Archive for June, 2011

The Magic of the Mediterranean

June 30, 2011 @ 12:37 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Our hilltop view of the Mediterranean

When we first approached the Mediterranean, we were on a road to the North, high above the sea.  As we crested the hill looking toward Agde, suddenly the striking blue waters of the sea appeared, as if by the magic stroke of a painter’s brush.  Though we were still 30 miles away, the very sight of the water made us surge with anticipation of being right on the beach, our toes in that water.  The sight also summoned  a landslide of mental images.  F. Scott and Zelda partying through a champagne-filled evening.  Privileged dowagers collecting priceless art in seaside mansions.  Silky white beaches and sleek long yachts – all the privilege, it would seem of the rich and famous, those untethered to the worldly cares most of the world must consider.

When we finally reached the Mediterranean, we parked our little Peugeot by the side of the road, and walked through the pure white sand, taking in the incredible beauty, and slipping our feet into the sea.  In this spot, the waters were a lovely turquoise color, as if the entire sea covered a reef.  We continued for a long way along the coast, watching the water change to darker blue with azure streaks.  As we were to see, the Mediterranean weaves and washes a coastline with hundreds of personalities.  Parasol pines look over rocky coves and pebbled beaches.  Miles of whitewashed beaches stretch along coastal roads.  Narrow paths snake along cliffs that drop to the sea. It is a stunning world with countless choices for sun and sea worshippers.

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Ancient Roman Pont du Gard, Nimes

June 28, 2011 @ 11:37 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

The ancient Roman Pont du Gard bridge

“You must see the Pont du Gard, as you leave Nîmes,” the friendly boutique owner told us; so off we went on a hot July day to find the ancient Roman aqueduct bridge.  After parking, we thread our way down natural pathways to the shore of the Gard River.  The magnificent bridge gracefully spans the river; while lively young folks jump to the water from a nearby cliff, and canoers maneuver their way among the swimmers.  Had we but known, we would have worn our swim suits!  Alas, we did not, so we find a cool, shady spot from which we can admire a bridge that has reigned for over 2000 years.

The Roman architects and engineers once again applied their brilliance in designing the bridge with three rows of arches that rise 165 feet (the highest of all aqueducts) over the water.  The 15 years of construction took place from about 45 to 60 A.D. under the Claude and Nero empires.  The aqueduct itself was designed to channel the spring waters of the Eure to the water tower of the thriving city of Nîmes. The  UNESCO World Heritage Site is the most visited in France and spreads across 400 acres of natural Mediterranean countryside. 

We traveled on from the Pont with two memorable impressions – the exceptional ability of the Romans and the very small point in time we are on this earth.

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

 

“Why, oh why, do I love Paris?”

June 27, 2011 @ 11:29 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

A lone man plays his trumpet along the Seine

It’s an old song – “I Love Paris” – but it makes me think about why I love Paris.  It’s because of moments like this, surprising little apostrophes in time, when the last scene you might imagine unfolds in front of you.  As we often do, we head down to the Seine at dusk with a bottle of wine to watch the sun paint its’ final colors over the city.  There are singles and couples and small groups along the quay, no doubt relishing the last sunlight, as we do. 

Then, music begins to drift toward us, and we see a lone man under the bridge playing his trumpet.  Every moment like that has its story.  Is he a student honing his skill?  A musician loosening up for the night’s performance?  A lost and lonely lover moaning through his musical instrument?  It is no wonder that writers and philosophers, artists and musicians have pulled their creativity through the mesh of Paris over the centuries.  Paris is like a petri dish of the mind and heart,  patiently waiting for genius to emerge.

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The Mystique of Fountainbleu

June 25, 2011 @ 7:10 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Magnificent Fountainbleu with horseshoe stairs to the Royal Apartments

While we drove to Fountainbleau, it’s a mere 45-minute train trip from the Gare de Lyon in Paris.  It is well worth the trip, as the town is charming and, at the edge of the forest, the Château magnificent – naturally so, as it was one of the favorite secluded retreats of French monarchs.  Napoleon called the Château  “the house of the centuries,” and in fact, it was from the lovely, curved exterior stairway (added in the 17th century in the shape of a horseshoe) that Napoleon spoke to his defeated  Grande Armée, before his exile to Elba. 

The stairs lead to the Royal Apartments, where French Kings took their comfortable leave from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.  In particular the grand Galerie of Francois 1st was designed in Renaissance style by Italian artists.  Just below the Royal Apartments, you discover the Holy Chapel.  Perhaps, you will visit at a time when singers burst into song from the chapel balcony, imagining themselves, one might think, of their participating in Napoleon’s baptism or Louis XV’s marriage.

 It is precisely those kernels of history that settle over you, that draw you to these magnificent sites, so rich and decisive in history.  

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

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