A day in Fussen – at the Neuschwanstein Castle

Today started with a bang … not Chitty chitty bang bang (where we were heading), but trying to buy a quick ticket to the main train station from the suburb in Munich where our hotel was. Yes, once again we had s problem or three deciphering the language on the ticket buying kiosk. Why let people buy 3 tickets – but not two? By the time we worked it out, our train had gone and it was 20 mins till the next. Ah, time for a coffee after all. We had left ourselves time, thankfully. For we were meeting with the tour group that was heading to visit the castle.

The tour stated that we had a 2 hour train journey … not. We were put on a bus instead. We went through lush countryside with a lot of farms. I did wonder about the hills and mountains where the castle was meant to be … but then the countryside began to change as we climbed gradually. Then it was pointed out to us.

“Take a look over there”, the Bavarian guide said. And there it stood, perched on the side of the hill … among a lot of trees, on the edge of a cliff. I can just imagine how it might have looked with snow all around, or if the sun was shining. Still impressive though the day was cold and grey.

We arrived at the village in time for a snack and look around. Visits to the castle are strictly timed. Turns out our group wasn’t scheduled to go through till 2.10 precisely.

However by the time we had walked up the winding road, passed beautiful waterfalls, a gorge and up further … then down a bit to the marienbrucke bridge for photos – and panoramic views of the valley below, a good hour or more had gone by.

All good, as our guide kept us entertained with history of the castle, and the famed ‘mad king Ludwig II’ who had it built, back in 1869. It took 17 years and 200 people working on it. There were two or three photo stops.

The inside – once we did get in, was amazing. Murals, gilded chandeliers, stunning furniture, words can’t describe- and sadly they don’t allow photos to be taken inside. The music hall he had built was acoustically perfect, but he didn’t live long enough to hear the works if Richard Wagner ;his favourite composer. Even the murals depicted many of his operas.

They are very strict, with a specific inside castle tour guide … each group tuned to the minute. They did allow time at the end to wander through the kitchens, along long corridors to the outside again.

Then it was once again the long walk back down the hill, which I quite enjoyed.

We had quite a wait in the cold for our bus driver n bus to turn up … my legs n feet were turning to stone by now. Finally an hour or so later we headed back to Munich on the bus. The warmth and the guides voice chatting to some of the group made it easy to drop off …

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Meandering to Barcelona

Taking a walk to the patisserie early this morning to get the morning breads, we spotted a small ‘do up’ for sale … then we had to get organised to head to Girano. Nigel drive us through some interesting country lanes, we even stopped at Esperazo, where we discovered the dinosaurs still do exist.

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I have been constantly amazed at the number of windfarms all through France. Apparently it is their preferred source of electrical supply as it is environmentally friendly and utilizes the wind that comes through a valley in the mountains. They are beautiful. At times we came ‘up real close’ to them. Impressive.

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The other surprise around one corner in particular was a NZ style (almost) road block -cattle happily wandering around with their young. We did wonder if they might move, the roads were very, very narrow in places.IMG_5998fullsizeoutput_210a

In a couple of weeks time – these vineyards will be in bloom. They are dotted all over the place, some have a few green shoots, others still barren. The ‘sacred mountain’ cannitou, made a lovely backdrop.

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Carcassone to Montazels

After spending the night in Toulouse, we caught a train to Carcassonne, its a place having a lot of reconstruction done. It reminded me a little of Christchurch city centre (apart from its size). There are roadworks, new pavements being put in, and you did need to watch your footing a bit. However we found our way to the town square, and a lovely cafe.

We had a couple of hours to look about while waiting for my cousin Nigel. met us to drive to his home at a small village called Montazels, along the Aude River. With the Pyrenees as a backdrop, and the river by our side, it is just beautiful. I could easily live here, in the french countryside. Their home, Maison Loli has amazing views from every window over the three floors.

The top photo is me looking out from the top balcony (our bedroom window). The one immediately beneath is the lounge on the second floor. I took this to show the beams running through. They are 17th century!

After lunch we drove to the place on the hill, Rennes-le-Chateau  where we spent some time. A young priest had arrived in the village and over the next few years built a magnificent area, known as Sauniere’s Domain. This comprised of the Villa Bethany, Magdala Tower and a glazed orangery set in formal gardens. He renovated the modest church of St Mary Magdalene. He is buried there. It has the honour of being the place the Da Vinci code was written about. The museum forms part of it and shows his rooms, and we were allowed to walk the winding staircase up to the top. Even the gardens are ‘walled’.

From there we were taken to a place where there are remains of an Abbey. Alet les Bains. The music playing at this place was lovely too. Its so hard to really photograph everything!! People live around – and its easy to imagine horses and people from years ago ,,, ready for the fight!

 

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A train here … and there

With the train strikes through France providing major headaches – and getting over to visit the Normandy landings not an option any more (due to time constraints) , we took our chance and went out to visit a relative from the Libeau side (Libaud over here in France). It was lovely to meet Florence and her son, Enzo. I had been in email contact with her prior to leaving NZ, so she was expecting us.

