November 25, 2017

Art Around Town: Budapest

To enjoy art you don’t have to visit a museum.  In fact, art can be seen while wandering the streets of any city you visit.  You see it in the statues, monuments, fountains and buildings lining the streets and squares.

A city that has a lot of art along its streets is Budapest Hungary where the streets are full of beautiful buildings and hundreds of sculptures.  But you better be prepared to look up to take in all the amazing art work.

Here are a few examples of the beautiful artwork you’ll see wandering the streets of Budapest!

 

Parliament Building

This icon of Budapest sits beautifully along the Danube River.  Best seen either from the river or from across the river, this Neo-gothic design was completed in 1902 and is one of the largest Parliament buildings in the world.  Look closely and you’ll see many statues of Hungarian rulers, arcades, gargoyles and spires along with other Gothic decorations.

Stunning Parliament Building Budapest Hungary

Stunning Parliament Building Budapest Hungary

St Stephen’s Basilica

Named in honor of Stephen the first King of Hungary, the Neo-classic basilica was completed in 1905 and, along with the Parliament Building, is one of the tallest buildings in the city.  Walk around the facade enjoying the many columns, 2 bell towers, the bust of King Stephen over the main portal, the beautiful tympanon over the main portal and statues of the 12 apostles.

Wonderful western facade St Stephens Basilica Budapest Hungary

Wonderful western facade St Stephens Basilica

Museum of Ethnography

Originally built to house the Supreme Court, the Museum of Ethnography is housed in a 19th century palace.  The architectural masterpiece is stunning from the outside but I’ve heard the inside is even more impressive.  Look at all the statues adorning the top of this building!

Art litters the top of the Museum of Ethnography Budapest Hungary

Art litters the top of the Museum of Ethnography

Opera House

Liszt and Erkel adorn the lower portion of the beautiful Opera House but take a look up and you’ll see statues of some of the world’s greatest composers lining the top.  Included are Mozart, Beethoven and Verdi.

Great composers line the top of the Opera House Budapest Hungary

Look up to see some of the worlds greatest composers!

Hungarian National Bank

Besides the beautiful entrance, people come to see the bas-reliefs adorning the outside of the Hungarian National Bank.  These reliefs depict trade across the ages from camel traders to tea traders.  Sitting along Freedom Square, the building is a wonderful example of the late classical style.

Notice the Bas-Reliefs along the Hungarian National Bank Budapest

Notice the Bas-Reliefs along the Hungarian National Bank

As you can see, Budapest is full of many examples of art around town and now you’re forewarned you might develop a sore neck taking it all in!

These pictures are part of Travel Photo Thursday! For more great pictures, make sure to check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

9 Reasons to Visit Le Mans France

Over the weekend my husband was watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race. He’s the race fan, so while he was giving me a little education on the cars and watching the race, I set out to discover more about Le Mans itself.

 
Le Mans France is situated about 113 miles south west of Paris in the Pays de Loire region. Sitting along the banks of the Sarthe river, Le Mans dates back to Roman times which gives the city a vast and varied history including ties to the Plantagenet royal family. Geoffrey V. d ‘Anjou (Plantagenet) was born in Le Mans during 1113, married Mathilda, daughter of Henry I of England, in Le Mans and his tomb is here too. The marriage of Geoffrey and Mathilda gave us Henry II a future King of England.

Here are 9 reason to visit Le Mans!

1)  All car enthusiasts will be interested in visiting Le Mans. There are 2 race courses in the city but the most famous race is the 24 Hours of Le Mans which has been taking place since 1923. A visit to the Musee de l’Automobile is enjoyable for everyone.

 

Gallo Romaine Walls Le Mans France

Le Mans Gallo Romaine Walls by OldLion

2)  The fortified Old Town is surrounded by Gallo-Roman walls which were built during the 3rd century to defend the city and are some of the best in all of France. A stroll through the Old Town is delightful as you pass many cobbled streets and half timbered houses.

