Month: November 2017

Lucerne, Switzerland

We loved the picturesque, clean, friendly, city of Lucerne.  The view from our hotel balcony included the 14th century wooden Chapel Bridge that crosses the Reuss river with a snow-covered Mt. Pilatus in the background.  Our hotel, the Des Alpes, was in a restored ca.1600 building located in the heart of the historic pedestrian downtown.  The staff at the hotel went out of their way to make sure we were enjoyed our stay.  In addition to the complimentary breakfast every morning, we had a couple of delicious meals in the restaurant.  Every restaurant we tried in Lucerne seemed better than the one before.  I had the best cannelloni ever at a restaurant a few doors from our hotel!

Lucerne was a few hours by train from Montreux, but it felt as if we were in a different country.  Montreux is a resort town and very French; Lucerne is the capital of the German-speaking portion of the country and is a center for economics, transportation, culture, and media.  Located on the shores of the river, the terrain is relatively flat, and we found it easy to walk everywhere we wanted to go.

One day, we walked to the Lion of Lucerne, the very moving monument created in 1821 to commemorate the Swiss Guards, who were massacred in 1792, during the French Revolution.  It was a short walk down the hill to the Hofkirche St. Leodegar, built in 1639 on the foundation of a previous Roman basilica which had burnt in 1633.  The church survived the Reformation because the papal nuncio, resident in Luzerne, used the church as his cathedral during that time.

Another afternoon, we took a one-hour cruise on the Yacht Saphir.  The panoramic views of Lake Lucerne, hill-side villas, and distant mountains made me forget the chilly breeze and enjoy the perfect sunshine as I took photos from the open bow of the yacht.

The Jesuit Church of Lucerne is the first large baroque church built in Switzerland north of the Alps.  Lucerne participated in the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic fight against Protestantism that was lead by Zwingli in Zurich and Calvin in Geneva.  The mayor of Lucerne offered financial support from his private funds to support the Jesuits.  The impressive church is located on the banks of the Reuss at the end of Chapel Bridge.  It has one of the most splendid interiors of any church we have visited.  Although we’ve visited an extraordinary number of churches during the past few months, we’ve learned so much about the history of the towns we’ve visited because the church was, and remains today, a central part of daily life.

 

Chapel Bridge
Chapel Bridge and Hotel Des Alpes

 

 

Jesuit Church
Chapel Bridge and Train Station Night View

 

Hotel Des Alpes Mural
Hotel Des Alpes from Chapel Bridge

 

Lucerne Swan
Lucerne Swan

 

Lucerne Lakefront
Yacht Saphir

 

Mount Pilatus

 

Lake Lucerne Cruise
Lake Lucerne Cruise

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Lucerne Cruise
Lake Lucerne Cruise
Lake Lucerne Sunrise

 

Lake Lucerne Sunrise

 

Lion of Lucerne
Lucerne Building

 

Hofkirche Lucerne
Hofkirche Lucerne

 

Hofkirche Lucerne
Hofkirche Lucerne

 

Jesuit Church Lucerne

 

Jesuit Church Ceiling
Jesuit Church Lucerne

 

Jesuit Church Organ

 

Jesuit Church Lucerne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesuit Church Lucerne
Lucerne Nativity

 

Montreux and Lausanne, Switzerland

Getting to Montreux from Cheltenham proved to be a bit of a challenge.  We left Cheltenham on the train at 8:30 in the morning and after a change of stations from Paddington to St. Pancras International in London, we boarded the TGV for Paris.  Traveling at speeds up to 200 mph, the TGV is quiet and luxurious.  We arrived at Paris Nord station on time and our transfer driver was waiting to take us to Paris Lyon Gare.  In London, we had been subject to a rigorous screening process prior to boarding, not so in Paris.  No screening whatsoever!  We finally made it on our next train after a bit of confusion in Paris and headed for Geneva.   We arrived in Geneva on time, but unfortunately, we had missed the last connection to Montreux.  The next connection was at 5 am.  We couldn’t get a hotel room at any price in Geneva, but a kindly clerk in a nearby hotel allowed us to spend the time before our train in the hotel lobby.  We boarded the 5am train and arrived in Montreux at 6am.  Our room was ready and the nice man at reception allowed us to have it early.  We were exhausted and needed a few hours sleep to recover.   We later discovered that a United Nations meeting in Geneva was the reason there were no rooms available.