Flo speaks good English, and is also teaching her four year old son to speak English as well.

We then caught the train back to Paris, intending to start the trip south – this was where things came unstuck … no trains going at all. Seems like we had managed to get the last trains out & back for the day. People were coming unstuck all over the place with frustration. The station was full, and people were given numbers – for being served on the front desk. Thankfully our person spoke our language, and we were able to organize the tickets for the next days trip. We’re doing it all in the one day, instead of chunks like we had hoped.

At this point we both literally collapsed with exhaustion, once we had something to eat!! Found a place to lay our heads … Charles was asleep by 7pm … unheard of!! (That’s apart from the occasional nap by the TV at home). I think we had delayed jet lag as well. We were also aware that the next day was a train at 7.25am.

Sundays Meanderings:

Travelling by train from Paris – we were at the station very bright and early – so as not to miss it! With the afore-mentioned strikes we had been warned that there would be a crowd … apparently the day after a strike day can be terrible for travel.

The trip to La Rochelle, where we had a 4 hrs stop over, we visited the Maritime museum, plus had a lovely walk around this beautiful village, set around the seaside. There were a lot of boats, I’m sure. The marina was full of lovely sailing boats, yachts, and other such vessels. It was such a pretty picture.

I loved the place, though the four seasons in a four hour span was too much … freezing cold at one stage – it rained for a while, and I thought that might have soiled the photos, however the sun came out as well, and it got quite hot. One thing I do notice in France is that everyone is still in their fur coats … jackets and have umbrellas at the ready. Now I understand. All seem to be required.

Heading down through Rochefort, where the Libeau clan lived prior to coming to NZ, toward Bordeaux – I see there are vineyards in abundance, along with fields of bright yellow. As its spring here, I suspect they have been planted in mustard seeds, for nitrogen fixing. It was hard to capture the pictures I wanted with the train speeding along, but the little communities with the shuttered windows, stone walls and tiled roofs made the picture of France that was in my head, come alive.

 

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Perceptions of Paris

On arrival at the Charles de Gaulle airport in France last night, I was impressed with the speed on which we came through customs, and the baggage claim sections. It must be the only large airport where these are so close together and don’t require a lot of navigation through the airport. Impressive too, was the pick up organised back in NZ for us to the hotel. As often happens, whether you are staying at a hotel, or buying a house, the reception area, and the room don’t always match the photos. However small the hotel room is, the shower pressure certainly impressed. So grateful after being 48hrs on the road, both in air and in transit.

So today, after many croissants, coffee and other goodies at the hotel breakfast, we collecting a map, got our bearings and went walking along the streets of Paris.

On arrival at the Arc de Triumph we spotted the “hop on-hop off” double decker bus, and decided it would be a good way to really see the sights of the city – and get some good pics. I just love the cobble streets and the architecture. Its so noticeable how ‘young’ New Zealand really is. Many of the buildings are hundreds of years old.

We hopped off the bus for the first time at the Louvre. I had been told it is easy to spend a whole day there – and that advice wasn’t wrong. One of the first things I learned is that a queue is only a queue if you are not a muslim. They have the right to walk past everyone in line – even in the toilets! Actually that was the place with the longest queue! A thoroughly enjoyable visit, and even though there were crowds there – I found it actually quite relaxing as well. Probably the most crowded room was the one housing the Mona Lisa.

We had spotted a Lindt cafe and shop … woooooo! Spotted while on the bus, and at one of the bus stops, we decided it would be worth a visit. Oh, yes. An iced chocolate using real Lindt choc is not to be passed by … however, the people beside us were having the most decadent sundae – and I remembered that I must not covet. Haha. It did look good.

As I write this, we are resting for a few minutes before we get on the Seine dinner cruise – also organised from back home in NZ. It is classed as a ‘formal affair’ with no casual clothes or people allowed. Oh dear … they are in for a treat. And I suspect, so are we. More after. Time I got myself ready!

The dinner was AMAZING. The cruise was for two and a half hours in all, and the choice of menu was also great. The salmon entree I chose, was delicious, the duck main was also melt in the mouth, and the chocolate mousse with raspberry log was a decadent delight.

Fine dining at its best. Beautiful company with those on the tables around us, beautiful music, and we loved the dancing waiter. He obviously enjoyed his job immensely. The Eiffel Tower (above) was stunning in the night lights. We were blessed that the night we had booked was the only night that had clear skies and was warm. I was greeted with a bunch of red roses as I disembarked from the boat … of course, for a fee. It seemed like everyone was out and about hawking their wares, mini Eiffel towers laid out nicely on picnic rugs … souvenirs and the like. Paris certainly came alive at night – remembering this was now 11pm, and we were walking back to the hotel along the city boulevards and roads.

 

 

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Holiday 2018

“Let’s go for a cruise sometime”. Thats where it all began. The decision on the cruise, and the actual tickets themselves are almost a story of their own … begun while on another trip away visiting family on the Gold Coast two years ago.

