Goodbye Europe, its been a blast !!

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So our final couple of nights in Europe an amazing sunset off the Coast, parked up with several others just outside Dieppe about 2 1/2 hours south of Calais for Saturday night, Sunday night in Calais then cross back to the UK Monday Morning.

We are wanting to get up to Calais  before lunch time Sunday so that we can have a bit of a stock up in the big Hypermarket before crossing back over, it was a bit of a push and time was running out so ended up having to toll road for about 50km ( 9 euro) into Calais.

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Ended up not actually stocking up as much as we thought we might but cheese beer and wine all OK for a week or so.

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Our final ferry crossing Calais to Dover ended up being the roughest we had the entire trip with a nasty chop across the English Channel.

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Last Update for the “Adventures of Miss Stella”.

We have had a great couple of weeks catching up with friends and a few other visits, along with several evenings enjoying local hospitality in the odd pub.

Once back in UK we spent a night with Martin and Jo Rowe at Havering -Atte-Bower, I worked for these guys back in 1992 and it was amazing to see how the area has changed since with the inevitable encroachment of London Sprawl.

From here we headed down to Wales where we have based ourselves with Edward and Magaret Harris on the family farm in the village of Beguildy.

A couple of days away from here tripping around visiting a Plastic recycling center based on Bale Wrap and a good catch up with the Innovis Genetics crew in Aberaswyth. Including selling a couple of Primera rams to the Harris family.

We are presently cleaning Miss Stella up ready for storage in Bath on Saturday when we will train down to London for the weekend and Heathrow on Monday.

Will probably have a wind up post once home and put some overall travel details in but thanks for following.

Shane, Susie & Miss Stella

Coastal France

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Apologies for the break in transmission but amazingly since back in the UK Data coverage from my Cell Phone has been somewhat limited and in fact in Wales full on reception is very limited, anyway this is a bit of a catch up of last few days in France. Thursday 28th September

So leaving the National Riding School we had quite a long afternoon on the road heading towards the coast, around Angers, but somehow managed to pretty much go directly through the centre of Rennes before heading towards The French Coastal town of St Malo, and very easily finding our way to the Aire   ( 7.50 euro/night , water and waste)which ends up being next to the Racecourse and about a 20 minute bike ride from the Historic Centre of  St Malo.

Laundry is on the cards this evening which basically means sitting in the Laundrette for a couple of hours people watching.

Next morning, another beautiful day we cycle our way into the old part of St Malo and have a very pleasant day in this amazing old city. Totally based on tourism now it is still a stunning town with amazing history throughout.

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Once again an afternoon drive as we continue our way up the coast, a photo stop at Pont du Grouin, where we watched the turn oft the tide, which is huge, it must be at least a 6 meter tidal change on this coast, and obviously very good fishing.

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Making our way into the Oyster Fishing village of Cancale we made our night stop in the local High School carpark, somewhat busy the next morning but no problems.

Friday 29th September

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A wander around the village of Cancale including the oyster huts, 12 fresh oysters on a plate with lemon slices = 3.50 – 7.00 euro depending on size. Once again a very Tourist dependant town. History is definitely fishing specifically Oyster farming but now it seems most of this is done in commercial farms not wild. Another version of the tidal flow with the massive mudflats that stretch out into the bay.

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This looks as though its going to be another “big “ day on the road, yesterday was about 80km, today might pass 100km’s.

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Mont St Michel is our next stop, after Paris this is probably France’s most famous landmark. A very impressive Abbey that was built onto of a rock out in the bay, with only a small footprint, the only way they could build it was up and the self guided tour through the open area’s (this is still a working Abbey) was an amazing trip through a whole heap of hidden rooms and galleries.

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A very impressive setting and ancient building, the Abbey itself is surrounded by an equally ancient village now full of tourist shops and resturants.

