Showing posts with label cloisters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cloisters. Show all posts

Monday, August 19, 2013

She was Queen of France and then Queen of England

Day 3:
She was Queen of France and then Queen of England.
Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the richest and most powerful women ever.

Eleanor effigy
 Lovely meal this evening in the Restaurant At’Table in Chinon but the highlight of the day was the visit to the magnificent Abbey Fontevraud, described as the largest and most extraordinary in France. History is writ large here in this early 12th century building that was run for nearly 700 years by aristocratic abbesses.

It contains the remains of one of the most remarkable women ever, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her effigy lies next to that of her second husband Henry Plantagenet, the King of England, and their son Richard the Lionheart. Eleanor had before that been married to Louis VII and that made her Queen of France. The story is quite complicated and she endured imprisonment by Henry before being released by son Richard and then going on to live until into her 80s before dying at Fontevraud.
The abbey's cloisters
 After the French revolution, the Abbey was turned into a prison and was used as such until 1963 upon which repair and restoration began. Today, it is a hive of activity both inside and out and is a fantastic visit, not least because some of the areas are used to mount large scale art works and installations. Plans for the future include using part of it as a luxury hotel.
The abbey's chapterhouse
 We had our first stroll around Chinon this morning and very impressed with the statue to another amazing French woman, Joan of Arc, who is remembered here by a monumental statue of her on horseback with a bunch of enemies crushed underfoot.
The duck
 Chinon though is dominated by its chateau. We didn’t visit it but looked at it from down in the town and from a great viewpoint across the river, the Vienne.

After a busy day, we visited the At’Table for dinner and went for the three course menu for 22.90, really good value. The only bum note was a glass of red Chinon house wine, served very cold and probably poor enough in any case. The white, on the other hand, was excellent.
The fish dish
 Good choices for all courses and CL’s starter was a delightful Carpaccio of Melon, sorbet red port and condiments while I absolutely enjoyed my river fish terrine with a lime mousseline. Mains too were top notch, her Parmentier of Duck Confit with orange sauce superb and my Omlet-Chevalier (a sea fish, I’m told) with courgette crumble and red pepper emulsion. Very enjoyable outdoor meal at a very busy venue.
The Sabayon dessert

Friday, June 28, 2013

Faceless saint, unknown knight and wrong-way Corrigan

Day 1

Faceless saint, unknown knight and wrong-way Corrigan

There is, in the Askeaton Franciscan Friary, a saint whose face is fading away. For generations, visitors with toothache and related problems have been kissing him on the face in the hope of a cure. Not too sure if the aches vanished but the saint’s face, at least the area round the mouth, is vanishing.

In the same abbey, there is a statue of Saint Patrick, high in one of the internal walls, easily missed. I’d not have seen it but for the help of a local man who also told me about the toothache saint and the unknown knight. The story is that this anonymous knight arrived in Askeaton and died there and is buried in a wall in the abbey with the following inscription: Pass me for I am strange.

But the real highlight for me is the cloisters (below), more or less intact in this 14th century building. These, plus the saint, the knight and Patrick are national treasures, open to the elements, including the criminal ones.
No chance that early aviator Douglas Corrigan would remain anonymous. Denied permission to fly from New York to Dublin, he was given the option of NY to San Fran. But the intrepid pilot headed east and landed in Dublin, claiming his compass had mal-functioned!
Heard that yarn and a whole lot more in the fascinating Flying Boat Museum in Foynes earlier in the day. Many stories are about the flying boats in their heyday at Foynes (late 30s, early 40s) and obviously lots are of Irish interest. The highlight though is a full size replica of the Yankee Clipper (built by Boeing and called the B314). This gives a terrific idea of what a flight in this type of machine was like.

Here also you’ll hear how, and why, Irish Coffee was invented. There is a little gift shop and also an impressive little restaurant, the B. O’Regan. ”Mouth-watering home cooking at very reasonable rates” they say. Soup and brown bread for €3.95 sounded reasonable but my plain scone cost €2.95! But it was of decent quality as was the reliable Bewley’s Coffee.
Mustard Seed garden
After that, headed out the Shannon estuary, as far as Tarbert where we saw the impressive car ferries come and go between the Kerry port and Killimer in Clare. Pity the day’s weather wasn’t the best. It was dry and generally dull but we still got a great idea of the impressive estuary,  Ireland's largest.
Mustard Seed garden
Headed back then, via Askeaton, to Ballingarry and the Mustard Seed, set in a former convent. Great welcome here, local cheddar, peaches and Prosecco in the room, and then a walk in the garden, a garden given over mainly to vegetables but with some gorgeous flowers and surprising mini-vistas, even including a little Buddha shrine!
Plate of lamb

All that was needed now was a good meal. And I got it at the Mustard Seed. Superb from start to finish. Briefly, it was Rabbit and Pig Terrine, Lemon Sorbet, Assiette of Lamb (above), and Selection of Irish Farmhouse Cheeses (including Milleens and Cashel Blue).  Five star. And then a comfy finish with the end of the wine and coffee in front of the fire! Happy days.