Tuesday, November 12, 2013

ARLES - France

Arles is a city and commune in the south of France. A large part of the Camargue is located on the territory of the commune, making it the largest commune in Metropolitan France in terms of territory.

The city has a long history, and was of considerable importance in the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis. The Roman and Romanesque Monuments of Arles were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1981. The Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh lived in Arles in 1888–1889 and produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his time there.

When we arrived in Arles, we started our visit with the Roman amphitheater.



It looks very impressive







We couldn't go everywhere as restoration works were going on.

In 46 B.C., Julius Cesar founded a Roman colony in this city, which had supported him during the siege of Marseille.

Consequently, the city changed and splendid Roman buildings were built: the forum, of the temples, the ancient theatre, the amphitheatre, the circus, the thermal baths, etc.

Under the reign of the emperor Constantine, Arles' prosperity earnt it the title of  "The little Rome of Gaul"

After that, I wanted to follow the traces of the painter van Gogh who had lived in Arles.



We had a cup of coffee just in front of the "Maison Jaune" (the Yellow House) which I recognized. Today there is a snack bar and a shop in it.



During his stay  between February 1888 and May 1889, Vincent Van Gogh produced approximately 300 drawings and paintings.



Unfortunately there was little indication if not at all to find where he had lived and painted. Finally I found this "Fondation", but there was nothing in it but a lady who showed me a plan how the "Fondation" would look like in a year or so.



Fortunately, when I took the little tourist train, the driver showed us the places where he had painted and the reconstruction of the house where he had lived which is a hotel today.  It had been destroyed in WWII.
I couldn't find no other traces of his life and found it deplorable that the city hasn't done more for his so famous inhabitant.



We then crossed the "Place de la République" (Place of the republic) surrounded by beautiful manors, once inhabited by rich citizens.



Some wall paintings where very beautiful.



I don't know if van Gogh ever bought medication in this pharmacy, but at least it was called "van Gogh"



My little train, which had started at the "Maison Jaune" took me through very narrow little streets, leaving only a little space left and right so that the train didn't touch the walls of the houses.



The sightseeing was very interesting and I even spotted a cat watching us from a window.



There is no space for big cars !



Some doors were so beautiful



These are remains of an old bridge at the Rhône, which hadn't been rebuilt.

Arles is really a very beautiful city. I only deplored that there were so many graffiti and tags all over the city. I never had seen so many in my whole life in just one town, which looked a little neglected.

More information about Arles are here

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

MEDITERRANEAN PARK - SIX FOURS, France

During my stay in Ollioules in South France, my friend took me to the Mediterranean Park at Six Fours a little village nearby. The name is rather funny because it means "six ovens".



The park is beautiful in its partly wilderness and botanical gardens.



The whole domain is 7 ha (17 acres) and on the top sits a kind of fortress,



which is called Cap Nègre



There was nothing indicated at the building which looked rather neglected and unused, but I learned from my "google" researches that it should be a museum and dates from Napoleon. As at the bridge leading to the entrance was written "danger" I didn't dare to go further.



The park was full of beautiful palm trees, and this part was rather well maintained.



The marble table needed some restoring, it was partly broken and it was hard to read the directions which should explain where was what.











But the views on the sea were beautiful



and walking around on these little ways through the wilderness with exotic plants was a real pleasure.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A ROMAN VILLA IN SAINT CYR - France

When we visited Saint Cyr sur mer  we visited the ruins of an ancient Roman villa.

During the construction of a railway in the 60th ruins and artifacts from the Roman site of Tauroentum had been discovered.

It became a museum in 1969, and shows a Roman settlement from the 1st century to the 3rd or 4th AD:
Built on the remains of a "villa maritima" it  has 3 beautiful mosaics in black and white of the first century.

Glassware, funeral lamps, coins and rare objects such as twisted columns of white marble of the first and second century were discovered and are displayed in the museum, we only had limited time so we only visited the ruins of the villa.



A wall painting showed the villa as it had once be.



There was a sarcophage exposed



A factory where roof tiles were made and which was still in use in the 17th century



A "swimming" pool a little to narrow to swim, but they probably walked inside



A map of the villa and some remains of the rooms



It was very interesting to see how modern the old Romans lived already, while we here in Norther Europe were still running around in furs.



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

RIPAILLE CASTLE - Thonon/Evian

Spending some holidays in Thonon (France) one day when the weather was not so good, we visited the
Ripaille castle, which is located between Thonon and Evian on the banks of Lake Geneva. It is one of the most notable places of history, nature and beauty in the Haute-Savoie.

