Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Shaw family visit

In the second week of 2014, my family would pay me a visit in France.  Unfortunately my mother was missing, due to her crippling fear of flying (it's more of a claustrophobic thing).  And although we all begged her to come, no amount of Xanax and White Russian could get her on a plane.  In hindsight, I guess it's better than waking up to read that a plane full of passengers went down over the Atlantic due to a "crazy women who ripped the door off mid flight".  Oh well, she's seen it all before, but I'm still waiting on the day when transoceanic flights offer laughing gas and/or full on anesthesia.  Why is this not a thing already?  Do you know how popular it would be?  Get to Australia in 8 seconds!  They could charge whatever they wanted!  Anyway, I mother would be joining us in spirit.

The rest of the family would have to suffice.  This would be Jesse's first trip to France and Amantha's first trip to Europe.  Suffice to say, I think they loved it.  And what's not to love?  Has anyone in the history of this world not loved Paris?  Not even Hitler could bring himself to bomb it.  London, sure.  But Paris?  Nope, he wanted it all to himself.

We would spend the weekend in Paris, then head on over to Le Havre and Normandy on Monday.  Despite our best efforts, they insisted on staying in Le Havre to be 10 minutes away from us.  It all worked out, and we didn't spend any time in the city at all.  Instead, we would head to the cliffs of Étretat, the busting medieval city of Rouen, explore the ruins of an old castle in the rural countryside of Normandy, and end it all with rainy day in Honfleur.  With the tourist season over for now, we were literally the only people in town.  It was nice.  We had some of the best pizza I've ever eaten.  Note to self:  goat cheese, prosciutto, and honey make an excellent combo.

Anwyay, I have only been over here a couple of months but it was absolutely great to see my dad and brother and sister in law.  It was a little taste of home.  I even had someone to share my sorrows with as we watched the Saints once again get plummeted by the Seahawks.  I guess it just wasn't meant to be.  It would have obviously been better had we won, but ya know, just watching it with familiar faces was enough for me.

Here was their trip.

Early morning on the Seine.  

St. Chapelle...get there early to avoid the crowds.

We had the whole place to ourselves.  

We would randomly run into an old car show.  Very cool.

If you like dragons, castles, knights in shining armor, damsels in distress, evil sorcerers, medieval stuff, etc, then look no further than the Musée de l'Armée Invalides.  It has one of the coolest collections I've ever seen, period.  All the armor you're about to see is from the 14th and 15th centuries.  The detail in the metalwork is just ridiculous.  I cannot imagine fighting in this stuff.  First, it would have been near impossible to see out of.  Second, this stuff is heavy.  I imagine that seeing two guys fighting in this stuff would have actually been quite funny, swinging their swords (that were bigger and heavier than they were) wildly and blinding until the hit something.  It seems most of this armor was designed for little more than intimidation factor, as most of this stuff would have been near impossible to actually move in.  At any rate, it's beautiful.   

I mean, seriously.  Imagine some dude with a 6 foot blade running at you in this.

I would not want to fight with one of these things on, but they sure do look cool.

Napoleon's bones.

So long Paris...for now.

Crossing the Seine on a ferry.

The ruins of Jumièges Abbey date back to around 654, but was burned in the 9th century by those pesky Vikings.  It was rebuilt even larger, destroyed and rebuilt a few times between then and the French Revolution, when it was destroyed for good, leaving a pretty impressive footprint and reminder of better days.

Backroads to Rouen.

Rouen Cathedral gets all the love in this town, and deservedly was the tallest building in the world from 1876 - 1880.  But to me the Church of Saint Ouen is equally impressive.  Since it's really not on any 'must see' lists it was all but empty when we visited, save for a very bizarre photography exhibit of a bunch of people in weird costumes.  Regardless, it was massive and not as 'polished' as Rouen Cathedral...a thick layer of dust covered just above everything, and you could tell its uses were few and far between.  When there aren't a billion tourists marching about, it's much easier to picture yourself back in time.  Funny how that works.

The Aitre Saint Maclou is an interesting spot to visit.  In medieval times, Rouen was the capital of Normandy and one of the biggest and busiest cities in all of Europe. When the Bubonic Plague hit Rouen in 1348, it wiped out 75% of the city's population.  This courtyard served as a mass grave for all the bodies.  Your class and social status couldn't get you out of this one.  If you died, your body was being thrown in a big pile.

The plague would return to Rouen with a vengeance in the 16th century, and more room was needed for the newly dead.  These buildings were then built to store the recently exhumed bodies and make way for the new ones, hence the macabre details carved into the wood.  The buildings were emptied and turned into a boys school in 1705, and today are part of an art school. 

The 1970's Joan of Arc church, built on the spot where she was burned to death.

We probably weren't technically allowed up here, but no one was in the church and the door to the attic was open, so you know we had to take a look.

Views of Honfleur.  

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