Fieldtrip Files: Ronda

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Ronda

Where: Ronda, Spain

When: February 2015–My sister and I arrived in Granada, stayed for 3 days and traveled to Seville for the next 6 days.  Seville was homebase for the latter part of the trip and we took two days for field trips to nearby Cordoba & Ronda.

Weather conditions: Mid to high 60s F but in the higher altitudes it was very breezy and cool.  The sunshine just poured over us throughout the day-perfect walking weather.

How did I get there? My sister booked a small group excursion on the internet which included city pickup and drop off and travel to Ronda with a guide.  We had a stop in Zahara–one of the remaining white villages.  The excursion also included a walking tour with a local Ronda resident and a visit to a winery for a tasting, the bullring tour, and a church once the site of a mosque. Tip: Always confirm the booking when you arrive into your city.  We waited at the pick up site for almost two hours.  We finally called to find out that the travel agency we booked through never followed through with Spanish travel agency actually executing the trip.  Luckily for us, the tour guide was reached just as they left Seville and they turned around for us.  We were so lucky!

How long?: We were picked up at approximately 8:30 am (8am if things had gone as planned) and we were dropped off in the city center by 5:30 pm [we were in good hands with Jesus as our driver ;)-his name was really Jesus].

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Fieldtrip Files: Royal Cribs-Versailles Palace in France

King Louis XIV-google images

King Louis XIV-google images

Versailles BEFORE Louis XIV changed it into the luxurious palace today-wikipedia images

Versailles BEFORE Louis XIV changed it into the luxurious palace today-wikipedia images

The History:

Versailles was built or rather rebuilt by the Sun King aka Louis XIV  from a smaller hunting lodge of his father, Louis XIII, in the small village of Versailles around 1661 and completed in 1682.  Louis XIV was inspired (by jealousy) to build Versailles after he was invited by his superintendent of finances (Nicolas Fouquet) to his new country home Vaux le Vicomte designed and built by three amazing artisans:  Le Vau, Le Brun, and Le Notre.   Fouquet came from one of the four wealthiest families in France–the King would go to him to get a loan to finance war against another country–France did not have a national banking system at this time.  Louis saw the extravagant building (complete with the first domed ceiling in France by a Florentine trained architect) and Italian gardens and he believed Fouquet misappropriated France’s money.  So on charges of treason (widely believed to be trumped up by Louis himself), Fouquet was arrested and exiled from France.  And Louis started building Versailles using the same builders and designers (Le Vau, Le Brun, and Le Notre) and confiscating the furnishings and statuary from Vaux le Vicomte for use at Versailles.

Walking to the front gates from the train station.

Walking to the front gates from the train station.

King Louis XIV aka "The Sun King"

King Louis XIV aka “The Sun King”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Backstory:

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Paris three times and Versailles twice.  The first time I saw Versailles, it was 1989 and I was a 15 y/o on a school trip during Easter week that was a whirlwind tour through Paris, Nimes, Nice, Monaco, and Geneva.  Versailles was scheduled as an early morning visit–I remember the cold, gray light of the very early morning when we disembarked the bus to see different parts of the estate and gardens before going inside for a tour of the chateau.  We peeked through the windows of the  Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon homes which were used for storage and not open to the public.   We also visited the hamlet that Marie Antoinette played shepherdess in.

The first visit I was awestruck by the grandeur, especially as it was my first time seeing such sights.  I’ve never been to Europe let alone a palace.  My french teacher, Madame Nystrom, prepared us well for the historical sights we were going to encounter–her French classes not only included French vocabulary and grammar, but an immersion in French food, history, and culture during her class period.  She was obsessed with the Revolutionary-Napoleonic eras of French history so we actually knew quite a bit.

The second time I visited Versailles it was close to 20-25 years after the first time I visited Paris. I was embarking on my first solo trip to a non-English speaking country to see how I would survive.  It was a test for my solo traveling self.  Of course, I chose a non-English speaking country with an official language I studied previously and a country I previously visited albeit with a  large tour group.

So I digress–sorry for the walk, or marathon rather, down memory lane.

Map of estate--this is just the main house--none of the hundreds of outbuildings, hamlet, home farm, and plus two summerhouses (Le Grand Trianon & Le Petit Trianon) are pictured here.

Map of estate–this is just the main house–none of the hundreds of outbuildings, hamlet, home farm, and plus two summerhouses (Le Grand Trianon & Le Petit Trianon) are pictured here.

The How To:

When I revisited Paris, I purchased a Paris Pass that included a free skip the line ticket (€20) to Versailles.  Part of my process when determining if purchasing the city tourist pass is listing what I want to see and cross referencing it with the free or discounted entry fees to see if it’s worth the investment.  Truthfully, the pass was worth it alone for saving me a 4 hour ( at minimum) wait at the Louvre (throughout the Rue de Richelieu entrance) and the free Versailles ticket.  I wasn’t sure how to get to Versailles because everything I saw were group tours for €60 that included transportation from Paris and entrance to Versailles.

