Monday, 31 August 2009

Lost in the incredible gardens of chateau de Villandry...


Le Chateau de Villandry is the last big Renaissance-Chateau de la Loire and has been built in 1536. Some of the castles in the Valley of Loire have specialised in different things. The castle Villandry is famous with its gardens and wowww, what a garden expects u there!!!

JardinDAmour Villandry

The visitors are charmed with 6 different areas:
- the garden of Love
- the garden of vegetables and spices
- the garden of water
- the garden of ornaments
- the garden-labyrinth
- the garden of sun

Ladybugs making love

The plants and flowers attracts not only tourists but also birds and you may discover on the pics:)

chateau de Villandry

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Paradise for castle lovers: Châteaux de la Loire+ Vallée de la Loire!!

Staircase in Chateau de Chambord

Chateau (fr. castle), chateau and again chateau is what you see while walking, biking or driving along the river Loire. The part of the river from Orleans till its estuary into the Atlantic ocean (incl the rivers Cher, Indre) is on UNESCO World heritage list since 2000.

Its not one, two or three castles I am talking about, there are castles almost in every little village. 42 castles are allowed nowadays to call themselves Châteaux de la Loire.


What makes their discovery a real adventure and a pleasure is that all castles are incredibly different from each other. Not only as architecture or location, but also as purpose defined by their owners. One can see the way the building style evolved from a protective fortress (Middle Age) to an majestic and beautiful construction (Renaissance).

Chateau in Amboise, Loire

The biggest of all, chateau de Chambord (first shot), was build as a residential place in a hunting park. Really breathtaking from outside, there is no furniture left from the royal users. In chateau de Chenonceau, situated lovely on river Cher, the majesticaly decorated rooms takes us on a time travel.

old bed in chateau de Chenonceau

By accident one evening we enjoyed several hot air balloons strolling by sunset over chateau de Chamount sur la Loire.
Chateau d Amboise (the picture with the bikes) impressed with the lovely stone gargoyle on the fassade.

Gargoyle in chateau Amboise

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Vineyards, cheese farms and castles: Aubigny sur Nere+Sancerre!

MaisonaColombages in AubignyNere
Once you land in the real heart of this huge country France you start to feel like in the middle of nowhere, but a lovely and green middle of nowhere. While crossing Burgundy you see sign for a castle or the castle itself almost every 10 minutes...Then when finally arriving in the region Centre lovely ancient architecture welcomes the visitors.

Several timber-framing (in French: maison à colombages or maison à pans de bois) houses decorate the centres of the cozy villages here, like for example in the cute town Aubigny sur Nere.
Today we discovered the Road of wine and cheese, visiting the wine-town Sancerre. Several cheese farms around offer one of the most famous for the Loire Valley cheese sort "Crottin de chavignol". This cylindrical goat milk cheese has been produced in the area around the village Chavignol since the 16th century.
French cheese crottin de chavignol
Depending on its age the taste varies from subtle and slightly nutty to a stinky and hard one (with the aging the rind changes from white to bluish). The word "crotte" has two meanings: one is an oil lamp made from burned clay. The second one is "dung", most probably because of the changing colour with the aging of the cheese. On the pic above one can see the riping "crottin de chavignol" on the first floor and then the cheese (made from the same milk just different shape) called bouchons de chevre, looking like small white mountains.
Chateau in AubignyNere
Also here the castles are all around. On the picture above the castle of the Scottish Stuarts in Aubigny sur Nere.
Accomodation-tip: a lovely and very cozy place to stay in Aubigny-sur Nere is the charming B&B "La Grange des Cardeaux". A big thanks to Isabelle and Pascal for their warm welcome, delicious breakfast, comfortable room and helpful tips!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Butterflies in Vlindertuin Leidschendam

butterfly hanging on green leave

Thanks to the tip of Marcel i discovered the butterfly garden "Vlindertuin aan der Vliet", a hidden germ in Leidschendam, Zuidholland. In an old green house several exotic butterfly species were happily flying around the visitors-between beautiful hisbiscus and other beautiful plants. Some of them were brown-beige and black-white, but several had flashy colours such as red and orange.

butterfly in the sun

As it was a sunny day outside some Dutch (European) butterflies did enjoy the flower garden in front of the green house. I was very lucky to be able also to capture a lovely blue-green dragonfly (Libelle/libellule/водно конче)...and some other insects from close.

dragonfly on green leave


Saturday, 15 August 2009

Asian art and the Nympheas from Claude Monet: Paris museums part 2!

