the chateau series: villandry

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If you have been following our blog for a while, you may remember the post about 8 of the chateaux in the Loire Valley that we shared last year.

Following on from that post, we will be featuring each one of the chateaux in more photographic detail in an 8-part series.

First off the rank is:

Villandry Chateau and Gardens.

Villandry is famous for its architecture and gardens. Possibly slightly more famous for the gardens… and we hope you can see why by the end of this post.

This model layout of the property really helps put the size of the gardens into perspective (relative to the castle).

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The castle is the first one we see during our time in Tours so we are immediately enchanted  by the exterior. These perfectly symmetrical windows, the rectangular and sharp corners – it is but a mere fairy-tale castle for us.

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Once inside, the interior only adds to the feelings of intrigue.  Walking from room to room down the hallways… we are immersed into a slice of French history.  Furnished with furniture and art from the Renaissance period, it seems like time has stood still in those very rooms.

Who else has walked these very halls? Who has stayed in these very rooms?

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Honestly though, every window we walk past, we get distracted! We catch glimpses of the gardens and can’t help but long to be out and in amongst it.

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In total, there are 6 gardens that can be explored. There’s a kitchen garden, filled with fruits and vegetables planted beautifully in geometric patterns.

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There’s a water garden, a sun garden, a herb garden, the ornamental salons and the labyrinth. Picture Alice in Wonderland and the Queen of Hearts :)

Each shrub in it its place, each bush trimmed to perfection.

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It is surely the most impeccably manicured garden, we have EVER seen in our lives. But remember, this is only the FIRST of EIGHT that we would be visiting…

Aren’t those gardens simply magical? 

Villandry is 15 km west of Tours. There are two types of admission: one for the gardens only and another for the chateau and gardens.

buddhist cave art in the yungang grottoes

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With Le back into full-time work, time has just been slipping away. It has been over six months since we returned from our last overseas trip and we just are getting edgy to plan our next one.

At the moment, we have a few short local getaways planned but we are hoping for an overseas trip at some point for 2-3 weeks at the end of the year. We’ll see how it pans out.

In the meantime, let’s go down memory lane for a little bit. We thought we would look back on a UNESCO site that we visited back in 2012….

It was April 2012, and we were in China. We were rather unaware that it was still going to be COLD…. So very very cold!

The day we went to Yungang Grottoes it was absolutely freezing and windy. We can recall so clearly how we had the hoods of our windbreakers pulled tightly over our “beanied” heads, our scarves wrapped around our necks and up around our faces… just enough to reveal our eyes.

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The cold air was slicing through us despite our multiple layers…

But walking around the grottoes in that cold air was worth it! It was worth every teeth chatter, it was worth every shiver, it was worth the sting on our cheeks from the wind.

Before arriving at the caves, we walk down a path with tall majestic carved columns, then over a bridge with the frozen lake below.

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We had no idea what we were in for…

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There are more than 250 caves and more than 50 000 carved statues of all shapes and sizes. Impossible to see them all in the time we had there.

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The sizes of the statues vary from tiny to massive – some are inside the caves while others are outside.

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The level of detail on the carvings was mindboggling. And to think this artwork dates back to the 5th and 6th Century, it had us in complete awe.

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The visit to these grottoes was definitely an experience to remember for many reasons. By the end of that day, our cheeks were frozen solid!

 

Yungang Grottoes was listed as a UNESCO Heritage site in 2001.

To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited, visit our unofficial bucket list

 

meet the animals of the galapagos

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Who loves wildlife-spotting while travelling?

We DO! So you can imagine what an incredible time we had when we were in the Galapagos.

We cannot believe that it has been 4 years since we visited there. We so fondly remember our time exploring three of the islands!

Without further a do… introducing the different wildlife we were able to meet.

Sea Lion

Sealion

Friendly, curious and relaxed, you can spot these gorgeous fellows everywhere. They really know how to sunbathe. We were lucky to see so many pups. We loved how uninhibited and playful they were.

Marine Iguana

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These guys are very unique and probably the ones we found most fascinating to learn about. They are typical reptiles, basking in the early morning sun. Then later in the day, they will dive for seaweed growing on the sea floor. They are the only true marine lizards and live only in the Galapagos. They are everywhere, so if you go, watch out where you put your foot, as they camouflage with the volcanic rock sometimes.

How many can you see in this picture?

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Land Iguana

Land Iguana

Lava Lizard

Lava Lizard

Different types of Giant Tortoises

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There once were 14 recognisable species of giant tortoises on the Galapagos Islands.  Over the years, they have been killed for many things by humans, including for food. The species count is officially down to 10 because when we were there, there were still 11.

With Lonesome George (pictured below) being the last of his kind, we felt very humbled to have met him before he passed away the year after we met him. It was estimated that he was over a hundred years old.

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Trivia: As a tortoise gets older, the lines on his shell become fewer. Works opposite to a tree trunk. 

Now to the folks found predominantly in the water….

Green Sea Turtle 

Sea Turtle

Not easy to see it in the photo, but it’s coming up for air.

White-tipped Shark

Sharks

Octopus

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We had to crop and zoom this photo a little so the octopus could be seen…. can you see it?

Manta ray

Manta Ray

Spotted rayfish

Spotted rayfish

We found the manta ray and spotted rayfish in a lagoon and not in the open waters. We were sitting on a jetty one lazy afternoon and looked down and what do we see swim past but these two.

The Birds

There are so many different species of birds in the Galapagos. These were the ones we were fortunate to see and snap a photo of.

Lava Heron

Lava Heron

One of many Darwin finches

Finch

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

One of many warblers

Warbler

Great Frigatebird

Frigate

They are huge just sitting there. Watching them in the air is simply unreal. There look enormous when you see their wingspan in flight.

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Galapagos Pintail

Pintail

Lava Gull

Lava Gull

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

Greater Flamingo

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Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Galapagos Penguin

Penguin

Brown Pelican

Pelican

Blue-Footed Boobie

 

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Interesting name… but there are plenty of boobies to see in the Galapagos. These blue-footed ones are easy to spot thanks to their bright blue feet. When they are in their mating prime, their feet are the bright blue.. it fades when it’s not time.

Just for a bit of fun, can you spot the four different species of bird in this photo?

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Disclaimer: We apologise if we have named any of the animals incorrectly, this is us digging into our memory bank :) If you spot any errors, please let us know.

Up until NOW, we hadn’t really appreciated the extent of all the wildlife we encountered on this trip.

Where would you recommend we go to do some more wildlife spotting?

Leave us a comment.

weekly photo challenge: early bird

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We’ve been a little quiet on the blog the past fortnight as we have been on a family road trip to Victoria (and back), internet was not very stable at some stops.

But we are back and luckily, we were able to catch an “early bird” moment to share. For the first time ever, we witnessed a beach sunrise.

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This was taken at Pambula Beach, down the South Coast of NSW, Australia.

Are you more of a sunrise or sunset person?

Share your thoughts with us.