So our first stop from Dunedin was visiting family and friends in Oamaru for the night. Even taking in a debut concert by Gary and his band up at the Grainstore in the victorian part of Oamaru. A lovely evening (and great music too). A very relaxing evening.

On Sunday we left for Christchurch, and the start of an adventure to Europe. This blog is going to be a diary of the trip.

It was good to pop in and visit my Dad in his new “home” – the Addington Lifestyle care village he and Emily are now part of.  Although Dads health is far from good, it was comforting to be able to give him some chocolate to cheer him up, and have a chat, before catching up with my two live-wire grandchildren, Wynter and Arlo.

So two days in Christchurch where the weather took a massive turn for the worse – made us happy that we were heading for warmer climates.

Early on Wednesday morning when we left for the Christchurch airport (at 3am)- it was raining and perishingly cold. However reaching Brisbane in a balmy 24 deg was quite a nice change. We went to the Stargate mall area, just out of the airport, to spend a bit of time prior to getting once more on a new flight to Dubai.

The Emirates 380 airbus is impressive to say the least, with so much legroom – great food. It sort of made up for the 14 or so hours we were in the air … somewhere in the sky we lost a few hours, being 9pm when we left Brisbane, and also only 9.20pm when we were supposedly at the “halfway” mark to Dubai!!

Today in Dubai its around 28 – 30 degrees, and we were able to escape the airport by train to see some of the Sky towers. Sadly the smog meant a lot of photos weren’t as impressive as the sights. As I write this, we await yet another connection – this time to Paris, where we will spend the next few days before heading toward the West and south of France.

ONWARD TO PARIS

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Just a little more time … to run

Running for me is a joy, a release, a filling of my lungs with fresh air. It’s an opportunity to get out there and literally allow the wind to blow off the cobwebs of the day – the stuff that has stuck on, to get rid of thoughts and just allow the rhythm of my feet thumping on the road to do their stuff.

So on Friday, after my first day back at work after a weeks holiday, I was looking forward to lacing up the trainers and getting out there. I had already prepared my mind through the day  that this was the plan, and that it would be a slightly longer run than usual.

I decided to go upwards from where I live, along the ‘main’ country road which has a beautiful view of the Otago peninsula. Although it was onwards and upwards, (in runner speak, a ‘bit of a grind’) I was enjoying just being out there, and this time, with music to accompany me.

However the onwards and upwards bit meant that I was running at a slightly slower pace than usual. This meant that the route I had mapped in my mind would be unlikely to be completed in the time I had given as to being home for dinner. Not a problem really, how often are runners out exercising for a precise amount of time? Not many, I bet.

But this is spring, in Dunedin. Although winter has supposedly gone (a joke really, as I write this, its snowing intermittently and the freezing wind is a gale), the daylight hours are still to stretch out. And about an hour into my run, while running down a slippery farm track toward the beach roads at the bottom, I had an epiphany – no way was I going to get back either in time, or before it got totally dark. I stopped. I was at a guess, about half way to the bottom of the farm track. I knew a little of what lay ahead and knew also that the tracks would take a bit of negotiation – boggy, slippery in places and the odd rock and stone to negotiate.

So I looked at what was ahead of the tracks, and saw the long, windy road following the lower beach roads – up and down, for what seemed to be a very long way then looked at what was behind me, the farm track heading to the roads at the top – leading to the upper road which would give me a gentle sloping downward run to my home. What to do? Go onward and hope I could see, and be seen by other vehicles, once on the narrow winding road? Or trail back and run the exact tracks and roads I had followed to get to where I was. The advantage of going back was the fact of the main road being slightly wider – allowing me to get off easily to the side when cars come by. The only reflective gear I was wearing was my iphone attached to my arm. Better than nothing, but not ideal in the dark.

So I opted for the going back option. Had I taken into account how far I had come since leaving the main road? No. Had I taken into account how steep that farm track was? No. But by now I was committed. One foot in front of the other as I trudged back up the hill through the gate and onto the gravel road leading to the main road turn-off.

Why did I do that? It wasn’t the easy path exactly, but it was a well-known route (once off the track). Whereas the lower option was all new – only run once on a brilliantly sunny day in the summer!

So I was late – the value of having the phone meant I could send a text to advise of my estimated time of arrival.

I walked in the door exuberant. I felt so good. I had completed just under 18km. A great milestone toward my half-marathon coming up.

Yes, the meal waiting was a little burnt -(Isn’t it funny that the one time a meal is cooked on time is the one I am not there on time to enjoy it?)

Sometimes in life we do what I did. We stop. Look around, and not knowing whats ahead, we turn around and trundle back along on the path well travelled.

Some of us are more adventurous and would not turn around, not for anyone or anything. All roads lead home, don’t they? As long as we get there in the end, does it matter?

And yes, I do plan to do the run again sometime, this time I will follow those roads to complete the loop – but it will be in daylight, when I have just a little more time …

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