Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Helene Deschamps Adams. The Distaff Side of the French Resistance, WWII

Helene Deschamps Adams. War hero. Died 2006 in New York. She was a spy against the Nazis in France, resisting them and their collaborators in WWII. She also spied for the United States, see

She was always a risk-taker, a tomboy as a child, see  She observed and reported German positions, was captured carrying fake German papers, see a book from 1985 entitled, "Women in the Resistance," by Margaret L. Rossiter (Praeger), was nearly executed, hid in a closet while drunken German soldiers searched, and saw her work as just a necessary job.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Reims - Joan of Arc, Statue, Horse with Raised Forefoot

Joan of Arc, Statue, Reims FR

Joan of Arc:  her statue stands  in front of the Cathedral at Reims.

Significance of the horse pose:   The raised forefoot of the horse signifies, to some, that the rider was wounded in battle, even if that wound later caused death.  A rearing horse, two forefeet raised, signifies to some that the rider was killed in battle.  All feet on the ground signifies survival. See

It was in Reims in 1429 where Joan of Arc caused the dauphin, Charles VII, to be crowned. A first introduction to the Dauphin is at Chinon Castle, where Joan of Arc recognized him even in disguise, in the castle, among a large group.  Reims is a World Heritage site. See 

The Cathedral housed an ointment (think annoint) of sacred oil, that, once administered, gives the king a divine quality.  Without that done, the legitimacy of a king is in question.  See

  • The rival to Charles VII, the Dauphin, is the English-Angevin Henry VI, a member of the Plantagenet family, one of seven Plantagenet children who can be claimants to the throne, but Henry was best positioned. If Joan can clear the way for Charles to get to Reims to be annointed, Charles wins, in the minds of the people. The Angevins, Plantagenets:  long history in France, borrow this ebook and read online The Conquering Family, a History of the Plantagenets, by Thomas Costain.

The cathedral is the equivalent of Westminster Abbey in England, in that the kings were crowned there. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. See Scroll down to France, and click on Reims.

The Reims Cathedral sports happy, smiling angels with open wings on the facade. See; and photos at

Reims, in the Champagne Region, was the site for coronations of centuries of French kings. Compare and distinguish Rouen:  the capital of upper Normandy.  Joan of Arc was burned at Rouen in 1431.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Verdun: Gallery, Old Postcard Photographs

Contemporary Postcard Views, Verdun WWI
Verdun was brutal in ways unique in war:  a soldiers' revolt; their bleating as they passed their officers, to a near-certain slaughter, see!/2007/09/verdun-soldiers-mutiny-1917.html

See views of Verdun as it was soon after the battles:

1. Memorial to Unknown Soldiers

2. Cloister view, interior of the Ossuary, Verdun

3. Fort Douaumont, Verdun

There were some 19 forts erected for defensive purposes in the 1890's, to protect Verdun.  Douaumont is the highest. What was it like:  see diary at


The Ossuary -- see  February 21, 1916 to December 1916.  There are 130,000 unidentified French and German bodies, estimates from remains-parts. Bombs:  26,000,000 of them.
5. Fort De Vaux, Verdun
A garrison of 250 French were finally overrun in 1916, their bravery heralded by the Germans.
6. Lion Memorial, Verdun, Chapelle Sainte Fine

I had understood this was the Dying Lion, see; other websites, however, refer to it as wounded; and memorializing the 130th Division, part of the Souville Garrison.  Here, at the Chapel of Sainte Fine area, the Germans had finally been stopped.

For an overview of the Verdun battlefields, see
7. Memorial commissioned by Holland, Rodin Sculpture, Verdun

Download this doc file, for a walking tour 2005 of the battlefield, · DOC file

8. Verdun Military Cemetery, Faubourg-Pave

There are some 5,000 burials here.  There is an area for Muslim burials, all angled in their lines toward Mecca.  See good diary account, tourist, at, Sandra Price 2007.
9. Verdun, Trench of Bayonets
A trench caved in on the soldiers upright, their bayonets have been kept visible; memorial funded by Americans. Covered but outdoors.  Any war carries legends and stories, and this is one of the most moving. Whether gas, concussion, cave-in, not to be known.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Epernay and how to make "champagne" yourself

The town of Epernay boasts an Avenue de Champagne, and many cafes offering the bubbly.  These fine people will tell you how to do it: Making Your Own Champagne by Bernt and Bjarne.  Epernay is in champagne country - the real thing. See Champagne. And, as you sip, Champagne taste, do not expect a bargain. Pick any cafe, sit in the waning sun and just order.

It is easy, amid the peaceful grape arbors, to forget World War I and World War II.  I did not note the exact location of this memorial of several French soldiers killed by Germans in WWII.  Post it anyway.

Battle of Sedan through coins; Translation site. Marseillaise.

The Battle of Sedan, fought in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, resulted in Napoleon III captured, and the overthrow of the Second Empire.  The defeat culminated prior defeats, and was devastating to France.

Fast forward to September 2, 1970.  Find the history of Sedan told in its coins. Turn up the volume on your computer and visit This site is by a numismatist (read coin specialist) who presents European history through the countries' coins. This portion puts you at Sedan with Napoleon III and there is the battlefield drawn for you, and the faces on the coins.

The site is mostly in Italian, but I found English at the Luxembourg section. Even with Italian, try saying-reading it aloud, and find more understanding than anticipated. Close thedoor, stand up, and elocute.

There is a fine preface on the overall topic of using coins to give voice tol history, and in English, at

Translation site offered by http://www.roth37. Try it - go to

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sedan - near Belgian border. Chateau Fort de Sedan

Sedan Castle, Sedan FR

This 15th century castle had been a refuge for Protestant refugees during the Wars of Religion, built in 1424.

It was last under siege in the Franco-Prussian war: Napoleon III in 1870.  Napoleon III was defeated there by the Germans, and taken prisoner with some 100,000 soldiers.  Boundaries changed. See This German victory facilitated the unification of the country, and was further used to advantage by them in WWI.  In WWI, the Germans occupied it for four months, this location allowing the Germans to circumvent the Maginot Line, and accomplish a further victory in the Battle of France.

