Monthly Archives: October 2014

My car travels to Europe (day 14). Fontainebleau – Calais


My car travels to Europe (day 14). Fontainebleau The town of Fontainebleau is 55 km from Paris and is famous for it’s amazingly beautiful Renaissance palace. In the XII century the French monarch Louis VII built a royal country house on the site of a hunting lodge near a spring in the dense forest surrounding it. This inaccessible forest, served as a defensive structure for this medieval castle. The name Fontainebleau in French means “Fontaine = spring” and “Bleau” originated from a person’s Germanic name Blizwald, who was from the family of Francs, who once lived in these lands.

Over the centuries this country house was transformed into a Royal Palace. Francis the 1st in the 16th century reconstructed and transformed the chateau into a royal residence. All the medieval buildings were demolished and the best architects from Italy built a new palace. My car travels to Europe (day 14). Fontainebleau Henry II and Henry IV, as well as Louis XIII where not only born in this chateau but continued to expand it. For some time in history after the death of the last heir of the Valois dynasty the Fontainebleau palace was uninhabited, because the newly built palace at Versailles became more popular among kings. Napoleon Bonaparte revived the estate, when he was preparing to become Emperor.

Alexandre Dumas describes Fontainebleau in his novel “The Vicomte de Bragelonne: Ten Years Later”. There are also a few mystical stories about a ghost who appeared in the chateau and predicted bad events for some of the kings. Important historic events have occurred in this palace, one of them was the visit by the Russian Czar, Peter the Great in 1717. By a fateful coincidence Napoleon Bonaparte signed his abdication from throne room of Fontainebleau palace, before being exiled on the Island of Elba. Later in his memoirs Napoleon recalled Fontainebleau “… the true residence of Kings, the house of the centuries”.

From Fontainebleau we drove through the most beautiful dense forest that surrounds the estate on our way to Paris. We were warned about a railway strike, which had created difficulties moving through the city. So we bypassed Paris and on the way to Calais made a stop in the beautiful city of Amiens.


My car travels to Europe (day 14). AmiensAmiens experienced many events and wars in its history and had My car travels to Europe (day 14). Amiensbeen attacked by barbarian tribes, Normans, Spaniards and Germans. Severe damage was inflicted on this city during the two world wars of the last century. Nevertheless, a lot of historic buildings have been preserved, the main one being the magnificent Amiens Cathedral built in a Gothic style.

My car travels to Europe (day 14). AmiensOur travel for 14 days around Europe ended in Calais. The history of this city, as I wrote earlier, was connected with the name of the French President Charles de Gaulle, who said, “There is no better country than France.” Maybe he was right in some way; in any case, I have yet to meet a person who has visited this country and not fallen in love with it’s beautiful countryside, buildings, food and music.

Like Mark Twain said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness”. Also My car travels to Europe (day 14). Calaistraveling makes us enjoy life and inspire us with new impressions and pleasant surprises about other places. There were plenty of these during our 16-day European voyage. Waiting for the ferry in Calais to cross the English Channel I could not help wondering when I will next travel to new horizons and what wonderful new experiences I might encounter…

Russian version

Main page

My car travels to Europe (day 13). Geneva – Burgundy


My car travels to Europe (day 13).  BurgundyFollowing our mini disaster with our car when one of our wheels My car travels to Europe (day 13).Burgundy exploded, we found ourselves in a disused petrol station in the middle of the night, where we managed to replace the wheel with the get me home spare. We drove on slowly into Dijon where we spent the rest of the night. In the morning we managed to find a garage that sold us and changed the wheel very cheaply. We continued our travels in the direction of the port of Calais, the last port of call on the way back to England. During our journey, we enjoyed some of the most beautiful views of Burgundy.

My car travels to Europe (day 13).  BurgundyGermanic tribes called Burgundians established colonies in the fifth My car travels to Europe (day 13).  Burgundycentury AD in this territory of present day France also the Duchy of Burgundy existed in this region of Burgundy, the administrative center of which is currently Dijon. The Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy (Palais Ducal) is today preserved in this city. Very famous French wines are made from grapes grown in these Burgundian lands. Wine is not the only thing Burgundy is famous for, Dijon mustard is also loved all over Europe and that includes myself!

