Tuesday, September 27, 2011

St. Remy De Provence: A Visit With Vincent Van Gogh - May 21, 2011

Entering St. Remy

The town of St. Remy was very quaint and full of life!
Here - the Office of Tourism, our first stop

Starry Night-Painted by Vincent Van Gogh in St. Remy
in June 1889-shortly after his arrival

One of many paintings along the "Van Gogh walk" through
St. Remy

Double click on this one!  See the relationship between
this landscape and Nostredamus who was in St. Remy
370 years before Van Gogh!

Andy - Ready to go see the hospital where Van Gogh
stayed - The Asylum of St. Paul de Mausole - near St. Remy

Andy and Vinnie


The Chapel in the Hospital

The gardens were gorgeous!

Van Gogh's Bedroom

The view from the window in the hall - next to Van Gogh's Room
This view was the subject of several paintings

A painting that Van Gogh did of his own room

Van Gogh's room

The stairs/hall to Van Gogh's room

The back of the hospital - one of the windows up there is
where the picture above was taken

Olive Grove - and Painting of the Olive Grove

Back home!

Nice way to top off the day - a dip in the pool
Vincent Van Gogh convalesced for a year (1889) at the asylum of St. Paul de Mausole which is near St. Remy.  After seeing so many of Van Gogh's paintings while we were in France, and even before going, Andy and I wanted to visit a place where Van Gogh had spent some time.  He had also lived in Arles, one of our favorite places, where he invited Paul Gauguin, whom he met in Paris, to join him to paint in his "Studio of the South".  After a couple months of painting together, the two painters began to have violent disagreements, during which, at one point, Van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor. The same night, Van Gogh cut off a part of his own ear. It was after this that Van Gogh went to the hospital in St. Remy working between repeated spells of madness.

The town of St. Remy has created a walking path, lined with paintings that Van Gogh created during his stay there depicting many of the same landscapes that we enjoyed along our walk.  The Hospital was interesting yet eerie to walk through, knowing the history of Van Gogh's madness.  Once again, I was in awe of the fact that we were walking in the footsteps of someone who lived so many many years ago.

Overall, our visit to St. Remy was beautiful, educational (Hot!), and peaceful.  The kids stayed home and Andy and I enjoyed some time exploring by ourselves.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

St. Guilhem le Desert - Last Day of M & M's Visit - May 17, 2011

Sweet, quaint streets wind through St. Guilhem le Desert

Enjoying a stroll through the town

The Abbey

Gardens and Grapevines of the Abbey

Inside of the church in the Abbey


Nana and Grandpa's Birthday... a few years before their birth
 - Bricks in the entryway to the church

Olive Tree

Very Sweet!

Lunch near the gorge of St. Guilhem

Winery stop - Nobody was there except the pup

Add caption

Relaxing by the pool after a nice ladies' day out

Great place to relax and play cards..and have appetizers
with the kiddos

Last day in Montpellier - a nice evening by the pool
The abbey of Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert in the Gellone valley (30 kilometers northwest of Montpellier) owes its name to Guilhem, a French knight of the medieval period. Born sometime in the late 8th century, Guilhem was the grandson of Charles Martel, the Duke of Aquitane, and one of the Emperor Charlemagne's chosen knights. He fought bravely against the Saracens (Muslims) of Spain and became famous as the hero of medieval ballads due to his knightly prowess and chivalrous character. A devout Christian who ended his days (died 812 AD) in the monastery at Gellone, he endowed the abbey with a relic of the True Cross, given to him by Charlemagne. Because of this relic, the monastery soon prospered and became an important place of pilgrimage in southern France (from web site: Places of Peace & Power)

The last day of Mom and Mrs. Eberhart's visit was another beautiful southern France kind of day - the sun was shining, the skies were bluer than blue and the temperature was lovely.  Getting to St. Guillhem le Desert wasn't as difficult as I had feared it would be (we had to exit Montpellier from the other side, the side that I was not very familiar with!) and we made it with no problems.  We even found a convenient parking place to park Mo Mo so we were off to a good start.  The town was fairly quiet when we arrived, with the exception of a middle school aged school group probably on a field trip as they carried papers and pencils to make notes of significant findings during their tour of this historic town.  Our first stop, as always, was the Office of Tourism where we picked up some brochures and information about the Abbey located through the city and at the top of the windy streets. 

