No visit to Bayeux, Normandy would be complete without a visit to see the Bayeux Tapestry. This Tapestry is 70 meters long and 50 centimeters high. The Tapestry highlights the conflict over the throne of England between Harold, Anglo-Saxon King Edward’s son-in-law and Norman William the Conqueror, from 1064 until the end of the Battle of Hastings.
The Tapestry begins with King Edward (the Confessor) of England realizing he does not have an Heir so he chooses William the Bastard to be his successor. King Edward sends Harold to Normandy to confirm to William that he will be Edward’s successor on the throne.
However, at the death of Edward in 1066 Harold seizes the crown of England.
In response, William and his troops cross the channel to fight Harold at the Battle of Hastings
where Harold killed and his troops defeated (slaughtered) in battle on October 14, 1066. William subsequently becomes King of England and Brittany. Normans were Viking descendants.
The detail of facial expressions, troop movement, horses, sailing ships, even the carnage of war is compelling.
The history is embroidered on woven linen using wool threads colored in blues and greens with woad (and weld for green) and madder root for red and brownish purple. It is felt by art historians to represent Anglo-Saxon (not Norman) artistry of 1070. Since it was commissioned by a Norman cleric, the Anglo-Saxon version of the conflicts may have been omitted. Nuns probably did the embroidery work, rather than, legend suggests, Queen Maude and her ladies in waiting.
The “tapestry” has only recently been permanently housed for viewing. Previously, it was displayed in Bayeux Cathedral for festivals as a banner mounted around the sanctuary.
After lunch, we went to the Museum of the Battle of Normandy. This unique museum covers the preparation of D-Day to August 29th 1944. There was a lot of history, pictures historical information and material including weapons, radios, tanks, guns and lots of other information. It was interesting to learn about the composition of the various Allied Forces and how they were coordinated. I expect over the next day or two we will learn a lot more about this as we visit the actual landing beach sites.
The last few days had us first in Vannes and now in Bayeux. Vannes is in the northwestern area of France – Brittany. We spent a relaxing day walking around the old medieval area of town visiting a number of different shops and going into the Cathedral.
We had a lovely lunch at a spot called Le Tete En L’air that I found in Trip Advisor. Interesting concept, you tell them the number of courses you want and what you don’t like (in my case animal organs) and they bring you surprises. After you have finished your dish they tell you what you had. Nice concept and the presentation were really well done.
After lunch we walked back to our hotel and relaxed with a lovely bottle of bubbles.
We left Vannes and headed to Bayeux – this is to be our spot from which we will visit Mont Saint Michele (Monday) and possible do a D Day Beaches tour. However, first we stopped for a lovely lunch in a small hill top town of Avranches. Delightful lunch and afterwards we walked around a bit before continuing on to Bayeux.
After we checked into our hotel we strolled out to see what we could find. There are two museums we are specifically going to do (tomorrow) the first is for the Bayeux Tapestry said to have been made in 1070s – making it really old and the second is the Museum of the Battle of Normandy. Little did I know, until we got here in Bayeux, that this little town was the first town liberated after the D Day landing! More on that tomorrow.
So, as this is just a quick update, I can safely say that this area of Brittany we have pass through has been delightful. Lovely views at every turn.
Over the last week we have stayed at a wonderful VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) in the small village of Rochecorbon France. Our hostess, Frédérique was wonderful. It turns out she has four units in an old mill structure where they live in one unit and rent out the other three. Each of the units has various amenities but they all have wifi, kitchen, bath, TV and other the other things you might expect. Having free parking was a plus of course.
Prior to arrival she sent us a packet of information including restaurant recommendations, descriptions of all the various Chateaus and monuments in the area and general more information then we could take in all at once sitting. One of her restaurant recommendations required prior reservations. When we asked about it, she made the reservation a couple of days before we arrived – very nice place called Les Gueules Noires (in our post dated 10-20). Just around the corner from the front door is a bakery – where I went every morning for fresh bread and just down the road is a small market with all the essentials you might need (including frozen pizza).