A large medieval jousting festival was being set up when we were there - see  

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Vercingetorix and Dijon

Ancient battles; memorial to Vercingetorix; and on to Dijon. 

Vercingetorix, Celtic Leader defeated by Rome at Alesia, France

I.  Alesia:

Here, Vercingetorix, Chief of the Gauls, was defeated finally by the Romans in sieges and over a broad territory beginning about 52 B.C.  The battles were brutal and long, with Roman military catapults and siege towers, as well as trenchworks combined with sharpened stakes.

Finally, Vercingetorix was defeated at Alesia, held for years, displayed and beheaded. See  Ironically, the Gauls had first invited Caesar to bring forces to repel the German tribes, but then Caesar would not leave. The Gauls had sought to cast off Rome, and Vercingetorix set out to ally with other Gallic tribes.  Armies increased. During the long years, neither side saved the villages, women and children caught between the armies from starvation and massacre. See  And, in the end, German tribes joined with Caesar, to a degree, to overcome Gauls.  The specific Battle of Alesia:  sroll down at

As a war tactic, hostage-taking is old.  It is also complex, requiring training, weighing, in order to maximize the change of return of a hostage unharmed.  See  Hostages can help ensure loyalty. 

History of Hostage-Taking:  The Romans had a system of demanding hostages to ensure peace, or fulfillment of obligations. Caesar himself had been held hostage, and took hostages in Britain, see  Vercingetorix followed suit, and took his own hostages, but without the same success.  The Gauls were impulsive, undisciplined, though fierce and persistent, but no match for the Romans encircling Alesia with great traps, see

The face of Vercingetorix on this statue, complete with handlebar mustache, was modeled after Napoleon III who asked for it in order to glorify himself See

This is a fine beefcake statue. Attitude.  What if the Gauls had won? Great gaiters.

Alesia, France. Roman ruins.

There are large areas of Roman ruins at Alesia from the army camp. The field and mountain area are near Dijon.

II.  Dijon:

Visit for mustard. We learned later that Dijon mustard probably stems from mustard seeds brought by the Romans, as they were not native here.  The process uses sour unripe grape juice, or a strong wine-vinegar such as verjus.  and not really to the town itself. See for a history of Dijon mustard. Make your own honey dijon at

We chose to come here instead of to the gilt and parking lots of Versailles.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tonnerre - and Fosse Dionne, Spring without end. Marguerite Pajot.

Tonnerre, its endless spring; and a look at some who were born here. The Unsung of Tonnerre. The renowned Chevalier de Beaumont, cross-dresser; and Marguerite Pajo, burned as witch.

 Tonnerre, France; Fosse Dionne

Tonnerre is a canalway town in Burgundy. See It is near Chablis, and on the way to Alesia and Dijon. A 13th Century hospital is here, the facility known as a hospice, including a museum; and a spring, the Fosse Dionne. The name apparently stems from a Celtic water goddess, Divona, see Burgundy Rough Guides.  An alternate route would have included Versailles, but we had seen enough gilt and mirrors in the Loire Valley earlier. The bus traffic and excessive time just to get in at Versailles also is a detriment.

Fosse Dionne.  This spring is in the great traditions of watercourses without known source. It was made into a circular lavoir, or place for washing, as in laundry and household, in the early 1700's. Old houses, and shelters for conducting the work, surround. Water without end. Strong bursts, currents of water, endless.

Fosse Dionne, endless spring lavoir, Tonnerre, France

There is a tale that a serpent lives in the depths. Was it a snake killed by a saint, see Burgundy Rough Guides above, or a gateway to hell.

The Romans enjoyed the fosse, or fount, when they established a settlement above this area. See

I. A diplomat of Louis XV who conducted his work dressed as a woman.

I.  Chevalier de Beaumont.

Early cross-dressing diplomat, see Burgundy site.  And accepted. This was Charles-Genevieve-Louis-Auguste-Andre-Timothee D'Eon de Beaumont, also written without hyphens, Charles Genevieve Louis Auguste Andre Timothee Deon de Beaumont, 1728-1810.

He was a historical and well-known (at the time) cross-dresser, see; early trans as to clothing but nothing about how he saw his own identity, and much esteemed as effective in his work.  What was the gender result after his autopsy? Eagerly awaited, asserts the site, but no designation given. If he had been physically female, surely that would have been noted.

He was also a spy, a Freemason, and a soldier.  Chevalier de Beaumont. See transsuccess site.

II.  The unsung of Tonnerre. Marguerite Pajot.

Marguerite Pajot was burned as a witch here in Tonnerre in 1576. See extensive list of Historical Witches and Witch Trials in France at For a Europe-wide list, Executions for Witchcraft, see  The Vatican is in that URL.  Compiler:  W.J. Bethancourt. See also I have tried to find out more of the charges, unsuccessful.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Abbaye de Fontevraud and chimney pots; compare Cistercians and Benedictines.

Abbaye de Fontevraud, southeast of Saumur, France. Chimneypots.

1.  Fontevraud was founded in about 1100, and, after conflict between its ascetic founder and subsequent wealthy benefactors (including Henry II Plantagenet and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, both buried here).  It was modeled along Benedictine lines.  Compare Benedictines and Cistercians.  See FN 1 for examples.

History of the area:  Read online The Conquering Family: A History of the Plantagenets, by Thomas Costain, at

Both nuns and monks resided here, with an Abbess over all.  This was not uncommon, especially among Anglo-Saxon religious, see

2.  Chimney pots

A chimney pot is a multipurpose invention: a topper for a chimney that improves the draft, leading poisonous fumes from coal (other fuel?) burning, away from the people doing the cooking. The bigger the kitchens, the more chimneys and chimney pots. See  e a pot spotter. At this site, look up all the styles through the centuries. See The greening of the culinary arts, and ordinary heating. Some function as rainguards. Know your pot.


