Category Archives: 2017 Winter Tours

Bits and Bobs of the Netherlands: PART I

LELYSTAD

Friday, March 4, 2017

Following our visit to the States, we arrived back in Hoorn and were greeted by our Belgian Family – Koen, Ta, Seppe, Frieke, and Wannes. What a warm way to transition from house-living to boat-living. Theirs was a quick visit due to the timing of our arrival and their available dates, so we made the most of it by touring one of the Netherlands iconic, land-reclamation projects at Lelystad, the capital of Flevoland, the 12th and youngest province.

The Zuiderzee or ‘South Sea’ (a body of water in the interior of modern-day Holland) was caused by years of sea water washing over sand dunes and barriers at the top of the Netherlands. Created before the 13th century, this sea provided fishing grounds but resulted in the loss of valuable farmland. After constant flooding the pro-farmlanders won the political argument, with the government planning on barricading the sea and reclaiming lost land.

In the 17th century plans were drawn up to block off the Zuiderzee at the barrier islands (noted by black lines joining the islands in the diagram below)

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but the engineering feat wasn’t possible until Cornelis Lely proposed making a dyke further inland. He drew up plans for one that was begun in 1927 after yet another devastating flood in 1916. This was the Afsluitdijk or ‘Barrier Dyke’ that sealed the Zuiderzee from the Waddenzee. Fresh water from the IJssel river which flows from the Alps eventually flushed out the salt forming a huge lake, the IJsselmeer.

With the completion of the Afluisdijk in 1932 the Dutch began draining low lying tracts of land and creating polders (arable land lined by canals). More reclamation was planned with the construction of a second dyke In 1972, which bisected the Ijsselmeer while creating another lake, the Markermeer. However, some of the land was never reclaimed due to environmental concerns and cost (which is a good thing as Hoorn would have lost its historic harbor).

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Lelystad, located on the opposite side of the second dyke from Hoorn, is where we drove to view the Nieuw Land Museum and a 17th-century replica of a Dutch merchant frigate, the Batavia.

The museum is a haven for kids who want to play with water, but for me the most interesting parts were the maps delineating the actual reclamation, an exhibit showcasing the New Stone Age residents of the area who built terpens (islands of earth and clay) to live above the marshy sea, and the wooden carcass of an old ship (approx. 17th century) used by the Frislanders to ferry live fish to the market

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(note the holes in the hull where sea water washed in and out of the hold where the fish were kept).

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Exiting the museum we all headed to the Batavia. Commissioned by the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) in 1628, it struck rocks off the western coast of Australia during its maiden voyage with tales of the survivors being much more interesting than the TV show “Survivor”.

Launched in 1995 the replica took ten years employing the same techniques as those used in the 1600s.

Along the route to the ship we saw the various workshops used by different trades–such as carpenters and blacksmiths–to recreate this ship which was used in the Dutch West & East Indies trade. There was even a workshop with looms to weave sail cloth,

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and a volunteer was actually sewing one of the massive sails … all by hand.

Aboard the ship a guide explained various features including navigation using a traverse board (on the right below). A sailor would record estimated course and distance during his four-hour watch. The information would eventually be recorded in the log by the captain while the navigator used the information to dead reckon the route on a chart.

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With the tour ending it was time for a group shot, a tradition whenever we get to be with our Belgian family.

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They left for home that night reminding us once again how lucky we are to have them close by.

AMSTERDAM

Tuesday, March 7

One of the many benefits of living in Hoorn is its proximity to Amsterdam. That, and the annual museumkaart means we have unlimited visits to major museums. Having heard of a special exhibit at the Hermitage museum, we combined an errand in Amsterdam with a tour of the Romanov Family and their demise.

Focused on the lead-up to their murders, the display began with the sophistication of St. Petersburg in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The love marriage of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra (granddaughter of England’s Queen Victoria) created a happy family life for them and their five children

but also led to an insular existence, one ignorant of current affairs. The ignorance and incompetence of Nicholas II, who really didn’t want to be nor should have been a ruler, meant Russian autocracy was doomed.

As we perused the exhibits it became so evident that the Tsar and his family were living in a golden bubble within a nightmare it made me feel like hitting them upside the head saying “You idiots! What don’t you see?!” This was especially true when confronted with photos showing some of the grand duchesses merrily roller skating aboard the royal yacht STANDARD

and later followed by one of the bayonets used in their execution on July 17, 1918 in Ekaterinburg.

