Thursday, June 21, 2012

Boulogne and farewell to Lille

We spent a day driving up to the Opal Coast where we started our tour in Boulogne.  Apparently the city was 80% destroyed in 1944.  This shot is taking heading down into the lower part of the city, outside of the walled city. It is, in fact, a really large city, but as usual we spent our time in the old Centre Ville.  It was quite charming.
 This shot is of the Porte Neuve through which we walked to enter the old part of the city.  We were there at lunch time and stopped to have a bite to eat.  Seafood is the order of the day.  Our hosts at the gite had recommended that we eat in one of the small villages outside of the city, further up the coast.  I had forgotten this advice until we were traveling up the coast a bit later and I rather wish we had waited.  Less tourist-y somehow.  More authentic.  But we did all right, nonetheless.
This is the Porte Gayole (I think that's spelled correctly) that we passed by as we were driving out of town.  It is another entrance into the walled part of the city.
 We left Boulogne and drove north east up the coast line.  This is the charming town of Wimereux.  It was thought of as the Nice of the north and from 1880 to l939 it was a popular holiday resort for the well-to-do.  Still lovely today.
This is Fort Vauban, situated on the shore in Wimereux.  It is one of a number of forts built by Henry VIII to protect his land holdings in France.
 And this is one of numerous bunkers we saw that dot the coastline, also built to guard land holdings.  Silent witnesses that nonetheless speak so loudly even now of past wars.   We saw white crosses, row on row.  And fields of poppies.  My father flew over these fields during the war.  It is hard for me to think of.
 This is part of le Site des deux Caps, Cap Gris Nez, which is 45 metres high, and Cap Blanc Nez.  This area is a listed regional park.  The lighthouse at Cap Gris Nez (Crossma) watches over one of the most densely frequented seaway in the world.

 This structure (in one of the thousands of roundabouts in France) was built as a homage to the builders of the tunnel which  I believe goes from Folkstone in England to Calais.  All under the English Channel.  Oh my!
 And just one quick photo to show you that it wasn't ALL beautiful.  Just one photo.  That you don't even need to look at if you don't want to!!!
One final picture of the lovely garden that we stayed at near Lille.  This is a shot out of our bedroom window.  Such a lovely garden.....It was non-stop beautiful!!!
So, the trip was nearly over.  I am in fact posting these last posts from home.  It is Thursday now and we got home late late on Tuesday evening.
I will show you one more post of our travels to Amsterdam where we spent three nights before coming home.
Back soon.....

