Our 2015 Trip to Europe

The holiday season has been very intense for us but we have started to plan for our next trip to Europe in May and June. There will be some very familiar places where we will repeat our photographic exploits, but also an entirely new (for us) experience. We are going to Italy!

PJ and I were at dinner with our dear friend Diane Quaid in November and the conversation turned to bucket lists. PJ turned to me and asked if there was one place that I would like to go and I replied “Ravenna”. At that moment we decided to add Italy to our tour for 2015.

Europe Map 2015

So the general outline of the trip is as follows: In ➀ Vézelay we will stay at our home in the area, the Crispol Hotel, which will be our base for photographing and for a visit with Pere Angelico Surchamps at the nearby monastery of La Pierre Qui Vire, the birthplace of the Éditions Zodiaque. We are hoping that Janet Marquardt will be able to join us for the visit.

Dom Angelico Surchamp, September 20, 2011
Dom Angelico Surchamp, September 20, 2011

From Vézelay we will make a long drive to ➁ Milan to photograph the Duomo, Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Battistero Sant Ambrogio, Battistero San Lorenzo Maggiore, Chiesa di Santa Maria presso San Satiro, and the Basilica di San Simpliciano. From Milan we drive a couple of hours to ➂ Ravenna, where we will photograph the Battistero degli Ariani, Battistero Neoniano, Chiesa San Michele in Africisco, Basilica di San Giovanni Evangelista, and the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Classe. The amazing Byzantine churches with their famous mosaics are drawing us to this part of the world for almost two weeks.

Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Classe (Image in the Public Domain)
Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Classe (Image in the Public Domain)

From Ravenna we have a treat in store – three days in ➃ Florence with PJ’s brother Mark Krausz. We’ll take some time to enjoy the city but will probably not have time to really work on the churches. We’ll save that for a return visit. From Florence we spend a night in ➄ Modena. We hope to photograph the Duomo, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta in Cielo e San Geminiano.

From here, we head back to France, first the ➅ Le Puy area in the Haute Loire. We will shoot the Cathédrale Notre Dame du Puy and several of the remote churches of the area, including one of our favorites, the Abbaye Saint-André de Lavaudieu. From here we go about an hour north where we will stay just outside of ➆ Issoire at one of our favorite hotels in France, the lovely Cour Carrée in Perriers. I was sick here for six days on our last trip so we are looking forward to returning and enjoying the hospitality and cuisine of Jean-Luc Villette. While in the region, we will be photographing the many spectacular Romanesque churches in the Clermont-Ferrand area.

Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey
Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

From Issoire we go to my omphalos, the Hotel Pont de l’Ouysse in ➇ Lacave in the Dordogne. I first fell in love with this hotel in 1986; PJ and I return every year to enjoy the cuisine and the region. From Lacave, we head to the ➈ Limousin where we will photograph the wonderful Romanesque churches surrounding Limoges – the Collégiale Saint-Pierre in Le Dorat, the Abbaye de Saint-Amand à Saint-Junien, the Église Bénévent-l’Abbaye, the Collégiale Saint-Léonard à Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, the Église Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul à Solignac, and the Église Notre Dame de La Souterraine.

From the Limousin we go a short distance northwest to ➉ Poitiers to visit our family friend Thérese Gayet at their home at Danlot, and then visit the city itself, along with our old family stomping ground at Chauvigny. From Chauvigny we go to ➀➀ Bourges to photograph the cathedral, then to ➀➁ Chartres for three more days documenting the restoration there. And then finally, three days in ➀➂ Paris in an apartment on the Ile Saint Louis will finish our trip. We are so excited to return, especially since the last journey was truncated by my illness.

Apse, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey
Apse, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres, Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

PJ and I have a great deal of research to do, mostly on the churches in Italy. It will be our first time to work there and we need to know the regulations and practices of that country. If anyone has any information or suggestions to make, on Italy or even the Limousin region, please let us know. It will, of course, be gratefully received.

43 thoughts on “Our 2015 Trip to Europe

  1. Have a wonderful trip! So exciting!

    All I can say about Italian churches is double check their opening times. They may say they open at such and such time but it may not happen. Timetables are somewhat elastic there.

    1. Ana, thanks for the kind words. We always have to take opening times with a grain of salt, especially in small local churches. Have you found it a problem in the large churches in Italy?

      1. One convent in Florence. They close every 6 Sundays or something odd like that and it was close the day we tried to visit. Anyway, It’s a piece of advice I’ve seen often.

  2. I’m so glad that you are going to Italy….I visited Ravenna, overstayed my planned trip by days and have never forgotten it.

    I visited Milan when a teenager and the Ambrosian basilica in the early morning was most atmospheric…looking forward to revisiting Milan through your eyes.

    Good luck with your planning and keep well!

    1. Helen, so nice to hear from you. We’ve planned 7 days in Ravenna and can’t overstay even if we wanted to. There is so much there, and it is virgin territory for us. Can’t wait. Hopefully we will be able to photograph with our full equipment and will get some good shots. Thanks!

