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

Peronne area- Somme. WWI. The Historial, VE Day

VE Day Parade, Ceremony, near Peronne, France 

WWII Victory in Europe Day. May 8, Memorial VE Day parade observed with great reverence in France. See  for VE Day remembrances.

This commemoration was at Peronne, an area more known for World War I, its museum and battlefields nearby.   Visit the museum and find references to Shakespeare's line, Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war., see  Once a chateau in Peronne, The Historial of the Great War, museum in the Somme area, displays posters with the slogan. See the excellent exhibit for the Somme area battles, Historial at Peronne,  See

  • The Historial. There are recreations of scenes of battle, and exhibits of the sketches and artwork of those in the trenches. There is a poster there called "The Dogs of War," showing a map of Europe with each country represented by a dog on the attack. "Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war," orated Anthony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, see
Learning World War I.

World War I swept up poets and artists. See; and I remember one artwork especially, in the exhibit, that I recalled as entitled something like meeting a madman in the trenches. I found it online, as Meeting a madman at night. For any who thing war is glorious, go to This is someone's socialist website, but even if you disagree with it politically, see the art.. World War I and World War II.

British cemetery - Somme WWI, near Arras. Vest pocket.

British cemetery, WWI, Arras, France

1. In the earlier days of WWI, soldiers and fliers were buried near where they fell.  Find these up many back roads. There are hundreds of these vest-pocket cemeteries, marked by tiny signs on main roads, guiding you through the farms to where they rest, beautifully maintained.

Here:  Fly on, dear boy.  An inscription.
2.  Poem while wandering the cemetery:

Orbit view.
Stones' rows by wall.
Graves small set on farm.
Country road. Old hard fall.
Little tractor there, patient tending.
Somme one's son. Somme of all fears. Somme where.
Handsomme once, maybe.

Look up. Mind pictures - Flares.
Aviator leather ear flaps.
Look down.
Fly on, dear boy, written.
On another:
From your wife, your father,
And your little son, Blymp.
Tender, tended, still manicured.
Man not cured.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Battle of the Somme World War I - A Springboard in Family History

The Royal Scots Fusiliers trained in trench warfare in Edinburgh, those trenches now being excavated, see  We had ressearched family members and found connections  Royal Scots Fusiliers and the Atholl Highlanders - see Scotland Road Ways. We found the grave of one of two McConaghey/ McConaghy brothers (one was killed in the Sudan), at Arras, France - see France Road Ways, Arras.

  • Springboard in family history. Research:  check multiple spellings of names.  E's in names come and go, sometimes (as in our case) to distinguish households for the post office's convenience; or to distinguish siblings. Maurice McConaghey added the e because his brother, William McConaghy MD, was serving in Sudan.

Rancourt - Somme WWI. The German Jewish soldiers.

Rancourt FR, German cemetery, World War I, behind German lines.

This German cemetery, at Rancourt on the Bapaume-Peronne road, was just behind the German WWI front lines during the Battle of the Somme. See There are commercial battlefield tours available, as at We prefer local maps and finding our own. 
The website photo shows no Jewish headstones, but I see that it is being updated (update 2015) 

In hopes of encouraging coverage of German Jewish soldiers,  here is Ernst David, a musketier whose stone's shape and Star of David set him apart from his crossed brethren.

Some German graves in the German graveyards mark two - with names on both sides. We found no-one sharing a Jewish stone. We found none with a cross on one side and a Star of David on the other.

Rancourt, France. German Jewish soldier, Ernst David, World War I, German cemetery, died 1916

In some graveyards, the Jewish soldiers are set apart in a special location, although the Jewish German patriotism, seen in military service, was clearly an integral part of the war effort.

What happened to Musketier David's family, by the time the next war, World War II ended?

Musketier: A musketier is an infantryman, or Private

Monday, March 12, 2007

Vimy Ridge, Verdun - Battles WWI. Shell holes, Bomb craters.

Vimy Ridge,  France. 1917. Shell holes, WWI.
Vimy Ridge. 1917. A Canadian forces victory, but at huge cost. See
We put together a variety of websites for learning about the battles at Vimy and Verdun, because there are so many battlefields from WWI in France that advance information helps.  This is one area where studying first and going later makes sense; otherwise, the battlefields can blur.  For us, they stayed distinct because of family stories from the war (Canadian side); others with no lore behind them may just see rolling crater remains.
Grasp some of the conflict at American Heritage magazine, remnants of violence still to be found,  I had thought there were photographs also at that article, in the book form, but those are not online. A brother's notes: the elephant head pillbox, pp.70-71; Belleau Wood with artillery piece, PP.76-77.
How to teach our children about this long ago war? See the picture gallery at An informed curriculum approach is also good for families.
Museums also offer experiential exhibits, but first see the trenches themselves, some restored; and no-man's land, and the uprooted trunks and root systems of huge trees blasted out of the ground.  These are often now a hilly set of knolls where sheep keep the grass short. Mowing is too difficult. Sheep may safely graze. Think Bach for a few seconds at
The memorial plaques help, but for later generations, removed from anyone remembering at a dinner table, it takes more. Go online.
 Memorial, Vimy Ridge, bomb craters, France WWI