 

Cathedral St. Julien Le Mans France

Cathedral St. Julien Le Mans France 080804 467 by juergen.mangelsdorf, on Flickr

3)  The Cathedral St. Julien rivals the magnificent cathedral in Chartres. Visitors are quite taken by the cathedral’s Gothic flying buttresses, Romanesque portal and stained glass windows. The oldest part of the cathedral dates back to the 11th century. The cathedral is also where Geoffrey married Mathilda and the resting place to the wife of Richard the Lionheart.

4)  The Sarthe River cuts a beautiful image through the city. Overlooking the river is Le Menhir, a monument to Celtic beliefs that has been looming over the town for 5,000 years.

 

Palais des Comtes du Maine Le Mans France

Palais des Comtes du Maine and brithplace of henry II Le Mans by Benchaum

5)  Today the city hall is in the Palais des Comtes du Maine which is the birthplace of Henry II.

6)  The Tunnel was built in the 19th century to make access to Le Mans easier but it also has some interesting lighting and landscaping along with a monument dedicated to Wilbur Wright.

7)  Besides the Roman walls, there are other items attesting to Le Mans’ Roman heritage including the Crypte Archeologique des Thermes Romains. In other words, remains of the Roman baths have been discovered near the river and are open to visitors.

 

Abbatiale de l'Epau near Le Mans France

Abbatiale de l'Epau by Benchaum

8)  Just at the edge of town is the impressive Cistercian Abbey of l’Epau. Founded by the wife of Richard the Lionheart, the medieval Abbey is situated along the Huisne River and offers a sanctuary for those seeking peace and calm

9)  Le Mans is home to many museums. Museums full of natural history, Automobile history, aquariums, Egyptian artifact and art. But to learn more about Le Mans and its history from Roman times through the 15th century, don’t miss the Museum of Archaeology and History of Mans on Plantagenet Square where you’ll be able to explore the vast history of the city dating all the way back to 50 BC and its Roman settlement.

 

Old Town Le Mans France

Le Mans, France by Sue Elias, on Flickr

Looks like there’s much more to Le Mans than cars! No wonder it has also been the site of many movies including Cyrano de Bergerac, Man in the Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers.

Next time I’m in the area I’ll be stopping by,

Will You?

Albarino Wine Led Me To Galicia Spain

Exploring Europe through its wines can lead you to some wonderful adventures. That is why I love trying different European wines even while home.  I recently had the opportunity to try a wine made from a grape I’d never heard of, Albarino.  Once I discovered it was from Spain I had to learn more about the region producing Albarino wine!

This led me to the rugged Northern coast of Spain, Galacia.

Galacia is not on the normal tourist track and since it is separated from the rest of Spain by a mountain range, it has a very different feel to it.  In Galacia you’ll experience a different language and a strong Celtic influence especially in its music which still uses bagpipes.  Set along the Atlantic coast, the region also boasts a very strong seafaring tradition.  Inland the region is full of rugged and wonderful mountains.

Here are 5 reasons you might want to explore Galicia!

1. Albarino Wine
One of the wine worlds best kept secrets is the Rías Baixas area, home to Spain’s Albarino grape.  The grape has been growing in the area for 900 years and produces a crisp white wine that pairs well with seafood.  The wine region is mainly centered on Cambados where you’ll find a bodega in an old castle and an annual wine festival.

Vineyards in Spanish Wine Region of Galicia Spain

Vineyards in Spanish Wine Region of Galicia by Enrique Dans

2. Santiago de Compestelo
The most well known city in the Galicia region is also one of Spain’s most beloved.  In the center of town you’ll find Plaza de Espana which is bordered by the Baroque cathedral, a Romanesque college and Neoclassical city hall. The cathedral has been the goal of pilgrims for hundreds of years and is known for its Baroque façade, a Romanesque sculpture and the crypt of St. James.