Her husband, Nicoles took care of any problems in the apartment – changing out the chairs, putting in new light bulbs and making sure the wifi was working properly. Both he and Frédérique speak several languages of course and spent several years living in the San Diego area of California for a while so the have some understanding of we Americans for sure.
This has been a wonderful base for our exploration of the Loire Valley and I would highly recommend it to anyone needing a spot to relax and stay for a few days.
You can reach out and reserve this little slice of heaven for yourselves by contacting them at: www.loirevalleymedievalgetaway.com
If you do, be sure to say hello to Frédérique for us!
When Janeen discovered that the annual Garden Festival at Chaumont-Sur-Loire (Flower Power 2017) was about to close, it didn’t matter if it was rain or shine so we headed out to discover that it was all about.
The Chateau has been around for almost 1000 years under various ownerships and conditions. As with many of the older Chateau’s, they have fallen into disrepair but this seems to have survived. It became owned by the State in 1938, and has been the site of the Garden Festival since 1992. Contemporary garden designers are assigned a plot, and write a theme script to match their planting displays. Some of Janeen’s favorites are featured in the photos.
Most amazing was the designers’ ability to plant to theme from April through October. Perhaps the roses floating on a water mirror of water lilies were not as vibrant as they were earlier in the season, but the image remained.
The mini greenhouse complete with giant lily pads and tiny frogs stayed tropical despite the outdoor autumn chill and red and yellow leaves falling.
Rita Smith, I have included many photos within the witch’s haven, still flourishing with medicinal and sensory plantings as well as a bottle tree and metal lid wind chime.
Cindy, you came to mind, as certain beds were entirely purple, from low-lying vines to tall asters and dalias.
The passion flowers hang down from tall planters that represent “stones” that a “king of flowers” sought to imprison all flowers within, only to have them break through the stone after his death. Many of the displays used the theme of fragility and strength, both attributes of the flowers of the earth.
The Chateau interior reflects 19th century owners updates, so, although quite lovely in the photos, we chose to view the more impressive 19th century stables.
Art installations are tucked into every available “outbuilding” space, the stable have long strands of dried flowers, statis, which I coveted for my wedding bouquet.
The horses of Chaumont were treated royally, and had leather from Hermes and electric lighting and running water.
Five years ago we spent several days in the Loire Valley. One of the highlights was a visit to the gardens at the Château de Villandry. Well, we are back and while it is always hard to revisit something that was so great on your first visit as there could be a let down or disappointment. Well, it didn’t happen. We arrived late mid morning in a chilly time but it didn’t dampen our spirits of the lovely views of this magnificent place.
Originally the area was an ancient fortress knows as Columbine. Jean Le Breton acquired this and a new Château was built on the old foundations. The château remained in the Le Breton family for more than two centuries until the Marquis de Castellance acquired it. During the French Revolution, the property was confiscated and in the pass to Napoleon who gave it to his brother Jerome Bonaparte. In 1906 Joachim Cavallo who poured an enormous amount of time, money and devotion into repairing it and creating extremely beautiful gardens purchased it. Its famous Renaissance gardens include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, an herb garden and an extensive vegetable garden. The gardens are laid out in formal patterns created by low box hedges.
Still owned by the Carvallo family, the Château de Villandry was designated an historical Monument in 1934 and is a world Heritage Site. It is one of the most visited chateaus in France.
After we entered we went to the upper level to take overlook photos of the full gardens, then hiked the wooded area toward the greenhouses.
The ornamental Garden of Love is best viewed from above. Following the recommended path, we strolled past water gardens (complete with pair of swans) to the upper level sun garden, maze, and herb gardens. The formally laid out vegetable gardens can be viewed from the herb garden, emphasizing the alternation of dark (red cabbage) beds and light (bright green celery leaves). These “decorative kitchen gardens” are laid out in nine squares of equal size, but with different geometric patterns in each. The November to March scheme of plantings had already begun, displaying pumpkins on pedestals, beetroot tops, cardoon, white cabbages, and dark green broccoli looking cabbages alongside red cabbages and leeks.
