Category Archives: Churches and Cathedrals

Breathtaking Brittany — Multiple Posts Coming Up!

We’re on the road in Brittany right now — taking a much needed holiday. I’ll have a whole series of posts from Dinan and Morlaix and the Finistere and Quimper. From ancient towns filled with half-timbered or stone buildings to pre-historic standing stones to gothic cathedrals — this part of France is simply stunning.

Just a tease or two — so shhhh — come back soon!

Rooftop Jumble in the historic city of Quimper in the Finistere Brittany, France.

Side entry of the Cathedral in Quimper, Brittany, France.

Standing stones near Camaret-sur-Mer

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The Medieval Abbey of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives in Normandy

There is no way to miss this impressive abbey from anywhere within the small town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives. And it is easily visible as you drive across the Calvados countryside, too. It’s quite wonderful to be living a mere ten minutes away from a place like this.

Founded in 1011 by Countess Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror — the abbey has undergone a variety of extensions and renovations over the subsequent centuries and those renovations continue right into the present day. Here’s a small photo essay of this truly gorgeous abbey.

A glimpse of the medieval abbey towers of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives can be seen all throughout the town and from several miles/kilometres away as you drive across the landscape of Calvados in Normandy, France. Founded in 1011 by Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror, the abbey has been enlarged, rebuilt, or renovated several times over the following centuries.

A glimpse of the medieval abbey towers of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives can be seen all throughout the town and from several miles/kilometres away as you drive across the landscape of Calvados in Normandy, France. Founded in 1011 by Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror, the abbey has been enlarged, rebuilt, or renovated several times over the following centuries.

Exterior view of stained glass-filled chapels at the Abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Exterior view of stained glass-filled chapels at the Abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Chapel containing the grave of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

Chapel containing the grave of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The gravestone of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The gravestone of Lesceline, the aunt of William the Conqueror and founder of the abbey in 1011.

The main altar area of the abbey.

The main altar area of the abbey.

A side aisle in the abbey.

A side aisle in the abbey.

A rather curious set of stairs to nowhere.

A rather curious set of stairs to nowhere.

Abbey interior.

Abbey interior.

Lovely angles and arches.

Lovely angles and arches.

A drawing of the original layout -- much of which on the outer perimeter facing the gardens is being restored at present.

A drawing of the original layout — much of which on the outer perimeter facing the gardens is being restored at present.

These are the buildings along the outer part of the Abbey complex -- the ones that are facing the gardens in the illustration above. The French government sold these buildings off after the Revolution and they have gradually been repurchased. Some of them are in perilous condition and are being properly renovated now.

These are the buildings along the outer part of the Abbey complex — the ones that are facing the gardens in the illustration above. The French government sold these buildings off after the Revolution and they have gradually been repurchased. Some of them are in perilous condition and are being properly renovated now.

Simple chairs against a lovely metalwork enclosure near the main altar.

Simple chairs against a lovely metalwork enclosure near the main altar.

The ever-present candles.

The ever-present candles.

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From AU to the UK to the EU in 5 weeks!

I’m tired just thinking about it — but we have gone from Australia to the UK to France in the very short space of 5 weeks. Seriously — whew!

We don’t bounce back energy-wise as fast as we did 20+ years ago — so we were well into Week 2 in England at Mark’s parents’ house before we started to shed SOME of the jet-lag. But even when we first arrived in France in the 3rd week of November, we were still exhausted.

Once we had the shopping and car insurance and ferry reservations and so forth sorted out, we drove in the wind and rain to Portsmouth to take the night ferry to Caen. I had booked a cabin so we could get some sleep, but the staff hadn’t finished cleaning the rooms when we arrived, so we ended up getting very few hours of shut-eye.

Waiting in a long and very slow line to board the ferry.

Waiting in a long and very slow line to board the ferry.

Waiting for our cabin to be cleaned in the blue-light disco.

Waiting for our cabin to be cleaned in the blue-light disco.

Arriving in France, we drove through persistent rain towards Caen and then south to the town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives and onward to the nearby village where we will be living for the next several months as Mark does a large renovation project.