Santiago de Composteleo Cathedral Galicia Spain

Santiago Cathedral by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sanchez

3. Beaches
The coastal area of Galicia is full of scenic, windy and sometime treacherous shoreline.  Take time to explore some of the estuaries and enjoy the beaches.  The many resorts are full of wonderful streets with Gothic arches and churches as well as miles of sandy beaches and beautiful clear water.   The beaches are so inviting you’ll want to grab some bread, cheese and wine for a wonderful seaside picnic!

Beach along coast of Galicia Spain

Playa de Catedrales, Galicia Spain by AndyRobertsPhotos, on Flickr

4. Quaint Villages
The quaint fishing villages, gorgeous scenery and sandy beaches of Galicia are the heart and sole of the region.  The list of villages include La Coruna which is Franco’s hometown, Lugo is known for its Roman wall, preserved ramparts and shellfish festival while Baiona is a chic resort known as the first town to know of Columbus’ discovery and its medieval architecture.

Plaza do Ferro in Ourense Galicia Spain

Praza do Ferro in Ourense by Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias

5. Varied outdoor activities
Galicia is also known for its outdoor adventures.  While the coastline adventures revolve around water sports including sailing and surfing, the rugged hills entice the hikers and walkers.  Other adventures include hot air ballooning, golf and horseback riding.

Inland scenery Galicia Spain

Galicia Inland by OndasDeRuido, on Flickr

 

Is Galicia calling you?

Unnoticed Architectural Gems of Europe

While traveling I find myself amazed by all the gorgeous architecture. Whether we know it or not, I think most of us enjoy architecture while traveling.  We may not know it’s Gothic or Rococo or Baroque but we know we like it!

I think it’s also safe to say, we all can name some of the more famous architectural buildings in European cities. Notre Dame in Paris, Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany or the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain are a few examples of well known buildings.  But I love exploring those beauties that seem to be unnoticed.

Here are three lovely architectural specimens that may not make it on your
travel list but may be worth taking the time to see!

Majolica House, Vienna Austria

Majolica House Vienna Austria

Majolica Haus (1898-1899) by loungerie, on Flickr

Vienna is full of architectural gems including St. Stephens and Schönbrunn Palace but don’t miss out on the other architectural stars of the city.  Majolica House is one of those we may overlook.  The building was designed by Otto Wagner who was a prominent architect in Vienna and member of a group of artists that rebelled against the older traditional styles.  Built between 1898 and 1899, the façade of Majolica House is actually painted ceramic tiles made in a technique called Majolica.  I think Wagner’s use of modern materials, color and traditional decoration has created a very lovely Art Nouveau building.

Majolica House Vienna Austria

Otto Wagner - Majolica House by pioilo, on Flickr

30 St Mary Axe, London England

30 St Mary Axe London England

30 St Mary Axe by Kadellar

I think from its shape you can tell why this building has the nickname “the Gherkin”. Sitting 591 ft tall in the financial district is one of London’s newest and most controversial symbols.  The skyscraper at 30 St Mary Axe was completed in 2003 in a modern style of architecture.  The diamond shaped light and dark glass help make the building appear to be a spiral.  This new building is very modern looking but I’m not really sure how it fits in with London’s other architectural treasures like Big Ben or Buckingham Palace!

Wiblingen Abbey and Library, Ulm Germany

Rococo Wiblingen Library Ulm Germany

Wiblingen Library by Enslin

Between Munich and Stuttgart lies Ulm Germany. Besides being the birthplace of Albert Einstein, Ulm is also the home of Wiblingen Abbey and Library.  While the abbey was founded in 1093, the current buildings date back to 1714 and are examples of the late Baroque style of architecture.  Even though the abbey itself is very beautiful, it is the sunning library that must be seen! Finished in 1744, the frescoed ceilings, columns, statues and other ornamentation combine to make one of the finest examples of Rococo architecture.  Ulm itself is not on the normal tourist track but maybe it should be if only to see this lovely library!

