Archive for March 2nd, 2018

March 2, 2018

The wonders of Mont Saint Michel!

Coming up Friday is TGIF anywhere!  Coming right at you !!! Still cold for Brittany, but what about the wonder of our world , Mont Saint Michel. We have been to it and my sons even had gone on school trips. It is something beyond description really, how it can be  there!

This is a marvel of our times, and so much written on it; I will give you my version of a bit of history I like.

My previous blog post on the Mount Saint Michel here: https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2015/03/28/le-mont-saint-michel/

The Mont-Saint-Michel in the département 50 of the Manche in the region of Normandy. It takes the name from the rocky isle consecrated by Saint Michel where today it is the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel. There is a statue of the Saint at the summit 157,10 meters high of the sea border.

The rocky isle is at the mouth of the Couesnon river on which it falls into the Manche. It has 960 meters in circumference arising above a sandy plain at 92 meters high sea level. You have up of the stones from the abbey at about 78,60 meters and from the floor of the abbey to the tower there is 34,70 meters, the spiral arrow has a height of 39,80 meters and the statue of Saint Michel itself has 4 meters. At the beginning of time, it was known as tomb hill or mont Tombe. Probably because of a stone or monument megalith destine to the pagan cult; that was replaced by one honoring the Saint Michel from 709. From 710 and during all the middle ages it was known by the monks as the Mont Saint-Michel in danger of the sea. In 867, the Treaty of Compiegne gives the Cotentin,as well as the Avranchin to the king of Brittany,Salomon. The controversy between the Normans and the Breton arise from this cloudy definition, claiming this area was not in Normandy given to the Viking king Rollon in 911, the Mont Saint-Michel stayed Breton even attached to the parish of Avranches, which in turn belongs to the archdiocese of Rouen. You are with me so far ,ok.

Mont Saint Michel

It was part of Brittany while in 933, William I of Normandy takes over the Avranchin with the border set at the Sélune river. The Benedictines monks established here in 966 upon request of the duke of Normandy , and the pre Roman Church is built at the same period. At the Chapel of Saint Martin in the abbey were buried the Breton dukes of the house of Rennes such as Conan I le Tort (+992), and Geoffroy I Béranger (+1008), husband of Havoise de Normandie, grand benefactor of the abbey given the revenues of the Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes and Saint-Benoît-des-Ondes to the abbey. In 1009 the Duke of Normandy takes control of the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, and the abbot Maynard will need to moved to the abbey of Saint-Sauveur in Redon to be replace by the Abbot Hildebert Ier, chosen by Duke Richard II of Normandy. The limits between Brittany and Normandy independant of the location of the water source and precisely at 4km to the west of the bottom of the massif of Saint-Broladre. From 2001, the brothers and sisters of the monastic fraternities of Jerusalem coming from the Church of Saint-Gervais in Paris, insured a presence all year round, replacing the Benedictine monks that were coming here since 1966.

Ok so what can you see here… ? Many things but my favorites story telling of them is as it is. The Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel ,and all its dependancies such as the Chapel of or Chapelle Notre-Dame-sous-Terre, Chapelle Saint-Aubert; and the fountain or Fontaine Saint-Aubert; the parish Church of Saint-Pierre ,which originally housed the inhabitants of the Mount. The Church is led by a priest name by the Bishop of Coutances. The Church preserves relics from the 11C in its pillars but in general they belong to the 15C and 16C. The nerf has only one lower altar that lower to the Choir. It has a small bell, but the Church has rich decorations like stained glass from the 15C, altar and columns from 1660, baptismal fountain from the 13C , a Virgin and the Child and education of the Virgin (Sainte Anne teaching Mary)from the 15C-16C , and a copy of the statue of Saint Michel. It is still surrounded by a cemetery. The town is one of the few French cities preserving the medieval fortifications, dating from the 13 to 16C. The ramparts of Fanils, continue the walls of Monteux, of Cantilly,and of Pillette, dating from the 16C with the tour Gabriel.

Mont Saint Michel Mont Saint Michel

On the culinary front what else is new in France! You have the sheep or lamb pre salted or mouton/agneau de pré-salé ,much better grill in carbon. The Omelette de la mère Poulard,native of Burgundy born in Nevers and arrive at the Mount at 21 yrs old (also the name of the restaurant). These are made with fresh eggs, fresh cream, well beaten to merinque with a special rythme and cook in a copper pot on carbon wood fire ;delicious.

The official site of the Mount Saint Michel :  http://www.abbaye-mont-saint-michel.fr/en/

The tourist office is here:  http://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/index.htm?lang=en

Hope you enjoy the trip to the Mount of Saint Michael, Monte de San Miguel. Have a great weekend; happy travels, good health to all. Cheers!!

March 2, 2018

Caen, is in the news no ,not the memorial!

