Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eiffel Tower ~ Paris ~ France

We love RVing, so our typical holidays have been driving across Canada and the US for most of our travels but not this time. We have now left our RV at home and are doing some global travels so we will share our visit to Paris, France with you.

We are in Paris, France
We arrived by train from England having travelled under the English Channel and across some beautiful French countryside to our destination of Paris by mid-afternoon.  We caught a cab to the hotel and I was trying to get photos of everything we passed, even the street signs! 

The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Our first day in Paris was short so we planned nothing but to get settled into our hotel, have a drink at a sidewalk cafe and have a look around before it got dark.  We were only a few blocks from the River Seine and the Eiffel Tower so that was the obvious destination and we were excited to see it.

Under the Eiffel Tower looking skyward
The Eiffel Tower is so much larger than I expected it to be, even though I have seen many photos of it!  We saw it from a distance as we rode in the cab to our hotel, but actually walking up to and under it, WOW, this made it a totally different story.

The elevators ride up the Eiffel Tower in Paris
The Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889 for the World Fair and has been an icon ever since, although at times it was considered for demolition.  It is 324 meters (1063 ft) and 108 stories high.  There are elevators to take you for a tour of the tower or to one of the two restaurants on the first and second platforms.  On a great day, they say you can see 72 km. (45 miles).

A gathering and shopping area under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
There is lots of excitement around the Eiffel.  So many people are there enjoying the sights and sounds of the whole area.  The River Seine is across the street so between the two big attractions, it is great fun to just be there and enjoy it.

Carousel across the street from the Eiffel Tower
As dusk falls, we’re seeing the Eiffel light up and the atmosphere changes, it will soon be nighttime in Paris and it feels amazing. There are street performers under the Eiffel and a crowd gathers to watch and throw their coins into their hat, the carousel lights up across the street and the lights on the Tower are all beginning to show against the night sky.

The night lights of the Eiffel Tower
We enjoyed our evening walk along the river before we found a nice restaurant for a late dinner, although not as late as most of the diners eat over there.  Once we’re ready to leave, I need to take just a few more photos of the Eiffel Tower before we head back to the hotel to end our first evening in Paris

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stonehenge ~ Wilshire County ~ England

Our travels of England took us all over the south and we saw some beautiful scenery and historical places that we had only read about, but none were as old or as mysterious as the stone circle of Stonehenge.  There are many questions about how Stonehenge came to be that may never be answered but the interest is obvious by the many visitors who come to see it every day. 
The birds fly over Stonehenge in England
Stonehenge is located in Wilshire County in southern England and along with the surroundings, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.  Stonehenge is owned by the crown and the surrounding countryside is owned by National Trust.  We do not have access to the stones now that it is behind a roped area due to erosion that was happening, but until 1977 it was open for all to walk among the stones.

Horseshoe of sarsen trilithons of Stonehenge
Stonehenge evolved from between 3000 BC to 1600 BC in three stages of development in pre-historic times. The lost culture left no written records so the real story is still a mystery but there have been several suggestions given as to explain it.

Circle of bluestones in Stonehenge
Stonehenge was built in three different stages forming the stones into a circle.  The first was the Circle of sarsen stones with lentels, the second one built was the Circle of bluestones then the Horseshoe of srsen trilithons followed. Pictures cannot show the size of these large stones but I have tried to show size comparisons with the visitors in the pictures, shown on the far side of the circle.

Stones of Stonehenge
Some suggest Stonehenge was constructed by the supernatural due to the size of the stones, but that has been debunked by archeologists and historians to not be so. There are stories of how the stones that made the second stage had been transported and delivered over land, sea and river from Wales.

Stonehenge in England
There have been findings that suggest it was a burial ground for 500 years from 3000 BC. It is believed it may have been a healing site in that time that would then become a burial ground due to the cremated bones that were found.

Stonehenge stands tall
There are many that believe it was a place of religion and perhaps a source of inspiration to those who came to visit. They could celebrate and worship among the stones and some do that even today. No one knows the real purpose but the mystical stories are likely enjoyed by most.

Mystery of Stonehenge in England
What is real about Stonehenge is that the stones align with the rising and setting of the sun at the solstices.  This suggests an astronomical reason for construction of Stonehenge, which may have been their time of worship.