 

What other unnoticed architectural gems should be added to the list?

Experiencing Fairy Tales in Germany

The image that comes to your mind when you hear the words Germany and fairy tale is probably the oft pictured Neuschwanstein Castle and it’s no wonder. This spectacular castle that sits deep in the countryside of Bavaria is a photographic gem and truly leaves me awestruck every time I see it.  I have often heard that Walt Disney used this castle for his image of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and while I can see the resemblance there is more to Germany and Fairy Tales than you may know!

Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle by Valerio Bruscianelli

Many of the fairy tales we grew up with were written by the Grimm Brothers who were born and raised in Germany. The areas where the brothers lived is also where they gathered the inspiration for their famous tales.  Since the Grimm Fairytales have been published in 160 languages you do not need to visit Germany to enjoy them but if you want to experience them a journey on the Fairy Tale Route is necessary.

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm Monument Hanau Germany

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm Monument by Renftel courtesy of Deutsche Marchenstrasse

The Fairy Tale Route has been one of Germany’s Scenic Drives since 1975 and stretches 370 miles from Hanau, outside Frankfurt am Main, north to Bremen, a major port city on the Weser River.   It is in the medieval villages along the Fairy Tale Route where you will see these tales come to life through re-enactments, costumed characters, parades and puppet shows.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in 1785 and 1786 in Hanau Germany. Today Hanau is home to a monument of the famous brother, an annual Fairy tale Festival and the lovely Baroque grounds of Philippsruhe Palace.

Bad Wildungen Panorama Fairy Tale Route Germany

Bad Wildungen Panorama by Asio Otus

Steinau is where the brothers spent much of their childhood. You can visit the Brothers Grimm House which was over 200 years old in 1791 when they arrived in Steinau, wander cobblestoned streets lined with half-timbered houses and visit Steinau Castle.  Originally designed as a medieval fortress and later renovated in the Renaissance style, the castle is home to a Grimm museum full of personal effects of the Grimm family including the family Bible and a copy of the original Grimm dictionary. If you spend time in the woods surrounding Steinau you may find Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel!

Marburg on the Lahn Fairy Tale Route Germany

Marburg on the Lahn by Matthiahess

Rising up from the Lahn River, Marburg is where the brothers went to law school.  You’ll want to wander the old town full of alleys, old buildings and tons of charm.  Other highlights include a spectacular castle on top of the hill and St. Elizabeth’s Church which is the oldest pure gothic church in Germany.

Hercules Monument Fairy Tale Route Germany

Hercules Monument by MalteRuhnke on de.wikipedia

The brothers lived in Kassel for 30 years and worked as librarians at court of Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother.  Main sights to see in Kassel include the Brother Grimm Museum in Palais Bellevue which possesses a personal copy of the fairytales with annotations by the brothers, the Schloss Wilhelmshohe home to the Staatliche Museen housing the 2nd largest collection of Rembrandts in Germany, the stunning Herkules Monument and the collection of medieval armor and weapons during a visit to Lion Castle.

Sababurg Castle Fairy Tale Route Germany

Sababurg Castle courtesy of HA Hessen Agentur GmbH

Above are the main cities associated with the Brothers Grimm.  Continuing along and in between is the medieval Castle of Trendelburg which was the setting for Rapunzel and the 650 year old Castle Sababurg where Sleeping Beauty slept for 100 years. A visit to the Schwalm region allows for a hike through the dark forests where Little Red Riding Hood’s adventure took place.    The legend of the Pied Piper can be relived in picturesque Hamlin and Bremen is home to the Bremen town musicians.

Forest Sababurg Fairytale route Germany

Forest Sababurg by Michael Fiegle

Yes there is an over abundance of sights and events related to fairy tales but there is much more to be found here. The Fairy Tale route crosses medieval villages with preserved city walls, romantic old towns, ruins of a fortress belonging to emperor Barbarosa, 15th century witch towers with dungeons and forests that are part of UNESCO World Heritage.

