Jura and Normandy

Monday 2nd October 2017, Montjean-sur-Loire.

Leaving Brittany we travelled 250 miles today, most of it spent crossing Brittany from west to east on fast roads so we made good progress, arriving at the banks of the Loire in the late afternoon.

Tuesday 3rd October 2017. Loches
After a trying start along winding country roads, we drove along the banks of Loire and Cher to arrive at the wonderful white city of Loches where there was an exhibition of works of the Russian artist Mihail Chemiakin scattered around the town.

Royal residence, Loches.

Church, Loches.

Wednesday 4th October 2017. Autun.

Today we took faster roads, meeting with problems in Morvan when we found the campsite in an old manor deserted. Arrived in Autun we drove Modestine through the Roman gateway into the town.

Thursday 5th October 2017, Champagne-sur-Loue.
We visited Autun in the mist, peering to see the Roman theatre, largest in Gaul which could accommodate 12,000 spectators, probably the entire population of the 1st century town.

Passage. Autun, Burgundy.
Cathedral, West entrance. Autun, Burgundy.
Roman theatre. Porter's house with ancient sculptures attached. Autun, Burgundy.

Roman theatre.Autun, Burgundy.

We continued om quiet roads to the Jura, bypassing Beaune and Dole. Once arrived we were invited to dinner with Roland and Suzanne where we were able to sample their range of aperos, distilled and flavoured by themselves.

Friday 6 October 2017, Champagne-sur-Loue.
We were able to catch up on our washing in the morning and had a look round the village. Down by the river the campsite had been taken over, with more opportunity for glamping.

Saturday 7th October 2017, Champagne-sur-Loue.
A morning walk to the neighbouring village of Buffard provided us with possibility of a coffee, the auberge not serving coffee without a meal and the decrepit room run by an old woman being defiantly closed despite our rattling the door. Neverteless an old man recognised us in street from a previous visit. We were also intrigued to see a poster vehemently attacking the European Union - so it does not only have its critics in the UK.

Walnuts. Champagne-sur-Loue, Franche-Comté.

Church with teazles. Buffard, Franche-Comté.
In the afternoon we drove to the nearby village of Chissey to look at the craft market with its display of rusty old tractors. We also renewed our acquaintance with the babouins in the village church. They are thought by some to be depictions of mad pilgrims, visiting the  church in the hope of a cure by the intercession of Saint Christopher. The cult continued in the 20th century with the blessing of motorcars. There was nobody around to bless Modestine when we visited. 

Church. Babouins. Chissey, Franche-Comté.

Church. Saint Christopher. Chissey, Franche-Comté.

Church. Blessing cars. Chissey, Franche-Comté.
Sunday 8th October 2017, Champagne-sur-Loue
The day was overcast but we drove to Salins-les-Bains from where we walked via the hamlet of Bracon ever upwards to Fort Saint André, which overlooks the town. There was a wedding in progress within the formidable fortress so we were unable to look round. We returned via Ivrey – making a scenic drive along the river gorge.

From Fort Saint André. Salin-les-Bains, Franche-Comté.

From Fort Saint André. With Modestine. Salin-les-Bains, Franche-Comté.

Fort Saint André. Main entrance. Bracon, Franche-Comté.

From Bracon. Salin-les-Bains, Franche-Comté.

Fort Belin. Salin-les-Bains, Franche-Comté.

Fort Saint André. From Bracon, Franche-Comté.
Monday 9th October 2017, Champagne-sur-Loue.
Today we drove to Arbois with a fine view across the vineyards, aglow with red leaves, from the route nationale. There were road works everywhere but we were able to get in the internet in the tourist office. Then on to Poligny where we found our favourite restaurant full. However there was a pleasant alternative in the Café du Centre on main square where market was being dismantled. Students everywhere were dressed up; there must have been some sort of prize-giving. In the church of Saint Hippolyte there was fine 19th century stained glass, including the legend of Saint Colette. There were also wonderful 15th century sculptures by Burgundian masters including a Virgin and child, sold in shady circumstances in the 1920s and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 2016 a precise facsimile made by laser scanning with colouring by a conservation specialist. It is considered the masterpiece of Claus de Werve (1380-1439) and was given to Sainte-Colette in 1415 on the foundation of the Convent of the Clarisses in Poligny, at the time that the church of Saint-Hippolyte was being built.

Church. Saint Hippolyte. Stained glass, Begule 1892. Sainte Colette. Poligny, Franche-Comté.

Church. Saint Hippolyte. Virgin and child, Claus de Werve. Poligny, Franche-Comté.

Church. Saint Hippolyte. Saint Anne and Mary. Poligny, Franche-Comté.

Tuesday 10th October 2017, Champagne-sur-Loue.
On our last day we set out to rediscover the source of the River Loue, turning off to seek out a viewpoint at Renédale with a view of the Gorges de Nouailles more than 200 metres below with Mouthier-Haute-Pierre in the distance. The source however was hidden round the corner.

Gorges de Nouailles. Renédale, Franche-Comté.

View from Renédale. Mouthier Haute-Pierre, Franche-Comté.

Gorges de Nouailles. Renédale, Franche-Comté.
The site of the source was better maintained than we remembered. A metalled path from the car park now hides most of the medieval pathway with its wheel ruts. The Loue emerges in full spate from 100 metre high limestone cliffs. In the 19th century it was an important industrial site, the waters running a series of mills. Today the waters power two hydroelectric generating stations which can supply electricity to about 20,000 homes. It draws its water from the river Doubs, flowing some thirty kilometres to emerge into the Gorges de Nouailles. Gustave Courbet painted the source many times.

