General Travel

Elephant No. 42 – Fontainebleau, France

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Earlier this year, I spent five fabulous months living in Paris. This is the one solitary elephant I managed to find during my time there, while on a road trip with some friends to the chateau of Fontainebleau. It’s a great day visit from Paris – we rented a car for the day, and it’s only about an hour’s drive from the capital, and both the palace and grounds are absolutely stunning. I must admit that it was such a beautiful day that we rushed through the palace as quickly as possible in order to get to the gardens and have a picnic, so much so that we had a rather embarrassing interchange with one of the palace monitors who seemed absolutely aghast that we might be looking for the way out from such an architectural  masterpiece of French cultural heritage, so we had to pretend that she had misunderstood us and we were really looking for the 3rd ballroom, of course. Be warned, anyone going near Fontainebleau, that visiting the inside is really something of an ordeal it is just so big. It was where Napoleon hung out after all and he never sounded much like a guy that did things by halves.

This elephant fresco comes from the Francois I gallery, built, unsurprisingly, by Francois I in 1528, to link the chapel with his royal apartments. He was a big supporter of the early Renaissance movement in France, so all the work here was carried out by Italian craftsmen. The frescoes are allegorical, and this elephant is supposed to represent the wisdom and royalty of Francois. Nice.

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The rest of the gallery


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Outside of Fontainebleau


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Roadtrippin’

Transport and travel

Usually, I love travelling by train or bus when abroad, particularly if I can nab a forwards-facing window seat, plug in some music, and watch the world go by outside. There’s something more satisfying about getting from A to B while still seeing everything between the two out the window, not just disappearing underground or into a plane and then popping out somewhere different with no conception of where you have actually travelled to or from.  Often, too, you get a glimpse from the window of everyday life in a country that you wouldn’t otherwise see as a tourist – I especially remember setting out from Beijing on the Trans-Siberian railway with my family many years ago and watching with great curiosity groups of old men practising tai chi at dawn in deserted patches of ground in various grey suburbs, and indeed many of my favourite travel memories involve the trains (or, less frequently, the buses) I took along the way, even if it’s just watching the fields speeding past under an afternoon sun. I used to find travelling by plane pretty exciting as well as a child, but alas no more – the spate of recent air accidents in the news has me feeling terrified rather than thrilled everytime I step through those strange curved oblong doors, and I tend to spend most of the flight trying not to think about how ludicrous it is to travel up in what is essentially a tin box high in the sky…  (more…)

Setting off again

I have recently started to plan my next trip away, and I am very excited about it! I’m flying into Beijing on the 4th July and am planning to spend six months in that area of the world – starting in Beijing, making my way down to Hong Kong through July and August with one of my closest friends, Katy, and then into Thailand and down through South East Asia (after Katy has gone home) with Alex. So far I’ve booked a flight out to Beijing and not much else – I’m not sure yet when I’ll want to fly back to England, or even from which country! It would be amazing to get all the way down to Australia, but I would rather take things at a slow pace and explore some places in detail than to feel pressed into making a certain flight home. (more…)

Where next?

As I wrote in my last post, it’s been too long since I last went travelling. While I’ve been to some pretty amazing countries over my 21 years (see here for my favourites) – some practical life choices this summer have meant that I can’t wait to hit the road again with a backpack. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do this properly until July 2015 at the earliest (some pesky university finals to get out of the way in the meantime), but I thought I’d try and at least get the ball rolling in thinking about where I’d like to go then. (I have a year to fill as I am taking a break after uni.) Here follows a mix of childhood favourites I’d like to revisit and uncharted waters ready for mapping out… (more…)

I miss travelling

I’m now about two-thirds through my travel-less summer in London, and have just finished an eight-week internship in a big corporate technology company. While I’m genuinely glad to have had the experience of working in a regular office for two months (and even getting paid for it), I can’t say I’m too upset that I’m returning to being a student again – I’ll be spending the next month or so catching up on university work before I return in October for my final year. When I told my manager on Friday that I had learnt a lot from the internship I wasn’t lying – I think almost the best thing about it was that I had the chance to speak to so many different people about what they had done with their careers, how they had started out, and what they would recommend for people of my age. (more…)