The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mother's Day, Ile Barbe

Fete de la Mere, Mother's Day, is celebrated a week later in France than in the US. That may have been why the florist looked confused when I came in to buy flowers for V a week too early. Of course, she may also have been confused because I called it "Fete du Mer", or Feast of the Ocean. That's not quite as bad as when I called a nanny service (agence de gardes) and asked them if they had any English-speaking gardiens... that is, goalkeepers.

Anyway, on Mother's Day we picked up some picnic things at Les Halles--the large covered market which is a great place to go eat fresh raw oysters if you like those things, which I don't--and took a bus up the Saone to Ile Barbe, an island in the river that is home to a 10th-century former monastery, taken over in the 1789 Revolution and now converted to private residences. There's a nice shady park there, and the former monastery is an interesting place to go poke around. Clicky clicky on the pics to see 'em better.

You have to walk across a bridge to get there, assuming you don't have a boat, and from the bridge you have this nice view of some riverside cafes. Paul Bocuse's restaurant, considered one of the finest in France and by logical extension the world, is about half a mile further up the river.

This is the old boat landing, where one arrived at the monastery before the bridge was built. France was a pretty rough place back in the 13th and 14th centuries, what with bands of brigands, marauding germanic tribes and warring Christian sects, so even monasteries had to be built with an eye toward defense. The gate house here had "murder holes" built into the top of the archway, so the monks in the tower could pour boiling oil onto unwanted guests, shoot arrows through the tops of their heads, taunt them, etc. Silly English kn-iggets.

Inside the walls the buildings range in age; this one is somewhat later, obviously, and now houses an auberge (inn/restaurant) serving local specialties at €95 a throw. You pay extra for the atmosphere, I reckon. Whatta dump! Man, let's roll up to Chez Bocuse and get a bucket of wings!

The island is called Ile Barbe, the story goes, short for "barbarous", because the exposed rock that forms the island is very hard and difficult to work. Hence a lot of the buildings are just built directly up from rock outcroppings. This building is now apartments; there was a guy out changing a tire on the car in the background. Ho-hum, just another lazy day at my converted-10th-century-monastery-on-an-island-in-the-Saone apartment.

This is a cluster of houses and restaurants on the opposite bank, the rive gauche. Some old guys were there on the bank fishing later; I didn't see if they were catching anything or keeping what they caught. It probably didn't help them that Boog was gleefully hucking big rocks into the river.

At the edge of the park was this gate separating the public park from the private residences, keeping out the riffraff. Some kids were playing soccer here, using this as a goal. What would they do if someone skyed it over the crossbar? Sorry guys, that's game.

I really gotta do something about that smudge on the lens, if I ever find the box where I packed the lens cloths.

I've got more pics uploaded on the 'puter now, so I'll put some up for you once I figure out something to say about them.


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