Sunday, 9 August 2015 – Day 15 – Paris – London – Final Day of Coach Tour – (Day 61)

Sunday, 9 August 2015 – Day 15 – Paris – London -Final Day of Coach Tour – (Day 61)

Was an early wakeup at 6.00 and it was time to say goodbye to Alyssa who had to leave at 6.15.  Was sad to say goodbye as she was a great roommate and hope we stay in touch.  Said goodbyes to the different folk who were not joining 8 of us to London.  Was just a great group – various ages and nationalities.  I would like to commend the young ones on the tour. They were all very well mannered and so very helpful and respectful towards the more mature passengers so I say a huge THANKYOU to you all.  Really made this trip for me so very enjoyable. Also THANKYOU to Luigi for his fantastic driving and for Britt who was really very knowledgeable.  All the best to you both in the future.

Wayne and Lou were coming back to London so it was time to say goodbye to Steve and Gay who were off on another little break before returning to New Zealand.

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We were on the bus at 8.00 for the hour and half drive to the huge port of Calais. Our allotted time for the ferry was 12.30. Before boarding, we had to show our passports.  Now it was time to leave Luigi and Britt as we would connect up with another Cosmos bus.

The ferry ride was about two hours into the Port of Dover once more and then onto the coach for the long drive to London.

Finally arrived in London at about 6.30 – booked into the very swanky Dorsett Shepherds Bush hotel.  There was a lovely park over the road.

Then it was time to meet Cynthia to get my very tightly packed bag that I left with her. It was very good of her to do this for me.  After she left, went and had my last drink with Wayne and Lou and said goodbye at 8.30.  Headed up to my room to put all my gear into some sort of order and in bed by 9.30 as have a really early start in the morning.

End of an amazing coach tour throughout Europe – even though it was quite full-on, we saw some amazing places with some amazing people. It was great !!!!

 

Saturday, 8 August 2015 – Day 14 – Paris, France – (Day 60)

 

Saturday, 8 August 2015 – Day 14 – Paris, France – Day 60 

Today I woke up feeling terrific so my decision to forfeit the Cabaret last night was a good one even though I was disappointed that I still have not seen a show in Paris.

We did not have to get up too early and have our cases out as we were staying 2 nights here.

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France. Situated on the Seine River, in the north of the country. It had a population of 2,241,346 within its city limits in 2014. Paris was founded in the 3rd century BC. It is the home of the most visited art museum in the world, the Louvre, as well as the Musee d’Orsay, noted for its collection of French Impressionist art, and the Musee National d’Art Moderne, a museum of modern and contemporary art. The notable architectural landmarks of Paris include Notre Dame Cathedral (12th century); the Sainte-Chapelle (13th century); the Eiffel Tower (1889); and the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur on Montmartre (1914).  In 2014 Paris received 22.4 million visitors, making it one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Paris is also known for its fashion, particularly the twice-yearly Paris Fashion Week and for its haute cuisine, and three-star restaurants. Most of France’s major universities are located in Paris, as are France’s major newspapers, including Le Monde, Le Figaro and Liberation.

Paris is home to the association football club Paris Saint-Germain and the rugby uions club Stade Francais. The 80,000-seat Stade de France, built for the 1998 FIFI World Cup, is located just north of Paris in the commune of Saint-Denis. Paris hosts the annual French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament on the red clay of Roland Garros. Paris played host to the 1900 and 1924 Summer Olympics, the 1938 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

The city is a major rail, highway, and air-transport hub, served by the two international airports Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city’s subway system, the Paris Metro serves 4.5 million passengers daily. Paris is the hub of the national road network, and is surrounded by three orbital roads: the Peripherique, the A86 motorway and the Francilienne motorway in the outer suburbs.

This is a bustling city…

After breakfast we were joined by a local guide, Sabrina and had a drive around Paris seeing of course saw the Eiffel Tower, Luxembourg, Arc de Triumphe, the Pyramid near the huge building of the Louvre, The Invalides, Concorde,Champ Élysées, Notre Dame, the Paris Eye and many many more impressive buildings. We crossed over the Seine a couple of times over the Pont Alexandre III.

We then had free time and was dropped off opposite the Notre-Dame de Paris. Notre-Dame de Paris which is a historic Catholic cathedral and is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. The cathedral treasury is notable for its reliquary which houses some of Catholicism’s most important first-class relics including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails.

I went inside the Notre-Dame and it was just as beautiful inside as the exterior of this Cathedral.

NOTRE DAME 2

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It was then onto the coach to see the Eiffel Tower.

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The Eiffel Tower is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France. It was named after the engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world. The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.

The tower is 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building.  The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second. The third level observatory’s upper platform is 276 m (906 ft) above the ground, the highest accessible to the public in the European Union. Tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or lift to the first and second levels. The climb from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. Although there are stairs to the third and highest level, these are usually closed to the public and it is generally only accessible by lift.

