Blog: May 2008

Au Revoir, Little Cottage.

Posted on May 31, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Wouldn't you know it, the night before we leave our vacation rental we finally get the beautiful sunshine we've been waiting for all week! It's hard to believe it was foggy, rainy and cool most of the day. It made a nice conclusion to our happy stay here. This evening I got to spend some time outside with the cows, reading my new book on the Cistercians with the sun on my face and listening to the birds...

Castles, Churches and Frogs in Northern Burgundy

Posted on May 31, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Chateau Bourbilly Sorry it's been awhile since our last post. We've been out sightseeing a lot, and when we've been home I've been working on my website. It's been nice to have enough time to do that! Today is our last day in our little cottage and we've had a really good, relaxing time here. The cats are even more friendly now: one of them comes in all the time and we have to keep him from jumping up on counters and running upstairs...

Short Photo Walk in Semur-en-Auxois

Posted on May 25, 2008 by Holly Hayes
This morning the sun came out for awhile so we drove to the nearest town, Semur-en-Auxois. It's a pretty medieval town overlooking a river, with ruins of a big castle and a nice 13th-century Gothic church. View from the bridge. Fruit and vegetable market. East end of the 13th-century Eglise Notre-Dame. South transept and crossing tower...

A Day Out in Avallon

Posted on May 25, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Yesterday we drove 30 minutes west to Avallon, primarily to check out the carved portal of its church. The drive was beautiful and there were hardly any other cars on the road, which was what we were hoping it would be like here! The countryside and villages we've seen so far look a lot like England. In fact, as we drove through one village, which had old stone houses on either side and a roundabout in the middle, David said he felt the instinct to drive on the left for the first time in months! One of the best parts of the drive was seeing the TGV (super-fast train) zoom through the countryside! We are only 10 miles from a station here, and it's thrilling to think how fast it could zip us to Paris or the south...

Finally, France!

Posted on May 25, 2008 by Holly Hayes
After a few brief stays in France in the last couple weeks, interspersed with visits to Switzerland and Germany, our big tour of France has finally begun. We are settled in a rental cottage in northern Burgundy and are so happy here. We've been looking forward to the France leg of our journey for a long time - dreaming of a more relaxed pace, peaceful countryside and beautiful old churches...

A Bit More Freiburg

Posted on May 25, 2008 by Holly Hayes
In my last post I promised photos of Freiburg - in case you're interested you can see them here on Flickr. They aren't too exciting since the weather was so bad the whole time. We had a pretty relaxing time there too. Thursday turned out to be a holiday on which all the stores were closed, which was a surprise. It was Corpus Christi (aka Corpus Domini), a Catholic festival celebrating the body of Christ...

Border Criss-Crossing (and a DUI Test!) in France, Germany and Switzerland

Posted on May 21, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Greetings from Freiburg, Germany! We have been doing a whole lot of criss-crossing of countries the last few days, which has really put our humble language skills to the test. From Chamonix we went to German-speaking Bern for two nights, then drove through Germany, ending up in Colmar, France. We spent one night there, and now we are back across the German border in Freiburg...

Chamonix Adventures

Posted on May 18, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Hello, David here blogging about Chamonix as this destination was one of my requests. My mother had visited here while I was in college and came back with stories of fantastic mountain adventures and the gift of a really great t-shirt. Chamonix has been high on my list of places to visit ever since and it sure didn't disappoint. As a side note, it is also the site of the first winter Olympics in 1924...

Where We Go From Here

Posted on May 13, 2008 by Holly Hayes
You can click to enlarge. Above is a homemade map of our plans for France. (Sorry I never got around to making one for Italy!) Except for the first few stops, this is not at all exact and we'll likely veer off the path quite a bit. But this gives a general idea of the route we'll take as we attempt to see as many big cathedrals, little churches and picturesque villages as we can...

Bergamo and Milan

Posted on May 13, 2008 by Holly Hayes
The beautiful Galleria in Milan Yesterday we took the train from Bergamo into Milan. This is the reason we're in Bergamo - hotels here are cheaper and easier to access here than in Milan. But we had a hard time getting ourselves to the train station and considered skipping it entirely! We're just so tired of big cities and neither of us had any huge interest in Milan other than to get some nice photos for Sacred Destinations...

Ravishing Ravenna

Posted on May 10, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Byzantine Empress Theodora in the Basilica di San Vitale Ravenna is wonderful. We are here for two nights to see its ancient churches and Byzantine mosaics, which are considered the best in the world. I've been pretty excited about this stop, and I'm happy to say it has entirely lived up to my expectations. In the early 5th century, Ravenna briefly became the capital of the Roman Empire when Rome was under threat from barbarian invasions...

A Walk on the Cinque Terre

Posted on May 8, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Yesterday we walked the Cinque Terre, which is something we'd been excited about doing since before we left the States, especially David. The Cinque Terre ("five lands") are five villages along a stretch of the northwest coast of Italy that are connected by a scenic hiking path. See pretty map at right (which I didn't make). We are in the Cinque Terre for three nights, based in the town of Levanto...

Carrara: Where Marble is Born

Posted on May 8, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Tuesday afternoon we left Lucca for Levanto, our base for the Cinque Terre. Along the way we made a detour to Carrara, home of the famous white Carrara marble that has been shipped all over the world since medieval times. My guidebook says 1.5 million tons of it are still shipped out every year. Our detour off the motorway took us first through Massa, quite an ugly town, where marble seems to be the main industry...

Solo Day Trip to Florence

Posted on May 8, 2008 by Holly Hayes
The Ponte Vecchio, bridge over the River Arno in Florence. On Monday, our last day based in Lucca, I took the train into Florence. David stayed behind at the hotel because he had ordered a new camera lens from the USA and there were some technical difficulties with customs he had to deal with (involving many phone calls and faxes). These typically Italian complications caused more than a little anxiety, but I'm very happy to report it was delivered Tuesday before we left! I got a late start to Florence (David drove me to the station for the 1:32pm train) and my trip was highly task-oriented, so it was a very busy and tiring day...

Delightful Day Trips: Tuscan Abbeys and Siena

Posted on May 3, 2008 by Holly Hayes
From our base in San Gimignano we made two fantastic day trips south. The first (on Tuesday) was to the Abbey of San Galgano, about an hour's drive. The journey itself turned out to be a big part of the attraction - incredibly beautiful Tuscan scenery, nice winding roads, and little traffic. One part of the drive was quite strange - amid all this lovely nature, we came upon a valley with an industrial factory, several big cooling towers, and a big silver pipe snaking up the hillside! I bet the people who live in that valley were thrilled when that was built! The abbey was a nice change from all our city sightseeing - wonderfully peaceful and accessible...

Day Trip to Pisa

Posted on May 2, 2008 by Holly Hayes
This morning we drove to Pisa from our base in Lucca. It was just a super-easy (toll) freeway drive and then a bit of slow traffic once we arrived in Pisa, for a total of about 20 minutes. The parking situation is far better than I would have dreamed - there is a large, free(!) parking lot just outside the north wall by the Campo dei Miracoli (where all the main attractions are), with separate sections for motorhomes and tour buses and a little shopping center with a market and toilets...

A Bit More Assisi and San Gimignano

Posted on May 1, 2008 by Holly Hayes
This post is primarily to share some catch-up pictures and brief notes from Assisi and San Gimignano. First, in Assisi, I must record that one of the best restaurants we found was just up the street from our hotel (Hotel Pallotta) on Via San Rufino, called La Lanterna. The service was a bit indifferent but the food was consistently delicious and served promptly...