Beaune- Bone/Boone/bowon/burn/bown?!

As you can tell from the title, I have absolutely no idea on the pronunciation of this one. Even French people would give me different answers, so just pick one and go for it I guess!

Beaune is a town in the Burgundy wine region, just south of Dijon.

The vineyards of Burgundy

The vineyards of Burgundy

Other than vineyards absolutely everywhere, the very first thing I noticed in Beaune were the foreign cars. Everywhere. It was clear from entering the area, and especially on checking-in at the hotel, that this was a very touristy place.

We arrived quite late on the first day, so only briefly headed into the town to get some dinner. On the way in we came across an art mural, with the recognisable tiles of the Hôtel Dieu.

Art mural film set

Art mural film set

Beaune lights up many of it’s buildings at night, often with videos projected onto the walls. It reminded me a little bit of Lyon’s Fête des Lumières (Festival of lights), only on a smaller scale and a daily basis!

Beaune's light show

Beaune’s light show

The town is very picturesque, with some very old buildings and beautiful architecture.

Picturesque Beaune

Picturesque Beaune

Old architecture

Old architecture

The main tourist attraction is Hôtel Dieu, an old hospital founded in the 1400’s for the poor.

Hôtel Dieu courtyard

Hôtel Dieu courtyard

The old hospice is now a museum, remembering the history of everything that happened in the hospice.

The old chapel

The old chapel

Hospital beds in the huge hall

Hospital beds in the huge hall

Having a look around the city, we found the main church, a grand building right in the centre of the town. Inside it held a small exhibition with tapis/rugs on display.

Collégiale Notre-Dame

Collégiale Notre-Dame

As we were in the heart of the wine region, we of course had to do some wine-tasting. We headed to the Marché au vins to try some wine which was grown in the local villages around Beaune.

Burgundy wines

Burgundy wines

There were lots of wines to try, with the option of buying at the end.

The caves

The caves

The touristy wine-tasting places like this often charge entrance and are very commercialised. The ‘caves’ that we preferred were out in the countryside, in the small villages. You will get a much more personal service and can try wines which are often right from that village.

That just about sums up Beaune. A small town but worth a visit, especially for the wine connoisseurs!

Grenoble: Capital of the Alps

Home to the 1968 Winter Olympic Games, Grenoble is somewhere that must be visited in the winter, right? Wrong. We went to Grenoble on a very hot summers day, and it was fantastic! Just an hour and a half away from Lyon by train, Grenoble is referred to as the Capital of the Alps, and it is evident why from the photos below!

Capital of the Alps

Capital of the Alps

Arriving at midday, we headed straight to the centre to get lunch. The main square with restaurants and terraces is called Place Grenette. Restaurants were typically quite touristy, but we had a nice big lunch to give us plenty of energy for the exploring ahead.

Following lunch, we headed towards the main tourist site of Grenoble: Fort de la Bastille, up a mountain on top of the city.

Fort de la Bastille

Fort de la Bastille

To get up to the top, it is possible to walk. However with temperatures at mid-30s, we wisely decided to use the Worlds oldest cable car, known as ‘Les Bulles.’

Cable cars flying over the river

Cable cars flying over the river

Les Bulles

Les Bulles

Views at the top of the mountain were spectacular. There were several levels of viewing platforms offering panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains.

View over the city

View over the city

Made it to the top thanks to the cable cars!

Made it to the top thanks to the cable cars!

Even had the chance to get a bit creative with the camera!

The Alps

The Alps

We were lucky to be there on a very clear day. This allowed us to get a glimpse of Mont Blanc, western Europe’s tallest mountain, in the distance.

A snowy Mont Blanc in the background

A snowy Mont Blanc in the background

From here we followed signs for ‘the caves’ and were sceptical as to what we would find inside when we got to the entrance.

Entrance to the caves

Entrance to the caves

After a few minutes walk we reached some stairs and then eventually an opening.

Stairs leading higher up the mountain

Stairs leading higher up the mountain

The top of the caves

The top of the caves

We were met with more fantastic and unique views over the city.

Peeking through the cave at the view

Peeking through the cave at the view

A lot of people that went up to the Fort didn’t continue on to the caves. It was a bit of effort walking up those stairs, but it was well worth it! After this we headed back down to the main city.