We were next dropped off near the Paris Eye so it was time for postcard buying and of course more souvenirs.  I wandered for awhile by myself and then came across a nice little restaurant to have my lunch.  ESCARGOTS done in garlic and olive oil with bread .  Yum. Susan, Kevin and Alyssa came wandering by and Susan decided to be brave and try one and she said she enjoyed.  Not too sure.

After lunch, it was now time to board the coach to visit Versailles Palace and Gardens. Europe’s quintessential royal residence was the principal home of French kings from Louis XIV to Louis XVI.

The Palace of Versailles, is one of the largest and most opulent castles in the world. A fine example of 18th century French architecture and art, it is one of the most visited attractions – and castles – in France, as well as being a UNESCO’s World Heritage site for the last 30 years.

What a place. Once more, our tickets of entry were arranged by Sabrina, our local guide, so only had a short queue before we entered the Palace.

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We saw intimate chambers, including the king’s grand apartments.  We saw perhaps the most famous room at Versailles is the Grande Galerie, or the Hall of Mirrors, which was once haunted by courtiers playing politics or awaiting an audience with the monarch.

The Hall of Mirrors measures 73m in length and is comprised of 17 arched windows with each window embellished with 21 individual mirrors. This reflective hallways beams light off 357 mirrors! The Hall of Mirrors isn’t only popular for its effects, it’s also lined with statues and busts as well. Deemed one of Louis XIV’s best contributions to the Palace, historically it was also where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 to end WWI. This was just an amazing room.

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This same room later witnessed one of the defining moments of 20th-century European history when the Treaty of Versailles, ending the First World War, was signed within its walls in June 1919.

The Gardens looked very impressive from the upstairs. Just so magnificently manicured and vibrant colours.

This former home of French kings epitomizes royal elegance in the style of Old Europe. Versailles originated in 1631 as a humble hunting lodge for Louis XIII. But his son Louis XIV built the now familiar palace on the site outside Paris and moved the nation’s government and court to Versailles in 1682.

Versailles remained the epicenter of French royal power, home to government offices and courtiers alike, until 1789—when a hungry and agitated group of mostly female revolutionaries stormed the palace and essentially evicted Louis XVI and his queen, Marie-Antoinette. The mob sent the royal couple back to Paris on the first steps of a journey that led eventually to their beheadings.

Beginning in the 19th century, portions of the magnificent palace were put to work for the French public as the home of the Museum of the History of France. And while the monarchs are long gone today, Versailles still plays a role in the nation’s governance—the palace regularly hosts joint sessions of the French legislature.

The most acclaimed example of formal French garden design, Versailles’ vast chateau gardens are famed for their geometrically aligned terraces, tree-lined paths, ponds and canals. Spreading west of the palace, the Versailles Chateau Gardens cover 800 hectares (1,976 acres) in the style of garden landscape artist, Andre Le Notre. One of the most special aspects of the gardens is the 50 fountains which act as focal points, enhancing the geometrical design.

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Marie-Antoinette enjoyed these grounds so much that she created her own private estate here, a collection of rural homes and buildings laid out along the lines of a Norman village. The queen sought privacy and escaped the pomp and hubbub of the palace court at her hamlet, which now draws crowds in its own right. The queen’s estate even operated as a working farm where peasants and livestock produced fresh product for the tables of the grand palace.

As Europe’s largest palace garden created back in the 17th century it’s nothing short of breath-taking and spans down into basins with regal fountains for the complete picturesque setting.

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This place was absolutely beautiful and the gardens out of this world.  We spent quite some time in the rooms of the Palace, we did not have a lot of time to walk further around the gardens.

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At 3.00 it was time to leave this wonderful place and head back to our hotel which was about an hour away.

On our way back to the hotel, we went in the tunnel that Princess Diana was killed. There is a momument on top of the bridge and we were told it would probably be surrounded with flowers as it was the 18th anniversary on 31 August of this tragic event.

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It was then time to freshen up for our farewell dinner at L’Escarmouche Restaurant.The venue was downstairs and the decor was lovely – old stoned walls.  The menu was brilliant – had a choice from 5 selections – entree, main and desserts.  The entertainment, besides our jovial waiter was an accordion player and guitarist.

I chose the Frogs’ legs a la provencale, Traditional Burgundy Beef and the Caramel Creme. Was delicious.

This would be last time I got to see the majority of this exceptional group of people as all except eight were ending the tour here in Paris. I was ending mine back in London so had to take all the ones that were here tonight.

You can probably tell from the photos  it was a great night full of fun. It was now time, once more, to board the coach and go down to the Eiffel Tower to take more photos without so much of a crowd as it was during the day.

The fun continued

 

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When we got back to our hotel, more drinks with the usual four, Kevin and Susan and Britt and Luigi joined us.

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Alyssa had a very late night as she met a Luc. Couldn’t find her Italian man.!!