Our hotel, the Eden Palace au Lac, was very elegant and our balcony provided a great view of Lake Geneva, the Alps, and even Mont Blanc.  We took a long walk along the lake front and then headed into town to find some lunch.  Our first meal was at a small local Italian restaurant, Le Globe Cafe.  The food was authentic and the local atmosphere very homey.  We walked around town and window shopped for awhile then headed back to our hotel.  We toured the Chateau de Chillon, ate at a restaurant, The Brasserie, that served an interesting black rice paella, had several breakfasts at a wonderful tea room/coffee shop, Zurcher, just around the corner from our hotel and generally just enjoyed being in the beautiful lakeside resort of Montreux.

We rode the train to Lausanne one day and toured the Notre Dame Cathedral, consecrated by Pope Gregory X in 1275.  The Protestant Reformation, a movement which originated in Zurich, significantly affected the Cathedral.  The Cathedral, the capital of French-speaking Switzerland, is viewed as one of the most beautiful gothic art monuments in Europe and attracts nearly half a million visitors annually.  After visiting the Cathedral, we took the Metro, the underground subway, to the lakefront where I took photos of the marina area before re-boarding the Metro for the train station to return to Montreux.  Buddy remained in Lausanne to shop.

One morning after breakfast, we strolled through the area adjacent to our hotel, where preparations for the Christmas Market were underway.  The Christmas Market was going to be huge, stretching for almost a mile along the lakefront.  Too bad, we were leaving for Lucerne the next day and would miss the festivities.

 

Eden Palace au Lac
Eden Palace au Lac

 

Lake Geneva Sunset

 

Mont Blanc
Cafe le Globe

 

Montreux Lakefront Walk
Montreux Lakefront Walk

 

Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral

 

Lausanne Harbor
Lausanne Swan

 

Lake Geneva Sunset
Mont Blanc Sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chateau de Chillon

The Castle of Chillon, one of the most picturesque and interesting monuments in Switzerland, owes its world-wide fame primarily to Lord Byron’s poem The Prisoner of Chillon.  Francois Bonivard, a Genevois monk and the subject of the poem, was born ca. 1493 and died in 1570/71.  In 1530, he was taken prisoner by the powerful Duke of Savoy.  He was held prisoner, the last 4 years in chains, in the dungeon of Chillon.  He was liberated when the Bermese captured the castle in 1536.

Lord Byron wrote the narrative poem in 1816, almost 300 years after Bonivard was held captive, after sailing on Lake Geneva with his friend Percy Bysshe Shelley and stopping to visit the Chateau de Chillon.  Byron was inspired by Bonivard’s story and wrote The Sonnet of Chillon, later composing the longer fable.

Our visit to Chillon was an easy ride on the free bus from our hotel in Montreux.  We spent several hours touring the castle and were very impressed by the well-preserved dungeons, and towers.  Although Chillon occupies a small rock islet in beautiful Lake Geneva, and it was a bright sunny afternoon, we felt a definite chill when touring the dungeons, sight of so many human atrocities.

 

Chateau de Chillon
Chateau de Chillon

 

Chateau de Chillon
Chateau de Chillon

 

Chateau de Chillon Wine Cellar

 

Buddy in Chillon Wine Cellar
Passage to Dungeon
The Prisoner of Chillon

 

Lord Byron Plaque in Dungeon

 

Display of Carved Chests
Sleeping Quarters

 

Vaud Canton Emblem Above Door
Family Chapel

 

Interior Courtyard

 

Interior Courtyard
Interior Courtyard

 

Chateau de Chillon
Chateau de Chillon

 

 

Cheltenham and the Cotswolds

We saved the best of England for our last stop.  Cheltenham was our favorite of all the places we visited in England.  The fact that our friends, Gill and Phil, were such gracious hosts may have influenced us a bit.  My friend, Carol, flew over from San Antonio to spend a week with us and I enjoyed getting to “catch up” on all the news of my friends at Sonterra.  Carol stayed with Gill and Phil in their lovely new home and Buddy and I stayed in our AirBnB apartment near the center of town.  It was easy to understand why Gill and Phil chose to live in Cheltenham.  Their new spacious contemporary town home was within walking distance of everything.  I expected Cheltenham to be a large village with Cotswold stone cottages.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  It is a modern town with upscale shopping and excellent restaurants.  It hosts several cultural events throughout the year and is clean and safe. Not only did Gill and Phil take us to visit all the wonderful sights such as Stonehenge, Avebury, Stow-on-the-Wold, etc., they entertained us, chauffeured us, and served the most delicious food almost every night.  We were thoroughly pampered!

