Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Vézelay - the Town - Part 2

Lillian :  If we were starring in a movie & there was a scene where we were strolling about a lovely Medieval French town ... well, the ideal sound-track would be someone playing a Celtic Harp. 

Audrey :  Someone like John Garlick.  A lovely sunny day, after eating a lovely lunch eaten under masses of wisteria, strolling around Vézelay ... and a Harpist.  Parfait!

Lillian :  One of the charming things about the little ancient rural towns is their home-made architecture.
Audrey :  Sometimes quite higgledy piggledy.  Sometimes you can guess what is on the inside ... we thought this skinny bit was pwobably a stair-case.
A Staircase?

This circular building was a bake-house ...

But - what about this?

Ancient Scullery?
Lillian :  Our people have been trying to research these round or round-ended jutting out things.  We found other examples in Avallon and Le Puy-en-Velay.  There are never very large & all the ones we saw were on the 1st floor - the level just above the ground floor.  The most likely explanation is that these were, on the inside, the skullery.
Audrey : Skullery?  ergh! that doesn't sound very nice - I hope people didn't have special rooms for their skull collections!
Lillian :  No my dear, the skullery was where the dishes were washed - perhaps the clothes too.  Before modern plumbing with hot&cold running water the skullery was the wet-room with tubs of water, coppers to boil water ... all that sort of thing.  Of course, without plumbing getting rid of the dirty water was a problem most easily solved if you could drain it straight into the lane below but preferably not too close to the walls of your house ...
Audrey :  But that wouldn't have been nice if you were walking underneath!
Lillian :  Ummm no - life was very different then.  Nowadays we turn on a tap and Voila! water ... until recently people (usually the women) had to fetch all the water from a well or pump.
Audrey :  Oh!  we saw an old water pump ...
Cast iron - "Hauts Fourneaux & Fonderies.  Pont a Mousson"
Audrey : And I thought this was another pump, or perhaps a time machine.  But it is a cast iron bollard - must be the pwettiest bollard in the world!


Lillian : Well, Vézelay is on top of a hill - I  think it is the core of an ex-volcano because it juts up out of the landscape and there are parts where you need railings like that to stop you falling off!  The views are stunning.

Audrey :  To Australian dollies like us, that is amazingly green!
Lillian :  But now back to Vézelay itself : Another preventative to rolling down the hill-side was this gorgeous dry-stone wall - tulips growing wild on one side.

Lillian : The building with the bake-house was being restored - this carved bracket looks modern but may have replaced something quite similar.   
Audrey :  Well, I think that person can quite adequately defend herself against the naughty demon!

Lillian :  Every French town has cats - this one was a bit upset that we had seen him!
Audrey :  But what about the little doggy?

Lillian : We were worried that the dog was going to jump out of the window - he wanted to join the UNESCO workers doing maintenance on the tower & portcullis - one of the ancient gates in the old ramparts. 
The Town-side, the dog was in the house on the left

The out-side

The whole town and the Basilica are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Audrey :  Only lacks some Knights in Shining Armour!   Let's see some detail of those towers ...
Audrey : Very large mouse-holes ... I don't think those maintenance people are doing their job very well.
Lillian : No you silly thing.  Those were holes for the soldiers to shoot through.  
Another picture looking back into Vézelay - and a close up of the guard-house over the arch, from the inside.
  Lillian : There are quite a few touristy boutiques in Vézelay which is fair enough - it is such a pretty place that you want a souvenir or two ... in one of those shops our stylist found some gorgeous mohair knitting yarn.

 Audrey : And those are the colours she was completely obsessed about.  "The colours of spring in France, the fresh new leaves on the trees against the freshly washed blue of the sky" ...
 Lillian : Yes, she did go on rather a lot about it all.  But the lady in the shop was the breeder of the mohair goats and even showed our stylist the 'family album' with photos of the animals.  Very sweet.  And the yarn is quite gorgeous - really mo-Hairy and lustrous. 

 Audrey :  Shall we show the people the cowl / scarf our stylist made with the yarn she bought in Vézelay ?

A close-up
Lillian :  Luckily, you don't have to go to Vézelay to get this yarn - they've an on-line shop and a blog - in Frence naturellement but the pictures are in English!

Audrey :  Time for one last photo of lovely Vézelay?

