Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Beauty Of Angles-sur-l'Anglin And The Horror Of Oradour

   Our first stop of the morning of June 21 was the village of  Angles-sur-l'Anglin for a coffee break and a view of the ruins of an 11th century castle originally constructed for the Bishop of Poitiers.  

The village and the ruins are on the banks of the l'Anglin River.

The gang, sans moi.

Carole, you are shooting from the wrong angle.

Some antiquities of another kind.  I love the look of the old 2CV Citroens.

Looking down on the village from atop the ruins.

A closer view of the ruined chateau.

The old chapel.

Getting ready to depart Angles-sur-l'Anglin.

Oradour-sur-Glane: The Martyr Village

   From the beautiful to the ugly, Laurent led us from Angles-sur-l'Anglin to Oradour-sur-Glane, site of the massacre of 642 villagers by Nazi troops on June 10, 1944, four days after D-Day.  The entire village population was wiped out that day, save for one woman who escaped from the church before it was burned, by jumping from a window. The dead included 193 children. You can read a more detailed account of the massacre here.

   The sign below says, "Here some men offended their mothers and all the women in the worst manner: they didn't spare the children."

   The French government, much to their credit, and by order of then President Charles DeGaulle, declared that the village should not be rebuilt, but should be maintained and preserved exactly as found after the massacre as a national memorial to those who died there.  It is a very sobering experience to walk among the ruins and to read the plaques installed beside the doors of the burned-out buildings.  They tell what the shops were and who lived and worked there.

   The plaque on this wall tells us that this was a bakery operated by L. Bouchoule.  The tale is told that the invaders burned Messr. Bouchoule in his own oven.

This was a garage operated by H. Desorteaux.

The main intersection of the village.  The power poles were made of concrete and are still standing.

   This must have been a tailor or dress shop. There were a surpising number of Singer sewing machines scattered among the ruins.

 The village church where the women and children were herded and then set afire.

The plaque on the wall of the church says, "Here hundreds of women and children were massacred by the Nazis.  Go to make a prayer for the victims and their families."

The only person to survive the massacre, Madame Marguerite Rouffanche, reportedly jumped from the lower right sacristry window and managed to hide in some bushes until being rescued the next day.
Another woman and child jumped with her, but were shot and killed by the Nazis.

The remains of the church bell.

The female figure atop this memorial statue is not giving thanks to God...rather, she is crying out to the heavens in anguish over the senseless massacre of the women and children of the village.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chinon To Loches

    It's noon in Lake Lure.  Rain is beginning to fall again. I have a Boston Butt on the new smoker on the deck just outside the door, so I can't go far or get involved in much of anything else, so I think I will get back to posting about our riding tour of France. It has been a month since I last posted.  I got busy with projects like installing a new boat lift, and time has flown.  Now it's time to get back to telling the tale. If I don't do it soon, I won't be able to remember. That seems to be a frequent problem these days, and that is why I have this new bumper sticker on my bike.  Thank God for digital pictures and videos with date stamps.

    Thursday morning, June 20th, we meandered around the Loire Valley not far from Chinon, visiting some famous castles including Chateau Usse, known as the Fairy-Tale Cinderella castle,  and Chateau de Langeais, first built in 992, destroyed in the Hundred Years' War, rebuilt again in 1465, and best known as the site of the wedding of Anne of Brittany to King Charles VIII in 1491.

Chateau Usse, The Cinderella Castle

Chateau de Langeais

    We paused for cafe au lait at a patisserie in front of Chateau de Langeais,  and had this selection of delights  to choose from to go with  the coffee, typical of what we found in little villages all over France. I don't know how all French people don't weigh over 300 pounds, being surrounded on all sides by temptations like this.

   Below is a Google satellite view of the Hotel Chateau d'Artigny near the town of Montbazon, not too far from Tours in the Loire Valley.  According to Laurent, this is one of the most expensive hotels in all France. He inadvertently forgot to book us rooms there, so he took us up to the entrance so we could see what we missed.

The hotel.

Our destination for the night was Loches where we would rendezvous with Carole at the Hotel de France.

The Hotel de France in Loches is an old hotel with lovely spacious rooms.  This is the view of the courtyard from our room.

Carole arrived from Tours in the late afternoon.  From his expression, I think Laurent was happy to see her.

The view from our room after sunset.

I wonder what's behind the green door. I'm not telling...maybe Penny will.

   After dinner, we made the climb up to the Chateau de Loches, perched above the town, built for and used by Henry II of England and his son Richard The Lionheart during the 12th century.  The compound includes the ancient Church of Saint-Ours which grew from a 500 AD monastery founded by St. Ours himself.

