Getting the paperwork done.

To be the ‘foreigners’ in a country involves a lot of paperwork, and this is a yearly thing, which takes a few months to finalize and then you start all over again. Luckily we still have the ladies from VIP Resources to help us with this. Still we have to be there ourselves to hand in forms or collect something and of course this involves waiting in a queue.

Here, each department has a ‘préfecture‘ where all this paperwork is done. The préfecture for Val D’Oise, where we lived initially, was in our town, which made it easier. We came with a one year visa and after one year we received a resident permit for the next year, but… just as that was done, we moved to a different department. Now we are in Yvelines and we have to change our permits again. First you receive temporary permits and then after a few weeks you have to get in the queue again to get the permanent permits. I have to say that when you get to the front of the queue, it goes quickly. The people who work there know what they’re doing.

The préfecture for Yvelines is situated in Versailles, which isn’t bad at all. You look down the road and see the château de Versailles. So, I thought that ‘while I’m there’ I could have a quick visit again.

Etrangers – foreigners – that’s us, but then we are thankful when we see how many people are in the queue asking for asile – asylum!

The prefecture isn’t a very impressive building, but it is just opposite the beautiful Hotel de Ville of Versailles. (That would be the municipality)

Last time we visited Versailles it was in January in the middle of winter and we also couldn’t go into the top floor of the main building. Because it was winter, there were no flowers in the gardens. Those were the reasons that I thought maybe I should pop in again. : )
It is almost the end of the tourist season, but at 10 o’clock in the morning there were so many people! You just walk along with the masses. Everybody is taking photographs and trying to pose in front of something gold or glittery. So, maybe it is not a bad idea at all to go in January in 5 degrees.
But still, it is something to see. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to walk through that building all on your own… and with no camera.

What made this visit worthwhile was an exhibition by Joana Vasconcelos. Interesting is the only way I can describe it. : )

pots and pans…

a lot of needlework and crochet…

and more in gold

marble statues covered in crochet…

and the pink helicopter… these ostrich feathers must be from South Africa. : )

and some for the garden as well

the gardens in September

I think I have seen enough of château de Versailles for now. Too many people and too expensive… but… maybe if someone visits and wants to see it… maybe I’ll join them once more…

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The old and the new.

I think the ‘old’ in France is one of the things that fascinates us the most. Buildings that’s been standing for hundreds of years and people just use it as if it is the ordinary thing. Old, old stone houses with TV antennas and satellite dishes installed on the roof. That makes me smile.
When I visited the château in Auvers sur Oise the first time I was quite disappointed. They use it for a display about impressionism. I didn’t know that and couldn’t believe how they have just changed the inside! You can’t see any of the original architecture. I have to admit that their impressionism museum is very good, but still. Danie’s remark on my disappointment in the french was that they have so many old buildings, if they loose one, what does it matter? : )

A while back we went to see the French finals of the robotics competition. This ‘new thing’ was held in a town with a history dating back to the ninth century! This town is also very close to Le Mans where they of course have the all new car races. : )

Here in la Ferté-Bernard the Saint Julian gate takes you to the old center village. This was part of the fortifications built between 1470 and 1480… with the water canal flowing around it.

…a little man in an old carved doorway next to a little man advertising a new bakery.

…the very old town center where everyday life happens…

…and almost always a beautiful old cathedral.

and then there was the robotics competition… well that was a complete different story. You can imagine that with all the teams from universities… definitely nothing old or old-fashioned. : )

with lights, music and crazy mascots…

and loud team supporters making mexican waves…

and of course the ‘new’ little robots doing their tricks : )

So, I wonder what the Henry’s and the Louis’ (who still had numbers behind their names) would say when they see what their buildings are used for today? : )

Being a tourist

For the last three weeks me and my mother visited quite a lot of places around here, like real tourists.

I thought that maybe I should just summarize what we have seen, a post per trip might fill the blog!

