Wednesday, August 01, 2012

France the Last: William the Conqueror

We lingered in France. We couldn't help it. Instead of rushing right home, we made plans to head to Caen, the local city and the Castle of William the Conqueror. But before I get to that I want to say more about Bayeux.

As if you couldn't tell, I loved Normandy. Loved the very air. We were so near the sea that the breezes never stopped. It was cool and soft there. Simple beauty was easy to find everywhere among the commonplace. The town of Bayeux enchanted me and is someplace I'd like to go again. Especially since I haven't seen that tapestry yet (It has been communicated to me what a failure this decision was, but I stand by our relaxed attitude toward sightseeing-it was a vacation, not a research assignment, don't you know?).

The city center of Bayeux is a parade of old buildings set so close to the narrow streets that sometimes the sidewalk dwindles to mere inches. A few of those streets allow an American mini-van to go through with only the barest centimeter of clearance on either side, and we watched, amazed, as my brother's tires grazed the curbs.

In Bayeux, the river Aure slips placidly through the center of a town built right on its banks, and I loved being able to walk near it so easily. That is one thing I noticed in many of the places we visited: the preservation of town centers. I saw very little of suburbia in Europe. Instead, many towns have barred cars from the busiest shopping areas or left the streets narrow and you have to get out into the air and INTERACT with the world. So many bicycles. So many outdoor cafes. So much of talking together and walking together. That was special and something that felt right and easy to me. I didn't just see it in the touristy towns, either. It appears to be part of the way of life there, and a part I think is worth preserving.

So, here are a few more images of Bayeux to try and communicate the look and feel of the place and to remind myself again that this was authentic, not a movie set!

On to Caen, and the Chateau de Caen, palace of the Duke of Normandy, better known as William the Conqueror. Many people know the date 1066 and this guy is why. Right in the middle of the city, the remains of his impressive compound remain. People relax on the grassy hills outside. It is open to the public, so you can walk the ramparts around the remains of the chemise, exchequer and keep. I really like being in buildings and ruins that have existed for so long and been witnesses to the comings and goings of so many real, human feet. It makes me feel that the world and its vast and complex history are  connected to me, rather than only being abstract. It's a fascinating place and I'm glad we went. On the way home, we stopped at a rest stop with a convenience store and I got my last loaf of French bread in FRANCE. Yes, even at the convenience stores, the bread is awesome.

Ramparts with flags flying
We lost each other to find parking, but we took up watch
on the great wall and saw them coming. 
St. Pierre Church
We had awesome Italian food right across the street from
the castle. That just never gets old. 
Caen's vibrant, car-less shopping district
The Exchequer-a hall for exhibits and assemblies. We
almost had the kids convinced it was where Wm. played
No matter what we saw, the family times really were the
best parts. 

And so we take our leave of France. 
But not without one more bit of bread. 

1 comment:

  1. LOVE IT. That bread looks crazy delightful. The sites are amazing and I want to go to there. To live :)


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