  3. I spent a year in Milan when I was a student in 1966. Sant’Ambrogio made a deep impression on me and when I returned a few years ago it had lost none of its magic for me.
    By the way I find getting permission to photograph churches takes a lot of time and sometimes a permission is not forthcoming. How do you manage?

    1. Brendan, I would love to have seen Sant’Ambrogio in 1966! I had just returned to the US from Europe at that time, but never made it to Milan. I’ve wanted to see the Christ Pantokrator for years. As far as permissions are concerned, in France we seldom have problems. We have been doing it for so long that we have many contacts who can make it possible for us to photograph (for instance at Notre Dame de Chartres, we have unlimited access to the cathedral). We have contacts in the government both locally and nationally who try to help us out. Italy, however, is a brand new kettle of fish. We’re starting from ground zero here and are looking for whatever help we can get.

  4. Of course I’m excited for your trip to Ravenna, but I’m especially happy to know you’ll be revisiting many of the churches along the Voie Vezelay. While you’re in the Dordogne and driving north, if you have the chance to stop along the way at Auriac, the village where I slept outside after walking a harrowing 6 km in total darkness, I spied a tavern there that looked promising (then again, I was a bit frazzled and quite hungry, so take that with a grain of salt). I still remember the disfigured but legible annunciation capital on the west portal atLa Souterraine, and the well-preserved (or perhaps restored) capitals at Benevent L’Abbaye. St. Leonard de Noblat’s precarious state makes for a sadly disjointed choir but also a fascinating display of its architectural changes over time.

    Looking forward to toasting your voyage in early May!

    1. Can’t wait to see you again, Nathan. As far as Auriac is concerned, I thought that you were in the Dordogne on that trek – now that I see that it is in the Corrèze, I see that you took the more difficult route! Definitely the towns there are fewer and farther between. PJ and I are looking forward to this trip so much, especially because of the truncated version last year.

      1. Well my detour through the Dordogne got off to a great start because I had hitched a ride with an elderly couple from Perigueux to Thenon. Then I got a little bit too adventurous.

        I certainly hope this year’s version of your trip goes by without as much of a peep from your immune system!

      2. Hopefully this trip will be better, but I am in much better medical condition that before! Looking forward to May and your return. Your time in southeast Europe is virgin territory for me. Did you go to Macedonia?

      3. I hope–for your sake, and for the sake of all of us who love what you and PJ do–that you have a much better trip this time around.

        I didn’t make it to Macedonia, why do you ask?

      4. Funny you bring up Alexander. What I’ve been told by other people who have been to Macedonia and Greece is that there’s a constant feud between the two countries as to the claim over his ethnicity. It would seem that he was in fact Macedonian but I guess because he spoke Greek the Greeks claim him as their own?

  5. I wish you a happy sojourn in Italy.
    It occurs to me that in Ravenna, San Vitale, Mausoleo di Galla Placidia and Sant’Appolinare Nuovo would be important additions to your itinerary. While you are in Florence for three days, it may be worth while to drive to Sant’ Antimo abbey. Look forward to seeing your Photographs of travel to France and Italy later in summer.

    1. Jong-Soung, all three of these places are on the itinerary (we have seven full days in Ravenna), so we have high hopes for a successful trip there. The Abbazia di Sant’Antimo would be a spectacular coup; besides the structure itself, I’ve long wanted to see the Daniel in the Lion’s Den capital by the Master of Cabestany. We are planning to go to Pisa to photograph the entasis of the facade of the duomo there, but maybe we can make it to the Sienna area. Most likely, that will be another trip. Have you photographed in Italy? I would love to see your photos (and perhaps an article).

      1. Dennis and PJ, I travelled through Italy and photographed mostly Romanesque and early Christian churches several times. I will dig up some pictures to show you, and think about an article. Jong-Soung

  6. Oh, Dennis! How good to hear from you again. I so look forward to your posts, especially now to Ravenna where my husband and I were headed but had to cancel a few years ago. And Milan. That cathedral, always so active, seems — at least to me — more filled with locals than tourists. As for Ambrose, it was closed in the early morning I visited. I look forward going inside with you.

    Be well.

    1. Thanks, Judy. Sorry that you missed Ravenna – I am so excited to be going there. I believe we visited when I was about four years old, but I have no memory of it. The Byzantine churches, however, have been on my agenda for years. Hope we get good opportunities to photograph.

  7. Ditto what the previous comment said about opening times; they’re a guideline and are certainly not writ in stone. And some churches (San Clemente in Rome, for instance) have strict rules about no photography. Hope you have a GREAT time!

    1. Thank you, Carroll. We are hoping to get permissions from the Italian government, but things work so slowly that we can only hope. I know that Rome and Florence are very strict about photography, but we’re hoping the Ravenna and Milan are less so. Still, any words of advice would be welcome! BTW, I seem to remember that you were interested in historic preservation. We are going to do a post on the restoration of Chartres and some of the controversy that has resulted. Would be interested in your response when I finish that article.