FN 1  Benedictines and Cistercians.

Abbaye de Fontenay, Marmagne, Burgundy:  easy, by name, to confuse with Fontevraud

  • Background.  The Abbaye de Fontenay was a Cistercian Monastery, founded by St. Bernard de Clairvaux. Orders of Monks:  Benedictines were already established when the Cistercians took root. See Cistercians are still active today, and are also known as Trappists. There is a modern Cistercian monastery and school in Texas. See It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. See Its history extends back to 1118. See
 Cistercians.  Cistercians created the Templars' "Rule."  St. Bernard of Clairvaux urged the Second Crusade, to avenge God's glory and God's name by the killing of the infidels, see text of sermon, The Strict Observance site as to the Cistercians:  see

3.  Monastic setting.  Monastic traditions:  these began to develop in strength after the Third Century, see; and (western monasticism beginning with celtic hermits, in Gaul, spreading to Ireland; for research:  is Paul mythical?  Hadn't noticed that sentence before).

Franciscan, Cistercian, Benedictine, on and on. At it appears that Cistercians stemmed from Benedictines who became dissatisfied with the greater opulence of the Benedictines, not sufficiently in accord with St. Benedict's thoughts on simplicity.  Is that so?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Loire Valley, Chinon - Joan of Arc finds the Dauphin, and Motivational Statue

Chinon Castle, Loire Valley, view, France

The earliest fortress here dates from the 10th century.  It enjoys a strategic location, where the provinces of Anjou, Poitou and Touraine converge. Henry II Plantagenet built here: he was King of England and Count of Anjou. This is the view from the castle at Chinon, over the river Vienne, see, and, in the Loire Valley, where so many castles are located.

Follow history through the French king Phillippe Augustus in the 13th Century controlling the castle, to the Templars and Grand Master Jacques de Molay being imprisoned here before their executions in Paris, and fast forward to the 15th Century when Joan of Arc affirmed the legitimacy of Charles VII, the Dauphin, by recognizing him in his disguise in a crowded reception room. See  It was in 1429when she identified the Dauphin, heir to the throne, amid courtiers, in the main hall here and asked for and got her army.

Chinon, France. Joan of Arc and the Oriflamme, statue by Jules Rolleau, medieval monarch's battle pennant

Here she is, in a motivational pose.  See Joan of Arc statues with and without the oriflamme at

Chinon Castle, Loire Valley, France: Room where Joan of Arc identified the Dauphin

More history:  Romans, Visigoths, the place of death of Richard the Lionheart.

Some chateaux or castles, like Chinon, are not reconstructed, but are left and cared for as they are, with pathways outside between sections, and informational signs, but mostly in the open air.

The roofed area of this ruined room is the fireplace, its chimney, the holes would hold the floorboards of a large room

Joan of Arc went to this room in the castle (the flooring is gone, but there is the fireplace) in 1429 to find the Dauphin (later on he was Charles VII). The holes in the stone would have held the timbers supporting the floorboars. Find more on Joan, later sainted, at To find out how people get "sainted," see Father McGivney, at this site, provides a more formalized account: see

What is a Dauphin? Not a dolphin, sounds silly but the words are different. The Dauphin is the name for the heir to the French throne, usually the eldest son. See

The Dauphin here, as a test for Joan, had disguised himself among others in a group, and she went to him anyway. She "knew." And, she got the army she asked for. She was an outstanding military commander, says

We followed her from there to Rheims, see her letter to the citizens of Rheims at, and to the cathedral there where the Dauphin was crowned.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Savenay, Loire area: American Sgt. Alexander Wollcott

World War I.
Writers in France.
Short stories.
Nantes area: Wars from Great Anjou to little Savenay
Alexander Wolcott, American.
World War I was a war where poets in trenches framed their lives, and those around them, for the world to see.  They are widely commemorated, still.  See

To the usual poets, add this American storyteller and literary giant, an American soldier, Alexander Wollcott 1887-1943.  His literary career encompassed many genres.  He was a narrative genius.
As a soldier in World War I in France, he wrote his recollections of the community at the little town of Savenay, near Nantes.  He returned to Savenay after the war, and wrote of the people there, especially of one Madame Cocaud. Plays, stories, radio, a broad range of talent.  See his life at Letter of Alexander Wollcott, ebook. 
  • Madame Cocaud: She lost a son in the war, was a widow, and provided for soldiers passing through.  Hers is a generous and courageous way of life.
  • See Alexander Wollcott and many of his works at the anthology site,
  • Wolcott's viewpoint is not romanticized, not saccharin.  The title of one anthology in which his work appears, "Stories for Men," lists many other stories and authors. 
  • Wollcott's Madame Cocaud conveys a poignance, a respect, a sense of reluctance for even the intrusion into memory, in characterizing people and events.  Madame Cocaud, now immortal, in her way.
Woollcott's work also appeared in the American military publication, Stars and Stripes, and is online at The Command is Forward, Tales of the A.E.F. Battlefields.  Were issues clearer then, deployments so much shorter, human connectedness enabled, by being part of a local community as well as a military force.
American Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, in Afghanistan, and some 80-90 years later, had no such luxuries. See

