Autumn                    2016
VOL. 20                   NO.  4


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  The Independent Traveler's Newsletter

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        " . . . I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel's sake.  The great affair is to move."
- Robert Louis Stevenson                                                                       


Memorable Medieval Discoveries

Twisted Tongues
      ~  Challenging French phrases

Ici et Là

The Bookshelf
~  Marie Antoinette's Darkest Days -
         Prisoner No 280 in the Conciergerie
     by Will Bashor

Cruising the Canals of France
by Scott Porter ~ with photos by Sue Porter

Château de Noirmoutier.  Copyright Cold Spring Press.  All rights reserved.e 
Château de Noirmoutier
l'Îsle de Noirmoutier, Vendée, France



architecture buffs to the extreme.  France is a treasure trove of structures dating back to the Romans, and the State and local governments have made every effort to preserve this heritage.  From the Roman ruins along the Mediterranean, to the Pont du Gard, to the grand amphitheatres of Nîmes, Arles, Orange, and Lyon among others, one will find an abundance of well-preserved structural treasures in Gallo-Roman France.

The Romans arrived in France in 121 BC, and were there until 486 AD when Syagrius lost the Battle of Soissons to Frankish King Clovis I which ended Roman rule outside of Italy.  But, what was left behind by these Romans to capture our imaginations and amaze us were theatres, bridges, aqueducts, arenas, villas, baths and more ~ we are in awe of their architectural design and, most of all, the  endurance of the structures.  The rounded arch is predominant in Roman architecture ~ borrowed from the Etruscans and put to widespread use by the Romans ~ and those arches are still present today some 2130 years later.

But, let's move to the Middle Ages, a thousand-year period in history that gave us architectural masterworks still standing today for all to admire and enjoy.  The Middle Ages or Medieval times began in that same 5th century when the Romans were defeated, and it lasted until the 15th century as the period merged into the early Renaissance.  Medieval times were divided into Early, High and Late Middle Ages, and the general term often conjures up a period of wars, invasions, and the great movement of peoples, especially in the Early Middle Ages. 

After the year 1000, ushering in the High Middle Ages, progress was being made in trade and technology, but most importantly agriculture.  It was a warmer period as far as climate was concerned, so crops flourished.  Gothic architecture in France evolved from Romanesque and would soon become the prominent design preference of the Church.  Gothic architecture is distinguished by the pointed arch, ribbed vault and flying buttress, all allowing great height for cathedrals and an abundance of light to come into the churches which was not possible with Romanesque architecture.  It symbolized, too, a closeness to God and the heavens.

This was also the period of the Crusades, the spreading of Christianity in France and Europe and the building of monasteries.  Kingdoms were formed.  Intellectual life connected faith to reason, and universities were established.  An example is the founding of the University of Montpellier in 1289, one of the world's oldest universities and today a center of scientific and technological research.

The Late Middle Ages were not as good for Europeans.  There was war and famine, the schism in the Catholic church, revolts by the peasant class, and the loss of one third of all Europeans to the Black Death.  By 1500 the Late Middle Ages gave way to the early modern period.  This transition began in the late 1400s with the fall of Constantinople, and such events as Columbus' voyage to the new world and Vasco da Gama's discovery of a sea route to the East ~ the physical beginning of the age of discovery.  The early Renaissance would soon follow with the flourishing of art, Gothic architecture and an awakening among the people of Europe.  Gothic Revival architecture took hold in the mid-1700s and continued in Europe through the twentieth century.

But, the architecture of the Medieval period is distinctive and served a purpose.  Fortresses were built in Medieval France to ward off the constant stream of invaders.  For those of us who visit France often and love to be there, we clearly understand why all those invaders  wanted it, too!

The photo at the left is the Medieval fortress Château de Noirmoutier on the Île de Noirmoutier's Bay of Bourgneuf on the Vendée coast.  First signs of it were in 830 when a castrum was built to defend the monks from invading Vikings.  The château was constructed in the High Middle Ages in the late 12th century and has four towers and a keep about 70 feet high.  Its military purpose lasted until the 19th century.  Since 1935 it has housed a museum, and in 1994 it received the designation Monument Historique.  A most interesting fact about the île de Noirmoutier is that it is the first place invaded by the Vikings in France and where they pillaged the monastery.  Charlemagne established a fleet along the Atlantic Coast ~ at great expense ~ to ward off future Viking invasions, but the fleet was dismantled after his death.

Château de Noirmoutier later faced attacks by the English in 1342, 1360 and 1386, and then by the Spanish in 1524 and 1588.  In 1674 it was taken by Dutch troops.  By 1767 it was in the hands of Louis XV, and during the French Revolution served as a military prison.

                                                                                                              continued on page 4

LOOK INSIDE     . .  with a click  

to join the Porters as they cruise the Canal du Centre ~ between the Saône and Loire Rivers on L'Amitié ~ with their good friends, navigating locks and tying up along the banks to explore the local villages ~ Cruising the Canals of France.


>  for our review of Will Bashor's detailed account of Marie Antoinette's last days as a prisoner in the Conciergerie. 


>  to read the balance of our front page article about Memorable Medieval Discoveries at the end of this newsletter.


> and perhaps find an event or activity that interests you in the US or France in our Ici et Là column ~ and be sure to see our newest Ici et Là feature:  Did You Know?


FRANCE On Your Own is always open
 to receiving articles from our readers
about their experiences in France.  We
can't guarantee when we will publish
 those we accept, but we will do our best to
include them for our other readers to enjoy.
[No payments are made for submissions used.]

                                                                                                                                                                              contributed by Arthur Gillette

Welcome to Twisted Tongues, a French word game everyone can play.  Can you come up with the correct translation of the phrase in question?  You'll be surprised by how it differs from what you first thought it meant.

Answer from our Summer issue:  "Devoir une fière chandelle?"     Does that mean "owe a proud candle"? No.  In slang it actually means "to be quite indebted to"  . . .

Phrase:   "Quelle salade!"  Does that mean "What a salad!"?  Of course, it can mean that ~ a nice phrase to compliment your dinner hostess.  But, in slang it is much different. Can you guess?

Look for the correct translation in our Winter 2017 newsletter.  Have fun!

 We will continue to include Arthur Gillette's "Twisted Tongues" in our newsletter
until we exhaust the selection he kindly provided.  We hope you enjoy them as much as he
enjoyed the French language.  We are sure he would want us to continue the game . . .

                                                                                                               SPONSORING THIS ISSUE                                                                                                                      

Château du Grand Lucé.  Copyright T. Corrigan.  All rights reserved.
Château du Grand-Lucé

Imagine yourself renting this spectacular château in the Pays de la Loire ~ an elegant château with 14 en suite rooms
 where each person can live in the lap of luxury for about €1050 for the entire week!   It's the perfect wedding venue, too!
Enjoy the magnificent gardens, the swimming pool and many extras such as hot-air ballooning, laundry service,
professionally prepared meals on request, and so much more.  Tastefully decorated by its owner,
a renowned American interior designer, this is a special place that has been featured in
Architectural Digest.

Click here or  on the photo for more information and reservations.

                                                                                                                                                                                          next page page 2

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Recommendations are not guarantees of satisfaction and are made only
to assist travelers with suggestions and web sites that we have found very useful.