Martin Orr's Blog


Posted by Martin Orr on Monday, 18 August 2008 at 14:34

My final night was spent in Cherbourg, from where I got the ferry back to Rosslare. I had most of a day in Cherbourg, but because I had to lug my big rucksack around with me I wasn't able to do very much. I wanted to visit the museum of the sea, with centrepiece a decommissioned nuclear submarine, but there was nowhere I could leave the rucksack. So I just wandered around, enjoyed being near the sea and sat in the ferry terminal - which, like the Stena terminal in Belfast, didn't really feel like it was designed to be walked to.

no comments Tags france, holiday


Posted by Martin Orr on Friday, 15 August 2008 at 20:47

After leaving Limoux, my next stop was in Tours, near the low end of the Loire. This was quite a bit further north, so pleasantly cooler than Limoux and Barcelona. It was a quiet and pleasant city. Its most famous feature (for me anyway!) was as the home of St Martin. His tomb was a popular pilgrimage site from the Dark Ages onwards, although the huge church over it was completely destroyed in the French Revolution. The tomb was rediscovered later in the 19th century and a new smaller, but still large, Romanesque basilica constructed. The Gothic cathedral is rather less impressive. I also got a nice surprise of free entry to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, because it was the first Sunday of the month.

no comments Tags france, holiday


Posted by Martin Orr on Wednesday, 13 August 2008 at 20:26

After Barcelona, we went to visit some friends from Belfast, who moved to the south of France a couple of years ago. They now live on the edge of the town of Limoux, near Carcassonne. We were joined here by Clare, and I stayed for four days. This was a much lazier stay: life involved lots of meals outdoors and swimming in their pool. We also on two evenings drove to nearby villages to watch dancing performances in the streets - such free cultural activities, laid on by the local government, seem to be common.

We had one more active day, when we visited the Cathar castles of Peyrepetuse and Quéribus. My guide book describes these castles as "romantic", but I don't think there's much romantic about castles that were built because you would be burned at the stake if you were caught. They are perched right on the top of rocky mountains, and there is quite a bit of a walk up - so at the second one I stayed at the bottom, while Dad and Clare went up.

My photos from the holiday are now online. There's not very many, after removing bad ones, none from Barcelona and Limoux since Dad and Clare were taking plenty, and none from Nîmes because my batteries died.

no comments Tags france, holiday


Posted by Martin Orr on Tuesday, 12 August 2008 at 10:01

After Nîmes, I spent a week in Barcelona, meeting my parents who had flown out there. It was very hot but I enjoyed it a lot (I also enjoyed having parents to look after me again). It was surprising how limiting it was to get along with none of us having any idea of the language (either Spanish or Catalan) - I'm sure I found it easier in Italy.

The Modernist architecture is particularly impressive. Sometimes it is a bit ugly, but I liked most of it - and sometimes it was hard to believe that the buildings were built as places for people to live in. I liked the Sagrada Familia's innovative take on a Gothic plan, and think it will be a wonderful building when it's finished. Being full of construction equipment, it didn't have much of the feeling of a place of God at the moment. It was interesting to see a cathedral in the middle of construction, and think of this as a process spanning centuries - just as it did in medieval times - and inspiring to see the church building on such a vast scale.

no comments Tags holiday, spain


Posted by Martin Orr on Sunday, 10 August 2008 at 21:39

After Lyon, my next stop was Nîmes in the south of France. Unfortunately, on my way from Lyon to Nîmes I left my Interrail pass on the train, so I had to purchase tickets for the rest of the trip. Largely as a consequence of that, I didn't go to Avignon, about 30 minutes by train from Nîmes, and where I had planned to go for a day. This gave me time to get a bus to the Pont du Gard aqueduct, a pretty incredible piece of Roman engineering - a bridge with three layers of arches stacked on top of each other, 275m long across the top and 49m high.

The other thing in Nîmes is an almost complete Roman amphitheatre, still in use for bull fights - remarkably similar to what the Romans used it for. When I was there, it had a stage set up in the centre for concerts. I think it is a good thing (as in Cambridge) when historic buildings remain in use, especially for something related to their original purpose.

no comments Tags france, holiday


Posted by Martin Orr on Saturday, 09 August 2008 at 10:09

Sorry for the recent loss of service on this blog, because Rails on the server was upgraded. I'll try and catch up on posts from my holiday over the next few days.

I spent two days in Lyon, which had more worth seeing than I expected. The old town is on a steep hill, and the youth hostel was half way up the hill, so there was a lot of climbing. The town is at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Sâone so you can't go far without crossing a bridge.

My favourite bit was the nineteenth century Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière, on the top of the hill. The outside is overly fancy, but the inside is right up my street - classical basilica plan, decorated with large mosaics showing scenes from church history connected with the Virgin. I also visited the Musée des Beaux-Arts, with lots of fine paintings, and the textile museum - important because Lyon was a centre of silk-weaving, but not very exciting.

no comments Tags france, holiday