Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Exploring Normandy and Ypres: Battle Plan Day 3 {Part 1}

Actual Date of Event: March 12, 2014

In my post from Thursday we left off with a wonderful little picnic to end our day after visiting Point du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the Normandy American Military Cemetery.

Our foggy walk to breakfast at our hotel
On the third day of our trip we awoke to another foggy morning and headed out to Bayeux to visit a few sites. The first stop on our itinerary was the Bayeux War Cemetery which is the resting place of over 4,000 fallen Commonwealth soldiers. To learn a little more about this cemetery and view my photos please visit my post from a few weeks ago about the WWII Commonwealth War Cemeteries.

After visiting the cemetery it was time for us to step waaaay back in time to see a cathedral that dates back to the 11th century- the Bayeux Cathedral.

Before being able to wander off to the cathedral we had to first find some parking on the narrow little streets of Bayeux and this is where, once again (in my experience anyway), the stereotype that French people are rude was proven absolutely UNtrue. We figured we had to pay for the parking but couldn't find where to actually put our money in a meter so I popped into a little shop to ask for assistance. This very sweet lady came out from the back of her store and with a big friendly smile gave me all the information we needed to find the meter and what to do with the parking permit once we got it from the machine- and she did so without even raising an eyebrow or looking at me confused (at my far less than perfect French) when I spoke to her.  And then she wished us a good day and off we went. I really can not say enough that every time I've needed help in France (and there have been a good many times I'm afraid) everyone has just been so helpful. I have had restaurants let me in early to feed me when they hadn't opened for their evening meal yet, a man who used his credit card to pay for gas for my car when the pump wouldn't accept my card (I did give him cash), and one guy that even moved the car for me when I couldn't get the darn thing out from between two boulders I had parked it between ...and he could have drove away with the car and stolen it if he'd wanted to! Yes kind French folks have certainly helped me out of some pickles. But I digress... back to Bayeux Cathedral.

The entrance to Bayeux Cathedral
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Bayeux dates back to the days of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings and it is stunning! It is a combination of a Romanesque style in the the 11th century crypt and Gothic style in the 13th century nave. It was consecrated in 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror which when you stop and think about it is pretty awesome-we were actually walking in the footsteps of the man who was Duke of Normandy and King of England! So darn cool.

Inside is even more beautiful than outside, if that's possible

The cathedral was also once the home, from the 11th to 18th centuries, of the Bayeux Tapestry which was probably displayed for the first time on the day the cathedral was consecrated. Also there are sculpted scenes here showing the life of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was assassinated in Canterbury by the order of King Henry II of England.

Details from the front of the cathedral - some so intricate and all so much work
When you travel in Europe always look up....ceilings are works of art in themselves.

More of the details inside the cathedral.
After touring all around the Cathedral we made our way along the narrow pretty streets of the town until we heard rushing water and there, out of nowhere, was the little water wheel I had seen in pictures before visiting but didn't know if we'd find. What a treat!

I thought one of the nicest touches were the poppies in the window boxes. Aren't they pretty?

I probably could have stayed and taken photos of this building at every angle for the rest of the morning but we were also on our way to see the Bayeux Tapestry in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. When we arrived they were going to close shortly (for lunch I think?) but fortunately for us they said we would have enough time to see the tapestry if that was good and since that's really what we came for we decided it would be all right to miss out on the rest of the museum. Maybe we'll be back another day to see the rest.

Unfortunately you can't take pictures of the tapestry (which isn't really a tapestry but is really an embroidered cloth) but when you hear that it is long...it is LONG. As part of our entrance fee we were given a handset that told the story of the tapestry as you slowly made your way along the length of it. When we stepped in the room where it's kept we thought "wow!" it's really long but that was only half of it as it then went around the corner and kept right on going!

The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story in a series of about fifty scenes of the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Essex, and culminates in the Battle of Hastings. Miraculously this piece of history has survived over nine centuries and still retains the colours and exceptional needlework.

To view each scene of the tapestry, along with a brief description of that scene, please visit the bayeuxtapestry.org.uk site.

In addition to this the Bayeux Tapestry is also on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register which " lists documentary heritage which has been recommended by the International Advisory Committee, and endorsed by the Director-General of UNESCO, as corresponding to the selection criteria regarding world significance and outstanding universal value." 

I didn't even realise this register existed alongside the list of World Heritage Sites! Don't worry though L, I'm not going to make it a goal to see everything on this list too. I think we have enough to see for one lifetime. :-)

After this it was time to stop and have a bite to eat for lunch before we headed out of town and on to our next stop at the Longues Battery and then on to Arromanche. I was so looking forward to seeing Arromanche again, this time with L, as it was one of my favourite places when I visited Normandy a few years ago. In the next post I'll show you around those sites and the Musée d'Embarquement.

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