Verdun - 1916. See map at
For the battle accounts, see See contemporary photographs at
Verdun. At Verdun, you can walk through trenches, even see some preserved with a roof construction over, where one caved in on some 20 soldiers, their bayonets still protruding. See the Bayonets Memorial at

The best WWI museum we found was at Peronne, called the Historial, in the Somme area. See
American Cemetery at Montfaucon, and Belleau Wood. See again the American Heritage magazine site,  Verdun is widely visited, but at The American Cemetery at Montfaucon, some 25 miles northwest, no-one was there. See map showing the location at
Verdun and its large ossuary, where bones and bones are interred, and extensive graveyards (the Muslims are together, in rows diagonal to the rest, facing East; and the Jewish soldiers are also together) does get more attention.
Take time to visit. We trucks of wreaths at holidays to Arlington here, we can do more for our people in European graves.

Arras. Battle of Arras. Logs. WWI. 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers. Lt.Col. Maurice Edwin McConaghey

Battle of the Somme
The Nivelle Offensive

McConaghey fell.
Little Village, Neuville-Vitasse;

Deaths here had no strategic effect on the Western Front as a whole, as it turned out.

"20th April 1917.  The Nivelle Offensive, which includes the Second Battle of Aisne and the Third Battle of Champagne ends in French Failure."
 The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918) by John Buchan

 Here, the logs of the 2d Royal Scots Fusiliers at Arras, where distant cousin Maurice McConaghey fell.

1.  France was a site of much of the combat of WWI.  Does it matter how many died, comparative mortalities, in weighing wars.  Conflicts produce huge numbers, military and civilian. See FN 1/

By any measure, however, World War I is enormous in its loss of life, 8,500,000 military killed, not counting civilians, see;  With that devastation of place and family, turn now to details of some battles in France and bordering Belgium.

2.  The Nivelle Offensive.  The Battle of the Somme.  The Battle of Arras.  France. Get behind the statistics.

What was it like for a specific officer at the Somme, a relative from Devon, England, who served in the Boer Wars and then at the Somme, near Arras, where he was killed. See  FN 2.

2.1  Read John Buchan's book, History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918).

2.2  Sample.  From The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918) by John Buchan --
[p.380][1917 April 13-23]

"*** The 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers were out of the line till 19th April when they returned to occupy a portion of the Hindenburg Line on the south side of the Cojeul River.

The first stage of the battle of Arras concluded on 11th April, and thereafter for more than a week our front was improved only by small local movements, while the enemy showed vigour in his counter-attacks.  On the 16th came Nivelle's great adventure on the Aisne, and it was incumbent on Haig to press his advance so as to divert the German strength.  So far as the British armies were concerned, the main task was finished, and their duty now was subsidiary -- to distract the enemy from Nivelle rather than to win their own special objectives.  Accordingly at dawn on the 23rd Haig attacked on an eight-mile front on both banks of the Scarpe against the line Gavrelle--Roeux--Guemappe--Fontaine-les- Croiselles.


 [p.381][1917 April 23-May 3]

On the 23rd, too, the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers were engaged with the rest of the Thirtieth Division in an attack on the high ground overlooking Cherisy in the Sensee valley.  The batallion advanced at 4.45 a.m. on a two-company front, and was immediately caught and checked by a terrific machine-gun barrage.  At six a.m. the enemy counter-attacked, but was held; at six p.m. the 21st Brigade attempted to repeat the morning's attack, but it too suffered disaster; at nine p.m. the survivors of the Scots Fusiliers were withdrawn to reserve positions.  The day depleted the battalion by more than one-half.  The commanding officer -- Lieut.-Colonel M. E. McConaghey -- fell, and with him Second Lieutenants J. Spears, J. McLeod, T. Leishman, H. F. Smith and J. C. Cameron, and 55 other ranks; 4 officers and 195 men were wounded; 4 officers and 209 men missing.  On 26th April Major W. L. Campbell took over command [emphasis supplied].