In my research, I stumbled upon a blog that a man wrote explaining step by step of how to get to Versailles using the RER C train station by the Eiffel tower and walking to Versailles from the train station (Versailles Rive Gauche).  So I spent €6 for a round trip RER rail ticket to Paris-Versailles and nothing else because I used my Paris Pass for my entrance.   It was literally two blocks from the train station–just follow the crowds.  Outside of the gates are the original stables, then the large car park, and finally a trailer (not sure if that’s permanent) as a ticket booth/security check.  I remember turning the corner and stopping a moment because I couldn’t believe I was standing so close to the palace from train station. I made it there before opening hours.  I filed into the Paris Pass line and 20 minutes later, I was inside.  The chateau fills up quickly and the crowds were deep and swift moving.  It made it hard to really enjoy the chateau.  I read on a travel question/answer blog a suggestion of  touring the gardens first and going into the palace around 3pm when the crowds have dispersed (next time, I guess).

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King Louis XIV’s original bedroom faced the front courtyard and it was located dead center of the main building. The Hall of Mirrors was added in the back facing the gardens. Louis XIV used it as a passage to and from his bedroom.

Front Gate to inner courtyard

Front Gate to inner courtyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Visit:

I took the little hop on/ hop off trolley train (maybe €1-2) to get around the estate–the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon.  Both buildings are now open and I really loved going through them–less people venture there and you can really enjoy the tour.  Versailles is still a working farm and it provides all the restaurants on the estate with the produce, dairy products, and probably meat products.  I was in France in April which should have pleasant, but cool weather; however, it was a heat wave–everyday spiked temperatures over 80–so I enjoyed a fresh squeezed orange juice from the orangery.  It was the best orange juice I’ve ever had in my life!  I had two–I didn’t care that I paid €2 (almost $4 during that time) for a pixie cup of cold orange juice.

The orangery

The orangery

On Sundays, the fountains are running and I’ve never seen them in full force.  But I hear the crowds are so overwhelming it’s hard to enjoy the visit.  Maybe one day, but I rather think I would return to delve more deeply into the gardens and the Grand Canal.  They have golf carts you can rent–that might be fun to get around in.

Gardens--Grand canal where mock naval battles were performed.--lots of zoom to get a closer look

Gardens–Grand canal where mock naval battles were performed.–lots of zoom to get a closer look

So Versailles is a royal crib that is worth visiting.  For more information visit http://en.chateauversailles.fr/homepage.

Garden outside of main house

Garden outside of main house

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Queen's Bedroom

Queen’s Bedroom

King's Bedroom

King’s Bedroom

 

Fieldtrip Files: Villa Adriana & Villa d’Este–Tivoli, Italy

I wrote a blog about planning my first visit to Italy and a commenter replied that I had to see Villa d’Este.  It wasn’t to be missed.  When it came to planning my field trips outside of Rome–Tivoli was high on my list of possiblilities.  I found a day trip for a half day visit to Villa Adriana or Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Italy about 20 miles outside of Rome.  I booked it for the last day before I left Rome–a good choice because I returned to Rome with time to squeeze in a last minute visit to one of the many beautiful cathedrals (Santa Maria Maggiore) and grab a wonderfully filling and delicious gnocchi dinner.

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Fieldtrip Files: Kronberg Slot aka Hamlet’s Castle

Where: Helsingor (aka Elsinore), DK –A town on the northeastern tip of Zealand

map to kronberg

When: August 2015

Weather conditions: 65 F+ throughout the day and  breezy with beautiful sunshine beaming down–being on the Baltic Sea made it necessary to use my scarf and light cardigan while walking the sea wall overlooking Helsingborg, Sweden

How did I get there? 45 minute train ride from Copenhagen central train station.  Kronberg Slot is within walking distance of the train/ferry terminal–just follow the white stencil castles on the sidewalk!

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Fieldtrip Files: Cordoba

Where: Cordoba, Spain

When: February 2015–My sister and I arrived in Granada, stayed for 3 days and traveled to Seville for the next 6 days.  Seville was homebase for the latter part of the trip and we took two days for field trips to nearby Cordoba & Ronda.

Weather conditions: 65 F+ throughout the day, breezy, and beautiful sunshine beaming down on us

How did we get there? 45 minute train ride from Seville and quick taxi ride to the Mezquita. It was a self directed tour of the city–we wound up just starting from the Mezquita and walking back to the train station–slowly winding our way through the narrow, twisty streets and making many stops along the way to significant historical sites.

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