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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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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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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A Visit to Boscastle

I thought Boscastle was another coastal town with an interesting harbour but instead it’s collection of curious cafes and gift shops with an interesting harbour. I spent a happy hour looking through the shops. (There is a regular town further up the hill.)

Over a century ago Boscastle was a busy, bustling place. It was a commercial port throughout most of the 19th century, for the railway did not reach north Cornwall until 1893. Before that date all heavy goods to and from an area stretching many miles inland had to be carried by sea. More than a dozen ketches and schooners of 30 to 200 tons traded regularly through the little port. In one year alone 200 ships called. Many vessels brought supplies in from South Wales and Bristol but even cargoes of timber direct from Canada came into Boscastle. The tortuous harbour entrance, with the island of Meachard as an extra hazard, meant it was never safe for sailing vessels to enter Boscastle un-assisted. They were therefore towed or ‘hobbled’ in by ‘hobbler’ boats manned by eight oarsmen. Gangs of men on shore took other ropes to keep the ships in the middle of the channel.
National Trust

Postmarked 1906
Publisher: Valentine

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Three cool places in one day!

It doesn’t take much imagination to realise there is something on the other side of this gate.

This is Castle Dore, an Iron Age hill fort/defended settlement (the last one 🙁 ) It is interesting for three reasons. First, it is easy to get to. You get off the bus, walk 3 minutes down the road and there’s this well-maintained gate. No trudging along muddy ditches claiming to be paths or clambering up bracken-covered hills.

Second, Dore is associated with the story of Tristan & Iseult* as the main residence of King Mark. There is the slight problem of there being no evidence of the site being inhabited beyond the Iron Age, except for a battle during the civil war in the 17th centure.

(*If you’re not familiar with the story: Iseult, an Irish princess comes to Cornwall to marry the king, Mark, but she falls in love with her nephew Tristan. Adventures ensue. Tristan dies tragically. Remember this, it will come up again.)

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Some photos of Truro

Now it’s November, I won’t have as much time to edit & upload photos. So it’ll either be less photos or less often.

For today, some pictures of Truro, the administrative centre for Cornwall. It’s a cathedral city with a population of about 20,000.

I’ll start with the cathedral because (as you might notice) it dominates the town. Everywhere you look, there’s the cathedral spires. I walk out of the door of the hotel and there’s the cathedral. OK that might be because it’s next door. It doesn’t look next door on the map but there it is.

This is the cathedral. Inside it’s pretty much the same as any other cathedral but less interesting. Maybe because it hasn’t had time to develop interestingness. It was only built in 1880. St David’s is older than that.

Except for the reredos. It is a very cool reredos.

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Island Hopping: St Mary’s, the other bit.

Today I walked up to the other other side of St Mary’s. You’ll never guess what I found! OK if you’ve been paying attention you can probably guess.

But first, another entrance grave.

From the English Heritage panel:

Innisidgen Upper Burial Chamber
There are as many as 80 prehistoric chambered tombs known on the Isles of Scilly, but this is one of the best preserved. They are generally of the form known as ‘entrance graves’, and date from the Neolithic or the early Bronze Age. The name ‘entrance grave’ may be misleading, since this type of prehistoric monument is unlikely to have been constructed solely for burial purposes. Such ‘graves’ could also have functioned as shrines or as a focus of ceremonies. . . . Although nothing has been found in this chamber, the walls revealed traces of rough clay mortar, suggesting that it was once plastered and possibly even decorated.

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