Once again, another brilliant day/night.  I am very repetitious here, but each day has just been amazing.

 

 

Friday, 7 August 2015 – Day 13 – Lausanne – Beaune, France – Paris (Day 59)

 

Friday, 7 August 2015 – Day 13 – Lausanne – Beaune, France – Paris (385 miles/620 Kms) –  Day 59

An early wakeup at 6.00 and on the coach for early start at 730 as it is going to be a long days travelling.  We left Lausanne and Lake Leman and heading towards Beaune, a medieval Burgundian town. Not too far away is Dijon, famous for its mustard.

About a half hours drive we crossed the Swiss/French border. There were many vineyards and olive groves in this area and it is world renowned for its Burgundy wine.

Beaune is famed for its natural fortified wine made from the Muscat grape, and records of its use go back almost two millennia. More recently it is also the producer of a high quality red wine. The Greeks used the town as a spa, and brought the Muscat grape that makes the Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise wine famous today. Today, over 100 producers including fifteen domains and a cooperative winery combine their efforts to maintain the highest standards and the centuries old reputation of the town and its wines.

Beaune is a market town and obviously a commercial centre for the outlying farms and hamlets. Busy and bustling, life in the village centre around an open central area with squares, weathered stone fountains, shops, outdoor terrace cafés, with plenty of shade from the plane trees. The word “beaume” means caves or grottos, and Beaumes-de-Venise is built against a line of cliffs along the south western edge of the Ventoux mountains. The old houses and narrow streets of the medieval village rise up to the reddish sandstone cliffs with their many caves. It’s as famous for its olive oils as it is for its better known wines.

I didn’t feel like doing too much walking or going shopping,  so just had a little wander around by myself. Many of the buildings had polychrome roofs (varied colours). One of the buildings I saw was The Hospices de Beaune or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune is a former charitable almshouse in Beaune, France. It was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor. The original hospital building, the Hôtel-Dieu, one of the finest examples of French fifteenth-century architecture, is now a museum.

The 572 year old Hospital  is one of the best preserved buildings from the 15th century. In 1443 the Hundreds Year Old War was just ending and most of the population was in dire needs after war and plague. So the hospital was built and its first patient was taken in 1452.

It was most likely built by Flemish and French masons, painters, and glass cutters. What really stands out is its famous polychrome roof which is probably influenced from Central Europe or most notably Hungary. I I certainly have never seen a roof in France like this and apparently this became the go-to style for Burgundy during this time. In nearby Dijon, there are similar roofs with patterns like this one.

Wandered down some little streets and cobbled alleyways.

I came across the Dali Museum, (closed today) dedicated to the dedicated to the artist master Salvador Dali (1904 – 1989. On the morning of 23 January 1989,  Dalí died of heart failure at Figueres at the age of 84.  Jean Amiot, art editor and collector of Dali works, was the mastermind behind this project, as he had collected around 800 pieces over 25 years. Amiot decided to house this permanent exhibition in his Burgundy homeland. The museum shows a wide range of his works—there are more than 100 pieces, including sculpture, drawings, paintings and furniture

There was a pretty garden and one of the garden works, called “L’Escargot et l’Ange” (The Snail and the Angel), bronze 1977-1984. Dali was fascinated by natural geometry, especially as evidenced by certain snails with a helix form. Another sculptor was of Dali.

SNAIL

There was another church in the town with its impressive spire.

Came across the statue of Gaspard Monge, born at Beaume (9 May 1746– 28 July 1818) that was erected in 1849.  Monge was a French mathematician, the inventor of descriptive geometry (the mathematical basis of technical drawing) and the father of differential geometry.  He was educated at the college of the Oratorians at Beaune. In 1762 he went to the Collège de la Trinité at Lyon, where, one year after he had begun studying, he was made a teacher of physics at the age of just seventeen.  After finishing his education in 1764 he returned to Beaune, where he made a large-scale plan of the town, inventing the methods of observation and constructing the necessary instruments; the plan was presented to the town, and is still preserved in their library. An officer of engineers who saw it wrote to the commandant of the École Royale du Génie at Mezieres, recommending Monge to him and he was given a job as a draftsman.  Monge’s name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the base of the Eiffel Tower.

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After my wandering around, I had a coffee and a couple of macarons but was disappointed with them – my grandaughter can make better !!  It was then time to board our coach and get to our accommodation at the Timhotel in Paris 17. It was a way out of the Centre of Paris. We were disappointed that there was quite a lot of construction taking place outside so those who had not been to Paris before were not impressed.  As I was not feeling on “top of the world”, as had a very bad headache.  I decided I would not go to the Cabaret as the pickup time wasn’t until 930 – instead I was in bed about 630.  Was “unconscious” so didn’t hear Alyssa come home.  Wanted to be able to enjoy tomorrow’s activities as this was another day I was looking forward to – visiting the Versailles Palace and Gardens as I did not get the opportunity to do so in 2014.