A busy three days. Took a circuitous route from Pouzolles in the south back to Paris, by way of St. Emilion (near Bordeaux), the Cotentin Peninsula, the WWII Normandy landing beaches, and Bayeux. The northwest is the only part of France I’d never been to before—which is not a coincidence. Brittany and Normandy are the only parts of France that have no major wine-producing areas. Normandy is the land of galettes (savory buckwheat crepes) and cider, both of which are quite good. In Bayeaux, had an excellent galette Normande, with blood sausage, Camembert, and apples. I had hoped to stop briefly in Gauguin’s favorite Brittany town of Pont-Aven, but time didn’t permit a diversion so far west.
I took the opportunity of being in a wooded area (the hotel was just on the border of Lussac and Puisseguin) to get up at around 6:30 and take a walk along a strip of trees and brush between vineyards. I got a glimpse of a Green Woodpecker and got a good look at what was either a Melodious Warbler or an Icterine Warbler—still working on that identification—but that brings my total of birds identified on this lengthy trip in Europe to 69, of which 59 have been first sightings for me.
Bayeux, with its beautiful cathedral and the Bayeux Tapestry (which is actually an extraordinary piece of embroidery) were a welcome relief from the somber monuments that are thick on the ground in Normandy (I also saw the famous church in St. Mere Eglise and visited the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach—this last again a strangely quiet, peaceful, and beautiful place so close to the site of past carnage below it on the beach).
I literally ran into the town of Bayeux, hoping to get a photograph or two of the cathedral façade in the beautiful late evening light after clouds had cleared. I very much liked this building—right up there with Pisa in terms of its architectural interest, and from about the same period. It was started in the 11th century, built in Norman Romanesque style but later considerably embellished with gothic decorations as the gothic style moved west and south from the Isle-de-France region. The original square towers can still be seen under the gothic spires that were added later. The vertical buttresses on the front of the towers were added to support the new spires. The decoration between the towers and elsewhere around the building, including the main west portal are all later, but the Romanesque building is there underneath it all. The entire town is rather well preserved. The Germans apparently left Bayeaux quickly, which spared it the destruction of so many other towns and villages in the area.