As with a lot of French cities, there are many squares with fountains and gardens, alongside beautiful buildings.

Jardin de Ville

Jardin de Ville

Grenoble is quite a small city, and easily to see all in one day. We made the most of walking around the city, seeing the sights and admiring the beautiful French architecture.

The gallery below shows off some of Grenoble’s best parts:

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Grenoble was a beautiful city, and despite being very famous for it’s location in and around plenty of ski resorts, it is also great to visit during the summer!

The ‘Real’ Côte d’Azur

 

So having been to the touristy Côte d’Azur (St.Tropez, Cannes, Nice, Monaco etc. (blog post about these coming later)) we headed to the non-touristy part for a couple of days: Cassis.

We found a great little apartment to rent in Ensuès-la-Redonne via airbnb, which was just a 5 minute drive or 20 minute walk from the Calanques, which are coves or creeks specific to the Marseille area.

Our apartment

Our apartment

We were driving a little Renault Twingo, which was good for the roads. Anything bigger and we really would have struggled to fit down the tiny little lanes!

The hilly and windy roads of Cassis

The hilly and windy roads of Cassis

Cassis is very un-touristy. A great deal of effort has gone in to preserve the area for its natural beauty. It is very difficult for people access. There are a very limited amount of parking spaces, no bars or restaurants, and access to the Calanques by foot is very challenging!

Access to certain Calanques can be somewhat tricky

Access to certain Calanques can be somewhat tricky

The majority of the people that we came across were people from the South of France (recognisable from that strong accent!). We were one of the very few with a non-southern French accent, and I was certainly the only Foreigner!

The first day we went to Figuières. The beach we found was perfect: completely secluded, quiet, great views, and brilliant for snorkelling and seeing some big fish!

Beach in Figuières

Beach in Figuières

The water was so clear and calm. Though it was a bit difficult to get into the sea because of all the jagged rocks, once deep enough it was great for swimming and snorkelling.

Gallery from Figuières:

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The second day we went to Mejean. We were met by incredible views over the cliffs, which could have very easily been mistaken for a country like Croatia.

Views over the Calanques of Méjean

Views over the Calanques of Méjean

It was so quiet. Fantastic for relaxing and sunbathing, and again great for getting the snorkel out and going for a swim. However, as it is very rocky, you have to find the perfect position so you can be comfortable on the rocks!

Sunbathing on the rocks isn't always the most comfortable

Garance showing that sunbathing on the rocks isn’t always the most comfortable!

But it is worth it, it really did feel like we were in paradise!

Being on the South coast, we were lucky enough to have the sun from the moment we arrived, right up until the evening. Great for getting tanned enough for my return to England soon!

Gallery from Méjean:

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One word to summarise: Paradise. It was a great little break and so relaxing. Great to be on the South coast again but seeing something completely contrasting from the other very touristy areas!

Avignon

Things to do: 

  • Walk around and on the old city walls
  • Visit the Palais des Papes
  • Have a coffee on one of the terraces 
  • Walk on the Pont Avignon
  • Visit the many beautiful parks and gardens

 

Avignon is situated in the Provence region in the south of France. It is easily accessible from Southern cities like Marseille and Montpellier, and via the North by TGV.

Map of France

Map of France

Avignon is genuinely one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. As soon as you leave the train station, you are confronted by the old city walls, which are not ruins, but have been magnificently restored. Entering the city, you are given the impression of a very small typical French town. There was the sweet smell of the freshly baked baguettes from the boulangeries, as well as an old man playing his accordion under the burning sun. It was a hot August day and the temperature reached 36c!

The office de tourisme is conveniently located in between the train station (that is Avignon centre, Avignon TGV is situated about 6km away) and the main city centre. Staff were friendly, providing maps and offering advice. It also gave us the opportunity to eat lunch in what was one of many beautiful gardens.

Place Agricol Perdiguier

Place Agricol Perdiguier

After this, to head to the main town centre, continue up Rue de la République until you reach Place d’Horloge, a large square with many restaurants and bars. Although many can be very expensive, no doubt aimed at tourists, there are many other streets off of here that are cheaper and offer more traditional French food. The square also contains the city hall, and like most city halls in France, it lived up to the grandeur that I have begun to expect!

