Monthly Archives: October 2012

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Chateaux in Loire Valley

Chateaux in the Loire Valley are a multitude of magnificent and old castles located along the course of the Loire River and its tributaries in Central France.

Once upon a time residence of royals and nobles, they are now a tourist destination where enjoying both architectural beauty and quietness of nature.

Chateaux of the Loire

There are more than three hundred castles in the valley.

Although some of them were built starting from 1000 AD, most of them and most famous ones are example of French Renaissance architecture. Golden age for Chateaux de la Loire spans between XVI and XVIII century.

The castles were built as residence for French royals and nobles during the era in which the Loire Valley was France political centre of power. After royals moved back to Paris, the chateaux slowly saw number of their residents decrease and most of them became summer residences.

Nowadays castles of the Loire Valley are partly inhabited and partly a tourist attraction.

Here is a list of the chateaux.

Here pictures from Google:

Chateaux of the Loire pictures from google

Travel to Loire Valley

Loire Valley in Central France

Loire Valley in Central France – click to enlarge

Loire Valley is in located on western-central France. It is nicknamed “le Jardin de la France“, the Garden of France, and it is characterised by beautiful landscapes and a mild climate. The Loire river, which flows entirely on French territory and empties in North Atlantic Ocean, forms this gorgeous valley. The Valley has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.

Eastern limit of the World Heritage section of the Valley, around city of Orleans, is only 100 miles from downtown Paris. You can reach Orleans in two hours by car, thanks to French freeways. Valley’s western limit is in Angers area, 180 mi away from Paris.


Loire Valley Chateaux Map

There is plenty of information in the internet about castles in the Loire Valley, accommodation, and tours. Unfortunately many websites are only in French.

The most comprehensive one is Loire Valley Tourism.

There is a good map in wikipedia.

Hotels in Loire Valley

Among hundreds of hotels and restaurants available, you may be interested in sleeping and/or having dinner inside a true Loire Valley chateau. This webpage is a good starting point for that. Prices are for sure not cheap, but not even that high so that only rich people could afford a night in one of those castles. Give it a try.

Loire Valley Chateaux Tours

When it comes to tours, a great resource is this website.

Loire Valley Chateaux Pass

Loire Valley Chateaux Pass is a ticket that will grant you access to ten different chateaux. At publication of this post, it costed $39.69.

Chambord Castle, Loire Valley

Chambord Castle, Loire Valley

Artistic rendering of Château de Chaumont

Artistic rendering of Château de Chaumont

Chateaux in the Loire Valley are one of the most shining example of renaissance architecture in France and in Europe. A region where touching the past is made possible. I look forward to drive there with my car, and sit on the top of a hill with the river and a castle in sight.

Saint Gotthard Pass | Railway Tunnel | Road Tunnel – Switzerland | A place of beauty, history and records.

Saint Gotthard Pass in Switzerland, together with Saint Gotthard railway tunnel and the road tunnel, represent a major European transit point connecting Northern and Southern Europe through the Saint Gotthard Massif, a mountain range in the Swiss Alps.

Saint Gotthard Pass

Saint Gotthard Pass in summer

Saint Gotthard Pass in summer – Click on it

Saint Gotthard Pass is a relatively low altitude (2,100 m, or 6,900 ft) passage point in the Gotthard Massif, in the middle of the Swiss Alps. It has been used over the last hundreds of years as a crossing point for people and goods transportation. To the north lie the Swiss cities of Zurich and Bern, then the Rhine basin and Germany. To the south, the Ticino Valley with the Swiss Canton bearing the same name, followed by the valleys of Northern Italy.

Although the pass is entirely located on Swiss territory, it is part of both a geological and a linguistic continental divide.

The pass crosses the European continental watershed that separates the Mediterranean Sea basin from the North Sea Basin. This division also reflects on languages spoken by inhabitants of both sides: while both Swiss citizens, south inhabitants (Canton Ticino) speak Italian, while north ones speak German (Canton Uri).