The close of April marked the end of the battle of Arras as originally planned.  It was an action complete in itself -- that is to say, it attained completely its immediate objective; but owing to events outside the control of the British Command, it did not produce a strategical effect upon the Western front as a whole which was its ultimate design. ***

3.  Family Trees. As any tree, the perspective depends on the looking post. No tree can all be seen all at once. Ours has widely veering branches including those in colonies, relative peacetime, or war. This branch has roots in colonial India. After Maurice Edwin was killed, his widow, Cynthia Estcourt 1886-1981, what happened? where did she go?  She was from the Isle of Wight, he, from Westward Ho!, Devon, but born in India.  Did they return to India for their marriage?  Colonial ties:  economic, family, roots taking hold.

If we think that any of us are unconnected to the larger globe, think again, is that so?


FN 1 Congo Free State 1886-1908:  80,000,000
World War I 1914-1918:  15,000,000
Russian Civil War 1917-1922:  9,000,000
World War II 1939-1945: 66,000,000
Peoples Republic of China, Chairman Mao: 40,000,000


FN 1  Catalogues of death.  Are battles worth it.  What is it? Read the technical result of the battle in which Maurice McConaghey died at  Memorializing the dead. The issue here is how and who gets recalled, in all the deaths of a conflict.  If cultures and families let people fall unnoticed, circumstances unexamined, are they more likely to recur.  Wikipedia: a good place to start on analyzing casualties, at Eighteen million dead, total, see breakdowns by cause.

Racism. Another issue, in looking at comparative mortalities -- five million dead in the Congo, 1998-2011 or so alone, unsung.  See  Iraq, modern US warfare, has seen far smaller numbers at  But is there a deliberate exclusion of civilian casualties, or any reasonable effort to catalogue them? It is culture that determines whether people are remembered or not.  Numbers killed do not determine impact on history or people. 

FN 2 Maurice Edwin McConaghey is buried at London Cemetery, named for the Division, near the village of Neville Vitasse, in the department of the Pas-de-Calais, and some five miles south of Arras. There, the Royal Scots Fusiliers fought in 1916, including Lt.Col. Maurice McConaghey 1877-1917. With the "e".
  • Maurice Edwin had served in the Boer Wars in 1899, was wounded and returned to Great Britain on a hospital ship; all those are available online.  He was wounded in March 1917, and returned to battle a month or so later at the same place, near Neuville-Vitasse, and was killed.

This Regiment, the Second, was founded in 1678.  The  Colonel-in-Chief was H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Edward, son of King George V; but Edward's position was that of staff officer of the XIV Corps on the Somme position, see The Prince of Wales was not involved in the fighting either there or at Arras.

However, Prince Edward's preface is given at John Buchan's book, History of the Royal Scots Fusilers (1678-1918).  Buchan's book is online in pdf at'S.doc.  Find Buchan at

The 56th London Division attacked Neuville-Vitasse on April 7, 1917, and captured it two days later. The 56th (London) Division itself made the cemetery, and it was extended after the Armistice, with remains brought from other burial grounds.  The London contains 747 burials or commemorations:  of that, 318 are unidentified.  Others, graves destroyed by shelling, appear on a panel representing other areas nearby.

Arras - Somme WWI. Royal Scots Fusiliers. McConaghey fell. Pocket cemeteries.

World War I. Battle of the Somme, near Ypres, Belgium;
Maurice E. McConaghey, buried near Arras, France

A focal point of any trip where war casualties and deaths are in the family history, can be, in part, a burial site for a relative.  Learn the history, as you look for the person. See Studying Wars at Lens on Boer Wars, August 2011.
Arras, France.  Maurice Edwin McConaghey, Lt. Col, grave, WWI.

Finding old graves is a tribute for us, not depressing. And, it gives a focal point to wandering around with a little map.
We found a relative who died in World War I, buried at Arras, near the Belgian border. Meet Royal Scots Fusilier, Lt. Maurice McConaghey. He added the e to the name to keep his records separate from those of his brother, Dr. William McConaghy, serving in Egypt, and the Sudan and elsewhere.

Most British war graves are easy to locate through the British Graves Commission online at Ours took delving because of a spelling change in the last name.

1.  Go to British War Graves site, then go in person to Ypres, Belgium, to the documentation center (see Belgium Road Ways).

2.  The clerk found the narrative record by the commander, and the book told the story of the activity of the regiment. In the book, after earlier references, there was this one battle with the words,"McConaghey fell."

3.  The life and death of a career military man in an era of uniforms, rank and codes. Maurice earlier had been wounded in South Africa, we found in the record of the hospital ship returning him, and brother was killed in the Sudan. WWI killed a million military in one 5-month period --and the guidebook gives it 2 pages. With amnesia, we enter into more of them.