Well Caen is in fashion as their football team just beat a higher rank club to be in the semi finals of the French cup or Coupe de France, where they will play the Paris PSG. So why not write you up to date on Caen. OMG is not travel ok well they got to be in the news for Christ’s sake, it is big!!!

So why not tell you about Caen, It is nice for the Memorial indeed and the old men and women buildings, and a lot more nice things in town. Here is the city page in French on the heritage of Caen:  http://caen.fr/decouvrir-patrimoine

And to start you off on the tourist twist, my previous blog post on Caen here: https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2011/03/05/caen-memorial-and-more-normandy/

Caen is the political capital of Normandy and home of the regional council ,while Rouen is the administrative capital; a way to please both in the new administrative realignment of France (going from 22 to 13 regions).

I did not know this but it is the third oldest University in France founded in 1432 (behind only Paris and Montpellier); it has the most independant libraries of any French city and the best ratio of cultural structures per inhabitant! ; it is probably why it is considered the Cultural Capital of Normandy. And there you go only about 2 hrs from Paris by the A13 autoroute de Normandie and link to England by ferry boat line Caen-Ouistreham-Portsmouth.

It has the network Twisto with over 40 lines of buses and 4 lianes high level bus service on platforms unique ; also two lines of tramways A and B . The city is good for bicycling with over 50 kms of bike trails in free service ; the network V’eol,with 40 stations apart each one by about 300 meters and counting so far 385 bikes, something in the lines of the Parisian Vélib’ but lighter in the bikes. It has plans to increase to 50 stations and 550 bikes.

The metro area has three expressways very good ones, try them all, the famous A13, then the A84 (linking with Brittany) and A88 (between Caen and Falaise) and eventually linking up with Brittany. There are many others such as the N158 around Caen towards Alençon, Le Mans, and Tours and the D562 to Flers Angers ,and Laval. The D613 towards Lisieux and Paris and Cherbourg on the west. D675 to Rouen and the D513 to Cabourg, Deauville, and Honfleur

There is a train station gare de Caen-Saint-Martin with TER and Intercités train service to Lisieux, Évreux, Paris-Saint-Lazare, Cherbourg, Saint-Lô, Rennes, Rouen, Alençon, Le Mans, Tours , and Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, etc. The station opened officially in 1858. There is also the port of Ouistreham as before mentioned takes you to Portsmouth, England putting London at only 120 km . The port of Caen-Ouistreham is also a commercial and pleasure boating enclave. The pleasure port is at the basin of Saint-Pierre,in city center, and it is they said the second port in France. There is an airport as well the Caen – Carpiquet to the east actually in Carpiquet and the most important airport in Normandy per passengers.

So another peculiarity of Caen is the blonde stone in the quarries today closed but extended to the city itself and very much desired by the Norman nobles as well as the great buildings of England and later those sky risers of New York. In the 19C the medieval quarries were an underground network of 200 to 300 hectares and while the landings of Normandy the townsfolks hide there in 1944. To watch over these undergrounds Caen is one of the rare cities in France to have a quarry service like Paris.

The parks are nice ,and we enjoyed them very much in our visits.There is the hill of birds or the Colline aux Oiseaux, a vast garden in the district of Chemin-Vert very close to the peace memorial ; and if you know this was a garbage dump you realise the enormous beautiful work done here. The small garden by the museum of the rose moon or the Petit jardin-musée dit de luna rossa, at rue Damozanne, The museum or Musée d’initiation à la nature et l’esplanade Jean-Marie-Louvel , and at the abbey of men ,the garden valley or La Vallée des Jardins,the parc Michel-d’Ornano (the garden in the abbey of women) The Jardin des plantes,or sort of botanical garden , as well as the castle moats. Nice all.

Now as always a bit of history I like.
From the 1C to the 3C a village developped here by the current abbey of men or Abbaye aux Hommes near the Roman road linking Augustodurum (Bayeux) with Noviomagus (Lisieux). It had no administrative function as this was done by Aregenua, capital of the Viducasses located about 15 km south of Caen and the territory under the influence of Augustodurum. In the 7C missionaries from Bayeux, especially Saint Regnobert, founded oratories, surrounded by their cemetary along the old Roman way in the center of isolated villages in the Valley of the Orne and Odon.

In the 10C the great Norman Dukedom comes about. This is evidence especially from the 11C with the politics of William the Conqueror and Mathilde de Flandre. In 1047 after the victory of the battle of Val-ès-Dunes, the duke of Normandy organized the council of Tréve or Trier on the right back of the Orne river ,and had built a Chapel of Sainte-Paix in 1061 to house the relics of Saints. In the second part of the 11C it had ordered a vast fortress on the rocky hills dominating the Valley of the Orne; the Duke and his court regularly resided in the Castle of Caen. The Ducal couple equally founded two great abbeys on the east and west of the city (Hommes et Dames).They were buried in 1083 at the abbey of women or Abbaye aux Dames by Mathilde de Flandre, and in 1087 in the abbey of men or Abbaye aux Hommes for Duke William the Conqueror. The Duchy was incorporated to the kingdom of France by king Philippe II Auguste by 1204 before that of Rouen.