Hôtel de Ville

Hôtel de Ville

Continuing down the road, and you soon reach the Place du Palais, featuring the incredible Palais des Papes. Before going to Avignon, it is important to know a little history about the city itself. In the 14th century, it was home to several popes, having moved the Papacy from Rome to Avignon. The Palais des Papes was built during this time, and is now a museum.

Palais des Papes

Palais des Papes

Reduced price for entry to the museum plus the Pont d’Avignon was 11€ and is available for students, children and people aged 65+. Normal entry is just a couple of euros extra. It is well worth it, as the museum is huge. There is also the option of getting an audio guide, and there is a place to leave luggage.

The museum is massive, and it took us about an hour and a half to walk around the entire thing.

A courtyard inside the Palais des Papes

A courtyard inside the Palais des Papes

There are various things to see, including the old Pope’s bedroom, with some incredibly old art murals.

Sculptures of the former Popes

Sculptures of the former Popes

There is also lots of modern day art, situated throughout the museum.

Modern Art

Modern Art

One of the things that I personally enjoyed most about the Palais des Papes were the views that it offered over the city of Avignon and beyond. Get up there and have a look. There is a café at the top to reward you for all those stairs that you have climbed!

Tip: Make sure you visit all of the rooms in the museum, there are many hidden away and you may easily miss something!

Just next to the Palais des Papes is a beautiful church- Notre Dame des Doms. Whilst rather small inside, it is well worth a look to see the mosaics and the small chapels.

Notre Dame des Doms

Notre Dame des Doms

Leaving the church, we passed by the gardens just to the right of it. They really were beautiful, and provided the perfect scenery for the summers day.

Les Jardins

Les Jardins

It is well worth going into the gardens to have a look, or even better, for a little picnic in the shade. The views of the Provence region are incredible. Beyond the river Rhône, you will see vineyards, castles, and the mountains. It is a very picturesque view. You will also see an overview of Pont d’Avignon from there.

The views from the gardens

The views from the gardens

Of course, you cannot come to Avignon without walking on the Pont d’Avignon. There is a small room that tells you a little bit about the history of the bridge, and of course a history of the song.

Pont d'Avignon

Pont d’Avignon

I only had a short time to spend in Avignon, but the city was very easy to view in 5 hours, without being too time-pressured. Although we saw the main things, there are also many other museums to see, and no doubt more beautiful scenery to explore!

My first post- lyon

Things to do:

  • Visit the Basilique de Fourvière
  • Check out the views beside the basilica, and walk down to vieux Lyon through the gardens
  • Walk from Place Bellecour to Hôtel de Ville, seeing the various fountains and all the shops
  • Eat at a typical Lyonnais Restaurant- A Bouchon
  • Walk around Lyon at night and see how the beautiful buildings are all lit up

 

So I have to start at the beginning I suppose: Lyon. Having decided to embark on a year abroad for University, Lyon was instantly my first choice of destination. Why? I am still unsure myself. I am from the Berkshire countryside, and I go to University in Norwich, which is a rather small city. I wanted something different, something big and exciting. And Lyon seemed to fit these requirements.

Rather than talking about my year abroad, which is not the idea of this blog, I will try to stick specifically to travel blogging and talking about the city and its beautiful sights.

Lyon is situated in the Rhône-Alpes region, centre/south-east of France, in between Paris and Marseille. It is close to the alps, which means very cold winters, but very warm summers.

Map of France, Lyon indicated

Map of France, Lyon indicated

The main centre of Lyon is on the “Presqu’il” which means “Nearly Island” in English. There are two rivers that run through Lyon, and they meet at Confluence in the south of the city, which creates a “nearly island” in the city. The main centre on Presqu’il is Place Bellecour, which is one of the largest squares in Europe. It contains a statue of Louis XIV, and a beautiful view of the Basilica- Fourvière. Throughout the year there are many events that take place in Bellecour, with some highlights for me being a huge Ferris Wheel and an international festival. It is also where the tourism office is situated.

Image

Place Bellecour on the Presqu’il

The Basilique de Fourvière is the iconic site in Lyon. It was built by the people of Lyon, and is used for daily masses.

Entrance to Fourvière

Entrance to Fourvière

The inside of the building is truly magnificent, with mosaics from floor to ceiling in the upper church, with the lower church being more simplistic. It also contains several small chapels.