Maurice E. McConaghey, on the far left, with his brothers in Devon, England.  Maurice looks about age ten.

This was cemetery number six hundred something. It was not easy to find up the back roads. Soldiers were buried near where they fell, airmen near where they fell.  The cemeteries are all meticulously maintained.

Pipers in WWI.  Royal Scots Fusiliers piper memorial, World War I, Bapaume FR

Scots pipers, unarmed, accompanied, even led in the battles.  See

They were targeted by the Germans when they realized that these often over-50 pipers not only kept up morale and energy on attacks, but were also carrying stretchers.  This memorial to all the WWI Scots regiments is near Bapaume.
Example: Scots pipers played "Scotland The Brave" during a battle at Loos, and also at a parachute landing, see  http://www/ Barbed wire, gas, smoke screens, the sounds.

Chinon Castle - The Templars' Confession; And Now, Perhaps, Exoneration (2013)

The lovely, now elegant ruin, castle at Chinon, see France Road Ways, Chinon Castle, Joan of Arc, has more to its history than Joan of Arc spotting the Dauphin in the great hall, while he tested her and tucked himself among his courtiers.

It also had a role in the Templar heresy declarations. See

see also

  • Accusation, trial of Templars.

Update.  Earlier, Chinon's only major connection to the Templars was this:  This is where Templar leaders were held in the early 14th Century. In 1308, Pope Clement V was allowed access to them by the French king, Philip the Fair, and the records of that have only recently (2004? or was that the date of the larger book here?) come to light. With the papal absolution of them, asks the article, after the long trial against them, should the roles of the principals, including Clement be reappraised.

Apparently that has been done.

"The Chinon Chart, Papal Absolution To The Last Templar, Jacques de Molay," article by Barbara Frale, see abstract at

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Amiens - Somme WWI; Cathedral

Amiens, street scene, half-timber construction, France

Amiens is most known for its Cathedral, high gothic, north of Paris

This also is a World War I site, as part of the Battle of the Somme. See Orient at the map at  We focused on the town's echoes of medieval times. This half-timber house is at the square in front of the cathedral.

The Cathedral:

To keep various architecture categories and eras clear, turn to
 http:// High Gothic:
Look for elaborate and increasingly geometric decorations, vertical themes, see

1.  Overview.  A slide show: see

2.  Labyrinth.  The Cathedral contains a labyrinth, the original destroyed and now reconstructed, see See also

Labyrinths originated in ancient mythology, and have continued in later religious traditions as part of the pilgrim's path. See examples at

Amiens is a UNESCO World Heritage site, probably more for the cathedral than the town. See The list is handy while traveling without an itinerary. See the list at Also see

Taking pictures of the obvious and already over-photoed. Conflicting thoughts. More like taking or counting coup? See; or
Taking photos should not feel obligatory, but sometimes is. Here, no photo of Amiens. The tourist rebels.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Paris: Pere Lachaise Cemetery - Edith Piaf, Heloise and Abelard; Others

Edith Piaf, Grave, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Pere Lachaise. This cemetery opened in 1804 and now holds some 70,000 dormantes-permanentes residents.  The Cemetery is unparalleled for the French famous, and well-to-do who pay (according to Rick Steves) some $15,000 for a plot of some 21 sq ft. See The history of the cemetery is at

Maps are at the gatehouse. The plan of the place is a tangle of paths and headstones and steps.

I.  We aimed first for Edith Piaf, the singer from WWII, the "little sparrow" singing her heart out in a throaty voice in World War II. See a brief biography at She died in 1963 at age 47.

From ages 8-10, she lived in a brothel, abandoned by her mother. The NY Times Arts section 7/2/06 says in a review of a pending film on her life, "La Vie En Rose," that the brothel was run by her paternal grandmother, and that Edith went blind for a period of time, and began to then sing on the Paris streets. Her only child died, she was married twice, and was involved with the French Resistance, says the article.
  • She is well remembered.  

    • "She planted her feet at a microphone as if it were a stake or a mast and she was about to be either burned at it or swept away." New Yorker, Critic at Large Judith Thurman 6/25/07, page 49.: Edith Giovanna Gassion. A cricket, a phoenix, rag-doll features, "une piaf" means in common language, a sparrow.
II.  Heloise and Abelard

Pere LaChaise Cemetery, Grave, Heloise and Abelard,  Paris

Heloise 1101-1164,  and Abelard 1079-1142,  are also here, the student and the much older teacher, the love story with a non-marital pregnancy and macabre development (castration of Abelard), see; and questionable ending.

