Showing posts with label European road trips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label European road trips. Show all posts

Monday, August 14, 2017

In France ~ Something Old and Something New

Never has the old and new been so perfectly juxtaposed as they were in the French countryside where we made our home for a week in June. We had Disneyland to our right and the medieval city of Provins to our left.
PicMonkey Collage
Disneyland and Medieval villages in the French countryside
And we can thank our ‘timeshare’ life for introducing us to both.  I’ve long sung the praises of the timeshare concept of ‘trading time’ for new locations.  In this case we’d traded one of our small hotel-room sized weeks in Hawaii for a two-story, two-bedroom, 2.5 bath home in the French countryside. I wrote about it in June, if you missed it, take a look at our home away from home.

Minnie's welcome sign at Disneyland
Our stay at the “Village Marriott” or the Marriott Ile-de-France as it is properly called, put us smack dab between the sprawling Disneyland (now celebrating its 25th Anniversary) and several charming villages where life remains untouched by the glitz that Mickey and Minnie brought to the area a quarter century ago. One of our favorites was Provins. . .

Entry into the medieval town of Provins
While the name when spoken sounds much like the wildly popular “Provence” region, this “Provins” is in the midst of the Champagne region; a region founded back in 1065.  Once the administrative center in Charlemagne’s empire, the place is simply oozing with history.

Heavy security at Disneyland
And unlike Disneyland, there are no entry fees or metal detectors or armed security guards with their attack dogs to greet you.

So on a cloudy morning that threatened rain we set off for a trip back in time. . .by hopping a public bus at the station near Disneyland.

The journey aboard bus No. 50 was a journey of an hour in each direction. It would have only cost 4 euros round trip per person had we not purchased the bus/train pass that allowed us unlimited travel for the week we were there.

Those of you who’ve traveled with us at TravelnWrite, know that we are not fans of group tours nor do we like the confines of set tours. Hopping a public bus and setting off on our own is one of our favorite ways to explore new territories. 

Off on an Adventure

We pretty much had the bus to ourselves – which also meant we had front row seats. The villages on the route are small and there weren’t a lot of folks traveling between them and Disneyland on this mid-week June day.
Our almost private bus in France
Again those who know us, know one of the reasons we bought a place in Greece was to have a base from which to explore more of Europe. This week-long trip was one of our first ventures out and let me tell you, that a just-over- two-hour flight from Athens to Paris is an affordable treat when compared to trips from Seattle, our home-base on the U.S. west coast.  And as we prepare to make Greece more of a full-time home base, we are also planning the outings that we’ll be taking.

PicMonkey Collage
What a contrast to Paris less than an hour away by train
Provins was an administrative center in Charlemagne’s empire and was one of six cities on the circuit of Champagne fairs.  Those medieval fairs lasted for six weeks in each location and at the height of their reign offered fair goers textiles, furs, leathers and spice.  Some of the huge warehouses in which the fair goods were stored still exist within this walled city.

The city square - Provins
I’d like to imagine the fair -  the fair of St. Ayoul of Provins - was held in this city square each September.

The buildings and streets in Provins were out of a fairytale
Provins prosperity lasted until the beginning of the 14th century when rerouting of commercial routes, plagues, wars and the decline of fairs led it into a state of hibernation; a small town in a rural setting - somewhat untouched by the outside world.

Provins storefront
That seclusion is credited with the saving of some 58 monuments, nearly all built in the 12th and 13th centuries. They’re credited with this town’s placement on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

PicMonkey Collage
Eglise Saint-Quireace  Provins, France
Entering this cathedral we were reminded of one of our all-time favorite books, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It is set in medieval times – those in which fairs were held and central to its story line is the building of a cathedral. We highly recommend it to you historical novel fans out there.

Even the doors reek with history
We pretty much had the town to ourselves on the day we visited although from the many tourist shops and restaurants that fill the ancient buildings we suspect this place at times could be as busy as Disneyland.

We were content to wander the streets and let our imaginations run wild (with the help of interpretive signage along the way)but for those who want more tourist-type experiences, there are a number of monuments  and performances that have set hours and admission fees. For example the Underground Galleries are 4.50-euro for adults and 3-euro per child; the Legend of the Knights show is 12-euro for adults and 8-euros per child.

Even the steps had a story in Provins, France
Should we return to this part of France again, we’d probably opt to spend a night at one of the many hotels within this walled city so we could experience its after-dark atmosphere. . .I am certain it would be magical . . .