Stonehenge in England
There are so many myths said about Stonehenge that I think we can only conclude that we may think anything we want to describe the reason it is here and the history surrounding it but as we walk about these huge rocks, we can only try to comprehend that these were brought here by people all those thousands of years ago. What an amazing site to see and to feel the magic in the air.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Boscastle ~ Cornwall ~ England

Our travels in England have not included an RV but we've been enjoying some lovely travels and our wonderful trip continues.
We set out from Tavistock to spend our sunny day visiting some of the medieval villages on the northern coast of Cornwall. We drove across the moorlands and began our descent down to the fishing village of Boscastle. So many of these villages we were visiting are at the bottom of a long downhill drive to the water and this was no exception. The best part was that we were able to drive down to a parking area in the small village where other places we have had to walk down.
Village of Boscastle, England
We crossed the bridge to find our parking then walked through the shopping area of the village. This part of the village was only about a block long and had nice looking shops for those that may wish to browse.

Stone harbour walls in Boscastle, England
The stone harbor walls seen here, were built in 1584 and act as a buffer from the tidal waters that offer some very rough waves from the Atlantic Ocean.  The boats are able to come into the harbor to tie up behind the walls and away from the waves and dock safely when not in use.  Boscastle is the only natural harbor for boats along the 40 mile stretch of coastline.

Atlantic Ocean at Boscastle, England
We walked up the wet banks of rock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and, as always, enjoyed watching the waves crash against the rocks. Waves are always fascinating and I wanted to take enough pictures to make sure I get the right wave and the right splash before I leave. It was very windy, I mean very very windy, so our stay out there watching the waves was shorter than we may have wanted it to be.

The natural harbour at Boscastle, England
Several people were walking on the other side of the harbor and one hiker can be seen up on top of the hill, giving us a perspective on how big that hill really is.  We had worn warm jackets and good walking shoes but these rocks were slippery and we needed to be cautious when walking on them.  Many visitors sat down on the rocks to enjoy watching the waves and weathered the cold stormy winds.  The blue sky is deceiving but the wind was blowing those clouds away, so we're not complaining.

Rivers running through Boscastle, England
The Rivers Valency and Jordon come together to create this natural harbor.  Then one day in August 2004 after torrential rains filled both rivers to overflow, there was a major flooding that devastated this small village.  The water tore through the town and damaged the majority of the buildings and homes as it ravaged its' way down the valley, including taking out the bridge.
Sunny day in Boscastle, England
We watched a video that showed the damage being done by the powerful force of that flooding and it is amazing that not one life was lost.  People were sitting on rooftops and had to be airlifted out by helicoptor.  The signage showing the water level that day makes it hard to believe their recovery has been so successful.  We had lunch in a quaint little hotel and saw the sign of the water level shown on the second floor. 
Fishing boats in harbour at Boscastle, England
Fishing was once a major industry in Boscastle but tourism is now the number one industry for this village and much of that might be due to the flooding then the recovery done by the strength and determination of the people of the village of Boscastle.  There is little evidence of the flood showing today, and it was great to spend some time in the village of Boscastle.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Royal Mews ~ the Gold State Coach ~ Buckingham Palace ~ London, England

We planned our day in London around a visit to Buckingham Palace.  This was a 'must see' on our trip and I was looking forward to seeing the Queen's home in all its' splendor.  Our tickets were purchased online ahead of time, which is a very easy thing to do and likely saved us time when we arrived as we didn't have to stand in line.  Part of the ticket entrance included visiting the Royal Mews, where the carriages and horses are kept and we chose to visit here first.
The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace
There are several carriages displayed in individual rooms with some of their history and stories told on a story board as well as more information given on our hand held guide that gave us lots of information. They were all very grand and pretty exciting to see in their amazing condition, some of which had had extensive rebuilding done to be as they originally appeared. We also walked through the stables and saw some of the horses but the one coach we saw that was absolutely amazing was the Gold State Coach.
The Gold State Coach
 King George III had this coach designed by architect Sir William Chambers in 1760 for his coronation and wedding to Princess Charlotte. It wasn't ready in time for either celebration so it made its' debut in 1762 being pulled by eight cream stallions, when King George attended the State Opening of Parliament. The coach weighs 4 ton and needed those eight horses to pull that weight. The coach is 24 ft. long, 8 ft. wide and 12 ft. high. The cost in English currency was 8,000 pounds when it was built.

Mythical sea-gods on the Gold State Coach
Incredible artistry of the sculpture Joseph Wilton is shown on this coach. The details are amazing when you're able to see all that this coach is adorned with. The mythical sea-gods at the front of the coach, known as Tritons seem to be pulling it with straps as they blow on their conches to announce the arrival of the Monarch of the Ocean.

