TRIP to FRANCE in 2003

We all left San Diego on the morning of Saturday, May 10. Brian and Joe took one flight, Matt took another, since we were coming back at different times. But we left within an hour of each other, and met up again at the Paris airport also within an hour of each other. We arrived in the morning of the 11th, and took the Metro to our hotel.

We spent two days in Paris, mostly recovering from jetlag. We did walk around a bit that first day on the Left Bank, walking around the Gardens of Luxembourg and the Sorbonne area. The next day we went to the Right Bank, to the hill of Montmartre, where is located the Basilica of Sacre Coeur and is also the old artists' quarter, where the Moulin Rouge is.

Here are some of our own photos:

The famous Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame, at the heart of Paris. It has been cleaned of centuries of dirt and grime, and you can see the scafolding on the north side, where cleaning is still underway.

The reflecting pool in the Garden of the Tuileries, with the Louvre Museum in the background. The Louvre was the former royal residence in Paris, and the Garden was reserved to kings and their invited guests.

The next day was time to head south from Paris. We had arranged for a rental car to be at a location near our hotel, which was itself near the south side of the city, but we hadn't counted on a strike! It proved to be the first of many. The street in front of our hotel was closed off completely to traffic, and there were marchers and hundreds of empty buses along it. So it took us all morning to get the car, get to the vicinity of hotel, get the bags and carry them the few blocks to where the car was! What an ordeal! But with Brian driving, we managed to find our way out of the city and towards the Loire valley.

The Loire valley is known for its castles, some dating back to the Middle Ages, most from the Renaissance. We drove first to Blois, where one of the most famous of the castles is. It was built in the Middle Ages by the Counts of Blois, but became a royal residence during the 16th century, and Henri II and his queen, Catherine de Medici lived there, as did their sons, Francois II who was married to Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henri III. Later it was given to a relative of the king of France, who partly remodeled it in the 18th century. So it includes a variety of styles in its rooms. Most famous is its spiral staircase.

From a brochure: a model of the castle

Joe checks to see if the gargoyles bite (in a museum of sculpture in the castle at Blois)

We stayed in the town of Tours, only about an hour from Blois, for two nights. Tours still has its narrow streets and old buildings from the Middle Ages. When we arrived we walked around. Here are some photos we took of the narrow streets and timbered houses, some dating from the end of the Middle Ages:

A postcard of Tours cathedral

The next day, Matt had to go to the archives to work on his book, a biography and study of Saint Gerald of Aurillac. So Brian and Joe spent the day traveling to nearby locations. They started by touring another castle, the castle of Chenonceaux. It was built as a hunting lodge, but given by king Henri II to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. After his death, she was kicked out and Henri's queen, Catherine de Medici, used it as a residence.

It was Catherine who decided to enclose the bridge over the river and make it part of the castle. Catherine also developed the formal gardens in what was known in the 16th century as the Italian style (but we would think of it as typically French, so popular did it become).

Matt thinks about this time, some of you may want a family tree of the kings and queens of France in the 16th century. So here is a link to one:

Joe and Brian then drove to the medieval town of Loches, where the medieval castle was never "remodeled" during the Renaissance. It provides an interesting contrast with the other castles of the Loire valley.

From a postcard of Loches

Here, on a road map of France, is our trip so far:

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