Did they really want this closeness, to be buried together, at the end? See; both now buried together at Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Together at last, but some say that was not really desired.  For their situation in the context of the Middle Ages, see Scroll down a bit to get it.

Peter Abelard gave up his inheritance in the 1100's to become a philosopher. He was the "preeminent philosopher and theologian of the 12th Century." See

Abelard popularized a scholastic method about 1100 AD, where both sides of a point would be examined, argued, and a new and presumably correct position resulted. This recapped older ideas, and was not the new exploration of new facts that came later.

Letters by Heloise are at She became an abbess. More of their story:  see

III. Also at Pere Lachaise:  Gertrude Stein, Chopin, Moliere, Oscar Wilde (mourned by so many, including the "outcast men" of the homosexual community) and rock legend Jim Morrison.

Wilde:  see his biography at  He was imprisoned, sentenced to hard labor, for his orientation. See his grave, covered with heavily lipsticked kisses, at

Paris - Joan of Arc, Driving tips, Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, Ile de St.Louis,

1. Place des Pyramides, Joan of Arc, gilded equestrian statue
 Joan of Arc, Place des Pyramides, Paris, France. Gilded.

The Place des Pyramides near the Louvre showcases a gilded bronze statue of Joan of Arc by Emmanuel Fremiet 1874, at a place where Joan of Arc had been wounded.  The Place itself commemorates the Egyptian campaign of Napoleon 1798-1801, see  It was formerly known as Place de Rivoli. 

It was Napoleon III who commissioned the work.  Overview and timeline of Joan of Arc:  see

Her birthdate is unknown, and is not the January 6 as is celebrated; and her relics probably not authentic, see  Pas d'importance.

2.  Ile de la Cite.  Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris

In 1160, the Bishop of Paris envisioned this splendid Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame. It was completed in 1272.  From 1163-1272, builders and artists were busy.  See

The Cathedral is located on a natural island in the Seine River, Ile de la Cite.  Think of The Hunchback of Notre Dame here,  novel by Victor Hugo; a tragic but inspiring love of Quasimodo for the Gypsy girl.  That apparently is not entirely a fiction.  See evidence of a real-life tale, Tate Archives, Real-Life Quasimodo Uncovered/.  Documents were discovered in 1999.

3.  Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde means Place of Harmony.  It has had several name incarnations:  it began as Place Louis XV in 1755, was renamed Place de la Revolution and the guillotine had been installed here, killing notables including Louis XVI.  Further renamings in the nature of reconciliation after ongoing conflicts among the citizens:  it became its current Place de la Concorde.

The central obelisk is ancient Egyptian, a gift from Egypt in the 19th Century. A second such obelisk, not removed to Paris, remained in Egypt and was gifted back to Egypt by France.

 Place de la Concorde, Paris FR

4.  Ile St-Louis

This is the second natural island of Paris, Seine River.  There was a cathedral here in the 10th Century, predaating Notre Dame.

Ile St-Louis, Ile de St. Louis, Paris, France

 The Seine banks are a World Heritage site, UNESCO. See

5.  Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower, Paris FR

Who dares not capture an obligatory photo of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, even when it drizzles.

Paris Driving:  Rule of ears. Focus on those in front and at your sides. Let the people behind beware on their own. And go five times around the Arc de Triomphe, if needed, sidling slowly each round toward the lane where you want to go. Never strive to win.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

TRIP 1 Itinerary: Paris, Somme, Normandy, Loire, Dijon, Sedan, Champagne, Reims, Paris

Car-Dan Tour Company
See us at Europe Road Ways

FRANCE TRIP 1 Itinerary.  Our first trip focused on Northern and Western France, some Central. Included are also photographs by Dan and his Dad at Normandy.  Dan received received recognition for his good work at his employment -- and was asked, with some other workers, to join in the company's annual management conference abroad.

FRANCE TRIP II Itinerary.  Our second trip focused on Southeastern and Central France, entering France after landing in Spain (Barcelona and moving north and west) and traveling through Andorra, first main stop in France at Montsegur.  Then Cathar country, south to Saintes Maries de la Mer, then north to Arles, Avignon,  Pont du Garde, La Couvertoirade, Albi, Toulouse, Auch, Lourdes, Pau,  Saint Jean Pied de Port, and back to Spain through Roncesvalles, ending back in Barcelona and home.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Links, posts, archives

Dates of posts initially reflect the chronology of the trip, but later change if we change the post. The date of post is not necessarily the first date the topic appeared.  Archives - do visit. These continue the trip.

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