Château d’If

Today we got up early and went to Marseille.  We had plans to go to Château d’If. Château d’If is a fortress (later used as a prison) that was built in the late 1520’s to early 1530’s on the island of If.  It is the smallest island of the Frioul archipalego about a mile off the coast of Marseille in the Mediterranean Sea.  Alexandre Dumas made the Château famous in his popular novel, The Count of Monte Cristo.  This is the reason for our wanting to see the Château d’If.

We were all in the car by 8:45am and made it to Marseille in less than 2 hours, quickly found a parking spot and headed to the Vieux Porte.  We walked up to the ticket counter and posted on a white piece of paper that looked like it had just been torn out of a notebook, was a handwritten note, “No chateau d’if today”!  Aaron lost his cool a little bit with the lady.  Customer service does not exist in France.  This woman could have kindly said, “We are so sorry for the inconvenience!”  But instead, she just said, “No, it’s closed.” She didn’t give us an explanation, except that the wind was too strong.

French websites are terrible!  No explanation needed.  If you have experienced it, you know what I am talking about.  I had checked the Château d’If website and there was nothing about weather conditions or a possible cancellation because of wind, etc.  I looked at it in French and then I did the English version so I wouldn’t miss any important information.  Clearly, there was nothing posted about closures.  We were disappointed and irritated to say the least!

Well, what to do on a hot day in Marseille!  We took the ferry boat to a different island, Frioul, and passed right by Château d’If.  We walked around Frioul, had lunch and enjoyed the beautiful views.  We did not pack any bathing suits or towels so none of us swam.  It was a bummer because there were beautiful coves where people were swimming.  Over all we made it into a fun day, but we were disappointed that we didn’t get to visit the famous Château d’If!

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Marseille has a beautiful Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde Marseille.  It is a church that sits atop a hill that overlooks all sides of Marseille.  Aaron took me there on our honeymoon many years ago!  It is beautiful!

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This is the Old La Major Cathedral.  I have never been inside, but it is an amazing site.  It is a Roman Catholic Cathedral that seats the Archdiocese of Marseille.

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AJ was the most disappointed in not being able to get to Château d’If.  We still got pretty close, just at a distance!

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After we arrived on Frioul we walked around a bit and then found a little restaurant for lunch.  Alexis ordered a plate of petits poissons, little fish, thinking it would be a little sampling of a few pieces of fish.  After she ordered it and asked the waiter a few questions about it I realized it was not what she was going to be expecting.  She then ordered a salad but we kept the order of fish.  The fish plate arrived and as we expected it was a huge mound of little deep fried whole fish.  Alexis still ate a few, but AJ and Austin enjoyed most of them.  Jack and Tristan both tried one but they could only eat the tail side, not the eyes!

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While walking around Frioul we came upon a sculpture.  It was a metal rhinoceros with a clear plastic box in its’ open stomach area.  Inside the plastic box were books.  It was a little library for those who would dock their boats and needed something to read.  It was the coolest, yet oddest of ideas.  I guess the oddity comes from the location.

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We had a fun day in Marseille, even though it wasn’t what we had hoped to see and do!

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Château d’Allègre

Château d’Allègre is a favorite family spot that we discovered 6 years ago.  It is the remains of a fortress that housed 12 knights dating back to the 1100-1200’s.  It sits high up on a hill and is open to anyone passing by!  We spent the early evening there on Sunday.  AJ had control of the camera and he did a pretty good job capturing the beauty of these remains.

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Château d’Allègre is 20-25 km north of our house in Sanilhac.  As you can see from a few of the photos, the fortress is right above a road and the Château is marked by a very small old sign.  I love that one can be on a back country road and discover such beautiful things!

Les Baux de Provence

One afternoon Rebecca, Alexis and I headed to Les Baux de Provence!  I recorded a visit we made to this beautiful village back in the Fall, but this time around we discovered an old church, Saint Vincent, dating back to the 12th century and a few other “nooks” that I want to remember.

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Les Baux de Provence has one of the best savon de Marseille, soap of Marseille, boutiques.  I absolutely LOVE the little shop and when Alexis and Becca went inside they couldn’t get enough of the perfume.  Savon de Marseille is a traditional hard soap made from vegetable oil around the area of Marseilles for over 600 years.  This particular boutique in Les Baux de Provence has soaps in beautiful colors and scents.