We walked around Pontoise with the beautiful Cathedral of Saint-Maclou.

Many impressionists also painted in Pontoise. The Tavet museum exhibits the work of some of them and then there is the Camille Pissaro museum, which actually does not have even one of Pissaro’s works. : ) They do have paintings that was done by his two sons, Lucien and George. The exhibition in the Pisarro museum are all paintings of Pontoise and that was nice, to see paintings done more than a 100 years ago and then as you walk through the town, you can recognize the streets and buildings they painted.

Pontoise, the Tavet and Pisarro museum… 

There are enough churches to see in Paris. We went to Saint-Chapelle, the small church with the beautiful windows and of course we saw the Sacre Coeur and the Notre Dame.

Saint-Chapelle…

We had crepes, croissants, Croque-Monsieurs and coffee… One day Danie met us for coffee. That was after we gave up standing in the queue to visit the Orsay museum, which we worked out would be more than a few hours. Well, we have learned that you never ask for a small coffee, as that is really small. So, when the lady asked us if we wanted medium coffees we said yes!

…and we definitely didn’t get small coffees!

a misty day in Paris… 

We found the padlocks on the pont des Arts. A sign of undying love for the two people in love, who locks it to the bridge and throw the keys in the Seine… and some men were ‘blowing’ huge bubbles…

From seeing Monet’s waterlilies in the Orangerie museum, through the Tuileries gardens, passed the Louvre, along the Seine, passed the Notre Dame we finished this walk at the Cluny museum to see the beautiful, old, large woven tapestries.

I did a post about Monet’s garden in Giverny before. Then it was summer, but this time we could visit it in spring. Also special with spring flowers and very nice to see the tulips.

… its definitely not all we saw, only a glimpse, but I didn’t want to bore you with the 2000+ photo’s that we took between the two of us. : )
…maybe the city of Rouen still deserves a post on its own.

Le Mont Saint-Michel

I just read that someone calls it the fairy-tale island of Mont Saint-Michel. You could describe it as that. This was a special place to visit. A four hour drive from us, but worth it for sure. I borrowed this photograph from their official tourism website…

at high tide… 

The road connecting it to the mainland used to be covered at high tide, but with modernization, probably for tourists, you can now reach the island at all times. When we were there it was low tide.

looking down from the abbey…

We couldn’t wait for the tide to come in that day, but they say it is quite spectacular to see. The sea pulls back about 15km, then the tide comes in at 1m per second!

mont Saint-Michel…

then walking through little alleys and up lots of stairs…
 

inside the monastery…

Today its a tourist destination with 3 million visitors each year, so of course there are shops and places to eat…

and we finished our visit with crêpes and caramel sauce at the well-known la mère Poulard…

a last look back as we drove away…

Visiting van Gogh

Still a little strange to think… but the town where Vincent van Gogh spend his last months, is just a 15 min. drive from my house. I visited the château before, but Saturday was my first visit to Van Gogh’s Auvers sur Oise. Me and my mother started at the church… with a lot of tourist groups. You had to use the quiet moments between two groups to enjoy the atmosphere and take some photo’s.

…and the side from which van Gogh made his painting.

The graveyard not far from the church. Two small stones for Vincent and his brother Theo, among all the crosses showing the last resting places of french families.

…here rest Vincent and Theo van Gogh

We could walk into the little attic room in this building where van Gogh stayed and died after committing suicide.

The house of Dr. Gachet, Vincent’s friend and physician. They currently display modern artist’s work here. In the garden was an exhibition of flowers made from recycled steel.

In the château of Auvers they take you on a trip through the times of the impressionists. Starting in Paris and moving  with them into the countryside.

and then the nice drive back to Cergy-Pontoise. Currently filled with the yellow patches of the canola fields…

We were going to see Van Gogh’s original painting of the church in Auvers in the D’Orsay museum in Paris yesterday, but the 1000 people in the queue and the rain, made us leave that for another day…