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Mont St Michel is set on a rock in the same bay as Cancale which is basically a 700ha bay of tidal mudflaps. Over the centuries these mudflats have changed due to silt movement and early in the 1800’s it was seen that the manmade access pathway out to the Abbey was changing the way the tides were moving the silt around and essentially “hard land” was starting to creep towards the Abbey itself. So a very clever dam system was built on the river to control the tidal flow in and out of the river itself so the inland mudflats don’t completely dry out and that the flow out into the bay is maintained at a constant flow.

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Tonights parkup is a first for us, we are in a supermarket carpark, perfectly legal this one as well, as the local Carefour has a dedicated area for “campercars”. However not the quietest as somehow trucks use it as well and the refrigerated units leave their fridge motors on.

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le Cadre noir, Saumur

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After a very quiet night parked in a grass parking lot beside a village Tennis Club, it was a quick trip around to the entrance of le Cadre noir.

The French National Rising School.

This is an unexpected find for us and we have decided we are too close not to take the opportunity for a visit.

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History.

In 1815, King Louis XVIII decided to reorganize the French Cavalry (which had been decimated by the Naploeonic Wars) and created the mounted troops school inn downtown Saumur. With the necessity of forming quickly new riding soldiers for the army, around ten of the famous and better French civilian instructors formed the above group with the aim of teaching an academia horse riding style to soldiers. Over the years, soldiers have earned the level of their civilian instructors and replaced them. It was only from 1825 that the name “Cadre Noir” appeared.

The “Cadre Noir” is the teaching staff of the school. These instructors can be identified by their daily uniform of Black boots, jacket and breeches along with the Black “kepi” hat.

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After WWII, obviously replaced horses to fight, so the Cadre Noir left the military school. From 1972 on it was demilitarized and became the teaching staff of the National Riding School, orientated for sport and competative equestrian.

As a tradition the chief “ecuyer” (instructor) is still a military officer. Today the “Cadre Noir” is composed of around 40 Ecuyer’s of whom 8 are military officers and 3 are women.

About 150 students come to the school each year, to train and perhaps go on to riding instrucor or even “ecuyer” eventually. Competitions are part of the school as well as “Pole France”, where the French Equestrian teams train before the international competitions including the 2016 Olympic winning Eventing Team, (pride of place on the trophy wall).

Other aims of the National School are to study and research, equestrian performance, including France’s most prestigious equestrian veterinary resource’s.

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Another part of this School is the continued tradition of the exhibitions and gala’s which effectively revolve around traditional dressage, both individual and “la reprise de manege”, along with the “Airs above the ground performances”.

  • the courbette, where the horse rears and its forelegs must remain flexed
  • the croupade, where the horse kicks out strongly with its hind legs as the rider touches the crupper with the whip
  • and the cabriole which is in fact a combination of the both
  • The demonstrations also include both free jumping and riden, with the most famous jump being over the single white post.

The school currently stretchs out on 300 hectares. The school boasts 7 indoor riding arena’s, 18 outdoor arena’s and over 50km of tracks as well as a big cross country.

The school accommodates 400 horses, 300 of these are owned by the school. All horses are bought as three year olds, (no breeding done by the school). The school buys mostly geldings (60%) and no stallions are kept at the school. The horses career at the school lasts about 15 years and once the horses have reached this age they are sold to riders or to welcoming families.

The stables are all automated, with auto feeding 4 times per day unlimited hay it seems. Manure and stable waste is removed thanks to an automatic system, Grooms muck out the boxes, into the corridor between the boxes where there is a conveyor system to remove it all to dumps. Each year about 6000 tonnes of manure is sold to local mushroom producers.

We were very fortunate enough at the end of of tour to be able to watch about 5 minutes of the dressage practice in the huge performance arena as they were rehearsing for the Gala performance the following weekend. Would have loved to have hung around to have been able to see that however there is a ferry booking for us Monday Morning.

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Chateau’s Cont:

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Tuesday 25th September.