Monday, April 09, 2007

Loire Valley, Blois - Peter of Blois

Blois, in the Loire Valley
An Era, Early Middle Ages, Spanning Moralities
Blois, the Loire Valley.  Fine chateau.  See  Peter of Blois was a churchman, 12th Century, see the Original Catholic Encyclopedia,, with a penchant for poetry lauding his attractions, to women, to men.  As a churchman of the time, this was not forbidden, only considered bad taste.  In 1176, he became Chancellor to the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as Archdeacon of Bath. He also wrote sermons on morality..
  • Homosexuality was not coined as a descriptive word until the late 19th century, see  It is only an "intermittent" focus of the New Testament, and in the ancient world, practices were acceptable, perhaps unusual in some cultures, but not necessarily "immoral." See site, History. Augustine and others only grudgingly allowed for procreative sex, it appears.  In Justinian's Code, 529 CE, homosexuals were to be executed..
But secular European laws, after the Visigoths rose and the Romans fell, made no proscription until about the 12th Century.  The article notes a rise in "homophilic" literature even among clergy, church officials, and it is in this group that Peter of Blois emerges.  Do read the detailed chronology of events.
  • Here, find some poetry of Peter of Blois. As quoted in Harvard Magazine Jan-Feb 2012 at 51, Mysteries and Masterpieces, by Adam Kirsch:
The heterosexual Peter of Blois:  " I offer my thanks to Venus; by the divine majesty of her favorable smile she has confered on me a welcome and longed-for victory over my girl."
The homosexual, even pedophilic, Peter of Blois:  "When your down has gone and a beard springs up from sunken corners, bristling with stubble that has been cut away, I will be pricked by the spears of stubble and then I will be upset by the kisses I now suck with pleasure.  Thaat you are still pleasing to a few, you owe to razors alpone.  Therefore be mindful of your age."

Find more of his work at  There, his poems are seen as unimportant (I am looking for his online poetry), and his work as secretary to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and exhortations to join the Third Crusade and his correspondence with Thomas a Becket and Henry II (many others) given prominence. 

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Loire Valley - Amboise - Castle and Leonardo da Vinci Residence. Hats of the World

I. The Castle at Amboise; St. Hubert's Chapel where Da Vinci is buried;

II. The Manor House, Clos Luce, home of Da Vinci, in the Town;
III. The Da Vinci Hat and the Afghan Pakol:  Hats of the World

I.  The Castle; St. Hubert's Chapel

Sleep in a little place by the castle walls here, and wake to the brightest array of flags in your face as ever wakened any traveler.  Chateau d'Amboise, with its St. Hubert Chapel. See ://

This is the place where Leonardo da Vinci is buried, at the chapel on the grounds inside, and his house is in the town. That is fitting because St. Hubert is the patron saint of many things, including mathematicians, opticians and metalworkers, see Hubertus at ://

Leonardo -  he is among the greats and the unsung as history's unofficial children,born out of wedlock, see that bit of trivia at Bogomilia, Shadow Children. See the castle at :// And there are the flags. We are still asleep beneath them.


II.  DaVinci Residence, Le Clos Luce, Manoir

Leonardo was invited here in 1516 apparently just for the pleasure of his company, by the King of France. Leonardo was given a pension and lived nearby at Clos Luce Manor House, see :// Find there a splendid little museum of recreated inventions -  all those yellowybrown sketches come to life.  Best in show:  the personal tank. See it at Da Vinci Biography at ://

III. The Leonardo Chapeau.  Fashion.  

Hats of the World

Look back at the sculpture, located on the castle grounds here.   

Focus on Hats Through the Ages. Our modern heads largely flap out there uncovered, except for the baseball bit, or the chapeau du jour in the catalogues for the sun-smitten. Renaissance cap like a pakul, Afghan pakul. Look at its history. Pakul from Nuristan.

But we hardly would pose for a sculpture of ourselves wearing any hat, unless the hat is tied to our Persona, our Reason for Being, like a jockey.  

The Leonardo hat fits flat on top of the head, like a narrower brimmed beret, and hat is highly unstable against the wind. It perches. It does not "fit." 

  • So we see the little flap 2/3 the way around
  • The little flap is not tight so as to crip the coffure or restrict or distract thought; but lightly drapes, a courtesy perhaps, an apology for being, just coming to the top of the ear, but with a purpose.  That little flap gives added stability - 
  • I regret inconveniencing you like this Mr. DaVinci, Dr. DaVinci, says the little flap, but being here holds your cap on better. You won't mind in a little while. Just go about your business. 
Is that a little sticky-up ornament in front, like a jaunty starched ribbon? Or is that part of the tree behind.  Looks more like a pin decoration. See? I did not look closely enough. 

He is frowning. Displeased. Chin jutted and set. And he is set with a pension and a house?  Smile, man, smile!

Hats of the World.  The Afghan Pakol.
1.  Were it not for politics and war, the pakol hat might still be offered in the Peterman Catalogue, from which I once ordered it for an adventurous niece. The pakol has a long social history in Afghanistan, and may well be the world's most flexible, useful, and comfortable hat. It suits many weathers.  Pakul, pakoul, pakol, most commonly worn by men.  Its social history extends back to Alexander the Great and the Macedonians, among other possible source roots.  See

The pakol is not unique to Afghanistan, as cozy headgear is common including during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, before extended brims became fashionable.  Imagine Da Vinci's hat with a snug, deep, deep rim-band that can be rolled to the satisfaction of the wearer about the forehead, then a flat crown supported by an under ring like a facing, that extends maybe 2-3" out from the band all the way around, to  be tilted, perhaps, shoved back on occasion, and all in comfortable, breathable wool. 

When the rim of the pakul is rolled, it can extend out to the same diameter as the crown.

Compare it to the soft hat of DaVinci, here at Amboise Chateau in France.  Extend the ear flap area all around, and fold it and roll it up, and with further tweaks, enjoy the convenience and comfort of the pakol

The wool, like on the bias, stretches. 
Women also can wear it, an embroidered version. Depending on the culture in the area. 
  • The pakol, or pakul, originated in Nuristan, an area of the Hindu Kush populated as early as 4200 BC by the Aryan peoples, Aryan as a term long predating Hitler.  Aryans then split to the Indo-Iranian, moving even into Hungary; and to Iran; then see the pre-Sanskrit languages group.  Is that so?  Or did it originate in Macedonia, moving from there to Nuristan.
  • Then there are eras of sequential displacements. Many, many languages there, not always intelligible one to the other. Respect peoples and their history. The area is of particular interest to scholars, researchers, students of history and humanity. 
2.  Spend time learning another culture.  Turn to an illustrated video lecture by Richard Strand on YouTube at  

Learning about Afghanistan: We listened for the full lecture. Anthropologist, historian, respecter of peoples. Be one. See the pakul - worn by most everyone, apparently.
For the hat and other items, see the Afghan-Web shop at :// See it also at Zarina's, at :// Find also that burqas come in colors.

