Thursday, October 16, 2014

THIERS - a surprise stop to RIOM

I'd heard of Theirs in the Auvergne region through our France travel books but never made the visit despite being close by on a previous trip. The town's main commercial claim to fame was its knife manufacturing industry of which Sue after becoming aware, could not contain her excitement. Being a tragic cook, she has this knife fetish and travels with them. She now has two additions to the collection - one especially for boning fish.

Several past scenes are on show as you walk Theirs. Some today scenes differ little from  the past.
We parked at Rue Terrasse overlooking the valley. 
It's possible I may have a door or window fetish. It's hard not to when you see such age and art in many of them.

This half wood house is now the Tourism Centre (much the same as Montrichard, not far from where we will be staying tomorrow. 

The town itself is quite magical and our short lunchtime visit only gave us a glimpse of its hidden treasures. Sitting high in a ridge, it's buildings and streets follow the lay of the land with many windy and narrow passageways to explore. Although today there are many derelict medieval buildings, there are also an increasing restoration happening. These buildings date back to the 14th and 15th centuries when Theirs was in its most prosperous period up to the 18th century.

Supposedly the largest church dome in the Auvergne region.
We stumbled apon the Church of St Genes as we wandered aimlessly through the lane ways. Many flowers sat in the doorway when we arrived and we expect that there was a funeral service not far off in the afternoon.
We read in the notes provided while sitting inside the church that it was claimed to have been initially built in 575 and rebuilt in the 12th century. A small portion of the ancient fresco still remained and the stained glass was impressive for a small church.

Hard not to appreciate the stained glass as the sun pours through.
To the right are scenes of Adam and Eve. Click for a larger view. 
The church organ. It would take a rather slim and fit organist to climb  the very small enclosed stairway to the left. 

and yesteryear.
Not wanting to be there when the funeral service arrived, it was time to find some lunch. This we discovered in a half wooden medieval building around the corner. It was a Creperie and it seemed to be more locals than tourists eating there. We prefer this.
Behind the doors which seemed to accommodate a small number of tables, I later discovered that further stairways, both up and down opened up into further eating areas. It seemed that these rooms were carved out of the cliffside. Oh, yes - and the crepes with a beer went down well.

The Creperie was to the left via the wooden doors.
The same street scene.
We left the relaxed quietness of Theirs (approx 11,000 pop) for the larger busier town of Riom for our last overnight stay before reaching friends at Saint Romaine sur Cher, 250 kms away.

Tarare - A place we never heard of before

Tarare is about 20 odd kms further on from Lyon. We didn't want to stay in Lyon again. We were there previously and although we enjoyed it, we were sprinting across to the Loire to be with friends. Sue booked this place called Tarare in a four story, two century old villa outside of Tarare on the hill overlooking the village. On arrival we were pleasantly surprised by the villa and the surrounding gardens. The home is owned by Bruno and was established by his great grandfather who was a pharmacists of sorts. Bruno had posters of this ancestor's products and one suspects they were "cure all" concoctions. He told us he also started a newspaper of some controversial nature.

The autostrada high above the country road we travelled on.
We decided today to move from the AutoStrada to country roads.
You do save a lot of time however you do miss out on the little villages along the way.
The owner, Bruno told us that the house was built by his great grandfather so it has been in the family for three generations. He told us after breakfast that the section below where the guest rooms now are, were once a conservatory.

Bruno's modest Maison in Tarare.
The once Conservatory has been converted to 3 private guest rooms.

Although the gardens were a little unkempt on our arrival, Bruno and his lady were working on the property.

Scenes from Tarere
The village itself has an older historic section as most French villages do. In the 1700s it had a textile industry. Today its population is 11,000. I suspect that many of the young people have moved on to more prosperous areas, possibly Lyon to improve their lifestyle and future.

Along our travels in and out of Tarare, there were several aqueducts like to one you see here that we passed under.

Some of the half wooden structures still exist in Tarare.

I call these, "ghost signs" and I saw many as we were driving through small villages. The signs usually belong to businesses no long in existence. Some advertise auto or alcohol.
The other thing that intrigues me is the murals on walls, sometimes of a lady looking out a window where there is no window.
We were a bit tired after our drive from Chambery and through Lyon to Tarare and so Sue suggested maybe we should just have nibbles on the terrace outside our bedroom. Sounded good to me so it was terrines, pate, cheese and grapes with wine of both colours. A fitting end to the day.

We opened my bottle of Chianti presented for completing the 135 km L'Eroica course.
It would have been too heavy to take home anyway.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chambrey - Its a really nice place to be.

We left Torino, Italy to enter France over the Alps. The road took us 1200 metre and the mountains were high above us. The tunnel that cost us 45 euro took us under Mont Blanc and into France. At the time we thought OMG, the cost but when you consider the amazing human ingenuity to achieve such a great piece of engineering, why would you quibble about the cost?

The journey across the alps was hassle free and amazing to view although I think Sue saw more than me being the driver. The tunnel was 11.6 kms long. In 1999 there was an accident in the tunnel where 41 people perished in fire. I noted that today there is a precaution where cars must be 150m apart when in the tunnel.

The overnight stop was Chambery, a very pretty city with a high student population. After Italy, there seemed to be an appearance of freshness. The differences between Italy and France are noticeable from our point of view. Despite the young population in Chambery there was very little graffiti or senseless tagging yo that you see in Italy. The streets are tidy with little littering as well.
Chambery is a city of 90.000 and has the feel of Victoria's Bendigo, Ballarat and Tassie's Launceston with small city ambience.

Scenes from Chambery

We left Chambery around 11.00 after giving up getting a coffee and croissant after a 15 minute wait from a waitress with attitude and headed of to Tarare. Having travelled on so many autostrada and missing the countryside, we decided to program the GPS to "without tolls" - not a good idea....
Initially the journey for the first 20 kms was picturesque but further on it became quite industrial and then our GPS took us directly into Lyon rather than around it. We finally made Tarare mid afternoon feeling a little jaded but our energies were restored after being very surprised by our overnight accommodation. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

TORINO - Our last stop in Italy

Turin - Torino is our last stop in Italy and like any big city, it has the usual high end shops. Prada, Armani, Chanel and many others that I personally have no awareness of. Again, there is that mixture of beautifully groom locals and us rather casual (shabby) travellers.

We were informed only the night before we left that Torino had a great ancient Egyptian collection and so this was on our list for the afternoon. The city is set up on the grid system and is easy to navigate. Arriving on Sunday afternoon was a great benefit with very little traffic to contend with.
Sue had this museum on her list, seeing I spent time the day before at the Museo de Ciclismo...

Fortunately there was only a small wait in the short admission line and we took the advantage of a discount admission charge by showing our Australian Seniors cards. We get these at 60 back home but in Italy it is 65. We lied and although she didn't look at me twice, she did give Sue this look of " You must be Joking".

We learn't that the collection at Museo Egizio had a lot to give credit to Ernesto Schiaparelli who was not only a renown Egyptologist and a latter Director of the Turin Museum but the founder of Queen Nefertaris' and Kha's tomb. (as it happens, sometimes you learn more after experiences - Wikipedia has opened up more answers to my questions).

Although we have had some wonderful experiences in Italy, we are looking forward to entering France once again. There are differences and I'll offer our thoughts on this tomorrow.