Anduze

Anduze is a little city of about 7,000 residents that sits on the banks of the Gardon River amongst the rocks of the hills and mountains.  It is about a 40 minute drive from Sanilhac. Anduze is known for is beautiful pottery, especially ceramic outdoor flowering pots.  I wish, desperately, that I could get some to the States!

Side note, when we first came to this region 6 years ago many locals recommended we take our children to Anduze and ride the steam train.  We visited Anduze once before because we were told they had a bamboo forest nearby and we wanted to see what it was like.  On that particular trip we ended up enjoying the little village and bypassing the bamboo forest and the train because of expenses (the bambousserie is so pricey).  I am so glad we didn’t waste our money on the bamboo forest because this time we all saw it from the train and it really wasn’t anything special.  It was interesting, but it was almost like paying to go into a local nursery.  6 years ago a few of the kids were disappointed we were not able to ride the train, so I kind of felt obligated to take them back and experience the train ride.

So, that is what I did.  We (except for Aaron, who was in the States) all loaded up and made the field trip.  We had fun and I am glad we all got to enjoy the steam engine.  It is the Cevennes Steam Train.  The Cevennes is the mountain range.  There were tunnels we traveled through, large bridges we crossed, beautiful houses on the mountainsides, fields of milking goats, the Gardon River…

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Paris with Alexis

Last week I enjoyed taking Alexis and her roommate, Rebecca, to Paris.  Rebecca was leaving for America and, of course, Paris was a must see.  We visited all the popular sites.

The Eiffel Tower

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The Louvre (the below pictures are of Napoleon III Apartments)

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Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie (I didn’t get many photos.)

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Ladurée

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No photos:  Versailles, Notre Dame, Champs-Élysées, Place de Concorde, Tuileries Gardens, Metro, RER, delicious restaurants, crêpes, Arc de triomphe…

Vélodrome d’hiver

The Vélodrome d’hiver was an indoor bicycle track and stadium not too far from the Eiffel Tower.  On July 16 and 17, 1942 the French police, under German orders, round up over 13,000 Jews, 4,000 being children, and located them in this large stadium under terrible circumstances.  The Jews were given barely any water or food, the sanitation conditions were almost non existent and it was extremely crowded.  The Jews were held there for about a week and then deported to concentration camps throughout Europe.  The majority never survived.

I have read many books and histories about this particular historical event.  Our friend, Benjamin, loaned me a french movie, La rafle du Vel’ d’hiv, 16 et 17 juillet 1942, that was difficult for me to watch.  It took me three days to get through the whole film.  It is one of the most accurately portrayed film of these events.

When Aaron and I were in Paris we had a morning to ourselves and I wanted to find the small memorial in the location where the Vélodrome used to stand.  I am so glad we found the monument and plaque.  I felt like it was sacred ground and it stirred more emotions in me in regards to this period of history.  I was happy to see that a future memorial garden is currently under construction.

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Great Roman Games

Saturday, May 2nd we had the chance to go see a reenactment of the ancient Roman Games in the Arènes de Nîmes.  The Nîmes arena is a Roman amphitheatre dating to 70 AD.  We have visited the arena on a few occasions but this time was awesome (despite the mile long line and heat)!  Jenn and John were still in town so we all got to have a new experience together.  The spectacle is performed by 500 participants from around Europe. When we arrived at our seats, each person received a colored program with a red handkerchief.  This “red” was our team and whoever was in the arena competing, the respective color would be waved in the crowd.  The team colors were red, green and white.  This Roman Games was based on the famous military commander, Hannibal. Hannibal was considered one of the greatest generals of antiquity.  He played an important part in the history of the Mediterranean area.

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The Games lasted 2.5 hours.  It was a long time to be in the sun, but we did eventually get cloud coverage and it cooled off a little.  This was a performance I am so happy we were able to participate in.  I don’t know if we will ever get a chance to see a reenactment quite like this in a 2000 year old structure!  We were all interested as chariots came roaring out in the arena and started “fighting” each other, or seeing the “fights” against the barbarians of different lands.  It was very entertaining and we had a fascinating afternoon imagining life in times past!

