Sunday, October 19, 2014

la Chasse d'Automne...

"Ne fait pas de bruit quand vous mangez."

Indian Summer ~ Rambouillet

I couldn't have said it better.  The kids were making far too much noise over lunch.  *Smack*  *Smack*  *Smack*

Jude and I were on a Fall Chasse.  I wanted to take a few photos of birds and Rambouillet was our destination.  The reason is that the canals in front of the Presidential Chateau have several man-made islands that have "Gone Wild."  Trees and birds and, in the water, fish all live here.  In abundance.  From our first visit I'd spied a few birds I'd never seen before and wanted to revisit with my Big Bird Lens.

Indian Summer ~ Rambouillet

Fall here in France has been absolutely glorious.

Earlier I'd taken Mother Nature to task giving us a rotten July and August.  Nothing like the cold and damp to make a Mess of Summer.  We were in a sour mood and it looks like Mother Nature has finally taken pity on us.

As an aside, we stay in Paris during the summer because it seems simply too insane to vacation elbow to elbow with tout Paris on les vacances.  Prices are quite steep and, as we found in St Malo, not all villages worth visiting have decently stocked grocery stores.  Bad restaurants?  There are far too many of them.  Some stacked on one on top of another, all vying for your Euros.  Good food that you can prepare yourself by visiting a supermarket or a local marche?  Jamais de la vie!  Soaking the locals as National Sport.  So we try hard not to join the Summer Migration into the paysage.

Indian Summer ~ Rambouillet

Instead, we prefer to take smaller trips when the locals are busy raising kids, sending them to school, and while they're working hard to keep the French economy afloat.  Starting in mid-September and continuing through to the Winter Holidays the price of lodging and food drops like the stock market on a bad day.  With the season of snow comes prices that again rise steeply in celebration of Pere Noël.

On the day we visited Rambouillet for the Fall Chasse we were to see temperatures of 76 degrees F and crystal clear blue skies.  This can't be October, can it?  Thank you Mother Nature.  We'll take whatever we can get.  I can easily operate my camera and Big Bird Lens under these kinds of conditions.

Indian Summer ~ Rambouillet

The trees were turning a golden yellow and the birds were having a Good Time.  Looking carefully at the way the light shimmered off the water I quickly realized how the Impressionists had come to love these kinds of places.  Everywhere we looked it was like being in an Impressionist Painting.  I shot a few images of common birds I'd seen before only because the water around the bird was so beautiful.

Jude and I sat on a bench and ate our lunch and fed a couple of overly common Coots.  Aside from a few joggers (yes, that knee-bone destroying American Habit has indeed landed in France) and two or three old people (like us) out for a stroll we had the park completely to ourselves.  This is why we like to travel in September and October.  So often no one else is around and we can more fully enjoy things.  We think it's the perfect way to travel.

Indian Summer ~ Rambouillet

As a small flock of birds floated by I saw I needed to give them a Stern Talking To.  My questions to them started with "Can I see your papers, svp?"  To be quickly followed by "Did you loose your way?"  "Do you realize this is NOT Canada?"  "You're not living off French Social Security, are you?"  "You realize that immigration is difficult, right?"  I hadn't expected to see Canadian Geese living in France in such numbers.

By mid-afternoon we were feeling it was time to head back.  We'd shared a wonderful lunch on a most beautiful Fall day.  I'd photographed a few birds against an Impressionist's Dream.  Jude had drawn a couple lovely scenes in her journal.  We'd walked around the canals.  In front of the Presidential Chateau we'd sat in the sun to work on our bronzage.  We'd had enough fun for one day.

Indian Summer ~ Rambouillet

As we were leaving Jude asked if we could take one last look at something.  It was then we heard a woman say "Ne fait pas de bruit quand vous mangez."  She was right.  The kids were *smacking* their lips.  They were a very noisy, uncultured, and mal-élevé lot.

Jude and I talked with the woman and her husband.  We learned a little about life in Rambouillet.  We were quick to understand it would be too quiet for us.  We need the kinds of things Paris offers to keep us entertained.  Yet, a Day In The Country had revitalized our Spirits and Souls. 

The woman was there in the peaceful park doing her duty to Keep Things Alive.  She had been tossing bread into a pond.  Perhaps as many as a 100 surprisingly large carp were coming to the surface.  As les poissons ate they made quite a racket.  *Smack* *Smack* *Smack*

Indian Summer ~ Rambouillet

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Grandpa's Old Haunt...

I reluctantly carried the Dreaded Plague into Bretagne.

