Saturday, April 30, 2016

Avignon -29th April, 206

Again this morning we stayed around the apartment, taking our time to get ready our tour this afternoon.  We spoke to Shelly only to find out that Lewis had deteriorated and they were at least doing some more tests.
Our apartment, 74 Rue Des Lices, is very comfortable and is in the middle of the antique walled city.
Avignon is a completely walled city and the walls are still intact.  It has 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen and bathroom and of course the balcony.

We sat on the balcony and had coffee and croissants, and John wrote on some postcards. (which are still to be posted).
We walked to the tourist information centre, and as we still had 45mins to wait we had hot chocolate and coffee to pass the time.
Our mini bus (8 seater van) arrived a little early at 1.55pm.  We worked our way out of the walled city and headed for Nimes, about 1 hrs drive.  Nimes was an important settlement on the road between Rome and Spain.  It now contains 2 of the best preserved pieces of Roman Architecture in the form of a Temple to Augustus and a Roman Amphitheater (Colosseum) which is almost 2000 years old and they are both completely intact.

After leaving Nimes we drove to Uzes, a very charming hillside town, which was the centre of a Duchey, whose family still live in the original chateau, with a beautiful courtyard

From here we drove to see the Pont du Gard, which is a famous ancient Roman aqueduct built to transport water to the city of Nimes. There was no mortar used in this construction, and over the entire length only falls by 2.5centimetres.

We then returned to Avignon, very tired and ready for a quiet night

Friday, April 29, 2016

Avignon 28th April,2016

We spent some time in the apartment this morning, John went to Les Halles and got some coffee and croissants for breakfast.  
We ended up leaving the apartment at about 12 midday and walked to Les Halles Market.  It was great.  It is a fresh food market - everything you can imagine from fish, meat and chicken to fruit, vegetables, pastries, olives and spices and an amazing cheese stall. We decided to buy food for dinner, and ended up with an entree of Camembert & Stilton cheese and olives, followed by quiche, pizza and salad. We then walked to Phillips's shop, unfortunately he wasn't there, so we continued on our way through the streets of Avignon, stopping along the way for drinks. 

We came to a large square, Place De L'Horloge, which is in front of the Popes' Palace, the square had a great atmosphere, there was even a man playing the trumpet

As it was going to take approx 1 1/2hrs to tour the Palace, we decided to catch the Petite Train tour of Avignon.  An interesting ride around Avignon, through very narrow streets.  It only took 1/2 hour, thankfully, as it wasn't the most comfortable.  Quite a bumpy ride !!! We did get to see the great view from the gardens beside the Church, which adorned a huge gold statue. The train continued out of the walls of the city where we could see the famous Pont Saint-Benezet.

The Pope's Palace is huge. It appears to be a serious castle rather than a Palace.  At least 2 Popes are buried here, John thinks it was just another waste of Papal money !!

After the tour of the Palace we walked back through another square which had a Carousel

We finished our day with drinks on the balcony of our apartment.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Paris - Avignon 27th April, 2016

As we left the apartment in Jussieu we called the taxi, which arrived within 5 mins.  The driver was born in Paris to Chinese parents.  He was not your typical taxi driver - dressed in a suit, and an immaculately clean car.   He chatted all the way to Gare Lyon. We arrived at the station with enough time to have a coffee/hot chocolate.  In Paris, they don't announce the platform where the train is to depart from until 15-20 mins before the train is due to depart, at which stage people converge on the platform.
Again this trip we have booked 1st class train travel, as it is much more comfortable and costs not a lot more.
We had to change trains in Lyon on this trip, with only 10mins in which to do so !! The railway stations in major French cities are huge !! As the train stopped we were ready with our luggage, hoping that we would only need to move to the other side of the platform.  We found an attendant, who rolled his eyes, as if you'll never make it.!! Down the lift to the right to platform I - 3 platforms across, back up in the lift, and the train is almost ready to leave.  We ask another attendant and he tells us the wrong carriage - too bad !! We made it by the skin of our teeth - even if we stayed in the wrong seats.
The countryside in France is beautiful even when the train is moving at 299 kms per hour.
On arrival into Avignon TGV Station, we were waiting for a taxi, along with some others.  When a taxi pulled up, one lady offered to share her Taxi with us.  We were dropped off at the address and waited for Philip to arrive with the keys.  The internet wasn't working at the apartment on arrival, so Philip took us to his shop, so that we could use his wifi to contact Shelly to find out about Lewis who had been admitted to hospital. Thank you to Philip for his help and understanding.
A short stop at the supermarket and then we went to dinner at La Cuisene du Dimanche, a very interesting eclectic restaurant, with stone walls and antique crystal glassware as well as an old border collie, Casper, who laid down in the middle of the restaurant - can't imagine that happening in Australia !!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Paris 26th April 2016

We had a leisurely morning at the apartment, and to our surprise the weather was quite nice, definitely quite cool, but not too bad. We caught the no 67 bus to the centre of the city, close to Notre Dame Cathedral.

