Wednesday, November 30, 2011

France finall day - Sept 25

Our last day together in France was spent around the palace of Versailles.  After a quiet week in western France, we were welcomed back into the hustle and bustle of Paris life!  We attempted to visit Versailles in the morning, but found the lines to be so long that we elected to spend some time visiting one of the many sidewalk cafe's.  We finally made it in in late afternoon, but still had a very long wait to get our tickets and get in.  It was amazing and worth the wait, but man it was BUSY!!

The exterior of Versailles - Did I mention that it was crowded?

The famous hall of mirrors!  Amazing!!
We had such an amazing week and can't thank Ted enough!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

France - Sept 24 - What a great birthday

Well, if you had asked me, how do you want to spend your 40th birthday, I probably would not have had many preferences, but what beats spending it in France visiting beautiful chateau's?

We would leave Tours today and drive back towards Paris into Versailles for the night.  On the way, we would visit several more chateau's.

The first and easily the most breathtaking was Chateau de Chenonceau built over the River Cher.  It was given to King Henry II's mistress Diane de Poitiers but of course after his death, it was repossessed by Catherine de Medici.  Built in the 1400's, it would reach it most glorious condition in the 1560's under the control of Catherine de Medici.

The chateau spanning the River Cher.

The Marques tower.

Diane de Portiers would build the bridge connecting the original chateau and then Catherine de Medici would enclose the bridge area to make it into part of the chateau.

Our next stop was the town of Blois where we had a nice lunch in a sidewalk cafe.  Matt and I wandered around the town until we found the chateau perched high on top of the hill.  This chateau was quite unique as it seems that every french king who lived here, just decided to build another wing, therefore it was constructed from the 13th to the 17th century.  The chateau boasts 564 rooms with fireplaces (of which 100 are bedrooms) and 75 staircases.

Fit for a queen!!

This is only one side of the 4 sided courtyard filled with the chateau.

Monday, November 28, 2011

France - Sept 23 - Tours Chateau's

Tours is an excellent place to stay when visiting the many fabulous chateau's (castles) of the Loire Valley.  You would think we had the best French speaking tour guide...  oh wait....  we did!!!  We still can't thank Annie enough for all the planning, translating and hard work that she put into this trip to make it so wonderful.

The first chateau on tour today is Langeais.  It was a short drive from Tours.  It was built in the middle of the 15th century and is the historic site of the secret marriage of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany in 1491.

The front gate of Langeais

The rear view of chateau Langeais is fantastic!

Look at all those happy grins as we get set to enter our first chateau of the day.

Gathering around to start the tour.
What a fantastic door - doesn't it look secure and so very french?
And yet another secure looking door - maybe you would think twice about attacking this castle?
Given how cold and damp it was in here in September, I can imagine these fireplaces were huge for a reason.
Our next chateau was Azay-le-Rideau with its beautiful central stairway.  This chateau was built in the 16th century and you could tell that it was not built to be defended, but as a show of wealth and comfort.

Getting ready to start our tour.

Beautiful chateau with its foundation rising right out of the Indre River.
Our last chateau of the day was Amboise which is the location where King Charles VIII hit his head and died at the age of 27.  It was home to several of the french monarchs including King Henri II and Catherine de' Medici who raised their childrenand with Mary Stuart, the child Queen of Scotland who will marry the future French King Francis II (sorry but my love of British history is showing through here).

The beautiful views of chateau d'Amboise perched high above the Loire River.

Ted, Annie and I enjoy the views from the castle walls overlooking the Loire River.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

France - Sept 22 - Saint Malo & Tours

We spent in a the very small town of Pontorson and set out on the morning of the 22nd to explore a bit more of coastal France.  We started our drive northwest towards the port town of Saint-Malo along very small country coastal roads.  The small villages that we drove through were amazing.  The town of Saint-Malo is a beautiful walled port city located on the Brittany coast.   

A map of old Saint-Malo

The old walled portion of Saint-Malo

The Saint-Malo Cathedral

Beautiful stained glass of the Saint-Malo cathedral

The view from the walls out over the English channel.

This beautiful boat was anchored in the harbor.
 After spending the morning in Saint-Malo, we drove into the Loire Valley region and stopped in Tours for several nights.  We arrived later in the afternoon, but just in time to catch a great sunset on the cathedral of Tours.  We found a great restaurant and spend the evening enjoying great food and great company. 

The Cathedral of St-Gatien in Tours.  It was started in 1170 and construction continued into the 15th century.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

France - Sept 21 - Mont Saint Michel

I have finally finished all the photos from our trip to France at the end of September.  Just a few months behind!!  We had a great time after leaving Caan and driving to the beautiful tidal island of Mont Saint Michel.  It was quite the climb to the top but well worth it.

Mont Saint Michel.

Group portrait

Our turn!!

Matt in the entryway to Mont Saint Michel

Yeah...  Matt and Ted on their way down.

The cathedral.


Matt enjoying one of the many halls inside the monastery.

Wow...  that is a very tall fireplace.

Matt and Ted enjoying a break on our way down.

The museum that Matt and I visited.

Taking a break before climbing the rest of the stairs!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

France - Day 4 - Sept 20

The next day of our France trip was the highlight of the trip for Ted.  It was a visit to the beaches of Normandy.  D-Day was June 6, 1944 and the US forces landed on Omaha beach which is where we visited.  We also visited the American Cemetery.  It is estimated that over 5,000 of 50,000 landed troops perished on Omaha beach.

D-Day invasion map.

Ted visiting the Memorial.

Ted enjoying the tour.

The American Cemetery

Ted visiting the American Cemetery

Map of military operations

Friday, November 4, 2011

Current update & Day 3 of our France trip (Sept 19)

Well, we made it safely to Haines, Alaska and as usual, the weather has been a bit extreme.  We arrived on Tuesday in very high winds and torrential rains and today it has snowed about 6 inches. Matt has been busy photographing the Bald Eagles and I've spent my time either studying or photographing as well.

Well, I thought I should probably finish posting photos of our Paris trip so hopefully over the next couple of days, I will have them all worked up and posted here.  Our third day in France (September 19), we left Paris and Annie (Matt's sister) was a very brave soul to drive us out of Paris in the rental car.  We did very good and didn't get lost in Paris.  We drove a little over 2 hours to Caen where Annie attended college during her foreign study. Caen is located in northwestern France near the beaches of Normandy. 

Once we finally figured out how to get to our hotel (ok, maybe there was at least two attempts on this one), we checked in, and then set out to explore the city on foot. Our first stop was to check out the many wonderful pastry shops along the main pedestrian area and of course we found some great ones. 

YUMMMM....  that pastry was delicious!!!  Matt enjoying his after snack rest on the main street of Caen.

We next headed off to explore the walled fortress area of the Chateau de Caen. 
The gate of the Chateau de Caen.  This fortress area was built by William the Conqueror around 1060.
St. George's Church located within the walls of the Chateau de Caen.
View of the walls of the Chateau de Caen.

Ted reading up on the Chateau de Caen.

This is now a museum within the fortress walls.

View of the St. Pierre church from within the Chateau de Caen's gate.

After exploring the Chateau, we then ventured out to explore several of the other sites around Caen.  We walked to the Abbaye aux Hommes which is a beautiful old church that was completed in 1063.

The Abbaye aux Hommes and its many steeples are on the right of the beautiful Hotel de ville (town hall) of Caen.
This beautiful old church was nothing more than a facade as it was in ruins. 

We had a great dinner although we kept Annie very busy translating the French menu into English!!