Panels of Art on the Gold State Coach
The eight panels, three on each side and one on each end were painted by Giovanni Battista Cipriani.  Each panel represents the pride the English took in their military achievements, their wealth and success and all that made it the great country that it was.  I find it interesting that Greek and Roman symbols were used by this Italian artist on an English coach but they are amazing paintings.  Cipriani, a neoclassical painter, was brought to England in 1755 by Sir William Chambers and Joseph Wilton several years before the coach was to become their project.

The Tritons on the Gold State Coach
The mythical sea-gods with the body of man and legs and feet of a dolphin on the back of the coach are representing England's imperial powers, together with the ones on the front. They represent Britain's strong maritime traditions and show England's dominant seapower. These carvings reflect the powerful position that England held in the world.

Sculptures on the Gold State Coach
At the back of the coach, this Triton carries a bundle of rods with an axe and that represented the power of the law.  Everything on the coach had a special meaning and told the story of what was thought of England in that time. They were a powerful nation in their worldly position and this was representing their triumphant chariot.

Cherubs sit atop the Gold State Coach
The three cherubs at the top of the coach represent the union of England, Scotland and Ireland. They carry the symbols to represent Knighthood, a sword, sceptre and a badge as well as the Imperial Crown. Their gifts symbolize abundance and prosperity to the gods.

This coach was absolutely amazing to see and learn about. The history lesson of this day was one not to be forgotten.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Alfriston ~ Birling Gap ~ Beachy Head ~ England

We spent several weeks in England with my sister and brother-in-law and we could not have asked for better hosts, company or tour guides! We spent most of our time touring and seeing the sights of southern England, making several photo-taking stops every day. There were so many sights to see and they were making sure that we could see as many of them as possible but still leaving many for a future visit. 

High Street in Alfriston, England
We began one day with our first stop in Alfriston, a small and very quiet village on this day.  The village square is tiny but has a bench that a few of the local gentlemen have gathered on to share their stories with one another.  We walked along High Street, which is also the highway that passes through town.  The building with the strips of wood on its' facing is The George Inn, and it has a sign on the outside that says, "First Transfer of Innkeepers License - 1397".  This inn has been in business for a very long time!
St. Andrew's Parish Church, Alfriston, England
 St. Andrew's Parish Church in Alfriston dates back to the 14th century and was built in the shape of a cross. As most churches on our travels, the graveyard surrounds the church and some of the headstones also date back a very long time. The open door meant we were able to go inside the church and enjoy the stained glass windows from the inside on this sunny morning while there was also a film crew working in there for an English television program.

Artist and swan on River Cuckmere, England
This old gentleman sat quietly sketching on the bank of the River Cuckmere, oblivious to the beautiful swan that was below his sight range. We walked over to see what he saw, which was the back of St. Andrew's Parish Church and he offered to show us his book of work. He may have been part of a very small group of artists, perhaps five or six that we'd seen scattered about the village, but he said he was there "to get away from the people". He was polite but I felt that our brief stop was long enough for him and we were on our way, he was an artist at work.

St. Andrew's Parish Church, England
The small canal of water (in swan photo) is the River Cuckmere that runs behind the St. Andrew's Parish Church in Alfriston. This is located about 10 km (6 mi) northeast of the river mouth at Seaford, It was during the 18th century that they first took measures to prevent flooding of the valley which had
occured in Alfriston, so the river isn't affected by the tide changes as it had been back then and leaves only this canal in this part of the valley. The River Cuckmere does widen once it leaves here to make its' way down to Seaford.

Seven Sisters at Birling Gap, England
I had always had an interest in seeing England and especially to see the white cliffs, most likely because of the song 'White Clffs of Dover' from WW2 and it seemed to have a personal connection as my dad was posted over there and had fought during that war. So the white cliffs of Dover was on the list. There are other locations that have white cliffs and Dover wasn't on our route plan so we were going to visit some cliffs that were farther south instead, at Birling Gap which is part of the longest natural exposure of chalk cliffs in Europe. They were distinct markers for seafaring ships.