My car travels to Europe (day 13).  BurgundyMy car travels to Europe (day 13).  BurgundyMost of the small towns and villages on our way were very similar and at the same time they had a distinguished French charm. In one town, we stopped to have lunch at a local cafe and were very disappointed with the attitude, service and courtesy of the owner, so we hurriedly got up and left to look for a more hospitable French restaurant, which we found just a few yards down the road. This was one isolated incident. They say the French do not like the English but our car with English number plates did not cause any obvious visible negatives during our travels, we found very friendly and helpful people everywhere we went. Same as the wonderful mechanic who changed our tire that morning, making sure we had all the right pressures and balances on all wheels for no extra charge.

My car travels to Europe (day 13). Burgundy,Sens CathedraleWe made a brief stop in the medieval city of Sens before crossing the rivers Yonne and Vanne. This city delighted me no less than all the other beautiful cities in France! Sens was built during the first My car travels to Europe (day 13). Burgundy,Senscentury BC. Here lived one of the oldest Celtic tribes living in Gaul. During Roman times it was known as Agedincum. The name Sens originated from the name of the Gallic tribe called Senones. The main attraction of this ancient city and possibly the whole of Burgundy is the Cathedral of Sens, dedicated to Saint Stephen with the Archbishops’ Palace nearby. The Sens Cathedral was one of the first Gothic buildings in France, first designed and started by the architect William of Sens in 1135 and finally completed in the 16th century. Despite the long time it took to build it, the original Gothic style was retained as envisaged by the architect.

My car travels to Europe (day 13). Burgundy,SensAn interesting historical fact is that in 1141 Sens witnessed the trial of My car travels to Europe (day 13). Burgundy,Sensphilosopher Peter Abelar, the scholastic philosopher and theologian who was condemned by the Orthodox Church authority for his views on moral character and religious teachings. How times have changed in the past thousand years!


My car travels to Europe (day 13). Burgundy,Sens CathedraleMy car travels to Europe (day 13). BurgundyI admired the great scenery along route D606 through Burgundy and started to think about the philosophy of Abelar and his assertion that God gave everyone the ability to achieve great goals. My goal on this journey was to provide me with new knowledge and experience and to understand the world better. Over such a long period of traveling, I guess more than a thousand miles I never felt tired. After all, the beauty of nature and the discovery of cities visited for the first time brought joy and nourished me with vital energy!

My car travels to Europe (day 13). BurgundyFinally, we arrived in Fontainebleau, the great palace of none other than Napoleon. We booked into one of the chain of hotels called F1, they are to be found in almost every region of France and I can confidently recommend them for budget travel. We stopped here for a very good night’s sleep in the last week of our voyage. I shall continue my commentary of our travels in my next issue.

Main page

Russian version

My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence – Switzerland


12 Provence (1)Leaving Provence on the way to Switzerland, it was impossible to My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - Switzerlandmiss the beautiful lavender fields. We stopped the car along the road and I jumped over a ditch to run among the violet-blue fragrant lavender. A few sprigs of lavender were plucked and put them on the dashboard of the car. If you believe the ancient Romans, the smell of lavender fills the human heart with joy and confidence. The joy in my heart was very much there, not only from the lavender, but also from seeing the many fields of Garlic which abound all around this area.12 Crest (4)

My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - SwitzerlandThese wonderful plantations were gradually replaced by the green hills of Rhone as we drove past the town of Crest, surmounted by one of the highest keeps in Europe, The Tour de Crest, as it is known, is 52 meters in height. In 1120 the Chateau of Crest in this medieval town was named after Arnaud de Crest the My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - SwitzerlandLord and master who lived there. In the Middle Ages European nobility use to build fortified towers named Donjon within their castles. In 1394 Cardinal Richelieu destroyed this Chateau leaving only the Donjon. You can see the Tour de Crest from the road sticking out above the red roofs of the town as you drive past. We also noticed that red roofs are mostly seen in the southern villages of France, in contrast to the gray-blue roofs in the north.