Source of the Loue, medieval wheel ruts. Franche-Comté.

Source of the Loue, Franche-Comté.

Source of the Loue, Courbet painting. Franche-Comté.

Source of the Loue, Franche-Comté.

Source of the Loue, Franche-Comté.
Wednesday 11th October 2017, Gien.
We took our farewells of Suzanne and Roland, making good progress through vineyards of Beaune and over the hills of the Morvan, through wonderful autumn colours. Our progress was so good that we passed two potential campsites only to find the third at Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisay closed, meaning an additional drive to Gien where we arrived exhausted.

Vineyards. Beaune, Burgundy.
Thursday 12th October 2017, Chartres.
A more relaxed day. We visited Gien in the morning where there was chaos on the bridge over the Loire as the roads were closed because trees were being pollarded. Fearing a gathering of spectators watching the men at work, there was a heavy presence of armed soldiers. Outside the châtean above the town was an exhibition on the battle of Gien in 1940. After the fall of Paris more than a million people fled across the bridge to the relative safety of the south bank of the Loire. The Germans in hot pursuit bombed and assaulted the town, destroying the church and many of the houses. The château was spared thanks to a thunderstorm extinguishing the flames. The church was later rebuilt in a neo-gothic style in the red brick that is widely used along this part of the Loire. The roads around Orleans were quieter than expected, so we were soon heading north towards Chartres with the viaduct of the Aérotrain running parallel to the road on our right. The Aérotrain was a hovertrain developed in France from 1965 by Jean Bertin. The principle was similar to magnetic levitation railways, also under development at that time. The train would hover above the tracks, thus avoiding friction from the ground, but without the technical complexity of magnetic levitation. The track north of Orléans was the third and longest test track to be built. It was constructed in 1969 and was 18 km long, permitting speeds of up to 400 km/h. It was elevated five metres about the ground on concrete pillars and it was hoped that it would eventually form part of a Paris-Orléans line. However the project was abandoned in 1977 due to lack of funding, the death of Jean Bertin, and the adoption of the TGV by the French government as its high-speed transport solution. The abandoned line remains today as a prominent landmark in the flat open plains around Chartres, substantially intact, but cut through by the motorway, a monument to a failed technological initiative.

We arrived in the campsite in time to walk into town beside the River Eure with a beautiful view of the three main churches in Chartres – Saint Pierre, the priory of Saint Vincent and the Cathedral. Of course we had to admire the unparalleled expanse of medieval stained glass and also the wonderful series of scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary on the monumental choir screen which was begun about 1510 and not completed until the early 18th century. We added Our Lady's nighty to our selection of unlikely relics - apparently with a pedigree going back to at least sixth century Byzantium and dated by some scientists to the first century. However it was largely ignored by visitors in favour of the nearby sixteenth century image of Our Lady of the Pillar, a clothed statue with an audience rapt in fervent contemplation, some of them posting written requests into an urn.

Château. Gien, France.

Church. War damage, Gien, France.

River scene. Chartres, France.

Maison du saumon. Chartres, France.

Cathedral. Stained glass. Chartres, France.

Cathedral. Virgin Mary's shift. Chartres, France.

Cathedral. Life of Christ. Clock. Chartres, France.

Vegetable market. Chartres, France.

Friday 13th October 2017, Caen.
During our drive to Caen we stopped at Verneuil-sur-Avre, a little town we had never visited before. It proved to be an attractive place with some fine early red brick and stone houses. In the church we discovered a local worthy the abbé Jean-Jacques Morel (1766-1852) who had links with Hampstead where, seeking exile during the Revolution, he founded a Catholic parish in 1816.

Église Saint-Jean. Verneuil-sur-Avre, Normandy.

Rue de la Madelaine. Houses. Verneuil-sur-Avre, Normandy.

Rue de la Madelaine. Houses with church. Verneuil-sur-Avre, Normandy.

Rue de la Madelaine. Houses with church. Verneuil-sur-Avre, Normandy.

Église de la Madelaine. Tower. Verneuil-sur-Avre, Normandy.

Église de la Madelaine. Entombment. c.1520. Verneuil-sur-Avre, Normandy.

Église de la Madelaine. Nativity. C.1840. Verneuil-sur-Avre, Normandy.
Abbé Jean-Jacques Morel, portrait. Verneuil-sur-Avre, Normandy.
Saturday 14th October 2017, Caen
Our first day back in Caen was a beautiful warm day and we took the opportunity of having lunch in the garden followed by a trip to Lion-sur-Mer in afternoon – encountering a thick wall of sea mist two miles inland.

Lunch in garden. Geneviève and Jill. Caen, Normandy.

Houses. Lion-sur-Mer, Normandy.

Promenade. Geneviève and Jill. Lion-sur-Mer, Normandy.

Houses. Lion-sur-Mer, Normandy.
Sunday 15th October 2017, Caen.
Today we took a trip towards the Suiss Normande, visiting the Château de Pontécoulant and taking a walk through the woods, gathering chestnuts, before moving on to have a coffee in the pretty village of Clécy.

Château. Pontécoulant, Normandy.

Château. Pontécoulant, Normandy.
Monday 16th October 2017, Caen.
Our last day was devoted to packing before going into town for lunch with friends.

Tuesday 17th October 2017, Caen.
We took ferry in the early dawn, the crossing was calm despite the nearby storm Ophelia. Jill was still nursing aches and pains from her fall which gradually diminished over the following weeks. The notes from this trip had to wait until the following March before they were finally written up, which accounts for the somewhat patchy nature of this narrative and its posting out of sequence with our trip to Cyprus.