 
Chateau Usse visit, a very relaxing start to the day as it doesn’t open until 10.00am. Which at this stage is not a bad thing as it is really turning Autumnal, literally the sun doesn’t appear properly until about 8.30 and its now dark by 8.00pm. The shorts are still on but are now pretty much in shoes again, its a bit cold on the toes for Jandals and evidently the French don’t approve of Men wearing jandals.
So this Chateau is still privately owned, the present owners living in one of the wings that is not open to the public, there is a massive ongoing restoration project here as the limestone rock used is really suffering from old age. Quite a bit of information on this restoration process, but in what seems true French fashion nothing is happening quickly.
The castle is owned by the Duke de Blacas, the first known user of Usse was the Viking Gelduin I who erected a wooden fortress here in 1004. The present building was begun in the 15th centuryand the final pavilion built in 1690. The gardens and terraces were designed by LE NOTRE, (the famous architect of the gardens of Versailles.

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The legend tells that while staying at Usse, the writer Charles Perrault (17th century) was inspired by the romantic features of the place and wrote here the tale of Sleeping Beauty.
This has been portrayed with lifesized staged excerpts from the story throughout the Ramparts of the castle.

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From here we actually backtracked about 20km to pay a visit to the Royal Abbey in Fontevraud Abbey, this is one of the last remaining Abbey’s in France. Prior to the reformation followed by the revolution there were over 1000 religious orders scattered around France. These were almost entirely destroyed during the reformation. Fontevraund was saved as a building as it was converted into a prison (one of the most feared prisons in France) and remained in use until the last prisoner left in 1985.
It is a massive restoration national restoration project here as well, but as this is a UNESCO building funding is granted by central government as well.
It is actually quite incredible to here about what has been found under the floors of these old buildings in terms of foundations of even earlier buildings and Crypts.

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Also passing right beside one of France’s Nuclear Power Centers, obviously very well guarded.

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Chateau’s Of The Loire, France

 

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Monday 24th & Tuesday 25th September

Suns out again so off we go, but we have a bit of a detour for a start to a home design shop called “Leroy Merlin” a great couple of hours in here and lots of photos of different setups of kitchens, bathrooms showers wardrobe assemblies etc. So many ideas to try and track down back in NZ.

Hitting the road again we set off down the 751 in the direction of Tours, this area is in a lot of ways the centre of French History, with wall to wall Chateau’s, vineyards and Medieval villages. The Road in a lot of places runs between the Loire River and limestone cliffs, these cliffs are full of manmade caves that house huge vintages of wines as well as many that are actually homes.

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The town of Amboise is a stop and a visit to the Chateau perched above the river. This is one of the original Royal Residences before they Royal Family moved to Paris to be closer to the centre of things. With Audioguides clamped firmly in place we spent a couple of hours wandering around this rather magnificent example of a building. The history here is incredible, it is this Chateau’s 500th Birthday in 2019 and there was a smaller one here before that.

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It is also the resting place of Leonardo de Vinci, who had quite an involvement in the desoign of the castle during one of its remodelling phases. I personally had no idea he had quite as close as an association with the French Royalty as he had.

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These buildings and grounds are protected somewhat by National Trusts but most of the upkeep etc is derived from Tourism and ones like Chateau Amboise is done really well.

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After the wander around the tradition French village surrounding the Chateau we hit the road again in until coming across the Chateau Usse rising above the road, it was also the fact that the carpark for this one allows overnighting so we are parked up for the night watching the sun go down over the Chateau and the Lights coming on. We have done a massive 45km today.

 

 

Loire Valley, France

Saturday 22nd September

A very easy trip out of Paris this morning heading south towards Orleans and then onto the Loire Region of France. Just a couple of small stops on the way had us through Orleans and heading down the 751 towards Tours, when we decided that that the town of Blois was far enough today.

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With Park4night showing an Aire right in the centre of town 500m walk from the Chateau, sounds good to us. The aire is super easy to find and but the entry procedure through the barrier took a bit to decipher, in the end we where informed by a couple of Brits that there was an escape code sellotaped to the side of the barrier which could get us in. 8 euro for 24hours including waste and water, (no hookup).

