Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Things I looked at in France

We had great hosts and saw more cool stuff than we could photograph.

Below, the kitchens at Fontevraud. They date from the 11th century, I think. The chimneys around the edges show where fireplaces sat on the outside of this round room, so you could cook over many fires at once.

Outside of the Abbey of Fontevraud:

Gargoyles at Fontevraud, on the kitchen building:

More recent buildings, mostly 15th and 16th century. The Abbey began as a refuge for abused women, a place of worship, and a retreat for the family of the Counts of Anjou. The Abbey contained both nuns and monks (and people just visiting), but was always governed by an Abbess, which was rare for its time.

Below, the gardens of the Abbey. They are flower gardens, food gardens, and medicinal gardens, all laid out in lovely French precision.

Looking upward into the chimneys of the kitchen building. There are multiple chimneys.

Below, the inside courtyard of the more recent part of the Abbey.

In the room where they ate, the walls have eyes.

Imagine eating here. In silence. Or with someone reading the Bible in Latin.

Fontevraud had an exhibit which tried to link the history of medieval France to the fantastical imagination of the present and the past. So they put up images of unicorns, Robin Hood, etc., alongside descriptions of the reality. A favorite translation? From "C'est bon? C'est mal?" into English: "Was he a goody or a baddy?"

Knight in Armor, Armor...Darth Vader. Umm...ok.

The back of the Abbey church:

Inside the Abbey church:

King Richard of England (Richard the Lionhearted), laying next to Isabella of Angouleme. She was married to John, Richard's loser brother. John stole her from Hugh Lusignan, to whom she was engaged, and whom she married after John died. Meanwhile, the French managed to smack John around (reportedly while he was lazing about in bed with his new wife, enjoying connubial bliss until noon) and take almost all of the land the Plantagenet dynasty held in France. The French remain proud of this. The proof is that throughout the Abbey, whenever John appears (and he comes up often) he is identified as John Lackland. Nice.

At Richard's head lie the bodies of his parents, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. Henry is the same king who inadvertently ordered the death of Thomas a Becket, now Saint Thomas. And let that be a lesson to all of you. You go around shouting things like, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" and bad stuff happens. You could end up crawling on hands and knees to a shrine while wearing a hair shirt and letting monks whip you. Seriously.

The church.

Claire, skipping along happily in her pretty outfit. Claire is as delightful as her corkscrew curls.

Laura, learning to use a camera, model, and enjoy modern art all at the same time.

Also Laura, in the garden at the tapestry museum in Angers. Laura was about to burn off some energy by running madcap around the garden for 20 minutes or so. Laura is living proof that cold fusion exists. She only weighs about 40 pounds, but I swear she could generate enough electricity for a major city. Think about it.

The castle in Sameur. Very pretty indeed, perched over the Loire in one of the prettiest towns I've ever seen. You can get a good lunch there, too. I'm just saying.

Below, the moat around Sameur castle. It's crazy deep.

Another view of the castle. It's under renovation, so we could not go inside. On the right, that's the Loire.

Here we have the cathedral in Angers as seen from down the hill. It is even more impressive up close and inside.

Trelaze was a mining town, and they have a museum to commemorate the mine. We missed it, but walked around and this beautiful cottage is part of the grounds. The whole thing is made of slate.

Guess what? Angers has a castle, too. And it's a corker. Check out these towers. There are 17 of them. Inside lies a much more recent chateau, and it's lovely. Also inside are a set of tapestries. They're the oldest, best-preserved tapestries in France, and they are very beautiful. They tell the story of the Apocolypse, though, so you have to stiffen your spine before venturing inside.

Below, the entrance:

You wouldn't expect this, would you? And yet, there it is, pretty as a picture.

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