A Travellerspoint blog

October 2016

The Villages of the Luberon.

sunny 21 °C

To walk the narrow cobblestone streets of the Luberon's many medieval villages is to stroll though history. It is a living, breathing museum where everyday life carries on in surroundings that have changed little for many hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of years. Worshipers have struggled up the steep pathway to the church in Bonnieux for more than a thousand years and this castle in Fontaine de Vaucluse has stood sentinel above the town since the Middle Ages...
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In the village of Les Beaumettes, troglodytes still live in the caves that have protected the inhabitants from time immemorial...
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There is a picture around every corner and through every archway in the villages of the Luberon...
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Just as the image drags our focus through this entrance so we are lured to explore beyond; to yet another picturesque scene...
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and yet another archway...
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On and on we go, spiralling ever upward and ever deeper into the heart of ancient village after ancient village until we arrive at the core – in this case the 12th century chateau at the heart of the village of Gordes...
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This chateau has had many incarnations over the past thousand years and only the main turret is completely original. In addition to being the home of several noblemen it has been a prison, a silkworm farm, a school and the town hall. The chateau, its fountain and its adjacent restaurants, are a natural setting for parts of the Russell Crowe movie “A Good Year”, based on the book by Peter Mayle...
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The nearby fortified chateau at Lacoste has perhaps a more sinister past.
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Little remains of a once great castle that was the home of the Marquis de Sade. It was he, through his perverted sexual predilections, who added the words 'sadist' and 'sadism' to the English lexicon after he tortured and sodomised his victims here in 1777.
However, not all the houses in the Luberon are castles and chateaux with a past. Many are just humble stone cottages that were once occupied by the serfs and peasants who worked the land and served the aristocracy in a manner to which they had become accustomed.
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Many of these properties are now the holiday haunts of the nouveau aristocracy and this once forgotten corner of France is thriving because of the decades of neglect that left it devoid of modern development.

Posted by Hawkson 14:09 Archived in France Comments (4)

The Colours of the Luberon

sunny 20 °C

Fall is a colourful time of the year in most parts of the Northern hemisphere but there is something special about the colours of the Luberon in Provence. Artists and photographers from around the world extol the luminescence that seemingly make the natural hues of Provence at once more vibrant and more subtle...
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The variegated greens of the olives, oaks, cypress and plane trees silhouetted against the perfectly clear azure sky provide the backdrop to a world of natural colour and these photos need no explanation...
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But there is one special place in the Luberon where all the colours meet in a glorious symphony of luminescence – a place of such intense natural beauty that it is difficult to accept that this is not a painting by an exuberant artist ..
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These are the ochre rich cliffs upon which the village of Roussillion was built, both physically and financially. Until the advent of chemical dyes a hundred years ago the natural ochre from Roussillion was prized worldwide and was used extensively to paint the Creole Quarter in New Orleans. Today it is only used to paint the houses in Roussillion – but what a sight ,
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This corner of southern France was also renowned for its silk and for its olives...
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Synthetic fibres devastated the silk industry after WWII and an exceptionally cold winter in 1956 killed all of the olive trees. The Luberon region was already suffering from the aftermath of two World Wars. Many of the young men had left the farms to fight and never returned, leaving only the old and destitute. By the 1970s it wasn't possible to give away derelict houses and land. But then a miracle occurred in the form of mass international travel. Artists, photographers and writers discovered the beauty of this land and as the images and word spread so did its cache. There is nothing cheap here anymore, apart from the cheese and the wine, but with landscapes likes this around every bend who would expect cheap?...
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Posted by Hawkson 10:07 Archived in France Comments (6)

Food Glorious Food

Nothing quite like it in Lyon

sunny 22 °C

We are back in France for the umpteenth time and you would think that by now we would have got used to all the fabulous food. But Sunday mornings mean only one thing to most French people and it is not religion...
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This is the beautiful Basilica on the hill overlooking the city of Lyon, but it has been a long time since you would find many people praying on the Lord's Day. For the locals, and visitors, the main attraction on Sunday mornings, both here and throughout the country, is the market...
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Here on the banks of La Saône river in Lyon the locals attend to a culinary mass every Sunday. Although the calendar suggests it is autumn, the temperatures are still in the twenties and the fruits and vegetables are still being carted in from the farms that carpet the adjacent Rhône valley...
Because it is autumn the stalls are laden with fresh mushrooms of every kind, some enigmatically called, “Trumpets of death.”
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Every kind of cheese imaginable can be bought in the market, and with such an array of local produce who needs anything imported...
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However, some 'foreign' foods have crept in. This Spanish paella looked particularly enticing..
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And the handiwork of the artisanal baker is a joy to behold...
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In order to try some of Lyon's famous cuisine we dined at Brasserie George in Perrache.
The terrine of piglet with foie gras was delicious...
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This famous restaurant has been in business since 1836 and it is as busy today as it has ever been. The restaurant averages 1,200 patrons every day of the year so come early or you might have a long wait.