Once parked up a wander around is required, what a surprise this place turns out to be. Straddling the Loire River, (this bridge was actively hunted by the allies and the resistance during 1944 and both ends destroyed) it is home to a Chateau, a cathedral and another rather imposing castle like building that has a history of Dark Arts and magic since the middle ages.

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Funnily enough the “Harry Potter” nutters have adopted this town and have a weekend gathering here, there are kids running everywhere dressed up in cloaks and scarfs etc. More disturbing is the fact there are adults doing the same thing and dressed the same way, further to that statement there are groups in the grounds of the Chateau playing “quidditch”, by that I mean running around chasing each other with broomsticks between their legs. Yep there is one or more in every crowd.

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On our wander around Susie like a bee to a flower was drawn to this neat little furniture and fittings design shop, (however having done a bit of a look at the bag allowance for getting home reality has sunk in and the credit card is kept in the wallet). Very cool styles here and lots of photos.

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The other thing that is unusual here is a set of steps that runs up the hill at the end of the main entry into town. On them is painted this black and white spiral which is such a spectacular scene coming across the bridge. Also painted on the steps are a couple of those 3D scenes (see photo).

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A very cool town , so traditionally French (other than the Harry Potter stuff) and such good fun just exploring.

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Sunday we awoke to a very wet day so it was basically a book and food day, great for the relaxation side of things perhaps not so good for the waistline, (never mind will worry about that in 3 weeks time).

By about 4.00pm I had a great case of cabin fever so set of for a walk, by the time I got into town it had started to rain again , I mean bucketing down. Choices were to get wet or park up in a Pattisserie. (easy choice here, waistline attack again). Susie must had foreseen this as she had decided to stay with Miss Stella and her book. (I did take her a Chocolate Éclair back).

 

Paris Day 2

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Friday 21st September

OK up and at em, plan for today is to visit a couple of the bigger markets in Paris before a visit to the Louvre at 3.00pm (pre-booked tickets again).

Once again a totally uneventful train journey in and then a bit of an adventure through the metro system with a couple of changes to reach the Saint -Ouen Flea Market in Northern Paris, this is known as the largest Flea Market in Paris, with a heightened expectation of all sorts of Antiques etc.

Getting off the Metro we headed towards the area passing through a refugee type sell swap and exchange zone  and then into one of the worlds biggest area of sidewalk clothing hawkers outside of Asia before entering the market itself. Surprised at nothing going on here, a quick google search shows us that it doesn’t happen on a Friday. (every day but). Still a wander around looking in windows shows us it would have been pretty good to visit.

Not a problem, move onto the next entry in the little red book, The Aligre Market, which is known as the largest farmers market in Paris, another 2 Metro changes and we got this one sussed, only to find it closing down, everybody packing up, its only 12.30, google says 7.30pm. Never mind still some good permanent foody type shops around here.

We are now pretty good at just wandering so continue on towards the very prominent Bastille monument where we treat ourselves to a French Café lunch, (not going near snails, froglegs or andouilles though).

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Post a very relaxing lunch people watching its time to head to the Louvre. Now this is joining the masses, for some reason in my naivety  I thought the glass diamond was pretty much it, but that is just the cover over the entrance.

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An amazing collection of paintings sculptures and statues (mostly wasted on me) including the famous “Mona Lisa”, don’t really know what all the hype is over this one, as you can see by the photos below you cant really see it because of the crowd anyway.

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Look who managed to push to the front.
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Standing on Tip Toes on Full Zoom. Not the best effort. Easier just to buy the guide book.

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Quite interesting looking over the shoulder of the obvious art students scattered around doing their representation of famous paintings, boy this generation is lacking some talent.

