The Restful Treviso

I had never planned to stay in Treviso. When my flight from Venice was rescheduled, I used the extra couple of days to explore a new town. Located just north of Venice, Treviso shares many similar attributes with its neighbour – canals flowing past buildings, traditional architecture, and an abundance of pizzerias. The main difference is that it is devoid of tourists – not to mention the city is deserted from 12-4 when all the shops close. It was such a drastic comparison coming from the packed streets of Venice. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Saint-Germain-en-Laye Charm

Chateau de Saint Germain en Laye
Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, June 2016

A reasonably short train ride away from Paris is the charming town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. As soon as you exit from the RER A station, manicured gardens and the large mansion stand in front of you. The Chateau has now been turned into the national archaeological museum for France, but the exterior remains just as regal as ever.

castle2
Saint-Germain-en-Laye, June 2016

The gardens are active – runners, football players, and stroller-walkers meander throughout the expansive green spaces. The edge of the gardens end in a cliff, providing a view to the rest of the city.

After a tour of the Chateau and grounds, the little shops and cafes in the vicinity retain the historical atmosphere, with architecture similar to the Haussmannian buildings of Paris.

The Campus of Malaquais

Courtyard
Courtyard of Malaquais, June 2016

As my semester abroad in Paris comes to an end, I realize I never documented my school’s campus. I studied for six months at École Nationale Superieure d’Architecture Paris-Malaquais (otherwise known as Malaquais), located in central Paris within the Beaux Arts complex. There is so much history embedded into the walls – accompanied by graffiti. The Beaux Arts school stands as a historically important academy due to the teachings defining an architectural movement from 1885-1920 known as ‘Beaux Arts’. I kept imagining the important architects and artists that had also passed through these buildings. I would have loved to see the campus in its glory days. The statues and paintings have seen better days, with extensive renovations being carried out in many areas.

courtyard2
Walkway Surrounding the Courtyard of Malaquais, June 2016

Once inside, the classical aesthetic of the exterior falls away and large, white classrooms provide the open and versatile work spaces.

school1
Passageway through the School, June 2016

The beauty and history of the campus is something that I will miss while I return to my school in Canada, where an industrial and modern aesthetic dominate.

The Streets of Amsterdam

 

The journey to Amsterdam was… pretty much a disaster. It all started after our bus from Paris to Amsterdam was delayed three hours due to technical issues. We got on a later bus and confirmed with the driver that it was headed to Amsterdam. We climb aboard and six hours later find ourselves stopped in Brussels, Belgium. This was a planned stop for the route however the bus completely emptied out and we got the feeling this bus was not going anywhere soon. We disembark to ask the driver, who informs us this is the end of the route and there are no more buses going to Amsterdam tonight. We are frazzled but it is clear that this driver is not going to help us further so we grab our bags from the undercarriage compartment – only my friend Travis’s bag is nowhere to found, it had been stolen. Sometimes passengers take the wrong bag, but this was not the case seeing as there was no bag left behind and his bag was vibrant green (hard to mistake!).

Stranded in Brussels in the middle of the night, with nowhere to stay, no cell signal, and missing luggage. Basically as the nightmare of any traveler. Luckily we find a hostel with a free room and are able to book a bus ticket for tomorrow morning taking us to Amsterdam.

For here our trip was amazing, not to mention relaxing. We got to Amsterdam the following day, checked into our beautiful AirBNB and sighed in relief. We had finally made it – 18 hours later. After being slightly traumatized from the whole experience, we took the opportunity to just decompress. Instead of experiencing the city through an intense tourist itinerary,  we just strolled along the beautiful streets.

canal
Amsterdam, May 2016

This city is full of character, and it turns out it is true that there are bikes everywhere. Any fence or sidewalk is littered with parked bikes, and don’t forget to look both ways before crossing a bike lane. I have never seen such respect for bicyclists. In Paris, biking down the narrow streets shared with cars seems like a death wish.

canal 2
Amsterdam, May 2016

I was particularly drawn to the houses running along the canals. They maintain a form of unity as they align along the street, however each has its own history and character.

hooks
Amsterdam, May 2016

While admiring these funky little houses I noticed these pulleys hanging off the tops of each one. I confirmed my suspicions that they were used to hoist items to the higher floors (thanks to the knowledge of Google). It turns out that there is a unique building logic to the houses of Amsterdam. The risk of flooding results in high buildings, but this means they must be built narrow to produce an affordable house. The narrow winding staircases make it difficult to move furniture, hence the installation of pulleys on the exterior! The buildings are purposefully built with a slight tilt forward so that while hoisting the furniture it won’t bash into wall or windows.

entrance
Amsterdam, May 2016

On our last night in Amsterdam, we happened to stumble into the Red Light District. No photos are allowed for obvious reasons, but it was a very interesting experience. It was a completely different atmosphere than Amsterdam during the day. We didn’t stay for long, but the brief glimpse into Amsterdam’s night life proved just how diverse of a city it is.

The Medieval Town of Provins

ruins4
Ramparts and Fortified Gates, Provins, May 2016

Located two hours southeast of Paris by train, Provins is a UNESCO heritage site due to the historical architecture dating back to medieval times.

Particularly impressive were the massive ramparts that stretched for kilometers around the city. It was interesting to think about the history of these walls, with archer’s holes every other step, it used to stand strong against attacks. Now greenery grows in the cracks, birds nest in the holes and stones crumble from the top with age. Let’s also consider that these walls were built way before they had the tools we do today.. I couldn’t help but wonder how many builders toppled off the edge of these high walls. Thank goodness for modern safety precautions!

Venturing into the heart of the medieval town, the experience becomes a little more tourist oriented. Small trains loaded with a handful of tourists on this mild Monday drove through the streets and  the main square’s restaurants and souvenir shops were bustling. Nearby you will find the Église Saint Quiriace, dating back to the early 11th century, and the Tour César from the 12th century.

church
Église Saint Quiriace, provins, May 2016

A little architectural history fact about the Tour Cesar: It is the only known medieval keep that uses an octagon on top of a square base (or so says the plaque at the base of the tower!). The Tour César was used as a watchtower and prison, but now houses the bells of the church.

tour cesar
Tour Cesar, Provins, May 2016

This was a nice day trip from Paris – it provided an escape from the busy city to travel back to medieval times. It was interesting to just walk down any street of the medieval part of town and see layers of generations past in the old houses, although I did feel slightly awkward taking photos of houses because I had the sneaking suspension the homeowners were looking on from inside.