The gruesome killing of the Tsar and his immediate family wasn’t the only royal murder. Information on other family members’ demise appeared at the end of the tour. Just read what happened to Alexandra’s sister:

Leaving the Hermitage to head home all I could think was what an excellent example of how countries can be led by stupid leaders who rose based on entitlement; however, at least Russia’s excuse is it was by heredity…

Stand by for PART II.

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HOORN

Thursday – Saturday, January 19 – 21

As Max was leaving to head back to the states, a dear friend from Maine was winging her way to the Netherlands. Nothing quite compares to having someone come visit from home as they always bring a piece of it just by their presence.

She headed over to keep me company during a season typically raw, damp with short daylights. And, she was willing to stay aboard when ice grippers were necessary to gingerly navigate from JUANONA’s cockpit all the way to the marina shower block.

Furthermore, she did it with a smile.

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Eager to show her our temporary home port, I was extremely thankful to Mom Nature when we woke to a sunny day. A clear sky offered perfect weather for touring in spite of an icy glaze skimming the harbor.

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On Max’s and my bikes we headed to one of Hoorn’s most famous landmarks:  the Tower Gate at the harbor’s entrance. We performed chilly poses,

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then rode the fifteen minutes to our friends’ Deborah, Thijs, and Tika’s home for afternoon tea.

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Our early-evening cycle home allowed us to capture the rosy glow of the setting sun before bunkering below with JUANONA’s diesel heater and electric radiator pouring out warmth (augmented by hot water bottles in bunks).

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AMSTERDAM

Saturday offered us a momentous opportunity to add our voices and feet to the Women’s March in Amsterdam. Since we had rented an airbnb in Delft, roughly an hour further south from that city, leaving JUANONA required the usual closing ritual of checking heaters, dehumidifier, propane, bilge, latches, fans, lights, fridge, lines, etc., while opening all lockers for circulating air.

Once that performance was accomplished we hopped off JUANONA and trundled ourselves and bags to the station for the half-hour jaunt to Amsterdam… only to discover a mechanical problem forced everyone heading there to take a circular route adding another 30 minutes to our ride.

We missed getting our pink hats, but we managed to arrive in time for the initial gathering prior to the march. Stowing our luggage at the station we rode the tram to the Museumplein, site of the Rijks and Van Gogh Museums and now the Women’s March.

As we waited for the start of the march, we discovered many, like us, were ex-pats or visitors wanting to join millions of others across the globe in support of the mother of a march in D.C.

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Circling and weaving our way through thousands of other marchers, we’d strike up conversations and were even welcomed to share some signage.

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Tees, posters and banners proclaimed a consistent message that all humans deserve equality, inclusion, and fairness.

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Within that context some pointedly addressed specific behavior.

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Finally in a millipede motion we began to inch our way towards bleachers where some sat for a group photo with various chants echoing through the crowd.

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The final destination was a short walk 90-degrees to the left where we mimicked bullhorn slogans in front of the U.S. consulate office. Sadly, a shuttered brick building stared blindly back at us.

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The march dissolved into pockets of folk heading to various destinations, and we turned our feet towards the train station and Delft. A bit hungry we fortified ourselves with some delicious caramels bestowed upon Colleen from a work colleague. Life was good.

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DELFT

Sunday to Wednesday, January 22 – 25

Ever since Max and I visited Delft in April 2016 we knew others would enjoy this quintessential town dating from the 13th century. Colleen immediately fell under its spell as we strolled around cobblestone streets bordering small canals with buildings dressed in their Golden-Age trimmings.

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Our apartment was a three-minute stroll from the Markt or main square. As a major landmark this open plaza ensured we’d never get lost due to spotting the tall spire of the Nieuwe Kerk (‘new’ church as of the 14th century…) from all vantage points in town.  During our stay, we crossed it daily; and, one late afternoon we found ourselves part of a ghostly mist blanketing the church IMG 1345

and dramatically lighting the storefronts rimming the plaza.

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Our days were filled with wandering to historical sites, one being the Museum Prinsenhof. This building had been a former convent before its walled city became the court of William of Orange (1533-84) (hence, Prinsenhof or “Court of the Prince”). The structure and grounds still retain a peaceful atmosphere in spite of their history. Here, William I, leader of the Dutch revolt against the Catholic King of Spain, Philip II (1527-98), was murdered. (Philip, the same guy who married Queen Elizabeth’s older half-sister Mary I, hired a French dude to gun down this Dutch enemy.)

Having seen the spot before I led Colleen to the stairwell where the bullet holes from 1584 were framed in perpetuity.