Edersee Fairy Tale Route Germany

Edersee from wikimedia

I think it’s fair to say the Brothers Grimm have made an impact on all of us. Even if you’re not directly familiar with their fairy tales you’ve experienced them through other books, movies, cartoons and cultural icons like Disneyland.   December 20, 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of the first edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Germany will be celebrating the brothers during 2013.

So let’s all give our thanks to the Brothers Grimm and if you’re in Germany, why not stop by!

Would you enjoy a trip on the Fairytale Route??

Castles Along the Vistula

The rivers of Europe wind their way through the heartland of the continent. Historically, cities were established along rivers because they offered drinking water and transportation.  Today we admire the old-world cities, historic villages, beautiful countryside, medieval cathedrals and enchanting castles found along the banks of Europe’s rivers.

Along with the Thames, Seine, Danube and Rhine rivers, the Vistula is one of Europe’s great rivers.

Vistula River near Torun Poland

Vistula River near Torun by Pko

Traversing Poland from south to north, the Vistula is the largest river in Poland traveling 651 miles before reaching the Baltic at Gdansk.  Although the river passes many of Poland’s greatest cities it also flows past near picture perfect mountains, foothills, enchanting cities, grassy banks full of flowers and castles.

Here are some of the castles and palaces you’ll find along the Vistula.

Wawel Castle Krakow Poland

Wawel Castle Krakow by Eigenwerk

Wawel Castle in Krakow


Standing 150 feet above Krakow is Wawel Castle.  Built in the 10th century and starting out in the Romanesque style, the castle today is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.  Wawel castle remained the home of Polish royalty for 500 years and is known for its elegant rooms, galleries and tapestries.  The grounds also include a cathedral which houses the royal tombs.

Baranow Sandomierski Castle Arcade Poland

Baranow Sandomierski Castle Arcade by Jerzy Strzelecki

Baranow Sandomierski Castle Poland

Baranow Sandomierski Castle by Jerzy Strzelecki

Castle of Baranow Sandomierski


This beautiful castle, also known as “Little Wawel”, sits on the east side of the Vistula river.  It was built from 1591 – 1606 in Poland’s Mannerist style.  The Mannerist style usually has ornate attics, side towers and arcades and was replaced by the Baroque style.  Today this castle serves as a museum, hotel and conference center.

Janowiec Castle Ruins Poland

Janowiec Castle Ruins by Piotr J


Janowiec Castle


The castle was originally built during the 16th century and today is mostly in ruins although there are renovations taking place in an attempt to bring the castle back to life.  This impressive castle and grounds are worth the short hike and include a museum on Royal Interiors.

Pałace Wilanow Poland

Pałace Wilanow by A. Osytek


Wilanow Royal Palace


Wilanow, a suburb of Warsaw on the left bank of the Vistula, is home to a Royal Palace that was built for King Jan III Sobieski as his summer residence. The Baroque 17th century palace is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful buildings in Poland.  The interiors are said to be exquisite as are the lawns and Italian style gardens.

Royal Castle Warsaw Poland

Royal Castle Warsaw by sfu

Royal Castle Warsaw Ballroom Poland

Royal Castle Warsaw Ballroom by Marek & Ewa Wojciechowscy

Royal Castle in Warsaw


For centuries this Royal Castle was the residence of Polish Kings and the Seat of Parliament. In fact, Nicholas I of Russia was crowned King of Poland here in 1829. This 15th century Gothic castle has a commanding brick façade but is best known for its spires.  At the center is the Sigismund Tower with clock which has become one of the symbols of Poland’s capital.  Many of the rooms have been restored including the Royal apartments and Houses of Parliament.