Saturday found us at The Château d’ Angers, a castle on the banks of the river Maine and the main point of interest in the city of Angers. Founded in the 9th century and expanded to the current size in the 13th century it is impressive with its high walls, turrets, a dry moat and general imposing appearance.
Today, owned by the City of Angers, the massive, austere castle has been converted to a museum housing the oldest and largest collection of medieval tapestries in the world, with the 14th century “Apocalypse Tapestry” as one of its priceless treasures. As a tribute to its fortitude, any invading force in history has never taken the castle. The Angevin empire of the Counts of Anjou developed an artistic and aesthetic core within a military façade. 14th & 15th century court life included a residence, a chapel, and gardens under the parapets. Of course, Janeen found the Plantation, herb garden which included herbs used in the dyes of the tapestry and the vines and floral gardens. The moat is now formal gardens as well.
Count Louis I of Anjou commissioned the Apocalypse Tapestry in 1375. Using the cartoons of royal painter Jean de Bruges and woven by Nicolas Bataille, using alternate red and blue background panels woven in wool to retell the story of St. John’s Revelations, the tapestry originally comprised six tapestries measuring 6 meters high and 23 meters long.
In 1480, King Rene, the last Duke of Anjou, bequeathed the tapestry to Angers Cathedral. In the 18th century, it was regarded as old-fashioned and severely mutilated. In the mid-19th century, its true value was appreciated and it was restored. The subject matter was illustrated by using early translations of this first century text, which recounts prophetic visions of St. John and the struggle between Good and Evil. The tapestry work is truly remarkable, as it resembles Renaissance appreciation of realism, and perspective.
On our way back to our Villa we stopped of for a quick tour and tasting of Chateau Gaudrelle. They are a producer of Vouvray wines – all made from the single varietal, Chenin Blanc. This is the only wine made in the region – and it is a white wine very lovely. We tasted both their sparking and still wines plus a dessert wine. All of which were delightful and low in alcohol – ranging from 12.5 to 13. A wonderful sweet spot for wines as far as I’m concerned. They make about 120,000 cases some of which actually makes it to the US – however mostly on the east coast. We did purchase a sparkling and a still wine to have later but haven’t popped the cork yet.
Our first full day in the Loire Valley had us going to The Château d’Ussé located not far from our Villa. The stronghold at the edge of the Chinon forest overlooking the Indre Valley was first fortified in the eleventh century and passed through a number of different hands over the years ending up being purchased. In 1885 the comtesse de la Rochejaquelein bequeathed Ussé to her great-nephew, the comte de Blacas. Today the château belongs to his descendent Casimir de Blacas d’ Aulps the 7th Duke of Blacas.
Throughout the Chateau there is period furniture, rooms decorated with tapestries, paintings and also a collection of maniquins wearing period costumes inside the various rooms.
The current owner still lives in the Chateau and uses the funds from the entrance fees for maintenance and upkeep. It has been open to the public since 1970 – quite a long time actually. In addition to the main Chateau there is a separate Chapel and a collection of various carriages worth checking out.
One of the traditions, maintained by the Chateau, is that it was the castle Charles Perrault had in mind when writing “The Sleeping Beauty” To this end, there is a whole display in one of the upper levels of various scenes depicted in the story.
The chapel was the parish house of worship, even during revolutionary times. A dellaRobbia virgin and choir chair carvings are well done. The 12 apostles surround the entrance, each with the symbol that identifies them, of course, the extra 4 medallions of death and his minions need no special identification. The foundations of the entire construction are oldest, carved out of the tipical sedimentary stone of the area.
Of course, Janeen had to check out the garden. Not huge but had some nice plantings and a nice water feature.