This separation is found throughout all the Alps.

Nowadays Gotthard Pass is mainly a leisure summer destination where enjoying sight of mountains’ majesty and refreshment from heat. It is closed to traffic in winter. A few small lakes lie on pass plane.

Saint Gotthard Railway Tunnel

Saint Gotthard Railway Tunnel is a 15-kilometer (9 miles) tunnel built inside Saint Gotthard Massif at an elevation of 1,100 meters above sea level.

It was excavated in the 1870s and opened to rail traffic in 1882. Its construction claimed the lives of approximately 200 people, including the engineer leading construction, Louis Favre.

The tunnel took over traffic from the pass since its completion and has served as a major connecting passage between northern and southern Europe to this day. It is mainly crossed by passenger and freight trains that reach Italy from Switzerland and from Germany.

Railway and Motorway Approaching Saint Gotthard

Railway and Motorway Approaching Saint Gotthard

A Glimpse On The Valley While Approaching Saint Gotthard

A Glimpse On The Valley While Approaching Saint Gotthard

The new Saint Gotthard Base Tunnel

Due to ever-increasing freight traffic over the last decades, a new railway tunnel is undergoing construction at a lower altitude (between 310 and 550 meters above sea level – or 1024 to 1800 ft).

The new tunnel, with its 57 km (35 mi) length is the longest tunnel in the world. While raw excavation was completed in 2011, traffic is scheduled to start in 2016.

Trains will reach a top speed of 250 km/h (160 mph) inside the tunnel, cutting travel time for passengers of one hour between Milan and Zurich.

Saint Gotthard Road Tunnel

Following car traffic increase in the 1960s and 1970s, a road tunnel was constructed at approximately the same level of the old railway tunnel, and opened in 1980.

With its length of just over 16 km (10 mi), Gotthard road tunnel was the longest road tunnel in the world at its completion and it is now the third.

The tunnel features a heavy traffic load. Since there is only one lane for each direction and a safety distance is mandatory for vehicles, traffic lights are placed at both ends in order to dilute traffic inside the tunnel. This can result in massive traffic jams outside the tunnel, that can reach almost 20 km (12 mi) in length in summertime.

Traffic jam at north portal of the Saint Gotthard road tunnel, August 2012 - Click to enlarge

Traffic jam at north portal of the Saint Gotthard road tunnel, August 2012 – Click to enlarge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Saint Gotthard Pass is no longer used for transportation, both Gotthard railway tunnels and road tunnel will see their traffic increasing in the following years, gaining importance for trans-Europe transportation.

Best of road safety campaigns – and of road safety slogans – ever

Road Safety Campaign - Australia

Road Safety Sign – Australia, 2008

Of all road safety campaigns I’ve seen in my life, this one featured the best road safety slogan – and picture – I’ve ever seen.

You could see a lot of those signs in Australia in 2008. They could be found in New South Wales or Victoria (or both, unfortunately I don’t remember in which state I took this picture).

I don’t know whether the campaign is being kept running to this day.

Click the thumbnail for a larger image.Road Safety Campaign larger picture

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About languages when moving abroad

English language for emigration

If you’re not a native English speaker, many will tell you how important it is for you to understand and speak English. How little you can do if you master only your own language, which, while spoken by [put how many million speakers you like here] will turn completely useless as soon as you cross the border. That if you want to work abroad, without English you’ll never stand a chance for international jobs.

All of that is definitely true. Together with Spanish, English is the 2nd most spoken language in the world as a native language (after Chinese), and the most widely spoken if we include non-native speakers. It is the Lingua Franca of modern times.


So, I speak English quite well. Do I need to learn another language?

Well, it depends on the country you’re going to, and on how long you plan to stay.

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High speed train at 300 Km/h – Longer video

As in previous post, same high speed train, same rail, but a longer video this time.

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