My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - SwitzerlandNext we passed the City of Valence, which is the conventional My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - Switzerlandboundary between the north and south of France. Valence was founded by the Romans in the Narbonne Gall area on the rocky banks of the Rhone River at the crossroads, leading to the Azure coast. In the 15th century AD, Valence passed under the authority of King Louis XI and was ruled by the Duke of Valentinois. This title is still claimed by the Sovereigns of Monaco.


My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - SwitzerlandTwo more cities are on the banks of the River Rhone in the Rhone-Alpes region, Vienne and Lyon, which were also inhabited by Gallic tribes in ancient times. Vienne was one of the major cities of Gaul in antiquity. According to legend, Pontius Pilate was exiled to Vienne after the death of Jesus Christ and his tomb is on the site of a Roman pyramid in the city.

Lyon on the other hand, is more than 2000 years old and partly thanks to its convenient location at the convergence of two navigable rivers was named the capital of Gaul. Also, two famous Roman emperors were born in this city, Claudius and Caracalla. Today, the archbishop of Lyon is still referred to as “Primat des Gaules” and the city is often referred to as the “capitale des Gaules“. The Roman Emperor Nero lived here too and Lyon was also the first city in Europe to be known for the production of silk. Today Lyon is the second largest city in France and famous as the gourmet capital of the world.

It took less than two hours by car from Lyon to Geneva and it was a most enjoyable part of our journey that day. The road climbs higher and higher into the French Alps surrounded by lush green valleys and mountain lakes, where some of the most popular winter ski resorts are situated.


My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - SwitzerlandMost of Switzerland is founded on the Alp Mountains and the city of My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - SwitzerlandGeneva is located at an altitude of 373 meters above sea level. 2000 years ago there was a Celtic settlement on the site of this city. One of it’s main attractions is Lake Geneva, surrounded by mountains on all sides with a huge fountain in part of the lake shooting up 140 meters into the air making the city different from others. It is one of the largest fountains in the world built in 1886 as part of the hydraulic system of the city. The fountain works every day and is only switched off in cold and windy conditions. We were unlucky that day as there was a very strong wind so on my photos, although there is no fountain, you can see the unique landscape with the crystal clear waters of the lake without any spray from the fountain.


My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - SwitzerlandNot only are Swiss watches a guarantee of quality but you can also My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - Switzerlandcheck the time in Geneva by the flower clock laid out in what is known as the English Garden. Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus when creating the project in 1903 used the natural biorhythms of plants so they would bloom at a particular time according to their biological clocks. 60 years ago the clock was updated and now the flowers are planted in beds according to their season.

Another famous attraction of this city is the Basilica of St. Peter from the 12th century which has been rebuilt and refurbished many times and combines several styles, including, Baroque, Romanesque, Classicism and the Gothic. The eclectic architecture of the cathedral makes it very unique. In addition, Calvinism was born in this Cathedral, which changed the beliefs of some people around the world. Reformer John Calvin preached here and a wooden chair used by him is preserved in the church.


Geneva on Sunday evening is a very quiet and deserted place one can hardly find a nice cafe or restaurant except for MacDonald’s and Starbucks, which was very upsetting. We spent most of our time admiring the hundreds of spires on the rooftops, always positioned in prominent places on the corners of buildings. The silence was suddenly broken by a car procession of football fans waving flags and beeping of car horns announcing the victory of the national team at a football match in Brazil during the time of the world cup.


My car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - SwitzerlandMy car travels to Europe (day 12). Provence - SwitzerlandThe road from Geneva to Dijon was also quiet and deserted, with 40 km of winding hairpin turns in the twilight of the Alps. Empty villages and streets on the way gave us hope that we may find room in a roadside hotel. But all the hotels were occupied so we decided to drive on. As we were approaching Dijon, we had the biggest fright of the whole trip when one of our tires hit something on the road and exploded sending the car into a whirlwind skid. My next story will be about that night and our day in Dijon.

Main page

Russian version

My car travels to Europe (day 11). Provence


11 Toulon-Marseille (3)A territory in the south of France, inhabited by Celtic tribes, was 11 Frejus (6)captured by the Romans 2,000 years ago and became a Roman province called Gallia, after the Gaul tribe who lived there. The name Provence derives from the Latin word “Province” meaning region. One of the towns built there by the Romans is also where Julius Caesar established his fleet in the natural harbor known today as the town of Frejus after the phrase “Forum of Julius“.