After our visit to the Chateau, we returned to our Villa to relax and get ready for dinner at Les Gueules Noires (a la Cave Martin). This restaurant was highly recommended by our hostess so we had her make a reservation. The place is only about 2.5 Km from the Villa so quite close and when we drove up to it we were the first to arrive (they don’t start serving until 7:30 naturally we were there a few minutes early).
The front patio of the restaurant is set up for dining during warmer weather with the dining room and kitchen partially installed in the caves left behind from mining operations. The decorations in the dining room do seem to have a mining theme but the space is open with a large fireplace (actually with a fire) in the middle of the room.
Clearly not following a set “French” menu, this restaurant features fresh produce, items they can get that day and meats from local producers and the serve local Loire wines.
Fortunately, the hostess speaks English and was able to explain the various menu items available for the evening. Janeen settled on pumpkin cream soup with chestnuts and cheese to start and a veal stew with 6 or 7 vegetables while I started with the risotto with herbs and a dusting of cheese and the boor with vegetables. Both were beyond good – they were fantastic. For desert we shared a warmed fig dish with a scope of ice cream (you can look at the menu and read everything that was available.
This is a place to go back to as the seasons change to see what they are presenting.
A couple of days ago, we decided to leave Italy and head to France – the Loire Valley to be specific. I have to admit, that the more we travelled along through Italy the more it looked like Southern California – sure, not the same but very similar. Part of the ‘gap year’ was to “be somewhere else” and Italy wasn’t looking like “somewhere else” enough. While we had originally said we would get to Sicily, we bagged that with the goal of heading towards France and doing some Chateau’s we missed on our last trip, drinking some French wines and getting some cooler weather (yes, it was getting warm in southern Italy).
While not a complete speed run, we did move right along. We did, however, stop in Neive (Piedmont region) for a visit with Leslie Alexandria.
She, and her husband Robert, was our guides for an introduction into Piedmont wines a few years ago and stopping by to say hello just seemed like the right thing to do. I was sorry, after visiting for such a brief time, we didn’t arrange to stay a day or two as it really is a lovely little part of the world – oh well, next time.
After Neive we spent the night in Genoa – on the coast of Italy – and had a lovely lunch in a spot off the beaten track – nice seafood and pasta, lovely people and beautiful beach (although rocks, not sand) out the window.
Early today (Thursday) we headed out and drove straight through the Rhone Alps to the Loire Valley – something like 600 Km and about 6 hours but we made it to a nice VRBO apartment (more on that later).
One of the things I kept commenting on with Janeen was the frequency and number of auto tunnels we went through. All over Italy they seem to be present on the roadways. Some as short as 150 meters others quite long, like in excess of 12,000 meters (at the entrance of EVERY tunnel they list the length of the darn things). I checked the Web and there are over 90 tunnels that are over 3000 meters long! That is over 1.8 mile long for all of you in the non-metric part of the world. I was seriously amazed. The final tunnel out of Italy and into France was called the
Traforo Del Frejus and it was 12,868 Km long or about 7.9 MILES.
Truly amazing tunnel. About half way through the darn thing we crossed “the border from Italy to France – a marker was posted on the wall to let you know. The toll for just this tunnel was 44.20 EUROs or about $54 US. This was just one of the tunnels – we must have spent a couple hundred EUROS on tolls driving through Italy
Once through the tunnel, the views on the other side weren’t anything to complain about.
The last couple of days have been enjoyable. We spent an afternoon in the City Center of Perugia having a lovely lunch and then walked around. It seems it was a huge chocolate celebration with booths and producers (Perugian, Bacio, Linde) EVERYWHERE.
Fortunately we had a nice lunch and were not the least bit tempted by all the treats.
After getting back to our room we had a couple of adult beverages in the hotel lounge and made decisions on where to be over the next several days. It was decided that Italy was over and it was time for France. So, today we drove from Perugia to Genoa, Italy.
