Cruising the Rhone River–Arles and Van Gogh


 Arles and Van Gogh

Van Gogh painted irises while in  Arles

Van Gogh painted irises while in Arles

Finding the rest of the group in the airport at Nice was an adventure as no-one stood near the information counter and the staff there new nothing of our arrangements, but Australians have that certain look (never mind the accents) so we found several other equally puzzled prospective AmaDagio travellers and eventually our very French guide arrived to collect us and bundle us onto the coach. The itinerary said it would take about an hour and a half, but in fact it was a three hour trip from Nice to Arles. We arrived as most of the passengers were about to go to the captain’s cocktails and safety talk. So, while the early arrivals displayed their finery while drinking champagne and nibbling dainty cocktails, I dashed into the lounge, disheveled and weary, tossed back a glass of bubbly and retreated as soon as possible to dress appropriately.

A sculpture of Van Gogh greets us on the path to the hospital

A sculpture of Van Gogh greets us on the path to the hospital

Next day we visited the hospital, St Paul de Mausole in St Remy, Provence, (still used for the mentally ill) where Van Gogh spent the end of his life. The chapel is quite austere, pretty much as it was when he went there in 1889. Copies of many of his paintings line the walls and particularly the staircase which climbs up to his tiny room.

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Courtyard in the hospital

I was particularly taken with the internal courtyard. When I was at boarding school, at St Brigid’s in Lesmurdie, I liked to walk around that courtyard, but at the time didn’t realize its significance. I now suspect that it was supposed to be a place of quiet contemplation, which of course the nuns never got to enjoy with a bunch of noisy girls requiring constant discipline. Perhaps during our holidays they could walk around it, fingering rosary beads and concentrating on holy meditation.

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Nice France



Antique lift in the foyer

Well, we’ve now been to Nice, Antibes and Cannes but won’t be in a hurry to return. The hotel, Le Negresco, P1040083 (640x558)was very grand and our room was spacious and quiet with a bed large enough for at least four people. P1040165Valuable works of art dominate every part of the hotel’s interior



Private beach closed for the night.

Walking back from dinner one night I experimented with the camera and captured this unusual photo of one of the private beaches.

Fishermen on the shore at night

Fishermen on the shore at night

Fishermen on the stony shore made another interesting night time shot.





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Prague – Buildings and Music


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A wide variety of roof lines yet they harmonise wo well

The buildings are largely what make Prague so appealing to me. P1030886 (603x640)Like elegant Paris, so many of them have to be captured in photos. I love the variety of architectural styles, the generally pale colours on the walls, and the different roof lines. In Australia I rarely look up to the top of the buildings, but in Prague there are so many styles from vastly different eras that I am surprised at the way they blend and harmonise so beautifully.

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One of my favourite buildings is in the famous square near the P1030953 (480x640)Astrological clock. To me it typifies Bohemian Prague.

The photo was taken as we walked to our first concert; attending at least one musical performance is imperative while in Prague as musicians are everywhere. Our Mozart Dinner Concert was held in the Grand Hotel Prague which is immediately opposite the famous clock.


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Prague – Old Jewish Area


On Friday May 15th we were guided around the Jewish area of Prague by a delightful young lady called Katerina who told us so much about the history of each place that I wish I could remember all of it.

Our first stop was the Pinkas Synagogue, established in 1535 by the Horowitz family. It is no longer used as a house of prayer, but was turned into a memorial to the 77,297 Jewish victims of the Nazis from Bohemia and Moravia. Interestingly, this was done by the communists during the mid to late 1950s. The walls inside the building are covered with the names of the victims with dates of birth andP1030833 (640x426)

 Names of the dead cover the walls

Names of the dead cover the walls

death (when death date is unknown, the date taken is that of departure by train to the death camps.) Seeing so many names, I had to close off my emotions or I’d be overwhelmed by the awful events.P1030838 (640x427) On the end wall of the main hall, are lists of all the camps where prisoners were held until they were sent to the gas chambers, mainly to Auschwitz.

As the Jews were confined to their ghettos, in areas frequently flooded, the synagogue has been under a metre or more of water several times and had to be repaired each time, most recently in 2002. I hadn’t realized that because of a ruling in the Old Testament, one must step down into a synagogue, so of course the chance of flooding is greater. I wonder did Jesus change this rule for Christians?

Prague’s Old Jewish CemeteryP1030849 (640x480) was our next stop. A fascinating place, with headstones sticking out of the ground, at odd angles and from a vast array of depths. It has been built up with fresh layers of soil so that now the ground level is about two metres above the earlier level of surrounding walls. Moving the hallowed graves is not allowed so the number of bodies buried here from its beginning in the 15th century is not known. It is not a large area, nothing like our modern cemeteries, but a mature tree that has pushed its way through five or six gravestones, gives some indication of the age and jumble of this place. As we walked around, Katerina pointed out symbols on the stones to show the family name or position in society – a lion, fish, jug etc. Dark stones are the oldest, marble being used more recently although the last gravestone is from 1787.

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Singapore gardens: Cloud Forest

Our next stop is the Cloud Forest, a moisture and temperature controlled environment, again enclosed with a glass and metal dome.

35 metre man-made waterfall and mountain

35 metre man-made waterfall and mountain

From seven stories above us, water falls down, splashing the paving and giving us a cooling shower as we try to take photos of each other posing in front of it.

Following the crowd, we walk in a clockwise

Plants growing on the side of the 'mountain'

Plants growing on the side of the ‘mountain’

direction, taking photo after photo in an effort to record the myriad colours and shapes that sprout from and cling to the sides of the ‘mountain.’



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Singapore gardens: Flower Dome


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Delicious fruit

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore is a truly amazing display of plants from most parts of the world (except the coldest) all cultivated on reclaimed land and all growing lush and healthy, despite the tropical climate. We took a guided tour around the outside of the two vast, glass(?) covered domes and past gardens set up to display edible plants, a children’s area, and those devoted to India, Malaysia, Colonial Singapore and many others. Cameras pointed in opposite directions from the open-sided minibus, between the two of us we managed to capture enough photos for a passable impression of the place.

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super trees

The Supertrees are not yet fully covered, but these metal structures have been planted with creepers and hanging shrubs that will ultimately reach the tops. All the work must be P1030701 (480x640)done from inside the cones, presumably using pots secured to the external metal walls. Already they look amazing.






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