Paris Interlude: Fragments of the Bastille

The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoine. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. . . . Although inmates were kept in relatively good conditions, criticism of the Bastille grew during the 18th century, fueled by autobiographies written by former prisoners. Reforms were implemented and prisoner numbers were considerably reduced. In 1789, the royal government’s financial crisis and the formation of the National Assembly gave rise to a swelling of republican sentiments among city-dwellers. On July 14, the Bastille was stormed by a revolutionary crowd, primarily residents of the faubourg Saint-Antoine who sought to commandeer the valuable gunpowder held within the fortress. Seven remaining prisoners were found and released and the Bastille’s governor, Bernard-René de Launay, was killed by the crowd. The Bastille was demolished by order of the Committee of the Hôtel de Ville. Souvenirs of the fortress were transported around France and displayed as icons of the overthrow of despotism. Over the next century, the site and historical legacy of the Bastille featured prominently in French revolutions, political protests and popular fiction, and it remained an important symbol for the French Republican movement.

Very little remains today.

At the intersection of Boulevard Henri IV and Rue Saint-Antoine, the outline of the fortress is marked on the road.

Also on a platform in the Bastille Metro (underground) station.

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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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West Kennet Long Barrow

This is another Neolithic chambered tomb, near Avebury. It’s significantly bigger that most of them. High enough in the open bit to walk around in (as you’ll see below). It’s also one of the oldest tombs. Actually, the List of oldest known surviving buildings on Wikipedia has it as the second oldest building in the UK (after the Knap of Howar) and the oldest in England (and older than Stonehenge & the Egyptian pyramids and everything else you’ve heard of probably). Which I didn’t realise at the time because I went to Avebury for a day trip and bought booked train tickets so I’d have about 2-3 hours in the village and therefore wouldn’t want to walk out to look at the barrow. Right…

Anyway, the panel at the site says: The long barrow was built in about 3650 BC by an early farming community, people who had arrived from Continental Europe only a few generations before. For about 50 years, they placed their dead into the different chambers, grouping them according to age, sex and perhaps social or family group. As new people were placed in the chambers, older burials were disturbed and the bones re-arranged. Over the next 1,000 years people regularly returned the long barrow, filling the chambers with earth, ash, chalk rubble and sarsen stones. Mixed with this material were pottery sherds, flint tools, and the bones of both humans and animals. Perhaps the barrow became a shrine to the ancestors or to the land itself. In the early Bronze Age, three large stones were placed to block the entrance and finally seal off the chambers.

The barrow is at the top of a hill. (You can maybe just see it if you click to get the large picture.) (You did know you can get larger pictures by clicking?) It is very long, about one hundred metres. Too long for the camera once it become close enough to see properly.

Some cremations and the partial remains of at least forty-six individuals – both male and female and of all ages – have been found inside, together with grave goods including pottery, beads and stone implements such as a dagger, dated to between 3000 and 2600 BC. The tomb was closed sometime around 2000 BC and the main passage filled with earth, stones, rubble and debris. The forecourt was then blocked with sarsen boulders and a false entrance of twin sarsen uprights constructed. Finally, three massive sarsen blocking-stones were erected across the front (eastern end) of the tomb.
English Heritage

For comparison, the Averbury henge and stone circles were constructed about 2850-2200 BCE. So not built by the same people and not even used by the same people. The infilling seems to have started before or about the same time as the henge constrction started, and not that long after that was finished, the barrow was sealed. Burial barrows are just so last millenium. Or maybe the kids kept sneaking off to have parties in there, or cows were getting lost.

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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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One of my favourite parts of travelling is that moment when the plane comes out of the clouds, the bus turns into the main street, you step out of the train station and see for the first time where you’re going to be for the next few days. Sometimes I think “You’re lovely.” Sometimes I think “Meh”. And once I thought “Now this looks fun.” That one? Glastonbury, where Christian meets pagan, and the results is… interesting.

So let’s start with the Tor, because I did. Climbing up the many steps just before sunset. (300 apparently, more than Bath Abbey Tower! Not as narrow and steep though.) It’s the tower of 14th century church on a hill. It’s also the entry to the land of the bed. The home of a fairy king. Avalon. The resting place of the Holy Grail. The source of two springs, one red, one white. (That one is actually true.)

It does have interesting lighting.

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Just some photos of Bristol

I was only in Bristol I could use it as a base to visit some nearby places so I didn’t have time to look around the city. Although I came back from Caerleon mid-afternoon so I had enogh time to head over to the harbour to have a look over SS Great Britain before the sun set, and the day I left I took some photos around the Old City (where I was staying) and Castle Park.

This is a 1878 steam crane. You can go in and look around it.

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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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On the road: Tintagel to Bristol

I want to write more about Tintagel (there’s some interesting things going on when you start looking) but I need to get to Bristol. This requires catching four buses, with three changeovers. I could have done it in three but there was a town on the route I wanted to around.

The first stop is at Camelford. It’s a small place. Just this main street (and houses, schools, industrial areas etc). As previously noted, it’s a place to change buses. In particular, between bus 95 (which runs along the north coast) and buses to everywhere else in the world.

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