White chalk cliffs at Birling Gap, England
Birling Gap is in East Sussex, Southest England, right on the English Channel. We'd driven through green pastures passing over the Cuckmere River and came upon Birling Gap, which is a parking lot with a small hotel and restaurants but I saw little else, I was anxious to see the white cliffs. There is
a staircase that leads down to the beach, so we approached that just as a busload of foreign highschool students did the same but once we got through the crowded platform, we were given the most magnificant view of the Seven Sisters, the white cliffs. I found that moment when I first saw the cliffs to be one of the most emotional moments I had on our travels. That was unexpected but the sight was as amazing as expected.

Beachy Head, England
Beachy Head is not far up the coast from Birling Gap. The lighthouse is one of two at this location and sits below the highest chalk cliff in the UK. It is 162 meters (530 ft) above sea level and offers an beautiful view of the English Channel. The name Beachy Head is a result of mispronouciation of the
original french name meaning 'beautiful headland'. In 1724, the name Beachy Head became accepted as the preferred name.

Lighthouse atop Beachy Head, England
The imagination can offer many scenarios as we look out over the English Channel. The history from this part of the world goes back forever, filled with many stories about ships and battles, a time that we read about in our history books. Today all we see is a sailboat so we are back in the moment and enjoying the special time that we have to spend here and enjoying the view.

Sheep on South Downs, England
The South Downs is splattered with sheep in green pastures, many times they are pastures lined with rock walls. I did enjoy seeing the faces of the curious sheep when we stopped to take some pictures as much as some of them seemed to enjoy our company! Sheep are a common sight in southern England and we did see a few different kinds, but these ones were very familiar, as the ones we see at home.

Our journeys in England continue and there will be many more photos to see.  We've visited London and other areas in southern England, click on the link if you wish to see some of those photos.

Friday, November 4, 2011

St. Paul's Cathedral ~ London Millenium Footbridge ~ London Eye ~ Big Ben ~ House of Parliament ~ London England

Another glorious day in London, England.  We walked for so many miles and still didn't see everything, but what we did see made it an incredible day.  Part of another London walk included several other sights that you may see by clicking here, but today we will see even more. This walk begins at St. Paul's Cathedral, the most beautiful cathedral that we had been looking forward to seeing on this visit.

St. Paul's Cathedral, London, England
St. Paul's Cathedral was originally built in 604 but the fourth one on this site was destroyed by fire and this is the fifth one that is there now and it was built between 1675-1711.  It was impossible for me to get one picture to show this incredible church as it is in the shape of a cross and the dome, standing at over 111 meters (365 ft) and highest in the world, sits over the intersection of the arms.  Beneath the dome, a symbol for unity, is where the daily services are held. 

St. Paul's Cathedral, South Churchyard entrance, London, England
No cameras are allowed inside St. Paul's Cathedral but it would have been great to get some photos.  The beautiful mosaics that line the walls and ceilings of St. Paul's Cathedral were added 1896-1904 and one could sit there for hours to enjoy these pieces of art.  The whole interior of the church is a work of art.  I would recommend allowing several hours in your day to be able to appreciate all there is to see in this church. A handheld audio with photos is included in the entrance fee and it gives plenty of information and history. They also have a cafeteria for lunch or a coffee break. 

London Millenium Footbridge
This steel suspension bridge was the first pedestrian bridge built to cross the River Thames in over a century but it wasn't without its' struggles. It first opened in June 2000 with 80,000 to 100,000 people crossing it on the first day. The effect of that many people crossing the bridge caused some movement that wasn't expected and the bridge, locally called the "wobbly bridge' was closed within two days. It was reopened two years later after a solution had been found and it was pretty neat to see.  For those who wish to learn more about this engineering feat, click here.

London, England's cityscape
I don't wish to mislead anyone into thinking that there has been nothing modern built in London because there sure has. Keith took this photo from 528 steps up high in the Golden Gallery of St. Paul's Cathedral, it didn't sound like a place I wanted to go to. The view is of the financial district, including the Swiss Re building, more commonly called "the gherkin" (as in pickle).  As we wandered along the River Thames after leaving St. Paul's Cathedral, we counted several cranes that were in the process of building new structures.  We had also seen many ongoing projects that may be due to the upcoming Olympics in 2012.
the London Eye, England
This was originally called the Millenium Wheel when it was opened in 2000 as it was seen as time turning into a new millenium.  It is now called the London Eye and takes 3.5 million people on a ride every year.  It carries 800 passengers per revolution and takes 30 minutes to complete the circle going slow enough that it allows people to disembark without it stopping.  The view is 360 degrees for 40 km (25 mi) but that wasn't enough to convince me I should go for a ride.  I enjoy looking from down here, thanks!