 

Been there done that ticked off the list. As we wander back up the Champs-Ellyses through the Royal palace gardens we contemplate an evening cruise on one of the river boats, but having a closer look at what you would actually see decided that we have seen as much as we want and time to keep moving out of Paris again.

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Paris Day 1.

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Thursday 20th September

On our travels around Versailles yesterday we have worked out where the railway station is and a pretty good idea of where we are to head to, (pretty easy really as there is only 1 train track leading from Chateau Versailles Station and it leads directly in central Paris).

So it was a quick bike ride to the station, secure our trusty steads to a handy steel handrail, buy 2 return tickets from the machines and get on the train.

We feel such seasoned travelers now, watch out “The Amazing Race”, exit train 1 at Invalides, to get a map and further directions etc for our Day 1. Find out we have actually come 1 stop to far so return to Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel (should have actually worked that one out really), Exiting this station into bright sunshine again we quickly try to get our bearings on the map as to where the Eiffel Tour is. Not having a huge amount of luck we actually look up and Bugger Me, we are right under it.

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Not quite the train station but we were pretty close.

The tower is really quite a landmark, our first view had been from the train coming in but good old security issues now mean it is surrounded by a 8 foot high glass fence with very tight security to get into the immediate area. The surrounding area is head to toe full of “immigrants” selling miniature Towers and Tea towels as well as the teams who are playing the tourists at the “3 cups and ball game”, watching this for a few rounds I had it sussed and was told by a “lovely young lady” to show them where the ball was. I promptly did, was right and was handed 200 euro. A little confused about this generous donation to the “keep feeding Shane and Susie account” I was then told to have another go, OK not my money I thought so proceeded to do so. However they were most put out at the next turn of events when I wouldn’t bet any of my own money on their silly little con job. In fact our level of friendship thawed as quickly as ice cream in a microwave. We moved on.

At the next group of organised con men playing the same game we saw an older couple basically scalped of close to 350 euro, They had opened their wallet to get some cash out and the girl, who was acting as an excited winner from the previous round essentially grabbed their cash out of the wallet. 2 things happened, the first as the wallet fiasco was being carried out by the girl the guy running the cups simply turned the mat around. And secondly as the “ripped off” couple were wondering what just had happened the bike police came along and the “con” team vanished into the tourist crowd cash and all.  BEWARE TOURISTS.

So anyway, we have now been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, it s an incredible piece of engineering, especially as it was built before the crane technology of today. Expecting the worse of queues it was only about 10 mins waiting for the first lift. The views are incredible and we were so lucky to have a beautiful clear day. If only I had won the “cups and ball” I could have bought Susie a 17euro plastic flute of Champagne at the top. (oh well we will have a beer on the way home instead).

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View from the Top

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Moving on, been there done that got the photo, we made our way through Paris by foot and Metro to the Arc De Triumphe, where once again we climbed to the top. This is perhaps an even better view as you look down the Champs -Elysees towards the Royal Palace and the Louvre.

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Spent one of the most entertaining 30 odd minutes watching traffic around the Arc de Triumphe, it is essentially a big uncontrolled roundabout, if it had lanes painted (probably a good idea) it would be about 4 lanes, instead it is about 7 to 8 lanes of chaos, if somebody ends up on the inside and needs to get to the outside they just basically cross the traffic and if they have perhaps missed the exit by a bit, no problems will just go backwards against the flow of traffic. Getting on from 2 directions is controlled (ha ha) by traffic lights, so every 30 seconds or so another chaotic rush of vehicles enter. Motorcyclists seem to cope the best ( except for the one guy we saw get flattened by a smart car), followed by smart cars, the worst have to be the buses and trucks that find themselves trapped in this maze. Cyclists for some reason seem to find this whole thing a challenge and pedal their way through not in the least bit worried about survival. (However this seems to be a very common attitude with cyclists in France).

