On the Road Again – France
June 1, 2015
Nothing like France. Found the B&B with the help of our new best friend, Tom (short for TomTom the GPS gizmo). After the delayed start this morning, I was concerned that we might have a series of issues. Concerns were just paranoia. Boarded the giant Air France plane along with 400 or so other passengers and finally left LAX. Despite a late seat assignment, we got two seats next to each other and an empty seat next to the aisle for us to use. We stuck with the plan and took our B6 and Sleepy Time tea at the end of the dinner. I even restrained myself to one glass of vin ordinaire. The goal was to sleep as much as possible. we donned the trick eyepatches supplied by Air France and the slick new neck pillows and closed our eyes. Managed to cat nap on and off for the next ten hours. Passport control was a piece of cake. Maybe it took three minutes. baggage was longer but arrived in good order. The ATM worked fine and the car people took us to our new chariot. Even the “surly” Parisians were eager to assist two jet lagged Americans. A cab driver called our car leasing office for us and urged them to pick up the pace in reaching us at the airport.
Despite being on the outskirts of the airport, I managed to get myself in the taxi only route. After a little honking we found the freeway, albeit the wrong one, and headed for Beauvais. Made it to the gas station with a cup or two to spare and filled up with $7/gallon regular. On the road again and we finally let Tom do his job. It is much easier to drive on our side of the road in a new car. The AC was tougher than any other issues. We figured things out and arrived at our modest B&B with a very enthusiastic proprietor by 4PM. We shook hands and saw our room and headed for the Beauvais St.Peter’s Cathedral. Used our European travel skills and found a pay parking spot near the church. We were off on our first tourist attraction of the trip.
Beauvais Cathedral was built in front of an earlier Romanesque basilica. The work on the Gothic construction began in 1225. That it still stands is remarkable. Shortly after the construction started, the Bishop decided to outdo the neighboring dioceses. He ordered that the choir vaulting reach 157 feet or ten feet higher than neighboring Amiens at 148 feet. Things went well until the new choir collapsed in 1284. That section was redone but work never started on the nave. You have a choir and the transept portion of the church without a nave. The old Romanesque basilica built in the Carolingian style serves as the “nave” today. There was a service going on so we didn’t venture in. The entire Gothic portion of the cathedral just hangs in there. Over the centuries various forms of reinforcement have been added such as more buttressing and tie rods between the flying buttresses. The wooden braces inside the cathedral add to the jerry rigged appearance. It needed to stand one more day while we were there. Mission accomplished
Remember that the building survived the ravishes of the Black Death, the Hundred Years War when Beauvais was besieged by the Duke of Burgundy and the French Revolution. A quick aside is that during the siege by the Burgundian allies of the English, a local woman led the defense of the town parapets. Jeanne Hachette (common people did not use last names until much later) used her hatchet as a weapon to inspire the defenders, thus her non de guerre. There is a statue of her in front of the town hall that we were too tired to find. The building also survived an attempt in the 1500’s to out do St. Peter’s in Rome with a 500 foot spire. It too collapsed but the building survived. There is a wooden ceiling cover for the hole created by the collapsed spire. Statuary was attacked by the san culottes during the Revolution and the building found itself in the middle of both 20th Century world wars. Nazi bombing and fires destroyed most of the old town in 1940 along with some of the cathedral outbuildings. We did find a home built in 1410 that survives today. Remarkably there is much of the original stained glass from the Gothic and Renaissance eras as well as some remarkable contemporary works
We were fascinated by the elaborate mechanical clock with some 90,000 parts from the mid 19th Century until we saw and heard the carillon clock from the 1300’s that still rings the bills and keeps accurate time. It is claimed to be the oldest chiming clock in the world that still works. We have many pictures. We didn’t go to the tapestry museum that housed the cathedral collection. But we did wander into the courtyard of the fortified bishops house behind the cathedral. The wonderful turret towers were added after riots aimed at the bishop made him nervous.
We even managed to find a supermarket with a pleasant Rhone wine to have with our local pizza. We are too tired to do much else. Our visit to this historic town in Picardy was short but worthwhile. It is well off the tourist track but convenient to the airport and much less hectic than finding our way into Paris. Besides the B&B provides an extensive selection of breakfast goodies and even the shared shower was classy. What do you want for less than 50 bucks?