Sainte-Chapelle

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Aaron and I traveled to Paris two weeks ago to spend a few days with my best friend from college, Jenn and her husband John.  We were so excited to finally have family and/or friends come to visit.  We spent 2.5 days with them in Paris.  Aaron and I went a day early so we could spend a little time together too.  It was a fun few days in Paris and then we all took the train south so they could spend a few days with us in Sanilhac.

One of the places we visited while in Paris was the Sainte-Chapelle.  Aaron nor I had visited this cathedral before.  The Sainte-Chapelle is a medieval Gothic chapel dating back to the late 1230’s-1240’s.  It was erected under the commission of King Louis IX to house his collection of the Passion relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns.  The chapel was damaged during the French Revolution but it was restored in the 19th century.  It has one of the largest 13th century stained glass collections in the world.  It was magnificent!  My iphone did not capture the vibrant colors of the stained glass.  It is not a large chapel, like Notre Dame, but it is beautiful!  The ceiling of the chapel is a vibrant blue that did not show up in my photos.  The Sainte-Chapelle is a few blocks away from the Notre Dame.

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The Sound of Music

“The hills are alive, with the sound of music!”  I was like a kid in a candy store the morning we woke up in Salzburg, knowing we were going to be seeing the Sound of Music film sites.  As a little girl, I would anxiously await the once a year broadcast on TV of the movie, The Sound of Music.  Since a little girl, Austria has been on my list of places to visit. Salzburg was lovely.  Those of you who have seen the movie, as you look through these pictures see how many scenes and locations you can remember from the movie!  So fun!!!

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This was the “I have confidence” song location as Maria walks by the fountain and splashes water.  Almost all the fountains were covered in Salzburg.  This made me a little sad!:(  (Residenz Square and Residenz Fountain)

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“Do- Re- Mi- Fa-…”  I was disappointed that the stairs from the end of this song were closed off.  We could only see from a distance.  When the older kids saw the stairs they said, “look Mom, it’s where they filmed the song!”  (Mirabell Gardens and Palace)

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This residence was the back drop for all the outside Van Trapp home scenes.  For example, when Maria and the children capsize the canoes and fall into the water.  If you look close, you can see the stone balusters that are filmed numerous times in the movie. (Leopoldskron Palace)

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“I am sixteen, going on seventeen!”  (Hellbrunn Palace Gardens)

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Abbey Scenes!

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Both from children singing, skipping along the river and hanging from the trees!

Dachau Concentration Camp

My interest in the Holocaust was sparked in 8th grade on Long Island New York.  I was in a history class in which we had a special guest speaker.  An elderly woman who survived the concentration camps!  I remember seeing her number tattooed on her arm and hearing her horrific recollections of her life during that dark period of time.  While I was in the Cold Spring Harbor High School library listening to her, I remember looking around at my Jewish friends and thinking how could one person lead nations and people to hate a race in a short amount of time.  My heart was then drawn to this subject of the Holocaust. I have read a lot on this subject and each time I do I am saddened, horrified, dumbfounded and compelled to read and study more.  I don’t know why this part of history pulls at me so hard.  Maybe I am trying to understand history to be able to recognize it repeating itself, or, just trying to understand cultures and lives that were so quickly destroyed on every side of the battle.

My desire to visit a concentration camp became reality when we were in Germany.  It was one of the things on my “places to visit” list while we are in Europe.  We visited the Dachau concentration camp.  It was incredibly cold and grey!  Our whole family visited the exhibits and then Aaron took Tristan, Jack and Sophie back to a gift shop/cafeteria, while AJ, Austin and I watched a short film, toured the barracks and the crematorium.  It was a humbling, sad and sobering experience.  The boys were a little uncomfortable during the film, but I wanted them to witness what took place on the grounds we were visiting.  It was and continues to be hallow ground.

Dachau was the first concentration camp to be built and used as a prototype for other camps.  I could spend post after post sharing the stories and information I learned and know about Dachau, but I do not want to.  I only wish to share all the photos I took and I know they do not effect all five senses, but I hope it causes a stirring of the heart.  It did for me this day as I was able to touch, feel and listen to this historical site.

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Not many years ago the original railroad tracks were excavated.  We were able to walk on them and visualize those prisoners getting off the cattle cars and seeing their new reality that awaited them.  It was right along this path to the entrance of the camp.

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This is one of the rooms where dead bodies were stored to go into the crematorium.  It was right next to the room with the chimneys.

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