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  • De captivants à banals, les articles et photographies de “The Baguette” sont une tentative de publier un journal de ma vie dans la Manche et de proposer un forum de discussion pour tout ce qui touche à la Normandie.
  • De captivants à banals, les articles et photographies de “The Baguette” sont une tentative de publier un journal de ma vie dans la Manche et de proposer un forum de discussion pour tout ce qui touche à la Normandie.


September 29 2009 3 29 /09 /September /2009 07:25

Haunting, vast and gray,

The sea is a beast.

It rambles on and off the shore all day

With its stabbing sharp claws

It eats the beach away.

Sand and stone tumble down—punish, thrash !

The sonorous sounds scare the birds away.

Reminders of World War II, the German block houses and gun turrets dot the Atlantic coast of France.  Unlike those in Querqueville, these have fallen into the sea as the endless tides and frequent storms erode the shoreline.

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Published by The Baguette - in La Hague
September 28 2009 2 28 /09 /September /2009 07:49

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Published by The Baguette - in Cherbourg
September 27 2009 1 27 /09 /September /2009 20:08

Its position on the seafront overlooking the cliffs promises a relaxing time for all nature lovers.  The site has an interesting history in that it holds a small place in legend.  Der-Écu means strong shield, a name that originates from the battle fought by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and future King of England.  An enemy threatened to cut off William’s head with his ax.  A Norman knight, Richard le Fort, interposed his shield and the ax went deep into the wood of the shield without breaking it.  William’s life was saved and the Strong Shield became a legend and reminds us that this castle was meant to defend Normandy against attackers.

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Published by The Baguette - in La Hague
September 26 2009 7 26 /09 /September /2009 13:54

 La façade

La chapelle

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Published by The Baguette - in Cherbourg
September 25 2009 6 25 /09 /September /2009 12:59

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Published by The Baguette - in Nature
September 24 2009 5 24 /09 /September /2009 07:38

This small pleasantly well-kept town is built half way up a hillside in an attractive setting where the River Cance, cutting through the last of the Basse-Normandie’s southern hills, emerges on to the vast wooded Sélune Basin, leaving in its wake a rock-strewn countryside.   

 During the Middle Ages Mortain was the capital of the county held by Robert, the stepbrother of William the Conqueror.  The town has been rebuilt over the ruins left after the Battle of Normandy.

These are the Petite Cascade and the Grande Cascade.  The River Cance flowing through a wooded gorge creates the waterfalls; the foaming waters recall the mountain streams of the Pyrenees or the Alps.


Adeline and her brother Vital, chaplain to Count Robert, founded this former monastery, the Abbaye Blanche, in a landscape of rocky out crops in the 12th century.  The abbey now serves as a retreat house.  Contrary to other Romanesque cloisters in the region, which have twinned columns or clusters as at Mont-St-Michel, the gallery here consists of a simple row of single columns.  The vaulting is of timberwork. 
The church within the abbey displays the usual features of the Cistercian plan: flat east end with its oculus and transept chapels.  The diagonal ribs are a precursor of the Gothic style.  The nave is lit by a series of six lancet windows which increase in size towards the west end. 


Église Saint-Évroult, the old collegiate church reconstructed in the 13th century, is built of sandstone in a somewhat severe Gothic style.  The gabled façade is lightened by three pointed windows and, below, by the main door.   The 13th century belfry, pierced on the second bay shows all the decorative elements known to Norman Romanesque.

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Published by The Baguette - in Basse-Normandie
September 23 2009 4 23 /09 /September /2009 09:09

Saturday and Sunday were European Heritage Days.  In France, these days are called Journées du patrimoine.  One of the places I explored was the Château de Gonneville.   Parts of the château were built between the 13th – 16th and 18th centuries.  Two of the oldest structures are the stone towers—the dungeon, which can be seen from the road and the other (dated 1313) in the garden behind the home.

