Wednesday, May 20, 2015

France from bottom to top

I last wrote after catching the train south about 350km from Paris to Poitiers. I stayed next to the station but climbed the hill to the interesting town mainly for dinner.

On Sunday morning I travelled still further south (about 450 km) changing trains at Bordeaux and Toulouse and finally meeting Malcolm at the nearest station to his home in Cordes sur Ciel.

Malcolm was a student at my very first school and went on the tour to New Zealand in 1966-67.
I had a wonderful 2 days with him, his wife Kerry and their friend from Australia, Mary.
The town is a medieval town perched on a hill and this photo is from the car as we approached. Their house is about the centre of the photo.

The next photo is the view from their terrace (and my bedroom window)

and next is the town gate from their front door.

I have many other photos of one of the most beautiful towns in France. It was lovely, after my long journey to sit having a late lunch which morphed into dinner on their terrace. The weather was actually hot there for my stay.

On Monday, Malcolm drove me and Mary to the nearby town of Albi, bigger but also beautiful with a large cathedral from where this photo is taken looking over the ornate gardens and river.

Then the afternoon was spent having a BBQ by a pool on an estate about 20 km away owned by a wealthy English man who was not there but allows his American caretakers to use his facilities. They are friends of Malcolm and Kerry and also live in Cordes.  While very nice, I would prefer to live in Cordes itself.

On Tuesday I wandered the town and then we went to lunch in another nearby pretty town of Gaillac before I caught the train to Toulouse.

Malcolm invite me to visit many years ago and, when I planned my itinerary, it looked like we had a clash as they flew to England the next morning.  I am so glad we were able to make a few adjustments so I could visit for 2 nights.

I spent a night in Toulouse which is about 180 km from the Spanish border. I last visited in 1976 when I did catch a train to that border but in those days I needed a visa to enter Spain.
On Wednesday I went back to Bordeaux and stayed about 24 hours. It was also a nice city with an old town, another cathedral of course and some impressive buildings, thankfully slightly cooler as it is near the ocean. This interesting fountain on the waterfront allows you to keep cool but you do get your feet wet.

Finally on Thursday it was a train journey of nearly 1000 km back through Paris to Strasbourg on the German border. Thankfully the very fast trains in France meant it only took 5 and a half hours.

I spent 3 nights in Strasbourg. The first morning it rained but I visited the very ornate Gothic Cathedral famous for its Gothic architecture and carvings. It was the world’s tallest building for 250 years until 1874.

I also wandered among the Alsacien (I prefer this to the English Alsatian) houses in the canals and, in the afternoon visited a museum of Alsacien culture.

Saturday was fine and sunny again and I took the train a little over half an hour away to a smaller town of Colmar where there were many more such houses

and visited the Dominican church which houses among several altarpieces the masterpiece of Martin Schongauer, Madonna of the Rose Bush created around 1475.

On Sunday I made another long train trip to Bavaria.

My almost a month in France has ended and I have to start saying Danke schön instead of Merci.
I have also now passed the half way point of my trip.

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