The house was built over several centuries — but the oldest section is from the 1400s. And the part we are living in — the red brick section — is from the 1800s. We even have a resident mouser named (badly!) Caramel who SHOULD be named Rocky because he’s such a sturdy bruiser of a cat. However (ahem!) — he has now adopted Mark and he follows him around like a puppy. So much for the cat’s stand-offish reputation!

The Normandy renovation project.

The Normandy renovation project.

Mark inside the renovation project.

Mark inside the renovation project.

Mark's new playmate -- the cat in residence.

Mark’s new playmate — the cat in residence.

The town of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives is quite stunning and given the fact that they were occupied by the German army during World War II — a remarkable amount of truly old and lovely buildings are intact.

Every Monday morning, there is a large local market that takes place both inside the medieval market hall (another post about that coming soon!) and in the nearby street and huge parking lot. The range of fresh produce, cheese, wine, meat, seafood, and more was a wonderful surprise.

The packed Monday market in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

The packed Monday market in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Inside the historic medieval market hall at Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Inside the historic medieval market hall at Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Rooflines show the overlapping time periods of the town.

Rooflines show the overlapping time periods of the town.

Leaning against a wall of the cloister, a statue awaits restoration of the abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

Leaning against a wall of the cloister, a statue awaits restoration of the abbey in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives.

And finally — a hello from our next door neighbours on ALL sides — the lovely cows of Normandy. I’ll be back with more slices of life-in-France in the next few days. Enjoy!

The pretty cows in the fields next door.

The pretty cows in the fields next door.

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Photo Of The Day: The Tourist Train in Bayeux, Normandy, France

As I mentioned in yesterday’s photo essay, Bayeux is both charming and VERY easily walkable. But apparently some people don’t want to ramble around the cobblestone streets discovering fabbo little photo ops — or maybe they just have tired feet, eh?

The local tourism board has sorted that out then with this Tourist Train that departs from the Bayeux Cathedral and rolls you along in comfort though the streets of this very pretty town in northern France.

 

The tourist train in Bayeux, a lovely town in the Normandy region of France.

The tourist train in Bayeux, a lovely town in the Normandy region of France.


 

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Back To Bayeux

In several previous posts, I showed you some glimpses of the glorious Bayeux Cathedral, the outside of the Bayeux Tapestry building, and some of the wonderful gargoyles and grotesques on the exterior of the very ornate cathedral.

Today we are just having a bit of a walk around the town itself. It is quite lovely, very walkable size-wise, and is blessed to still have rather a lot of the original architecture since it was less impacted by World War II than most of the Normandy countryside.

 

The charming streets of Bayeux, a very pretty, historic, and walkable town in Normandy, France.

The charming streets of Bayeux, a very pretty, historic, and walkable town in Normandy, France.


 
People walking down a small cobbled street in the shopping district of Bayeux in Normandy, France on a bright and sunny day.

People walking down a small cobbled street in the shopping district of Bayeux in Normandy, France on a bright and sunny day.


 
Looking down a narrow one way street in Bayeux, Normandy, France towards the 11th Century medieval cathedral at the end of the block.

Looking down a narrow one way street in Bayeux, Normandy, France towards the 11th Century medieval cathedral at the end of the block.


 
Close-up details of the upper third of the dark red doors of the Bayeux Cathedral.

Close-up details of the upper third of the dark red doors of the Bayeux Cathedral.


 
A poignant war memorial on a side street in Bayeux, Normandy, France. As a French soldier is shot and begins to fall, the young boy takes the weapon and will carry on.

A poignant war memorial on a side street in Bayeux, Normandy, France. As a French soldier is shot and begins to fall, the young boy takes the weapon and will carry on.


 

Apologies for the return of the slightly larger watermarks again. I discovered several of my images being used on a German website where the person in question posted 3 of my images and claimed that they were his vacation pictures from Paris! Obviously the fact that they were all watermarked (and he cut that part off) and there is a COPYRIGHT notice posted in both my side bar and at the bottom of each page or post made no difference to this man.

After making direct contact with the person and receiving no response, I notified their ISP about their use of my image without payment or attribution. I gave them a link so that they could see that they were indeed my pictures and I told them that I had contacted the person and suggested that they just pay the bill for using the images.