11 Frejus (3)The area around Frejus is a natural picturesque landscape of rocky 11 Frejus (5)cliffs with a background of the Mediterranean azure sea. The town became a great holiday resort with its sandy beaches, yacht port, the ruins of many Roman buildings, including an amphitheater, which is now under reconstruction. Our morning started with a walk around the town 11 Frejus (4)and a visit to the Roman amphitheater.

After our walk it was time for breakfast. The Saturday market was a real fruit paradise with apricots, melons, cherries and many gourmet delicacies of the Provencal cuisine, like sausages from smoked wild boar, figs, hazelnuts and of course herbs from Provence. A feature of Provencal cooking is to use fennel, basil, wild herbs, mushrooms and truffles which makes the local cooking delicate and unique.


11 Toulon-Marseille (12)From Frejus, we drove on to Toulon, waving goodbye to the Côte d’Azur where we swam in the warm sea and relaxed on the beaches. Back on the mountain road DN8, this runs among rocks and pines, being the same road that we drove along two days earlier at night on the way to the Côte d’Azur. Once again we enjoyed the delightful fragrance of the pine aroma and the beauty of the rocky outcrops with a background of conifers.

11 Toulon-Marseille (10)The City of Marseille is on the way from Toulon to Avignon. This ancient port was founded by the Greeks and in the year 2013 was named European capital of culture. Along with its historical landmarks, the hallmark of Marseille is the Chateau d’If, built in the 16th century as a fort. The French writer Alexander Dumas in his 11 Toulon-Marseille (7)novel “The Count of Monte Cristo” in 1844 described a fictional story about the imprisonment of Edmond Dantes in the Chateau d’If. After this, the island with the castle became a popular tourist attraction. Unfortunately this mysterious and romantic castle will remain a dream for me, as we wanted to pass through Marseille as soon as possible, remembering our previous encounter in the area two days earlier. All that I remember from what I gleamed through the car window was, cheap housing occupied by immigrants among green thickets of trees all along the motorway. It was obvious that Marseille is gradually losing its French charm and is turning into a multi-cultural city.

11 Toulon-Marseille (13)The Small villages of Provence along the D113 from Marseille to Avignon nestling among valleys of sycamore alleys are very similar to each other, essentially, all with the same type of buildings, rectangular geometric shapes embellished with metal balconies and windows decorated with coloured shutters. The character of Provence is that of a Mediterranean climate, made up of tender picturesque fields with olive groves, fields of sunflowers and lavender valleys. Their natural beauty gives them a unique atmosphere, which also helped to create famous paintings by great artists like Van Gogh and Cezanne.

11 Avignon (1)11 Avignon (2)By sunset we arrived at the most romantic city in Provence “Avignon”. The Saint-Benezet Bridge over the River Rhone built in 12th century AD, commemorates the town with an old French song. In the old days, people gathered on an island under the bridge to sing and dance, and the song was “Under the bridge of Avignon” but since the island does not exist anymore this is now known as “On the bridge of Avignon” of which only four arches out of the 22 now remain. We drove along the fortress with its castellated walls built in the 14th century which are considered the most well-preserved fortifications since the Middle Ages, behind which lies a big city hidden from the outside, with narrow medieval streets where houses of different eras fit perfectly into the old architecture.

11 Avignon (11)11 Avignon (13)In ancient times, Avignon was the capital of the Gallic tribes. Emblem of the city is Avignon Cathedral from the 12th century built in the Gothic style (Notre Dame des Doms) with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. There is also the Palais des Papes founded by the Romans in the 14th century, where the Roman Pope lived when he fled from Rome. Many years ago, the city had a lot of churches and the French writer Rabelais called it “the ringing city”. There are still three churches left in the city built in a Gothic style but I guess the bell ringing is no longer so loud.


11 Avignon (24)Just after sunset in the twilight, the city with its street lighting became more enigmatic and mysterious. We chose a very cozy cafe 11 Avignon (23)on the main square and became French Gourmands for a while with a huge platter of Moules and fries. The next day we planned a trip to Geneva in Switzerland Dijon, our next episode of the tour…

Main page

Russian version