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Next port of call is the Opera House at the other end of Champs-Elysees, so a wander down this amazing street is in order. Calling into a perfumeree as we are trying to find a very special perfume for a friend back home we are told we are getting close and it comes from a special “perfume house” by the opera house. (We have been chasing this stuff in most of the major cities we have visited and we are getting close). So its back onto the Metro and a change or 2 later we emerge in front of the Opera House, a Google Search for Fragonard Perfumery Boutique has us excited as it is 700metres away.

700 meter walk and we are there, this is the factory shop and loaded with a “tour bus”, the security guard ( yes they have them on perfume places as well here) takes us straight to the sales area and MISSION COMPLETE.

Ok lets head back to the Opera house for a visit, OH Crap, closes at 4.30pm its 4.45pm. Never mind tomorrows another day. Next to visit in our little red book is the area known as Passage Jouffroy, an area within the 9th and 10th Arrondissements. Very cool little streets filled with art dealers, both old and new and an amazing old world book store.

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By now time is starting to get on so we make a very uneventful journey back to Versailles for the obligatory sidewalk beer before pedaling our way home to Miss Stella.  We decide to move  30 odd meters tonight just to trick anyone into thinking we are not there permanently. It is also a slightly more level spot. (don’t be fooled though not everything is improving, the acorns falling on the roof of Miss Stella take a bit to get used to in the middle of the night.

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Versailles

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Pretty Smart with their Scaffold here, they wrap it with a big picture of the interior

Wednesday 19th September

The Palace of Versailles.

Everybody had warned us of the huge queues that supposedly dominate this attraction, so we planned our day out accordingly, including a recce bike ride to the Palace entrance last night to time our attack.

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With tickets bought online, (including beat the line) we arrived at the castle gates almost as the doors opened at 9.00am, sorted as pretty much no queue, in fact took longer to get through security than it did to get into the Palace, with the Free Audio Guide firmly in place off we set dodgeing our way between tour bus groups. Now I have spent this whole blog since starting trying to be politically correct and not putting ethnic titles on “tour groups”, unfortunately I have to be a little less discreet here as there is one type of group that makes this sort of place f$%&#@g hard work.

That group no matter what their age demographic have to without fail have their  photo taken by another member of either their family or wider tour group in front of each and every thing.  Now this seems a little thing to get on ones wick but a couple of further observations to this ritual :-

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A, Each tour group numbers about 45 – 50 depending upon the size of the bus.

B, each member of the above tour group must go through the same process

C, the process itself involves a huge amount of “getting the right pose” which varies between the side on “god I’m georgeous” or the just stand in front of it “hurry up I’m not getting any younger and there is another glass case just there that I need to see” types.

D, the results of each said pose above then have to be evaluated and either deleted done again until satisfactory results are obtained, or ohh and ahh’d about and in most cases posted to social media.

E, I forgot to mention the positioning for each of these shots, if it’s a painting or something in a museum then the photographee needs to stand right in front of it while the photographer finds the need to stand as far back from said subject as possible, usually the other side of the isle.

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However if it’s a landmark say a fountain a monument of even a side of a building the photograhee moves around like a demented rabbit to enable final shot to be a full length portrait with a halo of the said landmark.

Unfortunatley this is all done with quite a lot of “jibba jabba” from the tour guide who is obviously on the clock, “8 countries 24 cities in 14days”.

Probably reading back on this now we haven’t helped this process by inadvertently on purpose “photo bombing” many of these shoots.

Oh that’s right we were talking about the Palace of Versailles, yep pretty cool place, very big very grand and quite funny how each generation of the Royals put their own mark on it in terms of period architecture.

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Versailles is also a huge collection of artwork, mostly portrait type of the various royals and their subsequent wars.

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Moving out into the grounds and gardens was much better, there is just over 850ha of grounds here and about ½ of that is in some form of garden or park type setting. Unfortunately for us is that it is very very dry here, (Hawkes Bay Summer Dry, bordering on drought) and the obviously magnificent fountains (all 600 of them) aren’t going. We have since heard that they are supposed to run at 6.30PM each night, but someone obviously forgot to tell the guy in charge we were there to see them.