Inside of Fourvière

Inside of Fourvière

The view from the top of Fourvière is incredible, and if you’re very lucky, you will get a great view of the Alps and Mont Blanc. It provides a beautiful view over Lyon, and gives you a good idea of how the city is laid out.

Overlooking Lyon, Mont Blanc in the background

Overlooking Lyon, Mont Blanc in the background

Further north of Bellecour, but still on the Presqu’il, you will find the Opéra and the Hôtel de Ville. They are both beautiful buildings situated right next to each other, and provide a focal point for the fête des lumières, or festival of lights, which is a famous festival in Lyon around the 8th of December every year.

Opéra de Lyon

Opéra de Lyon

Every year, the Opera has an ‘Open Doors’ day, where you can look around inside. It is really fantastic, and gave me the opportunity to take this unique shot of Hôtel de Ville with Fourvière in the background.

View from the top of the Opera

View from the top of the Opera

And this is Hôtel de Ville during Fête des Lumières. This photo does not give the Festival of Lights the credit it deserves, and I would fully encourage people to watch Youtube videos, and then to travel to Lyon itself to see the spectacles!

Hôtel de Ville during Fête des Lumières

Hôtel de Ville during Fête des Lumières

The above sights in Lyon are the main touristic sights. However there are also plenty of other beautiful buildings situated throughout Lyon. I have been visited by friends and family to Lyon, and most have remarked that there are a lot of fountains in this city, each very different and unique, but all very grand and striking. I would definitely recommend just wandering around Presqu’il and admire the French architecture. Visiting Vieux Lyon is a must- the building are incredibly old, and it has a fantastic atmosphere, with many bars, pubs and restaurants. As Lyon is the food capital of the world, it is imperative to eat in one of the many bouchons situated in Vieux Lyon.

Perhaps the most striking building after Fourvière, is Lyon’s tallest building, in the shape of a pencil, called Tour Part Dieu, although more commonly known as Le Crayon (see the above photo of the view from the top of Fourvière). It is an office building with a hotel at the top. The bar at the top is open to the public, and it gives views of the East of the city and it’s suburbs. Close to Part Dieu is Les Halles, a huge indoor market. There are many markets in Lyon, and this one stands out with it’s incredible food on offer.

Parc de la tête d’or (park of the golden head) is a huge park situated very close to the city centre. It features a large lake, where people can hire various boats out. It also has a large zoo, and a botanical gardens- which are both free to visit. It also has seemingly endless grassed areas, both in the sun and the shade provided by trees. It is the perfect place to relax in the sun, to go for a run, or to take the kids to the zoo- it really does have everything, and is a must-visit place in Lyon.

Parc de la tête d'or

Parc de la tête d’or

One thing that almost immediately struck me when I came to Lyon was it’s incredible transport network. It is very efficient, reasonably priced and covers a very wide area. For a single ticket- 1,70€. The downside- it is so good that I have become so lazy, taking the metro just 1 or 2 stops which would normally be just a 10 minute walk. There is also a bike system where you can hire bikes for an hour from a station in one part of the city, and leave it at another station anywhere else. There are direct high speed train services (TGV) to Paris and the south several times a day, as well as many smaller lines to regional parts of France. The airport has many flights to many different countries, including places as far away as Dubai. The Rhône Express is a tram service that takes you from the centre of the city to the airport in under 30 minutes, although it is quite costly at over 10€ for a single ticket.

TCL Map

TCL Map

Lyon nightlife has been fantastic but very costly. Drinking in pubs and bars is very expensive, with the average pint costing you 6€. Being in France, and so close to the Beaujolais region, wine is of course very cheap in Supermarkets. The main area to find bars is around Hôtel de Ville, or along the river Rhône where there are bars on boats, and even huge nightclubs, most notably Ayers Rock Boat and La Platforme.

I have immensely enjoyed living in this city, and all of my friends and family that have visited have loved it. Before coming here, I certainly did not expect the beauty and grandeur that Lyon has. It is perfect for a short get away, and I would thoroughly recommend it to all ages. I will leave you with this photo taken on Bastille day, July 14th, with a view over the river Rhône and the building Hôtel Dieu.

Hôtel Dieu during 14 juillet

Hôtel Dieu during 14 juillet