  8. Oh, this will be a wonderful trip. I look forward to riding in the back and watching the sights through you camera. Wish I could enjoy the cuisine too!

  9. Dennis, I wish Kay and I could join you and PJ in Ravenna. What a wonderful trip. We are in St. Augustine, FL until Feb. 8, knee-deep in the living history of the St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement right next door to the house we’ve rented. Little did we know. Ravenna is on my bucket, as is the rest of Italy. Spent three weeks in Rome and Firenze as part of Roman Catholic-Protestant Dialogue in 1971, and have wanted to return ever since. Hope you and PJ are happy and well.

  10. I hope your New Year is unfolding with health and happiness. So glad you’re going to visit Italy and get back to what you missed last year, or at least some of it. All the best.

  11. ravenna duomo was not a place allowed for photo or tripod, may painted church forbid photography (as the Sainte Chapelle even withou flash…). Avoid going there at the peak touristic time, too much people, too long queuing (more than 2 hours sometime…), always take hard currency (pieces) for parking and automatic tickets machines for this is really painfull when you don’t have… also motorway insertion are quite short, but you’ll get accustomed to it quick.

    1. Emmanuel, thanks so much for your response. We are researching on permissions to use our tripods. We have plenty of contacts in France with the DRAC and other organizations, but none in Italy. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. We have used Romanes.com for years as one of our research sources in France.

      As far as parking and cars, we are staying in the center of town and will be walking and taking cabs for the longer trips. Hope that our planning works out for this. We will be in Ravenna for 7 days so we should be able to be very deliberate in our work.

    1. Michael, will be quite a journey. We’ve actually taken a lead from Nathan Mizrachi and have used Airbnb for the first time. It will be an interesting change from our normal hotel-centric travel.

  12. Dear Dennis,
    I am Chantal from Rhone Valley (France). Thank you for your photos of French churches. I’am very happy that you let american people, know about the beauty of them.
    My english is poor but I would like to suggest to you to visit some very small churches of High Valley of Allier river. It’s not too far from the beautiful Lavaudieu.
    Especially St Cirgues, Blassac, St Ilpize, Lavoute-chilhac (village ).
    Some informations here in english

    Last WE we went in Ardeche to Mazan Abbaye, mother of Senanque, sleeping under snow !
    best regards
    Chantal N.

    1. Chantel, I finally responded to your other comment, please forgive me for taking so long to reply. We are going to the Haute Loire in late May and will be looking at several of the churches that you have recommended and will use the information that you provided as a guide. The Auvergne is one of our favorite areas of France and the Auvergnat Romanesque churches among the most exquisite in France. Thank you again for your suggestions and we look forward to hearing from you again.


    Contrary to what men believe, only God can forgive the sins that have been committed against Him. Joseph Smith nor Brigham Young can forgive sins. Catholic priests cannot forgive sins. Lutheran ministers cannot forgive sins. There are no men dead or alive who can forgive the sins that men commit against God.


    Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.


    Micah 7:18 Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity…

    Only God pardons iniquity. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Catholic priests, nor Lutheran ministers have the authority to pardon iniquity.

    Daniel 9:98 To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him;

    Mankind has rebelled against God and He alone can grant forgiveness.


    Mark 2:6-11..the scribes…7…He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone? ….10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”

    The problem with scribes was they did not realize that Jesus was God in the flesh. Joesph Smith, Brigham Young, Catholic priests, Lutheran ministers, nor any other men, are or were, God in the flesh.


    Acts 8:18-22 ….20 But Peter said to him….22 Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.

    The apostle Peter did not grant forgiveness to Simon, he told Simon to pray to God for forgiveness. Note, Simon was already a Christian.


    John 20:19-23 ….23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

    Jesus was not giving Peter and the rest of the apostles the power to grant forgiveness of sins to men on an individual bases, Jesus was not ordaining them as priests with that power. Jesus was giving Peter and the apostles the authority to proclaim the terms for forgiveness of sins. Peter and the apostles did just that on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:22-41…36 Therefore let the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified. 37…Peter and the rest of the apostles….38 Peter said to them , “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.)

    Peter and the apostles did not forgive sins on the Day of Pentecost nor on any subsequent day. They declare God’s terms for pardon.
    FAITH: John 3:16
    REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38
    CONFESSION: Romans 10:9-10
    WATER BAPTISM: Acts 2:38

    Christians are not asked to confess to Joesph Smith, Brigham Young, Catholic priests, Lutheran ministers, nor any other men, in order to have their sins against God forgiven!

    Christians are to confess their sins to God in order to receive forgiveness. (1 John 1:5-9 ….God is light… 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness.)

    1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between men, the man Christ Jesus,

    The only priest standing between men and God is the high priest, Jesus Christ.

    NOTE: Confessing sins and asking God for forgiveness is only available to Christians. Non-Christians must have FAITH, REPENT, CONFESS JESUS AS LORD, BELIEVE IN HIS RESURRECTION AND BE BAPTIZED IN WATER IN ORDER TO THEIR SINS FORGIVEN.


    ( All Scripture quotes from: NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)

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