soft bed. Our nap stop is the 17th century fortified village of Entrevaux in the Var (Provence), seen here with its impressive Porte Royale gateway.
24 October 2011
We just stopped over in Paris yesterday to break the still long journey. Today we are hitting the motorway again, onwards to Lyon to collect our caravan. Meanwhile, I took a photo of this hay truck on the autoroute, I don’t know but I find hays and everything about it very photogenic!
Somewhere in A6…
23 October 2011
Back home to Paris! This is the peripherique or ring road where full concentration is required so we don’t miss the appropriate Exit, otherwise, it would be extremely tortuous to go back. Luckily, it’s a Sunday morning, when all Parisians are having a “grasse matinee” (“fatty morning” which means to stay late in bed), so no heavy traffic on the road.
We always discussed about eating in this Moroccan restaurant one day, and that day came today. The place was full and our neighbouring diners have only praises for the food! We did not get disappointed! And the ambience is truly Moroccan.
22 October 2011
It’s Saturday morning, while driving to our next destination we see cyclists taking the entire lane as if it’s the Tour de France! Cycling has been making a comeback in the UK and the London mayor himself is strongly supporting it.
Our Fifth Stop: Maidstone
Maidstone prides itself for having the most number of medieval buildings in the whole of the UK, so that when weird structures like this one sprouts up, the local residents howl. I like it though.
The 14th century Archbishop’s Palace along the river Medway
The Archbishop’s Palace now houses the Kent Register Office.
A wedding is about to take place and these ladies are rushing to join the wedding party.
Next Stop: HYTHE
And the last English town before we leave for France tonight: DYMCHURCH
A Martello tower along the coast of Dymchurch. This is just one of the remaining 45 towers (originally 103) which was built between 1805 to 1812 to protect England from Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion. They are built of brick, 3 floors, the roof containing the cannons and 2.5 ton gun
21 October 2011
English sightseeing continuing, our second stop is the historic town of Arundel dominated by its hilltop castle, considered as one of the finest castle in Britain. Arundel Castle was constructed shortly after the Norman Conquest of Britain by Robert de Montgomery in circa 1067.
The French Gothic style Arundel Cathedral built in 1873
Still in Arundel
A trip to the UK is not complete without trying their legendary fish and chips!
Ancient tombs in Littlehampton church
The grandiose houses of Littlehampton
Fourth Stop is the cathedral city of Chichester
The market cross of Chichester. In Britain, this structure marks the market square of a town.
And purposely enough, it is used as a meeting point as well as a resting place after a busy day shopping.
Street workers, particularly those of the State, are easily recognizable by their reflector vests. This is one of the first things you will notice upon entering the UK, the reflector uniform .
Autumn fashion in the UK
A must-do when visiting the UK is going for a meal and a drink at a pub. We went someplace big, pleasant and seemingly popular as people of all ages never stopped getting in. But what a shock when H was served red wine in a glass! Staff says they ran out of wineglass! We looked around us and noticed that everyone was drinking beer in tall glasses so how can they run out of wineglasses?
“They probably are too busy to do some washing..” H retorted.
20 October 2011
No sooner have we laid out our suitcases than we have to pick them all up again to take our flight to England. The plan is, we have to pick our British car from a garage in West Sussex then drive it all the way down to the south of France, stopping over in few places enroute…
This is a shot from my plane seat and down below is the glacier-covered mountains of the French Alps.
We are just leaving the French airspace and the earthy colour down below is the sand dunes of the Reserve Naturale de la Baie de Sommes, a paradise for birds, shellfish hunters as well as seals. This bay is actually listed in the select club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World, alongside San Francisco Bay and Ha Long Bay of Vietnam.
We are now coming into British airspace and seen below is southeast of England with its white sandy beaches and well-laid out urban planning.
Gatwick airport carpark viewed from the sky!
As soon as we landed at Gatwick, we picked the car right away so we can start some sightseeing. We allotted only two days for this Southeast of England trip and I am looking forward to a lot of photographic opps!
First Stop: East Grinstead, West Sussex
Timber-framed houses dating back to 1451.
St Swithun’s Church, rebuilt in 1789.
East Grinstead, West Sussex, England
17 October 2011
A market trip to Ventimiglia is not complete without taking a walk at the sea promenade. It’s one of the most beautiful sight in this last coastal town of Italy before getting into France. This is the old town perched on a Ligurian hill.
