Archive for July 2010

Back home!   Leave a comment

Yes, I’m back in Bradley, Maine once again. I landed in to Bangor late on Thursday night. I’m going to be recuperating from my travels for at least a week, I think. I’ll be writing about my stay in Paris as soon as I can.  Stay tuned.

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Je suis encore revenu à Bradley, Maine aux Etats-Unis.  J’ai débarqué à Bangor jeudi soir tard. Je vais récupérer de mes voyages pendant au moins une semaine, je pense. J’écrirai au sujet de mon séjour à Paris dès que je pourrai. Restez connecté.

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Posted July 17, 2010 by benjaminsapiens in personal

Paris   Leave a comment

I’m in Paris right now, and I’ll be departing for Maine on Wednesday the 14th. I probably won’t get a chance to write about my time in Paris until after I get back, but I just wanted to let everyone know thing are all still going well.

FUN FACT: I can see the Eiffel Tower from my hostel room window.

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Je suis à Paris maintenant, et je partirai au Maine aux États-Unis mercredi le 14. Probablement je ne pourrai pas écrire de ma visite à Paris qu’après je reviendrai chez-moi, mais je juste voudrais laisser tout le monde savoir que tout va bien encore.

LE SAVIEZ-VOUS? Je peut voir la tour Eiffel de ma fenêtre.

Tours   Leave a comment

July 8-9   ***   8-9 juillet

Frankly, the story behind my visit to Tours is a lot more interesting than the visit itself. About a month ago, the touchpad and keyboard on my computer stopped working. I was able to plug in another keyboard and mouse from a different computer to use mine, but obviously this situation wasn’t ideal, so I looked for a repair shop. The nearest shop that would be able to fix my computer for free through my warranty was in Tours, an hour away from Le Mans by train. I decided to take a day trip there, drop off my computer, see some of the sights, and come back again when it was fixed. I bought the tickets for my first visit to Tours to drop it off, but I got busy and had to wait until after my trip to Spain to drop it off. By that time, I only had two weeks left in France, and the keyboard and touchpad had started working again, so I decided not to drop my computer off, and just to visit the city instead.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon, and I was exhausted from the travel I’d already done. I went to bed and slept through the night. On Friday morning, I went to the laundromat, had lunch, updated some things online, then took the bus to the train station to meet my departing train (the bus was going away from the station on its loop, so I did get to see a bunch of the city along the way). At the station, all the trains were temporarily delayed because of a power outage, so I had to wait half an hour and got put onto a different train, but I made it to Paris that evening.

That’s it. That’s all I did in Tours. It served as that day of resting and not actually doing anything that needs to be taken when traveling. Of course, I could have saved myself the very exhausting trip to and from Tours by just staying in Nantes or going straight to Paris and resting there. Still, I think it was somewhat worth going, because it let me visit another French city other than Le Mans, Nantes, Ferté-Bernard and Paris, which are the only other places in France that I’ve been to. And the train station was quite a building to see, and I had a nice lunch in the park while waiting for my train and I met some interesting people.

So there. Tours.

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Franchement, l’histoire en coulisse de ma visite à Tours est beaucoup plus intéressante que la visite elle-même. Environ il y a un mois, la tablette tactile et le clavier de mon ordinateur ont cessé de fonctionner. Je pouvais brancher un clavier et une souris différents à partir d’un ordinateur différent pour employer le mien, mais évidemment cette situation n’était pas idéale, ainsi j’ai recherché un atelier de réparations. L’atelier le plus proche qui pourrait fixer mon ordinateur pour gratuite avec ma garantie était dans Tours, une heure à partir du Mans par chemin de fer. J’ai décidé de prendre un voyage de jour là, de déposer l’ordinateur, de voir certaines des vues, et de revenir encore quand il était fixé. J’ai acheté les billets pour ma première visite à Tours pour le déposer, mais je suis devenu occupé et ai dû attendre jusqu’à après mon voyage en Espagne de le déposer. À ce moment-là, j’avais seulement deux semaines encore en France, et le clavier et la tablette tactile avaient ont recommencé le travail, ainsi j’ai décidé de ne pas déposer mon ordinateur, et de juste visiter la ville.

Je suis arrivé jeudi après-midi, et j’ai été épuisé des voyages que j’avais déjà fait. Je me suis couché et j’ai dormi toute la nuit. Vendredi matin, j’ai fait la lessive, pris le déjeuner, fait quelques choses en ligne, puis j’ai pris l’autobus à la gare pour rencontrer mon train de départ (l’autobus allait à partir de la station sur sa boucle, ainsi j’ai reussi de voir un groupe de la ville le long de la manière). À la gare, tous les trains ont été temporairement retardés en raison d’une coupure électrique, ainsi j’ai dû attendre une demi-heure et je me suis trouvé dans un train différent, mais je suis arrivé à Paris ce soir.