Lillian :  Yes, and this encapsulates just about everything - wisteria, lovely old buildings, hilly cobbled street, an old water well and for that touch of modern France ... a motor scooter!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Vézelay - the Town - Part 1

Lillian :  Vézelay is such a pretty and picturesque little town.
Audrey :  Well, after visiting the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine our people needed lunch.  They ate under this

at a hotel & restaurant appropriately called Les Glycines.

The scent is heavenly!

Wisteria is not the only purple/mauve flower - Lillian found some lovely irises too

 Lillian : Purple is my favourite colour.
Audrey :  We would never have guessed!  But enough with the pwetty spring flowers - let's see some of the buildings & street-scapes.
A lane with a leaning wall & a new 
copper down-pipe

It is Hilly!

Lillian : Vézelay is really hilly and some buildings are quite wonderfully higgledy piggledy -
We think this is probably the Town Hall

Audrey : Some of the roof-lines are a little bit .. umm .. eccentric!

Lillian :  Ceramic shingles & built in ventilation.

Audrey :  We found a huge door - I think a giant must live here.

Lillian :  It was probably made large so that a carriage could go through.

Audrey : We waited a while, but we saw no carriages or giants.

Come on people, hurry up!

Audrey : This cute little house was wedged into a corner.  We thought it would make a perfect home for a Nursery Rhyme Character or for some Blythe Dolls.

But no-one was home that afternoon.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Vézelay - Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

Lillian :  While we were staying at Avallon we went for a couple of day-trips - the first was to Vézelay.  Another ancient hill-top walled town, quite tiny and famous for its Romanesque Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine.

Audrey:  Romanesque architecture is earlier than Gothic and is not as ornate.  
Lillian : Yes, the Basilique in Vézelay was mostly built in the 1100's.  It is one of the places in France where pilgrims start el Camino de Santiago or the way of Saint James - they all end up in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
Audrey: The Basilique has two towers but they don't match - this is the Tour St-Antoine.
The Bell Tower is called the Tour St-Michel - it is at the front facade and was built rather later - 1230-40.

Lillian : Our people took this photo of the facade on their previous visit ...
and here is one more of Tour St-Antoine in the winter light.

 Lillian :  Light - the interior of the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine seems to be all about the light.  

It is white, lofty and filled with the sun-light that streams through the windows.

Audrey :  The windows are clear glass not stained - some have coloured glass round the edges but even then the colours are palest green or lemon.
Lillian :  The Wikipedia article talks about how the sun-light pools down the centre of the long nave at midday on the Summer Solstice - apparently on the Winter Solstice the light shines on the narrative capitals on the columns on the North side on the nave.

Audrey :  Those carved Capitals and the Tympanums are quite something - for lots more photos visit Jim Forest's sets on Flickr - CapitalsBasilique  and this web site has great photos with fun descriptions ParadoxPlace.
Lillian : Apparently this capital depicts St Benedict's temptation ...     Audrey : That's one crazy looking demon!
Audrey :  Here is a knight on a rather too small horsey -
These elegant ladies (Judith & Holofernes) actually date from 1850 - they were carved during the restoration of the Basilique.  More about this carving here.
Lillian :  The Basilique had been quite neglected and it suffered during the revolution ...  Prosper Mérimée (in his job as Inspector-General of historical monuments - but he was also a novelist and wrote Carmen, the story that inspired the opera) ... Anyway, he appointed Eugène Viollet-le-Duc to oversee the restoration done between 1840 and 1861.  Viollet-le Duc also restored Notre Dame de Paris; the Vézelay Basilique must have been one of his first restorations ... he added the supporting flying buttresses to the exterior (see the photos above).

Audrey : But let's see some more of the interior - this capital makes the column into an unusual tree that bears mangoes and pine cones ...
This column had some rather random little carvings and people give the leaf a lot of patting.
Lillian : We've just one photo of a Tympanum - in the Narthex, the south-west tympanum.  
It depicts the Annunciation, the Visitation, Nativity & the 3 Wise Men.

Audrey : Now these carvings are from the 'Cloisters' which are part of the restorations / improvements? that Viollet-le Duc did in the mid 1800's.  The faces are such fun - the poor monk seems quite dismayed by the laughing gargoyle!

There are more gargoyles outside - just one row of heads.

Lillian :  Before we leave the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine we have to show you the pipe organ ...

 Doesn't look particularly interesting until you go round the back and see that it was designed to be Monk Powered.

 Pedals and a hand-rail - just one person to work the bellows.  I guess it would be like those Step Machines for exercising!

Audrey : Je fatiguée !