The mountain on the right is Italian and those on the left are French. I am now standing in Italy looking at the French town of Menton on the left. Faintly visible and just looks like a whitish impression on the left side of the photo but it is indeed Menton, the lemon capital of France.
The notice says it is temporarily closed for roadworks stating opening times of 6pm to 8am the next day, re-opening briefly from 12:30pm to 2pm for lunch. So we just missed it by few minutes!
Nothing much we can do except take the long detour via the long and windy back mountain roads of the French Alps. This is the lemon town of Menton which we have to pass through in order to get to the detour road.
From the 20-minute ride to home which is now blocked, we are forced to take the longer and more windy road via Sospel which is about one hour of driving. It’s quite picturesque though, seeing viaducts like this one, a helical shape actually.
This is the curved viaduct of Caramel which is about 10km north of Menton. It was built in 1913 to link Menton to Sospel. Before the present day windy mountain road was constructed, the little villages on the way were accessible via a tramway route. Traces of the old 1,000m long tunnel that was built for the tramway is still visible. I wonder why they closed it.
Check my flickr photo of this viaduct.
Route to Sospel, France
16 October 2011
Home sweet home!
After days of travelling on the road, we’re finally home and the first thing we did this morning was to take a walk, savor the fresh mountain air and relish the fiery colours of autumn!
Alpes-Martimes, South of France
The good thing about living in the Italian border is having both French and Italian trains passing through our village every hour. If we want to go skiing in Italy, Limone is just half an hour away, and if we want to go sunbathing in a French beach, it’s also half an hour away, what more can we ask for!
And sights like this is just on our doorstep!
Alpes-Maritimes, South of France
15 October 2011
We love to stay longer in Belley so much but we have to get back to the road and continue the drive on to home. The colours of autumn are really spectacular today because it was a beautiful day and the sun hitting the orangey leaves renders them more intense and fiery!
A cosmos field in the Haute-Savoie! After sunflower fields, I think this is one of those that blows you away! I wonder what can they get out of the seeds or petals?
A mural of rope climbers
The early morning steam coming out from the newly-cultivated soil is just as spectacular!
Stopping for a picnic. What I love about French countrysides is the presence of picnic tables for travellers.
Picking pine cones to decorate my Christmas tree
15 October 2011
The town of Belley
We spent the night in Belley, a decision well-done because when we woke up the next day, we discovered how absolutely charming the town is! It has the backdrop of the mountains of the High Alps and the architecture has a bit of Provencal flavour due to its proximity to Provence and the heritage buildings indicate that it was once the home of a Royalty. Indeed it was, as I found out that it was the Episcopal seat of the Duchy of Savoy.
“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Does this statement sounds familiar? Well, it is the famous quote of Jean Anthelme Brillat Savarin, one of the famous sons of Belley.
It was a Saturday morning and the Open Air Market is on! A perfect moment to see and smell the fresh produce of the town.
“The fate of a nation depends on the way that they eat.” …….Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
“Cooking is one of the oldest arts and one that has rendered us the most important service in civic life.”…..Jean Anthelme Brillat Savarin
“A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye”…….Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
“The pleasure of the table belongs to all ages, to all conditions, to all countries, and to all aeras; it mingles with all other pleasures, and remains at last to console us for their departure”The pleasure of the table belongs to all ages, to all conditions, to all countries, and to all aeras; it mingles with all other pleasures, and remains at last to console us for their departure.”…….Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Sacks of walnuts
Statue of the Immaculate Concepcion in one of the town squares
The 18th century Episcopal Palace is now a cultural center, a venue for official receptions and houses a library.
The statue of St John the Baptist on the facade of the cathedral
St John the Baptist Cathedral
The tower of the Cathedral
The Cathedral of St John as viewed from the park
The flowery entrance to the park
Some vestiges of Belley’s Roman origins
The red-tiled roofscape of the town
14 October 2011
Today we start our drive down home to the south of France taking the National Road instead of the usual autoroute (expressway). Not only that we wanted to save on toll fees which could run to about a 100euros but we wanted to take our time, enjoy the countryside scenery, embroil in scenic driving and, naturally, speed photography!
Here are some shots I took from our moving car:
The welcome sign of Cuisery is in the form of a book.
A village of 1,700 inhabitants, would you believe it has 20 shops dealing with books of all kinds and ages!