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But, another feature attracted us to this museum, one we’d seen promoted at the local Tourist Office, and we excitedly made our way to this exhibit:  the Strandbeest of Theo Jansen (b.1948 in The Hague).

Educated at the Delft University of Technology, Jansen began creating kinetic sculptures out of PVC tubes, plastic lemonade bottles and rubber tubing. Having seen his work on YouTube, we eagerly awaited the promised demonstration held in a cavernous room warmed by portable heaters.

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Unfortunately the explanation was in Dutch, but not understanding the verbal description didn’t detract from the magnificent and mesmerizing movements of these walking-stick beings. We even had the opportunity to experiment with these creatures ourselves, something I couldn’t (and didn’t) resist.

But to truly witness these creatures coming to life visit his website: http://strandbeest.com.

Another Dutch attraction involving moving legs was Colleen’s wish to cycle out of town, which we did for one glorious day.

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The bike shop didn’t offer a lot of sizes, which caused a small mishap or two as Colleen couldn’t stop without hopping off. But, this inconvenience didn’t put a halt to our exploring on our two-wheel mounts.

A helpful motorcyle-postman gave us directions to a tiny village described as one of Netherlands’ smallest. From there we made a circuitous route back to Delft passing green gardens, some wild, some not so wild.

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Thanks to posted maps along the bike paths we were able to gauge our progress along the way.

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Famished, we found a seat at a sunlit table where we enjoyed a late lunch and took time to pen cards while luxuriating in the golden light.

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We also documented a slightly busted lip, a momento of our biking adventure.

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AMSTERDAM

Thursday – Saturday, January 26-28

For our final two nights we had found a great B&B in Amsterdam, close to the train station. We said good-bye to Delft and took the train back to Amsterdam where we had been the previously Saturday.

During our stay we independently set our own agendas, with Colleen doing some site-touring, such as the Van Gogh Museum, and I, some errands, such as a Dutch Immigration visit. We ended up cruising around together Friday afternoon, strolling up and down and through some of Amsterdam’s historic streets, something of which neither of us could tire.

Our last night culminated in a rendezvous with a college friend. And, what a perfect way to end Colleen’s visit.

Meeting at the same hotel where my sister had stayed in December, Colleen and I found Rod and a surprise visitor, his daughter Emma. We’d miss Joanne, Rod’s wife, who was flying in the next day for a full-family reunion (their other two children would be joining them), but at least we had the opportunity to see Rod and meet Emma, who added to the enjoyment of the evening.

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From drinks in the hotel bar to dinner at a typical Dutch Cafe the evening was another highlight of Colleen’s visit. We ended up discussing politics as it’s a natural topic these days for anyone concerned about the plight of our nation and its affect on the world. Seemed rather appropriate considering the Netherlands’ history of secularism and our dining setting.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, being with good friends is another way of bringing ‘home’ into one’s world. I treasure times such as this and hold fast to the memories made.

But, just to show what stuff we’re made of, here’s a requested photo–two with and two without:

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I mean, truly, how lucky can one get? :)

Jeanne, Van, Otto, Romans and Wine

Domremy

Saturday to Sunday   January 7-8

In November we had planned a trip south to Provence but ended up back in Maine. So, we decided to rebook in January, and thanks to our kind airbnb hosts we were able to reserve the same apartment in Avignon. With our rental car we headed out of the Netherlands, through Belgium and ended up in Domremy, France, halfway to our destination.

With Max being a huge fan of Jeanne d’Arc we had opted to tour the little village where she spent the early years of her life, actually most of her young life until she upped and left after following the voice in her head to help the French Dauphin obtain his rightful throne in 1422 .

Arriving a bit later than we had hoped due to a wintery mix of snow and ice, we did manage to find the chapel where she worshiped on Saturdays. Located just 1 mile km from her home in Domremy, the Chapelle de Bermont is now private property. The owners do offer access to the chapel when it’s opened for a few hours on Saturday; but, we had missed it.

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Plus, this was our discovery of touring during January when most signs greeted us with ‘ferme’ or “closed”.

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However, just knowing she had climbed the hill to enter this place of worship made our rushed trek here worth the effort.

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As the afternoon morphed into evening we hightailed it back to Domremy where we had booked a room at one of the few B&Bs still offering rooms during this season. We also happened to find the one restaurant opened down the road where we met the husband-and-wife team as well as a local with pup enjoying his nightly glass of the local liqueur.