Pieskowa Skala Castle Poland

Pieskowa Skala Castle by Marek & Ewa Wojciechowscy


Pieskowa Skala Castle


The position of this castle really lends to the fairy tale feel you get when visiting Pieskowa Skala.  Dating back to the 14th century, the castle sits on a limestone cliff and is part of a series of castles built to protect the area during Medieval times.  Pieskowa Skala castle is inside the Ojcow National Park and was built in the Renaissance style.  While visiting make sure to see the beautiful courtyards and visit the renovated rooms and artifacts from the local area.

 

Well that’s just a taste of the Castles along the Vistula!

 

Have you been to Poland and any of these castles?

Royal Crypts – The Burial Places of European Monarchs

One of the reasons I love visiting Europe is its vast history. I am always awed by the depth of European history. This history is definitely intertwined with the lives of European Kings and Queens and I not only learn by visiting the places they lived but by seeing where they rest today.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy visiting cemeteries and royal crypts.

If you’re like me and enjoy visiting royal crypts, here are 6 that you may find interesting.

Speyer Cathedral, Germany

What Clovis I began in 1030 is today a symbol of Imperial power. Between this date and 1308 the cathedral became the burial site of 8 Emperors, Kings and their wives. The UNESCO World Heritage site is known as one of the most important Romanesque sites in Germany and the crypt is actually the largest Hall Crypt in Europe.
Speyer Cathedral Hall Crypt Germany

Speyer Cathedral Hall Crypt by Mussklprozz at de.wikipedia

Church of Our Lady in Laeken Belgium

This neo-Gothic Catholic church contains the Royal crypt that is the final resting place of the Belgian Royal family including the first King and Queen of Belgium, Leopold I and Louise-Marie. In fact, it was King Leopold I that originally had the church built in memory of his wife, Queen Louise-Marie. Built during the 19th century, today the Royal crypt holds the remains of all Belgian Kings.

Imperial Crypt Austria

The Imperial Crypt in Vienna has been the main burial site for the members of the Hapsburg family since 1622. It was Anna of Tyrol who, in her will, gave the funding for the crypt. Today it is one of the most visited places in all of Vienna. As I mentioned in The Hapsburgs: Living Large in Life and Death, this is the final resting place of 12 Emperors and 18 Empresses. The sarcophagi range from rather plain to very ornate and the amount of decoration seems to correlate to the importance of the person.
Crypt Charles VI Holy Roman Emperor Vienna Austria

Crypt of Charles VI Holy Roman Emperor

Roskilde Cathedral Denmark

The Roskilde Cathedral was constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries and is located on the island of Zealand. Besides being the main burial site of Danish Royalty this is the first Gothic cathedral to be built of brick. There are many burial chapels within the cathedral containing the remains of Danish royalty.
Roskilde Cathedral Crypt Denmark

Roskilde Dom by Fingalo

Westminster Abbey England

The oldest part of Westminster Abbey dates from 1050 and until 1760, this mainly Gothic church in London, was the burial place for English and British monarchs. The monarchs are buried inside the chapels of the church while other significant persons are buried in the cloisters and other areas on the grounds. Queen Elizabeth I and Bloody Queen Mary are among the monarchs buried in the Abbey.
Tomb Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York Westminster Abbey London England

Tomb Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York by lisby1, on Flickr

St Denis Basilica France

Located near Paris, this medieval Abbey was a burial place of French Kings and their families from the 10th – 18th centuries. In fact, all but three Kings of France are buried here many in “cadaver tombs”. These double-decker tombs have the person’s effigy on top and a decomposing effigy underneath. Among those buried hear include Clovis I and what remains of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
St Denis Cathedral France

St Denis by Roi Boshi

Do you visit Royal Crypts?

European Villages Discovered-Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

A few years ago I was able to spend a few days in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France, specifically Cahors and Rocamadour.  I remember being amazed at the beauty of my surroundings as we drove through the countryside. As my eyes fell on beautiful village after beautiful village I found myself wondering why the area is not more popular with American tourists.  I also vowed I would return one day to spend more time exploring this beautiful region of France!