If you are lucky enough to be in this region this fall you might want to attend the town’s Autumn Fair, October 1st.  For more information on it and the town, visit their tourist office website at:

That’s it for this week.  Our packing continues. We thank you for your time and hope that you and yours have safe and happy travels.  Thanks to those of you who’ve shared the blog with others and re-posted it on Facebook.  It is much appreciated!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Greece: Takin' the High Road

Just so you don't think we've taken leave of our vagabond senses here in Greece with all the home and gardening projects at our Stone House on the Hill, I'm putting those tales aside this week -  and telling you about our travels. 

On the road in Laconia Peloponnese

As I've said in earlier posts, one of the reasons we wanted a home base on this side of the Atlantic Ocean was to give us a jumping off point to European destinations; trips that didn't start with a nine or ten-hour trip from the Pacific Northwest just to reach Europe. 

I took the photo of the map while our flight to Cairo three weeks ago was passing over Greece. It shows the 'hand-shaped' Peloponnese.  Our home is just south of Kalamata (on the left side of the middle 'finger' and Kalamai on the map) - putting us in an excellent spot for explorations anywhere in the region.

From here we can take no-muss, no-fuss Greek road trips throughout the Peloponnese and all of Greece for that matter. Pronounced pe-lo-po-nih-sos, this chunk of land lies to the southwest of Athens and was a part of the mainland until the Corinth Canal was opened to ship traffic - now a short bridge connects the two massive land parcels.

Our Greek road trips are a lot more spontaneous, inexpensive and simple when we aren't hauling a carload of suitcases packed in the U.S. Pacific Northwest for a month-long stay (and it doesn't take many to fill the tiny cars here).

"Poppy" our bright red rental car waits patiently while we gaze at the views
Our rental car is bright red, so we've named her "Poppy" - she matches the poppies that are currently in bloom all over the countryside. And with road trip temptations calling out from every direction: mountains, gorges, villages and cities, the most difficult part of a road trip is choosing which directions to take off on in Poppy.

Just up the road from The Stone House on the Hill

Last week we hit a lull in projects and while we await stonemasons, plumbers and other professionals, we decided to set out and explore.  An overnight bag stashed in the backend we headed up the hill on which our home is located to connect with the main road four kilometers away. We hadn't gone but two kilometers when we slowed for the first of many animals we were to encounter. These are the kinds of traffic slow-downs we enjoy.

Shipwreck near Gythio
Our destination was the eastern coast of the 'finger' to our right. It takes only 45 minutes to cross 'our' middle finger and from there we headed northeast along the coast.  Just outside Gythio town, on Glyfada beach there sits a wrecked boat, the Dimitrios. While the real story may never be known its tales come in two versions: first, it was carrying drugs to Europe when it was impounded and then abandoned and the other version was it hit poor weather and the crew abandoned the ship. Take your pick. Or make up a new one - it probably will work.

From there we left the coast line and headed inland through groves so laden with oranges and blossoms that we rolled down the car windows for the aromatherapy treatment - the air was heavy with the scent of blossoms.

Just as our 'middle finger' has the Taygetos Mountain range for its backbone, this finger, the Laconia prefecture, has the Parnonas Mountain range running its length. Our destination was the other side of that range, where we'd be in the shadow of Mt. Pardon, 1,839 meters, 6,033 ft. As the road began ascending the range in a ribbon of switchback turns, we couldn't help but wonder who had braved the sheer drops and craggy cliffs to build it.

Traffic was light  - we met very few cars - which is good as the road continued to narrow and climb the cliff face.  Every once in awhile the narrow ribbon led us to and through small villages tucked away in the hillsides. Sometimes, like in the photo below, it wasn't animals, but delivery trucks that caused us to pause. We couldn't get past on the tiny roadway. (When he finished, he backed up for us to pass.)

While we'd read about this route not being for the faint of heart, I have to admit that it really isn't one the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights should travel. . .

The heights made for some spectacular views as we climbed higher and higher, then began our descent. . .

. . .on a hair-raising 10 kilometer stretch of road leading us to a place where George Bush and Princess Diana have been, but likely not many mainstream tourists to Greece. Where were we heading? Well, that is the tale I will tell you in our next post.

Hope to see you back with us again and until then safe and happy travels to you and yours~
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This week we are linking with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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