Then back to France. France as well as everywhere else is now home to people of all cultures. So this bit on Afghanistan is not totally out of place.
Worldwide hats. Search for the Afghan pakol to find its social history, with some resemblances to this hat of DaVinci in the Renaissance in its convenience, ability to address many weathers, roll up. See  Find a cultural overview of parts of Afghanistan at 

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Loire Valley - Saumur Castle; A History of Sleeping Beauty, and other tales

Saumur Castle, Loire Valley, France

There are famous castles throughout the valley of the river Loire. The Loire area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. See

This is Saumur, one of the several in France and Germany that claim to have inspired Sleeping Beauty. We preferred the smaller castles, privately owned if possible, to the mega-sites. For the roster of castles, see See also See

Sleeping Beauty.  Folk tales are revised ongoing.  Revisionism. The Sleeping Beauty story dates the original at 61 years before the 1697 publishing by Charles Perrault of his Tales of Times Past, soon better known as The Mother Goose Tales. That would be 1636. In 1636, the Sleeping Beauty tale was earlier written down by Giambattista Basile - these tales not original, but retellings of the olds ones passed down.

  • Basile's original retelling as retold at the site: This is not for the faint-hearted. Go to 
  • Summary: King was told that a flax splinter would destroy his daughter, Talia. King bans flax. Princess gets some anyway. Stuck. Poisoned. Dies (really asleep). Grieving King lays her out, leaves body in castle, departs. Enter Prince. Has his way with the body. Princess has twins, Sun and Moon. Fairies take care. Princess sleeps on. Boy twin happens to suck out splinter. Princess revives. Prince returns. I am Dad! Surprise! Relationship ensues/resumes, whatever. Prince goes back to wife. 
  • Is she mad when she finds out. Orders that... and this happens... and then that....

Is Walt listening?

Then go back to the original Basile, and the tale there has differences, but is pretty close to the one here. These early tales are analyzed at college levels and beyond - See Here is more about Basile himself, same site:

For the full fairy tales, go to Click on story number 29, and you will find Sun, Moon and Talia.
  • My own Grimm's Fairy Tales, from about 1910 (have to go look) has Rapunzel also having twins, in the wilderness, and re-meeting a blinded Prince. Why not just give us the real tales? Who is authorized to tidy up reality so they can sell us something else that benefits them? Can kids handle a reasonable degree of complexity? Are we raising little non-thinkers? What is reasonable? Is anybody reasonable? Who decides what they are allowed to see or not?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Angers - Castle, the Plantagenets; Tapestry Collection

Angers, Anjou Castle, Loire area, France
Angers is the old Anjou, the historic capital of the Angevin country that lies between Brittany and Normandy, and home to the Plantagenet royalty.  The name Plantagenet derives from the fondness of a son of the Count of Anjou, Geoffrey, for a yellow flower to put in his helmet, a bloom of the everywhere planta genesta, or broom plant. See The Conquering Family by Thomas Costain, online at  It was also favored by Henry II. Ssee

The family tree begins with the Angevin kings in 1150 or so, see .  The dynasty includes Richard the Lionheart - at  See also
Angers is a gateway to the Loire Valley, a place of many castles. See
Anjou, castle walls, Angers, France

Aim for the castles off the usual busways. Access is easier, and questions get better answers. This castle at Angers is a 13th century, now primarily an open-air castle -- to us that means ruins included, not all restored and enclosed -- or chateau, and offers exhibit rooms.  In particular see the exhibits of tapestries there, see How were they made? See
Angers is south of Mont St. Michel, and a good destination point before heading into the rest of the Loire Valley.  See more on Angers at Click on the word France on that site and a map will appear with other castles and links to them. The walls are formidable.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mont St.Michel and Black Madonna and Child

Cloister, Mont St. Michel, France

1.  Overview. Mont St. Michel is not just a monastery on an island, with a surrounding small town that built up around it. It is also a place of fine, quiet views, like this cloister area. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. See
2.  Access.  Mont St. Michel used to be reached by elevated causeway leading to a large parking lot, and shuttle or walk to the Mount.  It is now, this by way of update; by car park now at a distance, some 2 miles from the Mount, and shuttle across a bridge.  There are also causeways that are underwater at high tide, but passable at low tide; one with cobbles to define the way.  The bridge is an improvement, instead of the bus-car-causeway, because it allows the tides to slosh in and around the island again, as in old days when the location was a defense. The old causeway interrupted the flow, but looking over the walls (this was before the bridge) we could see people still walking over. Is that still allowed, with the increased currents?

Mont St. Michel, France. View from mainland.

The dangers will remain:  low tides still leave inviting "dry" walking areas to get there; but incoming tides come in fast and wash away those left too far from safety. See

3.  Walkabout. At Mont St. Michel, climb up a narrow street with tempting restaurants up on second floors, where the cooks at your ground level, as you peer in the windows, are whipping fabulous omelets in great copper pans, right and left.  Costs.  Go up to the restaurrant. but you may find that you (for two) are paying $35 for a serving of omelet, and only a couple of other things. The pate was indeed excellent on the side. Here is your own omelet recipe, costing under $35: Note it is not cooked as long as usual American omelet-type eggs.
See for an Interactive map, major castles and towns, France.
5.  Island castles, monasteries, refuges.  Mont St. Michel was the model for the English St. Michael's Mount on the way to Cornwall. See England Road Ways ; We walked over the pedestrian causeway there to the monastery, but had to take a motor launch back.

 Mont St. Michel misses one element of the English St. Michael's Mount, where Cormoran the Giant lived in a cave, and the story morphed into, eventually, Jack and the Beanstalk, see

 6.  Mont St. Michel and Black Madonna

Black Madonna at Mont St. Michel, France
Black Madonnas appear in many places in Europe, including at Mont St. Michel. Find a multitude in browser's images section for Black Madonnas.