The chicken is the symbol of Bourg-en-Bresse. It is the only town in France where the Appellation d’Origin Contrôlée (AOC) is bestowed on its chicken, the same certification given to French wine.
Chicken posters and adboards everywhere in Bourg-en-Bresse
A Job Fair taking place at Ainterexpo Exhibition Hall
The Statue of Liberty is back in France? No, it’s just the icon of La Liberté, a company especializing in renting spaces for weddings, baptisms…
The village of Saint Rambert en Bugey, its church and the statue of the Virgin Mary (encircled)
Another unnamed town in the Rhone-Alpes, France
Stopped by in the town of Belley in the Rhone-Alpes, France
An ancient signage in Belley
13 October 2011
This is not a deformed sculpture. It’s the headless statue of Saint Denis who is carrying his head looking for a believer to give it to, before collapsing. In the 3rd century, he was beheaded by the Romans in front of the Temple of Mercury in Montmartre.
Square Suzanne BUISSON, Montrmartre, Paris 18th
12 October 2011
One of the street arts in Paris that I find cute is the grafitti mosaic of Jerome Gulon.
“Cute” because it is tiny, but quite artistic. This is just one of the three he installed in Pont Alexander.
The other mosaic in Pont Alexander
At close range.
This one I found at Place des Abbesses in Montmartre is quite different though. I wonder who the artist is.
11 October 2011
The Wall of Love is the idea of Frederic Baron and calligraphed by Claire Kito. It has become a place of rendezvous for lovers and honeymooners around the world.
Place des Abbesses, Montmartre, Paris 18th
10 October 2011
“Cosmos” in Greek means harmony or order or balanced. The Spanish priests who grew these flowers in Mexico were impressed by the evenly-placed petals and its cosmic beauty that they named it Cosmos.
Iris flowers got its name from the Greek Goddess “Iris” considered to be the messenger of Love. It is often used to shower compliments on somebody.
The plant’s name is “fuchsia”, discovered in the Caribbean by the French botanist Charles Plumier in 1696-7. He named it after the German Physician Leonhart Fuchs who was one of the founders of Botany. It was only in 1892 when the name was used as a colour.
The drooping, eardrop shape of a fuchsia flower symbolizes confiding love and trust.
9 October 2011
A series of street lighting? A necklace?
It’s actually a spider’s web with droplets of water. It rained all night and I saw this just outside our door. I couldn’t find the spider though….
8 October 2011
Not only that H and I tried our hands on the new gadgets out in the market, all displayed in one roof, but we also earned valuable tips from the experts who willingly shared their secrets in taking amazing photos!
…and had so much fun practicing on fashion photography, etc.!
Porte de Versailles, Paris 15th
7 October 2011
It’s not an oil refinery, it’s the George Pompidou Center.
Inaugurated in 1977, it houses one of the most important museums in the world featuring more than 60,000 collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe, a vast public reference library, general documentation on 20th century art, a cinema and performance halls, a music research institute, educational activity areas, bookshops, a restaurant and a café.
Chatelet, Paris 4th
6 October 2011
I finally saw this sculpture which I have read so much about. Created by Jean Marais and inaugurated on 25 February 1989, it is inspired by the famous 1943 short story of Marcel Ayme, “Le Passe-Muraille” (The man who could walk through walls)
Montmartre, Paris 18th
5 October 2011
This beautiful Llama is always an attraction to hikers and promenaders along the river Orge. I have photographed her several times but she’s just too cute to resist!
Ollainville, Essone (91)
4 October 2011
Walking past a shop specializing in everything ancient, I noticed this beautiful Art Deco adaptation of “La Paresse” (Laziness), one of the 7 capital sins. The writing at the bottom says it was painted and engraved by Andre Lambert, 1918.
Saint-Germain de Pres, Paris 6th
3 October 2011
If you are infested by rats and mice, fret no more! There is a shop specializing in eradicating these pests, although just by looking at the window display, one would think that the business owner is more passionate in keeping them instead.
Chatelet, Paris 1st
2 October 2011
That’s why everytime I go out of the house, I always take my camera with me for I know there is always something waiting to be photographed. And verily so, on the way to the boulangerie (bakery), I stumbled upon this strange mushroom. I haven’t seen anything like it!
1 October 2011
Waiting for the Metro at midnight after ambling at the Nuit Blanche