Of course, being the ladies that we are, we had to use the "facilities" before venturing up to the Abbey so, lucky for us, Tracey and I had found them once before and I knew exactly where to go!  When I showed Mom and Mrs. E the potties I said "sure they're outside (in a gorgeous garden), and non-gender specific but they don't smell and accomplish our goal!"  I believe that we all used them and felt much better for doing so!  And then began our walk through the beautiful, quaint cobblestone streets, lined with potted flowers and plants.  Some of the shops were beginning to show signs of life and we were hoping that they would all be open by the time we came back through after our visit to the Abbey.

The Abbey's grounds included a vegetable garden and grape vines which were all very well cared for and manicured, under the very blue French sky, it was a lovely picture! After we explored the inside of the Chapel, we exited into a fairly large courtyard where a fresh vegetable market was open.  I purchased some veggies for dinner and then it was time to find out if the other stores in town were open.  We were delighted to find that some were (many were not yet --- and it was almost noon! - The French people sure know how to relax and enjoy life!)  A lot of time was spent in a lovely purse shoppe with wonderful purses of every shape, fabric, color and style - the sales lady was informative and very nice.  Our next stop was a jewlery shoppe which specialized in wire jewlery - very pretty!  We also enjoyed looking and tasting our way through a store specializing in dips, an artist's gallery/studio and a soap/lotion store.  We wrapped up our visit with a nice lunch outside next to the gorge which borders the town.

On the way home, we tried to stop at a winery, the dog was there, barked as usual, but nobody was home so we got to enjoy the beautiful grounds but didn't get to taste any wine.

The trip home was uneventful until, of course, we reached the exits for Montpellier!  There are four exits and I didn't know which one to take from this direction so we decided to wing it!  We got off, began driving and found the Tram tracks! We were able to follow the tram line until we found familiar surroundings and made it home safe and sound.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Toulon - Mt. Faron and Sete - May 15 & 16, 2011

Ready to board the gondola to the top of Mt. Faron

Ready to go!  The peak is 584 meters

Toulon from Mont Faron

Emma enjoying the view!

Andy and his favorite mother in law!

Andy and his favorite wife!

The bikers - one event of their triatholon

Andy and his girl, ready to go back down

The view heading down - there was a bit of a
breeze when we went back down

Emma & Nathan


Emma and our "ride"

See - it was breezier! They closed the gondola while we
were at the top!

The ladies in Sete

My mommy and me in Sete

A little lunch seaside

Watching the sailing school from the beach in Sete
Mont Faron is a mountain overlooking the city and roadstead of Toulon, France. It is 584m high. At its peak is a memorial dedicated to the 1944 Allied landings in Provence (Operation Dragoon) , and to the liberation of Toulon.
The top can be reached either by a cable car from Toulon, or by a steep and narrow road which ascends from the west side and descends on the east side. The road is one of the most challenging stages of the annual Paris–Nice and Tour Méditerranéen bicycle races.-(Wikipedia)

Mr. Boisson highly recommended our visit to Mt. Faron while we were in Toulon so on Sunday we loaded everyone in the bus, got out the map of Toulon that Andrew had picked up from the Office of Tourism and tried to find the right road. After several twists and questionable turns, we made it to the bottom of the mountain and determined that yes, indeed, we should take the gondola and NOT attempt to drive up the twisty turny roads of Mt. Faron.  Unfortunately Adam was not excited about this outing and said he was staying at the bottom (not because he was afraid of the ride, he just didn't want to go - hummmmm).  We told him that he could not stay at the bottom by himself, bought the tickets and boarded the car.  The ride to the top was uneventful and the view of Toulon was beautiful! We enjoyed looking down into swimming pools and checking out the road that we would have taken had we decided to attempt the drive - we made the right decision to take the gondola!

At the top, Adam decided to hang out in the area where the gondola dropped us off while the rest of us went exploring.  Although we all felt bad that he was out of sorts and didn't want to join in the adventure, he seemed to be safe where he was, and he was next to a restaurant in case he needed anything.