Black Madonna history, of the faces of Mary, at

There are many explanations for Europe's medieval Black Madonnas -- fire charring, buried, or whatever. No one explanation fits all. A skin tone from the middle east should be dark, so it takes scholars to divide the intentional dark from the environmental causation. The internet lists where most of these are found, and many are in southern France as well. We found Black Madonnas at Guadalupe, Spain, see Spain Road Ways; and Altotting, Germany. See Germany Road Ways; and Gdansk, Poland, among other places, see  Some may be Sara la Kali, especially where there is no child in arms.  Traditionally, the handmaid Sara la Kali accompanied Mary during her life. Black Madonnas. A bridge from paganism to Christianity, old representations of the Madonna, what else.  See Vierge Noir at 

See FN 1

FN 1.  Black Madonnas
  • Other explanations: There will always be explanations.  Add this:  that the Black Madonna suggests Mary's Egyptian ancestry, see Scota, Egyptian Queen of the Scots, by Ralph Ellis.  The Black is for her skin color.
At page 17 there, see an overlay of another topic, whether the dark-skinned Mary seen in churches (but with no child or other attributes of a "madonna" is really Mary of Egypt, a saint of the early church. For the curious, read

Find a representation of this later Mary of Egypt, centuries after the crucifixion, at a Danish medieval church, clearly not a madonna. Bjernede Kirke, Mary of Egypt  For the Scota and her Egyptian connection, and Mary as an Egyptian, the Black Madonna, See
And a further question, at page 17 of the site above, laid out here just because:
That the mystery person who by tradition accompanied the two Mary's from the Holy Land to France after the crucifixion was Sara la Kali but not a servant, not a gypsy, but the daughter of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, Sara Princess, that explains the crown seen at many shrines and churches but without explanation.
The Gdansk portrait could well be Sara la Kali, the patron saint of the gypsies.  This from Gdansk, Poland: but this looks like a mature woman, not a young girl.  See at Poland Road Ways, Gdansk, above.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Avranches: Patton, and the Bishop's Forehead

Notables at Avranches
Oliver Hardy, Bishop Aubert, General Patton

 Saint Gervais Church, Avranches, France: with Oliver Hardy

1.  Oliver Hardy. Oliver Hardy is unmistakable here in his bowler hat, Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy fame.  He stands in front of Avranches' famous church, Saint Gervais. Avranches is some 20 miles from the island Mont St. Michel. The famous Mont is visible across the waterway. See little map at

Oliver Hardy welcomes customers to a pastry shop, and resides in Avrances amid other famous people here: Aubert, Bishop of Avranches in medieval times; and General Patton.

2.  Bishop Aubert - in 708 - is said to have been visited by the Archangel Michael and ordered to build a monastery on an island across the waterway - now Mont St. Michel.

Bishop Aubert must have dawdled, because on a subsequent visitation, Michael is said to have poked an insistent hole in Bishop Aubert's forehead, and the skull is apparently on view here at St. Gervais, Avranches. See

We were there on a Sunday morning, eager to see The Skull Hole, but the place was closed until services some hours later. We'll never know. You check.

Looking at the Mount:  The English used the idea of the monastery on an island, in its Mount St. Michael near Cornwall. See England Road Ways.

3.  General Patton and his army liberated Avranches in 1945 as part of the Normandy invasion.

General Patton Memorial, Avranches, France

Patton's final resting place is at Hamm Military Cemetery near Luxembourg City, see Luxembourg Road Ways.  It is dignified as his grave faces those of his fallen men, as though still commanding them, but so far from Normandy or The Bulge as to seem like an abandonment.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Normandy, Pointe Du Hoc- World War II

Normandy; Pointe du Hoc

Rangers scaled the high and nearly perpendicular cliffs here under heavy fire, but their objective, heavy cannon, was not there. See

Standing Stone Memorial, Pointe du Hoc, France

Relief Memorial, Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France

The memorial shows the Rangers climbing ladders to get to the top.

Pointe du Hoc, ocean view, France

Additional sites for World War I and World War II battle sites:  World War Sites, Europe.

Normandy and Omaha Beaches, Arromanches (Gold), D-Day, American Military Cemetery

There are several Normandy beaches that were part of the Allied landing areas. Many Americans landed at Omaha beach. D-Day is laid out at this website, complete with film:  There were five landing areas designated:  Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword, Gold.

Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

Omaha was a place of landing for the Americans. Look up the German defense locations at Omaha Beach at  When you visit, find a little hotel and restaurant right on the beach. Try there first for a room. Eat mussels this way there: use the top shell to loosen the mussel in the bottom shell, then slurp. Best while gazing adoringly in your tablemate's eyes, under other circumstances than traveling mother and son.

Arromanches Beach, Normandy, France

At Arromanches Beach was at the center of the larger Gold Beach, and where British and Canadian forces landed on D-Day.  At Arromanches, the artificial port known as Mulberry or Port Winston (for Churchill) was installed.  , with the pier, near the town of the same name. See

Gold Beach, at Arromanches, Mulberry Harbor remains; Normandy FR

Tides come and go and remains of Mulberry remain,  that was constructed at Churchill's direction, see

Mulberry Port was a floating and then concrete anchored port, to unload the tanks and munitions and soldiers needed for the Normandy invasion follow-up. See more n Mulberry Port at

Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

Find German defense locations at Omaha Beach at is a little hotel and restaurant right on the beach. Try there first for a room. Eat mussels this way there: use the top shell to loosen the mussel in the bottom shell, then slurp. Best while gazing adoringly in your tablemate's eyes, under other circumstances.