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Scale model of the Main Palace the Petite Palace area and formal Gardens. 

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The grounds contain the Palace itself and then 3 other smaller residences “holiday homes” as well as a “Farming Hamlet”. These buildings are spread between incredible spaces of symmetrical gardens formed either side of the grand canal.

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This is what is supposed to look like.

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The grand canal area is a public place and was certainly being enjoyed by tourists and locals alike in the sunny afternoon. We spent a hilarious hour sitting on the grass watching various “couples going through the whole courtship routine on the rowboats. It does however seem that rowing a boat is no longer a skill that can be taken for granted in the modern population.

Part of the palace tour also involved a visit to the old Grand Stable building which now houses the collection of Royal Horse Drawn carriages and harness. This was pretty cool and the sheer opulence quite incredible.

So day 1 finished with a quiet beer in a bar beside the Grand Canal and a move of Miss Stella away from the direct line of “bus corner”.

Paris Here We Come : ,,,,

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Tuesday 18th September

After a very lazy morning and a grocery shop, (not that much is needed, just bread, pate, hummus and a salad to keep it balanced) and fuel up, we are making our way towards Paris.  3rd time lucky, so if you have been following us you would have realized that we have managed to miss this city twice now the first time when flights were changed on us by Air France way back in April and the 2nd when we got sidetracked in The South of France and ran out of time to get back to the UK for appointments, so this is it.

Now after a lot of discussion and searching for sites to stay (most campsites in Paris are in excess of 40euro/night) we have decided to head for Versailles as there is a day park not far from the castle that seems to be very lenient towards overnighting, (so we have been reliably informed, Thank You Jan).

However Versailles is completely on the other side of Paris to us and the A6 motorway that rings Paris is regarded as Europe’s equivalent of Beijing traffic. Also from where we are there are toll roads standing in our way, and paying tolls puts a dent in the food account and the first thing to go out of that account is alcohol, so no way Jacinda.

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Miss Stella magnificently directed by Susie and the map book take us in a roundabout route Coulommiers and Melun to name a couple of the towns we passed through until total confusion occurred in the cab including a near melt down by the driver (me) and we jumped on the A6 just after rush hour for the final 20 odd kms into Versailles. Actually quite easy in hindsight.

 

Arriving at our destination Alles de Matots, which is a street that essentially services the entry to the Ministry of Defense (sounds safe enough) and the overnight park for all the “not in service” public buses from Versailles.

The couple of downsides to this happened in 2 stages the first being the carpark itself is basically a dirt track around the outside of the Defense fence, and “needing attention” takes on a whole new meaning here, obviously gets pretty muddy in the winter as the very deep holes tell us.

On the other side of this is that the French drivers have no idea how to park let alone back, indecision about where to park, which way to park and how to communicate with others parking at the same time gets to an all new level. Our simple observation of this became  a little first hand on day 2 when a young lady parked between the trees on the opposite side of said dirt track was backing out of her park.

This was in the evening and we had settled down with a beer and a book when, Miss Stella gave an involuntary “hiccup”, how anyone can not see a 7m white motorhome in their rear vision mirror is beyond us, especially when it was there when she parked her car several hours ago and was still in exactly the same place when she walked passed it to get into her own car before engaging reverse and giving us a gentle “kiss”. Just to assure Miss Stella’s new owners who may well be reading this, Miss Stella is all A OK. (1 very confused looking young lady as though we had jumped out behind her all of a sudden)

Once again sidetracked with a story, the second  downside became apparent at about 6.30pm and lasted until about 8.00pm and then occurred again in the small hours, as the buses returned from their busy day, the drivers were obviously in a hurry to get home that coincided with a right hand corner that needed rapid de-acceleration followed by heavy footed re-acceleration and a massive pothole just to make sure the right hand side suspension was capable of full travel.

At 6.00am the process was pretty much reversed.

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