Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Abbaye de Fontevraud

This will be a long day of driving from Sarlat to Tours. We left about 9 am with the sunshine and only thirty minutes of country road driving before arriving at the A20…as the French say: The Speedway! We took it all the way to Limoges, arriving about 11 am, and only paid for a small portion…the rest was free! It took half an hour for the first 27 kilometers and only an hour and a half for the next 121 kilometers. Three reasons: (1) dual lane roads, (2) much straighter roads and (3) higher speed limits. They are constantly expanding their network of these super highways; cutting through farmland and forests.

After Limoges we were back to the country two lane highways. I’ve put a few photos of the traffic for you to really get the feel of driving in France! As we were driving this morning, I started thinking about my sunflower girls as we haven’t seen any for a few days. Suddenly, just north of Limoges I started seeing a field here and there. The further north we went the more sunflowers we saw. Soon there was a yellow and green carpet running for as far as the eye could see; definitely a cash crop around here.

Notice the large nuclear power plants, seventy eight percent of the power generated in France is by nuclear power plants; that we passed and a rather poor photo of an old windmill off in the distance. I do have fun taking photos as we’re speeding down the highway!

By 1:30 pm….lunch was eaten in the car while we drove…we’d arrived at the Abbaye de Fontevraud our destination for touring today. We’re about an hour southwest of Tours where our hotel is located for the next four nights.

The Royal Abbaye de Fontevraud is famous for its size, its age and its inhabitants over the years. Construction began in 1105 and it has been an Abbaye, a convent, a hospital, a prison, a concentration camp for the resistance during WWII and now a tourist attraction. One of the most famous of its inhabitants was Richard The Lionheart, famous as one of the crusaders and as a King of England. Richard’s heart is buried in Rouen, France; his entrails are buried in Chalus, France (where he died) and the rest of his body was buried at the feet of his parents Henri II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in the Abbaye of Fontevraud. His mother ended her days here in this Abbaye as a nun. However, there are no corporal remains of any of their bodies as they were destroyed during the French Revolution. This is one of Europe’s largest abbeys and a wonderful example of medieval architecture and life.

After touring the church where the bodies were entombed; we visited the beautiful cloister, one of the huge and sterile dormitories where the nuns slept without heat and the refectory where they took their meals. We stood in the Romanesque kitchens that were built of stone and because of the fear of fire were separated from the main buildings. This was a round building with little kitchens on the outside walls each with their own flu for the smoke to escape; there were additional flues set in the center of the building for ventilation of the fires that were always burning to feed the masses of people that lived in the Abbaye.

Much of the original buildings were badly damaged and/or torn down prior to creating the masterpiece that we visited today. There were many photos showing pre existing conditions over the years. It’s easy to see the reconstructed parts because of the color and evenness of the stones used; but it was an interesting walk through history.

Back to the car for our final leg of todays trip….on to the city of Tours. It took us over an hour but we arrived and are enjoying our evening in our new home for the next four nights. We’re in a Gamme Hotels Balladins on the north side of Tours. This is a great location for visiting a selection of the Chateaux of the Loire Valley starting tomorrow after a good night’s sleep. Yes…we have an ensuite bathroom, tiny but adequate, a very nice television with French channels, and free wifi! No fan or central air but we have our nice little fan to move the air around. It’s warm today…actually HOT in the sunshine…but the humidity is low and so it’s comfortable in the shade. Dinner tonight is a picnic in the room.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Have been reading all about the Plantagenets and thought I might like to see where Eleanor was buried. We plan a visit to friends in Limoges this summer and wondered how far Fontevraud was from there. Your blog answered that perfectly. Thank you so much. Elizabeth