Rome: mostly churches actually

So this is the Pantheon. It was built as a Roman temple in the 2nd century, replacing an earlier building.

In 609, the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface IV, who converted it into a Christian church and consecrated it to St. Mary and the Martyrs on 13 May 609: “Another Pope, Boniface, asked the same [Emperor Phocas, in Constantinople] to order that in the old temple called the Pantheon, after the pagan filth was removed, a church should be made, to the holy virgin Mary and all the martyrs, so that the commemoration of the saints would take place henceforth where not gods but demons were formerly worshipped.”
Wikpedia

Inside I found it rather underwhelming. It’s just another church. I mean, it’s nice enough but I’m glad I didn’t have to pay or queue to get in.

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Pompeii: the public buildings

Back in 62 CE (AD), Pompeii was struck by a major earthquake. They were still repairing damage from this seventeen years later Vesuvius erupted and buried the city. Apparently, many of the public buildings had not yet been repaired. (Also, as a random fact because I only found this out the other day, in 89 BCE, Pompeii was besieged by Romans.)

So, let’s start with the the Forum, the heart of any good Roman city. It was a public square surrounded by markets, government buildings and the major temples. You can see some remains of the colonnade that ran along the sides.

At one end is the main temple, Temple of Jupiter or Capitolium (dedicated to the trio of Jupiter, Kuno & MInera). One of the buildings that wasn’t repaired after the earthquake. (Such an innocent looking mountain in the background.)

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Pompeii: streets and houses

Pompeii is a large site. It was home to about 20,000 people and I about 2/3 of that has been excavated. Not all of the excavated area is open to the public but the Park still covers a large part of the city. The website recommends a minimum of 2-3 hours to visit the site. Now I know it says minimum but that suggests you can get around most of the area in 2-3 hours. I had five days there. One was washed out and another I visited Herculaneum, although I dropped into Pompeii for the last couple of hours of the day. So, that was three days of 3-4 hours each, and I managed to get to everything I wanted to see but not the whole site. Big place. But it was a city, and like any city it was mostly houses and shops.

A typical street small shops along the sides, open to the street, and the houses are in behind.

There are also water fountains and stones for crossing the road (you can see some behind the fountain).

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Paris: Day 4 is not in Paris

This is the Chateau de Fontainebleau. It’s a former royal palace outside of Paris, like Versailles, but less crowded. (It gets like 1/30 as many visitors. It’s also less overblown-ridiculously decorated.)



Both near and far from Paris, Fontainebleau had everything to please Francis I. He was a humiliated king, returning from a trying period of imprisonment in Madrid (1525-1526), who set his sights on this prestigious medieval ruin and undertook its reconstruction. In 10 years, the project to redevelop a hunting castle evolved into an ambitious and monumental building site, establishing Fontainebleau as the king’s favourite ‘house’. On the foundations that retained the original plan, the master builders built a new dwelling with more light and extended a residence towards the west that was enriched with the best finery of the Renaissance.

Chateau de Fontainebleau

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Paris: Day 3 A lot of walking

Today’s walk requires going to the other side of the Seine, and crossing Île de la Cité.

Île de la Cité is an island in the river Seine in the center of Paris. In the 4th century, it was the site of the fortress of the Roman governor. In 508, Clovis I, the first King of the Franks, established his palace on the island. In the 12th century, it became an important religious center, the home of Notre-Dame cathedral, and the royal chapel of Sainte-Chapelle, as well as the city’s first hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu. It is also the site of the city’s oldest surviving bridge, the Pont Neuf. With the departure of the French kings to the Louvre Palace, and then to the Palace of Versailles, the island became France’s judicial centre. In 1302, it hosted the first meeting of the Parliament of Paris and was later the site of the trials of aristocrats during the French Revolution.
Wikipedia

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Paris: Day 2 Some familiar landmarks.

I didn’t intend to visit the Louvre. It seemed it would be too busy/crowded to enjoy. However, my hotel was just 15 minutes walk away. So  I thought I’d go there first thing in the morning and see what the queue was like.

This place is huge. Once I was in there, I think it took me longer to find the actual entrance than it took to walk there. Anyway, there were queues. There was a green sign for visitors avec billets (with tickets) and about twenty people standing there. Then a second green sign forvisitors avec billets and even more people waiting. Then a orange sign for visitors sans billets (without tickets) and no one standing there. A man walked up, looked about, shrugged and walked in. I followed. There were about six people waiting to go through security (there are security points at most places) but it was moving fast. Once inside, there was no one else waiting for buy a ticket. So there I was in, and now avec un billet.