I especially enjoyed seeing their previous home in the small village of Cowley and visiting their church.  Gill invited us to join her at the Vicar’s home for the showing of a video about Martin Luther and the Reformation.  We were served homemade lasagna, made by the Vicar’s wife, and got to meet several of her fellow parishioners.  Buddy got to put his hand in Seven Springs, a source of the River Thames, during our visit to the Cowley area.  I thoroughly enjoyed attending Remembrance Sunday services with Gill at the small parish church in Cowley while Phil and Buddy dropped Carol off at Heathrow for her flight home.

Gill’s cousin Ian and his friend, Fred, from Australia shared a delicious dinner prepared by Phil one evening.  We exchanged info with Fred and plan to look him up when we are in Australia.  Another evening, their friends, Barbara and Jerry joined us for another great dinner by Phil.  Barbara had been to San Antonio with Gill and Phil and Carol and I enjoyed having an opportunity to see her again.

We reluctantly said goodbye to our wonderful friends, Phil and Gill, but we hope to see them in San Antonio on their next visit.

 

Cowley Church
Cowley Church

 

Cowley Church Altar
Cowley Church Organ
Cowley Churchyard
Cowley Resort

 

Buddy at Seven Springs
Seven Springs

 

Hill Barn – Phil and Gill’s Previous Home
Hill Barn Sign

Gloucester Docks

It was Carol’s last day in Cheltenham so we visited the Gloucester Docks for a brief view of the collection of converted Victorian warehouses, shops, museums, restaurants, and cafes.  We didn’t stop to shop in the Quays Outlet Center since our luggage space is limited.  We enjoyed wandering around the interesting redeveloped Victorian port and stopped for a quick snack and drinks at the Portivo Lounge, a unique bar and restaurant located within an old corn mill near the Quay shops.  Several large canal boats were in residence taking advantage of the shops and restaurants.  Preparations were underway for the Christmas market and upcoming holiday events.  Gloucester has done a remarkable job preserving the history of the docks and creating an atmosphere that attracts both residents and visitors.  We continued our stroll around the port and took lots of interesting photos before heading back to Cheltenham.

 

Gloucester Docks Sign
Gloucester Docks

 

Mariners’ Church
Gloucester Docks
Gloucester Docks
Gloucester Docks
Christmas Decor above TGIF’s
Gloucester Quays Shops
Gloucester Docks
Canal Boats
Canal Boats
Gloucester Docks – Carol, Buddy, and Phil
Dry Dock

 

Gloucester Docks Apartments

 

 

Gloucester Docks
Gloucester Docks – Gill and Phil

 

Gloucester Docks

Cirencester Abbey and Corinium Museum

We visited Cirencester Abbey, also known as the Church of St. John the Baptist, and the nearby Corinium Museum in Cirencester, the largest town in the Cotwsolds with our Cheltenham friends, Gill and Phil and my friend, Carol from San Antonio.

Cirencester Abbey was originally an Augustinian monastery in 1117 and was founded on the site of an earlier church, the oldest known Saxon church in England.  The original monastery was suppressed in 1539 by Henry VIII.  The evolution of the current church is controversial and the result of a long- standing feud between the townspeople and the abbey.  Nevertheless, we found the experience enlightening and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit in the abbey, the largest parish church in England.

We were particularly impressed with the Anne Boleyn Cup, a 16th century gilded silver goblet, on display in the church.  We also enjoyed the display of poppies honoring Remembrance Day.

After visiting the abbey, we walked down the street to the Corinium Museum to learn about the Roman history of the area.  Most of the exhibits were from the Roman town of Corinium Dobunnorum, but the museum also includes material from the Neolithic age up through Victorian times.  Most impressive was the collection of 2nd and 4th century Roman mosaic floors and carvings.  It reminded me of my visit to Pompeii.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy the museum because 60 screaming school children were visiting and running everywhere.  We finally gave up and adjourned to the tea shop next door to have some snacks and wait for Gill and Phil to return from their shopping.