Voilà. C’est tout que j’ai fait dans les excursions. Il a servi comme ce jour du repos et de faire pas réellement tout ce qui doit être pris en voyageant. Naturellement, je pourrais s’être sauvé le voyage très épuisant à et de Tours, juste en restant à Nantes ou en allant directement à Paris et en se reposant là. Néanmoins, je pense qu’il était en valoir la peine d’y aller, parce qu’il m’a permis de visiter une autre ville française autre que Le Mans, Nantes, Ferté-Bernard et Paris, qui sont les seuls d’autres endroits en France que j’ai été à. Et la gare était tout à fait un bâtiment à voir, et j’ai pris un bon déjeuner dans le parc avant de quitter la ville, et j’ai rencontré quelques personnes intéressantes.

Donc là. Tours.

Gare de Tours

Nantes   Leave a comment

July 6-8   ***   6-8 juillet

I arrived in Nantes on Tuesday afternoon. I’d already seen several of the sights the last time I came here, but there was still more than plenty to see this time. I spent Wednesday touring the city, trying to get in as much as I could. I spent the morning in the Jardin des plantes, the botanical gardens, and then traveled to the Île de Nantes, a large island in the Loire, a former industrial center that has been renovated as a destination for visitors. The northwest corner of the island was the site of a large now defunct shipyard from the city’s heyday as a naval port. The acres of concrete, hangars and giant cranes has been modified as a public park and boardwalk, and the adjacent areas of the island are now sport some very innovative modern architecture.

The most interesting parts of my visit, however, were the attractions related to Jules Verne, who was born in Nantes in 1828 and spent his childhood there. Verne, of course, was the father of modern science fiction – along with his English counterpart H. G. Wells – and he wrote over sixty stories of “extraordinary voyages”: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days, From Earth to the Moon, Journey to the Center of the Earth, etc. I visited the Jules Verne Museum, which was very cool. I also saw, based on such a marvel described in one of his books, a giant, walking robotic elephant. I’m not kidding. It’s 20 ft. tall mechanical elephant that goes walking around the converted shipyard.  Well, it doesn’t actually “walk,” because its weight is supported by a giant wheeled base that provides propulsion, but the legs do march just like a real elephant’s would. That sight alone made it worth my while to visit Nantes.

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Je suis arrivé à Nantes l’après-midi mardi. I’avais déjà vu plusieurs endroits le dernier fois que j’y visité, mais il y avit encore beaucoup plus de voir ce fois. Mercredi, j’ai visité la ville, essayant de voir autant que je pourrais. J’ai passé le matain dans le Jardin des plantes, et puis j’ai visité l’Île de Nantes, une grande île dans la Loire, une ancienne zone industrielle qui avait eu renové comme un destination pour des visiteurs. Le quatre nord-ouest est un ancien chantier naval de l’âge d’or de la ville comme port. Les hectares de béton, des hangars et des grues étaient eu modifié comme un parc publique et un trottoir en planches, et les endroits proches arborent de l’archetecture moderne très innovatrice.

Les parties de ma visite la plus interessants, cependant, étaient les attractions liées à Jules Verne, qui est né à Nantes en 1828 et qui y s’agrandait. Verne, bien sûr, était le père du science-fiction modern – avec son homologue anglais, H. G. Wells – et il a écrit plus que soixante romans des «voyages extraordinaires»: Vingt mille lieues sous la mer, Le tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours, De la terre à la lune, Le voyage au centre de la terre, etc. J’ai visité la Musée de Jules Verne, qui était très cool. J’ai vu aussi, bassé sur telle merveille d’un des ses romans, un éléphant géant robotique marchant. Sans blague. C’est un éléphant mécanique d’hauteur de sept metres qui marche autour du chantier modifié. Bien, en fait, il ne «marche» pas, parce que le poids est supporté par un grand base avec des roues qui fournit la propulsion, mais les jambes se bougent tout à fait comme les d’un vrai éléphant. Ce spectacle seul a rendu ma viste à Nantes vaut la peine.

Île de Nantes

Île de Nantes and the Loire River

Grand Éléphant

Éléphant

Le dernier jour au Mans   Leave a comment

It’s my last day in Le Mans today! I can’t believe it’s over. It’s been over five months since I first arrived here. For the past half a year this has been my home – but now it’s time to head back to my real home again. I’ve said goodbye to all my friends, I’ve taken last-minute photos of everything I wanted a picture of, and I’ve taken everything I brought with me or bought since I came here and stuffed it into my baggage. This afternoon I’ll leave on the train – but I’m not heading home just yet. My flight for the U.S. leaves a week from today, on the 14th of July, and between now and then I’m going to do a bit of traveling.  I’m leaving for Nantes today, and I plan to visit Mont Saint-Michel, Tours and Paris before I leave.

I’ve had a spectacular stay here in France. As happy as I’ll be to get back home, it’s sad to be leaving this place where I’ve met so many good friends and had such a great time.

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C’est mon dernier jour dans le Mans aujourd’hui! Je ne peux pas croire que c’est fini. Il y a cinq mois depuis que je suis arrivé ici. Pour la dernière moitié d’une année c’a été chez-moi – mais maintenant il est temps de se diriger encore à ma vraie maison encore. J’ai dit au revoir à tous mes amis, j’ai pris les photos de dernière minute de tout que je veux avoir une image de, et j’ai pris tout que j’ai apporté avec moi ou que j’ai acheté puisque je suis venu ici et l’ai bourré dans mes bagages. Cet après-midi je partirai sur le train – mais je ne retourne pas chez-moi juste encore. Mon vol pour les États-Unis partira dans une semaine d’aujourd’hui, le 14ème juillet, et d’ici là je vais partir en voyage. Je pars pour Nantes aujourd’hui, et je prévois de visiter Mont Saint-Michel, Tours et Paris de Mont avant que je parte.