 We had crepes for lunch at a restaurant, as we watched the weather deteriorate to windy and rain.  Although we had been to Notre Dame before it was good to just go and sit for a while.  When we left Notre Dame we went to a cafe on the opposite corner on the Left Bank, just to do some people watching.  After a while we noticed that the traffic lights had been turned off, and two police officers were doing point duty.  This went on for about 20 mins, then all traffic was stopped, and a continent of Police Motor Cycles came through the intersection.  A short time later there were more Police motor cycles surrounding a limousine carrying the standard of the Governor General of Australia - Governor Sir Peter Cosgrove, which we applauded.
We left the cafe and walked a little further, ending up a a cafe in the Latin Quarter for afternoon tea.  We caught a taxi back to the apartment for a while as we were going back into the centre of the city for dinner and to take photos of the Eiffel Tower.  
After a couple of hours we caught the bus, this time a No: 89 - as we just wanted to get to the area of town close to the Eiffel Tower - we actually ended up right at the tower, but it was still daylight, and I wanted night time photos.  We caught another taxi and asked the driver for his recommendation for dinner.  He gave us 2 choices either close to  the Opera Garnier or the Latin Quarter.  We opted for the Latin Quarter and he recommended the Cafe de Flore, one of the oldest and most prestigious coffee houses in Paris.  It was lie something out of a movie.  Very sophisticated and classy, only male waiters all dressed with their long white aprons. Our waiter spoke English fluently, and asked where we were from, when we said Australia - he promptly said he hated us !!!! He has dreams of coming to Australia, with his wife and camping in the outback !!
Whilst at dinner I googled where to get the best photo/view of the Eiffel Tower - Answer was the steps of the Trocadero - so another Taxi ride to the Trocadero. So glad we went to the Trocadero - there were bus loads of people there, music playing, men selling Eiffel Tower souvenirs (who all disappeared very quickly when the police appeared) The view of the Tower was amazing, better than I had thought possible. Truly an amazing sight

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Paris - Villers Bretonneux ANZAC Day 25th April 2016

Oh My Goodness - What a day !!
Our day started when the alarm went off a midnight !! Our Taxi was booked for 1.00am.  We were outside waiting at 12.55am, stressing hoping the Taxi would turn up !!!.  1.01am it arrived :) We were  originally instructed to meet the tour on the steps of the Opera Garnier at 2.15am, however we received an email yesterday bringing the time forward to 1.30am.  As we left the Taxi, people were already gathering on the steps - all Aussies and all very friendly.  Our tour hostess Nicola, arrived shortly after, a young lady from the UK, fluent in French.  Right from this point we knew it was going to be a great tour.  We we departed the Opera, one tour participant hadn't arrived, but within 5 mins of leaving, the coach stopped and waited for her - her taxi had failed to show !!
We drove for about 45 mins before a loo/coffee break which left another hour or so to Villers Bretonneux.  The was some confusion as we arrived, with regard to directions to the drop off point, but eventually we arrived in time to go through the airport like security and get to our seat with about 15 mins to spare.
Leading up to the service a video presentation was played on the wall of the monument, of veterans speaking of their experiences of the war.
I'm not sure what the temperature was - but it was very cold - multiple layers of clothing, scarves, hood and gloves and till you could feel it.
The service was extremely moving, at one point bring me to tears, hearing an exert from a soldiers diary of how he felt about the days and nights on the Battlefields of the Somme. The service was attended by General Sir Peter Cosgrove the current Governor General of Australia.

As the dawn arrived the last post was played from the tower of the monument, another very moving point

 The service concluded with the laying of wreaths in honour of those who fought and lost their lives.
At the conclusion of the service, complimentary coffee and croissants were available. The coffee wasn't that great, but at least it thawed out our fingers :)  The wait for the coach was long, but with about 70 coaches, I guess it was to be expected.

Our day continued with a tour of the Somme Battlefields, our tour guides Nicola and Regis were amazing. Their knowledge of the details of the area and information regarding the World Wars was incredible.  We saw the Valley of the Somme, the Lochnagar Crater, which was mine dug by the Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers, under a German field fortification, on the front line, south of the village of La Boisselle, in the Somme. The crater is still at least 50 mts deep (guessing).

We stopped and visited a number of Australian War Graves that are scattered though out the country side, in the middle of paddocks, and as we came into one of the small villages there was a German Cemetry, where 6,000 men are buried, 4 to a cross, with a mass grave at the back with 2000 men.

The exception was that Jewish soldiers were not buried under a cross, they were buried with a stone and one to a grave. 

The 2 photos above are of a German Bunker.  These bunkers would hold up to 60 men, where they would wait out of sight for advancing troops.
We finished the tour with lunch in Peronne, after which most people on the bus slept for the drive back to Paris.
We then had dinner at an Italian Restaurant, 2 doors up from the apartment.