The Parents Knock

La vie en chocolat She is looking guilty Coming up to the Pont de Normandie One of the longest bridges in Europe Richard the Lionheart's heart Old style transport By all accounts mother is good at map reading Another day, another guilty look
Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture Joan of Arc's place of execution The old windows now in the Joan of Arc Church The form of an upturned boat Outside the Joan of Arc Church The old market square My lips are sealed
 

Yes, those are my favourites

01 August 2006

On the morning of Monday 31 July I left Jean-Jacques at his barracks in Arras to start his Reserve Training. I then did 600 kilometres of driving around the Aisne to take photographs for a gentleman in Scotland before heading home to wait on this summer's royal visit.

I could have taken my time because my parent's train was delayed by more than an hour but it did give me more time to polish the dust so that it sparkled just - so.

With an: oo er! mum and dad arrived carrying also sorts of goodies from computer parts to bottles of cornish scrumpy cider.

They were visiting for a couple of full days and I had thought that for the first we could take a run up round Belgium so that they could see where I buy the chocolates.

The spanner in the works was JJ's school which was not at all happy that he had followed his orders and gone to his regiment. That they hadn't told him not to was neither here nor there.

What we didn't know (Because somebody didn't phone until very late - are we listening JJ ?) was that the matter had been resolved and Jean-Jacques was staying at Arras. Thus I had a fraught afternoon and evening waiting to see what was happening.

However we arrived in Belgium and I picked up a few beers and some more cigarettes for JJ at the border before we drove up and around the Mont des Cats into Loker to refuel and up to Mont Noir.

It was quite sunny but with a fair wind blowing. I was a little disappointed that most of the shops were shut. I knew that the place was closed on Tuesday mornings but because all of the tabacs and our chocolaterie are open in the afternoon had always thought the rest was as well.

Anyway we picked up a kilo of assorted chocolates. Does it have chocolate in it ? Yes ! Then you can add some.

Dad tried to get the lady at La vie en chocolat to smile but she became even more flustered. She did however give them some freebies.

We had a drink and headed back down the road towards home. Still no word from his eminence at this point.

No matter, we went up to Avondance for dinner with Sandra and Peter and had a very pleasant evening with a beef fondu and a few glasses of red wine for those not driving. And we had dessert - chocolate gateau. Heaven knows how Sandra knew that was one of my mother's favourites.

At this stage JJ finally caught up with me and I came back down to earth. His excuse for not phoning was that he was in a field without one. Obviously they have given up using pigeons in the French army.

 

Normandy for the day

02 August 2006

The cathedral spire

The cathedral spire

This allowed us to sort out our trip to Rouen for the Wednesday. I had dead people to photograph and we could visit the town as well as the cemetery - what a life I lead.

Now why go the quick route when you can take a very large detour via Le Havre and cross the Seine River by the magnificent Pont de Normandie.

When it was finished in 1995 it was the worlds longest suspension bridge (2143m) and had the longest span between piers (856m).

You can walk across it if you want to but I would reckon that it is quite a steep hill.

I had been warned that Rouen was a nightmare to drive around and I soon found out why. You need to know where you are going and which lane you need.

Otherwise like us you cross over the Seine by William the Conqueror's Bridge follow the signs and - go back over the bridge because you should have been in the left lanes not the right.

After a little hair pulling and lots of bad words we parked the car up and went exploring.

This is the town where Joan of Arc was executed and her presence is everywhere though not in a commercial way - just the names of streets, buildings, the cathedral and of course her church on the spot where she was executed.

The cathedral had been hit by a number of allied bombs following the Allied landings in 1944 and a lot of restoration work had been carried out.

Within the cathedral is a tomb containing the heart of the English King: Richard I (Cœur de Lion) who died on 06 April 1199 as a result of an infected wound.

I always knew that I would get to use my latin one day.

Richard's insides were buried at Limousin where he had been hit by a crossbow bolt and the remainder of him next to his father at Fontevraud Abbey near Chinon. The moral being: never travel with an airline company offering Lionheart Class for your luggage.

There is obviously a chapel dedicated to Jeanne d'Arc and I thought she had been executed outside the cathedral. Good but wrong. She was in fact burnt in the old market square.

 
Admiring the interior of Rouen Cathedral

Admiring the interior of Rouen Cathedral

To get there we walked down through the narrow streets with their half-timbered buildings and underneath the 16th century Astronomical Clock.

When Joan was born in 1412 half of France was in English hands and within three years Henry V would crush the French knights under Charles VI at Azincourt.

When the two kings died in 1422 Henry's son in theory became ruler of both kingdoms and his uncle the Duke of Bedford began expanding English control laying siege to Orléans in 1429.

At this moment the 17 year old Joan, a peasant girl from Lorraine arrived with a French relief force and drove the English off. Her place in history was sealed and so was her fate.

She had the dauphin crowned Charles VII at Rheims and continued to harry the English, but the French court had lost interest. At Compiègne she was captured by the House of Burgundy and handed to the English.

The old clock tower

The old clock tower

Brought to Rouen the English seat of power in their half of France, Joan was tried for Heresy. It didn't take much effort for the court to find her guilty having altered testaments and evaded some key issues.

Ultimately, discrediting Joan discredited Charles VII and the English were pushing their claim to the French throne and more territory.

On 30 May 1431 she was burnt alive in the Vieux Marché (Old Market) in Rouen. The site where she died is marked by a plaque amongst flowers. The charred remains were burnt twice more, to be sure to be sure, and dumped into the Seine.

Following the end of the Hundred Years War a few years later Joan was rehabilitated by Papal decree and you might have thought she was canonised fairly quickly but it was in fact only in 1920 that she became St Joan.

The modern church, built after WW2, holds the stained glass windows of the church destroyed after the Revolution. On the inside it looks like an upturned boat, on the outside it is supposed to represent a funeral pyre.

How a nineteen year old girl managed to turn a dynastic squabble over territory involving kings, princes, lords and landowners into a fight for nationhood - pour la France - is the subject of much debate, but she did.

 

See also

Meg and Holger's visit

Arbre et Aventure

JJ's run at Fressin 2006

Aquaclub and painting