Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Albi, France

Using Carcassonne as a base, we visited Albi.  Albi is a medieval town with two major attractions: the Cathedrale Ste-Cecile (a 13th century fortress that represents one of France's most monumental Gothic structures; and the museum of the French artist Henri de Toulouse - Lautrec.

Henri was probably best known by his arts on prostitutes.  But his work was far deeper than that.
His physical handicaps gave him particular insight into the souls of  individuals who may live on the edges of life.  He also liked horses and dogs.  I liked particularly his portrait of his Mom:
His self portrait indicated his handicap:
Some other works of his on actors and actresses.


Some scenes in this little town were quite charming:



Carcassonne, France

Human activities in Carcassonne could be traced back to 6th century BC.  It had been conquered by Romans, Visigoths, and Franks.  After the death of Charlemagne, the dismembering of the Empire gave birth to the feudal system. It was under the dynasty of the Trencavels, from 1082 to 1209, that the town began to gain tremendous influence.  During this prosperous period, Catharism grew rapidly.  Crusade then took control and the citadel was reigned by Louis IX.  And the citadel also started to take the current shape.  It was burned down and rebuilt immediately in the 14th century. 

Louis chased all the catharism believers out of the fortress (now called the old town), but became soft hearten and built them dwellings outside the wall, now the area outside the old fortress, and across the Aude river is called the "New Town"

Our hotel is inside the old town.  The regular residence inside the old town are now about only 50 people.  Our hotel:  which has a beautiful lobby and a nice and quiet court yard.

Living inside the old town allowed us to see the place without the crowd in the morning, including witness the sunrise above the new town.

This year marks the 20 th anniversary of  Carcassonne being recognized as a UNESCO site.  In celebration of the event, an artist (Felice Varini) was invited to create an art for the town.  So this is what he did:  Circle, which could be seen only at a particular spot.  Otherwise, one can only see random yellow tapes here and there.

Felice Varini (born in Locarno in 1952) is a Paris-based, Swiss artist who was nominated for the 2000/2001 Marcel Duchamp Prize.  His work descriptions could be found at https://www.gwarlingo.com/2012/optical-illusions-of-felice-varini/

From the fortress's wall, one can overlook the new town:

The New Town:

One can walk on the old bridge above the Audi River and reach the new town.:
The new town was built with the streets well organized as grids, thanks to Louis IX .

We took a boat ride on the Canal Du Midi.  Very quiet and pretty:

One last look of the fortress from the new bridge:

 The mighty fortress overlooking the Audi River:
 The old bridge stood above the Audi River.  What

Tour of Northern Spain & Portugal - Pilgrimage into the Past

I joined this OAT tour plus a pre-trip to southern France from June 22 to July 15, 2018.  The southern France covered Carcassonne, Albi, and Bayonne, and was led by an interesting young Spanish/French man named Daniel.  The main part of the tour covered from Bilbao to Porto, led by Carmen Manzanares, and covered Bilbao, Guernica, Pamplona, some trails of Camino de Santiago, Leon, Santiago de Compostela, the seaside of Cambados, the Douro Valley, and Porto.
I have previously traveled to none of these places, and have looked forward to the trip tremendously.  As it turned out, I had a wonderful time and learned a lot about the local history, culture and people.

In the picture below, Daniel was showing how to pour out the local cider beer in Bayonne.

The following picture showed Carmen arranged a cake to be served to celebrate Cheryl's birthday.  The young lady on the right is Carmen.
We had a nice group started in Carcassonne.  This group turned out to become tighter even after 6 more passengers joined later in Bilbao for the main tour.
The following is a group picture in Carcassonne.
From left: Duff, Rick, Barb, Mike, Cheryl, Susan, Lorita, KC, and I. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

One beautiful day in June

Hope came to visit June 14-16.  We planned to visit Annapolis on Friday, the 15, as that's the only whole day we have for the weekend.  It turned out to be one gorgeous day.  We had blue sky, white cloud and relatively low humidity.  This is Hope's first visit to Annapolis.  We walked the narrow streets, did the boat ride and had the lunch we bought from a local deli.  Then we visited the Naval Academy.  We ate at the Iron Roaster, while sitting at an outside table and watching people go by.  We shared three appetizers and one entry.  Quite delicious.  Loved the weather, the scenery, the setting, and the company!  Indeed one beautiful day all right.

We even played a few hands of two people paper majong before call it a day.

Hiking in the Shenandoah National Park

In May, 2018, KC and I spent a week in the Massanutten Resort, where we used as a base to drive up and down the Skyline Drive and hiked on various trails inside the National Park or on the Appalachian trails.  We had only a couple of rainy days when we ended up visiting the Harrison burg.   The trails we did included Stony Mountain, Stony Man, Little Stony Man, Betty's Rock Hawksbill Mountain, Hightop Mountain, Loft Mountain, Rose River Falls, Dark Hollow Falls, Doyles River Falls, Jones River Falls, Big Meadows, Bearfence, Ivy Creek Overlook, Frazier Discovery (buggy!), Blackrock, and Little Calf Mountain.

I think that KC will always remember that the duck tape I carried in my backpack saved her hiking boots, whose sole came apart when we were on the Rose Rive Fall trail!  She managed to get the sole put back together by a shoe repairman in Harrison burg for only $20.  The guy shined it so beautifully.  They looked like new!!




Before we arrived back in Reisterstown, we stopped by to visit the Harper Ferry.  The Shenandoah  River was flooded.