Parliament Buildings, London, England
The Parliament Buildings are beautfiul and sit along the River Thames just beside the Westminster Bridge. Tours are offered for visitors to see the interior and the workings of the parliament buildings.  Westminster Hall is officially a royal palace that was begun in 1097 by the son of William the Conquerer and another building for viewing is the Jewel Tower, built in 1365, and one of the two remaining sections of the medieval royal palace of Westminster.

Big Ben, London, England
Big Ben was one of those sights that I was anxious to visit and it was exciting to see that big clock tower looming largely ahead as we walked up the street.  The great bell in the clock tower is where the nickname Big Ben comes from and it stands in the largest four faced clock in the world.  The tower is 393 steps to the top and 96 meters high but only open to locals who can arrange the visit with their MP.

Sunset across the River Thames in London, England
As our London day came to an end and we walked along the River Thames in a very busy and entertaining part of the city, we saw this beautiful sunset happening.  I was taking photos every few steps to make sure I was not going to miss this incredible photo, one that I feel could be my favorite.  We are looking at the Westminster Bridge crossing the River Thames, and the Parliament Buildings with Big Ben standing tall overlooking it all.  A very special memory on a very special day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Victoria Station ~ Trafalgar Square ~ Piccidilly Circus ~ Covent Gardens ~ London ~ England

Our visit to England included two day-trips to London to see the sights. We walked all around the city both days and saw so much that it is difficult to know where to begin. I decided to take you on some walking tours, although it may be out of sequence, but you will be able to see some of the incredible sights we were to see. Perhaps one day I will feature some of these for a full page of their own but for now I will share a little bit of some of the many incredible sights of London.

Victoria Station London
Victoria Station London is the central system of the railways in London and was an new experience for us. We'd caught the train, the first one of many on our holiday, coming from East Grinstead and arriving in the station to begin our walk around London.  The Station is a very busy place with people coming and going in all directions.  Several stores and services line the station for the busy commuters to access and it has a surprisingly exciting atmosphere.  I was hoping a flashmob might break out while we were there, now that would have been perfect!
Signs in London, England
There were several of these kinds of signs around London. They appeared to be of the old style, as were so many street lights we saw on our travels but it all adds to the ambience that we were expecting on our visit to the lovely city of London, a city that is filled with treasures at every corner we turn.
Trafalgar Square, London, England
Trafalgar Square, named after the battle of Trafalgar sits in the middle of London with with four beautiful lions sitting at the base of the 151 ft. Nelson Column.  The Square also has fountains and other statues, which have always been a big draw for the pigeons and so giving the Square that notoriety.  With the mess these birds leave behind, it is now forbidden to feed them and so there are now very few of them around.  Today there is also a clock in the Square that is counting down to the 2012 Olympics being held in London.

Routemaster in London, England
The old model of the red English double decker bus is called a Routemaster and they ran regular routes for 50 years in London until 2005. They can still be seen on walks about London because some are now running as part of Heritage Routes. The modern buses are red and double deckers, as well, but do not seem to have the character that the old routemasters had.

Piccidilly Circus in London, England
This is a major traffic location which began originally in 1819 to connect Regency St. with the major shopping area of Piccidilly, which is also linked to the theater district of the West End. Today it is known for its neon and video display on one corner but that is now partially covered due to some construction and is advertising for the Olympics coming to London in 2012 and maintenance had the fountain shut down during our visit, too.

London Hippodome, England
The London Hippodome is one of the most grand of theatres of days-gone-by. It was named for the circus acts that were to be performing here when it opened in January 1900 after a delay due to the extensive elaborate design of the interior, which included a large pool and fountains. It hosted the circus as well as variety acts until it was ravished in the 50's. It then became a cabaret for years, the last variety/cabaret show held here was LaClique until June, 2009. Many changes have happened over the years but the interior was now to be returned to it's original state and be home to a casino.

Covent Garden Market, London, England
Once the convent garden that belonged to Westminster Abbey, this area is now called Covent Garden Market.  It became an official market in 1846 and has ever since been home to many vendors and markets.  There were street performers that drew large crowds outside the doors as we arrived and then as we wandered about the vendors, seeing some beautiful art, there was a lively string quartet who set up to entertain those who were enjoying their lunch in the mezzanine. It seems to have a welcoming atmosphere for all and offers many kinds of top notch musical entertainers, check that out here. 
This was only part of our walk about London and I will be writing more to share with you.  Click here to see more.


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