J’ai passé un séjour spectaculaire ici en France. Aussi heureux que je devrai de revenir chez-moi, je suis triste de quitter cet endroit où je me suis rencontré assez beaucoup de bons amis et où j’ai passé un si grand temps.

Le Mans

Bilbao   Leave a comment

June 28   ***   28 Junio

On Monday night we arrived in Bilbao. Bilbao is an industrial center on the north coast of Spain, and the largest city in Basque Contry. Basque Contry – called Eskal Herria in euskara, the Basque language – is a region of northern Spain and southwestern France that’s home to Basque culture. The Basque language is the only pre-Indo-European language in western Europe, which makes it qute unique from the Romance languages which surround it. The signs in Bilbao – called Bilbo in Basque – are written in Basque as well as in Spanish. The city itself is a bit grim and industrial, at least on its outskirts, mostly factories and apartment buildings. It’s undergone a bit of revival lately, though, thanks mostly to the building of the Guggenheim Bilbao.

Bilbao

June 29   ***   29 Junio

On Tuesday morning we headed to the Guggenheim. This is one of the most well-known pieces of modern architecture, designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 1997. It displays modern and contemporary art, and overall I was quite impressed. I particularly liked the exhibition of works by Anish Kapoor. In the afternoon, we wandered around the city a bit. It’s a bit of an odd mix of industrial infrastructure, highly ornate old buildings in the Old City and the Postmodern architecture which has been constructed here and there in the effort to revitalize the city.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

The Guggenheim

Bilbao

We spend the evening on a beach on the Atlantic coast, and when darkness fell we started the overnight drive back to Le Mans.

La playa

I was absolutely exhausted when we got back, and all I wanted to do was to get back to my room and sleep. Which I did.

My week in Spain was fantastic. I’m extremely glad I was able to go. I can’t believe I saw that many spectacular things in just eight days.

As always, more photos are here.

Madrid y Toledo   Leave a comment

24-25 June   ***   24-25 Junio

On Thursday night we traveled to Madrid, the capital and largest city in Spain, which is located in the center of the country. It’s a pretty bustling city; the streets are always busy at night, and you have to watch out for pickpockets. It’s not quite as charming as the other cities we went to, but there’s always something to see.

For us, the main attraction in this city was the art. On Friday, we visited the Prado. This, of course, is one of the most renouned museums in the world, and it’s filled with dozens of masterpieces. Here are just a few of the great things I got to see:

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch

The Decent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden

The Holy Trinity and The Adoration of the Shepherds by El Greco

The Surrender of Breda and Las Menias (The Maids of Honor) by Diego Velázquez

The Three Graces by Peter Paul Rubens

La maja desnuda (The Nude Maja) and La maja vestida (The Clothed Maja), The Family of Charles IV, The Third of May, and Saturn Devouring his Child by Francisco de Goya

The Prado

Las Menias

The Third of May

June 26   ***   26 Junio

On Saturday we visited the nearby Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which displays the art collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family. There is a large collection of early European and Renaissance painting, as well as Impressionist and Post-Impressionist and great 20th century painting.

June 27   ***   27 Junio

On Sunday, we visited Toledo, about 40 miles south of Madrid. Toledo has a spectacularly rich cultural heritage, as it was a cosmopolitan center of Islamic, Christian and Jewish culture and learning during the Moorish rule of Spain from the 8th to the 15th century, and contined to be to some extent afterward. The city has long been famous for its metal work, and the streets are lined with shops selling replica weapons, jewelery, metal statues and kitchen utensils. Toledo was the home of El Greco during the later years of his life, and we got to see his masterpiece The Burial of Count Orgaz in the Church of Santo Tomé alongside the tomb of the Count himself. We visited the Catedral de Santa María de Toledo, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, and the Monsterio de San Juan de los Reyes, the monastery built by Ferdinand and Isabella to comemorate their 1476 victory at Toro over Portugal, and we walked through the Judería, the Jewish Quarter.

Toledo

Cathedral of Toledo

Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes

28 June   ***   28 Junio

On Monday, back in Madrid again, we visited the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (the Queen Sofía Museum), the Spanish national gallery of modern art. The museum displays works from the 20th century, mainly by Spanish artists, including Picasso and Dalí. The most celebrated piece here is Picasso’s Guernica, painted in 1937 as a memorial to the bombing of the Republican town of Guernica by German and Italian forces at the behest of the right-wing Nationalist insurgents during the Spanish Civil War.

Queen Sofía Museum

Guernica

Before leaving, we also stopped a the Torres Blancas, the White Towers, an complex of apartment buildings designed by Francisco Oiza in the 1960s. In the afternoon, we left Madrid and headed north for Bilbao.

Torres Blancas

There are more photos here.