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bruges, Brugge

However one spells it, Bruges is an absolutely beautiful city.  We spent the better part of a day exploring and wandering around.  We had, in fact, hoped to take a canal tour since this is one of the 'must-do' tourtist attractions in Bruges, but the next available tour was 2 hours after we were there so we didn't manage to do that.  But I am very happy with what we did manage to see so....maybe next time.  Should you be there with enough time to spare, get your ticket early and do the tour.  Everyone we saw on the tour boats seemed to be having a good time!!!
And as an aside, without even looking for one (as I have been doing in every other city we've been to) we walked past an art supply shop and I finally got the Caran d'Ache non-soluble oil pastels I've been looking for!!!   Really hard to find at home.  (In all fairness, I think I can buy them, singly, from Dick Blick but it means I have to go to, or order them from, the States to do that.....this was so easy!  Ah, the perfect holiday experience, again!!)
 Roof lines, I am continually mesmerized by them!
 Walking down a street filled with shops in Bruges.  Lots of shopping, high-end and not so, to be had there, should one wish it.
 The place du marche, the market square.  I don't know if there is a market everyday, but there was one when we were there.
 We wandered around the Place du Marche for a while.  This square has served as the political, economic and social centre of the city.  The Place is dominated by the Belfry (you can see it in a picture a bit lower down on this post) which is 88 metres high.  At the base of the Beffroi is Les Halles where medieval merchants would sell everything from Flemish woolen goods to oriental spices.  The Beffoi itself dates from the 13th century while the octagonal addition on the  top is in the gothic style of Brabant.  In the shot above is the Palais Provincial, on the left (neo-gothic architecure from the 19th century, lots of little tours and delicate details)  and the brick part on the right is the post office, at least the part at the bottom was where we bought stamps and mailed our postcards.  Pretty fancy, huh!!!  Oh and should you wish to take a horse-drawn tour of Bruges, this square would be the starting point.
 This is the balcony of the Belfry.  More fancy details!!
This is the north side of the place du marche.  Lots of places to eat and watch the people go by.  Lots of typical Flemish facades from the 17th century on the buildings.   The Place du Marche is a must-see!
This shot is taken in the Place du Bourg.  On the left, and sort of slipping out of the picture (!!) is the Palais de Justice.  Next you see the gold decorated building which is the Chacellerie (Flemish Renaissance architecture from the 16th century with several gold statues representing le droit, Law). Next to that is l'Hotel de Ville, or city hall, which is an example of gothic architecture with a number of historical and biblical statues on the front (wow, a bit more fancy than back at home!!).  Apparently a lot of these statues were destroyed during the French Revolution and had to be replaced.
This is another shot of the Chancellerie and on the bottom right you can see the enrtance to la Ezelstraat.  This name comes from the name of the Inn (l'auberge) that formerly sat on the space now occupied by the Chancellerie.
This is the Prevote (with a shot of the Beffoi in the background).  This building dates from the 17th century and is constructed and decorated in the Flemish Baroque style.
This is the Basilique du Saint-Sang, dating from the 12th century.  In the Basilica is the Relique du Saint-Sang, brought to Bruges after the Second Crusade.
One of the many little bridges that crosses the canals.  All so picturesque!!
More little bridges.  More water.
Everyone can have a canal-side home!!!!
This is la Rozenhoedkaai, the Quai du Rosaire, the Quai of Roses, that takes its name from the rose  couronnes and decorations that were made and sold at this location.  The Quai is lined with medieval architecture....and it would seem that this location, with the reflection of the Beffroi in the water, is one of the most photographed locations in the city.   No reflections the day we were there because it was a bit breezy, but it is still picturesque.
This is the gothic chapel and (part of) the tower of the Eglise Notre-Dame.  Michelangelo's white marble statue of The Madonna with Child is the attraction here.  A merchant from Bruges bought the statue in 1506 and gave it to the church in 1514.  (Twice the statue has been stolen, once during the French Revolution and again during the Second World War.  Recovered both times, fortunately.)
  In 2000 Bruges was officially added to the list of World Heritage Sites and in 2002 was named the cultural capital of Europe.  A beautiful city. I would have been happy to have spent even more time there.  Maybe next time.....

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Once more in the garden, with sunshine!!

Here is the second posting to show you the garden at the gite where we are staying this week.  This posting will show you the front garden and then a couple of extra shots that I just couldn't resist.  Some of the shots were taken in the morning and some in the afternoon because, how lovely, by the evening the sun had come out so it was even more beautiful than before!!!  Is it possible, you gasp!!! And yes, it is!!.....
Here we go again:
 In this first shot I simply walked off the driveway, under the grape arbor, into the front garden.  Here I am looking north.
 I turned to my left, and faced west.  I went through these posts, above, to walk onto the lawn below.
 Next, I walked around the curve shown above and took the shot below.  (Although I may have taken this shot in the evening, and the other in the matter, the same shot!!)

 This shot is taken looking into the flower bed in the right of the photo above, I think.  (sorry, are you terribly confused??? I confess I am a wee bit, and I was there!!!)
 In the shot above I am looking south toward the posts that I walked through (in the second shot above).  Can you see the posts on the left hand side there???
 A very serious conversation was taking place on the patio!!!
 This lovely lady was watching over the conversation that was going on above...(you can see the carnations behind the duck just on the bottom right hand corner of the shot above).
 In the garden just north of (behind) the statue above there are more roses, raspberries, more vegetables, more flowers, more of everything!!!  And this charming gate not really leading anywhere, just looking pretty with the roses!
 I think this shot was taken from inside the raspberry (etc) bed looking south.
 Then I looked south again and took this shot of the front of the house.  Such a lovely spot for a meal or afternoon tea, don't you think???
 Here are the hostas you can see above, near the table and chairs, looking again toward the pond.
 And a couple more shots of the pond.  The shot below was taken in the evening.  I just had to show you a shot with the sun on it.