The rest of us took some pictures of the gorgeous views and headed up the road to the memorial.  Suddenly we began noticing bikers (on bicycles, not motorcycles!) passing us while people handed the riders bottles of water.  We realized that earlier in the morning, when we had been at the beach near the house, we saw a swimming race and watched as the swimmers got out of the water and began running - we decided that we were, throughout the course of the day, witnessing a triatholon-And a difficult one!!  Swimming in the mediterranean, running and the biking up a mountain - these folks were in shape!  We saw only one ambulance come screaming up the mountain to help a fallen cyclist.

After walking for awhile we decided it was time for some lunch and headed back to the restaurant where Adam was.  We all ordered our food, some of us had a beer, Adam stayed where he was and refused lunch.  A couple of dogs wandered around outside and peaked in the door hoping for a snack but eventually they got tired of staring at everyone and went to lay down in the shade.  Lunch was delicious (various forms of crepes) and when it was gone we went out the door to get ready for the ride back down the mountain.  When the gondola began its desent, the car started swaying in the wind - I must say, it was a little nerve wracking blowing back and forth.  Our "driver" even had to stop the car at one point to allow an oncoming, empty gondola to pass us (when one goes down, the other goes up).  We did make it to the bottom safely, debarked and THEN noticed a big sign (see above) that said: "FERME - POUR CAUSE VENT DE VIOLENT!"="CLOSED BECAUSE OF VIOLENT WINDS" - Yikes!  I'm glad that sign wasn't posted at the top, we would have walked the twisty road down the mountain.

Back at the house, we began packing up, cleaning up and getting everything back in order for the Boissons' next set of visitors. Everyone pitched in and we got the chores done fairly quickly.  On the way through the city we tried to snap pictures of the "Green Bay Packer McDonalds" signs for dad - all of the McD's are green and gold in France rather than the red and gold that we are used to in the states so we referred to them as the Green Bay Packer McDonalds :). Andrew drove us home like a pro, we had some dinner (I don't remember what it was though :( ), unpacked and got ready for bed, we may have even watched an episode of "Bones".

Monday was a "ladies day" - Mom, Mrs. Eberhart and I went to Sete (one of my favorite spots) to walk along the pier, see the lighthouse, the old cemetary, the cute seaside town, have a little lunch and enjoy some beach time.  The sun was shining, the sky was bluer than blue - it was a lovely, lovely, wonderful day to visit the sea! We took a lot of pictures and mom and Mrs. Eberhart even held a sailboat in the palm of their hands :)  We enjoyed a little shopping and bought a few souveniers before lunch which was eaten at an outside cafe across the street from the canal and  included some Fois Gras pate with bread, salads and.... of course, a beer. A musician was playing along the sidewalk so we even had entertainment for a few minutes.  The fishing boats docked along the canal were huge with their nets wound up and ready for their next trip.

After our visit to the town and pier, we piled back into Mo Mo and drove out to the beach with our blanket.  The parking spot that we had found on our first visit to Sete was open so parking wasn't a problem and we walked down near the water, spread the blanket and began wading in the very shallow water.  Soon I realized that since our first trip to Sete, an area of beach that had been there before, was covered with water making it impossible to reach the rock wall that Adam and Nathan had climbed on previously, without swimming - the rock wall was completely surrounded by water!  It didn't take us long to realize why, however.  Soon, a parade of small sailboats emerged from the far side of the beachy area that we were wading in - it was a sailing school for small children!  In each little boat was a child and an instructor - very cute!  They headed out to sea, around the rock wall and eventually came around the far end and back into the beachy cove.  It made sense to us - if you live by the sea, the kids need to learn how to sail!

While wading in the beautiful clear water, we found several critters similar to those that we found on our first trip and picked them up to watch them wiggle.  A mom and her 2 year old daughter were having fun splashing and giggling nearby - I wondered if the little girl had found any critters while she sat in the water.  After awhile of relaxing it was time to get back into Mo Mo and head home.  It had been a beautiful, relaxing day in the sun.