Today we’re discovering a European village from the Midi-Pyrénées region, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie! 

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France by Adam Baker

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie France by Adam Baker

In an area known for chateaux, prehistoric caves, scenic villages, truffles, lazy rivers and the almost black Cahors wine you will find Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.

Restaurant Saint Cirq Lapopie France

Outside restaurant Saint Cirq Lapopie by tristanf, on Flickr

Known as one of France’s most beautiful villages, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie rests precariously on a rocky outcrop high above the river Lot in Southwest France.  Its situation along the river offers stunning views but also provided a great defense protecting the village from many battles that have taken place in the area including an unsuccessful attack in 1199 by Richard the Lionheart.

Lovely Alley Saint-Cirq Lapopie France

Saint-Cirq Lapopie: Alley View by Nick Dimmock, on Flickr

During medieval times, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie was home to four important families each of which has left their mark on this beautiful village. This is also the reason there have been many chateaux and churches in the village.  Remaining today are 3 chateaux and a Gothic church, dating back to the 15th century, with an amazing view over the Lot river valley.

Saint-Cirq Lapopie France Church and Rooftops

Saint-Cirq Lapopie: Church and Rooftops by Nick Dimmock, on Flickr

Like Rocamadour, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is on a pilgrimage path leading to the Santiago de Compostela which is also the reason for its popularity during medieval times.  Today, the entrance to the village is still via the medieval stone wall and gate.

Saint Cirq Lapopie France

Saint Cirq Lapopie Panorama by TwoWings

Wandering the village visitors will see houses dating back to medieval times many of which still bear the steep tile roofs.  Some are made from stone found in the region and others are constructed in the half-timbered style.

River Lot View Saint-Cirq Lapopie France

Saint-Cirq Lapopie: River Lot View by Nick Dimmock, on Flickr

Arriving at Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is almost as wonderful as the village. The road meanders along the Lot River before rising up to display the pastoral countryside of the region.  The surroundings of the village are as dramatic and beautiful as the village which makes Saint-Cirq-Lapopie dazzling no matter which direction you look!

 

Do you enjoy wandering small European villages?

Dreaming of a European River Cruise

The other day I received an email from Viking River Cruises that got me thinking.  The subject of the email was “Where would you go?” and now I’m dreaming about which European River Cruise I would most like to enjoy!

I’ve never been on a river cruise for more than a day but have to admit I am intrigued by them. The friends and relatives I know who have taken river cruises have all returned with rave reviews.  Without fail they have enjoyed the educational and cultural aspects along with the views and social camaraderie!  One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the day cruises I’ve taken on some of Europe’s greatest rivers- Seine, Rhine, Thames and Danube – are the spectacular view you get from the river.  What could be better than arriving in Europe’s cities in the same manner as the discovers of yesterday?

So where is my dreaming taking me. . .


Portraits of Southern France 

Saone river at Lyon France

Saone river at Lyon by Jack

Gliding along the Saône and Rhône rivers from Chalon-sur-Saône to Avignon includes beautiful vistas, wonderful medieval villages of the Burgundy region and the splendor that is Provence. I’ve never been to this part of France but when you combine medieval villages, Roman ruins, history, cathedrals, cobbled street and scenery that has inspired artists like Van Gogh, well how could you go wrong?!  Add in the wine and cuisine this region is known for and you’ve got a winner.

Portugal’s River of Gold

Porto Portugal

Porto by Benjamin Dumas, on Flickr

Slowly floating along the dramatic Douro River in Portugal would offer a unique glimpse into this wonderful region. After having a chance to visit Lisbon, the cruise starts in Porto which, in my opinion, is one of the most picturesque cities in the world.  The cruise offers an opportunity to view a region that some say is still unspoiled!    Along the way glimpse vineyards set on steep hills, castles, Baroque architecture, UNESCO Heritage cities and sites as well as Gothic cathedrals.  Oh and don’t forget the food and drink the region is known for including Port and regional wine!  Yes, I think the magical Douro would be a perfect setting for my first river cruise.