 

Cirencester Abbey
Cirencester Abbey

 

Cirencester Abbey Organ
Cirencester Abbey

 

Cirencester Abbey Altar

 

Cirencester Abbey
Cirencester Abbey
Anne Boleyn Cup
The Boleyn Cup Sign

 

Poppies Display
Cirencester Abbey

 

Cirencester Abbey
Cirencester Abbey

 

Corinium Museum
Museum Banner
Corinium Museum

 

Corinium Museum
Corinium Museum

 

Corinium Museum
Corinium Museum
Corinium Museum

 

Corinium Museum
Corinium Museum

 

Corinium Museum

 

 

Cotswolds Villages

Rick Steves’ show about the Cotswolds featured a segment on Stow-on-the-Wold and the quaint stone village made my list of places to visit on this trip.  Our friends, Phil and Gill, dropped Carol, Buddy, and me in the village and went to visit an elderly friend in the area.  We walked the streets and took photos for a while and decided we needed a break to warm up.  We found a nice bright restaurant called The Hive and decided to order brunch.  Carol and I found their mashed avocado on toast delicious!  After brunch and some nice hot tea, we ventured back into the square.  Our friends found us in a small shop nearby and suggested we visit Bourton on the Water.

Bourton on the Water is a large village, but we just made a brief stop for photos at the bridges over the River Windrush before proceeding to Lower Slaughter, voted most beautiful village in the Cotswolds.  The 19th century water mill on the River Eye offered a great photo opportunity.  We then drove down the road to 17th Century Slaughter Manor.  I took a few photos and we headed back to Cheltenham.

Stow-on-the-Wold

 

Stow-on-the-Wold
Stow-on-the-Wold
Stow-on-the-Wold
Stow-on-the-Wold

 

 

 

Bourton on the Water

 

Bourton on the Water
Bourton on the Water

 

Lower Slaughter Mill
Lower Slaughter Mill

 

Lower Slaughter Mill
Lower Slaughter Mill

 

Lower Slaughter River Eye
Slaughter Manor
Slaughter Manor
Slaughter Manor

 

Slaughter Manor

Gloucester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey

It was a rainy, drizzly day so we decided to visit the Cathedral and the Abbey.  Our first stop was in Gloucester at the Cathedral.  We had a slight detour around the construction of the new courtyard, but we finally made our way inside.

The magnificent Cathedral was built in 1100 as a Norman abbey church and survived the Dissolution thanks to its historical connection with the monarchy.  It was from this church that William I ordered the Domesday Book.  It has been the location of filming more than one Harry Potter movie.  It was also the venue for the crowning of young Henry III, and it was the burial site for the murdered King Edward II in 1330.  This was probably the reason King Henry VIII didn’t destroy the Cathedral during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  The cloisters were used in the filming of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for some Hogwarts School scenes.  We spent a while taking photos and enjoying the beautiful Cathedral before visiting the gift shop.

Our next stop was Tewkesbury Abbey, the Abbey Church of St. Mary the Virgin, a former Benedictine monastery started in the 12th Century.   After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it became the parish church for the town.  The building was a sanctuary for some of the defeated Lancastrians after the Battle of Tewkesbury in the War of the Roses in 1471 and had to be purified and re-consecrated after the Yorkist forced their way into the abbey resulting in bloodshed.

We stopped in the Abbey’s Tea Shop for tea and cake to get out of the rain.  I was surprised to find a banner for “de Hastings” among several banners hanging from the beams in the shop.  No one seemed to know the origin of the banners.

Gloucester Cathedral Ceiling
Gloucester Cathedral

 

Gloucester Cathedral
Edward, The Black Prince

 

King Edward II’s Effigy
Gloucester Cathedral
King Edward II Sign
Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral Cloisters
Gloucester Cathedral Abbess

 

Tewkesbury Abbey
Tewkesbury Abbey

 

Tewkesbury Abbey
Tewkesbury Abbey

 

Tewkesbury Abbey
Tewkesbury Abbey

 

Tewkesbury Abbey
Tewkesbury Abbey

 

Tewkesbury Abbey
Tewkesbury Abbey

 

de Hastings Banner

 

 

Stonehenge and Avebury

Stonehenge has always been on my bucket list.  The afternoon we visited was a perfect time for photos.  We visited the visitors center before boarding the bus to the site.   Construction of the prehistoric ring of standing stones occurred between 3000 BC and 2000 BC.  Each stone is approximately 13 ft. high, 7 ft. wide and weighs around 25 tons.  The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is owned by the Crown and managed by the National Trust.