Waking up to wispy flakes sifting from the sky we enjoyed our breakfast in our room under the watchful eye of Victor Hugo who, our host said, use to stay in this inn on route from Paris to see his family in the countryside. And, no, I won’t say we slept in his room or he slept in ours…

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Our host also told us Napoleon III had given this house to his mistress where she converted it into a bordello/inn due to being perfectly located right where the coach stopped to let out weary passengers.

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However, what was more interesting (I know, hard to beat knowing one slept where Hugo had) centered on our host’s vast research regarding Jeanne d’Arc.

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His alternative theories, such as she was the illegitimate child of the Queen Isabeau of Bavaria and Duke Louis of Orleans, intrigued us.

As a local historian he believes that the Domremy house below–not the one the tourist information promotes down the street–belonged to the d’Arcs, her family. It was located along the border stream between Champagne and the Germanic territory (hence d’Arc, or ‘bridge’). The story goes that her father was a wounded veteran and had been given the job of tax collector along the border.

Our host even escorted us to where the Arcs’ family home use to stand, another picture-worthy photo op.

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The stone slab was typical of a walking bridge over a small stream, with the two stone pillars marking the respective borders.

I had heard the idea of her being the illegitimate daughter of royalty but not anything else. If you’re as big of fan of this amazing young woman as Max is, check out our host’s website:    http://jeannedomremy.fr/indexhtm.

Needing to get on the road, we bade our host good-bye, scraped the car

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and drove the seven hours to Avignon.

PROVENCE

Orange

On the way we stopped at Orange where one of the best preserved theaters exists from the Roman days. It’s also where the Netherlands’ William I or William the Silent (1533-1584) became Prince of in 1544.

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Once again our timing was such that the little museum/gift shop was closing in 45 minutes, yet we had enough time to scramble up to the top of tier of stadium seats (yes, I was a bit wobbly on the ascent and descent).

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Gazing down onto the stage one can only imagine the thrill of attending a performance here, which they continue to do during summer months. The acoustics were excellent as was the viewing in spite of performers basically being ‘dots with limbs’ for those less wealthy patrons sitting in the higher tiers; and, for perspective, I’m the ‘dot’ standing next to the end of the stage.

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Avignon

Thirty minutes later we were greeted by our Airbnb hosts–Manuel waving at us from the rooftop and Pascal, his partner, knocking on our car window. For the next hour or so we were provided with all the information one needs to tour Avignon and the surrounding region while sharing a bottle of local wine. One couldn’t ask for more enthusiastic welcomers. And, they continued to send emails with excellent tips and ideas for traveling around Provence.

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Monday to Friday   January 9 – 13

Our days began with coffee followed by some road trips and ended back at our apartment to enjoy a bottle of wine and a simple dinner. As I’ve told several folk, we are probably the only people who toured Provence and didn’t go out for a single meal with the exception of our sandwiches at a boulangerie. At which my gallant husband turned the camera on me snapping a now familiar pose:  moi et ma cafe.

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Pont du Gard

One of the most impressive structures we saw was the Pont du Gard, approximately 40 minutes NW of Avignon, actually in Occitainie, the next province over. How the Romans constructed such a magnificent and exacting piece of infrastructure is mind-boggling to someone such as I who holds no knowledge of engineering except to admire a piece of art when I see one.

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Composed of three graduating arches with the tippy-top being the smallest, this Romans (well, their slaves) built this edifice around 20 B.C.E. You can see on some of the arched stones the numbering system used to ensure correct placement.

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We arrived just in time for the morning ‘walk’ across the top, which, thankfully was mainly through a covered ‘tunnel’, covered to keep the water pure as it flowed from the Eure spring near Uzes to the city of Nimes over a 50 km course.

Our guide indicated the water line etched into the stone near the top of the wall,

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and she pointed out the red substance that was the top layer of water-proofing under which the first layer, tiles, would be placed alongside the stone wall.

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Every five years or so they’d have to chop away at the heavy lime deposit caked on the interior channel, where it would take a drop of water 30 hours to travel the length of the aqueduct.

The aquaduct has been out of use since about the 6th ce.  Fortunately, renovations and maintenance (such as the guy who was removing any vegetation adhering to the stone)

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have resulted in a stunning historical monument where you can still imaging water flowing through this channel.

Palais des Papes

The main draw of Avignon for history buffs is the huge Palace of the popes, which was built in only 20 years between 1335 and 1355. Some say it is the largest Gothic palace in the world.