Vineyards & Vistas 

Aschaffenburger Schloss along the Main River Germany

Aschaffenburger Schloss along the Main River by Carschten

The Vineyards & Vistas cruise sails along the Rhine, Main and Moselle rivers in wonderful Germany! Yes I’ve been along the Moselle and have enjoyed day cruises on the Rhine.  I’ve even been to Bamberg, Rudesheim and Trier, so why would this cruise interest me??  I LOVE the Moselle and crave to return so I can further explore this river and the surrounding small villages that are bursting with the wonderful wine of the area. Dotting the banks of the Main River are small quaint villages such as Miltenberg, which is a city that calls me! All of these rivers are full of castles, cathedrals, medieval towns, Roman ruins, history and Baroque palaces.  Plus there is also the German cuisine I love so much and cities famous for their Beer!

If I were going on a River Cruise, it would be one of these three options.  Now it’s your turn …

Where would you go on a European River Cruise?

Eye Catching Porrentruy Switzerland

A week or so ago, as my husband was watching the Tour du France, I kept seeing this beautiful village and passing landscape as the riders got closer to the days finish line.  By the end of the race, I was mesmerized by the quaint charming little town this stage ended in.  Come to find out, it wasn’t even in FranceNo this lovely village is in Switzerland and is known as Porrentruy.

Porrentruy Swizterland panorama

Porrentruy Swizterland panorama by Dietrich Michael Weidmann

Located in Northwest Switzerland, in a little pocket of land surrounded by France at the bottom of the Jura mountains, this village of approximately 6,800 people has over time wandered back and forth between being part of France and Switzerland.  Even though tools and other objects dating back to the Mesolithic, Bronze and Iron ages have been found here, the first actual settlement wasn’t established until 1140.

History has left its mark on Porrentruy and can be seen in the many Baroque, Gothic and Neoclassical buildings still standing.   Let’s go discover what’s hidden within the streets of Porrentruy!

Porrentruy Chateau Switzerland

Le Chateau Porrentry by Anne Monard jura.ch

  • The city is shadowed by a medieval castle that dates back to the 13th century and was once the home of the Bishop of Basel (1527-1792).  The Refous Tower is the oldest building standing on the castle grounds today.  The tower was built in 1271 and offers fantastic views to anyone willing to climb up!
  • A portion of the medieval city gate still stands tall even if it was built in 1563.

    Baroque Hôtel Dieu Porrentruy Switzerland

    Baroque Hôtel Dieu Porrentruy Switzerland by Polo7

  • Besides the many baroque buildings in the old town, there are also grand medieval fountains. The Fountain of the Samaritan was built in 1563 and is a stunning fountain depicting a scene from the bible.  The Standard Bearer’s Fountain, built in 1518, was the first fountain to have a figure on top.  Look closely and you will see the symbol of the city at the bottom, the wild boar.
  • The 200 year old Botanical Gardens display many types of plants including those found in the Jura region.  In one building you will even find carnivorous plants!
  • The Hotel Dieu dates back to 1761 when it was a hospital for the needy.  It remained a functioning hospital until 1956 when it became a museum.  Inside this wonderful Baroque building are exhibits detailing the history and culture of both Porrentruy and Switzerland, an old Apotheke and watchmakers display.

    Inside Gothic Saint Pierre church Porrentruy Switzerland by polo7

    Inside Gothic Saint Pierre Church by polo7

  • Porrentruy is home to a Gothic basilica, St. Peter’s Church, that was built from 1321-1333.  The interior of St. Peter’s is very beautiful and houses splendid relics and a Gothic altar.

I have never been to the Jura region but I’ve now decided there is more of Switzerland I need to explore!

View of Porrentruy Switzerland

View of Porrentruy Switzerland by Alain Perret jura.ch

Porrentruy definitely caught my eye!

Has it caught yours?