During the French revolution, the opposition was massacred by the crowds, and by 1793 the Jacobins of Caen breaks from those of Paris ; many deputies of assemblies or Girondins look for refuge in Caen and the city becomes a center of insurrection ; however due to lack of men, and in desesparation incite Charlotte Corday to leave Caen for Paris to killed Marat. The Army of the Convention (revolutionaries) entered Caen in August 1793 and ends the insurrection. Later Caen lost most of the buildings durind WWII as it was in the line of the landings of Normandy June 1944. The city was liberated by the Canadians army that fought for a month the troops of the SS Nazi in town.

I did posted some sights in my blog post and things but will give you more here, you choose as my favorites can be different.

Things to see in Caen : The theater opened in 1838 ,destroyed in 1944 and rebuilt again on the same spot after the war. There are great collections in the fine arts museum or Musée des beaux-arts right in the heart of the Castle of Caen and also there the museum of Normandy or Musée de Normandie. There are paintings from the 16C to the 20C by such artists as Le Pérugin, van der Weyden, Véronèse, Le Tintoret, Champaigne, Rubens, Le Guerchin, Tiepolo, Courbet, Corot, Monet, Boudin, Dufy, Soulages, and Rebeyrolle. The Castle of William the Conqueror and especially the salon of the chessboard or salle de l’Échiquier,the old fortifications especially the tower or Tour Leroy, the maison des Quatrans, a traditional house from the 15C. Other mansions such as those at 52 and 54 rue Saint-Pierre,the old post office museum from the 16C ,buildings at the place Saint-Pierre, and from the 17C around the place de la République (like the mansions Daumesnil and Banville); and from the 18C around the place Saint-Sauveur, place Fontette ,and the palais de justice de Caen (courthouse of Caen), and the mansions hôtel Brun de Fontenay , and hôtel de Blangy.

caen

caen castle museum of fine arts and kids 2011

You have the Saint-Jean Church, tilted as it was built on an old swamp, The Church of Saint-Étienne-le-Vieux. The Church Saint-Sauveur is in the city center ,before 1802,this Church was called Notre-Dame-de-Froide-Rue. After 1802,it was changed to Saint Sauveur ( of Jésus-Christ). The Church of Vieux Saint-Sauveur in the Place Saint-Sauveur was before the French revolution simply called Church Saint-Sauveur and before that called by several names such as Saint-Pierre de Darnetal, Saint-Pierre-sous-Caen, Saint-Pierre-du-Châtel, Saint-Pierre-en-Rive, and most visitors think is the Cathedral as it is big….It is on the Church that king Henri IV renounce the Protestant religion ending the wars of Religion ,and it was at the Church of Saint-Pierre that it was sang the Te Deum in presence of all civil and religious leaders of the city. The Church was closed during the French revolution and served as a temple of reason later of the Supreme being from 1793 to 1795 before coming back to the Catholic rite in June 1795. The shot from the castle below.

caen ch st pierre and belltower

caen ch st pierre street level

You have some wonderful architecture in the hôtel de Than (around 1520-1530), hôtel d’Escoville (around 1540), and hôtel de Mondrainville (around 1550).The current buildings of the abbey of men and women or Abbaye aux Hommes (now housing the municipla services of Caen), and the Abbaye aux Dames (now the seat of the regional council of Normandy), and the magnificent peace memorial or Mémorial pour la Paix; which are a must to visit.

As I love food/wine, the best to get here are the tripes à la mode de Caen (intestins or tripes Caen fashion way sort of). Since 1850,the cookie company or Biscuiterie Jeannette,the oldest in Normandy makes madeleines so goood. Or have you try the drink the Embuscade?(ambush) ,a cocktail with calvados (fermented apples liquor of Normandy),cream or syrup of cassis, white wine, and beer. Here is the recipe in French , sorry
http://www.marmiton.org/recettes/recette_l-embuscade_45476.aspx

Here are some links on tourism in the city of Caen.
Tourist office Caen :  http://www.caen-tourisme.fr/en
Dept Calvados on Caen:   https://www.calvados-tourisme.co.uk/en/discover/towns/caen.php
Normandie región on Caen:   http://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/discover/normandy-must-sees/the-10-top-normandy-must-sees/caen-200-2.html

Hope you have enjoyed the trip, short one ::) of nice Caen, as I said, just for the Peace Memorial ,the castle and museums in it is worth the detour from Paris! Enjoy your weekend y’all… Cheers

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