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Wondering how the supreme leader of the catholics left their Roman enclave and landed in southern France, I read that it began with the French King Philip IV’s (aka Philip the Fair)

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power struggle with Pope Boniface VIII.  When a Gascon-born pope, Clement V, decided to move the papacy out of Rome to a Avignon, this began the rule of the Avignonese popes, on that continued for the next 70+ years until 1377.

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You know how much I like connecting the dots, well I discovered Clement V and Philip IV had ties to Chinon, the place where Jeanne d’Arc first met the Dauphin in 1429. Subtract over 100 years and in Chinon key members of the Knights Templars, a Catholic military order, were accused of heresy, sexual misconduct, and blasphemy. They were arrested in 1307 and held in Chinon.

Enter the lovely Inquisition and seven years later five were burned at the stake on Paris’ Ile de la Cite (Island of the City) in the River Seine. The reason? Money. Philip IV owed a lot (the Templars also functioned as bankers); and, a way to rid himself of debt was to rid himself of the Templars. Clement V was forced to disband them but did absolve them of heresy. The trial of the Templars with Clement’s ruling is documented in the Chinon parchment, a record discovered in 2001 in the Vatican Secret Archives.

The above simplifies the complexities of how the king, the pope, and the templars became so entangled, and, it’s worth reading more for anyone interested in the details.

Back to the building whose immensity was difficult to capture as we looked back from the entrance steps to the plaza.

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It was old (notice the door)

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and cold and impressive.

In spite of the palace being bare it was easy to imagine the thrum of power that must have echoed around these cavernous rooms; and, audio guides provide the historical context as we wandered around.  At one point the palace became a prison and then barracks in 1810 with their reducing some of the huge, stone rooms to smaller ones with wooden floors and wall dividers. In the 1900s the palace was opened to the public and restored to its original interior architecture. Definitely worth a visit.

Las Baux

On Tuesday we decided to head south of Avignon where we found ourselves exploring the medieval hilltop village of Las Baux. The drive was one of the most beautiful during our entire trip as every few turns revealed our destination in the distance.

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Being a non-touristy month, the town was basically shuttered but didn’t preclude our strolling the narrow, cobblestone streets.

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Guide books as well as a Tourist Office we had visited on our way there suggested we park at the Carrieres de Lumieres, an innovative multimedia show using abandoned caves created by mining the limestone in  the 19th ce. Unfortunately this show had just closed with its 2017 opening slated for March; yet, it presented an empty parking lot and, more notably, a free one.

Yet, it also provided an opportunity for enterprising folk who were searching for treasures while we were walking through the village.

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The enterprising folk had spotted a backpack sitting in the back seat, which was empty by the way. Most likely the car alarm scared them off (I only knew it had an alarm when I made the mistake of trying to open the door.) Luckily nothing was stolen (unlike our time in Baden-Baden). We reported it to the local police (actually, it’s the National Guard in that area), arranged for a tourist-gouged-replacement window the next day in Arles, visited some olive oil mills (yum!),

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and, ended our day in another Provence village associated with the guy who hacked off part, or all, of one ear.

Saint Remy

One speaks of Provence, and Van Gogh’s life and art comes to mind; so, our destination was Saint Paul de Mausole, the monastery in Saint Remy. Here he voluntarily entered in May 1889 and subsequently produced a prodigious amount of art during his 12 months’ stay. A 1km walk from the Tourist Office to the monastery is lined with free-standing plaques matching one of of the artist’s works with excerpts from letters referring to that specific painting.

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Even though we couldn’t access Van Gogh’s recreated room, it was even more interesting to be in the surrounding grounds for you could stand in front of the painting then look out and actually see what Van Gogh saw (albeit the trees are now larger…).

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So, in spite of the broken window we managed to happily enjoy our day and see everything we had originally planned when we set out from Avignon that morning.

Camargue Natural Parc

Provence has a designated nature reserve along its southwest coast, part of which includes a UNESCO designated biosphere reserve. With a vast amount of wetlands, this nature area has established an ornithological park where traveling birds as well as stay-at-home ones enjoy this habitat just north of Saintes Marie de la Mer.

After stopping in Arles for the window repair,

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we leisurely drove another 40 minutes where we were stunned by a marvelous site of flocking feathered creatures justifiably called the pink flamingos.

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And, what a hoot those are.

Although they’re majestic in their stance and stilted, elegant stalking,

I still can’t help but think of how they’d look on someone’s lawn, something my dad and some friends managed to do to an unsuspecting friend’s yard.

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Walking along the trails surrounding the marsh we thought of our friends Helen and Gus who would be able to explain this marvel of the fowl world to us. Since we didn’t have their expertise we had to put up with simply looking and taking photos and videos as these boa-feathered creatures entertained us.