Mulberry Harbor, Mulberry Port at Gold Beach, Normandy

You can see here the remains of part of the bridge/ port called "Mulberry," that was constructed at Churchill's direction, see Mulberry Port was a floating and then concrete anchored port, to unload the tanks and munitions and soldiers needed for the Normandy invasion follow-up. See more n Mulberry Port at

The American beachheads are quiet, undeveloped, contemplative. The British beachheads are crowded destination-entertainment areas, with rides and vendors, like a boardwalk. Restaurants. Your pick. We preferred the quiet.

American Military Cemetery, Omaha Beach, Normandy FR

The memorial at the American Military Cemetery, Omaha Beach is impressive. See also  More than 9000 are buried here.

This cemetery was dedicated late, in 1956.  Many of the dead had been buried in smaller cemeteries, nearer where they fell, until this concept was implemented.  See

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Caen, Bayeux, Tapestry and William the Conqueror

Grave of William the Conqueror, St. Stephen's Abbey, Caen, France

Caen. Grave of William the Conqueror

William led the Norman invasion of England in 1066, and is buried at St. Stephen's Abby at Caen. See for chronology, William the Conqueror. He is another of history's unofficial children, greats, born out of wedlock, see that bit of trivia at Bogomilia, Shadow Children.

This site says he died at age 59, in 1087, after ruling Normandy for 21 years and England for 31 more. He led the Battle at Hastings that led to the Normanization of England. Those figures make him a ruler of Normandy at tyoung age 7?  Check sources.  See Maybe so. Have to check. This modest burial site does not match one so great. Then, he may not be here at all.

He came to an undignified end, see the visceral side of William's demise, a blow-by-blow, at ; and Falling on his saddle horn, severe internal injuries leading to a great and fatal bloating.

William's Normans.

The Normans are apparently descendants of the Vikings, who marauded up and down the Seine so much that the French (whatever tribe it was) bought them off by giving the Vikings Normandy; and allowing their passage ongoing to maraud at Burgundy and not Paris.. So evolved the Normans. See also; for PBS on Warrior Challenge.

Modern Caen. William the Conqueror and his Queen, Matilda, resided here, but little remains of the original structures.  The city was heavily damaged in WWII, now reconstructed and restored city,  It is near Omaha Beach.  The Abbeys did survive. 

Bayeux. A town to the west of Caen, near the Normandy beaches. See To stay overnight there would be just another night. To go on and try to get a room at the little hotel right on Omaha Beach - far better. Plenty of local places at the beaches if that hotel is full.

The Bayeux Tapestry. Woven needlework mediaval work of art at Bayeux. The story of the Battle of Hastings, William's invasion from Normandy to England, including the arrow in King Harold's eye and the drowning soldiers in the Channel. Fabulous website showing the whole thing and its history is at See also the full tale and pictures at Both are compelling, and a fine history review. A smaller site, but with the history of tapestry-making if you navigate for it, is at

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Normandy - Normans - Northmen - Norse - Vikings? What's In A Name

Which Normans preceded William the Conqueror in France?
Normandy and Rollo the Ganger.
Hrolf Ganger

An interest in William the Conqueror, at France Road Ways, Caen, Bayeux Tapestry, and William the Conqueror, leads to research at home, after dabbling in a possible ancestor, Guy de Brienne, a Norman who ended up in Ireland -- and spawning Briens who owned land and lodge in Trillick, my grandfather. So:  from Guy de Brienne, back to how Normans came to Ireland.

William was Norman, or a Northman, and he invaded England successfully.  Norse at the time were on both sides of the English Channel. Harold, the King there, is itself a Norse name and the Norse having raided and settled in northern and eastern England.

Who preceded William the Conqueror?

1.  Rollo.  A Norman leader in 911 AD, the Normans being the Northmen who stayed in France after a period of raiding and marauding all the way up the Seine, into Paris, into Burgundy, etc. The King of the Franks, (tribes going by a variety of names themselves) gave the Vikings the area of Normandy if they would just desist going further upstream.

Rollo had to become Christian to complete the transaciton, and so he did, and Rollo is his Christian name. He had been Hrolf.

In time, this Norse-derived group was governed by one of their own, who became known as the Duke of Normandy - a people apart. Enter William. William was their most famous Duke, William the Conqueror, at The Normans, at :// Not nice as neighbors or conquerors, but those were the times? Or were the Normans fiercer than others.

Meanwhile, other Norse were settling in Northern England - where "Danelaw" and not Saxon law would prevail. There, even the word "thorpe" is Norse for "village." The Yorkshire dialect in early times was "pidgin Norse." See :// / Harold or Harald, and Canute (Knut) are Norse.

Migrations of peoples - no boundaries. See also ://

Our group seems to have ended in Ireland, where Red Scariff fathered many near St. Lazerian's in County Carlow, branches then all over east, west, down under. This string suggests the Norman connecton, perhaps not a direct Norse settlement. Now back to fixing dinner....
Hrolf Ganger, he is called at ://

What's in a name: Try Otkell, son of Skarf, and that surname with its Norse derivations, and this site suggesting either

a) the name appearing in Ireland as part of Norse-Viking settlers; or

b) the name coming with the Normans-Norse to England, and from there, to Ireland through Strongbow. See

Are we Norman? See Finding New Roots, Surname.

Rouen - And Early Slavery

Rouen apparently was a favored shipping point for slaves from the 8th to the 11th Centuries.  From Rouen, Irish and Flemish slaves were sent to the Arabian areas.

Part of the booty for Vikings was slaves. Vikings operated at that time and became known as Northmen and then Normans.  See The Vikings, a History, by Robert Ferguson 2009. Vikings took Irish and Scots slaves for sale as far as Constantinople, Spain, Russia, Scandinavia.

See this site, with its history of White Slavery in the British Aisles, the enslavement of Irish, Scots (names in early days often used interchangeably) and the Alba and Picts, at ://

Slavery.  Read exploitation, in any form. It continues in labor, food and other animals, human trafficking, profiteering.

Rouen - Joan of Arc - the ending. Church of St. Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc Tower. Voices.

Rouen, street bridge, France

Medieval cathedrals dominated towns, with their heights, steeples, narrow streets.
See http://www.  Try to park near a tall steeple to find your way back easily.