This former residence of the Dukes of Savoie, also a Carthusian monastery in the Middle-Ages, was in ruins when, in 1892, it was bought by an industrialist and art lover, Frédéric Engel-Gros. He restored the domain, including the historic buildings, the gardens and the large park.

Today, Ripaille is mainly a private domain producing a famous AOC wine. (Controlled designation of origin)

The most interesting parts of the domain are open to visitors and lots of events are organized.

You can read all about the castle here



The castle looked quiet impressive and in order to show you the whole domain I included an air view.



In the middle of the court yard was a well, now closed with a grid, probably because of uneducated tourist who throw their garbage in it.




There also were a few outbuildings.



A very beautiful staircase led to the upper rooms. The view of the whole domain was painted on the wall.



Then we arrived in a reception room, with a huge open fire, a real art work ceiling and twisted columns which is rather seldom.



Napoleon who follows me everywhere had been on a visit in this castle too.




The bathroom was very modern if you consider that it dated from the end of 1800. There even was running water which was collected in a basin under the  sink.



The kitchen was just amazing. You almost could use it still today.  There were cupboards all around, a big stove and taps in copper.



In one room all kind of things were stored which once had decorated the rooms or used for work, like the sewing machine, the spinning wheel, and a butter maker.



There also were quiet a lot of stuffed animals. They looked so real. I loved the smile of the crocodile.



The ceilings were of outstanding beauty.




We then visited the wine cellar. I admired the rag for empty bottles. What a good idea. The wine barrels were so huge that a human could easily stand in them. The whole basement were full of these barrels.




Although nobody lives in the castle there were mail boxes. We went out through this big, heavy door and had really loved our visit.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

THONON LES BAINS (France)


Last months I  spent 10 days with 2 friends in Thonon-les-Bains which once has been  the historic capital of Chablais, a province of the old Duchy of Savoy. The town was the capital of the Dukedom of Chablais. It is located just at the Geneva lake but on the French side, and only a few km away from Geneva.

In 2004, when working for the bypass road Thonon-les-Bains, excavations on the site Genevray led to the discovery of a necropolis. According to mythology, the city was founded by an ancient Germanic tribe who took part in the massacre of the Romans in the Black Forest.

The historic center, built around the Grande Rue, is characterized by narrow streets, lined with buildings of three or four floors. The artery has a commercial and residential pedestrian zone, and is adjacent to the oldest street in the city, the street-Coq Chante. You can read more here.



We walked along the lake front and admired the yachts and boats in the habour



The city has a very pleasant architecture which reminded me the South of France.



This is one of several fountains and springs  trickling in Thonon town centre and takes pride of place on the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville. (City hall)




The Château de Sonnaz was built in 1666 on the ruins of Thonon’s medieval château. It belonged to the Gerbaix de Sonnaz, one of Savoie’s oldest families. It now houses the Musée du Chablais and Thonon-les-Bains Tourist Office. We visited an exhibition where we could see which what phantasy all kind of stuff was smuggled from Switzerland to France or rather from France to Switzerland. Really amazing ! I will write about this in a separate post.



The city is located on two levels and to get into the old town you have to take the funicular,



which gives you a wonderful view on the Geneva lake. Thonon’s 19th Century hillside railway, Constructed in 1888, ‘Le Funiculaire’ was moved by a counter-weighting system using 11 tons of water. Today, it still links the port to the town centre, but since 1990, it has been powered by electricity.



When we were up in the old town, there was just a flea market taking place.




Since the 90s this former Monastery of the Visitation chapel has been dedicated to modern art and welcomes well-known artists all year round. There are also concerts taking place. We couldn't see the inside it was closed unfortunately




We continued our walk through the little streets with the beautiful old houses and arrived at



the wash-house which  was very important for social reasons as one of few places were women could meet up and talk. Doing the laundry was physically challenging so doing it in a group made it more manageable as women could chat, joke, sing and sometimes even fight.

Even today women use it for especially big pieces of the laundry or carpets. 



We took the funicular to get down to the harbor again and returned home.

Thonon les Bains is a famous place where lots of very wealthy people have their holiday villas or even permanent homes. As it is so close to Switzerland it is certainly also useful for their piggy bank. .

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I love painting, writing, travelling and photography. My favorit models are my four cats which I observe with fun and humor. I am German, married to an Italian and we live in Waterloo (15 km from Brussels) / Belgium since many years. Waterloo is a famous place to many tourists, because Napoleon lost his battle here against Wellington and other European countries.

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