With our eyes seeing pink spots and picnicked stomachs full we managed to make our way back to the car and returned to Avignon. Another beautiful January day in Provence.

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Luberon

Pascal and Manuel echoed the quaint beauty of the Luberon, the area east of Avignon dotted with medieval villages, so our destination began in a clockwise direction as we stopped to ooh and aah.

Our five-hour adventure encompassed a mist-skimming river…

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a trodden church aisle…

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gum- drop trees…

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colors of Provence…

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red-cliff bluffs…

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and, finally some French food at, what else, a boulangerie.

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Carpentras

Friday to Sunday  January 13-15

Our last morning was spent hunting truffles as we left Avignon for a truffle market on our way north. Our attempt to join an actual truffle hunt didn’t occur due to not enough tourists signing up to make it worth the hunters while. So, the next best thing was attending Carpentras’ Friday morning market.

Having read the market spread itself over several blocks with the truffle hound folk in front of the old Hotel Dieu, we made a beeline for there only to be directed across the street where a few lonely tables stood with their vendors and an overpowering odor of fungi.

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Yet, we felt something was up at our original spot, not only because it had banners announcing the selling of truffles

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but also because there were a bunch of guys hovering around one another with bumpy, suspicious-looking sacs. With Max posed as a decoy, I was able to grab a shot of what, Max aptly noted, appeared to be drug deals.

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This was where the professionals came to purchase this black gold, and we followed one guy across the street who animatedly but surreptitiously showed his cache to several others waiting in a cafe. And, no, I didn’t pose Max again…

 

ALSACE-LORRAINE

Kaysersberg

After six hours of heading north we landed at our original destination just south of Strasbourg, at a small village outside of Colmar, only to find our hotel reserved via HOTELS.COM shuttered. Fortunately, there are quite a few towns around in this Alsace Lorraine wine country,

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and we landed at another lovely, middle-age village complete with a stork-nest-topped chimney

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and the requisite half-timbered homes.

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Our hotel was practically empty so no problem securing a room for two nights and we happily settled in then found one of the few restaurants opened for dinner. Oh, and it advertised itself in quite a unique way.

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Colmar

The next morning we struck up conversation with a couple breakfasting next to us who told us of an exhibit in Colmar’s Unterlinden Museum. Since we hadn’t planned any sight-seeing other than to visit that city, we purchased tickets and found ourselves immersed in artifacts from the area’s early beginnings…

such as a gold bracelet from the burial site of Celtic princes during the 8th and 5th centuries…

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to the famous, multi-panel altar piece painted by Matthias Gruenwald and carved by Niclaus of Haguenau 1512-1516 for Isenheim’s Monastery of St. Anthony (a model showed how it folded and unfolded while the life-size pieces were displayed in groupings)….

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which influenced the German artist Otto Dix (1891-1969), a painter and printmaker who saw the altarpiece when a POW at a camp near Colmar.

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Having fought during WWI Dix knew firsthand the horrors of human wars. When Hitler’s regime began promoting the honor and heroism of fighting he responded with art depicting the opposite. Consequently his art was banned but his work today yells of the tragedies of war.

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In addition to his ant-war art he also painted stark and, what some call, brutal portraits, such as this one of journalist Sylvia van Harden in 1926.

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A website devoted to Dix provides a wonderful anecdote regarding this painting (http://www.ottodix.org/catalog-paintings/page/4/), one that gives you a slight peek inside his mind. As I told an artist friend, I wouldn’t necessarily hang his art on my walls but I definitely love his approach.

L’alchemille (alchemy)

Our last night out we spent as foodies in Kaysersberg. And, for anyone ever in this area, please, make a reservation at L’alchemille (www.lalchemille.fr). Owned and operated by a chef and his wife, they reminded us of our  friend Kyle, an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America. This chef focuses on using only local, in-season ingredients, and, man, does he whip up magic.

We arrived at 8:00p and proceeded to be wowed. As our waiter patiently and smilingly presented each dish, when we looked puzzled, he rushed to his phone to translate the ingredient into English. I felt as if we were eating in an enchanted forest with the tastes of pine and other fragrant seasonings.

As we sampled and oohed and ahhed over seven courses and a bottle of wine, I actually ate items I’d never tasted before (venison and pate).

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As we were leaving they came out to say good-bye,

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and, as we left the restaurant (three-and-a-half hours later!) we turned to one another in the gently falling snow and said, what an amazing way to end our road trip to France.

Fini!