Take a big step south … or sud, as they say en Francais.
Day 70: Nantes is in Central France, not really Southern France. But it is south of Brest. And I could travel there by canal barge – but that might take a week. So 4 and 1/2 hours by train does not seem bad. Arriving mid-day at the SNCF station, I can exit gare nord and take Bus 12 which deposits me at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes. This museum has a two-for-one-visit: Spinelli and da Vezzo are both here with their depictions of Judith. Also four works by Georges De La Tour and by Évariste Vital Luminais, as well as a tres interesant portrait by Jean-Léon Jérôme. How long have Furries been around?
Tues – closed; Mon, Wed, Fri-Sun: 10 am – 6 pm; Thurs: 10 am – 8 pm
Collecting my luggage from the station, I can be in Saumur in one hour to find a cozy bed in the Hotel de Londres …
Day 71: … and awake like a princess. Because today involves the Château de Saumur and the search for a fork shaped like Judith – in a fairy tale castle overlooking the confluence of the Loire and Thouet rivers. If i am not careful, I could get caught up in the re-enactment of the Dukes of Anjou. I have enough trouble with time as it is.
(Apr-June) Tues-Sun: 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5:30pm;
(July-Aug) Mon-Sun: 10am. to 6:30pm;
(Sept-Nov) Tues-Sun: 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5:30pm; Dec – closed
About an hour west is Tours. And about 4 blocks from the train is Hotel du Manor. Tres charmant with a walled terrace. Walking 4 minutes up the Rue Jules Simon, I can look for the stuffed elephant – killed for madness during a “Barnum & Bailey” parade in 1902 – at the entrance to the Musée des beaux-arts de Tours. I‘m looking for Judith by an unknown artist. There can’t be many unknown artists, do you think?
Tues – closed; Mon, Wed-Sun: 9am to 12:45pm and 2pm to 6pm
Day 72: In a little over two hours I can arrive in Nievre (aka Nevers). Where the Musée Frédéric-Blandin displays about 1500 earthenware and 2500 ceramic items, making it “a must see for earthenware lovers.” Including a Judith platter by Grue. Uh oh. Just realized that Nevers is famous for blue-and-white earthenware – one of my weaknesses. Also realized that I am likely to fall in love with the Loire Valley and Burgundy wine.
Mon-Sat: 9.30am to 6pm; Sun: 10am to 1pm and 3pm to 6pm
The next leg of this trip has been the hardest to plan so far. Like Alice in Wonderland weird. Because you can’t get there from here without going several hours back to Paris. As if East-West travel has been forbidden. But i am determined and willing to take the Regional Train, so I made my own itinerary to Vézelay. Starting from Nevers to Autun (only on Mondays at 3:30pm on TER93163 arriving 5:43) then Autun to Avallon (5:48 on CAR31668 arriving 7:42pm) then Avallon to Vézelay by shuttle (20 min). Or rent a car and drive 1.5 hours from Nevers to Vezelay whenever I choose.
When I get there, a room at Le Compostelle will be waiting. The reviews are great but I hope it is not in a compost pile.
Day 73: After all the craziness of getting here, the destination is worth it: Vezelay Abbey (aka Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine). With sculpted capitals and portal, the 12th-century monastic church is a masterpiece of Burgundian Romanesque architecture – and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It served to as home to relics of St Mary Magdalene (until they were burned by the Hugenots) and as the starting point of the Second and Third Crusades (1146 and 1190 respectively). My goal is the nave capital of Judith – but they are all worth a look.
(July-Aug) Daily: 7am to 9pm, (Sept-June) Daily: sunrise to sunset
tours Tues-Sat: 9:30am to 12pm and 2:45pm to 4:45pm
Now getting out is only slightly less crazy. I think I will wait until tomorrow. and drink wine.
Day 74: Shuttle back to Avallon (20 min), direct train to Auxenne (TER91156 at 8:39am arr 9:44am), to catch TER92008 at 2:37 connecting to CAR33303 at 3:05pm that arrives in Troyes at 5:05pm BUT only on Mondays. Or drive a little over an hour.
the car wins.
Troyes has been in existence since the Roman era, as Augustobona Tricassium, which stood at the hub of numerous highways. I am here for the Judith of stained glass (“Memory of Glass”) in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. Built on the ruins of two previous cathedrals, it took 400 years to complete and illustrates the various stages of the Gothic styles : Pure, Rayonnant and Flamboyant. That is a semester of architecture classes in one site!
(May-Sept) Mon-Sat: 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 7pm; Sun: 2pm to 7pm
(Oct-April) Mon-Sat: 9am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm; Sun: 2pm to 5pm
But my chosen hotel sounds like the real delight. Le Maison de Rhodes is one of the many half-timbered buildings in Troyes – the foundations dating form the 12th century. once the property of the Knights of the Order of Malta, it is now an 11-room hotel opening on to a paved courtyard and a medieval garden – across from the cathedral. A straight 7 minute walk on a street that changes names 3 times. Who cares when you are in the region of Champagne – the gift from the gods.
Day 75: Where was I? Oh yes, Troyes. On to Chaumont, about an hour by train. The home of Musée d’Art et d’Histoire (Museum of Art and History). An another unknown artist of Judith. Also worth seeing: creches. the most spectacular 18th century Neapolitan nativity scenes, where the Holy Family, shepherds and joined by the richly colored procession of the Magi, is surrounded by figures of the Neapolitans. And a tribute to glove making, the industry of the city.
Tues – closed; Wed-Mon: 2pm to 6pm
I can then press on to Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island) – a World Heritage site – that is proximous to the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady and the Musee de Beaux Artes. This Musee specializes in Old Master paintings from Europe until 1871 (except for Germanic Rhenish paintings before 1681 in another museum). My destination: Judith with the Servant by Correggio. Ten other museums display the rest of the stuff.
Tues – closed; Mon, Wed-Fri: noon – 6 pm; Sat-Sun: 10 am – 6 pm
Then check-in to the Hotel Cathedrale before the next leg of travel in the Alps.