A Travellerspoint blog

June 2005

The Gorges de Verdon

sunny 24 °C

The medieval entrance to the historic city of Entrevaux north of Nice looks like a bit of kitsch to attract tourists - but it was actually built in 1658...

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Behind the city's impressive, and probably impregnable, walls lies a tightly woven labyrinth of narrow streets at the foot of a steep cliff topped with a monastery...

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The ancient streets of stone houses huddle around the base of the cliff. A steep track takes energetic hikers to the top from the spring fed fountain at the bottom...

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Did we climb all the way up - or not? Maybe we just wandered the streets admiring the flowers...

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In 1536, Entrevaux fell to the troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, betrayed by its lord Jacques Glandeves; half the population was massacred and the remaining population staged an uprising, cutting the throat of the governor, and offered the town to the French Dauphin, King Fran├žois I. In recognition of this, Entrevaux was given the Municipal charter of Avignon and declared a royal town of France, with its inhabitants exempt from taxation.

From Entrevaux the narrow mountain roads took us higher into the alpine pastures where row upon row of lavender plants march across the hillsides, painting this sun-soaked land into a landscape by Monet...

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While Provence is probably best known for the beaches along its famous blue coast, le cote d'azure, inland on the high plateaus the blue of the Mediterranean gives way to the purple hues of lavender. The scent of lavender perfumes the air and the fragrance finds its way into almost every local product from soap to ice-cream.
Here we are on top of the world in the foothills of the French Alps...

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Cutting across this mountainous landscape is the Gorges de Verdon - the Grand Canyon of France

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We kayaked through the Gorges and marveled at its pristine waters and vertical cliffs...

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At one end of the Gorges is the historic town of Moustiere Sainte Marie

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According to the legend, during the Crusades in the 10th century the knight Bozon de Blacas was held prisoner by the Saracens. He vowed to hang a star over his village if he was able to return. Legend has it that a golden star has been hanging on a chain slung between tow mountaintops over the village for a thousand years. This may be true. However, the chain has broken from time and the star replaced. Moustiere is a pretty little town on a series of ledges jammed into a ravine and it is a romantic little place to visit.

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Posted by Hawkson 11:40 Archived in France Comments (0)

Love Blossoms in Cannes

sunny 26 °C

As we set off on our first trip together it would seem that the whole world is celebrating our new found love, We have only been together for a few days on the Cotes d'Azure and it seems that the locals are going all out to celebrate the start of our life's journey together. The Jasmine and geraniums surrounding our apartment in Cannes perfumed the air day and night while the streets surrounding us were filled with blooms....

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This is truly la vie en rose...

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The castle was surrounded by blossoms...

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And bouquets of flowers littered the sidewalks...

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Even the fountains were sprouting flowers...

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All we need for a romantic dinner on our balcony in the warm evening air is some freshly caught seafood and a bottle of wine...

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This is heaven. And in the morning we can stroll down to the boulangerie for some freshly baked croissants before heading off to the port to check on the yacht...

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Ah. This is the life.

Posted by Hawkson 22:43 Archived in France Comments (0)

Riding High in the Alps

sunny 24 °C

The road from Venice back to Cannes took us high into the Alps above Turin. The mountain views in this part of the world are absolutely breathtaking...

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Our lunch stop was in the small mountain city of Pinerole - This part of Italy used to be French and during the reign of King Louis X1V (the Sun King), in the mid 1600s the prison in Pinerole was the first place of incarceration of the prisoner known only as 'The Man in the Iron Mask.' This is one of the city gates through which the famous masked prisoner would have been led on his way into the prison...

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We took the high road through the Alps from Pinerole to the ancient French Citadel of Briancon, the highest city in France, and had some spectacular views of mountain villages along the way...

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And then we arrived at the Citadel of Briancon...

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This fortified city was a Roman stronghold 2000 years ago but the present castle was built in the 17th century to protect the trade route from Venice to Grenoble. Only 1100 people live her today so its streets were quiet...

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We had time to smell the roses...

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And to admire the beautiful architectural features of this little Alpine gem...

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Posted by Hawkson 09:53 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Venice

sunny 24 °C

You just have to love Venice - but the problem is that everyone loves Venice and the city is sinking under the weight. In a few weeks these canals will be thronged with gondolas carrying snap happy tourists from around the world...

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Even the Grand Canal is quiet at the moment as a lonely Gondolier gives his guests a ride...

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We like watching the Gondoliers and listening to them signing to their guests but we prefer riding the vaporett...

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These noisy water buses race around the canals frothing the water and pumping exhaust into the air, Yet, there is something exciting about riding these vessels. It may be the macho way that the drivers throw them around like toys, It could be that we are crammed in with the locals - all noisily gesticulating - as we bounce from one stop to the next. It could be that nothing says Venice more than the vaporetti - apart from the sight of the Campanile in St. Marks Square. However, the backwaters of Venice are equally fascinating...

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There are already plenty of tourists here at the moment but the narrow backstreets away from St. Marks Square are still the preserve of the locals.
When you haven't got a garden where else can you hang the laundry?,...

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Venice is a magical ancient city but if something isn't done soon about global sea level rise and the crush of tourists it will slowly sink under the Adriatic and will be lost forever.
We would love to say that you should visit this beautiful iconic city, although it's probably better if you don't. But if you do come - don't leave without trying the food...

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Posted by Hawkson 09:41 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

The 5 Best things About Cinque Terre

sunny 26 °C

The Cinque Terre, five towns, is a string of five fishing villages perched high on the Italian Riviera in the region Liguria, which until recently were linked only by mule tracks and accessible only by rail or water. The villages are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore and there is little to be said about them other than they are incredibly picturesque and high on most peoples' bucket list of Italy.
We stayed in Monterosso, the largest village and the only one with a beach...

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Many people choose to hike the mule tracks from village to village but we took the easier path on a small cruise boat...

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Here are some of the spectacular views of the clifftop villages...

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This is Manarola...

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And this is Corniglia...

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We finally arrived at Riomaggiore and climbed ashore to enjoy this pretty village...

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There is a good reason why the 5 villages of Cinque Terre are so popular with tourists. We are just lucky to be here in June before the hordes arrive.

Posted by Hawkson 22:33 Archived in Italy Comments (0)