Stonehenge was a burial site and in 2013 a team of archaeologists excavated more than 50,000 cremated bones of 63 individuals buried at the site.   The bluestones were transported by the builders from over 150 miles away in the hills of modern-day Pembrokeshire in Wales.  A decapitated 7th Century Saxon man was excavated from the site in 1923.  Progress in research and technology continues and studies of the area reveal new information constantly.

Hundreds visit the site during the solstice and conduct rituals and ceremonies. Access to the site is restricted to prevent damage to the stones, so visitors cannot touch the stones.  Despite the presence of so many visitors, there is an aura of quiet reverence about the site.

We left Stonehenge and drove a short 30 minutes to the site of Avebury, which couldn’t have been more different.  Older than Stonehenge, the site began evolving around the 4th millenium BCE.  By the Iron Age, the site had been abandoned and during the Early Middle Ages, a village was built around the monument, eventually extending into it.  It was strange to literally drive thru the circle of stones, which wasn’t protected like Stonehenge, even though both were UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  The site contains the largest megalithic stone circle in the world and is both a tourist attraction and a place of religious importance to contemporary pagans.  We were able to walk among the stones accompanied by a small herd of sheep.  We took several photos since the light was beginning to fade and headed back to Cheltenham.

 

Stonehenge Visitors Center
Stonehenge

 

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

 

Stonehenge
Stonehenge

 

Stonehenge
Avebury

 

Avebury

 

Avebury
Avebury

 

Avebury
Avebury

 

 

Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury is a small city with lots of CHARACTER!  Canterbury Cathedral is the main church of the Anglican Church of England and home to the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The cathedral became a center of pilgrimage following the 1170 martyrdom of Thomas Becket.  A journey of pilgrims to Becket’s shrine was the subject of Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th century classic The Canterbury Tales.

The architecture in Canterbury was so interesting, I found myself constantly stopping to take photos of the many unique buildings dating back hundreds of years.  The modern shop fronts below historic buildings provide an eclectic atmosphere and a photographer’s paradise.

The highlight of my visit to Canterbury was the opportunity to attend the All Saints’ Sunday Sung Eucharist service in the cathedral.  Nothing beats being in the right place at the right time!  What a wonderful, meaningful experience!

Our room at the small boutique, Canterbury Hotel was small but made up for it in ambiance and the friendly staff.  The breakfast buffet had delicious warm croissants and fresh fruit every morning in addition to the cooked to order breakfast.  It was in walking distance to the city center and the train station.  The staff, especially Simon, went out of their way to see that we were pleased with the hotel.   I had one of the best hot stone massages ever at the hotel spa!

I decided to splurge on a dessert at the local restaurant, Creams, located just a few blocks from the cathedral.  Their freshly made Belgian waffle was accompanied by hot apple pie, warm custard, and salted caramel gelato.  It was worth every calorie!!!  Our last meal in Canterbury was at a local Italian restaurant, Pinocchio’s.  I enjoyed the daily special, tagliatelle with smoky mushroom and veal ragu.  It was as good as anything I had during my month in Italy.

 

Canterbury Cathedral

 

Canterbury Cathedral Entrance Gate
Canterbury Cathedral

 

Edward, The Black Prince
Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral

 

Canterbury Cathedral
Trinity Chapel Becket’s Shrine

 

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral

 

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral

 

St. Augustine’s Anniversary Clock
Canterbury Cathedral

 

Canterbury Square
Canterbury City Wall
Canterbury Castle
Canterbury Architecture

 

Canterbury Architecture
Canterbury Architecture

 

Canterbury Architecture
Canterbury Architecture

 

Canterbury Architecture

 

Canterbury Architecture
Canterbury Festival Banner
Canterbury Hotel Garden
Geoffrey Chaucer Statue