Not far are the reminders that Joan of Arc, 1412-1431,  was burned at the stake here, as a heretic.  That taint of heretic was removed in 1456 (a little late) and she was made a saint in 1920.  Wheels of ecclesiastical justice grind on. 

  • Ask whether our Christian church, the dominant one, would ever have become so without killing off or stigmatizing all who disagreed, had a different vision. What did we do to our gene pool by getting rid of the thinkers whose conclusions veered from the party line.

1.  Joan of Arc.  For background:  A clearly written narrative biography is at the Distinguished Women site at ://

For an online archive, including trial manuscripts, family tree, letters, timeline, portraits, biographies about Joan of Arc, go to this Joan of Arc Info site  ://

2.  Voices to Joan of Arc.  None of the usual sites address an issue strangely underplayed:  what exactly (can we know?) did the early voices tell her, as a young girl. We finally get a quotation at  History Mole Timeline: Joan of Arc
" Some time in 1425 Joan of Arc began to have visions: 'When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God to help me govern myself'. "
This is duplicated, with discussion, at

God, telling a young girl, God's voice to help her govern herself? Other sites investigate, another topic, but see

Now why, on earth, would that be ignored. Read it again.  The voice, from God, to help her govern herself.

3.  Religious roots of Joan of Arc.  There are many religious-oriented books, of course, since Joan's inspiration was religious with angels, God, voices from God.

  • Our focus in travel is on the historical, but we found at the religious Maid of Orleans site (book by Ben D. Kennedy) information about authors, playwrights, composers, others incorporating the Joan of Arc story in the arts.  These include Mark Twain, Tchaikowski and audio-videos of his opera, a link to Scottish knights fighting in her army, George Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare, Friedrich Schiller's play - see more at the site map at ://

Additional overview of links: See the International Joan of Arc Society, at Southern Methodist University,

4.  Recent news 12/16/06 (NYT) says that remnants that had been claimed to be from Joan of Arc's body from the pyre after her burning at the stake at Rouen 5/30/1431, are not. Instead, the bits seem to be from an embalming, and Joan was not embalmed. News of interest never ends.

5.  Sites at Rouen.

Joan of Arc Tower.  Joan of Arc was imprisoned here, in Rouen, for a time. The narrow, tall windows in castles, or isolated towers such as this, are for archers. Later openings for archers are larger, and may have a small angled cross opening, and slants, for maneuvering the bow from side to side and up and down, the better to get anyone hovering about. See castle windows discussion at

Rouen, Joan of Arc Tower, France

There is a modern chapel at the place where Joan was burned, and the place is marked in a larger walking-garden area. See historical overview at The stake spot is identified, and a museum-chapel, and the tower where she was held. Death by burning -in case we take anything for granted, read about this form of dying at

I read somewhere else that religious persecutors favored this method because the interval between the lighting and the death made recanting possible. But was putting out the fire then also possible? Twisting thinking to justify, etc.

Joan of Arc, commemorative sculpture, Church of St. Joan of Arc, Rouen FR

On a happier note, Rouen is also the home of the Rouen duck, a large mallard-type, decorative, but not a great egg-layer. . See  Buy from 1 to 24 of them at $5.52 each, price decreases with increasing quantity, see  Like indulgences? that were vastly diminished in 1512, but are making a comeback, see

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mouquet Farm, Thiepval - Somme WWI. Battles of Pozieres

Mouquet Farm. Battle area 1916.

Following the Battle of Pozieres, a nearby village,
Australians for the Allies hold their ground

Mouquet Farm, Somme area, France.

Mouquet Farm, near Pozieres, France, was the focal point of years of back and forth battling from 1914-1918.  Today, it presents as a glowing series of yellow fields of grapeseed, or rapeseed.*  Then, it was mud and more mud, with tunnels beneath, and slaughter with the front moving in bits, then back again, over years.  Australians fought here for the Allies.  See

The front moved no more than a mile or so over all that time. For an idea of the scope of the battlefields that we think of as the Battle of the Somme, see Australian regiments served there with a balancing sense of humor: They called it Moo Cow Farm. See Or mucky farm. See

A Canadian uncle of mine, who fought in WWI at Ypres, recalled a similar humor in Ypres -- pronounced "Eeeps" -- becoming Wipers instead.

See also

* Rapeseed.  See; a/k/acanola oil. Do an images search for rapeseed.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Roadside chateau

Chateau, Normandy area. Seen from the road. Identity?

Chateau, Normandy area. A fortified chateau is a castle-like, or even a actual castle, fortress, often centered at a vineyard or other agricultural complex.  It is sometimes used in reference to the French Renaissance, flowering some 100 years after the Italian. Years? 1495-1547? See

As threats diminished, windows became plentiful and the structure more a palatial residence than defensive fort. Varying degrees of grandeur, and fortifications if any. Search for "chateau Normandy" and find many that arre now inns and B and B's.

Chateauesque refers to the revival of French chateau architectural elements from about 1880 onward,  see examples including the Vanderbilt family in the United States commissioning a house of some 178,000 square feet near Asheville NC.  Rooms? 250. See

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Le Sars - Somme WWI. Road sign tourist break...

Le Sars, near Bapaume, was the site of battles during the Somme phase of World War I. Le Sars. It was attacked in 1916, reverted, then attacked again and held.

1.  Etymology. What does the word sars mean as to the town? What is its origin? 

Online translators are no help. We were discussing its meaning when this road sign appeared, and we took a break from the seriousness of the World War I environment to engage in some nonsense.

 Daniel Widing at Le Sars, France. Road sign, Somme area.

2.  Spontaneous travel works. Yes, SARS was, and is, an unfunny and severe acute respiratory syndrome, in outbreak at the time, and has nothing to do with Le Sars the town. Still, family silliness is good.

An overview for visiting the Somme area is at

See photos and chronology of Somme battles at  Photos of Le Sars: see