 Here I am standing again in the driveway, in the evening, looking out onto the wheat fields to the west side of the property.  Beautiful, everywhere you look.

 And two more shots of the back of the house, taken this morning in the bright sunshine.  The first one is the gite once again, looking very inviting as an early morning spot for coffee.  And the final shot is just plain magical.  Oh my gosh, it is all too too lovely!
There was so much more to see but tomorrow I have to show you what we saw in Bruges......back soon...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Such a lovely garden!

The gite that we are staying in has the most incredible garden and I have had such a lot of fun taking pictures.  There are so many that I may have to show you in several postings!  I go a little bit crazy when I get around gardens.  Let's begin:
 This shot is taken from the driveway (I am facing east) as you first enter the property. The owners, Edwige and Jean-Jacques Leroy bought this property in 1995. It is part of a larger farm that had previously been given over to cows and wheat and I believe they have about a hectare of land that has all been lovingly turned into garden. It took two years of renovations before they could move into the house but they had started the garden long before that.
 On the right of the entrance, behind the lovely flower beds that you see in the first shot, is the vegetable garden.
 The shot above is taken from inside the vegetable garden looking out (north) toward the main house.
 The wing of the main house that you see in the third shot is on the left and out of the picture but above you can see the gite on the right and the second part of the main house.  The buildings form a sort of U-shape with the gite on the right leg (on the east side) of the U above.
 For this shot, above, I have walked to the back of the gite.  I stood on the patio outside the gite (by the table and'll see them in a second, below) and took this picture looking south.   On the right you see part of the storage barn.
(The picture below is out of order because the internet connection went a bit crazy and mostly because I don't now how to move it to the right place.  It is taken looking south from the north side of the pond.....more later on all that!!)
 Here I am looking north, at the back of the gite.   You can see the table and chairs that I mentioned a second ago.
 Here I am at the back of the patio again looking north.  The little pump on the left of the shot is just in front of the table and chairs.
 And here I have walked over to the pond, about 20 feet off the patio walking out from the shot above.
I have tried to take these photos in order as I walked around the garden, so as not to drive you too crazy.  It's all pretty amazing isn't it!!
At the time of the farm, the pond was used by the cows for drinking, but the Leroys have enlarged it substantially since that time.  There are carp in the pond and so it is impossible to grow lilies or other floating plants but apparently one can go fishing in the pond if arrangements are made with the owners!!
 The above shot is about one step in front of the one above!!
 This is a lovely little bench overlooking the pond.  Perfect for one's morning coffee!!!
 In the last picture from my last post I showed you a shot looking east through a rose arbor down a hosta-line pathway.  In the shot above you can see the left hand side of the arbor.  So here I am looking north from the arbor.
I walked all the way to the end of the arbor and took this shot of some shaped box plants.  Even far away from the house there is still a lot of work done to maintain the garden.  Really an overwhelming job and Edwige and Jean-Jacques do all the work themselves.  I am exhausted at the very thought!!
Some more of the 'wild' part of the garden.  So very charming.
 Walking back along the hosta-lined path, you can see the opposite, back side of the arbor (I am facing west here).  The gite is just visible in the distance.
 A charming little chair.  A fun discovery in the garden!
 Walking around the north side of the pond looking south toward the gite and the storage barns. This is where the 'out of order' shot way above was supposed to go.
 This shot and the one below are both taken from the north side of the pond looking south and southeast.  So charming.

 These lovely iris are on the west side of the pond.

And these last two shots are of the lovely bouquet that was in the gite waiting for us when we arrived.  A selection of flowers picked from the garden.  So beautiful.

So far I have showed you one side of the garden and the back of property.  Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of the front of the garden.  And today there is sunshine.  What a treat!

Just in case you might be interested in staying in the gite it is Gite de France, du Nord, number G2230.  Have a look!  You can contact the owners at should you wish additional information.