Lyon is an interesting big city with a wealth of historic buildings dating back 600 years and more. Its pedestrian friendly flagstone streets and miles of steep steps wind up the hillsides to vantage points overlooking the city...
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And a labyrinth of secret passages snake through its ancient core...
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Now we are heading further south to the gentle hills of the Luberon; the land of wine and truffles made famous by Peter Mayle in his books about life as an ex-pat in Provence. We don't have a year to spend in Provence, just one week, but the sun is shining, the grapes are ripe and the locals are friendly. Please excuse us for a week as we explore this beautiful area of France. Our blog will return once the wine, the cheese and the truffles have run out.

Posted by Hawkson 08:39 Archived in France Comments (7)

Budapest - What a Wow!

sunny 11 °C

With tree lined boulevards rivalling the grandeur of the Champs-Élysées in Paris, an opera house as splendid as that of Vienna and a Danube riverscape as iconic as London's Thames, Budapest is truly one of the great capitals of Europe. This is Hungary's parliament on the Pest side of the river...
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The massive baroque building may only be a little over 100 years old but it has survived being bombed and assaulted during two world wars and many violent scuffles with Hungary's neighbours Serbia, Czechoslovakia and Romania. It then suffered years of neglect and abuse at the hands of the Communists. It has been restored beautifully...
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And this is the Royal Palace across the river in Buda...
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The views of the city from its wide terraces are simply stunning on a sunny autumn day...
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Millions of tourists from around the world flock to this once forbidden city to gaze at its splendid architecture. This is the Budapest Music Academy founded for one of Hungary's best known musicians – Franz Lizst ( Known as Lizst Ferencz in Hungarian)...
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And this is the cathedral, The Basilica...
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The other cathedral in Budapest is the expansive and elegant market hall. A building dating from the late 1800s when Budapest was at the centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire...
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This building was, and still is, the centre of worship for lovers of fine Hungarian foods – especially the exalted Hungarian paprika...
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There are side chapels catering to veggie worshipers and alters for those who idolise the great Hungarian sausage...
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But, whatever your taste, there is no doubt that Budapest has something for everyone. We can honestly say that Blissful Adventures highly recommends Budapest and we will certainly return one day.

Posted by Hawkson 04:12 Archived in Hungary Comments (10)

A Slovakian Fairy Tale

rain 13 °C

Once upon a time their were two sister cities living close to each other on the banks of the beautiful Blue Danube. Their names are Bratislava and Vienna today, but when they were younger Bratislava was called Pressburg and she was an elegant city full of magnificent palaces and castles, where kings and queens lorded it over the surrounding lands. But two centuries ago the shine came off the royal crowns and the noblemen packed up their old homes and went off in search of grander digs – like the Hoffburg Palace in Vienna...
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And then came a horrible war and after the fighting was over an iron curtain came between them. Poor Bratislava became the ugly sister. Most of her grand buildings had been bombed by the Allies and then blown up by the Nazis and crushed by the Ukrainians and no one had the money to mend them. But along the river in Austria, her sister Vienna was having a gay old time. Her magnificent streets blossomed even in the rain...
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Her handsome statues and fountains were reborn...
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Her beautiful royal palaces of Schönbrunn and Hoffburg were restored to their former glory – and the court bakers served wonderful Apfelstrudel to their special guests. The grand coffeehouses of Vienna were once again the meeting places for great writers and thinkers...
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And the finest foods from all over the world were sold in the delicatessen of Julius Meinl...
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One colossal Italian panetone was especially fine (if a little pricey at 199 euros 300 dollars)...

Meanwhile, just an hour or so across the border in Slovakia, the poor citizens of Bratislava fought for freedom from the Soviet leash and struggled to rebuild their city.. This former palace looks splendid..
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But many of the old buildings look more like this...
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Vienna's ugly sister may one day be pretty again – but not today. Sorry, Bratislava, it's not your fault.

Posted by Hawkson 08:12 Archived in Slovakia Comments (5)

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