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Paris: Day 1

This is Château de Vincennes, a 14th century castle. From the website:

A symbol of the modern French state. The building affirms the power of the monarchy: it guarded the capital, whilst at the same time protecting the kings against uprisings. It was at the heart of the French monarchy until 1682, when Louis XIV chose to settle in Versailles. The keep was used as a prison from the 16th up to the 19th century: Fouquet, the Marquis de Sade, and Mirabeau were held here. Under Napoleon I it was transformed into a barracks and arsenal, and the fortress protected Paris during invasions in the 19th century.

The onsite information is mostly about Charles V (the room is his main chamber). From Wikipedia:

The defeats of the French and the capture of the King by the English in the Hundred Years War, as well as uprisings of the Parisian merchants under Etienne Marcel (1357–58) and a rural upraising against the crown, the Jacquerie (1360), persuaded the new French King, Jean II of France and his son, the future Charles V, that they needed a more secure residence close to, but not in the center of Paris. The King ordered the construction of a fortress at Vincennes with high walls and towers surrounding a massive keep or central tower, 52 meters (172 feet) high. The work was started in about 1337, and by 1364 the three lower levels of the keep were finished. Charles V moved into the keep in 1367 or 1368, while construction was still underway. When it was completed in 1369–70, it was the tallest fortified structure in Europe.

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Glastonbury Abbey

I loved this place. It was full of interesting things to look at and also good for just sitting quietly. I went first thing in the morning. There were maybe a dozen other people there, but as it’s a big site (there’s some gardens off to the side), it felt more deserted than crowded. As the entry ticket lets you come and go throughout the day, I went back just before the last entry and stayed until closing.

The first thing you see on entry is the Lady Chapel.

The monastery that was here dates back to Saxon times, the 7th or 8th century, and there was a church here before that. It was an important–and influential–institution in Medieval Christian England.

But in 1184 there was big fire that burnt down many of the monastery’s buildings, and the old church as well. As a replacement, the monks wanted to build a great church but they ran out of money. Then they discovered the tomb of King Arthur and his second wife! Which brough pilgrims (and money). Who says God doesn’t perform miracles.

(That is what happened.) (Also maybe some political stuff going on.) (And I want to know about his first wife.)

The ruins of the great church, but that’s not the entry to the church. Where I’m standing is the nave (what you might think of as the body of the church, where people sit). The arches are the entry to the choir (or quire).

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Over the border: Caerleon

This is Caerleon, a Welsh town just over the river from Bristol.

Back in the Roman days, there were three larger/permanent fortresses, at Deva (Chester), Eboracum (York) and Isca (Caerleon). This is the fortress’s barracks.

 

The nearby amphitheature was unfortunately, due to the weather.

Back in town is the National Roman Legion Museum, a small museum with lots of artefacts related to Roman life with an emphasis on military.

Headstones and a coffin. The coffin has a bones and skull in it (as found).

Out the back they’ve recreated a Roman garden.

And then down the road is the fortress’s bath.

Roman baths have a series of bathing rooms in dfferent temperatures. Sometimes they also have a swimming pool, as here and at Bath.

They say this pool is bigger than the one at Bath.

This is the frigidarium, the cold room.

A Visit To Bath

This is Bath, the largest city in Somerset, with a population of about 100,000.

In Georgian times it was very popular as a spa town and a lot of its architecture dates from then.

Not this though. Bath Abbey was built in the late 15th/early 16th century, replacing a much larger Norman cathedral. This building is big, but apparently it would easily fit inside its predecessor. Also, I’m told it should be a priory church not an abbey, but Queen Elizabeth said it was an abbey and so it’s an abbey. It also has no earls buried in it. (I asked, which is why I found out about the priory church thing and also earls generally preferred to be buried on their own land.) There were 3829 other people buried under the floor though. (“Were” because the floor was recently replaced and any remains found were reburied in a nearby cemetery.)

Also, the tower has 212 steps. I know this because just inside the door is a piece of paper that says so. It also has a list warnings and a list of health conditions that if you suffer from you shouldn’t climb up the 212 steps, and next to that another piece of paper that you sign to say you’ve read and accept everything on the first piece of paper.

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