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04 July 2006

July, visit to Brittany

The farm Keres in Northern Brittany

Maria's house

Angers was an absolute treasury of history.

Just about to enjoy Maria's goose

It’s a long journey from here to Brittany across country. Most of the main autoroutes stretch north south in France, and to go across country you go from bits and pieces of good road, to some interesting small country roads. Much as we love the little roads, they take so much longer, particularly at this time of the year when farmers are making hay and there are loads of tractors on the road. We set off with the plan of exploring the Loire Valley a bit, but as the rain was coming down in stair rods along the river, we decided to continue on to Angers. What a fortunate decision, it was an absolute treasury of history. We found a very pleasant place to stay, first night in an ancient convent, and second an old hotel on a large square. The owner and his wife worked on Lindeman Island for two years, and in fact their daughter was born in Brisbane! He was delighted to watch the match with John – Aus/Italy, despite the sad finish for Australia. We visited the 12th century chateau and alone, would have made a visit to Angers worth while. It was the residence of the Ducs d’Anjou, and was in a key position on a headland dominating the river Maine. In 1151 Henry II Plantagenet became Count of Anjou and was in residence. It was heavily fortified with 17 towers and houses one of France’s most famous tapestries, made to order in the 14th century by Louis I, a Prince of Anjou.
The tapestry illustrates the Apocalypse. It is 106 metres long – I know that’s hard to imagine – its made up of large panels, one above the other, interspersed with massive full length panels, it just kept going on and on around 3 sides of a massive hall. It is extraordinary, I cannot find words to describe it. Full of symbolic creatures and people, of interpretation of dreams and stories. The continuous bands at the top are woven to illustrate heaven and at the bottom the earth. We had a special guide to explain it all which was very helpful.
We then moved on to the 12th century cathedral to see a poster advertising a concert the next evening for the Mozart anniversary, featuring organ, strings and a soprano. We thought what a pity to miss it, at that time the next evening we would be tucking into Maria’s goose, specially prepared to celebrate our arrival. ( I should draw a picture of a knife or something here…) However, we were very lucky – when we went inside the organist was practising and doing a test for the sound engineers who were setting up. What a building, and incredible stained glass windows, which have survived. The only thing is they illustrate such gruesome stories, I hope they are not explained to children!. A beautiful church, and lovely to sit there amongst the soaring archways listening to wonderful music. Afterwards the organist came down to be interviewed by the local press, and we could see he was blind. An experience to be remembered.
The next day we reached the Brittany south coast and wandered a long a bit, looking at the bays and little houses. Very picturesque – a reminder of the south of England or even the south of Ireland.
(John’s cousin) Maria’s house is terrific and she has done a lot of work herself to make it habitable. Like us she bought a veritable ruin with four sturdy walls and has done it up. She has a marvellous vegetable garden and lots of animals for self sustenance. It was lovely to see her after all that time and we had a great dinner enjoying one of her geese. The next day we talked non stop and later went to the North of Brittany to visit a farm which specialises in raising rare fowl. They have more than 100 different breeds, but have had a tough time this year because of the avian flu. Maria bought some Orpington chicks for a friend. A great day, and we were sad to leave the next day.

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