Category Archives: France

Postcards From France

More memories, this time from Family Holidays in Northern France (1978-2017)…


On This Day – Strasbourg in France

Continuing with my look back through the archives, on February 5th 2008 I was in the French City of Strasbourg…

Strasbourg is the seventh largest city in France and is regarded as the cultural cross roads between Germanic and Latin culture. I

n the recent past Strasbourg has been passed between Germany and France like an unwilling baton in a relay race. Before the French Revolution it was a free city but the fanatical Jacobins seized it for the Republic. In 1870 after the Franco-Prussian war culminated in the creation of modern Germany it was ceded to Berlin but after the First-World-War in 1918 it returned to France. In 1940 the Nazis seized the city and it was liberated again in 1944 and has remained French thereafter

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Travel Challenge Day 10 – The Answer

Most of you will have spotted that yesterday’s Travel Challenge picture was Paris and of course you were right but it may not have been the Paris that you were thinking of because this is Paris at the Walt Disney World’s EPCOT theme park in Florida USA.

I visited World Showcase in May 1990.

This, it has to be said, is an odd place – at the same time both intriguing and disappointing.  In the beginning it was the vision of Walt Disney himself –  to build a new city of the future but after he died the Disney Corporation accountants gained control, declared it self indulgent, too expensive and not commercial enough and everything was downsized until it became nothing more than an add-on theme park to Magic Kingdom without any of the Magic.

World Showcase consists of eleven countries from around the World.  The French Pavilion had a boring film about how wonderful the place is and some external sets representing Paris with an elusive Eiffel Tower seen in the distance from every angle and authenticity provided by men in striped shirts and berets and playing the accordion.

For people who imagine that Paris is full of men in berets, black and white hooped shirts, a string of onions around their necks, playing the accordion and speaking like Peter Sellers in the ‘Pink Panther’ films then EPCOT  is wonderfully accurate but actually I think I have to say that it is probably one of the worst representations of all in World Showcase.

There were the obligatory French restaurants, a patisserie and an ice cream parlour and a stroll along the Seine lined with shops and hand carts.  My only recollection is that I was seriously underwhelmed.  I had only recently been to real Paris and that had been far more satisfying.

That’s because I believe that  the only way to see Paris is to do it properly as I did when I visited the French capital in 2002 and rather like EPCOT, where you can see a whole country in just a few minutes, I saw the major sites in a foot-slogging, energy-sapping half a day and invented what my son subsequently called ‘speed-sightseeing’!

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Postcard From France – The Canal du Midi

The idea of creating a waterway as a shortcut between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea had captured the imagination of successive French Kings and governments since Roman times. The regional route overland was slow, uncomfortable and haunted by bandits; the two thousand mile passage by sea took at least a month and was also dangerous as ships negotiating the Spanish coast dodged storms and Barbary pirates to pass through the Strait of Gibraltar.

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Postcard From Cahors in France

In the early summer of 1998 the Times Newspaper ran a daily competition one week to win a prize of an all expenses paid trip for two nights in an up market Relais and Chateau Hotel somewhere in Europe. One day the competition required answers to three questions about Santiago de Compostela in Galicia and the Way of St James.

I was confident of the answers and telephoned them in several times over the course of the day.

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On This Day – Castres in South of France

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 18th October 2011 I was in the delightful town of Castres in the South of France…

Lining the river on the right bank were les Maisons sur l’Agout which is the old medieval riverside quarter where the old tanners’ and weavers’ half timbered houses with running balconies overhang the water and their colourful shutters and windows cast reflections on the gentle water of the river. It reminded me of Girona in Catalonia although this was much smaller in scale and rather more attractive.

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My Lead Soldier Collection – The Norman Conquest

Norman Knights 1066

William the Conqueror and a Norman Knight.

In England we have to National Day, no Independence Day, I am willing to wager that not many people would know the date of St George’s Day, in fact we tend to celebrate a day when we were invaded and lost our Independence.

The Norman Conquest of England is quite unique.  By their very nature most hostile invasions and occupations end up being only rather temporary but in this case, not so.

The Year 1066 is probably the most memorable in English history.  On October 14th (now officially Hastings Day) that year Harold, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England and most of his army with him were cut down in battle and William, Duke of Normandy earned his nickname “William the Conqueror”.

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My Lead Soldier Collection – English Standard Bearer at Agincourt

Agincourt Knight

I visited the Agincourt site in August 2013 and after a short drive from our hotel we arrived at the site of the battle that doesn’t seem anything special now after all this time and if we hadn’t been paying attention we may well have missed what is now a rather unremarkable field in northern France.

The signage isn’t very special either…

Agincourt Field

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On This Day – Napoleon Bonaparte and La Colonne de la Grande Armée

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 18th August 2013 I was in Boulogne in Northern France…

La Colonne de la Grande Armée

La Colonne de la Grande Armée is a monument constructed in the 1840s and is a fifty-three metre-high column topped with a statue of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

It marks the location of the base camp where Napoleon  assembled an army of eighty thousand men all reeking of garlic, singing  ‘La Marseillaise’ and impatient to invade England.  It was initially intended to commemorate a successful campaign, but this proved to be rather premature and as he didn’t quite manage that it now remembers instead the first distribution of the Imperial Légion d’honneur.

Like most of history’s tyrants there are not many statues of Bonaparte but although there are no statues of Stalin or Hitler or Franco for example a few of Napoleon remain.  In addition to this one there are two in Paris at Les Invalides and another at Place Vendome, there are two statues of him depicted as Mars the Peacemaker, one at Aspley House in London (the home of the Duke of Wellington) and another in Milan and there is a monument to him in Warsaw in Poland to commemorate the establishment of the Duchy of Warsaw by Napoleon in 1807.

I confess that I have always been an admirer of Napoleon, setting aside his aggressive military ambitions I tend to concur with the assessment of British historian Andrew Roberts…

“The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire.”

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Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

On This Day – The Blockhaus d’Éperlecques

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 11th August 2013 I was in Northern France…

The Blockhaus d'Éperlecque

The Blockhaus d’Éperlecques was a giant bunker built by Nazi Germany between March 1943 and July 1944 and was originally intended to be a launching facility for the V2 ballistic missile. It was designed to accommodate over one hundred missiles at a time and to launch up to thirty-six a day all destined to land and explode on London and the South-East of England.

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