   Tomorrow will be a day of delight and horror.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

St Malo to Chinon

    We left St Malo around 9 am  Wednesday morning June 19, with San Pedro Hotel proprietress, Mireille, waving us off.

    After only 35 km, we made a stop at Dinan, a beautiful medieval walled village on the River Rance, to see the village and drink some cafe au lait.

    The old walled city was built on the ridge top overlooking the river, a steep hike up this street from the river bridge.

    This gives a better idea of the steepness of the street.

    There were picturesque buildings and sights all along the street from the river to the town entrance.

    Finally, the entrance through the walls.

    Once inside the walls, the street leveled out somewhat.

    Toy soldiers in a shop window. I don't think you would buy these for a child to play with.

    This guy was playing an instrument like nothing I ever saw before.

    This is how it sounded.  Remember we are still in Brittany at this point, and the sound, to me, is reminiscent of the British Isles.

    On to Chinon in the Loire Valley.  The ride took about 5 hours with a stop for lunch, and of course we encountered rain along the way.  We arrived in Chinon about 5 pm, with the girls barely able to walk upright. Here is a video montage of the afternoon's ride.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mont Saint Michel and Saint Malo

    On Tuesday morning 6/18, we left John Steele hanging from the steeple in St Mere Eglise and set course for St Malo on the Brittany coast.  Our route took us past Mont St Michel, a must-see stop for any tour of France. We arrived there around lunch-time, with Laurent complaining bitterly that we could no longer ride the bikes right up to the main entrance to the fortified abbey, but instead had to leave the bikes in the remote parking area and take the shuttle bus like everyone else. The good old days are apparently gone for Mt St Michel, but that has not reduced its popularity with tourists or diminished the views from the summit.
    Here's the view as we approached in the shuttle bus.  I thought our driver was rather cute.

    Once off the shuttle, you can look forward to a quarter-mile hike through a lot of new construction to reach the entrance.  While the island has been a fortified stronghold since ancient times, the first monestery was established there in the 8th century and was continuously expanded and refined into the early 20th century.

    Just inside the entrance are a plethora of restaurants including this long standing tradition, Restaurant La Mere Poulard, famous for their omelets.

    The eggs must be beaten in a very precise way to a musical cadence in order to achieve the notable consistency of the famous omelets.  The kitchen where the sous-chefs perform this magic is open to the street for the passersby to marvel at.  Here is a short video that demonstrates the process.

        We decided to pass on the omelets, which are very pricey, and look for something a little more humble.

        After lunch, it was onward and upward to the abbey at the summit of the rock.

A view of the gardens at the base of the abbey.

The upper courtyard and entrance to the Abbey.

    The view from the upper courtyard with the tide out.

    Some gargoyles adorning the abbey.

    A shot of the interior.

    The new construction has to do with the creation of a raised bridge from the mainland to replace the solid causeway that has been in place since 1879 and which has blocked the tidal flow around the island, causing silting problems.  The new raised bridge will allow the tide to flow completely around the island again, as in olden days.

Saint Malo

    Thoroughly worn out by our trek to the top of Mont St Michel, we continued the day's ride westward along the coast into Brittany and the ancient walled city of St Malo.  We stayed at the Hotel San Pedro within the old fortified walls.  The narrow one-way streets within the walls form a maze that is difficult to navigate by bike. We circled around and around trying to zero in on the hotel.  It became quite humorous, and since I had filmed the entire episode I turned it into a You Tube video that you can find here.  The hotel itself was quite humerous, having once been a brothel, or at least having catered to ladies of the night and their customers.  The current owner, Mireille Morice, is a happy lady who hums and sings as she prepares and serves a delicious breakfast. She has done a wonderful job of remodeling the small hotel with a nautical theme.  Small bedrooms, not unlike ship cabins, and tiny bathrooms have been squeezed into the quirky spaces of the centuries-old building.

    The hotel was very close to the old city wall facing the sea. We took a walk on the ramparts before dinner.

     Fort du Petit Be is a small fort on an island close to old walled city.

    It can be reached by foot during low tide.

    This is a bar with a very long name near the old city portal.  The full name is Le cafĂ© du coin d'en bas de la rue du bout de la ville d'en face du port...La Java,  which translates into   the coffee corner down the street after the city across the harbor...Java.

    The bar is an institution in St Malo, and the interior decoration is as funky as the name.

We were in St Malo on June 18, which happens to be our anniversary, so here we are at our 47th anniversary celebration dinner.

    St Malo is known for the quality of its mussels which come from the local waters, so Moules et frits was the natural choice for both Penny and me that evening. A long ride lay in store for us the next day, from St Malo in Brittany to Chinon in the Loire Valley.