The family of Pirou built most of the château over the ruins of a much older dwelling.  The square tower, the moat and drawbridge are all that remains of the first building which gives the château its medieval appearance.

  A grassy forecourt surrounded by large work buildings with beautiful oval windows precedes the entrance.  One of them bears the coat of arms of Jallot de Beaumont and the date 1641.


The château is famous for several times hosting the dukes of Normandy and English King John Lackland in 1203. 


In 1842, two main buildings which connected the tower to the château as well as the Chapel of St. John were demolished under the orders of Dame Lambert who thought there was buried treasure to be found.  The façade was mutilated, the mullioned windows and carved transoms, skylights and chimneys were also destroyed.  Unsuccessful in her search for buried treasure, Dame Lambert sold the property in 1849. 


It has now been restored to much of its original beauty under the direction of current owner, Monsieur de Montfort who provided us with a brief tour and regaled us with stories of German occupation of the property during World War II.

 Around the château is a park with fenced-in woodlands and gardens. One part of the terraced garden contains a building called le fruitier and an impressive 400-year-old cork oak.

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Published by The Baguette - in Cultural Heritage
September 22 2009 3 22 /09 /September /2009 05:59
Saturday and Sunday were European Heritage DaysIn France, these days are called Journées du patrimoine.  Many places of historical importance that are usually closed to the public opened their doors.  Other places, which normally charge a fee, reduced prices or allowed visitors free entry.  I went to the Fort de Querqueville and the Château de Gonneville.  Today’s post is about the Querqueville Fort.

Students from l'école des fourriers of the Marine National were on hand to guide visitors.  These two were Melanie (Navy) and Julien (Air Force). 

Southern defensive walls surrounded by a moat of seawater.


This is the main gate to the fort.  After entering, I was saddened by the way this place of immense cultural value could be brought to such decline.  Windows were cemented over, outbuildings were in great need of repairs, and rows of empty barracks were closed to the public because of the danger they posed architecturally.

In 1786 after a visit from Louis XVI, the construction of Fort Querqueville was ordered to better protect Cherbourg harbor.  The foundations were sunk the year following the king’s visit but construction had to be halted once it was realized that its position from the eastern fort on l'ile Pelée was too far away to be adequate for defense of the harbor.   

The work on the hemicycle however, continued in order to maintain a potential defense and shooting position even if it was rendered inaccurate by distance from l'ile Pelée.  The work ended in 1795.  It wasn’t until 1852 that the fort was fully equipped with housing for officers, barracks, bunkers and guns.

During World War II, the Germans occupied the fort and built gun-turrets on the facilities as well as building concrete blockhouses along the shore in nearby Urville-Nacqueville and Landemer.

The main caserne or barracks (which could house up to 600 men) opens onto a central courtyard surrounded by the 36 arches (pillboxes) of the hemicycle where cannons weighing up to 5,200 kg could be mounted. 


The curious symbols carved into the granite throughout the fort are markings made by stonecutters from the quarries.

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Published by The Baguette - in Cultural Heritage
September 21 2009 2 21 /09 /September /2009 16:03
Today was my first day of French class.  The Maison Pour Tous Léo Lagrange is sort of like a community college / community center offering a variety of activities and coursework to the public.  My professor is Jocelyne Kernéis and there are supposed to be 12 students in the class.  Today there was just me, Peter and Katherine from England, Artur from Armenia, Jora and Leili from Azerbaijan and Ebaa and Basil from Iraq.  From what I understand there are some other people who are going to attend next week who come from Russia, Natalia and, two from Chechnya, Aslan and Marha.  It's quite a diverse group and I think I'm going to like them all very much.  The course is extemely basic but Madame Kernéis says that I will probably get moved up to the intermediate group in a few months.  We'll see.
Located in Les Provinces of Octeville, just above the Cherbourg train station, going to school gives me the opportunity to do a lot more bike riding up hills. 
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Published by The Baguette - in Education
September 17 2009 5 17 /09 /September /2009 20:07

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Published by The Baguette - in Art