Mont Saint Michel ~ The Pilgrims Route

Jude and I had pre-paid tickets for the Train a Grande Vitesse and a pre-paid stay at the hotel just across the plaza from the terminus of the line.  Earlier I'd taken Mother Nature to task for giving us a wet, cold summer and She wanted to make up for the mess by offering us a Glorious September.  It was dry and warm and was perfect for spending a few days away.  There was no way we were going to miss this opportunity.

It was less than 15 minutes out of Saint Malo and my mind was in a Fuzzy Haze of antibiotics and my stomach filled with tasty sandwich au jambon.  I was regarding the passing scenery in the aforementioned Fuzzy Haze when a realization crashed in on me.  I Fully Understood we were descending on a Truly Magical Place. Sitting in a farmers field was a ring of neolithic standing stones.

A walk thru Saint Malo on our first full day brought us to one of the Top Five Greatest Meals Ever.  The next day saw us out at Mont Saint Michel with our final full day in Bretagne being spent in Dinan.  Yes, magic could be found everywhere.

Mont Saint Michel ~ The Pilgrims Route

We like to travel on the shoulder seasons.  That is, we like to visit places when the prices are lower than during the peak and when there are fewer of us tourists to clog things up.

Mont Saint Michel was a source of concern for us as we'd read where the place is practically insupportable! with the vast numbers of tourists and pilgrims visiting the old monastery.  The site is the second most heavily visited location in France (after, of course, Paris).

Incredibly, fortune was on our side.  There was plenty of space to walk.  There were clear views of just about anything you might want to see.  We were able to take Mass with the brothers and nuns who live in the monastery.  We were able to pass thru the monastery with ease.  Lunch tables were un-filled in a surprising number of restos that are found on this history steeped island.

Mont Saint Michel ~ The Pilgrims Route

Back in the late-800's the Viking Rollo (aka: Robert I), son of Rognvald Eysteinsson, invaded what is now northern France (Normandy) and gained control over the region that includes Mont Saint Michel.  Rollo appointed an archbishop of Rouen who's direct control included the Mont.

In 933 William Longsword (William I) annexed the entire peninsula from the Bretons.  Squabbles with the Bretons would leave William dead after being ambushed while attending a peace conference.

The 1000's saw William the Bastard (aka: William the Conqueror) fighting in the region around the Mont as he maintained control over his father's and grand-father's land.  Some of the Big Events from the Bastard's life are recorded on the Bayeaux Tapestry.

Mont Saint Michel ~ The Pilgrims Route

Even as the Dreaded Plague was dragging me down Jude and I were like Two Little Mountain Goats.  We climbed, walked, skirted, and wandered all over the island.  I climbed the long, steep staircase to the monastery three times!  The first was with Jude to see where the stairs lead and to decide the seemingly over-priced museum was Probably Not Worth It.  I again climbed the stairs to ask questions of the Front Desk after we started to reconsider our initial decision.  And I climbed yet once more with Jude once we realized we simply had to see the monastery since that's what we'd come all this way to do!  Such were the continuing effects of antibiotics and the plague on my State of Reasoning.

As for the expected Vast Crowds, why were there so few people during our visit?  Was it our Good Fortune in planning?  Were there fewer people due to the Air France pilots strike?  Or was this a broader indication of the general state of the global economy?  Some things might just remain a mystery.

Voila une petite histoire...

I mentioned to someone in our French/English conversation group that Jude descended from the Dukes of Normandy but that I couldn't remember the details.  This sparked everyone's interest, a long conversation ensued, and Jude set out to re-research her family history.

Mont Saint Michel ~ The Pilgrims Route

Jude's daughter and niece had looked into the matter and had come to similar conclusions.  No one saved the Family Tree for future reference (the websites in question had deleted their research histories).  So... Jude was off to look into the matter once again and try to keep a record of her findings.

Here is what Jude found.  Some of her family who moved to Montana were named Eckley.  They came from somewhere along the east coast of the US.  Importantly, Jude was able to trace her family through the Eckley line back to Devon, England.  Many years before jumping the Pond to the New World the Eckley family line was connected to the Giffard/Gifford family line.  Many years before jumping the Channel to England, the Giffards had lived in Normandy and were, in fact, the Dukes of Normandy.  Many years before jumping the North Sea to invade northern France, the Dukes of Normandy had been Kings of Norway and Danemark.  Jude's daughter found a link to William the Bastard, as well.  It was a simple matter of following the lineage of one of William the Bastard's own Bastards, et voila!

Jude is a direct descendant of Rollo, William Longsword, and William the Bastard.

Hence our interest in things related to Mont Saint Michel.  The monastery island had been under direct control of her family for several centuries.  Our visit had been a visit the Old Family Stomping Grounds.

The Dreaded Plague could not keep us from paying the place a visit and submitting it to inspection to make sure they were keeping things in Good Order.

Mont Saint Michel ~ The Pilgrims Route