Friday, July 24, 2015

Lens, France: Clouds Over Normandy

It seems that gray damp weather arrived in Normandy about the same time we did.  After two months of  easy traveling we encountered the wettest days since our time in the Alps.  Unfortunately, overcast skies make for dreary photographs, which is disappointing and uninspiring.  But it does save time not stopping to dig out the camera when something catches my eye while rolling down the road.

We traveled through northern Normandy and its neighboring regions of Picardi and Nord Pas De Calais.  These were our last days in France, and my memory bank is filled visions of miles and miles of rural country, fields of corn, wheat and potatoes, pretty black and white cows, and small agricultural villages.  Below are a few curated images to tell the story of some of the highlights we saw along the way.
Occupying the most northwestern corner of Normandy is a mecca for anyone visiting the region -- Mont Saint Michel.  Situated on a flat coastal plain it is visible from far away.  The iconic profile is unmistakable.

A new causeway that allows the tides to circulate has recently opened.  Sand has been depositing around the mount for years, and this engineered solution will allow water to completely surround the rock at high tide as it did for many centuries.

Goods were hauled to the abbey up this rail.
At the top of the rail is this wheel which was installed around 1820 when the abbey was used as a prison.  Think of prisoners walking inside the wheel like a hamster to power the pulleys to haul materials up the rail.
I continue to be fascinated by really big fireplaces.

We were there at low tide, and it is a popular activity for modern-day pilgrims to approach the abbey from the bay as was done in the past,

These pilgrims approached by bike!

Milk me, oh please, someone, milk me!

The green and gray of Normandy.

A foggy day visiting the American cemetery at Omaha Beach.  It is hard not to leave without a deep sadness.

In a village near Omaha Beach, a rebuilt church that was damaged by Allied bombing prior to the invasion.

A sign in front of the church shows the damage.

A pleasant surprise -- sunshine and the town of Bayeaux.  We saw the wonderful 1000 year-old tapestry while we were there.

Bayeaux also has a huge cathedral that stopped us in our tracks when we turned the corner and saw it.  And we have seen LOTS of cathedrals.

Thank goodness for leafy trees to protect us from the rain!

Bridge over the Seine with a lane for bicycles and tractors, oh my!

Wind power in the wheat fields.

We came across many cemeteries, this one for Commonwealth soldiers killed in WWI.  This was the area where the western front was stalled for three bitter years of trench warfare. 

We intersected this army of power lines, six towers abreast, heading from the coast in the direction of Paris.

We had two days escape from the rain in a hotel in the scruffy former coal mining town of Lens.  Here the Lourvre opened a satellite museum two years ago.  Where the Lourvre in Paris is an all-you-can-eat buffet, this is the tasting menu where you can savor every bite.
Free audioguides are provided that give scholarly descriptions of various objects in the collection.

Just a few select pieces are on display, like these statuettes from an Egyptian tomb.  The limited number of pieces allows individual ones to have more impact.

I am fascinated by the design of this ceramic bowl from Irag, dated from between 800 and 900 AD.  It was one of the first examples where tin was used in glazes to a solid white color.

I also can't get over the beauty of these tiles from Turkey, dating from the year 1577.

The sun peeked out under the clouds on our last evening in Lens on the building across the street from our hotel.

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