The person in question apparently decided to ignore the issue, even after being contacted by me and by the ISP. So thankfully the ISP stepped in and the man’s site is no longer active. Good! It’s rather scandalous that people continue to troll the internet and use other people’s images as their own — but I am VERY PROACTIVE about pouncing when I discover that sort of blatant theft!

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Totally Terrific Toulouse — Part 2

Today’s highlights are a walk through the streets of the ‘Pink City’ of Toulouse in the Midi-Pyrenees. It was a cold and wintery 3 days there, so you’ll notice that there is very little in the way of blue skies!

Today’s post shows you a few glimpses of the Rue du Taur area with its charming pink brick buildings, narrow streets, wrought iron details, and medieval history.

The origins of the Rue du Taur are actually rather grim! This was the street where St Saturnin, first Bishop of Toulouse, was tied by the ankles to a charging bull and then dragged to his death at the instigation of the pagan priests who were headquartered at the site of the current Capitole plaza.

The basilica of St. Sernin (St. Saturnin) is the large cluster of buildings at the top of the Rue du Taur and it is all that remains of a formerly vast abbey complex.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site Basilica of St. Sernin (St. Saturnin) in Toulouse, France.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Basilica of St. Sernin (St. Saturnin) in Toulouse, France.


 

Shoppers on Rue du Saur in Toulouse, France.

Shoppers on Rue du Saur in Toulouse, France.


 

A slight curve in a narrow road filled with soft pink-coloured brick buildings in Toulouse, France.

A slight curve in a narrow road filled with soft pink-coloured brick buildings in Toulouse, France.


 

Man sitting on a bollard in front of the Notre Dame du Taur church entry reading a guidebook.

Man sitting on a bollard in front of the Notre Dame du Taur church entry reading a guidebook.

 

Clad in a full fur coat and fur hat, a woman bustles through the shopping district on Rue du Taur in Toulouse, France.

Clad in a full fur coat and fur hat, a woman bustles through the shopping district on Rue du Taur in Toulouse, France.


 

Our journey down the Rue du Taur ends as the street opens up into the vast plaza in front of the the Capitole de Toulouse, a government and arts complex covering over 2 hectares (4.4 acres) right in the heart of Toulouse and rebuilt in the 1700s-1800s in the same spot as the original Roman Capitolium.

 

Rue du Taur terminates at the vast plaza containing the Capitole in Toulouse, France.

Rue du Taur terminates at the vast plaza containing the Capitole in Toulouse, France.

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The plaza in front of the Capitole building in Toulouse is frequently crowded with both tourists and local residents.

The plaza in front of the Capitole building in Toulouse is frequently crowded with both tourists and local residents.

 

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Scaling Up and Going Grander

 

I’m scaling up size wise and going grander with the number of photos included. As a result, the next book will be a bigger and more expensive book. Print books can still be produced quite inexpensively but that is certainly NOT the case for colour photo print books unfortunately!

The book that I am currently editing is evolving into a much larger project than anticipated and I’ve made a few key decisions. As a result, it may or may not be ready for publication prior to Christmas. I’m hoping to be done by the end of this week, but if it ends up being a better product by waiting until after Christmas — then January it is!

The topic this time is France. I had planned to do three regional books on the North of France, the Midi-Pyrenees, and Paris. Now they’re going to all go into ONE LARGE book that has clearly defined sections. And I’ll be offering the print versions in 2 sizes — the small square size that I have used for the previous 3 books and a larger one (shape to be determined). There will of course be ebook formats for various types of tablets/e-readers/computers.

I recently became aware that I had over 18,000 images of France alone in my hard drive. Only a tiny percentage of them will make it into one of my books, but many will instead be placed into more travel articles or lodged with whatever agency I actually do continue to work with. And at some point in the future I plan to offer direct sales of prints. One step at a time though…

Interesting dilemma, eh? Far better to have too much to work with than too little. And for now, here’s one pic that didn’t go into the book. Enjoy!

 

Walking through the medieval walled city portion of Boulogne-sur-Mer in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France.

Walking through the medieval walled city portion of Boulogne-sur-Mer in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France.


 

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