Genoa is on the water – well the Ligurian sea – and is quite beautiful. We asked the front desk of our hotel where to go for some seafood and they directed us to the Boccadasse area, about 3 or 4 Km from the hotel with a profusion of fish themed restaurants. Across the street from the Hotel is the train station so finding a cab wasn’t a problem and off we went.
After we arrived, the restaurant I had looked at on Trip Advisor was closed, of course, but we found a lovely little spot overlooking the bay and had a delightful seafood lunch.
After lunch we walked a bit, found a cab and got back to our hotel only to be distracted by the Arco della Vittoria – a monument to the Genoese who died in WWI.
Now we are back in our room, relaxing getting ready for a drive tomorrow first to Nieve (where will visit with a guide we had for Piedmont Wines 4 years ago) and then off to Chambery France on our way to the Loire Valley.
It was time to hit a garden, or in this case, a showcase of Fountains. So, we packed up and headed towards Tivoli and a visit to the Villa d’Este. After cruising around to find parking, we finally found a spot and headed to the Villa with a lunch break prior to going on our tour. The Villa is really a combination of a nice “home” and a very large garden with multiple water features. We skipped the interior of the Villa and headed straight to the garden.
The Villa d’ Este is a 16th-century villa in Tivoli, near Rome, famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renassance garden and especially for its profusion of fountains It is now an Italian state museum, and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Villa was commissioned by Cardinal Impolite II d’Este (1509–1572), second son of Alfonso I d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara and grandson of Pope Alexander VI, along with Lucrezia Borgia. The Este family had been lords of Ferrara since 1393. He was a lavish patron of the arts, supporting among others the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, the musician Pierluigi da Palestrina and the poet Torquato Tasso. While his income was enormous, he was always in debt.
Canals were dug and two hundred meters of underground pipes were laid to carry the water from the artificial mountain under the oval fountain to the rest of the garden. Following the aesthetic principles of the Renaissance, the garden was carefully divided into regular units, or compartments, each thirty meters across, laid out along a longitudinal median axis, with five lateral axes.
The plans for the villa itself were carried out under the direction of the Ferrarese architect-engineer Alberto Galvani, court architect of the Este.
Between 1850 and 1896, the Villa was owned by Cardinal Gustav von Hohenlohe, who restored the dilapidated villa and the ruined and over grown gardens, which now appealed to the romantic sentiments of the period. The villa once again attracted artists, musicians and writers. The composer Franz Liszt made several visits between 1865 and 1885, and wrote two pieces of music, Les Jeux d’Eau a la Villa d’Este and I Cipressi.
After the First World War, the villa was acquired by the Italian State, which began a major restoration in 1922. The famous water organ, which had not functioned for many years, was restored and now plays again each day for visitors.
The Courtyard is placed where the original cloister of the convent was located. It was constructed in 1566–67, and is surrounded by a gallery. The centerpiece of the courtyard is the Fountain of Venus, the only fountain in the Villa that retains its original appearance.
The fame and glory of the Villa d’Este was above all established by its extraordinary system of fountains; fifty-one fountains and nymphaeums, 398 spouts, 364 water jets, 64 waterfalls, and 220 basins, fed by 875 meters of canals, channels and cascades, and all working entirely by the force of gravity, without pumps.
The garden plan is laid out on a central axis with subsidiary cross-axes, refreshed by some five hundred jets in fountains, pools and water troughs. The Aniene, which is partly diverted through the town, a distance of a kilometer, supplies the water and, originally, by the Rivellese spring, which supplied a cistern under the villa’s courtyard (now supplied by the Aniene too). The garden is now part of the Grandi Giardini Italiani.
You can see from the pictures were are LOTS of fountains – and many with interesting sculptures and water spouts. After walking through the area for a couple of hours we headed up through the Garden back to the Plaza above for a Gelato and to continue our drive to Perugia.