Wednesday in Normandy
Today we drove for two hours to spend a long morning at Mont Saint-Michel, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel Saint Michael and was built between the 11th and 16th centuries.
The Abbey Church stands 276 feet above sea level at the top of a granite rock. There are 350 very steep steps to reach it- and we climbed every one of them.
Mont Saint-Michel is so tall you can see if from miles away. It is surrounded by the water of the bay where the highest tides in continental Europe take place. There is a 49-foot difference between low and high tides and the tide rushes in very quickly. When the tide goes out, you can walk around Mont Saint-Michel- but only with a guide because there is quicksand.
I wish I could attach my photos, but this site will have to do for now: http://www.france-voyage.com/cities-towns/le-mont-saint-michel-17622.htm
On the way back to Bayeux, our guide, Caroline, gave us information about French culture today. In no particular order:
Women must take a minimum of 14 weeks of maternity leave. Parental leave can be taken for three years-with a guarantee that the woman will get her job back when she returns!
Workers get five weeks of vacation time.
Taxes are pro-rated based on salary. The higher the salary, the higher the taxes.
School children either eat lunch at home or at school- they are not allowed to bring lunches. The school lunches must be balanced- with dairy, meat, vegetable and fruit, as much as possible from local sources.
School subjects include music, art and physical education along with French literature, science, math, history, geography and English. In higher levels the students must take an additional language- so they leave school fluent in at least three languages.
In order to drive in France, you have to go to a driving school, pass a written test with less than 3 wrong, pay 350 Euros to get a permit- and if you don’t pass the written driving test, you have to pay 90 more Euros to take it a second time. Then you have to have I don’t remember how many hours of driving before you can take the driving portion of the test. This includes parallel parking, two other types of parking, and driving on every type of road in your immediate area. Instead of getting points on your license if you do something unacceptable, in France you start with points and have them taken away. They take safe driving very seriously.
Our bus driver has to blow into a breathalyzer before the bus will start! And we must have our seat belts on.
Regarding higher education, if you show that your family has a limited income (I don’t know the amount) then you get a stipend that covers your tuition, books, etc. If you don’t do well in school the first year, they don’t take the stipend away. They let you try another time.
The government provides families with money at the beginning of the elementary, middle and high school years to purchase school supplies.
That’s enough for now. If precedent serves, I’ll remember more to tell you tomorrow.
When we got back to Bayeux, about half of us went to see the Bayeux Tapestry. Here is a description:
“The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth nearly 230 feet long and 20 inches tall, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.
According to Sylvette Lemagnen, conservator of the tapestry:
The Bayeux tapestry is one of the supreme achievements of the Norman Romanesque …. Its survival almost intact over nine centuries is little short of miraculous … Its exceptional length, the harmony and freshness of its colors, its exquisite workmanship, and the genius of its guiding spirit combine to make it endlessly fascinating.
The tapestry consists of some fifty scenes with Latin tituli, embroidered on linen with colored woolen yarns. It is likely that it was commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother, and made in England—not Bayeux—in the 1070s. In 1729 the hanging was rediscovered by scholars at a time when it was being displayed annually in Bayeux Cathedral. The tapestry is now exhibited at the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Bayeux, Normandy, France.
The designs on the Bayeux Tapestry are embroidered rather than woven, so that it is not technically a tapestry. Nevertheless, it is always referred to as such. The Bayeux Tapestry is exceptionally large. Only the figures and decoration are embroidered, on a background left plain, which shows the subject very clearly and was necessary to cover very large areas.”
It is incredibly detailed, really telling the story about the events that led William the Bastard to become William the Conqueror and the king of England. You really need to see it for yourself. This site shows you each section of the tapestry and explains what is happening. Two pictures to look for: a man with a very pronounced third leg and an extremely lifelike looking hand (of God): http://<www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/BayeuxContents.htm
Then we went inside the Bayeux Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1077 by Bishop Odo in the presence of his half-brother William the Conqueror, king of England and duke of Normandy. Bishop Odo, also earl of Kent, probably commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry for display in the cathedral. The Bayeux Tapestry was displayed (or at least kept) at the cathedral until 1793.
This Gothic and Romanesque Cathedral is absolutely exquisite, as you’ll see from the pictures. When we were there, the sun shone brilliantly through the large stained glass windows, sending sparkling colors all over the statuary in the Cathedral. They were also playing the organ, so it was quite an experience to be in there. This site has the most photos of the façade and inside of the Cathedral, also known as Cathedral Notre Dame.
You’ll just have to see my photos!!
Interestingly enough, inside there were three plaques under the huge statue of Christ on the Cross.
One is very ornate and has this inscription in English and then in French: “To the glory of God and to the memory of one million dead of the British Empire in the Great War 1914-1918 and of whom the greater part rest in France.”
The second: “56th Infantry Brigade, British Liberation Army: To the memory of all ranks of the 56th infantry brigade who died in the campaign for the liberation of north western Europe June 1944-1945. Erected by their comrades. “We Shall Remember.”
The third is inscribed: Operation Overlord on the 70th anniversary of D-Day 1944 “Remembering the liberators and civilians lost in the Battle of Normandy.” Installed on 2014.
Then we walked through the city of Bayeux, which is charming. You can see some photos if you Google “photos of the city of Bayeux, France.”