Every first Sunday of the month the museums in Paris welcome visitors for free... As I was there on one I combined the biggest collection of Asian art in Europe and waterlilies-impressionism in one day.

Musée Guimet stone sculpture Cambodga

A breathtaking insight into the culture of the Asian continent offers the Musée Guimet! I was impressed by an exotique mix of enormous Cambodgian stone carving, Indian colours and Nepalese book covers. The Chinese treasures (out of stone, wood, jade) let us discover different periods and a whole new world...Some scary objects were for example the Tibetian bowl made out of human skull (on the picture below)! I was pleasantly suprised how a museum visit helps us to travel far away even if just for some hours:)

Tibetian skull Musée Guimet

In the Musée de l'Orangerie (in the down left corner of the Tuileries gardens) I admired one of the largest (according to their length of up to 15 meters!) waterlilies paintings of Claude Monet (1840-1926). The French impressionist have painted approximately 250 oil paintings with Nympheas (waterlilies).

Claude Monet water lilies painting Nympheas

Those pieces of art depict Monet's flower garden at Giverny and were the main focus of Monet's artistic production during the last thirty years of his life. Many of the works were painted while Monet suffered from cataracts. A pair of two oval rooms (the first floor of Musée de l'Orangerie) are nowadays home of 8 long waterlily murals.

Claude Monet water lilies painting Nympheas impressionism

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The museums of Paris-part 1

ancient armadillo of national Museum of Natural History Musée national d'Histoire naturelle
Paris is a real museum-jungle! One of its treasures, the National Museum of Natural History (Musée national d'Histoire naturelle), is hidden in the green Jardin des Plantes (Garden of the plants).

Here i would like to show you the Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy, which is just one part/ bilding of the whole museum. There I was taken aback by an impressive collection of nearly thousand skeletons, building kind of a huge heird of bones to welcome the visitors.
skeletons whales National Museum of Natural History Musée national d'Histoire naturelle Paris
Above you can see the skeletons of different whales.
On the second floor I met some dinosaurs and other instinct animals. The incredible fossil collection shows a whole world kept alive as traces (of bones, teeth, shell, imprints of leaves or animal tracks) in sedimentary rocks.
imprint of shrimp in National Museum of Natural History Musée national d'Histoire naturelle Paris
This was an excellent way to travel in time and follow the evolution that took place on Earth. Thats why several scientists have refered to the museum as one of the most beautiful in Paris! I can confirm: it is really worth seeing...

skulls and teeth of walrusses in Musée national d'Histoire naturelle Paris

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Savoir vivre...or what makes Paris so attractive for visiting?

Tour Eiffel in Paris

While exploring the French capital and being surrounded by a funny mix of Italian, Japanese, Spanish, British and American tourists I could not help ask myself the question:"How did this city make so many people just fall in love with it"? And there is no secret actually!

French patisserie chocolate cakes

salon a the in Paris
Moulin Rouge by night in Paris

Paris is loveable for what it is: a huge pot of beautiful gardens, impressive architecture, countless museums, cozy salon de thès, delicious restaurants, nicely smelling patisseries, colourful boutiques, plenty of open-air markets....
Stravinsky fountain in front of Centre Pompidou in Paris
Indeed the discovery and enjoyment is much bigger if one do speak and understand French (which is true for almost every place on Earth). And last but not least there is the famous "Savoir vivre"= to know to live"" (and I would add "to enjoy it too").