Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bucolic , photogenic approach to Paris

Our drive from Dijon to Paris took us off the beaten path into a countryside remote from city life.  We asked our GPS to find the Abbaye de Fontenay, and the cheerful disembodied voice easily found the shortest route. We were a bit disconcerted by her choice however.  We drove a narrow road, barely wide enough for two vehicles, which wound through verdant valleys with green pastures dotted with brilliant white cows chewing their cuds and tending their wobbly, young calves.
If we were lost, it was magnificent. Vivid yellow fields spread across the hillside, contrasting with the billowing clouds that threatened rain most of the day. We suspect the crop is mustard, but there was so much of it, we could hardly believe it.  

An Internet search when we got to Paris, however seemed to confirm the mustard hypothesis.  Unless there is a vast contemporary art installation funded by the government to support the arts!

The Abbaye de Fontenay is magnificent in other ways. It is one of the oldest Cistercian Abbeys, since it was founded in 1118 by St Bernard. It had been a large community which reminded us of Fontevraud. The church was enormous as was the dormitory. All the monks slept in the same room on straw mattresses on the floor.

The cloister was large and calm. This community was much larger than the one we visited in Silvacane although the same simplicity of design was everywhere. No decorations were representational. Geometry, repetition and simplicity formed the aesthetic choices.

The water resources were abundant and used for washing but also as a power source. There was an enormous building called The Forge which housed a water driven anvil for making tools from the iron found in the surrounding hills. 

We wandered through the buildings and gardens and lost ourselves in the medieval calm of the place. By the time we finished wandering we decided we had better cancel our intended stop in Troyes and save it for another trip.  Instead we headed toward the A6 and followed our GPS confidently to the Boulevard  Morland where we had reserved an AirBNB. After dropping off our luggage we returned the car to the Gare de Lyon and strolled home, stopping for crepes on the way. 

We fell asleep in our borrowed Paris apartment without planning for anything more than a trip to the boulangerie in the morning and dinner tomorrow evening with Jonathan and Laura Reid.

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